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.

Jeff Tracy 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 Tracy."

There was a pause, and then a voice replied. "The Jeff Tracy?"

Jeff frowned, full attention suddenly focused on the phone at his ear. "Who is this? How did you get this number?"

Again there was a pause before the voice answered. "I found it in your son's wallet."

Chapter One

"Oh, really, and just how did you come by this wallet?"

"Why, in the usual manner, Jeff. I simply took it from his pocket."

Jeff 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.

"I'll tell 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 initiated."

"Sham? No 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."

"Alright, if you do indeed have one of my sons, I need to know why and what your terms for releasing him are."

"Later, my friend, later. For now, it is enough that you are aware that I have him."

"I don't suppose you'd like to share with me what his name is, would you?"

"Oh, I 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 anyway, Jeff?"

Nothing 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.

Now, 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.

Suddenly 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.

"Look, my 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."

One thing 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...

No Jeff, 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 matters...

"Wha...a...NO!" 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.

His sons...his life. He 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...

No, he 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...

"Okay, 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.

It seemed 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?

At first 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.

He argued 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.

At sunrise 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.

"Okay, this is going to be a fun trip," Scott practically sighed. "I'm going to be stuck all week long with Droopy and Eeyore here."

"Hey, I heard that." John opened one eye at Scott's remark and did his best to raise an eyebrow.

"Aren't you supposed to be dead to the world, Droopy?"

"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.'"

Scott mumbled something unintelligible.

"Oh, struck a nerve, have I?" John retorted.

Scott wiped a hand over his face and tried to get a grip.

"Okay, 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?"

"Tis true, Scotty boy. What sayest thou, Al?"

Alan, who had momentarily revived upon hearing the rather loud conversation, gave a somewhat less than complete response and then drifted back off to sleep.

"That's good enough for me, especially coming from Alan." Scott replied, a glimmer of amusement now threatening to color his distinctive features.

The rest 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.

Though it 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.

Over on 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...

Chapter Two

Although 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 week.

"Do you 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?"

They 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.

"Relax, Scott, we're just blowing off some steam." John replied a bit petulantly.

"Yeah, Scott, Alan added, feigning an Australian accent. Just 'avin a bit 'o folly, Mate."

"Oh, 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 ?

With that, he picked up the biggest pillow he saw and joined in the ensuing battle.

"Yes, sir! After they landed, I had them followed to their hotel, but they haven't come back out yet."

"Well, let 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.

"Yes, sir. I'm on it." With that, the call ended and the vigil was resumed.

Back on 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?"

"Hmm?" With an effort, Virgil forced himself back to reality. "Uh, Oh, I'm sorry, Brains. What did you say?"

"Jeez, where did you go, Virg? Gordon quipped. "You looked to be about a thousand miles away, two thousand if I know you."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, come on, Virgil. It's as plain as the nose on your face...well, maybe not that plain."

Virgil cocked an eyebrow at Gordon that said he was treading on thin ice.

"One word, Big Brother, S-y-d-n-e-y."

"Oh, that. Well, our turn will be next, provided we get this C-check completed."

"That's not what I mean and you know it. You're missing your appendage."

"My what? Gordon, I don't have time for this..."

"You're missing Scott. Just admit it."

"So, you miss Alan, too."

"Oh, the 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."

"Yeah, after this, he's really going to be appreciative of the fact that his rotation in Five is with Al."

They shared a grin and a knowing look before resolving to concentrate once more on the task at hand.

The animated threesome strode down the front steps of their hotel and into the street in search of a distraction.

"Do you think the manager will have us thrown out?"

"What, for scattering a few feathers around the room?"

"Uh, John," the youngest Tracy replied, "it was way more than just a few feathers."

"Relax, 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."

John's 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?"

Scott 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."

"Doooo tell!" Alan exclaimed. "Boy, I'll bet your diary comes with its own dycetylene extinguisher and a warning label."

