Written for the 2009 TIWF Forum
Kiss a Brother Challenge.
voice floated across the periphery of Jeff’s hearing. Along
with the rustle of coconut palms beyond the balcony, and the
sound of surf crashing on the rocks below the villa, the voice
provided a faint backdrop to Jeff’s thought processes as he
worked. Another of the endless distractions that he
unconsciously filtered out.
was again. The muscles across Jeff’s shoulder blades
looked up from his paperwork to find Brains hovering on the
other side of the desk, swaying slightly, as he often did when
he’d trekked up the three flights of stairs from his
young man seemed to have something serious to say. His blue
eyes roved spasmodically across the desk, focussing everywhere
but directly at Jeff. ‘Braman has detected an, ah, anomaly in
uh, Thunderbird Five’s power output.’
Jeff slid some documents into a folder and speared his pen
back into its decorative holder.
Tracy.’ Brains’ eyes settled on the gold penholder. ‘I ah,
asked Braman to a-analyse Thunderbird Five’s output
profiles using the new uh, remote diagnostic software.’
said Jeff, looking intently at the young scientist. ‘What did
Braman’s analysis reveal?’
Five is outputting more ah, energy, than she is u-using.
The a-atomic power cells might be about to uh, give out, or
they might be ah, bleeding energy.’
Alan know about this?’ Scott asked as he wandered in from the
balcony, the odour of cigar smoke wafting from him in an
invisible but aromatic cloud.
nose twitched involuntarily as Scott brought the invisible
cloud closer. ‘Not unless he’s been running a-a diagnostic.’
have we got?’
sure.’ Brains’ eyes recommenced their wandering as he
considered possibilities and solutions. ‘The remote diagnostic
system hasn’t been properly uh, calibrated, and, I-I can’t be
sure how accurate the readings are…’ Brains faltered at that
point, the concerned expression on Jeff’s face finally
filtering into the part of his brain he had reserved for
social interaction, but he picked up the thread again when he
saw Scott’s head tilt quizzically in his direction. ‘All I,
uh, can say is that the ah, levels, aren’t right a-and I think
Alan should get the auxiliary power unit online, n-now.’
up here.’ Jeff looked apprehensively at Scott before turning
to the microphone behind him. ‘Thunderbird Five from
Base. Thunderbird Five from Base. Alan?’
Alan’s portrait burst into sudden life, the static photograph
of Jeff’s youngest son replaced by a grainy live image of Alan
aboard the space station that orbited twenty thousand miles
Jeff was not about to waste time. ‘Brains has been testing a
remote diagnostic system and he says there’s been a dip in
Thunderbird Five’s power curve. Have you noticed any
Uh…’ Alan craned his neck to look at something out of camera
view. ‘Let me check the levels, I haven’t looked at them
recently.’ Alan moved away from the camera, and shortly his
voice could be heard faintly from the other side of the
control centre. ‘No, nothing unusual here. Brains,’ he called
out, ‘what do you think it is? A reactor leak?’
something’s causing that image deterioration,’ said Scott
quietly, looking uneasily at the screen.
what then?’ Alan’s face reappeared in the portrait. ‘All
levels read normal and everything is... ’
Alan was staring at a series of gauges and readouts, the next
he was plunged into darkness. He swayed disoriented for a
second, then slapped his hand out to grab at the panel he’d
last seen in front of him. Through the curving observation
port behind him the sun reflected brightly off the Pacific
below, and now that his eyes had adjusted he could see the
room around him illuminated with an eerie blue glow. The panel
beneath his hand, like the rest of the space station, was
completely dead, and no amount of relay switching or subtle
toe-jabbing could bring it back to life. A slight wave of
panic washed over him and he froze for a moment, cocking his
head until he heard the reassuring hiss of oxygen into the
chamber. Not all the systems were out then – air was still
venting into the room, and the fact that he hadn’t drifted
away from the floor meant the gravity was still working.
raised his wristcom to his lips. ‘Base from Thunderbird
came his father’s voice through the tiny speaker. ‘What
sure Father.’ Alan stared worriedly around the dead control
centre. ‘The lights and coms are out, but the oxygen and
gravity are still working.’ He jabbed the panel with his foot
again. ‘Any idea what’s happened Brains?’
a pause, and Alan could hear a small and animated conversation
taking place on the planet below. Finally Brains’ voice
floated out of the speaker.
since It seems to be the ah, generator, you’re going to have
to uh, bring the auxiliary online.’
