It was a harrowing mission right from the start. Alan, Virgil and Gordon began by using a combination of the Domo and the Firefly to evacuate a burning sweat shop filled with terrified Malaysian women and their children. The four storey building was well alight by the time International Rescue arrived and many of the workers had unfortunately already perished. Alan and Virgil managed to rescue sixteen people from the upper floors of the burning building and had just clambered back into the Firefly when Scott discovered a pocket of people trapped in a basement area. The two brothers thought for a moment and then parked the little yellow firefighter to one side and set about using the Mole to get the people out.
Scott was manning Mobile Control while the others were inside the building and was monitoring the structure carefully. He had just decided that the building was not stable enough for them to continue any longer when the Mole burrowed its way to the surface from the basement and landed in front of him. Virgil popped the door of the dirty yellow vehicle open and Alan ushered the last batch of rescuees over to join the waiting crowd. Once this was done he met back up with Virgil; the pair moved to where Scott was standing and the three of them looked at the building. Gordon was still supporting one of the outer walls with the Domo but it was clear to everyone that the whole place was in imminent risk of collapse.
Alan scanned the front of the building with his eyes and at a third floor window he caught sight of a terrified young woman. She had broken the glass window pane in an attempt to escape the inferno but had found her way blocked by metal bars on the outside of the window. Despite being three storeys above him, her eyes locked with Alan's and he let out a small cry. Before either Virgil or Scott had the chance to stop him he had moved away from them, straight across the yard and in through the front door of the now dangerously crumbling building. Virgil started to follow but found himself pulled up short by Scott who grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
"Don't be a fool, Virg," he hissed. "Alan should know better than that and you damn well do. Go and get the Firefly and get it pointed at that door. Move it Virg, if you want any hope of saving your brother."
Inside the building Alan was fighting his way up towards the third floor. As he approached the second floor staircase a steel beam came crashing down from the floor above and landed in front of him. To avoid this he was forced to leap to one side and he bounced off the nearest wall, cursing loudly as his ribs took a hit.
Once the beam had come to a halt Alan risked a deep breath and leapt over it before carrying on up the stairs and onto the landing. Not knowing exactly which room the girl had been in he started kicking doors open at random. The first two rooms he tried were devoid of people but were full of fire. The third room, which was almost fully ablaze, contained the girl he had been looking for.
Unfortunately Alan hadn't spotted her until slightly too late. By the time he got to her she had been overcome by fumes and had collapsed onto the floor. Alan ran across the room and fell to his knees as he reached her. He immediately checked for a pulse and hung his head in dismay when he couldn't find one. He then bundled her lifeless body into his arms and slowly struggled his way back towards the door.
By the time Alan and his precious cargo got back down to the ground floor it was almost completely filled with debris, smoke and fire. Despite his safety gear, Alan could barely breathe and blindly picked his way through the destruction in the direction he hoped he had come from only minutes before. After what seemed like an eternity but had in actual fact only been a couple of minutes, he stumbled out of the door and fell into Virgil's outstretched arms.
With almost superhuman strength Virgil pulled both Alan and the girl away from the building. He dragged them far enough so they were sheltered behind the Firefly and by the time he'd removed Alan's face mask and oxygen tank, Scott was there. "Alan. What the hell do you think you were doing?" he cried loudly. "You could have been killed. I'd called it. It was over, done, finished…no more. There was no way we were going to get anyone else out of that building without too great a risk to ourselves."
Just that moment the wall, which Gordon was still valiantly fighting with, folded in on the building. The window where the girl had been just minutes before disappeared in a thick plume of dust and ash.
Virgil went white, "Geez, Alan that was way too close."
"Too close?" Scott repeated. "Too close? There's no way in hell it should have been anywhere near that close. Alan what were you thinking?" It was as he raged at Alan that Scott noticed the girl encased in his little brother's arms. "Oh," he said quietly. "I see."
Virgil was in a better position to reach the girl and slipped a finger gently under her chin. He ran it along her neck until he found the place where the pulse point should have been but wasn't surprised when he could find no movement beneath the skin. The girl was still warm and Alan clung to her tightly, his dirty face partly obscured by her thick, black hair. Virgil looked at Scott and shook his head, "She's gone," he said softly before turning back to his youngest brother. "Alan, do you hear me? She's gone."
Alan shifted and looked up at him, his eyes vacant and glazed. "I know," he whispered. "I was too late. I was too late and I couldn't save her."
Scott crouched down beside him and placed a gentle, caring hand on his arm. "We can't save everyone," he murmured. "We all wish we could but we just can't save everyone." He rubbed Alan's arm gently and then addressed his other brother. "Virg, you take her. There'll be a mother out there somewhere waiting for news and she needs to know what's happened to her daughter. Alan, can you hand her to Virgil. Gently now."
Alan clung to the girl tighter than ever before and began to cry. "No, no, leave me alone. We need to take her home, Scott, don't you see? She can't stay here. Tin-Tin..."
Scott placed both his hands firmly on both of Alan's upper arms and held on tight. "It's not Tin-Tin, Alan. Tin-Tin's safe. She's safe at home. I promise."
"Tin-Tin?" Alan asked with a pleading voice. "She's dead Scott. I was too late."
"You were too late for this poor girl," Scott said. "…but Alan she's not Tin-Tin. You've got to let Virgil take her. You've got to let him take her back to her mother. Would you do that for me? Please? Then we can all go back home."
