"Father, you're not going to believe this."
Jeff Tracy blinked sleepily at the vidscreen, currently showing an image of his third son. "Believe what?"
"We have an emergency call. From ISO headquarters. The top man himself - your old friend Anderson. They have a problem, one-fifty miles northwest of Tracy Island."
"What sort of problem?"
Despite his utterly professional attitude, and an obvious concern, John actually smiled. "They need us to rescue G-Force."
"They're eleven hundred feet down and unconscious, and we have forty-five minutes before the Phoenix disintegrates under the pressure."
Jeff hit the alarm. "Boys, we're needed. Get in here fast."
Everyone was there within a couple of minutes, though Jeff wouldn't have put money on more than half of them actually being awake.
"We have a crash into deep water, pressurised flight deck which won't stay that way, five unconscious crew. Virgil, take Scott and Gordon, and Pod Four. It's close. John will give you more details once you're airborne."
"Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird Five, where are we going?" Virgil asked once the immediate frenetic activity of the launch was over.
"Co-ordinates are on your screen," John answered.
"Any more details?"
"Well - are you sitting down?"
At the controls, Virgil snorted. "No, I'm tap-dancing on the ceiling."
"ISO have asked us to rescue the Phoenix. They've been shot down in deep water, the crew's unconscious, and their structural stability is compromised. Best estimate is forty minutes to total collapse."
Gordon spluttered. "Alan's going to be so pissed he's not here."
"Why do you think Father didn't say who it was before you launched?"
"Good point. Do we have details of their airlock? Can we match up to transfer the crew? Because I've seen pictures of their ship - it's a monster. No way am I going to be able to float it fast enough."
"I'll find out about the airlock," John said, and the screen went blank.
"Can't we do what we did with the Fireflash?" Virgil asked. "I know Brains upped the cutting speed of your laser."
Scott shook his head. "Military craft. They're designed to be shot at. It'll be a whole lot tougher than a civilian aircraft, and we don't have time to try. Gordon's right - he needs to get them out of there fast. Maybe I should come down in Four."
"No room. It's going to be darn tight with six in there. She won't take seven. I'll go get prepped." Gordon left the flight deck, heading for his little rescue submarine.
Scott sat and thought for a moment, before heading for the radio. "Thunderbird Five? Can you give me a direct link with ISO?"
"I can." John hesitated. "It's David Anderson."
Scott set his jaw. Anderson. The man who'd headhunted him and offered him the universe, if he would leave the Air Force and come over to ISO. Four short months later, the man who'd told him he wasn't compatible with their program, and left him to crawl humiliatingly back to his old commanders and ask for his job back. He never had - not the parts of it that mattered to him. Not an active duty squadron. Not anything that would allow him the chance to fly the cutting-edge planes. No posting as a test pilot, and no shot at becoming a NASA astronaut. Anderson might be a very old friend of his father's, but he was about as far from being Scott's favourite person as it was possible to get.
Still - this was a rescue. This was professional. Logic said he should speak directly with the man who knew what was going on first-hand. "Put him through."
"Hello?" said a long-forgotten voice.
Scott forced his feelings way down. "ISO, this is International Rescue Mobile Control. Tell me what state your people are in."
"So they could be conscious?"
"What happened to them?"
Scott kept his temper with difficulty. "Chief Anderson, just so you know where we stand. I'm not sending my team down there to be shot at by a Spectran mecha which got the better of the Phoenix."
The man's tone was almost patronising. "Captain Tracy, I can assure you that the mecha is no longer in the area."
Scott's gasp was, fortunately, heard only by himself and Virgil. His brother had muted their radio transmission.
"What the hell? He knows who you are? What about the rest of us?"
"Time for a long discussion with Father when we get home, I suspect." Scott opened the channel again. "We'll need access codes to the airlock - and is there any chance they'll have rigged it somehow? Anything we'll need to disengage?"
"One moment." Anderson's transmission went silent, and Scott could hear Virgil muttering to himself in a way he did only when he was very, very annoyed. "We're transmitting the codes you'll need now. It's safe for you to enter, provided you get them right."
"I have them," Virgil said. "Five minutes to coordinates."
"We'll keep you informed, Chief. Out." Fuming, Scott instantly realised he hadn't asked everything he needed to know. "Damn! John, please tell me the airlock details they gave you included where it is on the ship and how to get from it to the flight deck."
Thankfully his brother realised this wasn't the time to joke about just calling Anderson back. "Yes. The airlock is halfway back on the starboard side, and once inside you turn right and go to the end of the passage."
"They only have one?"
"Only one that's compatible with Four. You want my opinion?"
"Go right ahead."
"What a condescending bastard. Thank your lucky stars you didn't end up working for him."
"Took the words right out of my mouth," Virgil added.
Scott almost managed a smile. "I guess so. Gordon, do you have all the information you need?"
"Everything. I'm ready to go."
"You just be careful," Scott told him. "Virgil?"
"Ninety seconds to drop."