a "THUNDERBIRDS" story
by Polly Amber
Thunderbirds is a Gerry Anderson production licensed by Carlton International Media limited. The character of Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown is my own creation.
A gleaming, silver and blue rocket streaked over a shimmering, turquoise ocean. It appeared to be almost invisible, as it reflected the midday sun in a blinding flash. If you had blinked, you would have missed it, for this magnificent craft was the fastest in the world. Its jet engines blazed streams of fire across a cloudless blue sky. Thunderbird One was the impressive scout craft belonging to International Rescue. It was the first to reach the scene of a disaster, and it was required on almost every rescue mission.
Pilot Scott Tracy, flew wearily over his Pacific island home. He opened a communication channel and radioed his father Jeff, who was waiting at their base.
"This is Thunderbird One, requesting permission to land."
"Permission granted. Good work Scott."
Thunderbird One hovered in the sky, as the mighty craft resumed an upright position. Scott then fired the retros, and began a reverse descent into what appeared to be the family's swimming pool With a churning, grating sound, powerful motors hauled the pool, plus several tons of water to one side to reveal a hidden underground chamber. With expert precision, Scott manoeuvred his craft into the docking position, where it was secured firmly by mechanical clamps. While it was being trundled back into it's pre- launch position, Scott took off his sweat-stained uniform, placed it in a laundry bag and changed back into civilian clothes. As he left, he secured the hatch and stepped out onto the gantry. Although he was exhausted, he felt a smug sense of satisfaction - another job well done and another success for International Rescue. He stepped from the gantry and stood with his back against the wall. He then grasped two fake lamp brackets, which activated a swivel mechanism. A section of the wall turned around, and Scott found himself once again in the living room and operations centre of Tracy Villa - The secret headquarters of International Rescue.
One of his younger brothers was engrossed in a chess match with a studious looking young man who was clearly winning the game.
"Th-that's ch-checkmate, I believe, Gordon."
"Aw sucks!" The copper haired young man slammed down his last remaining chess piece in submission. "I don't know why I bother. You always wipe the floor with me."
"B-but that was q-quite a ch-challenging game, Gordon. Y-you're getting b-better each time. You c-can b-beat Alan and s-sometimes Virgil."
"Huh. Anyone can beat Alan," retorted Gordon, earning him a sulky glare from the youngest member of the family, who for once bit his tongue and chose to ignore the remark.
"Oh. Hi Scott," acknowledged their father Jeff, who was sitting at his desk shuffling some papers. "Virgil is on his way home. So everything went smoothly?"
Scott yawned and slumped into an armchair "Yeah, no problems. We managed to locate the potholers, and we were able to use the Mole to get part of the way to them. They were just kids, about Alan's age. You know it never ceases to amaze me how stupid some people can be. After a night of torrential rain, these silly kids decided to go pot holing. They took one torch between the four of them, a few mars bars and a bottle of mineral water. They were totally ill equipped, and dressed only in jeans, trainers and cagoules."
"Bet you gave them a piece of your mind then Scott," interrupted Alan, who had been on the receiving end of Scott's sharp tongue many times himself. Alan had a somewhat reckless nature, which tended to land him in trouble. It was usually Scott who managed to get him out of it, but he knew that Scott's bark was worse than his bite
Scott felt a little guilty, remembering how one of the rescued potholers, a young girl of about seventeen, had burst into tears. He then softened and patted her on the shoulder, as he led them all to a waiting ambulance.
"Well, they knew nothing about the geography of the area they were exploring," he continued. "The rock was particularly porous in the area where they were trapped. Part of the tunnel collapsed due to the weight of the waterlogged soil."
"Wasn't it risky to use the Mole then?" interjected Jeff.
"No. We went through a layer of rock and came in as close as we could. Then Virgil had to use the suction equipment to remove the earth blocking their escape route. We were worried about water getting into the Mole's circuits. When we reached those kids they were up to their necks in water."
"Was anyone hurt?" asked Jeff.
"No. They were cold and hungry and mighty scared, but a night in the local hospital will soon see them okay. I just hope they have learned their lesson. If people took the right precautions, and a bit of time to check the weather conditions before embarking on their so called adventures, then there would be fewer calls on our services."
"Overworked and underpaid, eh Scott!" teased Alan.
Scott was too tired to rise to the bait.
"You do look all in, Son. You've been up all night. That's the second rescue you have been on, and it's not even lunchtime. Try and grab some rest," suggested Jeff. "I'll call you when lunch is ready."
Scott acknowledged weakly. He was looking forward to a hot shower, lunch, and an opportunity to catch up on the sleep he had missed. He made his way to the privacy of his room. He wanted to just collapse on to his bed, and sleep for a solid eight hours, but he was aware that his discarded uniform was filthy, and his hair and face, caked with mud. Flinging the bag of clothes into the laundry basket, he walked to the bathroom and ran the shower. While the warm water was massaging his aching shoulders, he heard the distinctive whine of Thunderbird Two’s powerful engines, as it came in to land on the palm fringed runway. Virgil would be even more exhausted than he was.
Both of them had been called out the previous evening. Firstly to the Australian Outback, where a bush fire was raging out of control. The authorities had realised they were fighting a losing battle. Their equipment was having little effect on the ferocity of the flames. They called for assistance from International Rescue, when the fire threatened to engulf a nearby town. Several homes had already been destroyed, and the town's remaining inhabitants had been advised to pack their most prized possessions, and then evacuate the area as quickly as possible. A few stubborn people had refused to move, but the main concern was the local hospital. It lay right in the path of the fire, and many of its patients were recovering from major surgery, and were too ill to be moved.
Scott had been first on the scene to assess the situation, and then set up a mobile control unit. He was swiftly followed by Gordon and Virgil in Thunderbird Two, which carried a pod containing the Firefly, water cannons, and earth moving equipment. The fire authorities had been battling for hours. Virgil and Gordon realised that not even their far more sophisticated equipment could quell the firestorm swirling around them. As soon as one blaze was extinguished, another sprang up to take its place. The fire was merely playing leapfrog with them.
Gordon had been assigned to the Firefly. He was alarmed at the speed the fire was travelling. Virgil noted the rising panic in Gordon's voice as he reported that fires were springing up all around him, threatening to encircle him. The exterior of the firefly became almost red hot, and the temperature inside the cab was threatening to overwhelm him. Scott, who was monitoring the conversation, could hear Gordon's voice becoming weaker. Gordon felt as if he was being baked alive! Scott immediately ordered him to pull out. Gordon swiftly reversed the Firefly to safety, but when he tried to open the door of the cab, he cried out in agony. The metal handle on the inside was red hot. When Gordon pulled his sleeve away he saw an ugly red burn puckering the palm of his hand. He pulled his sleeve over his other hand, and managed to open the door. Wheezing and gasping, he tumbled on to the scorched ground.
Gordon declined the offer of medical assistance, and despite his injury, refused to stand down. The fire was hurtling nearer to the hospital and every available pair of hands was needed. After a brief consultation with his brothers, Scott decided that they would use the earth moving machines to create a barrier around the hospital. Then they would try to alter the course of the fire and force the flames to retreat down an already scorched path of destruction.
It had taken several more hours to get the blaze under control. Eventually the raging inferno had dwindled to a manageable fire, which could be left in the hands of the local authorities. Tired and dirty, Virgil, Scott and Gordon headed for home. Just as they were nearing the island, John had radioed with another call to rescue the trapped potholers. Scott flew directly to the scene. Virgil landed briefly to drop off Gordon, who had sustained superficial burns to his right hand, and to exchange the pod containing fire-fighting equipment for the one containing the Mole and underground rescue equipment. Then he too, flew off to join his brother.
Virgil entered the room, twenty minutes after Scott and just as dirty. As he walked in, one of a row of portraits on the wall started to flash. It was the portrait of his brother John, on board Thunderbird Five.
Virgil groaned and clapped a grimy hand to his sweat stained brow. "Surely not three in a row!"
"Go ahead John," announced Jeff.
"Father, I am receiving a faint call that appears to be coming from a remote island in the Scottish group known as the Western, or Hebridean Islands. A man has reported seeing a plane crash into the sea. He says that he has not been able to contact the coast guard, as the island has no electricity and the batteries on his radio are low."
"Did you receive any calls from the plane before it went down?"
"Negative. There must have been a sudden malfunction. I have checked with the coastguard, and they have not received any calls."
"Hmmm," murmured Jeff thoughtfully.
"Are we going to respond Father?" queried John. " I was informed by the coastguard, that they are experiencing dense freezing fog. They will not be able to safely mount a rescue unless visibility improves... by then the crew will almost certainly be dead."
"Okay, John. We're on our way!" Jeff hit the alarm button.
"Just our luck. They say accidents always happen in threes," complained Virgil, swiftly downing a mug of coffee that Kyrano had just brought in.
"G-gee V-Virgil, that's tough! You don't even have time for a sh-shower or a sh-sh-sh..." Brains' stutter was always worse when trying to make the small talk he thought was expected of him. The Tracy boys had never teased him, but they sometimes had to bite their tongues, and resist the urge to finish off his sentences. Gordon glanced at Alan and saw a smile flicker across his lips.
"Shave," finished Brains.
Alan's face cracked into a broad grin, he tried to suppress a chuckle. Gordon, who seemed to have an almost telepathic link with his youngest brother (not to mention the same type of schoolboy humour) laughed out loud and earned a swift rebuke from his father.
