This story was written for the 2008 Tracy Island Writers Forum's 'Three Object Challenge.' And you thought a cat was just a cat...

You know, working for an organization like International Rescue might lead one to believe that there's nothing else in this world that could top that experience. All of us on the Island, well except maybe for Kyrano, have this smug supposition that there's nothing else out there that can quite give us the same sense of satisfaction as getting through a harrowing rescue with successful results. Well, let me tell you...we're right! But, the world can work in some pretty strange ways sometimes...yup...pretty strange...

It all started after that relic of a steam ship went under. John had reported it as straying a bit too far from normal shipping lanes, meaning it was going to pass a bit too close to some underwater geothermal activity that was expected to erupt. The path it was traveling was erratic to say the least. As we listened to John's commentary, we began to prepare ourselves mentally for what we knew was coming next...

"You heard the man, get going, boys!"

Father had become a little too predictable over the years...and so had we. Before he could utter another syllable, Scott had grabbed the lamps, Gordon was heading for the passenger elevator and Four, and I was already horizontal and on my way down the slide to Thunderbird Two. But predictability can be a great little time saver, especially when you're in a business like ours where a few seconds could mean the difference between life and death for someone. Alan had gone to the mainland for some much needed R&R after a particularly nasty rescue in Siberia. So, we were starting out one man down on this one.

It was late in the afternoon and we'd hoped to get the danger zone secured before the sun went much lower. To our surprise, we arrived to find the ship, which had identified itself as the Culpo de Cattushad completely disappearedI mean, not even a sliver of wood remained, which was very strange. Nothing appeared on the Doppler either. I could hear Scott on the horn to John...

"Thunderbird One to Five. John, are you still tracking that ship?"

"Scott, right before you called, the image faded out. I mean, it literally disappeared from the scanners. There seemed to be some interference and it waveredfor a bit, then nothing!"

Scott ordered Gordon to dive down and investigate in Four, but he came up empty. As we just hovered there scratching our heads (even Scott was at a loss for words), something appeared on the horizon. We became hopeful and moved in for a closer look. Whatever it was, it didn't appear to be a passenger but was indeed floating. As we got closer, we determined it wasn't human either. In fact, it looked like someone's pet, perhaps one of the ship's crew. As I lost more altitude I could tell it was, yes, a cat and a tiny one at that. At this point, we were glad to have recovered something and I let out a whoop of thanks. The day wouldn't be a total loss after all.

Gordon pulled up alongside the little fur ball, which was balancing itself precariously on what appeared to be a huge bottle. Gordon opened the top hatch and proceeded to scoop up the hairy little bugger, along with the bottle. We could hear it mewing over Four's communications array. A commotion ensued and my brother seemed to have his hands full for a moment. Next came Scott's voice, booming over the air and filled with concern.

"You all right there, Gordo? What the hell's going on?"

"Aw, nothing Scott, I mean...OUCH, dammit!"


"Not to worry, Scott. Everything's erm, under control...now."

"You don't sound too sure there, bro," I observed. I knew we should have had Brains come with us on this one. Call it a gut feeling.

"Nothing to worry about. Can we just get back to base?"

"Sure."Scott replied. "There doesn't seem to be any reason to hang around here. None of this makes any sense."

Big brother had begun his usual habit of sweating the obvious.

"We'll figure it out, Scott. Don't worry; I'm sure Brains will come up with an answer. But for right now, I think we've done all we can here. We've swept the area both above and below the surface repeatedly and nothing. What if someone else calls in that we can actually help?"

There was a slight pause and then, "You're right, Virg."

I could hear the grin forming in his voice.

"Okay, last one back to base has to help Grandma with the dishes."

"Agreed, my liege!"

Back at base, we were shocked to see Gordon return to the lounge holding his charge and covered in bloodied scratches.

"What in hell happened to you!?" Father exclaimed as Scott and I stood there with our maws gaping.

Gordon tried to appear matter of fact, but I noticed a definite pallor to his complexion.

"Huh, oh, nothing, really. It's um...it's fine."

"Yeah, well, you're not lookin' so fine there, bro."

My usually jovial sibling turned, as if to reply to my observation. As he opened his mouth, Kyrano came into the lounge to see if Dad had any special requests of him after the anticlimactic rescue. Gordon seemed relieved at the interruption and handed the little fluff ball, and the bottle, off to him.

"I'm gonna hit the showers."

With that, he turned on his heel and hastily left the room.

"What do you make of that?" John asked from the view screen on the wall.

"I don't know," Scott said. "But I aim to find out."

He went to follow Number Four Brother down the hallway but Father had other ideas.

"Let him clean up and we'll get it out of him later. In the meantime, I want your report."

"Dad, I'm responsible for every member of this team being at the ready should we get another call. And I'm not gonna let..."

