FEATURING “THUNDERBIRDS” CREATED BY GERRY ANDERSON
(The TV series not the movie, that is)
This story is an intended comedy, although it might seem more of a comedy to me than to others. As unlikely as it might be Captain Magenta favouring Dr Pepper, it’ll be nice to think that something like Dr Pepper can still exist in the late twenty-first century.
June 11, 2004
Patrick Donaghue –Captain Magenta- steadily poured the cool drink into his glass and rested the bottle down. Gently he tasted the dark liquid and smiled. Placing the glass down he remarked, “Smashing.”
“For Pete’s sake,” groaned Captain Ochre. “It’s Dr Pepper.”
“Ah, but without this I wouldn’t be the officer I am.”
“Pish,” commented Captain Grey as he continued to draw a picture of Stingray. “Caffeine.”
Magenta shrugged. “Say what you will but I care little.”
“Attention members of Spectrum,” came Colonel White’s voice.
“His master’s voice!” cried Ochre dramatically.
“The latest threat has arrived; convene in the conference room immediately.”
Ochre, Grey and Magenta made for the door with Magenta humming.
Lieutenant Green fed the tape studiously into the machine under Colonel White’s neutral stare. Outside the weather was warm, the sun shining brightly from on high.
“All done, sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, please sit.”
The officers began filing in and sat down, only Symphony and Melody were present representing the Angel pilots.
White smiled. “Thank you.” He opened his folder. “The latest threat is something of a strange thing. It is rather puzzling. Lieutenant.”
Green pressed the PLAY button with a dark finger.
“This is the voice of the Mysterons. Our aggression continues. We have hijacked a shipment of the beverage Dr Pepper bound for Cloudbase. This will be a lesson to you all.”
The tape snapped off.
“What the…?” Captain Blue said aloud. “Sir, they’ve hijacked a drink?”
White chuckled lightly. “I must confess it is rather silly. Yet it is a Cloudbase shipment.”
Magenta reacted. “They can’t do this.”
“Naturally, Captain Magenta, we all know how much you like the stuff.”
Magenta’s cheeks flushed as the others laughed.
Captain Scarlet stiffened. “Your orders, sir?”
“The ship that is carrying the stuff is bound for a desolate outpost island, Red Island. Your orders are to board the ship and get the cargo off. The captains going are Scarlet, Blue, Magenta and Grey. You leave immediately.”
“Colonel,” the officers chimed.
“We’re counting on you, good luck.”
The Spectrum helicopter raced through the blue skies above the Pacific. Red Island was one hundred miles southeast of the infamous Midway Island, the island the Japanese were aiming for in June 1942.
Captain Scarlet was piloting the helicopter and he said aloud, “This is one of the craziest missions I’ve been on.”
“Here, here,” echoed Captain Blue. “But it is one of Spectrum’s shipments.”
“Orders are orders,” murmured Captain Grey watching the dark-blue ocean with emotive eyes.
The radar began pinging and Blue tapped the screen. “Got it. Should be visible in a moment.”
Scarlet found the wake on the horizon, algae stirred up by the movement of a ship. The only way to find a ship from the air –by its wake.
“Going in.” He nosed the helicopter downwards and shortly the cargo ship appeared. It was sleek and black with its superstructure at the rear. It looked like an elongated yacht.
“I’m touching down in front of the superstructure.”
“No crew?” asked Grey.
“The ship is automated, for security reasons,” Blue answered.
As the helicopter came in over the wake, they could make the ship’s name in large bold white letters.
“Interesting,” Magenta glanced at Scarlet. “Hey, Paul?”
Scarlet settled the helicopter before the structure and the four captains climbed out. The thrumming of the engines was subdued beneath their boots; the surf crashed against the side and somewhere birds made screeching noises.
Scarlet led the way to the bridge and once there checked the computer.
“One day until we reach Red Island.”
“Can we turn her?” Blue asked.
Grey shrugged, “I’m not entirely sure. The automation process normally cannot be stopped until it reaches Red Island. If I can’t then the ship might be Mysteronised. I can try turning it, using an over ride.”