"Gordon," snapped Jeff. "I'm sure there is something useful you could be doing, even with an injured hand. Kyrano could do with some help in the kitchen."
"Yes Sir," replied Gordon meekly, and bit his lip to stop himself laughing again.
Jeff turned his attention to Virgil. "Go and get yourself cleaned up. Scott will go and make an initial assessment If the plane has deliberately ditched into the sea, there may have been time for the crew to don lifejackets. If they have managed to escape they won't last long in the water. Thunderbird One will be able to use heat-seeking equipment to locate them. Alan, you can go with Scott to operate the winch and the camera."
"F.A.B., Father. I can also give him a prod if he starts to doze off at the controls."
Alan raced toward the passenger lift. He was the pilot of Thunderbird Three, a huge red space rocket. But as rescues in space were few and far between, he shared duties on board Thunderbird five with John, and assisted Virgil and Scott, when required.
Scott dashed into the room looking dishevelled. His hair was still wet from his shower and standing up in spikes. "I'm on my way, Father. Tell John to fill me in with the details."
"Sorry, Scott," apologised Jeff. "I know you have just got in, but it's just one of those days."
Scott shrugged and grabbed the lamp brackets, which swung him out of sight.
Grandma who had been sitting, quietly reading, on the balcony, noisily slammed her book shut, prompting Jeff to glance in her direction. She regarded him with a tight-lipped stare.
"Something on your mind, Mother?"
"Well since you ask.... yes. Can't you see that young man is plain exhausted? He went out twice yesterday, and that's his third call out in the last twelve hours. You're not glued to that seat behind your desk, Jefferson Tracy!"
Scott accelerated to a maximum 7,000 mph as he crossed the equator and flew north.
"How long will it take to reach the Western Islands?” asked Alan from the cramped passenger seat.
"About another hour, I guess. I should start thinking about getting some warm clothes on. It's the depths of winter in that part of the world."
Thunderbird One was equipped for every change in climate. It carried all weather protective clothing, skiwear and climbing equipment. Plus several changes of clothes and uniforms.
"Perhaps we could look in on Penelope after the rescue," suggested Alan.
"We'll have to see. We can't just go landing on her front lawn; she has got her cover to maintain. But it would be nice to see her again."
Alan switched on the navigational computer and called up a map of the Western Islands. He began to study it intently. After a while Scott called to him.
"Hey Alan, you've gone quiet. I need you to keep talking to keep me awake."
"Oh, I was just looking at the map. There is a heck of a lot of islands here. Can you call up John and ask him if he has been able to pinpoint the transmission of that call?"
"Why don't you call him yourself?"
Alan flicked a switch and John's face appeared on the screen.
"Hi Alan. I suppose you want to know if I have been able get a fix on that call."
"Yes, John. We should reach the British Isles in another hour."
"Well no, Alan, I haven't."
Alan was taken aback. The instrumentation on board Thunderbird Five was almost capable of picking up a needle in a haystack, and John was usually super-efficient.
"Probably because of interference. It could be due to the storm they had earlier. The transmission was very brief and I was unable to track it. The man I spoke to had a strange accent."
"Scottish," cut in Alan.
"Yeah, some strange mangled dialect, anyway, he said that he had no electricity, and the batteries on his radio were low. Then I lost him completely, but I have managed to narrow it down a bit. The call came from somewhere in a group of islands in the South."
"Yeah I've got them.... Talk about a drop in the ocean."
"Sorry. It's the best I can do. They're all uninhabited as far as I know. Used to be a testing ground for chemical weapons in the early part of the twenty first century."
"Chemical weapons! Are they clean?" asked Alan in alarm.
"Yes they've been cleared. I checked them out with the British Government, and they have been deemed safe for habitation, but they have just been left to let nature take its course."
"Okay, John. Thanks."
"Good luck" John prepared to sign off but Alan called him back.
"Oh John, before you go, has anyone else reported seeing the plane go down?"
"Well, no. Now that you mention it, they haven't. Well, not to me anyway."
"Don't you think that's odd? When a plane goes down surely there's more than one witness."
"I don't know, Alan. We're talking about a remote area here."
"Well, has anyone reported a plane missing?"
"Not as far as I know. Do you want me to check with the coastguard?"
"Yes," replied Alan. "Yes, I do."
"What's wrong, Alan?” asked Scott. “You sound a little wary."
"I dunno. It's just an uneasy feeling. Call it bad vibes."
An hour later Scott was flying over the British Isles. He cut to cruising speed and swooped in low over the Hebridean Sea. The islands were shrouded by a thick mist. He opened a channel to his father.
"Go ahead, Scott," instructed Jeff.
"Have arrived at the rescue location. The time is 16.45 Greenwich Mean Time. There's dense fog, visibility is poor, and it's nearly dusk. I'm going in for another sweep with the thermal camera to see if we can detect any survivors. To be honest I have my doubts."
"I'll go down and operate the camera," volunteered Alan. "Keep her steady for me."
Alan left the cockpit and made his way to the hold. He opened a hatch in the side of Thunderbird One, and released the remote controlled camera. Using his instruments, he guided it down to the shallow, rocky seabed surrounding the small cluster of islands.
'This is going to take some time.' thought Alan. He had one eye on a screen relaying pictures from the seabed, and his other on the screen next to it magnifying pictures of the coastline Scott was flying over. He was hoping to spot a life raft or a dinghy, or even a body washed up on a beach.
After nearly an hour of painstaking searching, in murky water, there was still nothing. Scott called back to base. "We have just completed another search of the area and found nothing."
"Not even any signs of wreckage?"
"No nothing at all. The mist is so thick, it's hard to see anything."
"It could be that John's caller was mistaken. John has been unable to re-connect with the caller so it may even be a hoax."
"That's all we need. Some time wasting idiot, who just wants to bring a bit of excitement into his sad little life."
"Okay, Son. Call it a day and get back."
Suddenly, the camera picked up a small light aircraft lying on its side on a rocky ledge. Alan called out to Scott. "I've got it, Scott. I'm relaying the picture to you now."
"Any signs of life?"
"Negative. If there is anyone in that plane - they're dead."
"Can you get me a better picture? It's a bit fuzzy. I'll go lower and try to keep steady.""
"Okay, Scott I'll bring the camera round to the front of the plane. There may be bodies trapped inside."
"Can you see anything?"
"No, Scott. I can't see anyone. The plane's empty... Hey wait, what's that? ... No, it's just debris. Oh, that's a better picture. The plane looks rusty. Scott, this plane isn't the one. It's rusty and covered with barnacles. It looks like a military plane, a relic from the Second World War. It’s..."
Alan was unable to finish his sentence. A sudden explosion rendered him deaf, and he felt as if he was flying in slow motion. Then his head struck something hard and he lost consciousness.
Scott desperately battled to regain control of Thunderbird One. Beads of perspiration formed on his brow. The unexplained explosion had thrown the craft into a spin. He knew that he was going to have to make a forced landing. He had the choice between land or sea. The sea would be freezing. The pounding waves concealed dangerous rocks. Even if they managed to avoid injury, without a protective wetsuit, both he and Alan would succumb to the cold. Land would be the better choice; he knew that he had to keep the nose cone up to avoid a fatal crash landing. He looked around desperately for a clump of trees to cushion his landing, but the best thing he could find was a dense clump of bushes. If he could manoeuvre Thunderbird One towards them, they might stand a better chance of escaping unharmed. The ground was getting nearer all the time.
"Hold on Alan!" he called "It's going to get bumpy."
Peering from the cover of a camouflaged bunker, a pair of black, evil eyes peered into binoculars, and watched with smug satisfaction as Scott wrestled to gain control of his stricken craft. A stocky, middle-aged man of oriental appearance gave a slow sinister smile.
"Good, good. My plan is working."
The Hood was an archenemy of International Rescue, and the evil half-brother of Jeff Tracy's loyal assistant, Kyrano. He had always coveted Thunderbird One, but today his quarry was Thunderbird Two. The booby trap placed in the old warplane had been intended to disable Thunderbird One, rather than to destroy it. Although the Hood hated its pilot, he was aware that he would be a useful person to have in his power. Besides he knew that when one Thunderbird arrived, the other would not be far behind. All he had to do was wait.
He retreated to his makeshift hideout, a disused underground bunker, a relic from the last world war. One of the rooms stored crude protective clothing and breathing apparatus, now regarded as museum pieces. In another room, black drums of oil were stored next to sealed red drums piled high to the ceiling. Bold black writing on each of the red drums read ' DANGER TOXIC CHEMICALS'.
The Hood drummed his fingers impatiently on a table and cursed to himself. He was not in the best of moods. He realised he had been double-crossed and was plotting his revenge. A crooked Government Official who had been ordered to destroy the stockpile of chemicals, had seen an opportunity to line his own pockets. He sold the cache to a terrorist organisation. The leader of that organisation, the Hood himself - had been assured that transport for this cargo would be taken care of. The promised ship should have arrived yesterday, but there was still no sign of it. The Government Official appeared to have vanished from the face of the Earth. The Hood mentally added his name to the many others on his hit list. But one name topped that list - International Rescue and in particular Scott Tracy. The Hood, who gained his name from his ability to disguise his appearance, donned a battered oilskin coat and muddy boots. Then he placed a latex mask over his face and topped it with a tousled brown wig. He squeezed his ample form through a hatch at the top of his bunker, and watched as Thunderbird One, trailing smoke and flames, neared the ground.
