By Keith Ansell
"Calling International Rescue ...Calling International Rescue. We need your help. Please answer. Over."
The distress call was weak and highly distorted by static interference but the state of the art detection equipment aboard International Rescue's orbiting Space Station Thunderbird 5 locked onto it immediately.
John Tracy had just fallen asleep after a long days shift working on his next astronomical research book - things had been pretty quiet on the rescue front since that business with Skyship One.
from his bunk and quickly shut off the 'night' alarm before heading for
the main monitor room dressed only in his boxer shorts. Two minutes later
John was at his monitor station and responding.
"This is International Rescue. I am receiving you. What is your position and how can we help you?"
"Thank God. You were my last hope - I couldn't raise base
and I doubt if they could have reached us in these conditions
"Okay Mister. Calm down and tell me who you are and tell me what your situation is. We can help you" said John, the pride in his organisation evident in his voice.
" I am World Navy Captain Paul Abbot. My men and I are slowly freezing to death. We are almost out of food and power, with no chance of getting back to Ross Island. We were trying to reach the South Pole on foot to celebrate Robert Scott's achievement back in 1911 when the weather seemed to go crazy. The conditions are worse than I've ever known them in December."
"It's June" cut in John, puzzled.
"It can't be" gasped Abbot over his rapidly failing radio. "Time distortion...I wonder..."
"Abbot - can you hear me Abbot?" shouted John as the signal broke up altogether for a few seconds.
"Yes - yes I can. There are six of us trapped down here. I can't give you a location - the compass and the instruments are going crazy. None of the readings are reliable. There seems to be some form of power drain. Please help us - pleas........."
John lost the signal altogether this time but TB5's tracers would give him a pretty accurate map reference for a rescue attempt. He often thought it would be good to get involved in the action a bit more, if only to improve his flying skills in Thunderbird 1 but he was happy to pass on this one - besides 'John of the Antarctic' just did not have the same ring to it.
Scott would need to wear more than just his boxer shorts on this rescue mission.
Within five minutes of John relaying the rescue call to Tracy Island, Thunderbird 1 was on its way to Antarctica at 15,000 mph - it would take him a little over 2 hours to reach the area that Abbot's may day call had come from. Actually finding the six man expedition in a raging blizzard would take a little longer but Brains' new body heat detectors would be up to the job.
Jeff Tracy had decided there was no need to send International Rescue's heavy transporter Thunderbird 2 - all Scott needed to do was to pick up the six men and get out of there before everyone froze to death.
Scott had already turned up the cabin heating system and prepared the passenger compartment just behind his pilot seat as TB1 crossed the Ross Sea - it would be a tight squeeze but there was no other option. Time was definitely of the essence in this rescue - the men could have frozen solid by the time TB2 had arrived at her slower speed of 2,000 mph.
Scott wondered if he could really feel the drop in temperature as he scanned the Antarctic surface. Thunderbird 1 had flown above the worst of the blizzard since reaching Antarctica but now Scott felt his reconnaissance craft being buffeted in all directions as he attempted to hold her steady only 300 feet above the rescue zone. If he lost control for a second it would be seven men who would lose their lives at the bottom of the world.
One hour later and Scott was beginning to think that it was hopeless - the body heat detectors had registered nothing whatsoever. If only one man had been lost in the Antarctic wilderness Brains' new invention should have detected him - but six men huddled together in a tent would shine like a beacon on TB1's scanners.
Scott had almost given up when something appeared on the detector screen - one blip, then two, then all six! "Thunderbird 1 to base. Dad, I've found them!" "Well done, son" came Jeff Tracy's voice over the radio receiver - relayed by Thunderbird 5. "Now be careful when you pick them up - it's mighty cold down there."
"Don't forget your thermal underwear " quipped Gordon's voice in the background. Scott could imagine him on his way out for a dip in the swimming pool as the sun blazed down on Tracy Island. "At least I haven't gotta worry about sunblock - careful you don't get your tongue burnt" he responded savagely.
Scott broke contact with base and lowered Thunderbird 1 onto the perma-ice next to a large tent from which the signals emanated. TB1 was almost blown over as she touched down. Cold sweat poured down Scott's brow as he closed down the motors and anchored his craft into the ice with rocket driven chocks.
He put his polar gear on over his blue IR uniform and zipped it up as high as it would go before pulling the hood up over his head. The thought of going out into the blizzard was no picnic but it was the only way. The loudhailer would be useless in this weather and the men might need help getting into TB1. Scott lowered himself down the exit ladder onto the ice and looked at the tent, now only 50 yards away. Half expecting to find six frozen corpses in the tent Scott gingerly unzipped the doorway after battling across to it in the howling winds - his torch casting shadows in the gloom of the Antarctic winter night.
Abbot and his men sat staring at Scott as he entered the tent. "Thank you for coming to rescue us .... Scott Tracy" said the figure he assumed must be Paul Abbot. Scott was taken off-guard. There was something strange happening here - how did they know his name? "We know everything there is to know about you and your organisation" responded Abbot - almost as if he had read Scott's mind.
"Who are you? What's going on here?" asked Scott reaching for his machine-pistol .
Suddenly an intense white light enveloped him. He threw his hands up to his eyes to try and shut it out without success....