Alan and Tin-Tin are in
mortal danger when General X sets his sights on International
Transportation Officer Ricos Handel Rodriquez had held
numerous positions in his long career with the transportation
bureaucracy in the Philipines, including several years in this
present post in Manila, but none of that experience was
helping him now.
million dollars American!" Rodriquez said in shock.
right," the voice over the videophone told him; the video
monitor was showing only the words voice only selected,
and so he could not see the speaker. "Deliver the money before
noon today, or the bomb on the ferry will go off... And do not
get the police involved, or it may explode even sooner."
possibly get that much money together in four hours!"
thousand people will go down with the ferry at one o'clock
today," the voice said bluntly, and cut the connection.
can't be serious!" Rodriquez's partner exclaimed.
they are or not, we must be, Andreas," he responded. "That's
too many lives to take a chance that they are bluffing."
just have the ferry anchor at its next pick up-point and
cancel the schedule for today? Then we can inspect it."
realize how many people that will strand without
transportation along the archipelago? I don't even want to
think about the thousands of complaints we'll get. And even if
we did that, then what's to keep these terrorists from trying
the same tactic tomorrow, next week or next month?"
we do, then?" Andreas asked.
his second a rueful look and sighed. "Today, we find eight
million dollars in a hurry and get it to the drop point. Once
the people are safe, I'll have to find some way of explaining
the situation to the National Transportation Secretary. After
the danger has passed, I know she will expect us to come with
a contingency for the next time."
start calling the banks." Andreas picked up the phone. As he
did, looked up to see the tiny globe on his desk, part of a
desk set his wife had given him when he got this promotion two
years earlier. His mind went back to a similar image; a symbol
he'd seen four years ago, as he thanked the man who had pulled
them and their then-infant son from the debris of an
earthquake. Those men in the blue uniforms had performed
miracles that day, finding and rescuing people who were buried
under piles of rubble.
he said slowly. "He said no police, but he never mentioned
that we couldn't bring in someone else to help us."
you talking about?"
International Rescue can help us!"
is no disaster."
You just said yourself that these blackmailers couldn't be
trusted. How do we know that they won't set off the bomb
anyway? That would be a disaster, and International Rescue
might not be able to get here in time to help by then."
received the transportation officers' distress call, he agreed
wholeheartedly with Andreas' assessment of the situation. Once
he convinced Jeff, his father instructed him to have the
Manila Transportation Officers continue to make arrangements
for the money. International Rescue would devise a plan that
would make payment unnecessary. He hoped.
after, Thunderbird One, with Scott and Alan aboard, was on its
way to Manila, with a special satchel Brains quickly assembled
for the occasion. Soon after, Scott dropped Alan and the
satchel off at the remote location where the Transportation
Authority had arranged to leave a car.
appeared to be working out perfectly.
remote windswept point, under a carefully arranged camouflage
net, sat a lone man, positioned where he could see the ferry
with his binoculars once it reached the bay. He waited
patiently, certain of the outcome of the events yet to occur,
as he gloated to himself.
he thought. Tomorrow, I can release the news that The Army of
X was responsible for the explosion of the ferry and that no
mode of transportation is safe. Finally, the grand plans of
General X will be put into operation. And he would receive as
his reward a high position in the organization, as well as a
chosen his vantage point carefully, so he was completely
surprised when two vehicles pulled to a stop on the gravel
road. The driver of the first car leaped out and ran back to
the second, which then swung about as soon as he climbed in
and clattered off, churning up dust that quickly scattered in
after, the observer was even more alarmed when a great silver
and blue jet descended seemingly out of nowhere. Through the
haze of debris kicked up the single VTOL jet, he could just
make out the words "Thunderbird 1" printed on its sleek sides.
It was International Rescue! And he could only marvel and
admire the sleek craft.
soon as it touched down, a hatch opened on its underside and a
blonde man in a blue uniform clambered down a ladder, carrying
a satchel. The observer smiled. So the great and powerful
Thunderbirds had been reduced to this: a mere delivery vehicle
to insure the money arrived in time.
of curiosity than concern, he focused the binoculars on the
blonde man's face. He was surprisingly young. As Thunderbird
One launched once again into the air, the car sped off toward
the Transportation Authority. The observer, unconcerned,
turned his attention back to the bay. After the money was
safely retrieved, he was looking forward to watching the ferry
swiftly drove the car, as only he knew how, toward the ransom
drop off point. Just a few blocks from the park, however, he
pulled over. He reached under the seat, and felt with his
hands for the paper sack that was supposed to have been placed
there. Ah, there it was. Quickly, he opened it. Yes, it
appeared all the money was there. He placed the sack inside
the satchel, then completed the drive to a specific picnic
area at Luzon Park. Then he placed the satchel under the
picnic table as instructed, and drove off.
was pulling over to place the money in the satchel, Scott
landed Thunderbird One in a secluded location on one of the
less populated islands that made up the Philippine
archipelago, and awaited a signal from Gordon.
Thunderbird Two carried Pod Four to the South China Sea, on
the western side of the Philippines, where it dropped the pod
and deployed Thunderbird Four with Gordon aboard. Submerged,
Thunderbird Four intercepted the ferry long before it entered
Manila Bay, without a single passenger being aware of its
presence. Carefully, Gordon maneuvered underneath the huge
boat and examined the hull. Not knowing exactly what the bomb
looked like or how sophisticated it was, he searched for
anything that seemed out of place.
headache was beginning to throb behind his eyes and
perspiration dotted his upper lip and forehead as the time
ticked away. There was less than an hour before the bomb was
due to be set off and the deadline for the delivery of the
money had passed when he finally spotted an anomaly.
found it!" he reported to Scott. "It's at the stern, just
below the waterline." He didn't mention how close it was to
the huge screws that drove the boat.
pondered his options for detaching the bomb, aware how
precious the time was. Ordinarily, Thunderbird Four's grapples
were sensitive enough to pluck it from its position, but to do
so, it would be visible from the surface. Any of the many
boats passing them along the archipelago could be hiding the
extortionists, and no one knew what they would do if they
realized International Rescue was trying to foil their plans.
The other option was to exit Thunderbird Four and remove it by
hand. The risks inherent in this plan were more personal,
since the speed the ferry was traveling was far faster than he
could swim, and rigging a tether for himself was going to be
tricky. The boat's hull was well maintained, but in these
seas, barnacles and other sea life soon covered any smooth
surface, making the magnetic grabs practically useless.
Trailing such a long tether from Thunderbird Four would place
him in danger of being pulled up into the vortex from the
screws, which would tear him apart and probably detonate the
of time finally forced him to take the chance. He still had to
meet Thunderbird One out at sea after the bomb was detached
with enough time for Scott to dispose of it far from land.
need to leave Thunderbird Four to get to the charge under the
ferry. Is Virgil in position to operate her by remote?"
Gordon" Virgil answered for himself. "I've just landed next to
gave him the course and direction, then flicked the relays
that allowed the little submarine to be operated by controls
in Thunderbird Two. "Transmission positive, Virg. Signal
strength within tolerances."
quickly donned a harness over his wetsuit before settling the
scuba gear in place, then pulled a short length of the tether
from the small winch near the upper hatch of the airlock
before attaching it securely to his harness. Hitting the
controls that flooded the compartment, he waited impatiently
for the indicator lights to change, informing him that the
pressure inside the airlock was equal to that of the water.
The red light turned green at last and he opened the hatch and
was barely 10 meters above him and he had positioned
Thunderbird Four about two/thirds of the way to the stern.
Using a tiny remote control in his harness, he signalled the
winch to unwind cable until he could touch its hull, then
slowed the deployment to a crawl. The turbulence under the
boat was tolerable until he was within three meters from the
screws, when suddenly, he was thrust violently upward, almost
smashing into the bottom of the ferry. Finding a grip with one
gloved hand, and taking his knife in the other, he managed to
scrape an area relatively clear of encrustation with the
other. Next, he fastened a magnetic anchor to the hull in the
hole he'd cleared and attached a second, stabilizing snap-line
to it. Then he slowly worked his way back to the ship's stern,
letting the winch pay out the line a little bit at a time. The
buffeting at the stern swung him perilously close to the
starboard screw, but it also put him within reach of the bomb.
Virgil, Scott, I'm in position to detach the charge. Looks
like we were more careful than we needed to be. It 's a fairly
simple timer, with no defaults to set it off if disturbed, and
no remote receiver that I can see..." he commented as he
continued his examination of the charge. "Hah, I'm surprised
it stayed on as long as it did; the adhesive on the back is
almost gone. And the bomber lied about the time, too. It's set
to go off in thirty-two minutes, not forty-five."
on with it, Gordon," Scott ordered, an exasperated note in his
voice. "The sooner it's safely out in the middle of nowhere,
the happier I'll be."
relax, willya. We've got plenty of time." Gordon responded,
the grin on his face evident in his voice. Then he took on a
serious tone. "Okay, Virg, here's what I need you to do. On my
mark, put Thunderbird Four into a steep dive to about thirty
meters, then level off and stop. That'll get me well away from
the screws, then I'll winch myself back in."
Three, two, one...mark!" Gordon yanked the bomb clean from the
boat. Immediately, the tether to Thunderbird Four pulled him
downward away from the dangerous screws. Then he hit the latch
on the snap line, which detached him from the ferry and he
barely kept his precarious grip on the bomb as he plunged down
behind his brightly-colored submarine.
he felt the force on the line slacken as Thunderbird Four came
to a dead stop, but his momentum through the water brought him
almost into a collision with her. "Wow, Virg," Gordon
commented, as he triggered the winch to wind in the extra line
and made his way back into the hatch, "that was some ride!"
Well, I'm just as glad I wasn't along."
your ETA to the rendezvous, Gordon?" Scott interrupted the
able to tell you in a minute. I haven't cleared the airlock
yet." A few seconds later, Gordon put his craft back on manual
control and entered the pertinent data into the onboard
computer. "Looks like five minutes, twenty seconds."
Lifting off now."
you back at the pod, Gordon."
See you soon."
attention among the three Thunderbirds had been absorbed in
taking care of the bomb, Alan's part in the plan was not so
much in the rescuing of the blackmailers' victims, but to keep
the blackmailers from trying this again. After he dropped off
the money, he drove the car back to the Transportation
Authority, keeping an eye on the small monitor sitting beside
him in the seat.
parked the car, Alan picked up the tiny device and carried it
with him. The two Officers waiting inside the office looked up
anxiously as he walked in, and were immediately reassured by
the grin on his face.
One to base," he said into the transmitter in his watch, as
Roddy and Andreas crowded close to see the tracking device in
his hand. "So far, so good. The satchel is transmitting
perfectly. Pick-up was at 12:12."
Tracker One," the gruff voice of Jeff Tracy wound from the
telecom's tiny speaker. "Thunderbird One reported that
detonation was safely out at sea. He had plenty of time to
dispose of the bomb, even if it did go off 12 minutes early.
