This story was written for the 2006 TIWF Halloween challenge and took me to an unknown territory – once again – I've never written horror before. I tried to make it scary, but I don't think I succeeded; it's more weird than frightening.

The lights were humming and Gordon was sure that the bloody handprint on the wall hadn't been there before...


Something smelled very, very nasty.

That was the first thing that came to Gordon's mind as he slowly opened his eyes. The stench made his eyes water and left him feeling nauseous. Gods, had he forgotten to take out the rubbish again? But no, it never smelled that bad; there was something akin to acid in the air, burning painfully in his nose.

With a curse he rolled around and winced as something sharp prodded in his side. Why as he lying on the floor? The last thing he had been doing – well – that was...he couldn't remember?

And were those glass shards?

Gordon's eyes flew wide open as his mind finally connected with the sensory input. In one fluid motion he sat up and regretted it immediately when a swirling headache threatened to let him see his dinner for a second time that day. He clamped one hand over his mouth and waited for the nauseous feeling to pass. Only his willpower prevented him from spewing all over the floor.

"What the hell?" he muttered, his eyes sweeping around the room. It seemed to be a lab of some sort, a scientist's dream come true: distillers, blinking screens, test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks filled with obscure liquids, bunsen burners of all sizes, petri dishes with strange cell cultures, and other objects he dimly remembered from his own, long-passed chemistry lessons at school.

Gordon himself was sitting on the ground amidst a huge mess of glass shards and a puddle of some clear liquid. His hands were wet, as was one side of his face. The pungent smell seemed to come from the numerous chemicals around him.

Not the trash then. That was a relief.

A small cut ran along his left hand, not deep enough to be a bother, but enough to hurt. He frowned at it, as though it was solely to blame for his predicament.

There was no one around, he was all alone. That was strange; Gordon had always expected a place like this to be full of people who hustled and bustled and did all kinds of weird things, like sewing ears to mice and inventing unmeltable chocolate.

"Hello?" he asked, but his voice only echoed through the lab. No response.

Looking down at himself, Gordon realized that he was in his IR-Uniform, though it looked a bit worse for the wear. His torch lay not far away from him and he grabbed it, glad to have at least something familiar nearby.

So he was probably on a rescue, he reasoned, and had somehow passed out in this room. An accident? Maybe he had hit his head somewhere – that would explain the headache. But honestly, that was embarrassing! The others would never let him live that down. Well, not that he intended to tell them.

Climbing to his feet, Gordon grabbed the small headphones that had fallen to the ground and settled them on his ears. "Gordon to Mobile Control," his voice interrupted the eerie silence. But nothing came back, not even static.

"Great." He glared at the offending puddle on the ground, which must be the reason why his communication device wasn't working any more. Well, he could always use his wrist watch, that one should still be okay, though it wasn't as handy as the headphones.

"Gordon to Mobile Control," he repeated, while he was slowly making his way towards the door. The lab was creeping him out, even though he couldn't say exactly why. Maybe it was because he couldn't remember coming here; everything was fuzzy, as though he was seeing it through some sort of milky screen. They had been on a rescue, and it had been a fire, that much he remembered; but from then onwards it all became hazy, a sequence of pictures that didn't make sense.

His watch came to life with a crackling sound. He could hear Scott's voice, giving strict orders and sounding tense. "Mobile Control?" he prodded again.

"Sorry, Gordon, I'm rather busy – is it an emergency?"

Gordon blinked. "Naw, not really-"

"Then call later. I've got to deal with this first." The connection was cut before the redhead could even reply. Scowling at the watch, he grumbled to himself. "Great! Thanks a lot Scott, that really helped me!" But he couldn't help feeling a slight spectre of worry. What was going on that had made Scott sound so terse?

Well, he wasn't a Tracy for nothing. Standing around here and worrying wouldn't help matters at all, besides it would give him wrinkles and he really didn't want to have a permanent scowl attached to his face. And after all, he had a job, didn't he?

Damn right. He was here to rescue people, and that he would do, no matter how bad the smell. There had been no one in the lab and no sign of danger, but who could say that about the rest of the building?

The doors that led out of the room were thick and sturdy; it was apparent that they had been designed to withstand fire and explosion. With all the chemicals Gordon had seen in the cupboards, this didn't come as a surprise. Chemistry had never been his favourite subject, but he knew that even the smallest amount of some rare materials could wreak havoc. They didn't even need to be rare, just the right combination of some household items was enough to create a bomb – as Alan could prove formidably every time he managed to bring a kitchen utensil to the point of melting.

Gordon chuckled to himself. Okay, he had to admit that the last kitchen explosion had been halfway his fault as well, after all he had placed the firecrackers in the toaster; but Alan's face had been worth it.

The door wasn't locked, but quite heavy to open. Gordon pushed with all his strength and slid through the opening.

The hallway that greeted him was dimly lit (was it already dark outside? How strange. The windows were black) and empty as well.

"Anyone here?" Gordon called, but with the exception of the echo of his own voice there was nothing to be heard.

The fluorescent lights hummed above him; one of them was damaged and flickered on and off. Gordon sent it an annoyed glare. He hated it when those things got damaged; the flickering was enough to make him aggravated. John had once told him that some people could get epileptic fits from watching a stroboscoping light too long. Seeing it now, Gordon could perfectly understand why. Even when he wasn't looking at it, he sensed the flickering and it was driving him nuts.

"Such an expensive building and they can't even afford proper lights? What a waste." It was a relief to talk, even if he was only addressing himself. With a shrug, he walked down the corridor, suppressing the feeling of unease that grew in his stomach.

The stairway was separated through a fire door. It was unharmed, like the rest of the building, and no smoke could be seen. Gordon sniffed the air, but found that his nose was still blocked by the acid smell. That was strange. What was the rescue for if not a fire?

He pushed the doors open and stepped into the stairway. This one was brightly lit and none of the lights flickered, much to his relief, though the humming sound stayed. It was almost like a beehive from far, far away; threatening and moving.

The stairs went downward quite a bit, and yet there was no sound. It was almost eerie.

Gordon couldn't remember the last time he had had a silent rescue. There were always people screaming in pain and fear, buildings groaning, things exploding, the noise of the machines, the orders over the communication link and all kinds of random noises that simply belonged to a rescue.

But silence? No. Silence meant death. If things were silent, then that usually meant that International Rescue had come too late. So far, Gordon had only witnessed that twice, and he really didn't want to experience it again.

"Hallo?" he asked again, just for the sake of hearing his own voice.

The lights hummed constantly. It was really getting on his nerves, that constant humming sound, and that was strange, because he was used to the waves on the shoreline and this really wasn't all that different...Gordon paused in his tirade. Something had caught his attention.

And then he saw the handprint.

It glistened in the bright light, a sharp contrast to the stark white wall. He narrowed his eyes and stepped closer. It was indeed a handprint; smaller than his own, but no doubt there, wet and slick and burning red.

Red. With a sick feeling he realized that it was blood, not dirt or mud or something else, as he had first assumed, and he wondered where the unfortunate person was that had left it. Maybe he – or she? - was lying somewhere in this stairway, unable to move, because he, Gordon, had managed to knock himself out somehow? This was unacceptable!

"Hello?" He started down the stairway, spotting another handprint at the corner. "I'm from International Rescue, I've come to help."


Gordon glared at the lights. "Shut up, you, I'm trying to do my work here."

One of them flickered. He passed it with his gaze firmly fixed on the floor.

The handprints led him three floors down and then they stopped. Gordon looked at the closed door and at the stairway. He had two possibilities; either the injured person had gone into the corridor, or he had followed the stairway further down. Without any more prints to follow, he had no other option; he had to check both.

Feeling bone-weary, Gordon pressed down the handle, using all his strength to push it open. Damn it, why did those doors have to be so heavy, anyway? He wasn't exactly a weakling and yet it seemed impossible to open them with one hand only. Softly complaining about stupid architects and fate that chose to put him in such a situation, he entered the hallway. Like the one above, it was dimly lit. Most of the overhead lights had stopped working, but there were a few that continued humming, and one of them – flickered.