"Scott," I intervened. Gordon is a grown man and a very responsible adult...most of the time. I'm sure if there was anything that would interfere with the job..."

"Virgil's right, Scott. Let it go for now."

"But you saw the scratches!"


Big brother reluctantly conceded and took the container from Kyrano. On closer inspection, it looked to have been fashioned from hand blown glass.

"Hey." Scott said. "There's something in here..."

The long and frustrating day gave way to an even longer night for Brains and John as they kept a relentless vigil by the satellite imagers trying to detect even the smallest trace of the ill fated ship. By the time they had finished the last series of infra-red resolutions, they had covered nearly the entire South Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the new dawn had brought with it no new information, except for what was found inside the bottle. And that was pretty sketchy. It was a piece of what looked like papyrus with some kind of message written on it, a message that none of us could interpret. After further analysis, Brains determined it was written in some ancient and obscure language that even the linguistics computer was having trouble deciphering.

I couldn't sleep knowing that Scott and Dad were probably pacing trenches into the lounge carpeting. It was as if that rescue call had been some elaborate hoax. But it had seemed so genuine. Meanwhile, our Malaysian friend would soon come face to face with his own conundrum.

In the ensuing days after the Culpo de Cattus had disappeared, Gordon had been mostly keeping to himself. It was a definite character departure for him. After his unwillingness to confess to any details, I think we all just assumed that he was embarrassed because the kitten had scratched him up so badly. Kyrano, on the other hand, had always been a private man, his life shrouded by a certain air of mystery. We'd always respected his privacy and whenever he'd retreat to his room to meditate, not even Tin Tin would ever think disturb him unless it was an emergency. Imagine our shock and confusion then when this mild mannered person with a love for all of God's creatures came slowly backing out of the kitchen cursing in Malay and wielding the biggest skillet pan available in order to defend himself against the likes of, of...a tiny little fur ball came padding around the corner, purring as it went.

We were all dumbfounded into silence, but Grandma managed to break the spell.

"Kyrano, what's gotten into you? Don't tell me you're trying to hurt that poor little thing!"

"Mrs. Tracy, I would like to request that someone else take responsibility for this creature. I do not wish to be even in its furthest proximity."

"Well that's not like you at all, my friend. If a body didn't know better, they'd think you were afraid of that little cat."

"No, I...I do not wish to be near it. That is all I will say."

"Fine, fine! Give it to me then."

She stooped to pick up the tiny kitten and with an air of disgust, turned and headed for the garden outside, cooing to it and muttering something about how it needed a name. Later that day, she stopped me in the hallway.

"Virgil, dear, can I show you something?"

"Sure, Grandma."

"I took this from around that little kitten's neck."

When she opened her hand, it contained a tiny collar and from it hung a charm which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a miniature wooden boomerang embossed with some unrecognizable symbols and a picture of a gecko. It looked hand crafted and very old. At each of the three points on the boomerang was a tiny palette with a unique combination of colors. One had gray and white stripes, another had the colors of sable and chocolate brown and the third one had the varying hues of Calico fur.

"What do you make of it?" she asked.

Scratching my head as I replied, I told her I wasn't sure but there was definitely something different about this animal. I decided to seek out Gordon and pull him out of his hibernation. Since Al, his usual confidante, wasn't available, I wanted to see if he'd confide inme.

As expected, his withdrawal still included trips to the pool to swim laps. He was just getting out of the water as I approached. He started to slink back in when he saw me but I wasn't about to allow it. I needed to get to the bottom of what had happened inside Thunderbird Four the day of that rescue.

"I don't want to talk about it, Virgil."

"Talk about what, Gordo? What happened to you that day?"

"You'd...you'd never believe me if I told you."

"Try me!"

"Okay, but try to keep an open mind, will ya?"

He took my silence as acceptance. I guess my timing was good as he seemed kind of anxious to talk to someone at this point.

"That cat...there's something weird about it."

"What do you mean, weird?"

"I said to keep an open mind, remember?"

"Yeah, sure, whatever. Just friggin' tell me already!"

"Well, it can change form."

My acknowledgement was slow in coming but Gordon was patient.

"...Uh, huh."

"No, really, Virg. Once I got it in Four, It changed from a tiny white fur ball to a huge freakin' Calico puma with an attitude. I was holding it and the next thing I knew, it went all Battle Cat on me and sliced me up like a holiday ham. Just stood there afterwards, staring me down with these big golden eyes. I didn't know what the hell to do. I knew none of you were going to believe me. Admit it. You think I'm joking and probably made those scratch marks myself."

I gave my brother my best expression of sincerity.

"No, Gordon, I don't. I see how strangely you've been acting for the last week and I never thought you'd go as far as self mutilation to pull a prank."

