An invasion of good. An
invasion of evil. Invasions that are much closer to home than
International Rescue ever could have imagined.
This story was inspired by a
book I read a couple of years ago: "Needle" by Hal Clement. I
haven't read it in a while, but when I came up with the idea
to write a story more centred on John, the basic idea from
that book popped up in my mind for some strange reasons. I
just gave it the Thunderbirds Twist.
yellow sun wasn't much different from thousands of other stars
in the same galaxy. Like many stars of that type, it was
accompanied by several planets (in this case ten), an asteroid
belt and a multitude of comets. An altogether unremarkable
ship neared the third planet at a speed of several thousand
miles per second. It decelerated as it got closer and soon
went into orbit. Immediately it started to collect data and
transferred the information to its lone occupant.
passenger was delighted when he learned that the planet was
populated by an intelligent life form, one that though it had
not yet made the step to other solar systems had already a
highly developed technology up to interplanetary travel. It
was absolutely perfect.
– called by its occupants 'Earth' – was way off the normal
interstellar routes in a distant sector of the galaxy that to
his knowledge had not been explored yet. Here he could hide as
long as he wanted. He would learn the language of those
Earthlings and then he would manipulate them any way he
wanted. Here he would be able to get the power he deserved.
needed was to find a host and there would be no way that his
hunters would ever find him.
that at least one of his hunters was still on his trail, only
a day or so behind. He had pushed his ship's engines to its
limits and beyond, burning out the interstellar drive in the
process. Still, his hunter had managed to follow him somehow.
But here on Earth the other one would lose the trail. And in
case the other would be able to detect his ship once he had
landed, he would make sure to leave behind a little surprise.
Manipulating the controls of the ship, he lowered his orbit,
searching for a good place where he could land and find a
there was a small explosion in the aft section of his ship.
What had started as a controlled descent turned into an
uncontrolled downward dive. Suddenly, he found he was over a
large body of water, falling fast towards the surface. A small
island dominated by an extinct volcano appeared on his scanner
and he tried desperately to steer his craft towards it.
quite make it.
huge splash, the ship hit the water less than a mile away from
the island. For a second it floated on the surface, but then
the water closed over it and it sunk into the depths of the
later, there was no sign left that there ever had been a
checked the display of the device he was holding and nodded.
spot, Gordon. We're exactly above it. Stop the boat."
brother Gordon complied and cut off the engine. He then peered
over the side into the water below.
see anything," he said, squinting in the bright afternoon
sunlight. "Not that I expect to. It's three hundred feet to
the bottom here."
didn't ask how it was that his brother knew exactly the depth
of the ocean here. Gordon was an aquanaut by nature. Sometimes
John suspected he was more at home in the water than on land.
In the twelve years since the family had settled on Tracy
Island, the copper-haired man had explored every reef,
underwater cave and crevice that was to be found in and around
the island. He knew the ocean here as well as the back of his
speculate on what we're going to find?" he asked his younger
frowned. "No idea really. The proximity detectors couldn't
make heads or tails of the data. Only thing clear was that it
was coming from above somewhere. Could be a meteorite or the
toilet seat from an abandoned space station for all I know.
Only way to find out is to go down."
morning, the proximity alarm systems from Tracy Island had
spotted a small object moving in fast from overhead, only to
disappear in the ocean less than a mile away from the island.
Normally an object so small wouldn't have warranted a closer
investigation. However, two days ago, another object similar
in size had arrived, pretty much in the same spot. So it was
decided that Gordon, as their resident aquanaut, and John who
was for a change on the island while Alan, their youngest
brother, was pulling a shift on Thunderbird 5, were sent to
couldn't risk that it was something that might compromise the
security and the secrecy of the island.
Island held a secret. A rather big secret, actually.
Unbeknownst to most of the rest of the world, Tracy Island,
which looked on the outside like the eccentric get-away of
billionaire Jeff Tracy and his five sons, was in fact the
hidden headquarters of International Rescue, an organization
dedicated to saving lives all over the planet.
IR was in
possession of some of the world's most advanced machinery.
Several organisations and individuals around the globe would
like nothing better than to get their hands on the machines
that were at the heart of International Rescue: the
Thunderbirds. But Jeff Tracy was adamant that they were only
used to help and never to hurt, so he had built a huge smoke
screen to protect them. Hiding the fact that Tracy Island was
more than it seemed to be was but the first step in that smoke
pulled on his wetsuit and flippers while Gordon went once more
over their other diving equipment, checking each part
thoroughly. After finishing the checks to his satisfaction, he
helped John to slip his tank on, before donning his own.
he asked, testing the communication system in their masks.
ready," John replied, sitting down at the edge of the boat.
Scott Tracy. We are ready."
their oldest brother, was monitoring the mission from their
father's office on the island. Jeff Tracy himself was at a
meeting in Taiwan together with Virgil, the last of the
brothers, and had left the island and the running of
International Rescue in his oldest son's capable hands. After
two years of operations, he finally had learned to ease up a
little, much to the relief of all his sons.
two be careful," came their brother's voice from speakers
built into their diving masks.
sure, you are," Scott teased back, but then let it go. Scott
could be a little bit too overprotective at times. It was part
and parcel of being the oldest of five healthy and very active
brothers, especially after their mother had died thirteen
years ago. The younger brothers had long accepted Scott's
mother-henning, though that didn't mean they wouldn't tease
him about it once in a while.
brothers grinned at each other, then simultaneously dropped
backwards over the railing of the boat into the water. The got
their bearings and started to swim downwards, following the
diving line Gordon had dropped earlier.
when John was diving, it was driven home to him how much the
world under water resembled the world in space. By nature,
both were hostile to humans, requiring special equipment to
survive. The smallest mistake could spell disaster. But at the
same time, both worlds had an odd beauty – a tranquillity –
that was not to be found in the area above water and below
he followed Gordon down. At a hundred feet, the light from
above began to fade, so they switched on the strong lights
attached to their diving masks. Everything had lost its colour
by now; even Gordon's bright yellow diving suit had dulled to
a pale grey. Thanks to their advanced equipment, there was no
need to adjust for the increasing pressure as they went down,
so they made good time.
short while, they reached the bottom where the anchor of the
diving line sat. Gordon stopped, waving his light beam around.
The ground down here was pretty desolate. No natural light
reached it, and so no plants were growing. All there was was
sand and rocks and occasionally a silver fish flitting by.
stopped next to Gordon, pulling out the tracking device he had
used earlier. He tapped his brother on the shoulder to get his
it must be somewhere over there." John pointed in the
direction of some large boulders to their left.
let's check it out. Scott, we're heading in a southern
came Scott's reply, muffled through the mask's speaker.
passed the boulders, a new light started to blink on John's
called out. "Got something."
it?" Gordon asked as he floated above his brother, trying to
get a glimpse of the display.
"Give me a
moment." John pushed a couple of buttons. "That's strange," he
muttered more to himself.
you see, John?" Scott's voice asked.
tracker detects metal, but the alloy is something it can't
make sense of."
it's a meteorite after all," Gordon offered.
his head, but then realizing that Scott wouldn't be able to
see him, spoke, "No. If it were a meteorite, I'd detect more
iron. The composition here is all wrong."
guess we'll find out when we get closer." Gordon, having noted
the direction John had been pointing the tracker, swam off.
After a moment, John followed him only to almost swim into his
younger brother when he stopped in front of him.
of his mask's light caught a brief reflection, so he aimed his
this?" John asked, perplexed.
light's glare, they saw an object obviously made of metal.
Less than a yard across, it was more or less oval shaped, with
a square box attached to one end. The surface was smooth, with
no obvious openings in it.
Gordon, what have you found?"
"I have no
idea, Scott," John replied to the voice in his mask. He
proceeded to describe the strange object, as he swam around
it, flashing his camera for further reference later.
kinda like a toy space ship," Gordon cut in. "See, that box
there could be the engine and the round bit is for the
traveller." Gordon had swum down to the ground and now stood
more or less next to the object, holding his position with
easy waves of his hands.
would a toy space ship do here?" John asked.
I just said it looks like one. It's probably something totally
different. It's too small for a real space ship anyway."
certainly not a design I've seen before," John said.
Considering that John knew more about any kind of spacecraft
and satellite than most people learned in a lifetime, this was
we can take it back to the island?" Gordon asked next.
only way if we want to find out what it is," John replied.
"What do you think?"
considered the situation in front of him, then proposed his
plan. "Easiest would be to put that thing into a net, then
blow a balloon. Unless it's much heavier than it looks, it
will go up to the surface no problem."
nodded. "Okay, let's do it."
a package from the back of his belt and opened it, pulling out
a net made out of a thin but extremely strong fibre. He then
moved closer to the object lying on the ocean floor, preparing
to pull the net around and under it, so his brother would be
able to attach the balloon he was readying.
He had no
warning whatsoever about what was to come next. The moment his
fingertips touched the strange object, the whole surface
seemed to ripple for a second in the reflection of his mask
without any sound, it exploded.
been too focused on the spacecraft of his quarry to pay much
attention to his surroundings. So he hadn't noticed the
arrival of the two humans before it was too late.
arrived almost two days after the other alien had crash-landed
on the planet. As he had had to make sure his quarry hadn't
decided to hide on one of the other planets of this solar
system, he had lost a lot of time, time he now sorely missed.
had submerged his own ship under the waves of this planet's
ocean, it hadn't taken long to locate the other ship and also
to discover that the ship wasn't occupied anymore. Leaving his
own craft, he swam over to the other ship to investigate,
knowing all the time that he had come too late, that his prey
was long gone.
unaided eyes, the alien looked a lot like a lump of more or
less transparent gelatine. Weighing less than four pounds,
nobody on this planet would give him a second look, or believe
even for a moment that he could be an intelligent being.
had co-developed on a far away planet at the same time as a
humanoid race. Early on in their development, the Aviads, as
they called themselves, had discovered that they were able to
form a symbiosis with the Razons, as the humanoid race was
called, by blending with them. While the Razons provided
muscle power, the Aviads were able to control the immune
system of their hosts in such a way that illness became a
virtual unknown and even most injuries could easily be fixed
from the inside, drastically prolonging the life of the host.
All the time however, they still remained two separate races,
keeping their own identity. In fact, over fifty percent of the
Aviads and eighty percent of the Razons never blended in their
millennia, they developed laws to govern their life together,
the highest law being that no Aviad ever intentionally hurt
his Razon partner. When the Aviads and the Razons finally
stepped off their own planet and went to explore the universe,
the Aviads found that their ability to blend and live inside
another being was not limited to the Razons, provided that the
host had enough body mass to support the needs of the
symbiont. This had caused some problems in the beginning, as
many races abhorred the thought that another intelligent being
was able to live virtually undetectable inside another body
and possibly control it.
If not for
the high moral standards of the Aviads, they might have had
good reasons for that fear.
even in the most perfect race – and if there was one weakness
the Aviads had, it was their belief that they were pretty much
perfect – there were bound to be some who didn't uphold their
occupant of the ship the alien visitor had been investigating
was one of them. He had forced a blending with a host and had
tried to manipulate that host to do what he wanted him to do.
After his crime had been discovered, he had been extracted
from his host. But before he could have been put on trial, he
had managed to escape and stole an interstellar ship, heading
to the most remote sector of the galaxy imaginable.
had tracked him over thousands of light years to finally pick
up his trail in this out of the way solar system. Only to lose
his trail once again.
hunter had been prone to swearing, he probably would have done
so. He had had a bad feeling from the moment he had noticed
that his prey was heading for a planet teaming with life
forms. And not just animal life, but obviously an intelligent
and technologically advanced race.
could hide here undetected for years, waiting for the humans
to take that last step and then he would be loose on the
the hunter had another problem. Two humans had arrived, the
lights from their breathing masks reflecting off the space
ship on the ground. Some kind of electronically assisted
communication was going on, but as the hunter hadn't brought
any equipment with him, he didn't know what they were talking
about. Not that he had had the time to learn their language
yet, so he wouldn't have understood them anyway.
humans didn't know was that their electronic communication so
close had triggered the self-destruct mechanism of the
spacecraft. That was in fact the reason Hunter had forgone to
bring any equipment himself. He knew that his prey knew that
he was followed. The hyper drive engine of his prey's space
craft was burned out – not that his own ship was faring that
much better – and thus wasn't of any more use to him. But if
he could use it to finally get rid of the one who hunted him …
desperately thought of ways to warn the humans, but nothing
came to his mind. Here under water the explosion of the space
craft would be muted relative to the damage it would cause
above water, but still it could very well be fatal to one or
maybe even both of the humans.
One of the
two humans reached out his hand for the ship, and Hunter knew
he had run out of time. What he intended to do was against the
law, but it was likely the only chance the humans had to
survive. Readying himself, he waited for the inevitable
explosion to come.
standing closest, received the full force of the blast. It
blew him backwards against Gordon, who was torn off his feet
by the shock wave and the impact of his brother's body.
