The emergency signal rang throughout the repair bay. The Tracy men dropped whatever they were doing and ran for the lounge. Bekkah, working on connecting the CPU to the upgraded systems in Thunderbird 2, did not. She kept working, until her watch telecomm beeped for her attention.
Jeff's face filled the round watch.
"Bekkah, we have an emergency. Can we launch Thunderbird 2?"
Bekkah sat up.
"Yes, you can if I can finish with the CPU en route. I'm three-quarters done."
"Okay. Just don't get in the way at the rescue. Stay in Thunderbird 2."
"Done, oh truly tremendous one." She could hear peals of laughter in the background.
Jeff's voice sounded gruff.
"FAB, Bekkah. Thunderbirds are go!"
Since Thunderbird 2 was still in the repair bay, Alan couldn't use the pilot's chute that Virgil always used. Instead, he ran pell-mell across the hangar and used the rescue capsule to get himself into the craft. He took the pilot's seat and started doing a preflight systems check.
"Gordon and John are loading up pod 5 with the Mole, Firefly, and the Excavator," he explained. He looked at the new controls and whistled softly.
"I hope I can do this. I haven't had much time in the simulator."
Bekkah looked at him, startled.
"I didn't even think of that, Alan," she admitted. "You do the best you can and get us up in the air. I'll get this CPU up and running as soon as possible and then you can use the voice commands."
"FAB, Bekkah." He started to roll the ponderous craft toward the pods.
He moved Thunderbird 2 into the one empty slot on the conveyor belt. As he prepared to lift the craft up on its hydraulic struts, an insistent chime rang through the cockpit. He was startled to see one of the functioning telltales come up as red.
"Bekkah! What is this over here?" he demanded.
Bekkah looked over his shoulder at the red telltale.
"Oh, no! The hydraulic fluid. We have to see if the hydraulic tanks are full and topped off."
Before he could say anything, Bekkah was calling to Gordon and John through their wrist telecomms.
"John, Gordon. Check the rear hydraulic struts and see that they are topped off with fluid. Bring a barrel in with you. That way you'll have it ready if you need it." She turned to Alan.
"We'd better check the front struts."
"FAB, Bekkah." He left the pilot's chair and together they made their way to the gangway leading to the underbelly of Thunderbird 2. Here were the ports that held weaponry as well as more passenger and storage space if needed. The two went to the bow and checked on the hydraulic lifts.
"This one is okay, Alan." Bekkah said as she tested the fluid levels.
"I'm good here, too." Alan responded.
Bekkah heard Gordon's voice in her computer link.
"We've got one that needs fluid back here. John is topping it off as we speak."
"FAB, Gordon. Come up front ASAP," she answered.
Within minutes, the two brothers were in the cockpit, and strapping themselves in.
"Strap in, Bekkah, if you're flying with us." Alan warned. She fastened herself in across from Gordon and John.
"Hey, I thought you were going to sit in my lap!" Gordon teased.
"I'd get nothing done if I did," she retorted.
"Thunderbird 2 from base. What's the hold up, Alan?"
Alan explained to his father about the hydraulics.
"Attaching pod, now." The lifts took the craft's nose and tail up smoothly while the conveyor belt below moved the pods underneath it. It stopped at pod 5. Alan brought the craft back down, covering the ends of the pod and locking it in place with electromagnets.
"Clear for take off, Thunderbird 2," Jeff said from his post in the lounge.
Alan taxied the machine down the runway and stopped. A concealed lift pushed the craft to a 30 degree angle. A blast door opened behind the powerful thrusters, and they fired, pushing the green aircraft into the sky. Bekkah closed her eyes against the g-force she felt. She had only done this one other time, so it was still very new to her. Gordon and John took it in stride.
Once their flight had leveled off, Bekkah returned to work, attaching the CPU to the remaining functions of the ship. Telltale lights on the new cockpit panel began to appear as they were activated by the new computer.
Gordon and John, then Alan, went back to the crew quarters to change into their uniforms. Bekkah kept working under the console. John sat in the pilot's seat while Alan changed. He gripped the new steering wheel.
"I like this cushy wheel, Bekkah. Wish I needed one in Thunderbird 5."
Bekkah's voice came from under the console. "We covered it with a thick rubberized mesh, then with leather. No more shocks or burns."
She finally pushed herself out from under the console. She checked the telltales against the functions that she knew were ready to go and loaded into the computer. Satisfied, she handed a computer link earpiece to Alan and strapped herself into her seat again.
"How come so much equipment?" she asked Gordon.
"An earthquake in Santa Monica collapsed an old parking garage," he answered gravely.
"Ooh, not fun. Cement, pancaked cars, fire, people trapped. No wonder you need all those vehicles."
"On a totally different subject, what made you quote 'The Hobbit' cartoon at Dad today?" He gave her a merry grin.
"I have no idea. It just slipped out." She chuckled. "We really have to get him, Kyrano, and Grandma to come to one of our family movie nights. Then maybe they wouldn't be so out of the loop."
Scott looked out at the devastated garage. Six stories above ground and three below, it was now a pile of smoking debris three stories high. He closed his eyes for a moment, feeling sorrow for those who had died in the earthquake. How much are we really going to accomplish here, today? he wondered.
A slight aftershock rattled Thunderbird 1's landing struts. He opened his eyes and picked up his microphone.
"Thunderbird 2 from Thunderbird 1." Scott's voice rang out over the radio. "What is your ETA?"
Alan gave a glance as the computer screen to his left.
"ETA to Danger Zone, 10.5 minutes."