Before I knew what was happening, he'd grabbed my head and planted a nice wet one right on my lips. His ass was promptly propelled into the opposite end of the pool...the deep end, luckily for him.

"Blech! Gordon, what the hell...!"

"You believe me, Virg! You really do!" he spouted in his best impression of Sally Field, the actress from the late twentieth century.

For a moment I found myself grinning.

"Yeah, yeah I do. And, there's someone else I think we need to talk to about this..."

To an outsider, Kyrano may seem to be serving the role of a retainer. But in reality, he is the cohesive force that holds this place together. I don't know what Dad would do without him as a spiritual advisor and he's pretty much been a second pair of hands for Grandma. At times though, I can detect a certain regal air about him, like he was born for some other calling in life. What I'm getting at here is that I knew we could trust in Kyrano absolutely. Whatever he had to tell us about our new house guest was going to go without reproach from any of us.

My younger brother and I found him tending to his orchids in the greenhouse. He did indeed have some beautiful specimens and I had used them frequently in my backgrounds for paintings and drawings. I felt bad for having to interrupt him because I knew how much he enjoyed being here. I cleared my throat before proceeding and that was enough to get his attention.

"Oh, hello, Mr. Virgil. Was there something you needed?"

"No, Kyrano. We're sorry to disturb you, but we were wondering if you could tell us anything about that kitten we brought home."

He seemed to shut down at the mention of the cat.

"I-I do not wish to discuss that creature."

Gordon piped up at that.

"It's okay, Kyrano. We know there's something strange about it."

Gordon proceeded to recant his experience on board Four a few days prior.

The kindly Malaysian man seemed to perk up once he saw that we were open to discussing the unimaginable. He explained that he'd also had an unnerving experience with the animal that day in the kitchen. Only in his case, the kitten appeared to be about the size of a bobcat but with the sable and brown fur of a Siamese. It had piercing blue eyes that stared into his and had rattled him to his very core. Even he, in his vast experience, could not believe what he was seeing and thought at first that he must have been suffering from some mysterious affliction, such as the one that had previously caused his fainting spells.

Gordon was quick to assure him that he wasn't. My thoughts went to what Grandma and I had discussed earlier concerning the collar charm. The pieces were beginning to fall into place, but I was still hoping for a translation of that cryptic message in the bottle.

The next couple of days proved to be uneventful, but Gordon still couldn't help an involuntary flinch every time that cat came within about ten feet of him. Kyrano simply didn't allow himself to be put in that position, much to everyone else's puzzlement. Dad had even taken to playing with the critter and whenever Gordon would express his cautionary tendencies concerning the cat, Tin Tin was right there comparing his ability to perform a rescue and his lack of manhood when it came to being close to a little kitten. He would always look to me for validation of his fear, but I needed to do more research before I was prepared to go public with my views on the subject. And still, no word from Brains about the note.

Yes, I know I said I believed both Gordon's and Kyrano's stories, but there was this little nagging doubt that kept reminding me that I hadn't personally witnessed anything out of the ordinary. Human nature can be both a blessing to lift you up and an anchor weighing you down, depending on the situation. Meanwhile, Gordon was getting more than slightly ticked off at my lack of public support. I decided to go down and tackle some minor maintenance I'd been meaning to do on Two. I figured that would afford me a much needed distraction.

It was as I was checking under Two's hydraulic struts that I noticed it, an ungodly odor, the likes of which I'd never smelled before. I quickly became worried as to its toxicity and donned the nearest mask I could find, not that it helped much. After several minutes of trying to locate its origin, I began feeling more than a little green around the gills. I was finally able to determine that it was emanating from the fresh air intake valve. After turning off the ventilator and making sure all the safety protocols were in place, I climbed into the crawlspace to investigate. But before I did, I had remembered an old trick that policeman sometimes used to block the stench of putrid flesh at very ripe crime scenes. I looked in the med kit for our equivalent of Vicks Vapor Rub. Upon locating it, I slathered it liberally between my nose and upper lip. Okay, this is it, I thought to myself. I'm going in...

I made my way down as far as the tunnel would take me, fighting the reflex to vomit every inch of the way. When I had finally reached the end and could begin to see daylight, I caught a brief glimpse of what looked like the hind quarters of a tiger. Its stripes, though, were shaded gray and white. As it ran off, I became aware of something else. It had left behind it a pile of droppings the size of a small bonfire. Yup, right there at the entrance to the outside air intake. Fighting the urge to gag, I again thought back to the the boomerang charm. That was all I needed. I raised my wrist communicator to my lips.

"Father, I think we've got a bigproblem, in more ways than one."

Everyone had been summoned to the lounge. When I walked in, Gordon and Kyrano were already standing there and Gordon was watching me with a knowing look. Scott was parked on the corner of Dad's desk, his arms folded in skepticism. Dad was just sitting there in his chair waiting, waiting for answers I couldn't give.