"Take her? To her mother? Yes, yes that's right." Alan was babbling now and Scott looked at Virgil worriedly. "She's not Tin-Tin. Not Tin-Tin 'cos Tin-Tin doesn't have a mother. Take her Virgil, take her back to her mother. Scott, I want to go home." As gently as if he was holding a newborn baby, Alan transferred the girl into Virgil's arms. The middle Tracy brother stood up slowly and carried her towards the waiting authorities.
As he approached the crowd an elderly lady began wailing and pulled away from the group to meet him. "My baby," she cried as she ran towards Virgil. "My baby. No, no, not my baby girl."
Virgil, with the distraught woman in tow, carried the girl into a nearby building where many of those wounded in the fire were being tended to. He spoke quietly to one of the locals who was acting as a medic and then quickly walked away.
After handing the girl to Virgil, Alan became almost non-responsive. Scott wrapped his arms around him and gently pulled him to his feet. He then guided his silent brother across the rescue site and through the great gaping doorway into the pod of Thunderbird 2. As he walked Alan slowly towards the flight deck Scott heard someone following and he soon realised that Gordon had abandoned the Domo once it was no longer doing its job. He pushed Alan gently in one of the passenger chairs in the cabin of Thunderbird 2, close behind where Virgil would be sitting and then turned to face Gordon.
The aquanaut was armed with a space blanket and moved forwards to wrap it around his brother. Scott silently conveyed his worry for Alan and then left him in Gordon's capable hands while he went back outside to speak to the people who had called them out in the first place.
Another loud crash emanated from outside and Scott hurried towards the door of the pod. The third and fourth floors of the former sweat shop had collapsed inwards and had taken the rest of the building down with them. Even though he'd known it before, Scott was saddened to think that there would be no further chance of survivors that day. He walked over to where Virgil was trying to calm the now distraught crowd and helped his brother stop several women who seemed hell bent on running to their deaths in the flames.
Scott, Virgil and the local police finally manage to calm the people down and made them understand that there was no way that there was anyone left alive inside the smouldering wreck of a building. There was nothing left now but burning timbers, rubble and piles of ash and International Rescue could do no more.
Scott helped Virgil pack the Mole, Domo and Firefly back into Thunderbird 2. The brothers then did the same with Mobile Control and Thunderbird 1 and once all the equipment was away, the four men and two ships took their leave of the site.
As was customary after a hard rescue, Scott piloted Thunderbird 1 slowly alongside her sister ship, the big green Thunderbird 2. Virgil took his usual spot as pilot of Two while Gordon attended to Alan who had almost completely shut down by that point.
When they arrived home Virgil left Gordon to do the post flight checks on Thunderbird 2 so he could take charge of Alan and escort the silent young man up to the control room. Scott arrived shortly before Alan and Virgil and was standing beside their father when the door covering Alan and Virgil swung open. Alan was cradled gently against Virgil's chest and despite being visible to both Jeff and Scott he made no immediate attempt to move out of Virgil's embrace.
Scott immediately looked at Jeff. "Father, it's…" He stopped when Alan suddenly pushed away from Virgil and ran across the room, down the stairs and out of sight.
"Alan," Jeff cried and he leapt to his feet and started to follow his youngest son.
Scott shot forwards and latched on to his father's arm. "Leave him, Father, he's in shock. He needs to find Tin-Tin. With any luck he'll be alright once he knows that she's alive and well."
"Okay." Jeff raised his eyebrows at his son's choice of words. "Scott, I think you and Virgil need to tell me exactly what's been going on, starting with why Alan is so much dirtier than the pair of you and finishing with why he's just run out of here like the hounds of hell were on his tail."
Scott winced and pointed to Jeff's chair, hinting that his father might want to sit back down. He and Virgil then told Jeff everything that had happened. They explained about the girl and the likeness that she had to Tin-Tin and they described how Alan had run into the building and got the girl out but that he had been too late to save her.
During a lull in the conversation the three men sat quietly. "So Alan saw a girl who looked a bit like Tin-Tin and ran into a burning building to save her," Jeff asked eventually. "…and the three of you couldn't stop him?"
Virgil looked over at Scott and shook his head. "No sir," he said. "One minute he was next to me, the next he was gone. It wouldn't have made sense to follow him into the flames; there would have just been two…or three of us to fish out instead of just the one."
Scott nodded his agreement. "As soon as he went inside I had Virgil concentrate the Firefly on the front of the building and the door in a hope that Alan'd see sense and turn around. I should have guessed he wouldn't though; this is Alan we're talking about after all said and done. Once he's decided on a course of action he's going to follow it through to the bitter end, no matter what the outcome. Oh and Father? The girl? She didn't just look a bit like Tin-Tin; she looked exactly like Tin-Tin and I think that's what upset Alan more than the fact that he hadn't saved her. His emotions got the better of him and he got a little muddled for a while but I don't for one moment believe that he really thought that she was Tin-Tin."
Virgil agreed. "I'm sure he'll be fine once he's proved to himself that Tin-Tin is okay. He had his mask and tank on the whole time he was in the fire and I couldn't detect any particular physical injuries when I checked him over before we came home. I think he's just badly shaken up at the moment."
"Okay," Jeff said with a sigh. "We'll just keep an eye on him for now but let's not make it too obvious. If he thinks we're watching him he'll do his damndest to make sure it looks like nothing's wrong and that'll do nobody any good. Now where's Gordon? Is he okay?"
"Gordon's fine, Father," Virgil replied. "I left him in the hangar, doing the checks on Thunderbird 2. He was looking after Alan while Scott and I put everything away and also during the flight home so I thought he could do with a quiet moment to himself. I'm sure he'll be up in a minute."