THUNDERBIRDS AREN'T GO
A malfunction at International
Rescue's Base causes a rescue not to take place.
Written for the 2008 TIWF Halloween Challenge.
recorded the details of the distress call he'd received while
up in Thunderbird Five and contacted his father.
Alan," Jeff Tracy said routinely as he opened up the
video-link from Tracy Island to the space satellite.
a call from a girl pleading for help, Dad," Alan replied. "She
told me that some of her friends were taking party stuff into
a cave in Yorkshire County in England to prepare for a
Halloween party tomorrow night. She was outside with their
vehicle when the roof caved in on her friends."
Alan, tell her we are on our way," Jeff told him. "Get on to
the local authorities and tell them too so they can be on
standby with emergency vehicles. "I'll get the boys up from
the games room."
Alan said as the video link was cut.
cave in a small wooded area of England two figures were
standing talking in the early afternoon sunshine.
metal gate was nice and easy to get open once I shot the lock
off," the powerfully built man with Asian features smiled
evilly at the girl beside him. "You have done well," he added.
"You will have now convinced International Rescue to come to
this place and go looking inside for a nice fresh cave-in.
While the fools are doing that, my next little trick will keep
them safely occupied with a genuine cave-in that will keep
them away from their machines for a long time, maybe forever.
Then at long last I can gain access to their machines and
learn their secrets. Then untold wealth will be mine."
long as you remember me in that wealth, like you promised,"
the girl replied. She looked up into the face of her companion
who was now wearing a smile of greed and pleasure at the
thoughts of what he could be gaining if his plans came to
I won't forget you," he assured her. "You only have to
continue your act when they arrive until they are lured into
the cave. Foolish young people that don't know any better use
these places at this time of year for their stupid Halloween
parties. They know nothing of the real meaning of what they
are celebrating, it is all fun to them. So it's easy to fool
International Rescue to come here. If I know them, and their
machines, it won't take long to get here and I'll take care of
car drew up at the entrance to Bluestone Caverns, a popular
tourist attraction, set under a large hill. The place was
often used by locals for parties, ghost hunt vigils and caving
enthusiasts when the tourists had gone at the end of the day.
Privately owned, permission had to be sought from the owner
for these late evening activities and right now it was the end
of the tourist season. It appeared that nobody was in sight
and the entrance to the cave was sealed by a strong steel door
with a padlock on it. In front of that was a sturdy metal gate
also padlocked to give maximum security to the cave mouth.
"Everything looks normal to me," the young policeman said to
his partner as they walked back to the car. "Can't see any
sign of cave-in here or how anybody could get inside there
report in that we've checked the place and it must have been a
hoax call to International Rescue," his partner replied.
officer called in and informed the radio room of his findings
and was told by the operator, "There's been a new development.
Stay there and I'll patch you through to the sergeant."
Jordan told them, "I've been informed that you've found
nothing out of place there. As you are in that area, go and
see the owner of the caverns, Michael Hinkley. He's reported
trespassers on his property close to the mouth of the cave's
emergency escape tunnel. He heard gunshots too. He lives in
Bluestone House close by. You get to there from around the
Sarg. I know where that place is," the policeman informed his
superior as he turned the radio off and began to drive the car
to its new destination a short distance away.
on Tracy Island, Jeff Tracy and his sons were all gathered in
boys, that's the details from Alan," Jeff told his sons of the
latest rescue mission. "You'll probably need the Excavator and
the rest of the caving equipment for this one."
and put them in the pod n-now, Mr. Tracy," Brains said as he
got up to go down to the hangar.
you, Brains," Tin Tin volunteered and left the room with him.
go then, Scott," Jeff said to his eldest son. Then he added,
"Virgil and John will soon be following you in Thunderbird
Two. Good luck it's going to be a long night for all of us."
relieved that he wasn't going out on this night time rescue.
He didn't particularly like cave-ins and was pleased his
father had chosen John this time. He would instead though be
keeping his father company during the long hours while his
brothers were away.
reached the cockpit of Thunderbird One and, after changing
into his uniform, he pressed the controls that would send the
fast, rocket plane on the first part of its launch sequence,
down the rollers towards the launch pad beneath the swimming
pool on Tracy Island. To his astonishment, nothing happened
and Thunderbird One remained where it was.