Gordon sighed, ignored the light pointedly and switched on his torch. The beam, though small and narrow, comforted him somehow; after all, it was his light and he could control it as he wanted to. Glancing around, he discovered a huge sign right beside the doorway. "Biomedical Research Department" it read, and under that, in smaller writing, "Professor Humphrey's office is temporarily located in Room 213". Hm, maybe Professor Humphrey was the one that had left all the bloody prints? It seemed highly unlike for a professor to do, but then again, people that were injured rarely acted in a reasonable manner.

Once more, Gordon called out, received no reply, and entered the first door of the hallway.

It led to a broom cupboard.

"Nothing in need of rescuing in there." He closed the door again and continued his search.

The next door was big and heavy again, probably leading to another lab. When he opened it, it revealed a dark room full of shadows. Pressing the light switch didn't help much; only one of the rows lit up, the others stayed dark.

"Is there anything working in here?" he frowned at the ceiling. "Hello? Anyone here? I'm from International Rescue, I'm here to help." He was slowly growing tired of shouting at empty air. Maybe he should ask Virgil to make a scan of the building to discover thermal activity, then he could save himself from all the trouble...speaking of that, why hadn't he thought of that earlier? It was a damn good idea!

Then he saw the handprint.

This time it wasn't on the wall, but on the floor, the blood already drying. It seemed as if the mysterious person had pushed himself up; the blood was smeared along the ground and small, red droplets were splattered all over. Gordon frowned and knelt down to examine the tracks. How weird.


The humming of the lights began to seriously irritate him. Was it only his imagination or was it becoming louder? It became almost a buzzing sound, like a bee that was somehow caught in his eardrum. Gordon felt his eyebrow twitch as he passed by a window that led to an adjoining room. Goddammit, what kind of hell-hole was this? Man, was he looking forward to going back to Tracy Island.

"Scott?" he spoke into his wrist device, but received only static. Uh-Oh. That was weird. Those things were designed to withstand thunderstorms.

"Oookay." No need to get afraid. He'd just look around the room, find the injured person and carry him or her out to the rescue site. Gordon nodded, glad that he had established a plan of action.

"If there's anybody here, could you please reply? Or make a noise?"

Gordon stepped around a row of tables full of incomprehensible apparatus. The room was huge, but due to the various machines and glass walls, it was impossible to see the other end. Manoeuvring around the obstacles, he felt like walking through a labyrinth; and a damn eerie labyrinth it was. Places like this were supposed to be brightly lit and full of people in white coats. Seeing them gloomy and full of shadows only reminded him of old horror movies.

There were quite a few items laying around that indicated that someone had been here recently. A half-filled cup of coffee; scribbled notes, interrupted in the middle of writing; a sandwich, shoved hastily in a drawer (probably due to the big sign 'No Food allowed' that was featured an almost every wall; scientists, so Gordon deducted with an amused smile, weren't any different from normal people); and a computer that was still running, the screen saver blinking at him in an almost mocking fashion. Out of curiosity he moved the mouse, but a password request popped up, so he left it as it was.

With a half-smile he turned around (John would have loved the challenge, given the time) and froze in shock. There was another handprint.

"What the..." Gordon stepped backwards, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. The handprint wasn't on the floor this time, but on the window that allowed the scientists to look into the next room. However, Gordon had walked past that already – but he was sure that it hadn't been there at the time!

Which meant that it must have appeared while he had been playing around with the computer.

And that, in turn, was seriously creeping him out.

He swallowed through the lump in his throat. There's no need to be afraid, Gordon told himself. I just didn't see it. I must have been occupied with something else. Yeah. I must have overlooked it. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for all this.

Clutching the torch tighter, he made his way towards the door that led to the adjoining room, his eyes never leaving the bloody print. Illuminated by the torch beam, it seemed almost black, mocking him in his nervousness.

"Don't be such a chicken," Gordon reprimanded himself, not liking the fact how he was reacting. With a resolute frown on his normally so cheerful face, he almost yanked the door open and pointed the light inside. "Hello?"

No reply. His fingers searched for the light switch and found it almost immediately. A soft click, and then brightness filled the room, so hard and white that he had to close his eyes against it. The humming sound hurt his eyes – as if the lights were about to explode at any given moment.

Gordon blinked until the red spots disappeared from his eyes. He switched off the torch and hung it on his belt, taking the time to look around the room he had discovered.

Everything was white, even the cupboards. The floor was made of grey concrete, with a huge metal sink in the corner and a table in the middle.

His eyes widened as he realized what kind of table it was. "Shit."

There was a cloth covering the whole length, and as his eyes became more accustomed to the light, he could recognized faint outlines under it. Outlines in a human shape.

An examination room? Or...one used for autopsy? Or maybe a victim had tried to hide in here and lost consciousness?

Gordon wasn't afraid of the dead – he had seen far too many of them for that to happen. So he crossed the room in three swift strides and lifted the cloth of the body.

Sightless eyes stared back up at him. Once he must have been the same age as Gordon; now he was a symphony of marred flesh and lacerations, the blonde hair matted and filthy, green eyes wide open and glassy looking. Even though it was obvious that this person had been dead for more than a couple of minutes (the stink of formalin filled the air), the aquanaut checked for a pulse and was disappointed when he didn't find one.

But then...who had left the handprints? The blood had been fresh, they could be barely more than thirty minutes old! Yet there wasn't anybody else in this room. It couldn't be...

Gordon took a step backwards from the corpse. No! Dead people didn't walk around and leave prints all over the building. There had to be an explanation for this. Maybe the victim was confused and wandering around aimlessly...but why had he come in here? And where was he now?

The questions ran in a circle in his head. As much as he usually liked figuring out mysteries, this one was growing a bit crazy. He wiped sweaty hands at his trousers and pulled the cloth back over the body.

Glancing around once more, he made sure that there really was nobody else in the room (he even opened the cupboard, though no one could be hiding in the small space unless he suffered from serious anorexia). Then he made a swift exit and locked the door shut. Only after his fingers had snapped the bolt into place, he realized what a foolish action that had been. There was no way in hell that the dead man could get out of there. So why had he done it?

Shaking his head, he cut off that train of thought and consulted his wrist comm again. It took his fumbling fingers a while to find the right switch (for a moment he even forgot which one it was; now that was strange), but then the comforting crackle of static filled the air, sounding sharp and loud in his ears. "Scott, you out there?"

To his profound relief, a voice immediately answered. "Gordon! Where are you? You didn't reply!"

Gordon raised his eyebrows. First Scott brushed him off and now this? "I'm okay, Scott."

"Good." His older brother actually sounded relieved. "Listen, you'd better get out of there. Virgil has finished evacuating his part, and you were finished as well, weren't you? Things are getting a bit hot out here."

"I can't. I think there might still be a person inside."

"What?" Scott sounded confused. "But you said earlier that you had brought everyone out of the building!"

Had he? Gordon couldn't remember. That was really strange. "Maybe I did, but I've seen signs of someone running around. There are some really strange things going on here-" A sharp noise startled him out of his explanation. It was an almost clacking sound, so loud that it pounded in synch with his heart.

Scott didn't get it. "Strange things? Gordon, are you really okay?"

The clacking intensified. Gordon tensed. "Sure. Listen, Scott, I gotta go, there's something happening."

"What? You can't just cut off-"

But the redhead did exactly that. After severing the conversation (oh man, Scott would be furious), he made his way towards where the noise was coming from with determined strides. What kind of sound was that? It seemed like rhythmic tapping, something musicians did unconsciously whenever the listened to some music. It followed a certain pattern, one Gordon couldn't figure out, because really, music was Virgil's thing and not his.

Tapp – tapp-tapp – Tapp.

"Where are you?" he questioned, switching on his torch again to help him look. A soft giggle weaved through the air, raising the hairs on his neck.

Over him, the lights flickered. Gordon flinched and covered his ears as suddenly the humming seemed to increase tenfold and then it – stopped. What...? He looked up, but the lights were still on, and if he listened closely, they were humming, just not as loud as before. Had he imagined it?

Throwing a suspicious glance over his shoulder, he quickly finished his inspection of the room and stepped out on the hallway to go to the next one. The whole building was a maze, the rooms twisting and turning in themselves so that one could never be sure where exactly one was, especially with the light that bad. Gordon did the sensible thing and followed his hearing; the noise became louder as he made his way towards it.