‘Understood. I’ll get down to auxiliary control right away.’
Father,’ continued John, ‘I think Alan should sit tight until
Brains and I can get up there and help him get that generator
looked at Brains. ‘What do you think?’
uh, Alan should be able to do it o-okay.’
auxiliary generator has never been used,’ John persisted. ‘It
might be difficult for Alan to start on his own.’
replied Brains obtusely. ‘I-I designed everything so that ah,
one man could do it.’
lips set in frustration. ‘The pressure seal on the generator
door sticks. Without full power Alan might not be able to get
it open.’ He turned back to his father. ‘Alan’s got oxygen and
Jeff interjected, ‘we’re not taking any chances, but I take
your point. We need to replace the main power unit. So I want
you and Brains to start loading Thunderbird Three and
get her prepped for launch.’
John’s right,’ said Scott, noting the anxious expression on
his brother’s face. ‘Maybe Alan should wait.’
ah, no need Scott,’ said Brains. ‘The backup generator has a-a
simple start-up procedure…’
you’ve all been drilled on numerous times,’ Jeff finished with
a hint of patriarchal exasperation. He leant towards the
microphone. ‘Alan? How’s it going?’
stepped into the corridor, reluctant to leave the cool blue
glow of the control room for the pitch dark of the satellite’s
windowless interior. He gripped the handle of his torch
tightly, and shone a beam of yellow light into the coal black
depths ahead of him. Before this moment he would have said he
could navigate the inside of Thunderbird Five
blindfolded, but now he had no clue what lay beyond the
control centre threshold. Was it ten steps or twenty to the
bathroom? And how much farther after that was the hatch to the
auxiliary control room? And… could he hear breathing?
No... It was just circulating air seeping through the vents.
he took another step. Then another. And another, the squeak of
his boot heels bouncing loudly around the narrow metal
corridor. Funny… he’d never noticed that echo before
now. He proceeded slowly along the corridor, the thin
light of the torch shakily leading the way, until he came at
last to a grey steel door. It was closed tight, pressure
sealed against the possibility of explosive decompression.
With one hand Alan spun the metal handle anticlockwise until
he heard the hiss of escaping air, then swung the heavy metal
door outward with an abrupt clang.
generator was on the far side of the auxiliary control centre,
across another endless void of blackness and behind another
heavy sealed door. Wherever the torch shone there was a
helpful slice of yellow light, a small ray of golden security
that scattered jumpy uneven shadows in its wake. But outside
the beam was a cold darkness, a gloom that sucked up the light
and swallowed it whole, was going to suck him up next and
feast upon his soul.
entirely irrational, Alan knew, but he’d never known this kind
of blackness, and at some primal level the combined cellular
memory of the entire human race relentlessly insisted he be
afraid of the dark. A tremor ran through him, a chill that
twisted up his spine and stood his hair on end. This was
ridiculous. He was an astronaut goddammit, a graduate of
the space program and a fully-fledged member of International
Rescue. He wasn’t about to let a dark space station get the
better of him.
renewed determination Alan crossed the room and by the light
of the torch manually popped the door seal, then grunted
loudly as he tried to shift the heavy door with one hand. He
jumped as his father’s voice floated unexpectedly out of his
Alan’s heart thumped in his chest, and if his hands had been
free he would have pressed them against his chest in imitation
of his grandmother. ‘Dad, the door’s stuck. Hang on.’ Alan
clamped the torch between his knees, and using both hands
bodily shoved the door aside.
