Lady Penelope and the Mine of Disaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   "Thanks again for your generous investment Mr Krampton," said Jeremiah Stone through a mouth filled with cigar and billowing pungent fumes. As he shook the hand of his latest business partner he continued, "I'll be honest, I was certain this project was doomed when all my other investors pulled out. But I'm glad there's someone else out there who recognises the importance of this project."

   "Glad I was able to help," Mr Krampton replied, his lips barely moving underneath his dark moustache. His accent was a strange one, Middle East in origin but with various hints of a stay at Oxford or Cambridge. His tanned, unblemished face seemed a little strange to Jeremiah, almost like it was too perfect. But given this man was willing to invest fifty million pounds into his mining project he surmised that Krampton could afford a wide variety of bizarre skin treatments that were beyond Jeremiah's understanding and patience.

     Jeremiah rose from behind his desk, situated in what had once been a bedroom of a nineteenth century cottage on a westward facing hillside, overlooking the wide glen located deep in the highlands of Scotland. He'd converted this cottage into his office for the duration of the project. Years ago this area had been filled with pine trees and heather. Now his view was filled with massive construction vehicles and drilling equipment worth millions of dollars. All of which he intended to use to exploit the mineral wealth underneath his feet.

   He stared at the lump of coal in his desk, before pointing at it for the benefit of Mr Krampton. "Back in the eighteenth century coal mines helped this tiny island nation top forge a mighty empire!" he explained in his growling American accent. "And even now, in 2113, people still want it as much as ever. Why is that, given we now get our power and heat from clean nuclear fusion reactors? Nostalgia! People can't give up using the stuff for open log fires and old fashioned steam engines. What was once a necessity has now become a luxury, like the horse and the sail. We humans are a strange breed dontcha think? Always looking forward but never letting go of the past."

   "Indeed," was all Mr Krampton responded.

   "You'll be making a return on your investment within months, I guarantee it!" Jeremiah explained brightly. "Don't you worry about that young, posh aristocrat who's making a nuisance of herself. Money means more to people than the protection of the so called environment."

    As they exited the office past the reception desk (once the cottage kitchen) they found Jeremiah's receptionist, a thirty three year old local lady with frizzy red hair by the name of Beatrice, watching the news avidly on her computer screen. "What's going on in the world Bea?" Jeremiah asked her brightly.

   "Oh there's an awful business over in Dubai!" Beatrice replied in her thick highlands accent. "That new record breaking skyscraper they were constructing has caught fire, and has now collapsed. Fortunately those brave men of International Rescue arrived in the nick of time. They used those Thunderbird craft to evacuate everyone to safety and with only moments to spare."

    Jeremiah's face contorted into a frown at her words. "The nerve of those people. They supposedly create all this amazing equipment, and instead of sharing it with hard working businessmen they instead use them on these ridiculous, do-gooder rescue missions. Why people hail them as heroes is beyond me."

    "And me," Mr Krampton seconded. Beatrice took her turn to frown, as she was one of those who considered International Rescue to be heroes, and would have given anything to meet them face to face.

   Jeremiah and Mr Krampton exited the cottage and walked through the construction site to where Mr Krampton's shiny, hydrogen powered Bentley was waiting. Jeremiah thanked him again, bade him goodbye, and stood and waved as the expensive vehicle drove off to the glen below. He could have clicked his heels in joy. With a new investor and backing from the local government, there was nothing that could stand in his way now.

   But what he didn't see was Mr Krampton pulling his car into a layby on a forest road. He turned the engine off, making sure that he wasn't being followed. Then he grabbed a loose fleck of skin underneath his chin. Except it wasn't skin. It was plastic, covering his real face and completely altering his physical appearance. The bushy moustache came away almost instantly, and was closely followed by the wig of curly, jet black hair. Eventually the plastic mask was pulled completely away, revealing his true identity.

   He was a man of Malaysian descent, his skin deeply tanned from the sun of the jungle in which he resided. His head was shaved bald, his eyebrows extremely bushy. His face was cruel and his eyes filled with greed. He was none other than crime king and master of deception, The Hood. "Yes Jeremiah Stone, International Rescue are a nuisance," he muttered to himself greedily. "But thanks to you, their secrets will soon be mine, and it will make me the richest man in the world!"



    The engine of FAB 1 roared as it approached a bend in the mountain, and it careered round at quite a speed, causing Lady Penelope to tilt to her right hand side and slap the window with her gloved hand. "Steady there Parker, we're in no rush. Allow Tin Tin and I to enjoy the scenery, if you please."

     "Yes M'Lady," replied her chauffeur Parker, dropping the car down a gear and slowing the pace as requested. It was a beautiful day in the Scottish Highlands, and he tipped his grey Chauffeurs hat to shield his eyes from the sun, the rest of his uniform a matching shade of grey.

   "I don't mind honestly. You should sit in the passenger seat when Alan is driving," Tanusha Kirano laughed. Tanusha was her real name; however her nickname among her closest friends ever since she'd been a young girl had been Tin Tin. It had stemmed from when, as a young boy, her close friend Alan had difficulty in saying her real name, only able to say Tin Tin instead, and it had stuck. Even though now she was a beautiful young woman in her early twenties, just out of medical college and with the world at her feet. She was of Malaysian descent, with pale skin and long dark hair. She wore a red roll neck top with a tartan skirt, black tights, and a pair of black ankle boots with a wedge high heel.