"There's something really, really wrong." he told himself and shuddered. Maybe it was some kind of prank, played on him by his brothers? But no, they'd never do that on a rescue, never mind how furious they were. "But damn, I'm going to find out what it is."

The hallway ran past another door. The sounds seemed to come from within the room it led to. Ignoring the dreadful feeling in his stomach, he put his hands on the cold metal and pushed.

The tapping stopped just as Gordon hurried through the opening. The green emergency light was the only thing glowing in the room; that and the beam of his torch. It seemed to be a storage area of some kind – shelves adorned the walls, and there was a thick door at the other end that looked as if it might lead to a giant refrigerator. Well, he certainly hoped that his mysterious victim hadn't shut himself in there. But there were no bloody prints to be seen at all, so he guessed he was safe.

There were all kinds of boxes, glass jars and containers, some see-through, some made of solid metal. It was difficult to make out what exactly they were, but Gordon didn't really care anyway. No signs of a living person; so what the hell had produced the noise?


The bodiless voice made him jump so that he stumbled forward and almost crashed into the rows of shelves. Then he realized that it came from his wrist and felt a bit sheepish.

"Yes?" He answered, trying to calm down his racing heart. Gordon didn't like to admit it, but the surroundings scared him more than any earthquake disaster scene. Seriously, he wanted to get out of here.

"What the hell are you doing, cutting me off like that! And why weren't you responding before? Are you in trouble?"

It was amazing how Scott managed to change from severely pissed to extremely worried in the span of mere seconds. Gordon blinked in a daze. "I don't really know," he replied in a distracted fashion, still looking for anything that could have made the tapping sound. Maybe one of the lids wasn't screwed on properly so that something was falling on the ground? But no, that wouldn't be so rhythmical. So, what else? It had come from in here, and it had stopped just when he entered...maybe something in the ventilation shaft?


Once again, the voice shocked him. "What?!"

"Were you spacing out?"

He blinked. "Ah. Not really. It's just that there's...something...strange..."

Something flickered at the edge of his vision. Gordon narrowed his eyes and inched closer.

Now the worry in Scott's voice could be felt even over the long distance. "Gordon, did you get hurt? Where are you? I want you to come back right now!"

"Sure," he replied automatically, his mind going into the being-lectured-at-mode, which meant that his mouth made appropriate comments while his mind focused on different tasks. He was absolutely sure that there had been something moving...

"Tell me where you are!"

That was a command, and commands were to be obeyed. "Uh...somewhere in the Biomedical Department," was Gordon's vague reply. He peered around a big box and saw a row of glass containers. Scott continued babbling into his ear, but he ignored him, intent on finding out what was annoying him so much.

But there were only glass containers. Nothing could move...

And then it happened again. Something swished just before him, a mere flicker in the half darkness. Gordon whirled around and pointed his torch into the direction it had come from. He froze. There was indeed something moving. And it was. Inside. The. Containers.

He stumbled backwards, eyes wide, before he recovered himself and laughed nervously. "Ah – I bet I know what it is...it must be fish, an aquarium."

Yeah, because, well, it couldn't really be anything else, could it?

"What?" Scott, obviously, didn't understand anything. "Gordon, that settles it, I'm sending someone in after you, stay right where y-"

The rest of the sentence was drowned out by the sudden rush of noise in his ears. Gordon inched closer to the container, trying to prove himself that it was only fish – only to find out that there weren't any fish, nor an aquarium for that matter.

Instead he found himself staring at an oblong glass container with a face in it. And the face was looking at him.

Something very cold trickled down his back. There was no denying it. The face stared right back at him, hell, it even blinked! A slow smirk spread over it. A long, thing finger appeared out of nowhere and tapped against the glass.

Tapp – tapp-tapp – Tapp.

So that had been the noise. Gordon's hand startled trembling. The smirk grew wider, and then the face opened its mouth, as if it wanted to say something and...


A voice, so horribly distorted that it was impossible to make out whether it was male or female. He yelped in fear as it went right through him, to his very core and seemed to shatter something inside his heart. Suddenly, he smelled acid and the nauseous feeling came back.

The face giggled. He had never heard a more hollow sound in his life.

Gordon did the only thing he could think of. He bolted.


He almost slipped on the cold tiles, caught himself just in time and skidded around the corner with less grace than normal. Heart pounding in his chest, Gordon raced all the way back to the stairway which, unlike the rest of the building, was still illuminated. The sharp, white light helped to bring him back to his senses; touching the wall with one hand, he stopped and doubled forward to catch his breath.

What the hell had that been? It had winked at him! And then the noise, oh so dreadful sounding...

The lights were humming again, sizzling, as if they were laughing at his expense. One of them flickered, then another one, reminding him that he was a victim to their will. The thought of being alone in the darkness gripped at his heart with icy fingers.

"Gordon," someone whispered close to his hear. He stumbled sideways, looking at empty air and thrashing around. "Leave me in peace!"

Another flicker. For a moment, he was plummeted into darkness. He thought of the bloody prints, of the corpse, of the moving thing, and his breathing quickened. Gordon wasn't one to be frightened; watching horror movies with his brothers was more of a laughing matter (who could point out the most mistakes?) and common terrors such as death and darkness didn't faze him much – he saw far too much of it in the course of his work. Actually, he had always taken pride in his ability not to be scared easily; something of dire need to him, with all the pranks he played on everyone.

Now, though, he found himself drenched in cold sweat, pressing against the wall as if the devil himself was haunting him. The humming became louder and louder, until he pressed his fists against his ears in an attempt to escape the noise. But it seemed to penetrate every fibre of his body.

He had to get out of here. That was the only thought that vibrated through his head. He had to escape, and fast, before he lost his sanity (or the last shred that had remained of it).

Gordon stumbled down the staircase, careful to make a wide berth around the next handprint that presented itself on the railing. To his horror, the stairway stopped in front of a heavy, metal door that seemed to be locked. Rattling on it didn't help. Rather, he just jerked his hands back because the handles were too hot to touch.

Was it only his imagination or could he smell smoke?

So there had been a fire after all! Glad that at least this memory wasn't failing him, Gordon leaned his back against the wall. He must be in the cellar, he supposed; that's why there were no windows. Which meant that the level above was the ground floor, and that meant – he shuddered - that he had to cross it in order to get out. Walking right past the damn room with the smirking face.

While Gordon had never been as sensible as Scott or as rational as John, he was alert enough to realize that one didn't normally see faces preserved in a glass jar. And even if there might be some, one didn't expect them to be alive and smile at him.

That was what the rational part of his brain screamed, but much to his regret, that part was drowned out by the feeling of cold dread that grew stronger and stronger, threatening to overtake his whole body. Once more he tried the door and winced when it burned his palms. Over him, the lights flickered as if to threaten him.

"Don't be a pussy," Gordon reprimanded himself, appalled by his coward behaviour. Setting his jaw, he faced he stairs.

It wasn't as if he had never been scared before in his life. No, fear was a very real factor of his work, and even before International Rescue he had been more than familiar with it. He'd be a fool not to admit it. There had been instances when he had been afraid as a child; had been so scared that he couldn't move at all.

And then, when he had had his hydrofoil crash...during the few fractions of a second the craft had been flying through the air, he had been more scared than ever before. It was a feeling that would never leave him; the frozen numbness in his limbs, the sound of his own heartbeat loud in his ear - even louder than the crashes, than the alarms shrilling and the voices screaming at him – and then there had been searing hot pain, like a glowing poker in his side and he...

Then there was the fear for someone else; fearing for Alan when he was dangling on a thin line, trying to rescue climbers while risking his own life; fearing for Scott when went ahead to take the brunt of the danger himself; fearing for Virgil, when he was stuck in the Mole under massive debris, unable to move.

Being afraid belonged to the job, because if you weren't afraid, you made mistakes, and you could not afford to do that when lives depended on you.

Yes, Gordon knew all about fear.

However, it was giving in to the fear that Gordon wouldn't allow. He had seen what happened when people were consumed by fear. And he really didn't want to experience it himself, no thank you.

That's why, even though his heart was beating and his limbs felt like lead, he forced himself up the steps. He refused to be scared by something like this. Or, at least, he could try his best not to show that he was scared.

The hallway looked the same as before. Dark, gloomy, full of lurking shadows.

