It's not every day you wake up
in the middle of nowhere, injured, alone, and without even the
slightest clue who you are or how you got there...
Chapter One: Surreal Awakening
thing I noticed was the cold. It wasn’t mere cold; no, I was
basically freezing. Dimly, I was aware of the fact that I
should be warm. Cold was wrong. Very wrong. In more aspects
wasn’t the only thing amiss. I expected to lie on something
soft, but the ground under me was hard and uneven. Lumps poked
into my back, made it uncomfortable to lie there. Not soft at
be awoken from my slumber, I blinked wearily. Found my way
back towards consciousness. And made a sound of discomfort as
I realized yet another thing that wouldn't fit .
I was wet.
wet, to be brutally honest. Icy water trickled down my face,
collected in my lower back and made lying there damn
uncomfortable. The clothes stuck to my skin, heavy with water
wonderful way to wake up, soaked to the skin and freezing to
eyes revealed a grey sky over me, full of clouds. I blinked.
Somehow, I had the impression that I should be in my bed
instead of here…where was here, anyway? My mind was all
fuzzy; I didn’t really function yet. A bed would definitely be
nicer than this, I decided grumpily, as several aches
announced their presence.
tried to sit up, only to notice a nice collection of bruises
all over my body. Where had those come from? I didn’t have the
slightest clue, but damn, they hurt! Wincing, I touched a
couple of them. They looked nasty, sporting all colours
ranging from blue to purple. There was also a ragged gash
running along my left arm, not very deep, but painful.
was I doing here, all on my own?
around, trying to find out where I was. Next to me was a huge
river, the muddy water flowing very quickly. I was on my back
not far away from it, sprawled on the ground like a limp rag
hell had I been doing? Gone for a swim in there? I looked at
the river in disgust. No sane person would go for a swim in
that; and besides, I was still wearing my clothes. If I
had really been swimming, I should have been clad in swimming
was wet. So I had been in the water. And the only water in
sight was the river. Very confusing.
I shook my
head, feeling very befuddled. Maybe this was only a dream, I
tried to reassure myself, and rubbed my face gingerly. It
hurt, especially my temple, where I found an open wound,
bleeding all over my cheek. Well, great. That made me feel
so much better. I must have been pretty stupid to get
injured like that. Hmm. So, how did that happen again?
think I’d be able to remember that, but obviously…man, that
must have been the hell of an accident, or my name wouldn’t
be…wouldn’t be…what the heck…
my mouth like a fish, but it didn't change the gaping hole in
my memory, right there where my name should have been. I
couldn’t remember my damn name!
uncomfortable feeling of dread fluttered in my stomach. This
couldn't be. I had to know my name, maybe I was only
disorientated...it would come back any second, I was sure...
A name is
such a basic thing, holds so much importance, that it felt
utterly horrible not knowing it. I mean, it was my name! I was
born with it, yet I couldn’t…didn’t…didn’t even remember
whether I had liked it or not. Nothing. Just emptiness.
my head in my hands, trying to think, trying to remember, but
whatever I did, my mind stayed blank. There was simply
nothing, a whiteness that scared me much more than the awkward
situation or my injuries. I felt lost, out of control, and so
terribly alone that tears sprung to my eyes.
them away very quickly. Panicking wouldn’t help me, I told
myself and tried to get my breathing back under control. It
might not be permanent. It may come back any moment. Just
breathe. Relax. Breathe.
but no memories popped back into my head. Well, I hadn’t
really expected them to. Something told me that this wasn’t my
lucky day (gee, really?).
check. What did I know? What could I remember?
I hadn’t forgotten everything - I knew enough to make sense of
the situation and recognize that I was suffering from amnesia.
What a horrible, cruel word. And yet it was the first one that
popped into my name when I thought of my situation. Amnesia.
wasn’t totally brain-dead, that was a relief, if only a small
one. But what else? Look at the facts, some invisible
voice whispered deep in my mind, and then try to put the
Nope. Still not there.
Hmm…difficult to say, but not too old, judging from my body.
Not a kid, either. Probably in my twenties. Not in a bad
shape, as I might say, even though I was a mass of scratches
appearance? Not even the slightest clue. My skin was white and
my hair short, that was about all I could say. Didn’t even
know the colour of my eyes – somehow, that depressed me the
most. I mean, who doesn’t know his eye-colour? I ran through
the possible colours in my head, but none of them rang a bell.
That annoyed me no end.
I tried to
look up at my hair, but I only saw a blur and concentrating
that close made my head ache. Headache. Ugh. I could have
lived without that, but the pounding seemed very insistent to
clothes? I stared down at my body, unable to identify what I
was wearing. Trousers, that much was sure, nearly shredded to
pieces and soaked with murky water. The shirt – had it been a
shirt? – was laughable, full of holes and so dirty that I
couldn’t even recognize the colour. My boots were sturdy, but
didn’t tell me anything. There was no tag on the clothes, no
patted my body, trying to find some sort of identification.
But all the pockets were empty – except one that was filled
with mud, but I didn’t think that was going to tell me
anything about my glorious life.
wearing a watch, as well, but one look told me that it would
never be working again. The plastic had smashed and the
insides were filled with mud, as well. What had I done,
wrestled with a mud monster?
sucks." I said loudly and was surprised at the roughness of my
voice. It sounded strange in my ears; shouldn’t I be used to
my own voice? And if I can’t even remember my own voice,
that means bad business, doesn’t it?
left me in quite a dilemma. As far as I could see, I was on my
own. The forest was empty – how can you know about forests
and not remember your name? – full of mud and debris.
Somehow, that irked me. I knew for certain that a forest floor
shouldn’t be littered with broken planks and parts of things.
I?" I whispered, looking down at my rough, battered hands.
Nobody answered me, and the isolation, the pain seemed greater
than ever. Like…like hanging in the air without any ground
under your feet. No tether. Nothing to keep you secure. No
safety harness…Safety harness? That seemed to ring a bell. I
frowned slightly, trying to catch the memory, but it darted
away again, leaving me as clueless as before. Well, great.
remember anything about my life, my history, my interests…I
didn’t know what I was, who I was, where I was! I lost the
most basic of things - my memory – and it took all my will not
to scream in panic.
pulled myself together enough to get up on my knees. It hurt
like hell, but I managed to stand. The world was tilting
around me, slightly out-of-focus. I blinked, willing the
dizziness to disappear, and oh wonder, it worked.
started walking. Nothing better to do, eh? And who knew, maybe
I’d find someone who could help me.
every experienced something similar to amnesia? Have you ever
lived through the pain of…of not having anything? Of
being utterly alone?
nothing that can be described with words. Imagine having
everything torn away from you – everything you know and love,
everything you remember, even the tiniest details. Imagine
feeling like a new-born – everything is strange and
frightening, new and exciting at the same time.
The more I
thought about it, the more things came to my mind I didn’t
know about myself, and each one added to the mental anguish I
was going through.
my favourite food? My favourite colours?
reminded me of swimming. Did I like swimming? Could I
my family? Did I have a family? Did I have a wife? Maybe even
kids? No, I was pretty certain I didn’t have kids – far too
young for that – but I couldn’t be certain. Man, it would be
terrible if I had kids and had forgotten them. A shudder ran
through my body. I sincerely hoped that I had neither wife nor
was dragging myself through the forest, confused, hurting and
very much alone, I couldn’t stop questioning myself. I kept
looking for clues, for hints who I was, what I was doing there
and why I was injured. But all I encountered was blackness,
and the longer it took, the more frightened I became. It was a
puzzle with all the pieces missing, an empty picture frame in
things I knew, almost by instinct – I knew what a tree was,
for example, and that I needed to get medical help – but
everything that concerned me was just a black hole.
nightmare that wouldn’t end.
found some sign of civilization. A road. It was full of
debris, but still intact. I stood still for a second, trying
to decide which way to go. Then I shrugged and walked to my
right. Since I had no idea where I was, there was no way I
could know which way to go.
house I saw I greeted with obvious excitement. It was a small
farm house, huddled between the trees and made of wood. As
soon as I saw the structure, I hurried there, looking all the
way for some sign of life.
was open, revealing a cluttered interior. There had certainly
been people living here – there was a television, some
bottles, clothes strewn around – but it looked as if they had
left in a hurry without bothering to take anything with them.
called cautiously into the eerie scenery. "Anybody home?"
The floor creaked under my feet as I stepped towards the
table. Some bread was lying there – that’s something to
eat, isn’t it? Yuck, well, at least it was...looks a bit on
the other side, now – untouched. This house had obviously
been abandoned, but why?
though I didn’t have any memories, I knew that this wasn’t
good. People didn’t just leave their homes, not voluntarily.
And they certainly didn’t leave everything behind. The only
logical conclusion was that they had been forced – maybe by
some kind of disaster.
of being the only one left in an abandoned area made me
shudder. I quickly left the house, trying to get those images
out of my mind. My imagination was playing tricks on me; it
surely couldn’t be that bad, I kept telling myself. There
could be a logical explanation for this, one I simply didn’t
find. After all, I wasn’t exactly in top shape, either.
just getting paranoid. Yeah, that's it. Maybe they had a big
family fight. Things like that happen.)
to find someone, anyone, who could tell me what was going on,
I trudged onwards, following the road that curved through the
as the hours passed and my exhaustion grew, I found that I was
still alone. I encountered a couple of houses, but they were
all empty – the windows broken, the gardens untidy. Everywhere
I looked, I saw signs that the inhabitants had left very
quickly. Doors were hanging from broken hinges, some cars –
mostly old pick-ups – overturned at the side of the road. And
the ground, so dirty, full of mud and covered with rubbish.
more and more uncomfortable. What if something horrible,
something dreadful had happened and they had left me behind?
(Whoever 'they' might be...)
I tried to
shake off that thought, but when I passed a burned out car
that had crashed against a tree, I gulped with sudden fear.
Without my memories, I was helpless; if I had been left
behind, I would never know…
fair. I balled my hands into fists, as a sudden wave of rage
swept over me. Why me? What had I done? Wasn’t it enough that
I couldn’t remember? Did I have to be thrown in some weird
psycho movie as well?
think that’s funny!" I shouted at nobody in particular,
glaring at the trees that surrounded me. I needed to vent my
anger, needed it to keep myself together. I didn’t like
feeling helpless, and I felt the burning need to lash out
screamed, frustrated at myself and the whole world. Why was
there nothing I could do? I was going mad from anxiety. The
loneliness seemed more tangible than ever, almost suffocating
me. What if I was the only one left? What if everybody else
had died? What if I was the only person alive?
I told myself, when I felt the panic crawl over my heart.
You need to keep a grip on yourself. There’s no evidence for
that. You don’t know what happened. Just…stay calm.
So I tried
to ignore the tremors that ran along my spine every time I
passed an empty house. Those people certainly had valid
reasons to leave. Maybe…maybe…
reasons, the hell! I couldn’t think of any logical reasons why
anyone would leave their house behind, with the exception of
some virus attack or other dreadful things.
thought made me look around. I really hoped that the air
wasn’t infected with any strange viruses, I didn’t want to
catch some kind of sickness…Maybe I was already ill? Maybe
that was the reason for my amnesia?
my head in confusion, trying to sort through the tumbling
hell did I know what a virus was, and yet couldn’t remember my
name? Goddammit, that was annoying.
became more frequent (yet I didn’t go inside again; it was
simply too freaky), until finally the road opened up into a
small town near the riverside. Everything was empty as well;
the streets covered with mud and rubbish. The houses looked
normal; well, as normal as they could – I really didn’t
remember how houses looked like, but they seemed
called cautiously, feeling very alone in this ghost city. My
feet made squelching noises as I waded through ankle-deep mud.
"Is anybody here?"
the door to one of the houses and grimaced. Yuck, even the
floor inside was covered in mud! Didn’t the people here know
how to clean their homes? The brown stuff made interesting
squishy noises under my boots, while I carefully peered into
Immediately a word sprang into my mind – living room –
and I knew what I was looking at. Annoyance crept up at me;
why couldn’t it be that way with my memories? Just look at
something and pouf! I’d remember everything. I waited for a
while, desperately listening into myself, but nothing
happened. Well, it figured.
corner of the room I saw some clothes, thrown carelessly
across an armchair. That gave me an idea. My own were pretty
ragged and wet. Wearing dry clothes probably wouldn’t bring my
memory back, but it would be an improvement nonetheless. I'd
feel better, at least.
I looked into a few cupboards, feeling like a burglar, and
grabbed some jeans, a T-Shirt and a flannel jacket. There was
also a couple of black boots, which I took gratefully; my own
were soaked and shredded.
rid of my soaked clothes was a relief, I can tell you! And
then the bliss of having dry, warm cloth on my skin…still, I
couldn’t bring it over myself to leave the rags of my old
clothes there – after all, they were my only link to the past.
So I stuffed them in a random plastic bag I found, closing it
much better, I left the house, determined to find out what was
wrong with the world. It couldn’t be that everybody had left –
I just had to find some people. Something to eat wouldn’t be
bad, either. I was starting to feel quite hungry. Just
had said what? It had been on the tip of my tongue, but I lost
it again. Frustrated I kicked against a piece of rubble, only
to stub my toe. Great. The stream of curse words that flowed
from my mouth was quite powerful and I had to smile at the
irony. I could remember cursing, but didn’t know my hair
just hate life?
street was a building with huge glass windows. There were
tables inside, and a bar with lots of bottles. Yay. Food. And
something to drink.
imagine the eerie silence of an abandoned town? No? Now, have
you ever been out on a hot Sunday, when the streets are empty
and the shops are closed? You know that there are people
there, behind the windows, inside the houses, but you can’t
see them and it gives you this horrible, otherworldly feeling?
Now imagine that feeling multiplied by 100 and made even worse
by the fact that you know there aren’t any people
there. Congratulations, you now have a distinct impression of
what I was experiencing that very moment.
opened with a creak, revealing a dim interior. To my surprise,
it looked rather inviting; soft, warm chairs, a room without
any edges, but only curves and the walls painted in a pleasant
called again, limping towards the bar – what in the hell
was a bar anyway?
but by now it didn’t surprise me anymore. I kind of had
accepted that the town was deserted.
to eat, something to drink." I hummed to myself, trying to
escape the eerie calmness around me. "Hmm, let’s see…" I
picked one of the many bottles – bottles are those glass
thingies, aren’t they? – and tried to remember how to open
it. My mind came up blank, but my fingers were working on
their own accord. With a slight hiss, the lid snapped open. I
took a cautious sniff, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t
remember the right smell anyway, so I took a gulp.
Nasty stuff – it burned down my throat and did nothing satisfy
my thirst. I grimaced and shuddered as the liquid warmed my
stomach. It tasted foul, but it seemed to warm me up,
something I was grateful for.
I turned the bottle over and looked at the label. The signs on
it looked strange at first, but then they arranged themselves
together. "Whiskey", it read. I took another sip of it, not
because I liked it, but because it seemed to calm me down.
least I was able to read, that was a relief, but everything
else still stayed a mystery.
a tap – hey, I know what a tap is! – and I turned it
eagerly. To my honest disappointment, no water came. Gee.
Great. I scanned the rest of the bottles and finally settled
for one with a red label on it. The content tasted sickenly
sweet, but it was much better than the burning stuff from
food I found was a bag with crispy, salty things that I
munched greedily. "Chips," the label said, and immediately the
phrase ‘comfort food’ sprang into my mind. Well. I could
certainly need that. I munched happily, wondering whether I
had liked chips before or not. They certainly didn’t taste
Apparently, I could remember most day-to-day things – enough
to get by – but now and then things eluded me.
sucks!" I told nobody in particular and rubbed my aching
shoulder. "I can’t even remember what I was doing here. Maybe
I had a job to do?" Suddenly, another thought flashed through
my mind, one that made me very uncomfortable. What was I
supposed to do when I met other people? Talk to them? Go to a
hospital? Go to the police?
of the police made me wary. A warning bell rang in my head,
telling me to be cautious – but why? There was a need for
secrecy…but only criminals had to stay away from the police! I
wasn’t a criminal, was I? The thought scared me; I certainly
didn’t feel like a criminal, but how could one be sure? Maybe
I had done something horrible, maybe I had escaped and was
pursued by hundreds of cops…maybe the people in this town fled
from me…Alright, that sounded a bit far-fetched, even to my
ears. It was obvious that something else had happened, with so
much destruction and devastation everywhere. But the uneasy
there was nothing to be done about it now, I argued sensibly.
One part of me was surprised at how logical and detached I was
behaving – shouldn’t I be panicking and crying? But here I
was, trying to be smart about everything (even though the rage
was still there). Maybe I was used to stressful situations; or
maybe I was simply too tired.
had to leave this town and not on foot. I was so exhausted
that I wouldn’t make it far, and I had no intention to sleep
in the forest. But staying here wasn’t an option either.
and looked out of the window, trying to find something that
might help me. The road led slightly uphill, and there, on the
highest point, I could see a car. My face lit up; it seemed
dry and relatively undamaged. Maybe that was my rescue.
Do I know
how to drive?
out of the building. The car was small, but sleek and slender.
Whatever had happened here, it hadn’t reached the car. It
appeared unscathed. I peered inside. Something was missing, I
realised and frowned. Something which I would need to drive
A key. You
need a key.
of a silvery small device slipped into my mind. That was it.
Dammit. My hopes were crushed immediately as I slipped down
the side of the car and sat on the ground. Tiredly, I rubbed
my face. My head began to pound. I wanted to be out of here,
wanted to be home…wherever that was.
know something about cars.
key was in there somewhere? Maybe it was lying under the
seats? I didn’t really believe it, but it was worth a try. I
got up, every part of my body protesting, to look for a stone
to smash the window with.
shouldn’t do that.
feeling increased. Apparently, smashing car windows wasn’t a
nice thing to do. However, did I have another option? I
reflected for a moment and found that I had none. Well, great.
With more force than necessary, I struck the window with the
stone. It shattered nicely.
Glass makes nasty cuts.
at the insistent voice in my head. Why did it keep reminding
me of useless things? Quickly, I unlocked the door and sat
behind the round thingie – steering wheel. Used to steer
the car. My eyes scanned the interior, but apart from lots
of dirt and a few empty bottles, I couldn’t find a key.
when my hands started to work automatically, as they had done
before with the bottle. They opened the plastic under the
steering wheel and fiddled with the wires. I could only watch
in amazement as I picked the correct cables with expertise,
holding them together until finally, I heard a distant rumble.
Automatically, I engaged the clutch, surprised at myself.
Obviously, I knew a bit about cars.
hummed comfortingly, filling me with a familiar feeling. I
grabbed the steering wheel and played with the pedals. Yep.
Definitely. I was used to cars. Hmm. What did that tell me?
just hot-wired a car?
criminal theory was thickening. Why else should I be able to
steal cars that easily? Maybe I was a professional car thief.
didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t think of another one. Well,
I had to be careful. Better to stay low until I was able to
get some light in the matter.
thinking I reached up and adjusted the rear-view mirror.
Catching a glimpse of myself, I thought ‘so that’s what an
arch-criminal looks like’.
started driving down the road, intent to get the hell out of
Chapter Two: Fruitless Search
lost him! You have to help us!" Scott Tracy had never been so
frustrated in his entire life. He was standing in a little
office, facing the mayor of the small town.
Mr. Scott." The woman seemed distressed herself. "And believe,
we’re trying our best to help you. Fact is that your man was
lost in a huge tidal wave, and the area it covered was vast.
We told every single rescue worker to look out for him, but
with so many roads blocked, it will be a difficult task."
speak out what everybody dreaded – and by now, he might not
even be alive any longer - , and Scott was grateful for
that. He didn’t want to think of the fact that his brother was
dead. No, he needed to concentrate on finding him alive, even
if it meant he had to dig through every mud covered town
you." he finally said resignedly. "We’re going to look for him
ourselves, but please inform us as soon as you have any news."
nodded. "We certainly will. Believe me, the whole valley is in
your debt – International Rescue has saved so many lives, and
everybody will be happy to help. Things are just a tad chaotic
right now; it could very well be that your operative has
already been found, but can’t reach us due to the broken
smiled, thankful for the attempt to cheer him up. He didn’t
bother trying to explain about their watches which they used
as comm links. He would surely have contacted them by now,
after all, he had been gone for nearly eight hours…
oldest Tracy knew that many factors played against him. It was
easy to lose the watch; and even though Brains had constructed
them well, they could still be damaged.
his tired face. "I’m going back to Thunderbird One," he
announced. "You know how to call me."
course." The mayor looked at him full of concern. "If you
don’t mind me speaking my mind, you look like hell. Maybe you
should catch a couple of hours sleep before you continue
searching. It will be dark soon and you won’t be of any help
if you collapse."
Scott’s face stayed impassive. "But he might be out there as
well, unable to sleep because he’s injured, or…I don’t know. I
don’t think I could sleep."
understand." Suddenly, she smiled. "I guess this is the reason
why you work for International Rescue. Go on then, I won’t
keep you any longer – and believe me, we’re all trying our
simply nodded and left the room. He was supposed to call his
father, but right now, he couldn’t do it. He needed to pull
himself together first, to get a grip on the raw emotions that
washed over him.
unusual for one of his brothers to get hurt on a rescue – it
was a dangerous business, after all, and his brothers,
especially the younger ones, were known to take risks in order
to save people’s lives. Not that he disagreed. More than once,
Scott had put his own life on line, but it was always a bit
different when he saw it happening to other people.
So, he was
used to dealing with it when they got hurt. Most of the times,
it wasn’t anything life-threatening – painful, yes, lots of
broken bones and concussions, but there had been only a couple
of times when it had been a life and death matter. Scott was
grateful for that. Each of them had taken years off his life,
and he didn’t know how many more he had to spare.
another thing, though, not to know what had happened to his
brothers. It had been that way a couple of months ago, when
one of his brothers had been caught in a rock fall along with
a couple of children. He had tried to help them, but the
ground had been too unsteady. It had taken them hours to dig
them out, and the whole time Scott had feared the worst.
It was the
not-knowing, the uncertainty that was the worst. Because he
always started imagining what might have happened, and this
was never good. The idea of one of his brothers in pain while
he was stuck somewhere else, unable to help, tormented him
couldn’t help it – he had always been protective of his
brothers. They made fun of him, called him mother-hen and who
knew how many supposed-to-be-funny nicknames. Sometimes he got
angry at them, sometimes he was embarrassed, but most of the
times he took it with ease. He had enough experience to know
that some things couldn’t be changed – and his protective
streak was one of them.
it was killing him, though. The rescue wasn’t supposed to end
that badly – but then again, most weren’t, and those who
started the easiest were usually the worst. Maybe it was
Murphy’s Law, maybe it was the wicked humour of the universe,
but it was true.
been ready to pack up when the message reached him. Of course,
he had dropped everything at once and took Thunderbird One to
search for his missing brother. But with the flood and murky
water everywhere, it was close to impossible. Like the mayor
had said, the area was huge and it was difficult to spot
someone who was most possibly unconscious anyway.
