View Full Version : Fonziebirds:The Most Dangerous Man In The World (Revived)
02-08-2005, 11:16 AM
Chapter 1 – Disaster Strikes
The scorching afternoon sun had taken its toll on the city of Milwaukee and the Pfhister Park had become a lethargic green utopia. The dense park canopy shifted casually with the subtle breeze blowing in from the Sea. Deep in the heart of the city, an ancient temple seemingly undiscovered since abandonment concealed beneath it a secret base of the twentieth century. The base under this primeval shrine contained a tranquil command centre that emitted an almost indistinct hum of electricity. This serenity was upset as a bleep began to ring out from the radar consol - an aircraft had been detected and set the alarm klaxon going throughout the base.
In another chamber of this secret base stood an ornate bronze statue of an overweight man dressed in a white suit and a mustache. Behind it a wall of fire flickered relaxingly. The statue stood on a plinth surrounded by four columns that held a tiered ornate golden roof and was circled on the floor by a rotating rack on which hung at least six masks of different guises.
The small chamber glimmered golden orange while shadows danced around the walls. The fat man seemingly worshiped the statue he knelt before. His eyes were closed and his hands were held up either side of his head with palms facing the statue. He was motionless and one could have been mistaken into thinking he also was a statue. Then the alarm rang out echoing throughout the building’s many chambers. The flames behind the statue flared up with a roar to over twice their height for a moment before settling down to the gentle flicking as before. The man slowly opened his eyes and lowered his hands, he rose to his feet while giving the statue an unyielding glare from his mesmerizing eyes before turning swiftly allowing his white pants to swirl around him as he walked out of the main room.
The man entered the dimly lit command centre at a brisk pace, immediately scanning the array of monitors with his intense eyes, they settled on the radar consol. He turned the annoying alarm klaxon off, it’s echo eventually died away to leave only the sound of the bleeping from the radar contact.
He frowned. “There should be no aircraft in this area…I wonder what it is?” he said out loud to himself in a deep voice that echoed around the room. Then a concerned look fell across his face. A moment later, the command centre was empty.
Fonziebird One was on the brink of disaster! For nearly five minutes, Warren a.k.a Potsie had wrestled with the controls, even though they seemed to be having no effect he persevered, in the hope of saving the craft. Once before Potsie had to made a crash landing in the Sahara after being shot at, but this was completely different, there had been no attack, he was over water and miles from land and also the controls didn’t respond to anything he tried, he may as well not have been in the pilot seat.
The explosion in Fonziebird One’s tail section had taken him by complete surprise, and thoughts of what could have caused it flashed through his mind as he tried to concentrate and regain control. Fonziebird One was International Rescue’s high-speed reconnaissance vehicle, it was a sleek rocket shaped craft with a bright red nose cone, the body was silver-gray finish and there were two closed retractable swing-wings that projected slightly from its mid section. These normally aided with stability and maneuverability at the slower speeds but offered no function in this situation. Where the wings ended the hull widened to a blue collar segment just before the bulky looking cross-shaped tail section that housed the array of engines, thrusters and control fins, but now this area was a barely recognisable mass of twisted metal and fierce flames.
“Fonziebird One to base, I’m still in trouble, Dad. I just can't get control of her.” Potsie despaired as he flicked switches and pressed buttons. “I've tried everything.”
“Potsie, don't waste any more time, eject while you still can, Ralph and Richard are on their wa....” his father’s concerned voice fizzled out with a flash of sparks, the speaker buzzed for a moment then fell silent and smoke began to swirl serenely from it. Potsie raised an eyebrow and stared in disbelief at the unit for a second.
“Dad!” Potsie yelled desperately in to the microphone, pausing impatiently for a reply. “Dad!” again still no response came. The radio was dead. Well, there’s not much more that can go wrong now, he thought while he scanned the console. It was lit up and flashing like an over decorated Christmas tree, one important warning which slipped Potsie's attention among the countless others was the failure of the cloaking and anti-radar device, not that Potsie would have been too concerned about it in his present predicament.
The framed image of Potsie struggling with the controls of Fonziebird One on the wall opposite Howard Tracy’s desk was the first thing to go haywire and vanish in a dazzle of interference. Once the signal had ceased, it was replaced by the motionless portrait of him regaled in his International Rescue uniform. Then the audio transmission began to falter.
“Fonziebird...zzzt...zzzt...base, I’m...zzzt...in trouble Da...zzzt...just can’t ge...zzzt...trol, I’ve trie...zzzt...erything.” Howard Tracy sat bolt upright, fearfully he listened to his son’s broken message.
“Potsie, don’t waste any more time, eject while you still can, Ralph and Richard are on their way to pick you up, just get out of there.” Ordered Howard. But there was no response. Not even static, just an eerie, ominous silence.
“Potsie, come in, do you copy?” Howard waited anxiously; “Base to Fonziebird One, please respond.” Still nothing. “Base to Fonziebird Two.”
The speaker came alive with Ralph’s response, simultaneously his troubled image at the controls of Fonziebird Two appeared in place of his portrait on the wall opposite Howard’s desk.
“Okay, Dad, I’m here. Standing by.”
Howard looked up and said anxiously. “Ralph, I’ve lost all contact with Potsie.”
“I know, we have been monitoring communications, E.T.A. at danger zone in approximately thirty minutes,”
“F.O.N.Z, Ralph, be as quick as you can and keep in touch, base out.” Howard leaned forward and rested his head in his hands. He had a bad feeling about this.
Fonziebird One ferociously spiralled down towards the ocean, through the window Potsie saw the world spinning as if he was on a carousel, but this wasn't fun, ejecting would be a dangerous game, especially at low altitude and from a craft as out of control as this one. Potsie was beginning to feel a little dizzy but had to choose the moment carefully, he did not want to eject straight down into the sea. He checked his harness.
“Well, here I go!” Potsie said to himself and yanked at the red eject handle under his chair. The sophisticated survival capsule, another brainchild from Alfred 'Al' Delvecchio, closed itself around him within seconds as the hatch directly above was jettisoned. Potsie heard the roar of the wind for a moment before the capsule thrusters fired. The G-force and buffeting knocked him unconscious as he was catapulted away from Fonziebird One, which carried on, oblivious to Potsie’s absence. Seconds later, Fonziebird One exploded in a huge ball of fire and smoke. Debris flew in every direction; the nose cone with part of the cockpit fuselage was the largest piece to emerge from the explosion. It tumbled in an arc towards the sea, leaving an untidy smoke trail that slowly dispersed in the warm breeze.
Potsie had no idea how lucky he was, although that luck ran out very quickly. Shrapnel from the explosion pelted the capsule and pierced its shell in several places and damaging vital components. Potsie, still unconscious, never felt the small piece of Fonziebird One hull slice his thigh on its way through the capsule.
A thruster failed, the capsule lost stability, then another one cut out. It began to roll out of control, spinning like a Catherine wheel until the remaining thrusters also failed then it started to fall out of the sky. The on-board computer sensed this and released the parachutes, three white bundles deployed, unfolded and filled with air and immediately slowed the capsule with a yank, just in time for a few moments of leisurely descent before gently splashing into the ocean. The parachutes fell onto the water and as if by design displayed the familiar International Rescue logo and were automatically cut free.
Potsie opened his eyes wearily, dazed and confused for a moment; an intense burning sensation in his leg brought everything into sharp focus. Apart from the sound of the waves splashing gently on the side of the capsule, it was quiet and dark except for some dim computer lights and a few thin beams of sunshine leaking through holes in the shell wall, Potsie could tell he was on the sea by the bobbing motion and also by the way the capsule was slowly but alarmingly filling with water.
“Why hasn't the life raft inflated yet?” Potsie asked himself as he flicked a few switches on the control panel, the lights faded out completely, the power cells were dead.
The water continued to trickle in, Potsie knew if he didn’t get out, the capsule was going to sink and he would drown. Things couldn’t get any worse, he thought as he reached up to the manual release for the emergency escape hatch and pulled at the lever, it did not move.
“Or can they?” he said out loud and tried again with as much strength as he could muster, he groaned as the lever drained him. It was jammed.
“Damn it!” he yelled out loud with annoyance at his feeling of helplessness and at the hatch. He felt around inside the capsule for something to help get some leverage but found nothing of any use. He thought of attempting to contact base but his wrist communicator had somehow been damaged during the ejection. He sighed deeply and sank into his seat.
“Ralph's on the way, I just hope I can hold on.” Then, the throbbing pain in his leg diverted his attention momentarily, he bandaged his wound as best he could in the dim light and took a pain killer.
“At least the First Aid kit survived in one piece.” he joked with himself.
Nearly ten minutes had passed and the escape capsule was well over half full of the cold salty sea, it seemed to be rising quicker with every second. Potsie had tried his best to seal the holes in the capsule but to no avail; there were ruptures in the shell that were not visible from the inside. Exhausted and bitterly cold, Potsie was now perched on the chair only his head clear of the water, his arms outstretched against the capsule walls to steady himself. He made another desperate attempt to open the hatch but it was still immovable. The water level rose quickly, Potsie tilted his head back for a few more gasps of air before the capsule completely filled with water, and began to sink.
Potsie, more afraid and alone than he had ever been before, held his breath.
02-08-2005, 11:21 AM
Chapter 2 – Tragic Discovery
Potsie had always thought when his time was up it would be during a rescue. He would have preferred that rather than drowning for no good reason. As the seconds ticked away, Potsie held his breath he could feel his heart pounding throughout his whole body and the oxygen deficient blood pumping around his brain, he felt as if his chest was about to burst and at the same time the freezing water had starting to numb his hurting. He closed his eyes as there was nothing to look at and he felt a weightless sensation reminiscent of space flight, as if he was floating without a care. He didn’t know which way was up now and was becoming disorientated. He had never imagined what it would be like to drown although he lived on an island and could swim well enough he was never a great lover of water unless it was necessary during a rescue of course.
His mind flashed back to the incident at Lake Anasta when he and Richard a.k.a Richie rescued Al from a strange man, intent on robbing the temple of its treasure, now that he didn’t mind. But he was unlike his brother in that respect, Richie was always in the pool or the ocean. He remembered joking with Arthur a.k.a 'Fonzie' and Charles a.k.a 'Chachi' on Fonziebird Five about Richie growing gills and fins and marrying a mermaid, then teasing him about it on his return to the base. That seemed like only yesterday. Potsie tried to think when he had had that conversation but couldn’t, he was finding it difficult to think straight.
That’s what he would miss most, his family, not the excitement and satisfaction of the rescue but his family, the brothers and father he loved and admired. It had seemed like minutes since holding his breath but it was only seconds. Potsie grew weary, he was close to letting go his fragile hold on life and breath in a lung full of water. Then, suddenly there were three dull thuds on the outside of the capsule and it was slowly hoisted clear of the water. Now air began to leek in to replace the water and Potsie was able to blow out the stale air from his tired lungs and breathe again. He could hear the whistling sound of engines. Thanks, Ralph, but don’t cut it so fine next time, were his last thoughts before falling unconscious.