With a twinkle in his eye, Scott simply gave them the cat-that-ate-the-canary look and refused to elaborate any further.

"Okay, we'll just have to get you drunk enough to spill."

"Fat 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 of help.

Upon 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.

John 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."

John was 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. "F.A.B."

As Scott 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 nowhere.

"Going somewhere, Tracy?"

His mind 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?

"Oh, we've 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.

"Well, I 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."

He thought if he could keep them talking, he might be able to figure a way out of this mess. Great, Tracy, Just great. Is that all you could come up with?

"Oh, don't worry. We're going to get to be best friends, that is, if you behave yourself."

At that 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."

Scott 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.

Another of the men spoke. "Morons, don't you know an ambulance when you hear one?"

Uh, oh. Scott made 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.

It wasn't 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.

He cried 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 brothers.

"Son of a bitch! Shoot him again!"

His orders 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.

John 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 respite.

So far 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?"

"Well, no, but I know the city pretty well." John replied.

"Oh, 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?"

"Yes, 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."

The corners of the man's mouth went up in a sinister grin. "That's okay, John. Thanks, you've been a big help."

John's 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.

Back at 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.

"Had some experience with this sort of thing, have you?" one of the paramedics asked.

"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."

"Right, thanks for all yer help, friend. Would you like ta ride with her to hospital?"

"I would, but I have to go find my brothers."

"Oh, we'll tell them where you are, no worries."

They began prodding him in the direction of the back of the ambulance. "Well, no. Really guys, I've got to go."

"Yes, yes you do, Alan. And the sooner, the better."

Alan was nonplussed. "Hey! Just who are you guys and how do you know my name?"

"Oh, that's because we're here to give you a very personal invitation, Alan. You've been invited to the party of the year."

At first 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 him.

He fell 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.

Chapter Three

Alan awoke 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, fuck!

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.

"Alan, thank God. Are you okay?"

Alan's 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?"

"Yeah, Kiddo, I'm here. How're you holding up?"

"Oh... just g-great, no place I'd rather be. You?"

"Well, 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, I'll live."

He noticed 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. Realization dawned.

"Sc-Scott!" "What's wrong, why isn't he waking up?"

"Our 'hosts,' " 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."

Alan's eyes went wide. "You mean, they shot him with a double dose of that stuff?"

"Not quite 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 Scott's head.

Alan took 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.

John went over and picked the lantern up off the table so he could do some exploring. He appeared to have enough time, given their situation.

Alan 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 that we're...?"

"No, I 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" business."

"Tracy Corp.?"

"Yeah, 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 more profitable."

Alan 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."

"Being in here gives me the creeps." Alan said as he looked around wildly. "It's like we've been buried alive or something."

"Don't be so morose, Alan. We'll get out of here; just don't let your thoughts get away from you."

"I know, you're right, Dad'll find us. He'd never give in to these bastards."

"Right, so don't just sit there, help me find a way outta this place."

Back on 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, Rosemary."

"Hello, Jeff. I'm so sorry to disturb you at home but I have something here I think you should hear."

Among 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 have it."

Rosemary's voice shook slightly. "Okay, this came in about 5 minutes ago..."

"Hello, 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?"

The blood 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 relentlessly.

I wonder 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!

With that, 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.

Waiting in 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...

When he 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.

Kyrano 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.

Down in 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, Father?"

"How far along are you down there, Virgil?"

"Almost there, just about another sixty minutes to go."

"Good. Finish up as quickly as you can and then I want to see all 3 of you up here, pronto!"

"What's up, Dad?"

"You'll know in an hour. Just get her ready, I'm counting on you boys. Oh, and Virgil?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Do it in forty five...out." The link was cut off.

There was 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.

"You don't think..."

"I don't 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.

Chapter Four

John and 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.

"You want a little help with that?"

John eyed him for brief moment, let out a long breath and straightened up. "Yeah, Al, sure."

Alan took 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 wall, breathless.


"Yeah, thanks, little brother."

"Don't mention it."