  Beside her sat one of the most recognised aristocrats in England and indeed the world. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, the only surviving member of one of Britain's oldest and wealthiest landowning families. She resided in an impressive manor house in the South East of England. A columnist, journalist and writer, she also had a real itch for adventure and investigation, and travelled the world in pursuit of new challenges. Given her accomplishments it was hard to believe she was only a few years older than Tin Tin. Also famous was her beauty. She had a gentle face which made men trust her implicitly, yet remained unforgettably striking. And she always dressed immaculately. Today she wore a fake fur coat over a gentle pink skirt suit, with tan stockings and pink high heeled pumps. Her bright blonde hair reached just past her shoulders and was perfectly straightened.

    Tin Tin stared out the window of Penelope's pink Rolls Royce nicknamed FAB 1, as it continued to ascend the mountainside. She could see the loch below glinting in the early spring sun, surrounded by the browns, greens and violets of the Highland Fauna. The hilltops surrounding them remained crested with snow, though the current weather was clear and still. "It truly is beautiful here!" she exclaimed, her English tinted by the accent of her native Malaysian tongue. "I can see why you want to protect it so badly Penelope."

       "Yes, it would most certainly be a travesty if the likes of Jeremiah Stone were to desecrate this wonderful environment," Penelope sighed with her drawling, elegantly posh accent.

     Tin Tin glanced over with a knowing smile in Penelope's direction. "But I suspect there is more to this than being a mission of environmental protection, right?"

    "Right. Parker, how long until we reach the mining site?"

    Parker checked the satellite navigation hologram and replied, "Seven minutes and twenty three seconds M'lady."

    "Just enough time to get in contact with Jeff," Penelope replied, reaching for her powder compact, but not to apply her makeup. Inside was a radio transmitter, one of a kind, allowing her instant contact with a small island in the South Pacific. For Lady Penelope and Tin Tin were more than just rich, influential women on an environmental crusade. They led a double life as agents for International Rescue.

   Darkness had fallen over Tracy Island when Penelope made her call to the founder and leader of the top secret organisation. Jeff Tracy was at his desk, discussing latest plans for adaptations to submarine craft Thunderbird 4 with his sons, when the portrait of Penelope on the far wall began to flash. Jeff pressed a concealed button hidden in his ink well and spoke loudly into the air, "Go ahead Penelope, you nearly there?"

   "Seven minutes away Jeff, and it looks like your hunch was right. A journalist acquaintance of mine has passed on to me secret reports relating to Jeremiah Stone's safety record. It's not good."

     "Well if his neglect is going to cause a rescue situation in the future then it's best we investigate him now right?" suggested Scott, the eldest of Jeff's five sons, a tall dark haired young man who piloted Thunderbird 1.

    "What do you think he's up to?" asked Alan, the youngest of the Tracy boys the same age as Tin Tin, a blonde haired astronaut in charge of Thunderbird 3.

    "Whatever it is we'll do our best to find out," Penelope replied.

    "Well take care of yourself Penny. You remember what happened in Monte Carlo when you last went snooping?"

   "It was all part of the plan Jeff. I uncovered those awful spies in the nick of time."

   "Getting yourself tied to a chair and almost blown up in the process!" mousy haired Virgil, pilot of Thunderbird 2, remarked cheekily.

    "An unfortunate necessity given the circumstances," Penelope replied.

    "The point still stands Penny," Jeff warned. "Do what you have to do, but the slightest whiff of danger you, Tin Tin or Parker contact us immediately."

    "I will Jeff. I'll call back once I've interviewed the charming Mr Stone."

    As her call ended the portrait of Penelope phased back to normal, looking like it was just an ordinary painting of her sitting in the back garden of her Manor Estate. Jeff sighed, and glanced over at four of his five sons currently occupying the living room of his luxury island villa. "Best stay on alert boys. Something tells me Penny's going to need our help on this one!"

    Back in Scotland, FAB 1 rolled to a halt when it reached the gates of the mining site. Parker explained the situation to the guard, showed him Lady Penelope's identification, then drove the sleek pink vehicle through the gates. None of them were aware that, on an outcrop of rock on the opposing hillside, The Hood was watching them through his digital binoculars.

   "That meddling woman again!" he muttered to himself as Penelope got out the car. "I cannot allow her to tip International Recue off about my plans…ah, but maybe she and her little friend will make the perfect bait with which to spring my trap."
   


     "I can assure you Lady Penelope every necessary safety precaution has been taken to ensure the safety of my workmen," Jeremiah Stone insisted, exasperation beginning to show in his flabby, red face.

  "But that's exactly what you said to the United States Environmental Disciplinary Panel after a collapsed tin mine in Idaho endangered countless lives," Lady Penelope replied firmly, though retaining a calm and ladylike air from where she was seated, her gloved hands resting gently on her crossed legs.

  Tin Tin, however, was less polite. "Have you seen the damage your project is doing to the local environment? You're polluting the Loch with your waste, and it's endangering the local otter, fish, deer and eagle populations."