“Give it a go,” ordered Scarlet arms folded.
Grey walked to the rear of the bridge and opened an access panel marked EMERGENCY USE ONLY and revealed a circular wheel, the kind normally seen on ocean-going vessels. Grey knelt and tapped some buttons into a small keypad.
“Authorisation code,” he explained to the other captains.
This done he gripped the metal wheel and began to turn it, it was stubborn and was not turning by a great fraction.
“Course is not altering,” Blue said from the console looking at the instruments.
“We have to assume the ship is in the hands of the Mysterons,” Scarlet said with an angry sigh, “Looks like this thing is not going to stop until it hits Red Island. How long until then Magenta?”
“Twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes, until we hit the island,” Magenta said. “I’ll start drinking.” He headed below deck and was confronted by a sight that was something for the captain to behold.
A holding deck brimming wall to wall with crates, all coloured in the Dr Pepper logo and colour. Enough to last Cloudbase for a while yet.
Magenta slapped his hands together. “Eureka!”
Lieutenant Green faced Colonel White, “Sir, Captain Scarlet reports that the ship under Mysteron control and a collision with Red Island cannot be averted.”
“Twenty hours, sir.”
“Let’s hope they can make it. What information do we have on the projected weather for the area, Lieutenant?”
“A storm warning, sir, coming in from Honolulu.”
“The plan was to try and disengage the Mysteron influence but with a storm coming they’ll have their hands full,” murmured White. “Warn them, Lieutenant. Time might run out sooner than expected.”
The black clouds building on the horizon before the ship were doing little to quell Magenta’s seasickness. Scarlet and Grey were far more amused by the fact that Blue was looking a little peaky.
In the holds of the ship the crates rattled against each other ignorant of the building storm.
Blue walked onto the bridge to see Grey seated in the captain’s chair, his boots propped on the console before him. “Comfortable, Bradley?” he asked.
“Sure.” Grey watched Blue move to a seat at an adjacent console and take his cap off, running his hand through his blond hair. “Enjoying the trip, Adam?”
“I would have thought being Captain Blue you’d be more comfortable at sea.”
“Very droll,” Blue replied dryly.
“Did I miss something?” said Scarlet slipping into the bridge with Magenta in tow.
The latter looked a healthier colour after taking seasickness tablets. Both men found seats and looked at their friends.
“Not much,” Grey replied. “But I do believe that Adam is a little seasick.”
“I am not!” Blue protested. “I do surfing.”
“Not quite the same thing.”
Blue made a rude noise at Grey.
Magenta chuckled. “We should leave you two alone more often.”
An alarm sounded and Grey swung his boots off and leant forward. “The waves are building; this is where we try to hold what we’ve eaten down.”
“Great Scott!” whispered Magenta. “Dead ahead!”
Four pairs of eyes went forward and widened. The sky was black; even the ocean itself was black, the crests of the waves pinched by white breakers which slammed into the Red Ocean and smashed down its sides.
The cargo ship occasionally rose but for this moment the Spectrum agents were transfixed.
“How quickly are they building?” asked Magenta.
“A foot per minute,” Grey replied, checking a dial on the consol.
“How long will this storm last?” Blue asked with a grim face.
“Maybe two hours,” Grey replied quickly.
“And it is a further seventeen until we reach Red Island,” murmured Scarlet. “We may as well brace ourselves.”
There was a frightful crash of thunder followed by two quick flashes. The rain that began hitting the windows sounded like hammer blows, waves crashed over onto the flat deck.
“I’m going below deck,” grumbled Magenta, feeling his stomach heave in sympathy with the storm-tossed ship.
The ship Red Ocean was now in the grip of the monstrous storm. With the seasickness tablets, the feeling of nausea permeated through the bodies of Blue and Magenta. The latter was suffering most of all, as he was not that used to the open ocean.
“Another helping of stew?” asked Grey. He was standing in the kitchen entrance to the dining room, located aft of the bridge, a saucepan in his hand.
Grey was greeted by groans and Magenta reacted sharply. “What’d you put in it? Cement?”
Grey looked wounded. “It was not all that bad.”
