Written for the 2004 TIWF Missing Scene Challenge.
This a missing
scene from Operation Crash-Dive. It occurs after the
scene in which Gordon holds the cut ends of the EPU cable
together and keeps the Fireflash from crashing into the
ocean. But how does the Fireflash manage to land
without her elevators in operation? And how did Gordon leave
the plane afterward?
vowed that this would absolutely be the last time he'd offer a
suggestion, because this had to be the most hare-brained idea
he'd ever had.
International Rescue had volunteered to help determine the
cause of the Fireflash malfunctions that sent more than 600
people to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and would have
caused the deaths of another test crew had not the
Thunderbirds arrived to rescue them. After rescuing the
second crew, it had been Virgil who suggested that they
test-fly a Fireflash with Thunderbird Two alongside to help if
need be. Well, help was certainly needed now, but he was
unable to do more than watch the crippled airliner as it, in
Scott's words, was "about to make one colossal crash-dive into
the Atlantic Ocean."
Captain Hansen, who was only too glad to help out the
organization that had saved his life when the maiden Fireflash
flight had been sabotaged, Scott had taken off in yet another
Fireflash. Well over the Atlantic, they discovered that the
automatic locator had been giving them a wrong position. Then
the problems began to escalate; first they lost power in some
of the hydraulics, and then the gyro-stabilizers began to
Thunderbird Five was able to help them correct their course
and Fireflash was still operational, though severely
hampered. Virgil was beginning to feel that having
Thunderbird Two alongside was superfluous. And then both the
Elevator Power Unit on Fireflash and its standby
malfunctioned. Scott just couldn't raise the nose of the huge
airliner and they had about 15 minutes before they crashed
into the ocean. Then the radio signal to London Control went
able to relay messages between the airliner and London, and
told them that London had advocated bailing out of the
crippled plane. Scott rejected this suggestion, as it left
the questions they hoped to answer unresolved. So they
quickly moved toward the "scheme" they worked out earlier,
one that involved winching Gordon into the starboard wing to
ascertain the trouble and fix it.
kept communication with the cockpit to a bare minimum, hoping
to keep their secrets from Captain Hansen, so only Virgil and
Alan had heard all of Gordon's commentary. Gordon had located
the malfunctioning Elevator Power Unit in the starboard wing
with less than three minutes left before they crashed into the
Atlantic Ocean, only to discover that the leads into it had
been cut. Subsequently, the elevators that directed the
airflow over the wings and gave Fireflash more lift dropped
into their default "down" position; this was why Scott and the
captain couldn't keep her nose up.
Virgil heard a gunshot over Gordon's radio. The saboteur was
still on board!
could not hear what the saboteur had to say, but he could hear
all of Gordon's half of the exchange... and every single
gunshot. Then his heart stopped for an instant, as a body
tumbled out of the hatch. It took that instant for his mind
to register that the falling figure was not wearing Gordon's
Gordon finally responded to Scott's frantic calls on the other
circuit, Virgil's heart went to his mouth. With only thirty
seconds before they hit the water, and too little time to bail
out, there was not enough time for Gordon to repair the leads
to the EPU.
moment, Virgil wasn't worried as much about the men in the
cockpit as he was about Gordon in the mechanical compartment
of the starboard wing. Scott had taken the precaution of a
taking an inflatable life raft and a laser cutter with him
into the Fireflash; he and Captain Hansen would have time to
cut their way out before the aircraft sank, if the hydraulics
failed and the emergency hatch would not open.
was completely exposed, because the EPU also controlled some
of the hydraulics, notably those that closed the starboard
hatch. The airliner was still falling at half the speed of
sound; at that velocity, the water flooding in would crush
anything in its path, including his brother. At best, he'd be
killed immediately, never knowing what hit him; at worst, he'd
be knocked unconscious and drown, even before the Fireflash
trying to make his panicked mind come up with a solution as
Captain Hansen announced, in a shaking voice, the time that
remained before impact. "Ten seconds, Tracy."
Not again, not Gordon," Virgil whispered fervently.
the Fireflash leveled out, apparently only inches from the
water's surface, and shot steeply upward. Virgil wasn't sure
how he did it, but Gordon had somehow gotten enough current to
travel through the EPU leads to make the unit operate, at
least long enough to pull them out of the dive. As the open
hatch flashed past him, Virgil could see a bright blue light
flickering deep in the interior of the mechanical bay.
Virgil shouted joyfully. "You did it!"
unexplained static made it difficult to hear Gordon's
response, but there was no mistaking the pain in his voice.