narrow beam of the torchlight Alan saw movement in the
auxiliary generator room. He caught a brief glimpse of a
single wide eye as something lurched abruptly towards him.
god!’ he cried, then shrieked as the intruder rushed headlong
and crashed heavily against him, something cold and hard
colliding painfully against his forehead. A cloud of hair
enveloped his face and a pair of icy lips smacked against his
own before sliding down his chin towards his chest.
clattered to the metal floor and blinked off as Alan toppled
downwards beneath the being. He shrieked again as he flung the
creature bodily away from him and scrambled backwards across
the floor. The creature fell loosely in the dark, making an
uneven plopping sound as it collapsed upon the polished metal.
Alan continued his awkward scramble until his back slammed up
hard against the curved outer wall of the space station.
heart hammered painfully in his chest. What the hell was
hyperventilating with fright, and he gulped loudly before
sucking in his breath and holding it. After his mad scramble
in the dark he was disoriented, and he had no idea where the
creature was or what it was doing. For all he knew it was
crouching over him right now, salivating, reaching out a
claw... Alan turned his head frantically in the dark,
listening for sounds, breathing, movement, anything. But there
was only silence, and the deafening thud of blood, pounding in
god!’ came Alan’s voice through the desk speaker, followed by
a high-pitched shriek and a sudden clattering.
Jeff leant urgently over the microphone. ‘Alan! Can you hear
another shriek, and the sound of scuffling, and what sounded
like a muffled sob.
barked Scott, ‘What’s happening?’
silence from the desk speaker.
feel his mouth hanging open. He looked at Brains and saw that
the scientist had gone completely white.
turned to Jeff. ‘Dad, I think…’
Scott and launch Thunderbird Three immediately. Take
weapons.’ Jeff turned to Brains. ‘Go with them. Assemble what
you need. If you can’t get the main power back online,’ he
turned back to John and Scott, ‘just get Alan and get the hell
pounding in his ears had dimmed and Alan could feel his heart
slowing, the shaking in his hands subsiding as the overload of
adrenaline was reabsorbed by his system. His father’s voice
emanated urgently from his wristcom, and he stealthily snapped
the device off. He didn’t want anything giving his position
been no sound of movement from the creature’s direction,
although in the pitch black he couldn’t exactly tell which
direction that had been. He hadn’t moved for the last few
minutes, and was still crouched in an awkward half-squat with
his back against the wall. Tentatively he stretched an arm out
into the dark space in front of his face. There was nothing in
front of him. Experimentally he waved his arm towards his
left, then towards his right. Still nothing. Not that that
meant anything. For all he knew the creature could see in the
dark and was lurking just out of arm’s reach, watching him,
waiting for him to make a move.
heart started hammering again and he could feel terror
beginning to congeal in his gut. Slowly he began to straighten
himself up, his back hard against the wall, one arm stretched
pathetically out in front of him for protection.
grimly keyed the combination of the weapons safe, swung the
reinforced door outwards and turned to John. ‘Laser rifles?’
Depends what you think we’re going to find.’
reached for a pair of rifles, then turned a piercing gaze upon
his brother. ‘What do you think we’re going to find?’
handed the rifles to John. ‘I was asking if you knew what’s
the hell…? How would I know what’s going on?’
looked… I dunno… suspicious.’
leaned in for another rifle. ‘For a moment there, before Alan
opened the generator door, you looked worried.’
stared at the back of his brother’s head. ‘Did I.’
straightened up. ‘You did.’
inched his way slowly along the inner bulkhead, feeling his
way towards the door. So far he had banged a toe against a
loose chair, collided with an oxygen cylinder, cut his hand on
the underside of a control panel, and bruised his thigh
against god knew what. He’d been feeling his way painstakingly
along the wall for what seemed like forever, each stumbling
collision causing him to pause and hold his breath, waiting
for the creature to come rushing towards him and tear his
throat out. The entire time he’d been assailed by mental
images from every horror sci-fi movie he’d ever seen – green
aliens, blue aliens, tentacled aliens, fire-breathing aliens,
people-eating aliens, necrophiliac aliens – so that beads of
sweat stood out on his brow and trickled icily down the back
of his uniform. And he remembered the Spectrum transmission
that John had picked up a few months ago, and how it had made
his skin crawl. ‘This is the voice of the Mysterons…’
He had to
get out of here.
all caution Alan shuffled as fast as he could along the wall
until he fell through the doorway, slamming the bulkhead door
closed behind him.