Gordon yelled, as he tried to hold onto John, who suddenly
floated aimlessly in the water.
needed to bother. John was out cold. A cloud of pinkish blood
started immediately to form around John's side, where a piece
of the exploded object had imbedded itself into John's flesh.
note of panic now crept into Gordon's voice.
exploding bomb was never a good thing. An exploding bomb
underneath three hundred feet of water was exponentially
worse. The only good thing in the whole situation was that of
all the brothers Gordon was the one who was best equipped to
handle a situation like this. For three years he had been with
WASP, the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, before he had quit
in order to join International Rescue. During his time with
WASP, he had trained extensively in underwater recovery and
rescue, aware that those skills would be useful once he
started working in the 'family business'.
he had never thought that one day he would need to use those
skills to save his brother's life.
deep breath, he tried to calm himself down. He knew to panic
would be the absolute wrong thing to do. Any mistake on his
part could very well spell his brother's death. For one
moment, he wished they had taken Thunderbird 4 to check out
the source of this morning's alarm. In the little submarine,
it would have been no problem to get John to safety. Then he
pushed that thought aside, knowing if he started to wish for
things, he might as well wish that that thing they had been
investigating had never exploded. But it had and now he had to
deal with it.
thing first. Checking over John's breathing mask, he found
that there didn't seem to be any cracks or leaks and the rest
of the diving equipment also seemed to be in good shape.
two fingers against John's neck. For a moment, there was
nothing, but then he felt a flutter against his fingertips,
followed a moment later by a second, then a third. Gordon
exhaled in relief.
John close, wrapping his left arm around the other man's
chest. He felt it expand, chasing away the last of his
concerns. John was breathing under his own power. This was
good. He didn't know how John was able to breathe on his own
with a wound like the one in his side and a cut on his head
that now also began to bleed, but Gordon was not above looking
a gift horse in the mouth.
he realized that Scott was screaming in his ears, demanding to
know what was going on.
I'm here," he called back.
moment there was silence, then came Scott's concern tinged
voice, "What the hell is going on? What happened?"
collected his thoughts. "That thing we found, it exploded.
John stood closest and got knocked out. He's breathing on his
own, though I'm not sure how. I'm going to get him up now.
Maybe it would be best you get the hover jet ready to pick us
up. John is bleeding pretty badly and a piece of shrapnel got
stuck in his side."
didn't hesitate. "Okay. I'll be at the boat in seven minutes."
waiting for you. Over and out."
had been explaining the situation to Scott, he had started to
swim upwards with his brother in tow. With strong, steady
kicks of his legs, they quickly traversed into the lighter and
warmer regions of water. At least, thanks to the special
breathing equipment Brains had designed and built, he didn't
need to worry about wasting any time for decompression.
his eyes open for sharks, though. As far as Gordon knew, there
were no sharks currently in the area. Out of interest, Gordon
kept close taps on the maritime population around the island
and knew pretty well where the larger animals usually hunted.
But with John's blood in the water this could quickly change.
before they broke through the water surface, John began to
stir in Gordon's arms.
he asked, just as they surfaced. "Ouch."
move, John, you've been hurt. Let me help you."
John from his breathing tanks and equipment belt, letting them
sink in the water. John didn't need them any more and right
now they were only additional weight.
looked around, spotting the boat not a hundred yards away.
Swimming sideways, he headed for it, still dragging John
move," Gordon repeated more forcefully. John must have lost by
now a lot of blood and, thanks to the water, there was no
chance of the wounds to stop bleeding on their own. If John
moved and jarred that piece of metal in his side, they might
as well not bother to try to get him to safety. He would be
dead before he reached the island. Of course, thanks to the
cooling effect of the water, John had probably no idea how
serious the situation was.
felt John tense up as if he was about to fight Gordon's
command. But then he relaxed again, allowing his younger
brother to pull him towards the boat. They all had trained on
water rescues – though of course no one as extensively as
Gordon – and knew what to do to make it easier for the
the hover jet reached the boat at the same time.
speakers in Gordon's mask crackled on. "Gordon, how is John?"
fine," John replied, but was then cut off by Gordon.
alive, obviously." Gordon trod water, still holding John in
front of him. He was for some reason a little annoyed that
John sounded so much better than he had a right to feel at the
moment. The few minutes it had taken Gordon to reach the
surface had been hell to him. A thousand scenarios on what
could go wrong had passed through his mind, and he had not
been able to stop worrying about what could happen. He knew
his reaction to John's words was childish, but he just
couldn't help himself. He felt somewhat short changed.
drop the basket, Scott? I want to move him as little as
door of the small jet opened and Gordon saw Brains peering
out. The engineer folded out a small support beam with a
strong cable attached to it. The other end was tied to a
bright red, man-sized contraption, the rescue basket. Brains
pushed the basket towards the edge of the hold, then lowered
it towards the water. In the meantime, Scott held the jet rock
steady at fifty feet, just high enough that the blast from the
engines didn't interfere with the rescue.
As soon as
the basket hit the water not ten feet away, Gordon swam for it
with John in tow.
had several floatation devices attached to its side to
compensate for the weight of its steel frame. Gordon pushed a
button that released some of the air inside the floaters and
it sunk a little bit lower in the water. He then manoeuvred it
underneath John who had stretched out alongside it.
noted that John didn't bleed as badly from the wound in his
side any more. This could be a good sign; maybe the wound
wasn't as bad as he had thought at first. But it also could be
a bad sign, meaning that he already had lost too much blood
and had nothing left to spare. He hoped for the former, but
feared the later.
time, he had manhandled John into the basket and closed the
safety straps. He pushed back, watching as Brains hoisted the
basket with his brother in it back onboard.
h-h-have him, Gordon," Brains gave the all clear.
get him home. I'll bring the boat back."
jet gained height then turned and headed back to the island
and the sick room there. Gordon knew that Brains was more than
capable to administer First Aid for John. Though Brains had no
medical degree, he had made it his mission to keep the pilots
of his beloved Thunderbirds in tip-top shape. Sometimes said
pilots speculated – always in jest though – that Brains
considered them just as some other specialized equipment that
could be easily fixed by applying a hammer and a soldering
iron. But the truth was that Brains cared about them – as they
all cared about him.
sigh, Gordon climbed back into the boat and pointed it back to
the island and to news of his brother.
never performed a blending that quickly, but there had been no
other choice. It was either this or letting the human die.
Luckily, human physiology was similar to most humanoid life
forms, as similar circumstances created similar solutions.
order of the day was to stop the bleeding. Several organs had
been cut by the piece of shrapnel and fixing those took
priority. Creating a thin shield out of his own body mass to
reduce the bleeding, he simultaneously coaxed the cells of the
affected organs to reproduce themselves at an unbelievable
high rate. At the same time, he enveloped the piece of metal
and started to move it ever so carefully out of the body.
While about seventy-five percent of his body mass was working
on that, he infused himself within the human's body, sending
feelers out to every region.
of his body were about a tenth in size of those of most
carbon-based life forms, so it was no problem to slip between
muscles fibres and into the arteries and veins. He prodded the
heart to beat and the lungs to expand and contract, making
sure that the brain was supplied with oxygen. If push came to
shove, he was actually able to provide oxygen directly to the
brain, but this way was much better.
lost all feeling for time, so focused was he on the battle to
save the human's life.
he noticed that he received assistance from outside. Fresh
oxygen in high concentration reached the lungs, which had
finally started to work again on their own. Somebody
stabilized the piece of shrapnel, arresting his effort to push
it further outside. In most cases a sensible precaution, as
without him working from inside on fixing things, every
movement of that piece of metal might just cause further
injuries to the organs. He didn't want to call undue attention
to himself, so he stopped pushing. The worst was over anyway,
most of the damage already repaired.
would live. And for better or worse, he was now Hunter's host.
Hunter was able to leave the human's body anytime he chose to.
But that would put him at a severe disadvantage. His space
ship was somewhere underneath the ocean now, not accessible
for him anymore. Somewhere on this planet, one of his own kind
probably possessed another body, though how he was to find out
which one, was for the moment beyond Hunter.
know the language, had no idea about the culture and their way
He had to
learn, and quickly.
could have sighed, he would have. Instead, he settled himself
down, infusing himself even deeper within the human's body.
as if he would be staying for a while.
sitting up in the bed, sipping on a glass of orange juice,
when Gordon stormed into the sick room half an hour later.
Scott and Brains had spoken to Gordon multiple times while he
had been steering the boat back to the island, it was obvious
that he hadn't believed their assurances that his older
brother was doing fine. The cut John had received on his head
had been only a superficial one as he had been protected by
the diving mask. The piece of shrapnel in his side had been
only half as deep in as anybody had feared. By sheer luck, the
metal bit hadn't even nicked any of his organs or larger blood
vessels. It was removed by Brains without any problems. Seeing
that his patient wasn't to die on him, Brains had grabbed the
piece of metal and had disappeared in one of his many
laboratories, happily muttering to himself about unusual
metallurgic properties and compositions. John suspected they
wouldn't see hide or hair of the scientist for the next couple
told to rest and drink lots of fluids to replenish the blood
he had lost.
squirt." John looked up, smiling.
stopped in the doorframe, drinking in the sight of his
obviously still very much alive brother. He swallowed a couple
of times, then, "You're looking good."
studied his brother and grew serious. It was clear that Gordon
had gone through quite a bit the last couple of hours and was
still somewhat in shock. It must have been hard on the younger
man, all alone under the water, thinking that John was
seriously injured and not knowing if he could make it to the
surface with him while John was still alive.
wasn't like any of their normal rescues. Even though most
rescues were life-and-death situations, they normally didn't
involve direct danger for any of the brothers. Of course,
sometimes it got hairy for them, but so far they always had
come out on top.
placed his glass on the nightstand and waved his brother to
want to thank you. If you hadn't been there, I might be dead
blushed, but then nodded. "You gave me quite a scare, John.
For a while … down there … I thought …"
he thought he never said. He didn't need to.
him all the time he needed, and after a few moments, he was
rewarded by a smile that spread over Gordon's face.
glad to see you're going to be okay," Gordon finally said
you, squirt, thanks to you.
drastically changed tracks, "what do you think it was we've
found down there. Was it a bomb? But where did it come from
and what was it doing down there?"
next hour or so, both speculated on the origin of the object
they had found on the ocean floor, until Tin-Tin showed up and
shooed Gordon out of the sickroom claiming that John still
needed some rest.
day John insisted that he was again fit for duty. Brains did a
thorough examination and was forced to agree. John was fine,
the wound Brains had lasered close was healing very nicely,
with the prognosis that there wouldn't even be a scar
after John took Thunderbird 3 back up to Thunderbird 5,
relieving Alan for the next month. John all but forgot about
better than ever. All the Tracy boys were fit by nature and
necessity, but he noticed that for some strange reason the
five miles run he took every morning on the station's
treadmill didn't take as much out of him as he was used to. In
fact, the first morning on board, he found that he had
improved his best time ever by over five percent, and then he
continued to top that time every morning for the next week.
Maybe he should get involved in an underwater explosion more
often if this was the outcome.
going perfect. Until one morning, a week after he had come
back to Thunderbird 5, John started to see things.
been to many different worlds and lived in over a dozen hosts
of different races. Most of his blendings had been temporary
arrangements, for one special assignment or another. He was
what the inhabitants of Earth would probably call a special
agent, somebody who worked on various projects in government
funded law enforcement. If a project required him to join with
another being that was fine with him, if not, that was okay,
the first couple on days in the human body learning about all
the specifics of this race. Though similar to several species
he had inhabited before, there were always some differences
one had to deal with. He also had to make sure to evade the
human's immune system, without overwhelming said system.
Though he was perfectly capable of performing all functions of
an immune system, working probably way better than it would
have normally as he was more aware of what he was doing, he
had to think ahead to the time when he left the human's body.
If he took too much control now, there would be long-term
that time, he also established connections to the 'outside'
world. He connected with the human's eyes and optic nerve,
which gave him sight, and with the inner ear, for sound. He
sent feelers along most of the nervous system and even
established a link with the taste and smelling centre.
though Hunter rued every day he spent learning the language,
he knew that his prey was in no better position. He also had
to learn first before he could do something. He actually
believed he had here some advantage, as he had had contact
with more races than his prey, and thus he should be able to
adapt faster than him.
the eyes and the ears of the host, he started to collect data.
been somewhat surprised when he had found out that the human –
John – had left the planet on the second day to move into a
space station. From what little he had detected during his
approach to the planet, he had assumed that habitation in
space was still extremely rare with only a few hundred people
out of several billions spending any prolonged time in orbit.
