Water interlude

Virgil dropped his wrench when his telecomm watch blared out the emergency signal. He, Scott, and Alan were working on the new play fort that their father had ordered for the Barnes children. Now their work was interrupted again as they were summoned away for a new rescue mission.

As they ran for the villa, Alan turned to ask, "Are we ever going to get this monstrosity finished? It seems to grow everytime I see it!"

Virgil grinned. "We'd probably get more done without our 'helpers'." Indeed, the Barnes children had been hovering around the site ever since the equipment materials were delivered, trying to find ways to "help" the construction go faster. Their "assistance", though well-intentioned, was frustrating to the Tracy men, and even hair-raisingly dangerous in a couple of instances. Scott still limped a bit from the injury he got when Terry had accidently dropped a hammer on his foot. Still, none of them had the heart to ban them from the site, remembering how they felt when their father was creating some special project for them to enjoy.

The three Tracys entered the lounge together, to see their father in deep conversation with John in Thunderbird 5. Gordon was also there, his arm still immobilized and a look of uneasy concern on his face.

"There's been an undersea emergency, boys," Jeff said without preamble. Scott, Virgil, and Alan now knew why Gordon was so uneasy; they would have to take Thunderbird 4 without him.

"A research submarine was surveying some deep hot water vents when their deep ocean submersible developed problems with its propulsion system. The main vessel can't go down as far as the submersible can without sustaining major hull damage. So they have asked us to rescue the three men in the smaller craft. Scott, you travel with Virgil in Thunderbird 2; there's no place for Thunderbird 1 to land anywhere near the danger zone. Plus, you'll need to double crew with Alan in Thunderbird 4."

He turned toward his injured son. "Gordon will keep tabs on you and give you any advice you need on Thunderbird 4's operation." His voice became serious. "I know you boys haven't had a lot of training time in Thunderbird 4 and that makes this an extra difficult rescue. But I know you can do it." He paused for a moment, then said, "Thunderbirds are go!"

Virgil headed for his pilot's launch, while Scott and Alan headed for the passenger elevator. Ringing in their ears was Gordon's loud admonition, "You sky-jockeys better take good care of my Thunderbird!"

"Wow! It is dark down here!" Alan exclaimed as he piloted Thunderbird 4 down towards the submersible. Even with the improvements installed in the lighting bar during the recent refit, visibility was poor.

"Look! There are the vents that the sub's skipper told us about," Scott pointed to the long, chimney-like protrusions ahead of them.

"What is spewing out of those things, anyway?" Alan asked.

Gordon's voice came over the radio to the comm link in each of his brothers' ears. "They are probably spitting out very hot, very mineral rich water. Sometimes the minerals are so dense that the chimneys look like they are actually smoking." He paused for a moment. "Don't get too close. The water coming out of those can be as hot as 800 degrees Farenheit."

Alan whistled. "This is some different world down here, bro. Give me space any day."

Scott kept his eye on the sonar readings, and was startled when a blip showed up on his screen. "I have a solid contact, Alan. Course 8863.7 magnetic." Alan repeated the course to his comm link and the little yellow submarine gracefully turned in obedience. Their lights swept the murk in front of them, and then outlined a small blue craft resting on the silty ocean bottom.

"International Rescue to submersible. Do you copy?" Scott handled the communications array. They waited for a few beats, then a scratchy, static- filled response came through.

"Submersible to International Rescue. Are we glad to hear from you!"

"What is your status, submersible?"

"We are on the ocean bed, our vessel seems to be intact, no water shipping at all. The propulsion system is down, we have one injury, and the air is getting a bit stale in here."

"Copy that, submersible. Stand by." Scott switched channels from the submersible to base. "Thunderbird 4 to base. Did you copy that?"

"Yes, Scott," Gordon answered. "What is the position of their hatch?"

"I'll ask," Scott got back to the submersible. "Submersible, what is the position of your hatch?"

"Our hatch is on top of our craft, which is listing to port at about a 45 degree angle."

"Copy that, submersible. Stand by." Scott consulted with Gordon again.

"Usually I'd say use the universal docking collar but it's not rated for the depth you're at. The pressure would crush it." Gordon said. The docking collar was a flexible rubberized tube that could connect Thunderbird 4's hatches to any other hatch at almost any angle. Gordon thought for a minute, then responded. "Alan, Scott, you're going to have to use the lower emergency hatch, and dock hull-to-hull with the submersible. Now's the time to show off those fancy docking skills you learned in Thunderbird 3, Alan."

"FAB, Gords. You just watch the old master!" Alan quipped.

"Submersible, we are going to have to match you hull-to-hull over your main hatch," Scott informed the denizens of the other craft.

"We copy, International Rescue. Good luck and we'll see you soon." The voice on the radio sounded completely confident of his rescuer's abilities.

Scott scanned the other vessel to see what angle Alan would need to approach the upper hatch. "Alan, they are listing at a 48 degree angle to port."

"FAB, Scott." Alan altered the trim on Thunderbird 4 to match that of the stricken submersible. He brought the craft along slowly while Scott read off the distance to the target.

"Down 0.5 meters. 10 meters, 8 meters. Down 0.2 meters. 5 meters, 3 meters, 1meter, all forward stop." The bottom of Thunderbird 4's hull scraped the top of the other craft lightly as she came to rest.

"Did we make the hatch, Scott?" asked Alan anxiously. Scott moved back to the airlock. He held his breath as he pulled open the emergency hatch. A small amount of seawater welled up into the airlock, but right below him, fitted into the emergency exit, was the hatch of the other craft.

"Chalk one up for the space jockey, Alan!" Scott shouted to his brother, grinning

It didn't take long for Scott to bring the three men up into Thunderbird 4. He brought a medikit over to the older, red-haired man and evaluated the damage to his hand. The two other men, a young blond with a military bearing to him, and a tall, brown-haired, crew-cut man wearing a red coverall under a warm sweater, waited anxiously for Scott's report. In the meanwhile, Alan concentrated on getting Thunderbird 4 back to the larger submarine.

"Sir, I think you've broken those two fingers. I don't have the facilities here to set them but I'll splint them. I'm sure the CMO on your vessel will be able to tend to them. Just sit back and rest for now," Scott said soothingly.

"Your vessel is well equipped for something so small, young man. Might I have a look around?" The red-haired man's eyes gleamed with interest.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we can't allow it. We can't allow our technology to get into the wrong hands."

"I understand." The older man relaxed, his splinted hand lying across his abdomen. Scott guided the other two men to fold down seats, then he went forward to the cockpit.

"I've been in communication with the sub. They are surfacing and will meet us there," Alan explained.

"FAB, Alan. I'll be glad to get back into Thunderbird 2 and home. Give me my silver bird over this pokey little fish anyday," Scott said, grinning and winking at Alan.

"I heard that!" Gordon's voice retorted. The brothers shared a good laugh.