An unexpected phone call. A
wallet found. Jeff Tracy is left to wonder if his family will
ever be the same...or even live to see another day.
This story was written as a
response to the Tracy Island Writers Forum's 2005 Spring
Challenge. Credit goes to fellow TIC author Molly Webb, who
wrote the text shown at the beginning of the story in italics.
had been at work in his office at Tracy Corp headquarters
since 7:00 a.m. His briefcase lay open on one corner of his
desk, balancing the stacked piles of papers and reports that
nearly covered the gleaming expanse of black glass. He was
lost in concentration on a particularly troublesome
spreadsheet when his cell phone rang. Absently he picked it up
and answered, his eyes still on the paper before him. "Jeff
a pause, and then a voice replied. "The Jeff Tracy?"
frowned, full attention suddenly focused on the phone at his
ear. "Who is this? How did you get this number?"
there was a pause before the voice answered. "I found it in
your son's wallet."
really, and just how did you come by this wallet?"
the usual manner, Jeff. I simply took it from his pocket."
paused for a beat before formulating his reply. Veiled threats
on his family were nothing new to this head of a billion
dollar corporation. In the years since reaching the pinnacle
of success in the business of aerospace and the many other
facets of Tracy Corp, Jefferson Tracy had heard from more than
his share of the seedier elements of humanity. Usually, those
phone calls were pre-screened and never actually reached his
office. He wondered then how this individual had come to
bypass the usual protocols.
you what," he began. "You go back into that hole you climbed
out of and I'll forget that this sham of yours was ever
sham, my dear Mr. Tracy. But if you think so, I'll just hang
up and you can determine the legitimacy of my claim when one
of your boys suddenly becomes AWOL."
if you do indeed have one of my sons, I need to know why and
what your terms for releasing him are."
friend, later. For now, it is enough that you are aware
that I have him."
suppose you'd like to share with me what his name is, would
think that will become apparent soon enough. After all, you
only have five sons, all of which are employed by your
company. Whose shift of duty is it in New York this week
had ever been able to rattle the usually stoic billionaire
quite like the thought of someone capturing and perhaps
harming his sons. Of course that possibility was present every
time they went out on a rescue. But, he reasoned, at least in
those situations, they usually had some semblance of control
over what the outcome would be.
however, he had only this word of a stranger, and an
unscrupulous one at that, on the other end of a phone
conversation to rely on to determine the condition of one of
the people most precious to him.
this concerned father, a man of honor and ethics in both the
business world and in his private life, became angry, very
angry that someone would try to bait him like this. He felt
the heat travel all the way up his neck to his now burning ear
lobes. His voice shook with fury as he made his meaning clear.
intellectually stunted friend, if you were half as clever as
you believed yourself to be, you'd know that I decided to give
myself and my family a break and had put one of my consultants
in charge of all office related matters in New York for the
time being. Now, I don't know how you got this number, or how
your call wasn't intercepted, but if you ever try anything
remotely like this again, I'll hunt you down and make damn
sure that you'll never be able to use that keypad or anything
else involving the use of an extremity again. And make no
mistake, I can do it."
he always hated about the use of vidphones and wireless
devices is that you couldn't make a show of slamming the
receiver down on someone. Petty as it was, it would have given
him a great deal of satisfaction just then. He had had it. It
was bad enough that International Rescue had to be constantly
looking over its shoulder in public situations but to have the
private lives of his family intruded upon as well was taking
its toll. He told himself to calm down, that it wasn't worth
getting his blood pressure up. It wasn't as if they hadn't had
any reason to expect this sort of thing, but the audacity...
you have to stop this,
he told himself. He considered it a waste of time to worry
about such things when there were MORE PRESSING MATTERS AT
HAND...More pressing matters at hand...more pressing
Salt and pepper locks virtually snapped up from the polished
desktop, along with the head they covered. Jeff caught himself
and his leather bound chair before they both fell over
backwards. Damn! He had fallen asleep. He half berated himself
and half sighed with despondency as he realized that he
preferred the scenario he had lived out in his dream to the
one that currently filled his waking reality with dread.
willingly sent them out into some of the most dangerous
situations imaginable on a regular basis. But, to have their
lives threatened simply because he was their father, well, he
would never have forgiven himself if that bastard and his army
of goons had succeeded in...
couldn't let his mind go there. He wouldn't let his
mind go there. To have lost them, all three of them, he
couldn't imagine what his life would have been like had that
unspeakable scheme succeeded. His eyes wandered over to the
portraits of his boys that Virgil had painted so long ago. To
not see their faces ever again or hear their brotherly banter
as they entered the lounge together was something he knew he
could never bear. It was one thing to have them die saving the
lives of others, but...
Jeff,"he told himself. "Just knock it off or they'll have all
the evidence they need to send you off to the booby hatch." He
tried to distract himself by looking through a pile of papers
on the corner of his desk. It was in vain. He couldn't stop
his mind from wandering back to that awful time a couple of
weeks ago. It had been a hellish month for International
Rescue. It seemed like they'd had one call after another, each
one more difficult than the last. He could see in his boys'
eyes what it was costing them both physically and emotionally.
They never complained though and the pride he felt every time
he looked at them threatened to burst forth from his chest. As
things began to quiet down, he figured they'd earned a well
deserved break. He had tried to schedule some "shore leave"
for them by working it in shifts, since at no time could they
all be away from the tropical island base.
like a good idea at the time and the five Tracy siblings were
very agreeable to getting some time away from their frenzied
pace of late. After careful deliberation...and several flips
of a coin, it was determined that the first shore leave would
be granted to the astronaut, the communications monitor and
the field commander. The reasoning behind this being that
Thunderbird Three was dispatched primarily as a means of
ferrying personnel and equipment up to Thunderbird Five, since
there were not many space rescues. Thunderbird Five, on the
other hand, could be put on automation for a few days without
any loss of communications efficiency. Thunderbird One was
valuable as a reconnaissance craft and her pilot as the
director of field operations. But, most rescues could not be
carried out without the big green workhorse of the fleet,
Thunderbird Two. As Virgil was her pilot and Gordon the
back-up, it was decided that they should remain on the island
for now, due to the fact that it was also time to run a
recurrent diagnostics check of the great hulking ship's
systems. Who better to preside over it than her main crew?
Scott had voiced his objection to Virgil remaining behind
after what they had all been through lately. He even
volunteered to stay in Gordon's place if their father wouldn't
allow the two of them to be away from the island at the same
time, arguing that he could help with the workup on
Thunderbird Two instead.
that is, until his father made it quite clear that either the
three of them leave now, or no one would be leaving at all.
Reluctantly, he acquiesced and headed to his room to pack.
the next morning, Tracy One left its berth in the hangar and
began its takeoff roll with Scott in the pilot's seat. John
and Alan were only too happy to sit back and relax while their
older brother did the driving. The flight to Sydney was not a
long one, but it was a rather quiet one as the two younger
siblings had already passed out from sheer exhaustion.
this is going to be a fun trip," Scott practically sighed.
"I'm going to be stuck all week long with Droopy and Eeyore
heard that." John opened one eye at Scott's remark and did his
best to raise an eyebrow.
you supposed to be dead to the world, Droopy?"
huh? You haven't exactly been the life of the part lately
either, Big Brother. You've even been sleeping almost as much
as the rest of us, Captain 'I'll Be There for Reveille.'"
mumbled something unintelligible.
struck a nerve, have I?" John retorted.
wiped a hand over his face and tried to get a grip.
look. We're all tired and a bit cranky," he said while
looking pointedly at John. "What say we call a truce and just
try to make the most of a very rare opportunity? After all,
how long do you think it's gonna be before Dad lets us out of
the compound on our own recognizance again?"
Scotty boy. What sayest thou, Al?"
had momentarily revived upon hearing the rather loud
conversation, gave a somewhat less than complete response and
then drifted back off to sleep.
good enough for me, especially coming from Alan." Scott
replied, a glimmer of amusement now threatening to color his
of the flight passed by uneventfully and in what seemed like
no time at all, they were making their final approach onto the
landing strip in Sydney.
was currently the winter season in their native Kansas, the
climate 'down under' called for beach wear. The sun hung
brightly overhead as three young men wearing aviator shades
deplaned with what seemed like very little in the way of
luggage. But then, they hadn't planned on taking a lot of time
to unpack. For the next few days, time was theirs and they
were not about to waste a precious second of it.
the other side of the airfield, the arrival of the Tracy
Corporation jet had not gone unnoticed. A lone figure,
silhouetted under the shade of an aircraft wing, brought the
small phone he carried in his hand up to his lips...
the brothers all preferred their own suites, John and Alan had
to settle for a connecting one, due to a convention that had
been booked into the posh hotel. It went to them as Scott,
being the eldest, knew when to pull rank. He could already
hear them arguing through the rather thin walls. Scott snorted
his consternation...and at these prices too. It never
failed to amaze him how quickly his brothers could go from
performing with the maturity of seasoned professionals,
sometimes under the direst of circumstances, to nitpicking and
other petty, childish behavior. He decided to go over and nip
the situation in the proverbial bud, as he had figured a
certain amount of peace and quiet into his agenda for the
think you two could dispense with the turning of inanimate
objects into projectiles thing long enough to get settled so
we can get the hell out of here and start taking advantage of
this about-to-be short lived vacation?"
instinctively stopped in mid throw as the commanding voice of
their big brother came booming across the room. They looked at
each other and collapsed into a fit of laughter, realizing
just how juvenile they were behaving at the moment.
Scott, we're just blowing off some steam." John replied a bit
Scott, Alan added, feigning an Australian accent. Just 'avin a
bit 'o folly, Mate."
really?" Scott answered, picking up on the accent. "Well
then...if one must have a bit 'o folly, one must 'ave a proper
gowe at et!" Hmmm, or was that Cockney ?
he picked up the biggest pillow he saw and joined in the
After they landed, I had them followed to their hotel, but
they haven't come back out yet."
me know the moment their status changes. We'll only have one
shot at this and Stupidity is something the Tracys have
never been accused of.
I'm on it." With that, the call ended and the vigil was
the island, Brains had brought the specs of Thunderbird Two's
systems online and was going through the check list. Virgil
knew he should be paying close attention as he read off the
steps, but he couldn't keep his thoughts from drifting to what
Scott and the others were probably up to right about now. He
pictured them on Bondi Beach, ogling all the surfer babes and
sipping from something tall and cool.
...a-a-and then we'll go through all the b-back up, s-systems.
I-is that okay with you, uh, Virgil?"
With an effort, Virgil forced himself back to reality. "Uh,
Oh, I'm sorry, Brains. What did you say?"
where did you go, Virg? Gordon quipped. "You looked to
be about a thousand miles away, two thousand if I know you."
on, Virgil. It's as plain as the nose on your face...well,
maybe not that plain."
cocked an eyebrow at Gordon that said he was treading on thin
Big Brother, S-y-d-n-e-y."
Well, our turn will be next, provided we get this C-check
not what I mean and you know it. You're missing your
Gordon, I don't have time for this..."
missing Scott. Just admit it."
miss Alan, too."
runt? I...yeah, I guess I do at that, kinda quiet without him
around here driving everyone batty. Hope he hasn't worked
John's last nerve. He's not used to dealing with that on a
regular basis like us battle-hardened types are."
after this, he's really going to be appreciative of the fact
that his rotation in Five is with Al."
shared a grin and a knowing look before resolving to
concentrate once more on the task at hand.
animated threesome strode down the front steps of their hotel
and into the street in search of a distraction.
think the manager will have us thrown out?"
scattering a few feathers around the room?"