    "We are taking every measure to reduce our waste, and preserve this region's natural beauty," Jeremiah argued. "And consider the benefits we are bringing to the local area. Employment, investment, mineral wealth…"

    "Oh but please understand, we only wish to preserve something equally important," Lady Penelope reasoned. "This world has seen such dramatic development in the past century; places such as these are an oasis of natural beauty. It's in everyone's best interest to see them preserved."

   Tin Tin let her mind wander as again Jeremiah Stone leapt to defend himself, repeating the same jargon he'd spouted for investors, councilmen, politicians and environmental activists countless times before. Truth was men like Jeremiah frustrated her: out of touch millionaires only looking for profit, with rich playboy sons only interested in her good looks, not her intellect. If only more could be like Jeff Tracy and his family, who used their incredible wealth for the benefit of mankind, putting their own lives on the line in the process. If only more men could be like Alan, young, energetic and playful but with a heart of gold, displaying true bravery in the face of danger.

   She allowed her mind to wander as Penelope and Jeremiah continued their polite debate, waiting for something more interesting to happen.

    Her wait would soon be over, as outside the cottage The Hood advanced, now dressed in his Mr Krampton mask and disguise. The workmen waved enthusiastically at him as he walked through the site, but he did not return them. He was focused solely on the Pink Rolls Royce parked beside the stone cottage, and the chauffeur resting on the bonnet playing online poker on his wrist holophone.

   "Come on; give me a diamond, just one diamond!" Parker muttered to himself, as the hologram projected from the device on his wrist showed his hand and the other cards in play. So absorbed was he in the game he failed to notice the Hood sneaking from behind armed with a large wooden stick. After making sure no-one would see a thing, The Hood brought the stick down on the top of Parker's head. The chauffeur's hat crumpled upon impact as Parker fell to the ground unconscious.

    Satisfied Penelope's close ally would not intrude in his plans further, The Hood hid his inert body underneath the bonnet of FAB 1. Then he coolly and calmly walked to the cottage entrance. His arrival was greeted by Beatrice, whose frizzy red hair was today held off her face by a blue headband, and was wearing a grey trouser suit with red high heeled pumps. "Good day to you sir," she said with her bright Scottish accent, believing The Hood to be Mr Krampton. "Do you have an appointment with Mr Stone, I wasn't expe…"

   She trailed off as the Hood stared directly into her eyes. She stared straight back, and found that she couldn't turn away from him. She was transfixed, unable to do anything but rock on her seat. She couldn't so much as blink as The Hoods eyes enveloped her.

    The Hood was employing a technique passed through the members of an ancient secret society of which he was the last surviving member. Through intense concentration he could manipulate the thoughts and strength of others, and bend their will to his. It was a technique that had helped him gain control of a vast criminal empire, and made people across the world fear his name.

   Beatrice held out as long as she could, but soon all she could see was a pair of yellow, glowing eyes staring at her through darkness. Ultimately her strength failed her, and she sank into a deep, impenetrable sleep, her head slumping onto the desk. The Hood smiled to himself; this lady would be dealt with after Lady Penelope and her friend. Without a moments more hesitation he barged unceremoniously into Jeremiah Stone's office.

    "Mr Krampton, what on earth are you do…?" Jeremiah began, leaping to his feet with Penelope and Tin Tin, but he was cut off when The Hood once again began to employ his mend bending technique on all three occupants. None could break the steely gaze The Hood had locked them into.

   "…Parker…Parker where are…" Penelope murmured, rocking forwards and backwards on the spot.

   "No…those eyes…those yellow…eyes…" Tin Tin groaned as she shook her head, remembering the same eyes from a previous encounter with The Hood.

   They held out longer than Beatrice had, but there was nothing either lady could do. Tin Tin slipped into unconsciousness first, tumbling to the ground with her long dark hair sprawled about her form. Penelope wasn't far behind her, dropping to her knees as her eyelids dropped. Then she succumbed and fell to her side, her head landing on Tin Tin's waist with her blonde hair draping over her friends tartan skirt.

     The Hood couldn't restrain his triumphant smirk as he gazed at their inert forms. He then looked up at Jeremiah, who hadn't fallen asleep but remained upright as if in a trance. The businessman looked blankly forward as The Hood instructed him in his regular voice, "Grab the girls and follow me. We have a trap to set up!"

    "Yes master!" Jeremiah said in monotone voice, as he scooped the inert Penelope into his arms.



      Penelope arose to the sound of water dripping onto a stone floor. Her head felt muggy, the sight of two yellow eyes lingering in her consciousness. She was cold and uncomfortable, and tried moving to rectify this. She couldn't. She then looked down to see her fake fur coat had been removed, and that long lengths of brown rope were now crisscrossing her pink skirt suit. They were wound about her and the wooden chair she was sat in. Her hands had been pulled over the chair back and tied palm to palm, and more rope wound about her nylon clad ankles and above her knees. She was pleased to see that her pink high heels remained on her feet.

   She realised she was in a dark and dank basement, with stone walls and a ceiling held up by wooden beams. She could faintly hear the sound of jeeps and machinery through the walls, revealing she was still somewhere on the mining site. "Oh goodness, is anyone there? Parker? Can anyone hhrrmmmmm?"

   Her experimental cries were silenced by a rough hand clamping down over her mouth. "Silence lady. You wouldn't want to put your friend in any danger?" said a low, growling voice into her ear.