Gordon used the torch to point into every corner. He felt a bit sheepish for doing so, but it wasn't as if his brothers would know – and besides, wasn't he supposed to be looking for possible victims?

Right. His brow furrowed. Damn, he had somehow forgotten about that. Unforgivable! Survivors were the first priority! Disconcerted, he pressed a hand against his throbbing head, wondering why it was so difficult to think. Somehow, he felt all fuzzy.

Then the humming noise was back, cutting like ice needles into his brain. "SHUT UP!" Gordon bellowed, but it wouldn't listen. It throbbed, like a heart that was beating, and then the lights flickered again, mocking him, laughing at him, making fun of the pathetic coward he had been reduced to.

He gritted his teeth, stumbled onwards with a stubborn look on his face. "I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid," Gordon repeated like a mantra, just as he had done when he had been younger and scared of the wardrobe at night. But just like then, it didn't help much. Instead, it only seemed to make him more aware of the fact that yes, the shadows were getting darker, and yes, there was something moving just at the edge of his vision, right behind him and yet he couldn't place a finger on it.

"Leave me alone!" He whirled around, but faced empty air. Trying to calm his racing heart, he ran a hand through his copper hair, tangling it up in the process. With swift steps, he hurried down the corridor, hoping to escape the unsettling feeling. A chill ran over him as he saw the door that led to the room where he had made his dreadful encounter. Then he shook his head, once again appalled by his own behaviour, and passed it in quick, hurried steps.

"Gordon Tracy, you are becoming a wimp.", the redhead scolded himself, finding relief in the sound of his voice. "Here you are, behaving like a baby just because the lights are flickering and you saw some strange things."


The whisper hissed through the air, made him freeze up like a mouse transfixed by a snake. Something reflected the torch light to his right. An invisible hand closed around his throat as he realised that he was standing next to another window. At first he thought it was his own reflection that he saw; but then realization trickled in: he didn't have black hair, nor broad shoulders like that.

It was a face that had been burned deeply into his memory. They hadn't been close friends - more rivals, really. But it was a companionable sort of rivalry, the thrill of finding out who was better, stronger, faster. They both knew that the other could be trusted to be fair and honest.

It was also a face that he hadn't seen in a long time, only when it was haunting his dreams, as it did after strenuous rescues.

Gordon swallowed. "No...it can't be...this must be a dream..."

Yet there was the reflection of a man who had died a long time ago. "Tom?"

"Hello Gordon." Thins lips stretched into a crude smile. "How nice to see you."

"You're dead."

The smile widened. "My, how perceptive we are today, Mr.International-Rescue. I am flattered."

Was it his imagination or was water dripping down Tom's face? Lots and lots of water. Running down in rivulets, forming a puddle on the floor. And then he felt it on him, too, soaking through his clothes, running down his cheeks just like tears. Like icy tendrils sneaking around his body.

It was unknown for Gordon to feel chilled by water. He thrived on it; he loved diving into it, no matter what the temperature. Swimming was his life.

And yet he found himself shivering at every drop that found his body.

"W-What are you doing here?"

Tom's eyes became darker. "Why, I'm haunting you, of course!"

And then he wasn't on the other side of the window any more, but right in front of him, much to close for his comfort. "Don't you remember me, Gordon? Don't you remember the day I...died?"

Gordon swallowed. What a question to ask! Of course he remembered – there wasn't a day when he didn't! It had taken him quite a while to accept Tom's death. But then again, the real Tom had never looked that...mean. No, he had always been sparkling; his humour not as outgoing as Gordon's, but still there, a cheerful way of taking life as it was.

Only to be crushed on that fateful day.

A cold hand reached out to him. "And now I will make you feel the same horror I endured." Tom whispered, his voice like the rasping of icebergs. Gordon watched in horror as the familiar features melted into something else. Skin became paler and paler, seemed to rot away right on the bone. Where there had been eyes, there were holes blinking back at him all of sudden. A rancid smell filled the air.

"Look what you made of me, Gordon," a distorted voice garbled.

Gordon opened his mouth, but for the first time in a long while he found himself at a loss of words. Tom's body – no, corpse – seemed to be rotting right in front of him. What had once been an acquaintance, a friend, a rival, a...human, suddenly shifted and morphed and twisted until it became something else, so dreadful and horrible that it made his stomach turn around. Claw-like hands stretched out to him, aiming at his neck. Millimetres before they brushed his skin, Gordon jerked back and whirled around. A wretched sound escaped his lips – it could have been a sob, it could have been a curse. Foul stench surrounded him, the smell of decay and death and failure and...

Bile filled his throat. Behind him, Tom cackled as though he was enjoying the sight. Eyes open wide with terror, Gordon opened the next available door. Another whiff of...death encircled him, and this time his stomach really did turn around. Spotting the sink in the corner, he dashed over, emptying the contents of his stomach into it just in time.

As he retched, feeling more miserable than ever, the water mixed with the tears forming a puddle on the floor. Where was it coming from?

This had to be a bizarre dream. The dead didn't come alive. Not even Tom. And he couldn't have meant...no.

But the smell...

"Shit." Gordon breathed and wiped his mouth. It was the only word that summed up his situation. His knees wouldn't hold him any longer and he sank to the ground, exhausted. From far, far away Scott seemed to be calling him, but he was far too exhausted to reply. Instead, he fell backwards and focused his gaze on the ceiling.

Water was raining down on him in rivulets. The sprinkler, he noticed dimly through the fog in his mind, it was just the sprinkler.

But the relief didn't come.

The water had been pounding on him for quite a while now. He probably should get up, Gordon mused, but couldn't summon the energy to do so. So he watched the water droplets, raining down on him in a never-ending pattern, glinting in the light of his torch which was lying somewhere on the ground. He was at the end of his wits. Didn't understand anything. Didn't know, didn't want...

The lights flickered. Again.

He was too tired to ignore them. Instead, he fixed his gaze on the next available light. The humming sound was always there, clawing at his sanity and slowly succeeding. "Leave me in peace!" Gordon ordered, unaware of the waver in his voice. Closing his eyes didn't help; holding his ears shut didn't, either. It was as if the noise was deep within himself, shut in the darkest parts of his body and only now starting to escape.

With great effort, he eased himself up on his arms - to come face to face with another bloody handprint.

"Gah!" His whole body seemed to react to the sight. His eyes were transfixed on the bloody mess, taking in how it slowly got swept away by the running water.

"I need to get out." Gordon told himself, overcome by the need to see sunlight, and scrambled around for the torch. "I'm mad. I'm drunk. I'm concussed. Whatever it is, there is NO WAY IN HELL I'M STAYING HERE!"

Stumbling to his feet, he crashed right into the wall, the room tilting precariously around him. Cradling his aching shoulder, he searched for a kind of exit, any kind. But what he saw were shelves and no windows at all and huge machines that looked scary in the dark and white containers with skulls on them and a lot of things that didn't make sense at all, like the dark stain on the ground, for example, and no exit.

"Exit. There has to be an exit." Panicked, he scanned the room for the green sign that had to be there, somewhere, because this was a modern lab and all modern lab had emergency exits, damn, there were rules for this, so why couldn't he find one?

Maybe it had something to with the fact that his vision was swimming in and out of focus, or the water that kept running into his eyes and blinding him, stinging a bit, or with the panic that had somehow managed to drive its clutches into his mind, making his thoughts slow and sluggish.

It was difficult to walk on the slippery ground, and more than once he almost tripped, managing to grab some table just in time. Once, he imagined hearing a voice, calling out for him, so he hurried away from it, intent on not meeting Tom again at all costs, even if he had been a hallucination, though a pretty good one.

Tapp – tapp-tapp – Tapp.

"No." Gordon swallowed through his dry throat. The noise had been right beside him, very close to his feet, and he didn't dare to look down, oh God, what if it was something bad, what if the face, or Tom, or, and, and...and he was a Tracy, dammit, he wouldn't be reduced to some whimpering fool, because that wasn't what his father had raised him for, he was stronger that that, yes, he was!

It took more effort than it should, but finally he managed to steer his eyes downwards.

Shoulders tense, he didn't move at first. Better yet, he couldn't. It was everywhere, it surrounded him and he had no idea where it had come from or how something like that was possible, unless this was some kind of perverted joke.