Keep your eye on that device. As soon as they stop, activate
the sleeping gas and report their location to the local
authorities. Do the Transportation Officers understand what we
need them to do?"
Andreas nodded eagerly. They were only too happy to protect
what little they knew about International Rescue, in exchange
for stopping and apprehending the extortionists.
minutes later, the transmitter indicated the satchel had
stopped and was being opened. Alan waited 30 seconds, long
enough for the money to be dumped out, then sent the signal to
activate a canister on the bottom of the bag containing a
potent sleeping gas. Two minutes later, Andreas directed him
to a payphone, to call the Manila police.
minutes later, Alan reported that the police had found the
blackmailers, due to a "anonymous tip" from a concerned
observer waited for 12:48 with great anticipation, then
impatiently waited another twelve minutes, but the bomb he had
personally constructed and mounted simply did not go off. As
he slunk to his home, he began to suspect that International
Rescue was somehow responsible. But how? He had planted men in
boats all along the ferry route that morning, on board the
ferry itself until the last stop before Manila Bay and watched
it himself through binoculars from the point. No one had come
near the bomb, he was certain of it.
next morning at breakfast, his suspicions were confirmed by
the newspaper. He learned from the article that the bomb had
indeed exploded at the proper time, only it had done so 200
miles out in the Pacific, thanks to International Rescue. He
also learned that the idiots he had hired to retrieve the
ransom had bungled even that simple job and had been captured
by the police. Within an hour, instead of making his grand
announcement as he had so carefully planned, he was on a plane
to Asia, like a whipped cur with its tail between his legs.
Once he made Hong Kong, he was safe enough: he promptly
slipped into its notorious underground and disappeared,
leaving behind a baffled unpaid servant in Manila who could
not tell the police where he had gone.
can't go off on a vacation together. It's out of the
question," Jeff Tracy slammed his fist down on his desk in the
lounge of his Tracy Island home.
It was a
normal idyllic South Pacific morning on the island; in
complete contrast to the tension that suddenly filled the
lounge. Jeff Tracy had taken on many tasks, only one of which
might have broken other men. He had conquered space, then
suffered the loss of his wife, the mother of his five sons,
and raised them alone while building a billion-dollar business
from scratch, then, when most men his age were planning their
retirement, launched a secret and benevolent organization
dedicated to saving lives. This was a man who of necessity had
cultivated and diligently maintained a calm, cool demeanor.
Nonetheless, when his youngest son made this request, he
uncharacteristically lost his temper.
Father," Alan protested. He stood dismayed on the other side
of his father's desk, with Tin-Tin at his side. Jeff esteemed
the sweet half-Malaysian girl as much as he would have if she
had been his own daughter, and, to her credit, she had a
better understanding of the reason for Jeff's outburst than
his own son.
floundered on. "We're not planning to be gone long. And if
there are any rescues..."
rescues I'm concerned about," Jeff said gruffly. "Don't ask me
again. It's not gonna happen." Jeff stubbed out his
half-smoked cigar irritably. "I need some air." Then he
stomped out to the patio and down the steps toward the beach.
do you like that, Tin-Tin?" Alan looked after him in
mind, Alan," Tin-Tin said soothingly. "You know we don't need
a holiday to be together .." She gently led him off in the
direction of the game room.
been standing out of sight of both parties. He hadn't intended
to eavesdrop as he was bringing Jeff his coffee, but he found
himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he looked
out from behind the Oriental screen where he had discreetly
hung back, glancing first at his departing daughter and her
beloved, then at the rapidly retreating back of his old friend
and employer. He sighed deeply, set the coffee down on the
desk, then went out to the patio and down the stairs after
continued his determined stride to the beach, muttering to
himself, and oblivious to Kyrano's calls to him. Finally, he
stopped at the water's edge and stood glowering out at the
last caught up with him. "Jeff Tracy, old friend, we must have
a heart to heart talk..."
on another island, General X was also in an especially bad
mood. None of his associates were unable to withstand his
withering gaze very long. "Why can't you imbeciles hire
someone who can deliver on his promises!" The bomb in Manila
Bay had failed to achieve any of its objectives, only one of a
series of failed projects in the past month. He paced back and
forth behind his massive desk, getting his temper under
need is the power to deliver a decisive blow, so my plans for
the world can be established. But we must sit and we content
ourselves to paltry terrorist acts. And even those efforts do
not bring about the desired results!" He glared about him in
disgust. "Then to add insult to embarrassment, you can do
nothing but patronize me!" He sent his fist crashing unto the
desk in front of him, making the others jump.
general," one associate still had the audacity to speak, "if
International Rescue had not spoiled our plans in Manila..."
"International Rescue!" A vein stood out on the General's
neck. "If one of you imbeciles, my so-called advisors,
had even a hint of the intelligence you profess to having, you
would give me a plan to get my hands on those machines! If I
had the power those machines could give me, none could
withstand me!" He turned his back on them in utter contempt to
glare at the map behind him. "Leave me! I cannot stand the
sight of you!"
Tin-Tin." Jeff caught her crossing the big lounge to
Thunderbird One's secret access door, carrying the new
calculations she and Brains were planning to program into the
craft. "Tin-Tin, may I talk to you a moment?"
course, Mr. Tracy," Tin-Tin was puzzled. He'd never found it
difficult to speak to her before, and he seemed acutely ill at
ease. Despite his request, he looked as if he'd rather do
anything but talk to her.
I guess it's pretty obvious that we all," and he waved his arm
to indicate the entire island, "love you very much. Like a
daughter. I do, anyway, and the other boys like a sister,
maybe. And Alan, well, his feelings are obvious too, and not
entirely brotherly... well, you two have a special
relationship, shall we say." Tin-Tin stared at him in growing
wonder; what in the world was making him so nervous? "And..."
Jeff continued to ramble for a few moments, fumbling over his
words, his hand in his pocket.
he rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. "Anyway, if you and
Alan want to go on a vacation together, you should. I mean,
you are adults and all that. But," now he pulled his hand out
of his pocket, his ears beginning to turn red. "There's a time
and place for everything. And with the work we do, we just
don't have a place for certain little things around here... "
he stopped. "I'm really saying this badly," he realized
desperation, he reached out and took her hand, dropped
something into it, then closed her fingers around it. "I just
want you and Alan to be careful," he said cryptically. He
dropped her hand, turned completely crimson, and beat a hasty
retreat back to his rooms.
was completely taken aback by Jeff's uncharacteristic behavior.
Then she opened her hand and saw the round latex objects he
had given her. She laughed quietly. Oh, the dear, dear, sweet
man... She loved him almost as much as her own father.
almost an hour after midnight. Tin-Tin rolled over to Alan at
her side and giggled softly.
it?" he asked, raising up on one elbow.
father gave us permission to go on holiday together."
funny about that? I think it's about time, don't you?"
but he wants us to be careful" She made little
quotation marks in the air with her fingers.
always careful," Alan grunted, falling back to gaze at the
ceiling. "We always wait until everyone's in bed and I get
back to my room before anyone gets up."
giggled again. "Well, I guess we haven't been careful enough.
Look what your father gave me yesterday!" She pulled open the
drawer to her bedside table and took out one of the objects
Jeff had given her earlier.
blue eyes grew round when he saw it. "Oh, man," he breathed.
"If Dad knows, we've really blown it. You're sure your father
is okay with this?"
has known what's been going on for a long time, Alan. The
oriental culture considers what we're doing natural and he
approves of our relationship. He loves you like a son, you
him tenderly and no more was said for some time.
hours later, the sun beginning to peek over the horizon, Alan
ran his finger along her smooth shoulder. "I've been
smiled up at him. "About what?"
sat straight up and turned to stare at him. "What about that
famous "I'll never marry" declaration you've given Penelope
and everyone else who ever asked?"
know what I've said: with the type of dangerous work we do, it
wouldn't be fair to ask somebody to share it... blah, blah,
blah." He reached up to finger a lock of her dark hair. "Sure,
the work is dangerous, but you've gone out on several rescues
yourself, and I worry about you as much as you must worry
about me. Then sometimes we can go on the same mission and
sometimes we can't; especially when John and I trade places,
and I'm stuck up in the space station for a month at a time.
about it, though. Aren't we already sharing some kind of a
life now? I mean, what would be the difference, except that we
wouldn't have to keep sneaking in and out of each other's
rooms and deluding ourselves that no one knows?" Abruptly, he
sat up and took her hands. "Do you love me, Tin-Tin? Would you
She had to
fight down an urge to laugh. How long had she been waiting for
him to even hint at the feelings they had for each other? How
many years had their relationship been developing? Yet, here
he was and she'd never seen his blue eyes as serious as they
were now. Tin-Tin couldn't help but smile at him.
I do, and you know I will, Alan." Then she did laugh, he
actually looked relieved. "Look at us," she giggled. "We're
practically married already; we live in the same house, we eat
at the same table, we share the same bathrooms..."
chuckled. "Well, if that's all it means to be married, then
you're married to my brothers, too! Tin-Tin, you're a
That's not what I meant!" Then she took on a teasing look.
"Although, if Virgil had asked..."
laughed out loud, forgetting that it was still early in the
morning. "Hey, let's not get into that again! I know you and
Virgil never got this far..." He gestured around her bedroom.
serious again. "No, we didn't. And we wouldn't have. The
relationship that you and I have was always different from the
one I have with your brothers... and Brains. Don't you ever
forget that... again!" She referred to several incidents over
the years where his jealous side got the better of him and
they fought over what he thought he'd seen. All of which had
been completely innocent, once he was forced to see what
sighed as they lay back down again, and she snuggled into the
curve of his arm. She reached over and ran her fingers through
his thick blonde thatch, then down over his cheek to finger
his chin cleft thoughtfully. "I think your father is going to
be greatly relieved."
guess. And he won't be the only one. Look, if there's got to
be a wedding, can we keep it really small?"
course, there aren't many that we'd ask to attend, anyway."
She kissed his cheek excitedly. "And let's make it soon!"
making such a big deal?" Gordon muttered to no one in
particular as he plopped in a chair near Scott and Virgil in
"All I can
say is, it's about time," Virgil agreed.
asked Dad to get John on visual," Scott chortled to his
Alan's going to be more surprised than we are," Grandma chimed
down the paper he'd been reading and looked up at the
portraits of his sons lining the wall. One had been replaced
by a real-time image of John up in the space station,
Thunderbird Five. "John, can you hear everything okay?"