   Penelope wondered briefly what this stranger meant, but then she remembered Tin Tin. Following a quick look around she saw her on her right hand side, tied in an identical manner to another chair. She was still asleep, her raven hair tumbling down from where her head lolled on her chest. Penelope realised they had been taken prisoner, and decided it best to not kick up too much of a fuss. Instead, as the hand was pulled away from her lips, she decided to find out all she could. "Now what on earth is going on here?" she demanded, both calm and indignant in equal measure.

   The Hood then walked around so she could see him, though with his disguise still in place. "You have been stirring up too much trouble!" The Hood told her. "I won't allow you to ruin a plan months in the making."

    Penelope swept her blonde hair onto one side and with her blue eyes wide she asked with mock sweetness, "And what would that be?"

   "My plan to cause an accident in this mine that will see a number of miners trapped underground," explained The Hood, as he pulled a roll of grey tape from his pocket. "It would be the end of Jeremiah Stone, and as the chief investor in his company I would take it over and all its profits."

     "Quite the hostile takeover!" Penelope remarked coldly. "I don't suppose there's anything I can do to change your mind?"

    "Not one thing!" The Hood sneered, as he tore off a strip of grey tape and slapped it over Penelope's lips.

     "Mmmm ttthhhhttt sssssnnnn!" Penelope sighed as more strips were added to her gag. Once smoothed over, The Hood moved over to Tin Tin and also covered her mouth with a silvery veil of tape, even as she murmured softly while he worked. Once certain his captives would not be going anywhere he walked back up the stone staircase leading to the ground floor.

    "I will return for you once the miners have been sealed in the mine!" he guffawed at the struggling Penelope. "Good luck alerting the authorities to my plan." But secretly, as he closed the basement door and locked it after him, he was hoping she would be able to. In fact, he was counting on it.

    Penelope immediately started straining for freedom with all her strength, bouncing up and down in her chair so vigorously the chair legs scraped over the stone floor. The ropes creaked as she strained against them, rubbing even through the fabric of her suit and stockings. The knots were tight and rigid, and she couldn't gain any purchase on them.

   But right now her freedom didn't matter. What did was letting Jeff and the boys know of the sinister plot about to engulf this mine in chaos. Yet even bound like this, she had a way of alerting International Rescue to her plight. Which was why she was glad her shoes remained on her feet.

   She planted her feet on the ground and pressed her toes down hard against the sole. She found a tiny lump in the lining, which after she pushed it clicked slightly. She then strained her ears and heard a very faint beep from within the leather. Success! She'd just activated a tiny digital transmitter, which she could use to send a coded message on a secret frequency. Brains had installed it for if she got caught again, and she marvelled at how his genius would once again get her out of this tight spot. Provided of course, the message got through the thick stone walls.

  Still she had to try. She began bashing her high heels against the floor. The clattering sound echoed throughout the basement, but she wasn't trying to alert the attention of someone outside. It was someone many thousands of miles away. She rhythmically continued to bash her heels against the stone. The noise finally roused Tin Tin, who looked at her bound body and location in shock before proceeding to wriggle with everything she had. But she didn't deter Penelope from her task.

   Her plan was working, because each thump of her heels was broadcast through the digital transmitter in her shoe right out into the upper atmosphere of planet Earth and beyond, reaching a the world's most complicated and advanced space station, Thunderbird 5. There every television channel, radio station, news website and emergency service was monitored for any sign or indication of a disaster for which International Rescue would be needed. And amid all the chatter, beeps and bustle it picked up Penelope's signal.

    John, another of the Tracy boys currently on duty in the space station, heard the console beeping at him while he was preparing a meal from his ration packs. Curious, he abandoned the chopping board and ran over (using the artificial gravity field) to the console. He could tell immediately it was from Penelope, but he could only hear a series of bangs.

  He transferred the message to Tracy Island regardless. Jeff responded to his summons immediately. "Go ahead John, is there an emergency call?"

   "I dunno, it's a message from Penny," John explained. "Just these banging noises. Here, see what you make of it." He proceeded to relay the message for his father and brothers to hear and decipher.

   Gordon, the second youngest of the Tracy clan and pilot of Thunderbird 4, realised what it was first. "I could be wrong dad, but that sounds like old Morse Code."

    "You're right!" exclaimed Jeff in realisation, wondering how he hadn't noticed the pattern in the bangs before. "Get Brains up here, he can decipher the message faster than we can."

   Two minutes later the technological and engineering genius, called Brains by everyone he knew, arrived in the living hall. He was mild mannered, wore thick blue glasses, always dressed with a bow tie and had a terrible stutter, but his intellect was unparalleled. It was he who had designed and devised the Thunderbirds and all International Rescue craft. "What do you make of this Brains?" Jeff asked, repeating Penelope's message.

    "O-oh i-it's definitely m-morse code," Brains answered with his trademarked stammer. "L-let's see…erm…SOS…Tin tin…me…captive…"

   "Tin Tin captive?" Alan yelled before he could stop himself, at which everyone shushed him for Brains to continue.

    "…Mine collapse…sabotage...bomb…danger," Brains added, finishing Penelope's message.

    "That's all I need to hear!" Scott yelled, leaping to his feet. "I'll launch Thunderbird 1 immediately."

