[CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS REPORT]
The massive elevator platform began to rise, carrying Thunderbird 2 and the three International Rescue men back to the outside world. It was an impossible situation – freeze Unity City with the Frost Cannons installed by Ireglac’s people, or Tracy Island would be destroyed. Scott had been turning the problem over in his mind since Ireglac had first uttered the ultimatum. Afterward, the three men had been left in a holding cell for a few hours to make their choice.
They all knew that there was no choice to be made, the citizens of Unity City must come first. But how to warn base of the imminent threat? That was the problem. It came down to two variables – how Ireglac proposed to destroy Tracy Island, and how closely their communications would be monitored. When Ireglac’s people returned to release them, Scott, Virgil and Brains had made their plans and reluctantly agreed to make for Unity City.
The huge elevator platform reached the surface and daylight illuminated the Arctic Sea like a glittering mass of jewels. Scott parted ways with the others with a grim nod and trudged across to Thunderbird 1. He noted the handiwork of Ireglac’s technicians immediately, the unsightly barrel of the Frost Cannon protruding from the forward ventral hatch.
Triggering the rocket motors, Scott guided Thunderbird 1 gently into the air. A roar of jets from below him signaled Thunderbird 2’s ascent and soon the mammoth green freighter was hovering close beside his own craft. A third hum of rocket motors followed, as a deadly-looking single-person fighter appeared between them. The fighter was of course their incentive. With a blast of afterburners, it streaked off into the distance, its destructive payload bound for Tracy Island.
At the bleep of a signal, Scott and Virgil set course for Unity City and engaged their motors. Scott kept pace with Virgil as instructed. Ireglac obviously didn’t want the two International Rescue craft splitting up in case of trouble.
They weren’t long into their journey when John’s voice sounded over Scott’s radio, “Thunderbird 1 from Space Station, do you read me?”
The next few moments were critical, whatever happened, Scott must get his message through. He had no doubt that Ireglac was monitoring all transmissions back at his lair and wouldn’t hesitate to order the destruction of Tracy Island at the slightest careless word. Scott took a breath and then, with his usual professional calm, replied to his brother.
“Space Station from Thunderbird 1, receiving you John.”
“Gee, am I glad to hear your voice! Dad was darned near about to call out the Navy, you’ve been so overdue!”
“Yeah, guess he must have been pretty worried about us! Thunderbird 2 is fine, just took a little longer to repair than we were expecting.”
“I’m sure relieved about that, but you really ought to have called in, Scott, you know better than that.”
“Sorry, John, couldn’t be helped. Fault in the communications system, Brains will check it out back at base. I’m sure we’ll have quite a reception committee waiting for us… after being out of contact for so long. Anyway, we’ll see you very soon. Say hi to Emma for me.”
“FAB, she’ll be glad to hear you’re alright. Take care, Scott.”
The communications channel closed. Scott had to hand it to John, if the young space monitor had been surprised by his brother’s coded message, he didn’t give himself away with his acknowledgement. Scott looked at his watch. They’d reach Unity City in less than two hours, but it was a sure thing that Ireglac’s fighter would reach the Island much sooner. Scott just hoped they would be ready in time.
Meanwhile on Tracy Island the rest of the International Rescue team swung into action. John reported Scott’s message immediately. The use of the words “reception committee” meant “attack imminent” and the reference to “Emma” was the code to prepare Electro-Magnetic Countermeasures. In no time at all, Jeff, Alan, Gordon, Tin-Tin, Kyrano and Grandma were safely tucked away in the deepest underground shelter in the heart of the island base.
Jeff keyed a command sequence into one of the emergency computer consoles and pressed the activation button. Outside, the large half-dome rockfall shelter above the cliff house began to slide apart, revealing a device with the appearance of a large satellite dish. The Electro-Magnetic Pulse projector had been designed to render hostile craft powerless in the event of an attack on the island. Gordon and Tin-Tin operated the tracking scanner, searching the skies for any potential threats. Alan stood by at the ready with the firing control.
It wasn’t long before a fast-moving signal was detected on the scanner scope. It was heading straight for the island and looked heavily armed. There were no markings, but it was of no known design and could only have been the craft Scott had warned them about. At the order from Jeff, Alan fired an EM Pulse from the projector, striking the craft dead centre. It faltered in its flight, then began to glide towards the sea. It crashed onto the surface with a splash and bobbed there like a rubber duck in a bath.
Gordon launched Thunderbird 4 using emergency procedure and was soon out to the stricken alien fighter. Using the long range air drill to pipe non-lethal paralyser gas into the cockpit, Gordon rendered the lone occupant unconscious before towing the craft back to the island. Jeff radioed Scott to confirm the threat had been neutralised.
On receiving his father’s transmission, Scott turned Thunderbird 1 around and proceeded at maximum speed back to the enemy lair. He knew it wouldn’t take Ireglac long to figure out what had happened and send reinforcements, but by pushing his rocket craft to the limit he was back at the Arctic base before any other craft could be launched.
Deploying the Frost Cannon, Scott took careful aim and fired. The weapon worked frighteningly quickly. Scott could see the sea below freezing even more solidly, until the elevator platform looked like an enormous iceberg.
Scott smiled to himself, knowing that ought to hold Ireglac and his cohorts securely until a World Aquanaut Security Patrol task-force could take over the operation. He knew that his father would be making similar arrangements to have the alien prisoner on the island transferred to the proper authorities.
With the operation wrapped up, Scott set course for home. It had been quite an adventure, but he was ready for a nice long rest – ideally as far from the North Pole as possible.
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