Dad," John replied, "loud and clear."
came in from the garden, pulling off his work gloves, to stand
near Jeff behind his desk.
hurried in with a tray bearing a tall object covered by a
large cloth. He set it down on the table in front of him as he
found his seat. "Quiet everyone!" he warned. "They're
and Tin-Tin, both looking rather flushed and excited, came in
together from their walk on the beach.
cleared his throat.
comes," muttered Gordon again.
gave him a quiet and exasperated "Shut up."
guess you all wonder why we asked you all to be here
together," Alan shuffled his feet as Tin-Tin gave his hand an
encouraging pat. "Tin-Tin and I have been talking and thinking
on with it," John interrupted from the portraits. "What's the
looked with astonishment at his brother out in space. "As soon
as we can get the details worked out... How'd you...?"
know you and Tin-Tin are finally getting married?" Scott
interjected. "My god, man, we've been waiting for you to see
what's right in front of you for years!"
shrugged and grinned at Tin-Tin in resignation. "So much for a
"I want to
be the first to kiss the bride!" laughed Virgil, as he hopped
up to collect on his declaration.
have to beat me there first," joked Gordon, only just a step
ecstatic Jeff wrapped an equally emotional Kyrano in a big
bear hug, while Grandma wiped a tear from her eye.
tell you, Tracy," Kyrano could be heard to say in the general
congratulations and confusion, "We've raised them well. If you
let them, they will do the right thing!"
think, Brains?" Tin-Tin asked, after the initial excitement
had died down. "You haven't said very much!"
said Brains slyly, pulling the cloth from the tray he'd
carried in, "that this c-calls for some champagne!"
his mother leaned into his shoulder to whisper in his ear, as
Tin-Tin was excitedly showing them her drawings for the gowns
she had designed for herself and Penelope. "You know how I've
waited for these two to stop tip-toeing around their feelings
for one another, but doesn't it seem like taking on one month
to plan and pull off a wedding is rushing it a bit? I mean,
there's living arrangements to make, getting someone to
officiate, flowers, a cake...I can't even begin to list all of
the things that need to be done. And now she wants to make
some elaborate wedding gown?"
chuckled softly. "Aw, Mom, I don't care if she and Alan wear
purple sarongs and lampshades on their heads. I'm just glad
that Alan is finally doing something about his feelings for
Tin-Tin instead of sneaking around. Lucille and I were able to
put a wedding together in a few days, and we didn't have the
resources at our disposal that they do. I'm sure everything
will work out just fine."
to the whispered conversation, Tin-Tin laid her drawings down,
a dreamy look in her eyes. "And I know just where to get the
perfect fabric. It's in Singapore!"
was an accomplished pilot herself, but with so many other
accomplished pilots on the island, she rarely got the chance
to fly. This was the perfect opportunity, Jeff suggested at
breakfast, and it wouldn't tie up any of the other boys or
their machines. "It also means that we can stay as long as we
like," Tin-Tin had joked, grinning at Alan, who waggled his
eyebrows lecherously. Which caused Jeff to pretend to choke on
his coffee and wonder out loud why he'd ever suggested it.
the kidding around, they dutifully made out an itinerary, just
in case they might be needed for a rescue mission. They took
off early the next day and reached Changi International
Airport, in the eastern part of Singapore, just before noon.
had been uneventful. Tin-Tin requested and had gotten
clearance to land her red and white Ladybird jet, and a few
minutes later, they pulled up to the hangar as she was
rental car counter, they selected a little white convertible
so they could see the sights as they drove into the city. As
they collected the keys, the door behind the desk opened and
Rental Singapore's newest employee returned with his lunch.
the job last week after settling affairs in Manila to avoid
the investigation following the bungled ferry bombing.
Accustomed to having servants to order around and an expense
account, it irked him to be reduced to this. He barely earned
enough money to pay for an adequate apartment and he had to
cook his own meals.
sandwich bought from a vendor in the airport was an
extravagance he wouldn't be able to afford often, but he
nearly dropped the sack when he saw Alan at the counter.
Recovering his composure quickly, he busied himself at the
desk until the couple left. He couldn't believe his luck; this
just could be the means to place him back in the good graces
of his superior, and he might soon be returned to his rightful
co-worker took his lunch break, he casually picked up the
rental agreement and memorized the name and the hotel they'd
listed for a local address. On his next break, he found a pay
know what to do about a best man," Alan groaned, as they sped
west along the roadway toward the city.
easy!" responded Tin-Tin with a laugh. "Just ask Scott or
just the problem. Which one? I thought Virgil would help with
the music, but when I tried to talk to him, he misunderstood.
Now I don't want to disappoint him and I'd already asked
Scott. And you know they're going to talk about it, and
they're both gonna be mad; at each other and at me. You've
talked to Lady Penelope about being your maid of honor?"
she was so excited. But look, there's no reason why Scott and
Virgil can't both escort Penelope down the aisle. I'm sure
she'd be thrilled."
so?" Alan leaned over from the wheel to kiss Tin-Tin on the
cheek. "You're right, that was easy! I'll straighten it out
when we get to the hotel."
now, I just want you to drive straight!" she laughed.
"Off-road travel is not allowed on this stretch!"
I have received information that some of the members of
International Rescue are in Singapore."
General's eyes gleamed excitedly. "Those machines! What I
could do with those machines!" Then just as quickly, his
expression darkened. "This information better be current!
There have been no disasters in Singapore to require
General, no disasters, and the machines aren't there either,
but at least one member of International Rescue has been
spotted on holiday."
member? How is this known?"
been recognized by a trusted member of my staff who witnessed
their rescue operation in Manila last month. I trust this
operative, General," his advisor responded as the general's
eyes narrowed. "His reputation and devotion are above
well. Inform the network. I want to know where he goes, when,
and what he does. When the time is right, he should be brought
here to our secret base."
Island, Alan and Tin-Tin's announcement had produced another
unexpected result. Scott, Virgil, Gordon, and Brains sat
discussing it after breakfast by the pool.
broached the idea and was preparing his case by discussing it
with his brothers and their friend before he took it to their
father. "Look, with the way our operation and reputation are
expanding, we're going to have to start recruiting people
sometime. And they might as well be women." The oldest, he had
served in the Air Force, as Jeff had, and so had both the
personality and training of a natural leader.
the island? What would they do?" Gordon couldn't understand
why this was suddenly a priority. He was a year older than
Alan, and, like the others, a carefree bachelor. The only one
of the brothers who had not trained as an astronaut, he had
instead become an Olympic gold medalist swimmer and then
joined the World Aquanaut Security Patrol before the accident
that ended his career.
surely Tin-Tin isn't the only w-woman in the world with
d-degrees in math and engineering," Brains contributed. Brains
was not a Tracy by blood, but had been orphaned as a child,
and raised by a prominent university professor. Jeff found him
nervously stuttering through a lecture in Paris and recognized
his amazing potential as an innovator. It wasn't long before
he revealed to him his desire to build an organization that
eventually became International Rescue. Brains had been
welcomed into the family just as enthusiastically as Kyrano
and Tin-Tin had been years earlier. He had re-paid that
welcome by becoming the intrument to making Jeff's dreams come
the middle son of those present, was a gifted artist and
musician as well as pilot. He had the ability, more than any
of them, to make a leap of insight beyond the information
presented to him. He saw what Scott was leading up to, but he
also saw the implications. "And besides, it's the best way to
continue the operation into the future." Gordon and Brains
looked at him in puzzlement. "Don't tell me you haven't
wondered what'll happen when we personally can't go out on
rescue operations. Of course, I plan to live to a hundred and
fifty or so, but not everyone would appreciate being rescued
by a centenarian, however strong and brave. Our children must
continue the work we've started, or it will stop when we're
gone. And that would be a shame."
alone in his room, lost in staring out the window at the
Pacific. One hand rested on the framed portrait of a young
woman, his late wife Lucille, who had died tragically shortly
after Alan was born. In the other hand he held the rings he'd
placed on her hand so many years ago, and broken-heartedly
received back when she died. "Well, Lucy," he said softly,
"finally it's happening. I was beginning to believe that our
handsome sons were going to remain bachelors and that
International Rescue would end with them.
right, after all, Alan is the first. You said so when you
first held him in arms, when he was already charming the
nurses: "This one will probably be the first to find the right
woman." Jeff smiled with the memory, then stroked a line along
the cheek of the portrait with his finger.
she'll wear them, I want Tin-Tin to have your rings. She
reminds me so much of you, dearest. So smart. And fearless,
too, just like you were when I'd leave to go to space. I know
you would have loved her as much as the rest of us." He
chuckled softly. "I just wish I could find four more just like
her for the other boys." Then he placed the rings back in the
little box he'd hidden in the back of a drawer for so long,
and set it next to her portrait. Somehow, he had to find a way
to get them re-sized for Tin-Tin's tiny finger.
knock at his door.
Tracy, I need to talk to you," Kyrano said, as he brought in
Jeff's morning newspaper and coffee.
the last time, I hope," Jeff chuckled.
Kyrano smiled, "but it does have to do with our children
again... and Tin-Tin's honor."
sipped his coffee and listened with growing wonder as his old
friend related what was on his mind. He had known that
Kyrano's family was aristocratic and that his half-brother had
usurped his inheritance, but he had not realized how closely
related he was to one of the old Malay royal houses.
the circumstances," Kyrano summed up, "I think it is
appropriate for Alan to have this." He held out in his hand a
bold, very ancient gold ring. Its crest depicted a sea bird
with its wings outspread, holding a spice chest in its feet.
In its beak was a small sparkling sapphire. "When my brother
forced me to leave my home, I was able to take this with me.
It is based on my family's emblem. I do not think it will need
to be re-sized to fit Alan."
didn't know what to say. "Kyrano," he said finally, "are you
sure you want him to have this ..?"
nodded emphatically. "I am sure. I was the last in the line
when my brother took over the household. I loved my wife
deeply, but she was not of any noble family. This is a house,"
he closed his hand over the ring with a pained sigh, "that is
no more. Tin-Tin has made me very proud, and, by joining your
family, which has and will continue to bring great honor upon
itself, she has restored honor to me as well."
loved to shop anywhere, but the restored open air shops of the
Singapore shopping district were exhilarating. She and Alan
had spent the last two days buying things for the wedding,
gifts for everyone on Tracy island and Lady Penelope, and had
even found Alan a pair of sandals.
saw the fabric she wanted, she spoke to the proprietor in the
Malay language. He was extremely cooperative and gave her a
very good price. She chose bolts of white and pink silk, and a
heavy brocaded satin in red. "There must be red for happiness,
it's the tradition!" she giggled at his puzzled expression.
carrying her prizes back to the car when she saw it. "Alan!"
Her eyes were shining brightly. He sighed and reached for his
wallet. He could never resist that look. "That white suit!
It's perfect for you!"
know, Tin-Tin. A white suit? What would I ever wear it for?"
the wedding for starters! Come on, just try it on!"
minutes later, he stared at himself in the mirror. It was a
vast contrast from the tropical print shirt and bush shorts
he'd been wearing. He'd been transformed.
did I tell you?" Tin-Tin tore off a corner of the red fabric,
tucked it in the breast pocket and fluffed it out. Then she
stepped back to see her handiwork. "Now, that's a sight to
come down the aisle to!" she gushed.
his head and grinned. "Well, I certainly do want you to come
down the aisle. But this isn't fair! I can't see you in the
gown you designed, yet."
the little car and loaded the carefully wrapped packages in
the back seat. Alan eyed the bolts of fabric and the other
materials they'd accumulated dubiously. "Are you sure you can
get all this done in two weeks?"
laughed gaily. "Your grandmother offered to help me and Brains
is working on an innovation to speed up the sewing. I can't
not get it all done!" She paused and pursed her lips.