Scott closed his eyes. This was it. He aimed for the clump of bushes and hoped for the best. He braced himself for the impact. He heard a scraping, grating noise, as Thunderbird One dragged along through the foliage, then its tail hit the ground. A sudden jolt reverberated up his spine. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck and cried out as a fire extinguisher fell from its mounting and smashed across his console, catching his left wrist.
"Ouch! Oh great! There goes my communicator."
He winced as he moved his head, and began to feel a little dizzy. He held the bridge of his nose until the dizziness subsided. His neck was hurting. He massaged it and rotated his shoulders. Then he wiggled his fingers and toes. He was still in one piece, but the same could not be said of the radio. It shorted out in a shower of blue sparks and the whole console panel went dead. Suddenly, Scott snapped to his senses and remembered that Alan was still in the hold.
"Alan?" he called, as he began to unbuckle his seatbelt. "Are you okay?" Receiving no reply, he was just about to check on his brother, when he heard a voice calling to him from outside,
"Hey! Are you alright in there?"
Scott peered through the window. The stranger emerged from out of the mist. "Are you alright?" he repeated
Scott opened the hatch and called out to the man who was hurrying towards him. "Yeah, I think so. Do you know where I can find a phone or a radio?"
The man stopped about four feet in front of Scott. He gave a twisted smile, raised his arm and fired a knockout dart into Scott's neck. Scott had the sensation of being stung by a bee. He looked at his shoulder and pulled out a tiny dart. He just had time to utter a quizzical, "why?"
He toppled from his cockpit. He was unconscious when he hit the ground.
At the stately home of generations of the Creighton-Ward family, Lady Penelope was supervising the last minute preparations for one of Foxleyheath's most important social events.
This year it had fallen to her to organise the Candlelight evening soiree in order to raise funds for the church roof. One hundred thousand pounds was needed. Lady Penelope sighed. She had sold just thirty-five tickets.
"Now should we arrange the chairs in a semi circle, Parker? Less formal, I think."
Her assistant, Aloysius Parker, carried on, obliviously arranging the chairs in regimental lines.
"Parker.... I said..." began Penelope and then she stopped, realising that Parker was still ignoring her.
"Parker!" she called sharply.
He jumped smartly to attention, and began to pull wads of cotton wool from his ears. "I beg your pardon M'lady. H'ai didn't quite catch what you said."
Penelope smiled. She couldn't blame Parker for the precautions he was taking. The voice of Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown had the musical resonance of fingernails being scraped across a blackboard. As chairperson of the Women's Institute, Church Council and almost every other charity in Foxleyheath, she took it upon herself to offer her services as soprano every year. No one dared refuse her. In spite of her domineering character, she was what was known as a 'good egg'. But this year's ticket sales had sadly reflected the public opinion of her dubious talents.
"Penelope, my dear," boomed the sturdy middle-aged lady, as she strode noisily across the wooden drawing room floor. Parker noticed a line of chairs vibrating as if registering the after effects of a small earth tremor. "Penelope, how lovely to see you again."
Penelope felt herself being clasped to the tweedy bosom of Lady Cholmondley-Brown who smelled ever so slightly of dog. Trying to disentangle herself from the old girl's vice-like grip, she gesticulated to Parker to take her coat.
"Thank you, Parker." Lady Cholmondley-Brown thrust a heavy overcoat into his arms. Then she opened her handbag and took out a throat spray. "I hope we get a good turn out, tonight."
"Yes, so do I."
"I think I will have another little practice session. Go through a few scales to lubricate my vocal cords" Parker groaned. "I do hope we have an audience who are able to appreciate the art of music," continued Lady Cholmondley-Brown. "You know, Penelope, the last time I did a recital my aria was completely ruined by one of those infernal mobile telephones."
"Oh dear, do excuse me, Marjorie," interrupted Penelope "I need to go over some last minute details with the kitchen staff. Parker here will to see to your needs, But you will have to speak up, he's a little hard of hearing."
Penelope allowed herself another wry smile as she heard Lady Cholmondley-Brown's voice haltingly barking out orders to poor Parker.
Grandma Tracy was in a quandary. The meat was almost cooked and the vegetables would be past their best if she waited any longer before she dished up the dinner. Should they eat now or wait for Scott and Alan to return? She decided that the decision should be up to Jeff.
"I would wait awhile. They should be on their way home now. I'll give them a call." Jeff was surprised when he received no answer. "That's odd. I told them to head for home nearly an hour ago. I can't raise them on the radio. Maybe they have found something after all."
"You could try Scott's communicator," suggested Virgil.
"I don't know why Scott didn't keep me informed... Base to Scott are you receiving me?” Still there was no answer. "Base to Scott... Come in Scott... nothing," uttered Jeff after a pause.
Virgil and Grandma exchanged anxious glances. "Alan," suggested Grandma "Try Alan."
Again there was no reply. An ominous silence fell upon the Tracy's living room. It was broken by Jeff. "I don't like it. I'm going to call John and see if he can get a fix on them."
John's handsome face darkened as Jeff relayed his concerns. Looking at a map on his computer screen, he magnified an image and projected it to Jeff. It showed a series of co-ordinates and a circle where the lines crossed.
"I can confirm that Thunderbird One is still in the Hebrides. It's not moving, so it must be on the ground."
This was the news that Jeff did not want to hear.
"Father.." began Virgil shakily, not wanting to voice what all the others were thinking. "You don't think that Thunderbird One could have crashed. Scott reported dense fog and bad visibility...."
"Oh Virgil...." cried Grandma wringing her hands.
"Now don't lets go jumping to any conclusions. There may have been some sort of malfunction, or some radio black spot…"
Jeff was trying to clutch at straws. Virgil interrupted, "But Father they don't answer their communicators. Thunderbird One is on the ground with its radio dead. It paints a bleak picture, I'm going over there."
Grandma looked accusingly at Jeff. "Scott was worn out. He should never have gone on that mission. Men make mistakes when they are tired."
She left the room with tears springing to her eyes. Tonight's dinner would be consigned to the bin.
Jeff put his head in his hands. His mother was right. He couldn't bear to think that something terrible might have happened to Scott and Alan. Seeing his father's distress, Gordon walked over and put his hand on Jeff's shoulder.
"Don't blame yourself, Dad. I doubt if you could have stopped Scott going out. He was like a shot from a gun. Scott's a first class pilot. He doesn't make mistakes, he's the best."
Jeff patted Gordon's bandaged hand. "You're all the best, but at the end of the day, you're only human. Sometimes I forget that. I'm sorry."
"It will probably take Virgil about five hours to reach the Outer Hebrides, but I know someone who could get there sooner."
"You're right, Gordon. I will give Penelope a call."
By eight forty-five, the evening, and Mrs Cholmondley-Brown were in full swing. She had just warbled her way through 'Tit Willow' and was now proceeding to murder what was supposed to be a moving love song. Penelope wished that Parker had left her some of his cotton wool. She felt sure that the poor audience would gladly pay the cost of the church roof repairs just to deaden the noise. She suddenly became aware of a harsh bleeping noise coming from her silver teapot. Mrs Cholmondley-Brown, who had ears as sharp as the Labradors she bred, stopped singing abruptly and glared at her audience. A large vein in her forehead started to twitch.
"I thought I had told you all to switch off your mobile phones!" she bellowed.
All eyes turned towards Penelope. She reddened and placed the offending teapot in Parker's hands. "Another refill I think, if you please, Parker."
Parker pulled the wadding from his ears. " 'As the old bat... I mean Lady Cholmondley-Brown finished 'er h'aria?"
"Yes, Parker. I think this evening will have to be brought to a close."
Once he had left the crowded room, Parker twisted the lid of the teapot to reveal Jeff Tracy's voice. "H'aim afraid 'er Ladyship h'is a bit tied up on h'account of 'er soiree."
"It's some sort of musical bash, for charity."
"Well I need to speak to her urgently," demanded Jeff.
"Very good, Sir."
As he opened the wood-panelled drawing room doors, Parker could see Lady Penelope pointing toward the smoke alarm and apologising profusely. When she saw Parker, she realised that she was needed urgently,
"Oh dear. This is not the best of times. Tell Jeff I will be with him shortly." She clapped her hands to command the attention of her muttering guests.
"I would like to thank Lady Cholmondley-Brown, our soprano, Veronica Sommers, on violin, and also Reverend Charles Proctor for his accompaniment on piano. Now if you would all like to take a break, you will find refreshments available at the far end of the room."
She practically ran from the room. "This evening could not possibly get any worse," she cringed. "Now Jeff, What can I do for you?"
"Penny, I need your help. Thunderbird One has been disabled while flying over the Hebrides. I have lost contact with Scott. He has Alan on board as well and I can't raise either of them. I am afraid they might have crashed."
"Parker, fetch the Rolls."
"Is it trouble, M'lady?"
"Yes Parker, I'm afraid it is."
"But what about Lady Cholmondley-whatsit and 'er soiree?"
"We will have to take drastic measures, I'm afraid."
"What's this about a soiree?" asked Jeff
"I have thirty-five guests and three disgruntled performers to get rid of. But I will try to get there as soon as I can. Don't worry, Jeff, both your boys are tough and resourceful."
Penelope opened a cupboard door beneath the stairs and pressed a red button. "Oh dear. The things I have to do for International Rescue. This will ruin my social standing."