But not only did John obviously plan to spend some time in the
space station, he handled it as if it was just a normal
occurrence to him.
station was also surprisingly sophisticated, with a primitive
but functional artificial gravity system and an extremely
complex communication setup.
seemed to be to monitor all kinds of communication all over
the planet. Automatic filters sorted the incoming data, though
for the first couple of days hunter wasn't sure what John were
looking for. The huge amount of data worked in his advantage
however, as it gave him plenty of material to learn from. He
had been confused at first when he had realized that there was
more than one language spoken, but soon one language had risen
as the predominant one and so he had concentrated on learning
about a week after they had arrived on Thunderbird 5, as the
space station was named, Hunter decided he had learned enough
of the human's language to communicate with his host.
time to make contact with John.
stepped out of the shower, towelling his hair. During the last
refit of Thunderbird 5 two months ago, they had finally
installed a real shower on board, and John thought this was a
great improvement. Of course, he knew that the water was
recycled multiple times. It was a necessity in a place as
limited on resources as up here. Thunderbird 3 could only
bring so much up on a trip, and water was one consumable that
could be used many times over if one just took good care of
it. John just tried not to dwell too deeply on where the water
had been before he used it for his shower.
looking forward to his breakfast. This morning he had decided
to push himself on the treadmill, wanting to see what time he
was really capable of. He couldn't believe it when he had
finished his five miles and saw that he had run them in less
than twenty minutes. That was only one minute higher than the
current world record. If he hadn't checked out the gravity
platings himself the other day, he would have suspected that
the station's gravity was too low, but every test he had run
had proven that he had exactly one G, nothing more and nothing
good. On his last stay on the island he actually had managed
to gain a couple of pounds for a change. Grandma was always
after him to eat more, that he was too thin, but usually no
matter how much he stuffed himself – and with Grandma's
cooking stuffing oneself was easy – nothing stuck.
himself a cup of coffee and dove into the freezer in the
search for something edible. If he remembered correctly, there
should still be a couple of Grandma's delicious cinnamon
rolls. Three minutes in the microwave and breakfast would be
ready for him.
the gooey treats into the oven, set the timer and waited for
the rolls to defrost.
As he was
waiting, he was looking at a blank space of wall. Suddenly a
word appeared in his field of vision.
blinked, but the word was still there. He looked to the left
and right, but his name seemed to follow the movement of his
DO NOT BE
had disappeared to be replaced with the next text.
I WANT TO
TALK TO YOU
He put his
hands up to his chest, patting himself down. "What is this?"
to breathe hard.
Is that a name or a profession?"
had disappeared for a moment, only to reappear again with the
same words. John was confused.
heck was this? Where did this text come from? How was this
he had an idea.
if this is one of your tricks …"
the resident trickster in the family. Plastic spiders in
shoes, birthday presents that exploded, prank calls. If there
was a joke to be played, Gordon was the one to do it. He must
have somehow managed to bring a projector on the station and
some kind of two-way communication system.
Gordon hadn't been on the station for over half a year. And if
there were a projector, John would know about it. Nothing got
onto Thunderbird 5 without his knowledge.
YOUR LIFE IN THE WATER
INSIDE OF YOU
John looked down on himself. What was this? Was he possessed
by a ghost?
inside of me?"
a momentary delay before the next message appeared
I AM FROM
while ago, John and Alan had watched a series of old movies.
In those movies, an alien queen had laid her eggs inside the
bodies of some people. When the eggs were ready to hatch, the
aliens had broken out of the chest cavity of their victims,
killing them. Very bloody and gory – naturally Alan had loved
he patted himself down. No abnormal bulges so far.
your help. If the alien knew it or not, he had just said – or
rather somehow projected – the magic words. John and his
brothers lived to help those who needed them. They didn't make
a difference if the person who needed their help was rich or
poor; if he was a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist; if
he was white, black, red or yellow. So, why should they make a
difference if he was invisible or had tentacles instead of
other hand, he or International Rescue wouldn't just run off
on some crazy, alien rescue mission just because John saw some
words on the wall after a hard workout in the morning.
of help?" he asked carefully.
ONE OF MY
KIND IS ON YOUR PLANET
aren't harming me?"
letters popped up so fast, that John got the impression that
the being inside of him was somehow insulted. As if to push
the point further, more words showed up.
I WILL NOT
are you doing inside of me?"
really had an alien being inside of him – something John
wasn't one hundred percent convinced of yet, but he tried to
keep an open mind – it was a valid question.
YOUR LIFE IN THE WATER, the alien repeated the sentence he had
explosion?" John ventured. He had to admit that he had
wondered how he had come out of the whole escapade relatively
unscathed. He had put it down to Gordon imagining the
situation worse than it actually had been. But what if …
BELONGED TO THE OTHER
INSIDE OF YOU TO SAVE YOU
So, it had
been a space ship after all. But it had been so small. On the
other hand, if the alien was small enough to reside inside a
human body, he couldn't be very big.
curiosity was piqued.
you from? What star?"
passion besides International Rescue was astronomy. He could
spend hours in the small astrodome of Thunderbirds 5, watching
the stars, trying to see further and further into the
universe. This was one of the reasons why he didn't mind
spending so much time away from home. Here, way above the
atmosphere of Earth, the stars were clearer than anyplace
else. He had even written several books on the topic, which
were all well received among the astronomic community.
loved the stars longer than he could remember. Some of his
fondest childhood memories were those of camping trips with
the whole family, where he and his father spent half the night
stargazing together and his dad had taught him the
I DO NOT
KNOW YOUR NAME FOR IT
LATER I CAN SHOW YOU
interested as John was, there were more important things right
let's assume for the moment I believe that you are an alien
and that you are inside of me. How can I trust you?"
YOUR LIFE IN THE WATER
Yes. We've been there before. If it's true, then thank you.
But what are you still doing inside of me? Why did you not
the impression that the alien had only a limit vocabulary.
"How can I help you?"
I NEED A
I WILL NOT
What do you mean with 'host'? Are you eating me from inside,
or what?" The image from that blasted science fiction movie
popped up once again in John's mind.
I HEAL YOU
stopped and thought. What the alien was describing was a
symbiosis. Two different beings living together, both gaining
from the other, nobody gets harmed. There were a million
examples of this in nature.
suddenly remembered the time he had run this morning on the
treadmill. Normally, after a full out run for five miles like
this, he shouldn't be able to stand up, really, let alone move
as if it had been nothing.
me stronger? Faster?"
YOU FROM YOURSELF
normal consequences of a work out like the one this morning
would be muscle cramps at the least. If the alien was able to
stop them that would in turn mean he would be able to push his
body further than normal and to hell with the consequences.
was another thought. He had gained almost four pounds while he
was on the island. What if those four pounds were not, as he
had thought, the result of Grandma's good cooking, but because
he had unwittingly picked up a hitchhiker? What if he had
originally been injured more severely in that explosion and
the alien had indeed saved his life?
made sense, in a crazy, twisted, weird kind of way.
plopped back down on the single chair in the kitchen, stunned.
He had an
alien living inside of him.
alien was talking to him.
wanted his help.
on the microwave went off with a ping, but John couldn't move.
He had something else to digest first.
quite satisfied with the way his first conversation with John
had gone. Once or twice, he had wished that he knew more words
of the human's language, but he had the impression that he had
managed to convey everything that was important.
had come over his first shock, he had begun to ask many more
Hunter make those words appear? How did the symbiosis work?
How long had he travelled to come to Earth? What was with
Hunter's space ship? How did he plan to find his prey?
tried to answer them as well as he could, but he didn't know
the answer to all of them.
the last question had him stumped.
How did he
plan to find his prey?
never thought he would follow the other to a planet with
intelligent life forms. He knew there had been a few
expeditions in this region of the galaxy, but to his memory,
there never had been a report that there were habitable
over twelve billion humans on Earth, finding the other was
like finding a needle in a very, very large haystack. His only
hope was that the other hadn't left the island where Hunter
had found the space ship. He knew from John that there were
only nine humans without John living permanently on Tracy
Island, and that they rarely left the island. If, and that was
highly likely, his prey had blended with one of those humans,
he would need also some time to adapt. Hopefully, the other
one didn't know that Hunter had found his ship and knew where
the other was. If this was the case, there would be no reason
for him to try to get off the island. And in this case, Hunter
had still a chance to find him.
'ifs' but it was the only thing Hunter had going for him at
reacted pretty badly when Hunter proposed that the other one
had possibly blended with somebody on the island. It seemed
that he was emotionally very attached to all of them. Some of
them, as Hunter understood it, were his brothers, and one was
his father. Hunter had to confess that he had a little problem
with that concept, even though he had observed similar family
groups in some other races he had worked with. Actually, it
didn't matter why John cared. The important thing for Hunter
was that he cared. And if it was important to his host, then
it was important for Hunter.
the way things were with host and symbiont.
asked for some time alone to think, so Hunter had stopped
projecting the words on the retina of his host's eyes, leaving
the other to his thoughts.
had gone to the communications room, the largest room on the
station. It seemed as if John's preferred method of thinking
was to listen to all those channels all at the same time.
Hunter had no idea how John was able to sort through that
chaos of voices and the many, many pictures, projected on
multiple screens on one side of the room. To him it was all
just white noise.
a voice seemed to rise out of the chaos.
International Rescue. Calling International Rescue."
International Rescue. Calling International Rescue."
immediately toned down the other channels coming in. For some
strange reason he always had been able to think best when
there was a lot of noise – and there was a lot to think about.
facing the irrefutable proof that he indeed had an alien
inside of him, he had needed some time to come to terms with
it. Like everybody who ever had looked up into the skies, he
had wondered if human kind was alone in the universe, or if
there was other intelligent life to be found between the
Now he had
the answer – and a lot closer to home than he would have
liked. Hunter had said that his people, and seemingly quite a
few more races, lived just on the other side of the galaxy.
Using some kind of faster than light travel he had been able
to reach Earth in little more than three weeks. Considering
the immense distances between the stars, this was just a short
stone's throw away.
people had even been to this neck of the interstellar woods
before, but somehow they had missed Earth. The alien had said
he was sure that he and the one he was hunting were the first
of his species to ever land on the planet.
alien's ability to blend undetectably with any human, the one
Hunter was searching could be anywhere by now. On one hand,
John almost wished that was the case. Because the alternative
was that the other alien was inside of one of his friends or
family. When John had asked, Hunter had admitted that he could
do quite a bit of damage inside a human's body if he wanted.
Beginning with just pinching off an artery, to manipulating
the whole hormonal system, to influence everything from
breathing to the immune system. Hunter knew more about John's
body than he did himself.
Hunter's elaborated honour system seemed to put a stop to any
didn't want to imagine what an alien with fewer scruples could
do to his family.
now there was an emergency and that took precedence over his
own and the alien's problem for the moment.
a switch and spoke in a microphone. "This is International
Rescue. What is the emergency?"
the gods that I reached you," a voice replied in Mandarin. "My
name is Huang Xian-Gua. I'm manager of the Lian-Chow-Po dam.
There has been an explosion on the dam half an hour ago. We
suspect sabotage. At the moment the dam is still holding, but
it's only a matter of time before it gives. When that happens,
the whole valley will be flooded, killing hundreds if not
thousands as we can't possibly evacuate the people in time. A
team of our people is working desperately to prevent this, but
if they don't succeed, they will die, too. They are stuck in
the work booth on top of the dam. We need help."
thought for a moment about the situation, then spoke again,
also switching to the Chinese language, "We will send a team
to you as soon as possible. Please give us all the data you
have on the dam and on the situation on site."
you, International Rescue. Thank you."
He cut of
the audio link, but left a data link open waiting for the
Hunter, but it looks we have another emergency to take care of
first," John said half to himself and half to the alien being
in his gut, or wherever it was Hunter had settled down.
flipped another switch on his control board, connecting down
to the island. There in his father's study, the eyes on his
portrait would light up, indicating that he needed to talk to
"Thunderbird 5 calling base."
lit up, showing Jeff Tracy. As usual, John's father was
sitting behind his desk. He looked serious, ready for anything
John would throw at him.
there's been an explosion at a dam in China. So far, the dam
seems to hold, but if it should break, the valley will be
flooded. They'll never get all the people out of there in
time. Also, there's a team working to hold the dam together
somehow, but if they should fail, they're in danger as well."
Alan joined their father at the desk, listening intently to
what John was saying. In the background, John could see Virgil
and Gordon coming into the room as well.
John. We take it", John's father said. Then, to the other men,
"You heard John. Thunderbirds are go."
activated a 3D display and started to enter data rapidly. The
promised data from China had arrived, and he forwarded it to
the computer on the island. From there, it would be
distributed to Thunderbirds 1 and 2. He knew that down there,
Scott and Virgil would use the hidden access doors in the
study to reach their respective craft in the shortest possible
time. Alan and Gordon would probably ride with Virgil in
Thunderbird 2, spending the time of the flight to make sure
that all equipment that might be needed during the rescue was
warmed up and in tip-top shape.
activated the camouflage system that prevented anybody from
detecting the launch of the two Thunderbird craft from the
island. He then checked the traffic around the island,
satisfied that nobody was close enough to see the launch with
their own eyes. While in flight, the two machines had their
own masking program that hid them from all electronic
detection. Except of course, from their Big Brother watching
from above. A display lit up, showing a map and the progress
Thunderbirds 1 and 2 were making towards the danger zone. As
usual, Scott was ahead by a good bit, but Virgil was also
making good time.
letters showed up in his field of view.
alien projected on his retina.
NOT LEAVE THE ISLAND
his head. He had thought about that as well. If the alien
Hunter was looking for was in one of his brothers – a thought
that didn't sit well with him – he just had given him the
perfect excuse to leave the island and possibly move on to
another host. He would be lost on planet Earth forever, and
Hunter would have practically no chance ever to catch him.
sorry, but they have to. Lives are at stake. They should have
little contact with others during the rescue, so nothing
should happen if one of them is the host."
was not much Hunter could say or do about that.
back and contacted the manager of the dam again. The man
almost broke out in tears when he heard that help was on the
way, but John cut his grateful rambling off in mid-sentence.
need a location to land our two machines. We also need an
English speaking local liaison to coordinate our efforts. And
last, but not least, we need your assurance that nobody comes
into the vicinity of our craft or tries to take any pictures
manager promised everything John asked for, nearly bending
backwards in his effort to accommodate the fabulous
International Rescue team.
contacted Scott in Thunderbird 1 and relayed all the
information he had and also the name of the local liaison, a
woman named Suzan Chow.
