ISLAND OF DANGER
by GAIL GARDNER
Virgil Tracy is pitted against nature to survive the Island of Danger, yet what will be the real danger? The Hood, the elements, or Marie Ryker?
Chapter One: Flying
Tracy considered himself a patient man. He was kind,
considerate, patient, tolerant, even-tempered, patient - he
gritted his teeth. Patient, he reminded himself for what felt
like the fiftieth time.
have been well-rested after a week's vacation, except it was a
vacation he didn't want. His father had literally thrown him
off the island over a small injury. The fact that he had hid
his cracked ribs hadn't sat well with Jeff Tracy. His brothers
had used the opportunity to gang up on him, or so it seemed to
him. Scott had just given him a withering look. Gordon took
the opportunity to chide him about ‘taking care of himself, an
almost word for word repetition of a lecture he'd given his
younger brother last month.
on Vancouver Island had been small, cozy, and incredibly
boring. It seemed he spent most of his time sleeping or
taking solitary hikes into the wilderness. True to the weather
of the Pacific Northwest it rained the whole week. He shifted
a little gingerly in his seat. The ribs had mostly healed but
he'd made the mistake of doing a little hang gliding
yesterday. After six days of doing nothing more than enjoying
nature, he'd decided to do some light exercise. So, it wasn't
so smart on nearly healed ribs, but it was better than
watching octogenarians battling it out over cribbage or chess
more than relieved when Penny gave him a call. It was worth
enduring her light scolding, especially when she invited him
know if it means anything, but my contacts have said that the
Hood has been up to something. I would appreciate you looking
over some of the material I've gathered..."
catch the next flight over..." Virgil said enthusiastically.
easier said than done. The Greater Cascade Airport had been
socked in by typical peasoup fog for the last ten hours,
backing up flights and making the airport a three ring circus.
charm failed to even coax a seat from any of the airlines.
After three frustrating hours of standing in lines he got a
seat on an old 787 flying via Chicago, New York, Amsterdam and
then to London - one of the old milk run flights. He was also
in tourist class. Virgil was no snob, but he knew that he was
in for a long flight in a chair designed for midgets. His own
6'2" frame would be a pretzel by the time he got to London.
waiting to board his flight looked like they would never be
able to cram themselves into the plane. He winced as he
noticed the young mother with the three over-active kids who
were trying to climb over furniture, fish cigarette butts out
of the ashtrays and ruin anyone's patience by whining
constantly. There were the travellers who apparently didn't
trust that their luggage would arrive with them and were
festooned with carry-ons, shopping bags and other
paraphernalia draped around their bodies. A small minority of
first class and business passengers tried to appear like they
didn't belong to the crowd. Virgil wondered idly if that is
how he usually looked. He felt something tug on his leg. There
was one of the kids wiping some sticky substance on his pants
you miscreant." The young mother grabbed the youngster by the
seat of his pants. "Sorry." She smiled at him. He frowned
back. Her smile faded.
should control your children better." Virgil growled.
but..." She was interrupted by a shrill scream from the little
girl who was tangling with her other brother. Tucking the
sticky Harold under her arm, she headed determinedly towards
the ever-increasing crescendo of sound. Virgil went to the
rest rooms to remove the sticky remains of a chocolate bar
that Harold had seen fit to share with him. He fumed. People
should take exams and study on how to raise children before
they go and have them, especially three of them. When he came
out, he found out that the flight had been called and he was
at the end of a long queue of anxious and restless people.
stewardess looked like she had already endured an eight hour
flight. Her smile was forced and didn't reach her eyes as she
directed him to his seat, way in the back of the plane. He was
happy to note that the children were closer to the front of
the plane, but noticed that they had not calmed down much. He
turned his gaze away from them in hopes that the kids wouldn't
claim him as familiar territory. He heard the sound of a sharp
slap and a whimper. He would have turned but was nudged
forwards by a young man wielding his backpack like a
bulldozer. Unfortunately shoving his sore ribs into the seat
was in a row with only two seats. The window seat occupant had
already settled in and luckily had only one carry on tucked
neatly out of the way. He sat down with a grateful sigh. His
knees were only a hair's breath away from the seat in front,
but that was livable. His leg brushed against the other
passenger's leg, but she didn't get the hint and move over a
bit. Damn, she couldn't have been more than 5' 4" and there
she was hogging all the space. She was staring out into the
gray mist. As if there was anything to see.
and Gentlemen. Thank you for joining us on Flight 66 to
London. We are currently 10th in line for departure. Please
remain in your seats until we are airborne."
wait..." She turned to look at him. It was the young
mother...but the children were ten rows up whining and
wailing. Short brown hair with a pert widow's peak framed a
wide forehead and gray eyes with laugh lines at the corners.
The nose was a bit too short and the chin too narrow. If one
was to describe her it would be nondescript. Someone to forget
as soon as you saw them.
sit here." Harold was back and staring at Virgil with
Virgil said shortly. His foot brushed against the woman's
foot, but it didn't budge.
Westerlyyy come here right now." A shrill voice called the
young man away to Virgil's relief.
in the plane for a long tortured hour before taking off. Young
Harold came back to bother them with regularity despite his
mother's scolding. The person sitting in front of Virgil had
pushed his seat back as far as it could go removing the hairs
breadth of room for Virgil's abused legs. He began to hate his
seat mate. She even welcomed the advances of Harold talking to
him and smiling. Food was late and like most airline food,
inedible. With the advances made in science you'd think that
airlines could come up with decent food. He'd get just as much
taste and nourishment chewing on the napkin and the plastic
fork and knife. Patience he reminded himself again as he
resisted the urge to stuff Harold out the emergency exit and
the all too calm lady next to him.
you to go and sit in your seat now, Harold. It is time for a
nap," She had finally said firmly to the young admirer. Virgil
watched the boy return to his seat and not return. He glared
at the young woman.
didn't you do that earlier." Virgil growled at her.
"He is a
child." She glared at him. "I assume you are an adult."
sounded like his father. "I expect you to be an adult," Jeff
Tracy had said frostily."Hiding injuries could put yourself
and others in jeopardy."
the whole 8 hours of the trip glaring at each other and not
speaking unless necessary. Turbulence over the Atlantic made
it impossible to even get up and stretch his legs. If it was a
faint consolation to Virgil the young woman began to look as
ragged as he felt as they neared London.
warnings not to get up while the plane was still taxiing
Virgil was gratefully out of his seat and was one of the first
off the plane. He didn't see Parker or Lady Penelope, but
figured that he'd see them after picking up his luggage. He
stretched carefully. He felt like a bent paperclip. He picked
up his bag gingerly feeling the ribs protest.
grimaced as he watched the mother, now burdened with quiet,
half sleeping children. His bothersome seat mate was helping
her. He was almost satisfied to see her limping. He felt a
twinge of conscience seeing the two women struggling, but then
a porter stepped in and helped them.
brightened as he saw the unmistakable Lady Penelope cutting a
swath through the crowd. Despite the fact it was 9 p.m., she
looked fresh as a daisy, making Virgil feel even more scruffy.
He wasn't surprised to see Parker trailing behind her.
amazement, Lady Penelope stopped short at his nemesis and with
enthusiasm, hugged her. He walked closer.
Marie," Penelope said warmly. "You should have said you were
Penelope..." She began but laughed warmly. "I hardly knew I
was coming myself. You know my work."
have a place to stay? No never mind, you are coming to my
place. No, no, I insist. You must be tired. Parker will take
your bag." She linked her arm through that of the shorter
woman. As if by an after thought she turned to Virgil. "Do
come along Virgil. I'll introduce you in the car."
met in mutual horror.
Penny..." "Lady Penny..."
voices came at the same time. Lady Penelope raised a fine
eyebrow at the both of them. She wasn't used to people going
against her wishes. "Oh do come along. You must be tired, both
of you. I want my tea."
grimaced as he could see the uneasiness between the two
people. Virgil Tracy was one of the most unreadable of the
Tracy brothers, which made him a formidable poker player, but
this time his feelings were easy to read. He was angry.
Though he'd only met Miss Marie once before, his impression
was that she had the patience of a saint, yet she was
practically snarling at Virgil Tracy. "Oh Lord." He breathed.
"This hain't going to be good."
were settled into the spacious interior of FAB 1, Lady
Penelope made her introductions.
Ryker, may I present Virgil Tracy." She beamed as they
reluctantly shook hands. From the brief contact, Virgil felt
only cold, shaking fingers. Good. She was scared of him. Yet,
her steady gray-eyed gaze never wavered from his.
your flight?" Penny asked innocently.
Virgil said shortly.
I found it quite tedious," Miss Ryker said smoothly. "Some
poor mother had to cope with three children that their
grandparents had seen fit to give gross amounts of sugar to
before their departure. People always think they know better
how to take care of children that aren't their
little tykes," Parker said sympathetically from the front
fumed silently. How dare she criticize him! What gave this
snip of a woman the right?
still doing investigative work?" Penelope asked.
for a year now." Was the quiet reply.
Lady Penny playing at? Surely she wasn't inviting some
stranger to her house when they had to discuss International
Rescue business. Father would expect him to do all he could to
insure their confidentiality.
Chapter Two: Social
Tea was a
tortured meal. By now Lady Penelope had sensed that her two
guests were not totally comfortable with each other. Partially
blaming jet lag she released the two to their own rooms for an
early night. Feeling more familiar with Virgil Tracy, from her
long acquaintance with the family, Penelope took it upon
herself to give a lecture.
Virgil, must you be so hostile? You practically curdled the
cream at the table."
enough of lectures. "What about you? You know how tight
security has to be for International Rescue, yet you invite a
stranger here who is involved in some shady business."
drew herself up to her full height and gave a withering look
that bespoke of hundreds of years of British aristocracy. "The
day you can dictate to me my responsibilities and my choice of
friends is long and far away. I will assume that this is a
temporary lapse in behavior due to your injuries and fatigue
and that you will be your normal gentlemanly self by morning.
Good night." She left Virgil nursing a very bruised ego.
approach to Marie Ryker was just as direct.
been over a year since we last met. You've changed," Lady
Penelope said bluntly as she watched her friend unpack in the
change," The short woman said tiredly. "A year can be an
Penelope asked worriedly. The young woman she had known had
become older, more bitter. "Was it an eternity?"
the quiet answer.
women were silent for a moment.
"If I can
help..." Penny offered.
could, I would ask." Marie answered. "Being here is good, even
if I do have to endure your grouchy friends." A shadow of a
smile and her normal good humor shone through.
not be grouchy tomorrow, I assure you." Penny smiled back.
neither shall I." Marie promised.
night then." Penelope left her friend, satisfied that tomorrow
Virgil Tracy and Marie Ryker would not be at odds with one
another. "I'm good, very very good." she murmured to herself.
"I wonder...." Little plots and machinations began to stir in
dear," She said as she entered the library. "I think we are
going to be very busy tomorrow."
m'lady." Parker nodded.
back with a sigh against the mound of down pillows that graced
the comfortable bed. His muscles were twitching with fatigue
and he knew he wasn't at his best, physically and mentally. He
wished...wasn't sure what he wished...but he was tired of
being lectured and made to feel small, less than he was. Well,
maybe he wasn't so polite to Miss Ryker, but she was
so...annoying. With that thought in mind, he rolled over and
back with a sigh against the mound of down pillows that graced
the comfortable bed. Her muscles were twitching with fatigue
and she didn't know which leg hurt more. She was certainly
pushing her reserves to the edge. Meeting Lady Penny had been
a godsend. A glass of water and the pain pill sat on the night
table. The same as it had been for the last two months. In the
morning, the pill would be returned to the bottle with a sigh
of relief. But, she still needed it there. She wished...she
didn't know what she wished...but she was tired of being
tired, of being made to feel small, less than she was. Well,
maybe she hadn't been too polite to Mr.Tracy, but he was so...
annoying. With that thought in mind, she rolled over and fell
Chapter Three: Taken
for a Ride
brought two rather subdued, if not rested people to the table.
Lady Penelope asked brightly.
please," was a chorus from both of the Americans.
I shall never be able to teach you to appreciate tea..." Penny
sighed dramatically as she took a sip from her bone china cup.
appreciate tea." Marie began loading her plate with fried
bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade.
coffee is necessary in the morning." Virgil continued
shovelling fried tomatoes, sausages, eggs, toast and jam onto
Penelope's eyes twinkled over the small piece of toast that
she had chosen for her breakfast. "But you do like a good,
stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth. He glanced at his
fellow traveller and her just as full plate. "Always good."
important meal of the day," Miss Ryker said, attacking her
bacon. She raised an eyebrow at Virgil in amusement and he
found one of his own eyebrows lifting in reply.
in companiable silence, only making requests for more toast or
marmalade. After the third cup of coffee things started to
look more relaxed.
you for an excellent breakfast." Marie began. "But I am here
on assignment. I have to deliver some papers and messages to
the big man at the London office."
say hello to Geoffrey from me," Penny said brightly as Parker
His Grace. Now, if I can get a taxi." She smiled at Parker.