John," the youngest Tracy replied, "it was way more than just
a few feathers."
guys. I've been thrown out of better places. Besides, if they
get mad we'll pay for the repairs and leave the maid a huge
tip. After all, this is not something we've gotten a
reputation for doing...yet. I would just suggest avoiding the
front desk whenever possible."
face broke into a conspiratory grin. "Would you listen to
that, Alan? Our straight laced big brother here has a jaded
past. Which hotel, was it, Scotty?"
shook his head. "Never mind, and I'm not trying to lead by
example here. It was a one-time thing. Besides, I don't even
remember most of it, except the brunette I was with. Well, at
least I think I remember her face."
tell!" Alan exclaimed. "Boy, I'll bet your diary comes with
its own dycetylene extinguisher and a warning label."
twinkle in his eye, Scott simply gave them the
cat-that-ate-the-canary look and refused to elaborate any
we'll just have to get you drunk enough to spill."
chance..." His demeanor suddenly changed as all of his senses
went on alert. Something wasn't right. He looked past John
down to the next street corner. There was obviously some sort
of commotion brewing. As accustomed as they were to being at
the scene of trouble, it was only natural that the three men
should gravitate toward the situation to see if they might be
arriving at the scene, it was discovered that a woman had been
mugged and all of her meager savings stolen. Scott immediately
took off in search of her assailant with John close on his
heels. Alan comforted the elderly woman and waited with her
until the help that was sent for arrived. He also checked her
for any injuries that might be a bit more serious than the
bruises and cut lip that appeared on her face.
motioned to Scott that he would check the harbor front, while
Scott ran down the side streets and alleyways. He spoke into
his wrist watch. "Keep in touch, John."
just about to argue that he didn't need reminding of that when
he realized that it was just Scott's way of telling him to 'be
careful.' He smiled slightly and raised his watch to his lips.
rounded one particular corner, he came upon an alley through
which there was no exit. Finding no purse snatching suspect,
he turned around to go back out the way he had come. As he did
so, four burly looking men appeared around him seemingly from
was ricocheting all over the place. Who were these guys and
what were they after him for? Was it International Rescue or
some disgruntled employees of Tracy Corp.? Curiously, his mind
started focusing on whether or not his father had mentioned
anyone that he'd had more than the usual degree of difficulty
getting 'separated' from the company lately. Then came the
thought that...oh, God. Had they already gotten to John and
Al? His stomach began knotting up as that last though sent an
icy chill through his heart. But, to the men around him, he
merely said, "Oh, nowhere special, why do you ask?
got a really cool customer here guys. I think we should show
pretty boy here how badly we want him to stay." With that,
four men raised what looked like four machine pistols and
pointed them all straight at his heart.
appreciate the sentiment guys, but I really can't stay.
Besides, you have me at a disadvantage. You obviously know me,
but you haven't even introduced yourselves."
if he could keep them talking, he might be able to figure a
way out of this mess. Great,
Is that all you could come up with?
worry. We're going to get to be best friends, that is, if you
moment, a siren could be heard in the distance, steadily
moving closer to their position. "Shit! One of the men turned
and yelled to another. "I thought you said we were home free."
realized it was probably the ambulance that had been called
for the mugging victim. The momentary distraction though was
enough for him to find his opening. There was a stack of
debris littering the left side of the alleyway. The four men
were all looking to their right, in the direction the siren
was coming from.
the men spoke. "Morons, don't you know an ambulance when you
his move, jumping to the left and landing on a crate. He used
the items of debris for stepping stones as he climbed upwards
and along the side towards the open street.
long before his would be abductors reacted to this new
development. The man who appeared to be their leader shouted,
"Get him!" Another 'associate' aimed and fired, catching Scott
in the area between his neck and shoulder.
out and his hand went to his collarbone. He felt something
protruding from the area and realized that it was probably
some sort of tranquilizing dart. He grabbed hold of it and
pulled it out as he began to feel the effects of the drug. He
knew he didn't have long before he would begin to lose
consciousness. He fought the effects and continued on, groping
at the obstacles in his way. He had to escape, had to help his
"Son of a
bitch! Shoot him again!"
were followed and just as Scott had made it to the open end of
the alley, he was struck a second time, squarely at the base
of his neck. He could no longer resist the powerful compound.
His hands groped for support along the wall but found no
purchase. Slowly, they slid down it as the eldest Tracy son
collapsed, tumbling down the mountain of debris that was
supposed to have been his salvation.
wondered if his brother was having any better luck in
apprehending the mugging suspect. It wasn't their job to
police the streets, but hey, if they could get the poor
woman's purse back to her with all of her money, all that
would be left to do would be to take the guy into custody. He
would've been long gone by the time the authorities arrived
anyway. Of course, they'd have to give their statements to the
local police, but then they would be free to return to their
though, his search had been fruitless and he was now wondering
if he should just give it up and regroup with Scott and Al. He
raised his wrist to call his elder sibling. "Scott, Scott,
it's John. Anything on your end yet?" He waited but received
no reply. "Hmmm." He gave it another try. "Scott, are you
there? Please answer." His forehead creased in frustration and
then worry. Just as he was about to call Alan, a man
approached him. He turned quickly, hiding his wrist from view.
"Hi! Uh, I
think I'm kinda lost. Are you from around here?"
but I know the city pretty well." John replied.
good!" I was supposed to meet some friends of mine at a place
called Ship Inn, I think. You wouldn't happen to know where
that is, would you? Am I even close?"
you're actually very close. It's right over there," he pointed
in the general direction, "at Circular Quay. The area you're
in is called "The Rocks." I'd walk you over there myself but
I'm kind of busy at the moment."
corners of the man's mouth went up in a sinister grin. "That's
okay, John. Thanks, you've been a big help."
started at the mention of his name. "How...?" The sentence
went unfinished as he spied a sniper down near the shore line
who already had him in his sights. He was standing on part of
a pier, a couple of recreational boats passing by below him.
He saw no avenue through which to escape and before he could
utter another sound, he felt a sharp sting on the side of his
neck. He was standing near the railing and it caught him off
guard, sending him careening over the edge and down onto the
deck of a boat that had positioned itself in just the right
spot. He landed roughly and cried out as his arm twisted under
him. He struggled to get up, to get away, but the drug was
already doing its job and he was rapidly losing any motor
control. "Wh-who are...?" He shook his head, valiantly
struggling to remain conscious. "Wha...do...?" But he couldn't
get the question out as he succumbed to the effects of the
potent anesthetic. Hey lay there, motionless, as the boat
continued on its way.
the scene of the mugging, Alan had been helping the EMTs by
telling them he had examined the victim and giving them the
details of her injuries.
experience with this sort of thing, have you?" one of the
"Well...um...yes, actually." Alan stuttered. "I have dabbled
in it a bit." He cleared his throat and changed the subject.
"The authorities have already been notified and the police are
on their way."
thanks for all yer help, friend. Would you like ta ride with
her to hospital?"
but I have to go find my brothers."
tell them where you are, no worries."
prodding him in the direction of the back of the ambulance.
"Well, no. Really guys, I've got to go."
you do, Alan. And the sooner, the better."
nonplussed. "Hey! Just who are you guys and how do you know my
that's because we're here to give you a very personal
invitation, Alan. You've been invited to the party of the
Alan thought this might be some sort of joke initiated by his
older brothers. But as he thought about it, he realized that
no, this was not their style. It was more like something
Gordon would have planned for him. He tried to leave but it
was too late. The two hulking EMT's opened the door and shoved
him into the back of the ambulance, slamming it shut behind
onto all fours and heard a voice say, "Hello, Alan." He looked
up to see the old woman sitting up in the stretcher, a gun in
her hand, pointed straight at him. Her smile was sickeningly
sweet. "Glad you could make it." She pulled the trigger and
the last thing he heard as he hit the floor was the sound of
her cackling laughter.
to hear someone speaking. To him it sounded as though they
were pleading with someone. He tried to focus his eyes in the
direction of the voice but moving his head made him groan in
pain. He felt as though he'd been on one of those forgettable
drinking binges that you regretted and said you'd never go out
and do again. But then the fog started to clear on his numbed
brain and his thoughts finally clicked into place. Oh,
He was now
fully awake and fully aware of the situation he was in,
fervently hoping that he was the only one in this
situation. His hopes though were exceedingly dashed as he
realized the pleading voice that he'd heard belonged to his
brother John, who was now eyeing him with deep concern.
thank God. Are you okay?"
throat was dry and raspy, his mouth like cotton. He would have
killed at this moment for even a sip of water. It took him a
minute, but finally, a sound managed to escape from between
his cracked lips. "J-John?"
Kiddo, I'm here. How're you holding up?"
just g-great, no place I'd rather be. You?"
whatever the hell that stuff they shot us full of was, it
really did a number on me," he paused as he grabbed his left
arm, wincing, "and I think I've dislocated my shoulder. But,
that John seemed a bit anxious about something more than their
current predicament. He looked from his brother's face
downward to the still form lying on the floor behind him.
"Sc-Scott!" "What's wrong, why isn't he waking up?"
" the word was said with more venom than Alan had ever
heard come out of his normally soft-spoken brother, "have
informed me that our big brother here was not an easy mark. He
tried so hard to escape, that they had to shoot him twice."
eyes went wide. "You mean, they shot him with a double dose of
double. It seems he pulled the first dart out before he got
the full effect." But, I just can't get him to come to. His
breathing is shallow and his pulse is so slow. I'm just
praying that he hasn't lapsed into a coma. I've been talking
to him, hoping the sound of my voice would help. But so far,
it hasn't done any good. I guess all we can do for now is try
to make him comfortable." He rummaged around a bit with his
good arm before finding an old cushion. He beat it on the wall
to remove the dirt from it and gently placed the cushion under
in their surroundings. It seemed that they were in an old room
that might have at one time been a studio apartment, except
for the fact that there were no windows and no lights, save
for a camping lantern set out on a table. There were still
remnants of the most recent occupant's personal belongings
strewn about. It looked as though whoever had been here had
left in a hurry. The gunmetal-hued paint was peeling off the
walls and there was a dankness to the place, a mustiness that
made it seem almost dungeon–like in atmosphere. There's no
air circulating. We must be underground.
over and picked the lantern up off the table so he could do
some exploring. He appeared to have enough time, given their
looked at his older brother, but wasn't really seeing him as
his mind groped for answers. "Did they say why they were doing
this, John?" He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Do they know
don't think so. They made no mention of it. In fact, they
didn't say much about anything. But, they obviously know our
names, so it could have something to do with the "other"
sure, why not? I mean, if you were a low-life, wouldn't it
cross your mind to abduct the son of a billionaire? And of
course, in this case, three's obviously not a crowd, it's just
cringed as he thought of their father's reaction to three of
his sons being kidnapped. John ran the light along the walls
and up toward the ceiling, looking for any way out. "This
place must have been used like an underground bunker at one
time for someone who really needed to get away from it all."
here gives me the creeps." Alan said as he looked around
wildly. "It's like we've been buried alive or something."
so morose, Alan. We'll get out of here; just don't let your
thoughts get away from you."
you're right, Dad'll find us. He'd never give in to these
don't just sit there, help me find a way outta this place."
their island home, "Dad" was becoming a bit concerned. Even
when the boys were on shore leave, it was customary for them
to check in with base. Their profession was dangerous in more
ways than one and the threat of criminal activity was always
looming over them. It always set his mind at ease when he
heard their voices and knew they were safe. He was just about
to try Scott's comm. link when the intercom on his desktop
beeped, signifying an incoming call from the mainland, the
mainland in this case being New York City. The line was the
one used only by Jeff's trusted secretary. She had been with
him a long time and was also a close, personal friend. "Yes,
Jeff. I'm so sorry to disturb you at home but I have something
here I think you should hear."
Rosemary's many responsibilities was the task of handling the
calls that came in for him on the main line to Tracy Corp. and
then screening them, so only legitimate business and/or other
important calls were routed through to the island. When you
were both a public figure and the owner of a billion
dollar industry, you were bound to receive some calls that
weren't exactly "Kosher." Some he'd received had required that
he report them to the authorities, but he generally tried to
avoid that. For the most part, they were just the usual
vidmarketing and survey calls, trying to obtain personal info
from him. From the tone of Rosemary's voice though, this was
something different, and he thoroughly trusted her judgment.
Not one to
mince words, Jeff got right to the point. "Okay then. Let's
voice shook slightly. "Okay, this came in about 5 minutes
Jeff Tracy. How's the weather there on that island of yours?
