As the Great Abyss began to roll sideways in front of him, Gordon gritted his teeth and slammed the throttle control forward.
With a whoosh of bubbles, Thunderbird Four surged towards the stricken submarine with its magnetic rams deployed. There was a terrific clang as the powerful magnets connected with the side of the vessel and Gordon was nearly thrown from his chair. The control panel lights flashed green to indicate the magnets had a tight hold.
“I’ve got her, fellas!” Gordon yelled, adjusting another control dial. “I should be able to stop her from rolling any further if I keep my motors on full. But if that rock shelf breaks up any more, I won’t have the power to keep it from falling into the abyss!”
In the cockpit of Thunderbird Two, Virgil’s mind was already racing as he replied, “FAB, Gordon! I’m going to try to get the diving escape bell down to you. You’ll need to attach it to the side of the submarine’s airlock to get those guys out!”
“That’s a negative, Virgil!” Gordon answered grimly, “I can’t let go of the sub even for a second or it could go over! It’s a real tricky balancing act I’ve got going on right now!”
Scott’s voice broke in over the tri-radio circuit, “What if Virgil piloted the bell remotely from Thunderbird Two’s radio console? You could guide it in from Thunderbird Four.”
Gordon considered for a moment. Already he could feel Thunderbird Four’s motors straining to keep the Great Abyss in place.
“Okay, Scott, it’s worth a try. But make it quick!”
Inside the green equipment Pod floating on the surface of the ocean, Thunderbird Four’s hydraulic ramp raised into position. A yellow egg-shaped device about the size of a large car sat on a trolley at one end. At a radioed command from Virgil, the apparatus slid down the ramp and into the water.
The diving escape bell sank quickly into the depths and Virgil corrected the course of its descent by remote control each step of the way.
Inside Thunderbird Four, Gordon’s brow was beginning to sweat as the engine and hull stress indicator lights on his console moved further across the amber warning zone and closer to the red danger marker.
“How much longer, Virgil?”
“Should be with you any moment now!”
Then Gordon saw the gleaming yellow egg-shape of the escape bell emerge from the impenetrable gloom above. Virgil’s aim had been impeccable.
“I see it! You’re very close to the airlock now! Bring it down another 15 feet. Roll starboard ten degrees and give it a five degree positive pitch!”
Gordon watched as the small apparatus completed the maneuver.
“Okay, great! Now… Forward about three feet. Nice and easy. Steady… Steady…. Almost there… There! Activate magnetic clamps!”
Gordon pressed the transmit button on his radio set, “Captain Rohzar! This is Thunderbird Four! Are you receiving me?”
The return transmission was weak, but audible, “This is Rohzar. I read you. We have air. My men are recovering. Thank you!”
“You’re not out of the woods yet Captain! Your sub’s about to plummet from that ledge! We’ve attached an escape capsule to your starboard airlock. You all need to get inside right now, I can’t hold it in position much longer!”
There was an uneasy pause.
“Are you sure this is the only way?”
“I’m afraid so. Unless you’ve regained any control over your buoyancy or propulsion systems?”
There was another short pause.
Gordon sensed the Captain wanted to say more, but there wasn’t time. The warning indicators were flashing red across all systems.
“In that case, please move yourself and your men into the escape capsule immediately.”
There was a scuffling noise on the end of the communications line. Another heavy vibration shook the cabin of Thunderbird Four as a large chunk of rock tumbled and fell from the sub-aquatic ledge.
“We are in position!”
Gordon shouted into the radio mic, “Virgil, take her away!”
Gordon saw the diving escape bell detach and begin to ascend under Virgil’s remote guidance.
“Time I was getting out of here too! So long!”
He jabbed the button to de-magnetise the rams holding Thunderbird Four to the submarine. Nothing happened.
“Uh-oh…” He tried again, pressing the button firmly. The warning indicators were still flashing red on the instrument panel.
“Of course – the motors!” Swiftly, he cut the power to the turbines.
With Thunderbird Four no longer restraining its movement, the Great Abyss rolled sideways towards the endless black void below. But Thunderbird Four was rolling with it, still attached to the hull.
Inside the control cabin, Gordon began to dangle from his seat harness as he kept trying the release button.
“Come on, baby! Detach! De-tach!”
And then with a final press of the button, the electro-magnets released their grip on the hull as the Great Abyss tumbled towards the sea bed and its final resting place in the unknown void far below.
Later, as the International Rescue craft were making their way back to their island base, Scott and Virgil filled Gordon in on some of the details he’d missed during his last minute mishap.
Captain Rohzar and his men were safe and well. A diplomatic incident had been avoided after Rohzar himself suggested Thunderbird Two send a radio call to Bereznik naval control advising that he and his crew had been rescued from the sea some miles outside the disputed area.
Though there was also a worrying development. Captain Rohzar was positive his vessel had been sabotaged before departure and it was the sabotage that had caused the disaster. Gordon remembered his thought about the Captain wanting to say something more during the rescue.
Although such matters were not the mission of International Rescue, Gordon found himself silently wishing the Captain and his crew luck on their onward mission to uncover the source of the sabotage. For Gordon and his brothers, three lives had been saved and in their book that was a successful days work.