"Although, I keep thinking there's something we're
back to the hotel, Alan thought he saw something odd. He was
sure he kept seeing the same three cars. It seemed as if one
of them was at every intersection they drove past. Tin-Tin
hadn't seemed to notice and was chattering happily next to
him. They were having a wonderful time together and at last he
dismissed it as just his imagination.
was to be their last night here, the evening went by in a
whirlwind. They had dinner at the hotel, took in two different
dance clubs, and finally returned to their room late that
night, exhausted from the fun of the day. Still, Alan had
something nagging in the back of his mind that he couldn't
place, but couldn't shake off.
morning, they planned some sightseeing before returning to
Tracy Island in the evening. Like most days in Singapore, the
day promised to be hot and humid. Tin-Tin wore white capris
and sandals with her mauve silk blouse, while Alan thought
jeans, a pale orange cotton shirt, and canvas loafers would be
comfortable. They checked out of the hotel and decided to take
their luggage to the plane before they did anything else.
"That way, we won't worry about it. Besides, I don't want to
take a chance that some tropical shower ruins my dress!"
She was in
a buoyant mood after they made the stop at the airport. "I
want you to see Empress Place, first..." her enthusiasm
trailed off as she noticed Alan's troubled expression. "What's
wrong?" she asked in alarm.
studying the rear view mirror. "I've been seeing the same
three cars ever since we got here. Here they are again. And
this time they have guns. Watch the black Audi behind us when
I turn here..." Alan turned the wheel sharply to the left,
making the tires squeal as they sped around the corner.
Tin-Tin caught a glimpse of the two men in the Audi, as the
black car continued to travel straight ahead although their
convertible made the turn. The driver held a black object to
his mouth, the handmic of a radio set no doubt, while his
passenger tracked them with the short muzzle of an automatic
watch, here comes a green Fiat," Alan brought her attention
back to the intersection just ahead. Just as predicted the
small green car appeared. At the next intersection, Alan
turned left again. "Now a red Saab." The Fiat's driver spoke
into his radio and shortly after, a beat-up red Saab appeared.
Alan turned left, the green Fiat was back. One more left and
they were back on the street where they had started. There was
the black Audi again.
you think they're following us?" Tin-Tin was tense and alert
think they can mug two rich tourists," he grunted, but he was
sure it was more than that. There were other rich tourists;
why would they follow them for three days unless they knew who
they were following!
turned right, trying to elude them, but the green Fiat was
back with them in a short time.
she felt Alan's hand on her shoulder, pushing her down into
the seat. "Look out!" he shouted at the same time. Almost
simultaneously, there was a series of sharp cracks as several
bullets outlined the upper frame of the windshield and bounced
felt her lungs shudder when she remembered to breathe. Alan
marveled how much she sounded like Lady Penelope when she
spoke, her tone light, though her voice shook slightly. "Not
avery good shot, is he?"
mouth was set in a firm line. "I don't think he meant to hit
us; those were warning shots. They're trying to get our
jammed his foot down on the accelerator, and the car leaped
we better split up. Maybe you can get away on foot." He tore
off his watch with its secret videophone link to International
Rescue headquarters and handed it to her. "Here, take my
telecom. Call Dad as soon as you can, but get back to the
took the watch with trembling hands. It was far too large for
her small wrist. "How will we find you? We didn't bring our
reached down to his belt and tapped the hidden switch. "I've
turned on my belt transceiver. Thunderbird Five can track it."
several more fast sharp turns, some of them on two wheels, and
when Alan was satisfied that they were briefly out of their
pursuers' sight, abruptly pulled over so she could jump out.
"Tin-Tin, I love you," he said, so seriously that cold hands
gripped her heart. He wanted to be sure she knew in case
something went wrong.
you, too," She blurted her response, unsure whether he heard
her over the protesting tires as he peeled off. The Fiat
appeared, picking up the pursuit. She stood too long at the
curb, numbly watching Alan race on, until she saw the Fiat's
passenger glare back at her, speaking into the handmic as they
sped past. She darted between startled passerby and ran.
headed west, knowing Tin-Tin's goal lay to the east, at Changi
and her jet. His plan was to keep the other drivers so
occupied that they forgot about her. He made another turn on
two wheels, his racing car experience prior to International
Rescue allowing him to maintain control. The Audi pulled in
behind the Fiat with the Saab close behind, stealth thrown
aside as they closed in.
reached a sparsely populated area of Singapore, where there
was little other traffic on the road. Alan pushed the
accelerator pedal down harder, trying to put more distance
between himself and his pursuers. After a few minutes, he
glanced into the rearview mirror, and looked up just in time
to realize he was not going to be able to make the bend in the
road ahead. He oversteered, but the little convertible was not
a race car, and its suspension couldn't take it. It skidded
sideways, then rolled completely over, smashing into a
Fortunately, Alan received only a few scratches and was mostly
unhurt; he vaulted out of the car and tried to sprint away.
The red Saab narrowly missed plowing into the rear, instead,
veering off into a guard and smashing the already beat up
fender. Somehow its driver kept it in motion to cut him off.
the other cars closed in around him, forming a tight triangle.
Dust kicked up by the cars swirled about him as he made ready
to slide across the Saab's hood and escape, but the passenger
of the Audi threw the door open behind him and leaped out,
spewing gunshots along the battered red quarter panel. Alan
raised his hands and turned to glare at his attacker.
scuttling footsteps behind him then felt the sharp stab of a
hypodermic in his shoulder. Almost immediately his knees went
out from under him. As soon as he was down, the green Fiat
turned and sped back to the shopping district, while two men
threw Alan in the back seat of the Audi. They quickly squeezed
in on either side of him and the black car bumped back onto
the pavement, leaving the disabled Saab abandoned by the side
of the road.
take the car over on the boat, too," the driver said. "I'm
sure somebody saw us."
should give us a bonus for capturing him so easily," one of
his companion remarked.
on it," another responded.
Audi careened on toward the harbor, Alan's captors were not
aware that he was still awake and could hear them. He clung to
consciousness desperately for a few more minutes, but finally
the powerful sedative they'd injected did its work.
surprised, but only mildly concerned when the eyes in Alan's
portrait flashed off and on.
Alan," he said, activating the visual switch. But it was a
very tense Tin-Tin, not Alan, whose face appeared. A lead
weight suddenly dropped into the pit of his stomach.
Tracy, we're in trouble." She spoke calmly, but hurriedly.
"Alan and I had to separate. We were being followed in the
car. I'm on foot, but now I think someone is following me
again. Alan took the car, but there are three other cars after
him. They have radios of some kind. Alan's activated his belt
transceiver, so he gave me his telecom."
looked up suddenly, past the tiny camera embedded in the watch
face. There was a sudden blurred movement, then the picture
went dark and the connection was broken.
Jeff fumbled for the radio switch and tried to reconnect, but
there was no response. He flipped another switch and the
emergency intercom throughout the complex began to buzz.
not sure where he was when he awakened, but the traffic of
Singapore was silent, so he knew the boat his kidnappers had
mentioned brought him far from that island. A bright light
shone in his eyes, and his hands were bound tightly behind his
chair; he could only turn his face away from the brightness.
There were two uniformed figures behind it, one with his arms
crossed, standing slightly behind the other, an obviously more
a deep breath, and tried to act like he was an innocent
tourist as he squinted to see around the light. "What is the
meaning of this! What do you want!"
important one spoke, in a soft dangerous voice. "I intend to
ask the questions here, but I will choose to answer one of
yours first. What I want is information about International
"International Rescue?" Alan's heart sank, but he continued to
pretend ignorance. "I don't know what you're talking about.
Just who do you think I am?"
exactly who you are. Your name is Alan Tracy and you fly one
of the Thunderbirds."
gotta be kidding me! A Thunderbird ..?" The blow across his
face was as painful as it was unexpected. The important one
was short-tempered as well as dangerous.
foolishness," he growled to the man with the folded arms.
"Make him more uncomfortable, and he will be more willing to
General X," the second man bowed, then nodded at someone
behind Alan's chair. Two men pulled Alan to his feet roughly,
dragged him across the room, and heaved him into a prone
position on a narrow table. His legs were quickly strapped
down just below the knees. His arms were untied, pulled down
over the sides of the table and tied again, fastened so
securely to the table legs that he could barely turn his head.
smaller table beside him, General X picked up a small device
no larger than his hand. On it were four small metal squares
arranged in parallel on a handle with a long cord. He held it
close to Alan's face for him to examine. He flipped a switch
on the handle and immediately the metal glowed red. Alan
winced as the heat from the squares struck his face. This was
going to hurt.
general made a show of studying the glowing metal pads as he
turned them deliberately over and back again. "I am not an
unreasonable man," he said slowly, "but I am an extremely
impatient one. Tell me what I wish to know and you can be
spared this unpleasantness. First, tell me about your base of
operations?" Alan continued the charade, knowing it was
useless. "Look, I've already told you, I don't what you're
for the Thunderbird craft is what I'm talking about," General
X said in a ominous voice and nodded to one of the men
standing behind the table. There was a sharp tug at the back
of Alan's shirt. The cotton fabric was abruptly rent all the
way up to the collar and the torn edges thrown up over his
where is this base?" The general turned toward him and pressed
the red-hot squares into his bare shoulder blade.
screamed in pain and surprise.
your base!" he repeated, as he lifted the hot device away from
know what you're talking about!" Alan managed to gasp.
squares had darkened, but quickly began to glow red again.
"What is the power source of Thunderbird One?" The device was
pressed into his other shoulder.
Alan screamed again. "I don't know!"
darkened elements glowed again. "Where is your secret base!"
each question, the general exaggerated a fascination for the
way the four heating elements seemed to darken, and watched
the glow return as he asked the next question. Then he always
planted the device on an unscathed area of Alan's naked back
following a predevised pattern. "What powers a Thunderbird
machine?" and so the questioning continued. Alan refused to
answer the questions, but could not keep himself from crying
merciful unconsciousness gave him relief.
had found a tiny secluded park from which to call Jeff. While
she was talking, someone grabbed her arm and swung her around
until his arm was wrapped around her neck. Tin-Tin went into
fluid motion, simultaneously grabbing her assailant's arm,
stomping his foot, and twisting away from him.
did, Alan's telecom slipped off her wrist unnoticed into a
rhododendron. Then she ran toward the street, screaming for
all she was worth, but was ignored. There were three more of
them near the gate. They grabbed her quickly, as she continued
to scream. Suddenly, she felt a sharp sensation in her
shoulder, and she collapsed. They threw her in the back of the
Fiat and sped off toward the harbor. Alan's watch lay
forgotten in the park.
image from the satellite bore a intent expression. "I'm
showing Alan's homing beacon east of the shopping district at
Singapore City. And his belt transceiver signal is moving
rapidly out to sea. It looks like its headed straight toward
an island in the archipelago," he said, consulting the
electronic screen in front of him on the space station. He
watched it anxiously for a moment, then looked up expectantly.