Virgil and John had reached the cockpit of Thunderbird Two and
had also changed into their uniforms while the pod with the
rescue equipment needed was being selected and attached to the
huge carrier plane.
that cave-in is not too far into the cave," Virgil said to
John as he settled at the controls again. "I won't be able to
get the Excavator in too far and it will involve us both
digging through to get at the trapped people. That's a dirty
and time consuming job."
buckled up his seat belt and replied, "Depends what the
cave-in's made of too. If it's solid rock, that'll take a lot
longer to get through than just soft soil and sand."
surprised when nothing happened and pressed the controls
again. "What the heck's going on?" he asked himself out loud
when nothing happened. Frowning, he tried again and still the
rollers failed to operate. Scott then had no other choice but
to contact his father and tell him about the problem.
Thunderbird Two, Virgil was having similar problems. After
selecting the pod that was needed and descending down to
connect it to the rescue craft, he pressed the remote control
switch that should have opened the huge hangar door beneath
the cliff face. The hangar door remained closed after several
attempts by Virgil to get it to open.
understand this, John," Virgil told his brother. "This hasn't
happened before. There must be a fault somewhere. It looks
like I'll have to contact Dad and Brains to see what the
Thunderbird One, was trying to do the very same thing and was
puzzled when he realised that his radio contact to Base
control was dead, as was his radio link to Thunderbird Five.
His next thought was to try to call his father by wrist-comm
but this was not working either, all he got was static
wandered over to the balcony in the lounge as he often did to
watch Scott take off. He had expected to see the swimming pool
open by now and Scott soaring off high into the night sky but
this was not happening.
Scott's not launched yet!" Gordon exclaimed. "The pool's still
have launched by now," Jeff agreed and went to turn on the
vid-screen to Thunderbird One.
portrait of Scott remained motionless on the wall instead of
becoming a live picture of Scott at the controls of
the emergency signal controls from behind his desk and found
them lifeless too. "Something has gone wrong!" he said to
Gordon. "Find Brains and get him up here. Then you go and
check if Scott is okay."
Dad," Gordon said as he left to do just that.
waited for Brains to appear, Jeff tried to see if he could
contact Virgil in Thunderbird Two and met with the same
response as he got with Scott. The vid-screen remained dead
and the emergency signals did not work.
tried to see if he could contact Alan in Thunderbird Five.
"International Rescue Base to Thunderbird Five, come in,
relief Alan's portrait changed to a live video link.
"Thunderbird Five here, Dad," Alan replied. Then puzzled, he
asked, "Why haven't Scott and Virgil taken off yet?"
to have had some sort of power failure. I'm waiting for Brains
to come up here. I can't contact either of them by the
vid-screens or radio," Jeff told him. "See if you can contact
either of them from there."
Hang on, I'll try now," Alan replied as he turned to the radio
controls on Thunderbird Five.
waited anxiously while Alan did this. He couldn't understand
what had possibly gone wrong; nothing like this had ever
later Alan contacted his father again, "No, Dad, nothing from
either of them," Alan told him looking very worried.
son," Jeff answered. "At least I can still get in touch with
you. Get on to the police again and inform them that we have
equipment problems here and have been delayed."
on to it right now, Dad," Alan replied and cut the video link
with his father.
Brains and Tin Tin in the hangar of Thunderbird Two. "The
power's gone dead for the radio and vid-screens up in the
lounge," Gordon told them. "Something's stopped Scott from
launching too. The pool didn't slide back."
thing's happened to me," Virgil said as he and John joined
them from Thunderbird Two. "I couldn't get the hangar to open
or get any radio contact."
well?!" Gordon asked in astonishment. He then added, "I'm
going over to check if Scott's okay."
with you," John said to Gordon. Turning to the others he said,
"You three go up and see Dad."
Gordon met Scott about to go up in the elevator to the lounge.
"What's going on around here?" he asked. "I couldn't contact
anybody by radio or by wrist comm. I couldn't get Thunderbird
One to move down to the launch position."
of power failure," John told him. "Same thing happened to
Virgil and me when we tried to launch Two."
gone up to the lounge with Brains and Tin Tin to discuss it
with Dad," Gordon added.
terrible," Scott said as they got in the elevator. "Lives may
be lost due to this and International Rescue will have let
approached them yet, officer. When I heard the shooting noises
I thought it best to stay here and inform you first," Michael
Hinckley told the policeman when they arrived at his home.