Virgil's heart sank again. "Great, Virg...but ... I don't
... know ... how long I ... can ... hold it..." Then the
radio squealed and went dead.
the open contact with Fireflash's cockpit. "Scott! Gordon's
gunshots!" Scott responded grimly. "Was he hit?"
know. He just said he couldn't hold the EPU and his radio
went dead. He sounded pretty bad off." Then Virgil recalled
the flickering light from the hatch, and it hit him. "He must
be holding those leads in his bare hands!"
current in that thing ..." Scott trailed off. "Height and
speed?" He barked at Captain Hansen.
on 20,000 feet... and 700 miles per hour," the pilot read from
don't think Gordon had his oxygen on ..." Virgil reminded him.
some quick decisions. "Captain, shut down the EPU. Reduce
speed to low safe cruising. Virgil, as soon as we've slowed,
get Thunderbird Two in position right under our nose. You're
gonna have to use your vertical jets to keep us on a slow
descent until I can get to Gordon and fix those EPU leads.
If we reach one thousand feet, relay to me through Alan. But
I hope to have the EPU up before that."
Virgil said firmly, matching his Thunderbird's velocity to
that of the huge airliner, and hoping he'd masked his
apprehension enough to keep its pilot from worrying. In
theory, the big International Rescue transport could keep the
Fireflash from tipping into another death dive, if he could
get Thunderbird Two under her and get her balanced. He'd
trained for the scenerio numerous times in simulation. He'd
never done it in actual practice.
Scott addressed their youngest brother, whom Virgil had been
listening to their exchange.
Scott." Their youngest brother's voice was in its
professional mode, revealing little of the anxiety they all
"Get on to
base and have Brains consult the schematics. I'm going to use
the laser cutter to enter the starboard compartment from the
lounge in the wing and I don't want to cut through anything
vital to keeping us in the air. Ideally, I need a section
about two feet square."
In a few
moments, their respective velocities adequately slowed and
matched, Virgil adjusted the angles of Thunderbird Two's four
topside cameras - starboard and port near her reverse-swept
wings, and at her nose and tail sections - so he could see and
center the nose section of the Fireflash directly overhead.
Then he shut down the wailing proximity alarms.
the Fireflash cockpit. "I'm in position, Fireflash. Hold
on." He gritted his teeth as the airliner's nose, without any
power to its elevators to maintain level flight, gradually
dropped down on top of him. There was a subtle thud, and he
allowed himself a grim smile; he'd anticipated the impact of
the airliner and almost instinctively permitted his craft a
slight dip to lessen the blow.
done, Virgil!" Scott congratulated his brother's skill. "We
barely felt that."
Let's hope we don't hit too much turbulence and get knocked
off balance." Now Virgil moved the levers that opened the
hatch of the compartment directly above him and extended a
magnetic clamp to keep the two craft connected. The
arrangement was not as aerodynamic as the two aircraft alone,
but the slight buffeting was better than Fireflash sliding to
either side and smashing the stronger but smaller Thunderbird
As soon as
all was secure, Scott turned to the airline pilot. "I'm going
to see what's going on down there."
response was filled with empathy. "I hope your man is all
couldn't hear Scott's reply; he knew this stranger's concern
brought a lump to his throat that he couldn't have spoken
around. Then Virgil was relieved when his brother activated
the telecom in his watch. He understood that keeping Captain
Hansen out of the loop kept him from learning too much about
International Rescue, but they were all deeply worried about
Gordon. "Virg, any contact with Gordon?"
was a lot of electronic noise when his radio died. I imagine
the current fried it."
about you? Did you try his telecom?" Scott asked next.
right after he talked to Virgil last ... I think I heard the
same noise. It must've fried his telecom, too."
could tell from the picture he was getting from Scott's
telecom that he had reached the starboard lounge of the
airliner. Then the image swung dizzily as he unslung the
laser from his shoulder. "Brains, have you found a place for
me to cut, yet?"
Scott. I-it will be a tight fit, but you should be able to
see Gordon when you've g-gotten through."
Scott the location, and then they all heard a loud ripping
sound as Scott pulled up a large piece of carpeting to get at
the metal flooring. Then the telecom image showed light
flashing off the walls as the laser began its work.
Scott said the words they'd all been waiting to hear: "I'm
through! I can see him."
out the breath he'd been holding, then took it up again at
Scott's next words, shouted over the howling of the wind
through the starboard hatch. "He's fallen over onto the EPU
component block ..." Then the image from his telecom moved
wildly as Scott dropped through the opening he'd made and onto
the decking of the compartment.
a brief glimpse of Gordon's blue coverall bent over the
console, his helmet still in place, as Scott bounced to his
feet. "Gordon!" Scott shouted over the wind. Then, for their
benefit: "He's unconscious!" Again, the image moved, as he
obviously laid Gordon down on the floor. Scott let out a low
whistle, and when he spoke again, his voice was dark with
worry. "Gordon's hands are badly blistered, and there's a
dark burn on his chest. He must have fallen over the leads
when he passed out ... The good news is his breathing and
heart rate are strong and steady."
looked at his instruments in alarm. "Scott! we're at a nine
Virgil heard his father's strained voice from base. He
realized he wasn't the only one who had been holding his
breath. "...Scott, if Gordon's not in distress, you've got to
get that EPU working..."