"It's definitely headed for that island. Chart 80; north, 2
degrees 23 minutes 14/K; by east, 104 degrees 40 minutes,
pulled the chart and quickly found the location. "It's a
p-privately owned island, a former c-coffee plantation," he
read aloud, and looked up from the page. "Th-that would be a
good place to take someone th-they wished to hold and question
Kyrano spoke up quietly. They had almost forgotten he was
there. "Many of those small islands were bought as British
land holdings and some have changed hands many times. Anyone
with ready funds could purchase one when the owners tired of
their tropical paradise... or the political climate."
that's where they intend to take Tin-Tin also," said Gordon.
you're right, Gordon." Scott was looking over Brains'
shoulder. "Lots of jungle in those highlands near the
plantation." He looked up at the others. "We'll need some camo."
dark there by the time you arrive," Jeff pointed out. "You'll
be better off with night gear."
Tin-Tin had Alan's telecom near Singapore City," Virgil
protested. "She may have escaped and still be there. Someone
should at least check."
agreed Jeff. "So Scott, that's where you should go first."
looked up eagerly. Finally, it looked like they could do
of you get to that island in Thunderbird Two, best possible
speed," Jeff ordered. "Take the gear and weapons you need in
Pod Six. I want you in and back out in a hurry, so use the
hoverbikes. And make sure that jammer's working."
Father," they chorused, and headed for the access chutes to
made him pull himself out of the haze of pain. It was hard to
concentrate, but slowly, he identified it. It was her
voice. She was fighting and struggling to free herself.
Tin-Tin! Alan groaned inwardly; so his hope had failed him and
he'd suffered for nothing. Not only would it frighten her to
see him this way, he knew that he would tell them anything if
they tried to hurt her.
she was stock-still; she had seen him. "Alan!" Eight neat rows
of eight raw squares, some blackened at the edges, covered his
bare upper back. The odor of singed flesh still hung in the
air. "Oh, Alan!" Horrified, it was all she could manage to
say. Suddenly, the realization struck her, clear and
despairing. Alan had suffered for information he had refused
to give. Now that she had been captured, the balance would tip
in the other direction; for her sake, he would no longer
She gave a
terrific heave of her shoulders and managed to free an arm.
She clawed as many faces as she could reach, kicking out with
her feet, and fighting wildly. "Alan, don't you tell them
anything!" she shouted.
struggled feebly on the table. There was nothing he could do
help her, securely bound as he was and in agony.
warning, there was an abrupt strained silence. Somehow, she
had managed to get her hands around one of the pistols they
carried. She motioned the others aside with the business end
of it, puffing from exertion.
saw that the General had his pistol also, and that its barrel
was jammed into the back of Alan's head. Alan had his eyes
squeezed tightly closed, waiting for his skull to be
her lip, and her head hung down, defeated. Without a word, she
turned the pistol around and held it out. Its owner, his face
badly scratched, snatched it, then twisted her arm around
behind her back so violently that she gasped.
voice was weak with pain and despair. "Stop. Don't hurt her.
I'll tell you want you want to know."
The door to the room was thrown back, startling them all. In
the doorway was the radio operator, his headphones still in
place, shock written across his face. "One of the Thunderbirds
is landing at Changi!"
X's face bore an amazed expression. "And so these two lead the
Thunderbirds to me!" he said softly. His gaze fastened on Alan
thoughtfully. "International Rescue must want them back," he
said slowly, a new plan evolving. "That is much more useful to
me than answering any question." He turned away from them, his
earlier frustration forgotten. "I must think how best to use
this to my advantage," he muttered to himself. Then, an
afterthought: "Lock them up securely downstairs. We must plan
how they will get us the Thunderbirds."
untied and hauled to his feet. Then he and Tin-Tin were taken
into the narrow hallway, through another doorway, and down
steep stairs underground. The rough handling tore into his
already ravaged back, and he stumbled as they dragged him
along, through another corridor and into a small dim room.
There they let him drop and threw Tin-Tin practically on top
of him. The door clanged shut and a bolt creaked across it as
she caught her balance.
room, a narrow wooden bench stood against the wall. Tin-Tin
tested it tentatively. It was sturdy and dry. Alan moaned and
tried to lift his head from the floor. She went to him. "I'm
here, Alan," she said softly.
in Singapore anymore. Where are we?" he mumbled.
it must be an old plantation on one of the islands," she said
distractedly. "Alan, we need to get you to that bench. You'll
begin going into shock soon and the floor is already cold."
first, Tin-Tin. I've got to stop the signal from my belt
transceiver." His groan as he tried to turn over pulled at her
they'll never be able to find us without it."
see? We can't let them find us. It's the Thunderbirds he
wants. If we lead them here, they'll be flying into a trap." A
wake of weakness washed over him, and his voice dropped to a
whisper. "The only way we can protect them is to not let them
beside him, and trying not to touch his back, she helped him
sit up. He unfastened the belt and painfully drew it off.
Every move was torment. Taking the belt by its notched end, he
slung it, whip-fashion, at the floor. There was a pop as it
struck the stones and the buckle flew apart.
was more than he could tolerate. He fell over onto her and
passed out. She could never remember afterward how she did it,
but somehow she got him to the bench and on his stomach. His
tattered shirt clung to the oozing wounds. It was not blood,
but a clear yellowish fluid that soaked his shirt and dried
stickily. Tin-Tin had nothing to bandage him with, though she
now looked about her desperately.
evidently once been a wine cellar had been partitioned off by
huge sheets of metal, bolted to the stone walls and floor with
large brackets. The door was metal also, hinged to open
outward. Tropical air and cool stone had resulted in abundant
moisture, the stone floor was damp and slick with algae and
the metal walls were beginning to corrode.
original wall was covered with moss and contained a high slit
of a window with an ornate grapevine grating, alluding to the
previous use of the underground chamber. Through that window,
there was a glimpse of brown and green shrubbery, and she
could tell that dusk was just beginning to fall. A single
light recessed into the ceiling, its flat plastic face dingy
with mildew, would soon be their only illumination.
back to Alan. He was beginning to shiver; shock was setting
in. All she could do was cover the burns with the remains of
his shirt. She sat down on the damp floor near his head, took
his clammy hand, and pressed it to her face. Then, she finally
let herself cry.
pounded his fist into his thigh in frustration. "What could
have caused his transceiver to go out? Loss of power? Anything
could have happened to him..." he stopped, just short of
saying what he most feared for his brother.
Brains, and Virgil were flying in Thunderbird Two to the
island while Scott was heading for Changi airport, alone, in
Thunderbird One. Scott's smaller, faster craft would arrive in
Singapore ninety minutes before the slower, larger Thunderbird
Two would land.
tried to control his frustration by staying busy, but that
tactic didn't seem to work. He checked the jammer connections
to Thunderbird Two's power grid for the fifth time, and then
the connections to the other device, a camouflage field
projector he'd been working on before Tin-Tin's call. The
connections were perfect, just as he knew they were the first
time he checked them. He gave it up and sat down with a sigh
beside Gordon and behind Virgil, who was piloting the huge
transceivers have n-never failed before." He was clearly
puzzled. "Only the scanner on Thunderbird Five can p-pick up
the signal, so whoever captured A-alan should not know he has
one and d-destroy it."
destroyed it himself..." Virgil said slowly, as a new, more
hopeful idea occurred to him. "Of course! He's being used as
bait! It's the Thunderbirds they want! He's trying to not to
lure us into a trap." He stared out of the aircraft's big
windshield. "It's as clear as if radioed it in himself."
frowned at the intuitive leap. He knew well that Virgil often
had an inexplicable insight as to the well-being of all his
brothers, but his assertion seemed improbable. Gordon had no
still alive!" Gordon was looking over Virgil's shoulder, hope
rising in his eyes.
an alarm and flashing light appeared on the instrument panel.
"Radar!" Gordon shouted unnecessarily. "Veer off Virgil!"
swung the huge craft away in a sharp arc, as Gordon dove for
his seat and Brains hung on grimly.
we're pretty sure that they're trying to use Alan as bait to
lure us in, Father," Virgil told him later, speaking through
the videocom connection with Jeff on Tracy Island. He had
brought Thunderbird Two around in a broad circle, then came in
from the north below radar level and touched down in the hills
behind the plantation. Dusk was beginning to fall and the
three of them had already changed into black clothes and knit
jammer is on and we've landed in a secluded place behind the
hills near the plantation. Gordon and I are going to do a
recon, while Brains stays here to keep an eye on things and
make sure the camouflage field stays up. We're taking the
hoverbikes so we can move faster through the jungle, so we
should be done by the time Scott arrives."
work, boys. Penelope just reported in, too. She got in touch
with Sir Jeremy Hodge and asked him to talk to his contacts at
Interpol. He found out that a terrorist ring has been
operating in the region, and they are fairly sure their base
is at that location. So, be very careful on your recon. Those
men will be dangerous. As soon as Scott checks in from
Singapore, I'll pass on your location."
to be on his guard, they'll be looking for him" Virgil warned.
"He needs to make a big show of leaving Singapore, then circle
back here and come in from the north below radar level. He
should land as far from the plantation as practical, Brains
will be able to tell him where to meet us."
like every eye on the street was staring at his International
Rescue uniform. It was possible that Alan's predicament was
the result of being recognized, but Scott had to be
International Rescue to land Thunderbird One at Changi, and
then get past the security he'd requested when he took her up
once more with John, who assured him that the homing signal
from Alan's watch hadn't moved. Several explanations had
sprung to mind as he searched, none of which he dared share
with his younger brother; John felt helpless enough already.
Tin-Tin had gotten away and was in hiding or she had been
captured alive and imprisoned. Or, and he swallowed hard over
the possibility, she was lying dead or unconscious somewhere.
He didn't dare try to signal her, even just a flash, in case
she was in hiding.
grew stronger. As he passed a little gated park, the intensity
of the signal fell and gradually grew less the further from it
he walked. The watch had to be in the park. Scott
back-tracked. By triangulation, he and John gradually narrowed
down its location to the base of a plant. As he picked it up,
his heart sank to his toes; the last sure lead to Tin-Tin's
fate was gone.
placed Alan's watch in his pocket, then lifted his telecom.
John's already anxious face fell further at his big brother's
bleak expression. "Put me through to Father, John."