Professional experience told Scott that the chances of
survival were very slim.
professional experience could go to hell, the eldest Tracy
decided as he made his way through the crowds on the street.
As always Thunderbird One – parked in the middle of the market
square – had attracted a crowd of people, but they all kept a
Right now, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with any curious
fans. Actually, he didn’t want to deal with anyone. Scott
rubbed his face wearily, knowing that he had to call the
others, let them know of the progress (what progress?)
and be there for them, just as he always was – Scott, the
rock, the reliable one, the eldest, the…mother-hen.
of his mouth twitched when he thought of that. He would give
everything to fight right now with his brothers, all of his
fought, shortly before the water had swallowed him up. Scott
sighed when he thought of that argument. Usually, he knew how
to keep his temper in check, but his brothers pushed his
buttons occasionally. Honestly, sometimes he wished…
he wondered how it would be if he wasn’t working with family
members. At least that way, arguments wouldn’t be carried into
rescues. Of course, they all kept their professional attitude
– he had to admit that much – but sometimes, they
over-reacted. Especially Gordon and Alan; they hated it when
he worried and it drove them to reckless behaviour. Most of
the times, it was justified – risks Scott would have taken
himself – but there had been a few times when it had been
calm, steady Virgil could bring his anger into the rescues,
fuming over the controls of Thunderbird Two, because someone
(Gordon, mostly; sometimes Alan) had pushed him over the edge.
one who never blew was John, which was a relief. It was hard
enough to have two hot-heads and one elephant (if Virgil was
angry, he stayed angry for a long time. And he never forgot.).
looked up, startled. A middle-aged woman had approached him.
The eldest Tracy cursed himself – he’d been daydreaming in the
middle of the street instead of getting back to work.
replied, surprised how croaky his voice sounded.
must be hungry!" The woman dug in her huge basket and produced
some hand-wrapped items. "I brought this for you. I know it’s
not much, and certainly not enough to express the gratitude
we’re feeling, but please take it."
the things into his hands. Scott took them out of reflex.
Delicious smells reached his nose and he realised that he was
you, that’s very kind of you." He smiled, even though his
stomach sank. How could he eat this wonderful food when one of
his brothers might be going hungry right now?
took it nonetheless, aware of the many eyes watching him.
you so much for your help, Mister!" Another man came forward.
He was wearing a fireman’s outfit and seemed very
professional. "It could have been nasty without you getting
the people out before the wave hit. Stupid constructors – I
hope they’re going to sue someone over this, this wasn’t
supposed to happen. It could have killed everyone in our
nodded. The same thing as always. Mechanical Faults. Someone
had wanted to save money, and in the end, thousands suffered
for it. It was an old song, one that got repeated over and
going to help you with the search," the fireman continued.
"Every single one of the boys is out there and has his eyes
open. We got every boat available and are paddling up and down
the river, but the current is still damn strong. If your man
is out there, we’re going to find him, no worries!"
you." Scott was grateful for the help. He knew how much local
authorities could do, with their knowledge of the terrain and
their will to do everything humanly possible. "We will keep
looking as well."
the packets and nodded to the crowd. "Thank you for the food,
Ma’am – it certainly smells delicious – and thank you for your
help, Mister. I have to start now, so if you could please
clear the area? Thunderbird One’s jets are quite powerful and
I don’t want to hurt innocent bystanders."
"Certainly." The fireman saluted and then started to chase the
people away. "Come on, folks. You don’t want to get burned –
could be nasty."
closed the eyes for a brief moment; then he turned around to
his precious ‘bird. It was time to make a few calls.
looked at the dirt-streaked face of his oldest and sighed. "So
they haven’t found him yet." He summed up what Scott had told
him. This wasn’t good.
was Scott’s terse answer. "We’re still looking, of course, but
the area is very big and we don’t even know where to start."
"Understood." Jeff pinched the bridge of his nose. "Take some
rest, as well, son; you look beat." He knew of Scott’s habit
of taking responsibility for everything.
"I know I
should, Dad, but I can’t. I mean, he’s out there somewhere,
alone and injured…" Scott looked uncomfortable.
not going to help him by wearing yourself out." The Tracy
patriarch advised, even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to
sleep either. "We’re going to find him." There wasn’t even the
slightest hesitation in his voice.
Scott…" Jeff’s face was grim as he continued. Scott knew that
he wouldn’t like what would come and prepared himself. "We
can’t stay there forever, you know. International Rescue could
be called out every moment; we need to be prepared for that.
leave him behind!" Scott protested.
authorities are more than capable of handling this." Jeff’s
voice was filled with regret and worry. "You know our duty,
son. I don’t like the idea any more than you do, but you know
that it’s the right decision. It’s what your brother would
have expected us to do."
face was as hard as stone. Sometimes it was really hard to be
the one in command; logically, he knew that his father was
right, but he still felt as if they were abandoning their
he acknowledged, even though his heart was breaking.
Jeff tried to look encouraging. "Keep me posted."
Sir. Scott out."
Chapter Three: Explanations
sign of life I saw was a cow – stupid big animal that
produces milk -, and I could have wept with joy. For a
moment, I actually contemplated jumping out of the car and
hugging it, but then I decided against it. I might have lost
my memory, but that didn’t mean I had to lose my dignity as
Then I saw
the farmhouse, with lit – lit! – windows and I knew
that I was out of the danger zone at last. Immediately, I
pulled over, craving for some human conversation. Maybe those
people could help me understand what had happened to me. Hell,
maybe they had some proper food. I could do with some.
the car a little way away from the house – no need for them to
see how I had hot-wired it - and stepped out on the road. The
house itself was small and wooden, surrounded by a big herb
garden. It seemed very peaceful, especially with the smoke
coming out of the chimney. An oasis of peace in the midst of
hesitated on the veranda before knocking on the door. I
certainly hoped that I wasn’t an escaped convict with my face
all over the media – I really didn’t fancy people running away
from me screaming.
was pulled open and I saw…nothing? Confused, I redirected my
gaze and met a tiny, chubby woman. She barely reached my
chest, with a gentle face and chin length, reddish hair. She
must have been over fifty, but her eyes sparkled with the most
amazing green I had ever seen. She was dressed in simple
clothes, a cloth hanging over her hands.
As soon as
she saw me, her eyes became as big as saucers."Oh, good Lord!"
she exclaimed. "You look horrible! Did you get caught in the
flood? Oh my…you must have been left behind. Come on in, come
on in, I’ll give you something hot to drink, you certainly
look as if you might need it."
motioned me to follow her, and I, flabbergasted by the warm
welcome, saw no other choice than to follow her.
was warm and comfortable, the air filled with a heavy scent I
couldn’t quite identify.
sit down!" the woman motioned and dragged me towards a
cloth-covered table. I plopped down and watched her getting
out various mugs and plates out of the cupboard.
me, darling, what happened to you? You look a bit roughened
up!" she exclaimed.
really remember." I ventured carefully. I wanted to trust this
woman, but how much could I tell? Maybe I was bringing her
into danger – that thought made me sick – or maybe she’d be
disgusted – that would be even worse.
looked at me with huge eyes. Then she smiled. "Oh, I’m sorry –
I haven’t even introduced myself. You can call me Annie.
What’s your name?"
it was, the dreaded question. I opened my mouth, trying to say
a fake name, something, just to break the silence, but my mind
stays blank. Finally, I gave in. "I don’t know." I admitted in
defeat, staring at the table.
know?" Annie seemed surprised. "You mean, you don’t know your
gosh, that’s horrible!" she exclaimed and looked me up and
down. "Did you lose your memory?"
so." And then, almost out of reflex, I added: "Ma’am."
smiled. "Well, at least you learned some manners. Well,
well…we’ll have to wait for Howard to come home and discuss
this. I certainly didn’t expect that." She tutted and took a
pot from the stove, pouring some white liquid into two mugs.
"But until then, how about you tell me everything you know? I
might be able to help you."
invisible voice whispered. But I could tell from her open
manner and her warm smile that she didn’t mean any harm. And,
to be quite honest, I was tired, exhausted and wanted nothing
more than to eat something and sleep.
So I let
go of all care and started re-telling my story.
thing I noticed was the cold…" I began, Annie listening with
rapt fascination while we both sat over our hot drinks.
It was a
good hour later when I finally finished. By that time, Annie’s
husband had come back from his check of the farm. Howard was
as small as his wife, with a leathery, sun-tanned face. His
demeanour was as gentle as Annie’s; maybe a bit rougher around
the edges, but they shared the same warmth.
them everything I could remember – which wasn’t much – the
only thing I omitted was my theft of the car. Somehow, I
didn’t think they’d approve of that. After I had finished,
Annie frowned worriedly. "That must be very hard on you,
nodded briskly. "We should bring you to a hospital, but I
don’t know whether the roads have been cleared yet."
might be a problem," his wife agreed. "We were lucky that our
farm is on a hill, but the road to the next big town leads
through the valley and will most certainly be full of debris."
brought me to the question that had been itching in me for so
long. "Why is that?" I asked curiously. "I mean, on my way
here I came through a town that was totally deserted. What
happened? Some kind of catastrophe?"
exchanged a miserable look. "Well, you could call it that."
Annie began, with Howard nodding beside her. "Every year in
the spring, the river holds a lot of water – it comes from the
mountains, when the snow melts. This year was extremely bad
and we got a flood warning. Now, that wouldn’t have been a
problem – the folks around here are used to floods, they
happen every couple of years – but a couple of days ago, we
received another warning."
A mix of
different emotions crossed her face. "Most of the river is
held back by a dam further up the valley. The dam itself is
about twenty years old, and there’s never been a sign of it
breaking. But then, two days ago, one of the workers there
found a gap in the concrete. He informed the authorities
immediately. The dam was checked – it was unstable and on the
verge of breaking. Local authorities had to act fast; they
evacuated most of the cities in time. But with the river
already bigger than usual, some roads were flooded. I don’t
really know what happened then, our TV got cut off. But the
dam broke yesterday. A huge wave swept through the whole
valley – believe me, Howard and I were so glad to live on a
explains the empty town." I muttered to myself, feeling
relieved. No alien attack, thank God. No killer virus. Just a
natural disaster. Well, maybe not ‘just’ – from the sound of
it, the flood must have been bad, but at least it was
something logical and not one of those half-cooked nightmares
that I had imagined when I first encountered the empty town.
a comforting hand on my arm. "Don’t worry, I’m sure your
family is alright."
nodded. "I haven’t heard of any casualties yet. Then again,
we’re a bit cut off without our phone and TV."
nodded. In fact, I wasn’t worrying about my family – how can
you worry about something you don’t even remember? – but about
myself. Talking with the couple had made me realize how much I
rubbed my face, which was still covered with dirt. "So…do you
have any suggestions?" I asked warily.
exchanged a look. "Well, we’re going to help you, of course."
Annie started. "And I think it would be best for you to go to
the hospital – anyone who’s missing you is sure to look
nodded. "The only thing is that the streets are still flooded.
It may take a couple of days until everything is cleared."
welcome to stay." Annie smiled warmly. "We have a spare room
that you could use, and I’m certain you need the rest. You
look – excuse me for being frank – quite horrible."
Sleep. Yep, that definitely sounded great. Just closing my
eyes and letting go of everything. Ignoring the fact that my
life was a total mess and I didn’t even know my own name.
slightly and winced at the pain that shot through my side. My
muscles seemed to have knotted together during the drive, and
the bruises were aching more and more.
being the gentle soul she was, had obviously seen my
discomfort. She tutted disapprovingly. "I think we have talked
enough for now. What you need, my boy, is something to eat and
then some sleep. But first of all, we have to clean up those
wounds of yours. Come on, we’ll go to the bathroom."
She had a
commanding air around her that I obeyed without question.
Before I left the room, she turned to her husband. "Howard,
would you be so kind as to get out the pot with the soup
that’s in the pantry? You can warm it up on the stove."
complied without hesitation, obviously used to obeying his
wife. Annie took my arm and led me gently through the house,
until we reached a small, tile-covered bathroom.
down." she told me and shoved me on the toilet seat. "Let me
get the first aid box…" muttering to herself, she rummaged
through the drawers, barely able to reach the top shelf.
think you could manage a shower?"
I eyed the
bathtub wearily. I didn’t really think I was up to it, but
there was no way in hell I was going to admit that. Besides,
it would be good to get the dirt off my skin. So I nodded and
waited until Annie – polite as she was – had left the room.
undressed and looked at the state my body was in. Ugh. So many
bruises and abrasions – showering was going to hurt. Still, it
was the best and quickest way to get clean. "Here goes
nothing." I murmured to myself and stepped in the shower.
bliss! Hot water streamed down my body, relaxing my muscles
and washing the dirt away. It stung as well, but I could
ignore it after the first wave of pain. The water running down
the drain was coloured brown and crimson, as some of my wounds
opened up again and bled freely.
my hair and scrubbed my face. Then I left the shower, feeling
a bit refreshed and a lot cleaner.
examined my body, trying to find something. A lot of scars – I
must have led an adventurous life – but nothing else. No
tattoo. Hmm. Somehow, I had the perverse idea that all
criminals had tattoos. Did that mean I wasn’t a criminal?
glittered on my hand and I looked closer, startled to see that
I was wearing a ring. It wasn’t a wedding band, but rather a
signet ring. Eager I pulled it off, hoping that maybe my name
was engraved on the face. But I was severely disappointed. It
was a very ornate script, but I could just about decipher S, A
(or was it an N?) and F (or maybe T – there was a big scratch
down the side of the ring which didn’t help). And since it was
a ring, I didn’t even know which one was supposed to be the
Out of the
corner of my eye, I noticed the mirror. Quickly I stepped in
front of it, wiped it clean of steam with my towel, and looked
at the stranger that was my face. I could see the whole of it
now, not just the fraction that had been visible in the car
mirror. Didn’t do much to help, though.
Hmm. So my
hair-colour was blonde – who would have known? As for my eyes,
they were blue. I grimaced and turned my head. How old?
Hmm…maybe twenty-five years. I looked healthy and strong, even
with the dark bruises and scratches. But not bad…not bad at
all. I had kind of harboured the fear that I was hideously
ugly, but what I was seeing seemed quite pleasant.
at least something.
the revelation I had been waiting for didn’t come. Instead I
just stared numbly at myself, waiting for…something. Some
memory, some flashback, anything…
finished in there, sweetie?" Annie called from the outside,
startling me from my reverie. "I want to have a look at your
injuries, if you don’t mind."
just a second to get dressed." I called back and quickly
pulled my trousers up. Then I sat down on the toilet seat and
leaned my head against the cool wall, relieved to do nothing.
I could have fallen asleep right then, but Annie wouldn’t let
me. She bustled into the room with the first aid kit. With
experienced ease, she started to clean and disinfect my
certainly look a lot more handsome now," she joked, while
dabbing at some deep scratches on my arm.
comment was obviously meant to cheer me up, but I didn’t even
twitch. I had reached the point beyond exhaustion, the point
when you don’t care about anything anymore. Annie seemed to
realize this and stayed silent for the rest of the patching-up
session. The only comment she made was when she saw my ribs.
"That looks nasty." She frowned. "I hope they aren’t broken.
Is it very painful?"
reply. I couldn’t remember a time without pain, so how could I
say whether it was very painful or not?
were finished – I swathed in thick bandages, Annie cleaning
her blood-covered hands – she led me to a small room under the
staircase. "It isn’t much," she apologized, motioning at the
small room with its single bed in it. "I hope you don’t mind."
flashed her a smile. Anything would have been great right now,
even a haystack. She disappeared for a moment, then came back
with a steaming bowl. "Here’s your dinner." She told me. "Eat
it and then go to bed. I can see that you’re dead on your
statement held more truth than she could have ever expected, I
thought wryly. Not only my body felt like it had been chewed
by something nasty and spat out again but my mind was in
uproar as well. Too much had happened in one day, and I
couldn’t process it all. I honestly believed that I wouldn’t
be able to sleep with all the thoughts going on in my head,
but when my head finally hit the pillow, I was out in seconds.
emptiness stayed with me even when I slept. It followed me
into my dreams, haunting me until I tossed and turned, unable
to find any rest. I had flashbacks of events that I couldn’t
remember, but none of them made sense. I saw a lot of machines
– huge, giant devices, with complicated blueprints and immense
power. In my dreams, these machines held an air of familiarity
around them. Why? I didn’t know.
voice screamed in my ear.
flinched, knowing that I couldn’t listen to it, knowing that I
needed all my concentration, or we would all die. The fire
roared loudly around me. Sweat trickled down my face, burning
in my eyes as I tried to see through the smoke. I was afraid,
horribly afraid, yet I kept going, straight into the fire.
God, it was so hot! The roaring flames licked at my suit,
trying to eat me alive.
stumbled onwards, until I tripped on something. I just barely
managed to catch myself – a fall would have been deadly under
these conditions – and let our a strong of curse words.
However, all my anger evaporated when I saw what exactly I had
It was a
put it nicely. It had been a person, once; but now I saw only
charred remains of a body and a face frozen in a never-ending
scream of pain.
down, even though I knew that it was fruitless, and checked
for a pulse. There was none to be found. I silently wept,
knowing that it had been my fault, that I had been too late –
I had been unable to save them, and now they were dead, just
because of me…
I woke up
crying. For the first few seconds, I was still entangled in my
dream, trying to get away. I thrashed around, which only
resulted in a wave of pain as I aggravated my wounds. Then I
recognized the tiny bedroom and calmed down, at least a
I wiped my
wet cheeks. Man. How embarrassing. Who cries in his sleep?
dream had been…worse than horrible. Because I knew that it
wasn’t a mere dream, it was a memory, something that connected
me to my past, yet I couldn’t make any sense out of it. What
about the fire? And the corpse on the ground?
Even now I
shuddered when I thought of the poor person that had died in
the fire. The feeling of guilt was overwhelming, nearly
crushing me. Was I too blame for the death? Was it my fault?
What had I done? Or worse, not done?
But if it
was my fault…then it meant I had killed a person! Did that
mean I was a criminal?
dropped at that thought. As much as I considered it, it seemed
to be the only possible explanation. My caution of the police,
the fact that I was alone and injured, the dreams, the sudden
flashes…I must have done something horrible. And when I was
fleeing from whoever hunted me, I had been caught in the
flood. Maybe I even went here on purpose, thinking that a
flood would be perfect to wipe out all tracks. But I probably
didn’t bargain with amnesia.
did that leave me? An escaped criminal who couldn’t turn to
woke up, though, the world looked a lot brighter. The little
room was lit by thin rays of sunlight that shone through the
door and a small window. I didn’t feel so tired anymore, but I
buried my head in the blankets anyway, just to seek comfort in
the warmth and softness of the covers. I really didn’t want to
face the day – I had the feeling it was going to be horrible.
soon as I was awake, memories started turning up, of the empty
town, the dreams, the car, Annie…and others, as well.
At first I
didn’t know what to make of them, but then I realised that
they were memories of my past life. Not proper ones, only
flashes of scenes, faces that I couldn’t place, names that had
wasn’t totally blank anymore; I even remembered events of my
childhood. Some were crystal clear, some were blurred and
couple of minutes, I just lay there, sorting through the mess
in my head, but even though I seemed to remember a lot
more, it didn’t really make sense. The connection was missing,
the big answer to everything – and I still didn’t know who I
disappointing, but I was still in a good mood when I got up.
I’d probably only need time; maybe I’d know more with each
passing day. I just had to be optimistic.
was looking for Annie, walking barefoot through the little
farm house, I curiously scanned my surroundings and looked out
of the windows. The sun was already up in the sky,
illuminating a scene that would have been peaceful if not for
the destruction that could be seen in the background.
though the farm lay on a hill, I could see the area that had
been flooded, or, in some cases, was still flooded. Objects
were scattered everywhere, things that had been swept away by
the raging torrents and were now lying on the meadows, under
the trees, on the roads. I saw a rocking chair hanging from a
tree, looking no worse to wear. It would have been funny,
hadn’t the situation been so serious.
away from the window, looking for my rescuers (now why did
that ring a bell?).
found Annie in the kitchen.
you’re awake!" she greeted me cheerfully and motioned me
inside. "Come on, I prepared breakfast for you." She dashed
through the small kitchen, hunting for cups and a plate with
smell coffee and relished the taste. Yesterday I wouldn’t have
known what it was, but today I remembered, and even better, I
remembered that I liked it black with sugar. Wow. You’re
better today," Annie observed and placed a steaming mug in
front of me. "Now, what do you want? We have fresh eggs –
that’s the good thing about having your own chickens – and
bread. Scrambled eggs? Do you like that?"
much, thank you." I replied gratefully and grabbed the mug. I
couldn’t see Howard anywhere; he was probably outside, working
on the farm or assessing the damage.
started working with the pan. "So, any improvement?" she asked
over her shoulder. For a moment I was puzzled, but then I
remembered that she knew about my condition.
"A bit. I
think I can remember…some things." I began, searching for the
right words. It was difficult to describe what was going on in
my head, since I didn’t even understand it myself. "It’s
like…flashes. They don’t make sense, really, and they aren’t
contacted in any way. Nothing that makes sense…"
trailed off as I remembered my night-time theory. Now, in the
broad daylight, I really couldn’t believe that I was an
escaped criminal. I didn’t feel like it. Shouldn’t I be
paranoid if that was the case? Instead I felt totally at home,
warm and comfortable. And I always imagined criminals to be
rough and rude, yet I had displayed manners – unconsciously –
and Annie seemed to like me.
is it you do remember?" Annie shook me out of my thoughts.
off the discomforting thoughts and turned towards her.
"Images. Some things I did when I was child." I frowned,
trying to explain the feeling. "It’s weird, for example I
remember a particular day when I was in class and had to give
a report, but I had left it at home and everybody laughed. No
idea why I remembered that – I must have been about seven
years old at that time." I took a sip of the warm liquid and
made a face. Uargh. I had forgotten the sugar. John might
prefer it that way, but then again, he had always been weird…
hell was John?
The name had slipped into my thinking with perfect ease, yet I
couldn’t associate a face with it. I tried to grasp the memory
that lurked at the edges of my consciousness. For a moment, I
nearly had it, but then it slipped my grasp and I was in the
darkness once again, frustrated and alone. Dammit!
sugar with that?"
barely aware of Annie’s worried frown. I was still trying to
place that name. It definitely sounded familiar. Maybe it was
discarded that thought. The thought had clearly been connected
to someone else, someone who liked his coffee black, without
sugar. A friend, maybe? A co-worker? A relative?
even realizing what I was doing, I poured sugar into my mug.
So this John person was one I knew, and quite well, if I knew
his coffee habit. Hmm. If I just knew his last name, I could
find out more about him. Maybe if I…
do like it sweet, don’t you, lad?" Annie interrupted my train
I stopped what I was doing. "What?"
answering, she just pointed at my mug. I looked down and
realized that I had poured half the bowl of sugar into my mug.
