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Fire in the Fab

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“International Rescue, we need help! Please!”

John switched his main display from a round of 3D chess with EOS to the map of Earth.

“Typical, three minutes before I go off-shift.”

He flipped the globe around to display the location the call had come from.

“I could have taken it.”

“I know EOS. You did great the last time.”

Tap the virtual display and the connection was made almost instantly.


The voice that came back sounded harried.

“International Rescue here. Please state your emergency.”

Most important thing during rescues: Stay calm. Not that John yet knew if there was a reason to panic.

“The oxygen tank car hit the oxygen tank which collapsed and hit the building. There was an explosion and there’s fire eating into the building. We could deal with the fire, but we think some of the pillars are gone. And...”

John left EOS to take down the call and give him the important details as overlay on the main display, while he put a call out to Tracy Island and opened up what info they had on the emergency’s location.

The same time the chemical warnings popped up in big glowing red on the screen, Tracy Island answered.

“What’s up John?”

Keeping his eyes on his displays the answer was obvious.

“Thunderbird 5 is. But we have a Wafer Fab here that’s in trouble. The building’s in danger of coming down. They likely lost some support pillars in an explosion of their oxygen tank. The explosion must have shaken some of their very heavy equipment loose in an unfortunate way so it came crashing down to the lower floor, trapping people between it and the fire.”


Distantly John was aware of his brothers making their way to their Thunderbirds, from high up in Thunderbird 5 he was already busy configuring the pod for Thunderbird 2. The tricky thing in rescues was to anticipate what they’d need. Fortunately this time there were fully-quipped emergency services at hand. He could see their emergency plans in the info he got from the files and from EOS. The local emergency services would know the dangers in the building, could probably pin point all chemical reservoirs in there in their sleep. But what nobody had expected was the building coming down.

Still, there there was some space in the pod, more equipment couldn’t hurt. Especially since there was hydrofluoric acid in the play.

Thunderbird 2 had just settled down on her pod when Virgil arrived.

And while Thunderbird 1 and Thunderbird 2 went through their lift off sequences, John took a closer look at the floor that had partially collapsed.

The building seemed to have been build counter-intuitive with the heaviest machinery on top and the offices at the bottom. But according to the building plans, it had been designed that way and could take even more weight in theory. The whole construction was checked for any weaknesses at least once per year. There were sensors in place to measure movement and stress of the pillars. There were no flaws in the design or maintenance.

The collapse had occurred on the test floor, so fortunately it wasn’t the production floor and there was no indication that they used any dangerous chemicals.

There was only high voltage that could be a danger, but the power supply to the building had been shut down according to EOS, after they had cycled as many chemicals as they could back into their external storage tanks. Which were fortunately far away from that troublesome oxygen tank and had been preemptively placed under a thick layer of fire-retardation foam.

John reported all this to his brothers.

“So, if the building is build for it, why did that machinery come down?”

“I’m guessing a bit here. That level has a fake floor. All the test machines are standing on stilted boards with power lines and other utilities running underneath. The shock from the explosion must have dislodged some of those boards at one point. Allowing for three of those machines to tilt and slip off into the same direction. The real floor could have taken one or two of them crashing down on it in the same place, but not three of them.”

And then there was silence again, as both Thunderbirds prepared for landing.

All the while John kept an eye on the sensor data he got from that factory. The emergency services had been able to report that two of the pillars were indeed gone and not just their sensor data offline. The pillars closest to the missing ones reported heightened stress and a small displacement, but they should hold for some time. The biggest problem was the fire, the fire workers couldn’t effectively fight it with people trapped behind it. They had a carbon dioxide cannon in place, to be used as soon as they had the people out.

He listened in on the mics his brothers were wearing as EOS ran several simulations on how to best tackle this.

The best solution turned out to be quite simple, and Scott confirmed it with the head of emergency services.

“So, we are going to run a pod through the hole and the fire to the people inside. It’ll be a tight fit, but we should be able to get all of them out in one go. While that’s going on we are going to use two pods with lifts to support the edge of the building, just to be sure.”

“And as soon as your vehicle is out, we are going to smother that fire. As soon as it’s out we can construct some temporary pillars while you keep the edge up. The material for that should be here within the hour.”

There was nothing Thunderbird 5 could do after that. The operation went off without hitch. With the people out the fire soon followed. The remaining pillars showed their sensor values going back to normal with Thunderbird 2’s mobile lifts in place. The person responsible for the factories safety assured them that they’d still have the whole building checked out by specialists before anybody was allowed inside, and they’d see what they could do about that collapsed floor so that wouldn’t happen again, or the oxygen tank falling over.

The material and people to build the temporary support pillars arrived just as Thunderbird 1 was lifting off, Thunderbird 2 would stay and help till her lifts were no longer needed.

“I wish all our rescues were like that. Fly there, solve the problem, go home.”

That was the usual after-mission chat with Scott. Reviewing what happened, thinking about what they could have done better. Only this time there wasn’t that much reviewing they could do.

“Those guys could have probably dealt with it on their own, given more time and less people in danger. They were really well-prepared. But it’s a good thing we helped.”

“Why, John?”

“Simple, I just checked. Several of the flight modules in our Birds use chips made in just this fab. We shouldn’t run out before they are up an running again.”

“They are our only supplier?”

“Of course not, but they are our best supplier. We could fall back to another source, but the chips from this one survive the longest under the worst conditions.”

“And since our Birds are always getting into the worst conditions...”

“Exactly that.”

With Scott on approach to Tracy Island and Virgil just starting to load Thunderbird 2 back up, the mission was done in under two hours and John found himself with some time to continue his chess game with EOS, till it was time for bed or the next call for help came. Because off-shift never really meant off-shift.