John. My ETA is seven minutes. Virgil is twelve minutes behind
John contacted the manager and also got to speak with the
female liaison, telling her what to do as soon as Scott had
"Thunderbird 1 calling Thunderbird 5," came Scott's voice from
approaching the danger zone. From up here it does look pretty
bad. There's a big chunk of the dam missing on one side, and
there are large cracks all along the wall face spouting water.
The maintenance booth at the centre of the dam is cut off from
the road; no way these people can get out. The only saving
grace I can see at the moment is that the water level in the
lake is fairly low, thanks to that long drought this summer,
but even that won't save the dam in the long run."
Thanks for the update. You are to land at the parking lot East
of the dam at grid 7-13-4. A Mrs. Chow is waiting there for
pretty?" Scott asked, his voice lightening up a little. As
usual, the prospect of female company lifted Scott's mood.
offer you anything else, Scott?" John returned grinning. He
wished he could see Scott's face when he saw the lady in
question. The woman was at least sixty years old, thin as a
stick and no more than five feet tall. Scott would get a cramp
in his back just from bending down to her. But she had seemed
very competent when John had spoken to her and had the
advantage that she spoke fluently English. If he remembered
correctly, Scott's Mandarin was more than rusty, or, more to
the truth, non-existing.
while, there was no communication as Scott was concentrating
on his landing. John knew that Scott would get out Mobile
Control and set it up at a location where he was able to
monitor the situation. This was the phase of a rescue John
hated the most. His work was pretty much done, and all he
could do now was to listen in to what was going on on the
Control to Thunderbird 2," John overheard Scott calling
your ETA, Virgil?"
coming in right now."
I see you now, sorry. I want you to come in from
South-South-West. I think we should try the Web to stabilize
the dam. With any luck it works, and we can concentrate on
getting those people out of the maintenance booth."
a moment of hesitation as Virgil probably was assessing the
situation as well. After a minute however, he confirmed that
he would go along with Scott's plan.
was a thin net made from an immensely strong carbon and metal
monofilament. It could be packed to the size of a parachute
bag, but when deployed it opened up to cover an area of
several hundred square feet. After it had found its target –
in this case the face of the damaged dam – a simple
electromagnetic pulse would activate it, changing its
structure and stabilize the whole construction.
Thunderbird 2 would now hover in front of the dam, readying
the launcher, which would fire the package with the Web.
a soft 'phewt' over the open channel, and then Virgil's
they say you can't even hit the broad side of a dam," Scott
said lightly. "Good shooting, Virg."
saying that I can't shoot?" Virgil shot back obviously ready
to take up Scott's banter.
Virg. Are you coming in to land?"
on, the rescue was fairly normal. Scott, Virgil, Gordon and
Alan managed to get out the engineers from their maintenance
booth without any injuries. There was no sign of the suspected
sabotage. The dam held, thanks to the reinforcing net. The
dammed up lake would be emptied carefully over the next couple
of weeks to prevent flooding and then the Chinese engineers
would start their repairs. But this was no concern of
hours, everybody was ready to get back home.
his report while the others were flying back and sent it down
to the island.
that, he had no more reasons to stall. He had had some ideas
about Hunter during the rescue. They needed to talk.
chosen to talk to Hunter while lying on his bed. This way, he
could look up at the ceiling and Hunter could easily project
everything he wanted to say on his retina. When John had asked
how Hunter was making the words visible, he had said that he
had a very thin film covering John's retinas, using it to see
through John's eyes. When he wanted to form a word, he just
thickened bits of that film, creating a shadow on the back of
John's eyes. A pretty ingenious system, really, though John
thought it a bit cumbersome. What if he was doing something
else and Hunter needed to talk to him? This was an accident
waiting to happen. Hunter had replied that he was working on
using John's eardrums instead of the eyes, but so far he
didn't trust himself to form understandable words. After a
short demonstration, John had conceded the point. This
definitely would need some more work on Hunter's side.
Hunter," John started. "I'm willing to help you. But there are
a few things we need to clear first."
that your special friend might be in one of my family or
friends. How do you plan on finding out who is the one?"
AND I SEND A PROBE
presence in my body changes something in my blood and you are
able to detect that?"
thought. If he got back onto the island somehow, he should be
able to arrange to touch everybody there at one point or
another. And even if not, he should be able to arrange getting
some blood from those he could not exclude at first. He wasn't
so sure yet how, but he would find a way.
can work with that for now. Next question: When we find the
other, how do we get him out of his host? I take it, he
wouldn't go willingly."
I AM SORRY
I DO NOT
I DID NOT
THINK TO FIND HIM ON A PLANET WITH INTELLIGENT BEINGS
bad news. So even if they could find out who the host of the
other alien was, they might not be able to get him out.
THE SAME HOST
CAN CAUSE DAMAGE TO THE HOST
solution wouldn't do.
any reason why he would leave voluntarily?"
THE HOST IS IN DANGER
mulled that over.
the host would be, say, in a fire, then he would leave."
DANGER MUST BE REAL
think of a few ways to simulate a dangerous situation, but
each way still contained some risk that it might go wrong. It
was too dangerous.
that idea away for later, in case all other options failed,
and went on.
earlier that the other one has already caused damage to a
host. That's why you hunt him, right?"
this is the case, how did you guys get him out of the other
host? Or did he go peacefully?"
THERE IS A
WEAPON THAT DRIVES US OUT
John could work with that. Or rather, Brains could work with
that. There was little the brilliant engineer couldn't make
possible. That was if Brains wasn't the one infected.
you know about this weapon? Can we make it on Earth? Is there
something special we need?"
I DO NOT
KNOW NAME OF MODE
John had feared something like this was going to happen. The
communication link he had already formed with Hunter had made
him somehow forget that the alien had only a limited
vocabulary so far. Actually, it was pretty impressive what he
already had picked up after only little over a week on Earth.
The only thing was to wait then and hope that Hunter would be
able to pick up the right words in time. Another possibility
was to make sure that Brains was in the clear, and then give
him a sample of his own blood. This way, Brains should be able
to identify the marker Hunter had mentioned and also find a
way to destroy it.
John said. "We have to work on that later. Now I want
you to leave my body. For a short while only."
a moment's hesitation, then, WHY
reasons, really. First, I need to see if it's possible for one
of your kind to leave a human body without damaging it. Maybe
you will have to go into one of my brothers to fight the other
one, and in this case, I want to know if you can leave him
after that. Or me, for that matter."
THE OTHER REASON
Now it was
John's term to hesitate. He took a deep breath.
"I want to
be honest with you. I know nothing of you. You seem to be an
okay kind of guy, but I need some proof that you are on the
level. That I can trust you."
there was a moment quiet.
I WILL DO
WHAT YOU WANT
exhaled. He hadn't been sure how the alien would react to the
request. There was actually a third reason but he hadn't
wanted to tell that one to the alien.
need something? A container or are you okay on the floor?"
the alien managed to transfer indignity at being forced to
move into such a lowly receptacle, but somehow he did. John
He got up
and brought a bucket from the little cabinet next to the
kitchen. Then he sat Indian fashion on his bed, the bucket
between his legs.
HAND INTO THE BUCKET
He did as
the alien had instructed. For a moment nothing happened and
John felt a little stupid sitting on his bed, holding his
right hand into an empty bucket. There was after all still the
remote chance that this was some elaborate joke played by
Gordon and somewhere a camera was taking pictures to be
displayed at the next Christmas party to the amusement of
all thoughts of a joke from Gordon left his mind. He felt his
hand suddenly growing heavy. Water seemed to pour from every
pore, enveloping the hand with a sheen of liquid. The film got
thicker, flowing as in slow motion towards the bottom of the
container. John's heart rate increased as a small puddle
formed in the bucket, growing steadily larger. In less than a
minute, the small container was half full.
nothing more came out his hand, John pulled it back, staring
at it disbelievingly. He wiggled his fingers, looking at his
hand from both sides. It looked the same as always only that
just a minute ago an alien being had basically poured out of
If he had
had any doubts left, they were now gone.
into the bucket. Hunter looked pretty much like half a gallon
of slimy water. Thinking that this had been inside of his body
just minutes ago wasn't exactly a pleasant thought. But he
didn't feel any different, really, so it seemed he hadn't been
any worse off because of it.
placed the bucket very carefully on the floor and got up from
right back," he addressed the bucket, not knowing if Hunter
could even hear him in this state.
into the com room and flipped a switch on the control panel.
Tracy calling Brains."
to wait a moment before the engineer answered his call. Brains
was probably working on one project or another, and usually
disliked to be distracted from his work.
display lit up, showing the bespectacled engineer wearing a
lab coat. From what John could see from the room behind him,
he was in lab 2.
do you remember that piece of metal you pulled out of my side
the other week?"
o-o-off course I do, John. It is, ehr, a very interesting
p-p-piece of material." Brains pushed his glassed up the
bridge of his nose, looking curiously at John. John was sure
Brains wondered why John was asking.
already performed an analysis?"
is a very, ehm, interesting c-c-composition. I, uh, have never
seen a-a-anything like that. I, uh, even think it might, ehr,
not be from this w-w-world."
told anybody of your results yet?" John urged.
thought about that for a moment. "No, ehr, not yet. I did not,
ehm, have the time."
breathed out. "Good. Brains, would you mind keeping that under
wraps a little bit longer? I have something here that might be
related to it."
Brains. See ya later."
taken a risk in calling Brains, but he figured that of all the
inhabitants of Tracy Island, he would be the least likely to
be infected by the alien. Hunter had told him that he and the
one he was hunting had both landed their ships under water,
and the only way to reach a human would have been when
somebody came close to the alien. The aliens' mobility was
severely limited on land, so if there had been a contact it
had been most likely on one of the island's beaches.
practically never left his lab, and John couldn't recall him
ever taking a stroll along the water – something that
practically everybody else on the island did regularly.
hoped he hadn't been wrong.
hadn't wanted Hunter there for that talk, as he was pretty
sure there would have been protests. Besides, the two reasons
he had give Hunter were both true.
himself, he walked back into the bedroom. It was time that
Hunter got back into his body. The thought was a little
revolting, John had to admit, especially now that he had seen
the alien in his natural form.
also knew that Hunter had no chance of achieving his goal and
catching the other alien without John's help. And as that
other alien threatened his friends and family John would do
anything he had to do to help.
the creature in the bucket, he almost reconsidered. All his
basic instincts screamed at him not to do it. His stomach
clenched and he felt slightly nauseous.
He took a
deep breath exhaling slowly through his nose. The alien had
trusted him, else he would never have left John's body. He
seemed to be pretty helpless outside of a host. John didn't
know how helpless, but it was obvious that without a host,
without him, Hunter would never achieve what he had come to
In the end
John had no choice. He knew he had to do it.
once again, he dipped his hand into the bucket and inside the
slimy mass sitting within.
closed his eyes and tried to think of something else, when he
felt the alien slowly sift back inside.
they came up with depended on John getting back to the island
as soon as possible. His normal shift was to last three more
weeks and it was out of the question that they could wait so
long. Too much time had been lost already.
discussions, they finally decided that the only way to get
John back home was to fake some kind of illness. Neither John
nor the alien were exactly happy with that idea. John hated to
deceive his family and Hunter felt reluctant to manipulate
John's body to something that was essentially negative. But
they both had agreed that it was the best way.
time of the daily check-in call came around, John was ready.
SURE YOU WANT THIS
to any other idea you have."
an answer, he felt like heat suddenly flushed his body.
Breathing became harder and he felt his heart hammer in his
exclaimed, as he wiped off sweat from his forehead.
I'm fine. Just didn't think this would work so fast. You just
legs, John walked over to the com console, making contact with
Dad." Even his voice sounded raspy.
his father called out the moment he laid eyes on his middle
son. "Are you sick?"
swallowed. There was it now. He would have to lie to his
father. God, he hated that.
fine," he said, trying to sound like he meant it.
look fine, son," Jeff replied, looking sternly at him.
counted on the fact that he, like all of his brothers, was
well known to downplay any weakness they might have. And being
sick was a weakness after all. It seemed to work.
a bit of a fever, dad. I'll be fine."
to admit even to himself that he sounded pretty pathetic.
his father said. "This doesn't look like just a fever. You go,
right now, to the diagnostic bed and check yourself out.
John whined a little bit, but then relented, as he didn't want
to overplay it.
He went to
the bed in his room, transforming it with a couple of switches
into a high tech diagnostic unit and lay down. Multiple sensor
arrays sprang to life and started to examine him. John hated
to be in the diagnostic bed, but as it was a little difficult
to have a doctor making house calls in space, he had accepted
collected the data and sent them back to Earth. A few moments
later, he heard Jeff's voice again.
have over 106 degrees fever. This is not just something
harmless. You're coming back home. Now."
Father," John protested, even though this was exactly what he
and Hunter had wanted. But it would sound strange if he would
give in too fast.
'But, Father' me, son. You stay exactly where you are while I
send Scott and Alan up. Alan can stay on Thunderbird 5 for a
week, until you're better."