"Oh." I felt my cheeks redden. "Sorry…I was lost in thought."
seems." Annie chuckled. "If you don’t like it, I can brew you
some fresh coffee."
it’s fine." I waved it off and took a sip of the liquid. Ugh.
only remember events of your childhood?"
only." I stirred the coffee, trying to dissolve the sugar heap
on the bottom. "I know for a fact that I did – do – a lot with
cars, for example. I have a lot of flashbacks that involve me
sitting in a car, repairing a car, driving a car." Of course I
didn’t mention my theory of being a notorious car thief.
That wouldn’t have gone too well.
there always machines, big, powerful machines that I work
with. I don’t know what they are, but they look impressive." I
frowned at the coffee. Maybe it’d become sour if I looked at
it sourly enough. Or maybe not.
emptied the pan into a plate and placed it in front of me.
"Maybe you’re an engineer?"
"Engineer…" I spoke the word slowly, trying to taste the sound
of it. "No, I don’t think so." It did ring a bell,
sounded very familiar, but somehow, I couldn’t apply it to
myself. No, I knew for sure that I wasn’t an engineer. Hmm.
Maybe I worked with engineers? That sounded quite plausible,
thinking of the many machines I remembered.
I’m sure the police in Bell’s Gate will help you sort it out –
they’re usually quite efficient, even though it’s a small
station. Someone is bound to miss you, and even though you
might not recognize them, they’ll recognize you."
meant her words as assurance, but I didn’t feel assured at
all. Somehow, I didn’t like the fact that people would be able
to recognize me, whilst I didn’t have the slightest clue who
they were. There was this overwhelming need for secrecy
again…maybe I was a spy, a secret agent?
with that thought for a while, and then discarded it, amused
by my own foolishness. Even though I suffered from amnesia, I
remembered enough that those kinds of things only happened in
gone out to check the roads," Annie explained, sitting down
with her own mug of coffee. "If they’re clear, he’s going to
take you to the town. If they’re not, you might have to stay
for another day or two." She shrugged apologetically. "Our
road is not used much, and they’re going to clear the main
ones first, especially since there’s nobody in distress in our
okay." I replied, even though it wasn’t. I was itching to find
out more about myself, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to
get any information stuck on this farm. "I can give you a hand
around here – I don’t want to be a bother." The words left my
mouth before I even knew what I was saying.
being so self-centred and help other people for a change.
That’s called politeness."
clearly hear the voice in my head – gruff, annoyed,
exasperated – but when I tried to remember a matching face, I
came up blank. Interesting. So I had been taught to be polite,
or at least been scolded for not being so. Self-centred? Was I
more thing I had to find out.
that’s nice of you, dear!" Annie was clearly flattered by my
response. "But you shouldn’t exhaust yourself, you’re injured
and have experienced some very traumatic events. No, I
wouldn’t want you working, just relax. There’s a nice couch in
the living room, you can read some books, if you want – I’m
afraid that the television doesn’t work right now, because of
the flood." She paused. "Er – you can still read, can you?"
taken aback. "I…guess so?" I remembered the bar, and the
bottles. "I’m pretty sure I can."
then just settle down while I do the dishes and feed the
chickens. Howard should be back in an hour or so."
I really didn’t like the fact that she was working whilst I
was supposed to sit and do nothing – even though I hurt all
you’re a guest in this house!" Annie tutted and shoved me into
the living room. "It’s very gentleman-like of you, but I don’t
want it. Here, sit down."
manoeuvred me in the couch, where I sat down flabbergasted.
slow smile spread over my face and I shook my head. Somehow, I
had taken a liking to Annie; with her bustling energy, her
cheerful optimism and the motherly attitude, she had grown on
me and calmed some of my fears.
what she wanted, or she’d smack me with a broom.
was a funny image. I chuckled to myself and then sat back and
browsed through the books that were lying on the table. My eye
fell on the newspaper that was lying on the coffee table. It
dawned on me that I didn’t even know the date, so I quickly
took it and read the headlines. If I wanted to collect more
information about myself, this was the right place to begin.
Chapter Four: Midnight
57 minutes 31 seconds.
stared at the alarm clock. He knew that he should sleep, but
even though his arms and legs hurt with exhaustion, there was
no way he could fall asleep.
57 minutes 46 seconds.
how long Alan had been missing. Jeff had reordered them back
to base hours ago, insisting that they couldn’t do anymore
than the local search parties were doing. And besides,
International Rescue might be needed again.
hated him for that, even though he knew it was true. A
helicopter could just as well fly over the flooded area and
look for survivors as Thunderbird Two. But leaving meant
leaving his brother behind, and that was something he didn’t
like at all.
58 minutes 14 seconds.
redhead tossed around in his bed. As soon as he closed his
eyes, he saw the same scene over and over again – his brother,
dangling below him, trying to reach the boy, then the screams,
the sudden roar and the water, water everywhere, the wave
engulfing his brother. He had immediately activated the winch,
but it had been too late. The giant wave that swept through
the valley when the dam broke had reached his brother before
anyone could react.
the worst was over, all he could see was the empty harness. No
Alan. Just churning, dark water.
58 minutes 35 seconds.
58 minutes 35 seconds ago his brother had been swept away and
nobody had ever heard from him since.
What if he
even want to think about that. Alan was his partner in crime,
the one who stuck with him through all his crazy schemes, his
ally against his older brothers! As the two youngest, they had
always shared a special bond, trying to struggle against three
protective older brothers.
understood each other in the need to prove themselves. Whilst
it had been easier for Gordon (none of his older brother had
inherited his affinity for water), Alan had always struggled.
His hot temper didn’t make things any easier.
Why had he
taken off that harness? He had told him not to, but he
hadn’t listened, as usual…
Gordon had to admit that he would have done the same. It was
the only way to save the boy, the only way to reach him. In
moments like those, your own safety didn’t count – Alan
probably hadn’t even thought about it, had just done what was
necessary, even though he was in danger himself.
gambled and lost.
had been forced to watch how both rescuer and boy had been
swept away, swallowed by the rushing water. He remembered how
he had screamed until he was hoarse, desperately looking for a
sign of his brother, anything…but with the rain and the
mud, it had been nearly impossible. By the time they had
recovered enough to look for the signal of his watch, it was
watches weren’t indestructible, they knew that from painful
experiences, but the thought of how it had been destroyed made
him feel sick. In the raging torrent, it was very possible
that Alan had been smashed against a tree, or one of the
flooded buildings…or he could have been dragged into in an
underwater current that kept him under until he couldn’t
he hated his imagination.
better be okay." Gordon grumbled and turned around yet again.
Then he couldn’t bear it any longer and swept the covers
aside. Maybe some hot chocolate would help him settle down –
or at least calm his thoughts.
tapped through the corridor, trying not to wake anybody. But
he needn’t have bothered. When he reached the kitchen, the
lights were already on. Gordon wasn’t too surprised to see
Scott sitting there and stirring his hot chocolate, a gloomy
expression on his face. It was a well-known fact that the
eldest didn’t sleep particularly well, especially after a
rescue had gone haywire.
smiled softly and plopped down on the chair opposite to Scott.
"I kind of expected you to be here."
too." The dark-haired Tracy smiled back and shook his head. "I
simply can’t sleep while he’s still out there, hurt and
that." Gordon shook his head.
what might have happened. Imagine what’s he doing right now –
or rather not doing." He propped his head in his hands. "I’ve
been doing that for the last two hours, and believe me, it
doesn’t improve things at all."
probably right." Scott pinched the bridge of his nose. "That’s
a first one."
Gordon was indignant. "Just because Methusaleh here is already
forgetting the many occasions on which I made a brilliant
comment, starting everyone with my overwhelming intellect…"
"Is that a
private party or can anyone join?" An amused voice sounded
from the doorway, interrupting Gordon’s monologue.
brothers turned around to see Virgil, who seemed as tired and
drawn as them, clad in pyjamas, hair a mess.
down." Scott motioned to the seats. "Gordon was just telling
me what an insufferable prick he is…"
somebody needs to recheck his ears…"
ignored the good-natured banter between his brothers. "Hot
chocolate?" he asked, noticing the nonexistent cup in front of
please, that would be nice."
nodded busied himself with preparing the hot liquid. Nobody of
them really wanted to say anything, but they all knew that
their thoughts were circling around the same topic.
it would take up to one week to clear all the roads in the
valley." Scott said, stirring his by now cold drink. "I really
hope they find him before that."
tough." Virgil replied, pouring milk into two mugs and placing
them into the microwave. "He’s got nine lives, like a cat. If
anyone can survive this without a scratch, I bet it’s him.
Remember the rescue in the French alps? We thought he was dead
for sure, but he received only a broken ankle…and drove us mad
afterwards because he was grounded."
grinned weakly and shook his head. He didn’t want to say it
aloud, but he had seen his brother before he was swept
away, and that had terrified him. It would be a miracle for
him to be unhurt…and besides, why wasn’t he contacting them?
Over half a day had passed without a message from him. The
only explanations were either that he was stuck somewhere and
had no way to reach them…or that he was injured and couldn’t
(physically) call them…or that he was stuck at some make-shift
hospital, unconscious, without any identification on him. They
had John looking for reports of John Does, but so far, no
matching description had appeared.
sighed. "Well, Dad’s right – worrying about it won’t help at
all. We need to be alert and fit in case we’re needed."
snorted. "You know as well as I that none of us can sleep."
we should damn well try." Scott replied seriously, slipping
back into his commander mode.
Gordon sipped his chocolate. "But before I do that, I need to
get a bit of fresh air. I think I’m going for a walk." He
looked down at himself. "Ah, but I might get out of my PJs
before that…" he mumbled to himself as he stood up abruptly,
heading into the direction of his room.
startled his brothers. "Gordon, you…" Scott began, before he
was shushed by Virgil.
the pilot of Thunderbird Two whispered, looking at Gordon’s
retreating back. "I think he needs it."
like it…" Scott relented, but gave in anyway.
to understand him, Scott; he was the one who saw it happening.
I bet he’s blaming himself."
not his fault! It was Alan who made the mistake and took off
the harness because he couldn’t reach the boy…"
a calming hand on Scott’s arm. "I know. And I bet deep inside
he knows as well. But guilt is a funny thing; and with Alan
missing, it’s not going to improve."
hesitated and nodded, rubbing his face with his hands. "God,
what a mess."
about sums it up, yes." Virgil glanced out of the window, at
the dark sea that seemed almost black during the night. There
was no wind, and barely any waves, yet he could still hear the
calming sound of the ocean.
around to face his brother, who had a forlorn look on his
face. "Now tell me what’s on your mind."
Scott was startled. "What?"
you. You’re in one of your dark moods. So tell me what’s up."
it’s just…" The dark-haired Tracy sighed and ran a hand
through his hair. "I yelled at him this morning."
raised an eyebrow. "Scott, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but
you yell at Alan on a daily basis."
It’s just…he pushes all my buttons without even realizing it,
and suddenly we’re yelling and he storms off…it’s just, I hate
the fact that he’s gone missing and the last words I said to
him were spoken in anger. And they weren’t very kind words."
sucks," Virgil agreed. "And I can understand why you’re
feeling down. Alan can be a prat, everybody of us knows that,
and he’s too stubborn for his own good. But Scott, it takes
two to fight, and you know that he usually sees reason once he
has calmed down."
if he…I mean, what if he doesn’t…"
stopped him. "No. Don’t even go there. ‘What ifs’ don’t help
you, Scott Tracy, they only make your life miserable. You
fought with Alan, period. What’s done is done and no amount of
moping will change that."
shook his head. "No buts. Alan knows that he’s important to
us; we all do. We’re a family – fights are bound to happen.
You and Alan, you’re both extremely stubborn, that’s why you
clash against each other so often. He feels he needs to prove
himself, you want to protect him. Fights are bound to happen.
But, Scott, it has always been that way and will always be.
Don’t put yourself down just because you separated in anger;
concentrate on finding him instead."
would be easier if there was something to do." Scott grumbled.
his younger brother sighed. "Waiting is always the worst
in silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts, while the
clock was still ticking, counting the seconds, unaware of the
grief it was causing.
26 minutes 37 seconds
no sign of Alan.
Chapter Five: Nightmares
passed slowly, as I tried desperately to make myself useful
and keep the worried thoughts at bay. Howard had come back
mid-morning, telling us the bad news that the road wasn’t
cleared and I had to stay at least another day. I hated it,
but I tried not to let my feelings show, since it wasn’t their
fault. But I couldn’t hide my frustration, and so Annie
ordered me to go outside and get some fresh air.
devastating storm that had caused the flood, the sky was clear
and blue, not even the slightest wind moving the trees. I had
spent the morning indoors, reading the newspaper and pressing
Annie for information, for anything that would help me solve
the mystery that was my life.
over the empty valley. So many people had lost their homes,
and I didn’t even want to think of those who had died. The
thought filled me with anger, and somehow, with guilt, as if
it was partly my fault. As if I…should have done something.
my aching side. Walking had helped to loosen the sore muscles,
but it still hurt when I moved too quickly or bent over.
I sat down on a tree log and looked back at the small farm
house. It was time to bring some order into my jumbled
all: assess the situation.
that I could do. Now, my situation was…extremely particular. I
was stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere and had to wait
for the roads to be cleared. Not much to say about that.
knew…certain things. Like driving a car, repairing a car and –
funnily enough – stealing and hot-wiring a car. I also seemed
to understand about technology. So far my guess was that I
must have been working with technology. Not an engineer. Not a
had a familiar ring to it, but it didn’t hit the nail
completely. Maybe I had worked as a mechanic, but had stopped
for various reasons?
Or maybe –
the idea scared me – I needed to be a mechanic for my
profession as a car thief?
the ease with which I had hot-wired the car with had to count
for something! Hell, I hadn’t even thought about it, it just
had happened, like…like I did it so often that I didn’t have
to think about it anymore. A habit.
in frustration. This wasn’t really helping much – I was
turning in circles. Seemed as if I had to keep the master
criminal theory in mind and be extremely careful. I was still
hoping that more memories would come my way as the time
had finally found an end and we were sitting around the dinner
table in peaceful silence. Well, up until now. Howard had
turned a questioning gaze towards me.
fine." I replied shortly, not wanting to elaborate further.
improvements on the memories?"
remembered the dreams I had had and flinched. If my past
included dead people in a burning house, I wasn’t all so sure
whether I wanted to remember it or not.
noticed my depressed sigh. "Now, I’m sure you’ll remember as
soon as you’re back among people again. Then you can talk with
the police, watch the news, and visit a doctor. I’m sure they
can tell you more about the amnesia."
think it’s that bad that I need to see a doctor," I
immediately relented, remembering my criminal theory. "I mean,
the amnesia seems only partial and I think in a couple of days
I will have regained my memories."
besides, I don’t want some doctor to snoop through my past and
find things I wouldn’t want to be found.
for my injuries, I’ve had worse." The sentence left my mouth
before my brain could even think it. I blinked
surprised. How had I known that? But it was true – I had been
injured worse. A couple of bruises and scratches was nothing
to be worried about.
however, seemed to disagree. "Amnesia is usually caused by a
head wound, and head wounds aren’t to be taken lightly. You
should still see a doctor, just to be on the safe side."
don’t even have a headache," I complained, surprised at the
whininess in my tone. Apparently, I didn’t like taking orders.
Well, who does? "And besides, there are several causes for
amnesia, I believe---a severe trauma, for example…" My voice
trailed off. It really confused me that I came up with the
weirdest bits of knowledge, but had no idea where it came
"I say we
discuss this further when we’re actually in the town and
standing in front of the hospital," Annie declared firmly,
successfully cutting off our conversation. "Now, does anyone
want more bread?"
doing basically nothing for the whole day, it took me a while
until I was able to fall asleep. My head was whirling with
thoughts and half-baked theories about who I was. To my great
frustration, none of them made sense, and the awaited ‘click’
– the moment when everything slid into place – didn’t come. I
guess it was no surprise that my night wouldn’t be a restful
dreams, they didn’t make sense, but felt terribly real
nonetheless. I saw myself floating, the feeling of
weightlessness being overwhelming to me. I was so carefree,
so…so far away from everything else. I chuckled and laughed
until someone told me to get back to work.
for God’s sake, just grow up, will you?" A strange and yet
familiar voice complained, dripping heavy with contempt. "Your
behaviour was absolutely foolish!"
sitting somewhere – on a couch, I believe – and gritting my
teeth in anger. One part of me knew that this voice was right,
but there was another part of me that fought with stubborn
insistence – I had had my reasons for my behaviour, and I was
angry that the ‘voice’ didn’t even bother to ask. Instead, it
had simply assumed…
came like flashes, not connected in anyway, just…snippets of
my former life, flashbacks, cut-outs, nothing that would
really help me. Most of them were quite nasty memories,
the nice memories hazy, almost pale compared to the other
ones. I wasn’t sure whether it was because I didn’t have
any good memories, or because negative emotions are more
THE HELL OUT OF THERE!" A voice bellowed, the angry tone
underlined with worry and fear. I ran, scrambled, fell to the
ground and coughed as dust entered my lungs. Everything around
me groaned, and then the whole building shuddered – yes,
shuddered! – and the walls started breaking. I knew I was
going to be buried alive, knew that I was going to die…
and turned, trying to get rid of the nightmares, but I
wouldn’t – couldn’t wake up, had to relieve every single
painful memory to the end.
can’t be compromised in any way. You know why our organisation
has to be kept a secret. And I trust you to act accordingly."
echoed through my head with sudden clarity, my thoughts
swirling around the ‘why’s’ when slowly, sleep caught me again
and threw me into another nightmare.
floating again, but this time, I couldn’t breathe. Fear clawed
at my heart, as slowly the light disappeared from my eyes and
I sank deeper into the abyss. I wanted to fight, to struggle,
to do anything, but…my limbs, like lead, not moving, dangling
and then it burned, burned down my lungs and I still couldn’t
breathe. Red spots appeared in front of my vision, everything
becoming blurry. Then, through the haze of greyness, I could
see the boy. His face was deathly white and his eyes wide open
– unseeing, staring at me. He was dead, and I was going to die
and the water rushed into my lungs, burning, hurting, pure
times I woke up, gasping and sweating, torn by the nightmares.
Once I found myself crying, my cheek slick with tears and my
body convulsing in huge, wracking sobs. I didn’t know why;
there was just this feeling of loss, of loneliness and
pain, being misunderstood, being patronized. I was mortified –
how could I be so weak and actually cry? – and quickly dried
my tears, promising myself not to think about it anymore.
was empty. I walked – no, stormed – along the shore, hot anger
pursing through my veins. How…how could he! Treat me like
that, as if I was a child. I cursed, shouted profanities at
the waves. They continued to roll towards the shore, undaunted
by my fury. I calmed down a bit and sat down on the ground,
letting the white sand run through my fingers. Behind me, the
cries of the gulls made an intriguing, if rather loud and
atonal concert. The sky was wide and blue, and I looked up and
smiled. Despite everything that had happened, I loved this
place with all my heart.
morning saw the exhausted and bedraggled, as I dragged myself
to the breakfast table. Annie poured me coffee without a
question and then sat down to send me a concerned glance. "Any
remembered the haunting nightmares and shuddered. "Not very
good ones," I admitted and took a sip of the hot liquid. Gah.
Definitely needed more sugar. "I seem to have led a dangerous
was an understatement. My nightmares had portrayed several
occasions when my life had been dangling over the edge –
literally – and worse, other people’s lives seemed to have
been included as well. This thought worried me; the memories
were sketchy at best, but in most of them, people had been by
that sentence, spoken in a gruff voice, telling me about the
dangers of being compromised. To me, that sounded perfectly
like some mafia boss, trying to keep his crimes a secret. So,
where did I fit into that scheme?
you’re young," Annie said brightly. "The young people of today
seem to enjoy dangerous sports such as bungi jumping and
surfing and parachuting…"
"It’s called bungee jumping, Annie, and nobody says
parachuting…sky diving is a better word, I believe."
You know enough to correct me!" She beamed at me. "I bet you
were doing a lot of these things. Though I wonder why you were
in our valley then – it’s a pretty quiet place."
climbing, maybe?" Howard took some toast and spread jam on it.
He didn’t say much, but when he uttered words, they were
always very carefully placed and well thought out.
Actually, that didn’t sound totally off. I imagined myself
dangling off a vertical rock wall. Yep, I was pretty sure I
could do that. "You know, I think you might be right with
that." I said slowly, reaching for the jam myself.
uneasy feeling didn’t quite leave my stomach. I knew that my
memories weren’t from occasions when I had done something for
fun and – maybe – the adrenaline. No, the fear I had
remembered (and felt) during the night was real; fear for my
life, for the lives of other people.
mention it, though; no need to bother Annie and Howard with my
anxieties. "So, do you reckon the roads are clear today?" I
asked instead, munching happily (the raspberry jam was
should be." Howard spread out his hands. "They usually are on
the second day. We can leave at around ten and have lunch at
town. What do you think of that?"
great." I enthused and paused, feeling compelled to say more.
"I’m really grateful for your help, you know..." I began
awkwardly, but Annie just waved it off.
would have done the same, dear." She declared loftily. "And
besides, I couldn’t leave such a good-looking young man
without my help now, could I?"
started burning. "Erm…well…"
turned gazed at me seriously. "Just ignore her. Annie has
always been a bit, well, not right in the head."
was tempted to believe him for a moment him until I saw the
mirth in his eyes.
punched him in the shoulder. "Howard, it’s not nice to make
fun of the boy when he can’t even remember his own name!"
you’re any better, trying to flirt with him, at your age."
the banter surprised and after a while amused. The two
bickered on and off, neither of them taking the other
seriously. There was such a feeling of, well, belonging to
each of them, that I felt humbled and a bit sad. They
obviously had been together a long time, and were still in
brought my train of thoughts to an entirely other thing. Did I
have a significant other as well? Because if I did, I couldn’t
remember her at all. Nothing. And my dreams hadn’t shown a
loving person…well, the logical conclusion was that I was
single. Handsome I might be, tied down obviously not.
Or maybe I
did have someone – somewhere – and I just couldn’t remember.
The idea was even worse. To think that there might be a person
waiting for me, but I didn’t come, because I couldn’t even
remember her name, yet alone the fact that she existed.
Dejectedly, I nibbled at my toast. Somehow, the raspberry jam
didn’t taste that great anymore.
morning passed uneventfully and when we finally left in
Howard’s truck, my mood had improved a bit. The road was
mostly free of debris, and the few remaining pieces we could
easily clear ourselves. Thoughtful Howard had taken some tools
with him, so it really wasn’t a problem.
ride took as about one and half hours, although Howard told me
it could usually be done in about forty minutes.