They were 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 of distress.

"D-don't! What...STOP!"

They both went to his side and tried to snap him out of his delusion.

"Scott! Scott can you hear us?" John's voice was soft and soothing. "It's us, Scott, John and Alan."

He reached 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 him.

"It's 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.

Even 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.

"Are you two okay? What the hell is going on?"

They simultaneously expelled the breath they had been holding. For Scott, they were the right questions.

"Well, we don't have the details, but it seems we've been kidnapped, Bro."

He removed 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?"

"Kiddo, the way my head feels right now, there's not too much else I can say. Have you seen these guys?"

"No, but John has."

"Okay, 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, John?"

"Well, there are two who seem to be in charge of the proceedings, and about another fifteen to twenty of their lackeys."

Scott sighed resignedly.

"Oh and there's another fly in the ointment, Big Brother..." He paused.

Scott prodded him. "Yeah?"

"We're underground..."

'Big Brother' was becoming irritated and put his fingers to his temple to stave off another stab of pain.


"And, our subcutaneous locator chips won't transmit from this depth."

Scott and Alan stared at him briefly and then all three brothers wiped their hands over their faces in unison.

Jeff 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.

"Th-the check is complete, M-M-Mister, uh, Tracy."

"Dad, can you tell us what's going on?"

"Boys, I think you'd better sit down for this one."

Their 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.

"S-so, ah, we will need to wait for the k-kidnappers to, er, contact us before w-we make a move."

"No, 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 anywhere else."

Virgil had been silent but now brought his head up to speak. His voice was almost a whisper.

"When do we leave, Father?"

Just then, 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."

"Yes, sir. Are you all right, Jeff?"

"I will be, honey...I will be." He thanked her as he ended the call.

"Okay, 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."

"I-I understand s-sir. I'll d-do whatever I c-can to help."

"Bless 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."

"I should 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."

"You what?"

"Don't get 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.

"C'mon, Gordo, let's do it."

Gordon shook himself out of his dark reverie and ran after his father.

The three 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.

Their activity was interrupted when they heard a creaking sound accompanied by footsteps. Alan looked towards the sound, incredulous.

"How could anyone be walking down here if we're underground?"

"They could have dug some sort of access tunnel," Scott suggested.

Then it 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.

They 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.

The man 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.

Then, they 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 faces.

"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.

"So, you 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 "lesson."

"So, if 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?"

The 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."

Inwardly, Scott sighed with relief. At least they wouldn't be punishing his brothers for the attempted escape.

"You will 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.

"No!" The directive came from the youngest Tracy. "Leave him alone! You haven't even told us what you want with us."

"Oh, that will come in due time my young friend. Unfortunately, your big brother here will not have had the pleasure."

John's fists clenched as he tensed himself to spring. The man apparently in charge continued.

"Given what I know about you though, Scott Tracy, I think I can come up with something that will injure you far worse."

Before 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.

"N-o-o-o! God...JOHN !"

'The Boss' only laughed as he took another puff of his cigar. All three of the brothers would be hard-pressed to forget that laugh.

Alan and 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.

"It's 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 to toe.

Scott 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 forehead.

"Aw, now 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 our objective."

Scott 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.

"Al, no!" he begged. "Please..."

But Alan 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.

At that 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.

"Take your hands off him."

The two 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.

"I said...take your hands off him."

Alan's 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. Scott...don't!

"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.

"Very 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?"

Chapter Five

As 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.

"Dad?" The pilot of the great, green bird half-twisted around in his seat to talk to his father.

"Yes, Virgil?"

"Did you recognize the voice or hear anything in the background on that recording that might give us some kind of lead?"

"I'm 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 ramifications."

His second youngest thought about this for a moment.

"But, if 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."

"I know, 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."

It was then that the Vid-Sat phone began to vibrate in his pocket...

Scott's 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 glaring brightness.

When they 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 blackboard.

"Well now, Scott. Are you ready for your debut?"