The water around his feet had changed its colour. Instead of being clear and shiny as water was supposed to be, it had become a darker, much more sinister shade. Gordon's fingers trembled as he pointed the beam of his torch downwards. What had looked almost black before was now coloured in a deep crimson, swapping around his feet in an almost lazy fashion, colouring the rim of his uniform in a reddish, murky colour. Red, and thick, and smelling of metal, just like...just like...

Just like blood.

For the second time that day, Gordon bolted.

His feet slipped over the tiles, creating a path of dark footsteps behind him. He jumped over a table, not caring that he smashed several test tubes in the process. There was a door not far away and he steered towards it as if it promised heaven on earth, though he honestly had no clue where it was leading.

The lights pulsed.

And one of them exploded right above his head. Gordon yelped, covered his face with his hands and winced as shards pieced through his skin, drawing blood.

Then he was at the door and threw his full weight against it. It didn't move, so he tried the doorknob instead, but it didn't budge either and he sensed that there was something behind him, because the humming became louder and louder and his hairs stood on end, a tingling feeling in the back of his spine – he tried the knob again and realized that he had been moving it in the wrong direction. The door gave way, all resistance gone, and he stumbled into the room, falling on his knees

A curse escaped his lips that would have sent his grandmother after him with a bar of soap to wash out his mouth.

Much to his frustration, the room was a dead end, a tile-covered thing that had no other exit, just cupboards and a sink and a operating...table...in the middle of the room...

Gordon's heart sank as he realized that this was the same room he had been in earlier. The one with the corpse. But hadn't he locked it? And, much more important, where was the corpse?

Because the table in front of him proved shockingly empty. Even the white cloth was missing.

Gordon's mouth went dry. It seemed as if he had found out what had been leaving the handprints.


It took all his willpower not to scream. Instead, he stepped back, closed the door like a good young boy and leaned his back against it to think. Or at least he was trying to think.

It wasn't easy with his brain screaming at him, to run, run, run!, because there was a zombie on the loose and if zombies were real then all the other nightmarish things probably were as well, which he really didn't want to find out for himself.

"Get. A. Grip." He ordered himself, gritting his teeth.

He was rational.

He didn't believe in zombies.

He didn't believe in the occult, either.

But what if the occult didn't care?

Forcing himself to walk in a slow and deliberate fashion, Gordon made his way through the labyrinth. His head held high, he tried to ignore the humming and the flickering lights, hoping that if he was concentrating enough, he'd be too occupied to notice all the strange things that were going on around him.

Maybe it worked, because he didn't notice anything else until he stood outside on the hallway, under one particularly annoying fluorescent light. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to stay calm. Panicking never helped. Panicking made things worse. He, Gordon Tracy, wouldn't panic. He would deal with this in a logical and sensible fashion.

But logical and sensible didn't help him much when, once again, something moved just at the edge of his vision. Whirling around, he was able to make out a figure that was coming from the staircase towards him.

It was as if someone had poured ice water on him. Even the air in his lungs became cold, his fingers too numb to move, his eyes wide mirrors of the fear that was clawing at his heart.

The figure that was walking towards him was definitely human. In the dim light of the corridor, he was unable to see more than shapes, but even in the gloomy surroundings he saw the blonde hair, glinting in the darkness.

Like a ghost, the whisper of a memory flew past him, telling that a certain corpse had blonde hair as well, and that maybe all those occult stories weren't as occult as they were made to be, because really, a story had to come from somewhere, didn't it?

Rooted to the spot, Gordon couldn't help staring at the man – corpse? Zombie? Ghost? – that was walking (or was that more of a lurching?) towards him in a threatening manner.

"Gordon!" The voice boomed across the corridor, mixed with the humming of the lights and seemed to pierce right through his soul. The pace of the...thing quickened, and only then did Gordon remember that he had feet and that just maybe he should use them. Stumbling backwards, he cursed as he slipped on the ground, loosing precious moments fumbling for balance.

"Gordon!" The shout, louder now, was what propelled him into action. Without sparing one glance at his follower, he started running down the corridor, away from the stairway, away from the bloody thing that was sure to kill him if it ever reached him. The humming followed him, pounded in his ears in rhythm with his beating heart.

And then, a curse (did ghosts curse?), and steps followed him, far too close to his back for his liking.

It was just like in a dream. Or a nightmare, to be more precise. Even though he was running, he felt as if he was moving through syrup, his legs not reacting in their usual, reliable manner. More than once, he stumbled, crashed into walls that seemed to move away from him. The shouting became an incoherent blur in his ears, but it was coming closer and closer and that alone gave him enough strength to continue, even though there was greyness tugging at the edge of his vision.


"STOP!" Gordon yelled at the lights, but once again, they refused to obey. He crashed through a door (where had that come from?) and found himself on another stairway, this one smaller and darker as the first. The shadows seemed to whisper to him, but he had no other choice, because there was...something hunting him and he really preferred to stay alive, thank you very much.

He took the first direction that presented itself to him, which unfortunately was upstairs, but he realized the foolishness of that choice too late.


The thing thundered through the door, shouting something incomprehensible and started following him in a determined fashion. Gordon didn't even look around, took three steps at the time, his breath going far too fast for his liking. Hell, he was in a bad shape. The stairway kept twisting around him and for a short moment he had the feeling that vertigo had somehow changed and the walls had became the floor; at least it felt that way.

For a moment, he was plunged into darkness and fear closed around his throat, then the light flared again, blinding him. Noises thundered in his head, so many by now that he couldn't distinguish between them.

He ran, feet moving on their own accord, tumbling up the slippery steps at a dangerous speed. Was that smoke he smelled, or acid? It burned in his nostrils, jerking him back to reality, only to realize that he had gone too fast, too haphazardly and that his feet were slipping.

Suddenly, there wasn't anything under his left foot and he pitched forward, colliding hard with the metal railing. The impact drove the air from his lungs.

Gordon crumbled on the ground, all-too-aware of the danger behind him, but he couldn't move, it hurt, it burned, and why was everything shaking, why was the noise becoming so loud, he couldn't concentrate...

And then the thing was there, throwing itself on him with inhuman speed, pressing him against the wall. Fingers dug into his arm, keeping him firmly in place. Gordon saw blonde hair and bloody hands and screamed, a high-pitched sound filled with terror and dread. Gathering all his force, he threw himself forward, to escape that grip. His attacker was startled and he managed to wrench himself free, only to be brought to his knees once again by a sudden attack of nausea.

Garbled words were directed at him, but they didn't make any sense at all, so Gordon flapped his hands as if this might help to get rid of the uncomfortable noise. Then his attacker was there again, closer than before, gripping his shirt with unrelenting hands. He felt hot breath on his neck, the pungent smell of smoke in the air, mixed with blood and sweat, and something else he couldn't quite identify.

It was difficult to focus through the haze in his mind. But one thing he knew: he had to get away.

Then the hands left him – Gordon couldn't believe his luck – the thing turned away, its attention focused elsewhere. The aquanaut took his chance, twisted his body away from the other's grip.

The stairs were leading upwards and so he scrambled on, unnoticed at first, but after two steps, he heard his name being called and he broke into a full-fledged run.

Running became even more difficult, what with the stairs tilting and the lights shining so bright that he couldn't see at all, but somehow, he managed to do it.

There was a door at the top of the staircase (another one? How many were there?).

His name. Again. Was it only his imagination or were there two of them now? Dammit, that thing was multiplying! Too scared to look back, Gordon pounded shoulder-first into the door and was relieved when it opened with only a little resistance. Cold air greeted him, smelling faintly of smoke.

He had reached some kind of roof.

Distorted yells fluttered to his ears, far away from his current position. His earlier assumption that it was night had been correct. It was entirely too dark for him too see anything, but after the bright lights of the stairway, this only came as a relief.

But there was no time to linger. The pursuers were close on his heels.

Gordon felt...strange. He was quite certain that he had been on roofs before, but so far, none of them had looked like this. The outlines were the same; a flat, concrete surface with a wall surrounding it. It was rather long, the straight lines interrupted by the occasional skylight. Hell, it even felt the same, with the cold breeze touching his skin, making him shiver.

But what he saw...

There was smoke, a lot of it. Even in the darkness it was possible to see the churning dark clouds, moulding into each other and forming strange shapes in the cold night air. It twisted and turned and seemed to grow bigger on the roof, creeping towards him in a lazy, but determined manner.