The town –
Bell’s Gate – was bustling with people. I could see army
trucks, a lot of tents and information centres for people who
were searching for missing relatives. Police cars and
ambulance folk were everywhere, trying to get some order into
the chaos. The town itself had been spared from the disaster,
lying on a slight elevation – only the allotments had been
there’s the hospital." Annie declared and pointed a collection
of huge tents. "Bell’s Gate is too small for a real hospital –
they have a medical station with about ten beds – but that’s
the area where you’ll find doctors that can help you, and
where the helicopter lands for the more serious injuries."
the tents with distrust. I really didn’t want to go there and
get examined, but Annie insisted on it. But I managed to
convince her that company wasn’t needed (a fake blush, some
incoherent mumbling and the job was well-done) and we arranged
a time where we would meet each other for lunch.
weaved through the crowd, wondering whether I should really
see a doctor. I didn’t really want to, and I didn’t think I’d
need it. By now I was pretty sure that none of my ribs were
broken, just bruised. I hadn’t had any headache today and all
my wounds were healing quickly. No need to consult a doctor –
they were certainly stressed enough as it was. And besides, I
didn’t like doctors. Not at all.
I couldn’t remember my favourite food, yet I knew a lot of
things I disliked – hospitals, unsweetened coffee, waiting,
the best way to gather information was to blend with the crowd
and listen to the conversations. I stayed in the shadows,
though, after all I didn’t know how famous my face was.
soon I found a lively discussion of about five people, all of
them retelling the events of the flood and afterwards. I
strode towards them. "Mind if I listen for a bit?" I asked,
doing my best to smile nicely. "I haven’t found my relatives
yet, and I’d like to know more about what happened."
speaker – a middle-aged man with glasses and a cut on his face
– looked at me doubtfully and them smiled tiredly. "Of course.
We’re all waiting for someone. Join the queue." The words were
spoken in jest, yet there was a sadness hanging in the air
that was almost tangible.
heard any news," I began hesitantly, "I was on a farm and we
didn’t have phone or TV connections…so…how bad was it? Did
many people die?"
could have been much worse," a woman exclaimed, her red hair
in a tight bun. She was standing close to a teenage girl,
probably her daughter. "So far, they found about four bodies.
I think there are some people missing, but there are many
spots where they could be. Many more are injured, but most
injuries aren’t severe. Broken bones, concussions, bruises,
and a few that nearly drowned."
nodded and continued. "But many houses got damaged, some even
fell down because the foundations were washed away. The whole
valley is a place of destruction. It’s going to take months to
repair all this…"
were lucky." The red-haired woman stabbed into the air to
emphasize her point. "If International Rescue hadn’t arrived,
the people of the outlying farms and houses wouldn’t have been
rescued. They really saved a lot of lives."
"International Rescue?" I frowned, remembering dimly that the
name had been mentioned before.
awesome!" The teenage girl exclaimed. "I saw them! They came
with their aircraft and rescued all those people. The one with
the rocket landed in this town, near the market place, and he
coordinated the rescue."
damn good job of it," the bespectacled man added gruffly.
heroes in blue." The girl agreed dreamily and I smiled. She
seemed very smitten with those heroes – whoever they might be.
smiled. "I would love to talk to one of them personally, just
to say thank you. They did so much for us…"
did they actually rescue those people?" I wanted to know,
cutting off the hero-worship they were starting. Nice it might
be, but it didn’t really help my situation. "I haven’t seen
they came with their Thunderbirds of course, and the big green
one, Thunderbird Two – an impressive aircraft, but such
an ugly colour – helped to retrieve the people who were cut
off by the water. They did it just in time before the dam
broke. Just like proper heroes."
had the impression that the pilot of said aircraft wouldn’t be
very happy about her comment. An ugly colour indeed.
thought quickly flashed quickly through my mind and left me
smiling (though I didn’t know why).
for a while, throwing in questions when I dared to ask them,
silently collecting information. Then the woman saw her
husband and disappeared, not before flashing me a huge smile.
I said good-bye to the man with the glasses and left as well,
wandering through the crowd.
What was I
supposed to do now? Go to the register and tell them that I
was looking for relatives? They’d ask for my name and then the
secret would be out. Maybe they’d take a photo, sending it
around for everybody to see. If I really was a criminal, I
couldn’t take that chance.
almost imagine myself at the registration. "Excuse me, I
don’t know my name, but I believe I’m dangerous. Could you
maybe help me?"
if that would work.
options remained? I didn’t have any money. There had to be a
bank account somewhere, but without memories, it might as well
be non-existent. Without money, I wouldn’t even be able to
reach the next city. I didn’t know what I could do, so finding
a job was out of question. I remembered a bit more with each
passing day, but not enough to know about family or friends –
people I could trust. Maybe that John person, but how could I
way I turned it, I was screwed. Royally so.
quite depressed by the time I wandered back to where I was
supposed to meet Annie and Howard. They were looking at me
expectantly. I spread my arms helplessly. "No improvement."
the doctors say?"
Frantically I searched for an explanation. I didn’t want to
tell them that I hadn’t been to the doctor’s; somehow, it
seemed ungrateful. Yeah, and as if lying to them is any
fine," I babble. "The head injury is not serious, not even a
concussion. They can’t do anything about the amnesia, though;
such things usually take time."
Annie looked disappointed. "So, did they at least contact your
couldn’t." I swallowed hard. "I don’t know my name! There are
many people missing, and even more people looking for them.
No. I have to look for them myself. The authorities can’t do
anything; they’re overwhelmed as it is."
nodded seriously. "So what are you going to do now?"
my mouth to reply, hesitated, and shook my head. "No idea. I
don’t have any money, I don’t know where to go, I’m…clueless.
I thought about travelling to a big city; somewhere close to
the sea – I saw a beach in my dreams, you know – and, well,
try to find more about myself. Maybe work with cars for a bit;
I seem to have a soft spot for them."
it occurred to me that it wasn’t fair to burden those people
with my problems. They had done so much to help me already;
they didn’t deserve to have to listen to my personal crap as
Howard exchanged meaningful glances. "You could visit our son,
Martin. He works in a big city about one hour from here, as a
police officer. I’m sure he would help you and offer you a
place to stay."
I protested immediately. "You can’t…you’ve already done so
much, I don’t want to be a burden. Don’t worry, I’ll find a
way, somehow. I’m tough. I’m sure there’s a possibility…"
"Nonsense." Howard interrupted me gruffly. "You don’t have any
money, son; you can’t even reach the next city when you’re
unable to pay the bus fare."
moment, I felt hot anger race through me – how dare he treat
me like a kid! – but then I deflated quickly as I realised
that he was right. "But…"
Annie was quite firm. "We can lend you the money, and I’m sure
Martin and his wife will help you. Do you honestly expect us
to leave you on your own?"
spluttered. "I can’t accept that!"
insist. And you don’t have another choice. You can always
repay us when you’ve regained your memory, and maybe pay us a
right. I really didn’t have another choice. But just taking
their money felt so...cheap. They had already done so much
for. If I really was a criminal, then they had been helping me
escape...and even more so by giving me money.
do, what to do?
I wrung my
hands in agitation, paused as I saw a flicker of light and
noticed the band on my finger. The signet ring! I had totally
forgotten about it. It looked quite valuable, so maybe...
can give you my ring!"
pulled the band off. "I don’t know how much it’s worth, but
take it as a sign that I’m going to pay you back."
looked startled at the small piece of jewellery. "Oh no!" she
exclaimed horrified. "I couldn't take something from you –
this ring might be the only link to your past! I would never
forgive myself. No, dear, we will lend you the money, give you
our address and phone number (even though it's useless with
the lines down) and you call us as soon as you get any news,
forcefully shoved the ring back onto my finger. I watched
helplessly, once again flabbergasted by the amount of energy
this tiny woman seemed to possess. "Come on, let's head for
the bus stop." She dragged me away from the depressing
'hospital', Howard following demurely behind.
like Martin," Annie babbled, while we were moving through the
crowds. "He's our second oldest and a dear, just like you.
I'll bet you'll get along just fine! And since he's with the
police, he might be able to help you. Isn't that great?" She
sounded perfectly elated, while I felt more panicked with each
passing minute. I couldn't very well tell this cop what I was
suspecting about myself. Sooner or later, he would ask
questions. Questions like 'So, and how did you reach my
parent’s farm? Oh, with a car? So, was it your car? No? So how
did you...oh, you hot-wired it? Very interesting
indeed...' And then he'd call his cop friends and arrest me.
didn't want to experience that. And I really hated the way my
imagination was running overdrive, coming up with all kinds of
had to escape this place. I didn't belong to Bell's Gate, that
much was sure; and it was easier to blend in a big city. Once
I was on my own, I would be able to figure everything out. I
just needed to leave. As much as I liked Annie and
Howard, I couldn't misuse their hospitality any longer. I
might even be a danger to them. If my dreams were any
indication, disaster just seemed to follow me. So no, I didn't
want their house to catch fire or something equally horrible.
finally accepted the money and the hastily scribbled address
of their son. I managed to explain that I wanted to look on my
own first, but I promised sincerely that I would visit Martin
of things got hairy or I was out of money (After all, so I
concluded, their definition of 'hairy' might be different from
mine. I, for one, had no intention of calling Martin).
wrote down Annie's and Howard's address. I fully intended to
pay them back as soon as I got some money of my own. They had
saved me when I thought I was lost, and they gave me a feeling
of warmth in the middle of disaster. For that alone they
deserved a medal of honour.
just shrugged off my thanks and pressed a couple of bills into
my hand. "Here. That should be enough for the bus ride and a
couple of nights in a motel. Take care."
It was a
lot more money than I expected. Once more, I opened my mouth
to protest, but all words died in my throat when I saw his
kind, weather-worn face. "Thank you." I said instead, meaning
it with every fibre of my being.
welcome." He smiled briefly and fell silent again.
the other had, had tears in her eyes. "Please call us as soon
as you know something!" she sniffed and took my hands in hers.
"I couldn't stand for you to be hurt in any way; you looked so
lost and alone when you appeared on our farm. I really hope
that you find your family again; they must be missing you
uncomfortably. "Thank you, Annie. You were very kind. I...I
can't describe how much your smile meant to me."
I couldn't explain it. When I had been utterly alone on this
planet, I had found this old couple and they had taken me in.
I still couldn't remember, but knowing that they were ready to
help and support me made things a lot easier. I wanted to tell
Annie how much she had helped, how much she had done for my
emotional roller coaster ride, but I was unable to articulate
didn't mind. She smiled through the tears, and I had the
impression that she understood anyway. "I wish you the best of
luck, darling. You're going to need it."
Chapter Six: A Gentle Melody
was not a patient man. He never had been. Waiting seemed like
a waste of time, time that could be spent doing much more
useful things. It was this attitude that had brought him this
far, that had made his business a success and allowed
International Rescue to work.
he wasn't patient, he found himself sitting over reports at
one o'clock in the morning. He couldn't sleep – why not use
the time to work on some Tracy company business? At least it
distracted him from thinking about Alan.
youngest son had been missing for over 36 hours now. They had
followed every bit of news of the flood, John monitoring all
the communications in that area. Quite a lot of missing people
had been found by now – either alive or dead – but none
matched Alan's description. His son seemed to have dropped
from the face of this earth.
of course, always the possibility that his body was still
stuck somewhere underwater. The thought scared Jeff more than
he wanted to admit.
And if he
was alive, why hadn't he contacted them yet? Local authorities
had raised temporary phone lines so that people could contact
their relatives. It would be easy for Alan to use one of those
– or his wrist watch – or communicate with Thunderbird Five.
There were so many possibilities. The fact that none of them
had been used could mean only two things: Either Alan was
dead, or he was so injured that he was still unconscious.
of his youngest being stuck in some makeshift hospital with no
sort of identification on him made him sick. They should
recognize the uniform, at least; but so far, none of the
doctors had called in and told about any blonde young men with
mysterious blue uniforms.
And it was
driving his father nearly mad. The not-knowing was the worst;
the constant thinking about 'what ifs', the wondering, the
brothers weren't fairing any better. Scott hadn't slept a wink
in the 36 hours. Gordon was constantly on edge, and when he
wasn't swimming, he was hiding in his room, very unusual
behaviour for the outgoing prankster. John worked feverishly
on the communications, but came up with nothing, and the
strain was beginning to show in the dark circles under his
eyes. Virgil...Virgil played the piano for hours, trying to
ease his worries with music. It didn't seem to be working.
Tin-Tin, well the poor girl was a wreck; Alan's disappearance
was hitting her hard. There hadn't been a time he hadn't seen
her crying in the last day and a half. She was devastated; a
fact Jeff could relate to only too well.
he leant back and looked at the picture in front of him. It
was a simple passport photo of Alan, nondescript and bland, of
the type used on official forms. His youngest looked
uncharacteristically solemn, the blonde hair mussed, and the
blue eyes gazing intently at the photographer. Jeff preferred
photos in which Alan smiled – he looked much younger if he
did, cheeky and optimistic. But for what he was planning, this
had to do.
was time to do something. Jeff stood up, sighed one more time
and then walked to the vid-phone. He needed to make some
Dive. Stroke. Preserve energy. Stroke again. Come up for
glittered around him. Tracy Island lay in perfect peace; the
sun standing high in the blue sky, the weather warm and
couldn't remember how long he had been swimming. He had lost
count after the first 150 laps. But it didn't really matter.
He wasn't doing laps for training. He was trying to distract
himself, trying to calm his mind.
had always been his release. Under water, everything was so
different. The sounds, the feelings, the motion...it was much
more relaxed. He loved the silence under water. It was
perfect. So unlike the hustle and bustle on land.
always teased him about it. His little brother loved noise,
revelled in it. Be it loud music, the humming of engines, or
just the throbbing pulse of life...and whilst he had nothing
against swimming (and even liked diving), he couldn't
understand Gordon's fascination with it.
boring?" he would always say, shaking his head. "Just doing
lap after lap. It's always the same. Nothing changes. And you
do hundreds of them!"
wrong he was. It was never the same. Sure, sometimes it got
tedious. Back in his Olympic days, there had been phases when
he had hated it. 300 laps and still not enough? It had been
enough to drive him crazy.
afterwards, it always felt good. The first couple of laps were
the worst, but then he would work himself into a kind of
trance. He was moving on autopilot and his mind wandered. It
was soothing, relaxing, and very good when he really had to
think about a problem.
helped him with girl troubles in his teenage years; nowadays,
it made it a lot easier to deal with the aftermath of
end of the pool. Roll. Dive. Stroke. Come up for breath.
so close, and yet so different. As the two youngest, they had
been forced to work together – how else could they have fought
against the older brothers? They shared the same humour, the
same love for pranks, yet they were entirely different in some
smiled inwardly. Hell, there had been a time when Alan had
been afraid of water! Granted, he had only been little,
but Gordon had loved water ever since he had been born.
He had hated it, had refused to learn swimming, had cried in
their rare holidays when they went near the beach.
things seemed to change.
Alan's disappearance had been caused by water.
stopped at the end of the pool and lifted himself up. No, he
couldn't think that way. It was making him all bitter, and
afraid, and ironic. He needed to be optimistic. He needed to
most of all, he needed his brother back.
shouldn't do that." Virgil reprimanded gently.
video screen on the wall, John was looking at him out of
bleary eyes. "What?"
please." The blonde astronaut laughed bitterly and took a sip
out of his mug. Coffee. Black. Just as he liked it. He must
have consumed litres of it, judging from the twitching muscle
under his eye. "As if things down there were any different."
refrained from commenting. They weren't. Scott wasn't
sleeping, Gordon was never to be seen, Tin-Tin hadn't stopped
crying, and his father had buried himself in work.
shook his head. "But John...you're alone on Thunderbird Five."
tired smile flickered over John's face. "But I can't leave my
post. I'm the only one who might hear something, don't you
understand? If they find him, they're going to contact me!"
Virgil couldn't understand how his brother did it. He at least
had the comfort of his family. John was stuck up there on his
own, with only cold space for company. He knew from his own
experience how lonely it could get on Thunderbird Five. Those
were the times he desperately missed his piano – the only item
that would have made him forget the cold space around the
going to play?" John asked, interrupting his train of thought.
course. You know me."
Another tired smile.
mind...would you mind if I listened for a bit?" The question
was hesitant, almost afraid.
looked at his brother in surprise. He didn't mind if others
listened to him practising, but then again, they never asked.
For John to be so outspoken was rare. Almost like a request,
he realized, and understood. John was as worried as the rest
of them, and being alone didn't help.
be glad of your company." He strode to the piano, looking back
over his shoulder. John could see him from the vid-screen in
the lounge. Good. He liked to have a bit of space around him
when he played.
you going to play?" John queried from the wall.
flexed his fingers. "Moonlight sonata. Beethoven."
Recognition flickered in John's eyes. "Very fitting."
exchanged a knowing look. Then Virgil began to play the solemn
piece, his eyes half-closing as his fingers slid over the
keys. The song was very slow, but beautiful. It didn't have a
lot of fancy chords or embellishments; in fact it was very
simple. He remembered what one of his teachers had once said;
that it was either the easiest or the most difficult piece of
music that existed. Easy because the technique was simple and
easy to acquire; difficult because in order to play it right,
one needed to know his piano inside out, needed to feel the
soul of the music and pour everything into it.
his eyes completely. His body swayed rhythmically as he
played, lost in his own little world.
listened in silence while he continued to monitor the
communications. Virgil had always been a wonderful pianist,
but today the Moonlight Sonata was especially beautiful. Maybe
because of what he was feeling. After all, the music seemed to
reflect the mood they were all in.
smile appeared on Tin-Tin's face as she heard the familiar
notes echo through the villa. She knew the tune as well, had
listened to it during quiet moments when she needed to relax,
or when she was too worried to sleep. She was used to worry.
Every time the boys went off on a rescue and things got hairy,
she worried. It was perfectly natural – after all, they were
her brothers in all but blood!
exception of Alan. He was an entirely different topic.
Hot-headed and impulsive, he had worked his way into her
knowing where he was, whether he was injured or not, was
killing her. She needed to know.
okay," she whispered and looked at her hands forlornly. "You
are far too stubborn to give up. I know you. A bit of water
doesn't scare you. You're going to be fine."
wouldn't cry again. She had done enough crying for now. She
didn't even know yet...she would save her tears, for later,
for a time when she might need them. If...when...No. Tin-Tin
refused to even think of such a time. It would not happen.
she would be strong. She would stop crying and be strong. She
would show that she was a Tracy in both spirit and heart; and
she would stand by Alan.
music drifted through the air like a dream, a gentle melody of
sadness and hope.
Chapter Seven: Flashes of a Former
ride had been cramped, uncomfortable and far too long. A lot
of people were trying to get out of their valley; people who
had lost their homes, who wanted to get away, who had nothing
right at home with them. The atmosphere was depressing and by
the time we reached the city, I was in a very dark mood. The
loss and the despair were almost tangible; and for the first
time I started fearing that I might be the same; that maybe,
there was nothing left for me. Maybe I didn't have a home to
return to. Maybe I didn't have any people who loved me.
It was a
devastating thought. Being so utterly alone...fending for
myself, with nobody to care for me if I got hurt in any way...
that I was steering into a full-blown depression and quickly
abandoned that train of thought. At least there were people
who liked me – Annie and Howard, for example – for now, that
had to be enough.
stepped off the bus, everything was loud. And smelly. The city
was big, and since it was around five o'clock on the
afternoon, full of people and cars. Rush hour.
around the main bus station. It seemed as if everybody beside
me had a purpose or knew at least a place to go. I felt a bit
Howard said? Look for a motel. And the next day, for his son,
Martin. The first one I could do, the latter not. I needed to
be careful with my money; according to Annie, it should last
me for about three or four days, but after that, I had to fend
for myself. Not a whole lot of time when you have to recapture
your whole life.
sauntered off, coming to the conclusion that the best way to
find a cheap motel was to ask one of the taxi drivers. But on
my way there, something else sprang into my vision. It was a
huge advertisement, spread over a housewall. In the middle of
it was a red car, glinting magically in some strange light. It
seemed to be racing, followed by other cars.
were drawn to the text under the picture. "COME TO THE RACE
TRACK" it said in bold, fiery letters. And then, a list of
dates when races would take place.
only stare, while my heart thudded loudly in my chest. For
some unknown reason, this advertisement excited me; I felt
ready to bolt, to do something, to...a vague memory appeared
in my mind...the feeling of speed, the adrenaline, the rush,
and the mad laughter when yet another...another...
Frustrated, I stamped my foot. "Damn!" I had nearly had it. It
had been there, I had felt it, lying at the edge of my
vision, just waiting to be found – but then it had disappeared
again, leaving me hollow and empty.
And cars. It was pretty clear now – there had been something
going on with cars in my past life. Maybe not even a criminal.
Maybe...maybe I was working on the track. Maybe I was a
mechanic there. Maybe I designed cars, or built them. Or
maybe...maybe I was even a driver!
elated. That would mean that I wasn't a criminal! And if I
wasn't a criminal, then I could go to the police and tell them
that I had lost my memory, could they please help me look for
No need to get overenthusiastic. I couldn't be sure; and I
wasn't going to risk anything before I was sure.
least I knew my next goal. A visit to the racetrack.
was small, dirty, run-down and generally horrible, but it was
cheap. I paid for a night in advance, startled for a moment
when the clerk asked for my name. Panicking, I told him the
first name that came to my mind – one of the few I had
remembered so far.
looked bored. "John what?"
question. I looked around the room, my gaze falling on the
cheap porcelain figures behind the man. They looked tacky –
the sort of stuff you get for a couple of dollars in souvenir
shops – and were not very well-cared for. Some of them
depicted animals, some of them humans, but there was one in
particular that met my eye.
"Shepherd." My answer was automatic, as I continued to gaze at
the figure of the young shepherdess. It didn't sound as wrong
as John, somehow; it still wasn't my real name, but it...came
closer. A lot.
I shook my head and handed over the bills. The good thing
about cheap motels is that nobody asks questions; and the fact
that I didn't have any sort of identification on me didn't
faze the clerk at all. He handed me a dirty looking key,
attached to a huge weight nearly three times its size.
go down the corridor and turn left." He announced in a rather
bored tone and continued browsing through his magazine that
showed – as I noticed with a quick glance – a couple of
expensive looking cars and a lot of scantily clad young
and walked to my room. Did I like such magazines as well? The
images had certainly pleased me, but whether it was the cars
or the girls, I honestly couldn't tell. Probably the
combination of both, I admitted sheepishly to myself; after
all, I was a rather handsome and more importantly, young
man, according to Annie.
thought, I put the key in the lock and opened the door. The
room was very bare, and even though I had expected it, I was a
bit disappointed. Almost as if I was used to something better
a single bed with a creaking mattress; a small cupboard and a
worn-looking table by the end of the bed.
When I saw
this, a terrible feeling of...loneliness washed over me. This
wasn't how it was supposed to be. I was pretty sure that my
own room was much nicer than this. Wherever it was. It
certainly didn't look as shabby and...impersonal as this one.