"I've seen them through my binoculars from upstairs. There's
two of them, a foreign looking man and a young woman. I can't
understand why they are hanging around the emergency exit to
thing you stayed back," the policeman replied. "Seeing as they
are armed and dangerous. I'll go and tell my colleague to get
us armed back-up before we investigate any further. Apparently
International Rescue has been called to rescue people trapped
inside following a cave-in."
"International Rescue!" exclaimed Hinkley. "Why? As far as I
know there is nobody inside or a cave-in. The only people that
are due are the public safety checkers before the annual
Halloween party is held tomorrow night."
emergency exit as secure as the main one?" the policeman
got a padlocked metal gate on there so it can be opened
quickly in an emergency," Hinkley replied. "Nobody ever
bothers to go up there. Those two have driven up the emergency
vehicle dirt track and parked outside for some reason."
with us, Mr. Hinkley, and keep yourself and your family
indoors," he was told as the policeman went outside to join
his colleague and radio in to the station for more back-up.
"We may need your help later."
Hinkley closed the front door of his home and ushered his wife
and family upstairs for safety. Then he went into the rear
upstairs room and continued his observance on the two
trespassers through his binoculars and wondered just what they
were up to out there.
receiving a telecall from Radio Control, Sergeant Gareth
Jordan, at the desk of the police station in the small town of
Thornburn Bridge, turned to his colleague and said, "I've just
had a message to say armed units are required at Bluestone
Caverns. The trespassers there have guns on them."
on to that right now," his colleague replied.
bit of a mystery," the sergeant continued. "There's nobody
supposed to be inside the caves according to the owner and the
main entrance is secure. No signs of a cave-in there so why
International Rescue have been called out, I just don't know.
They have problems getting here too according to the radio
room. They've been informed of our findings and that it may be
a hoax call. Anyway, if guns are involved though it's serious
and the ambulance service will be needed on stand-by. Get on
to it now, Phil."
Sarg," the young policeman replied and contacted the radio
room to send the armed back-up team and emergency services up
to the caves.
Island Jeff and his four sons had been doing detailed checks
on the radios and the power systems to try and find the fault.
Tin Tin and Brains were each in the cockpits of Thunderbirds
One and Two respectively so they could check radio responses
as the checks were made.
up with John first in the hangar. "I just can't find anything
wrong, Dad." John said to his father after checking the
circuits to the radio system.
done detailed checks on the hangar doors and the other launch
mechanisms and found nothing wrong there either," Virgil added
as he and Scott joined them.
the last full maintenance checks made on the systems?" Scott
in the log file but I don't recall any problems being
reported," Jeff answered. "I'll check that out too. Let's all
go and get a cup of coffee and discuss this upstairs and try
things again from up there."
brought coffee in for everybody as they gathered in the lounge
to discuss the problem further.
Kyrano," Jeff told his loyal friend and servant. "No point in
you staying up half the night too. You can go to bed now."
"I will do
that, Mr. Tracy," Kyrano replied. "Goodnight"
"Goodnight, Kyrano," Jeff answered. He took a sip from the
steaming mug of fresh coffee and turned his attention back to
International Rescue's major problem.
get the hangar door for Two to open by the emergency switches
in Landing Control either for some strange reason," Jeff told
his sons and scribbled this down on a pad.
must be some major fault to the circuits for the rollers for
Thunderbird One," Scott said.
contact Alan in Five but can't communicate with One and Two by
using the normal method or the emergency one," Jeff added,
writing this down on the list. "Whatever it is, only the
communication system on those two radios is affected."
about Lady Penelope?" Gordon asked. "Have you tried to get
haven't," Jeff replied. "Good thinking, son. I'll try now."
help thinking about those people in the cave," Scott said
looking depressed. "I feel as though we've let them and their
how you feel, Scott, but it's not our fault," John told him.
"Brains and Tin Tin are in the computer room now trying to
solve the problem."
looked relieved when the portrait of Lady Penelope turned into
a live picture of her in her home in England.
it sure is good to see you," Jeff told her.
is always a pleasure to see you too, Jeff, but I'm sure you
have not contacted me just for that reason," she replied.