    "Better launch Thunderbird 2 too, in case we don't make it to the mine before that bomb goes off," Jeff said to Vergil and Alan.

    "B-best take P-Pod 5, it has the m-mining equipment!" Brains yelled as Vergil ran over to the tall picture of the Apollo 31 spacecraft embedded into the wall, while Scott made his way to the portrait flanked on either side by two lampshades. He pressed a concealed button on the right hand lamp, activating the hidden mechanism which caused the picture, and him, to spin around. Scott wasn't even in the slightest bit perturbed when he emerged into the massive, brightly lit hanger concealed deep within the cliffs of Tracy Island. Straight ahead of him rested Thunderbird 1, the tall, cylindrical shaped aircraft poised waiting for him on its Launchpad. Capable of travelling at 15,000mph, it spearheaded the International Rescue fleet. Its entrance hatch slid open automatically, inviting Scott inside.

    Virgil meanwhile, rested his back and head against the picture, and within seconds it scooped him up as it swung upwards from the floor. Soon he was tilting back at a diagonal slant, and he slid backwards down a chute leading into the depths of Tracy Island. The slide swung him around so he then was travelling feet first, down and down, until he landed right into the pilot's seat in the cockpit of Thunderbird 2. The biggest of all the craft, the vast green coloured ship was the workhorse of the fleet, capable of transporting rescue equipment and vehicles weighing hundreds of tonnes. Alan joined him in the cockpit just as Virgil selected Pod 5 from the selection, causing Thunderbird 2 to slide down into place over the vast round pod containing all the required gear.

   Alarms sounded over the island, as deep within the earth vast, expensive mechanisms were at work, revealing the secret launch locations of the Thunderbird craft. The swimming pool sunk into the ground and slid underneath it, revealing the sky for Thunderbird 1 to launch up into. Elsewhere the rock cliff face at the end of the airstrip which was Tracy Island's way of connecting to the mainland also disappeared underground, revealing the vast hanger for Thunderbird 2. Within seconds the huge ship was trundling along the tarmac. The huge palm fronds tilted out of its way automatically as it reached launch position, at which a ramp rose up, tilting the craft up to the sky.

   Then, almost with complete synchronicity, the nuclear fusion powered engines of both craft roared into life, and creating thousands of tonnes worth of thrust they rocketed upwards into the sky. Both craft went from 0 to 500 miles an hour in seconds, and their speed only increased further. "Changing to horizontal flight!" Scott yelled into the radio as he levelled Thunderbird 1 out. As the engines roared and the cabin vibrated about him he thought, 'Hang on Penny, we're coming for you!'

 

   As the Thunderbirds rocketed through the earth's atmosphere on a bearing for Scotland, Lady Penelope was thinking, 'Well, I can only hope they got the message. Now, about these bonds…'

  Tin Tin was already vehemently struggling, her chair screeching over the stone floor as she tried bucking free from the ropes encasing her. Shades of tartan from Tin Tin's skirt were visible through the gaps in the ropes wound over her lap. She groaned through her tape gag with her long dark hair swishing around as she wriggled. Penelope was a lot more methodical, twisting her conjoined wrists and flexing her bound ankles. She stretched out her legs and jiggled them, all to no avail. Her normally calm manner began to evaporate, particularly when she saw the ropes leaving creases in her pink outfit. 'That will take hours to remove,' she thought glumly.

   Then she recovered her senses, remembering the potentially imminent disaster. International Rescue might have been on the way, but if she could get free now then the danger could be averted. So she redoubled her effort, trying to dislodge the tape slapped over her lips, to writhe out the ropes coiled about her. When that all failed she tried crying, "Nnnnnyyynnn. Nnnnn hhhrrrr. Hhhhlllppp!" But the gag effectively muffled her posh, well-spoken voice.

   Her frustration only increasing, Penelope stared over at Tin Tin, and saw her fellow captive waving her bound hands. "Vvvvrrr hhrrrr. Cmmmm nnn pppnnnnlllppp!"

   Correctly surmising what Tin Tin was suggesting, Penelope began bucking against her bonds, stamping her heels on the cold floor in an attempt to drag the chair closer to her friend. Tin Tin was doing the same, both captives doing their best to avert disaster.

   But they were still a good five metres away from each other when a gigantic boom reverberated through the walls of the basement.



       "Thunderbird 1 to base. I've arrived at the danger zone, but I think I'm too late. There's smoke billowing from the mine shaft and a huge amount of activity from the miners!" Scott reported into the radio as he circled overhead in Thunderbird 1.

    "Have you uncovered more about the situation John?" Jeff answered from back at base.

     "I've intercepted their radio messages, and they're saying it's a mine collapse. Apparently some sort of explosion," John said down the radio. "No reported fatalities but twenty three miners are trapped underground behind the rock fall."

    "Must be the sabotage Penelope was warning us about!" Scott surmised. "We've got to rescue those miners and find out what's happened to Penelope, Tin Tin and Parker. What's you're ETA Virgil?"

   "About eleven minutes Scott. I'll get the Mole prepared straight away. Sounds we'll be needing it."

   "FAB Vergil. I'll land at the danger zone, download plans for the mine and locate a suitable location for drilling. Then I'll locate the others."