Almost immediately, a high-pitched shriek emitted from the drawing room. Penelope cast her eyes towards heaven and steeled herself to re-enter the room. She was met by a sight that would not been out of place in an Ibizan nightclub. The cream of Foxleyheath society stood dripping with foam, which was being sprayed from sprinklers concealed in the ornately carved ceiling panels. A few guests had hurriedly departed.
"I do sincerely apologise," announced Penelope amidst the confusion "There has been a malfunction in the computer system that controls the fire precautions. I will, of course, refund all ticket money and compensate you all for the damage to your clothes."
"Wouldn't hear of it, m'dear," smiled Colonel Metcalfe as he pressed a cheque for ten thousand pounds into her hands.
Lady Cholmondley-Brown was still shrieking while an avalanche of foam slid down her ample bosom, like melting snow on the roof of an Alpine ski chalet.
"Nice touch, Lady P.," said Ron Marple, the local wide-boy-turned-multi millionaire. "It's a pity it couldn't 'ave appened a bit earlier in the evening. Me ears are still ringing."
And he too handed her a cheque.
By the time Parker had driven the Rolls around to the front door, all the guests had departed and Lady Penelope was holding cheques to the value of thirty thousand pounds.
Parker gave a discreet cough. "I think we should go now, M'lady."
"Of course, Parker I just need to change into something a little more practical."
Penelope swept upstairs in her midnight blue gown, and returned five minutes later wearing a pink trouser suit, and a grey, warm full-length woollen coat. She closed the door on the sticky mess that littered her drawing room and set off for the highlands.
"What about your paintings, M'lady?" They'll be ruined."
"They're reproductions, Parker. The real Canelettos are in the safe. But Virgil will be most upset with me. It took him ages to copy them and they were good enough to fool many people. Oh dear, I suppose I had better call the cleaners back."
The tyres of the six-wheeled pink Rolls Royce crunched down the gravel drive towards the automatic gates. Parker put his foot down along the tree-lined avenue, which lead up to the Creighton-Ward Manor.
Soon the fields and hedges of rural England were hurtling past in a blur, as Parker made for the main north/south motorway. When he reached the interchange he was saluted by the tollbooth official and waved across to the red lane. There were ten lanes in each direction and each was colour coded. The red lane was for the sole use of emergency vehicles and special services such as the Federal Agents Bureau and Police. With his foot hard down to the floor, Parker accelerated the car to its maximum 400kph speed. They would be at London airport in five minutes, where a plane was waiting to whisk them and Fab 1 to Glasgow. Allowing for the sea crossing, they would reach the islands in less than two hours
Parker began to sing to himself. "Oh you tak the 'igh road and I'll tak the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye."
"Parker, do you still have any of that cotton wool?"
Alan opened his eyes groggily. He was upside down in the hold of Thunderbird One. He winced as he moved, his whole body felt bruised, and he was sure that he must have broken something.
"Scott," he called. "Scott are you okay?"
When there was no reply, Alan felt alarmed. The last thing he remembered was hearing an explosion, and being hurled across the cargo bay. He stood up, and reeled as a wave of nausea and dizziness engulfed him. He sat down and put his head in his hands. He felt a sticky mass of congealed blood on his forehead. After a while, he tried to stand again, a little more slowly this time. His legs felt as if they belonged to someone else. Shakily, he made his way towards the cockpit. He paused behind the closed door, his heart suddenly pounding. He began to feel very sick. He figured that since his brother had not answered him, he must have been injured. Or perhaps even worse. Alan was afraid of what he would find. Fighting to get a grip on himself, he pushed against the door. It swung open. To Alan's relief he found that the cockpit was undamaged. But his relief soon turned to anger, when he found that Scott was nowhere to be seen.
"Scott, where the hell are you?" he yelled, then he whimpered as a stabbing pain shot through his skull. Alan saw that the hatch was open, but all he could see outside was pitch darkness, and a wall of thick fog.
"Scott are you out there?"
He leaned out of Thunderbird One, lost his balance and felt himself tumble a few feet. "Whoooooaaaaa. Owowow... OW!"
He felt his body being pricked all over. Thunderbird One had come to rest on top of a clump of gorse bushes As he stood up, he heard the sound of material ripping. He felt cold air rushing through the loose flap of his torn uniform. He rubbed the back of his sore and exposed thigh. His boots had saved his lower legs, and his padded jacket had protected his upper body from the needle sharp thorns. But his face was badly scratched and beginning to smart. Alan's discomfort was outweighed by the sense of urgency in finding Scott, before he succumbed to hypothermia.
The fog was beginning to freeze now. Alan could see his breath in front of him as he exhaled. He thought that Scott might have sustained head injuries in the crash, and was probably wandering around in a daze. If Scott was injured, he would be vulnerable. Alan didn't feel too good himself. His ears were still ringing from the explosion, and his head was throbbing. His sight was hampered by darkness, murky weather, and the double vision he suffered when he moved his head from side to side. He cursed himself for forgetting to grab a torch. He didn't relish the thought of climbing back over those bushes to fetch one; besides he wouldn't be able to assess the damage to Thunderbird One until morning.
He called Scott's name several times but was answered only by eerie silence penetrated by the calls of passing seagulls. He walked a short distance from Thunderbird One. When he looked back, it had been completely engulfed by the fog. Alan realised that it would be very easy for him to get lost. He took out a pocket compass and headed north. He decided to walk in a straight line counting his paces as he went. He could see no more than a few feet ahead of him. The ground beneath him was hard and uneven. He tripped over a protruding granite rock and fell spread-eagled on the ground. He picked himself up, but had only gone a few yards when he stumbled again. His legs felt wobbly. Icy drizzle stung his lacerated face.
Alan stumbled around blindly, calling Scott's name for nearly half an hour, until he felt his feet sink into one of the many soft bogs that lurked on the island to trap the unwary traveller. He could feel the water pouring over the tops of his boots and soaking into his socks. His toes went numb. The more he struggled to free himself, the harder the mud pulled him down. He managed to extricate his right leg and step onto solid ground, but his left leg was still stuck fast. He leaned over and grasped a clump of coarse grass. As he pulled, he felt his left leg slide out of his boot which disappeared into the oozing, sucking mud. He thanked God that his left foot was half a shoe size smaller than his right. He toppled sideways, and swore out loud when he wricked his ankle. He lay with tears in his eyes, and punched the ground in rage and frustration. He was soaked to the skin and shivering violently. His numbed brain started to kick in with an instinct of self-preservation. Alan realised that he was in danger of suffering hypothermia himself, and reluctantly limped back to Thunderbird One. As he was gingerly making his way back across the gorse bushes, his hand felt a piece of cloth that seemed to be caught on the thorns. He pulled and found himself holding a blue sash with the insignia of International Rescue!
Jeff Tracy, was sitting, as usual, at his desk. He was dishevelled and ashen-faced. Tin Tin had just brought him another cup of coffee When Alan's portrait started to flash, she gave a gasp and almost dropped the cup in Jeff's lap. Jeff switched on the microphone, and the picture changed to reveal Alan's lacerated face, lit by the dim emergency lighting in the cockpit of Thunderbird One.
"Thank God, Alan. We were worried sick. Where's Scott?" asked Jeff,
Tin Tin rushed towards the screen and ran her fingers over the scratches and bruises on the image of Alan's face. Tears sprang to her eyes. "Oh Alan. I was so worried about you."
"I'm okay, Tin Tin. It's Scott I'm worried about."
"What happened? We couldn't contact you. What's happened to Scott? Is he hurt?"
"I don't know, Dad. He's disappeared. There was some sort of explosion and I was knocked out. When I came to, Scott was gone."
"But that's completely out of character. He would never have left you unconscious like that."
"I think someone has taken him. I found his sash hooked up on the gorse bushes. There's no sign of him. There's no sign of anyone. It's eerie, no lights, no houses... It's just like being in a black hole." Alan's voice began to falter.
"Steady, Alan. Just sit tight. John managed to get a fix on you, and Parker and Penelope will be able to get to you sooner than Virgil. I'm sending him and Brains to assess the damage to Thunderbird One."
"I need to keep looking for Scott, Dad. He'll freeze out there."
"No, Alan, you're in no condition to go anywhere. We'll find Scott, don't you worry. His military background has trained him to survive in situations like this. Now try to relax. You look pretty shaken up. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah. Just sore. I'll grab a couple of painkillers from the first aid box."
"You're to rest, Alan. That's an order. You could have concussion. Stay put until Penelope and Parker get there, and be on your guard."
"Take care of yourself, Alan," called Tin Tin.
"Yeah. I'll see you soon."
With Fab 1 secured tightly in the hold of the private jet, Lady Penelope knew that she would just have time for another cup of tea before they landed in Scotland.
"It's a murky misty night," observed the pilot, as they neared Prestwick airport
"The famous Scotch mist," quipped Penelope. "It has ruined many of Major Fanshawe's grouse shooting parties."
"How are you intending to travel to the Western Islands, Lady Penelope? You are unlikely to get a ferry in this weather. And there is no runway for a plane. A helicopter would be tricky to land in this mist."
"Oh, we have ways and means," replied Penelope replacing a fine bone china cup back on its saucer. "Thank you for your swift journey. Come Parker, there's no time to loose."
Parker trundled Fab 1 down a ramp and steered towards the coast. Some of the roads were a little narrower than he was used to, but his driving skills could not be matched. As he cornered at break-neck speed, Lady Penelope did not have so much as a hair out of place. Presently, the road stopped at a jetty. Penelope peered out into a grey nothingness.