"What can I do for you?"
explained to her the problems they had been experiencing and
why he had contacted her.
strange, Jeff, and a most inconvenient thing to happen," she
sympathised. "I do hope you get the problem solved soon. Is
there anything else I can do to help?"
at the moment, Penny, but stand by just in case. Goodbye,"
Jeff told her.
Jeff, but don't hesitate to ask. Goodbye," she replied as the
live link was closed.
"So we can
contact Alan and we can contact Penny," Jeff said. "The odds
are in favour that we can contact our other agents too."
the heck's the problem?" Scott asked with impatience. "You
should know, John, you're the radio expert. Can't you get this
thing sorted out?"
blame me!" John exclaimed. "You know I've been over everything
and could find nothing wrong."
sense the frustration and worry developing amongst his sons.
They were getting tired too, he thought. He said to them,
"Look, it's no good getting all fired up about this. I know
it's upsetting and annoying but we won't get the problem
solved by losing our tempers and arguing. We've got to look at
this with a clear head and a calm state of mind. I know you
are getting tired also. Now if you've all finished your coffee
we'll go and see if Brains has come up with anything and then
we'll try again to find the fault."
the eyes on the portrait of Alan Tracy began to flash. "Go
ahead, Alan," Jeff responded quickly to the call.
a reply from the police about that cave-in, Dad," Alan
replied. "It seems that it may be a hoax but two trespassers
have been seen at the emergency exit to the caves and the
police believe that they are armed with guns. At this stage
they don't think anybody is inside the caves and are
investigating the incident."
that's a relief and it buys us more time to find out where
these faults are," Jeff told him. "Okay, Alan, keep us
informed of any new development."
Alan replied as the link to the space satellite was cut.
the emergency exit to the cave, the man known as The Hood was
waiting patiently for the first sign of Thunderbird One to
appear. So far his plan had gone well and he and the girl had
not been detected, or so he thought. Nothing was to go wrong
now as it had often done before when he'd tried to gain access
to the secrets of International Rescue. The foolish girl he'd
brought with him could be easily disposed of later once she
had served his purpose; he would have no further use for her.
She'd been easily tempted to help him by promising her a share
in the wealth he hoped to gain.
they get here? I'm getting cold," the girl whined to him.
they will be here," he replied scanning the skies still and
hoping he was right.
hope they do," she said. "It'll be dark soon and it will be
colder then and I've no coat with me. Is that them now?"
he saw not the sight of Thunderbird One hovering above.
Instead it was a police helijet. They had been discovered, his
plans were foiled.
A squad of
police cars were also coming up the dirt track, headlights
blazing and blue lights flashing. Knowing he was cornered he
did the first thing that came into his head. Grabbing the girl
in one of his powerful arms as a hostage and his bag full of
equipment with his other hand he ran into the open cavern.
Anticipating that he would probably do this, the police had
taken Michael Hinkley down to the main entrance to the caves
to open it for them to get through to meet the trespassers in
the emergency tunnel. Their colleagues at the emergency
entrance had informed them of the escape attempt made by the
criminals and the need for caution.
Hinkley opened the steel door he said, "If you don't want the
lights on I have torches here ready charged up and safety
hats. The route to the emergency cave exit is lit by red ropes
on the side of the walls once you get into the main chamber.
Do you want me to come with you and show you?"
you do but stay behind us and give out directions," the
policeman told him as they went in and picked up a torch and
safety hat each from the shelf inside.
ran deeper into the cave carrying the struggling, confused
girl with him. What light there was from outside was dimming
the further he ran in and soon he could not see where he was
going in the narrow tunnel. He had to get his torch and gun
from his bag and in order to do that he would have to put the
struggling girl down.
we come in here for?" she asked. "It's cold and dark. I don't
like it in here."
he told the girl whose whining was starting to irritate him.
"The police are after us. Do you want to get us arrested?
We'll make for the main entrance and I'll blast the locks off
there. I may have to cause a landslide for International
Rescue to save somebody after all."
got his torch he switched it on and put his gun in his pocket.