Fonziebird Two - the huge green transporter vehicle of International Rescue raced at maximum speed across the clear blue sky over the seas, nothing else on the planet this large could move as fast and carry the kind of specialised equipment it had to for the rescues they had to perform. It was one of a kind invented by Al, International Rescue’s Italian-American genius scientist ostensibly ahead of his time. He employed the latest technology available and invented anything else he needed.
However for Ralph and Richie in Fonziebird Two’s cockpit, it wasn’t moving nearly fast enough on this occasion, for this time they were on the way to rescue their brother, Potsie. They were both scanning the instrument panel monitors and the fast approaching horizon for any sign of Fonziebird One or the escape capsule. Ralph again tried to make contact using the radio.
“Pots, this is Ralph, do you copy?” he waited impatiently for a reply then repeated. “Pots, this is Ralph, please respond?”
Then the radio buzzed into life.
For a split second, he thought he heard the rich tones of his brother Potsie and turned to the view screen.
“… How close are you to Potsie’s last known coordinates?”
“Dad, for a moment then, I...” Ralph failed to hide the disappointment that it wasn’t Potsie on the radio and continued. “…Only a few minutes. We’re only picking up a signal from Fonziebird One’s black box flight recorder and are homing in on that but there is no sign of...”
“Hey, Ralph, look!” interrupted Richie, who jumped out of his seat and pointed out of the window. Ralph banked Fonziebird Two in the same direction.
“Oh, Dad!” Ralph gasped as he looked in horror at the view confronting him. “We can see wreckage floating on the ocean. Going down for a closer look, we'll relay pictures from the external cameras.” Fonziebird Two hovered above the wreckage.
Howard, now joined by Al, both fell silent as they watched the monitor in awe as it displayed the floating remains of Fonziebird One. A twisted and ripped section of fuselage, being washed over by waves drifted aimlessly in the midst of smaller unrecognizable pieces.
The hush was broken by Al swallowing hard and asking, “Ralph, have you picked up the escape capsule homing signal yet?”
“No but we're still scanning all wave bands.” replied Ralph agitatedly.
“I just don’t understand it, there’s no way the signal could fail to automatically activate unless...” Al hesitated.
“Unless Potsie never ejected in time?” Howard finished the sentence Al didn’t want to.
“Well. I suppose the signal could have failed, Mr. Tracy, we can’t rule out any possibilities.” Al said with a false sense of enthusiasm.
Howard placed his hand firmly on Al's shoulder and gave a gentle calming squeeze. “Now we need to concentrate on finding Potsie, if he’s alive, he may be hurt or incapable of using his wrist communicator. Ralph?”
“Yeah, Dad.” he replied.
“Launch Fonziebird Four, Richard should be able to retrieve the black box and search for any clues to the accident while you make a visual search for the escape capsule or raft in the surrounding area."
“F.O.N.Z, Dad.” they replied simultaneously.
Richie made his way to the waiting Fonziebird Four in the pod while Ralph moved Fonziebird Two away from the floating debris in order to launch the small yellow submarine.
“Rich, are you ready?” asked Ralph.
“F.O.N.Z, Ralph.” Richie replied and braced himself at the controls of his favourite vehicle. This is the part of the launch he didn’t care for as it always turned his stomach when the pod fell. He heard the clamps release and braced himself. A moment of weightlessness followed before the landing thrusters kicked in, these were added by Al to soften the blow, not only on Richie but also on the pod and its equipment, they were an improvement.
Once on the ocean the pod door opened and the launch ramp extended. A green light lit up on Fonziebird Four’s control panel, Richie fired the launch thrusters and the sub accelerated down the ramp gracefully submerging into the oceans depths. Meanwhile, Ralph prepared his search pattern and began backtracking Fonziebird One’s estimated flight path.
A helijet sped briskly just above the treetops of the dense Phfister Park. It carried beneath it the escape capsule in which Potsie still lay unconscious. It slowed as it approached a large clearing in the trees in which a stone structure filled the area. It was a temple, clearly centuries old, dilapidated and in ruins. The helijet descended towards the temple, four stone slabs slid slowly apart with a rumble like distant thunder to reveal a shaft into which it vanished with its cargo. The four slabs then moved back together again concealing its secret. The helijet landed in a chamber at the base of the shaft and neon lights automatically flickered on to light the area.
It was a large hangar in which various other aircraft and vehicles were stored. As the engines were shut down, the capsule was lowered on to the hard concrete floor and the claw that plucked it from the ocean released with a seemingly disgruntled hiss before it withdrew into the belly of the helijet. A smaller claw opened its cold metal fingers and the damp parachutes flopped to the floor.
The engine whistle died away as the turbo-fans slowed, the pilot, the overweight man with a mustache now dressed in military style desert garb, jumped out of the cockpit and walked around the landing strut of the helijet towards his salvaged prize. He looked remarkably haughty as he stopped in front of the metallic globe flaunting the internationally known IR insignia.
“Excellent!” he proclaimed loudly. “A present from International Rescue. I wonder what it is?” He then examined the capsule’s smooth almost unblemished exterior, noticing several damaged areas, exposed circuitry and the emergency escape hatch. The man stepped closer and tapped on the hatch.
“Is anybody home?” he smiled wickedly, grabbing the hatch lever and pulled. To his dismay it didn’t budge, his smile vanished as he tried again with more effort, it still didn’t move. He disappeared into the cockpit, then returned to the capsule with a crowbar and used it to great effect to lever open the hatch. He peered inside and his evil smile soon reappeared as he gazed upon the unconscious occupant who was slumped awkwardly across the seat.
“You know, International Rescue. I've always liked your uniforms.” his voice echoed around the hangar and inside the capsule. Potsie groaned and shifted slightly as if being gently awoke from a deep sleep. The overweight man reacted by reaching for his shotgun and pointing it at Potsie who was now lifting his head and opening his eyes, squinting at the light and trying to focus.
“Move and you’re dead.” said the overweight man.
Potsie looked round into the barrel of the gun, then at the man holding it.
“Okay, buddy, whatever you say, ow.” Potsie winced and held his bloody bandaged thigh. “Who are you, what do you want?”
“You may have heard of me. I'm known as the Candy Man and I want everything!"
02-08-2005, 11:25 AM
Chapter 3 – The Lost
“The Candy Man? I’ve seen you before. You tried to infiltrate the Zero X mission.” Potsie frowned and thought hard.
“And I would've succeeded if you and your orginisation hadn't interfered.”
“But I thought you were killed when your helicopter was shot down.”
“That was just a decoy of course, while I made my escape.” The Candy Man responded, “Which is far more than you'll be able to do, young man.”
He lowered the gun and looked at Potsie who returned a puzzled stare. The Candy Man widened his eyes. Potsie was compelled to stare back into them although he wasn’t sure why, he tried to turn away but couldn’t. Their eyes were fixed by an invisible link that only the Candy Man had the power to terminate.
“You can't resist me.” The Candy Man’s now calming voice was as alluring and as hypnotic as his eyes. Potsie was fighting a losing battle, being physically and mentally exhausted he succumbed to the hypnotic influence with a moan and was lost. The Candy Man rummaged through Potsie’s mind and learned more about International Rescue in just a few minutes than he had during his attempts over the years - but it wasn’t enough, a plan began to formulate in his devious mind. The Candy Man smiled, the smile grew and grew until he could barely contain himself and couldn't resist laughing out loud pleased with the diabolical schemes running through his mind.
Over two hours had passed since Richie and Ralph reached the scene of devastation, there had been hardly any communication between them and none with base. Richie had found the black box and was now scouring the seabed for wreckage to collect for clues as to why the accident happened. Ralph had completed a vast search pattern and was now solemnly collecting the floating remains of Fonziebird One with the magnetic grabs for Al to examine.
Meanwhile, Tracy Island seemed more peaceful than usual, Chachi and Joanie were with Fonzie on Fonziebird Five making repairs and installing new equipment. Due to a communication malfunction they were not in contact with base and so were totally unaware of the events on the planet below. Marion was on the mainland shopping and Al was busy in his laboratory running through the diagnostic check he had carried out on Fonziebird One that morning, looking for anything that could have led to a problem.
Howard stood anxiously on the balcony overlooking the pool, staring out over the glimmering ocean, thinking about the last couple of hours. One moment Potsie was on his way back from a straightforward rescue operation, then suddenly all hell broke loose. Fonziebird One was crippled by an unknown malfunction and all radio contact is lost. Then the awful discovery by Ralph and Richie that Fonziebird One had exploded or crashed in the ocean and the possibility that Potsie might be dead. That was a thought he found impossible to entertain. Then, the radio receiver bleeped and he heard Ralph.
“Fonziebird Two to base.”
He rushed back in doors to his desk and flicked the radio on. Howard could tell from Ralph’s tone that it wasn’t good news and his heart sank a little lower. “Go ahead, son.”
“Dad.” Ralph swallowed hard. “Me and Rich've finished an extensive search using sonar, radar, infra red and thermal imaging…” he was trying to keep an air of professionalism to his report but failed. “There is no sign of the escape capsule or Potsie.”
The radio then went silent. Howard, grief stricken, fell back into his chair. He realised there was no hope now, not after all this time. The oceans were so unforgiving. Why? He thought bitterly. Why…I’m sitting on an island full of rescue equipment and I couldn’t even save my own son’s life.
"Ralph.” Howard found it difficult to talk, “Return to base, you’ve done your best, you both have, I’m proud of you, I’m proud of you all.”
“But, Dad, we can’t just give up,” Ralph pleaded, although deep down he knew his father was right.
“I’m sorry, Ralph but we have to come to terms with it, the black box should answer some questions. I know it’s going to be difficult.”
There was always an element danger in this job and Howard knew this could happen one day, but he could never have prepared himself to face it, never have believed it would happen. Howard painfully thought back to his wife's death. He remembered the feeling of loss, the grief and the mourning. He dreaded it. He didn’t want it again.
“Please, Ralph, Richard, don’t make it any harder than it already is.”
Fonziebird Two hovered effortlessly over the sea as if suspended by strings, Ralph sat silently at the controls and took a deep breath. “F.ON.Z, I'll collect Fonziebird Four and return to base. Two out.”
The Candy Man drove his six wheeled jeep tremendously fast through one of the many secret underground tunnels which connected his hidden base to the outside world. To an outsider, it would seem a dangerous speed to negotiate the subway but the Candy Man knew these passages like the back of his hand, after all, he built them. The capsule was tied securely to the flat back of the jeep and Potsie, who was in a hypnotic sleep, was strapped to the seat inside.