Twenty-three minutes had passed since radio contact with Alan
crossed the lounge, pausing briefly by Tin-Tin as she leant
against her father for support, a crumpled white handkerchief
pressed against her red-rimmed eyes. He squeezed her arm
before continuing to the wetbar, where he filled a
heavy-bottomed glass with three fingers, give or take, of
scotch. Collecting the glass he walked back to his father’s
desk, placed it squarely in front of Jeff’s downturned face.
said Virgil, when Jeff didn’t look up.
Gordon had helped Brains load equipment and a replacement
generator into Thunderbird Three. Actually, they had
worked around Brains as he stood stupefied in the centre of
the cavernous storeroom, clearly overwhelmed by what he had
just heard. Virgil had heaved equipment into crates, listened
emotionlessly as Brains related the chain of events out loud
and described Alan’s terrified shrieking before the wristcom
had gone dead. The narrative had been faltering, punctuated by
nerves and reminders not to forget cabling or flux, and at one
point had ceased altogether as Brains ran through a series of
endless possibilities in his head. But one thing Virgil
couldn’t get out of his own head – the thought of his little
moved the glass with one finger, pushed it right beneath his
father’s nose. But it was only when the deep roar of
Thunderbird Three rumbled through the villa that Jeff
finally lifted his head.
before Alan had shuffled gingerly down the dark and curving
corridor, now he ran for his life, not caring how many times
he collided noisily with the walls. His heart continued to
pound painfully in his chest and he felt close to the verge of
something else on Thunderbird Five!
How did it
had it been aboard?
hell was he going to do?
himself for the dim shaft of blue light that spilled from the
open door of the control centre, fell panting through the
doorway and heaved the steel door closed behind him. He leant
for a moment against it, grateful for the cold weight against
his back, and then sprang forward into the centre of the room.
He had to
calm down. He had a pistol in his belt – yes, it was still
there – but he needed another torch. And he had to get
that generator started before any other systems failed. He
sucked in a lungful of air, held it until he felt his pulse
return to normal.
could do this.
stepped back into the corridor.
Thunderbird Five has been boarded?’
of forethought and good security.’
‘E-excellent security.’ Brains emerged from the elevator, his
arms overloaded with spacesuits.
right – proximity alarms, intruder alerts, pressure sensors,
meteor shields…’ John leant forward as an orange light
flickered on Thunderbird Three’s telemetry console.
which require an operational generator,’ said Scott as he
watched John correct course.
the systems were out.’ said Brains as he surveyed the flight
deck, looking for a spare surface on which to deposit his
exactly would any of us know what was out?’
would’ve had some kind of warning. We’d have had some
kind of warning.’ John looked up at Brains. ‘We’re not going
to need those suits.’
possibility of an intruder i-is entirely out of the question,
Scott.’ Brains appeared slightly miffed. Whether about the
space suits or the possibility of Five’s security
systems failing, Scott couldn’t tell.
no contact with Alan for over thirty minutes. We don’t know
anything!’ Scott could feel his blood pressure rising.
generator has failed. It’s that simple, and it had to happen
eventually.’ John sighed exasperatedly and turned back to the
console. ‘Scott, I spend half my life aboard Thunderbird
Five. If security wasn’t perfect – and I mean perfect
– I’d never be able to sleep at night. Among other things.’
stared at the back of his brother’s head. ‘Can any of us be
silence in the small navigation room.
replied at length, looking up only when he was satisfied that
Three was settled unwaveringly on course. He looked
curiously at Brains. ‘We can’t. But it’s unlikely.’
leant forward until his face was in John’s field of view.