It looked alive.

Gordon stumbled forward, torn between two ways. Behind him were his attackers; in front of him, a dark cloud that looked as if it would swallow him up at any given moment. He cursed his bad luck for bringing him into this situation and careered sideways, where he saw a small hole in the billowing smoke.

"STOP!" The shout echoed over the roof, vibrated in his ears. A wince creased his features, then another one as he noticed that his wrist watch was beeping. Were those bastards calling him over IR lines? With a snarl, he ripped the device away from his hand. It fell to the ground with a resounding thud. There were collective gasps behind him. Serves you right, thought Gordon in satisfaction and coughed. The smoke was penetrating.

Realizing that he had stopped running, he urged himself forward again, only to crash into a small wall. The smoke seethed and gathered around him, forming a dense cloud above his head. Gordon threw a fearful glance at the blackness. He had no idea what would happen if it swallowed him, and he really didn't want to find out.

Someone laughed.

It was a nasty sound. The same sound that had echoed in his ears when the face had looked at him; the same sound he heard every time the lights flickered; and the same sound that chilled him to the bone, freezing him on the spot.

Gordon felt a tight band constricting his chest, making it hard to draw breath. This wasn't funny anymore. It was a nightmare!

"Go away!" he screamed, his voice hoarse. Laughter was his reply, along with distorted shouts. Two shadows were running towards him, faces almost black, eyes glinting madly.

"Don't move!" he could discern over the garbled noise everything seemed to make. Gordon could only laugh. As if he would stay still when faced with such opponents!

Inching backwards, he felt cold stone push against the back of his legs. Damn, the wall was constraining his movements. Where could he go? On his right and in the front, the black cloud, on his left, two zombies, intent on ripping his throat out or whatever it was that zombies did. He was stuck, and he didn't like it at all.

"STAY AWAY!" Gordon screamed, his voice breaking. Much to his surprise, the two shadows obeyed, stopping a couple of metres away from him. One of them opened his mouth to say something, but Gordon tore his gaze away. He didn't want to see them, had had enough of the terrors. He wanted to go home!

The black cloud had inched closer. Facing it instead of his pursuers, Gordon realized how huge it was; and how dense. This wasn't normal smoke. But nothing was normal anymore, so he shouldn't really be surprised.

Tendrils of blackness reached out to swirl around his feet. Gordon yelped and jumped away, but he couldn't, because there was that damn wall!

He watched in horror as smoke touched his feet like fingers, slowly sneaking upwards. A foul stench filled his nose and he gagged. Panic clawed at him. This...thing was going to smother him! He didn't want to die, not here, not like that, not without saying good-bye!

With trembling hands, he heaved himself onto the wall, which barely reached to his hip level. Two shocked gasps came from his left. "No!" one of them screamed, throwing himself forward, only to be held back by the other.

"Stay away!" Gordon didn't know who he meant, the cloud or the two shadows, but it seemed to help. At least the two stayed at a safe distance. Not the cloud, though. It was balling up above him and...were those eyes blinking at him? The hairs rose on his neck. Yes, those were eyes, myriads of them, glaring at him with red orbs, dangerous and hungry. He whimpered, wanted to retreat, but his hand met only nothingness.

"STAY AWAY!" The scream was torn from his throat in desperation, but it had no effect. The blackness tumbled onto him and then he couldn't breathe anymore, couldn't feel, only the burning of acid in his eyes, his mouth, his lungs. His hand clawed at empty air.

This was it, his brain supplied in panic, this was how Gordon Tracy met his end. Stuck on a roof in a fricking horror show, devoured by either a zombie or a stupid cloud with sentience and too many eyes. No heroic death at all.

"The hell!" The curse that left his lips was shouted with more conviction than he felt. "I'm not giving up like this!"

Nobody would get him! Nobody!

Ignoring the weakness in his limbs, he stood up, balancing precariously on the thin wall. Everything tilted and shifted and for a moment he saw double, but with the stubborn determination that was his and his alone, he held himself upright, ignoring the many shouts that were directed at him. He couldn't understand them anyway, as if he had cotton in his ears. The fuzzy feeling was back, making it difficult to get his bearings.

Then the shadows were there again, screaming at him and holding out their hands, but he slapped them away, growling like a dangerous animal. One tugged at his leg, but he kicked at it, almost losing his balance in the process. It seemed to surprise them, for they stayed back. Maybe they were afraid of him? Yeah, right. While Gordon was sure he gave a frightening first impression – uniform soaked, ripped apart, eyes wide with terror, sweat soaking his dirty face – it was nothing compared to a walking corpse and...whatever his companion was.

Someone was laughing again, but this time it was himself, a harsh sound that startled Gordon, because he hadn't even known that he could laugh like that.

So that's what going mad feels like.

Circles appeared in front of his vision, as the smoke cut off his breath.

I always thought it would be more spectacular. Or that I wouldn't even notice. Shouldn't I think these things are normal? Crazy people always think that they are normal, just the rest of the world isn't. I've never been normal, but I don't want to be mad, either.

The screams were much closer now, shouting his name in a panicked frenzy. Gordon furrowed his brow. Was that fear in those voices?

I don't want to be mad. Being mad means that I can't pilot Thunderbird Four anymore.

Then the blackness was there again and gods, he couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't escape, the only free path was behind him, so he looked down and his eyes widened as he realized where exactly he was standing...

I don't want to die either.

The wall was on the edge of the roof. And behind him, it was going straight down. Several floors. Make that a lot of floors.

A lot of them.

And down there, everything seemed to crawl.

I've never wanted to die. Dying is the easy way out. I don't like the easy way.

What should he do? Gordon was at a loss. He, who always had a Plan B, or even a Plan Y for God's sake, stood frozen while the smoke sneaked its tendrils around him like an octopus. His feet were dangerously close to the edge, and now he knew why his hand had only found emptiness before, because there was nothing under him, just a long, long fall and certain death.

"Get...-wn...the-..." the garbled words reached him even through the thick wall of darkness.

I don't want to be here.

His knees trembled. Even with the adrenaline pumping through his veins, he felt weak, lost, disorientated.

Whatever this is, I want to wake up.

They were there again, reaching for him, trying to convince him to come down, to get away, to please not jump because he would die and he didn't want to die, did he, and if he would just listen...Gordon blinked through the tears that were blurring his vision, but remained where he was, because he really didn't trust his legs anymore, and why was it so dark, why was the floor moving like that?

The headache pounded and he felt queasy again.

Just...leave me.

And then another hand reached out to him, this one white and shining, a light in the darkness. Almost out of instinct, he took it and followed numbly as it led him down the wall, away from the crawling, from the smoke and the blackness, and right into the arms of the two zombies.

Why did they look like that? Why should a zombie look worried? And was that...blood?

Could zombies bleed?

Gordon's knees gave way and he crashed to the ground. Strong arms caught him just in time, but by then, his mind was already fleeing.

Strange, was the last thought he had before the darkness devoured him, this zombie looks just like Virgil.

He fell.

See, most of you guessed right :)


It was like dreaming, and yet it wasn't.

Dreams weren't supposed to be full of pain. They weren't supposed to feel as if someone was pouring hot acid down your throat, or holding your head under water, or making your bones hurt (damn, and how they hurt!).

There had been nightmares as well, but they had been different from the ones Gordon was used to. Instead of pictures, they came in feelings, and that was much scarier than the usual stuff. Damn, he could feel how the acid bubbled down his throat, dissolving flesh and making him gag on his own blood. Then there were brief moments where he was sure he was awake – only to see the world tilt around him, merge into swirling colours, or disappear altogether.

Once he woke up to find himself retching into some silver basin. Someone was holding him, wiping his sweat-covered brow, the only constant in a world that was moving like a ship in a thunderstorm. Without the firm grip on his arms, the aquanaut would have toppled over for sure. Never before had his limbs been that uncooperative.

He would have liked to look at the helpful person, maybe even thank him, but his eyes fell closed of their own accord. There could have been a voice, urging him to stay awake, but the words got lost in the haze of his mind. Gordon felt miserable, his stomach cramping even though there was nothing left in it.