Then pushing her in front of him, he picked up his bag. "Just
keep walking," he told her.
walked further into the tunnel, slipping and stumbling on the
uneven, muddy ground. The roof of the cave was very low in
some places and the girl bumped her head against the hard
rocks and cried out in pain. The tunnel opened up into a wider
chamber and the Hood noticed torch lights ahead in the
distance coming towards him.
he exclaimed quietly. "International Rescue must have informed
them." Uttering curses when realising he was trapped by the
police coming in both directions, he grabbed the girl roughly
and dragged her to one side, forcing her down on the ground
while he too crouched down and put out his torch.
became confused and frightened of her companion's actions. Up
until now he had been charming and courteous to her, promising
her great wealth and a good life with him if she helped him
out in his plan. Now she was cold, wet and muddy. Her head was
bleeding where she had knocked it on the cave roof. She lay
trembling with fear on the ground and wondered what was about
to happen next.
them the rest of the police were following at a safe distance
and soon both parties met up, shining their torches on the
couple on the cave floor. They stopped and pointed their guns
drew the gun from his pocket and held it against the head of
the prostrate girl. "If you fire a shot at me, I will kill the
girl, then kill some of you, too," he threatened.
a fool, man, and make things worse for yourself," one of the
policemen told him. "You know you can't get away from all of
us so just hand over the gun now."
began to cry out in terror and struggled to sit up and pleaded
with The Hood, "Please don't kill me, let me go, please."
he told her again holding her tightly down with one strong arm
while still holding the gun at her head.
Hinckley had owned the caves for many years and knew every
inch of them. He was an experienced caver and was used to the
darkness. While The Hood's attention was on the police that
surrounded him and the girl, Hinckley switched off his torch
and crept quietly over to edge of the wide chamber behind
them. He came to a pile of loose rocks that had lain there for
several years and picked up the biggest one he could manage
and aimed it at the large bald head of The Hood.
the unexpected blow, the arch criminal fell forward firing his
gun at the same time, wounding his young female companion as
he did so.
It was all
over in seconds. The Hood was handcuffed and arrested while
semi-conscious. The girl sustained a wound in her shoulder and
was whisked away in an ambulance that was waiting on stand-by
As soon as
everybody was out of the cave, the police opened the bag that
The Hood had been carrying. They found several explosive
devices and realised to their horror that he could have used
them and killed them all inside that cave if things had gone
wrong. Michael Hinkley was thanked and praised by the police
for his actions even if he had put himself at risk.
the only thing I could do," he told them. Then smiling he
added, "It seemed a good idea at the time but I'll probably be
shaking about it later when I think of it."
Tracy Island the Tracy's were still trying to discover the
fault and repair it. So far nothing out of the ordinary had
been found after countless checks and computer system analyses
had been made. "We may as well break for something to eat,"
Jeff told everybody. "We've done all we can for now. It's a
relief to know that last call was a hoax but we need to be
prepared for the next call-out."
give it one more shot afterwards, Dad," Scott told him. "Tired
as I am, I won't be able to sleep until I know everything is
operating again as normal."
unsolved problems," John added as they headed off to get
washed before their meal.
continued the conversation around the kitchen table. "There
has to be a reason for the malfunctions," Jeff said. "I wish I
knew what it was."
everybody just eat your food," Ruth Tracy told them. She had
been unaware of the problem that the family had spent all
night dealing with and had got up to make breakfast as usual.
all think better and find the reason with some breakfast
inside you. You've
busy all night and haven't had a decent meal since dinner last
true, Grandma," Scott replied. "I guess I do feel a bit
malfunctions there with you then, Scott," Gordon said smiling.
breakfast they all gathered in the lounge to discuss what
their next plan of action should be.
have to fit new, er, components to everything to g-get the, er,
system working again," Brains told them.
going to take some time but if it is what we have to do I
suggest we get started straight away," Scott replied. "We just
can't afford to be out of action any longer."
interrupted in their discussion by a call coming in from Alan.
Jeff walked over to his desk and switched on the communication
screen. "Go ahead, Alan."
another call from the police regarding that cave-in, Dad. They
told me they've arrested two people, a man and a girl. They
haven't got any information out of the man yet, he's refusing
to talk. The girl wanted to talk though, and talk she did. The
man told her to call us with that false information and when
we got there he was going to lure us into those caves and set
off bombs and trap the boys inside or kill them. He wanted to
gain access to our machines, Dad. He promised her great wealth
if she did as he asked."
was a lucky break for all of us," Jeff answered. "Keep us
informed of the situation, Alan. See if you can find out any
more details about that man, he may be the one that's caused
trouble for us before."