Jeff cut off the connection.
allowed himself a brief grin, then he closed his eyes. All of
the sudden he was very tired.
Thunderbird 3 arrived a little over an hour later. John had
actually fallen asleep but woke up when he heard Scott making
"Thunderbird 3 calling Thunderbird 5," sounded his oldest
brother's voice from the loudspeaker next to his bed. As John
had to be ready day and night, there was also a com unit in
rubbed his eyes, then flipped the switch.
here, Scott," John said, making his voice sound weaker than he
decreased his temperature a little, but John was still running
a medium fever. He had to hand it to the alien; he was doing a
great job. John really did feel sick. This also drove home to
him what danger his family and friends were in. Hunter had
been really reluctant to manipulate John's body and it had
taken some fancy talking on John's part to make him agree to
the plan. If the alien Hunter was searching for had no such
high moral standards, there was no knowing what damage he
minutes later, there was a knock and Scott's dark-haired head
peered into John's bedroom. "Hi, Johnny?" Scott's body
followed and he stepped inside. "How do you feel?"
Scott, really. It's just a bit of fever, that's all. No need
to take me home just because of that."
John, but I do have my orders." Scott had stepped up to the
bed and felt for John's forehead. "Hmm," he said
you mean, 'hmm', Scott?" Alan had followed his brother and
also stepped into the bedroom. He dropped the duffle bag he
had been carrying and joined Scott at John's bedside.
rolled his eyes, while Alan grinned down on John. "It's always
good to have a professional opinion. So, Doctor Scott, can the
patient be moved?"
pushed himself up into a sitting position. "The patient can
walk himself," he said through the dizziness that grasped him
accepted Scott's steadying hand, not liking the concerned
looks on Scott's and Alan's faces. John hated to cause worry
to his brothers, but he was now committed to the plan and
would see it through.
He held a
little bit longer onto Scott as he got to his feet. Finally
standing, he took a moment to get his breath back.
CLEAR, a message suddenly flashed before his eyes.
he said to Hunter, though Scott, of course, thought he was the
welcome," his older brother replied with an open smile.
do no good if John would go back to the island, only to leave
the one brother who was infected back on Thunderbird 5. With
Scott in the clear, they only needed to check out Alan.
John called out for his brother.
blond-haired man moved to John's side, slinging an arm around
his shoulder. Scott let go, moving ahead to the air lock and
Thunderbird 3 to start the pre-flight checks. John and Alan
okay with staying here, Alan?" John asked concerned. He felt a
little guilty for pulling Alan out from whatever the youngest
Tracy had been doing, only to dump him without any warning on
the remote space station.
John, don't worry. You just stay a week longer when you come
back up here and we call it even."
need to worry, John. Brains has come up with a new kind of
fire repellent gel that he 'burns' to test on one of us,"
Scott explained with a grin from up ahead. "I guess Alan is
just glad he's far enough away not to be on the test subject
list any more."
explained Alan's eagerness to stay up on TB5. Brains
experiments could turn up with unexpected results, though
there hadn't been any lasting damage – so far.
true!" Alan protested, but John could feel that his heart
wasn't in it.
true!" Scott returned with a wink.
John received an 'all clear' message from Hunter, lifting
another boulder from his heart.
reached Thunderbird 3 and John buckled up in the shotgun seat.
back home was uneventful. Scott handled the huge space rocket
with a deft hand and landed her without a jolt through the
opening in the large round house on the island.
John, let's get you to the sick room."
helped John out of the seat and onto the sofa that was the
fastest way to their father's study. From there it would be
only a short walk to the sickroom.
Grandma were expecting them, both looking concerned. John felt
another stab of guilt for deceiving his family. Hunter had
once again decreased John's temperature, but as they didn't
want to raise any suspicions, they had decided to keep John
sick for a little bit longer.
face split into a grin when she saw her two grandsons. "John,
honey, how do you feel?"
reached out and felt John's forehead. "That doesn't feel too
bad," she noted as she took John's arm and led him towards the
fine," said John for what felt to be the hundredth time.
about that, honey."
that resistance was futile, he allowed his grandmother to tuck
need, John, is some peace and quiet and some of my homemade
chicken soup," she diagnosed.
decided not to point out that there was probably no place as
peaceful and quiet at Thunderbird 5 – except maybe when a
rescue was going on. But he wouldn't say no to grandma's
homemade chicken soup. He wasn't crazy after all. Made the old
traditional way, he and all his brothers would walk through a
snowstorm just to get some.
rest a little and I will be back in a short while with the
soup for you."
lowered the light and left the room.
check her out?" he asked quietly when he was sure that he was
GRANDMOTHER IS CLEAR
exhaled in relief. "Thank God."
from the blare of the alert going off. He was disorientated
for a moment because he wasn't in his usual bed in Thunderbird
5 but quickly remembered that he was back on the island and
hastily, he rushed into his father's study only seconds after
Scott and Virgil. Gordon showed up a moment later. It was dark
outside, the clock on the wall showing it to be 3:45 AM.
on the monitor, looking grave.
look good, Father. There are still explosives all over the
place. If any more go off, the rest of the building will come
down, too. The chief of police says there are at least twenty
people trapped down there in the vault, but they can't get
closer to the building because of the explosives. The only
bright spot is that they believe the kidnappers all died in
the first blast, so at least there will be no bullets flying."
Alan, we take it from there. Scott, you better take off
quickly. The situation is serious. Your target is Frankfurt,
Germany. I'll update you on the way."
moved over to his portrait on the wall and reached for the two
lamp cones on either side. Pressing the hidden switches there,
the wall rotated away with him, delivering him directly to the
hangar with Thunderbird 1.
Gordon, you take Thunderbird 2 with Pod 5. The Deutsche Bank's
vault is underground and maybe you will have to tunnel in with
noticed that he had been excluded from the round up.
let me go, too. Please."
cast a worried look at his middle son. Seeing that he actually
looked better, he considered.
you feel?" he asked still concerned.
Father. Really. The fever's gone. It was nothing but a 12-hour
right," Jeff finally relented. "You can go. But the moment
that fever is back, you're off the mission and in Thunderbird
2's sickbay. Is that clear?"
with Gordon John went to Thunderbird 2's hangar where Virgil
was already loading up Pod 5. They entered the huge craft, and
settled down on the extra seats in the cockpit. Virgil started
to roll her out and in no time they were up in the air,
"Thunderbird 5 to Thunderbird 2."
let's give you the low-down. Two hours ago a group of men came
into the Deutsche Bank Building in Frankfurt. They carried
weapons and explosives. They took twelve employees and an
undetermined number of customers hostage and locked them in
one vault while they started to clear out the other vaults.
The vault with the hostages was mined and they threatened to
blow them up the moment the police tried anything funny.
Twenty minutes ago there was an explosion and part of the
building collapsed. Somebody in the vault managed to make
contact to the outside, so we know they're still alive, but
they also found out that the explosives down there are still
hot. The people can't get out as they are still locked in, and
nobody can get in because of the explosives."
Alan. Our ETA is one hour and seventeen minutes." Virgil
informed his brother. "I just hope those people can last that
He cut off
the connection to Thunderbird 5 and then poured all his
considerable skill into getting the best speed out of
squirmed in his seat, feeling restless. He knew once they
reached the danger zone there would be enough to do, but
getting there always seemed to take so long, and there was
always the fear that they would be too late and that when they
finally arrived, the people they tried to rescue were already
size and weight, Thunderbird 2 was pretty damn fast, faster
than any other transport plane on the planet. Still he wished
she would go even faster.
He cast a
glance over at John, who was sitting next to him. His older
brother had his eyes closed, though Gordon didn't think that
John was asleep. He studied him, watching for any sign of the
sickness that had made their father take him off the space
station. But John looked fine. Well, Father had given John a
green light, so he probably was fine. Still, Gordon decided he
would keep a close eye on him, if he could.
Gordon had heard that John was sick, he had worried at first
that this was an after-effect of the underwater accident from
last week. He had been really scared for John's life back
then. Though it had been a relief to find out that the wound
on John's side had been relatively harmless, he couldn't help
wondering how he could have miss-judged the extent of John's
injuries to such a degree. Not that he wished John any harm,
but he could have sworn that that piece of metal had stuck
pretty deep in John's side.
couldn't stand waiting in the seat anymore. He popped his
safety harness and got up.
I'm going to check out the Mole."
though he could only see the back of Virgil's head, he knew
that his brother was grinning. It was well-known in the Tracy
family that Gordon couldn't sit still for longer than five
John with you. He can read the check list."
Virgil. Come on John."
his older brother. John opened his safety harness and got up
the elevator down to the flight deck level and opened the
double doors between Thunderbird 2 and whichever Pod she was
contained the Mole, a big drilling machine International
Rescue used for any rescue that required them to travel any
distance underground. The Mole's drill head was made of a
material even harder than diamond. Depending on the
composition of the ground, the Mole could travel up to one
hundred feet per minute. The cabin seated two persons
comfortably, three if they didn't mind getting in each other's
their rescue equipment, the Mole was always kept in tip-top
shape, but protocol still required that they worked through a
forty-seven points long checklist every time a mission was
pulled up the checklist on the computer and started to read it
of. He seemed calm, as if he was on a rescue every day. Of
course, in a way John was always on a rescue with them every
time, but usually only as a voice from above, a watcher, and
sometimes, Gordon thought with a little smile, their guardian
okay coming along today?" Gordon asked, as he confirmed the
function of the radar system.
not?" John looked up from the computer screen to take a look
at his younger brother. "Coolant system?"
system: check. No reason, really. I'm just asking."
"Navigation system? I'm really fine, Gordo. Don't worry."
his hand on Gordon's arm. It was cool to the touch and Gordon
almost pulled his arm back, but John held his grip.
is it because of last week's accident?"
waited, looking patiently at his little brother.
sighed. "I'm sorry, John I just can't help it. I had
nightmares after the accident for three solid nights. I still
don't know how you got out of this with barely a scratch. You
really scared me."
exhaled deeply. "I'm sorry I scared you, Gordon. But I'm fine.
go of Gordon's arm, but held his eyes. Gordon could read the
sincerity in there.
Gordon broke the eye contact.
on with the list, shall we. Navigation system: check."
a short pause then John continued reading from the list.
arrived at the danger zone, Scott directed them to land in a
small park a little off from the half-collapsed building.
Scott had learned that the vault was only a few hundred feet
away from an old underground railroad tunnel and to save time,
they would travel by that tunnel until they had to drill
landing, Virgil jacked Thunderbird 2 up, exposing the large
door of Pod 5.
John were already on board, unloading the Mole the moment the
ramp was down. Virgil joined them a minute later. The plan was
for them to get to the vault as fast a possible. John and
Virgil would then start to cut their way into the vault with
the hostages, while Gordon would take care of the explosives.
entrance to the old subway system was just large enough to
allow the Mole through and they made good time to the spot
they had picked out for the breakthrough.
the rescue had started, Gordon was all professional, his
nerves from before forgotten. He was leaning over John's
shoulder, watching Virgil fire up the drill head. Even though
the dampeners the Mole had were the best there were,
vibrations and a lot of noise still came through, and
communications was only possible thanks to the head-phones
they were all wearing.
we're starting to drill," Virgil checked in with Scott.
careful, there's still a lot of electronics embedded in those
flipped a switch and a display sprang to life. He studied it
closely then adjusted the drill point two yards to the right.
power's off, but I still found a place that is pretty much
free of any cabling."
held on to whatever he could, as the powerful machine began to
dig into the concrete walls. Virgil was careful at first, but
after they hit the compacted earth behind the concrete walls,
he increased speed.
reading the navigation and radar system, leading Virgil's path
through the earth. He seemed to be calm, his voice sounding
confident. Due to the confinement of the Mole's cabin he was
pressed against Virgil's back, but didn't seem to mind.
them only a few minutes to reach their goal. Virgil had to
slow down once again as they reached the steel enforced walls
of the vault, but even they were no real obstruction to the
strong drill heads of the Mole.
they broke through, Virgil cut the engine.
screen came to life, showing the dark and smoky interior of
the large central vault. From the plans Scott has been given,
they knew that there were four individual vaults leading off
from the central room. Each vault had its own security system.
While the bank robbers had worked on the vaults to the right,
they had locked the hostages into one of the vaults to the
left. This was also where the explosives would be.
palmed the door open. He was already outside, when he heard a
warning call from Virgil.
back, but it was already too late.
of a gunshot reverberated through the room. Something heavy
slammed into his chest. Breathing was suddenly impossible. He
looked down at himself, seeing a dark stain spread on his blue
uniform. He tried to draw a breath, but then pain exploded all
over him, spreading with lightning speed from his chest to the
rest of his body.
somewhere in the distance he heard someone calling his name,
but he couldn't acknowledge it, couldn't move, couldn't think.
finally, a dark hand reached out for him and he knew no more.
John screamed, not wanting to believe what his eyes told him.
seconds ago, Virgil had spotted three heat sources at the
right side of the vault chamber, after switching the TV camera
to infrared detection. As all hostages were supposed to be on
the left hand side, the only conclusion was that some of the
bank robbers had made it down here after all.
called out a warning to Gordon, who had already stepped
outside eager to start working. But it had been too late.
lay in a crumpled heap just off the door from the Mole. He
wasn't moving and John couldn't even say if he was still
breathing. The bullet had hit him square in the chest. A fatal
couldn't be. Not Gordon. He couldn't be dead.
voice he had never heard before screamed in his left ear.
just enough to pull him out of his shock.