Lady Penelope said in a mock horrified tone. "My dear, there
is absolutely no need for a taxi."
can't possibly borrow a car. You do drive on the wrong side of
the road and I can't possibly adjust to that." Marie teased
her hostess and Parker.
to grin at Parker's mock horrified look.
hain't so Miss Ryker, you Yanks drive on the wrong side." This
was apparently an old argument they'd had before. "I'll not be
trusting hany of her Ladyship's cars to your ‘ands. You drive
too fast. Kilometers ‘ere, not miles."
Parker, mere details." Marie's imitation of Lady Penelope
coerced an inelegant snort out of Virgil. The one time Gordon
had tried to imitate Lady Penelope had earned him a box on the
ears and the threat of a mouth washing with a bar of soap by
the not amused Lady.
then I must throw myself on your mercy dear Parker. I'll buy
the first drink on the pub crawl afterwards,"Marie laughed. It
was an honest laugh, not a social titter or smothered snicker.
Marie dear," Lady Penelope said, suddenly serious. Virgil
shifted carefully, finally,they could get down to business.
"Parker and I are quite busy this morning, but Virgil can
an empty silence for a moment. "You can take the Aston
Martin," Penelope said over Parker's rather audible sigh. The
Aston Martin was a prized possession and Virgil knew that
permission to drive it was not given lightly. "You can pick up
Brains at the airport at noon..."
Virgil's brow wrinkled slightly.
start work without him," Penelope said obliquely. "He has all
relaxed marginally. He could be patient. He'd had a lot of
tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He was being
patient. Miss Ryker had told him not to wait, that she could
find her way back to Lady Penelope's, but Virgil was not
prepared to incur the lady's wrath by having her guest dropped
off by a cab, especially since he'd been given the Aston
Martin as a bribe. He ran a finger lovingly on the burled
walnut dashboard. This was such a beauty. He wondered idly
where Lady Penelope had gotten the priceless antique. The
initials JB were etched into the silver knob of the gear
delivered Marie Ryker to a discrete Georgian style office
building with only a brass plaque out front with the enigmatic
acronym of ICPA etched in blunt capital letters. Since,
the lady had the good sense not to pry about his work or
reason for being in London, he didn't pry into hers.
know how long I'll be." She had looked at him questioningly.
here until 11:00, then I have to go pick up a friend at the
airport. But, we can come by afterwards, say about one?"
It was now
about 10:30 and he felt more than ready to leave. He almost
jumped when the passenger door opened and Marie Ryker
practically fell into the low slung seat. She was fumbling
with sunglasses and before she got them on he was sure he saw
Sorry I took so long." Her voice betrayed nothing, but her
mouth was set in a firm white line, the same way she'd looked
on the flight over.
news?" He ventured.
here to drive me around, not indulge your curiosity. I am not
a freak." She spat out.
for Miss Nice Person he thought.
m'lady." Virgil shot back sarcastically and downshifted the
small sports car rather roughly and unnecessarily. The gears
to the airport was in silence, the kind of silence that
sizzled and snapped with unburnt energy. "I'll wait here,"
Marie said brusquely when he parked the car.
Virgil said shortly.
looked well rested as he stepped off the trim subsonic plane
that had delivered him to London.
slapped his friend on the shoulder, it was good to see a
friendly face. "Brains! Nice to see you! Now tell me what's
Lady P-penelope tell you?" The young scientist looked
an unexpected guest. She's with me now, so we can't talk in
always w-were a fast w-worker," Brains said with a playful
nudge in Virgil's ribs. He frowned when he saw the man wince.
"Th-those sh-should be b-better by n-now." A small line of
worry was between his eyes.
Doc..." Virgil steered them through the luggage racks
retrieving Brains' distinctive silver alloy case. While
primarily a mechanical engineer and inventor, Brains also had
a medical degree, which made him invaluable in treating the
injuries that had occurred amongst the members of
International Rescue. "Anyway, she's not my type at all."
absent mindedly waved away a porter who went to take his bag.
The porter spoke briefly to his watch. "The package is on the
relieved that after a brief introduction and a mild battle
about who was going to sit in the cramped back seat, things
seemed less tense with the enigmatic Miss Ryker. She even
touched his arm lightly and apologized briefly. "Sorry
Mr.Tracy, I took my bad mood out on you."
all right," Virgil said roughly. The trip to Lady Penelope's
was speedy once they got out of the city traffic. They were on
a less travelled stretch of highway where Virgil could let the
little car show it's ‘legs', when he spotted something out of
like an accident." Virgil swung the sports car in a sharp arc
to come to a halt behind the van that was precariously perched
on the side of the road. A shapely female was laid out in the
middle of the road. A man was hunched over the hood moaning
and holding a bloody hand to his head.
you take a look at the fellow. I'll take the lady."
"I got the
emergency call and will handle traffic." Marie was right
behind the two men. She already had her pocket phone to her
ear. To her surprise, a hand wrenched the instrument out of
her hand and tossed it away. "I think not lady." He pressed a
hypo spray to her neck and she collapsed, unconscious.
victims came suddenly to life. Neither man had a moment to
react, but were drugged just as quickly and efficiently. The
three were stuffed into the back of the van like so much old
baggage. One drove away in the Aston Martin.
them." The lady spoke enigmatically into a radio.
know what to do." Even over the radio the hollow evil voice
caused the fake accident victim to shudder. She was glad she
wasn't one of the hapless souls piled in the back of the van.
Chapter Four: Premonitions, Facts, and Theories
Parker coughed apologetically.
Parker?" Penelope looked up from the magazine she was
Martin ‘as not returned."
raised an eyebrow. "Maybe Marie took Virgil on that pub crawl.
visit while using the Aston Martin? I surely ‘ope not m'lady."
again, I don't think Virgil and Brains want to be left out of
our conference with Jeff at 2:00." She consulted the gold and
diamond confection that was really a watch.
who had done the kidnapping were methodically stripping their
victims of watches, keys, and any other possessions, except
for the clothes they wore and their shoes.
pulled over briefly, the personal effects were placed in the
Aston Martin, along with a small but deadly thermal bomb. Two
minutes after the van left, Parker's beloved Aston Martin blew
up and melted into sludge.
were subsequently loaded onto a scruffy looking cargo plane
which winged its way off to a far off destination from London
- somewhere no one would look for them.
Jeff, I can't think what could have happened to them. Virgil
and Brains are not answering and I cannot raise Miss Ryker
do you know this Miss Ryker?" Jeff Tracy hated to sound overly
suspicious, but if Virgil was anything, it was punctual.
her quite well, but I have to admit that I've not seen or
heard from her in over a year." Penelope admitted reluctantly.
wasn't a coincidence that she and Virgil were on the same
not. I'll look into it." Penelope promised. "I'm beginning to
Jeff admitted, feeling more like a father than the head of
was not pleasant. All thoughts of playing possum were
wrenched from Virgil's mind as his head felt like a split open
melon. He raised a shaky hand to his head expecting to find
blood or his brains spilt. He could hear moaning and groaning
in stereo. His fighter pilot's reflexes cut in and he rolled
to his knees. His eyes adjusted quickly to the gloom of the
small room. Cold rock cut into his knees and abraded his
palms. Brains was curled in a tight ball next to him breathing
heavily and moaning.
Virgil was surprised that the name came out of his mouth, his
tongue felt like it was twice the size it used to be and as
dry as the Sahara. He licked his lips. Darn, even that caused
a stab of pain to his head.
lying on her stomach. He put a shaky hand on her back and was
relieved to feel the slight rise and fall that showed the
woman was alive and breathing. The muscles under his hand
shuddered and a small keen of pain escaped her lips.
Brains managed to roll slightly. His eyes were unfocussed
behind his thick glasses. The back under Virgil's hand
shuddered and shook as Marie began to move more. "Nu…begrame…don't
leave me…" She muttered.
here." Virgil patted her shoulder trying to comfort someone
who probably felt as bad as himself if not worse.
within minutes most of the worst symptoms seemed to have
abated leaving all three with pounding headaches.
though Virgil was the first to get to his feet, Marie seemed
to recover first.
d-drugged," Brains said with unaccustomed distaste in his
tone. He tried to clean his glasses on his shirt. Marie took
them gently in her hand and lifting up her blouse, polished
them on what seemed in the gloom to be some sort of
She said. "Cleans glasses like a charm." To Virgil's continued
surprise, he felt a pair of strong hands grip his neck and
begin to massage the last stiffness out.
which seemed to flush with the wall suddenly whooshed open
with a pneumatic sigh.
pretty. I think I've done you a favor." A tall sinister
character kept to the shadows, though his three armed to the
teeth henchmen made their presence known.
closer and I'll do you a favor." Virgil gritted out
aggressively. He had taken to his feet immediately at the
first hint of the strange sound.
greedy Mr. Tracy. I'd like to pound him myself." Marie and
Brains had moved to flank him. Both had the relaxed stance of
confident and practised hand-to-hand combat experts.
and one l-left over for the qu-quickest." Brains added.
shuffled nervously. As if by a silent agreement the three took
a step forwards.
have your moment of bravado, but I shall laugh last." A hollow
sinister laugh came from the shadowy man.
trite." "B-boring." "Overdone."
right. Just die then." The sinister voice was a trifle
petulant. "This whole mountain will blow up in 24 hours. You
can amuse each other." At some silent signal the man and his 3
guards left them.
we ruined his theatrics," Virgil said. The metal door slammed
shut with finality and they heard the snick and clunk as the
electronic bolts slid into place.
sure have some interesting enemies," Marie said rubbing her
was the Hood." Brains sounded astounded. "N-now w-we know wh-what
he is up t-to."
Chapter Five: Inside and Outside
of them made the door as soon as they were no longer under the
guns of The Hood and his nasty henchmen. The door was sunk
almost seamlessly into the thick rock and steel walls of their
"D-d-darn." Brains swore quietly. Virgil resisted the urge to
pound his fist on the door, which would undoubtably break
knuckles before any mark would be made on the smooth exterior.
"I wish I
had my purse." Marie mourned.
Virgil regretted the words immediately. "Sorry." He repeated
the word. "Sorry you got dragged into this."
I am, no use crying over spilt milk. And in my purse I at
least had a Swiss Army knife and a flashlight."
think we c-c-could dig ourselves out in t-time. Not with a
p-pocket knife,"Brains said with a small, apologetic smile.
"I'm s-s-sorry t-t-too."
anything that could be of use. Even took the keys out of my
pocket." Virgil clenched his fists. This looked desperate.
They had been drugged. Taken to some unknown place, locked in
an impregnable room and given 24 hours to live before the
mountain wasgoing to be blown up around them.
All of a
sudden Miss Ryker began to laugh.
no time to get hysterical." Virgil growled.
leading the Christians through the catacombs only to come out
in the arena in time for the lion act. Irony."
if you hadn't met us..." Virgil asked pacing their cage or
soon to be tomb.
That's timing. The irony is that I've been worrying for months
about losing my job, my profession and now it really doesn't
matter. I'm losing my life. And the company is all right. Last
time..." Her face twisted into one of pain and then cleared.
time?" Brains asked.
time they left me to die alone. But, as you see I am still
here. So, any ideas?"
of work do you do?" Virgil asked looking sharply at her.
"I am an
investigator. What do you do?" The air fairly crackled between
d-door was electronic." Brains spoke up suddenly. "If I had
m-my w-watch the s-signal could b-be m-modulated. B-but." His
voice trailed off.
"Um..."Marie began hesitantly. "Could you do something with a
bionic feedback circuit and some small hydraulics?"
always something good that comes out of something bad." She
muttered and to both men's astonishment she unzipped her
trousers and pulled them down, kicking off her shoes as she
did. Both men had the grace to blush as she stood in a pair of
white lacy knickers and a now obvious prosthetic left leg. She
leaned over and removing several straps handed the plastic and
metal contraption towards Brains. "You use this thing to get
us out." She teetered a little on her remaining leg, but
grabbed support from the wall to rather ungracefully and
hastily pull up her trousers. One shoe lay abandoned on the
It was her
turn to look embarrassed. "So, I have a wooden leg. It
happens." Her chin rose dangerously. "There's a small tool on
the side. I use it to adjust the connections."
will g-give us a fighting ch-chance." Without anymore
discussion he immediately sat down and began to take the
artificial limb to pieces. "G-good thing th-this isn't a
w-wooden l-leg." He grinned and bent his head over his work.
went to stand in front of her as she was still leaning against
the wall. "You are constantly surprising me. I think I'm maybe
the one without a leg to stand on here." He attempted humor.
push me Mr.Tracy," She said defensively, but a small smile
you can call me Virgil, under the circumstances." He touched
her arm lightly.
don't know. Imminent death isn't always an excuse for
informality...but if you insist, Virgil." The small smile was
more in her eyes.
the way she said his name, it sounded soft and personal. He
had a sudden irrational thought that he'd like to kiss her. Or
maybe it was rational? He felt his body lean fractionally
C-can you help?" Brains had his hands full of small parts
already. Virgil joined him and started sorting bits and
pieces as Brains handed them to him."Hah! A b-battery." He
muttered to himself.
Guaranteed for six months running. I've only used it two."
Marie volunteered, somewhat grateful to have both men's
attention away from her.
Virgil both looked up from where they were crouched over the
leg that was already beginning to look unlike a limb. She
stood leaning against the steel wall like a butterfly pinned
to a board. One trouser leg hung empty and limp. Her
expression looked almost empty and limp.
as well s-s-sit," Brains said, not unkindly.
seemed to pass both slowly and swiftly. After a short time
there was nothing more that Virgil could do to help Brains who
was fidgeting with his pile of parts and batteries and wires.