Oh, yes, I know all about it. Some might even call you
eccentric, a bit of a recluse. I know those sons of yours
aren't though. My, my, five strapping young men,
heartbreakers, all of them...and now on the loose. Well, three
of them are, anyway. Heard from any of them lately?"
pounded in Jeff's ears and his breathing became labored as he
realized where this was going. Dear God, don't let this be
happening. The voice on the recording continued on
Jeff, what it would be worth to you to be able talk with them
again, see their faces. Well, my dear Mr. Corporate Mogul, you
have 24 hours to decide just that, or you can start thinking
of your offspring in terms of two. Are we clear? You will be
contacted with instructions on where to leave the sum of 10
billion dollars in exchange for their safe return. I'm sure a
savvy gent such as yourself knows better than to contact the
authorities, unless you want your sons mailed back to you
piece by piece. Have a nice day, Jeff Tracy!
the recording ended and Jeff cut the connection, his head
sinking down on his forearms. They'd had to endure so much.
Besides the normal perils associated with performing rescues,
they'd had to save their own members, on occasion, from the
malevolent forces of power, greed and sadism. They'd battled
The Hood and survived. He himself had almost ended up a
permanent impression on the cliff face at the end of a
monotrain line. There were the crashes. Both Scott and Virgil
had had incidents and come out of them to fly another day. "Scott."
And Gordon, he'd been so close to death, the doctors believing
he'd never walk again. It was almost as if they'd had a
guardian angel watching over them, and he knew her name.
"Lucy, please go and be with them, they need you." And
then he was no longer able to dam his emotions up. The flood
gates opened and Jeff Tracy, astronaut, businessman and
multi-billionaire, wept like a child.
the wings, unseen, was the singular reason why Tracy Island
had not as yet imploded upon itself. Jeff's confidante and
long time friend Kyrano had not intended to intrude. He had,
however, taken stock of the situation and knew that his
friend's well being, both mental and physical, was at stake.
He needed the strength to face what lay ahead and if he could
help in any way...
was finally able to get himself back under control, Jeff
started to assess the situation in earnest. Okay, on their
side was the fact that these 'people' didn't know the extent
of who they were dealing with. They apparently had no idea
they had just kidnapped three IR operatives. He rallied
himself and took control.
raised his head wearily and opened his eyes, satisfied that
his friend could go on from here. A faint smile of
satisfaction graced his etched features as he silently
relegated himself to resuming the tasks at hand.
Thunderbird Two's Hangar, the diagnostic of the great, green
machine was nearing its completion. The bezel on Virgil's
wrist comm. flashed green followed by a vibration. "Yes,
along are you down there, Virgil?"
there, just about another sixty minutes to go."
Finish up as quickly as you can and then I want to see all 3
of you up here, pronto!"
know in an hour. Just get her ready, I'm counting on you boys.
Oh, and Virgil?"
"Do it in
forty five...out." The link was cut off.
something in their father's voice that made Virgil and
Gordon's skin crawl. Gordon tried to put into words what was
on both their minds.
know, Gordon and I don't want to speculate. Just get moving!"
Virgil's voice had been a little harsher than he'd intended,
but Gordon knew it was out of worry...worry that something in
Sydney had gone terribly wrong.
Alan had been looking in every corner and crevice, searching
for something, anything that might indicate a possible escape
route, to no avail. John's throbbing shoulder was getting hard
to ignore and they both were beginning to sink into despair.
He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as another wave of
pain immobilized him. Alan grimaced at the sight and went to
assist his brother, concern evident in his eyes.
a little help with that?"
him for brief moment, let out a long breath and straightened
up. "Yeah, Al, sure."
John's arm in both his hands and waited until he caught his
older brother's eye. John nodded to him and then rattled the
rafters with his cries as Alan snapped the disjointed limb
back into place. When it was over, he collapsed against the
thanks, little brother."
just deciding what their next plan of action should be when
they heard what sounded like a moan of pain. They both turned
to see Scott writhing on the floor, obviously in a great deal
went to his side and tried to snap him out of his delusion.
Scott can you hear us?" John's voice was soft and soothing.
"It's us, Scott, John and Alan."
out to grab fistfuls of John's shirt; nearly strangling him in
the process but he didn't pull away. Alan felt a pang of
empathy, remembering how he'd felt after just one dose of the
vile stuff. He let his big brother know he was also there for
okay, Scott. You're safe with us now." He'd hated telling the
lie, but if it would bring him back to them... He watched as
his eyelids slowly flickered open.
though he hadn't fully navigated his way up through the
drug-induced haze, Scott somehow knew, as he slowly opened his
eyes and regarded them both with a look of unfathomable
sadness, that the worst possible scenario had become a
reality. They had gotten to his brothers too. He let go of
John's shirt and the flush in the middle brother's face
lessened. As he sank back onto the cushion, he covered his
eyes with his forearm.
two okay? What the hell is going on?"
simultaneously expelled the breath they had been holding. For
Scott, they were the right questions.
don't have the details, but it seems we've been kidnapped,
his arm so he could look at John. "Kid...what? Oh great, so
much for a well-earned rest."
Alan was a
bit perplexed. "Is that all you can say about it?"
the way my head feels right now, there's not too much else I
can say. Have you seen these guys?"
that's strike one. They are obviously not planning on letting
us go if they've let John see them. How many of them are
there are two who seem to be in charge of the proceedings, and
about another fifteen to twenty of their lackeys."
there's another fly in the ointment, Big Brother..." He
prodded him. "Yeah?"
Brother' was becoming irritated and put his fingers to his
temple to stave off another stab of pain.
our subcutaneous locator chips won't transmit from this
Alan stared at him briefly and then all three brothers wiped
their hands over their faces in unison.
looked at his watch and started to make another call down to
the hangar when he suddenly saw Virgil, Brains and Gordon pop
into the lounge.
check is complete, M-M-Mister, uh, Tracy."
you tell us what's going on?"
think you'd better sit down for this one."
faces grew grim as Jeff shared the information on the
recording. Virgil had his head down with his thumb and
forefinger on the bridge of his nose, while Gordon just looked
pale and in shock. Brains glanced from one to the other and
cleared his throat before attempting to speak.
we will need to wait for the k-kidnappers to, er, contact us
before w-we make a move."
Brains, I plan on having Thunderbird Two in position long
before that occurs. I don't believe that they've taken the
boys out of Australia. There are too many remote places for
them to hide out on the continent. They wouldn't need to go
been silent but now brought his head up to speak. His voice
was almost a whisper.
we leave, Father?"
the main company line to the island beeped again and Jeff
answered it. "Yes, Rosemary. I'd like you to forward all calls
that come in to the Vid-Sat. That way, when the kid...," he
couldn't bring himself to speak the word, "when that call
comes through, it will go directly to me, wherever I am."
Are you all right, Jeff?"
be, honey...I will be." He thanked her as he ended the call.
boys. I've cancelled my entire schedule for the next week. I'm
going with you. Brains, I'm sorry, but I'm going to need you
here to man the fort."
understand s-sir. I'll d-do whatever I c-can to help."
you, Brains. Boys, I haven't given your grandmother all the
details but if I know her, she won't let me leave here without
filling her in."
say so!" Ruth Tracy walked into the lounge and immediately
made a bee line for her son's desk. "Except that I've already
figured this one out."
testy with me, Jefferson Tracy." Her expression softened.
"Actually, I tricked your secretary into spilling the beans,
so don't blame her. Go find them, Darling and bring them back
to us. I'll be right there with you." She kissed him tenderly
on the cheek and he made for the passenger lift as his grief
was threatening to overwhelm him again. Virgil took the cue as
he made for the rocket painting.
Gordo, let's do it."
shook himself out of his dark reverie and ran after his
Tracy men were now all on their feet and literally taking
their claustrophobic prison apart piece by piece in the hopes
that they could get themselves free. Their mounting
frustration about being totally cut off from the rest of the
world was exceeded only by the anger they felt towards their
captors. Their wrist comms. had been confiscated, along with
all of their other personal effects. They were totally on
their own with no help in sight.
activity was interrupted when they heard a creaking sound
accompanied by footsteps. Alan looked towards the sound,
anyone be walking down here if we're underground?"
could have dug some sort of access tunnel," Scott suggested.
was as if three light bulbs had all come on at the same time,
the first glimmer of hope that they'd had since being
abducted. If someone could get down to them through a tunnel,
it could also be used for them to escape up through. It made
sense because that would also explain how they were getting
any air down in that cramped space. John put his index finger
to his lips until he saw that the other two understood.
Mentally, Scott was taking stock of the situation from a
strategic standpoint. They had no weapons, not even a pen
knife or the sharp edge of a credit card. The odds were
terrible, but still, they had to try. He braced himself as he
heard the creaking sound of an outer door opening.
waited until the inner door had opened wide enough for them to
get through and then pulled the person entering the room,
inside. It turned out there were five men in the corridor, two
of whom were well armed. The brothers rushed the three that
were within reach, hoping the element of surprise was on their
side. It very nearly worked, except for the fact that one of
the men still waiting by the outer door had heard the
commotion and went in to investigate. He arrived just in time
to see the third of the three men, felled by a sucker punch,
hit the floor. The sound of his gun being cocked caused the
three captives to freeze in their places, just as Scott was
about to deliver another punch for good measure.
with the gun seemed steady and sure. There was no way they
could take him without one of them getting shot. They had no
choice. Scott motioned for the others to stand down. Their
faces fell, but Scott's silently relayed to them that it had
been a good try.
heard another set of heavy footsteps and turned to see the
fifth man, who looked to be in a position of authority, enter
the room. He stood in the doorway for a few seconds, lighting
a cigar before he spoke and blowing the smoke into their
"Gentlemen, it appears that we have a problem. Apparently you
missed the communication regarding discipline. As long as you
are 'guests' here, you will do as you are told and not treat
my staff rudely. Is that understood?" His mannerisms appeared
to be on an even keel but one look into his cold eyes told
them that he indeed meant business. It was the "business" that
they were now dreading. He eyed Scott.
are the eldest. You know that it is the responsibility of the
eldest to set an example for the rest of his siblings and to
keep them in line, correct?" Scott remained silent, trying not
to give anything in his eyes away. The man continued with the
any of them have stepped out of line, the responsibility for
his actions would fall upon you, isn't that right?" Scott
remained stone-faced, his expression blank. Their captor
continued with his monologue.
"Therefore, I will let you decide. Would you take the
punishment for what your two brothers have done here today?"
dark-haired Tracy finally spoke. "They've done only what I've
told them to, it was all my idea."
"I have my
doubts as to the truthfulness of that statement but, on this
occasion, I shall afford you the benefit of that doubt."
Scott sighed with relief. At least they wouldn't be punishing
his brothers for the attempted escape.
now receive your sentence. There is only one penalty for
insubordination such as this." The man with the gun lifted it
and pointed it straight at Scott's temple, cocking the
trigger. His intended victim stood, unflinching, his eyes
staring straight into those of his executioner. A sudden wave
of regret over the fact that he'd be leaving his brothers at
the mercy of their subjugator washed over him.
directive came from the youngest Tracy. "Leave him alone! You
haven't even told us what you want with us."
will come in due time my young friend. Unfortunately, your big
brother here will not have had the pleasure."
fists clenched as he tensed himself to spring. The man
apparently in charge continued.
what I know about you though, Scott Tracy, I think I can come
up with something that will injure you far worse."
Scott could even formulate a guess, the aim of the weapon was
redirected and John screamed as a shot was fired directly into
his femoral artery. The elder Tracy was horrified.
only laughed as he took another puff of his cigar. All three
of the brothers would be hard-pressed to forget that laugh.