Dad," Alan replied. "By the way how is the launching problem
and the radios malfunction going?"
still working on it, son," Jeff told him.
wish you luck," Alan said as the link was cut with Thunderbird
let's get back to work," Jeff told everybody.
you start at the beginning?" Gordon suggested. "Pretend you've
just received a call-out from Alan and proceed normally from
see what good that will do," Virgil answered. "It will just be
wasting more time."
all have to check things out so we have to go to the
Thunderbirds anyway," Scott told them. "We've got nothing to
then, Scott, away you go," Jeff said. "Virgil and John will be
right behind you. When you get to the cockpits try and contact
us by radio."
watched as Scott grabbed the lamps on the wall and vanished
behind on route to Thunderbird One. "Your turn now," Jeff
indicated to Virgil and John.
had gone, Gordon went over to the balcony and looked towards
the pool, just as he had when Scott attempted to leave
reached the cockpit of Thunderbird One to attempt his usual
routine to launch the sleek rocket plane once again. The only
thing he didn't do was change into his uniform. He switched on
the radio and was surprised and delighted to see his father's
face. "I'm here, Dad, and somehow as you can see so far,
things look good. I'm going to attempt launching sequence now.
Can I have air clearance?"
studied the scanners and smiled back at him, "You're okay to
go, son, good luck."
worked the controls and everything appeared to work as normal,
the rollers carried Thunderbird One down to its launching
position beneath the pool.
gave a commentary from the balcony. "The pool's opening, Dad!"
he exclaimed with excitement and relief.
switched on the ignition and to his immense relief and
bewilderment Thunderbird One was launched high into the early
morning sky. "I'm airborne, Dad!" he said over the radio. "I
don't know how or why but I'm airborne. How's Virgil doing?"
to try launching now," Virgil said. "I've got no problem with
the radio now either."
Virgil, if you get Two launched and there are no problems, you
and Scott go on a test flight circuit," Jeff told his sons.
pressed a switch and the huge hangar doors in the cliff face
opened and with another flick of a switch the huge green
aircraft moved forward and outside in a normal routine launch
operation. "I'm launching now," Virgil told his father as
Thunderbird Two pointed up to the sky then lifted off from the
ground with no trouble at all.
do you think, Brains?" Jeff asked the young scientific genius.
that, er, everything is functioning n-normally," he answered.
"I c-can't understand why it wasn't before, though."
let's just be glad that it is and we don't have to fit those
new components," Gordon told them.
r-run a diagnostics check through the er computer when the
b-boys get b-back and see if everything is still, er, okay,"
Brains told them.
Thunderbirds One and Two returned without any trouble and
Brains had run a check through the computer and no further
problems were discovered, Jeff announced. "Well it's been a
long and trying time. I don't know what caused that
malfunction but I'm sure glad it put itself right."
we can all agree on that, Dad," Scott said. "I don't know
about anybody else but I'm off to get some sleep."
grateful the boys didn't go out on that call to the caves,
Jeff," Ruth Tracy said looking up from her sewing after
Scott's brothers decided to get some sleep too and the two of
them were alone.
mother, very grateful," he replied looking at the portraits of
his sons on the wall. "That malfunction couldn't have happened
at a better time even if it did give us a scare, a lot of work
and a night with no sleep. I dread to think what might have
happened if they had gone out to that cave. Now I'm off to bed
as well, mother. I think most of us will all be asleep until
after lunch. Goodnight, or in this case, good morning."
good sleep, son," she replied. "I'll see you all later."
gone, Ruth Tracy put her sewing back into her sewing box and
closed the lid to get ready to do some baking. "Men," she said
out loud. "Heads full of technical systems and science. They
never look beyond that for any other explanations."
watched as a beautiful coloured tropical butterfly flew in
from the balcony. It flitted across to the portraits of the
Tracy brothers and rested on each one in turn. Kyrano had told
her once that people in many lands held the superstitious
belief that these insects were spirits of loved ones who came
visiting now and then. Ruth Tracy smiled and said, "We know
though, don't we, Lucy? How strong a mother's love can be and
the urge to protect our children from danger."