Scott," John responded, glad the transition would not let
Scott see the tears form in his eyes.
found Alan's watch, Father," Scott stifled his desire to wince
as the hope flickered in his father's face, only to die when
he looked into his eyes. "Tin-Tin must have dropped it, so
there's no telling where she might be now." He did wince then,
when he heard Kyrano's gasp of dismay. He must have been
standing on the other side of Jeff's desk.
father's voice was as heavy as Scott's heart. "All right,
son." He glanced up apologetically to his old friend over the
monitor. "We'll have to hold on to the hope that she somehow
got away. Tin-Tin's smart, and she knows how to defend
herself." If she wasn't outnumbered, Jeff thought to himself.
"I'm afraid they need you to help rescue Alan now."
jungle canopy, the horizon was ablaze with sunset. Under the
jungle canopy, it was full nighttime dark. The dense cover
above had kept the understory of the forest fairly open.
Virgil and Gordon, on the hoverbikes, found making a path
black clothes and caps made them almost invisible in the
darkness, even to each other, without their night vision
goggles. With them, everything around them had taken on an
eerie glow, depending upon the heat each object possessed.
Soon, the vegetation began to grow thicker, they were near the
edge of the dense forest where sunlight had reached the
the goggles, they could make out a black grid before them, the
cool metal lines of a chain-link fence. They dismounted the
hoverbikes and camouflaged them carefully. A moonless night
cautiously crept close to the fence, keeping to as much cover
as he could. He peered carefully up and down the top edge of
the 10-foot wire structure.
cameras," he whispered to Gordon. Gordon nodded, and after
donning thick rubber gloves, moved up to the fence and
tentatively laid a hand on it. There were no alarms, no shouts
from the grounds it surrounded, and it was not electrified.
I think much of their security so far," he said softly to
Virgil, pulling off the gloves.
let's not get careless," Virgil agreed quietly.
They cut a
slit through the fence and, carefully folding it back, slipped
through to the plantation grounds. "All right, Kiddo," said
Virgil softly to his brother. "I'll meet you back by the
hoverbikes in one hour." They split up, going in opposite
they had established a flash code for their telecoms and then
drew lots for who scouted the outbuildings and who got the
main house. They both felt that the main house was probably
the most hazardous of the two, with possibly less cover and
more people to avoid. Neither had wanted the other to take
dangerous! You don't have any idea what's in that house!"
Virgil had reasoned.
do you! And what if you get shot at and can't fly us out of
here?" Gordon argued.
you'll have to!" his brother shot back.
of the mission and what it might mean for Alan and Tin-Tin
were making them tense and irritable. Each had a grip of iron
around the other's arm, the result of Gordon taking a swing at
his brother, something he would not ordinarily have done even
fellas!" Brains intervened. "W-why don't you just draw straws.
"Here," he produced two short pieces of wire from the work he
had done with the camouflage field projector and held them out
in his fist. "Sh-short gets the house."
picked one, Gordon took the other, and they compared lots.
Virgil had drawn the house.
plantation would have been a good choice for a base in a
military operation, had the grounds been better kept, but the
overgrown vegetation and trees at the edges of the property
made their security sloppy. At several points, the trees
actually overhung the fence and understory plants had pushed
through, pulling the perimeter of the grounds inward unevenly,
sometimes several feet from the fence.
better cover for Gordon, as he slipped from one plant clump to
another. He found there were two entry points to the compound,
one in the front of and closer to the house, which he left for
Virgil to explore, and another in the far back of the
property. The rough-looking men who guarded the gates were
the back of the house, behind a vast ruined garden and a few
trees, was a cluster of cinder block buildings and a large
quonset. Lights were glaring out from two of them, apparently
a barracks and the mess, judging from the number of men
passing between them. To the rear of these, closest to the
fence, there were four other buildings.
pressed himself against the back wall of one, and moved
carefully around it to the side where the door was located. A
slotted tab and loop for a padlock had been used to secure it,
but the padlock was locked uselessly on the loop, the tab
swung out to the side. Gordon tsk-tsked the poor security and
cautiously pushed it open. It was a storage shed for small
munitions, some of it grossly outdated and dirty. Gordon did a
quick inspection of it and moved on.
building was similarly vulnerable. It was filled with cases of
explosives: dynamite, plastique, blasting caps and others,
along with the paraphernalia to deploy and detonate them.
Gordon made particular note of these, as they might be useful
later. The quonset was evidently the garage. A jeep and two
trucks were parked under it, the jeep with its hood up and a
large gap where the carburetor should have been. One of the
trucks had a flat tire.
surprise, the fourth building was locked. He picked the
padlock carefully, and laid it on the ground. A low hum
greeted him as he pushed the door open. He'd finally found
something that impressed him. The building held a small atomic
generator, its refrigeration unit taking up one side of the
building, its turbines the other. Judging by the instrument
panels lining the remaining wall, it apparently supplied the
whole compound with electricity.
two main switches was a brand name, and when he read it,
Gordon almost chuckled out loud: part of the name of the
company that had produced it was Hackenbacker. Hackenbacker
was one of Brains' aliases that he used for his engineering
designs patented outside of International Rescue. No wonder
the little machine impressed him so much!
the building and carefully relocked it. Then he moved over to
the barracks and mess buildings. Both had large screened
windows that ran the entire upper half of the buildings, with
shutters that hinged down from inside. Because of the heat,
the mess was wide open.
bunkhouse was dark, most of its shutters closed, as evidently
all the men had gone to the mess. Gordon counted two rows of
twelve double bunks through an open window. Most of the bunks
looked like they might be employed. The doors to the barracks
and mess were adjacent to each other, and the short distance
between them was a well-beaten path.
the door to the mess swung open and two men swaggered out, one
pausing to light a cigarette. Gordon flattened himself to the
side of the building. If either man decided to wander around
to the side, he'd be spotted. The barracks door squeaked open
as the mess door slammed, the barracks lights were turned on,
and, except for the banter of the two men, there was silence.
quietly let out the breath he forgot he'd been holding, and
pulled his goggles aside to thumb a trickle of sweat from his
eyebrow. He could see enough of the men playing cards or
talking in the well-lit mess to determine that they were
mixture of all races, some of them very dirty and rugged. He
counted some 40 of these mercenaries, replaced the goggles,
and then moved back into the greater darkness of the trees.
his watch. Forty-five minutes had passed since he and Virgil
split up. He began to work his way back carefully to the
hoverbikes. Soon, without further incident, he slipped back
out through the fence. He was back early; the wait for Virgil
to finish his check of the house would be long and tense.
assignment was thought the most hazardous because he had the
greatest risk of being seen. However, the overgrown garden
extended almost all the way to the back of the house and
around the veranda on the sides. Once he had sprinted across a
short section of neglected lawn, he had plenty of cover. He
caught his breath as he took in a first impression.
house had probably been built near the end of the British
possession of Singapore and still had a kind of faded dignity.
It was two stories tall, with a high peaked roof, and set
slightly off the ground on top of a stone foundation. The
veranda had a latticed underpinning that did not go completely
around the house, but wrapped around the front and sides.
Approaching from the back, but still at a good distance,
Virgil began to work his way around the building. At the front
of the house, a stairway came down from the veranda at the
front doors. At the foot of the stairs, the gravel driveway
circled a dry fountain and then led out to a gated entrance.
driveway was crowded with several vehicles, mostly military,
but three were not: a slinky gray Lincoln, a green Fiat and a
black Audi. With binoculars, Virgil could see the two guards
lounging on either side of the gate, one flicking the
still-glowing butt of a spent cigarette through the fence.
his attention back to the house. Two men were posted at the
front doors, and two sentries walked the perimeter on the
ground beneath the veranda, each going in opposite directions.
That meant they crossed each others' paths twice, once in
front of the house and once in back. He stopped to time their
circuit, gritting his teeth over the delay, but his intuition
telling him it might be useful later. From the time they
passed each other and met again, two minutes had passed.
behind one of the cars and, keeping it between him and the
structure, pulled up the binoculars again and peered into the
windows on the front of the house. On one side of the front
doors was a big parlor that evidently served as the status
room. In the room next to it, he could see the radio operator
intently listening to something on his headphones. On the
opposite side of the doors, there was another large room with
a world map covering the whole wall, a huge desk sat in front
of it. Above the first floor were smaller rooms, probably used
as officer's quarters, with curtained windows.
continued to work his way all around the house, using the cars
in the driveway as cover and stealing back into the garden on
the other side. Almost in the back of the house was tall
wooden tower. Near the top, its construction abruptly changed.
Apparently the radio tower had been salvaged from an old naval
vessel; it looked like it had been simply plopped down on top
of the wood structure. The antenna extended from it another
twenty feet, and next to it, softly creaking as it rotated,
was a small radar dish.
around the building, one officer's room in the back on the
second floor caught Virgil's eye. It was the only one with an
air conditioning unit, cycling noisily. Bet that's where the
head man stays, Virgil thought, whoever he is.
almost all the way back to where he'd started when he saw it,
a narrow band of dim light, apparently in the foundation of
the building. Even at night, without his goggles, he would
have missed it. A cellar! and it was lighted, however poorly.
Virgil paused, considering. If the opening was large enough,
it could be a secondary exit from the house if they were
detected and cut off from the entry point.
waited impatiently for the sentries to circle round again and
then started to count down the time as they went out of sight
around the building. Squatting down next to the narrow window
with its ornate grating, he pulled the goggles down and peered
in carefully. What he saw nearly took his breath. Alan was
lying next to one wall on a narrow bench, and sitting on the
floor next to him, her dark head leaning against the bench,
As the sun
went down, the cool dampness of the cellar had become acute.
Tin-Tin had removed her sandals and was sitting on top of
them, in an attempt to lift herself off the floor. Then she
tucked her knees under her chin, trying to preserve some
warmth. The anxiety, pain, and terror had taken their toll on
her. As she leaned against the side of the bench next to Alan,
despite the chill, she dozed off.
Startled, she lifted her head and gazed at Alan. Alan's
breathing was ragged and uneven, interrupted intermittently by
shudders, but he was clearly unconscious. She shivered and
rubbed her arms, she was chilled through. Had she been
She heard it again. It was Virgil's voice! She leaped up and
went to the wall, peering up through the grate. By the dim
light from the ceiling, she could just make out a form outside
You're in danger! They want the Thunderbirds!"
worry, they're safe. Brains is babysitting them, and he's
activated the electronic camouflage net. Listen, Tin-Tin, I
don't have much time. Do you know how many people are in the
house? Or who we're dealing with?
sure. I didn't get a very good look." She thought a moment,
reviewing what she'd seen of the house. "Probably about 12.
And they've been calling their leader General X. I've never
heard of him."
either." Virgil looked at her tear-streaked face, at Alan
shuddering on the cot, at his torn and stained shirt. "Are you
started to crumple. "I'm all right. Alan was going to tell
them what they wanted, so they didn't hurt me .." Her voice
broke and her words tumbled out in gasps. "Oh, but Virgil...
he didn't tell them anything... wouldn't have given in... it
was so horrible what they did... and then they brought me
in..." Her voice constricted with emotion, she could only
whisper. "He's hurt .." she choked. "... What they've done to
his back, Virgil!"
heart ached at the anguish in her eyes and voice, and his
anger boiled at the meaning of her words. He longed to reach
in to her, to reassure her, the little sister she'd always
been to him, but she was too far away, the grating too fine.