Father." After a second of hesitation, the image Virgil was
seeing moved again.
uttered a short curse. "Most of the wires in the cable have
fused. There was so much power going through them, the
insulation caught fire and now they're nearly welded
together. There's no way we can control the individual
elevators now! It's all or nothing!"
we've got to get some altitude!" Virgil reminded him
urgently. "This much mass is way beyond Thunderbird Two's
Scott answered as he blew out a breath. "I need to get some
tape from Gordon, or we're gonna have a real fire down
here..." The visual from his telecom moved, and Virgil got
another look at Gordon, this time at his face, reddened as if
from a deep sunburn, as Scott rummaged in the tool pouch
Gordon had fastened to his winch harness. Then the image
underwent some jerky movements, as Scott wrapped the tape
around the fused wires.
Virgil saw Scott's face swing into view as his brother lifted
his watch to speak into it. "Alan, tell Captain Hansen that
control from the EPU will operate all the elevators at once
and equally. When he flips that switch, the Fireflash will
take a steep climb, and it'll keep climbing until he shuts it
off again. Virgil, you and the captain will have to
coordinate. Have him leave the EPU in the "on" position until
we hit about fifteen thousand feet, then shut it off again."
situation was quickly explained to the Fireflash pilot, and
then Virgil took over flight control. "Ready, Scott? Hang on
The view from Scott's watch showed a low angle that suddenly
shifted as he found some type of handhold to keep both himself
and the still-unconscious Gordon from being thrown around the
gave a brief countdown : "Three ... two... one! and... Up!"
Fireflash suddenly jerked upward in a steep climb, as Virgil
tried to compensate for the sudden loss in weight. He didn't
have time to look, but he could hear Scott grunt as he held
fifteen thousand feet..." Virgil announced tightly. "...
Fourteen seven...fourteen eight... fourteen nine ... fifteen
thousand! Cut the EPU!"
slammed downward, as the elevators snapped back into their
original positions, but the magnetic clamp keeping her and
Thunderbird Two together held. Virgil added just enough
vertical lift to keep the two craft out of a sharp dive as
they continued their tandem flight.
well done to the captain, Alan. Good job, Virg." Virgil
could hear something in Scott's voice that was more than just
trying to breathe in the thin atmosphere at this height, but
before he could wonder if his brother was hurt and hiding it,
the image from the telecom moved again. "I'm going to get
Gordon up into the lounge and get him taken care of ..." Scott
again divided his attention between keeping the two aircraft
in the air and watching the display from Scott's telecom.
Scott grunted, as somehow he pulled Gordon, who remained
unconscious, up through the manhole he'd cut into the floor
and up into the warmth and pressurized air of the lounge.
Gordon?" Alan asked anxiously when the movement of the telecom
unconscious, Al," Scott answered, catching his breath. "But
the burn on his chest doesn't look as bad as I thought at
first... looks like his flight suit and harness took the worst
of it. His hands are blistered, but I don't believe the deep
tissue is damaged."
there's a first aid kit behind the bar there," Virgil
offered. Even with the movements of Scott's arm, he had seen
the refined appointments of the luxury airliner's lounge.
moved in that direction, and then his arm with the watch swung
forward, revealing a number of tumblers and bottles, as he
reached under the counter. "Yeah, you're right. Good
moments later, Gordon's blistered hands bandaged, his burned
chest and face treated, Scott hesitated. "Brains, I'm worried
that he still hasn't awakened. Should I try to bring him
around? There's some smelling salts here..."
Scott. He's better off unconscious, c-considering the extent
of the burns he's received. I-if his color is g-good and he's
breathing c-comfortably, he should be f-fine."
then." The picture moved when Scott stood up. "Let me find a
blanket...ah, here's one at the steward's workstation... and
cover him... Then I better get back to the cockpit and help
Captain Hansen get this puppy landed. I'll be switching back
to the cockpit radio, so watch yourselves ..."
couldn't help it. He rolled his eyes and laughed, releasing
some of the anxiety that had settled on him since the initial
near-crash dive. They "weren't out of the woods yet", as
Grandma would have said, but Gordon appeared to be all right
and Scott's return to his usual imperious tone indicated that
he was feeling better about the situation. Somehow, if Scott
was upbeat, Virgil knew it would all come together to a good
ending. He wasn't surprised to hear laughter from the other
parties on the circuit, while Scott's image from the telecom
wore a nonplused expression.