Scott both rushed to John's side as the blood literally
spurted from his wound. Alan applied pressure to it with both
his hands while Scott tore the sleeve off his shirt to make a
tourniquet. Beads of sweat broke out on John's forehead, his
face screwing up into a grimace of agony. His breath came in
short gasps as he tried to keep from crying out.
okay, John. We'll fix you up, don't worry." Alan was trying to
calm him but his own insides were coming apart. Their
brother's blood was everywhere, covering them both from head
applied the tourniquet and was then looking for something with
which to tighten it. He happened to look down at the rest of
the shirt he was wearing. Earlier, he'd forgotten to take a
pen out of his breast pocket and it had apparently been broken
during the abduction. This was evidenced by the stain of
indigo that had formed below it. He reached inside, hoping
that it had not been confiscated. Yes! It was still
there. He pulled it out and tied a knot around it with the
leading ends of the torn piece of shirt. He twisted it until
the flow of blood from the leg had slowed and then eventually
stopped. Hanging his head in a combination of relief and
exhaustion, he managed to lift it long enough to send Alan a
wink and a weak smile. Alan returned the smile ever so
slightly and nodded his relief. When they both looked down at
John again, he had fallen unconscious, which was probably a
good thing, given the pain he'd been enduring. Scott put two
fingers to his neck to check his carotid pulse and then
checked his breathing. They were both slow, but steady, at
least for now. Looking around, he reached for the cushion he
had used and gingerly placed it under John's head. He sat,
stroking his face and tenderly brushing the damp hair off his
isn't that admirable?" 'The Boss' addressed his associate.
"See how they care for each other? The bond of blood is always
the strongest. It is of no consequence, however. Their father
will be as willing to pay for the return of two sons. The
death of one should make clear to him our resolve in achieving
watched as a change came over the man next to him. His
youngest brother's face went from being panic stricken at the
prospect of losing either of his siblings, to being
unnaturally calm and neutral, given their situation. Scott
knew that look and now he was the one beginning to panic. He
whispered fiercely through firmly clenched teeth.
he begged. "Please..."
was already on his feet. Scott made a grab for him just as he
lunged at their tormentors but he was too late. It was only
thin air that slipped through his fingers. He gasped as the
'The Boss,' who was not a man of small stature, grabbed Alan
by the hair, yanked him roughly onto his back on the floor and
put the edge of an antique Ka-Bar knife to his throat. He
recognized it as being the type once used in the military for
the sole purpose of killing a man. The youngest Tracy did not
dare to move another muscle.
moment, time froze for the eldest Tracy. He closed his eyes
briefly and held his breath, fighting to get his emotions
under control. God, would this nightmare never end? Finally,
he gathered the strength he needed and opened cobalt blue eyes
that were ablaze, his face reflecting a steely determination.
When he spoke, his voice was low and dangerous.
hands off him."
men still standing glanced at each other and regarded their
hostage curiously. He repeated the order, putting a hand on
his knee to raise himself up off the floor to his full height.
said...take your hands off him."
eyes went wide with fear, not for his own life, but for the
life of the brother who had always been his protector. There
was a barely perceptible movement of his head as he tried to
get the message through to his eldest sibling.
"I can see
you are once again confused about the proper decorum, young
Scott. You do not give the orders here. Scott lifted
his eyes and directed his gaze pointedly at the man he had
come to abhor. As his 'host' looked into them, what he saw
there made him nearly recoil with trepidation. He released
Alan and nodded to his henchman, who then lowered his gun.
well, I have done so. But as with all of my services, there is
a price to be paid. Now, what have you to offer me?"
Thunderbird Two launched into the sky, its three occupants
were preoccupied. At the moment, they had no a clue as to how
they were going to find the rest of their family or what they
would do when they did. They could only hope that wherever
Scott, John and Alan were, that no real harm was coming to
them. Jeff reasoned that the kidnappers would not dare to
damage the merchandise they were hoping to exchange for quite
a nice piece of change.
pilot of the great, green bird half-twisted around in his seat
to talk to his father.
recognize the voice or hear anything in the background on that
recording that might give us some kind of lead?"
afraid not, son. I've had Brains analyze the voice pattern and
try to pick up on any background interference, but there's
just nothing there." He sighed in frustration and rubbed the
back of his tired neck. I guess we're going to have to start
from square one this time. There's no doubt that these guys
are professionals. It could be that their only agenda is a
monetary one. They may be using abduction like terrorists use
violence but without the political or religious
youngest thought about this for a moment.
that's true, Dad, and this is a professionally orchestrated
plan, what chance do we have of finding them? And if we do, we
can't just go in there with all the heavy artillery. We're
supposed to be private, albeit rich, citizens, not the
fearless International Rescue with all the specialized
equipment at their disposal."
Gordon. Right now, I wish Scott could be here to formulate a
plan of action. That's his forte. By now though, I'm
sure he must have thought of something and is making those
bastards regret their actions in a big way."
then that the Vid-Sat phone began to vibrate in his pocket...
wrists had been tightly bound together, his arms yanked
painfully behind him. He grimaced as he was now being dragged
by them through a detour in what he had discovered was an
elaborate system of tunnels. This particular one opened up
into a dimly lit room with a floor made of old, wooden planks.
He reasoned there must be something sending fresh air into the
area because he could feel a draft blowing through. In the
middle of the room was a single folding chair, into which he
was unceremoniously shoved by the back of his neck. The
lighting was turned up a couple of notches to reveal a
stockpile of video equipment which looked to be brand new as
no dust had yet settled on it. Several of the 'lackeys' were
hurriedly setting up the equipment and training 'set' lighting
on him as they went around measuring its intensity with hand
meters. He squinted and tried to avert his eyes from the
were finished with their task, the man in charge paced in a
slow circle around his chair, as if he were building up to
something. Scott hadn't yet been told exactly what was going
on, but he could wager a guess. Since their arrival, there had
been no mention made of any communication with their father
concerning their well-being. Alan was taking care of John,
loosening the tourniquet at regular intervals so that the leg
would not die. He was still losing an inordinate amount of
blood, however and they could only keep him alive for so long.
He knew that his father must have a plan for getting them out
of this mess. He just hoped it would be in time. Finally, the
formidable man spoke, his condescending tone reaching Scott's
ears like the sound of fingernails scratching down a
Scott. Are you ready for your debut?"
determined not to make this easy for the bastard. "What are
you talking about? Why have you brought me here?"
very bright, it should be fairly obvious."
summoned a couple of his associates. "Untie his hands, clean
him up and get him a new shirt." Turning to his prisoner he
said, "I need you to convince your father that I have been
treating you well and that I have every intention of releasing
the three of you once the ransom is paid."
they had suspected, it was a simple kidnapping, not an attempt
at bringing down International Rescue. They could at least be
grateful for that.
I want to do that, considering what you've done to John?"
"It is but
a part of the debt you owe me for sparing young Alan. The rest
you will pay after your father has received my
instructions. Unless, of course, you'd like him to find out
that his eldest son now goes by the name of Virgil."
gotten the reaction he was going for. For a brief moment,
Scott had let his guard down and whirled on him at the mention
of the brother to whom he was the closest. Too late, he
realized his mistake but did his best to salvage the
backhand he received across the face was swift and unexpected.
you, I will not be patient for much longer. You will do it or
you will die."
well. He looked to his guards and clapped his hands to get
their attention. Go back down to the holding chamber and get
the other two. Oh yes, and don't forget to bring the
'implements.' Perhaps we shall have entertainment for the
evening after all."
that, Scott? I-I didn't quite hear you."
"Don't...don't harm them any further." He bowed his head in
defeat. "I'll do what you ask."
in the 'chamber' the two younger siblings weren't fairing much
better. John was conscious for now, but his color was becoming
a sickly shade of gray and his skin had become clammy to the
touch. Alan was beside himself with helplessness. There was
simply nothing more he could do for his brother except wait,
wait and pray that help would soon arrive, or that by some
miracle, they'd find a way to escape. The obvious problem was
how to get John ready for transport. There was nothing in the
meagerly equipped room that could even be substituted for a
gurney and, for all he knew, Scott was out there being
tortured or worse and might never return alive. Alan feared
all that was left for him now was to wait and come to terms
with his own mortality.
was rolling as Scott read from a prepared script. The things
he was being forced to say made him want to wretch. It was a
carefully woven tale of the mutual respect between the
kidnappers and their hostages. It depicted the situation as
being one where the three Tracy sons were being treated as
guests at a resort, with free run of the facilities and all
the sustenance they could hold. It ended with instructions on
where to leave the huge ransom. The drop was to be at the base
of the Twelve Apostles Rock formation along The Great Ocean
Road, south of Melbourne. The satchel was to be left
underwater in an airtight compartment, affixed to the rock so
that it wouldn't be pulled out to sea by the strong ocean
currents. As soon as the contents were retrieved and verified,
it was vowed that a time and place for the release of Jeff
Tracy's sons would be determined. He was warned once again
against involving the authorities and advised to wait for
was left now was for Scott to add his own personal remarks so
the whole commentary would appear more authentic to his
family. Unseen in the background were several armed men with
their weapons at the ready in case he decided to try any
tricks or changed his mind about cooperating. The time and
date stamp on the equipment was set for Zulu time in
accordance with the world-wide atomic clock, so there could be
no doubt as to when the recording was made. The field
commander of International Rescue set his jaw, looked straight
into the camera and began his ad-lib.
really, I don't want you to worry unnecessarily. The boys and
I are just fine. There's been no harsh treatment of any kind
and I'm sure if you cooperate with this gentleman, he
will do the honorable thing and release us. I have no reason
to think that we won't soon be the 'FABulous Five,' together
all over again. We all love and miss you..." He paused as his
voice began to break..."See you soon."
gave a throat cutting motion and the camera was turned off.
good, my young friend. You have ensured the safety of your
mean you'll be getting John some medical attention?" he asked
think you and Alan are doing a fine job of that on your own. I
simply meant that he wouldn't be injured further. Where did
you receive your first-aid training?"
well, once the ransom has been paid, the balance of your
outstanding debt to me will be due. Until then, you will
remain here with me on the upper level, where I can keep an
eye on you."
reached for the phone and flipped it open with shaking hands,
both his boys eyeing him anxiously. After what seemed like an
eternity, he spoke into it.
on the other end sounded so matter of fact, he could have been
calling to sell Jeff a magazine subscription.
hello there, Mr. National Hero/Ex-Astronaut. I'm not
interrupting anything, am I?"
you dispense with the pleasantries, you son of a bitch, and
get to the point."
Jefferson, let's not make this personal. I am only a
replied through gritted teeth. "I know what you are,
now I want to know what you've done with my sons!"
is so, you might start showing me a little more respect. After
all they will only live as long as I deem necessary."
me where to leave the money."
shall do better than that. I will let one of your own children
tell you. He's your eldest, I believe, is he not?"
Gordon glanced at each other briefly and Virgil put the great
ship on autopilot.
raced to be with their father, dreading what the message might
vidscreen on the phone was activated and they saw Scott as he
sat alone in front of the camera. Virgil ran a hand through
his hair and squeezed Jeff's shoulder tightly. As the
recording went on, Gordon's jaw became set in stone. He felt a
great anger rising up in him, anger for what his family was
being forced to endure and anger at the fact that this asshole
didn't even know he had pretty much shut International Rescue
down, preventing them from saving the lives of God knows how
many innocent people just for the sake of his own personal
wealth. The usually jovial brother, who was able to find a
positive spin on almost anything, was fast sinking into the
dark depths of hatred.
watched, wordlessly, not wanting to miss a single detail. They
could tell that Scott's dialogue had been scripted and
wondered what the kidnappers had threatened him with to force
his hand in reciting this fabrication on camera. Their fear
for the safety of the two younger Tracys suddenly increased
ten-fold. They knew that Alan and John must have been used
against Scott to gain his cooperation.
the part where the eldest sibling got to add his personal
comments to them. Jeff's shoulders sagged as his son spoke the
words fabulous and five. They had long ago found
it necessary to set up code words to be used in situations
such as this when they could not communicate with each other
directly. 'Fabulous' meant just the opposite of its
true definition. They were being told that someone was gravely
injured. 'Five' confirmed that the person injured was
John. The Tracy patriarch put his head in his hands and Virgil
gently took the phone from him as he put an arm around his
shoulders in empathy.
streaming video ended, the faceless voice returned to taunt
love to continue this repartee, my dear Jeff, but I have
more pressing matters at hand. You now have twenty-two
connection was severed and the three Tracy men were left to
ponder their options.
his decision. He wasn't going to just sit there and wait for
the end to come. If he was going to go down, he would go down
fighting. He took a long, lingering look over at his brother
John, who was now comatose and moaning softly.
you out of here, Johnny, I swear!"
He sat by
the door and waited, figuring that someone had to come down
that corridor sooner or later, either to bring them food,
or...he didn't really want to think about the or.