"Preparing to launch, M'lady," announced Parker. " And switching to radar."
"Very good, Parker."
Parker revved up the engine and drove straight into the sea. Fab 1 bobbed up and down on the waves until he retracted the wheels and lowered the hydrofoils. Soon they were speeding away into the night.
Scott regained consciousness in a dank, musty smelling room, dimly lit by a hurricane lamp placed on an upturned oil drum. Its anaemic light illuminated fungus growing on the damp ceiling. He tried to focus his eyes. He was lying on a cold, hard floor, and when he tried to get up, he felt as if his spine had been removed and replaced by a rod. He raised his head and a sharp stabbing pain shot through the back of his neck. He remembered struggling to land Thunderbird One, but he didn't know how long he had been unconscious. As his eyes peered into the shadows, trying to make sense of his surroundings, he realised that he was not alone. In a gloomy corner, a man sat silently observing him.
"How did I get here?" asked Scott hoarsely
"You passed out. I brought you here," replied the man in a thick foreign accent.
That voice seemed familiar to Scott. "You..." He shouted springing to his feet. "You drugged me... Why you..."
Scott made a move to try to tackle his captor, but stopped abruptly in his tracks, as the man began to peel off his face. Underneath a latex mask, this man had a dark swarthy complexion, and when he took off his wig and stepped into the light, it shone on a smooth hairless head. He laughed at the startled expression on Scott's face.
"Now do you recognise me?"
"The Hood," growled Scott.
The man's eyes started to burn with an evil intensity "Not so brave now without your marvellous machines and gadgets. Your friends may be on their way to find you but I will be waiting for them. "
Scott's hand reached for his pistol.
"Looking for this?" taunted the Hood waving the gun at him. Scott tried to lash out, and made the mistake of looking into the Hood's jet black eyes. He could feel them burning into him, and he found that he was unable to look away. The Hood pointed the pistol at Scott's head and motioned him towards an opening in the floor. He instructed Scott to climb down the ladder to the ground floor. Scott was strangely compliant. When he was halfway down the ladder, he snapped to his senses again and made a grab at the Hood's leg, to try to dislodge him. The Hood anticipated his move and aimed a kick at Scott's head. Scott half tumbled and half slid the rest of the way down the ladder. He landed heavily and winced.
"You won't get away with this," he snarled.
The Hood laughed, "There is no-one to help you now. It's just the two of us, and what better way to spend a murky Scottish evening that with a cosy fireside chat."
Scott averted his eyes. The Hood continued, "But of course you will have to imagine the fireside, I'm afraid we are forty feet below ground, and the walls here are eight feet thick. None of your friend's little tracking devices will be able to find you down here."
"Go to hell," spat Scott.
"Now you are abusing my hospitality. I offer you shelter in my humble surroundings and this is how you repay me," mocked the Hood.
Scott tried to tackle him again and found his eyes locked in the Hood's hypnotic, unblinking stare. "If you don't like your surroundings, you can be else where. Just look into my eyes and imagine, for instance, that you are on a warm tropical island... shall we say somewhere in the Pacific..."
Scott was alarmed to feel himself back on his island home. He began to relax; he even started to feel warmer. The pain in his body was easing.
"No, I'm not playing your little games." He began to count aloud to try to focus his mind. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…”
"…Eleven, twelve, thirteen,” mocked the Hood.
Scott winced as the pain returned to his back.
"You look in discomfort, are you suffering pain?"
Scott carried on counting
"Are you sure that you're not in pain?"
The Hood laughed as Scott winced again "You seem in quite a lot of pain... terrible pain... in fact, unbearable pain..."
Scott began to writhe and cry out, "Twenty-two... twenty-three... aaaaaaahhh." Scott was afraid that he was loosing the battle "Twenty-five... twenty-six... twenty-seven..."
"Now I can make that pain go away, but you will have to do something for me in return."
"GO...TO...HELL...." repeated Scott through gritted teeth, and then cried out as another wave of pain racked his body.
"You will succumb in the end. They all do. It can either be sooner or later. but I warn you, later would be the more painful of your options"
"No... I ... won't.... twenty-eight ... twenty..."
Scott could feel his conscious mind slipping away from him. The pain was becoming harder to bear. He opened his mouth to count, but he couldn't remember what number came after twenty-nine. He reached into the pocket of his uniform and took hold of a small capsule. He popped it into his mouth and bit hard. He gagged as a foul tasting liquid trickled down his throat.
The Hood sprinted over to Scott and grabbed him by the shoulders. "No. You can't do this. What have you taken?"
Scott attempted a self-satisfied smile. The Hood struck him on the side of his face. Scott could taste blood in his mouth. "What have you taken? Was it a suicide pill?"
Scott's eyes glazed over and he swayed slightly.
The Hood began to shake him violently. Although he hated the pilot of Thunderbird One, he desperately needed him. He had come so close to possessing him. What was so important about that organisation, that a man would be prepared to sacrifice his life to protect its secrecy? International Rescue did not seek power or riches. They risked their lives for the good of mankind. The Hood could not understand why. He cursed out loud and delivered Scott a departing blow to the ribcage. Then he flung him onto the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"Die then, you fool."
As they neared the coastline, Parker cut the engines to Fab 1, retracted the hydrofoils and the Rolls glided stealthily into a small bay. When he felt solid ground beneath him, he flicked a switch and lowered the wheels, turning Fab 1 back into a car again. He felt its wheels take a grip on the smooth sand.
"Will we need the caterpillar tracks?" asked Penelope.
"I'm not sure. I'll see 'ow she grips, M'lady."
"It looks quite steep. I can't see any sign of the road."
"They don't 'ave no proper roads 'ere. I should 'old on to your 'at, M'lady It will be quite a bumpy ride."
Fab 1 started to climb steadily over rough sand dunes. Penelope had to hold onto the door handle to avoid bouncing all over the back seat.
"H'im sorry, M'lady. It must be uncomfortable for you."
"It can't be helped. Now tell me which way does our navigational computer tell us to go?"
"Well I 'ave downloaded Mr John's co-ordinates, and the computer is suggesting that Thunderbird one lies about a couple of miles due north east. Shall I go there first or do you want me to 'ave a scout around and see if I can pick up any signs of Mr Scott?"
"Alan will be alright where he is for a while. But Scott may have been concussed, he could be wandering about in this fog."
"Well, it's pitch dark out there. Not a light to be seen. If he is wandering about out there, I wouldn’t see him until I ran over him."
"Oh dear poor Scott. I do hope he's okay. Yes Parker, you've got a point, there's very little visibility. Switch on the sensors. They can detect body heat up to the range of ten metres."
"Blimey, it's a real pea-souper of a night," muttered Parker.
After they had been searching for about an hour, Parker muttered again
"What's that you say, Parker?"
"I said, ' blimey what's that?' M'lady."
"Have you found something?"
"There's some sort of solid wall beneath us. The sensors can't penetrate it."
"They must be the remains of the old war time bunkers. They were built when there was the danger of nuclear war with the Middle East. Fortunately they were not needed, but I believe they have been used for storing hazardous materials."
"Nuclear waste?" asked Parker in alarm.
"Oh, there's no need to worry. It was safely disposed of, ages ago. The islands have a clean bill of health and when the land has recovered enough to sustain animal life, then they will be inhabited again."
"I think we've covered most of the island with the sensors. There's still no sign of Mr Scott."
"I fear he may be held captive in one of these bunkers."
"Do you want me to go in and 'ave a look?"
"No. That's just what we do not do. If Scott is being held in there, we don't know how many people we are dealing with. We can only hope that he is being treated well. At least, he is not freezing to death on the moor. Lets go and see how Alan is."
Alan had changed out of his wet uniform into casual clothes. He was wearing two thick jumpers and an overcoat but could still not get warm. He sat hunched up in a blanket with his head in his hands, in front of the console on board Thunderbird One. He looked in a foul mood. He did not even smile when Parker and Penelope arrived.
"You don't look particularly pleased to see us Alan," noted Penelope.
"I thought you would be here over an hour ago," replied Alan sulkily.
"Well, we conducted a thorough search of the island first, to see if there was any sign of Scott."
Alan looked hopeful "Did you find him?"
"No, I'm afraid not. I am sure that wherever he is, he is being held against his will."
"I could have been out there looking," complained Alan. "For the last three hours, I've been sitting here helpless, while Scott was probably in danger. I could have done something if Dad had let me."
"Alan, your father was right. We don't not know how many men are holding Scott or where he might be. He could have even been taken off this island. But I doubt very much if anyone would be foolish enough to venture out in this weather."
"Well we did," chimed in Parker.
"Ah, but thanks to Brains, we have a few technological advantages."
"But I felt so useless just waiting here. I was wasting valuable time."
"Your father was worried about you. You sustained a head injury and possibly concussion. What use would you have been to Scott if you had collapsed. Your father would then have two sons to worry about. Look at you, you haven't even cleaned the cuts on your face."
Alan grunted. Penelope put his petulance down to anxiety and discomfort. She opened the first aid box and began to dab antiseptic on his swollen face.
"I don't know why my father still treats me like a child.... OW ! OW! ... That hurts... That stings... Stop it... What is that stuff you're putting on me?"
"Don't make such a fuss, it's just antiseptic."
"WELL IT STINGS."