‘John, we have to be prepared for anything. And Brains…’
a muffled thud as three spacesuits slipped unexpectedly to the
outside the auxiliary control room. The door was still closed,
and he hoped fervently that the creature was still inside.
Placing the torch on the floor he tightened his grip on his
pistol and swung the door aside with one hand, resisting the
urge to fire wildly into the black interior.
He was met
with silence. No movement, no sound, and no multi-limbed alien
leapt slavering out at him.
slowly to retrieve the torch, Alan aimed it into the darkness.
the generator door, something huddled on the floor.
steadied the torch, played the beam slowly over the tangled
until spots danced before his eyes.
a step forward, the rubberised sole of his boot squeaking
loudly on the slick metal surface of the floor. He froze
mid-stride. There was no reaction from the creature, so he
took another cautious step.
was lumped in an untidy heap, and the closer Alan stepped the
more confused he became. In the torchlight he could see a bare
arm and a pair of human-looking legs, though the body was
twisted unnaturally. The torso had turned towards the floor,
the pelvis faced awkwardly towards him, and a mass of long
untidy hair was spilled carelessly across the floor.
Recognition finally filtered into the adrenaline-fuelled chaos
of Alan’s brain.
god,’ he breathed incredulously.
Alan’s video portrait sprang into sudden life.
god,’ said Jeff, rising from his chair. ‘Alan, are you
the auxiliary going…’
fine, the power’s on and the systems seem to be…’
Jeff fixed his youngest with a stare. ‘We were worried sick.
‘Happened?’ Alan didn’t meet his father’s gaze. ‘Uh…nothing.
Some equipment fell on me when I opened the generator door.’
sniffed Tin-Tin, ‘were you hurt?’
the radio silence?’ interjected Virgil.
Alan looked from Tin-Tin to Virgil then guiltily glanced at
his wristwatch. ‘Oh. My wristcom must’ve been knocked out. Er…
can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’re alright,’ Jeff
walked around to the front of his desk, ‘but we’re going to
need to have a talk about protocols when you get back.’
Scott and Brains should be with you in…’ Jeff turned to
eighteen minutes,’ Virgil helpfully supplied.
minutes?’ squeaked Alan.
you’ve got the power situation under control I want you back
eighteen short minutes.
over the bundled heap on the floor, poked at it tentatively
with one of his boots. He crouched down and gently pushed it
onto its back, ran a hand over the smooth flat belly. It
didn’t feel quite like latex. Apart from the coldness, the
skin felt quite realistic. Like real human flesh. And oh,
there was so much flesh to see…apart from a pair of white
cotton briefs, the mannequin was marvellously unclothed.
grunt Alan turned her onto her stomach. Despite appearances
she was heavy, heavier than a woman of equal size, as though
she were full of metal instead of rubber. Alan parted the hair
at the back of her neck. Nothing. Gingerly he lifted her
panties away from her bottom.
in gold across the curve of the mannequin’s right buttock was
the word ‘Xiangsi’, and beneath that, in black indelible ink
and in John’s unmistakeable handwriting, were the neatly
printed words ‘Veronika Mk II.’
the panties flick back with a snap, and rolled Veronika Mk II
onto her back again. He studied her face. Not John’s usual
taste, Veronika had a cascade of brunette curls and bright
green eyes. She was ridiculously tanned, and had been
embellished with permanent eyeliner and a pair of plush pink
lips. Hard rubber lips, he reminded himself, that had not too
long ago collided painfully into his own. He pressed a thumb
into one green resin eye, poked a finger between the firm
pouted lips. He lifted her hair again, marvelling at its
natural movement, slid the curls back behind her small neat
mannequin’s left ear was a small green button. Alan depressed
it. Nothing. He pressed it again, held it down for a few
seconds. Abruptly the mannequin’s limbs twitched, and a
high-pitched whine emanated from somewhere between her eyes as
a processor inside her head started up. The mannequin’s eyes
slid slowly from left to right.