He was determined not to make this easy for the bastard. "What are you talking about? Why have you brought me here?"

"You are very bright, it should be fairly obvious."

He 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."

So, as they had suspected, it was a simple kidnapping, not an attempt at bringing down International Rescue. They could at least be grateful for that.

"Why would 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."

He'd 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 situation.

"Who's Virgil?"

The backhand he received across the face was swift and unexpected.

"I warn you, I will not be patient for much longer. You will do it or you will die."

"Go to hell."

"Very 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."


"What was 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."

Back down 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.

The camera 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 further instructions.

All that 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.

"Dad, 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."

'The Boss' gave a throat cutting motion and the camera was turned off.

"Very good, my young friend. You have ensured the safety of your brothers."

"Does that mean you'll be getting John some medical attention?" he asked hopefully.

"Oh, I 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?"

Scott was again silent.

"Very 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."

Chapter Six

Jeff 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.

"Jeff Tracy here."

The voice on the other end sounded so matter of fact, he could have been calling to sell Jeff a magazine subscription.

"Well, hello there, Mr. National Hero/Ex-Astronaut. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Why don't you dispense with the pleasantries, you son of a bitch, and get to the point."

"Now, now, Jefferson, let's not make this personal. I am only a businessman."

Jeff replied through gritted teeth. "I know what you are, now I want to know what you've done with my sons!"

"If that is so, you might start showing me a little more respect. After all they will only live as long as I deem necessary."

"Just tell me where to leave the money."

"Oh, I shall do better than that. I will let one of your own children tell you. He's your eldest, I believe, is he not?"

Virgil and Gordon glanced at each other briefly and Virgil put the great ship on autopilot.

They both raced to be with their father, dreading what the message might contain.

The 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.

They 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.

Then came 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.

As the streaming video ended, the faceless voice returned to taunt them.

"I would love to continue this repartee, my dear Jeff, but I have more pressing matters at hand. You now have twenty-two hours."

The connection was severed and the three Tracy men were left to ponder their options.

Alan made 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.

"I'll get 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...

"Virgil, how long before we land in Sydney?"

"Just about another 10 minutes, Father. We passed over into Australian airspace about five minutes ago."

"Good. Well, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to change into something other than the guise of Jeff Tracy."

As he stood up to leave, his surroundings began to spin out of control. He gasped and caught himself on the back of his seat.

Gordon went to him and supported him until he seemed able to remain on his feet.

"Dad! Are you okay? What is it?"

"It's...nothing I'm...I'm fine. You can let go of me now."

Virgil 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.

"But Dad, you need to take it easy, you've been under a lot of stress."

"Look, Virgil, I'm...I'm going down to the equipment locker. Let me know when I need to strap in for landing."

Not wanting to aggravate his father any further, the second eldest Tracy son relented. "Okay, sure, Dad, sure."

They watched as he entered the elevator down to the lower levels of Thunderbird Two, their faces reflecting more than a modicum of concern.

"Virgil, why did Dad want to bring Two along, anyway? We could have gotten there much faster in One."

"Well, 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."

After sensing that his brother was leaving something unsaid, Gordon prompted him to go on.


"And Two has more fire power in case we get into a tight spot and need to use it."

"You mean, in case Dad decides to blow the bastards to kingdom come."

"Something like that. And then there's the fact that we have a fully equipped sick bay on board in case..."

Gordon 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.

"God, Virg. If he keeps trying to hold everything together for our sake, it's going to backfire on him. He's just gonna explode from the pressure."

"I know, Gordo, I know. But you know how stubborn he can be, doesn't like to admit that anything gets to him."

"Gee, who else do we know like that?"

Virgil smiled a sad smile and swallowed hard.

Gordon walked over to his older brother and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Virgil, I..." He wasn't able to continue.

Virgil 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..."

The 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.

He would 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.

As Virgil 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.

"Right, Penny. We'll see you then...and Penny?"

"Yes, Jeff?"

"Thanks for all your help in getting that wire transfer expedited."