After about thirty miles, the tunnel sloped upwards towards the unsuspecting park. The jeep charged out of a camouflaged opening and flew into the air for a moment before landing heavily with a bounce or two. The jungle burst into life with startled creatures running and flying for cover from this noisy beast from beneath the ground. The jeep slowed to a restrained crawl as it weaved its way between the trees, rocks and gullies, until the forest began to thin out. The Candy Man could now see the ocean ahead. He glanced behind at the capsule as he dodged trees and bushes. “Don’t worry, my friend, you'll soon be going home.”
Howard gave the impression he was walking about without purpose as he made his way though the maze of corridors and stair wells to Fonziebird One’s hangar. He emerged into it about half way on an inspection gantry, there he leaned on the safety rail and looked around at the empty space. The hangar was like a giant missile silo, gantries where Al would make repairs or modifications lined the walls at various levels, his gaze dropped to the ramp that Fonziebird One had travelled countless times which led down to the launch bay. He then noticed two large doors in the hangar wall, he wondered for a moment what they were and then he remembered. He left the gantry and disappeared down some more passages.
The golden beach was deserted, a holidaymakers dream. The clear ocean teased the sun-dried sand every few seconds as the tide gradually retreated.
Tall palm trees lazily loomed over the edge of the beach and swayed seductively in the gentle breeze. The calm was shattered by the roar of the Candy Man’s diesel engine jeep reversing towards the water ploughing the sand with its chunky tires into two deep troughs. The jeep stopped half way into the water. With the engine left running, the Candy Man climbed onto the back of the jeep with the capsule and began to untie the securing ropes.
“Goodbye, lad, please don’t be a stranger.” Laughing to himself, he then nudged the capsule so it rolled off the jeep and into the water. It bobbed up and down then began to float away with the tide. Water again began to seep in to the capsule. The Candy Man watched a while before taking a small black box from his pocket and pressing one of its many buttons, it bleeped and at the same time the computer inside the capsule sparked into life and activated the life raft. The capsule broke in two and become enveloped in a yellow bubble, a flashing beacon appeared on top and the distress signal began transmitting. The Candy Man smiled, jumped back into the driving seat and drove the jeep off the beech and into the dense jungle. There he stopped, turned off the engine and returned on foot to the edge of the jungle to wait.
Ralph and Richie sat in silence aboard Fonziebird Two as they headed home. The shock of what happened to Potsie was starting to take hold. They felt partly to blame. What more could they have done? They asked themselves.
On one of the consoles a light started to flash and an alarm bleep grabbed their attention. Richie punched a few keys on his terminal then turned to Ralph excitedly.
“Ralph, it’s the escape capsule distress signal. Potsie’s escape capsule! The distress signal's activated.”
“Have you got a location fix for it?” Ralph eagerly asked.
“Sure have, bearing forty eight degrees magnetic, approximately one hundred miles…wow, how the heck did it get that far away?” said Richie frowning in bewilderment.
Ralph had already started banking Fonziebird Two and accelerated to full speed. “Let’s just hope Potsie's okay.”
02-08-2005, 11:41 AM
Chapter 4 – The Rescue
Al responded to the signal from Ralph. “Base here, go ahead, Fonziebird Two.”
“Al, we've picked up a signal from Fonziebird One’s escape capsule, we are on the way to it now.”
“That’s great, Ralph, I’ll tell Mr. Tracy, call back when you reach it's location.”
“F.O.N.Z, Al. Fonziebird Two out.”
Al tried to contact Howard over the intercom but there was no answer. Strange, he thought. He sat at Howard’s desk and tapped in a pass word at the computer terminal, a three dimensional plan of the entire island came up on the monitor, Al typed LOCATE HOWARD on the keyboard, instantly the island sensors homed in on Howard’s wrist communicator and the plan swivelled and zoomed in around a flashing square. Al was a little puzzled but recognised exactly where Howard was so went to tell him the news.
“There it is!” Ralph called excitedly as he slowed Fonziebird Two down and hovered over the yellow survival raft bobbing on the water. “Get ready with the grab and winch, Rich.”
“F.O.N.Z.” he replied enthusiastically. The main hatch under Fonziebird Two’s nose slid open. Richie operated the winch control that lowered the grab, and it took a firm but gentle hold on the raft and lifted it out of the water. As it was winched aboard, Ralph resumed course for home.
“Well done, International Rescue. Another successful rescue.” The Candy Man had observed the recovery of the life raft from the edge of the beach. He watched until Fonziebird Two was out of sight. Ever since International Rescue began operating all those years ago, he had been impressed by the vehicles and equipment and now he felt even more envious.
“Soon I'll have your secrets, International Rescue, soon. Nothing can stop me this time.” He returned to the jeep and vanished into one of his secret tunnels.
Al stopped at a large metal door at the end of a corridor, there was no handle, no hinges, the only way you knew it was a door, is when it opened.
Al took out his security pass and slid it in to a slim box on the wall, “Al.” he uttered. His voice matched the data base record and his card popped out as and the magnetic bolts released the locks. Al pushed the door open with remarkable ease considering its size and went in. As the door closed automatically, Al looked up, a familiar rocket stood before him. At almost one hundred feet tall, it was very similar in design to Fonziebird One, apart from being yellow in colour and bearing the markings Rescue-1 and R-1 in various places as opposed to Fonziebird 1 and FB1. This was one of the first designs Al submitted for Howard, it was built as a prototype to test some of the new technology he was inventing and was therefore never used during a rescue. In its day, it was faster than any craft in commercial or military use but now Fonziebird One superseded the R-1, not only in speed but looks and efficiency. It had, however, been an invaluable tool during the setting up of the organisation. Al still had a soft spot for the machine.
“Al, what’s wrong?” Howard’s solemn voice echoed around the hangar from the service gantry where he stood.
“Oh, Mr. Tracy. Ralph and Richie have received a signal from Fonziebird One’s escape capsule!” replied Al.
Howard’s eyes lit up with hope and then he raced down from the gantry, opened the door and rushed past Al and ran towards the lounge, Al followed.
“Base to Fonziebird Two. Come in, Fonziebird Two.” Howard said eagerly.
“Yeah, Dad.” answered Ralph.
“Ralph, what’s happened?”
“We’ve found Potsie. He’s unconscious and suffered a leg injury but apart from that he seems fine. Rich's taking care of him now.”
“F.O.N.Z, Ralph, good work, I look forward to your return. I really am proud of you all today. Base out.” Howard slumped into his comfortable desk chair and let his head fall back, closed his eyes and let out a long sigh of relief, after a moment he looked up at Al who was also smiling, but like Howard had never seen him smile before.
“This is great news, Mr. Tracy.” he stated excitedly.
“It sure is, Al and it’s your advanced technology that helped save Potsie. I can’t thank you enough.” said Howard appreciatively.
Evening had fallen over Tracy Island. Fonziebird Two had made its usual perfect landing and Potsie had been rushed to the Villa’s medical centre to have his injuries attended to. Potsie had been out cold since his retrieval but was now regaining consciousness.
Potsie opened his eyes slowly blinking at the bright light then the blurred surrounding slowly came into focus. He recognised he was in the sick room bay back home on Tracy island. He struggled to raise himself from the laying position and then felt warm hands aiding him to sit up and saw the familiar faces of Ralph, Richie and Al standing around his bed. They all looked concerned but pleased. His father was at his side.
“How are you feeling, son?” Howard asked paternally.
Potsie paused and thought for a moment, he felt a dull pain in his leg and head then as he moved to get comfortable he began to notice aches and pains all over his body.
“Ah…I've felt better. What happened? The last thing I remember is being up to my ears in freezing water.”
“It’s a long story but Ralph'll fill you in. I’m just relieved you made it back.” Howard sighed and reassuringly stroked his son’s hair. “I’ll look in on you later. Me and Al need to discuss Fonziebird One.”
“How bad is she?” Potsie asked Al.
“Potsie, Potsie, Potsie, I’m afraid she was damaged a bit by an explosion. We have yet to determine the origin of the malfunction.” Al replied.
“Oh man. So what are we going to do without Fonziebird One? We need a...” Potsie groaned and slumped from his sitting position.
“Don’t worry, son.” Howard said smiling. “We’re not out of business yet. Get some rest. When you're well enough, Al wants to ask you a few questions about what happened.”
“Sure, no problem.”
Al and Howard turned and headed towards the door just as slid open and Marion was entering with cherry coke and apple pie on a tray.
“Mr. Warren, I thought you might like some …” Marion never finished what she was about to say. She was only half way towards the bed and looked at Potsie, she suddenly groaned then collapsed to her knees. The tray and contents fell clattering to the floor. Howard was the closest and reacted quickly enough to grab Marion from falling down completely.
Everyone in the room rushed to help except Potsie who managed to sit up to see what was going on.
“Marion. What’s the matter?” Howard asked.
“Oh my god.” Marion groaned, pearls of sweat formed on her forehead and she was tossing her head from side to side.
“Looks like she's having another of those funny turns, Dad.” stated Ralph.
“Yeah, it sure does. Ralph, Richard, take her to her room please, I may have to send for the Doctor again.”
Marion was lifted to her feet by Ralph and Richie on either side of her and carried her out of the room. Her moaning ceased as soon as she was out in the corridor.
“Hey, Dad, what’s going on?” enquired Potsie.
“I don’t know.” said Howard without thinking, his mind was on other things as he looked down at the mess on the floor tiles. “Get some rest, Potsie.” he said without taking his eyes from the floor. He sighed gently before turning to Potsie. “I'll look in on you later.” Then Howard left the room with Al in tow.
Later in the Lounge, Howard sat at his desk and Al sat opposite.
“What do you think, Al?” asked Howard, he was concerned about how long it would be before International Rescue would be fully operational. “How long before we can replace Fonziebird One?”
“It will take a few weeks to repair her. I'll have to start ordering the parts immediately.”
“Of course, we'll have to just cope as best we can without a high speed reconnaissance craft.”
Al rubbed his chin, frowned briefly then said. “Mr. Tracy, I've got an idea.”
“What’s on your mind, Al?”
“Well, the Rescue-1 could possibly be made operational within a week or two, just as a temporary measure but I would have to make a few modifications.”
“Hmmm.” Howard pondered on Al suggestion for a moment as they sat in silence. “You know, Al, that’s a great idea. We’ll prepare the R-1 and set it up in Fonziebird One’s launch bay only to use it if absolutely necessary while we repair Fonziebird One in the main hangar as quickly as possible.”
“I’ll begin first thing in the morning.”
“Okay, Al, Ralph and Richard'll help you speed the thing up, so will Chachi and Joanie when they return from Fonziebird Five. So how long will it take to complete the repairs and modifications up there, I don’t like being off the air for too long?”
“Only a day at most. I spoke to Chachi and Fonzie just before Fonziebird Two landed and appraised them on the situation down here. They're ahead of schedule and should be returning tomorrow.”
“Good. Glad to hear something's going right. It’s certainly going to be a busy for us over the next few months.”
“Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep.”
“Well, I have a little paperwork to do before calling it a night.”
“Goodnight then, Mr. Tracy.” Al said as he rose from his chair.
“See you in the morning, Al.”
As Al left the lounge, Howard leaned back in his chair and relaxed for the first time that day, he began to contemplate the troubles International Rescue was facing and before he knew it, he fell asleep.
02-08-2005, 11:48 AM
Chapter 5 – A Catastrophe
Circumnavigating the Earth at one of the highest altitudes possible and in an orbit approved by the United Nations, Fonziebird Five’s incredibly un-aerodynamic shape hurtled silently through the darkness on its trajectory. Its exact position veiled by the top-secret stealth technology invented by Al.
Safe from any known type of detection devices it listened relentlessly to the multitude of communications taking place below, aided by several smaller relay satellites, the whole world was being eves dropped upon. The sophisticated computer listened for specific words and phrases in any language that might imply help from International Rescue was required. And all too often, it was.
Only days after the Fonziebird One disaster, International Rescue received a call for help . . .
“Au secours! Il y a eu un catastrophe. Venez tout de suite. International Rescue, répondez s’il vous plaît!”
The call for help can be made in any language and Fonziebird Five’s powerful computer translates into English virtually instantaneously and alerts Fonzie, wherever he might be on the space station even if he was combing his hair.
During this call he was in the observation lounge reading and so activated the terminal beside him.
“International Rescue here, what’s seems to be the problemo?” asked Fonzie.
The computer was also able to translate whatever Fonzie said into whatever language was being used. The translation from French had a slight delay but soon came via the computer’s synthesized voice in a calm un-hurried tone, totally contrary to the actual caller’s desperate blathering. Fonzie made notes as usual, even though all calls were recorded and then contacted Tracy Island.
“Go ahead, Fonzie.”
“Dad, I just got a call from a diamond mine in Africa, there’s been several explosions and an unknown number of miners are trapped underground.” Fonzie explained.
“Surely they've got rescue equipment of there own for emergencies like this.” suggested Howard.
“They did but the explosion damaged most of it and there are several fires out of control, the remoteness of the mine means heavy rescue gear would take at least a to reach them. There have been thirty fatalities from the initial explosions and hundreds of people are injured waiting to be airlifted to hospitals. They estimate the trapped men've only about four hours of air left, that is if the tunnel doesn’t collapse first.”
“It sure sounds serious. Okay, Fonzie, tell them we're on the way and we require complete cooperation. The usual procedures.” instructed Howard.
“F.ON.Z, Fonziebird Five out, whoa.”
Howard alerted Al, Ralph, Richie Chachi, and also Potsie who had almost recovered from his experience and injuries but still carried a limp from his wound. They all arrived at the lounge as quickly as they could, realising that there was no time to waste when there is a call for help. Howard briefed them.
“So that’s the situation. Al, can the R-1 be used yet?” asked Howard.
“No, Mr. Tracy. It's capable of flying but needs more testing and extra equipment to be installed.” he replied.
“Right. Potsie, I know your French is a little rusty but do you feel up to operating mobile control from Fonziebird Two?”
“Oui. I sure do, Dad.” he answered enthusiastically. “Just don’t expect me to run a marathon.”
“Okay, we won't. Ralph.”
“Prepare Fonziebird Two for launch, Chachi'll assist you on this mission. Al, what equipment do you suggest in addition to the standard fire fighting equipment and the Mole?”
“Well, Mr. Tracy, I think the Firefly, the Excavator and a Recovery Vehicle should do the trick.”
“Chachi, Richard, you load the pod with the equipment as quick as you can. Okay, boys, Fonziebirds Are Go!”
Within moments, Ralph had zoomed down the chute from the lounge and was in Fonziebird Two’s cockpit preparing the craft for launch, he would change into uniform once underway. Potsie arrived shortly after and began checking the computer systems at one of the terminals.
It took about five minutes for Chachi and Richie to get pod five ready, this pod was always kitted out for fire rescue and just needed the Mole and other vehicles to be loaded. The pod conveyer swiftly slid pod five beneath the huge green transporter which immediately began to lower on its telescopic legs onto the pod. Once the pod was locked into position, Fonziebird Two glided on its almost invisible undercarriage towards the opening hangar door.
It continued along the runway until coming to halt a on its launch ramp, it raised the massive vehicle to the thirty degree angle necessary for launching as the hangar door closed concealing it’s secret behind a rock façade. The whole launch operation ran smoothly as usual as everyone knew where to be and what to do. Once given the all clear from Howard, Ralph engaged the booster rockets that roared into life and Fonziebird Two gracefully glided up and off the ramp with it’s heavy cargo into the air as if it was moving in slow motion.
Howard watched from the balcony as the craft gained altitude and speed until it vanished from sight. Fonzie relayed the destination coordinates to Potsie who then plotted a course for the danger zone.
Ralph could see plumes of dark smoke obliterating the sunset as Fonziebird Two descended towards the danger zone. A landing area had been prepared for them well away from the helijet landing-zone so not to interfere with the evacuation of casualties.
Fonziebird Two’s landing thrusters fired to slow down the huge vehicle for landing, creating clouds of dust and smoke that slowly settled. On touch down the thrusters disengaged, hydraulic rams hissed as they began to lift the main body on its powerful telescopic legs away from the pod, once clear the pod door began to lower to form a ramp.
Armed police moved in to secure the area from the uninvited. As the dust settled the sound of diesel engines awakening echoed from inside the pod and the Mole appeared at the top of the ramp, it trundled down the ramp and advanced towards the mine.
“Mole to Mobile Control, I’m clear of the pod and approaching the drilling coordinates.” Ralph reported from the control cabin.
“Ralph, those people down there only have about fifteen minutes of good air left. Be as quick as you can. Keep in touch and good luck.”
“Roger, Mobile Control.”
“Mobile Control to Firefly.” said Potsie with steadfast confidence.
“Firefly here, go ahead, Mobile Control.”
“Chachi, I've spoken to the fire chief, he said most of the fires are now out or under control. But there's a warehouse that contains a strong-room full of explosives and they would prefer it not to explode but can't get close enough with conventional fire equipment to cool the area down. Do you think you can handle it with the Firefly?” Potsie asked, although he knew what the answer would be.
“Just try and stop me, I'll be seeing you!” Chachi enthused and revved up the Firefly’s power plant so much he wheel spun the giant tracks before headed out of the pod and in the direction of the burning warehouse which was about a kilometer away. Although Chachi’s specialty was piloting Fonziebird Three, he knew how to handle the situation thanks to the intense training on all the rescue equipment he and his brothers had gone through.
The arrival of International Rescue had drawn a large crowd, which was not uncommon, a few even took pictures of Fonziebird Two, the Mole and the Firefly, not realising that the anti-radar and cloaking device invented by Al was also capable of presenting cameras and imaging equipment with distorted pictures if aimed at the vehicles. Hundreds of people have been disappointed, thanks to Al.
One particular person in the crowd knew how futile it was trying to take photographs, he had been disappointed before and also so impressed by the technology that he decided to learn the secrets, realising that there was power and money to be made. Now he was closer than ever to obtaining those secrets.
Most of the crowd that saw the arrival of Fonziebird Two had left the landing area and gone to where International Rescue was in action. Many got as close to the warehouse blaze as was allowed while the Firefly approached and prepared to challenge it. Others watched with astonishment as the Mole, now tilted on it's caterpillar tracked trolley, fired its thrust unit to aid the huge toughened drill to screw its way in to the ground flinging great clumps of mud and dust into the air before vanishing from view.
The Mole churned its way through the earth and rock aided by probes and sensors and a computer that monitored its position. While keeping an eye on the progress, Ralph made a report to mobile control.
“Pots, estimated time to reach the trapped miners is fifteen minutes, there are large hard rock deposits which may well slow me down though.” Ralph reported.
“F.O.N.Z, Ralphie, contact has been made with the men down there, the roof's pretty unstable, two guys have been lost in a recent cave-in so make it as quick as you can. They're as far south as they can get to make room for your entry point.”
“FO.N.Z, Pots. How's Chach doing?”
“He's reached the warehouse and is preparing to tackle the blaze.”
A large, burly mustached policeman emerged from the remaining crowd of people gathered around Fonziebird Two and casually walked towards the open pod. He was challenged by another policeman of much smaller build, they seemed to exchange a few words before the mustached man continued towards the open pod and disappeared inside, leaving the other policeman standing motionless and bleary eyed.
Potsie sat patiently waiting for reports from Ralph, Chachi and the mine rescue coordinator. He didn't want to pester them with unnecessary communication, but decided to report back to Tracy Island.
“Mobile control to base.”
“Go ahead, Potsie. Anything to report?” asked his father.
“Only that everything's under control, I’ll keep you informed of any changes.”
“Okay, Potsie, base out.”
Potsie stood up and limped over to the window. From the cockpit, he could see the entire mine area, fires were still raging in some parts, the largest being the warehouse. He could see the Firefly approaching it and wished he were in the thick of the action with his brothers.
Suddenly, the cockpit door slid open, Potsie spun round with surprise. A policeman stood in the doorway. With his head dipped slightly, a peaked cap covered his eyes and a bushy mustache concealing the join between his nose and top lip. Potsie didn’t relax for a moment.
“What are you doing here? You've got clear instructions that our craft and equipment is out of bounds to everyone . . . including the police.”
“And I thought you'd be pleased to see me.” The policeman slowly raised his head and removed the cap. “After all, I did save your life . . . once.” The rest of his face and hair was now visible. He smiled.
“Who are you?” asked Potsie frowning and yet as he asked he somehow knew this man, he suddenly felt threatened then drew his pistol aiming at the intruder.
“I'm upset that you don't remember me. I've only got myself to blame.” The policeman appeared unfazed by being threatened with a weapon just widened his eyes, which started to emanate an ethereal radiance. Potsie began to feel drowsy and his consciousness slipping away, a blank expression fell across his face, his eyes were stuck with an emotionless stare. The policeman relaxed his eyes and entered the cockpit.
“So, you do remember me, old friend!”
Potsie stood motionless staring at the now empty doorway while the intruder examined the controls and equipment. He glanced back at Potsie.
“Put your gun away, Warren, we're all friends here.”
Potsie returned the weapon to its holster. The policeman approached, put his arm around Potsie’s shoulder and leaned closer to whisper. “Warren. My old friend, I've now got power over you now, a hypnotic link. You're pathetic and have no powers with which to stop me, you'll do my bidding and help with my plans and remember nothing.”
Potsie’s stare un-wavered, his conscious mind had been put fast asleep and so was completely unaware he was now acting for the Candy Man.