Alan exclaimed, for the fourth time in an hour.
‘My God!’ again.
down at the mannequin as she lay there, her eyes rolling
slowly from side to side.
cunning bastard,’ he said, to no-one in particular, then leant
forward and whispered into the mannequin’s left ear.
he said seductively.
his mouth beside her right ear, and said loudly and firmly,
mannequin’s eyes continued to slide from side to side, and her
lips parted slightly, as if she were about to say something
but had thought better of it.
back on his heels, perplexed. The thing obviously did
something, but what?
towards the door, then swivelled his head to glance furtively
around the room. Certain that absolutely nothing and nobody
was watching him, Alan leant forward, feeling hideously
degenerate but dying with curiosity. He hovered indecisively
for a moment, his lips poised above the lush latex pout of
Veronika Mk II.
he thought, like Sleeping Beauty, all it took was a kiss?
touched his mouth to the mannequin’s. Gingerly at first, then
more firmly, his blue eyes wide as he watched for signs of a
response. But there was nothing. Nothing, save for the shiny
green eyeballs, which continued to turn lazily in their
shoved bodily at the airlock door. ‘The backup might be
online, but some systems are still out,’ he called to John as
he wiped sweating hands on his shirt. ‘Give us a hand.’
probably broke something when you crashed into the docking
tube,’ replied John drily, as he moved in beside Scott and
grabbed hold of the handle.
Scott could retort, Alan’s blond head appeared at the clear
viewport, and he signalled for them to stop. A few seconds
later there was a hiss of air and the door slid neatly aside.
said Scott, stepping through the hatch and reaching out to
grab Alan in a brotherly hug. ‘You scared the crap out of us.’
no idea,’ added John, slapping Alan hard on the shoulder and
shaking him vigorously before making his way back inside
told,’ replied Alan, ‘I had the crap scared out of me as
Scott, stepping back to look at him properly. ‘What’s that?’
Scott pointed to the front of Alan’s trousers.
Alan’s cheeks flushed and he dropped his head forward to
inspect the front of his trousers. ‘Oh.’ Thank god! A
smear of dried blood crusted along his pant leg. ‘I cut my
hand in the dark.’ He raised his hand to inspect the scabbed
slice in his skin.
tsked. ‘We’d better get the first aid kit. And what’s this?’
He grabbed hold of Alan’s chin and squinted at him.
jerked his head back. ‘What?’
Alan fingered the thickened part of his lip where Veronika had
fallen against him. ‘I must’ve knocked into something.’ He was
starting to get irritated at Scott’s overprotective scrutiny.
‘It was pretty dark in here, you know.’
guys,’ said John as he and Brains squeezed past with a load of
equipment. ‘We really need to get this power situation
sorted.’ John stared hard at Alan. ‘Anything particular we
should look out for?’
what?’ Alan replied, the roses in his cheeks flaring into
looked up from where he was welding a support strut. ‘I
haven’t seen this thing since the day we installed it.’ He
paused to remove his goggles and wipe the sweat from his eyes.
‘I’m not sure I would even have remembered where it was.’
to know your space station,’ said Alan as he breezed into the
room. ‘That way you don’t lost in the dark when the lights go
out and...’ he looked pointedly at John, ‘…no nasty surprises
jump out at you.’
straightened from where he had been bent over the replacement
generator and stood to his full height. ‘Where have you been?’
he inquired archly, the insulated screwdriver in his hand
pointed dangerously at his youngest brother. ‘You’re supposed
to be helping with this equipment.’
injured,’ Alan held up his newly bandaged hand. ‘Plus,’ he
added, when he caught Scott looking reproachfully at him,
‘with the three of you jammed in there, there’s no room for
true. Scott slid the goggles back over his eyes and returned
to his welding. John, however, continued to stare coolly at
his youngest brother.
should still be helping,’ he said.
your bag, you mean.’