Eventually, the nausea passed, but the pain remained. His muscles developed a will of their own and soon he found himself shaking and trembling, his hands clenching into fists, nails digging into his skin.

Someone shouted at him, but he was lost again, tumbling into the abyss. Why did it have to hurt so much? He needed...he needed...he wasn't quite sure what he needed, just that it wasn't there, and it hurt...

After a while, the pain began to recede, bit by bit. His awareness returning, Gordon was able to make out words, though he felt too worn out to reply. Someone gave him water and he drank it eagerly, only to throw it up again. Tears prickled in his eyes. This was hell!

Then there were times when he was shouting – he knew, because he had begun to listen to himself – but he didn't know what about. Sometimes, people would laugh, as if he was telling them something funny. Gordon would have frowned at that if he had the energy left to do so. Honestly, why were they laughing at him?

He tried to listen closer, but his ramblings didn't make much sense at all, almost as though his mouth wasn't connected to his brain. It seemed to be working on its own accord, something which Gordon found quite annoying. All his life, he had depended on his mouth, and now it was betraying him? Surely that wasn't fair!

Working himself into a snit about that matter seemed to help; his thoughts focused and the blurriness left him.

Eyes snapping open, he stared at the all-too familiar ceiling of the infirmary. A groan left his mouth. No. Infirmary meant that he was sick, and he didn't want to be sick, because that meant no swimming and no swimming was bad. Then again, he should have expected this; nobody could experience dreams like these and not be sick.

"Well, look who's gracing us with his presence." A familiar face loomed over him. Virgil, from the looks of it. "Do you recognize me this time?"

Gordon blinked. This time? And why shouldn't he recognize his own brother?

"Do you think I'm stupid?" he replied, lolling the words on his heavy tongue.

Virgil's face brightened. "Just a little bit. But you didn't before, you know."

"Didn't what?"

"Recognize me."

The redhead scrunched up his face. "Huh?"

"Never mind." Virgil leant back and Brains popped up as well, adjusting his glasses and looking relieved. "H-Hello G-Gordon. H-How are y-y-you f-feeling?"

"I'm fine."

Fine with the exception of an enormous headache, a sore throat and an aching body. God, he felt like an old man. What the hell had happened? He remembered a nightmare...being hunted? Dark clouds? Suffocating? Had that really happened or had it been a dream?

"Is he awake?" Another head appeared, this one with neat blonde hair. At the sight of Gordon's open eyes, the face bloomed into a happy smile. "Hi Gordon! It's good to see you."

"Hi John." To be quite honest, Gordon was getting a bit freaked out. What was all the fuss about? He lifted himself up and was relieved to see that he had no serious injuries apart from the headache, a couple of bruises and a bandage on his hand. "Are we having a party?"

"No, we're just celebrating the return of our one-and-only trouble-making brother." Virgil grinned.

"Return?" Why was everybody so intent on confusing him?

Much to his annoyance, they reacted as if they hadn't even heard him. Brains was the only one that looked at him, a calculating expression on his face. In the background, he could see a digital clock – past three o'clock on the morning. But which day?

The scientist turned. "S-Shall I go and w-wake S-Scott?"

"No, let him sleep," John shook his head. "He's been here the whole night and yesterday afternoon. He deserves the rest, and I bet he's going to be back in a couple of hours, anyway."

"Yeah, he only left after you slept peacefully." Virgil told Gordon. "Before that, you behaved like a raving lunatic."

"It was quite a sight, wasn't it?" John sat down on a chair, putting his arms on the headrest.

"And we filmed every single second of it," Virgil agreed with a satisfied look on his face.

Now Gordon became suspicious. "You filmed what?"

"Your venture into the madhouse, dear little brother."


Upon his apparent confusion, the two exchanged meaningful glances while Brains checked the readings in the background. The scientist muttered to himself, and then, before Virgil or John had the chance to say anything, turned to Gordon. "The d-drug should have left your s-system by now. Everything y-you're feeling is an a-after-effect of the hallucinogenics a-and should s-soon pass; although y-you'll have t-to expect s-some w-withdrawal s-symptoms, b-but not a lot, s-since it w-was y-your first t-time."

"WHAT?" First time for what? And drugs? He didn't do drugs! His pride as a sportsman wouldn't permit him to, and besides, drugs were for losers!

Brains continued, oblivious to the stir he was causing. "I'm g-glad to see y-you're f-feeling b-better. That w-was quite a n-nasty c-cocktail in y-your s-system, t-though it had interesting r-results. I s-shall g-go and s-see y-your f-father now; he w-wanted t-to know as s-soon as y-you w-woke up." With those words, the small man shuffled out of the room, frowning at the medical papers he was carrying.

Gordon watched Brain's retreating back with something akin to horror and then turned towards the other two remaining people. "Explain. Now."

"I like it when he's angry," Virgil grinned, his eyes sparkling, "Then his face colour matches his eyes." The smile disappeared from his face and he suddenly became serious. "Tell me, what do you remember?"

This...was not the question he had expected. Raking a hand through his unruly hair, Gordon tried the best to bring some semblance of order in his mind. It was quite difficult, because he wasn't an orderly person to begin with, but after a few seconds, he managed to recall certain events. Though they didn't make sense at all.

"The things I remember could have been taken out of a horror movie," the aquanaut finally admitted sheepishly.

"What did you see?" Curiosity filled John's open face.

"Oh no," Gordon shook his head. "First you tell me what the hell happened."

"You..." Virgil paused, searching for the right words. "...were stoned out of your mind."

John snickered. "That's one way to put it."

"I...I...was WHAT?" Gordon clutched the bedsheets. "I don't DO drugs, Virg! How can you say something like that?"

"Hey, calm down." Thunderbird Two's pilot held his hands up in a pacifying gesture. "You remember the rescue, don't you? The fire?"

Oh yes, there was some vague recollection in the back of his mind. "In the university laboratories?"

"Yes, that one. Well, we don't have all the facts either, because you were the only one there, and by the time we reached you, you were pretty, uh, out of it. Anyway, from all we gather, you evacuated your part of the building – beautiful job, only minor injures, no casualties at all – and made one last round to check whether you had missed anyone. None of us knows what happened then. Scott lost contact with you for quite a while, because he was busy with the local authorities and the very real danger of chemicals leaking into the river. When he finally managed to get you on the comm, you sounded strange."

"Very strange," John nodded and continued. "I was just packing up and overheard most of it. You sounded distracted, and all of sudden, you would start yelling as if the devil himself was after you. Then – nothing."

"Scott was worried, of course, so he sent John after you."

Gordon scratched his head. "I was screaming?" Yes – he remembered. There had been a face in a glass jar, and it had been winking at him. But surely that must have been a dream?

"Very much so." John's eyes had a faraway look. "In fact, the closer I came, the more worried I became. You didn't sound coherent at all, started talking to other people, even though we knew the building had been empty the last time you checked in. It worried me. I told Virgil to come up as soon as he was finished; I didn't know what we were dealing with and I thought maybe some terrorists had caught you; the police warned us that 'suspicious subjects' might use the fire to steal explosives."

Terrorists? The redhead snorted. He would have loved terrorists. They would have been a pleasure cruise compared to the things that had been hunting him. Here in the bright light of the infirmary, it seemed like a dream, but he only needed to think of the creepiness of that place and his hands grew cold.

John continued, unaware of the reaction he was causing. "I came after you. Your last position had been the Biomedical research Department, so I went there. That place was a real maze, I can tell you! You must have wandered all around there, no idea why…I even found two autopsy rooms, one of them complete with a corpse. And a lot of blood, probably from the guy the paramedics treated – he had smashed his hand through a window. Anyway, I finally discovered you, standing on the corridor, completely drenched. The sprinklers had gone off, which meant that the fire had reached that part of the building and that we had to hurry to get out. So I ran towards you, but you...you yelled when you saw me, turned around and fled."

"I...fled?" Gordon couldn't believe it. "From you?"

"From me." John managed to look insulted. "I thought that maybe you had mistaken me for someone else – easy to do in those bad lighting conditions - and started to follow, screaming your name all the way – surely you would recognize my voice! – but it only made you run faster."

That didn't make sense. The only thing that had been following him had been that, well, thing. Gordon couldn't remember John at all! But then...horror crossed his features, as he realized that the zombie-thing had had blonde hair, just like John. And he had never taken a real good look at his pursuer, so scared that he had escaped immediately. It couldn't be, could it?