    With that Scott piloted the long, sleek craft to the ground. Miners already disorientated by the mine collapse stared up in abject shock as Thunderbird 1 dropped from the sky and soared overhead, its wings spread open and it's landing legs lowered. Seeing a wide enough space on the site, flanked by tall diggers on either side, Scott activated the thrusters and gently lowered the hovering craft to the ground, landing with nothing more than a soft clunk.

   High atop the hillside, The Hood watched the landing greedily, rubbing his hand in anticipation. "It worked, it worked!" he exclaimed to himself. "I knew International Rescue would not be able to resist such tempting bait. Now to steal their secrets for myself!"



   Thunderbird 2 was precisely eleven minutes behind Scott. It was a much larger craft so Vergil couldn't land onsite. Instead he positioned the massive green carrier over a grassy plateau just above the mining site. The earth seemed to shake as the huge aircraft landed heavily. Almost without delay the main hull rose up on thick metal legs, however the large round pod with 5 emblazoned in the entrance hatch in white remained grounded. Once the hatch had been completely revealed it was lowered down, forming a ramp leading out the pod to the ground.

   Then the Mole emerged from the pod interior. A tall, yellow coloured vehicle resting on wide caterpillar tracks. Half of it was a cylindrical shape in which the control cabin and engine were located. The other half a vast, cone shaped drill, over twenty metres in length. Vergil drove the Mole across the plateau, through shallow streams and over rocky outcrops, in the direction of the mining site located downhill.

    "Stop Vergil, according to the plans from Scott the mine is on an exact 35 degree bearing from here, and it's a soft layer of limestone that will be easier for us to cut through," Alan explained, examining the holocharts.

     "Ok, moving into drill position!" Vergil announced, flicking the corresponding levers. The Mole responded by rising up, the trolley underneath lifting it up at a diagonal slant, with the drill facing the ground. Vergil activated the nuclear fusion engine, at which the drill started spinning, faster and faster and faster until it reached 2500 RPM. With a thrust from the engine it slid off the trolley and the drill hit the earth. Clouds of dust and rock were ejected as the Mole drilled through the ground like a pen through soft butter, and in less than a minute the main capsule had disappeared from sight, aiming for the tunnel in which the men were trapped.

      Members of the mining staff watched all this through electro-binoculars, their mouths wide open as the equipment of International Rescue achieved in minutes what had taken them weeks. "We've got to get us one of those," the foreman breathed.

   Scott didn't have time to humour them. He needed to find Penelope and Tin Tin. "Listen, please stay calm, but I believe there is a saboteur among your crew," he said to the foreman. "How else would such a centralised and specific rock fall occur with no fatalities?"

   The foreman nodded. "Crossed my mind too laddie!" he answered in a broad Scottish accent. "We'd best check with Mr Stone."

     Both men elbowed their way through crowds of miners watching the rescue, headed for the relative calm of the office. Neither man noticed a car covered by a green tarpaulin parked beside it, or the splash of pink paint revealed in a gust of wind.

   "Beatrice, you in here?" the foreman asked as they burst into the cottage.

   "Something's wrong," Scott noticed, not liking how the main office was deserted.  

    "I'll check the office," the Foreman announced, darting into Jeremiah's office. Scott took the opportunity to check the desk for any clues as to what had happened. It was then he heard a loud thump from within the nearby broom cupboard. Clasping the laser pistol in his belt he tiptoed over and opened it up. Immediately the figure of a woman fell out from the cupboard onto the floor.

   This woman squeaked at him through a layer of silver covering her mouth, shaking her curly red hair out of her eyes. She bucked about on the floor, straining against the tape binding her feet and legs together and her hands behind her back. She stared wide eyed up at Scott, pleading for him to release her, and he quickly obliged her. "Who did this to you?" Scott asked her as he moved to un-tape her hands.

     "Oh it was awful," Beatrice the receptionist told him. "This man came in quite unannounced, I can't quite remember his face. But those eyes…those yellow eyes."

   Scott froze. Her words had jogged his memory, and he remembered all the similar accounts he'd encountered in the past. Accounts of a mysterious man with unnatural abilities; a description shadowing International Rescue across the globe. But did that mean the person responsible was here at this mining site, and responsible for the trapping of twenty three men underground? Possibly even responsible for the kidnap of Penelope and Tin Tin?

    All the confirmation he needed came after the foreman yelled from within the main office, "You'll want to see this laddie!"

   Scott abandoned Beatrice to untie her feet and responded to the foreman's summons. At the main desk sat Jeremiah Stone, slouched in his chair. It was like he was frozen in place, his eyes wide open and unblinking. He seemed unable to respond to the poking's and prods of the foreman. "He's alive, but I can't get him to do anything. It's like he's been…"

   "Hypnotised," Scott finished. Now he was certain he knew who was behind all this. The mysterious villain who had been after the Thunderbirds since International Rescue had become operational. Now he knew just how much danger Penelope and Tin Tin were in. Rescuing them had now become a priority. There was no telling just what lengths this man would go to.

   His thoughts were interrupted by Beatrice, who now free of her tape bindings shuffled nervously into the office interior. She gazed sheepishly at Scott, before asking in a flustered voice, "You know, with that uniform of yours you look just like one of those International Rescue boys."