02-08-2005, 12:04 PM
Chapter 6 – In The Danger Zone
Chachi stopped the Firefly about fifty feet from the warehouse to check his instruments then he lowered the Firefly’s heat shielded scoop and prepared to do battle with the fire. His instruments told him how hot the fire was burning and he assessed that the explosives store was also heating up rapidly, the warehouse it sat in was engulfed by fire and although it still had its shape there was a danger of it collapsing.
To prevent it falling in on the Firefly, he decided to use the cannon to fire a nitro-glycerin shell at the wall facing him, it exploded on impact and the wall disintegrated into a pile of rubble, the rest of the structure began to fall apart until the whole building became a mass of burning ruins. This had the effect of reducing the intensity of the heat and ferocity of the flames but not the danger from the explosives. Chachi had to take the Firefly into the heart of the fire and shift the burning debris away from the explosive store with the large heat resistant scoop on the front of the vehicle. He engaged the drive and began the hazardous journey into the inferno.
Ralph reported in to Mobile Control. “Pots, the rock down here's not as tough as expected, I’m well ahead of schedule. I’m only a minute or two from the trapped miners.”
There was no response from Potsie.
“Mobile Control, please come in.” The radio remained silent. “Chach, are you receiving me?”
“F.O.N.Z, Ralph.” replied Chachi.
“Potsie's not answering, I’m concerned.” Ralph was clearly worried about the communication loss.
“Yeah, I heard, I’m sure he’s okay, probably some kind of interference.” he suggested.
“I guess so, I’ll see you soon, Mole out.” Ralph was worried but there was nothing he could do about it at the moment, there were trapped people depending on him and International Rescue. He would keep trying the radio, Chachi was probably right and with all the upheaval on the surface it’s not surprising that there are communication problems. Then there was an awful grinding noise and the Mole jerked to a halt.
“Damn! I spoke too soon.” Ralph muttered. He flicked the microphone on. “Pots, in case you can hear me, I've found some tough rock down here and will have to back track slightly to set a new course, estimate about ten minutes to contact with the miners. Ralph out.” He reversed the Mole and began to calculate a new heading, all the time with an ear listening out for a reply from Potsie, but none came.
The Firefly was coping extremely well considering the circumstances, the heat was probably the most intense it had ever had to deal with, Chachi had used more foam to douse the fire than anticipated, if it ran out there was a real danger for him and the vehicle from the extremely high temperatures. He cleared a path through the white-hot ruins towards the explosive store which was in sight now.
Chachi began clearing the flaming rubble away from the still standing strong room. He was dripping with sweat from the heat even though he was wearing a heatproof suit and was inside the heat resistant cabin. Outside was what he imagined hell to be like. Flames roared into the darkness without mercy in what seemed like every direction. He could see parts of the Firefly glowing red-hot. An alarm went off indicating that the foam was almost empty. Just a few more minutes, Chachi thought ignoring it. He pressed on still using more of the foam regardless of the danger. The store was almost clear of the fire now but was smoking ominously. Chachi aimed the foam nozzle to try and cool it a little and pressed the release button. Nothing happened; the foam had finally been exhausted. Oh man, he thought, I’d better clear the rest of this rubble away, guess the danger’s past now.
Suddenly without warning there was a huge explosion from the store. The Firefly was hurled backwards through the air like a tin toy and sent it crashing into an abandoned fire truck smashing it to a mangled pile of junk, then rolling over a few times eventually losing momentum and landing on it’s side scarred and smashed.
One of its caterpillar tracks ripped clean off and the roof of the drivers cabin had been crushed down a couple of feet in one corner. The heat shield although mostly intact was scorched severely and warped at the edges and only supported by only one of its hydraulic arms which was leaking fluid from busted pistons.
The explosion left a large crater where the warehouse once stood and extinguished the bulk of the fire. Unfortunately, the tremor it created caused all the unstable tunnels and shafts to collapse.
Fonziebird Two rattled from the explosion but was not close enough to suffer any damage. It did however wake the seemingly comatose Potsie.
“What the hell was that?” Potsie said to himself, feeling as though he had been awoken from a deep sleep, he leapt from his chair to see what had happened, on looking from the cockpit to his horror he could see the crater where once stood the warehouse while burning and smoking debris was dropping on to the surrounding area, then he saw the Firefly on its side, smashed and smoking. He immediately tried to the radio.
“Chach, Chach, are you okay? Please respond.”
The radio buzzed and crackled but there was no response from Chachi but it instead burst to life with Ralph’s concerned voice.
“Pots, what’s going on up there? The whole tunnel has collapsed down here, it was lucky I reached the trapped miners when I did.”
“Okay, Ralph. Good work, the Firefly's damaged and I can’t get through to Chachi, I’m going to see how he is.”
“F.O.N.Z, Pots, I’ll be back up in about twenty minutes. Take it easy, Bro.”
Potsie left the cockpit and went down to the recovery vehicle in the pod, once inside it he headed as fast as he could towards the crippled Firefly.
As Potsie approached the Firefly, he could see Chachi in his heat-protective suit with the helmet on the floor by his feet inspecting the vehicle. He looked round when he noticed the recovery vehicle approaching, he saw Potsie at the controls and smiled. Potsie gave a sigh of relief and pulled up next to him.
“Are you okay, Chach?” asked Potsie as he opened the cab door and carefully descended the ladder to the ground.
“Just a few bumps and bruises.” he turned to look at the Firefly then back at Potsie. “But I think I’ve broken the Firefly though.”
“Yeah, sure looks that way, I guess Dad'll make you pay for it out of your allowance.” Potsie joked.
Chachi chuckled. “Gosh, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
They both laughed and started to connect the tow cables to the Firefly.
By the time Chachi and Potsie returned to Fonziebird Two with the wrecked Firefly in tow, Ralph had already unloaded the rescued miners and stowed the Mole back inside the pod. Potsie drove the recovery vehicle straight into the pod then he and Chachi jumped out.
“The situation's well under control now, Pots, our services are no longer needed.” Ralph explained, “The fires're almost all out and the last of the helijet ambulances are just leaving. Hey, Chach, what have you done to the Firefly? Al's already got his work cut out working on the R-1 and Fonziebird One.”
“Damn it!” Potsie stood there shaking his head.
“What’s the matter, Pots?” asked Chachi.
“I guess now I'll have to help with the repairs now my leg's almost healed.”
“I should think so too, you have skived off long enough in the sick room, having Joanie wait on you hand and foot.” Ralph teased and noticed Chachi head turn at the mention of her name. “Chach was starting to get jealous and I’m sure he was going to do himself an injury just to get some attention.”
“Very funny, Ralph. Joanie and I are just good friends…unfortunately!” he added under his breath with an air of disappointment.
“I’m sure she will be impressed with your story of how you survived the destruction of the Firefly, you have some bruises now for her to play nurse with.”
“Okay, Ralphie, that’s enough, you know how sensitive Chachi is.” Before Chachi could get a syllable out of his half opened mouth, Potsie continued. “We better get moving back to base. I'm pooped.”
“I guess it must be your advancing years, Brother.” Chachi mumbled silently.
The three brothers headed to the pod lift to take them up to the cockpit Ralph remembered the communication problem. “Hey, Pots, what was with the radio blackout at mobile control?”
“What do you mean? All the frequencies were clear the whole time.”
“Probably interference of some kind as I said it was.” Chachi, a pace behind, added unequivocally.
Potsie and Ralph took a sideward glance at each other. “Well done, Chach. I knew we brought you along for a reason.” Ralph teased.
Chachi was aware he wasn’t going to be taken seriously when these two brothers were in this kind of temperament so remained silent but curled his lip with annoyance. They seemed to get great pleasure from seeing him blow his top but he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction this time. They glanced behind waiting for his reply but he just gave them a wry smile and tilted his head. Before going up in the lift, Chachi flicked a switch that closed the pod door.
Moments later the gathered audience, now moved away by the police for their own safety, watched in admiration as Fonziebird Two lowered onto the pod. Once locked into position, it blasted off emerging gracefully from the great billows of smoke and dust before roared up into the darkness and out of sight leaving behind four scorched circles of earth and the indented impression from the struts and pod. Heading for home and a well earned rest, Potsie, Ralph and Chachi sat quietly in the cockpit all were satisfied that they did everything they could on this rescue.
The Candy Man was also satisfied, because from that chance encounter with Potsie so close to his own base, everything was now proceeding according to plan. The carefully placed explosives at the mine, International Rescue arriving right on cue, meeting Potsie again and the best part of all - stowing away on Fonziebird Two and being taken back to the heart of International Rescue - Tracy Island!
He was so happy hiding in the winch control room that he couldn’t help but smile and let out a deep chilling laugh knowing that it could not be heard.
And, thanks to Potsie’s unknowing help, the internal sensors had been disabled and now the Candy Man had a free run of the craft as long as he wasn’t actually seen by anyone of course. But he was more than content to just stay hidden and wait.
02-08-2005, 12:10 PM
Chapter 7 – Desperate Intruder
The last few days had been a strain on everybody on Tracy Island. They were all working flat out to get the R-1 ready and any time to relax was welcomed. Marion had been resting by the pool when Fonziebird Two returned. Since the near loss of Fonziebird One every now and then, she would collapse or have a dizzy head suddenly and recover just as quickly.
She had no explanation for it nor did the Doctor who had flown over especially to examine her and found her to be in pretty much perfect health with no sign of any ailments or disorder of any kind. This wasn’t the first time it had happened to Marion but it had been a long time since her brother's last attack. And, the recent bouts were of far less intensity than any previously.
Fonziebird Two made a routine landing, Potsie, Ralph and Chachi disembarked and headed towards the lounge for debriefing. As they reached the monorail that would whisk them up to the villa, Potsie stopped in his tracks, turned and began limping back to the hanger.
“I've forgotten something, I'll catch you up.” he said brusquely.
“He’d forget his head if it wasn’t glued on.” Ralph said loudly making sure Potsie could hear and expected a rebuke but didn’t get one. He and Chachi both giggled.
“OKay, Pots, don’t be too long now, you know how Dad gets about punctuality.” Before Chachi had finished the sentence, Potsie had already vanished out of sight.
“What’s got into him?” said a puzzled Chachi.
“I’ve got no idea.” they paused for a moment and looked at each other, shaking their heads they boarded the monocar.
Until the return of Fonziebird Two, Marion had been calm and at ease but now suddenly there was a feeling she hadn't felt for a long time. It was different to what she had felt over the last few days, a shiver ran up though her spine and set her red hair standing on end with anticipation. The previous occasion this had happened, she also passed out. She attempted to concentrate and stay focused. Now she had the same kind of dizzying sensation but found the will power to resist.
Unknown to Marion, her family had a latent telepathic ability that her half brother discovered. He saw it as a gift to use as a means to an end. He embraced and honed the talent and at the same time began investigating voodoo and the dark arts.
Through her concentration, Marion unintentionally drew strength from her own telepathic energy. This was enough to resist being rendered unconscious. She battled mentally with the overwhelming influence invading her essence.