“No wonder you never hear from Troy Tempest, he’s had enough of your cooking!” joked Scarlet.
Magenta poured some more Dr Pepper. Blue watched him with a wondrous expression. “It’s incredible.”
“I know, it actually remains in the glass despite the pitching,” Magenta said brightly.
Blue slapped his forehead. “You idiot!”
The officers stayed at the table and discussed how they would stop the ship; although as the ship was Mysteronised that was little they could do but move the subject onto Red Island.
“Is Red Island populated?” Magenta asked Scarlet seated opposite the lengthy table.
“A team of men, four strong, they co-ordinate the transfer of shipment to Cloudbase.”
“Evacuate them,” Blue said gripping his glass to stop it beginning a roll down the table.
Magenta angled his boots inwards so they were forming a sort of triangle so he could grip the floor. “Obviously, Adam. Think we will leave them?”
“Ah, never mind, I’m going to get some sleep.” Before he left Magenta took a swig of drink and was gone.
“Sure is quiet without the guys here,” Captain Ochre said, stretching in his chair in the lounge.
Lieutenant Green drank some of his drink and placed the glass on a nearby table. “Yep.”
Ochre had wanted to go on the mission, but Grey had replaced him. “Hope they’re enjoying the trip.”
Magenta gave up trying to sleep some minutes into the attempt and was thrown from his bed abruptly, and then catapulted into the deck with force by the unexpected pitch of the ship. He grunted and rubbed his head.
“What in the name of Lunarville 7?” he moaned and stood. He tugged on his boots and left the corridor to see Grey heading down with a smile.
“Storm’s passed,” Grey informed him.
“What was that thump?”
“The last surge.”
Magenta went on deck and inhaled crisp, ocean air and smiled at the blue skies. “Excellent.” He was about to head below when he looked hard at the horizon. He lowered his cap-mike. “Magenta to Grey, come to the bridge wing quick.”
When Grey was beside him on the port side bridge wing that jutted from the superstructure, Magenta pointed. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is.”
Grey swore. “It’s Red Island.” He went into the bridge and tapped some controls on the left-hand console. “We’re now ten hours closer.”
“How come?” asked Magenta.
“The storm must’ve carried us closer.” Grey looked worried. “We don’t have long either way.”
Scarlet emerged onto the small bridge with a frown, “The Mysteron influence is too strong. It can’t be broken.”
“Like Flight 104,” Blue, who had just joined them, referred to the flight that Scarlet and he had been on recently during an assignment.
“So we just sit it out?” Magenta asked with an element of incredulity.
“Look like it, but I’ll come up with something,” Scarlet assured him.
Once informed, Scarlet soon had a plan and he began speaking into his cap-mike and his voice was carried away.
High above Earth, in a secret orbit, was a space satellite manned by one man whose job was lonely to say the least.
Twenty-eight year old John Tracy gazed through his telescope at Earth and watched its cloud streaked surface. John had blonde hair and wore the famous uniform of International Rescue, complete with a violet sash.
John was the second oldest of the Tracy sons and the satellite was known as Thunderbird 5. Without its constant monitoring of the Earth’s radio waves, the rescues would never happen.
International Rescue was the creation of John’s wealthy former astronaut father, Jeff Tracy. The construction of Thunderbird 5, high in Earth-orbit, had been highly secretive. More so than the construction on Tracy Island that took place of the buildings that would house the Thunderbird craft and equipment on the headquarters island. The island that Jeff Tracy was once marooned on when he was an astronaut. The outfit was a family business with the Tracy sons operating the International Rescue craft.
The eldest Scott, piloted the ultra-fast scout craft Thunderbird 1. His younger brother, Virgil, piloted the great transport-craft - Thunderbird 2 – which carried the equipment to the danger zones. The third brother, Gordon, was the pilot of the submarine Thunderbird 4 carried to its destination by Thunderbird 2. Finally, the youngest brother, baby-faced Alan, piloted the spacecraft Thunderbird 3 that, besides doing rescues was used to deliver supplies to Thunderbird 5 - with Alan relieving John as the radio monitor.