"Of course, Jeff. I'd do anything to help, you know that. I've grown rather fond of those boys of yours."

She was 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.

"I know you are and I know they feel the same about you. I'll let you know when the 'package' has been received."

"F.A.B., Jeff. Really, I do wish you'd let me bring it to you myself."

"I 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."

"Well, at least my prayers are with you, Jeff. Keep me posted on the situation and please... take care."

"We will, Penny..."

There was a long pause as Jeff felt the need to say more, but in the end, could only sign off.

"I'll be in touch."

Chapter Seven

"Where is he? He should have been back by now."

"I don't know, sir. No one's heard from him in at least an hour."

The big man wheeled on him. "What do you mean you don't know? What the hell am I paying you for?"

"I'm 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."

"Do that! And when you find him, I want him brought to me immediately."

"Yes, sir."

A small 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.

"Of course they are, Scott, and so long as you continue to cooperate, they will continue to be."

"I still don't know what else you want from me. I've done everything you've asked."

"In due time, my young friend, in due time."

A feeling 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 need you.

As 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.

"How much longer before they arrive, Dad?"

"I told you before, Gordon, shortly before sunrise."

"And they'll be bringing the 'other' package as well?"

"Yes, now..."


"What is it, Gordon?"

He opened 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.

Despite 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.

"He should 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 get there.

"You okay, Virg?"

The second Tracy brother got to his feet and brushed the sand off himself.

"Um, yeah, Gordo. I'm fine."

They raced 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.

"Agent Zero-Zero Seven at your service, Mr. Tracy."

The two siblings exchanged a look.

"You're kidding, right? You're agent Double 'O' Seven?"

"The very same..." He looked the dark-haired Tracy up and down. "Virgil, isn't it?"

"Yes, that's right." Virgil grinned and also extended his hand. "Bet I'm the first one to ever ask you that, uh...?"

"Deke's the name. Pleased to meetcha. Wish it was under better circumstances." His handshake was firm and friendly.

"Us too, Deke, believe me."

"Ah, the red-head. You must be Gordon."

Gordon grinned and shook the man's hand in turn. "Yeah, I must be, it's the only explanation."

"Okay, boys, let's get down to business," the elder Tracy interjected. "Where's the satchel?"

Deke 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.

"Right here, sir, along with the 'enhancements.' "

"Good, you know what to do, I've briefed the boys, now let's get to work..."

Gordon 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.

"All set, Dad. Where's the 'other' package?"

"You're looking at it, son."

Gordon glanced around him, but still didn't get it. "What do you mean?"

"Well, get in here and I'll show you."

Gordon didn't move a muscle.

"What is it son?"

The 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.

Slowly, he 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.

Deke smiled warmly. "This is no ordinary hydrofoil, Mate. She's got a few surprises in 'er."

He 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.

Virgil whistled his approval and grinned from ear to ear for the first time since their ordeal had begun.

"...and that's not all." Deke continued. With her reactor driven turbines, she'll get us there before the sun comes up."

The distraction worked. The aquanaut even seemed intrigued.

"Okay, one question here." Gordon ventured. "Where exactly is there?"

Jeff 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 was sure.

"Where, Dad?" Gordon asked anxiously.

"Tasmania. It's the perfect base of operations for the type of job they're pulling. Just remote enough to not draw any undue attention."

The relief 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.

"With any luck, we should arrive there before they've even had a chance to retrieve the satchel, much less verify the contents."

"Well," 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.


After an 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 his feet.

"Please, please! It was an accident; I beg of you, do not punish me!"

Their leader looked disgustedly to the man on the floor before him. "Get up."

"No-no, please! I have done nothing wrong!"

"Oh, but haven't you? I suppose that two of my three hostages ending up on the brink of death was entirely their idea."

"No, sir. The younger one...he-he attacked me and the other...he was trying to help him. I was just defending myself."

The man standing just shook his head, knowing that this former associate was making a pathetic attempt at saving his own skin.