He almost envied Marie who had fallen into a fitful sleep.
finally had a gadget that he hoped would spring the door. Two
small wires were inserted painstakingly where they hoped the
lock was and the device triggered. It took at least eleven
tries before they hit the right spot. There was a click and
the door sighed and opened one inch.
rejoiced overly, they still had to escape before the mountain
Virgil muscled open the door. It gave space reluctantly. Marie
stood next to them giving them verbal encouragement, as they
had refused her physical aid.
think we h-have much t-time," Brains said as the door gave way
enough for them to slip through. They found themselves in a
long corridor which went up at the right and down to the left.
down?" Virgil asked.
is pl-planning to bl-blow this up, then d-down, and we l-look
for air sh-shafts."
Chapter Six: Up and Down
notified Lady Penelope of the remains of the Aston Martin. The
pyrotechnic bomb had all but destroyed everything, but
strangely enough the number plate of FAB-3 had been thrown
clear of the explosion. It was Lady Penelope's unhappy job to
tell Jeff Tracy.
be sure they were in the car until we get back the
spectrographic analysis." Penelope tried to comfort the
stricken man. She could see Scott, Gordon, and John standing
behind their father giving their support. Alan was doing his
rotation on Thunderbird 5.
that the Hood leaked the information as a trap to catch…some
of us?" Jeff asked trying to sound calm.
looks that way."
about this Marie Ryker?" Scott asked.
looked distressed. "I haven't been able to find out much.
There seems to be some mystery behind her whereabouts for the
past year. Her employers are being very tight mouthed. But, I
hope to have more information within 24 hours."
means she could be an accomplice to the Hood." Scott's tone
know for sure," Penelope said in defense of her friend.
don't know if Virgil or Brains are alive!" Gordon burst out.
worked since graduating from college as an investigator for
the International Child Protection Agency. Her speciality has
been looking into adoption agencies and orphanages. I don't
see her moving from that to the pay of the Hood." Penelope
shot back a trifle acidly.
turned his back to her. "Hop on."
began, but realized the futility of protest and putting her
hands on Virgil's broad shoulders, gave a hop on her good leg
and ended up piggyback.
hold me tighter." He threw back over his shoulder as he and
Brains broke into a quick trot down the uneven corridor. Marie
wound her leg and a half around his waist and her arms tight
around his shoulders, their heads close together so that her
lips were close to his ear. "I hate this." She muttered, more
grip on her legs tightened fractionally. "I know," He said
shortly, saving his breath for the half run. Initially, the
weight of carrying Marie wasn't too bad. But, soon sweat was
pouring off him and he felt as if she was stuck onto him.
Brains stopped abruptly, he almost plowed into him.
The scientist pointed up. " An air v-vent." A grill was set
into the wall. One good wrench was all it took for Virgil to
pry it out.
first, then Marie, I'll take up the rear." Whatever the other
two thought about the order, they recognized Virgil as the
leader and took his words as orders.
the vent was fairly good sized, though they had to crawl on
their bellies. Only the ever freshening whiff of air let them
know they were gradually escaping their underground prison.
They passed several smaller side shafts before coming to a
large, vertical opening. There was a tantalizing piece of blue
sky far above them. And a lot of black pit below. Virgil
measured himself on the opening. With a lot of stretching he
could possibly climb it, but it was impossible for Marie and
would be just as hard for the much shorter Brains. Any slip
would be instantly fatal.
"You…could…leave…me,…" Marie said softly.
men spoke at once.
back up t-to a s-side sh-shaft," Brains said.
that." Virgil now found himself in the lead with Brains
bringing up the rear.
some good news." Penny began right away. "There was no trace
of human remains with the car. I suspect that they have been
kidnapped and are still alive."
Alan got a message sent on our frequency. It is the Hood all
right. But…" Jeff looked worse than grim. Penny was sure that
he had not slept in the past few days. "He says that they will
be dead in 24 hours. Buried under tons of rubble, and that
there is no way we will find them by then."
find them Jeff. We must!" Penelope allowed some of her pain
and frustration into her voice.
and Brains can find some way to escape. They are resourceful."
Jeff added trying to convince himself.
A worried and rumpled Scott appeared on the vidscreen with his
father. "You have to get some rest. Let us help."
few minutes.."Jeff muttered.
faced Lady Penelope on the screen. "We have nothing to work
with. Darn!" Scott and Virgil were probably the closest of the
brothers. It had fallen to their shoulders the care of their
little brothers years ago when their mother had died. When it
came to problems or rescues they were there for each other.
Now, Scott felt lost without his brother. "What about the
Ryker woman? You said you'd have something for us."
Penny said just as sadly. "I'm afraid that Marie was in the
wrong place at the wrong time. I have found out that she spent
most of the last year in the hospital. She was very ill and
has had to go through extensive physical therapy. The poor
girl lost her leg and uses a prosthetic limb."
they were in began to slope steeply upwards. The three of them
had to jam themselves in and there was a lot of slipping and
sliding and mild cursing. As last man, Brains often found a
foot in his face. Even Virgil found himself stretching not to
land on everyone. The shaft took a sudden 90 degree turn.
It was hard for Virgil as the bigger person to make the turn.
At one point Marie was pushing on his backside. "You can slap
my face later." She grunted at him. The smaller Marie and
Brains found it easier, though they all left some skin and
material on the walls. The three of them could now smell salt
air. Then an ominous rumble below them caused them to pause
for half a breath and then adrenalin reserves kicked in and
all three were scrambling as if their lives depended on it -
as they did.
came upon the opening to the outside just as fast as he
barrelled through it, rolling down a sharp slope to land in a
small stream of water. He looked up in time to have Marie come
rolling head over heels towards him. He snagged her as the
mountain belched, shivered and collapsed on itself throwing
them back into the water. Brains was literally shot out of the
ventilation shaft to land into thick bushes on the other side
of the stream. Virgil had Marie tucked firmly into his chest
as the mountain rumbled a few times. They held onto each
other, shaking with left over adrenalin and the near death
moment. Virgil raised his head slowly and looked down at the
woman in his arms. The kiss just seemed to happen, but then
something seemed to change. It was Brains' groan of pain that
brought the two back to their predicament.
Chapter Seven: Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
hollow laugh of triumph echoed in the room. It was Kyrano who
noticed Jeff Tracy's suddenly white face and the hand clutched
to his chest. The murder of his second oldest son and his all
but adopted son had taken their toll on the older Tracy.
John cried out sharply.
felt as if his world was collapsing around him, but he was
given no time. Once again the Tracy brothers turned to him.
and John - get Father into bed. I'll get in touch with Penny.
No, better yet, Gordon go take Thunderbird One and get her and
Parker. We are all safer together. Tin-tin, can you look after
Father until we get the doctor here?"
nodded as well as the others sped off to follow his orders.
Scott was left alone in the room for a moment and he let his
shoulders drop. "Oh God Virg, how can I do this without you?"
he said in a broken voice.
tell me you can walk without me." Virgil snapped.
to take care of Brains first. I'll follow you as well as I
can." Out of immediate danger, the friction between Virgil
and Marie was slowly escalating. Brains with an apparent
dislocated shoulder and other injuries was too out of it to
act as a buffer between the two.
is one thing I've learned in my work, I don't leave anyone
behind, ever." Virgil growled.
get left behind all the time. The ones who are weak, hurt,
alone…we get…they get left behind and learn to live with it."
me they don't." Virgil pulled the girl to her foot and with
little ceremony slung her over one shoulder. His other hand
was around Brains' waist and he almost literally carried his
two companions through the hot steamy tropical jungle they had
found themselves in.
"You...you...Neanderthal..." Marie snarled.
quiet." Virgil gave her a sharp slap on her backside. "You can
slap my face later."
a right cross to the kisser."
Didn't you like it?" Virgil noticed that the woman became
silent with that retort.
cowered in the back of her den like one of small prey that she
normally hunted. Her kits mewled hungrily around her, but she
hadn't been the queen of this island for all these years out
of foolishness. She would wait. And then she would hunt. And
she would kill.
ended suddenly and they found themselves on a beach that would
have been the envy of any resort. The fresh water stream
dumped itself into the pounding surf of an azure ocean. The
soft sand was difficult to walk on and Virgil stumbled and
fell with his burdens. Luckily, Brains landed on top of
Virgil, cushioning his fall though he cried out in pain. Marie
was unfortunately under both men.
all right?" Her muffled voice was worried. "Virgil? Brains?"
sec." Virgil eased himself carefully out from under Brains,
supporting his half conscious friend. Marie got an elbow in
her side and a little squished in the process, but never made
a peep except for a woof of air when his shoulder hit her
was beginning to set as Virgil and Marie bent worriedly over
their injured friend.
s-s-seems t-to b-b-be dis-dislo-located." Brains' stutter was
more pronounced as he bit out the words between his teeth.
"You-you'll have to-to reduce it."
buddy, just hang in there." Virgil looked in askance at Marie
who shook her head ruefully. He rolled his eyes in response.
"How do we
do this Brains? Neither of us has done it before."
pull the ar-arm str-straight. It w-w-will p-p-pop." Sweat was
running down the scientist's face and he was shivering in
right." Virgil swallowed. "Marie, you hold his shoulders
steady and pull them when I pull his arm."
two were sweating just as badly as Brains. After several
painful and frustrating tries, the shoulder popped into place
with a rather disturbing crunch. Brains' arm was then tied
into a neat package and sling with his own shirt and Marie's
blouse. She hadn't even blushed when the silk camisole was
displayed. She calmly took Brains' glasses off and cleaned
them to start a fire before the sun disappears." Virgil
explained. He had gotten up and had come back with a pile of
burnable vegetation. Brains' thick lenses were excellent for
focussing the last rays of the sun and soon they had a small
cheery fire on the beach.
forgot the marshmallows."Virgil joked as he scooped a hip hole
and a mound of sand for Brains to lie down on.
all right dear." Marie added just as straight faced. "I forgot
the picnic lunch, not to speak of the bug spray." She swatted
at a flying, buzzing thing.
grinned tiredly. It was funny, but he suddenly felt relaxed
around the woman. When push came to shove, she came through.
It was like they had been working together for years.
reminded him a bit of Gordon. Gordon was such a tease and a
pain in the neck at times. A typical little brother. As he
watched her fuss a bit over Brains, his feelings were not at
all fraternal. He admired the way the firelight shone off the
pearly sheen of that wisp of silk that was now her shirt. Then
again, not at all like Gordon.
was more for mental comfort than physical, at least they were
in tropical climes. Even though the temperature had dropped
with nightfall, it wasn't totally uncomfortable. Despite the
rigours and traumas of the last day, the three couldn't sleep.
Brains shifted uncomfortably, the dislocation had been
reduced, but the muscles were incredibly sore and he suspected
a few back muscles had been torn as well as ribs bruised.
pillow?" Marie asked softly offering her shoulder.
p-prefer a b-b-bed." He replied. "N -no, thank you."
not fluffy enough." She sighed.
you up on that offer," Virgil said quietly. "Just right," He
said and settled his head on her shoulder. He could hear her
heartbeat and felt her breath as it stirred his hair, a
strange feeling of peace and calm settled over him and sleep
wasn't so elusive.
Tracy, he was twice the size of Brains and three times
heavier. Yet, the trust of his head on her shoulder was a
comforting weight. His hair was incredibly soft and fine and
tickled her nose slightly. It was easy to stroke it away from
her face once and hard not to do it again.
moaned slightly, half asleep, causing both Marie and Virgil to
raise their heads slightly. When they heard a sigh and a half
snore they returned their heads to the soft warm sand. Sleep
overtook both as overtaxed bodies and minds gave up.
Chapter Eight: Fishing
too close for comfort Jeff." Lady Penelope fussed around Jeff
Tracy who was sitting on the sofa looking rather pale, but
"I was a
fool. It was just the thing I had lectured Virgil about when I
saw him last. Not enough sleep, not eating right, pushing
myself too hard." Jeff Tracy looked down at his hands. "I hate
to think that the last words to my son were angry."
only because you care Mr. Tracy." Kyrano placed a tray of food
before the saddened pair. "Mr.Virgil knows you love him."
John came into the room. Penelope noticed that they looked no
better than their father. Scott sat down with an audible sigh,
but reached automatically for one of the delicious looking
sandwiches on the plate.
well, both of you." Jeff looked with undisguised affection at
his two sons.
wish..." Scott shook his head. "Sorry Father."
came trailing in with a bunch of computer readouts. John
looked up. "How many Gordon?"
to be only four possibilities."
you boys up to?" Penelope asked curiously.
Hood mentioned that he'd buried....them...."John's voice broke
and then he continued, "under tons of rubble. So, we started
looking for seismic records of sufficient magnitude for an
explosion of that kind."
to know where..."Gordon explained.
were these explosions?" Jeff's voice was calm and his demeanor
settled his sons immediately.
is in the middle of the Tasangoli Plains, just to the east of
Mongolia. There are rumors that they are testing nuclear
devices there, but you know that is hard to pinpoint.