    The trapped miners had only spent a total of thirty five minutes underground when rescue came to them. They had only just calmed down enough to discuss their next course of action, deciding to bash out a message in Morse code against the mine walls for seismograms to pick up. They'd only got as far as SOS when the walls of the mine cracked and splintered as a drill burst through the rock. "Blimey that was fast," one miner gawped as a yellow hatchway emerged through the hole, and was subsequently opened up by a blonde haired man wearing a blue uniform.

   "Don't panic, we're from International Rescue. Please enter in an organised manner, and we'll have you out of here in no time," Alan yelled, shining a torch in the miners direction. With that he guided the relieved men into the vehicle. Amazingly everyone was accounted for, and no-one had suffered anything more than a scratch. It looked like another successful mission for International Rescue. Yet as he closed the Mole's hatch, Alan remained uneasy.

   "That explosion was placed in just the right position," he told his older brother. "I think the aim wasn't to kill anyone. I think it was to get us out the way."

   "Yeah I think you're right," Vergil agreed, pulling back more levers as he put The Mole back in reverse. "We should get back to the surface and find out what Scott's been up to."

    Alan shuffled nervously as he took his place back in the co-pilots seat. "I just hope Tin Tin's ok," he remarked before he could stop himself.

   Vergil decided he would tease his younger brother at a later time. Instead he simply nodded and answered, "She'll be fine. Tin Tin and Penelope are tough. I know they won't give up without a struggle."



    Vergil's words couldn't have been more accurate, as neither Penelope nor Tin Tin was giving up without a struggle, quite literally. While International Rescue had been rescuing the trapped miners, they had used the time to shuffle their chairs over so they were within inches of each other. Together they wriggled their bound arms and attempted to clasp the bonds encasing each other's hands. It was incredibly dark in the cellar so they were working almost blind, and the numbing sensation pinpricking their fingers didn't aid their progress. For over two hours now they'd been tied like this, and their bodies were beginning to feel it.

    "Ccccnnn yyyy fffnnnddd nnnyyttthhhnnn?" asked Tin Tin through her gag, her hands falling still as Penelope's nimble fingers with pink varnished nails tried to find a loose end.

    "Nnnnn hhhppp ssss," Penelope sighed in frustration. She was concerned no-one had found them yet. She was also concerned over what was happening with the miners. And she was beginning to doubt she'd ever be free of this cursed chair and ropes.

    But then there was the sound of a door opening from the floor above, followed by panicked footsteps. Tin Tin and Penelope looked at each other, both realising at the same time that these weren't the footsteps of their master criminal. Then together they faced the staircase leading upstairs and bellowed as loudly as their gags would allow, "NNNNNN HHHRRR. WWWRRR NNNNN HHHRRRR!"

   It seemed their cries and combined chair rocking was heard. Both ladies listened in anticipation as these frantic footsteps reached the basement door, then closed their eyes as light flooded in and dazzled them.

   "Penelope! Tin Tin!" Scott exclaimed in relief.

   "SSSSCCCCTTT!" the captives chorused as Scott darted down the stairs. It had started as a cry of relief, but after they saw the figure pointing a gun at him from the top of the staircase it became a cry of warning.

    "Do not move a muscle or I'll shoot the girls first!" barked The Hood, still disguised as Mr Krampton, the laser pistol steady in his hand.

    Scott ceased to advance on the bound ladies, holding his hands above his head. "I take it you're the one responsible for all this chaos," he grunted indignantly. "Well you've failed. My comrades have rescued the miners and the whole site is on high alert. You'll never escape."

     "But I will my young friend, once I have stolen Thunderbird 1 for myself. It will make the perfect getaway vehicle, don't you think?"

    Scott's eyes narrowed. "International Rescue's equipment can never be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. It would spell disaster!"

   "But denying me my prize would spell disaster for you three. I will be leaving this mine with Thunderbird 1 in my possession. It is your decision whether you are all alive when I do this."

    A terrible silence fell throughout the basement. Penelope and Tin Tin had no say in the matter, bound and gagged as they were. But Scott was almost as motionless as they were. He simply couldn't afford to allow this man to steal Thunderbird 1. There was no telling the havoc this man would wreak. But what good what it do if he, Penelope and Tin Tin ended up injured…or worse? He really didn't see much alternative to giving this man what he wanted.

   That was, until Parker appeared and grabbed The Hood from behind, grabbing and twisting the arch criminals hand so that the gun fell to the floor with a clatter. "Thought you could knock me out and kidnap Lady Penelope without me having something to say about it!" Parker wheezed as he wrestled to keep The Hood under control.

   "LLLLKKK TTTT PPPPRRRKKKKRRR!" Penelope encouraged, watching her faithful chauffeur wrestle with the man to have kidnapped her. Scott seized the moment and darted up the stairs with the aim of coming to Parker's aid. However The Hood summoned all his strength, elbowed Parker in the stomach, and used the attack to wriggle out of the chauffeurs grip.

   Scott started to go after him, but Parker held him back, "Rescue her ladyship and Tin Tin Mr Tracy. I'll apprehend the vagrant with FAB 1."

   Scott didn't waste any time arguing, merely watching as Parker ran back up the stairs. He then turned to face the writhing captives, exhaled in relief and said, "Better get you out of those ropes huh?"