was back in the cockpit of the Fireflash, they checked in with
London Control. So much had occurred since the last report,
it seemed impossible that ten minutes had passed, but
Commander Norman was nearly frantic with worry. Alan quickly
assured him that things were well in hand, although the loss
of the Fireflash's elevators was still a grave concern.
were passing over the Celtic Sea, Scott decided that they
needed more altitude to make it back to London and the EPU was
again activated for a brief period, with Scott providing
again, the airliner lifted immediately into a steep climb, but
this time, Scott had Virgil release the magnetic clamp that
linked Fireflash to Thunderbird Two. Then he gave the
go-ahead for the big transport to return to London ahead of
them and set up the emergency elevator cars. He needed to be
ready; some communication for the hydraulics in the starboard
landing gear, like those to the hatch, were fused in the EPU
landed and the nose and tail sections of Thunderbird Two were
lifting to open the pod, he was starkly reminded of their very
first rescue, hardly more than a year ago. It had occurred at
this very airport, involving a Fireflash with someone he held
very dear aboard. Then it had been Tin-Tin, on the final leg
of her journey home after completing her education; this time
it carried two of his brothers, both of whom were particularly
close to him.
listened carefully as London Control completed the process of
clearing the airport of non-essential personnel. Fireflash's
atomic engines were carefully shielded, but if International
Rescue inexplicably failed, and the jet crashed, there was a
very real danger of radiation leakage. The airport had been
sealed before they took off earlier, but now even the
personnel with high security clearance were asked to
evacuate. Then, Control alerted the several observers along
the flight path of the crippled airliner and asked Fireflash
to lower her landing gear. The observers were instructed to
pay particular attention to the position of the starboard
found himself releasing a breath that he hadn't realized he'd
been holding as all the observers checked in with a positive
report that the all the wheels had indeed been lowered. Now
all he could do is wait, watch, and pray, along with everyone
else in the vicinity. Even though they appeared to be
correctly configured, did the landing gear lock into place;
would the hydraulics hold once the weight of the plane came to
bear on them?
he could see the Fireflash. Even a mile from the airport, she
looked huge. And she was too low, her nose too deep. Now that
he no longer needed immediate communication with the tower,
Virgil could concentrate on the open contact circuit,
listening intently to what was happening in the Fireflash
the EPU switch to lift the nose a bit at a time," Scott was
saying, caught in mid-sentence.
could see the nose come up. Just a bit more, Scott, Virgil
thought, desperately wishing that Grandma's assertions that he
and his brother shared a telepathic connection was true.
if Scott had heard him, Virgil could hear him grunt. "Just a
the enormous jet was over the runway. The nose rose a
fraction and the rear wheels touched down. There was a squeal
of brakes, the air brakes were applied, then the nose wheel
dropped, slightly too hard, and bounced upward off the tarmac
briefly. Then, all three sets of landing gear were down.
Wheel brakes squealed, the air brakes roared, and eventually,
the great airliner rolled to a stop.
found himself once again releasing a breath that he'd
forgotten he was holding, this time in a full-throated whoop
of joy. "They're down!" he told his family at base and Alan
in orbit on the satellite, all of whom also had been holding
their respective breaths. He vacated the cockpit of
Thunderbird Two, and swung into her sickbay, picking up an EMT
kit and portable anti-grav stretcher. Then he ran toward the
runway where the Fireflash had come to rest, between the
waiting, and thankfully unneeded, crash-tender trucks.
emergency stairs were rolled up to the cockpit hatch halfway
up in the tail plane of the huge aircraft. Virgil was
part-way up them when the hatch swung open, and Captain Hansen
and Scott appeared, flanking a rather unsteady-looking Gordon,
wearing a stubborn look on his face.
tried to keep a straight face, as Scott's voice floated down.
"Gordon, I still think you should wait for the stretcher to
Gordon replied, waving his bandage-swathed hands. "I can make
it on my own..." Then he realized how high in the air he was,
how long those stairs were, and fell back slightly, his eyes
wide. "On second thought..."
spotted his brother already climbing up the ramp. "Hey, Virg..."
raised his arms, indicating the items he carried. "One AG
stretcher, coming right up!"
afterwards, Virgil got Gordon settled in Thunderbird Two's
sick bay, while Scott finished his statements for Commander
Norman's report. Virgil sank comfortably into the pilot seat,
still chuckling and shaking his head over Gordon's rather
drunken last words before he succumbed to the pain-killer
Virgil had given him.
there was nothin' to worry about. It was just like fixing a