The Hood aimed a kick at Scott's crumpled form as he lay motionless on the floor. He hadn't moved since the Hood had flung him down. The pilot of Thunderbird One must be dead. The Hood, although not a man given to many emotions, was angry at being thwarted. He came so close to possessing Scott's mind and drawing out all the valuable information it stored. The crippled Thunderbird craft was out there for the taking, but useless without a pilot to fly it. It would be no use for his cargo of chemicals.
The Hood cursed to himself He thought about kicking Scott again just for the hell of it, but decided that kicking a lifeless man was a waste of energy. He liked to see his victims suffer as he inflicted pain. He was excited by their fear. He wanted to possess the very soul, without that the body was useless.
The Hood began to hatch plans to trap Thunderbird Two. The best he could hope for, would be that International Rescue would send the other craft to recover Thunderbird One. It was now two o’clock in the morning, and even the Hood had to sleep like other mortals. He extinguished the hurricane lamp and climbed into his sleeping bag. A few minutes later he fell asleep.
Scott opened his eyes. He had been holding his breath, praying that the Hood would not check his pulse or fire a shot into him just to make sure that he was dead. His recollections were hazy and confused, but one thing he knew for sure, was that he would be in grave danger if he stayed where he was. Scott knew that this man wanted to harm him for some reason or other. He was still sore from the beating he had been given. He could hear a low rumbling noise coming from the corner or the room. It was the rhythmic snoring of the Hood in a deep sleep. Now was his chance to escape.
Scott tiptoed across the room until he reached the ladder. He stepped onto the bottom rung; it squeaked, and the Hood stirred. Scott missed out three rungs and climbed to the fifth. That one squeaked as well. He froze as the Hood snorted, and then rolled over. When Scott cautiously reached the top of the ladder, he tiptoed across the floor. He could see steps leading to the escape hatch. It was a heavy metal door with an airtight seal. He knew that operating the rusty driving wheel style handle was going to be noisy and cumbersome. The Hood was still sleeping soundly down below. Scott decided that he was going to have to create something to use as a distraction, in case the Hood awoke before he was able to escape. Scott could feel that his back was injured, and felt sure he would not be able to run very fast. He glanced around him and noticed the barrels of oil stored in a corner. In spite of his pain, he managed to manhandle a couple them. Rolling them across the floor as quietly as he could, he placed them at the top of the ladder ready to hurl down onto the Hood. Then he noticed that one of the barrels had corroded and a pool of oil had seeped onto the floor. He angled the damaged barrel so that it oozed its greasy contents steadily down the escape ladder. He also decided to put the oil to good use and used it to lubricate the door handle. It worked a treat, and the wheel turned smoothly. With a final crank, the hatch opened and Scott made his escape.
He shivered as the freezing fog enveloped his body like a shroud. He could feel his aching back starting to lock up. His first instinct was to get as far away as he could, but he could see nothing. The night was pitch black and the fog was like a wall in front of him. His mind may have been confused, but his reasoning was as sharp as ever. He closed the hatch behind him and then searched for the heaviest rocks he could possibly move. He grunted and groaned as he dragged them into place on top of the escape hatch, building them up to resemble a 'cairn' like the old Celtic burial ground markers. Satisfied that this would thwart his enemy from following him, Scott began to search for shelter from the icy cold.
Scott stirred in his sleep. He was aware of someone nudging him. He gritted his teeth in anticipation of another beating, and wrapped his arms protectively over his chest. Then he felt something wet touch his face. A large pink tongue was licking his hair
"Wooooaaaaaaaar." He opened his eyes and sat bolt upright.
"Mmwaaaaah." The long-horned, highland cow, was just as startled to see Scott rise from its breakfast. It snorted, and backed away to join the rest of the herd, who formed a circle around the hay bales where Scott had taken shelter for the night. They fixed him with bovine stares.
Scott stood up and grimaced, as sharp stabbing pains shot through his spine. His legs felt like they had turned to jelly. He brushed hay from his face and hair. When he exhaled, he could see his breath freezing in the chilly air. The dawn was just breaking, and Scott was able to see some of the surrounding countryside through a thin veil of mist. The farm buildings looked derelict and deserted, the animals somewhat neglected. There were no landmarks to act as bearings. He had no idea where he had come from, or for how long he had stumbled around in the darkness. He felt sore, cold and hungry. He knew it was important to keep moving. His military training had finely honed his survival instincts. The only thing he remembered was being attacked by a man who wanted information from him. He knew he was in enemy territory and needed to keep his wits about him.
Brains had arrived on the island during the night, but they waited until
daybreak, to carry out an assessment of the damage sustained by Thunderbird
One. On board Thunderbird Two, Penelope
cooked breakfast, Parker was already tucking in, but Brains declined, and
donned his hat, coat and gloves. He was
keen to go outside and get started.
Virgil was tempted by the smell of sizzling bacon. He promised to join Brains after he had
eaten his bacon sandwich. Alan was
still soundly sleeping in a bunk in the medical bay. Virgil wanted to wake him, but Penelope requested that the young
Alan should be allowed a lie-in.
Virgil climbed down from Thunderbird Two and walked over to Brains who was inspecting the tail section "What's the damage?"
"I-it d-doesn't er look t-too bad. I-it's l-lucky those bushes were so dense."
"I don't think Alan would agree with you there."
"Sh-shall we make a start on the er repairs?"
"Not just yet. Our priority is to find Scott. He must be around here somewhere. It's not a big island."
"Sh-shall we t-take Thunderbird Two?"
"It will be tricky flying low. There are still patches of this mist around, and if Scott is still being held we don't want to alert his captor to our presence We'll go on foot. Penelope can stay here, while we take Alan and Parker, and make a detailed search."
"Th-that is assuming S-Scott is still on the island," replied Brains.
They had now been joined by Penelope who was towel drying her wet hair after taking a shower. "Well, I didn't hear anything during the night," she added "I was too uncomfortable to sleep properly, and I'm sure if a plane or helicopter had taken off, I would have heard it."
"He c-could have been t-taken by er sea."
Virgil interrupted, "Well, lets not waste time deliberating. Let's wake Alan up and begin the search."
"I is A-Alan going to be fit enough to help?"
"He's not concussed. He's pretty thick-skulled... He's just sore and grumpy."
"I heard that!" snapped Alan, pulling on his coat. "I'm right with you. Let's go."
"Good. We'll fan out, and Keep in touch at all times," ordered Virgil.
Virgil had been searching the moor land for two hours. He came across a few deserted settlements and a dilapidated hay barn, but still no sign of Scott. The cold was beginning to eat into his bones. He blew in to his hands and rubbed them together. He stopped and raised his left arm to speak into his wristwatch communicator.
"Any sign of him, Alan?"
"How about you, Parker?"
"No nuffink, Sir."
"How about you, Brains, any luck?"
"N-no, V-Virgil. N-no sign of him"
Virgil sighed "Thanks Brains... Hey Brains.... wait a minute, I think I can see something... Yes, there's someone over by those bushes."
"B-be careful, Virgil."
But Virgil was already bounding across. "Scott! Is that you, Scott?"
Scott stopped in his tracks at the sound of another voice.... an American voice, but his hand still went instinctively for his gun. When he realised that it was not there, he steeled himself for hand to hand combat. The man approaching him didn't look hostile; on the contrary he looked delighted to see him. But Scott was suspicious. "Don't come any closer," he growled.
"Scott, thank goodness. What happened? Are you alright?"
Scott looked at him without recognition. His face was dirty and smeared with blood. His chin was covered in rough stubble.
"Are you alright, Scott?" repeated Virgil, as he advanced towards him.
"Stay back," warned Scott.
"Scott, it's me ... Virgil."
"Look, let’s get you back to Thunderbird One before you freeze to death." Virgil attempted to take Scott by the arm. Quick as a flash Scott twisted Virgil's arm up behind his back, and threw him face down on the ground. Virgil spat out a mouthful of mud.
"Arh, Scott! You're hurting me! What the hell has gotten into you?"
Scott then noticed that this man was wearing the same uniform as he was. He loosened his grip. Virgil sat up and rubbed his shoulder. "What did you do that for?"
"Are you part of my unit?" asked Scott.
"What are you talking about?
Scott's eyes flashed angrily again "Who are you?"
Virgil made an attempt to try to placate him. "Scott, you know who I am, I'm your brother!" Scott looked blank. "Scott, you crashed You're injured, let me help you."
Scott suddenly became animated and began firing questions like a machine gun. "What's your name? What's your number? Which unit are you with?"
"I'm Virgil Tracy. I don't have a number, and we are both with International Rescue."
"International Rescue?" echoed Scott.
"Don't you remember anything, Scott?" Virgil was now quite worried. He was sure that Scott must have taken a hefty knock on the head.
"What did you call me?" asked Scott.
"What country are we in?"
Virgil caught the dubious look on Scott's face, and for a moment he thought that his brother was going to try to deck him again.
"We are on an uninhabited island in the Western Isles. They are off the coast of Scotland. You crash-landed. Do you remember?"
Scott remembered nothing, but there was something about this bewildered young man that made Scott warm to him. He suddenly decided to trust Virgil. He put a hand on Virgil's shoulder and said solemnly, "We're behind enemy lines. I was captured and knocked about a bit but I managed to escape. Where are the others?"
Virgil decided to play along with Scott's delusion "They're safe. I'll take you to them, Scott." And with that Virgil gently took his arm and led him away.