"Politics." Gordon shrugged. In International Rescue, politics
was more a hindrance than a help. "One is in the middle of the
Vuorinen Mountain Range in Canada. Another remote place. It
could be an avalanche. The third is a suspected volcanic
island near the coast of Mexico. The volcanologists are a bit
surprised, so I added it to the short list. Then there was a
big earthquake or explosion or something happened in
Antarctica. Alan has tapped into as many satellite pictures as
he could get of the regions, but they are all so remote."
to go and take a look ourselves." Scott leaned forwards
expectantly. "Alan can get in touch with us right away if we
are needed. I know it is spreading ourselves thin."
"It is a
risk." Jeff admitted, "But you have my go ahead."
you going to work this?" Lady Penelope said thoughtfully. "If
they are testing in the Tasangoli plains, you will be shot
down and questioned later."
to fly in the HH," John said firmly. The HH, or more
unimaginatively named Hedge Hopper, was a little two seater
supersonic jet that had hover capacities and a very clever
radar trap that made it perfect for covert movements. The
Tracy boys tended to use it more for fun and quick trips to
the mainland than anything else.
Antarctic is the toughest spot. I'm going in Thunderbird Two."
Scott's look dared his brothers to make something of it. "I'll
drop Gordon and Thunderbird 4 off to look at the volcano on
investigate the Canadian spot," Lady Penelope said firmly.
"And Jeff will co-ordinate our efforts and..."
Yes, I think this will be best. Get going boys." Jeff Tracy
managed a small smile, the first in many days.
course, Father." Was the assured chorus.
Chapter Nine: ...the
was rising higher in the heavens as the welter of arms and
legs finally untangled themselves into three rather scruffy
a silence as a few heads were scratched, intact limbs
"C-c-coffee." Brains moaned. "Not a morning person." Marie
groaned. "Need to brush my teeth." Virgil intoned.
morning routine consisted of a trip to the nearby stream for
ablutions and other business. The fire was coaxed back into
what have we got?" Virgil looked at his shabby companions. He
figured that he looked just as bad, if not worse. His beard
was already beginning to itch and he felt as if his hair was
impacted to stand on end.
and five legs," Marie said dryly and knotted the empty pant
leg so it wouldn't drag on the ground.
a few p-pieces left from M-m-marie's l-leg." Brains pulled out
a foot long flat piece of steel. "W-we can try sh-sharpening
it and m-make a knife."
can find me some sort of crutch, I can be mobile."
fresh water, but we will need food." Virgil rubbed the sand
off his cheek that was stuck in already growing beard.
the late start of the morning, they got a lot done before the
sun began to set. Marie's demand for a crutch had been
satisfied and she showed a remarkable agility for getting
around with just a piece of wood for support. Marie and Virgil
both had to bully Brains into taking it easy as his injuries,
while not grave, were painful and had taken a toll on the
young scientist. He catnapped on and off, rousing occasionally
to give a considered opinion on how to build a shelter, or
catch a fish with a shoestring, or whether or not to consider
a signal fire. The three of them agreed that a signal fire
might not be a good idea, in case the Hood came back to gloat.
managed to catch a few fish for their dinner. They were more
bone than meat, but a welcome treat for the starving trio.
Stomachs rumbled in unison as the fish sizzled gently on
by the fire and was sharpening the end of the crutch with
their one and only quasi-knife.
th-that for?" Brains asked curiously.
of course." She gave a wolfish grin. "He needs a poke with a
sharp stick occasionally, just to keep his ego down."
lot, let's see you get dinner next time." Virgil growled good
naturedly from tending the bits of fish grilling over the
my - point." She reached out with the stick and speared one of
the fish pieces and passed it deftly over to Brains. She
arched an eyebrow at Virgil.
Brains laughed and licking his fingers liberated the cooked
fish off the end of the handy stick of wood.
the stick in the fire for a moment and then scraped some more.
it?" Virgil asked sitting back on his haunches to eat his
piece of fish.
a couple of fellows in Senegal do it this way. The trick is
not to really burn the wood, but just to cook it to the tough
w-were you d-doing in S-senegal?" He enquired fishing a bit of
bone out of his mouth.
investigating a convent of nuns."
looked at her questioningly which enabled her to grab a piece
of fish for herself. They were silent for a moment watching
I'll bite." Virgil sighed. "What were nuns doing that needed
an orphanage." Marie licked her fingers. "Good. Thank you,
obviously going to make them dig for information.
k-kind of w-work do you d-do?" The scientist fixed her a stern
stare from behind the thick lenses.
I can trust you," Marie said after a rather long pause. "I
mean I'm in between assignments. Or even in between jobs." The
last sentence was more spoken to herself. "And Lady Penelope
vouched for you."
make it easier if we trusted you?" Virgil found it suddenly
important that she trusted him, as a person, not just because
he knew Lady Penelope. She turned to look at him with a
strange look of what seemed to be hope.
Brains tone was warning. "Are y-you sure?"
nodded. "Partly because it is why we are in the mess and
mostly because I think we need to trust each other." A vision
of his father's disapproving face flashed before him. "We
belong to International Rescue."
Well." A slow blush covered her cheeks that had nothing to do
with the closeness of the fire. "I'm not at all in your
league. I work for the ICPA, The International Child
Protection Agency. I investigate adoption agencies and
orphanages, make sure they are run legally and fairly." Marie
interesting." Virgil poked the fire with a stick.
about the n-nuns?" Brains returned to the original subject.
"I'd l-like to hear about th-that."
they were doing an excellent job, but there had been
complaints lodged that Moslem children were being baptized and
sent to only Christian homes. Their was a grain of truth to
the reports, but I managed to soothe the local Moslems and get
the nuns off the hook. They were kind of unhappy with me for a
while. Let me tell you there is nothing more hostile than a
nun who feels threatened. I spent some time living with the
villagers because the nuns would stand under my window to pray
for my soul every hour - loudly."
threw back his head and laughed. "Sounds like your job is just
as perilous as mine."
so." Chortled Brains. "Y-you only have to f-fight the
elements. Marie has to b-battle nuns."
eyes glittered in the light of the setting sun. A soundless
hiss passed over the sharp, sharp, white teeth. Maybe in the
cover of darkness....soundlessly she slipped back into the
cover of the jungle leaving only a few quivering leaves to
mark her passage.
Terrors of the Night
of sand shifted and flowed with a gritty whisper as the jungle
cat crept cautiously towards the dying fire and the fresh prey
that slept beside it. Her ears twitched forwards as the
rhythmic sound of breathing seemed to stop and then start
again, from one of the sleeping beasts. It was not unlike her
own purr that she used to soothe her cubs. Warily, she lifted
each paw carefully to be placed noiselessly on the warm sand.
Her nose wrinkled at the smell of burning wood, but the scent
of meat was becoming stronger. The sudden movement of one the
creatures accompanied by a low moan sent her fleeing swiftly
back to the jungle to hunt for rodents.
was no longer so bad, a slow warmth began to steal over her.
It would be so easy, just let the snow fall over her like a
soft blanket and give up. Only the anger, the hurt of
betrayal, the sheer unrightness of it all made her crawl
forward. The bright trail of blood melted the icy ground for
moments before being buried by the newly falling snow. "Nu.
Nu. Begrame. Jo savaren...please..."
"Please...don't leave me.. Begrame." The words were hardly
above a whisper, barely heard above the continuous crash of
the waves on the beach.
shifted uneasily. Moving was still a delicate operation, but
he sensed, more than heard, the anguish and tension in the
woman lying between him and Virgil. A slight rustle of
movement indicated that the other man had also wakened and had
"Nightmare." Virgil whispered, seeing Brains eyes were open.
one." Brains whispered back. "Try to wake her carefully." He
Virgil laid a hand on her shoulder. Despite the warmth of the
tropical night, her skin was cold and clammy. "Marie, honey."
He tried again, a little louder. His hand slid up to cup her
cheek, which was slick with tears that fell unhindered from
her closed eyes. Her hand reached up blindly to clutch at his.
It always hurts." She whimpered.
here, w-with you." Brains laid his uninjured hand on the other
hand and clasped it strongly.
to sleep. You aren't alone." Virgil soothed. The men's words
seemed to work and with a broken sigh, Marie fell asleep,
still clutching their hands.
"S-something really bad h-happened to her," Brains said
softly. "N-not just losing th-that leg either."
more like someone." Virgil replied, his thumb stroking the
back of her hand. "We'd better have a talk in the morning."
th-think she'll like th-that." Brains warned.
suspect not, but talk we will." Virgil's voice was stern, but
his gaze on the sleeping woman's face was soft and
compassionate. He lay back down and soon heard the gentle buzz
of Brains' snoring that indicated that the other man had
fallen readily to sleep. Despite the rigors of the day and
awakening caused by the nightmare, Virgil found it hard to
capture sleep again. They had learned almost the hard way in
the early days of International Rescue, the value of
debriefing and then defusing after missions. It was amazing
how just talking about what happened would ease their minds
and make sleep something to look forward to, instead of dream
fraught sessions of re-lived moments. Re-awakened traumas were
bad things to deal with. They all had them and had learned to
deal with them, but never alone.
found peace and solace in music, somehow feeling as he played,
the warm, close presence of his mother. Yet, it was his family
that he turned to for care and understanding. He and Scott
were especially close, having to care for their younger
brothers when Mother had died. A hand on the shoulder, a
raised eyebrow were enough between the two of them. The
silent, stoic John was the hugger of the group. John's hugs
were both giving and taking and often telling on the ribs but
able to fill a heart with silent care and love. Gordon for all
of his loudness and jokes and laughter found it hard to share
his hurt. His near death accident in the powerboat had left
its mark, but it was Gordon who would know what was hurting
and when and specifically who. The recipient of his care was
burdened with practical jokes and bad puns, but it worked.
Alan gave them the precious gift of tears. Not all rescues
were successful, not all were saved, innocents often perished
and Alan would cry at the injustice, giving them the chance to
grieve also. Father was there, a pillar of strength, of wisdom
and not without a little humor and infinite patience to
protect and raise his five rambunctious men. Granny cured
everything with a plate of warm cookies and glass of milk.
Granny treated them all like they were small boys coming in
with skinned knees. One could never be too old for Granny's
kiss and cuddle.
tightened his grip fractionally as the small hand twitched in
his, holding onto him like a lifeline. Some rescues were not
of the physical kind, he thought, and fell asleep.
Chapter Eleven: The
Light of Day
awoke with that horrible itchy feeling in her eyes of dried
tears. She scrubbed her face with her hands as she sat up and
surreptitiously eyed her two companions. Surely, if they were
as tired as she was, they hadn't heard her crying in her
sleep. Brains held out his glasses automatically to her to be
cleaned on her silk camisole. His gaze could have been
sympathetic, but she just put it down to myopia. Virgil looked
angry or worried, but that seemed more normal for him than the
fellow last night who was more amenable. Maybe daylight didn't
suit him. She shrugged muscles that were sore and strained
from using the wooden stick as a crutch. She didn't suppress
the startled cry of pain when a strong pair of hands began
kneading at the tautly knotted muscles.
aren't we?" Virgil breathed into her ear as his thumbs found
points of pain to rub into submission.
d-didn't sleep w-well." Brains laid his free hand on her knee,
just above the amputation point.
fact, you had a pretty bad nightmare." The insistent voice was
as insistent as his hands setting her more firmly in place.
They had her well and truly trapped between the two of them.
s-surprised you didn't g-get th-therapy for th-this." Brains
tapped the stump. "N-not m-much of a j-job th-that doesn't
take c-care of its employees."
I got therapy. I'm quite all right with my loss of limb. I can
still do my job." Marie congratulated herself on her
unwavering voice. It would take a lot more than these two men
to throw her off balance. She wiggled her shoulders under
Virgil's hands to let him know she'd had enough.
Brains said, and she turned her head towards him with a sharp
snap. "You w-were speaking G-gurmeese in your sleep." He
real rough place. They've been torn apart by civil war for the
last four years." Even though she had stopped struggling
against him, Virgil let her go and turned so he could face
a lot of orphans," Marie said flatly. "I go where the job has
to be done."
alone." Brains said shrewdly.
alone." Virgil answered for her. "You had a partner."
did." Her voice was low as she forced her head up to look
Virgil in the eye.
you b-behind." Brains made an educated guess.
didn't. I killed him."
I don't think you are the kind of person to do that. Start at
the beginning and tell us what happened." Virgil insisted.
my nightmares bother you then I'll just sleep elsewhere."
Marie felt the beginnings of a terrible headache. Here she was
stuck on a desert island without her pain pills and with two
really pushy men.
n-need to t-talk."
classified. I'm not supposed to." She muttered and dropped her
gaze for the first time.
Virgil tried to reach her with his voice. "Trust me." Their
eyes met and something important passed between them and
men waited patiently as she clearly struggled to come to some
sort of decision. Virgil hadn't realized that he was holding
his breath until she sighed and looked at them. She had
decided to trust him, them, he added to himself.
"I - yes.
It's not a pretty story and I was a fool. I paid for it too."
She looked down at the remains of her leg and began...
events and descriptions may be disturbing, some may be true.)
displaced people were clustered in the barely adequate
shelters. Aid agencies seemed to be fighting an uphill battle.