"Get up."


"Silence! If you wish to escape the full brunt of my wrath, you will get up...now!"

The man whimpered and cowered as he stood, apologizing profusely for his misstep.

"Yes, yes. I know, we all make mistakes from time to time..."

The prisoner appeared to become visibly relieved, believing that his captor was now beginning to sympathize with his plight.

"...but not at the cost of ten billion dollars!"

In the 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.

"Take this rubbish out of my sight...fool!"

After an 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.

The 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.

"Do you have the scanner, Virgil?"

"Yeah, Deke, right here."

"Great, so 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. Tracy."

"But how do we know they're coming by watercraft?" Virgil wondered.

"Because the Intel suggests no aircraft of any sort in this vicinity."

"Okay, 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 their camp.

"Father, do we know how many of them there are?"

"It's hard 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."

In his 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?

His cell door suddenly swung open and one of the men who had abducted him appeared.

"Your presence is required, Tracy."

God, was 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.

Okay, dart gun. They obviously don't want to kill me...yet.

"Where are you taking me?"

His answer 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.

He was 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.

"W-what's all this?"

A thundering voice replied to him from up above. "Ah, there you are, my dear Scott. Welcome!"

"What's going on? I want to see my brothers...NOW!"

He felt 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.

"No, don't! He must not be injured!"

'The Boss' 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 happen again."

"Well, see that it doesn't."

He then 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."

Scott was struggling to get back on his feet as he rubbed his throbbing neck. "What the hell are you talking about?"

The '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. "

"So, what? You want my blood?"

The reply he got was a condescending chuckle.

"Oh, 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."

"The host?"

The doctor just looked at him and smiled sickeningly.

Scott's 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...?"

The voice of 'The Boss' once again thundered at him from above.

"Now, Scott. Is that any way to act after the favors I've granted you? You have embarrassed me in front of my employer."

"To hell with your employer! Where are my brothers? What's happened to them?"

"Why, what makes you think that anything has happened to them?"

"Well, for 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."

"Yes, yes, I should have guessed that you would not be placated without proof of their wellbeing."

He sighed and then paced about, wishing to draw out Scott's moment of agony. Finally, he turned and peered down at the intense young man.

"I am sorry to tell you that young Alan has met with a terrible accident and as a result, John's condition has worsened."

"What? What have you done to them...? TELL ME!"

"Well, I'm 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 order."

Scott's face grew red with barely contained fury as the focus temporarily shifted away from his own plight.

"I'll kill you with my bare hands, you fucking lunatic! If they die..."

"I believe 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 proceed."

The eldest 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.

He never 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 almost gleefully.

"No! Don't do this...please!"

'Dr. Frankenstein' was obviously enjoying himself and there was no mistaking the venom in his words. "Don't worry, Scott. I'll be gentle."

A rubber 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...! VIRGIL...HELPME PL----...And then he was gone, descended down into the depths of grateful unawareness.

The 'doctor' casually turned to his assisting surgeon, handing him the instrument. "Perhaps you would care to make the first incision?"

Chapter Eight

Up from the depths he rose...rather abruptly. D-O-ON'T! The scream was shrill enough to shatter both the Polar ice caps. He jumped 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...

They were 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.

"Any news, Dad?"

"Yes, 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."

"I wonder why it is that no signs of life could be found in any of the standing structures?"

Gordon regarded him for a moment and then it was as if the whole of the universe had imploded.

"Virg! You don't suppose...my God, you don't think...? Dad, what if they've taken them underground?"

All three 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.

"Gordon, son, what would we do without you?"

Gordon 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.

Virgil 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.

Deke just 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.

The river 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.

Virgil was 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 in frequency.

When it 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.

"What've you set it to do now, mate?"

"Well, if 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.'

"Oh, I see. Sort of like the biomechanical sonar arrays I use in my other line of work, only for use under the earth's surface."

"Um, what exactly is it that you do, Deke? I mean, when you're not participating in clandestine operations and espionage." Gordon inquired.