He had been running away from his own brother? Thinking that he was a fricking corpse?

Gods, the humiliation! Schooling his expression, Gordon did his best to appear as if the story John was telling wasn't new to him at all and that he had a sensible reason for his actions (even though he had no clue what that might be).

"By the time I caught you, I realized that something was wrong with you," John continued, "And I urged Virgil to go faster, because I needed help. I managed to tackle you on the stairs, but you didn't recognize me at all and started to fight like crazy. I thought you had been dropped on your head and were a bit disorientated, but...you were out of your mind with fear!" The look on the astronaut's face clearly told that this hadn't been a pleasant experience.

"I...see." Gordon blinked. "So what was wrong with me?"

Another look was exchanged between the two. "Well, as we found out much later (though we started to suspect it during our struggles to get you to come with us), you had somehow managed to, well, drug yourself. There was a cut on your hand, and according to Brains, the chemical entered into your bloodstream, causing severe hallucinations and paranoia."

Oh. So that had been the liquid he had been lying in when he woke up...and that explained the nausea and the blurriness and the heightened senses...

"So I was just hallucinating?" Gordon inquired, wanting to be sure. "Because it felt damn real to me."

"We noticed." Virgil rubbed his jaw. "You sure pack a punch."

"I punched you??"

"Not only him. You managed to get all of us," John admitted ruefully. "And I didn't know you could fight that dirty. You bit me! The last time you did that, you were four years old!"

"Though, it wasn't nearly as good as when he started confessing." Identical smirks appeared on both faces. Gordon inched backwards, not liking the change of mood at all. One reason why he didn't like drugs was because a person could never control their actions – and by the looks of it, his actions must have been very amusing. "What did I do?" he asked in a resigned tone.

"You confessed," was the smug reply.

„Confessed to what?" Gordon was on his guard now.

"Everything. At first, we were surprised – you were so out of it, we didn't think you'd wake up. But after the vomiting stopped, you were kind of...talking in your sleep-"

"Babbling is the better word," Virgil interjected.

"-babbling in your sleep while you were lying in the sickbay on TB2," John continued without a beat, "And confessing all of your misdeeds, telling us that you were sorry and asking if we could please stop making the lights flicker because it made your head hurt. I must say, I always thought it was Alan who set fire to my wardrobe when I was ten, but now I find out that it was you!"

"...I told you that?"

The smirks grew wider. "That, and a lot more."

There was only one word to sum up his situation: "Shit."

But wait. How had he gotten from the stairway to Thunderbird Two? Hadn't there been a roof involved? And lots of smoke? Were his brothers avoiding that particular part? Gordon turned steely eyes towards the chuckling duo. "What happened on the roof?"

They fell silent at once. Amazing, he reflected, if it only worked that way all the times. Virgil sighed, his face serious once again. "You...almost killed yourself."

Killed. Yourself. The words entered his brain, echoed around a bit and finally swam to the surface of his consciousness.

"No way!" Gordon objected flatly, because even in the most horrid of times, he had never thought of suicide, so why start now?

"Unfortunately, it's the truth." John turned serious eyes at him, guilt written all over his features. "By the time we got up there, we knew that something was wrong with you and we even suspected drugs – it was a chemical lab, after all – but we had no idea how bad it was. You didn't recognize us at all! You...ran away from things that weren't there! And then you jumped on the wall, almost giving me a heart attack. We were on the seventh floor, Gordon! The seventh floor! Falling down from there would have been certain death! And you were standing on the wall without any safety line, like a tightrope artist, the only difference being that you were swaying around and shouting incoherent things at us!"

"We couldn't get close to you – every time we tried, you started to shout and escape, which brought you even closer to the edge. So we stayed at a safe distance and tried to talk to you."

The event had taken its toll on his brothers; upon remembering it, they both looked flustered and distraught. Gordon tried to place himself in their position – he would have felt the same. Watching a member of his family risking his life and with no way of helping? It would have been torture.

Gordon paled as he realized how close to death he had been. Seven floors? Damn, the impact would have killed him almost at once. And just because of some stupid accident, some goddamn drug that he hadn't even wanted to take...He swallowed. "So if you hadn't helped me down in time, I would have died."

"What are you talking about?"

The memory fluttered back to him. "Weren't you holding out your hand and helping me down?" Gordon saw it clearly now; the slim, white hand urging him to step down. Something had compelled him to take it, and after that...there was only darkness.

Virgil sent him a strange look and shook his head. "You were all on your own. We were at least three yards away from you when you suddenly stepped down from the wall and collapsed."

"Neither of you gave me your hand?"

"Nope. We weren't even close to you. Every time we came near you, you'd start freaking."

"...Oh." It took some while to process that thought. So neither of them had helped him? But he was so sure that he had seen a white hand – or had that been another one of his hallucinations?

It was hard to think with a brain that seemed to be filled with mud. But somehow, Gordon managed. "So, to sum it all up, I was stoned out of my mind, almost killed myself and got rescued by you two?" The expressions on his brother's faces told him enough. "I guess I should thank you."

"You definitely should," Virgil crossed his arms, "It was no easy task to drag you back to TB2. You were unconscious at first, but then you started screaming and fighting like a madman. Scott came to help, but you gave him a black eye – you should have seen the look on Father's face when we told him that."

John smiled at the memory. "He wasn't very happy. Honestly, what did you see to make you freak out like that?"

"Ahh…" Gordon stalled for time. Normally, it would have been easy to think of a good excuse, but in his current state, every ounce of mischievousness seemed to have been drained by that damn drug. "Scary Things. Lots of scary things."

Virgil raised an eyebrow. "Scary things?"

"I don't really want to talk about it." Gordon shuddered. Even though he knew now that it had been a mere illusion, the fear had been real. He was going to have nightmares for weeks. "Just think of it as a really bad horror movie."

John tapped his lip in a thoughtful gesture. "Anyway, I'm glad you're back to normal. It was…disconcerting to see you like that. That drug really did a number on you; you were either puking or raving. Only when we settled you in the infirmary, you calmed down somewhat – but that was when you started babbling."

"Entertained us for hours." Virgil admitted with a smug grin. "Even Dad had to smile at some of your statements."

"I especially liked the 'Help me! Giant striped rabbits are trying to eat my toenails!'-bit."

"Ohh, my favourite was the 'I'm sorry Scott, I never wanted to make Ludmilla Thornton believe that you were gay, it just sort of happened'-bit. That left him speechless."

Gordon groaned. "I didn't really say that, did I?"

If it had been possible to grin wider than your face was broad, the two Tracys would have probably done so at the moment. John smirked and held up a small, black device. "We've got it all on tape."

Virgil leaned back and sighed happily. "After the first excitement passed, Alan realized the blackmail qualities of your statements and urged us to tape them."

Gordon's mouth fell open. Horror fluttered through his stomach. Heaven knew what he had told them in his intoxicated dreams – this wasn't fair! He hadn't wanted it!

"You realize that this calls for revenge." He glowered and tried to snatch the tape. But John was far too quick for his dulled reflexes, standing up before the aquanaut was even halfway there. "Now, we'd better leave you to your rest, dear little brother."

"Yeah, we want you to be in full health to see through your, ah, revenge," Virgil added with a superior look on his face.

"You wouldn't laugh so much if you knew what I mistook you for," Gordon muttered under his breath and flapped down on the bed.

"What was that?"

The aquanaut sighed. "Just go and bother someone else."

"We will. We shall watch this beautiful video. Over and over again. Until we know it by heart." They laughed and were already out of the room when Gordon chucked his pillow after them. It hit the doorframe with a dull thud, slid to the ground and lay there in an innocence that only a pillow could portray. The door itself, another creation by Brains, closed slowly, without any noise. Just before it clicked shut, Gordon saw something behind it that made his heart skip. He hid a bit deeper under the covers, though he wasn't afraid – just cautious.

Was it just his imagination or had there been a white hand waving at him?

I once dreamed that I was stuck in a maze full of pink rooms, and I was being followed by this huge, grey, rolling stone that was surely going to flatten me. It was the most horrible nightmare in my life. So I can understand Gordon's fear about the striped rabbits. Really, I do.

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