I CAN SAVE
I CAN GET
INTO HIM AND SAVE HIM
blinked. Of course, as Hunter had saved his life after the
underwater explosion, he would be able to save Gordon's life
sprung into action. Crouching low, he reached for Gordon's
arms and pulled him inside the safety of the Mole. New shots
rang out, pinging against the walls of the Mole, but John
ignored them. His concentration was fully on his younger
Gordon out on the floor, John placed his right hand just over
the wound in his brother's chest, ignoring the blood that
covered the uniform. Distantly he noted that the bullet had
penetrated the left lung not far from the heart. He couldn't
say if the organ was nicked or not.
heck are you doing?" Virgil knelt next to him, his eyes wide
and his face pale. What John was doing wasn't exactly standard
wasn't breathing. John didn't bother to check for a heartbeat.
He knew there wouldn't be one.
gasped when suddenly clear water seemed to pour out of John's
hand and mingle with Gordon's blood.
that?" he demanded, but John ignored him.
poured out of John even faster than the time he had gone into
the bucket. In ten seconds he had crossed over from one body
into the other.
on Gordon's body was immediate. The blood stopped welling out
of the hole in the chest, actually seemed to be drawn back
inside. There was a gasp from the injured brother and he
convulsed for a few seconds. John held him down.
save his life," he murmured. "Please."
their astonished eyes, the hole in Gordon's chest started to
knit closed. Before it closed completely a small object was
pushed through the hole and fell with a low clatter onto the
metal floor of the Mole's cabin.
It was the
picked it up, regarding it from all sides. Such a small thing.
He was always amazed how something so small could cause so
held out his hand for the bullet and John gave it to him. He
then searched for Gordon's pulse, finding it strong and
steady. Gordon also seemed to breathe easy now, though he was
still unconscious. Hunter would need some time to repair the
damage, so this was to be expected. John had needed a little
bit of time after the underwater explosion as well.
John. Would you please tell me what this is? What was that
stuff coming out of your hand?" Virgil held out the bullet and
then pointed at Gordon. "And how did this get out of
Gordon?" His voice was shaking in what was probably delayed
sighed. He hadn't wanted to tell anybody about Hunter until he
was sure that everybody on the island was free of the other
alien. On their travel here, Hunter had managed to check out
Gordon and Virgil, and John had been relieved to find that
both were free. All of his brothers were in the clear now.
Still, he had wanted to wait until everybody else was checked
alien. He came to Earth to hunt for one of his own kind. When
Gordon and I checked out that signal last week, he went into
me to save my life after that explosion. They normally live in
symbiosis with other humanoid beings, and that's how I ended
up as his host. The other alien is probably inside somebody on
the island. We've managed to check out Scott, Alan, Gordon,
Grandma and you, but haven't found the other one yet."
looked at him as if John had grown another head.
simply said, pointing at Gordon. "He offered to save Gordon's
life. What you just saw was the alien moving from my body to
Gordon's. He's inside Gordon now, repairing the damage the
bullet has caused."
obviously still had some problems grasping the situation. John
couldn't exactly blame him. It had taken him some time as well
to accept Hunter's existence.
come in! Virgil! John! Gordon!"
brothers looked up. Both had basically ignored everything but
their injured brother and only now realized that Scott had
tried to reach them for some time.
here." Virgil picked up the microphone, rising from his
God. What is going on down here? I heard shooting over the
Scott, we got a little … distracted. Gordon's been shot, but I
think he's going to be fine." Virgil neglected to mention how
badly Gordon had been hurt and how it was that he wasn't dead
about the hostages?"
almost forgotten the reason they were on this rescue to begin
with. But now, with Gordon out of imminent danger, his mind
returned to the problem at hand.
three of the bank robbers are still here, shooting around.
We're still inside the Mole, so we are safe for the moment,"
Virgil updated their oldest brother, while John went back to
the infrared monitor.
heat sources had moved closer to the Mole. John guessed that
they would try to get past the large machine and use the
tunnel the Mole had dug to escape. The explosives that had
gone off had blocked the old way out of the vault chamber, so
the tunnel was the only way in or out at the moment.
to sneak a look out of the still open door, but couldn't see
anything. How the goons had been able to see Gordon in the
darkness with all that dust and smoke still floating around
and actually hit him, was beyond him.
also have infrared," he said half to himself, half to Virgil.
smile crept on Virgil's face. John knew that smile. He also
knew that whoever the smile was for would regret having
crossed his brother's path.
up and stepped around Gordon's body in order to reach a
compartment in the rear of the Mole. For a moment, John wasn't
sure what Virgil wanted from that compartment, as he wasn't
quite as familiar with the rescue equipment as his brothers,
but when he saw the flash grenades Virgil pulled out, he knew.
Soon he wore a smile identical to that of his brother.
minute later, a blinding white flash filled the vault, casting
everything into sharp relief. John and Virgil, who both had
known what was to come, had closed their eyes as the flash
went off, but the three men sneaking along the wall towards
the opening the Mole had made, had had no warning.
out, and the men reached for the infrared goggles they'd been
wearing, pulling at them to get them off. Due to the flash
grenade the displays had overloaded, blinding the men
Virgil took careful aim and one robber after the other was hit
by the knock-out pellets from their guns. Their cries were cut
off and they all fell to the ground motionless. They wouldn't
wake up for at least twelve hours, unless they were given the
antidote to the fast acting drug in the pellets. John thought
that he would probably forget to mention that option to the
local police though. After those guys had shot Gordon, he
didn't feel exactly charitable.
was still out for the count, John offered to work on the
explosive charges, while Virgil went to the vault with the
hostages and started to cut his way inside. Soon all charges
were disarmed, and Virgil had managed to cut an opening wide
enough for the twenty-one people trapped inside to get out.
all clear, police and rescue workers started to swarm the
vault chamber. The three goons were loaded none too gently
onto some anti-grav stretchers, while the hostages were let
out through the opening the Mole had left behind. John and
Virgil coordinated the efforts, and it didn't take long for
the last of the hostages to leave their prison.
quiet voice at John's right shoulder said all of a sudden.
almost jumped out of his skin before he recognized Gordon's
squirt, you almost gave me a heart attack." He turned, smiling
at his younger brother.
saw the confusion in Gordon's eyes, he quickly grew serious.
the matter, Gordon?"
I'm not dead?"
didn't feel any pain when he woke up.
okay, as far as he was concerned. He had expected pain, he
knew there should be pain, but he definitely preferred the
knew he had been shot in the chest. A single bullet had torn
into his body, leaving a path of destruction behind. It was a
wound that was disastrous at best, lethal at worst.
didn't he feel any pain?
felt sluggish, but it still provided him with an answer. It
was an answer he didn't particularly like.
If one was
dead, there was no pain. Everybody knew that. It was the
he would have welcomed the pain.
want to be dead. Not so much because he was afraid to die – he
was a little bit afraid, but then, who wouldn't be –
but because he knew what his death would mean to his family.
He knew they would be devastated. As he would be if one of his
brothers would have died before him.
would have figured he would be the first to go. He had his
life planned out after all. Working for International Rescue
until arthritis would force him to take on a desk job and then
watch his children and grandchildren take up the slack where
he had to let go, while he directed them from afar.
there had been a close call once or twice. The hydrofoil
accident four years ago had been pretty rough, but he had
pulled through it and had come out the other end stronger than
ever. And working on rescues wasn't exactly risk free either.
couldn't die just now. He was only twenty-three.
cold dug into his back, and he twitched to get away from it.
Suddenly he realized that the whole floor was cold and pretty
heck …?" he asked into the empty interior of the Mole.
arms, he pushed himself up into a sitting position.
definitely the Mole. Not the Pearly Gates and not some fluffy
cloud high up in Heaven. But also not some hot burning furnace
or a frozen over Hell.
he still doing in the Mole if he was dead?
down at himself, seeing the torn and bloody uniform he was
still wearing. The bloodstain seemed to be centred at chest
level, just in the place he remembered the bullet had entered.
he pulled the bloody fabric aside to gaze at his naked chest.
The unblemished chest. The 'never has been touched by a
bullet' chest. There wasn't even a bruise. But where did the
blood come from?
he told himself, taking a deep breath. Maybe you are a
ghost and you have just risen from the remains of your body.
back, but there was no Gordon body on the ground, only a
rolled up jacket, which had been placed underneath his head.
He struck his hand at some wall, but instead of passing
through, he connected solidly with it.
for the ghost theory. It had been a stupid idea to begin with.
decided to get up and find out what was going on. The door to
the Mole was locked, and there was no sign of John or Virgil
unrolled the jacket that had lain on the floor and pulled it
on. It wasn't so much that he was cold, but he wanted to cover
up the hole in his uniform pullover and the blood.
the door open and peered out. The Mole was still sitting at
one end of the underground vault. But while the place had been
dark and dusty before, it was now brightly lit and milling
with people. Uniformed men were leading civilians past the
Mole and out through the tunnel behind it. Close by, a
familiar blue uniform with a pale pink sash was directing
people to different activities. John's quiet voice was giving
commands in German and English, which were followed promptly.
It looked like he had everything well in hand.
out of the Mole, Gordon walked over to where John was
asked quietly, afraid what would be if John didn't answer.
nearly jumped a foot into the air.
squirt, you almost gave me a heart attack." John turned and
smiled. He quickly grew serious when he saw Gordon's face.
the matter, Gordon?"
I'm not dead?"
finally come to the conclusion that he was, in fact, not dead.
But he knew that the wound he had received had been fatal, so
he thought it was a fair question to ask. How he figured that
John would know an answer to that question, he didn't know. He
just knew that he needed an answer.
looked down, then slowly up again. Something shimmered in his
blue eyes, though Gordon couldn't place it at first. Then he
realized that John did know something about what has
happened to him. And he didn't feel comfortable about it.
Gordon pressed. "What's going on? I know I've been shot, but
when I woke up I didn't even have a scratch."
sighed. "Not here, squirt. Let's wrap this up and then we can
talk. Virgil needs to be in this as well, and if we can,
Scott. This is going to be a little bit complicated."
A man in a
dark green uniform had hovered close by, clearly not wanting
to interrupt the two International Rescue operatives in their
discussion. John waved him closer.
denke, dass wir von nun an alleine zurechtkommen," the man
said in German.
didn't understand a word, but then it wasn't him but John who
spoke eight different languages fluently and several more good
enough to get along.
Ich rufe dann meinen Kollegen und wir brechen unsere Zelte ab,"
replied John also in flawless German.
to Gordon. "This man just told me, that they won't need our
help anymore, so I told him that we're going back home. Could
you find Virgil? He must be somewhere over there."
pointed to the left hand vault, just when the chestnut-haired
pilot of Thunderbird 2 appeared out of the throng of people
gathered around the vault entrance.
jogged over. His face split into a grin when he saw his
Gordon. How do you feel?"
stopped at Gordon's side and gave him a once over, his face
serious again. He pulled open the jacket Gordon was wearing,
peering at the torn and bloody uniform. He grimaced when he
saw all the blood.
alive," Gordon replied. "Though I'm not sure why."
cast a glance at John, who just frowned.
"We need a
place a little bit more private," John suggested.
hands with the green uniformed man and said good-bye. The man
wouldn't let them go without shaking everybody's hand,
thanking them multiple times in German and broken English.
the Mole, they contacted Scott.
Mole. What's the status? How's Gordon?"
fine. Looks like we're done down here," John said, while
Virgil fired up the Mole. "We're getting the Mole back up now.
As soon as we're in the Pod, could you come over for a moment?
There's something we need to discuss."
the air waves. It's important."
clearly wasn't happy about being kept in the dark, and Gordon
couldn't blame him. He also had a vested interest in finding
out what the heck was going on. Finally, Scott agreed to wait
for them in Pod 5.
brothers gathered next to the returned Mole in Pod 5.
what's so important that we can't even talk about it over the
air waves? In case you have forgotten, you and Brains made
very, very sure that nobody can ever eavesdrop on any of our
agreed with Scott. John should know better than any of them
how tamper proof the International Rescues communications
system actually was. After all, John had designed most of it.
when we got down to the vault, Gordon got shot. In the chest."
That's not funny."
true," Virgil piped in.
he's okay, right?" Scott looked closely at Gordon and
obviously couldn't find anything amiss. Gordon pulled his
jacket closer. He didn't want Scott to see the blood on his
that's only because of a friend of mine," John went on.
of yours? I don't get it. What kind of friend?"
sighed then said, "The alien kind."
jaw dropped and Scott's followed suit.
kidding, right?" Scott asked.
his head, but it was Virgil who replied. "Nope, he's not
kidding. I saw it."
what? A little green man jumping on Gordon and healing him
from a gun shot wound?"
green, and he didn't jump on Gordon but into
Gordon, but otherwise you are pretty much correct," John said.
believe you," Gordon now challenged John.