With more presence, of other people...people that I couldn't
remember yet, but I knew they were there.
frustrating me no end; being unable to do anything beside
wait. When would my head finally come around and tell me about
myself? I wanted to know my name, dammit...it was frustrating
not to know how to refer to myself.
I went to
the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Nothing had
changed. Still the same blonde hair, the same bruises, the
same dark patches under my eyes.
John." I said aloud and studied myself. No. I didn't look like
a 'John', didn't feel like one. "I'm...Martin." I tried.
Nothing. "Ned. Henry. Jeff." I started to list random names
that popped into my head. Maybe one of them would fit. Maybe I
knew instinctively which name was the right one. After all, a
lot of memories were subconscious.
one - Jeff - seemed to be vaguely familiar, but then
again, there were a lot of people with that name. Heck, it
could have been the first name of my accountant for all I
No, that was a girls name. And I most certainly wasn't a girl
– that was one of the first things I had checked.
could have been listing the names of flowers, for all the
effect it had on me.
definitely rang a bell. I knew a Scott. I was pretty sure
about that. It sounded so familiar, came so easy over my lips
that it just had to be.
"Scott...Scott...Scott who?" I murmured in frustration,
running my hand through my hair. Blonde. I rather liked that
colour. It looked good.
a blonde? Was John?
I had no
I suddenly exploded and slammed my hand against the mirror. It
had no effect. I wasn't remembering. I simply wasn't
to calm down. Need to get everything under control or I might
but it took a while to get my temper in check. I just felt so
angry and I wanted to lash out...but I couldn't do that. Not
until I knew more about myself. I had no idea what I was
capable of. I could be dangerous. And I already felt
that I had a hot temper. Heck, sometimes I was so angry
that I scared myself...
I sat down on the bed and put my head in my hands. It was
barely eight o'clock in the evening, but I felt bone tired.
And whenever I felt tired, the aches and pains crept back into
my awareness, twingeing and hurting with sudden force. I
winced and rubbed at the giant bruise that was my left side.
I really wondered what had caused my injuries..was it the
flood alone? Had I been carried along by the waters? Had I
hit...stones, buildings, trees? Or had something else been
involved? Was there maybe a reason why I wouldn't remember?
Was my brain trying to protect me?
strange, not being able to remember. I had been existing for
three days – well, two nights and three days. Hell, I could
have been born three days ago and I wouldn't know the
thought scared me. A lot.
tired." I whispered to myself. "You're not thinking
words sounded strange coming from my mouth. I had the distinct
impression that I wasn't a very logical person at all; maybe
my situation would be a lot better if I was. Maybe I'd be able
to trust people then. But as I wasn't able to do so, I was on
my own. For now.
I felt so
sigh, I laid back and decided to go to sleep. No use moping
around like this. But sleep eluded me for a long, long time,
and when it finally came, it was filled with nightmares.
up! Just shut the hell up!" I roared, angry beyond measure.
"You don't know anything, how dare you make assumptions about
me just like that! I wasn't irresponsible! There was no other
possibility! I had to get them out of there and that was the
you weren't supposed to climb down the tunnel with the water
rising! You didn't have any gear!" he raged in response, and
for the first time, I saw his face clearly. Red with anger,
eyes blazing, he seemed ready to pound me into the ground.
"What would have happened if you hadn’t been quick enough?
What if Gordon hadn't been there to help you? What would have
happened if the..."
just cut it, Scott!" I interrupted, feeling terribly
disappointed. Didn't he trust me? Didn't he expect me to know
what I was doing? I wasn't a kid any more, I was grown-up and
able to make my own decisions...
I woke up,
briefly. I clearly remembered the face. Quite a few years
older than me. The dark hair a stark contrast to my own
thatch. And the look of fury and...something else in his face
that I couldn't quite place.
he'd muck it up, he always does."
come on, he's just a kid! He doesn't know any better."
but he should."
painful, listening to those voices. They came from deep out of
my heart, floating to the surface like bubbles in a soft
drink. And I could do nothing but watch them.
such incredible freedom...I gripped the steering wheel harder,
concentrating on the task ahead of me. Even through my
earplugs I could hear cheering, people urging me to go faster.
It didn't matter. There was only me, going as fast as I could.
I loved it. I thrived on it. I threw my head back and laughed
nice to remember something pleasant for once. I tried to hold
onto it, tried to keep it in my mind as comfort, so that I
knew that there had been good things in my past as well. It
wasn't all dark. It wasn't all hopeless.
it when you do that," she giggled, smelling of coconut and the
sea and warmth and love.
perfectly happy just lying beside her and letting her hair
trail through my fingers. "I like how you look." I responded
and smiled, but before I could take a good look at her face,
the memory was gone again, slipping through my fingers like
sand on a beach...and I nearly cried in frustration because it
had been so beautiful, she had been so beautiful...
what memories poured into my mind, I seemed to be unable to
hold onto them. They just came and went again, without leaving
any marks, and it was even more frustrating than not knowing
KILL YOU! I SWEAR I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" His dark hair stuck
wildly in all directions. I knew him...knew his name. Scott.
Yes. It was Scott.
A rush of
exhilaration coursed through me. But it was the only thing I
knew – his name. And the fact that for some reason he was so
angry with me that he wanted to kill me...so mad...
with a gasp, sweat pouring down my face. The last dream had
been the most vivid, and I still remembered every detail. I
even knew what he looked like. Handsome, tall, dark-haired,
with blue eyes.
held on to that memory, because it was the first thing I could
definitely remember...but then I quickly deflated. I didn't
seem to have a good relationship with this man; on the
contrary, he seemed to hate me.
really want to kill me? The anger in his eyes had been real.
hard, I snuggled deeper into the bedcovers. Alright. I would
be careful of people called 'Scott'. Maybe he was after me.
Maybe he had been following me and that was why I had been in
the valley. Maybe there had been a fight and I had been pushed
into the water...by someone who wanted me dead. Maybe that
person had been called Scott.
I felt cold.
feel very refreshed the next morning, but I got up anyway. I
didn't have any time to spare. My money was running out
quickly, and there was no way in hell I would go back to Annie
and Howard and ask for more.
didn't offer any breakfast – lousy little dump it was – but
luckily, there was a fast-food place not far away and I
grabbed a coffee there. Looking down at the black liquid, I
thought of this John I knew, who drank his coffee without
sugar. I shuddered. How could anyone do that? Disgusting,
really. Coffee needed sugar. Where else would you get the
of food reminded my stomach that it hadn’t been filled in
quite some time. Sighing, I scanned the menu and ordered a
cheap burger. Not enough to fill me up, and not a very tasty
breakfast by any means, but it stopped my stomach from
grumbling and that was all I wanted.
remembered two names. Scott and John. Scott was out of bounds,
as he seemed intent on killing or at least harming me. I knew
nothing about John besides the fact that he liked his coffee
black. There seemed to be a girl in my life, but I didn't know
a name. And another person called Gordon as well, about whom I
knew nothing. Very disappointing.
weary sigh, I crumbled the paper cup and threw it in the bin.
"So, John Shepherd, time to face your day."
to follow my hunch from yesterday and visit the racetrack.
After all, I had nothing better to do and at least it was a
start, though a meagre one.
I had to find out a way to get there. I didn't want to take a
cab – too expensive – but I really had no idea how to use
public transport. I could try to walk, but then again, it
would probably be outside the city and could take hours to get
there on foot.
no way around it; I had to ask for the best and cheapest way.
Feeling slightly disgruntled, I sauntered over to the next
news-stand. I really didn't like asking for the way, it made
me feel...incompetent. Although it really shouldn't.
lady behind the counter was serving two customers before me,
and as I didn't want to embarrass myself in public, I waited
for them to finish before I posed my question.
I took the
time to read the newspapers that were posted up all over the
stall. Most of them featured the flood, showing pictures of
the valley and distraught people. "INTERNATIONAL RESCUE SAVES
THE DAY – AGAIN!" one of the headlines read and I reached over
out of curiosity, remembering what I had learned about
International Rescue so far. It really sounded intriguing.
According to those people I had talked to in the town
yesterday, they were true heroes, risking their own necks to
save the life of others. They might have even saved mine as
well and I didn't even know it.
I opened the paper and started skimming the article. "Our
heroes in blue did the unthinkable yet again..." it
started and I had to smile. But my smile quickly vanished as I
saw a photo on the opposite page.
only stare. There, printed in black and white, was exactly the
same face that stared out of my mirror every morning. The
blonde hair. The eyes. The dimple in the cheek. There was no
mistake. That was me.
solemn and serious, as if my thoughts were elsewhere.
raced. How...how could this be possible? Where had that photo
come from? What was it doing in the newspaper, where everybody
could see it?
hell would put a photo of me in the newspaper?
I read the headline, International Rescue forgotten. "Have you
seen this man?" It said and my blood ran cold.
almost sounded...sounded like they were looking for me. But
who were 'they'? The mafia? The police?
have seen this man, please contact the following number. A
reward will be given to anyone who can help in finding this
And then a
phone number. No name. Neither mine nor of the person looking
shaking hands, I closed the newspaper. It couldn't be the
police. The police would be official about it; no, this had to
be a private person. A person that didn't want to be
identified. A person that was ready to pay money so
that I'd be found.
remembered my mafia theory and suddenly it didn't seem that
far-fetched anymore. I didn't know whether I was a criminal or
not, but I was in danger, was being followed, and I had to be
put a photo of me in the newspaper. Offered a reward.
really that important? What the hell had I done to
deserve that sort of attention?
help you, young man?" The voice startled me from my thoughts.
I turned around, slowly – I had nearly forgotten why I was
here, but now, with the news-vendor frowning at me, I
remembered my purpose.
a matter of fact, you can." I began and coughed slightly,
trying to hold the newspaper so that she wouldn't see my
picture. "I was wondering...could you maybe tell me the best
way to the racetrack?"
glowered at me. "Why don't you take a cab?"
swallowed hard. "Because cabs cost an awful lot of money,
softened a bit. "A student, eh? My grandson’s one of them, too
– always out of money, eating out of tins because he can't
afford proper plates. Well, it's a bit of a hassle with public
transport – you need to get to the main station and then take
the train. Direction of Haybridge; I believe it's the fifth
station. From there, you should be able to see the track."
you." I put the newspaper on the table and looked in my
pockets for some coins. "How much is that?"
dollar fifty." She studied me closely. "You know that there
aren't any races on now? The season won’t start until next
was my involuntary reply, and to my surprise, I really had
known (why could I remember race dates, but not my stupid,
fricking name?). I looked for the coins and put them in he
old, wrinkled hand. "Thank you for your help, Ma'am." I smiled
at her and she smiled back, which made her look about ten
sauntered off, my mind in turmoil although I did my best to
appear calm and collected. The newspaper was tucked safely
under my arm.
had been right. It was a long ride. First I had to find my way
to the train station, which was in a totally different part of
the city from the bus station I had arrived at. And from
there, I had to take a slow regional train. After a twenty
minute long bumpy ride in a (thankfully) empty carriage, I
finally reached my destination.
As I had
been promised, I saw the track immediately. A surge of
recognition swam over me and I doubled my speed. I wanted to
be there, wanted to hear, smell and feel the cars...
might not have been races on, but there were still people
there – and cars. The track itself was surrounded by a fence,
but that proved to be no problem. I looked for a deserted
spot, made sure that nobody was watching, and climbed over the
fence with an ease that surprised myself. I didn't even stop
to think that I was doing something immoral; the urge to get
closer was far too strong.
a familiar mix of smells in the air – gasoline and tires,
metal and plastic – and I paused for a moment, closing my
eyes. I knew this scent – had smelled it so often that it felt
natural – I had once belonged here – this was close, so very
anticipation, the waiting game, and then, the bang of the
starting gun – the race had begun. Palms sweating, feet
carefully controlling the pedals, eyes never leaving the
track, trying to cut the corners, trying to be faster than
everybody else, the excitement, the rush, the smells, the
sounds, and I knew that was were I belonged...
snapped open. There was a car further down the track, doing
practise runs. I watched the sleek build of it, the broad
wheels, the smoothness with which it went through the
about everything else, I sprinted down to watch. I wanted –
no, needed – to see how it was going, needed to get closer to
the smell. My memories were so very close, and it drove me
nearly mad – there was only one spark missing and the walls
inside my mind would crumble.
was beautiful. Blue, with white stripes on its sides, the
windows dark and freshly polished. The engine hummed
comfortingly, a noise of power even though the car was just
cruising, getting warm. And yet...there was something off
about that sound. Something I didn't like. Frowning, I
listened more intently.
are you doing there?"
I froze in
mid-step. Who?...I had been so absorbed in my observations
that I hadn't even noticed there were people as well – not
just the car. And they didn't seem to be happy about my
The man –
older than me, clad like a mechanic, with sunglasses and a
dark hat – looked ready to throttle me should I not give him a
my very intelligent reply as I frantically searched for a
plausible excuse. There was none. I was stuck. I was a
stranger on a racetrack, I had sneaked in, had probably broken
a law with my trespassing. Why hadn't I thought of that, why
hadn't I been more careful...
Out of the
corner of my eyes I saw the car again. Just for the briefest
of seconds, I thought I had seen something.
talking to you!"
attention was fixed on the car now. The driver was going
through a narrow curve and... was it only my imagination or
could I see wisps of rubber smoke from the inside tire?
car!" I yelled, as I suddenly realized what it meant. "Or he
might damage it even more!"
The man's mouth fell open. "What the hell are you talking
about? And you haven't answered my que-""
let him finish. "There's a problem with the diffuser, don't
you see that, man? The car seems loose, and I'm pretty sure
that I saw it bend just now!"
inside, I was astonished by the knowledge I was dishing out –
I had assessed the situation almost instinctively. The words
left my mouth before I had even thought about them.
stared at me for a moment, appearing to be shocked and angry.
Then his head swivelled around and he watched the car with an
intense gaze. There was a tense silence between us – and then
he growled, "Goddamn, you're right!"
acknowledging me any further, he used the walkie-talkie on his
belt. "Mick, stop driving and return to the garage. There's a
problem with the diffuser, we have to fix that before James
hear the response of the driver, but the car obliged and
turned around, heading towards the garages. I followed it with
a wistful glance; I would have given anything to have a look
mechanic put the walkie-talkie away and fixed me with a
doubtful glare. "Alright. How did you know that? And what are
you doing here? Only identified personnel are allowed inside
for practise sessions. Are you a spy? A reporter?"
those." I held up my hands in defence. "Honestly. I just...I
love racing, and I wanted to get closer. I work a lot with
cars, that's why I saw it. And I was lucky – if I hadn't been
looking at it that very moment, I wouldn't have realized
it...I'm not meaning any harm, really! I just...well...wanted
to have a look around and..." My voice trailed off. How was I
supposed to explain about my memory loss and my relation to
the race track?
question startled me. "Err...John. John...Shepherd."
John." He eyed me doubtfully. "I still don't trust you, but I
want you to come with me to the stall so that we can talk
about this with the others."
happy and worried at the same time. Happy because I would be
able to go inside and see the car, worried because I had no
idea what this man would do. He seemed friendly enough, but
also quite strict.
simply nodded, my throat too dry to say anything. Would I get
some more answers? Would I finally be able to find out more
way to find out.
Chapter Eight: Familiar Smells
who had caught me introduced himself as Henry. He led me into
the garage, where the blue car was already waiting. A young
man with reddish brown hair stood beside it, clad in a racing
overall, with a helmet in his right hand.
He marched towards us, looking strangely sheepish "Why did you
pull me in? And who's your blonde friend?" There was a mixed
expression of guilt and defiance on his face. He eyed me
I sent him
my most charming smile, trying to make a good impression.
"Hello, I'm John."
to have a look at the diffuser." Henry replied in a gruff
tone. "This little fellow here spotted that something was
Mick was curious. "And what are you doing here...John?"
If he had known how much I would give to answer that question!
But since he didn't, I only made an evasive gesture. "I’ve
worked with a lot of cars. Did a bit of racing myself." At
least I suspected I had done a bit – it felt that way, but I
could never be sure now, could I?
I hated this...uncertainty!
His eyes narrowed. "And what was your name again?"
never heard of you."
uneasily. "I never said I was famous, did I?"
Henry gave a cry of surprise. While we had been talking, he
had laid down on the floor to take a good look under the car.
"Damn me, the boy was right!"
immediately bristled at being referred to as a 'boy', but I
managed to keep my temper in check, although it was proving to
be increasingly difficult.
looked at us from his position on the floor. "This would have
been a real problem in the turns. Nothing life-threatening,
but enough to lose much-needed successions. I doubt the
spotters would have been able to see this, it's very
subtle...if you hadn't pointed it out..." He gazed at me, this
time with admiration in his eyes. "How did you know?"
"I...well...," uncomfortable with the sudden attention, I
shifted from one foot to the other. "I told you, it was pure
luck. I happened to watch the car...anyone could have done
shook his head. "No, my boy, don't bullshit me. You need
expert knowledge to be able to spot something that
insignificant – a normal passer-by would have never seen it.
You must be a mechanic yourself, or an engineer...somebody who
works a lot with cars." His gaze was intense, fixing me on the
spot. I felt the sudden urge to run away, but I couldn't move.
"Say, what were you rally doing on the track?"
You know your way around cars. That's not average knowledge
you just displayed – that's very advanced, even for a
racetrack mechanic. Are you working on a top team? What was
your name again?"
shook my head, raising my arms in defence. "Henry, you've got
it all wrong. I'm not working anywhere – well, at least not
currently. I was just...in town, and I wanted to see the
how much I could tell them. How could I make them understand
that I didn't know myself where I had obtained my knowledge?
Really, I surprised myself on a daily basis...what would I
learn about myself tomorrow? That I could tap-dance? There
were so many possibilities, and a lot of them scared me...
bit of truth was needed to make my story more believable. I
chose my words carefully. "I've been in the flood, you know,
and I lost pretty much everything." Well, that much was true.
to get my mind off things, so I came here."
shrugged, feeling uncomfortable even though I was telling the
truth. Parts of it. Small parts of it. But I wasn't lying,
was I? Just...glossing over some facts. Like the fact that I
could not only drive, but steal a car as well...
nodded in understanding. "The flood. Of course. I saw it on TV
– it must have been horrible. I'm really sorry."
Ugh. Now I
felt even more guilty. He seemed honestly sorry for me. "Don't
looked apprehensive and a little bit relieved. "So you're not
here to spy on us?"
at all." I laughed. "I guess I was just drawn here – I missed
it, you know. The smells. The noise. It feels a bit like
home." That much was true. I really felt a lot better since I
had arrived on the track, as if something was working in my
favour for once.
Mick grinned sheepishly. "I would have been in loads of
trouble if you were. I'm not really a driver, you know."
not?" I was surprised. Then I remembered the sloppy turns the
car had been making. Of course. No experienced driver would
ever drive that way.
blushed. "Yeah, I'm just a mechanic. The driver of this car –
James Corringway, you might know him – is going to arrive in
two days and we have to prepare everything for him."
chuckled. "We had to test the new tires we're using, plus we
wanted to see how the motor was running. Mick was itching to
get his fingers on the car, so I let him do a couple of test
face was crimson. "I enjoyed it. I'm not a driver, but it's
nice." He mumbled and then pulled himself together. "So, what
do we have to do?"
that problem fixed. Give me the tool box, this is going to
take a bit..."
at the two of them, already engrossed in their work. They
seemed to have forgotten about me. I was surprised how quickly
they had accepted my story. Maybe I simply didn't look
dangerous – I had done my best to smile in a charming way for
the whole conversation – or maybe the car was much more
looked so at ease with what they were doing that I ached to
join them. Watching them made me realize how much I
missed...well, belonging somewhere. I just wanted to feel
useful and wanted. I wanted to do something instead of
help?" I offered, not really expecting an answer.
me a challenging gaze. He seemed to be looking for something
in my face, for what, I didn't know. But obviously, he found
it, because an enormous smile lit his face. "Come on, kid, get
over here!" He motioned me to join him. I bristled at the
nickname – I wasn't a kid, for God's sake, I was grown-up and
responsible – but I quickly swallowed my pride, knowing
that I should be grateful for his acceptance.
sauntered over to the car and grabbed a tool, feeling a bit
more at ease than I had the whole morning. This was something
I could do!
done with!" Henry smirked two hours later and wiped his soot
streaked face. "I must say, you're a damn good worker,
Johnny-boy. Where did you learn all this?"
at the nickname and put my tools back into the tool shed. "Oh,
here and there." I replied vaguely. "I've been jobbing in lots
me a look that clearly meant 'You-can't-fool-me', but luckily,
he let it go. We had had quite a pleasant conversation over
the last couple of hours, me steering him from one safe topic
to the next. I quite liked his cheerful attitude and he seemed
to like me in return. Mick was also nice, and the three of us
had fixed the car like old friends.
been the most fun I've had since I woke up at the shore of
that muddy river. At least I was able to forget about my
troubles for a while.
nearly time for lunch", Mick announced. My stomach growled in
laughed, while I grinned sheepishly. "My stomach seems to
think the same."
right, ain't he?" Henry wiped his hands. "You want to come
with us? There's a nice little place just over the street.
Nothing fancy, but they do have a good steak, and rather cheap
great." I enthused and nodded. "But...I hope I'm not
intruding? I mean, I am a stranger, after all, and I've got no
business being here..."
Henry exchanged a look. "Well, you're right about that."
be a mass-murderer for all we knew", Mick added cheerfully. My
insides clenched together and it took lot of effort to keep
the smile on my face.
punched me playfully in the shoulder "But we like you anyway.
Come on, I'm starving."
out in relief and wiped my hands on a clean rag. With a look
of dismay, I stared at my trousers that were now streaked with
oil. I had totally forgotten that I only had this one set of
garments. Great, now I had to run around with dirt all over. I
tried my best to wipe it off, but the stuff proved to be very
persistent. How annoying.
the garage after we washed our hands. To my surprise, Mick and
Henry weren't the only mechanics around. I could see more
cars, most of them just warming up and being inspected from
inside out. Just watching them gave me a feeling of comfort
not him again." Henry muttered beside me. I turned around and
saw a short, round man strolling towards us. He wore a very
expensive looking overall and had quite a arrogant look on his
face. I felt instant dislike.
Tuckett. I certainly didn't expect to see you and your team
here," he smirked. "I though this racetrack is only for
shut up, Pickford," Henry retorted angrily. "This race is for
people who are good and not people who have money."
just sneered. "Pity that you think that way. I can't see your
team winning any races. Well, no wonder, what with the
kindergarten you seem to have opened recently." He nodded
towards Mick and me. "Can't afford a proper mechanic, can
I felt my
fists clench at my side. That arrogant prick...how dare he
talk that way! He didn't even know me, and yet he assumed I
was...just because I was young...I was as useful as everybody
else, if not more so...
burned hot in my stomach, threatened to overtake every
rational through. I felt the urge to shout at him, show him
exactly what I was thinking of his arrogant ways...and it
me how easy it was to rile me, at least when it came to
certain topics. What would happen if I exploded? Was I a
raving madman? Certainly I wasn't in control of what I was
doing or saying when I was angry. Something entirely
unacceptable in my current situation.
swallowed my anger and clamped my mouth shut. This wasn't my
fight. Hell, I didn't even know those people!
have worried. Henry had the situation under control. "I’d
rather have mechanics who aren't afraid of getting dirty than
something as disgusting as you. Are you finished with your
insults? Because I'd like to enjoy a peaceful lunch break with
my friends – not that you know what that is."