Suddenly, he heard a creaking sound, followed by what sounded
like a single set of boot-clad footsteps. Good, it sounds
like he's alone. He braced himself behind the door and
waited, figuring this would probably be the only chance he'd
get. The footsteps became louder and Alan braced himself as
the door latch released. It slowly opened and he flattened
himself behind it as much as he could. As the man who had
entered through it cleared the door, the young astronaut went
for his ankles, tackling him as a defensive lineman would the
starting quarterback. They struggled briefly before Alan
grabbed for his weapon. As both men rolled on top of it, the
gun went off...
how long before we land in Sydney?"
about another 10 minutes, Father. We passed over into
Australian airspace about five minutes ago."
Well, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to change into
something other than the guise of Jeff Tracy."
stood up to leave, his surroundings began to spin out of
control. He gasped and caught himself on the back of his seat.
went to him and supported him until he seemed able to remain
on his feet.
you okay? What is it?"
"It's...nothing I'm...I'm fine. You can let go of me now."
wasn't so sure. He realized just how frail his father appeared
at the moment and, of all the words that had ever been used to
describe Jeff Tracy, frail was usually nowhere to be found.
you need to take it easy, you've been under a lot of stress."
Virgil, I'm...I'm going down to the equipment locker. Let me
know when I need to strap in for landing."
wanting to aggravate his father any further, the second eldest
Tracy son relented. "Okay, sure, Dad, sure."
watched as he entered the elevator down to the lower levels of
Thunderbird Two, their faces reflecting more than a modicum of
why did Dad want to bring Two along, anyway? We could have
gotten there much faster in One."
that's practical, sensible Jeff Tracy for ya. He figured that
since we had a bit of time, we could take Two along and give
her a proper shakedown."
sensing that his brother was leaving something unsaid, Gordon
prompted him to go on.
has more fire power in case we get into a tight spot and need
to use it."
in case Dad decides to blow the bastards to kingdom come."
like that. And then there's the fact that we have a fully
equipped sick bay on board in case..."
glanced sharply over at his brother, as the words died on
Virgil's lips. Unspoken thoughts crowded the air between them
as each man fought the unbidden images that threatened to
overwhelm their psyches. Finally, Gordon broke the awkward
silence with a Tracy trademarked change of subject.
If he keeps trying to hold everything together for our sake,
it's going to backfire on him. He's just gonna explode from
Gordo, I know. But you know how stubborn he can be, doesn't
like to admit that anything gets to him."
else do we know like that?"
smiled a sad smile and swallowed hard.
walked over to his older brother and laid a hand on his
shoulder. "Virgil, I..." He wasn't able to continue.
said nothing but, without looking at him, placed his hand over
Gordon's. The older brother closed his eyes briefly before
flipping a switch on the control panel and speaking into it.
"Father, prepare for landing..."
comatose man lying on the floor in a puddle of blood flinched
as the deafening noise temporarily roused him. Everything
around him seemed hazy and as he looked into the mist, a face
appeared. It was unfamiliar, somehow threatening. He couldn't
move, couldn't speak. He was completely helpless, vulnerable.
He blinked, but the face remained. Something registered in his
foggy brain. His brother, the door creaking open. 'Al?'
Then, the noise. 'No-o-o!' The figure loomed over him,
grinning evilly and placing a hand firmly on his wounded leg.
have screamed but didn't have the strength. All that he could
manage was a gut-wrenching whimper. His field of vision had
started to narrow as his brain threatened to shut down once
more. Then he felt it, a movement, like when Scott had
bandaged his thigh. He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed
shut. There was a moment of confusion and then he knew what
the movement was. The man was removing the tourniquet, in
effect, taking his life. He heard the man talking to him,
describing how horrible bleeding to death would be. It also
occurred to him that this man had probably already murdered
his baby brother. In a moment of clarity, he looked the man in
the eyes, summoned all the fortitude he had in him, and spat
squarely in his face. It was only then that John Tracy finally
allowed himself to give up the struggle.
gently sat Thunderbird Two down in a remote area of Port
Campbell National Park, his father was ending the conversation
he was having on the Vid-Sat.
Penny. We'll see you then...and Penny?"
for all your help in getting that wire transfer expedited."
course, Jeff. I'd do anything to help, you know that. I've
grown rather fond of those boys of yours."
trying to be upbeat but her voice was wavering and Jeff could
tell that she was desperately trying not to break down while
she was speaking with him. He tried to spare her that by
ending the conversation as quickly as possible.
you are and I know they feel the same about you. I'll let you
know when the 'package' has been received."
Jeff. Really, I do wish you'd let me bring it to you myself."
appreciate the offer, Penny, I really do, but I expect
whatever's going to happen to be long over by the time you'd
be able to get here."
least my prayers are with you, Jeff. Keep me posted on the
situation and please... take care."
a long pause as Jeff felt the need to say more, but in the
end, could only sign off.
he? He should have been back by now."
know, sir. No one's heard from him in at least an hour."
man wheeled on him. "What do you mean you don't know? What the
hell am I paying you for?"
sorry, sir. I'll go and speak with the other guards. He was
only to check on the status of the hostages and then report
back, nothing more."
And when you find him, I want him brought to me immediately."
contingent of men was assigned to search the lower levels of
the network and before long, they discovered the reason for
the other operative's tardiness. The door to the small room
where the Tracys were being held was kicked open and the man
assigned to lead the search gasped at what lay before him, not
at the sheer horror of the scene so much as because he knew
what lie ahead for the wayward operative.
Back up on
the level where Scott remained with "The Boss," the eldest
brother was getting impatient, wanting to know what was going
on and whether or not his brothers were being treated well.
they are, Scott, and so long as you continue to cooperate,
they will continue to be."
don't know what else you want from me. I've done everything
time, my young friend, in due time."
of dread had begun to grow in the pit of Scott's stomach. His
intuition told him something was not right but what could he
do about it? He didn't even have a weapon and if he tried
anything at all, it would mean the demise of a good portion of
his family. He had never felt so helpless in all his life.
Please, Dad...please get here. They need you...I
twilight set over the great Southern Ocean, Gordon sat down
next to his father, who was perched upon a sand dune. Neither
man spoke for a time, each lost in his own thoughts as they
watched Virgil pacing up and down along the shoreline.
Earlier, he had been about to jump out of his skin and the
sound of the sea had always had a calming affect. It made all
of them feel at home whenever they were far away from their
island but even with all the beauty surrounding the rock
formation that was a marvel of nature, Scott's closest sibling
could not shake the visions he'd been having, visions
indicative of the fact that they might already be too late. He
did not share them with Jeff or Gordon as they had already had
too much time to think about what might be happening to his
three brothers. His green lady had been carefully camouflaged
in order to keep up appearances. She couldn't be flown in the
actual rescue attempt, because if they were dealing
with professionals as they believed, she'd have shown up on
their radar screens.
As far as
anyone close by knew, they were just tourists enjoying a quiet
moment, the gentle breeze surrounding them. Gordon finally
looked at his father and asked the question for what he hoped
was not the umpteenth time.
longer before they arrive, Dad?"
you before, Gordon, shortly before sunrise."
they'll be bringing the 'other' package as well?"
his mouth to speak, but there just wasn't anything to say.
Unable to control his emotions any longer, he turned his back
to his father and put his face in his hands. He made no sound
but Jeff could see his body trembling. He gently placed his
arms around his fourth son and looked up to see Virgil
standing before him. He motioned for him to come near and
embraced both of his children securely. It was not a moment
that happened often in the Tracy family, but right now, it was
a moment all three desperately needed.
the more than adequate accommodations in Thunderbird Two, they
opted to keep their all night vigil on the beach as sleep was
something they couldn't succumb to until this hellish
situation was at an end. Jeff checked his chronometer.
be arriving any time now."
As if on
cue, Gordon, who was acting as lookout, signaled that someone
was arriving on the beach. All three hurriedly shimmied down
the dunes to meet the vessel carrying their contact, with
Virgil tripping and falling ass over tea kettle in his rush to
Tracy brother got to his feet and brushed the sand off
Gordo. I'm fine."
down to the shore line to greet the hydrofoil as it made its
way onto the beach. After it had come to a halt, a lone figure
jumped down off the pontoons onto the sand below and removed
his diving hood. A strong face with a military issue, flat-top
haircut greeted them, his hand outstretched.
Zero-Zero Seven at your service, Mr. Tracy."
siblings exchanged a look.
kidding, right? You're agent Double 'O' Seven?"
same..." He looked the dark-haired Tracy up and down. "Virgil,
that's right." Virgil grinned and also extended his hand. "Bet
I'm the first one to ever ask you that, uh...?"
the name. Pleased to meetcha. Wish it was under better
circumstances." His handshake was firm and friendly.
Deke, believe me."
red-head. You must be Gordon."
grinned and shook the man's hand in turn. "Yeah, I must be,
it's the only explanation."
boys, let's get down to business," the elder Tracy
interjected. "Where's the satchel?"
jumped up and grabbed the thin piece of rope that he'd
strategically thrown over the side before disembarking, and
pulled the attached sack down to show them.
here, sir, along with the 'enhancements.' "
know what to do, I've briefed the boys, now let's get to
planted the satchel containing the ransom on the base at the
Southern end of the eleventh 'Apostle' as instructed. When he
was finished, he gathered up his equipment and walked towards
the craft. As he approached it, he began feeling strange and
the closer he got, the worse he felt. Breathing was becoming
difficult and he hesitated before boarding the refurbished
Zytiron model hover ship, opting instead to report to his
father from where he stood.
Dad. Where's the 'other' package?"
looking at it, son."
glanced around him, but still didn't get it. "What do you
in here and I'll show you."
didn't move a muscle.
haunted look in Gordon's eyes confused Jeff for a moment, and
then he noticed his son closely examining their
transportation. Virgil noticed it too and started to walk
towards him. Jeff raised a hand to stop him, knowing that this
was something Gordon had to do on his own. They had all
forgotten just how recent his hydrofoil crash had been, and in
a similarly designed ship as well.
made his way into the craft, running his hands over her lines
and glancing around to determine how well outfitted she was.
Jeff and Virgil watched him closely as they stood by, silently
encouraging him to overcome the trauma that had left as many
emotional scars as it had physical.
smiled warmly. "This is no ordinary hydrofoil, Mate. She's got
a few surprises in 'er."
proceeded to demonstrate the various accoutrements, including,
but not limited to rocket launchers, a rapid fire machine
laser turret, and stores of various types of deadly ammo. Just
the thing for an all out raid on a hideout.
whistled his approval and grinned from ear to ear for the
first time since their ordeal had begun.
that's not all." Deke continued. With her reactor driven
turbines, she'll get us there before the sun comes up."
distraction worked. The aquanaut even seemed intrigued.
question here." Gordon ventured. "Where exactly is there?"
elaborated. Our Sydney bureau has gotten a lead on where the
boys might have been taken. I didn't want to tell you until I
Dad?" Gordon asked anxiously.
It's the perfect base of operations for the type of job
they're pulling. Just remote enough to not draw any undue
on the faces of Jeff's sons was evident as this was the first
lead they had received and it sounded like a damned good one.
luck, we should arrive there before they've even had a chance
to retrieve the satchel, much less verify the contents."
Gordon said, the spark back in his demeanor. "What are we
waiting for?" and reached out to push a harmless looking red
button. But before he could, three voices wailed on him in
unison, causing him to pull his arm back sharply.
exhaustive search, the fleeing fugitive was finally
apprehended. His hands were bound and his legs chained
together as his former comrades dragged him along, each step
taking him closer to his fate. Their employer was waiting as
the prisoner was presented to him and then roughly thrown at
please! It was an accident; I beg of you, do not punish me!"
leader looked disgustedly to the man on the floor before him.
please! I have done nothing wrong!"
haven't you? I suppose that two of my three hostages ending up
on the brink of death was entirely their idea."