"Good, Alan. Now here's what I need you to do. Put Thunderbird 2 down at vector 533/99B. There should be enough room for it there. You take Firefly, Gordon can take the Mole, and John the Excavator. We'll launch a three-pronged attack. I'll give you all coordinates on your starting places when you get here." His voice paused for a moment. "I wish Dad had sent along Brains or Tin-Tin. We sure could use an extra pair of hands."
"Bekkah's here, Scott, but Father gave her explicit instructions to stay in Thunderbird 2 and out of our way." Alan told him.
"Well, I'll just see what I can do to remedy that," Scott said in a determined voice.
"Thunderbird 1 to base."
"Base here, go ahead, Scott."
"Father, we could use an extra pair of hands here. I know you want Bekkah out of the way, but she could be very useful in bringing out medical supplies or rounding up victims for transport. I could teach her how to use the thermal imager, too. Can we put her to work?"
Jeff thought for a few minutes. Then he faced the live picture of his oldest son.
"Yes, go ahead. Just make sure she isn't in danger. She's not trained to handle it."
"FAB, Dad. And thanks." Scott changed the frequency of his radio to match Thunderbird 2's.
"Alan, I got clearance for Bekkah to help us out. I want her to use the thermal imager and help us pinpoint victims under the rubble. Please send her over to Thunderbird 1."
Alan turned to Bekkah. "You heard the man. Get ready to go. ETA to Danger Zone, 2 minutes."
"FAB, Alan." Bekkah said, bemused by the whole situation. "Exactly how do I get to Thunderbird 1?"
Gordon spoke, "You'll use a hover bike. C'mon, I'll give you a down and dirty crash course on how to ride one. We need to get back to the pod anyway and get our vehicles prepped." He, John, and Bekkah headed back to the pod together to prepare for the rescue efforts.
"Okay, Bekkah. Here's how the thermal imager works." Scott explained. "You need to point it at an area, slowly pan over it, holding down the trigger, and then press the upload button. The unit will send the information to this screen at mobile control and you will see the life signs plotted on this grid. Give us the coordinates shown on the grid, and we'll know where the people are trapped. It will only register things in the same temperature range as the human body."
"I get it, Scott. But how can I get the interior parts of the grid? Don't you usually use this while in flight?" she asked.
"Yes, I do. But a cherry-picker truck is coming soon and you can go up in the basket to access the interior of the grid." Scott grinned. "That is, if you are not afraid of heights."
"I'll be okay. Should I walk around the perimeter of the garage? It might be easier to pinpoint people on the other side if I did."
Scott frowned at her.
"No. You stay here until the cherry-picker comes. I want you where you are safe. You haven't the training for rescue work that we have."
Bekkah nodded. "You're right. I'd better stay out of danger."
"Glad you agree with me." Scott grinned now. "I'm off to help Gordon with the Mole. Call if you need anything."
"FAB." Bekkah began to scan the shattered garage with the thermal imager.
"Mobile Control to Mole. I've got a first hit on the bottom level, sector A/12. I think this one should be yours, guys."
"Mole to Mobile Control, FAB, Bekkah." Gordon's voice sounded tinny through the speakers of the mobile control console. "Am calculating descent angle. Digger activated. See you soon, Bekkah."
"John, I'm also getting a sizeable hit on this level, sector L/3. The Excavator should be able to get to it."
"FAB, Bekkah. Moving to that site now."
"Alan, the fire marshal would like your help in sector A/1. There was a major explosion there."
"FAB, Bekkah. I'm on it."
Bekkah felt good, it was good to be doing what she could to help during the rescue. She knew her limitations as well as Scott did, and although she would like to overlook them and jump into the danger with the Tracys, she knew that a secondary role was the wisest course for her.
"Excavator to Mobile Control. I have opened a way to three survivors. I will need a full medikit, including a backboard. Can you oblige?"
"FAB, John. With you in a moment."
Bekkah reached into a pile of gear that the boys had brought out and left near mobile control. They thought it would be easier to grab medical supplies from one central place than going all the way back to Thunderbird 2 to get them. Bekkah picked up a backboard and stood it atop her shoulder like a surfboard. Then she grabbed the full medikit and attached it to the back of the hoverbike she had used. She kicked the machine into gear and floated down to where John was working. Riding the hoverbike was much like riding a bicycle, only you didn't have to pedal, she thought. In just a few minutes she unloaded her burden in front of a hole the Excavator had dug through a concrete slab. She looked up at the tall pile of broken cement and large cement slabs, shuddering.
"Yo, John." she called. John poked his head out of the hole. His hair was already white with dust and his uniform smudged with dirt.
"Good. Come give me a hand in here."
Bekkah hesitated for a moment. "Scott wanted me back at mobile control, using the thermal imager."
"I know, but I can't get this woman out by myself. Come help me carry the backboard."
"Okay." Bekkah stood at the edge of the hole, sticking half of herself in, waiting for the backboard to be slid over to her. John expertly secured the injured woman to the backboard, and began to slide her out. Bekkah grabbed one end just as the ground began to shake. Bekkah had never been in a quake before, and it rattled her composure.
"Whew! Some aftershock!" John said as he climbed out of the hole, carrying one end of the backboard. The two other people were less injured, and John indicated that they should follow him to the medical triage area. Once he had his charges safe, he and Bekkah headed back to the Excavator. She picked up the medikit and moved towards the hoverbike.
Suddenly, another, more violent, aftershock hit. There was a shifting, scraping sound. John looked up at the huge pile of rubble and saw it start to slide. Slide towards Bekkah, who had stopped walking to keep her balance on the shaking ground.
He began to run toward her, shouting, "Look out, Bekkah! Bekkah! Get down!"
He tackled her from behind, pushing her to the ground. The rubble slid like an avalanche over them.
The ground stopped shaking. John and Bekkah had disappeared.