   Parker meanwhile burst out of the large warehouse in which the basement had been located, and after a brief scan of the surroundings saw that The Hood had turned on the ignition of his super charged hydrogen powered Bentley. With the wheels spinning against the loose stones The Hood ultimately found some traction and with his foot flat on the accelerator, the vehicle darted forward at an incredible speed. Workmen already stunned from the day's events had to then scramble out the way as the Bentley screamed past; smashing through the wooden security barrier like it was matchwood.

    But the race was far from over. Parker pressed a concealed button on his wristwatch and immediately the engine of FAB 1 roared in to life. Controlled automatically from Thunderbird 5 the car shot out of its hiding place, the tarpaulin blowing off it like a bag caught in an updraft. The pink Rolls Royce came to an abrupt stop right where Parker was stood, and the front door was already open by the time he clasped the handle. Pausing only to put on his seatbelt, Parker slammed his foot on the accelerator and set off in pursuit.

   The superior engine of FAB 1 meant it didn't take long for Parker to catch up. The Hood responded by picking up the pace, the tyres squealing as he rounded a corner at speed. Parker easily kept up, FAB 1's superior traction helped it stick to the wet tarmac like glue, allowing perfect control. Parker needed it; on the far side of the railing to his right hand side was a massive drop down the mountainside.

   Parker kept up the chase for about a mile until the road straightened out. This was the opportunity Parker had been waiting for. He flicked a switch on the dashboard where the cigarette lighter would normally have been. The front registration plate slid upwards, and a long thin gun barrel protruded out from within the bonnet. It was an EMP blaster, specially designed to incapacitate anything with an electrical current; Just the thing to bring the car ahead to a halt.

    Parker decided to fire a warning shot. He used the Hologram Navigation Unit to target a speed limit sign and fired. From the gun barrel an orb of pure electrical energy shot forward. The Hood caught a glimpse of the sign being engulfed by sparks of blue and white, and realised instantly what his pursuer was attempting to do. But his reaction was not to slow down. Instead he sped up.

     'Alright then, you asked for it,' Parker thought as his finger hovered over the trigger. But he hesitated when he saw the sharp bend in the road ahead. And yet The Hood's vehicle continued to pick up speed, faster and faster, with no sign of braking or deviating from its straight line. Parker realised just in time what was going to happen, and slammed his foot down on the brake at the same moment The Hood crashed through the barrier.

      FAB 1 screeched to a halt, swerving wildly to the left but remaining under control. After coming to a standstill in a cloud of white steam Parker got out and ran to the newly formed gap in the crash barrier. His quarry had smashed straight through and the crashes and bangs from below told Parker all he needed to know before he'd even looked. Peering over the edge he saw the once smart Bentley rolling over and over down a scree slope, its bonnet and body buckled and crumpled beyond repair. It came to a rest beside a rocky stream, engulfed by smoke and dust.

    Parker took in the scene for a moment, before activating his communicator. "Parker to Scott, is m'Lady alright?"

   "She and Tin Tin are free and unharmed. What about you? Did you catch him?"

    "No need any more. He drove off the mountainside before I could stop 'im. No way anyone could have survived a smash like that!"

   "Well you did your best Parker. Good work, let's get back to Thunderbirds and head home!"

   With one last look at the smouldering wreckage, Parker returned to FAB 1. Had he lingered for a few minutes more, he would have seen the door to the Bentley being kicked open. Out from the wreckage emerged The Hood, his disguise removed and a bloody cut above his temple. He had been shielded from the repeated impacts by the specially strengthened body of his custom made Bentley, with the aid of an orb of airbags that had completely encased him before the car had left the road. It had been a risk deliberately driving off the road, but it had ensured that, despite his defeat, he had evaded capture once again.

    "Curse you International Rescue!" he cried wildly into the darkening sky. "I swear one day you will pay!"



   "I-it was encouraging to s-see you put my t-transmitter to good use, er, L-lady Penelope!" Brains mumbled.

   "Oh Brains you sweetheart. You did a sterling job," congratulated Penelope, embracing him happily. "I dread to think of what would have happened had I not had it!" She gave him a grateful peck on the cheek, causing the genius to blush and fiddle with his bowtie.

     "I'm beginning to think getting yourself kidnapped is all part of your strategy Penelope," teased Scott, sitting beside her on the terrace of Tracy Island as the ruby red sun set over the Pacific Ocean.  

    "Works wonders mind!" Vergil added. "You should try it more often."

    "Er, as tempting as that sounds, I've had quite enough of being kidnapped for the time being," Penelope retorted, though her smile remained broad.

   "Hear hear," Tin Tin seconded. "You boys should try it sometime!"

    Alan, who was sat beside her, merely joked, "But who'd come to our rescue then?"

    Jeff, who was sat among his sons and friends with a lit cigar in his hand, then interjected, "Well the one thing we've learnt from all this is how the members of International Rescue can always depend on each other. I'm proud of all our accomplishments since we first launched this outfit, but our comradeship and dedication to each other is perhaps our greatest strength."

    Their chorus of agreement was shattered by Gordon, running down the steps to the terrace at speed with a frantic expression. "John's just called from the space station. A typhoon in India has flooded a hotel, stranding the guests on the upper floors. The authorities can't get there until the storm dies down, but by then it might be too late."

   With that Jeff stood to attention. "Boys, you heard Gordon, now hop to it. Thunderbirds are go!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

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