International Rescue’s first operation had been three years ago, when they had saved the brand new jetliner Fireflash on its maiden flight. Virgil had been instrument in every rescue since and collectively the Tracy brothers had rescued hundreds, if not thousands.
John let go of the telescope as a clear-cut English accent broke through on the radio.
“This is Captain Scarlet of Spectrum, calling International Rescue, respond please. Repeat calling International Rescue.”
John hurried to the radio and took the portable microphone. “This is International Rescue, Captain, what is the problem?”
Two minutes later John spoke to his father, Jeff Tracy, via the wall intercom in the living room of Tracy Island.
“So there you have it, father, a rather quirky situation, but they need our help.”
“Quirky is not just what it is,” Jeff replied with a slight smile. “Thanks, John. Inform Captain Scarlet that International Rescue is on its way.”
As John switched off, Jeff fixed his oldest son, Scott, with a steady gaze. “You get going, Scott, you too, Virgil. Better take Gordon with you.”
As Scott and Virgil left for their respective aircraft, the youngest of the siblings – Alan- stood with a hopeful look on his face. “What about me, father?”
“Sorry Alan, you’ll have to sit this one out.”
Jeff waited until the swimming pool that disguised the launch pad of Thunderbird 1 had slid back, and then said loudly, “Thunderbirds are go!”
Virgil looked back at Gordon as Thunderbird 2 lifted upwards on the ramp. “Here we go, Gordon, all for the sake of Dr Pepper.”
With a wry grin he hit the boosters.
Colonel White looked at Lieutenant Green with a look that suggested the lieutenant had become a woman.
“Captain Scarlet has called on International Rescue to assist,” Green repeated.
White rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That’s using initiative, Scarlet. Good.”
“Should I cancel the request, sir?”
“No.” White smiled a little; relations were good with IR. “Launch Angel One to provide air cover.”
Scott spied the ship on the seemingly calm ocean, the wake was immense and a luminous green. The journey had been short from their base and Scott had more than enough fuel.
“I’ve spied Red Ocean, Virg, going in for a closer look.”
Virgil, travelling further behind in the large transporter, nodded as if seeing Scott in person. “Right.”
Scott manoeuvred Thunderbird 1 closer to Red Ocean and opened his cockpit hatch; he glanced through it at the ship and whistled. “Not too bad.” It was similar to the Ocean Pioneer class of ships that Scott had seen on previous missions. He hovered, extending the wings. “Thunderbird 1 to Captain Scarlet, do you copy?”
“I’m going to land and set up mobile control.”
“Come on in.”
Scott swung Thunderbird 1 over and extended the landing gear; gently he lowered her onto the bow and switched off the engines. He climbed out and was met by a man wearing a blue cap, blue jacket and matching boots.
“Captain Blue, right?”
“Scott Tracy, International Rescue. Give me hand with the kit would you?”
Virgil grunted as he saw the ship, “I hope she can take the weight.”
Gordon stood and looked out the front windows. “Yeah.”
Virgil shrugged at Gordon. “What’s the worse that could happen?”
Scott set up the mobile control centre on the bridge and, watched by the Spectrum men, communicated with Virgil.
“Hang about, Virgil, I’m formulating a plan.”
“Don’t formulate too long, she’s a temperamental craft.”
Scott grinned. “Right.”
He turned to Scarlet. “How do you normally ship this stuff?”
“By cargo jet.”
“How… technically?” pressed Scott his brow furrowed.
Scarlet sighed. “Put the crates into the jet.”
Scott toggled the intercom. “Virg, land her on the deck. You did get pod five right?”
The response was quick in coming. “No. It’s six.”
Scott glowered at the intercom. “Take this a little more serious would you?”
“On one condition.”
“What?” Scott was a little exasperated.
“We get a share of the Dr Pepper, enough for the five of us and Brains.”
Magenta stepped forward but was held back by Scarlet’s outstretched arm.
Scott faced Scarlet. “Does seem fair, Captain.”
Scarlet sighed. “Fine.”
“Excellent, we’re moving in.”