Plural. Meaning that he thought of me as his friend. That mere
idea warmed me and was enough to dissolve the rest of my
man glowered in anger. "You wait, Tuckett. You and your
pathetic bunch of losers, you'll soon see..." his eyes
narrowed and he looked at me, recognition dawning in them.
"Wait a moment...you, the blonde one, haven't I seen your face
immediately thought of the photo in the newspaper and paled.
"I've never been here before. You must be mistaken." I
babbled, trying my best to look innocent and not at all like
somebody who was being hunted down.
annoying he boy." Henry boomed, effectively interrupting the
interrogation. For once, I didn't object to being called 'boy'
– instead, I was grateful for it. Thank you, Henry.
I'm too hungry to listen to this any longer."
brushed past Pickford with an impatient sigh. Mick and I
followed him, my legs trembling with relief. That had been
close. I needed to be more careful. Maybe dye my hair or
something. Hmm. I tried to imagine myself with black hair and
ignore him," the weathered mechanic advised and I had to
remind myself that he was talking about Pickford. "Jonathan
Pickford, one of the most disgusting mechanics I know. He's
too full of himself, just because he works for one of the best
track teams this season. They are the top favourites; the
racer, Luke Featherstone, has got a lot of financial back-up
and so his team gets only the best."
I shook my
head. "A good car is important, but all that is of no use if
the driver is a pussy."
looked at me with shining eyes. "That's exactly what I think,
my lad! Now James, he's a wonderful driver – a bit on the
reckless side, perhaps, but definitely talented – and he gets
along with us great, which is always important. Never annoy
your chief mechanic, I always say."
chuckled. Now why did I have a feeling that I had heard that
a pleasant affair. The steak, though a bit chewy, tasted good
and did wonders for the hole in my stomach. Mick and Henry
made pleasant company, entertaining me with silly little
stories about cars and races. There were a couple of dangerous
questions – about my family, of course, or where I had been
working, whether I had watched that and that particular race –
but I managed to dodge them fairly well. They seemed to blame
my silence on the recent trauma of the flood, which wasn't
entirely wrong – and I certainly made no effort to convince
time passed, the more subdued I became. I had hoped that the
race track would trigger my memory, but so far, nothing had
happened. I remembered a great deal about cars, yes, and I was
able to recite the race rules by heart, but other than that?
really beginning to despair. Would I ever solve the mystery of
he told me to 'suck off'", Mick exclaimed, gesturing wildly
with his fork. "Honestly! The nerve! I was just trying to
chuckled. "Sometimes, help is not appreciated. My older sister
always tried to teach me how to ‘behave properly in front of
girls', but I would never listen. Should have done so, in
retrospect, as my first date proved to be quite the disaster,
but well, I thought I knew better..."
bickering conversation took my mind off my dark and gloomy
past/future. I smiled, doing my best to look entertained and
have any siblings, John?" Mick turned and looked at me
curiously." Or are you an only child?"
made, trying to stall for time. I really had to think of a
good cover story; this was getting annoying. "Yes." I blurted
out, and then cursed myself. Why hadn't I said no? Now I had
to invent some siblings...knowing nothing about them. Still,
they didn't know that I didn't know anything, so it'd
be alright...I hoped.
in my mind turned. "Younger."
Then you're an older brother, just like me." Mick grinned at
me. "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, eh? I
swear, if I wasn't looking out for my younger brother, the
trouble he'd get into...so how old are they? What are their
in my seat, feeling under pressure. Who would have thought
that thinking up some family could be so difficult?
Henry noticed my discomfort and put a restraining hand on
Mick's shoulder. "Mick. The poor lad has been in a flood and
lost his home. Maybe he doesn't want to talk about his family
speak the next sentence, but it hung between us anyway.
Because they might be all dead and it hurts too much to talk
the meaning immediately and his face fell. "I'm sorry, John, I
didn't want to be rude..."
okay", I waved it off, but my insides felt shaky all of
sudden. What if that had really happened? So far, I had only
thought about me...about the people that were after me...but
what if my family, the people I loved, were involved as well?
What if they were dead? What if everybody who had known the
real me was dead?
thought chilled me to the bone.
alright, John?" Henry asked in a soft voice. I nodded briskly
and took a sip of my water. I didn't want to think about this
any more, I just wanted to relax and...have fun...be
myself...even though I didn't know who that was...
frowned at his plate. "I've wanted to ask this ever since I
heard that you had been in the flood..." he began, and my
insides turned cold. Please don't let him be suspicious,
please don't let it be another question I can't answer...I'm
already making a fool of myself as it is...
to my inner rantings, he continued. "But did you by any chance
get a glimpse of International Rescue?"
blinked. This wasn't what I had been expecting.
eyes widened. "Oh, you must have! The news was everywhere –
they flew over the valley and rescued the people from their
houses, lifting them up in their Thunderbirds – wonderful
machines, I wish I could see them closer up one day – saved
hundreds of lives and helped barricade off the higher
villages, so that they wouldn't get flooded as well..."
help but chuckle at their obvious enthusiasm. It seemed that
wherever I went, International Rescue was received warmly by
people, met with a gratitude and appreciation that seemed
to disappoint you, but I didn't see anything." Their hopeful
faces crumbled. "I was unconscious for quite a while and the
memories of the flood themselves are dim at the best."
a pity." Henry sighed. "It would have been great to hear some
first-hand tale. Those guys are simply amazing. And nobody
knows who they are, that's the best bit!"
That was news to me. But now that I thought about it, nobody
had ever mentioned names – it was always International Rescue
and the Thunderbirds.
course! They have all these precautions about secrecy – nobody
can take photos of their craft, for example, and they never
reveal names or anything about themselves. Understandable –
the machinery they have could easily be misappropriated and
used for some sinister purpose."
Interesting. I wondered how those 'men (and probably women) in
blue' lived with that. Did they tell their wives, husbands,
children, friends where they were working? They must have
to...after all, rescuing is a dangerous business, and any
spouses might wonder why their significant other returned
muddy/soaked/injured/full of smoke after every work-day.
what are you planning to do now?" Henry interrupted my train
of thought. I stared at our empty plates and realized that
lunch was over. My two newly-made friends would return to
their work and then I'd be stuck on my own again. My stomach
really know," I offered, too tired to lie any more. "There's
not much...I lost basically everything..."
Mick exchanged a significant glance. "You're really nice,
sonny-boy." Henry began. "And a very good helper, but you're
not a worker for our team, so we can't let you tamper with the
car. I'm sorry." He looked genuinely displeased.
fine. I understand." He probably could get in a whole lot of
trouble – secrecy was important on the racetrack, and I was a
stranger to them, after all, even though it didn't feel like
day off and relax", Mick offered. "You must be exhausted.
There are some nice parks in the city; or you could go to our
thermal pool, that's quite relaxing. You look knackered."
because my sleep has been interrupted by mind-wrenching
But I only
nodded, feeling very empty.
always come back tonight and go out with us. We usually
celebrate the first couple of nights, to get to know each
other better or simply because we can…." Henry offered. "And
we could let you watch the practise runs tomorrow, if you want
to..." He shrugged.
up immediately. The mere idea of having some place to return
to – where people knew me – made this horrible life bearable.
"Really? I'd love to!"
mechanics grinned. "That's good – it's nice talking to you,
even though you're a bit weird." Mick said cheerfully. I
resisted the urge to snap at him.
guess I’ll see you tonight?" The idea of leaving was made a
lot easier now that I knew I'd see them again.
Let’s say…about seven? Could be a bit later, depending on when
we finish, so be prepared to wait a bit."
"That's fine. "
believe it. They were actually happy that I'd return, as
if...as if they liked me! The notion pleased me immensely. It
was nice to know that I wasn't a total prick, that there were
good sides to me as well. I hoped that there were people in my
old life that liked me in the same way...
me think of the flood again. Until further notice, I would
stick to the story that I had lost everything. It was quite
convenient. But the more I thought about it, the more I feared
that there might be some truth in it. Not that I had been
living in the valley – no, that was quite unlikely, I would
have remembered the place and somebody would have recognized
me at Bell's Gate, it was a pretty small place after all.
thoughts were interrupted by the waiter. We paid our lunch and
I looked mournfully at the money, realizing that I had to find
some way to earn cash, and quickly at that. Maybe I could
spend the afternoon looking for some job...the thought
sickened me, but I didn't have any other chance. I didn't
fancy sleeping on the streets.
Henry waved me a cheerful good-bye and returned to their work
place. I smiled at them and watched their retreating backs
with mixed feelings. I was quite jealous of them; I would have
loved to work with them and get paid for it. Lucky bastards.
sauntered off to the station, intent on making my way back to
the inner city. On my way across the street, I managed to
catch a glimpse of Pickford, who glowered at me menacingly.
Unable to contain my anger, I glowered back, doing my best to
look intimidating. That seemed to piss him off even more and I
nodded in satisfaction. Served him right, that arrogant prick.
arrogant prick with a life, mind you, unlike me who had
nothing at all.
quite depressed by the time I made my way back to the central
station. The more I learnt, the more frustrating it got. No
sign of my family; I didn't come from this place, but from
elsewhere; I possessed criminal skills; I was being hunted by
some mysterious person; my dreams were haunted by suspicious
men who wanted to kill me; and I couldn't even remember the
name of the girl I liked.
moping," I firmly told myself. "Remember: never give up at any
phrase gave me more comfort than any speech could have done.
No clue where I had heard it, but I knew that it was true and
that no matter what, I'd never give up, because that was just
At least I
Chapter Nine: A Hint, and Lots of
sat aboard Thunderbird Five, playing idly with his pen, while
around him the babble of voices filled the air. With no rescue
calls in the last twenty-four hours apart from a small fire
that had been quickly dealt with, he felt rather bored and
useless. It was a feeling he hated, because it made him
think...and then, of course, his thoughts immediately circled
around Alan and what might have happened to his little
drifted slowly through the background. A gentle piano piece,
by a French composer. Virgil had played and taped it for him,
after he had found out how much John liked the French music –
sad and optimistic at the same time, beautiful and thoughtful.
listened to it when he had to think, or relax after a
stressful rescue. This, and watching the stars, helped him
unwind, helped him to get rid of the tension that he sometimes
felt after hours of worrying.
music drifted by unheard, as he was unable to relax and let
his mind wander. Every few seconds he checked the computer,
looking for news on Alan, searching yet again for a signal
from his watch, and coming up empty.
and three nights. Three nights in which he hadn't slept very
well, and if he did, it was plagued by nightmares.
brother had been gone for three nights, and they weren't any
wiser. John couldn't help but wonder – where had Alan spent
those nights? Was he out in the woods somewhere, sick, alone,
injured? Had he slept outside, freezing and lonely? Even
though Alan had done his own share of wildlife adventures –
bushwalking, rock-climbing, rafting – this was different. He
didn't have any supplies this time. No proper gear. No medical
facilities. No company.
thought made him sick and yet it was better than the
alternative, namely thinking that Alan wasn't sleeping at all
– or rather was facing eternal sleep.
sighed and looked at his empty coffee cup. Only a residue of
the black liquid swirled on the bottom, long forgotten and
cold. He shouldn't drink that much coffee, but he couldn't
help it. It was the only thing that kept him going during the
long wait of rescues, and now it was helping him focus.
as he remembered the many fond arguments he'd had with Alan
about coffee – Alan, who insisted that coffee needed sugar,
because it wasn't drinkable without. And John countering that
only wimps drank their coffee with sugar, that pure black and
strong coffee was for real men and not for
pussies, such as Alan.
course, hadn't taken this very well. But hell, it had been
Scott had walked in – Scott, who loved his coffee with milk
and sugar, of all things – and they had immediately started
laughing, because the mere idea of Scott Tracy being a pussy
was doing it again. Reminiscing, looking at the memories,
torturing himself. Alan was not dead. And he would not
think of past memories like they were, well, past.
he mumbled to himself and buried his head in his hands. "We're
going to find Alan, be pissed at him because he worried us,
and then everything'll be back to normal."
Thunderbird Five was playground for little children.
He had to
stop that. He was doing nobody any favours; and besides, John
was supposed to be the sensible one. Scott was already doing
the ruining-my-health-by-not-sleeping-thing; And Gordon had
probably worn a hole in the pool by now, if that was possible.
As for his father...Jeff Tracy was burying himself in work.
John suspected that a lot of paperwork had been finished over
the last days.
be dead and al I think about is that Dad gets his paperwork
his head on the table. Gosh, he really needed sleep. Maybe if
he fell asleep right here, on his chair – he'd still be close
to the computer, so if any call came up...
alarm tone startled him out of his reverie, far more efficient
that any self-reprimands could have done. He looked around
wildly for a moment, forgetting where he was, but then he
remembered, and into the place of the worried brother stepped
the professional IR operative.
only lasted a couple of seconds, until he saw the ID of the
caller. It wasn't a rescue call. It was one of their agents.
More precisely, the agent that was stationed the closest to
the valley with the flood. The agent they had trusted with the
his mouth was dry. "International Rescue, what can I do for
you?" he intoned softly. The caller spoke in an urgent voice,
and John listened for quite a while. When the call ended, he
stared out of the window. For the first time, he didn't look
at the stars – the thought didn't even cross his mind – but a
million of other thoughts ran through his head.
shook himself awake and opened another channel, this one to
Jeff Tracy rarely shouted – he didn't need to – but when he
did, it was in a voice that could raise the dead. All of his
three sons, sitting in the lounge in various states of
restlessness, immediately jumped to attention. They exchanged
swallowed and strode towards the office, followed by Virgil
and Gordon. Grandma and Tin-Tin had heard the ruckus as well
and thinking along the same lines, appeared from their various
rooms. They all were curious, and yet they couldn't help but
worry...what if it was about Alan? Well, they hoped it was,
but what if it was bad? What if this was the news they had
been dreading...that Alan's body had been found, broken,
it, Dad?" Scott asked, his voice betraying the anxiety he
get Thunderbird One ready. We've got a lead on Alan." The
words dropped like a bombshell.
a moment of silence. And then-
How is he?"
injured, is he?"
hasn't he contacted us?"
interrupted the flurry of questions with a shake of his head.
"To be quite frank, I've no idea how he is." He spread his
hands in an obvious gesture of confusion. " Alive, at least,
and that's what counts. John just contacted me. I had Alan's
picture put in the newspaper by our local IR agent. Just now,
a person has called, claiming that he has seen Alan in
Haybridge, a suburb to a bigger city a good 80 miles away from
frowned in confusion. "But what is he doing there? Are you
sure that it is the right person? Maybe someone just looked
what I thought." Jeff looked at his son with grave eyes. "But
Scott, the caller said that he had seen Alan on the racetrack
– and he was working on a car, showing all signs of an
experienced mechanic and driver. His description fits Alan to
hell is he doing on the racetrack?" Gordon exclaimed. "We've
been worried sick!"
face darkened. If he found out that Alan was skiving
off...taking some days off while they didn't know about his
whereabouts...but no. Even though Alan had a tendency to do
reckless and irresponsible things, this was not like him. He
would know how much they'd worry, and he would have contacted
didn't explain...eighty miles! He had been swallowed up by a
tidal wave, so what was he doing there? How had he gotten
there on his own?
sprang to Alan's defence immediately. "He wouldn't do that!
Alan knows better – he may be immature, but he would never
disappear like that just to watch some stupid race!"
shared confused looks. Of course Alan wouldn't do that. None
of them would. Even though they bickered and fought, they knew
how important family was.
shrugged in a helpless sort of fashion. "I don't understand
myself. It's a lead, but I can honestly say that I didn't
expect this. A call from a hospital, or maybe some farmer who
found him unconscious and unable to identify himself...but
this? He's obviously alive and walking around, so his injuries
can't be serious. But what the hell is he doing on a
racetrack, of all places?"
he’s not acting of his own free will?" Virgil offered in a
head snapped around. "What do you mean by that?"
"Maybe...maybe he was injured. Or maybe...maybe he can't
contact us." Virgil frowned as he thought of possible
scenarios. "You know, there are a lot of bad guys out there.
Maybe he got picked up by some criminals...maybe someone is
threatening him..." he shook his head. "There are so many
possibilities. We don't know anything about his injuries. But
I know for sure that he wouldn't go and watch some race while
we're worrying about him. He knows better than that."
not even a race on right now", Jeff informed them. "According
to the caller, he was just wandering around, and they picked
him up, thinking that he was a spy or a fan...apparently, he
made friends with the mechanics and spent the whole day with
snorted amused "Trust Alan to make friends in the direst of
situations." Despite his hot temper, people were immediately
drawn to Alan's friendly and outgoing personality – a fact
that was once again proven.
is he staying?" Grandma wanted to know. "He doesn't have any
money, the poor boy!"
looked at a loss. "I don't have the slightest clue. The caller
didn't give us any more information, so we have to make do
with what we have. Scott, you're to fly there immediately.
Find a safe spot for Thunderbird One somewhere outside the
city - our IR agent will help you with that – and then make
your way to the racetrack. Try to be inconspicuous – no
uniform. We don’t want to draw unnecessary attention on
Scott nodded. "I'll be off."
want me to come?" Virgil called after him. But Scott had
already left, and a couple of minutes later, they could hear
the familiar sound of TB1's engines.
Virgil exchanged uneasy glances. "I don't like this." Gordon
admitted. "Maybe it's not Alan at all, just a doppelgänger."
be," his brother nodded. "But I so wish for it to be Alan. At
least we'd know that he was alive..."
looked at them both, her eyes blazing. "He is alive." The
Malaysian girl stated and then staked off to the lounge,
settling down on the couch to wait for any news. She was as
shaken as everyone else, but she refused to let it show. Alan
was alive – thank God! - but he hadn't contacted them, and
that alone was enough to worry about. She sincerely hoped that
he wasn't in any trouble.
again, this was Alan they were talking about.
Chapter Ten: Chasing a Brother
had always been proud of his 'bird. He could never stop
praising her speed, how she could outdo any other plane on
this planet. It was the source of his pride and the one
argument his brothers could offer nothing against – because
she was the fastest, point proven.
rocket seemed to go at a snail’s pace. Or maybe it was only
his impatience playing tricks on him. Either way, he found
himself drumming his fingers anxiously against the armatures,
glaring at the tachometer, while waiting for his destination
to come closer. John had already given him the coordinates of
a safe landing place. An abandoned rural area, far outside the
city, where (hopefully) nobody would notice a huge rocket.
And such a
long way from the city that it's going to take me hours to
even get there...dammit, maybe I should have taken the jet,
but that would have been even slower...
going to run away, Scott." John's voice crackled through the
speakers, trying to ease the eldest of his worries.
is not right here, John." Scott said tersely. "Why is he
hiding from us? For all we know, the Hood could be involved in
this! This isn't to be taken lightly, John!"
a moment of silence. And then: "I know, Scott. And believe me,
I'm as worried as you are. But Thunderbird One is already at
top speed, so torturing the armatures isn't going to improve
things – and neither is glaring at the tachometer."
the decency to feel sheepish – after all, he had been doing
exactly those things. "You know me too well, little brother."
experience." John was amused.
you can always be so calm and sensible?"
affinity, Scott." came the smooth reply. "Comes with the
dashing looks and the wonderful character."
good portion of arrogance."
can I be arrogant? I'm only stating the truth, after all..."
smiled slightly, realizing what John was doing. His younger
brother had always been a good talker; and right now, the
reassurance was much needed. At least it helped to get rid of
the tense feeling – well, a bit. It was good to think of
something else, even if the 'something else' was John teasing
him. "Remind me again why I like you."
it's your duty as the oldest brother. You can't get rid of it
– it's in the contract."
why I didn't want the job..."
Tracy bantered with practised ease, but his heart wasn't in
it. There was just too much going on, and he couldn't help but
worry...Alan always called him a worry-wart, but then again,
it was always Alan who pulled the most unbelievable
stunts...how could he not worry?
look on the control panel told him that Thunderbird One was
getting close to its destination. Finally. After how many
years? It felt like an eternity.
stomach lurched unpleasantly. What would he find there? Alan
had probably managed to get himself in some hairy situation
again, no doubt – the blonde had the annoying habit of doing
so. Trouble just seemed to follow him wherever he went.
again, Scott reflected, he had the amazing ability to escape
even the toughest situations almost unscathed – Virgil had
once dubbed him 'the cat with nine lives'. If anyone could
survive getting swept away by a giant water torrent, it was
is clear," John announced, interrupting his thoughts. "You're
free to land. Be careful, Scott."
He was eager to get down, but he knew better than to rush.
Mistakes happened when people hurried, and he was far too
aware of his position as IR agent to behave foolishly. Worried
he might be; incompetent he was not. Detaching feeling from
doing was one of the first lessons Scott Tracy had learned
with IR. So he swallowed his impatience and proceeded in a
calm and professional fashion.
hope One will be safe here." Well, maybe there was a bit
of worry shining through.
worry," came John's reassuring voice. "Our local agent has it
all under control. He'll stay with TB1 as long as he needs,
and I have her on my monitors as well. Nothing will happen."
what they always say before the building crumbles," Scott
muttered to himself as he checked the time. Five o'clock in
the afternoon, local time. By the time he reached the track,
it would be around six or six thirty – almost too late for
normal work hours, but he hoped he'd be able to find someone
anyway. With the race approaching, people were bound to be on
the track, repairing and testing. He knew from Alan's racing
days that the team had a tendency to stay behind and go out
for drinks later. Of course, Alan's racing friends weren't
here, but some people would be and they could answer his
to land," he announced, sounding business-like as usual. He
was wearing civilian clothes, which felt strange sitting in
the cockpit and carried a gun (hidden, of course). Over the
years, International Rescue had realized that while they meant
well, others didn't, and sometimes firearms were the only way
to defend themselves.
Scott." came John's reply. "Good luck."
His throat was dry as he gently set the rocket on the ground.