As soon as things seemed better, hostilities would break out
again. It was also in the middle of the bitterest winter in
written history. Gurmukistan was a country with a long history
of violent and bloody warfare. While modern peace treaties and
sanctions made it almost impossible to have warfare between
nations, Gurmukistan managed to be at war with itself for long
with such conflicts, it was the innocent who suffered more.
Women and children more than outnumbered the men. Marie had
been there for two months already and was sick to the bone
with the misery she had seen. She had been sent in to give a
hand to Jason Petrovich who had seemed less than delighted at
first to see her, but a warm friendship had grown between
them. Jason had done wonders - placing children in foster
homes and adopted around the world in fantastic numbers.
Experience rang an alarm bell in her head, but Jason assured
her that all was well.
her hide her talent for learning languages quickly she
couldn't explain. Gurmeese was known as the Chinese of the
mid-east as it was a convoluted language, plagued with
diphthongs, triphthongs, double vowels and a vocabulary that
included 20 different words for snow and over 40 for
initial niggling doubts slowly grew to the horrifying
conclusion that Jason Petrovich was using his position to sell
children. The cost of adoptions had been regulated for years
due to international agreements and the ground breaking work
done by her agency, the ICPA. But, there were always those
willing to pay for a child when they had been deemed
unsuitable as parents by the authorities.
could feel a secret sympathy for the adults willing to go
outside the law and pay fantastic sums for their own child,
for that is what her adopted parents had done. They had been
well over the minimum age for prospective parents and Mumsy
had a history of psychotic episodes that had been barely
controlled by medication. Popsy had tried his best to make up
for the days when his wife couldn't cope with the lively
little girl. The downside of illegal adoption was for her, at
least, the fact that she had no idea of her past. No papers,
no records were available to tell where a small two year old
had been before she was adopted by the Rykers.
where her heart or sympathies lay, how much she had come to
like Jason Petrovich, her dedication to protecting the
children came first. Hunches and overheard conversations
weren't enough. She needed cold, hard information, proof. She
was a canny investigator, but had not counted on Jason's
partners. She had followed him into the mountains where he was
meeting with some of his Gurmukaani contacts.
mountain men were cautious in the extreme and she fell into
the hands of perimeter guards, men who knew every rock and
bush like the hairs on their beards.
little fool." Jason had spat out. "Why couldn't you leave
things alone? You of all people should know I'm doing these
children a service by finding them homes."
are really going to families, Jason?" Marie hazarded a guess.
Hundreds of children a month couldn't all be illegally
adopted. It just wasn't possible, not even with the biggest
and best organized agencies. She repeated the question in
credible Gurmeese. The men moved restlessly.
Jason hissed, his normally friendly open face was the mask of
a stranger, a dangerous, evil stranger.
are sold as slaves or to bordellos?" She began to translate
the sentence into Gurmeese and to her shock, Jason shot her in
the leg. She fell to the ground.
UP!!" He screamed, his lips pulled back over his teeth like a
wild animal brought to bay.
many are sold as body parts to hospitals?" She still didn't
feel the pain of the wound, though blood was oozing sluggishly
through her fingers.
so?" One of the men said in credible English.
him." Marie felt a wave of dizziness pass over her.
stood there with the gun in his hand, his face twisted in hate
and the truth.
promised a good life for our children away from the horrors of
poverty and war and you have sold them into slavery and
worse." Before anyone could react, he shot the crooked agency
worker between the eyes.
done us a service, of a sort." The bearded man hefted his
rifle towards Marie. "We are not a forgiving race. Leave and
do not come back."
Help me." But she found herself talking to thin air and the
falling snow as the men melted into the countryside. She was
left with the rapidly cooling body of a man she had once
considered a friend. Someone she had killed as if by her own
hand. "Nu. Nu. Begrame - No. No. In the name of mercy. Jo
savaren- I beg of thee....please...Don't leave me behind!"
too sure how I got back to the city. I hobbled, I crawled,
I...don't know. The next thing I knew I was being airlifted to
an International Peacekeeper Hospital. I had pneumonia, my leg
was gangrenous. They tried to save it. Despite pain killers I
suffered greatly for seven long weeks. It was almost a relief
to have it amputated."
paused for a breath and shuddered involuntarily. Warm arms
were wrapped around her and she found her head resting on a
broad shoulder. Her hand was being held tightly by Brains, his
face soft with sympathy.
didn't quite believe me. Jason's body was never found. The
proof I had gathered disappeared. In order to keep the
integrity of the Agency I was given a gag order. I couldn't
even discuss it with anyone. You are the only ones outside of
my superiors who know. Now, they are threatening to take me
out of field duty. Give me a desk. Or worse, fire me for
"N-nonsense." To her surprise Brains raised her hand to his
lips in a salute. "Y-you w-were exceedingly br-brave. You st-still
right. If anyone is to blame its that agency of yours for
sending you out without proper backup and not taking care of
you afterwards." Virgil's arms tightened around her tightly,
making her feel protected, cared for. Maybe- even, just for
this moment, loved.
a wave of warmth sweep over her that she hadn't felt since
Popsy had died when she was 16, leaving her to cope with a
desolate Mumsy for six long months until she had followed her
beloved husband. The tears that had been so long suppressed
during the day and had found outlet only in nightmares welled
in her eyes. She found herself weeping like a broken-hearted
child on Virgil Tracy's shoulder. Brains was patting her on
the back and both men were muttering words of comfort.
maneuvered Thunderbird 2 over the choppy waves of the Pacific
Ocean. The bulky, but extremely sensitive craft reacted easily
to his light touch. No wonder Virgil loved flying this bird.
It handled like a fighter plane, but had the power of giant
bit rough Gordon." Scott spoke into the mike to his brother
who was in Thunderbird 4, nestled in Pod 4 of the ample cargo
take the ride." Gordon's voice sounded flat, for the life of
him he couldn't come up with a joke or funny thing to say. Why
should he? He stroked the familiar controls of the
submersible. He never said anything to anyone, but the launch
from Thunderbird 2 was always rough on his back. It never
failed to bring a twinge of pain. His hand hovered over the
expensive six speaker stereo system that had been cleverly
installed in the small cabin. Gordon liked to think of himself
as an old movie-vid hero dashing to the rescue with suitable
background music welling up around him. He had a taste for the
old classics that his brothers constantly teased him about. He
deliberately chose the rather dark theme to "Blade Runner".
The beat of the tympanis was in time with Scott's countdown.
(boom boom boom) - four (boom boom)- three (boom boom)- two
(boom boom boom)- one..." Thunderbird 4 slid down the ramp to
plunge into the wild waters of the Pacific and slid swiftly
through the waves like a speeding dolphin towards a small
pushed back the hood of her white fur parka to gaze at the
mountain peak that was shrouded in gray cloud. Roils of cloud
seemed to gather itself and darken before their very eyes.
like a storm m'lady." Parker eyed the weather uneasily. He was
basically a city dweller, the wild outdoors wasn't his forte,
but where his lady went, he followed.
believe the elements are quite against us Parker. We should
reach the ranger shelter in about an hour, but I'm afraid we
must hurry." As if to punctuate her words the wind began to
pick up and howl through the trees.
m'lady." He shouldered the heavy backpack and followed Lady
Penelope up a path more suited to goats than denizens of West
the little jet into the stratosphere dipping into the gray
blue area where the atmosphere ended and space began. He felt
more at ease in space than ever on earth The sheer infinity,
the grandeur, always made him feel so small and yet so much a
part of it all. Gordon had once called him star struck, not
realizing how close he was to the truth. Sometimes when he
slept on Thunderbird 5 he dreamt of the stars singing to him,
telling him things that his mind could only wonder at and
lay in his bed with his arms folded under his head and stared
at the ceiling. Tin Tin was handling the communications while
he was resting, or supposedly resting. The boys and Lady
Penelope would not reach their destinations for hours yet,
maybe longer. He'd had a long talk with Alan on Thunderbird 5
just before he went for a rest. The picture had seemed funny
at first with little bright dots of light drifting around his
younger son's head. He had thought it interference until he
realized that Alan was crying, the tears suspended around his
head like small diamonds in the near weightless conditions of
space. In between sniffs, the youngest Tracy had delivered
clear and precise reports as to the positions of his three
other brothers and Lady Penelope. He added weather reports and
prognoses and with a breath of relief said that there were no
emergencies that would pull International Rescue away from
their own agenda.
his own tears sting his eyes. Not yet would he allow himself
to grieve. He had to be strong for everyone. One of the worst
episodes of his life had been losing Lucille, and even worse
than that, his complete breakdown of grief that left his boys
to cope alone. Scott and Virgil had literally kept the younger
boys together, sacrificing their own childhood to
responsibility. Had he failed his sons again? He fell into an
up suddenly, feeling disoriented. The sun was filtering
through the palm leaves of the shelter above her head. Her
head ached and her eyes seemed crusted together.
b-better?" Not waiting for an answer, Brains proffered a half
a coconut shell filled with milky liquid. "You slept w-well."
He waited patiently as she sat herself up and sipped greedily
at the sweet coconut milk.
found some coconut trees. H-he's out hunting now. S-said he
found wild p-pig tracks."
brushed her straggly hair out her face. "I'm s -"
interrupted her, holding his hand up. "D-don't you d-dare say
you are s-sorry." He was almost angry, something rather
surprising from this very mild mannered soul. "You r-reacted
as anyone w-would. D-don't th-think of it as w-weakness for
one m-moment! It took c-courage to t-tell us and strength to
you get strength out of crying?" Marie felt out of balance, no
longer sure of herself or what this man thought of her.
Luckily Virgil wasn't there at the moment to witness her
vulnerability or confusion.
"Scientific f-fact," He said smugly. "You d-do feel b-better,
thought about it for a moment. Here she was kidnaped, legless,
trapped on a deserted island, hungry, dirty, and she hadn't
felt this - well not happy, exactly - satisfied. Brains smiled
at her shyly.
alright." She admitted and then, almost felt happy.
looked around for her stick crutch, certain matters were
inevitable."Where's my...?" She began.
b-borrowed it for a p-pig st-sticker. C-can I g-ive you a
h-hand to ah the water hole?"
he find his own toys?" Marie grouched. "And what's he doing
going off into the jungle by himself?"
m-m-my words." Brains agreed and slipped his free arm around
her waist, they started hobbling towards the stream. "B-but V-virgil
c-can take c-care of himself."
eyed the furious porker warily. He wished he had a blaster
rifle to vaporize the aggressive animal rather than just a
sharpened stick. How could something the size of a small
poodle be so darn aggressive - and so hard to kill? He didn't
dare glance down at the gaping wound in his leg. He could feel
the warm blood pooling into his sock. As the only able bodied
member of the castaways, he felt it his duty to be the
provider, but it wouldn't help if he became incapacitated
also. He was about ready to let the pig have its freedom and
provide his friends with coconuts for dinner, but the pig had
other ideas. With a furious squeal, it charged Virgil. The
pointed stick, which had previously imperviously bounced off
the pig's tough hide, sank effortlessly into the charging
body, the pig effectually suiciding itself for Virgil. He was
then left with the incredibly messy job of butchering the
animal with a dull knife. The sun was already westering by the
time he made it back to the campsite.
W-we were b-beginning to g-get worried." Brains took the
package of meat from him that he had wrapped in palm leaves.
us pork chops." He grinned as Brains held up an unrecognizable
cut of meat. "Of a sort."
relieved him of her crutch. "And how much of that blood on you
is the pig's?" He looked down at himself. Dried blood and some
not so dried was all over his shirt and trousers.
of it," he said sheepishly. "You can start dinner and I'll go
Men." Was her parting rejoinder to his back. "Since when do I
do the cooking?"
the food..."Virgil tossed back. "You could come wash my back."
pig's eye!" She shot back to his turned back.
"If I knew
you wanted the eyes, I would have brought them back."
disgusting Tracy," she called louder.
"Virgil...call me Virgil." His reply floated back to him.
you something else," she muttered and sat down to help Brains
put the meat on spits.
see how b-badly he's hurt." Brains suggested after they had
the meat strung out satisfactorily over the fire.
all macho and hide it." Marie poked at the fire a little
learned his l-lesson not to hide p-pain." Unspoken was the
reminder ‘As have you.'
just drying himself off with his shirt when Marie approached
the banks of the little river. She admired the view for a few
minutes, enjoying the play of muscles of his broad chest and
arms. She knew how that chest felt as she had wept copious
tears on it earlier. Despite their banter of a few moments
ago, she suddenly felt unnerved around the man. She raised her
chin defiantly. Surely, after all of her experiences of life
and all, facing one Virgil Tracy shouldn't be too hard.
Raising her chin might have been a mistake. The soft sand
made walking with the crutch more difficult, but at least when
one stumbled and fell it was onto soft sand, unfortunately,
onto her face.
spitting out sand when Virgil hauled her to her feet. "I just
seem to sweep you off your feet..." His face changed from a
grin to something a little more serious as he felt the length
of her body on his. "And you knock mine out just as fast." His
lips approached hers.
It was a
comfortable kiss, not sloppy or hesitant, not too passionate
or too indecisive. It was like two close friends meeting again
after a long time. They parted without words, for it didn't
set quickly, as it does in the tropics, and Marie and Virgil
walked arm in arm back to the welcoming glow of the fire and
beckoning smell of cooking meat.
sniffed delicately at the fresh kill and with the inborn
senses of her species, curled her lips over the large canines.