Angrily, he pushed against it, and to his amazement, it swung
inward with a rusty squeak. He froze, but the noise from the
air conditioning unit above them was far louder.
the kit on his belt and pulled out the three-by-three-inch
square of an intricately folded emergency blanket. "Here,
catch this," he ordered, and dropped it through. "You look
like you could use these, too," and followed up by dropping in
a packet of energy wafers and his water flask. Then he pulled
the grate closed.
the watchface of his telecom glowed green and went out. He
twisted the bezel once quickly, signaling he understood.
"That's Gordon, flashing to tell me he's back at our
rendezvous." Then the watch flashed white twice, Brain's
signal. "And Scott's here." He was still looking at his watch.
"Uh oh, be back in a minute."
disappeared from the window until the sentries passed. He was
soon back, and she saw his teeth gleam in a smile. "Sit tight.
We'll be back soon," he promised, and his comforting presence
carefully unfolded the blanket and spread it over Alan,
tucking it under him. In the dim light, it would be difficult
to see that he was covered. It was big enough for her to leave
a corner of it out on the floor. Then she took a long swallow
from the water flask and tore into the energy wafers. The last
food either of them had was at breakfast. She left half the
water and the other wafer for Alan, in case he came around
before Virgil's promised return.
hand was still cold, but already his breathing had deepened
and the shuddering had stopped. The conductive material of the
blanket, using his own body heat, had warmed quickly. She sat
down again next to him on the corner of the blanket and put
her sandals back on. Hope was slowly thawing out her cold feet
and dispirited heart. She touched Alan's face tenderly. "Hang
on, please, Alan. Just a little longer."
hurried back to the slit in the fence. He found Gordon and
Scott sitting on the ground next to the hoverbikes. Scott had
just arrived, his hoverbike was still warm. Virgil gave them a
thumbs-up as he flopped down beside Gordon. "Tin-Tin is here.
She's locked up with Alan in an underground cell of some kind
on the north side."
that's a relief," said Scott, with feeling. "I was dreading
going back to Singapore to pick up a cold trail. What else did
you find out?"
about forty men on the grounds besides the ones in the house.
Most of them will probably be in the barracks soon." Gordon
thinks there might be twelve in the house."
Alan?" Scott turned to Virgil.
took a breath. "He won't be much help." He gripped Gordon's
arm beside him. "He's alive, but he's been... tortured." He
could hardly say it. "... And apparently Tin-Tin was forced to
watch part of it."
amber eyes flickered with rage. "Those filthy..."
Gordon," Scott gripped his other arm, his voice steel, but his
eyes two flaming sapphires. "We don't have the fire- or
man-power to go in there guns blazing. We have to do this
clenched his fists, but subsided.
back to Thunderbird Two," Scott said, after a moment. "I have
an idea. It'll require a lot of help from Brains, and the
wiped away a trickle of sweat running down in front of his
ear, between his night vision goggles and gas mask, and stared
at his watch impatiently. What was taking so long? Finally, a
single white flash from the watch face. Brains, having
assembled an innovative special missile, had the missile
launcher on Thunderbird Two readied for the first shot.
seconds later, a green flash signaled that Gordon's grenade
launcher, armed with a sleeping gas canister, was trained on
the barracks. In addition, they were all armed with
high-powered rifles. Instead of bullets, they were loaded with
pellets containing a strong sedative that broke open on
already signaled his readiness with a red flash to the others.
He had stunned the guards at both gates, then he had taken
similar care of the sentries. The guards at the door had gone
inside. He again checked the grenade launcher, armed the same
as Gordon's, at his feet. This was their backup, just in case
Brains's idea didn't work like they'd hoped, although none of
them doubted their ingenious friend's abilities.
Scott hadn't signaled. Virgil checked the time again. If he
didn't signal in one more minute . . .
also feeling frustrated. His assignment had been to pick the
lock to the generator building and shut it down. This
seemingly simple job had hit a couple of snags. First, one of
the mercenaries apparently had insomnia and had been wandering
the grounds smoking a cigarette. He continued to amble
aimlessly toward Scott, under the only cover he'd been able to
keep, at a weed-plagued corner of the generator building.
About the time Scott decided he would have to jump him, the
man relieved himself a bare foot away from his hiding place
and turned back to the barracks.
snag was the padlock. Some debris had apparently gotten in the
mechanism when Gordon laid it down earlier and the pick
jammed. Some choice words to say to his younger brother ran
through his mind as he worked, sweating, to remove the pick
and then cut the bar free. At last, he swung the door open and
crept inside, pulling the door closed behind him. He found the
shut-off levers and twisted the bezel of his watch. Then
also held his breath when the insomniac left the barracks and
wandered over by the place he knew Scott was hidden. He raised
the rifle and followed him through the night-sight, waiting
for the right moment. He smiled grimly as the man unfastened
his pants, wondering whether Scott had kept his own pants dry.
he breathed out when the shadow he knew was his brother went
around the corner of the building, and waited impatiently.
About the time both he and Virgil, if he had known it, were
steeling themselves to see what was wrong, the blue flash
exhaled sharply as Brains signal-flashed in code: Ready?
flash, his red, then blue: We're ready.
seconds ticked away, and then he heard it, the whistling roar
of an incoming missile. Suddenly, all the lights in the
compound went out and there were shouts from the house. A dim
echo of Gordon's grenade launcher incapacitating the men in
the barracks came next. Then the missile struck the roof of
the house and pierced it without exploding.
purpose was to penetrate the roof of the house, drop one gas
canister on the top floor, then continue to first floor and
drop another canister, leaving the cellar untouched. There
were a few moments of pandemonium from the house, and one man
opened the front door. He was quickly picked off by Virgil
with a stun pellet and fell back inside. Then all was silent;
the missile must have worked.
reached down, quickly packed up the grenade launcher, and drew
its strap over his shoulder to hang in back. Then he barreled
up the front steps and flattened his back to the front wall by
the door. The house was still silent. Soon, Scott and Gordon
pounded up on the other side of the door.
the delay?" Virgil whispered to Scott.
story," he hissed back. "I'll explain later!"
shrugged, and took his position in front of the door. He
kicked it in, then stepped back as Scott turned and entered
the house. They quickly followed him inside through the
swirling remains of the gas, their weapons held ready.
knelt beside Scott, who was checking the man Virgil had picked
off at the door. He appeared to be breathing without distress,
to Virgil's relief; the combination of sedative and anesthesia
could have dire consequences.
they went through the first level, room by room, pushing open
each door carefully, rifles sweeping side to side. Every
person they found had succumbed to the gas. Finally, they
found it, a door leading down steep stairs to another
corridor. As pre-arranged, Virgil went back out of the house
the way they'd come in; he had another errand. Gordon took his
post at the top of the steps.
started carefully down the stairs, then stopped short. On the
wall, through his night goggles, glowed a recent handprint.
Someone had just been there! He continued slowly, but unless
the owner of the handprint also had goggles, Scott had the
was pitch-black. Then a single shot rang out, hitting the wall
high above him, as he stooped low. Scott turned and saw the
shooter through the goggles. He fired his weapon and watched
him pass out from the sedative.
close behind him. "You okay? What was that?"
They'd posted a guard down here."
pulled his mask down and took a tentative sniff, thinking that
the unconscious guard indicated the gas was not present. A few
seconds passed, then Gordon pulled his off, too. Brains's
missile had worked perfectly; the gas had not penetrated down
this far. They found the cell quickly, drew the bar, and threw
the door open.
one look at Alan and without a word handed Tin-Tin the rifle.
Then he stooped down, pulled his brother onto his shoulder in
a fireman carry, and carefully stood up. Alan was limp,
saw him nod to Gordon, who twisted the bezel of his watch
three times, obviously some a code. Immediately, her heart
leaped to her throat, as she heard what could have only been
Thunderbird Two launching a missile!
back out to the corridor!" he gasped; his "little" brother was
not light-weight. He grabbed Tin-Tin's arm and pulled her with
him. Gordon met them outside the cell door.
a tremendous crash, and the little grate hurtled through the
door and hit the wall of the corridor with a clang before
falling to the floor. The ground shook, and smoke, dust, and
dirt poured out into the corridor. Gordon waited a moment,
then peered around the door frame, waiting for the dust to
stone wall had been there was now a smoking gap of rubble.
Knowing the gas would wear off quickly, they made their own
back door. Brains had done it again. The missile had been so
precisely aimed that it came in at a low angle, gouging a
slope for them to climb up out of the cellar. Gordon waited
for some of the smoke to clear and to make sure it was stable
before shouting, "Okay, it's open! Let's move!"
took off at a dead run across the compound toward the break in
the fence, the grenade launcher thumping on his back. It still
irked that he had won the short straw this time, relegated to
fetching one of the hoverbikes, while Scott and Gordon were
searching the house for the basement room where he had seen
Tin-Tin and Alan. The 'bike was needed to convey the badly
injured Alan; since the gas would be wearing off at any time,
the others could not carry him fast enough to the break in the
across, he heard a shout from the driveway and turning his
head, saw a figure holding a rifle, the glint of its
nightsight pointing his direction. The weapon fired, and he
rolled, so that the bullet only ripped the black shirt and cut
a searing path across the surface of his shoulder. He fired
back, but the figure and rifle were gone.
a heartbeat or two, then scrambled to his feet. He could hear
the live missile coming. In the driveway, the gray Lincoln
he'd seen earlier roared to life and took off toward the gate.
He didn't have time to fire at it, even if the pellets hadn't
been useless. He just had time to hit the ground again.
from the missile was beginning to settle when Virgil arrived
back at the hoverbikes. He started one, and pushed it through
the fence, then mounted it and glided across the compound
toward the house. They met in the ruined garden in back of the
Tin-Tin's sandals had broken as she climbed out of the cellar,
so Gordon had swung her up in both arms. Virgil had a bad
moment until she assured him she was unhurt.
pulled off his night-vision goggles and handed them to
Tin-Tin. "Here, you're driving."
opened her mouth to protest, then closed it again. She knew
she couldn't run barefoot through the jungle to Thunderbird
Two. She put the goggles on and mounted the hoverbike. They
sat Alan, still unconscious, behind her, but he was too
unstable to sit up without assistance even with the safety
belt around his hips.
thought fast. "Tin-Tin, I'll run beside you to keep him
upright," he decided. "But we need to cover ground in a hurry,
so go as fast as we can manage and not leave me behind. Follow
Gordon, he knows the way. Virgil, you bring up the rear."
stumbled several times without the goggles he'd given Tin-Tin,
but with both Gordon and Virgil on foot also, they managed to
keep Alan upright behind her. With great relief they reached
the break in the fence and found the other hoverbikes under
their camouflage. Scott climbed on behind Gordon, while Virgil
took the third one, and they moved quickly through the jungle,
faster than they had on cleared ground.
said nothing about his arm until they got back to the lights
in Thunderbird Two, and only after Gordon noticed the blood on
his sleeve. "It's just a scratch, honest," Virgil protested
over their concerns. "Get Alan taken care of, then we'll worry
about me. Besides, I've got to get us out of here, before
General X's men regroup." Scott helped him stow the gear back
in the pod and then went back to Thunderbird One.