While they were making their way back to the Thunderbird craft, Virgil realised that Scott had absolutely no recollection of International Rescue, or his family. His moods swung from profound confusion to quick agitation. Virgil had tried to contact the others, and warn them of Scott's condition, but he was afraid of arousing his brother's suspicion. He left his communicator open, hoping that the others would pick up snippets of their somewhat bizarre conversation.
When they reached Thunderbirds One and Two, Alan saw them coming and ran up to greet them. "Gee Scott, It's good to see you, but I don't know what kind of trip you're on. Have you been at the magic mushrooms?"
Scott stiffened. "Who's he?"
"Our youngest brother Alan, I'm afraid."
Scott looked blank, and then he noticed the Thunderbird craft. He looked as if he was seeing them for the first time in his life. His expression registered awe and amazement. Then he began to look fearful.
"Who are you? Where are you from?" He started to struggle, lashing out at both Alan and Virgil.
"Brains, we've got trouble!" yelled Alan.
Brains dashed over to Alan and Virgil who were struggling to restrain Scott. He took a hypodermic syringe and injected Scott in the forearm. Scott stopped fighting and sank to his knees. Lady Penelope ran to his side and took hold of his hand. Scott stopped struggling, but his eyes were darting backwards and forwards in panic, as he scanned the now unfamiliar faces in front of him.
"You're among friends Scott," Penelope purred "You're going to be okay."
Virgil and Alan helped Scott into Thunderbird Two, and laid him down on one of the bunks in the medical bay. Scott was now passive, but his eyes were full of fear and bewilderment. His brothers hated to see him looking so vulnerable. Penelope started to gently bathe his face with warm water.
"What happened to him, Virg?" asked Alan "He looked at us as if we had just touched down from Venus in a couple of flying saucers."
Brains took a small torch and shone it into Scott’s eyes. Both of his pupils reacted.
"Ah th-there's no sign of any er head injury, but he l-l looks as if he has taken a beating." Scott's eyelids flickered, Brains' medication had now began to take effect. Scott mumbled incoherently, as he drifted off to sleep. Brains called to Virgil "Help me get his uniform off s-so I can er examine him."
Brains gently rolled Scott on to his side, and Virgil began to unfasten his uniform. He grimaced at the sight of his brother's injuries. The area around Scott's spine was badly bruised and his chest was tender and swollen.
"S-some of his injuries c-could have been caused by the er crash, b-but these bruises around the er chest and ribs are fr-fresh. S-someone has um also delivered a hefty punch to his f-face and er split his lip."
Virgil looked pained. "Who could have done this to him?... and why?"
"I-I think Alan's initial suspicion about the er authenticity of the er rescue call h-has proven correct. I believe the craft was lured here, a-and it doesn't take two guesses to figure out by whom."
"The Hood!" shouted Alan. "He must have booby-trapped the wreckage of that old fighter plane."
"I-It would s-seem so, Alan. He has been er determined to pay International Rescue back for the a-attack on his hideout, and the d-destruction of his opium crop."
"Do you think Scott has been hypnotised? Would that account for his loss of memory?"
"Perhaps, b-but I believe he er m-may have taken an amnesia c-capsule."
"What's an amnesia capsule?" asked Virgil.
"I-it's er something I er developed a few months ago," explained Brains. "S-Scott had volunteered to test it for me, sh-should an occasion present itself."
"I don't get it," said Virgil. "Did Father know about this?"
"Y-yes He er consented to the test."
Virgil looked perplexed. "Why didn't he tell the rest of us?"
"R-remember when the Hood er captured Tin Tin and Kyrano?"
"Yes," snapped Alan "Scott and I got them out."
"W-well Kyrano c-came to me, and told me that he was frightened of the Hood's hypnotic er power. He er confessed that he had come very close to revealing our s-secrets. H-he felt guilty and ashamed."
"None of us would blame him. I know Father wouldn't. The Hood has mentally tortured him, and he was threatening Tin Tin," said Virgil in defence.
Brains continued, "H-he f-felt ashamed that he could not be as strong as Tin Tin was. He um said that sh-she had been prepared to face death, rather than divulge any of your secrets."
"Did this awful man threaten to torture Tin Tin?" asked Penelope
"K-Kyrano told me the Hood had hypnotised Tin Tin, and that he was going to keep her as his er.... I'm sorry A-Alan, I know this is going to be um difficult. H-he wanted her ..."
"Yeah I get the picture," growled Alan. He then uttered an obscenity and punched the wall.
"I hope that made you feel better, Alan," said Penelope.
Alan calmed down and apologised for his outburst.
"W-well to cut a long story short," continued Brains, "Kyrano er wanted me to work on a s-serum that would um erase the memory. So that if he were to be er captured again, he would not be able to divulge any s-secrets, because there would be none left in his memory. He h-helped me to blend the correct plant extracts and er together we made a few capsules. He and Tin Tin each have one and so did Scott. T-they were only meant to be used as a l-last possible resort rather like a suicide pill in the last world war."
"A suicide pill!" cried Alan in alarm.
"Oh-oh d-don't worry, Alan. Th-the serum will not harm Scott."
"But when is he going to get his memory back?" asked Virgil.
"Oh he-he won't...." Virgil and Alan gasped. "N-not until I give him the um antidote. Which I have right here." Brains proceeded to inject Scott's forearm with a yellow liquid.
"Are you sure this will work, Brains?" asked Virgil.
"No," replied Brains. "Th-this is the first time it has been tested. Th-there is no telling how long it will take to er work."
"When can we expect him to get back to normal?"
"It could be a couple of d-days or a couple of weeks or er maybe months."
"Months!" Virgil exploded. "What are we going to do with him? When this sedative starts to wear off, he may try to attack us again. The poor guy doesn't know who he is or where he is. He's confused and paranoid."
"Why does it take so long for this stuff to work?" voiced Alan.
"B-because each er individual is different. T-take S-Scott for instance, He has twenty six years of memories stored in his brain. Some are good, some bad and some traumatic. He saw active service in the East Asian conflict. He's like a computer that has crashed. H-his neurons will have to regenerate, remake their connections. I-it would be dangerous for Scott to regain those memories all at once. I-it would be too much for the er brain to handle. It c-could cause um long term psychological damage."
"You mean it could send him mad?" cried Virgil in alarm.
"Y-You saw his reaction when he saw Thunderbirds One and Two. He did not recognise his own craft. You were right, Alan. To him, they were 'alien' craft. He didn't trust us. We have to let him rest and recover his memory in his own good time. No matter how long it takes."
"I'll have to tell Dad, We'll have to get Scott to a hospital." Virgil was already on the radio. He was angry with his father for not telling him about the amnesia drug. Jeff was tremendously relieved to hear that Scott was safe, but to Virgil's amazement, he did not want Scott admitted to a hospital. In his present state, Scott could be considered a security risk.
"It would be better if Parker and I took him back to Foxleyheath," volunteered Penelope. "We can look after him."
"How will you handle him if he gets violent again?" asked Virgil.
"Oh, he won't. Scott would never hit a lady."
While Parker loaded Fab 1 into the pod, Virgil and Brains made sure that Scott would be comfortable on the journey. They checked his spine for any signs of serious injury, and then they changed him into clean, warm civilian clothing. Brains placed a surgical collar around his neck to help ease his whiplash injury. Then he strapped Scott securely into his bed, and clipped a monitor to one of his fingers. Satisfied that Scott's heartbeat and pulse were regular, and that his breathing was unhindered, Brains walked back to the cabin of Thunderbird Two. Penelope and Parker, took their places in the passenger seats and strapped themselves in, ready for take off. Brains and Alan jumped down from the cabin, and made their way over to Thunderbird One to begin repair work.
Virgil took his place at the controls of Thunderbird Two, and depressed a black button. Slowly Thunderbird Two descended on the pod, retracting its stilt like legs. With the pod safely secured, Virgil fired up the booster rockets.
"Don't take too long, Virgil. We need another pair of hands here," called Alan as Thunderbird Two lifted off the ground and headed out to sea.
The interior of Thunderbird One was bitterly cold. Alan blew into his hands and stamped his feet Brains removed the cover of the console and pulled out a tangle of wires, like spaghetti from a saucepan. He began to mutter to himself, as was his habit when he was engrossed in a job.
"Ah ha! Y-yes, I see what's wrong. F-fetch me a screwdriver, Alan. Oh and a torch would be handy too. Oh and Alan, c-could you um disentangle the blue w- wires from the orange ones?"
"Sure, Brains. Would you like me to pedal a unicycle as well?” But as usual, Alan's sarcasm was lost on Brains.
After an hour, they had managed to remove a section of melted, damaged cables and Brains was preparing to repair one of the circuits.
"How long will it take to fix all this?" asked Alan
"We've got a good day's work ahead of us."
"Oh great! I've had my fill of this place. How do the people in this part of the world put up with this damp, cold weather? It goes right through you. Hurry up and get the heating back on."
"M-many hands m-make light work, Alan."
Alan pouted, and complained as the screwdriver slipped from his numbed fingers. One of the draw-backs of life on a balmy tropical islands, was that Alan felt the cold. Especially the damp cloying kind that these Islands were prone to. "I'm trying Brains, but my hands are numb. It's just too cold." Brains chose to ignore his complaints.
An hour and a half later, they heard the familiar whine of Thunderbird Two's engines. Brains briefly glanced up from his work "Well, at least V- Virgil is back."
"Good, I hope he has brought some more food with him, I'm starving." Alan waved as Thunderbird Two landed beside them. He saw Virgil alight from the cockpit and then nervously look around him
"Do you suppose the man who took Scott is out there watching us?" asked Alan.