A few powerful scrapes from her claws covered the tainted meat
with dirt and leaves.
from the cooking meat was tantalizing and all three of them
waited impatiently for it to be done. Fat dripped and fell
with sizzles into the fire, making the smell even more
attempts at dainty eating were put aside as the stranded
survivors ate their first good meal in days. The remainder of
the meat, which was prudently set to smoke for breakfast, was
eat m-more." Brains inelegantly licked his fingers.
gave a stifled burp. He was a big man and definitely could
have eaten more, but it was better to be fair and share
more than the rest of us," Marie said, as if reading his
thoughts. And not for the first time, Virgil realized.
okay. In the Air Force we had to eat field rations for two
weeks and that was slim pickings."
tasty either, I suspect," Marie said.
between airline food and sawdust..."Virgil said poking at a
piece of meat lodged between his teeth with his tongue.
we'll sleep w-well t-tonight." Brains stretched cautiously.
stirred uneasily as the full feeling in his stomach began to
turn to something uncomfortable. He shifted, slightly aware
that someone else was turning restlessly also. Brains was
muttering what sounded like mathematical equations. The
discomfort seemed to fade and he sighed, thinking it no more
than a full stomach complaining after being empty for so long.
time he roused it was to pain. A pain that became even more
demanding and acute when he realized that both Brains and
Marie were being sick. His own stomach revolted and he found
himself scrambling to leave the camp space towards the
treeline where the other two were throwing up.
Chapter Fifteen: Fire
Parker, this is almost cozy." Lady Penelope fed a small stick
into the little fire that was the only light in the tiny hut.
The wind howled around the small building making it shiver and
shake. Fine particles of snow were floating around them as the
storm pile drove the flakes through any tiny crack or hole in
the cabin - and there seemed to be plenty of them.
response was just a shade slow in answering and accompanied by
a faint sigh drowned out by the wind. "Yes m'lady. Cozy it
ignored the thin bead of sweat that rolled down the side of
his face. The little cockpit was beastly hot, a side affect of
the complex stealth system. But, rather over warm than
detected by enemy radar. As it was, he was flying so low that
his shadow seemed almost the same size as the small aircraft.
This was almost like playing one of Alan's vid games that he
left cluttering up Thunderbird 5. The jet dipped and bobbed
over dry desert landscape, scaring sheep and startling
A blast of
hot air from the oven caused Granny to blink rapidly as she
pulled the crusty blueberry muffins out of the oven. Of
course, it wasn't just the heat from the old-fashioned
convection oven that Jeff had installed especially for her, it
was the sorrow. Children shouldn't die before their parents,
and especially before their grandparents. A pair of hands on
her shoulders startled her as she put the hot muffin tin on
Jeff gave her a hug.
favorite," she said softly.
Jeff Tracy said sadly. "I miss them both."
played the little camera drone around the crater of the
so-called dormant volcano. There was quite a lot of dust in
the air and the pictures at best were grainy and distorted.
Something strange about the pictures niggled at his mind. He
ignored the soft split of a cold drop of water that hit his
arm. Subs leaked. It was a fact of life. Scared the heck out
his brothers when they realized it. Virgil had actually...
Gordon took in a sharp breath. He spotted the anomaly and
reached for the radio.
stripped off the ice rimmed mitten with his teeth, instantly
numbing his lips and causing his teeth to ache. Thunderbird 2
was sitting on top of one the biggest icebergs he'd ever seen.
Even the steps made to combat global warming in this century
hadn't been enough to stop the gradual deterioration of the
ice caps. Monsters like this one were becoming more frequent
than scarce. Well, this would soon be someone else's headache
and nightmare. He had put a small but efficient radar and
warning beacon on the giant ice cube, necessitating a rather
unpleasant and very, very cold trip outside into the biting
Arctic cold. A small flashing light on the communications
panel caught his eye. Maybe one of his brothers or Lady
Penelope had better luck than he did...
shoved the sleeve of the woolly sweater up automatically. The
temperature of Thunderbird 5 was always at a constant 24 C,
but he always felt a little chilled. It was also a good place
to wear this particular sweater. Tin Tin had knit it for him
two years ago. It was a labor of love in bright green with
brown splotchy things that were supposed to be teddy bears.
One sleeve was slightly too long and always was needing
pushing up. He liked the sweater because Tin Tin knit it for
him, but he didn't really want to wear it around his brothers.
He got enough flack and teasing from them as it was.
adjusted his headset and keyed in the blinking light from
something strange here. The volcano seems to have imploded
rather than exploded. I'm going to do a recce around the
island and look for other evidence."
Gordon. I'll let Father know."
that, Alan. Thunderbird 4 out."
Kitty Kitty Kitty
castaways crawled, staggered, and limped respectively back to
felt this bad since eating reindeer eyeballs in Lapland."
Marie moaned, cramped over her very tender mid-section.
be s-so graphic." Brains groaned and tried to shift his sling
to a more comfortable position.
heavens that's over..." Virgil began and was interrupted by an
alarming gurgle and moan coming from his stomach.
afraid n-not." Brains' face was twisted with similar internal
disorder. "I f-feel we are g-going to b-be..."
able to finish the sentence when he began to retch helplessly.
He was joined by the other two. Their miseries were punctuated
by a shrill scream close by -too close by.
Virgil added and managed to throw a chunk of wood on the dying
darn." Brains muttered. "P-pulled out." Sweat sheened his
face, visible even in the fitful firelight. He was clutching
his injured arm to his chest.
see, dear." Marie swallowed back a nasty tasting mouthful of
scream of pain as she touched his arm was echoed by the cat
close by - much too close by.
Virgil! What now?" Marie gave a shuddering sob.
the fire. I'll get some water." Getting to his feet while
crouching over an abused stomach was none too easy. The leg
which the pig had gored earlier was also throbbing and
trembled alarmingly when he put weight on it. None of which
bothered him as much as Marie's face of despair turned to him.
And the fact that she had called Brains ‘'dear.'
careful..," she called after him, "dearest" was lost in the
night and coughing growl of the big cat.
moved as quickly as possible, the treacherous leg giving out
several times, driving him to his knees, where once there, the
urge to rid his body of toxins became vital.
He made it
to the little stream and pulled the coconut shells he'd taken
from their camp and filled them with water. For good measure,
he took off his shirt and soaked it. He was kneeling by the
edge of the stream, drinking from his cupped hand when behind
him, he heard a low menacing growl. He turned slowly to see
two phosphorescent green eyes staring at him a bare yard away.
crouched for the kill. The only thing moving was the tip of
the long tail, which twitched as the taut muscles bunched for
Seventeen: What Was Lost is Found
isn't just f-food p-poisoning." Brains muttered, half to
himself. His arm was throbbing, his head felt like it had
detached itself from his neck and his gut roiled constantly.
tossed more wood onto the fire and peered into the gloom of
predawn. "That cat is gone...Oh lord! Virgil!" For a woman
negotiating on soft sand with one real leg and a makeshift
crutch, she found herself moving desperately fast over the
ground to the stream.
circling the island carefully, looking for signs of life or
maybe even signs of death. He wasn't ready to believe that
three bodies lay in the rubble of the volcanic cone. The
waters were murky and disturbed, showing that the implosion
had its affect on the ocean ecology. The little flying probe
was running out of fuel. He would have to bring it in or lose
it. Father would throw a fit over him losing important
equipment. Then again, maybe not. Gordon sighed and wiped at a
tear that dribbled down his face. This hurt, losing Virgil,
his good friend Brains, and even the unknown Miss Ryker.
blip of heat appeared on the probe screen. With almost numb
fingers Gordon manipulated the little probe around to pinpoint
what seemed to be signs of life. Three, no, five heat spots.
One was moving and the rest were still. He tried for another
pass, but the little probe gave a gasp and flopped out of the
sky. His mind analyzed the situation, someone alive. The one
signal had been hot enough for a fire. His hands danced over
the controls, coaxing speed out of the submarine. He almost
instinctively steered through coral reefs to a beach,
shimmering in the pre-dawn light. The sight of a fire and a
primitive shelter on the beach made his heart pound and his
mouth go dry. He decided to beach the craft. It wasn't
standard ops, but this wasn't a standard operation, this was
though she was intent on her kill, natural caution had kept
one ear cocked for other noises, so the hasty intrusion of
Marie caused the cat to leap to one side rather than straight
at Virgil. Marie's own momentum carried her headlong into the
stream. Virgil had also leapt for the water and snagged her
arm and pulled her into the middle of the stream. The cat
Brains groaned as the shadowy figure approached. His mind spun
helplessly. Did the cat get Virgil or Marie? Was it coming for
You are alive - sort of." Gordon knelt over him, his hands
running efficiently over his body, checking for injuries. He
held him as spasms shook the scientist's body.
Brain's eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. Gordon
laid him carefully on his side and swept his gaze around the
area. Footprints and strange tracks, including that of a large
cat were around the primitive site.
Virgil. You've gotta be here." Gordon felt his mouth dry and
his heart beat beating in his ears. It was a miracle to find
them and he would be finding them alive - he hoped. He fell
back on the first rule of rescue, assess the situation. Brains
seemed more ill than hurt. He had noticed the arm in a sling
and the reaction to injured ribs. Leaving an unconscious
victim was always risky, but finding Virgil and Marie Ryker
before the predator did was also important.
answering his decision, he heard a scream from not too far
away. It was horrible and shrill and sounded as if a woman had
been torn limb from limb.
screamed her defiance. These creatures had disturbed her world
for too long. She hesitated at the edge of the swiftly running
water - her natural reluctance to enter the wet stuff was
being overridden by the need to attack.
Virgil hung on to each other in midstream, eyes nailed on the
jungle cat pacing the bank of the river, growling and
screaming. Their grips on each other tightened, despite
shivering and stomachs rebelling violently.
Marie's teeth were chattering and she swallowed convulsively.
"I-I..." Whatever she was going to say was interrupted by a
shout as a blue clad young man came running towards them.
out of there! Shoo!" He yelled and the cat screamed her
defiance one last blood-curdling time and shot into the jungle
with her ears back and fur standing on end.
plunged into the water and pulled both of them towards the
Virgil grinned weakly. "Shoo?" He then doubled over with a
groan into a grinding stomach cramp, the thin contents of his
stomach drooling out of his mouth.
food poisoning." Marie tried to explain. "Ate some wild pig.
Brains is at our shelter. Oh, lord, here we go again." Just as
Virgil was beginning to recover some, Marie began retching.
Marie first." Virgil looked far too pale and shaky, but Gordon
nodded and picked up the moaning young woman and carried her
to the little camp. He spared a moment to check on Brains, who
had his eyes open but was pretty much out of it. He then
carried the young woman straight to Thunderbird 4 which was
parked on the tideline. He then went back for his brother, who
had managed to crawl or stumble part of the way to meet him.
"Okay, big guy." Gordon hefted him into a fireman's carry, to
be rewarded with Virgil vomiting down his back. "Virg!"
then left at the campsite and Brains carried to the
Thunderbird. There were only two small cots in the
submersible. Gordon figured his brother wouldn't even notice
that his place was on the deck.
time he got Virgil into the now cramped quarters of
Thunderbird 4, his rescued passenger had been sick several
more times. He keyed in the fresh air blowers and turned on
"Thunderbird 4 to base and all Thunderbirds! I found them!
They are alive, but sick and injured!" Throwing away all radio
protocol he laughed. "They are alive! Brains, Virgil, and Miss
Are you sure?" Scott's voice was the one he heard first. Then
John's and Alan's overlapping them in bursts of questions and
exclamations of surprise and emotion.
down, boys." Jeff Tracy couldn't keep the jubilation out of
his voice, but his words restored order. "Now, Gordon tell me
Gordon couldn't help but blurt out again and then he coughed.
"Brains seems to have an injured arm, maybe a dislocation. I
didn't feel a break. Some ribs are busted too." He glanced at
his passengers who were moaning quietly.
Ryker said they had food poisoning, some kind of pork. All
three are throwing up and have severe cramps." Gordon broke
off as Brains' body teetered on the edge of his bunk. He
dashed over just in time to catch the man and a load of vomit
on his front.
Gordon, you have to get as much fluid in them as possible if
they are still conscious." Jeff ordered. "And get yourself to
the nearest hospital. Alan?"
on it, Father. The nearest hospital is in Sierra Norte, but
I'm afraid it is only a small village hospital. They will need
to be taken to San Diego for proper treatment. Gordon can be
there in six hours if he pushes it."
has already passed out once on me and doesn't look so good,
matter of fact none of them do." Gordon reported as he
reversed the craft off the beach and instead of throttling up
quickly as he usually did, he pulled gently into the waves.
rendezvous with you in about three hours and then pick up
Thunderbird 4, and we could be in San Diego within an hour."
Scott offered. He had already turned Thunderbird 2 around and
was pushing it up to full throttle. The large engines whined
in protest, but Scott continued the acceleration, his mouth
set in determination.
Chapter Eighteen: Family
of voices brought him awake. There had been moments, barely
lucid, where he saw the faces of his brothers and of
strangers. Mouths moved and sounds came forth, but none of
them made sense.