Brains placed Alan in one of the beds in the sickbay
compartment behind Thunderbird Two's cockpit. Tin-Tin stood at
the foot with her fists held tightly to her mouth, tears
filling her eyes. She couldn't bear to watch, but yet couldn't
bear to be away from Alan's side. Gordon had his arm around
her, trying to support her after all she'd been through.
Thunderbird Two airborne so smoothly that they were almost
unaware of it. Scott had already taken off in Thunderbird One
and was reporting the successful completion of their operation
to their father. He also had the unenviable duty of informing
him of Alan's injuries.
gingerly removed the ruins of Alan's shirt from the burns on
his back, his brow furrowed in concentration and concern. Alan
was almost conscious, but too far gone to care or prevent a
dry whimper from escaping his lips as the fabric was peeled
off. Gordon's grip on Tin-Tin tightened as the devastation of
Alan's back was revealed.
looked up at them, concerned but optimistic. "Well, it d-does
look bad, but there d-doesn't appear to be any damage to
muscle or fascia b-beneath the skin. W-we just need to get it
cleaned and c-covered and get him back to base as qu-quick as
we can. But first," he reached into the medical kit for a
hypodermic, "I'm going to m-make him more comfortable. From
the sound of him, the p-pain must be excruciating."
minutes later, the wounds cleaned, Brains sprayed a clear
protective layer over all. Alan was breathing easily, deep in
a sweet painless sleep.
Brains stood up, gathering the medical kit together. "G-gordon,
here's your c-chance to fly Thunderbird Two a bit while I look
touch and go for a while. Alan developed a secondary infection
on his back and began losing all three skin layers in patches.
It was serious enough that Jeff considered relaxing security
to bring in a doctor, an old friend from the military hospital
at Guam. In the end, Scott made an emergency run to Guam in
Thunderbird One to pick up antibiotics and artificial skin.
Tin-Tin never left Alan's bedside, but she had company around
the clock; some member of the family was always there, rescue
calls not withstanding.
person who spent more time with Alan than Tin-Tin was Brains.
His primary field of expertise was engineering, but he also
had a medical degree. He recognized the necessity of the
artificial skin and obtained the knowledge to use it. Jeff
knew that the care Alan received could not have been paid for
with any money.
days, Alan's own skin began to recover, and, as it was
supposed to, began absorbing the artificial skin. Brains was
certain there would be a minimum of scarring, but it would be
a long time before he went out on the beach.
As soon as
Alan began to turn the corner and recover, the wedding plans
resumed with enthusiasm. The first thing to be done was to fly
Tin-Tin's Ladybird back to the island. It had been safely
hangared at Changi, and was still loaded with the things
they'd bought in Singapore.
surprised everyone except Grandma and Kyrano when he offered
to fly Virgil there in the blue JT-1 jet. Except for Tracy
Corporation business and the occasional visit to Lady
Penelope's estates, his departures from the island could be
counted on one hand.
and I weren't seen there," he explained, "and as long as
Tin-Tin arranges it with the hangar company, no one will ever
connect us with International Rescue."
time Virgil had gotten the Ladybird checked out, fueled and
received clearance for take-off, he assumed that his father
was on his way home. But as he taxied out for take-off, he was
alarmed to see the blue Tracy jet still on the ground.
Concerned, he contacted Jeff via their telecoms.
everything okay?" he asked with trepidation. Singapore was
beginning to look like a dangerous place for any of them to
fine, son," Jeff looked and sounded unusually buoyant, but was
very circumspect. "I have an errand to run. See you at back at
been delayed a month, but finally one of the most eagerly
awaited events in Jeff's life was about to take place. He had
not been this excited since own his sons' births or even the
inauguration of International Rescue. Alan, on the other hand,
who had participated in dozens of tense rescues, had never
felt so nervous, and was sweating as he stood next to the
Reverend Dr. Brown, the minister flown in for the occasion.
still a little too pale for the white suit, but with the
addition of the red vest and bow tie, he looked splendid.
Scott and Virgil were amused by his discomfiture as they stood
at his side in dark suits, their vests and ties matching his.
living area at the Tracy villa had been transformed into a
wedding chapel. Grandma and Kyrano had taken care of every
detail, with Tin-Tin's supervision. The piano had been moved
to one side to make room for the arch in front of the balcony
looking out over the Pacific. Flowers from the garden were
everywhere. Chairs and a sofa had been arranged to form one
row, the aisle splitting it in half. Food, from the cake to
the buffet, had been prepared, and the champagne was chilled
list was very small: besides the family, only Penelope, Parker
and Sir Jeremy Hodge were there to witness the event. Sir
Jeremy had flown from his home in Paris to meet Lady Penelope
and her faithful chauffeur in London, and they had all
traveled together from England.
signal was given. Virgil moved over to the piano and
Mendelssohn's Wedding March filled the air. A door opened, and
Penelope entered, her golden hair arranged and adorned with
tiny pink rosebuds on the top of her head.
fortunate that Virgil knew the march by heart, for he played
it on autopilot; he couldn't take his eyes off her in the gown
that Tin-Tin had designed. A cascade of pink Singapore silk
poured off her left shoulder and swirled about her to the
floor, leaving the right shoulder bare. She carried a bouquet
of pink roses in her hands. She gave Virgil a quick demure
little smile, and continued serenely forward. Virgil gulped
and almost missed a note.
Tin-Tin entered on her father's arm. Kyrano beamed in his red
Malay jacket and dark slacks. Tin-Tin's gown was identical to
Penelope's, but in white. Red beads sprinkled across the toes
of her slippers peeked from under the hem. Her dark hair was
also pulled up and arranged on top of her head. She carried
red roses and tiny red rosebuds were in her hair.
placed Tin-Tin's hand in Alan's and took his seat next to
Brains. Parker and Sir Jeremy made up the rest of this side of
beloved, we are gathered here with these witnesses . ." the
glanced over at the Tracy family on the other side of the
aisle. Jeff, in utter happiness, sat with his arm about his
mother, with Gordon seated on the other side. Virgil had left
the piano and was again standing next to Scott and Alan. From
Jeff's desk, via videophone, John grinned in real-time in
front of a fake backdrop, he was actually on Thunderbird Five
orbiting the earth. Since the visiting minister was unaware
that the Tracy home was actually the base of International
Rescue, Operation Cover-up had been initiated and the
portraits of the boys in uniform had been exchanged for
portraits in casual clothes.
ceremony, thought Sir Jeremy, and unusual. He couldn't
remember ever going to a wedding with so small an attendance
and in a more beautiful setting. All the more unusual as the
main participants had been so close to not being there at all.
think of it, he mused, the entire family was extraordinary:
five young men, along with those they most loved, dedicated to
rescuing others no matter what the cost. He was filled with
pride at being even a small part of it.
how a chance meeting can change one's life, he reflected. He
and Jeff Tracy might never had met had not both of them known
Penelope. Knowing his contacts with aviation manufacturers
through his scientific investments, she approached him with a
request to help her get some unusual aviation components
manufactured, and, this was the strangest part, by different
manufacturers. It seemed such an odd request from a person
like Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward!
until months later, through cooperating with Interpol on an
unusual espionage case, that he found out Penelope was a
former Federal Agent Bureau operative. However, she'd left the
agency long before she talked to him. Sir Jeremy's
investigations into her activities temporarily strained their
friendship, but in the end, he met Jeff Tracy. Once Jeff
explained his ambitions to build International Rescue, a more
enthusiastic supporter than Sir Jeremy Hodge did not exist.
Jeremy's reverie dissolved as the ceremony was nearing its
end. "Are there rings to be presented?" asked Dr. Brown.
Tin-Tin looked at each other in dismay. That was what
they hadn't remembered! Jeff and Kyrano were on their feet,
and then Jeff tried to pull something from his pocket. Tin-Tin
looked on with alarm. The last time he'd pulled something from
his pocket for her...
I know this is supposed to be from Alan, but we" and he
gestured to include the rest of his beaming family, whom he
had told just before the ceremony, "would be honored if you
would wear these." He had Lucille's rings in his hand. "They
were Alan's mother's."
Tracy!" Tin-Tin reached up to hug him with tears in her eyes.
"I would be honored to wear them."
Kyrano stepped up, "would be honored, Alan, if you would wear
this ring bearing the emblem of my family." The tiny sapphire
in the bird's beak gleamed in his hand.
overwhelmed. "How could I refuse?" he finally got out. Then
light dawned. "No wonder everyone kept saying everything
was taken care of!" He looked at his tearfully radiant
grandmother. "And you knew all about this didn't you? No
wonder you were afraid to talk to me today!"
face was a study in rapture, Penelope's head on his shoulder,
as they slow-danced to a recording. Scott and Gordon,
completely unaware they were in identical poses, sat watching
them with arms crossed impatiently. They were also unaware
that they were the only people present not involved in the
conspiracy devised against them.
we should have made Virgil stay at the piano," grumbled
Gordon. "At this rate, we won't get to dance at all." Scott
only nodded, his scowl deepening.
Jeremy, making a valiant effort not to laugh, could not take
much more. He got up and went up to the bar. Parker was
standing behind it, acting bartender.
" ĎAve you
h'ever seen such a pair of tricksters?" Parker asked him
quietly in his broad Cockney, watching Penelope and Virgil
trying to stifle their laughter. Meanwhile, Scott and Gordon
re-crossed their legs for the third or fourth time, again
unknowingly in unison.
unusual quiver that the two dancers were fending off finally
got the best of them; they just couldn't hold off their
laughter any longer. The joke finally dissolved, to the utter
bewilderment of the two victims, who for the first time
realized that everyone else had been watching them. Virgil had
to sit down, he was laughing so hard, and offered his
handkerchief to Penelope, who laughed until tears had come.
you two could have seen yourselves!" Virgil exclaimed when he
could speak again.
will," Kyrano assured, a slight smile replacing his normally
serene expression, and he showed them the video camera he'd
hidden in one of the flower arrangements.
with his arms around the waists of the only other women on the
island, his new bride on one side and Grandma on the other.
They and Jeff stood off to one side, laughing from the
balcony. John had signed off and was back at work on
Thunderbird Five, monitoring communication traffic all over
the planet; one of them might be the next International Rescue
Father," Alan joked, "we really do need more women on this
you're right, Alan," Jeff agreed. His eyes twinkled as he
caught Tin-Tin's eye. "And maybe a few other little
laughed again and took his hand. "You know what I really love
about this family? They're always open to new ideas!"