The younger one...he-he attacked me and the other...he was
trying to help him. I was just defending myself."
standing just shook his head, knowing that this former
associate was making a pathetic attempt at saving his own
If you wish to escape the full brunt of my wrath, you will get
whimpered and cowered as he stood, apologizing profusely for
I know, we all make mistakes from time to time..."
prisoner appeared to become visibly relieved, believing that
his captor was now beginning to sympathize with his plight.
not at the cost of ten billion dollars!"
blink of an eye, a gun was raised, aimed at a spot between the
man's eyes and fired. He was dead before he hit the ground.
rubbish out of my sight...fool!"
almost 3-hour trip across the Southern Ocean at more than
twice the normal speed for a hovercraft, the landing party had
come ashore in Tasmania, all of them ready to take on the
combined armies of the world. They had come the long way
around, avoiding the Bass Strait and so being less likely to
be noticed. Thanks to the fact that microdot transmitters, or
'MTRs' as Brains called them, had been inserted onto some
random bills contained in the satchel, the ransom money would
lead them straight to their quarry. They would be able to find
the remaining three Tracy brothers and rescue them before the
louts would even have finished counting it. They only hoped
they wouldn't be too late.
intelligence Jeff had received had also mentioned the fact
that there was some unusual activity occurring about ten miles
in from the coast, traveling southeast from their current
position. There seemed to be unusual structures, perhaps used
as arsenals, but no apparent living quarters of any kind. Yet,
the men were there. The remote satellite feed from the
now-automated Thunderbird Five had seemed to confirm that.
Where then, he wondered, did they retire to when their shift
of duty was over? Traveling to the city was not the smartest
choice when you wanted to make sure no one could follow you
back. Besides, their options for transportation appeared to be
a bit limited.
have the scanner, Virgil?"
Deke, right here."
we're ready. Let's get undercover somewhere. After all, we
don't want anyone spotting us as they approach the beach. By
my calculations, they should be about two hours behind us, Mr.
do we know they're coming by watercraft?" Virgil wondered.
the Intel suggests no aircraft of any sort in this vicinity."
here's what we're going to do." Jeff began. I've had the
opportunity to study a little bit about the terrain in this
area. It's full of national parks and forests. We can travel
inland along the Arthur River in the general direction of
do we know how many of them there are?"
to tell from the satellite feed, Gordon. We'll just have to be
ready for anything. Since we have a bit of a wait, there's
plenty of room in the back of the craft if you boys want to
catch a short nap along the way. You're going to need to be on
full alert status once we arrive and have pinpointed the
location." Before Virgil and Gordon could mount their
protests, he added with conviction, "And that's an order."
holding cell, Scott heard the sound of gunfire reverberating
down the hallway. He stiffened suddenly, his heart racing.
Someone had, in all likelihood, just been killed, but who?
door suddenly swung open and one of the men who had abducted
presence is required, Tracy."
this some kind of execution he was being led to? Steeling
himself to face whatever would befall him...until he could
figure a way out of it...he got up and went with the
operative, who had another dart gun pointed at his neck.
gun. They obviously don't want to kill me...yet.
you taking me?"
was the barrel of the gun being pressed firmly into his neck
causing him to wince. He refrained, for the time being, from
asking any more questions.
taken through another detour in the network, this time ending
up in a room resembling the operating theater of a hospital. A
slow chill began to crawl its way up his spine and his
breathing became shallow and labored.
thundering voice replied to him from up above. "Ah, there you
are, my dear Scott. Welcome!"
going on? I want to see my brothers...NOW!"
the butt of the gun land heavily on the back of his neck. The
blow left him temporarily dazed as he fell down on all fours.
don't! He must not be injured!"
turned to his boss to do some damage control. "I-I am
very sorry, Doctor. Perhaps I did not make it clear to my
staff that he was not to be harmed. I assure you, it will not
that it doesn't."
turned back to his hostage. "Good news, Scott. You are being
given a rare opportunity to change the face of humanity. And,
in doing so, your debt to me will be paid in full."
struggling to get back on his feet as he rubbed his throbbing
neck. "What the hell are you talking about?"
'doctor' painted him a picture. "Through the use of your
antibodies, we hope to manufacture a universal serum that will
eradicate virtually all of the more serious, chronic diseases
of our time. "
You want my blood?"
he got was a condescending chuckle.
nothing quite so simple I'm afraid, my young friend. See, we
feel that in order to reach maximum effectiveness, the
antibodies must be derived from cytokines that have been
channeled directly through the originating organs after they
have been placed into another subject's body. Of course, the
original organs of the host will need to be removed in order
for the exchange to take place."
just looked at him and smiled sickeningly.
eyes widened to reflect the revulsion he felt as the identity
of the host became clear to him. "Are you out of your fucking
mind! Do you really expect me to agree to participate in
something as sick as...?"
of 'The Boss' once again thundered at him from above.
Scott. Is that any way to act after the favors I've granted
you? You have embarrassed me in front of my employer."
with your employer! Where are my brothers? What's happened to
makes you think that anything has happened to them?"
one thing, you haven't told me whether or not the ransom has
been paid yet, you won't tell me anything about Alan and John
and you haven't mentioned the terms of our release."
I should have guessed that you would not be placated without
proof of their wellbeing."
and then paced about, wishing to draw out Scott's moment of
agony. Finally, he turned and peered down at the intense young
sorry to tell you that young Alan has met with a terrible
accident and as a result, John's condition has worsened."
What have you done to them...? TELL ME!"
afraid that one of my associates, a particularly loathsome
creature, apparently overstepped his authority. He shot your
brother Alan and caused John to lose an excessive amount of
blood. But I assure you, he has been punished for his actions.
I think I can safely say that he will never disobey another
face grew red with barely contained fury as the focus
temporarily shifted away from his own plight.
you with my bare hands, you fucking lunatic! If they die..."
you would, but I'm afraid that will not be possible, for we
are on a tight schedule and the doctor must be allowed to
Tracy brother desperately prayed that somehow he had become a
victim of horror movie overkill and that all of this was just
the product of his own deranged imagination. How could things
have gone from him and his brothers wanting to take a little
time away...to this? His eyes darted around wildly
until he spotted the exit and then vaulted clear across the
operating table to reach it.
made it that far, though, as five pairs of hands roughly
dragged him to the floor. He struggled with everything he had,
but eventually, they managed to immobilize him. The five men
hauled him up and carried him back to the table, where they
placed his arms and legs in tight restraints. A strap was also
placed around his head to anchor it down. He could see the
doctor, who reminded him very much of one named
'Frankenstein,' hovering above him, fondling what looked to be
a shiny new surgical instrument as he regarded his subject
Frankenstein' was obviously enjoying himself and there was no
mistaking the venom in his words. "Don't worry, Scott. I'll be
mask was then placed over his face, muffling any further
protests. He panicked at the hissing sound emitting from it,
but his resolve was already beginning to fade. He was vaguely
aware that his clothes were being cut away as the
consciousness continued to ooze out of him and the thought
that he'd never see his family again prompted the tears that
were now making their salty tracks down his face. God, I'm
sorry, Father! I've failed you... I've failed them...HELP...!
then he was gone, descended down into the depths of grateful
'doctor' casually turned to his assisting surgeon, handing him
the instrument. "Perhaps you would care to make the first
the depths he rose...rather abruptly. D-O-ON'T! The scream was
shrill enough to shatter both the Polar ice caps.
up, sharply, his heart about to rocket out of his chest.
Bathed in cold sweat and shivering violently, he took in his
surroundings, hesitating for a moment, confused and trying to
shake off the vision, the vision of his closest brother and
best friend lying unmoving on a clinical table, about to be
dissected like some kind of lab rat. But Scott wasn't there.
His head snapped around, back and forth in an attempt to
locate him As he pondered his brother's whereabouts, he also
began to wonder if anyone had overheard him. The confusion
soon began to dissipate. He blinked until his eyes could focus
without the aid of light. Yes, he remembered now. He knew
exactly where he was. As he moved to get up, he came to the
decision that he wouldn't be getting any more sleep tonight
and maybe his time would be better spent on other pursuits...
about an hour and fifty minutes into their river expedition to
the South Arthur Forest when the scanner alerted them to the
fact that someone else had arrived on the Northwestern shore
of the island. Gordon and Virgil had roused themselves and
were now on full alert status, ready to take on whatever lie
ahead in the rain and eucalypt forests. The signal became
steadier, indicating that something was keeping pace with
them. They knew they had to arrive in plenty of time to make
sure that whoever was behind them did not become aware of
their presence. Jeff, who had not opted to take a rest break,
was at the bow of the hovercraft, discussing with Deke what
the plan of action would be once they arrived.
Virgil. It appears our 'guides' have arrived. All we need to
do now is make ourselves scarce until they lead us to where
they are holding your brothers."
why it is that no signs of life could be found in any of the
regarded him for a moment and then it was as if the whole of
the universe had imploded.
don't suppose...my God, you don't think...? Dad, what if
they've taken them underground?"
men gaped at him, perplexed as to why they hadn't thought of
that before. Jeff chuckled, the hope now evident in him and
clapped a hand on his auburn haired son's shoulder. Virgil
looked like he was going to kiss him.
son, what would we do without you?"
leaned over and whispered into his father's ear, just loud
enough for his older brother to hear. "Don't ever ask Scott
that, because, given the options..." He trailed off and winked
at Virgil, doing his part to lighten the mood.
grinned at him thankfully. Even with all the pain he'd had to
endure in his own life, Gordon could always be counted on to
find the humor in a seemingly hopeless situation.
smirked, shaking his head and remembering that these people
were more than part of the greatest rescue organization in the
world. They were also a close, loving family and he wondered
how he would be holding up right about now if he'd been placed
in the same position. Somehow, he doubted he'd have the
fortitude to get through it. He already respected his boss,
Jeff Tracy, but had found a new admiration for the family
known to the world as International Rescue.
broke off into an estuary and carried them to an area of
undergrowth that looked like perfect cover not only for them
but for their vessel as well. They all knew the hardest part
would be the waiting. But their only chance of finding the
rest of their family alive was to let the activity around the
camp progress normally until someone could lead them directly
to the holding area. If the kidnappers should be alerted
prematurely to their presence, it could spell certain death
for Scott, John and Alan.
watching the scanner and keeping the others advised as to the
distance traveled by the men with the money satchel. As they
drew ever closer, his heartbeat and respiration rose steadily
seemed, at last, that their opponents were nearly upon them,
Virgil nodded to his father, who responded back in kind, and
proceeded to make an adjustment to the instrument. As he did
so, the faint blipping sound emitting from it changed to one
reminiscent of that made by the flying saucers in an old
television program about UFOs that Virgil had seen as a child.
Deke watched him, his curiosity piqued.
you set it to do now, mate?"
there really is an underground structure as we suspect, we
need to look for both bio signs and heat sources below the
surface. It's one of Brains' modifications and he's really
rather proud of it. He calls it the 'UltraScan.'
see. Sort of like the biomechanical sonar arrays I use in my
other line of work, only for use under the earth's surface."
exactly is it that you do, Deke? I mean, when you're not
participating in clandestine operations and espionage." Gordon
an oceanographer, 'ave been for about 20 years on now."
explains the hydrofoil, but what about the fire power?"
whole face lit up with an appreciative smile. "If we ever get
out of this mess alive, you and I need to talk."
very aware of Gordon's background as both an aquanaut and an
Olympic swimmer. "Sure...love to." And then as an afterthought
added "Don't worry, if your brothers are anywhere within a
hundred miles of here, we'll damn well get 'em out!"
hope you're right." He and Virgil exchanged a look that did
not go unnoticed by their father.
right, enough of that. If we're going to help your brothers, I
don't want to hear any more gloom and doom. If they're here,
we'll find them. Now, any luck with your scan, Virgil?"
I can...wait! There it is! It seems to be an underground
tunnel of sorts leading to..." His voice trailed off.
flinched involuntarily at the repeated use by Gordon of the
nickname given to him by Scott.
There looks to be an underground bunker down there surrounded
by more tunnels. It's like a maze with all the twists and
turns in the network. If the guys aren't in the bunker, it
would be virtually impossible to locate them on our own just
by trying to follow the system around."
why we've got our ace in the hole, Virgil." Jeff answered.