John just said, "say hello to Gordon."
suddenly appeared before Gordon's eyes and he couldn't
suppress a cry of surprise.
what?" Scott asked, clearly more confused than ever.
preferred method of communications is to project letters onto
the retina of the eye. That's how he used to talk to me when
he was still in my body. I would guess Hunter just did the
same thing with Gordon."
eyes wandered from John to Gordon and back again.
telling me you had some alien creature inside of you? And it's
now in Gordon?" he almost squeaked.
nodded. Gordon looked down at his body. He patted it down, not
knowing that he imitated John's reaction when he first had
found out that an alien creature was living inside of him.
out. Now!" Scott demanded.
think this is a good idea. Gordon was pretty badly wounded. I
don't know if Hunter has managed to heal him completely yet or
if he needs more time."
think he just told me he needs another hour," Gordon informed
the others. This was too weird.
not harm Gordon. I'm sure of that. He already saved my life
when the other alien's space ship exploded. And he's been
inside of me for almost ten days now without any negative side
effects. Actually, there are a couple of benefits to his
accident was more serious than it later turned out to
be. I knew it!" Gordon grinned suddenly. The lightness of
John's injuries after the underwater explosion had bothered
him the whole time. He was sure he hadn't misjudged the
situation that badly.
thought for a moment. He was clearly not willing to give in
that easily. Aliens possessing his younger brother's body
didn't sit well with him. Not that Gordon blamed him. The
thought gave him the creeps. Though if John was right, the
alternative was even less pleasant.
it want?" Scott asked.
the others a short summary of the reason Hunter had come to
Earth and what the situation was.
"… So, if
the other alien is still on the island, then he must be either
in Dad, Kyrano, Tin-Tin or Brains. I'm pretty sure it's not
Brains, but it can be any of the others."
do we get this other alien out of whoever it is occupying,"
the crux of the problem. Hunter doesn't know. He says there's
some weapon they use that repels them from a host, but he
couldn't tell me what type of weapon it is. My plan was to
eliminate Brains from the list, and hope that he would be able
to come up with something."
or wouldn't, Gordon had to wonder. But then he decided he
could trust the alien. Gordon didn't doubt anymore that John
was telling the truth about the alien. John also seemed to
trust him, and as Gordon trusted John, this was good enough
here and talking won't help us," he said. "We need to get back
to the island. That's were the problem is. Besides, I'm
returned to Thunderbird 1 and within five minutes they were
all back in the air and on their way home.
about ten minutes away from home when Scott made contact from
Thunderbird 1. They had flown back to the island in formation,
even though Scott could make much better time and arrive more
than an hour ahead of the others. But ever since the incident
with the U.S.N. Sentinel he liked to stay close to Thunderbird
2 in case something like that ever happened again. It wasn't
possible on the way out to a rescue of course, as there speed
was always of the essence, but on the way back it was
"Thunderbird 1 to Thunderbird 2, are we set?"
"Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 1, FAB. Everybody is where he
returned to John about five minutes earlier. Gordon had been
only too happy to get rid of the alien, a feeling that
probably had only increased when he saw the slimy liquid flow
out of his hand over into John's arm. John didn't exactly
blame him. He had had some time to get used to Hunter by now,
but Gordon was still pretty new to this. Besides, he always
had been a little squeamish where slimy things were concerned,
something his brothers used to tease him about mercilessly,
until Scott had put a stop to it, after an especially nasty
trick Virgil and John had played on their younger brother some
they had come up with was basically that as soon as everybody
was back on the island, each brother would seek out one of the
potential hosts for the other alien and keep an eye on him or
her. John was to go to Brains and check him out. If he was
clear, he was to tell him about Hunter and start working on a
way to repel him from a host body. If anybody could find a way
to do it it would be Brains.
with the best-laid plans, they seldom survived the encounter
contacted base, it wasn't their father who answered their
What's up with Dad?" Scott asked concerned.
wasn't that uncommon for Brains to staff the control desk, in
light of the situation with the alien loose somewhere on the
island it was some cause for concern.
to w-w-worry, Scott. Your f-f-father just, ehr, went for a
walk." Brains didn't look worried, but then he didn't know
what the brothers knew.
Brains. Our ETA is eight and a half minutes."
screen they could see Brains checking the monitors. Alan would
also take a look at the vicinity of the island from
Thunderbirds 5 to make sure there was nobody who would be able
to see the arrival of Thunderbirds 1 and 2.
thanked Brains. He cut off the connection to base but retained
the link to Thunderbird 2.
going for a walk while we're still out?" he asked concerned.
"That doesn't really sound like him."
agreed. "We can't be too careful now. I think that means I'll
go for Dad first, before checking on Brains."
like it," Gordon cut in. "If it's really Dad, what do you want
sighed. This was the one-million dollar question. Hunter
hadn't provided a new solution to their problem yet.
were making too much out of a small thing. Dad was spending a
lot of time behind a desk, so why should it be so unusual that
he wanted to stretch his legs a little? The old man wasn't
getting any younger after all, even though he was pretty fit
for his age.
gut felling told him differently. Something was wrong. He knew
wished Virgil would go faster, but to be fair he knew that
Thunderbird 2 was already going as fast as she could.
machine had barely landed and rolled into the hangar, when
John was out of his seat and on his way to the study.
still sitting at the desk checking on the data he received
from Thunderbirds 1 and 2 about the rescue and possible damage
the two machines and the Mole might have received during the
rescue. John knew all machines had come through the rescue
without any problems, but still Brains had to make sure. He
was also always looking for ways to improve the performance of
the rescue equipment, so all data was important to him.
John greeted the engineer. "Do you know where Father went? I
need to talk to him."
h-h-heading to the boathouse the last time I saw h-h-him."
Brains wasn't even looking up from his monitors.
hesitated for a moment. He wondered if Brains had noticed
something unusual about father, but then refrained from
asking. When Brains was involved in something, he tended to
ignore anything but his work.
he said and headed downstairs and out across the pool deck.
he then called his brother on his wristwatch. "Brains said Dad
was heading to the boathouse. I'll see if I can find him
John. We'll follow you as soon as we can. If it really turns
out to be Father, I don't want you alone with him."
be alone," John said, cutting off the connection.
you feel, Hunter?" he then asked his 'guest', He walked down
the path that led to the boathouse where the Tracys housed all
their sea faring crafts from surf boards to a fairly large
ocean-going yacht. All that was of course without Thunderbird
4 that was kept out of sight of anybody who might happen to
come to visit the island and didn't know about International
I AM FINE
to grin at that.
obviously been hanging around me too long. You must be tired
after saving Gordon. Thanks again for that by the way. You
have no idea how grateful I am for what you did."
evading my question, buddy. But it's okay. I only hope it's
just a false alarm and it will turn out it's not Dad."
John worried a little about Hunter. He suspected that Hunter
had done a huge amount of repair work inside Gordon in order
to save his life and that couldn't have been easy. John didn't
really know what Hunter's capabilities were, but he doubted
very much that patching up a body after he had been shot was
normally on his agenda.
events in Germany, John had thought about the possibility that
Hunter might be lying to him. There was after all nothing to
support his claim that he was indeed here on Earth in order to
search for another alien. There might have been hundreds of
reasons why he might have lied to John, starting with the
possibility that Hunter was in fact the one who was hunted.
any doubts he had had were gone. Hunter had saved his
brother's life and this was a debt he would never be able to
the boathouse and opened the door. He looked inside, but there
was no sight of his father.
no reply. Where had his father gone?
back outside and looked along the beach left and right from
the landing. About three hundred yards away he could see a
figure walking slowly along the water.
It was his
started to jog towards the solitary figure. As he came closer,
he saw that his father had his hands buried deep in his
pockets. His head was lowered and he didn't seem to notice his
It was a
small shock, but John couldn't help but thinking that his
father looked old. Now, for a twenty-five year old man
somebody closing on to sixty would always look 'old', but for
some reasons John had never before made the connection between
his father's real age and the way he looked today. Jeff Tracy
took great care to stay fit. He exercised regularly, ate
healthy and kept all of his doctor's appointments if it was
couple of months had been stressful on all of them. There
seemed to be more rescues than ever, and only the last two
weeks had let off a little, reducing the number of rescues
from three to four a week down to only one per week.
Besides the rescue business there was also trouble at Tracy
Industries, something only Jeff Tracy could take care of, even
though his sons tried to take part there as much as possible.
Of course, Jeff liked to be in control, so helping him wasn't
always easy or even so it seemed sometimes appreciated.
John called out when he was only a couple of yards away.
glanced up and a surprised look crossed his face.
John. What are you doing here? Is everybody already back?"
wondered how his father could have missed the landing of
Thunderbirds 1 and 2.
back about fifteen minutes ago, Father. What are you
doing out here? We thought you'd been at the control centre."
did the rescue go?" Jeff asked evasively.
the matter? Something was wrong. John could feel it. And given
the situation, there was only one logical explanation.
was the host to the alien Hunter was searching. And somehow he
wasting any time, John crossed the distance between them and
reached for Jeff's arm. Jeff tried to pull back, but John was
took a second before he got the answer he had been afraid to
IT IS HIM
one more step and placed his other hand also on Jeff's arm in
order to give Hunter as much contact area as possible. He
prayed he was doing the right thing when he felt his hand grow
heavy as Hunter gathered his body mass in John's arm. He hoped
that Hunter was strong enough to fight his enemy. And most of
all, he hoped that his father would be able to survive the
corners of his eyes he saw some kind of light flashing from
the water's surface. He tried turning his head but suddenly
movement seemed to be impossible. His eyes remained fixed on
his father, but the other man seemed to move away, though John
wasn't sure how that could be as they both stood still on the
beach, their feet firmly in the ankle deep water, John's hand
still on Jeff's arm.
He saw his
father's eyes widen. His mouth opened, though if it was just
to cry out in surprise, or a warning, or something else, John
more light coming as the sun got brighter and brighter, until
there was nothing but the light.
was as if somebody had turned a switch. There was sudden
there was nothing at all.
raced down the beach to where he saw the two figures laying in
the sand. Scott was running at his side, his face an
emotionless mask. Neither was speaking. They were saving their
breath in order to get to their father and brother as quickly
reached the boathouse only a few minutes after John. Gordon
had hoped that his older brother would have had the sense to
wait for them, but when they arrived, they saw John already
jogging to where their father stood. From the distance it was
impossible to hear what they were saying, when suddenly a
bright light had shot out from a place in the water a couple
of feet away from where the two men were standing.
had enveloped both of them for a second, then it was gone and
John and Father fell over.
pulled to a full stop as soon as he reached John's motionless
form. The blond astronaut lay half in half out of the water,
so Gordon grabbed him and pulled him further onto dry land.
Scott did the same with their father.
checked John's vital signs and was relieved when he found that
his brother's pulse was beating strongly and that he didn't
seem to have any problems breathing.
called, slapping his brother lightly on the cheeks.
looked over at Scott who was copying Gordon's actions. From
the relief evident in his oldest brother's posture, he knew
that father was also okay, though he, too, remained
pulled Gordon's attention to the water where the light had
come from and he felt his mouth drop open.
had told him the first time that there were aliens on Earth
and that in fact one of them had been inside of him, he had
thought John was pulling his leg. Of course, the proof laid
out to him pretty quickly convinced him that John was in fact
telling the truth. When he had seen Hunter move back into
John, his last doubts had been erased.
had understood – on a purely intellectual level – that there
was another alien running loose on the island and that he
might be living inside one of his friends or family. He hadn't
had time yet to fully comprehend what that could mean.
knowing about aliens on the island had not prepared him for
what he saw now.
ocean water rose a very strange object. Not much bigger than
Thunderbird 4 it was shaped like a cluster of a dozen eggs
seamlessly fused together into one large pile. Each egg was no
bigger in diameter than a yard across. On the far side each
egg had a square box. The alien ship – and Gordon had no doubt
that it was indeed an alien space ship – gleamed in the midday
sun as it floated a foot or so above the water. Gordon
realized with a start that a single egg of it looked exactly
like that thing they had found underwater ten days ago.
said that Hunter had told him that Earth had never been
visited by his people and that any possible help for him would
be thousands of light years away.
like Hunter had been wrong.
very, very still where he knelt next to John he waited for
what was to come next.
surface of the cluster began to ripple at a point where two
eggs were connected. A single egg moved slowly away pulling a
strand of liquid metal behind itself that grew longer and
thinner until is snapped off and the egg was floating free.
The engineer in him wondered on the technical properties a
material had to have in order to perform like this, but he
suppressed it. There were more important things going on right
floated closer until it was only an arm's length away from the
group at the beach.
very conscious that none of them carried any weapons, as they
all had changed out of their uniforms before landing. Though
what he hoped to achieve with a gun against that alien ship
was beyond him. Besides, he wasn't really prepared to start an
inter-stellar war. From what he had seen so far of the alien
technology, he had the strong suspicion that Earth would draw
the shorter straw.
the surface of the egg rippled, but now dark spots appeared on
the up to now unsullied material. With a start Gordon realized
that those spots actually formed words.
PEOPLE ARE NOT HARMED
to admire Scott who sounded pretty calm and in control. He
didn't know if he would have been able to form understandable
words right now. But Scott had always worked best under
WE MEAN NO
you shoot at my friends? They weren't doing anything to you."