“I must warn Mr. Tracy.” she said in distress. Marion struggled to her feet trying to steady herself on a table next to her chair, the sudden uneven weight load tipped it up sending her glass of juice and magazine onto the floor, she was sent sprawling to the ground. She managed to get to her feet and staggered up towards the lounge as quickly as she could while her whole body tingled. On reaching the top of the sweeping steps to the balcony, she was stopped in his tracks by a disembodied voice that said “Don’t waste your time, Marion, I've won this time.”
She looked around, expecting to see the person who spoke but there was no one in sight, and realised the voice was only in her head. She recognized the voice instinctively as her long lost half brother. This was the first time Marion had been conscious when her half brother had communicated with her and then unexpectedly, memories from her previous blackouts came flooding back, she was remembering things that had been locked away not by her but by her half brother, the man who had cheated her out of her rightful inheritance.
One after another incidents of betrayal emerged. The sabotage of Fonziebird One’s anti-photographic equipment and the information she had leaked which put the organisation, her new family and even her own daughter in danger.
As the realisation that she had been instrumental in betraying Howard Tracy and International Rescue, she felt a sudden surge of shame and guilt. The redheaded woman didn’t think she could live with herself after this but gathered her thoughts and carried on towards the lounge with renewed determination to put right her wrongs.
Howard and Al were discussing the rebuilding schedule for Fonziebird One when Marion burst into the lounge, crashing into an ancient vase sending it toppling to the floor and smashing to pieces. The two men, deep discussion jumped round to see Marion in the doorway steadying himself against the frame.
“Mr. Tracy, I'm sorry, we're in trouble, there's a desperate intruder on the island, in the base, here, you've got to warn everybody.” The agitated Marion spurted as she dashed to Howard’s desk.
“Hold it, hold on. Calm down, Marion.” Howard said coolly. “What do you mean exactly?”
“My half brother. He's evil, he's been using me to obtain information about this organisation and he's here, Mr. Tracy, he's inside the base somehow. I don’t know where but I felt him, he made contact with me, he said he's won this time.” Marion sat down, feeling drained and shameful.
Howard turned to his monitor and checked the security systems.
“Everything checks out here, Marion. Al, could anyone have got in to the base without us knowing?”
“Mr. Tracy. We've got the best security technology in the world.” Al boasted confidently. “I don’t see how it is possible to get on to the island without tripping the alarms off.”
“Marion, could this be some kind of trick? Could he be trying to use his influence on you.” suggested Howard.
“Maybe, I just don’t know, it felt so intense as if he were right beside me.” Marion groaned and flopped into the chair, Al rushed to him.
“Mr. Tracy, she's exhausted, she needs to rest.”
Howard sat back in his chair and gazed at the monitor displaying the security system, contemplating for a moment how secure they really were. As the monitor showed various levels, hangars and rooms he could see two flashing lights approaching the lounge, then Ralph and Chachi walked in.
“Where’s Potsie got to boys?” asked Howard.
“He just popped back to the cockpit.” said Chachi.
“Said he’d forgotten something and he wouldn’t be long.” added Ralph.
Howard looked back at the monitor and tapped into the keyboard LOCATE WARREN. The three-dimensional plan zoomed in to Potsie’s location. He appeared to be in the main lab above Fonziebird Two’s hangar. There was another flashing light indicating that another International Rescue operative was there, it was Richie.
“Potsie, this is your father, please respond.” There was no reply, the two flashing lights in the laboratory didn’t move.
“Richard, can you hear me? What's going on down there?” Silence gripped the room as they waited for a reply that never came.
“What’s going on, Dad?” asked Ralph.
“I’m not sure. Looks like something odd's happening. I’ll try the internal vid-phone system.” Howard clicked a couple of keys and the base plan vanished to be replaced by an image of the lab. The group in the lounge had gathered around Howard’s desk to see what was going on. To their astonishment, they saw Potsie at a computer terminal busily typing away, in the background, Richie was lying face down on the floor.
“Warren Scott Tracy, what are you doing there?” enquired his puzzled father.
Potsie didn’t acknowledge his father in any way but just carried on with what he was he was doing. Al, Ralph and Chachi stood beside Howard and all eyes were focused on the monitor. They watched in surprise as an overweight mustachiosed man dressed in a policeman uniform entered the picture and stood beside Potsie. The man looked directly into the camera and smiled.
“Who the hell is that?” Howard exclaimed.
The monitor then went blank as the power to the villa was disconnected, the lights faded and the radio fell silent. Emergency lighting flickered on.
“Mr. Tracy!” Marion cried out. “That's him, my half brother.”
“Huh. What’s going on, Dad?” Chachi asked apprehensively.
“We're in trouble, boys, we'd better get down to the Lab, looks like you’re right, Marion, there's an intruder on the island.” Howard stood up, opened the top draw to his desk and pulled out a pistol. “Chachi, arm yourself and stay in the villa to look after Joanie. Marion, can you come with me to the Lab?”
Marion nodded. “I think so.”
Chachi immediately protested. “But, Da…” But was not given the chance to make a case.
“It's not up for discussion.” Howard said decisively.
Chachi understood and said no more.
“Ralph, Al, head down to Fonziebird Two’s hangar. Keep in touch via your wrist communicators. Now GO!”
Potsie had disabled all the security on the base and cut off most the island’s power and was now down loading the technical data and blueprints of all the International Rescue vehicles and equipment on to disk for his master, Potsie removed the disk from the computer and handed it to the Candy Man.
“Thank you, Warren, you've done well. Now, what's the quickest way off this island?” The Candy Man liked the sound of his own voice even though it was not necessary to talk; the telepathic link enabled the Candy Man to give commands and hear Potsie’s replies silently. He soon found out more information than he had hoped for.
“So, you do have a temporary replacement for the magnificent Fonziebird One, the R-1, that will do nicely.”
Potsie led the way like a limping zombie out of the lab followed by the Candy Man and towards the monorail which would take them up to Fonziebird One’s launch bay.
Howard and Marion arrived at the laboratory on the monorail that was still functioning because it was on the back-up generator circuit. Howard disabled it with a security code so it could not be used by the intruder, then they made their way cautiously through the darkened corridors to the lab. They entered and found it empty except for Richie slumped on the floor. They both rushed to his side.
“Richard, are you okay? Wake up.” Howard said while turning Richie onto his back, his eyes began to open.
“Hey, what goes on?” he asked dazedly.
“I think he was knocked unconscious hypnotically, Mr. Tracy.” Marion surmised.
“And you would be right, dear sister.” The voice echoed from behind them and as they turned, Potsie and the Candy Man stepped out from the shadows of the dimly lit corridor into the doorway of the lab. “At last, I've succeeded. I've got here all your secrets, Tracy, ha, ha, haaa.” the Candy Man boasted and held up the disk.
Howard was enraged, he clenched his fists forgetting he held a pistol and stepped forward. “Why you little...”
Potsie raised his right arm; he was holding a shotgun and aimed it at his father’s head. Howard stopped dead, stunned by what he was seeing.
“Potsie, it’s me, can’t you see or hear me? What’s got into you?”
Potsie was transfixed; he looked right at and through his father.
“I've only got to think the command to make him fire and he'll obey without asking.” the Candy Man explained using Potsie as a shield.
“Why did you?” Marion interrupted. “It doesn't have to be like this, give up your ruthless and violent ways.”
“No, Marion!” shrieked the Candy Man. “I've got power and wealth and this is the only way to get what you really want and now I've got it.” he said slowly and let out a chilling laugh before continuing. “Why not come with me, dear sister, together, with our united power, we'll be able to rule the world.” he bellowed theatrically.
“No! What you want is wrong.”
“I didn’t think so. Being female, you're weak and from what I've seen these self-indulgent do-gooders have poisoned your mind. Anyway, as much as I'ld love to stay and chat, I've got a Fonziebird to catch. Ha, ha...huh.”
Potsie began to sway slightly, he blinked and his arm dropped a little.
“Nice try, Marion.” the Candy Man bellowed before a gunshot echoed through the laboratory and base.
02-08-2005, 12:16 PM
Chapter 8 – Abduction
Richie followed the Candy Man and Potsie at a distance, worried not just for his own safety but also for his brother. While tracking them, he contacted Ralph and Al.
“Ralph, do you copy?” he spoke softly into his wrist communicator.
“Rich, was that a gunshot? What’s going on?” Ralph replied.
“This guy's got Potsie under some kind of hypnotic control, he injured Marion when she tried to break the spell. I’m following, it looks like they’re heading for the R-1 in Fonziebird One launch bay, send Al over to the lab, then meet me at the south end of corridor B5.” Richie said quietly so not to advertise to how close he was behind.
“FO.N.Z, Rich, Al suggests we use a tranquilliser on Potsie.” said Ralph.
“Maybe but whatever we’re gonna do, we’d better do it quick!”
Richie cautiously followed Potsie and the Candy Man through the maze of corridors and stairwells hidden under the island until they reached and entered Fonziebird One’s launch bay
Marion was conscious and sitting in a chair in the laboratory, the injury looked worse than it was, the bullet had just grazed her. Howard sat beside her, looking concerned.
“Marion, what happened?” Howard asked.
“Well, Mr. Tracy, I thought I might have the ability to break the hold he had on Warren. I'm sorry, Mr. Tracy.” Marion’s head dropped.
“Thank you, Marion, I know you did your best it was a brave attempt. Are you okay?”
“I feel as though a coconut landed on my head.” she replied.
Al reached the computer room within a minute of the gunshot. “What’s going on? Where are they now, Al?”
“Ralph and Richie are closing in on them in One’s launch bay, I suggested using a tranquilliser on Potsie to incapacitate him.”
“They won’t have time to get any, if I take the monorail, I might be able to cut them off before reaching the R-1. I just hope I can get there before it’s too late! Take Marion to the sick room as quickly as you can please.” Howard was about to leave the laboratory but turned in the doorway. “Oh yeah, leave your wrist communicator on receive and listen in on what’s going on, we may need to call on you any moment.” Then contacted Chachi on his way to the monorail. “Chachi, seal the villa off from the base.”
“F.O.N.Z, Dad.” he said with a hint of disappointment.
Ralph met with Richie outside the launch bay entrance Potsie and the Candy Man had already gone through. It was Fonziebird One’s launch bay now home to the prototype R-1. They slowly pushed the door open; the well maintained door never once squeaked on its hinges. The two redheaded brothers went into the huge hangar ever so quietly, one went left, the other right, Richie let go of the door then they heard the footsteps on the metal grills above them, they both looked up. They saw Potsie and the intruder ascending and were about half way up the gantries, which were connected by metal stairs that skirted up the walls of the hangar. Just then, the well maintained door closed shut behind them with a loud click that echoed through the quiet hangar, they both spun round startled and looked at the door then each other, an even louder bang echoed around the hangar as a bullet ricocheted off the floor at their feet. Instinctively they leapt for cover. The closing door alerted the Candy Man to their presence and he ordered Potsie to shoot at them. Ralph and Richie had guns drawn and peered from behind their shelter up at the Candy Man, who was keeping Potsie between him and them. Potsie fired a few more rounds at them.