"And, from your last update, any minute now it will be time to
play our hand."
blearily opened his eyes. It would have been a gross
understatement to say he felt like he wasn't all there. When
he tried to move, however, he was reminded otherwise as a
white hot bolt of agony shot through his left side. His
surroundings began to swim about him and he fought down the
bile that was threatening to rise up from within his parched
throat. He made an effort to turn his head and looked around
him as his eyes tried to focus on something. When they finally
did, he let out a gasp as they fell upon the still figure in
the bed next to him.
Johnny, can you hear me? It's Alan." There was no response
from his older brother who, except for the heart monitor and
blood filled IV bags, now seemed to be lying in state. His
face was deathly pale and although his chest appeared to be
rising and falling in a steady rhythm, one would be
hard-pressed to actually be able to see it.
Johnny. What have they done to you? This wasn't supposed to
happen. For once, we were just supposed to be able to relax,
to let loose a little without having to constantly be on our
guard. They won't let us, though. They just won't leave us
alone! Oh, God, please say something. Don't leave me here
alone. I need you, John!"
response though, was the continued beeping of the heart
monitor. Alan, unable to move any other part of his body, laid
his head back down and squeezed his eyes shut as the
floodgates of despair finally overflowed and ran down his
cheeks. He had never felt so completely alone in his life. He
had no idea what was happening to Scott and feared that he may
already be lost to them. The powers that be had apparently
forsaken them and even though he tried to tell himself that
his father would eventually find them and that this nightmare
would soon be over, he was beginning to have trouble believing
his own mantra. Having already lost his sense of day and time,
he eventually began to lose his sense of self as well.
Father. It looks like the cards have been dealt. Our 'friends'
have arrived. We should probably leave the skimmer behind and
get a little closer to where we need to be."
Virgil. We'll travel in pairs, you and Deke and Gordon and
myself. That way, if anyone gets the drop on us..."
all be captured." finished Gordon.
but I don't want you both going off half-cocked. We'll do this
correctly and only on my order. Is that understood?"
He got a
simultaneous "Yes, sir!" from his second and fourth offspring.
glanced over at his father, who suddenly looked much older
than his years, and realized just what the patriarch of the
Tracy family was getting at. Jefferson Tracy would not lose
another of his children. Though he was uncertain of getting
his other three sons back alive, he was downright assured of
this one fact, he would die before he lost Virgil or Gordon.
The auburn-haired son suddenly saw his father in a different
light. Everyone knew the burden of the events of the past
hours had been almost unbearable for him, but now Gordon saw
something different in his expression. It was cold,
deceptively calm. It was the expression of a man who had made
a decision and the ramifications of that decision were enough
to make those auburn hairs stand up on the back of Gordon's
neck. Suddenly, all he could feel for their adversaries was a
sense of pity, knowing that they had indeed, messed with the
to admire how the Tracys had banded together in this time of
extreme crisis. He remembered growing up with only two other
siblings and they couldn't even agree on how to organize a
birthday party, much less a surprise attack in the jungle.
Everyone grabbed any equipment they thought they might need
and could strap to their backs. As they paired off and headed
into the jungle, they could hear the sound of approaching
atomic powered, axial flow turbine engines and they were
winding down, signaling the arrival of the henchmen with the
Deke positioned themselves just behind the munitions
structure, facing west. Virgil heard a low hum and deduced
from the sound that it must be a huge ventilation system of
some sort, geared to pump as much fresh air as possible down
into the lower levels of the network. Deke agreed and together
they waited for the word from Jeff and Gordon on what their
next move should be. Deke noticed Virgil absentmindedly
staring at his comm. link.
snapped back into reality, sighing resignedly.
fine. I was just wondering what's keeping Dad? We should have
heard from him by now."
easy, Virgil. I'm sure they're a little busy tracking our
friends right now. They'll let us know as soon as they have
who was sitting down on the ground with his knees bent, placed
his forearms across them, closed his eyes and laid his head
down, seeming to try and gather strength from within. Deke
regarded him for a moment before he spoke.
close, aren't you?"
slowly raised his head at the query. "What?"
tell, you guys are close."
we are, it would be impossible for us all to work so well
together if we didn't trust each other implicitly."
that's not what I mean. I was talking about you and your older
I...yeah, I guess we are." He smiled slightly. "It's been that
way ever since we were kids. What made you say that?"
something about the look on your face every time your dad
mentions his name, the 'I've lost my best friend' look."
face reddened a bit. "Well, we've just always been there for
each other through thick and thin, even when our mom died."
I-I didn't mean to stir up the past."
it's okay, really. You've given me something else to focus
smiled sympathetically and laid a hand on Virgil's shoulder.
That's when the comm. link flashed and vibrated. Virgil
swiftly answered the call.
we've got a lead. Now listen to me, son. I want you and Deke
to move to the Southern end of the compound. There, you'll see
a small aperture rising just above ground level. It's
well-camouflaged but we saw the occupants of the boat that
just arrived use a remote device of some sort to clear the
brush away and open the hatch. You just need to find a way to
bypass the security protocols. Good luck!"
communication ended but Virgil and Deke hadn't taken their
eyes off the wrist chronometer. Virgil swallowed hard.
Gordon kept a watchful eye from their vantage point to the
East. They could see Deke and Virgil making their way towards
their objective. Gordon handed the field visor over to his
father and pointed out what may have proven to be an obstacle.
there, Father, the two guards."
could be a problem if..."
he could finish, his second eldest had already incapacitated
the first man while IR's top operative "down under" had made
short work of his partner.
go, guys!" Gordon quietly cheered.
Virgil donned their victims' clothing and weapons. Upon
reaching the entrance to the chasm below, they began
dismantling the items they carried on their backs and rummaged
through them until they came across what they were looking
for. Deke held up a chunk of Brains' version of a plastic
explosive. It packed a slightly more powerful punch.
maybe we're approaching this all wrong." Virgil remarked.
instead of sneaking around like we're doing, what say we just
hit this head on?"
afraid I don't follow you."
we have disguises, right?"
were to cause a distraction of some sort, what's to stop us
from just sneaking down there once they all come up to the
surface to check on things?"
dad said we were to wait for his orders. They haven't gotten a
clear idea on where the signal from the microchips is headed
but if we just wait around here on the surface, we may miss
our chance at getting the upper hand."
were told..." Virgil cut him off.
Deke. Those are my brothers down there and I'm not going to
waste any more time debating the issue. Now, are you with me
struggle for a decision was evident on Deke's face, but in the
end, he relented.
think I'm going to stay up here just so's your old man can
ream me out for lettin' his baby boy go off alone? No fuckin'
smiled broadly and replied in his best Aussie accent.
then, Mate. What the hell are we waitin' for?"
proceeded to relieve Deke of the explosive and molded some
around the rim of the hatch. Satisfied with his handiwork,
Virgil pulled out the electronic detonator.
dove for the ground as the hatch was blown off and traveled
almost straight up into the air. Deke was impressed.
Great stuff to 'ave around, that."
flinched as Virgil's wrist comm. again came to life, a live
feed of his father's image on its face.
what the hell is going on down there! We'd just picked up the
signal again about 4 levels down and I was going to call you
when I heard an explosion."
straightened up and braced himself for a confrontation.
"Nothing, Father. We're fine. I've decided that we shouldn't
wait any longer, so I've blown the hatch and now we're going
what! Just what the hell do you think you're doing,
replying, Virgil had decided that if he and Deke were going to
make a move, it had to be now or they would face being
surrounded by the entire compliment of the encampment. In
between the ensuing commotion and incurring his father's
wrath, Virgil grabbed Deke and disappeared down the rabbit
of expletives escaped from Jeff's lips as he realized that
Virgil had cut the communication. He turned to the young
aquanaut, whose face reflected his own disbelief at the
Gordon, when I get my hands on that brother of yours..."
when this is over, Dad, I'll help you kick his ass. Right now
though, I'd feel better if we just went along for the ride."
right; at least we can back him up. He can't die before I have
the chance to kill him first."
a double take at his father's words but obediently followed
him into the melee.
Deke made their way down to the lower levels while trying to
avoid everyone else on their way up to the surface. They made
steady progress by heading in the direction they saw everyone
else coming from. No one gave them a second look, thinking
they were just the relief crew. As they rounded the bend in
one section of the maze, they found they were at an impasse.
There was nothing to suggest in which direction they should go
as they now had a choice of three different tunnels to use.
Virgil's shoulders slumped dejectedly. There were so close, he
could feel it. But, which way? He received another call on the
comm. link and this time, it was Gordon to the rescue.
Father and I are just about fifty yards behind you. The signal
from the chip is getting stronger so we must be headed in the
right direction. From what I can see, you just need to turn
around and go back the way you came until you come upon the
entrance to the fourth level. They've got some very strange
looking equipment down there, along with a couple of offices,
which is where I'm guessing the money is."
Gordo! I owe you one."
it. It's all just part of the service."
could hear the grin in his younger brother's voice and it
supplied a bit of warmth for a place inside him that had been
very cold for the past day. With renewed hope, he turned and
led Deke back the way they had come, sticking to a path along
the wall as they went.
the other paths to the lower levels involved the use of either
an elevator or a staircase, the entrance to the fourth level
was actually a chute containing a slide. Deke insisted on
being the first to go down it being that part of his job
involved protecting his benefactor, along with all the members
of International Rescue's 'core' group. Once he signaled that
the coast was clear, he looked up from the bottom of the slide
and motioned for Virgil to follow him. Before doing so, Virgil
checked his laser pistol to make sure the charge was at
down on the fourth level. Where to now, Gordon?"
should be in a small room that opens out into a passageway.
Take a left as you leave the room and keep going until I tell
you to stop. The signal is getting a bit erratic, as if
someone is locking the money up into a vault or a safe where
the receiver can't penetrate.
as they were told, and after they had traveled about thirty
five feet, Gordon signaled for them to stop. "Guys, wait! The
signal, you're right on top of it. Look to your left. That's
where the money is and there's someone in there with it."
Virgil exchanged a look. "The men's room?" Virgil asked.
can see the echo of some fixtures in there on the scanner.
Must be a wall safe."
let's hope so." Deke responded.
the knob but the door was locked. While he stood off to the
side, both as protection from any would-be gun fire and also
as cover for his fellow operative, Virgil proceeded to kick
the door in. They were not prepared for the sight that greeted
the urinal, in mid-piss, stood a tall gentleman who might have
also been considered imposing had it not been for the
compromising position he had been discovered in. Contained in
the wall in front of him, at eye level, was a small safe with
a combination lock. The door was opened, revealing a rather
large store of cash. He had taken some of it out and was
fingering the treasury notes in his hand as if they were the
opulent curves of a lover. The unsolicited intrusion had taken
him completely by surprise, his stance becoming statue-like.
said nothing to their captive, but kept him steady in his
sights as he lifted his chronometer to his lips.
we've found the location of the ransom money and the person to
whom it was delivered. Any luck finding the guys?" Had his
wrist comm. been a living entity, he would have sworn it was
mocking him with its ensuing silence.
closed his eyes and after taking a deep breath to quell his
rising panic, tried again.
can you hear me? Father, please answer."
couple of moments that to Virgil passed like hours, he was
finally rewarded with a reply.
son. Yes, we heard you; we were both just a little busy. We've
located Alan and John and although I can't say they are both
okay, they are still alive."
breath all but left him and he doubled over in relief, his
hands placed just above his knees. Deke, who also had his gun
drawn, took over guard duty while at the same time grabbing
Virgil's forearm with a reassuring squeeze. The chestnut
haired Tracy glanced up at him with a smile and a grateful
nod. The moment was short-lived, however, as there was still
one unanswered question looming over them. Virgil raised his
gun at their enemy once more, an icy glint in his eye and his
voice laced with abhorrence.
before him simply put the money down, turned around and zipped
himself up before glaring back into the dark honey colored
eyes, now filled with loathing. Virgil fired his gun and hit a
spot so close to the man's head that he nearly emptied his
bladder a second time. He adjusted the setting and pointed it
straight at a spot between the man's eyes.
shot will be a lot messier, I guarantee. Now...WHERE'S MY
booming voice bounced off the tiled walls and caused bits of
the already compromised ceiling to crumble and fall to the
floor. Deke was even a bit apprehensive of his fellow
operative in his current state and wondered just how far he
would go to get what he wanted.