"Oh, I'm an oceanographer, 'ave been for about 20 years on now."

"That explains the hydrofoil, but what about the fire power?"

"I'm a paranoid oceanographer."

Gordon's whole face lit up with an appreciative smile. "If we ever get out of this mess alive, you and I need to talk."

Deke was 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!"

"God, I hope you're right." He and Virgil exchanged a look that did not go unnoticed by their father.

"All 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?"

"Not that I can...wait! There it is! It seems to be an underground tunnel of sorts leading to..." His voice trailed off.

"Where, Virg?"

Virgil flinched involuntarily at the repeated use by Gordon of the nickname given to him by Scott.

"Jeez! 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."

"That's 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."

Alan 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.

"John! 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.

"My God, 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!"

His only 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.

"Okay, 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."

"Okay, Virgil. We'll travel in pairs, you and Deke and Gordon and myself. That way, if anyone gets the drop on us..."

"We won't all be captured." finished Gordon.

"Right, 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.

Gordon 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 wrong man.

Deke had 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 ransom money.

Virgil and 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.

"You okay, Mate?"

Virgil snapped back into reality, sighing resignedly.

"Huh? Oh, fine. I was just wondering what's keeping Dad? We should have heard from him by now."

"Take it 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 something."

Virgil, 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.

"You're close, aren't you?"

Virgil slowly raised his head at the query. "What?"

"I can tell, you guys are close."

"Of course we are, it would be impossible for us all to work so well together if we didn't trust each other implicitly."

"No, that's not what I mean. I was talking about you and your older brother."

"Scott? I...yeah, I guess we are." He smiled slightly. "It's been that way ever since we were kids. What made you say that?"

"Oh, just something about the look on your face every time your dad mentions his name, the 'I've lost my best friend' look."

Virgil face reddened a bit. "Well, we've just always been there for each other through thick and thin, even when our mom died."

"Sorry, I-I didn't mean to stir up the past."

"No, no, it's okay, really. You've given me something else to focus on."

Deke smiled sympathetically and laid a hand on Virgil's shoulder. That's when the comm. link flashed and vibrated. Virgil swiftly answered the call.

"Yes, Father?"

"Okay, 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!"

The communication ended but Virgil and Deke hadn't taken their eyes off the wrist chronometer. Virgil swallowed hard.

"Oh, is that all?"

Chapter Nine

Jeff and 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.

"Over there, Father, the two guards."

"Yes, they could be a problem if..."

But before 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.

"Way to go, guys!" Gordon quietly cheered.

Deke and 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.

"You know, maybe we're approaching this all wrong." Virgil remarked.

"How do you mean?"

"Well, instead of sneaking around like we're doing, what say we just hit this head on?"

"I'm afraid I don't follow you."

"Well, now we have disguises, right?"


"If we 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?"

"But your 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 yet."

"I know, but if we just wait around here on the surface, we may miss our chance at getting the upper hand."

"But we were told..." Virgil cut him off.

"Look, 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 or not?"

The struggle for a decision was evident on Deke's face, but in the end, he relented.

"What, you 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' way!"

Virgil smiled broadly and replied in his best Aussie accent.

"Well then, Mate. What the hell are we waitin' for?"

He 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.


They both dove for the ground as the hatch was blown off and traveled almost straight up into the air. Deke was impressed.

"Whoa! Great stuff to 'ave around, that."

They both flinched as Virgil's wrist comm. again came to life, a live feed of his father's image on its face.

"Virgil, 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."

Virgil 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 in."

"You've what! Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Virgil?"

Instead of 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 hole.

A series 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 situation.

"I swear, Gordon, when I get my hands on that brother of yours..."

"Well, 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."

"You're right; at least we can back him up. He can't die before I have the chance to kill him first."

Gordon did a double take at his father's words but obediently followed him into the melee.

Virgil and 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.

"Hey, Virg! 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."