Virgil lowered Thunderbird 2 until it was on level with the top of Red Ocean’s deck, the trick would be not to knock Thunderbird 1 off. Then he landed the great Thunderbird machine in the centre of the deck, the pitching of the ship was gentle and did nothing to effect the landing. No sooner had the noise of the retro engines died, than Thunderbird 2 began lifting upwards. Bit by bit it revealed pod five. Once the pod was ready, the door was lowered slowly and with a metal thud it rested on the deck.
Scarlet, seeing the door was lowered, flicked a red switch on the ship’s console. The deck before Thunderbird 2 parted to reveal the interior of the ship and the numerous dark-red crates. The crates themselves began to rise on the hold’s lift and slotted into place before the pod.
Scarlet’s mike radio fell into place, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Harmony Angel flew low over the ship and smiled, watching the captains lug the crates up pod five’s door. She spoke into her radio. “Evacuation of cargo proceeding SIG.”
“Acknowledged, Harmony,” replied Green.
Magenta pushed the last crate onto the pod and nodded to Gordon Tracy standing close by. “That’s the last one.”
Gordon spoke into his mobile radio. “We’re ready Virgil.”
“Right, clear the pod. I’m bringing the jet down.”
Magenta left the pod and began to walk to the bridge. Pod 5’s door rose back up and locked. Thunderbird 2 began to slide down upon its pod, akin to a protective eagle settling down gently on its eggs.
Scott packed his mobile equipment into his vehicle and returned to the bridge. Red Island was very much more visible and growing, like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.
“I’ll fly you off,” Scott said to Scarlet, who was standing nearby.
“You can manage all four of us?” Scarlet replied, casting a sceptical glance at Thunderbird 1.
“Sure, it’ll be a tight fit but it’ll be fine,” Scott assured Scarlet.
Scott and the Spectrum captains ran to Thunderbird 1. Once inside they heard Thunderbird 2’s retro engines fire and stagger gently.
“Problem, Virgil?” asked Scott buckling up.
“Getting a little heavy.”
Scott watched Thunderbird 2 try again. “I’ll wait in the air.” He activated the engines and brought his jet into the air above Thunderbird 2 pulling his landing gear back.
Sweat began to bead on Virgil’s forehead, the procedure was one minute away from done and the transporter was beginning to react like a drunken rhinoceros. Gordon emerged into the cockpit. “Crates secure.”
“Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 1, we’re ready.”
“Right, Virgil. We’re going to Cloudbase, think you can manage it?”
Virgil exhaled. “Sure. Lead the way, big brother.”
Virgil angled the nose upwards and hit the engines to maximum thrust.
After the two Thunderbirds lifted clear of Red Ocean, the cargo ship closed in on Red Island. The island was unremarkable and largely forest, with the offloading bay in a small inlet. The ship slammed into the inlet at full speed and mounted the land. It drove into the slope that led down onto the inlet from the control base and blew up. The resulting explosion took out the inlet and control base.
The smoke from Red Island was highly visible, but Spectrum would make sure that no one investigated.
With a great show of engine fire, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 landed smoothly on the flight deck. Virgil settled Thunderbird 2 onto the hangar lift and gently pulled the craft up, allowing pod five to rest on the hangar lift. This was similar to how he collected Thunderbird 4’s pod but this time he was not dropping it onto water. Once clear of the pod, Virgil simply brought Thunderbird 2 to land next to the hangar lift and pod five was lowered into the hangar bay where the procedure of offloading commenced. This was an unique sight and was recorded by Lieutenant Green’s digital camera for posterity.
Colonel White, watched by Captains Scarlet, Blue, Grey and Magenta thanked Virgil, Scott and Gordon personally. The latter’s face was living up to his codename.
The Spectrum men withdrew, so that the International Rescue men could leave. They roared into the blue sky with enough Dr Pepper for all of the Tracy sons and Brains.
Thus ended one more adventure for the men of Spectrum, and indeed, for those of International Rescue.
*Captain Magenta’s application to perform in a Dr Pepper advert was intercepted by Colonel White as it was about to leave Cloudbase and destroyed. *
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