As he was
breaking out in a cold sweat, the big, burly man wavered for a
moment. And, not doubting that his adversary would indeed pull
the trigger, divulged the requested information. Before Deke
could even draw his next breath, Virgil had disappeared out
wait! Don't go without back-up!"
concerns fell on deaf ears as the young pilot was already
Gordon and his father where trying to figure a way to get
their precious cargo back up to the surface. Alan had been
drifting in and out of consciousness, mumbling something about
how his brothers had gone away and left him alone. They had
managed to control the bleeding from the gunshot wound in his
side and knew that his chances of survival were good.
another story. He had lost so much blood that he had lapsed
into a deep coma. He would need to receive several more pints
in order to stabilize his condition. They had secured another
tourniquet around his leg and then carried both men the only
way available to them. Jeff slung his youngest over his left
shoulder, trying to keep his pain to a minimum. Gordon did the
same with John and they embarked on their journey up three
levels to the surface. They had their weapons at the ready and
just hoped they could make it before the band of reprobates
had time to discover that the blast up above was just a ruse
to distract their attention. Gordon wondered how his older
brother was making out locating Scott.
as fast as his legs could carry him to a room at the end of
one of the junctions in the tunnel. He slowed down as he
approached the doorway, not forgetting the fact that he might
not be alone and there was a good possibility that some armed
entity could be lurking about.
peered inside, he took in the white room and all its
sterility, wondering what in the hell kidnappers would need
with a facility like this way down here. As he approached the
operating table, he reflected that it didn't appear to have
been used recently, that is until his eyes had traveled to the
floor. There, not quite dried yet, was a single drop of blood.
He bent down to dip his fingers into it and brought them up to
his nose to take in the scent. Yes, it was blood all right.
the room went from having a slight chill in the air to being
stifling as Virgil's guts fairly twisted into a knot. "Oh
Unfortunately, during that one moment when he had let his
guard down, 'Dr. Frankenstein,' who had indeed been lurking
about, saw an opportunity and took it. He lunged at the
younger man, once again wielding something long, sharp and
shiny. Virgil spun and managed to dodge him just as he plunged
the entire blade of a scalpel into the table, nearly taking
off his ear in the process. Van Gogh was certainly one of
Virgil's favorite classical artists but he had no desire to
completely follow in the man's footsteps.
flash, he had leaped off the table but before he could draw
his gun, the doctor had grabbed him by the neck from behind
and was now attempting to slit his throat. Virgil called upon
all of his IR training and bent his knees, pulling all of his
weight down with him and using his hands to deflect the man's
grasp as he managed to slip out of his arms. Infuriated, the
doctor lunged at him again, the scalpel poised to be thrust
into his heart. He was quick, but Virgil was quicker and the
shot found its mark, just in the nick of time. The man in the
white coat dropped like a stone to the floor and didn't move
leaned against the wall, panting. As he looked up and around
to see if there were any more imminent threats, his eyes
landed on something and stopped, cold. There, back in the
corner of the room, behind a partition was the protruding edge
of a gurney...and he could see a sheet over it, possibly
began to pound again, his body trying to tell his brain that
he didn't want to know, didn't want to see, and his brain
ignoring its pleas. His steps were slow and deliberate as he
drew ever closer. Suddenly, he just had to know and he
certainly didn't want his father to be the first one to see
whatever lie beneath that shroud. His pace quickened until he
was almost running, his desire to get it over with now
outweighing his apprehension. He stopped short as he arrived
at the partition and peered around it. Yes, there was
definitely a body lying under there. He rounded the corner and
his worst fears were realized. The head of the body was
uncovered, a huge stain of blood on the sheet near the
abdomen. "Oh, Dear God, no!" He raised his voice
skyward and bellowed his agony to the heavens.
at his face, so very pale and lifeless and knew there was no
hope. His brother and best friend was dead and nothing could
ever bring him back. He stroked Scott's handsome face, the
anguish in him plain to see. He murmured his regrets at not
having arrived in time but received no absolution from the
still figure before him. Finally, in defeat, he could no
longer hold his emotions back and placed his head down on the
edge of the gurney, his shoulders shaking violently. Such was
his grief that he couldn't catch his breath long enough to cry
know how long he had been there but he couldn't bring himself
to leave. He also knew he wouldn't leave his brother's body
behind, no matter what. He wanted him to have a decent burial.
He looked up once more into the cold, dead face, the once
vibrant blue eyes closed, never to open again and all at once,
he noticed something different. Was that a twitch he saw near
his right eye? He decided his mind was playing tricks on him.
No, there it was again. A surge of almost irretrievable hope
rose up in him. He leaned over Scott and waited, watching.
Several minutes passed and it seemed to him that his older
brother was now in a deep REM state of sleep, judging by the
movement of his eyes under their lids.
Scotty, wake up." He encouraged in soothing tones.
sound of his brother's voice, the elder sibling became
restless as he tried to achieve full consciousness. Virgil
stroked his hair and spoke to him again.
now, if you think this is going to get out of that C-check on
Thunderbird One, you've got another thing coming."
it. Scott's eyes flickered open, the best impression of a
bemused grin that he could muster at the moment on his face.
elated. "Oh, there you are! Knew that would getcha. Welcome
attempted to raise his arm, looking for Virgil's hand. Virgil
instinctively knew and grabbed his in a firm 'I'm here for
you' grip. Scott seemed to relax and settled back down on the
rolling table. His vocal cords were still trying to play catch
up with his brain and so he wasn't able to speak, but Virgil
could see the emotion in his eyes. So glad were they to see
each other that they didn't detect their stealthy adversary as
he entered the room.
then, we need to see about getting you out of here. I should
let Dad and Gordo know that you're safe." Scott's eyes
reflected an affirmative on that. His poor father. What must
he have been going through since this whole ordeal started?
in the call. "Dad, can you hear me?"
Virgil, we're waiting for you upstairs with Alan and John.
Need any help down there?"
Everything's under control and I've got someone here who can't
wait to see you, but for once in his life is speechless."
managed to narrow his eyes and give his brother a menacing
glare. Virgil couldn't help but laugh. It seemed that Scott
was already getting back to his old self. Scott smiled a
meeting up with you as soon as Deke and I find a way to get
this gurney back up the chute."
let us know if you run into any trouble, son."
ended the communication, he felt Scott all of a sudden grip
his hand with bruising force. He looked up to see him
wide-eyed with panic.
what is it?"
his best to motion his head in the direction of the threat,
but it was too late. The look on Virgil's face was that of
total surprise coupled with horror as the doctor's assistant
drove the bayonet at the end of his rifle into Virgil's back
with all his might. Scott knew he was dead before he fell.
screamed silent screams for his dead brother and the more he
tried to make a sound, the more it was smothered until he
realized that the crazed assistant had placed a pillow over
his head. He couldn't breathe, couldn't even beg for his life,
which was rapidly becoming null and void...
struggled so hard, but he just couldn't get away. Virgil had
died and now he was going to follow. He couldn't go on; he
just didn't have the strength. He'd failed to protect them and
now he would pay the ultimate price. As he lashed out, he
connected with something hard, causing him to yelp, and then
he hit the ground with a thud.
When he awoke, he found he was on the floor in his own bedroom
at home, completely tangled up in the bedclothes. Around him,
the room looked like a cyclone had torn through it. The night
stand had been tipped over, the glass of water sitting upon it
now shattered, the headboard on his bed askew. All of his
bedding, including the pillows had ended up on the floor along
with him. It took a good while for him to calm down and get
his bearings. 'Wow, that was a really bad one!' he
mused. He disentangled himself and headed towards the bathroom
where he drew a sink full of cold water and immersed his face
in it, trying to rid himself of the awful visions; Virgil,
killed right in from of him, Alan, John and that monster who
called himself a doctor. He toweled off his face and shook his
head to clear it.
He had to
see Virgil now, had to make sure he was all right. He made a
bee line for his room but found only an empty, completely
disheveled bed. He turned and quickly headed for the only
other place he knew he would be...
already polished off about a third of the bottle of very
expensive single malt by the time Scott had arrived up in the
lounge. He was sitting in the dark on the sofa and was
silhouetted only by the faint sliver of moonlight that managed
to make its way in between the French doors off the balcony
and into the lounge. Scott stood in the shadows for a moment,
still trying to shake off the after-effects of the horrendous
nightmare. Then, he straightened himself up and nonchalantly
made his way over to the sofa.
hadn't moved since he'd arrived, except to take the occasional
swig from the formerly full receptacle. He didn't look at
Scott as he sat down next to him but without acknowledging his
presence in any other way, proffered him said bottle, which
Scott then proceeded to take without the slightest hesitation.
sat, stony-faced, staring straight ahead as he consumed the
equivalent of three shots of the golden liquor in one gulp.
How long they remained that way, neither really knew for sure.
Eventually though, the gift of speech began to be utilized,
first by the younger Tracy.
amplified sound of crickets would have illustrated just how
quiet the room had once again become. Somewhere, an antique
grandfather clock was ticking. They both flinched nervously as
it struck the hour. They glanced at each other and the now
two-thirds empty bottle once again changed hands.
one spoke again until the sun began to rise, as if that had
cued their vocal chords into action simultaneously.
grinned and tried again, still tripping over each other's
laughed a bit at their verbal folly, causing them to finally
relax a bit. Everyone had always said they could read each
others thoughts, and then, a new one occurred to both, once
again to be voiced in stereo.
to talk to Dad."
mid-afternoon and Jeff was seated at his desk shuffling
through some papers when he suddenly looked up to see his two
oldest sons standing there. He hadn't heard them come in and
their sudden appearance made him jump.
Christ, are you two trying out for covert operations or what?"
Dad, we didn't mean to startle you," Scott apologized.
Dad," Virgil chimed in. "We just wanted to talk to you about
something we think is vital to the smooth running of our
Virgil's right, Dad. It could be very important, especially to
continued looking at him, their expressions hopeful, but said
nothing further. Jeff was becoming impatient.
with it. You two obviously want to ask me something, I'm busy
and you should be, so what is it that you want?"
Virgil kept deferring to each other, neither of them wanting
to be the one to voice it.
It was now
or never, each of them deciding it was time to get it over
THE TEAM NEEDS SOME SHORE LEAVE!" they blurted out in unison.
It was a
few days later when Tin-Tin walked into the lounge to offer a
hard at work as usual Jeff Tracy a cup of coffee.
Tin-Tin. That sounds great right now. Your timing is
looking well this morning, Mr. Tracy. I don't mean to intrude,
but have you been sleeping better? I noticed you were waking
up in the middle of the night there for a while. I could see
the light on in your study when I'd go out for one of my
"You are a
very observant young woman, Tin-Tin. Yes I was having a bit of
trouble there for a while but things seem to have smoothed
to hear it, Mr. Tracy. I'll get that coffee for you right
the vidphone on his desk came to life, signaling an incoming
call. When he pushed the button to answer, the face that
appeared to him on the vidscreen was that of his eldest son.
the week, at the suggestions of Scott and Virgil and after
weighing the benefit to International Rescue, Jeff had sent
all of the boys out on a week-long holiday to the mainland.
Sending them on leave had brought the remnants of Jeff's
nightmare back to haunt him, but he concluded that if the boys
were all together, they'd be as safe as they could be off the
island. And besides, they were in Australia, not New York.
Things had been tough lately and to ask them to keep working
like that without a break could have led to exhaustion and
some life endangering mistakes made while on the job.
thing he couldn't figure, however, was why the faces of his
two eldest boys had suddenly gone pale at the mention of
Sydney as their holiday destination. After all, it was the
closest big city location to their base, and the possibility
always existed that he might have to call them back for a
mission. Things had quieted down though as of late and he
hoped they would stay that way, at least until the after the
boys had had time to enjoy themselves a little.
that Scott was already looking more relaxed.
son! How's the shore leave going?"
great, Dad. This was a really good idea. We're not on the
verge of strangling each other anymore and even Alan didn't
mind hanging out with his big brothers for a while."
he there, I'd like to speak to him for a bit."
Remember that little side trip he wanted to take? Alan's in
New York......Dad? Are you there...?"