"Thanks, Gordo! I owe you one."

"Forget it. It's all just part of the service."

Virgil 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.

Though all 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 maximum.

"We're down on the fourth level. Where to now, Gordon?"

"Okay, you 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.

They did 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."

Deke and Virgil exchanged a look. "The men's room?" Virgil asked.

"Yeah, I can see the echo of some fixtures in there on the scanner. Must be a wall safe."

"Yeah, let's hope so." Deke responded.

He jiggled 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 them inside.

There at 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.

Virgil said nothing to their captive, but kept him steady in his sights as he lifted his chronometer to his lips.

"Father, 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.

"Father?" Again, nothing.

Virgil closed his eyes and after taking a deep breath to quell his rising panic, tried again.

"Gordon, can you hear me? Father, please answer."

After a couple of moments that to Virgil passed like hours, he was finally rewarded with a reply.

"Sorry, 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."

Virgil's 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.

"Where's Scott?"

The man 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.

"The next shot will be a lot messier, I guarantee. Now...WHERE'S MY BROTHER!"

His 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 the door.

"Virgil, wait! Don't go without back-up!"

But his concerns fell on deaf ears as the young pilot was already gone.

Meanwhile, 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.

John was 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.

Virgil ran 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.

As he 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. But who...?

Suddenly the room went from having a slight chill in the air to being stifling as Virgil's guts fairly twisted into a knot. "Oh my God."

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.

In a 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 again.

Virgil 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 covering something.

His heart 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.


Chapter Ten

He looked 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 out.

He didn't 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.

"C'mon, Scotty, wake up." He encouraged in soothing tones.

At the 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.

"C'mon now, if you think this is going to get out of that C-check on Thunderbird One, you've got another thing coming."

That did it. Scott's eyes flickered open, the best impression of a bemused grin that he could muster at the moment on his face.

Virgil was elated. "Oh, there you are! Knew that would getcha. Welcome back!"

Scott 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.

"Okay 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?

Virgil put in the call. "Dad, can you hear me?"

"Yes, Virgil, we're waiting for you upstairs with Alan and John. Need any help down there?"

"No, sir. 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."

Scott 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 knowing smile.

"We'll be meeting up with you as soon as Deke and I find a way to get this gurney back up the chute."

"Okay, but let us know if you run into any trouble, son."


As he 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.

"Scott, what is it?"

Scott did 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.

His brain 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...

...He 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...

Virgil had 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.

Virgil 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.

Scott too 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.

"Couldn't sleep, huh?"

"Nope, you?"


The 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.

Neither one spoke again until the sun began to rise, as if that had cued their vocal chords into action simultaneously.



They grinned and tried again, still tripping over each other's words.



They both 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.

"We've got to talk to Dad."


It was 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.

"Jesus Christ, are you two trying out for covert operations or what?"

"Sorry, Dad, we didn't mean to startle you," Scott apologized.

"Yeah, Dad," Virgil chimed in. "We just wanted to talk to you about something we think is vital to the smooth running of our operation."

"Yes, Virgil's right, Dad. It could be very important, especially to our morale."

They both continued looking at him, their expressions hopeful, but said nothing further. Jeff was becoming impatient.

"Okay, out with it. You two obviously want to ask me something, I'm busy and you should be, so what is it that you want?"

Scott and 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 with.

"WE THINK 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.

"Thanks, Tin-Tin. That sounds great right now. Your timing is impeccable."

Tin-Tin smiled demurely.

"You're 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 sunrise walks."

"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 themselves out."

"I'm glad to hear it, Mr. Tracy. I'll get that coffee for you right away."

"Thank you, dear."

Just then, 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.

Earlier in 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.

The one 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.

He noticed that Scott was already looking more relaxed.

"Hello, son! How's the shore leave going?"

"Just 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."

"Alan? Is he there, I'd like to speak to him for a bit."

"No, Dad. Remember that little side trip he wanted to take? Alan's in New York......Dad? Are you there...?"

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