"....interesting cases." The voice was rather annoyingly nasal
and the tone was definitely in lecture mode.
Sir, the food poisoning alone couldn't have caused such
cracked open an eye to see that his bed was surrounded by
question, Carruthers. Any theories?" Again the lecturer.
Virgil was wondering if this was a very strange dream.
Sir." Virgil turned his head slightly to peer at a young man
who reminded him of Alan, except Alan didn't wear glasses and
wasn't pudgy and nervous. "Some other toxin might have been
specific, Carruthers. Doctors cannot quibble." The lecturer
turned out to be the oldest one of the whole crowd by his
crown of graying hair.
was apparently cowed by the attention and looked at his feet.
supply had to be under suspicion, Sir, plus any other
infections from plant life or smaller organisms," a young
Asian girl said assertively.
good, O'Brian." Before Virgil knew what was going on, the
blanket and sheet were twitched off of him, leaving him in the
barely civil hospital gown. "Note if you will the red markings
on the legs of Mr. Tracy." The doctor's eyes met Virgil's
horrified ones for a second. Virgil swore that there was a
fiendish twinkle in them.
blanket..." Virgil croaked.
fleas," the doctor stated, ignoring Virgil's attempts to wrest
the covering back. "Combined with the food poisoning, the
water contaminants and the parasites, a very nasty cocktail.
Treatment?" He focussed on the very unIrish looking O'Brian.
fluids, broad spectrum antibiotics, and rest."
good." The doctor twitched the blanket back over Virgil, who
clutched it protectively.
us give Mr. Tracy some rest." The gaggle of students then
disappeared out the door.
graphic." Virgil heard a chortle from the next bed. Brains was
lying there looking rather pale, with his arm tightly bound in
weren't they picking on you?" Virgil grouched and shifted
cautiously in the bed. He felt pretty good, though his stomach
muscles felt like he'd just done a hundred sit-ups and his leg
throbbed at the movement. He stopped moving.
snorted, but felt suddenly too tired to make a clever remark.
students are getting younger all the t-time." Brains remarked
more to himself, as Virgil had already fallen asleep.
the satisfaction of sitting for some time beside the sleeping
Virgil. He carefully touched his son on the cheek and gave a
little sigh of contentment to feel the warmth and his son's
breath fanning across his hand. He'd already had a few words
with Brains, who seemed to be recovering a little quicker than
his son. He'd been told the bare bones of the story.
was in the jungle the m-most." The young scientist looked
almost ashamed. "I w-wasn't m-much h-help."
surprised the young man by giving him a careful hug. "You got
yourself and the others out of a real mess. I'm proud of you,
son," he said gruffly. "All of you have your own unique
talents. Don't be ashamed of them or jealous of the others,
okay? End of lecture. You get some rest too." After all of his
years with them, Brains still occasionally felt he couldn't
live up to the Tracy's expectations, though they only wanted
him to be himself.
found herself almost enjoying the hospital stay. Well, as much
as one could enjoy being deathly ill, having various tubes
running in and out of embarrassing places, and dealing with
the awful memories it all brought up. What was nice was the
company. A rather brash young man called Gordon kept her
company for the first night, holding her hand and telling her
rather desperately that she'd be all right. He was spelled
occasionally by a rather more serious version of Virgil, who
she recognized as a Tracy. Scott wasn't as enthusiastic in his
ministrations as Gordon, but just as kind. By the time she met
John Tracy, she was wishing heartily that she had brothers
growing up. Brothers just like them. Flowers and candy
appeared daily - the candy was consumed by the visitors, as
she found the thought of eating chocolate just a little too
unsettling for the woozy stomach. They joked with her, but
kept her up to date with the goings on of her fellow victims.
She found it not so strange to be visited by another Tracy,
but his visit wasn't so congenial.
Ryker? I'm Jeff Tracy." The distinguished, gray-haired man was
a little chilling.
brother? How many does Virgil have?" she said half jokingly.
Virgil's father." The chill factor dropped a few more degrees.
He didn't bother sitting down, but loomed rather dominantly
over her. "I want to thank you for your role in the saving of
my son's and Brains' lives." The icy chill warmed for a moment
then dropped to an all time low. "I believe that my son has
put some trust in you, I hope not misplaced?" Jeff began
understand." Marie met his gaze. "Completely."
word of your adventures can be leaked out, and it would be
best if the whole thing is forgotten."
Marie felt a little dip and rumble in her gut that had nothing
to do with the miseries of the last few days.
if we will run into each other again. You have your work and
we have ours," Jeff said, half relieved. He wanted to believe
that she would keep her promise, but then again, he hardly
knew her. He only had Virgil's judgement to rely on and he
wanted to trust his son. It was just Miss Ryker he was unsure
course." Her voice was flat and tired. If that is how
International Rescue wanted it, then that was how it would be,
no matter what she felt. Better yet, best not to have any
feelings at all.
Chapter Nineteen: Goodbye
soon, it seemed they were being released and Virgil had yet to
have a chance to speak alone to Marie. Luckily, Scott, Gordon
and his father had left to go back home, leaving John to
escort them home.
had bounced back to good health rather quickly. If Virgil
noted a little coolness coming from Marie, he equated it
mostly with embarrassment over the fuss he and his brothers
made over her. Brains gave her an animated rendition of
Virgil's session with the med students, which brought an
onslaught of giggles. She showed them her borrowed leg which
she swore had the knobbiest knees outside of a camel's and why
couldn't artificial limbs look nice? She and Brains fell into
an animated discussion about technical specifications as
opposed to aesthetics.
Brains were continuing their discussion on artificial limbs.
The scientist was writing notes on scraps of paper, some of
which were their medical release papers. Virgil sat in a chair
with his long legs stretched out comfortably. Without
thinking, he leaned down to scratch his healing sand flea
scratch..." Brains said without looking up.
make it worse!" Marie chimed in. She turned a warm smile on
him that suddenly faded from her face. "I'm sure your brothers
will remind you."
doubt," Virgil said sourly. His brothers had seen more of
Marie than he had lately. That somehow didn't seem fair. Now,
if he could just get her away from Brains for a few moments.
leaving soon. Ah, Brains, could you see if John has arranged
our transport?" Virgil tried raising an eyebrow as a signal,
which the genius managed to look dense about.
everything w-well in hand, as you know. But, I b-believe I
would l-like to see the d-doctor about an anagelsic for your
fl-fleas." As he left the room, Marie also got up to leave.
going soon too." She turned to the door.
Virgil bounced to his feet and intercepted her. "I haven't had
the chance to say...to say well, thank you." He took a step
closer and to his dismay, she took a step back.
welcome, Virgil." He might of just thanked her for passing the
butter for the lack of warmth to the response.
some things happened..." He was a little confused.
just happenstance, propinquity, serendipity if you wish." She
shrugged. "You know how it works." She laughed lightly.
silence between them. Virgil took a breath. "Yeah, you're
right, ships passing in the night." He couldn't look her in
the eyes. If he did, he'd do something stupid. "Hey." He dared
to pat her shoulder lightly. "Take care."
one looked back.
had never seen Penelope so upset before. Of course, her upset
was still very ladylike.
absolutely furious, Jeff! I don't know who to be mad at more,
Lord Geoffrey or Marie Ryker."
frowned slightly. He was hoping that that adventure was
over. Brains had been working on a new prosthetic leg for the
lady, he supposed they owed her that. Virgil hadn't said more
than three words about their adventure. Jeff had supposed that
he'd regretted telling the lady about International Rescue.
happened? Did she say something about us?" Jeff growled.
just it. Not one word. She refused to say anything about her
absence. And I mean anything. Geoffrey blew his top and fired
her, said he couldn't trust her."
have said something..." Jeff ‘s brow furrowed. "...told some
kind of story."
gave a refined snort. "I told her that. She just said that she
wouldn't say a word and it was best if things were forgotten."
winced as his words came back to him. "She didn't have to risk
her job. We could have rigged a cover story. I just thought
she would handle it herself." Jeff paced to the window.
Penny's voice sounded strained. "What did you tell her?"
say a word and to forget about what happened," he replied
flatly and faced her.
Jeff, sometimes you go too far." The Lady was now icy furious.
"Marie Ryker may not save thousands of lives a year like
International Rescue, but I do know that there are hundreds of
children whose lives are better and happier through her
you-we fix this?" Jeff Tracy found it hard to admit to making
any kind of mistake.
been broken on both sides. I doubt if the Agency and Marie
would feel comfortable working together. Jeff..?" Penny's
right, I'll admit it. I messed up." He threw his hands up in
want me to fix it?"
that for me, Penny?" Jeff took her hands in his. Such
beautiful hands and so capable.
Jeff. I'll do it for Marie too." For a moment she thought he
would kiss her, but the moment passed.
Virgil?" Lady Penny fussed a little with her hair.
fine. He was a bit upset about some minor damage to
Thunderbird 2, but he seems almost normal, been teasing his
brothers." Jeff grinned. The noise level at home seemed to be
rather high, but he figured that everyone was just happy to
have Brains and Virgil home safe.
thought maybe Virgil and Marie..." Penny said, half to
herself. "Well, I have some work to do, don't I?" She smiled
Rhapsody in Blue
winced as his second oldest son persisted in playing, over and
over again, the same five bars of music. The playing was
interspersed with silence, which was even more annoying. Jeff
was more than pleased to have his son back from the dead, but
after a time, he realized that this was an edgy, changed
Virgil that rode roughshod over the household. The others
retreated strategically to do other things. Gordon was washing
out Thunderbird 4 for the umpteenth time. He claimed that it
still stank. Brains had been tinkering in his lab for the last
week over a new prosthetic limb for Marie, and Scott was
taking John up to Thunderbird 5 for his space rotation - both
grateful for the pause from a grouchy brother.
boy." Granny came in with a tray of cookies and iced tea. She
took feeding the Tracy men seriously. "He's just like you
were, only I believe you spent your time trying to get
Grandpa's old internal combustion BMW to run."
Jeff looked at her in amazement. "That was when I was just
getting out of college."
were just as stubborn and just as much in love as poor Virgil
is. My heavens, it took you months just to ask Lucille out."
The elderly lady gave an ungrannylike snort when she saw
Jeff's mouth hanging open.
Tracy! You can't keep those boys locked up on this island
forever. They need to have companions, women that they can
love and cherish, just as you did with Lucille." She shook a
finger at her son. "Now, you go and tell that boy to bring
that girl home. Probably needs a bit of feeding up too if she
was with him on that island. Hmm, fried chicken, lots of
mashed potatoes and gravy - chocolate cake - oh my, yes." She
bustled off to the kitchen to make a dent in the pantry
reluctantly into the music room where Virgil had his head
under the piano lid.
this needs tuning." Virgil interrupted. "It doesn't sound
is fine, Virgil. You..." Jeff began again. He paused for a
moment to collect his thoughts.
isn't. I can't be gone for more than a week and everything is
ruined. It is bad enough that you let Scott wreck Thunderbird
2." He closed the lid to the white baby grand with a little
more violence than necessary. The instrument jangled in
over drove Thunderbird 2 getting the three of you to the
hospital. Yes, we'll have to make repairs, but it was Scott's
decision and I stand behind him on it."
opened his mouth in what his father could tell was another
grumble or scathing remark. Jeff raised a finger to his son.
"Sit," he barked.
about Miss Ryker...Marie, isn't it?" Jeff felt a pang of guilt
when he saw the crestfallen look which turned to a swift
I done?" Virgil said angrily as he sat at the piano. "You are
angry that I told Mar - Miss Ryker, about International
Rescue. She won't tell anyone. The others have been on to you
about that. If you don't trust my judgement anymore, than tell
me." Virgil got to his feet and began pacing.
Grissom Tracy, sit down," Jeff said, losing patience. He
watched as his son sat down sullenly. "Just what is between
drooped visibly. His hands absent mindedly caressed the abused
just two people caught up in an emotional situation. She - we
agreed that it was nothing more than that."
still feel that way?"
silent for a long time. "No," he said quietly. "To be honest,
I think from the first moment I met her..." His voice trailed
like that with your mother." Jeff felt a pang of longing for
his beloved Lucille and for the son that so resembled her in
she isn't pretty, but she's beautiful, you know what I mean,
I..." Jeff began, but was cut off by his son jumping to his
Everything she said or did was a pain and then she'd turn
around and say something so...so right. Not the sort I've
dated before. Remember Janette, and Gloria?"
models? I believe..." Jeff began again.
witty, smart, but I wouldn't want to be on a desert island
right, Father. Women like that are one in a million. Was it
like that with Mother?"
Jeff didn't even try to answer as he watched his son pace the
floor and literally talk to himself.
an idiot!" Jeff raised his eyebrows. Luckily none of Virgil's
brothers were there. That would have been the cue for them to
chorus.'Yes, you are!!' "I know she likes me. She does like
me, doesn't she Father? She likes Brains too. And she and
Gordon were laughing together, doesn't mean I'm special. But,
then she kissed me. Well, I kissed her. Most women like the
way I kiss. Not that I go around kissing just anyone. But
just liking me kissing her isn't enough. What if she doesn't
like me enough?"
settled back and watched the show. It was interesting to see
how Virgil thought. He was unusually closed mouthed and
reclusive. He seemed to bubble over with energy and power. A
feeling Jeff remembered, though it had been a long time ago.