Luck...yes, he'd certainly need that.
time he reached the race track, he was thoroughly annoyed. The
vehicle their agent had kindly leant him was a rusty old
pick-up that could not manage the speed Scott would have
already dark outside, but the track was alight with
floodlights and he could hear the familiar noise of car
engines. Good. He had been right with his assumption.
at his watch, calculating that it was just after 6.30 local
time. Good. He was supposed to meet the contact at around
seven, in the local restaurant. It looked simple but clean and
the smells from the kitchen were delicious. It reminded him of
the fact that he hadn't yet eaten – but he shoved the thought
of food in a far back corner of his mind. Alan was more
important right now.
at the waitress as he entered, took a table close to the
window and ordered a coffee. With sugar and milk, just as he
liked it. He could never understand how some people (John, for
example) drank the stuff without sugar. Sure, he did it if he
had to – after all, he had been in the Air Force and got used
to foul smelling stuff – but when he had the opportunity to
use sugar, he'd damn well do it.
two teaspoons into the black liquid, swirled it around and was
just in the process of asking for some milk when a short,
round man entered the room. His small eyes scanned the room
and fell on Scott, the only one in the restaurant who was on
his own. With a slick smile, he sauntered over and held out
be Mr Hagen, I presume?"
Scott shook the hand, trying his best to keep his poker face.
He didn't like using false names, but the Tracy name was so
famous that it was often more a hindrance than a help. "You
have seen the man we're looking for?" He immediately came to
the point, not wishing to dawdle.
"Oh yes, I
have." The guy – Pickford was his name, as Scott dimly
remembered – flopped down on the seat opposed to him and
smiled. "Saw him on the racetrack."
seemed startled at the question and more so at the obvious
concern in Scott's voice. "He was fine, from what I could see.
A bit obnoxious, but then again, he was walking around with
Henry Tuckett, so that was to be expected." He leaned forward,
his eyes glinting eagerly. "Now, I understand that there is a
immediately repelled. So this guy was only in it for the money
– how disgusting. "Yes, there is. But only if the information
is valuable and the suspect is indeed the man I'm looking
well." Pickford smiled. "I saw him just this morning, running
around with Corringway's gang. The same face as in the
newspaper – blonde hair, blue eyes – looking a bit ragged..."
afraid? Did he seem in any danger?"
The mechanic blinked. "No, not at all. Why should he? He was
hanging around with two of Corringway's mechanics – insulted
me, those useless idiots – and as far as I could see, they
went out for lunch-"
out for lunch?" Scott was incredulous. No. How could he? They
had been thinking he had been dead and he went ahead
and had fun with some race track mechanics? "And he didn't
look...coerced, or maybe threatened?"
shook his head. "No, not at all. Quite the opposite, they were
enjoying each other’s company – laughing and talking, you
little ungrateful..."Scott gritted out and curled his fingers
around his coffee cup. Alan would suffer for this, that much
was certain. "Where can I find him now?"
you might want to ask Henry Tuckett – he's the one who's at
fault with this, you know – and he might know...so, what about
growled impatiently, just stopping short of strangling the
man. How could he insist on his reward after the terrible news
he had just delivered? "Contact the same phone number given in
the newspaper," he told him in a clipped tone, "And our agent
will sort it..."
finished his sentence. His gaze had strayed away from his
conversation partner and wandered over the street. What he saw
there made him nearly lose his grip on the mug.
froze. No. It couldn't be. He must be mistaken, it was just
someone who looked like him...
hair. Lean build. Tattered, worn looking clothes. And an open
brother. Standing on the street, apparently waiting for
emotion he felt was relief. Alan was okay. He was alive. Their
nightmares hadn't come true.
the relief transformed into anger. How could Alan do this to
them! Tin-Tin had been beside herself with worry, and there he
stood, looking perfectly at ease with himself and the world.
No sign of danger. No sign of horrible, life-threatening
injuries. Sure, there was a dark bruise on his face and he
appeared far too pale, but he was standing over there and
smiling to himself as if nothing had ever happened,
while everyone at home had been worried sick!
red. That stupid, infuriating, obnoxious little prat! How
could he! He knew how much they worried, and here he was,
obviously fine, and he hadn't even thought about calling them,
had enjoyed himself instead and gone off to watch the
races...no sign of any criminal force, no Hood, nothing!
worry of the last days morphed into anger as Scott stood up
from the table, slammed a bill on the counter and left the
restaurant in hurried strides. Oh, he would get the little
bastard for this...
didn't even notice his presence. He was staring at the
racetrack, his expression eager and anxious at the same time.
He must be waiting for the other mechanics, Scott realized,
the ones Pickford had been talking about. His lips thinned at
this. So he was having fun, eh? Making new friends? Well, he'd
tell him about fun...
Scott shouted over the street, but got no response. Alan
didn't even react to his name, as if he hadn't heard him at
all – or was ignoring him. That fuelled Scott's anger even
SHEPHERD TRACY!" he roared, loud enough to raise the dead. "IF
I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, YOU LITTLE..."
man jumped, startled by the sudden yell, and turned around to
investigate the commotion. As soon as his eyes fell on Scott,
all the blood left his cheeks and he stared as if he'd just
seen a ghost. His blue eyes widened in unmistakeable fear and
it took him only a second to realize that Scott was heading
towards him, and very quickly at that.
startled yelp, he whirled around and fled.
cursed under his breath. Now his younger brother didn't even
have the courage to stand by his actions and was fleeing like
a coward, that annoying little twerp...Too angry to care about
anything else, he started running.
didn't listen. Instead, he only skidded around a corner, Scott
hot on his heels. Confused shouting followed them, as
passers-bys tried to make sense of what was happening. For
once, the eldest Tracy didn't care about public appearance –
his gaze was focused solely on the back of his brother.
yelled again, but it was no use. For the first time, it began
to dawn on him that this wasn't normal Alan-behaviour. Foolish
he might be, but a coward he was not. He'd never run from his
older brother before – at least not when Scott had been
serious. But then again, the dark-haired man mused grimly,
there had never been an offence as...disgusting as this one.
PLEASE STOP!" He tried again, to no avail. Cursing under his
breath, he used the advantage of his long legs to gain on
Alan. The blonde was usually a quick runner, faster than
Scott, but it seemed that he wasn't in top shape. From the way
he was holding his hand pressed against his side, he must be
hurt – probably not seriously, judging from the speed he was
running, but enough to slow him down.
panted harshly, his anger and betrayal making him go faster
than he ever thought possible. Alan disappeared into an
alleyway, but he was hot on his heels. Fed up with this mad
chase, he darted forwards and gripped the blonde's upper arm .
Alan screamed in surprise and pain, as the momentum threw him
backwards and they both fell on the floor in a tangled heap.
"Will...you...please...stop...now..." Scott panted, his face
twisted in an angry frown.
thrashed around wildly. "Leave me! Let me..." His eyes were
wide with fear, as he tried to get free.
letting you get away!" Scott hissed, still angry, and pinned
the smaller man to the ground. "Of all foolish things to do,
this was the most..."
didn't listen. Instead, he wrestled with a force that bordered
on insanity, forcing Scott to tighten his grip. He received a
painful blow into his stomach and doubled over. By now, he was
so angry that he was beyond reason. Using the advantage of his
height, he pressed his younger brother to the ground, digging
his fingers forcefully into his arms. It had to hurt, but Alan
didn't make a sound.
opened his mouth to start ranting, when he saw something that
made him gasp in shock. There was fear in the face in front of
him – naked, honest fear, an expression Scott wasn't used to
being the cause of. Was his younger brother...afraid of him?
he realised...realised what had unsettled him ever since he
had talked with Pickford, ever since Alan had fled from him...
and it made his blood run cold, because it couldn't be true,
it just couldn't!
The man in
front of him was clearly Alan, starting with the gold blonde
hair, the honest, open face (though it was more a grimace of
pain right now) and ending with the familiar blue eyes.
But...there's wasn't the slightest bit of recognition in them.
like looking into the eyes of a stranger.
unaware his musings – he continued his fight, on the edge of a
full blown panic attack. "No, stop..." he gasped and struggled
against Scott's death grip. "I’m not going to let you kill me!
so surprised that he let go. Kill him?
Chapter Eleven: Hunted
afternoon dragged on slowly and was in some ways even more
depressing than the nightmares. I travelled back to the city,
reading the newspaper on my way back to look for some job
offers. They were a lot of them, but since I didn't even know
what I could do...work with cars, obviously, but without a
curriculum vitae and an ID card, it would be almost impossible
to find a job in that area.
So I kept
looking for casual jobs – bartenders, McDonald's worker,
things like that. But wherever I went, they were either full
or asked me to identify myself – in which case I nodded
politely and excused myself, saying that I had urgent business
to attend to.
And so I
found myself sitting in the train again, after hours of
fruitless searching. My money would be enough for two more
nights at the motel; maybe one more if I starved myself, but
that was it. I could always sell the signet ring, but felt
hesitant to do so – it was my only link to the past, after
idea of spending the evening with Mick and Henry cheered me up
a bit. I liked the two; they were cheerful and harmless, and I
could talk with them about cars without worrying about whether
I might give myself away or not. I wasn't entirely comfortable
with the fact that I was lying at them, but it had to be.
Besides, if someone was hunting me, they'd be better off not
knowing about it.
at the window. Three more stations until Haybridge. I'd
probably be early, but staying in the city had been far too
depressing. At least this way I was going somewhere.
giggling interrupted my thoughts. I turned around to see two
young girls sitting in the seats across from me. One of them
looked at me and smiled in a friendly manner, while the other
winked at me.
I was so
surprised that I only sat with my mouth agape for a moment.
Then a warm feeling spread through my body, and almost out of
instinct, I sent them a charming grin. This caused the one on
the left to blush, while the other beamed at me.
pleased. What had Annie called me? Handsome? Well, she'd
obviously been right, judging from the impact I had on these
girls. At least something was going in my favour...
are two beauties such as you heading?" I asked amiably.
home after a day of shopping." The dark-haired one of the duo
replied. "What about you?"
The race track."
widened simultaneously. "Really? Are you a driver?"
If only I
knew. "I'm afraid not. Merely a humble mechanic."
seemed to impress them anyway, and I thanked the Gods of
racing. Apparently, the mere idea of working on the racetrack,
so close to fame and glory, seemed to appeal to women.
suddenly, a face flashed through my mind – a young woman,
beautiful, with even, Asiatic features and a radiant smile.
She was the girl from my dreams, and I felt guilty. For what?
I hadn't been doing anything – hadn't even begun flirting yet!
with myself, I started a conversation with the girls. I might
belong to the girl in my dreams, but right now I felt very
alone and ached for companionship. The easy small-talk with
the two was a relief; they were impressed by my looks and I
couldn't help feeling flattered. One of them asked after my
bruises, but I invented a nice little story about a bar brawl
where I had to defend my waitress friend against a rather
that, they looked at me with admiration in their eyes. I
almost gloated – it was great being the hero, even though I
knew there wasn't the slightest bit truth in it. Ah well. What
they didn't know couldn't hurt them.
they had to get off the train, one stop before mine, but not
before they had scribbled down their numbers on a scrap of
paper. Feeling immensely pleased with myself, I put the note
safely in my pocket. I hadn't lost my touch, after all...well,
I didn't really know...had I been a playboy in my former life?
Or was I so shy that I didn't dare to approach the ladies?
in contemplation. For all I knew, my personality could have
been totally altered by this accident. What if I found out
about my former 'me' and didn't like it? That would be
was married, had seven kids and cheated on my wife with other
women. Ergh! Or maybe I was gay...even more disgusting. I
looked around at the other passengers of the train. Did I feel
fell on a huge guy a couple of seats down, who was snoring so
loud that he could have been sawing logs. I grimaced. Well, I
certainly wasn't attracted to him, that much was sure.
But who know, maybe to some finer specimen of manhood?
Don't be a
fool. You dreamt of a girl, there's no way you can be gay!
could always be bi...but since I wasn't planning on getting
involved with someone anyway, this really didn't matter.
came to a shuddering halt. Haybridge. Finally. I had enough of
this lousy day and my gloomy outlook on the future. Now I
would have an evening of fun, together with Mick and Henry,
and I was dead set on enjoying myself!
was already below the horizon and the street lamps were
alight. I glanced at the clock at the station; I was a bit
early, but not too much. I could wait.
down to the restaurant where we had been having lunch. As I
had expected, nobody was there yet, so I leant against a
street lamp and prepared myself for waiting. A smile flickered
over my face as I remember the two girls from the train. If
everything else failed, I could always become a womaniser, I
mused and chuckled to myself. Now that was an idea I hadn't
thought of before...or maybe I could become a model, with my
dashing good looks? That was even more amusing.
the door of the restaurant opened and closed again, but I
didn't pay any attention to it. I was facing the racetrack,
since Mick and Henry would most likely come from that
I could invite the two girls to our little get-together? I
cursed myself for not having thought of that earlier. Mick and
Henry would have certainly been impressed – well, maybe not
Henry, but definitely Mick.
A name was
being called behind me, but I didn't react. Probably some
patron looking for his friends. Although he was shouting
rather loudly – didn't he think of others? How
contemplated calling the girls immediately – or should I wait
and ask the others beforehand? They might not be okay with it,
and after all, we had just met. Maybe it'd be better if I...
SHEPHERD TRACY!", a voice roared behind me "IF I GET MY HANDS
ON YOU, YOU LITTLE..."
fear grabbed at my heart and I whirled around. There was a man
striding towards me in long, urgent steps. His face was a mask
of fury and his fists clenched in anger.
that man! It was the same person that had been haunting my
dreams! The one who had been so angry with me that he wanted
me dead! It was the one called Scott...and he looked beyond
reason, his eyes burning with fury.
The man –
Scott – had nearly reached me when I finally recovered my
senses. One glance at his face told me that he didn't harbour
any friendly feelings towards me; and with a startled yelp, I
turned around and fled.
hot pain raced through my ribs the moment I started running,
but I just clutched my hand against my side and continued down
the street. My heart hammered in my chest; this was the man I
had been afraid of, the man who was chasing me. And now he was
here, and would kill me, with the same furious look on his
face he'd worn in my dreams...
No way in
hell. I gritted my teeth and skidded around a corner. By now
it was dark. I needed to escape the light from the streets, I
realised and darted towards an empty alleyway. The darkness
would give me cover.
was hot on my heels. Being taller than me, and healthier at
that, he had no difficulties keeping up with me. My chest felt
constricted and the pain worsened with each step.
calling me. Was that my name? Was Alan my name? It sounded
better than John, anyway...
slipped on some gravel and I cursed, nearly falling to the
ground. No time to think!
was again, calling me Alan. It must be my name then; and for a
short moment, I felt exhilarated because I had solved one of
the big mysteries that was my life. I had a name; I was
didn't stay happy for very long; suddenly, a hand grabbed my
arm and twisted it. I was thrown backwards by the sudden force
and teetered to the ground, unable to stop the movement.
was hard and drove all the air from my lungs. Pain flared up
in my bruised ribs and for a short moment I could do nothing
but lie there and gasp. Then Scott was on me, pinning me down,
and struggled to get free. There was no way I could win a
fistfight against this man, not in my current condition! I
arched my upper body, wriggled beneath him, but his weight was
too much and my ribs screamed in protest. Dammit! I didn't
want to die! Not like that, not like some dog in a dark
alleyway, hell, I hadn't even found out about my past yet, I
didn't deserve to die...
"Will...you...please...stop...now..." Scott panted, his face
twisted in an angry frown.
thrashed around wildly, trying to hit him. "Leave me! Let
me..." Maybe I could talk with him. Maybe I could make him
understand that I was a changed person. That I didn't know
anything. That right now, I was innocent.
letting you get away!" He shoved me forcefully on the ground,
his blue eyes glaring into mine – hard as steel. Ready to kill
look like someone who'd listen to reason.
scanned my face, blinking through the semi-darkness that was
only illuminated by a small, upstairs window. I reached out to
hit him, but his reflexes were lightning quick and he stopped
my hand short before it smashed into his chin. I used the
momentum to punch him in the stomach instead. He curled up,
gasped in surprise and winced in pain. Anger flared up in his
face. I had annoyed him, made him even angrier...damn, what
was I thinking?
through my body, followed by an intense wave of frustration.
He'd kill me, damn, he'd kill me and I didn't want to die, I
was too young to die...
stop..." I struggled. His grip was like iron and hurt my ribs.
"I’m not going to let you kill me! I won’t!"
an almost comical expression of shock on his face and he sat
back with a thud. "Kill you?" he repeated. "What..."
had loosened and I took the chance. Using all my force, I
shoved him away and scrambled up. I fell, scraped my knee open
and hissed in pain as blood startled to trickle down my leg.
Then I was free – a sudden rush of excitement – and I was off
again, running wildly.
poured into my eyes and made it difficult to see. I couldn't
keep this up much longer – already my breath was coming in
short, laborious gasps.
was still behind me, had obviously overcome his initial
surprise. Maybe he hadn't expected my resistance? Maybe I
hadn't fought against it (whatever it might be) before? Maybe
I had accepted my fate docilely?
wouldn't do so now.
Determined, I ran straight towards an old warehouse, empty
from the run-down look of it. Scott was shouting behind me,
but I didn't listen, my eyes fixed on an old, rusty stairway
not far ahead. It led down a wall, into a maze of little
alleys. The perfect place to get rid of a pursuer.
the aching pain in my side, I almost jumped over the first
stair and made my way down, taking three stairs at once in my
hurry to escape.
leg overbalanced and I careened sideways. I tried to grab on
the railing, only to realize that there was none – obviously,
the owners of the building hadn't particularly cared about
keeping it up to safety standard.
Careful!" Scott yelled, and for a short moment, something else
flashed through my mind – Scott, running towards me with a
wild, panicked look on his face, trying to keep me from
falling, but he was too late – then I fell forward.
moved in slow-motion. I saw the stairs under me, old, rusty
and worn, and the ground underneath, a long way below. Scott's
voice sounded thin and frail, far away to my panicked ears.
know whether I screamed or not. I could have. Or maybe I only
imagined screaming. But I fell, that was sure, and my mind
went into overdrive, as picture over picture re-appeared...
safety line, attached to myself...
water, racing towards me at incredible speed...
...Screaming in my ear, people shouting at me to get back, to
panicked face with red hair, looking at me from the open
then the pain as the water hit...
battered body hit the stairs with a sickening thud. I rolled
around, an almost instinctive reaction and covered my head in
the desperate attempt to save myself from injury. Pain flared
up again and this time I screamed for sure.
down the staircase and came to a rolling stop on the ground.
Everything went blurry for a moment, and when my gaze focused
again, I saw boots stopping a couple of feet away from me.
They were mere shadows, but the street lights were close
enough that I could make out shapes and forms.
me something to focus onto. Scott was still there, still
following me and now I was at his mercy. Ignoring the pain, I
turned around on my back. Damn, that hurt! I was one giant
bruise, and in my mouth I tasted the metallic taste of blood.
Yuck! Why had I been so stupid to fall down the stairs! Of all
the foolish things to do...
alright?" Scott's voice startled me. He was hovering close to
me, his hand outstretched and his face a mixture of disbelief
scrambled back, out of his reach. "Get away from me!"
put out. "Alan, stop this nonsense! Have you gone mad? I'm not
going to kill you!"
are!" I spat, trying to get up and failing. "I might not
remember everything, but I do know your face, and the last
time I saw you, you were making death threats.."
swear, I'm going to kill you for this!"
If I had
been paying attention, I would have seen the myriad of
emotions crossing his face. Hurt, shock, understanding, and
then horror. But I didn't care; for all I knew, I was on my
own with a brutal killer. I kicked, but he darted out of the
way with an ease I could only be jealous of.
why you didn't contact us? You...couldn't remember?"
enough. Suddenly all the anger and frustration, all the pain
and fury came to the surface and I roared. I had enough of it!
Enough of being afraid, of not-knowing, of the insecurity! I
simply wanted to...be myself and be happy! But wherever I
went, it seemed as if I was doomed, and now he had come as
well, haunting me, threatening to take away the precious
little hold I had on my sanity.
wouldn't let him! Anger welled up in my stomach and I
catapulted myself forward, barrelling into him with brutal
force. He gasped, tried to grab my arms, but I was too furious
to be held down. Instead, I started attacking him without
mercy. Shocked by my approach, he didn't do anything but stand
there for a moment.
spluttered, only to duck my flying fist. "Alan, please calm
down...I can explain everything!"
hah! I was blind to his words, saw only the target, saw red,
didn't listen to reason. I could have been sobbing; I could
have been screaming at the top of my voice – but what it
really was, I will never know. It all became a blur, as I
attacked him again and again, using every ounce of strength
left in my body.
God's sake, Alan! What were you thinking?" Voices echoed
through my brain – little bubbles of memory floating to the
contacted with flesh and the painful yelp filled me with grim
satisfaction. Served him right, that bastard!
you know that it’s your job as the youngest to do all the
dirty work?" Another voice this time, its tone joking.
stumbled backwards and I tackled him, throwing us both to the
ground, where we rolled over the dirt, locked in a deadly
Scott tells us to hurry. He says the dam is breaking and it’s
gonna be one hell of a wave. We don’t want to be washed away."
you! I hate all of you!" I screamed, my voice raw from
shouting. And then I started punching him again, my only goal
to inflict him pain, to make him suffer like I had suffered
the last days...and it felt so good to release the energy, to
let go of everything and get swept away by the anger...
up!" Scott's tone was really urgent. "You don’t want to be
caught in the water." The voices merged together, formed a
symphony of scattered memory and made my head hurt.
stop!" He yelled and grabbed my arm. "I'm not going to hurt
you, I'll help you, Alan, would you just listen!"
Alan!" came Gordon’s panicked voice. "Scott just called, the
dam broke! We have to get out of here! If you get rid of the
harness, you’re going to be swept away!"
the pain, ignored the blood that was trickling down my hand.
What did he know? He still had his life, a purpose,
everything, while I was left to fend for myself, a nothing in
this world...I didn't have any money, any friends, and my past
was a book with seven seals. And now he was here to take away
the one thing I had left: my life.
GET UP!" Gordon yelled.
CRAZY STUPID LITTLE…"
contacted with Scott's temple. His head lolled back with the
sudden force and he grunted in pain and surprise. Blood began
trickling down his cheek, and I couldn't stop staring at it,
mesmerized by the sight. It was...he was...so close! The
memories, moving below the surface, so tantalisingly close, if
only the last barrier...
at him, really looked at him for the first time since the
chase began. His hair was dark, but his eyes were blue, just
like mine, and he had a dimple on his chin like the one I had
seen in the mirror that morning – something that didn't really
fit in my mental image of a cold-blooded killer. He was
sitting in front of me, holding his head with such an injured
expression on his face that it cut through my head. The anger
had evaporated, had been replaced by sadness.
Scott, the killer, Scott, the hunter, Scott - my brother?
- asked in a helpless fashion.
the memories caught me in their tidal wave and swept me away.
and cold and tired, but I know that I can't stop. There's a
little boy that needs to be rescued. And so I ignore the pain,
the exhaustion, the cold, and struggle onwards.
beats relentlessly against my face, making my skin hurt,
washing away the blood and dirt.
just called, he’s worried the dam won’t hold much longer, but
the last family I sent up in the elevator car were missing
their little boy who’d been out playing when the river burst
not happy; he keeps yelling at me, telling me that it is
dangerous. But what am I supposed to do? He's just a kid; he
doesn't deserve this.
can’t see anything on the thermal scanner. Hope is slim; and I
feel the familiar lump of sadness in my throat. Another life
lost, another family ripped apart. We are so powerful, yet we
are so weak. Too late. How I hate those words.
gives orders over the watches, coordinates he rescue with
determined authority. I'm ready to go back in when I see a
flash of colour in the trees just downstream.