John told us. Can you get your people out? We didn't know how
to get the other one out of father."
bobbed softly up and down at eye level.
closed his eyes in relief, letting out a breath he hadn't been
aware he had been holding. He had hoped that this would be the
alien's answer. Here was the solution to all their problems.
corners of his eyes Gordon saw Virgil, Tin-Tin and Brains
running up the beach towards them. He raised his hand,
gesturing for them to stop.
beam shot out from the alien ship, bathing John and father in
a pale blue light. At first nothing happened, but then Gordon
saw a thick, gelatine-like liquid form at John's right arm and
father's left shoulder. The amount of liquid increased and it
started to puddle in two depressions in the sand.
few minutes no more liquid – alien, Gordon reminded himself –
came out of the two men.
shut off and new words formed on the alien ship.
REMOVE YOUR PEOPLE
going to happen to your people?" Gordon heard himself asking.
He hadn't intended to speak, but suddenly he wanted to know
what was going to happen to Hunter. The alien had saved his
and John's life after all and he owed him his thanks. Even if
he did look pretty disgusting.
WILL BE PUNISHED
Hunter! He did nothing wrong."
save John's life," Gordon replied, gesturing at John who was
beginning to stir. "John would have died without him. I was
there. And he saved my life too."
a moment of hesitation.
WITHOUT PERMISSION, the words projected on the alien ship were
"He had no
choice. Ask John, he will tell you."
knelt down next to John and helped him up into the sitting
position. John was looking around confused, but when he saw
the ship floating close by and the larger cluster behind it,
he woke up very quickly. Scott was kneeling next to their
father, talking softly to him. After a moment, he also helped
him to sit.
"What if I
give him permission now?" John asked. Even though his voice
sounded weak, there was no doubt that he meant it seriously.
looked up, his blue eyes firmly fixed on the alien ship. "Yes.
He saved my life and that of my brother. I'll do anything to
could see that his father wanted to say something, but Scott
held him back with a raised hand.
LET HIM STAY WITH YOU
their father croaked out. "Don't"
his father, John shook his head. "Sorry, Dad, I made up my
mind. It will be all right."
back to the alien ship. "Yes, he is welcome to stay with me as
long as he wants."
SO BE IT
Hunter returned to consciousness, he became aware that he was
resting in a depression in the sand. The sun was shining
warmly on his unprotected body. He felt worse than ever in his
life, all his nerve cells seemed to be on fire.
returned slowly and even then it was patchy at best. After
John and his brothers had returned from their rescue mission
in Germany, Hunter had been exhausted. In less than a day, he
had stimulated a fever in John, had changed hosts twice and
healed a major trauma to Gordon's body. He had taken as much
energy as he dared from Gordon and John, but even then he knew
that he would need a couple of days to return to peek
efficiency. Of course, he had tried to hide this from John –
the human didn't need another worry – but somehow the young
man had guessed his condition anyway.
last couple of days he had come to understand that for all
their differences, John and he still shared quite a few
character traits. John made an excellent host and Hunter even
had started to wonder if once everything was over, John would
agree to remain his host in the future. His space ship's hyper
drive was almost burned out and he knew that he would never be
able to return back home. If he had to stay on Earth, he could
do much worse than living with John Tracy. One thing was sure,
it would never be dull.
it wouldn't really be fair to the human. Being a host entailed
a tremendous amount of trust. Hunter's control over a host's
body meant that John would trust him with his life twenty-four
hours a day. So far, Hunter hadn't really given him a choice.
It was one thing to trust somebody in a life or death
situation, but something else when it came to everyday life.
disadvantage was that John would never be alone. Wherever he
went, whatever he did, Hunter would be with him. The only real
privacy John could have was when he, Hunter, would leave his
body for a time, something that was not exactly pleasant for
So he had
decided not to ask him.
it wasn't very likely that he would be able to survive the
confrontation with his prey. If the only way to take out the
other alien was to die, he was willing to sacrifice himself.
had gone after his father, he had hoped that it would turned
out not to be the one to host his prey. He didn't know if he
would be able to fight if the other was indeed inside Jeff
with the way his luck was going lately, it had taken him only
a second to find the protein marker in Jeff Tracy's blood that
was undisputable proof that the other man was indeed host to
one of his race. He remembered attempting to return the feeler
he had sent out from John's body, when he realized that his
prey had also sent out a probe and also had found out about
been no other choice. He needed to attack.
his prey inside a human's body would be a fight for the life
of the host. His prey had no scruples harming the host,
knowing that this would force Hunter to repair any damage the
other one had caused, taking away time he would normally use
to fight his opponent.
be difficult at the best of times – and these were not the
best of times.
remembered these thoughts were the last before he had just
If he had
fought the other and lost, he would be dead. There was no
doubt about it.
If he had
fought him and won, he shouldn't be in a depression in the
sand, but in Jeff's body making sure that the damage caused by
the other was healed.
case, he should know what had happened. So, why did he have a
gap in his memory?
a human hand touch his body. It took only a second for him to
identify the hand as John's. Taking the gesture as an
invitation, he started to sift through the skin cells into the
human's body. The protection a host body brought immediately
soothed his hurting body.
automatically accessed John's physical condition. Relieved
Hunter noticed that nothing seemed to be amiss and he made
contact with John's eyes and ears.
saw was something he certainly hadn't expected.
still outside at the beach. Most of John's family had gathered
around. And just off the beach hovered a Class Two
Interstellar Expedition Cluster.
had possessed a jaw, it would have dropped.
they come from?
been sure that he and his prey had been the only Aviads in
this sector of the galaxy.
buddy, how do you feel?" John asked quietly, concern colouring
I AM FINE
how John laughed softly at that. "Try another one. Honestly,
how are you?"
thought about it. He still hurt, but a quick self-assessment
revealed that there was no permanent damage. With time and
rest, he would heal. He decided to answer John in a more
THEY COME FROM
couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. He formed a small
arrow, pointing to what he meant with 'they'.
question." John took a step closer to the Cluster's lead pod.
"Hunter would like to know where you came from. What are you
doing here? He told me earlier that there would be no other
ship anywhere close-by."
appeared on the lead pod's hull.
HERE TO STUDY YOUR PLANET
expedition mission. Hunter hadn't known that there had been
one close-by. But then, the galaxy was a big place and he
couldn't know about every expedition in this sector. He had
just assumed because there had been some expeditions before to
this sector who had returned empty handed, there were no
others planned. An understandable mistake on his side but one
that now had proven fortunate.
HOW IS YOU
FATHER JOHN AND WHERE IS THE OTHER ONE
John eyes turned to his father. "How do you feel?"
Tracy stood next to his son Scott. Hunter was by now apt
enough in reading the human face to interpret Jeff's
expression as one who was not happy about something but knew
that there wasn't much he could do at the moment.
right, son. Or, rather, I think I will be now."
to the lead pod and addressed it. "I think we'll need some
more explanations. If you don't mind, we should move to the
house. Most of us would be more comfortable there."
an hour later, everybody – human and alien alike – had settled
around the swimming pool. Even though the cluster ship wasn't
particularly big, it still would have had some problems
fitting into the living room or father's study upstairs. As
the pool deck had nice and comfortable chairs aplenty it made
for a good compromise. Even Alan was there in a way, thanks to
Brains who had quickly set up a portable communication
started by telling his story and now came to the part where he
had found his father on the beach.
were you doing there, Dad?" He asked, turning to his father.
something was wrong with me for a couple of days. They were
little things really: I felt tired all the time, had dizzy
spells, headaches, a slight fever. I thought at first I had
caught a flu or something, so I had Brains take a blood
sample, but nothing showed up, except some weird protein
markers Brains couldn't quite identify. I told Brains to keep
quiet about it, as I didn't want to bother you boys."
A round of
protest interrupted Jeff, who smiled weakly. John wondered
what his father had been thinking, but then he realized that
he just displayed the typical 'tough it out' trait the Tracys
were so famous for. Nobody wanted to worry any other members
of the family unnecessarily, so they all tried to be quiet if
they figured it was nothing major.
up his hand and the protests stopped.
boys. Anyway, I finally got an answer to my question of what
was wrong with me when I began hearing things this morning. A
voice but no real words, not then. I thought I was starting to
grinned knowing the feeling only too well. Hunter had said
that manipulating the eardrums so he could form understandable
words was far more complicated than writing the words on the
retina. The only understandable word Hunter had managed so far
was the one time he had called John to get his attention after
Gordon had been shot.
were due back from Germany, and so I decided to leave the
desk, hoping I would be able to figure out what was wrong with
me before you returned. I was at the beach when I finally
realized that somebody somehow tried to communicate with me.
And that this somebody was inside of me.
still trying to work out what was going on, when John showed
up, and then rest you know."
what's going to happen next?" Scott asked.
THE CRIMINAL TO FACE TRIAL
HE WILL BE
ship had collected the alien who had been inside of Jeff and
deposited him in one of the egg-shaped pods before they had
gone to the pool deck. John didn't know if he had been awake,
or even alive. He found he didn't really care.
about Hunter?" John asked softly.
He had a
bad feeling about the answer to that question. When the alien
in the lead pod had asked him if he would let Hunter stay with
him, John had said yes. He already had suspected that this was
more than a formality, more than a just reconfirmation that
he, John, was, after all, a willing host.
had given his permission. Hunter had saved his life and, even
more important to John, that of his brother. If Hunter was to
be punished because of it, John would give his damnest to
prevent that. If that meant that he was stuck forever with the
alien, so be it. There were worse things in life than having
something inside of him that was able to fix any injuries to
his body, heal all sicknesses and make him stronger and
faster. It would certainly be useful when he went out on a
Hunter was an okay guy for an alien.
thought it wasn't really fair basically to exile Hunter on
Earth, just because he had tried to save a stranger's life.
But it looked like that was going to be the case.
HE TOOK A
HOST WITHOUT PERMISSION
that to save my life. There was no time to ask. Without him, I
would be dead. My brother would be dead."
looked over to Gordon, who nodded grimly. Again he faced the
I have given him permission on the beach. That has to count
for something," John continued.
who had been silent up to now, flashed a sudden message to
PERMISSION THREE TIMES
IT IS THE
John went on without missing a beat. "I gave him permission
three times. Hunter says there is some kind of law that
applies to that."
the reaction of a slimy alien encapsulated in an alien space
ship that looked pretty much like a floating egg wasn't easy,
but John still got the feeling that the visitor was surprised.
first time was on Thunderbird 5. I wanted to know if I could
trust him, so I asked him to leave me, then I invited him back
in. The second time was after he had saved Gordon. And the
third time was just now on the beach."
THE SECOND HOST
moment John wondered if the alien was asking about his father,
but then he realized that it must mean Gordon. After all, he
hadn't been asked either if he wanted to have an alien inside
come and stay with me as often as he wants," Gordon said with
that aliens weren't too apt in reading the human body
language. Even though Gordon had been saved by Hunter, John's
younger brother had been pretty grossed out when he had seen
what the alien really looked like. John knew he wasn't exactly
eager to have him back. But he also knew that Gordon would
still do the right thing if he had to.
THEN HE IS
FREE TO GO
then, buddy," John said to the alien inside of him. "You can
go home now."
I WILL NOT FORGET YOU
will I. If you ever should come to my corner of the galaxy
again, you're welcome to visit me any time. Just give a call."
cluster ship had by now reclaimed the leader's pod and hovered
as one unit above the water of the swimming pool, waiting for
their passenger to join them.
Hunter had been given the option to go home, he found that he
was a little reluctant to leave John. He couldn't be sure if
John really knew what he had agreed to, when he had offered
Hunter to stay as long as he wanted to. Nonetheless, John had
made the offer and Hunter would always be grateful for it. He
had never given much thought to what he would do once he had
located his prey and – hopefully – eliminated him. The chance
for that event had been slim to say the least and he had been
realistic enough to know it.
appearance of the expedition cluster had been a surprise,
though he was glad and relieved that they had shown up when
they did. Not so much because he had survived thanks to them,
but because they had the tools he had not to do what he had
come to Earth for. Because of them, John's father had survived
without damage and that was at least as important.
been no surprise was their reaction to his blending with John.
He had known he had broken the law the moment he had entered
John's body the first time, even though his intentions had
was not to be performed without the expressive, prior
permission of the host.
And he had
He had all
but forgotten that there was one, just one, exception to the
If a host
who didn't know the law gave permission for the blending at
least three times after the first contact had been made, it
was considered an approved blending after all.
HAND ON THE SHIP
stepped forward and placed his hand on one of the cluster
ship's pods. Slowly, Hunter retracted his feelers from the
distant parts of John's body, gathering his body mass in
John's right arm. Last he left John's eyes, but not without
leaving a final message.
sifted through the skin in John's arm and the material of the
pod's hull to the inside the cluster ship.
Immediately he gained access to the ship's sensors. He heard
John say softly:
Hunter. Have a safe journey home."
cluster ship rose into the air, Hunter looked back at the
human who, despite all their differences, had been willing to
help a stranded alien in a seemingly hopeless mission.
face of the man was replaced by a bird's eye view of the
island, then the planet, as it sat like a blue/green jewel in
the black vastness of space. As they accelerated and the stars
began to fill the view, he thought back to the man who had
been his host for the last ten days.
know if he would ever see John Tracy again, but he already
knew that he would miss him.