“What now? They're almost up to the cockpit, we can’t let him get away.” Richie said desperately.
“I know, Rich, but what can we do?” replied Ralph.
Before he could answer, his wrist communicator sparked into life.
“Ralph.” It was his father. “I'm on my way.”
“Where are you? They are nearly up to the cockpit but we're being pinned down by Potsie.”
“I know. I’m on the monorail above you.”
Richie and Ralph looked up and saw the red monorail car silently whizzing along on the single track and exited through a hole in the wall.
“Try and stall him.”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
“You fools.” yelled the Candy Man, “You can't stop me now so say goodbye to your brother.”
With that remark, Potsie fired a couple more shots in the direction of his brothers, ricocheting off the walls and floor.
“Right, there's only one thing for it, I’m going to have to shoot Potsie!” Ralph announced to Richie.
“Are you crazy?” Richie was stunned.
“Just in the leg, we gotta stop Potsie from boarding the R-1. It’s the last thing that creep will be expecting us to do.” explained Ralph.
“It’s the last thing I expected us to do!” said an amazed Richie, and then asked. “Are you sure you can do it?”
“I think so but it would help if you could distract him, while I get lined up for the shot.”
“Oh great, I knew there was a catch! Are you ready?” Richie nervously asked.
“Yep. As I’ll ever be. Go!”
Richie jumped out in to the open.
“Hey, Bubble Butt!” he shouted as loud as he could.
Indeed this caught the Candy Man’s attention and Potsie began firing a hailstorm of bullets in Richie’s direction as he darted for cover. Ralph took aim and fired, his aim was true and the bullet ripped into Potsie’s healthy thigh.
The shock sent a spasm through his body and his gun hand twitched sending a stray bullet into a fuel container which exploded in a ball of flames close to Richie and Ralph, they leapt away from the flaming liquid as it edged its way towards them. Potsie fell on to the hard metal gantry and yelped in pain. A fire alarm siren began to ring out and the sprinkler system began to douse the flames.
The Candy Man took a step back to the hangar wall, he was totally surprised by this, now his hold over Potsie was gone, the sudden pain had broken the spell, even if it hadn’t Potsie couldn’t continue unaided. His leg was bleeding profusely, at that moment Potsie became completely aware and knew only that he was in pain and no idea where he was but he had a gun in his hand, he looked around to see the Candy Man with a startled expression and he trained the gun on him.
“Pots, are you Okay?” Ralph called out above the wailing siren.
This slightly distracted Potsie, the Candy Man seized the opportunity and kicked the gun from Potsie’s hand and it slid along the gantry floor and stopped teetering on the edge of the fifty-foot drop and just out of Potsie’s reach. The Candy Man pounced at Potsie and gripping his neck tightly, began to twist it. Potsie was strong enough to resist this big man and they wrestled briefly before Ralph fired a warning shot just above the Candy Man; things were going wrong for him now, but at least he still had the disk. He pushed Potsie to the floor, grabbed the pistol and started to run up the remaining flights of stairs to the R-1 cockpit. Ralph and Richie were both charging up the stairs and shooting at him directly now but unable to get a clear shot on target.
The Candy Man reached the gantry level with the cockpit door and found it was already open and he went in closing the hatch behind. Panting heavily, he fell into the pilot’s chair and placed the disk in the chair pocket. Outside, Ralph and Richie had reached the wounded and bemused Potsie. Richie raced on up to the cockpit and tried to open it but it had been locked from within.
The R-1 began to vibrate, the Candy Man was preparing for lift off and there was only a matter of seconds before it soared up and out of the hangar. The gantry was not a good place to be during a launch.
“Rich, help me with Potsie, we’ve gotta get out of here now or we’ll be burned to a crisp!” Ralph yelled. Richie was already on his way down to help. After getting Potsie to his feet, they dragged him up as fast as they could to the exit at the next gantry, all the time the R-1 was powering up, the sound was becoming deafening. Its engines ignited just as they got to the exit, the hangar began to fill with smoke.
The Candy Man sat at the controls of R-1 preparing for lift off. He watched on a screen the view of the swimming pool sliding to one side to make room for the rocket to exit.
“Impressive! It's a shame I have to leave. Goodbye, International Rescue, your secret, however, isn't safe with me.” Laughing happily to himself and overjoyed that he had finally succeeded in his mission to obtain International Rescue's secrets, the capture of this ship was an unexpected bonus. He engaged the throttle to maximum, the vehicle shook quite violently for a few seconds, and then the engines powered down and cut out.
“What's happening?” He scanned the instrumentation for indications of any failure.
“What's wrong with this infernal machine?” he shouted and thumped the console with his fist. A voice from behind made him jump.
“I guess it doesn’t like the uninvited!”
“What?” The Candy Man spun round to see Howard Tracy standing there. Before the Candy Man had a chance to do or say anything else, Howard threw a punch that hit the Candy Man squarely on the jaw, knocking him sprawling over the console nudging the controls to re-ignite the engines before falling to the floor. Immediately, the cockpit began to vibrate as the engines began powering up. The Candy Man seemed to be out cold so Howard turned to the control console to disengage the engines but before he was able to do so, he was grabbed from behind and held in an arm lock.
“You and your family are too selfish, keeping all this power to yourselves.” the Candy Man whispered into Howard’s ear as warm blood from his cut lip dripped down Howard’s neck. “You, Tracy and your organisation are finished.” He spat the words with a cold hatred.
Howard’s arm was being twisted so far he was convinced it was going to break any moment, with steely resolve and went through his options all the while the engines increased there power.
“You're a very sad and misguided man.” Howard replied through gritted teeth as he rammed his free elbow hard into his captor’s ribs. The Candy Man grunted from the attack but didn’t loosen his grip. Howard tried again but to no avail except enraging the Candy Man further who then retaliated with a swift butt into the back of Howard’s head. Howard reeled from the powerful blow and fought to stay conscious, he had to act fast if he was going to survive this confrontation. He lifted both legs and kicked hard against the control console pushing himself and the Candy Man backwards. The Candy Man lost his balance and fell back against the inner hull smashing his head hard, releasing his hold on Howard and they both fell to the floor.
The R-1 began to lift off. Howard, shaken from the brawl got to his feet and looked at the readout on the console, he pressed a couple of buttons and tried to shut down the engines. It didn’t respond.
“Oh no!” he said out loud. “Ralph!” he spoke into his communicator. “Ralph, do you read?”
“I read you, Dad, what the heck's going on?” he replied.
“The engines won’t cut off, I’m going to have to take off and land.” Howard yelled.
Immediately, the R-1 began to climb upwards towards the daylight. Looking on in surprise through an observation window was Richie and Ralph; their mouths open in amazement as the R-1 vanished in clouds of swirling smoke and roaring flames. Al appeared behind them and began to talk.
“Ralph, I’m not sure if the R-1 is capable of landing yet.” he declared.
“Maybe we should get Fonziebird Two launched, Dad might need help.” Richie suggested.
“Right.” Al and Ralph agreed.
With that, Ralph and Richie ran off in the direction of Fonziebird Two’s hanger. Al knelt down beside Potsie see how he was. As they raced around a corner out of sight, Ralph turned and shouted out to Al. “Make sure Potsie's seen to, we’ll be in touch.”
“F.O.N.Z.” Al replied.
As R-1 soared up out the depths of the base into the warm glow of the dusk, Howard struggled against the g-forces to get into the pilot seat and strap himself in. Once there, he attempted to take control of the ship. He had piloted the R-1 before but it was several years ago and at first, the controls were very alien but he soon remembered the essentials. First of all, he had to change from vertical to horizontal flight. Normally, this was an easy procedure but the engines were stuck on full throttle and Howard had to fight with the controls to prevent the craft from blasting straight out into space.
Once, the R-1 may have been able to go into orbit but Howard was not sure if Al had checked if it was space worthy. He didn’t want to take that chance.
The R-1 reached well over fifty thousand feet before Howard had leveled its flight. The engines continued to accelerate the ship and made it even more difficult to maneuver. Howard drew upon every ounce of strength to maintain control and a level flight. His focus was on survival and how best to achieve it from this situation. For the moment, he had forgotten about the reason he was in this dilemma.
That reason had stirred and regained consciousness on the floor of the cockpit outside of Howard’s eye line. The Candy Man shook his dazed head and focused on his surroundings, taking in the situation and began formulating a plan. The R-1 rocked about as Howard wrestled with the controls. The Candy Man looked up and saw that his assailant had forgotten about him, even his pistol was still in his holster. Foolish mistake. He thought as he reached for it. I won't fool about with hypnotism or mind tricks, I'll just simply shoot you, Mr. International Rescue and fly this vehicle away to make my fortune.
Slowly, he brought the pistol up and aimed it at Howard, his arm wavered as the craft jumped about. The Candy Man got to his feet and steadied himself against a bulkhead with his free hand.
Howard was busy communicating on the radio and didn’t see or hear any of this as his focus was on the job in hand and the sound from the engines drowned out any noises the Candy Man might have made.
The Candy Man again aimed at Howard’s head, he only needed one good shot and had to make sure he was on target, the last thing he wanted was another hand-to-hand fight. He had never been one for brawling but rather preferred to terrorise from a distance, a safe distance. The situation had gotten out of hand on the base, he was confident about dealing with the Tracy’s and almost did had it not been for his traitorous half sister Marion turning against him. He had been useful in the past but was now stronger and able to resist his influence. No matter, he thought, I've got what I wanted now. His eyes momentarily glanced at the pilot chair pocket; the disk with all the valuable information was still there. He allowed himself to smile, cracking the dried blood at the corner of his mouth as he centered his aim on Howard’s head and began to squeeze the trigger.
02-08-2005, 12:21 PM
Chapter 9 – Final Showdown
Howard had limited control over the R-1 and it was shaking less now but was still on full thrust. He noticed the temperature gauge was well into the red zone and was not sure how much more the craft could take. He gritted his teeth with sober determination and tried again to throttle back and slow the ship down. Once again, there was no response to his attempt.
“Al!” he yelled into the communicator. “Al, do you read me?”
“Yes, Mr. Tracy. What's your situation?”
“Not good, the power plant's seriously overheating and I’m unable to shut it down. It'll be impossible to make any kind of landing like this. Do you have any suggestions?” Howard called out above the roar of the engines and wind.
“Mr. Tracy, what does the fuel gauge read?” Al asked.
Howard scanned the array of dials and gauges and found his target. “Al, it doesn’t seem to be working it reads zero.”
“Oh my!” exclaimed Al.