Over there. Quick." I tell my brother, and he obliges, though
grumbling as he does so. Gordon is on the look-out, but I'm
the only one who sees the little face, a pale speck against
the dark, churning water. They're not very happy when I tell
them to swing me by.
the dam is close to breaking."
know." I keep my gaze fixed on the small body. "But there's a
child. I can't just leave him there."
though not happy with it, mans the controls, while Thunderbird
Two hovers over the trees where I've seen the face.
makes it difficult to see, and I can't really reach – the face
has disappeared – I see only emptiness and dead branches. In
order to get closer, I need to get off the cage. Scott will be
furious; doesn't matter, I'm already unbuckling my harness.
The dam!" Gordon screams over the mike and then curses. "What
are you doing? Get back into your harness, you idiot!"
him. I'm nearly there. Just a couple of metres. Just a bit
dam! It's breaking! Get back! Get back AT ONCE!"
roaring sound fills the air and I look up.
churns, and there's a giant wave hurtling towards me with
incredible speed. I scream and try to escape, but it's too
late and I lose what precious little hold I had.
the water hits me.
Mind-numbing, burning, agonizing pain.
I'm under water, spinning round and round until I see circles.
My lungs burn with the need for oxygen, but there is none.
Shit!" flashes through my mind, and after that it's only a
whirl of pain and confusion, of water and sticks and the
desperate need to breathe.
frantic voices of my brothers vanish in a gurgle as my watch
smashes against the tree with brutal force.
hits me – hard – and my whole left side goes numb. The
remaining air is driven from my lungs. Greyness tugs at the
edges of my vision, and the last thing I see before I'm
surrounded by darkness is a pale, childish face.
Chapter Twelve: Confrontations,
Revelations, and Memories
barely had the time to be surprised when Alan slid out of his
grip and started running again. He cursed. His brother was
slicker than an eel, and worse, he was afraid, and fear
had always been a good motivator.
words Alan had uttered were running through his head as he
followed the younger man. Kill him. He expects me to kill
Alan had never been afraid of him in his entire life. Well,
maybe a bit frightened, but that was usually after he had
somehow evoked his brother's fury through some foolish stunt;
and most of the time, he reacted with anger rather than fear.
Never had he believed that Scott would actually harm him.
Scott shouted, but the blonde wasn't listening. He ran at top
speed, heading towards an old factory building.
on his heels, felt his brotherly instincts rise. If Alan
continued like that, he'd injure himself. His brother had
thrown all caution in the wind and was running like a mad-man.
It was difficult to see in the darkness, but Scott thought he
recognized some rusty looking stairs, leading down...
down...please slow down...
looking back, Alan thundered down the rather dubious looking
stairway. And he didn't seem to be slowing down. Scott's eyes
widened in dread as he saw the speed at which his brother
hurtled down the stairs.
careful, be careful...
The momentum was too great, Alan stumbled. For a moment, he
was hanging in empty air, arms windmilling wildly. Scott
darted forward, but he was too far behind, couldn't reach his
brother in time.
hit the stairs with a sickening thud, and then he rolled the
rest of the way, connecting harshly with the stairs. His limbs
flopped around in an aimless way, making him resemble a
rag-doll. The staircase wasn't long, and he'd already been
half the way down when he'd stumbled, but it still looked very
moment, Scott was frozen – he had a horrible vision of Alan's
broken body lying on the ground, his brother taken from him
found him! I can't lose him again! Please, this can't be
came to a rolling stop on the ground and didn't move. A groan
escaped his lips, almost too soft to hear.
That shook him out of his stupor and he raced down the stairs,
coming to a skidding stop beside his brother. "Alan?"
feeling of dread trickled through his stomach when he didn't
receive a response. No! He couldn't lose him all over again!
okay?" There was an edge of panic in his voice as he asked,
falling down on one knee to examine his brother. He stretched
out his hand, trying to get Alan to face him, trying to get a
response. Then training kicked in and he shoved his emotions
aside, trying to deal with this like he would with any rescue.
recoiled from him as if he was on fire. "Get away from me!"
washed over Scott – Alan was alive, he wasn't dead – followed
by irritation and confusion. What the heck was wrong with him?
be a logical explanation for his behaviour, and Scott kicked
himself for not having thought of it earlier. Drugs often
caused paranoia, extreme feelings and delusions. He reached
out again, this time intending to look at Alan's eyes –
dilated pupils were a sure sign of drug-induced
never came that far. Alan let out a wild roar – sounding more
like an animal than the human being he was – and attacked him.
safe to say that Scott Tracy had never expected to be attacked
by one of his brothers. Quarrels, yes; bouts of wrestling in
the gym, certainly; and sometimes arguments, nasty word
exchanges. But attacked, in the meaning of real, proper dirty
street fighting? No. Never.
And so it
was quite understandable why he froze in shock when Alan
suddenly threw himself at him, throwing punches with such a
fury that he was propelled backwards.
youngest brother seemed convinced that Scott was going to kill
him, a notion that hurt him deeper than he let on. Even if he
was on drugs, he should know that Scott would never hurt him.
stop this nonsense! Have you gone mad? I'm not going to kill
you!" He tried to calm his panicked brother, feeling totally
overwhelmed. He had been ready to deal with an indignant and
sulking Alan, even with an Alan that had been kidnapped by
some criminals, but this? This wasn't the brother he knew. He
behaved like a different person! And it scared him.
are!" Alan spat, his eyes open wide. "I might not remember
everything, but I do know your face, and the last time I saw
you, you were making death threats..."
Scott understood. Understood why Alan had been acting that
way; why there wasn't the slightest hint of recognition in his
eyes; why he looked so lost and miserable. It wasn't drugs. He
hadn't been kidnapped. No, it was something far more
why you didn't contact us? You...couldn't remember?" He
blanched at the mere idea. Amnesia was not unknown to him –
with the amount of injuries and trauma he had to deal with, he
had encountered it frequently.
But not in
one of my brothers. It happens to victims, to people I don't
know, people I can treat with professional detachment. It
can't be Alan...he would have forgotten everything...has
forgotten about his role in IR, about Tracy Island, about
heaven, he doesn't remember me!
It was a
selfish thought, but one Scott couldn't stop thinking. His
little brother, the boy he had taught how to walk, didn't
remember him, looked at him as if he was some stranger.
flashed over Alan's face, quicker than the eye could follow.
For a moment, he didn't look like the man he was, but like a
boy, utterly lost and alone. Scott had gotten the answer he
had been looking for; but it wasn't one he particularly liked.
It was a
shout of rage and frustration, of hatred and loss. Suddenly,
his eyes burned with wild fire and he sprang forward,
attacking again, with a ferocity that Scott had never seen
before, hadn't even known that his brother was capable of it.
Oh God, he
doesn't remember me and he thinks I'm going to kill him...
he's freaking out...but why?
barely escaped a flying fist. "Alan, please calm down...I can
But it was
no use. Alan seemed to have lost his reason; he was in a
full-blown panic attack, deaf to everything around him. He
continued to fight, the way a wounded animal in a trap won't
stop struggling, harming itself in the process.
Scott off-guard, threw him to the ground until they rolled
through the dirt, the older brother barely able to avoid
fight back...hell, I can't hit my little brother!
you! I hate all of you!" Alan raged on, his eyes blazing. He
continued beating Scott's chest in a useless fashion, tears
spilling down his cheeks. Scott was too stunned to react.
Never before in his life had he seen his brother...freaking
out like that. Alan might lose his temper, but he was still
Alan, his kid brother. This, however, was downright scary
– like a stranger, a lunatic who wore the face of someone he
had once known.
up his hands, trying to stop the blows and winced when one
stop!" He tried to get through to his brother. "I'm not going
to hurt you, I'll help you, Alan, would you just listen!"
didn't hear. His eyes glinting dangerously, he darted forward
again, striking with his fist. The movement came too quick
even for Scott's lightning reflexes. It connected with the
side of his head, throwing him backwards. Hot pain flared up,
and for a moment, the world tilted out of focus.
blinked and held up his arm to protect himself. Blood was
running down his face, but he ignored it, too shocked by what
had just happened.
judging from the look on his face, he wasn't feeling
particularly sorry about it.
I'm his enemy.
afraid of me.
understand. If he can't remember me, I should just be another
stranger. This shouldn't happen. Why does he remember me that
Scott asked, his voice almost inaudible, not tearing away his
gaze from his brother. He flinched, as Alan made a movement,
expecting to be hit again and hating himself for it. He wasn't
weak; but he couldn't fight his brother, of all people!
he has been feeling like that for forever. Maybe he has hidden
those feelings, and now they come to the surface, because he
can't remember to hold them back...
can't be afraid of me, he's my little brother! I'm not that
terrible, am I? I know that we often fight, and that I've got
a quick temper...but he knows that I love him, does he? He
does he behave that way?
back on his heels and stared at him, breathing heavily. His
face was full of scratches from the fall, and his hair stuck
out in all directions. The punch seemed to have brought him
back to his senses – or what was left of them. He stared at
Scott with his mouth hanging open, awareness trickling back
into his face. The panic disappeared and...something else
flashed through his eyes, something almost akin
Scott began, though he had no idea what to say. He had lost
control, was slipping, a feeling he didn't like at all. Maybe
one of the others would have been better equipped to deal with
this – John, for example - the relationship between him and
Alan had always been a bit rocky. But who could have known?
out a weird sound – a mixture between a groan and a sob – and
clutched his head, grimacing in pain. His eyes lost their
focus and he swayed back and forth, like a drunken man
searching for balance. Scott stretched out his arm to steady
him and stopped when a sharp sting in his head reminded him of
the fact that Alan wasn't very fond of him of him at the
moaned again, all anger seeping out of his body, and then
curled up in a ball, his shoulders shaking.
What's happening now?
Scott's voice was so tentative that his brothers would have
been surprised to hear it.
ignored him, just made himself even smaller, trying to hide
from the world. He now resembled more the little kid brother
Scott knew so well. When they'd been younger, Alan had always
curled up when he was afraid, as if it would somehow protect
him from anything nasty. Scott's heart went out to his
brother, and, all hesitation gone, he moved across and put his
arms around the trembling figure.
expected to be shoved away, to be attacked again, but moments
passed and nothing happened. Alan only tensed, surprised by
the sudden hug.
Scott whispered, almost immediately falling back into the role
as older brother – comforting his siblings had always been his
surprise, Alan relaxed into him. A small sniffle broke the
silence, another followed – and suddenly the blonde was racked
by violent shudders, as he cried wordless tears into his
him tight, glad that he was able to feel his presence, happy
that Alan was alive. It filled him with a warm glow from the
inside. He closed his eyes briefly, allowing himself to bask
for a moment in the gentle happiness of having his brother
back – and then took the opportunity to examine said brother.
A lot of
bruises – Scott winced inwardly when the saw how blue Alan's
rib cage was – and a ragged looking gash on his left arm.
Several cuts, but none of them too serious – most of them were
wrapped in bandages anyway. Probably a concussion, too,
judging from the fall he had taken.
"If only I
had known..." In an unconscious gesture of affection, Scott
stroked the blonde hair out of Alan's face. "And here I
thought you'd forgotten about us...well, you did, in the
literal sense of the word...damn, you must have been so
didn't respond, caught up in his own little world. Scott had
no idea what his brother was going through at the moment, so
he contented himself with holding him, offering what little
support he could.
of Alan wandering around helplessly, not knowing who or where
he was, while they'd been looking for him everywhere...it was
enough to turn his stomach. While they had been sitting on
Tracy Island, Alan had been forced to fight with his own,
personal demons. It was must have been dreadful.
remembered the dark circles under Alan's eyes, the haunted
look, the tension in his shoulders. The last days had taken
their toll on him. The usual round and open face looked thin
and haggard, etched with lines of worry and exhaustion. The
blonde hair was matted and dirty.
had been right. Alan would never have skived off, not without
a serious reason, and Scott felt foolish for believing so.
known, deep down. Had known that Alan wouldn't do that. But it
was easier to be angry, because that was an emotion he knew –
an emotion he could deal with. He hadn't wanted to acknowledge
any other possibilities, because they scared him, and he
didn't want to be scared. Didn't want to feel the
mind-wrenching worry. It was easier to feel anger...
sorry," Scott whispered, as he ran gentle hands along Alan's
shaking body and checked for broken bones. To his relief, he
found none, though he suspected that the ribs were bruised
severely - and one wrist appeared sprained. He looked very
battered, his brother, signs of the catastrophe he had lived
through. "I'm sorry for doubting you."
everything that had happened - and his memory loss, which
seemed to be vast – Alan had been drawn to the racetrack,
something he was familiar with. Had he remembered that bit? Or
had he just acted on instinct?
looked happy for a moment, before Scott had announced his
presence. That thought alone gnawed at his gut. It was Scott's
fault that Alan had run, Scott's fault that Alan was afraid,
that he fell down the stairway...
But if he
remembered racing, he should remember his family sooner or
to relax, and the breathing that had been coming in short
gasps now settled into a more even rhythm. Scott waited with a
patience he hadn't known he possessed. He didn't want to
destroy the fragile peace they had created. He didn't even
know what had changed; but he was glad for it.
he needed to make sure how severe the memory loss was; and he
needed to reassure his confused brother that his fear wasn't
real, that he was here to help, and not to kill.
that I'm out to murder him...honestly.
groaned and mumbled something he couldn't understand. Then he
scrunched up his nose, like he had always done when they had
been kids and he'd been dreaming about something nasty. Scott
watched him with a bemused smile; some things, it seemed,
would never change.
asked again, his voice very soft.
groaned and blinked through the headache that was exploding in
his skull. His gaze was blurry at first, but then focused on
Scott. A set of emotions washed over his face – fear,
confusion, understanding, frustration. Scott was ready to pin
him to the ground should he run again – but Alan didn't move.
Instead, he just stared at him, his eyes wide and solemn.
watched him warily.
going to hurt you."
a heavy silence between them – and then Alan shook his head.
"I know that." he replied instead, his voice rough and
unsteady. "Well...I think I do."
be insulted if not", Scott tried to joke, even though his
heart nearly broke when he heard the uncertainty, the
confusion. "I'm your brother."
blinked, face set in stone. "But I remembered...remembered you
wanting to kill me."
flashed over Scott's features. "Well, I don't really
understand..." he began and trailed off. "What exactly did you
shrugged. "Nightmares. Mostly your face – screaming at me, and
you were so mad! I believed for sure that you were going to
kill me! You said so yourself – screamed it, actually. 'I
swear I'm going to kill you', something like that." He rubbed
his aching head, wincing when he touched a sore spot.
swallowed hard. Now that he thought of it, he had said some
rather nasty things. The phrase Alan had mentioned was his
standard curse after his younger brothers had played a prank
on him again. Yet it was never meant in a serious way, and
they knew it. He just got...mad.
take the words out of context and the whole world shifted.
Alan had remembered them, but without everything around
it. Given that evidence, it was no surprise that he had been
convinced that his brother meant serious harm.
sick. So Alan had been running away from him, having
nightmares, for God's sake, just because he couldn't
control his temper in a stupid fight!
future, he really would have to really watch what he said.
unaware of what was going on in his brother's head, sat up and
winced as his body protested. He felt battered, but relieved.
At first he didn't know why, but then he realized...realized
that where there had been emptiness before, his head was now
full of memories. They didn't make sense; most of them weren't
even connected, and there were far too many of them – a memory
have been funny, but he couldn't muster the energy to laugh.
least they were there!
angry because I...did something to...your 'bird?" He
concentrated hard, trying to make sense of the overlapping
pictures. "Yes. I know. The morning before we left on the
rescue, I had been loading some programmes into Thunderbird
One’s computer. It was taking a long time, so I went to get a
pizza from the kitchen. Tin Tin came into the cockpit while I
was working..." Alan stopped and smiled. Tin-Tin. Of course.
Finally he had a name to go with the beautiful girl. Then he
noticed that Scott was waiting – Scott, his brother! - and
put the plate on the floor while we had a little er, chat. By
the time I had finished the programming I had forgotten all
about it. I was playing pool...I think...that's the game with
the cues, yes?...when you came storming into the games room,
breathing fire. You’d gone into One to see if I had finished,
stood on the pizza and slipped. You were pretty mad at me. We
were just working up to one of our rows when the alarm went
stopped in wonder. The words had tumbled out of his mouth
effortlessly, yet he still had to make sense of them. It was
like before, on the racetrack. His mouth said things his brain
didn't know yet, and only after the words had left his mouth,
he realized that they were true. He had a past. He had a
history. It was there.
sorry." Scott started to apologize, but Alan didn't appear to
hear him. He stared at some spot to his left, a faraway look
on his face.
waited with baited breath. It seemed as if Alan's memories
were returning – maybe triggered by his presence? - and he
didn't want to destroy this miracle.
a rescue", he began and looked at Scott, the man he had
thought was out to kill him. He saw only kindness in the blue
eyes, so similar to his own. "Wasn't there?"
do something, oh no, it's too late, the wave's there
was...in the water." The blonde continued, looking at the
pictures in his mind. "I wanted to help...the boy. And then
the water came. The wave. It hit. And it hurt." He blinked in
the darkness. "You were screaming at me."
want you to take off the harness." Remembering the rescue was
painful. "It was a foolish thing to do."
dead, I'm going to die I don't wanna die please...
to help him."
didn't dare to hope. Alan looked different compared to before.
The almost mad look had disappeared, had been replaced by
contemplation and honest confusion. Awareness shone out of his
blue eyes, and for the first time, Scott had the feeling that
he was really dealing with Alan, not some stranger who
bore the same face.
looked up, and saw him – really saw him – for the first time
since the whole ordeal started. For a moment, time seemed
frozen, while he took in everything – the shirt that had been
torn during the fight, the darkening bruise on Scott's face,
the scrapes on his knuckles from where he had been forced to
defend himself – and horror began to dawn. This was...not a
killer. This was a man he knew...had known...was...familiar...
through the pictures that flashed in front of his eyes,
swaying under the mental blizzard that seemed to rage through
thought stood in the forefront of his mind with such clarity
that he couldn't help but shudder. Not a killer. Not a madman.
His brother. His brother Scott, whom he had known for his
...friendly, easy-going banter at the breakfast table...
name wasn't John, either. It was Alan. Alan Shepherd Tracy.
And John was the name of his older brother, the one who had
the same blonde hair as him, who was an astronaut, just like
him, and who loved the stars...
...exhausting, frustrating tennis battles, young against old,
the war raging on for hours, until both parties fell to the
ground and couldn't move any longer...
criminal. He wasn't a criminal. The thought filled him with
such profound relief that he felt his knees go weak. Even
though it had seemed unlikely in the end, he couldn't help but
wonder...and the mere idea had scared him.
smell of perfume when Tin-Tin brushed by him, alluring and
So. He had
to keep secrecy, but only because he belonged
almost smiled as that particular memory came back. Over the
last days, he had heard sing-songs of praise for International
Rescue, never once realising that he was one of those famous
heroes in blue...it certainly put a lot of things in
painful arguments, where both lost their temper and got so mad
at each other that the only way to escape was to leave the
room and slam the door...
finally answered, his voice a triumphant whisper. "I
were the best words he'd ever said, sweet tasting and full of
a whoop of joy, something so out-of-character for his older
brother that Alan found himself gaping at him, and hugged him
fiercely. "Alan! I'm so glad to have you back! You had me
was worrying myself." Alan smiled through the splitting
headache he was encountering. "It was horrible, Scott! I
didn't know who I was, and so I kept drifting around...I had
myself convinced that I was some wanted criminal!"
the blonde gave a sheepish grin, "First, I had this need for
secrecy which I couldn't explain to myself - must have been
some kind of subconscious IR protection safeguard – and then I
hot-wired a car. I had to," he quickly admonished against
Scott's shocked look, "There was nobody there, it was like a
freakish nightmare, and I wanted to escape those ghost towns
as soon as possible."
nodded in understanding, feeling that there was still a lot
Alan wasn't telling. How frightening it must have been – he
tried to imagine himself in the situation and failed horribly.
of course, I saw my picture on the newspaper...gave me a real
scare!" Alan shook his head, seeing the irony of the
situation. "I had myself convinced that I was being hunted by
some kind of mafia!" He snorted, since International Rescue
was probably almost the exact opposite of a mafia – well, with
the exception of the secrecy and the patriarch...
could remember! He didn't mind the headache, but he finally
knew who he was – Alan Shepherd Tracy, twenty-three years old,
former racing driver, International Rescue operative, pilot of
Thunderbird Three and astronaut. Smiling serenely at the happy
thought, he didn't notice when Scott stood up and was thus
startled when a helpful hand was offered to him.
kid, let's go home. There are a lot of people waiting to see
rolled the idea around in his head. What a wonderful word. He
wasn't drifting any longer; he had an anchor place, a history,
and a family.
And he was
itching to see them again, to hear Gordon's familiar banter,
see Virgil's laughing face, eat Grandma's apple-pie, feel
Tin-Tin's sweet touch on his skin. He wanted it more than
anything, and yet...
Scott." He pulled himself up and leaned on Scott's shoulder
for support. His injured ankle stung like hell, but he was far
too happy to complain. "I've got to tell Mick and Henry what
happened – they're really nice guys. They were my friends when
I had no-one, and I will never forget that. They knew I had
lost everything in the flood, they'll be pleased to find out
that this is not the truth! And you should see the car, it's
really great, I did some work on it, and boy, it's good, maybe
they let me make a few rounds, I'd like that..."
nodded amused. Typical Alan – as soon as he had his memory
back, he was talking his ear off. But he wouldn't have
exchanged that for anything in the world. Right now, Alan's
babbling was the sweetest sound on this planet.
Let's go then. But not for long – I want Brains to have a look
at your injuries. Amnesia is not to be taken lightly."
rolled his eyes. "I'm fine, Scott."
minutes ago you were convinced that I'd cut your throat.
You're far from fine, Alan."
thought you were dead! And then I find you running away from
me! Humour me - you're going to get examined, even if I have
to knock you unconscious and tie you to a chair!" Scott glared
at his brother.
mumbled something under his breath. Even the prospect of a
gruesome examination couldn't dampen his mood – he could have
hugged the world. Then another idea struck him. "Hey Scott, I
bet you came here with Thunderbird One?" The grin threatened
to split his face in two halves.
having learned from experience that this meant no good, nodded
let's just say there's this farm that I want to pay a visit
to...I wonder what Annie and Howard will say if Thunderbird
One lands in Annie's herb garden and I climb out of the