"Virgil, are you sure of what you saw down there? You didn't hit your head, did you?"

"No, sir!"

I was suddenly feeling as if I was on trial here. Grandma walked in next, holding the kitty in question. Its persona was currently that of the innocent looking little fur ball.

"Now Virgil, dear," she began. You're going to tell me that this sweet little thing has some sort of super hex on it and is actually four differentcats?"

I pathetically looked to Gordon for back-up. He shook his head slowly and I thought I was on my own, until he spoke.

"Grandma, Virgil is telling the truth, right, Kyrano?"

"Yes, Mr. Gordon, you are correct. This cat is not what it seems."

"Right!" I agreed. "Just look at its collar."

As I went to grab it, the little bastard hissed at me and took a swipe at my hand with its claws. It leapt from Grandma's arms, morphing into Kyrano's bobcat as it jumped.

"Don't let it get away!" Dad yelled.

I led the way in my greasy overalls as the entire clan (sans Brains, who was still heavily into decoding) did their best Keystone Cops impression, practically falling over each other in hot pursuit of that ‘sweet little thing.' Following its last known path led us down to the beach, just as the mail plane was making its weekly delivery to the Island. The seaplane pulled up to the dock and the pilot, Crash Cosmo (we never asked) stepped out to give it a secure tie down. Upon seeing him, we all stopped dead in our tracks, except for Scott. He'd gotten a bit over zealous and proceeded to collide rather abruptly with my back, nearly knocking us both down.

"Ow, Scott!"

"Sorry, Virg. Wasn't looking."

I couldn't help but grin at that.

"Ya think? Been off your game a bit lately, haven't you?"

Before he could offer a rebuttal, we noticed that Crash had been standing there observing the lot of us.

"What are you guys up to?" He asked.

Our answer couldn't have been better if it were scripted. We all replied in perfect unison.


He was stunned into silence, but eventually found his voice. "Okay then. Good luck with that. Here's your mail."

We watched him as he walked warily past us to the elevator, dumped the mail inside and then turned to leave.

"See you next week!" he yelled.

He returned to his plane, cast off the line and revved up the engine. As he began to turn it to make his takeoff run, Gordon let out a gasp that was audible, even above the engine noise.

I turned to look at him and he grabbed my head, forcing me to look in the direction of the departing aircraft. As I did so, I nearly choked. In the passenger window behind the pilot's seat could be seen a tiny white ball of fluff with big, pink eyes. It was mewing at us, almost mockingly so.

"No! Stop!" I shouted. But it was far too late and the noise of the propellers was far too loud. Not exactly an up to date model. Probably built it himself out of used parts. "Damn!"

As he flew off into the sunset Grandma piped up. "We can't just let him fly away with that thing on board. Who knows what'll happen!"

Nobody moved. She became indignant.

"You boys get on the horn right this minute and stop him!"

Father knew not to mess with that tone of voice. "Your Grandmother's right. Try to get him on the radio, Virgil."

"Yes, sir!"

Gordon pulled me aside as I went to call and whispered something.

"Here's hoping he built the radio from old parts too."

After three failed attempts to reach the pilot, it seemed that was indeed the case. But with a name like Crash, we figured he could take care of himself, evil kittens notwithstanding. Still, we couldn't help but feel more than a little guilty about the whole thing and hoped that he'd be safe. Gordon stared at us all like he had no idea what species we were...right before he clubbed us over the head with the obvious.

"Uh, hellooo? I mean, if he does get into trouble, I don't think it's just wishful thinking to say that International Rescue could be there in less than a jiffy."

It was later that evening (after Gordon had dug himself out of that sand dune we buried him in) when a disheveled looking Brains ran out to the pool area where we were all relaxing.

"Brains," I said. "You look to be on the heavy side of stressed, what's up?"

"I-I was a-able to trans-a-late the, um, note."

His stutter always got worse when he was upset.

"Well, let's have it, man."

"I-It's a warning, a warning about the c-cat. And also, an, uh, apology."

"An apology?" Dad asked in wonder.

"Uh, yes, Mr. Tracy. It states that the animal should, ah, be avoided at all costs. Because it's a, uh, ch-changeling and can become, er, dangerous. Also, those who brought it to this world a-apologize for having to, uh, leave it here. What are we, uh, going to do about it, Mr. uh, Tracy?"

"Well, I'm going to have another drink. Would you like one, Brains?"

Brains was genuinely nonplussed.

"Mr. Tracy!?"

"Relax, Brains. It's a long story. I just don't think any of us have the energy to tell it right now."

"Yup, for right now, I just feel better knowing two things."

"What, er, Virgil?"

"One, we're sitting here by the swimming pool and two..."

Gordon yelled from his chair at the other end.


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