“Dad.” Ralph spoke up after listening in to the communications. “Me and Rich are on our way in Fonziebird Two but you're going too fast, we can’t catch up with you.”
“I’ll see if I can turn back towards the island and slow down.”
Howard began to ease the controls to the right. The R-1 responded slowly and began to bank gradually round. Suddenly the engines cut out and the craft lurched violently, a gunshot rang out. Howard felt a burning sensation on his left wrist as the console in front of him exploded in a brilliant flash of sparks and flames. Howard instinctively raised his arms to shield himself from the shrapnel and glare. He spun round to see an annoyed looking Candy Man who was again aiming the pistol squarely at him, he looked down at his arm, his communicator was shot and blood was dripping from his wrist, unfortunately it had deflected the bullet into the console.
“You idiot!” Howard yelled looking back at the Candy Man.
“What have you done?” the Candy Man said as he leant back against the bulkhead. “Restart the engines at once or I'll shoot you.”
Howard looked at the charred and smoldering control panels, his eye caught sight of a button not too badly burnt; it was the escape hatch release. He turned back to face the Candy Man.
“You're the idiot here, your ambition and greed has doomed you. Look, see for yourself, the controls are smashed and we've run out of fuel, there's no hope for us now.”
“You're trying to deceive me. Surely there's an escape pod like Fonziebird One had?”
“This is an old prototype unless you've got a parachute, there's no escape!” Howard sounded resolute.
“Then you'll die first.” the Candy Man announced taking aim.
Howard glared with disdain at the madman as he pulled the trigger.
“Dad! Dad!" Ralph called anxiously into the communicator, but there was no reply.
“What the heck's going on?” Richie puzzled.
Inside Fonziebird Two, Ralph and Richie could now see the R-1, there was a trail of smoke venting from the ship.
The trail formed a gentle curve of white against the darkening crimson evening sky. They could see the engines had stopped and it seemed now to be in a heading down towards the sea.
“There’s no reply, I don’t think he's even receiving.” Ralph said.
Fonziebird Two had caught up since the R-1 engines had cut out but was losing ground now that the R-1 was in a nosedive. Fonziebird Two continued to pursue at full throttle, but even diving with the help of gravity they could still not catch up.
“What are we gonna do, Ralph? What are gonna do?” Richie said turning to his brother. “We've only got a couple of minutes at most before the R-1 hits the water.”
Ralph’s breathing was fast, his eyes darting over the controls and dials and back to the small ship moving further away. His grip on the control stick tightened and the blood drained from his knuckles, his heart thumping hard against the inside of his chest. His eyes lit up for a split second.
“I know! There's only one thing for it. Hold tight Rich, we need to lose some weight so I’m gonna drop the pod.”
Richie tore his eyes away from the shrinking R-1 ahead and spun his head in Ralph’s direction, his mouth dropped open and before he could say anything he could here hydraulic pistons hissing and the scream of metal scraping metal as the pod fell away from the main body of Fonziebird Two.
The pod tumbled downwards like a gigantic green brick to splash into the sea at a tremendous speed throwing up a great wall of white water. The pod was incredibly strong but was smashed to pieces on contact with the sea, as was all the crucial rescue equipment within. Fonziebird Two now substantially lighter began to accelerate towards the R-1.
Howard starred down the barrel of the pistol the Candy Man was holding, he had already pulled the trigger, the muted click came as a surprise to both of them. Howard breathed a sigh of relief and saw a look of panic in the Candy Man's expression, he pulled again on the trigger but no bullets came out and did it twice again.
“It’s over.” Howard said complacently and reached for the emergency hatch release and pressed the button. It lit up red and bolts blew out around the hatch. The Candy Man quickly turned to see what the noise was. He saw the last of the eight bolts exploding with puffs of smoke but was rooted to the spot, he anticipated be sucked out of the hatch in an instant of it opening.
He waited and watched and like Howard, didn’t breath for what seemed like minutes and it was soon apparent that the hatch was jammed. They breathed again, the Candy Man in relief, Howard in disappointment.
The Candy Man's laughter echoed around the cockpit as he turned to face Howard. “Getting rid of me isn't going to be as easy as that.” he said while glaring at Howard.
“We're both doomed now anyway, nothing can save us. At least, I can die with the satisfaction that you won't be able to threaten innocent lives or International Rescue again. My family will continue the work I started but you die with nothing.”
“Self-righteous words, Howard, but…” the Candy Man’s words trailed off. He was interrupted by loud thuds on the exterior of the ship and caused it to shudder. Howard and the Candy Man both looked around the cockpit in wonder, then out of the blue a hiss sounded behind the Hood and the escape hatch blew open. The cockpit became a swirling torrent of wind and debris that Howard had to shield his face from. When he turned back, the Candy Man was nowhere to be seen inside the cockpit.
The whirlwind inside the cockpit died away and the R-1 slowed down and eventually came to a swaying halt. Through the open hatch Howard could see the water lapping smoothly a hundred feet or so below reflecting the orange of the evening sun. The R-1 had been plucked out the air and prevented from crashing into the ocean by Fonziebird Two’s timely arrival.
Through one of the small observation portholes Howard could see a large white number two on a green background and Richie looking down from one of the observation windows waving excitedly, he waved back at his son and the OK signal.
Fonziebird Two turned slowly and set course for home with the R-1 securely in the grab hanging from its nose.
Howard then remembered the disk and he felt about in the pilot chair pocket but it had gone. He looked around the cabin but could not see it among the debris scattered on the floor. Howard’s heart sank and he slumped back into the chair and began to contemplate the events that had just unfolded.
02-08-2005, 12:25 PM
Chapter 10 – Epilogue
The debriefing had gone smoothly, everyone on the island was still reeling from the unpleasant incident and were all subdued. They were all very quiet and there was none of the usual friendly banter and cheeky comments that were commonplace at the meetings. All except Potsie and Marion attended but they were able to take part in the meeting over the internal vid-phone system. At the end of the meeting everyone left to get on with the restoration of the International Rescue to full working order.
Howard was left alone sat at his desk in the lounge, a hot black coffee Joanie made for him cooling slowly in his hands. He looked down at his new watch communicator on his right wrist then to his bandaged left arm. He was aching from head to toe from the recent fracas and still felt tired. Maybe he was fit and healthy but he was not as young as he used to be. The events of the previous day were dreadful and tormented him all night. He, they, had all known there were people out there who would stop at nothing to get hold of the information and technology they possessed on Tracy Island and if that disk got out in the open it could be the beginning of the end for the organisation he had spent the better part of his life building.
But it wasn’t the time and money he had given that was the issue here, it was all the lives that could be in danger, not just from the potential killing power of the advanced technology but also if International Rescue were put out of action, how many innocent lives would be wasted because they were not around to save them, all because of one man’s greed.
A shudder coursed through his body at the thought, setting his gray hair standing on end. He closed his eyes and took a sip of coffee from the mug, which warmed him, perfect he thought. On his desk was a rubber mask, it featured an attached false hairpiece, there were openings for the eyes, nose and mouth. It was a brilliant mask in every way, the detail, the colouring and the texture were all perfect, it was obviously an expensive item; it had to be good to fool people close up. It was similar in design and manufacture to one they had found after rescuing two buried actors and they had been secretly filmed after and the anti-photographic equipment had been sabotaged.
Fonziebird Two and the base were searched after the incident yesterday for fear that the Candy Man may have sabotaged something while aboard, and this mask was discovered close to where he must have stowed away.
The Candy Man. Potsie had recalled that name and other memories from his capture and Marion confirmed that this was the name he was known as. Very appropriate, thought Howard, a master of disguise, never the same man twice. How would they fight this kind of determination? Or indeed this kind of desperation?
Maybe they wouldn’t have to. But Richie never found a body during his search this morning but he didn’t find the disk either. This worried Howard. He was sure the Candy Man couldn't have survived the fall, the cold of the night pacific, even the sharks and he would have been miles from land with out any kind of floatation device. The fact that no body was found did worry Howard a little, although with all the currents in the area he could well have been swept down into the depths and lost forever and at the same time while Howard knew little about this man, realised he was ultra intelligent and resourceful, he was surely a formidable adversary.
As a precaution, Howard had sent out reports to all the International Rescue agents along with photos of the Candy Man they had captured on the base surveillance and the possible disguises he may use along with a warning about his hypnotic powers. If this man ever surfaced again, they would have to strike first. It wasn’t what Howard liked to do but this was a special case, not only was an enemy of the Fonziebirds but he obviously had a criminal record and was probably wanted by Interpol and every major Police Force in the world. He could well be the most dangerous man in the world, Howard thought and took another gulp of his coffee and allowed the rich aroma to stimulate his senses.
The Fonziebird One incident still remained a mystery, was it the Candy Man that had caused the crash or something unassociated. Al was so busy with the repairs and rebuilding schedule Howard didn’t feel it right to pressure him into investigating that just yet, unfortunately it would be too awkward to bring in external crash investigators, although a few IR agents who had the right qualifications could be drafted in to help out.
Howard’s injuries paled in comparison to his son, Potsie’s after the battering he took during the crash and the mental rape inflicted by the Candy Man then to top it all being shot by Ralph. It was a risk to do that, but it worked, it gave Howard time to get to the R-1 cockpit and also snapping Potsie out of the Candy Man's spell. Potsie was confined to the sick room until he was well enough to help out even though he insisted he was capable of doing something. He was strong willed and determined like his father; neither of them liked being treated like an invalid.
But Ralph had really impressed his father over the last few days. He had always been a quick thinker and extremely creative and the solutions to some of the problems he faced were inspired, if costly. The pod and its equipment would be replaced soon enough and his quick launch technique will not be employed again. Instead of taxiing to the launch ramp, once clear of the hangar, he blasted off along the runway not giving the old palm trees time to drop out of the way and up rooted half a dozen of them while leaving scorch marks half way up the runway. Howard chuckled to himself thinking about that. He also never realised Ralph was such a good shot either.
The coffee in Howard’s hands was cooling now almost beyond the enjoyment threshold. He brought it to his lips and downed the remaining dark liquid placing the empty mug down on the corner of his desk.
Marion was also recovering in the medical room, it seems her recent attacks were unintentionally caused by the Candy Man’s hypnotic suggestions deep in Potsie’s subconscious mind. He seemed to emit a telepathic aura that affected Marion, who then became conditioned to it and slowly was able to defend her mind against it. Then when the Candy Man arrived she could actually stay conscious during his mental attack, it was also the key that unlocked the past. The incidents when the Candy Man had used Marion to infiltrate the organisation. Marion was confident now that her half brother would not be able to use her like that again. Although from the way Marion spoke, Howard was sure she was not convinced of her half brother's demise.
What was it Marion said? ‘He seems to have a strong instinct for survival.’
I guess one day we might found out what happened to that disk or even the Candy Man but until that day comes we will continue with what we set out to do, to help those in danger or distress in whatever way possible, Howard thought.
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