Preparations to ring in the new year were well on the way on Tracy Island. Alan, Gordon and Tin-Tin had just returned from helping Grandma and Kyrano in the kitchen when there came the familiar bleeping of an emergency call.
Jeff Tracy pressed the concealed button on his desk and spoke into the hidden microphone, “Go ahead, John.”
The large portrait of space monitor John Tracy flickered as the live video feed beamed in from the satellite.
“Father, I’ve just picked up what could be a distress signal. It’s… well it’s mighty unusual.”
“Unusual? How so, son?”
“Well, I was maintaining a scan of the Caribbean region, making sure there was no more trouble after that tropical storm. I got a fix on a weak signal and…” John’s voice trailed off.
Jeff’s curiousity got the better of him, “Let’s hear it!”
John pressed the playback control and suddenly the lounge filled with a loud and roguish, yet jolly voice.
“Ahoy matey! This be Cap’n Christopher Scarlett of the S.S. Halifax! I’ve sprung a leak and am shippin’ the wet stuff good and quick, so I be askin’ fer yer assistance! A fair share of me plunder if ye be helpin’ me out of this fine nautical mess! Arr!”
Jeff’s craggy face creased in disdain, “Now what the blazes is that all about?”
Scott chuckled at his father’s dismay, “I figure you’ve been too busy to notice, Dad, but there have been quite a few telecasts about that guy lately. Christopher Scarlett, a self-described amateur adventurer. Owns a private yacht made up to look like an old-timey pirate vessel. A lot of folks think he’s nuts, but I reckon he’s just a little enthusiastic. Gets carried away in the role, that kind of thing.”
Jeff considered for a moment and then replied gruffly, “Since you know so much about him, you can take Thunderbird One over there and provide assistance. Looks like he’s too far out for anyone else to reach him if he is in bad trouble, especially with the trailing edge of that storm lingering. Get moving.”
“Yes Sir, I’ll be back before New Year!”
The ocean was still choppy and visibility remained poor even though the worst of the storm had passed.
Finding the Halifax was down to Thunderbird One’s metal detector and the best possible fix that John had managed to get from Scarlett’s distress call. Thankfully the vessel hadn’t drifted far from its last known position, otherwise Scott might never have been able to find it.
Firing the powerful under-jets, Scott brought the mighty craft down until it was hovering near the vessel.
Scott could see at once that Scarlett had either been unaware of the extent of the leak in the hull, or else it had worsened considerably since his distress call. The Halifax was already half submerged. Its stern was sticking out of the water at an angle of about 30 degrees. Scarlett himself was at the helm at the rear of the deck, struggling furiously with the controls.
Scott had no doubt the man was trying to increase the bilge pump’s output, but knew it was a lost cause. The most powerful pump in the world wouldn’t buy more than a few extra minutes before the inevitable. He flicked a switch, activating the external speaker system and spoke into his microphone.
“Ahoy there! Captain Scarlett, this is International Rescue! I’m here to get you off that boat before it goes under. Stand by to receive harness!”
The Captain replied over his own loudhailer, “Yer not here to save me, yer here to save me ship! I won’t be leavin’ her behind!”
Scott could barely keep the incredulity from his reply. Surely the man could see the obvious.
“Your ship is already lost, Captain. International Rescue save lives, we’re not a water craft recovery service.”
Scarlett shouted back, “This ship is my life!”
“I know it feels like that! Believe me, I’m pretty attached to my own craft. But these things can be rebuilt. Lives can’t. Don’t throw yours away!”
There was a long pause, during which Scott became acutely aware that the weather was deteriorating contrary to the forecast conditions.
At last Scarlett replied, “Very well. Throw me a line!”
Scott opened up the winching hatch on the underside of Thunderbird One. In seconds a strong cable and harness were dropping down towards the Halifax. Scott saw Scarlett grab it and begin to strap in.
A wave caught the boat suddenly and tossed it, flinging Scarlett out of the harness before he could secure it. He tumbled through a hatchway, which promptly slammed shut behind him as the vessel stood upright in the water. It would begin a final plunge any moment.
“Heck, he must be trapped in there!” Scott exclaimed.
Left with no alternative, he deployed the magnetic grapple and using all his skill to steady his craft, he lined up a shot and fired.
The magnetic cable snapped onto the hatch on the boat and Scott applied reverse thrust.
The hatch resisted briefly and then was torn from its hinges along with part of the framework around it. Scott could make out Scarlett, who managed to haul himself up the steeply angled deck and reach the harness which was once again in position.
When he had secured himself to the line, Scott retracted the cable and Scarlett left the deck of his ship just as it started slipping under the waves. By the time Thunderbird One’s hatch was closed, there was nothing left.
They were halfway back to the mainland when Scarlett broke the silence on the internal communication system from the winch bay.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said. About my ship.” He sighed deeply, “I know you were right.”
Scott replied sympathetically, “I know it seems like you’ve lost a lot right now, but you can rebuild. There will be another ship.”
“And thanks to International Rescue, there will be more adventures. Who knows what’s around the corner? Now I have a chance to find out. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.” Scott replied with a smile, “Nice to start a new year with something to look forward to!”