It was the heady feeling of being in love. Deeply, madly, and
irrevocably in love.
to go and see her, tell her how I feel," Virgil said
decisively. He turned to Jeff. "Thank you, Father. I can
always count on you to give me some good advice."
son." Jeff managed to keep a straight face. He hoped that
Marie Ryker felt the same as Virgil.
raining. Of course it was raining. This was the Greater
Seattle area, it never stopped raining. Sunshine made people
nervous here. Marie leaned her head against the cool pane of
the window. Life was just as grey and dreary and damp as it
was outside. Her boss had been less than pleasant about her
lack of information about her whereabouts for the last two
weeks. Her already precarious position in the agency toppled
like a house of cards, and she found herself jobless. The
thought of finding something new was daunting, especially as
her final reference was none too flattering.
been sleeping well lately. Old nightmares had come back and
she often woke up covered in sweat and calling for Virgil.
Well, she'd get over it, it would just take time, like 30
years or so. A deep sigh wrenched out of her. Happy endings
were for fairy tales.
Chapter Twenty One:
the bowels of Tracy Island, a plot was being hatched.
Scott. Virgil has been more than impossible lately." Gordon
griped. He smelled strongly of pine disinfectant which had
been his latest attempt to cleanse Thunderbird 4 of the smell
of vomit. It was a tad bit better than the rose-scented bath
soap he'd borrowed from Tin Tin, much to the lady's
upset," Scott said lamely.
real question is wh-what is he upset about?" Brains added.
"Everything!" Alan's eyes rolled. "He complains about
everything. I don't dare say anything around him anymore."
a s-symptom of a b-bigger complaint." Brains pointed out.
get him to talk?" Gordon looked at his older brother, who
looked uncharacteristically upset.
got real quiet on me, and I mean real quiet. I haven't seen
him so bad since..." He eyed his little brothers, who looked
confused. "You guys probably don't remember, but when Mom
died..." His face was bleak.
remember some things." Gordon whispered.
I wish..." Alan began, and had to endure a hug from his oldest
brother. "Ah, Scott, cut it out. I'm not a baby anymore." He
then had to endure an affectionate, but vigourous dutch rub on
brought the matter back into focus. "What really happened on
that island?" He asked Brains pointedly. The two men had been
debriefed thoroughly, but something was not being said.
h-have a th-theory," Brains said quietly. "B-but...." He
paused and looked at his attentive audience.
Pete's sake tell us!" Gordon prompted. "Before I do something
that," Scott said hastily. Gordon's drastics were often
is in l-love with M-Marie Ryker."
least I th-think so." Brains pushed his glasses up nervously.
"I d-don't have much scientific experience in l-love."
does," Scott said thoughtfully. "So, how does Miss Ryker feel
him a lot," Gordon said firmly.
voice of the expert," Scott teased. Gordon changed girlfriends
like people changed socks.
do we get them back together?" Alan asked.
never met Alan..." Gordon said with a gleam in his eye.
brow furrowed. It was always dangerous to go along with Gordon
and his schemes. But this was desperate times, calling for
desperate measures. "What have you got in mind?"
Banana Boy scam," Gordon said triumphantly.
groaned. "Not that."
before," Gordon said, rubbing his hands together in glee and
inspecting his younger brother like a bowl of fruit.
Annabelle what's-her-name had the intelligence of a squirrel."
what does this involve?" Alan asked suspiciously.
eats bananas, right?" Gordon began. "You dress up in the
banana boy suit, tell Marie that she has been observed at her
local store buying bananas and that she has won a vacation to
a fancy hotel complete with meal and a hot date with Mr.Banana!
You deliver Marie, Scott delivers Virgil and voila!"
Boy suit?" Alan began suspiciously.
am I to get Mister Sweetness and Light to a hotel?" Scott
guys! This is for Virgil...and the rest of us," Gordon jumped
in. The three brothers would have gone on for hours arguing
the fact if Brains hadn't stepped in.
"T-terrible idea. I have a b-better one." "Thank God!" Scott
and Alan chorused together.
Chapter Twenty Two: A
him. That annoying man, his eyebrow quirking, that slow smile
that would melt steel. Even his frown and displeasure were
endearing. How on earth was she going to keep going without
him? Hang around disaster areas like some kind of crisis
junkie or ambulance chaser? And for what? Just so she could
see him? Wave to him? She would have paced, but the new
artificial limb she had been given was more uncomfortable than
the last one, and it squeaked when she walked.
doorbell rang. She frowned, she wasn't expecting anyone. It
didn't ring again, so she settled further into the couch to
brood. After a minute, it rang again.
She muttered and wished for the umpteenth time that she wasn't
so curious and could leave things unanswered. Her mouth opened
in surprise when she opened the door.
M-Marie," he said cheerily. He hefted the classy, stainless
steel case in his hand. "I brought you your new leg."
didn't expect this," she said to his retreating back as he
breezed into her little apartment.
b-bother. I really l-liked the challenge." He grinned at her
and was rewarded by a weak smile. She looked tired, and to his
eyes had lost weight.
see whatcha got." He put the suitcase on the coffee table and
snapped open the locks. Set in soft plush velvet, was a human
cats! That looks real." She reached out a tentative hand to
stroke the surface. "Feels real too."
It is used in b-burn transplants mostly. The frame is a
special carbon alloy, light but d-durable."
her hand back as if burned. "This must have cost a fortune to
half a million Euros." He smiled at her shocked expression.
"But I expect to to get m-most of it back in p-patent rights.
You'll b-be my h-hamster."
pig," Marie corrected and brushed her fingers on the leg
"We have a
l-lot of tests and adjusting, so if you'll ah ch-change into
Marie noticed that the scientist's stutter was less when he
was talking shop. But as soon as he got personal, it got
worse. As soon as she went to the bedroom to change, Brains
pressed the button on his watch.
"Everything is g-going to pl-plan. I'll c-call you later."
minutes later, Marie came out of the bedroom wearing a ragged
pair of cut off jeans. Brains winced at the rolling gait the
plastic and metal monstrosity that was supposed to be a
prosthetic limb caused. And the darn thing squeaked too.
b-buy this from W-Woolworths?" He said scornfully and before
she could protest, started opening the straps and catches.
Surplus, I believe. They threw a can of sewing machine oil in
leg slid into place with the elastic syntheskin forming a
tight, firm seal with her real leg. The knee was not knobby
and the color of the skin and the shape almost matched her
other real leg perfectly.
b-bad match, if I d-do say so," Brains said smugly.
you get it to look so right?" Marie twisted the leg
be l-logical, b-but I'm not dead to f-female aesthetics.
Virgil wasn't the only one looking and enjoying on that
island," Brains said and then blushed furiously.
strong, silent types..." Marie found herself laughing and it
me j-just adjust..." Brains took out a small screwdriver and
began to tinker around the ankle.
w-wondering..." The scientist began as he worked his way up
the shin towards the knee.
That tickles." Marie looked down at him.
Interesting reaction." Brains looked up at her. "I have a pr-
proposition for you."
looked down at the man who had one hand on her calf and the
other on her bare thigh.
do you have in mind?" She queried.
Twenty Three: An Appeal and a Peel
doesn't sound any worse than what Lady Penelope offered me."
Marie was pacing carefully around the room with the new limb.
Brains frowned slightly.
was being difficult, fighting with siblings, moody, angry,
being impossible. His father wanted me to ‘'straighten' him
out. I don't care how much money someone has, I don't mess
with teen-age angst." She took an experimental deep knee bend
and didn't see the flit of emotions cross the scientist's
face. Ones of amazement, understanding, and then amusement. He
let a snort escape him, but covered it up quickly with a
cough. Seems he and the Tracy boys weren't the only ones
concerned about Virgil.
don't think being your research assistant is in my range of
expertise either." She flopped herself down in the chair
facing him. "I'll give you detailed reports on the leg, I
would do that anyway. But I think I need to settle a few
things with myself first."
understand. If there is anything I c-can do..." He smiled
fantastic." She thumped the leg enthusiastically. "I feel much
you feel a little b-better if I told you that he m-misses you
up at him, the infectious grin fading from her face. "No,
'cause he isn't here, is he?"
bet?" Brains pushed on his wrist communicator. "Now, V-virgil."
He looked at the confused woman. "You'd better answer the
Her protests were interrupted by the chime of the doorbell.
could fail," Scott said seriously.
think we should go with the original plan?" Gordon looked
more gleeful than glum.
had seen the costume which would make him look like a giant
banana, snarled. "No!"
shook his head sadly. "Remember all the times Virgil took care
of you, changed your diapers, helped you with your homework,
taught you how to drive? This is how you pay back brotherly
love," he sighed dramatically. "Not to speak of what I've done
right darn it, but no pictures," the youngest Tracy grumped.
"No-no-no-no-no," Gordon soothed. "No pictures."
checked his reflection in the shiny metal surface of the door.
Did the tie look too formal? After all, they had been around
each other dressed more casually. His reflection gave a
distorted leer as he thought of her in that wispy piece of
silk that clung so casually to...he dragged his thoughts from
that direction. Would she be happy to see him? He smiled
broadly at his reflection which smiled back goofily. He
shifted the bunch of pink tea roses from one sweaty hand to
another. Granny had been surprisingly calm about him ravaging
her pet flowers. She had guarded the bushes agressively from
all and any tropical pests and intruders, which included the
Tracy boys. She had given him a kiss and a swat on the rear
end. And...his hand stopped short of its goal.
echoed from his wrist communicator.
the doorbell decisively.
Four: Happy Ending
scientist, Brains was constantly fascinated by physical
phenomena. The effects of gravitational pull, the constant tug
of power as opposed to inertia, the attraction of two masses
for one another. So it was with some detatched interest that
he watched Virgil and Marie literally gravitate into one
didn't call," Marie said sourly, but curled an arm around
you didn't want me to," Virgil shot back, tipping her chin up
gently with one hand.
missed you," she said softly. Her other hand reached up shyly
to stroke his cheek.
missed you too," Virgil said huskily.
overwhelming physical force seemed to take over and the two
engaged in a sizzling kiss that even Brains found a little too
personal to observe. He rescued the bouquet of roses that was
threatening to be scattered on the floor.
p-put these in w-water," he muttered, taking them out of
Virgil's hand, who acknowledged the gesture by using the free
hand to pull Marie closer. An interesting phenomena the
scientist was bemused to notice. He didn't think they could
get any closer, but they did. He realized that he was gawking
and scrammed to the kitchen with his ears burning.
though he thought he took his time putting the roses in water,
they were still at it when he came into the living room. He
sighed. He knew when his prescence was no longer needed.
shouldn't b-be on that n-new leg too m-much," he said quietly,
not expecting to be heard as he went to leave.
it," Virgil said and picked Marie up in his arms.
drop me?" Marie asked, and the question seemed to be more
important than just for that moment.
Virgil averred in a tone reminiscent of giving an oath.
glad to close the door of the apartment behind him. The hall
seemed to be about 20 degrees cooler than the heat generated
by the two lovers.
a tropical island sound to you?" Virgil settled her onto his
lap on the couch.
done it before." Marie leaned happily on his shoulder.
tropical island, palm trees, big house, indoor bathrooms. No
little better." She traced the line of his jaw with her
nice people there. My father, my brothers, Brains, Kyrano, Tin
there! You have a grandmother?" Marie clutched the front of
A lot of people have them. Uh, didn't you?" Virgil looked
always wanted one." She paused. "I don't suppose she bakes
mostly cakes, chocolate cake." Virgil licked his lips and then
thought of something better to do with them.
tropical island, family, friends, genuine grandmother...what
else can I offer you?"
very silent for a moment and quite still. She wondered if
Virgil could hear her heart beating very loud and very fast.
She loved him. He loved her. So, why hesitate?
I'm kind of a forever type person."
I knew I was forgetting something." Virgil shifted the girl
off his lap and stood up, patting at his pockets. He pulled a
small box out of his trousers.
caught me pinching her roses and gave me this. She told me I
would need it." He flicked it open with his thumb. Nestled in
the creamy silk was a simple, squared cut emerald in an
antique gold setting.
forever kinda person too. And just so you get the point loud
and clear..." Virgil got down on one bended knee and presented
the ring for her finger. "Marie Ryker, will you marry me?"
‘'Yes' !" Gordon reported gleefully. "Brains just radioed in."
can get out of this dumb suit," Alan grouched.
Alan. It's no worse than a space suit."
suits have amenities, if you know what I mean." Alan twisted
uncomfortably. "The zipper, guys?"
of suits," Scott said, edging towards the door. "White or
don't know. What about uniforms?" Gordon replied, moseying in
the same direction.
with all the medals from Cracker Jack boxes?"
only one," Gordon grinned.
an admiral's inspection no less."
Gordon! Will you undo the zipper?!"
zipper?" Scott said from the doorway. "It's been broken for a
better talk to Granny. She'll cut you out of it." Alan's two
older brothers dashed out of the room, barely concealing
snickers of delight.
Granny and Tin Tin went shopping...YOU EVIL, DEVIL-SPAWNED
Scott is the serious one, I'm the handsome one, John is the
quietest, Gordon the noisiest."
Alan?" Marie prompted. "What's Alan like?"
Alan will be the one in the banana suit."