Alan grinned. ‘That. And I checked Three’s systems,
prepped her for launch.’
interrupted Scott. ‘Now how about you fetch us something to
drink. And John, get back to work. Or it won’t be just Brains
bunking in with you for the night.’
glared at Alan’s retreating back. The pipsqueak was
definitely up to something. He turned back to the
generator to find Brains studiously soldering a connection,
tapped his foot against the metal sheeting of the control
centre floor, the movement travelling up his leg until his
whole body was vibrating with impatience. He was filled with
suspicion, and a dark cloud of foreboding had settled heavily
upon him. It had taken five hours to replace and test the main
generator, and John hadn’t seen a sign of Veronika during all
that time. Maybe she hadn’t been in the backup generator room
after all? Which meant Alan hadn’t found her…but that meant…so
where had he put her then? It had only been a month since
John’s last rotation, and his memory wasn’t that bad.
holding them up?
take this long to manoeuvre Thunderbird Three out of
the docking tube. John pursed his lips. He hadn’t felt like
this since he was fifteen, waiting for his father’s car –
filled to bursting with his brothers – to back out of the
driveway and take off down the street so he could get Marcy
Mitchell around while he had the house to himself.
the nose of Thunderbird Three swung around to bear, the
orange bulk of the great rocket passing majestically across
the front of Five’s wide viewport as Brains came to
stand behind him.
minute Brains.’ John wanted to be sure Thunderbird Three
made it all the way down the driveway, so to speak.
sighed inwardly with relief as the rocket slid silently by the
he saw her.
lazily along behind Thunderbird Three like a voluptuous
piñata on the end of a string. John could almost hear Brains’
eyes widen in the suddenly deafening silence.
raised his wristcom to his lips, lowered it again in futile
defeat. It was only a matter of time before the vacuum of
space… oh. There she goes.
she had been dipped into liquid nitrogen, Veronika Mk II’s
naugahyde-brown synth-skin – grown in the illegal dermafarms
of Xiangsi and purchased at great cost for an undisclosed sum
– froze and cracked in the icy waste of space, suddenly
splintered from stem to stern and spilled out a glittering
rainbow of cogs and servos. Wires and pulleys separated from
Veronika’s plexiform skeleton in a bizarre dismemberment, and
behind him Brains gasped audibly at the waste of good
components. The sun glinted brightly from Veronika’s
motherboard as it spun off into space, surrounded by the
glittering shards of her smaller components, spinning,
spinning, like tiny little stars.
teeth ground together, and the muscles of his jaw twitched
visibly. Brains caught the movement in the corner of his eye,
and he took a small and wary step back.
Brains had been tinkering obsessively with Braman back at
Base, redesigning and refining his awkward copper man for the
stupefaction of the Tracy household, in the uninterrupted
solitude of Thunderbird Five John had been quietly
taking Braman’s schematics to a whole other level.
Braman was hard and unyielding, Veronika had been soft and
malleable. Where Braman was unemotional and dull, Veronika was
warm and responsive. And while Braman could only focus on one
task at a time, Veronika had been a glorious multi-tasker.
Veronika could monitor the cabin pressure, track a typhoon and
rub your shoulders all at the same time. And when she leant
over you and the locks of her real human hair brushed against
your face… ohhh. John sure hoped Alan hadn’t defiled
her before he consigned her to the vacuum of space.
sighed inwardly, and behind him Brains sniffed, lamenting the
waste of effort that the spectacle before them represented.
They would mourn Veronika, but there were plenty more
animatronic fish waiting to be born in the sea.
in silence, the pair of them, watching as Thunderbird Three
hurtled lazily towards the Earth, her unexpected payload
disintegrating behind her. And as the last of Mk II spun into
darkness, John turned grimly to face Brains.
‘Vengeance,’ he said darkly.
uh, ours,’ Brains replied.