"I-it's something I'd er rather not think about," replied Brains, tinkering with his screwdriver. Virgil entered and voiced the same concerns as Alan.
"Oh, hi Virgil. How was Scott when you left him ?" inquired Alan
"He woke up when we reached Lady Penelope's. He's still mildly sedated, but he's a lot calmer now. He wasn't very happy about that collar around his neck. He was able to talk to me for a while. He told me that all he could remember was being held in a darkened room. He said that it smelled as if it was underground. He mumbled something about protective suits and drums of chemicals."
"What about the man who attacked him? Did he say whether it was the Hood?"
"He told me that he remembered a man slapping his face and then punching him in the ribs. The man hurled him to the floor. He said that this man seemed to think he was dead, so he pretended to be."
"Did he get a good look at his face?"
"He said it was dark but he remembered the man's eyes. Intensive staring eyes and a shiny bald head. So there's no doubt about it, the Hood is here on this island."
"Should we call Father? Maybe we can finish him off for good this time."
"You forget, Alan: we are a rescue organisation, not an International crime fighting outfit. We do not have the authority to 'finish him off', as you put it. I believe it is more commonly known as murder. We are supposed to save lives, even criminal lives."
"Scum like that doesn't deserve to live," spat Alan.
"Father disagrees. I spoke to him while I was at Penelope's and he has placed the matter in the hands of the Federal Agents Bureau. They have already arrested a high ranking Government Official on suspicion of supplying chemicals to a known terrorist. That terrorist has been identified as the Hood. I have been told that the army plans to storm this island to arrest him and destroy the chemical hoard."
"Huh! I wish I could get my hands on him."
"What would you do, Alan? You saw what happened to Scott. You would be a fool to go chasing after him. You don't know what you are up against. Kyrano says that he is the most evil man in the world. He believes that he is in league with the devil."
"A-as a scientist I do not er hold with um superstition," put in Brains. "But y-you will be pleased to know that I have um fixed the er circuit that activates the defence shield. I If the H-Hood tries to er steal any of our machines, he will er have a bit of a sh-shock coming to him."
I won't feel safe until he's behind bars. In fact I won't even feel safe then," said Virgil. "He's managed to escape from some pretty inaccessible places. He's quite a slippery character!"
The Hood awoke refreshed after a solid seven hour sleep. He had only one priority - to set a trap for Thunderbird Two. For this he would require the dead pilot's body. He would place it where his colleague would find it and then detonate a canister containing paralysing nerve gas. He was going to ensure that this pilot, would not be able to take a suicide capsule before he was properly brainwashed.
There was no light underground so the Hood switched on his torch. As he struggled out of his sleeping bag, his hands touched a slippery substance. He stood up, but his legs immediately slipped from underneath him, and he landed on his fat backside He muttered a string of guttural curses. When he managed to light the hurricane lamp, he saw that the floor was covered in a pool of oil. But even worse, the Thunderbird pilot had gone. The Hood bellowed with rage.
"Curse you International Rescue! A million curses upon you!"
He ran towards the ladder, slipped over and cursed again. The ladder was thirty feet high. The Hood started to climb the rungs, but promptly slid down them again. It was then, that he noticed the corroded oil drum, strategically placed so that it's contents would lubricate his only means of escape. He cursed the pilot of Thunderbird One, and wished he had beaten him to a pulp when he had the chance.
Seven hours later Brains, Alan and Virgil were finishing off the repairs.
"There. W-we're just about done," said Brains "We have all our circuits back on."
"What about external damage?" asked Alan.
"Nothing too serious, thank Goodness. Scott chose a good position to put her down. Those um dense bushes acted as a c-c-cushion absorbing the er impact. One of the tail fins has sheared off and the other is a bit bent, but it should not affect the way she er handles."
"Hey, will you look at this?" called Virgil. Glancing up at the sky he could see ten large military helicopters descending on the island. When they landed, soldiers in bullet-proof combat gear ran forward with guns at the ready. They were followed by an army decontamination unit.
"Let's hope they catch the ..." began Alan
"I think it's time for us to go," interrupted Virgil. "Brains you go with Alan in Thunderbird One in case he has any trouble handling her."
"What do you mean ' any trouble handling her'? I'm as good a pilot as Scott is," retorted Alan.
"And you're about as prickly as that gorse bush," called Virgil, climbing into Thunderbird Two.
"Race you home!" yelled Alan.
Parker carried a tray of uneaten food back to the kitchen. All the time he had known Scott Tracy, he had never known him to refuse a meal. 'Hollow legs' his brothers called him.
"H'it's not your cooking, Lil," Parker explained to the cook "'E's just not been 'imself since 'is accident."
"I thought 'e was looking a bit better."
"Physically, yes. But 'er Ladyship is worried. It has been nearly two weeks now and 'e still hasn't got 'is memory back."
"What about all them expensive doctors 'er Ladyship called in? Can't they do anything?"
"No. H'apparently not. They say that his memory will either come back in its own good time or maybe not at all."
"Poor soul, it must be dreadful not knowing your family, or who you are. I know there are some things I would rather forget about me late 'usband. But then we 'ad good times as well as bad times. I suppose the poor man can't even remember what 'is favourite food is. If 'e’s going to be staying for a long time, I'd better find out what these Americans like to eat."
Scott had spent the first few days resting in his room, while he recovered from his injuries. His feelings of confusion and paranoia subsided, when he realised that no harm was going to come to him in the peace and tranquillity of a rural English village. His fears only returned at night, when he re-lived long buried emotions, during flashbacks of his combat experiences. His bravery had saved many of his colleagues lives, when their plane was shot down over enemy territory, but there was a part of Scott's memory that would never be erased - the faces of the men Scott had not been able to save. They would remain etched in his memory for the rest of his life.
Shortly after the accident, Jeff Tracy had flown to England to be with Scott . On seeing his son, Jeff wanted to put his arms around him, and pull him in to a bear hug, but Scott stood up and offered his hand as if he was politely welcoming a stranger. They shook hands and sat side by side on a sofa in Lady Penelope's Drawing Room. There was an awkward silence. Jeff handed Scott a box of video tapes, hoping that they would trigger something in his memory. Scott watched them impassively, reduced to the role of a curious bystander as precious childhood moments were re-played before him. He pressed the 'pause' button on the remote control, to freeze the image of a beautiful woman on the screen. Then asked his father, "Who is she?"
Jeff swallowed hard and replied, "She was your mother, Scott."
Scott simply replied, "Oh."
It was more than Jeff could stand. "For Pete's sake Scott! Does none of this mean anything to you?"
Scott had meekly apologised. "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what you want me to say."
Jeff shook his head and walked out of the room.
Lady Penelope told Jeff that Scott could stay as long as he wanted. He was the perfect house guest. Jeff was faced with a dilemma He wanted to take Scott back home to Tracy Island, but he also had to run International Rescue. Scott had been told that he was a pilot, but he still no recollections of ever belonging to International Rescue, and had not even asked if Brains and Virgil had been able to repair Thunderbird One. He had asked where he lived, but Jeff was afraid to tell him about Tracy Island and International Rescue, in case he became a threat to security. Scott showed no signs of wanting to return to his home. He no longer felt part of his family, or their organisation. He existed only in the present, and in his 'present' life all he knew, was that he was living in a magnificent stately home, with a beautiful blonde lady who cared for him. It was agreed that Scott would stay with Penelope for a little while longer. Reluctantly, Jeff flew home.
A month later, Scott had come to terms with his memory loss, and spent most of his time trying to get to know his family again. Gordon, the joker of the family made him laugh. John, the quiet intellectual played chess with him over the satellite link. Alan tried his best to engage Scott in friendly banter, but the conversations between them were awkward, and neither understood why. Virgil was the only one, Scott felt he had known all of his life. He felt the same about his Grandmother, and spent hours listening to her recollections about his childhood. As well as learning that his mother had died while giving birth to Alan, he was told about his childhood on a wheat farm in Kansas, and the day he fell out of a tree and broke his leg. His Grandmother recalled his first day at school, his first girlfriend and happy family holidays. His father spoke with pride about his college achievements, and his award for bravery. But to Scott, it all seemed like someone else's life.
Back on Tracy island, Jeff Tracy called a family meeting to decide who would fill Scott's position while he was indisposed. It was decided that Alan and John would alternate piloting Thunderbird One as well as manning the space station. Jeff would assist Alan with rescues in space, and double crew where required. Jeff was dismayed at the thought of Scott being edited out of an organisation he had been so vital to.
"Is there anything else we can do to help Scott?" he asked Brains.
"I have er administered an antidote to the serum, b-but it had not been tested. S-Scott was the er first uh guinea pig, so to speak. H-he knew the risks when he volunteered to test the amnesia drug, but of course we all hoped that the occasion would never arise."
"If I may say something," Kyrano stood up and in a solemn voice began to describe the extent of the Hood's hypnotic powers drawing from his own experiences. He concluded by saying that taking the drug had probably saved Scott's life, and that if the Hood were to ever get hold of International Rescue's aircraft then he would have the power to hold the world to ransom.
"I must agree then, that the drug has proven to be a success," said Jeff.
Virgil was not so sure "I believe Scott is alive because the Hood may have thought that he was taking a suicide pill. One of the few things that Scott remembers, is this man hitting and shaking him and demanding to know what he had taken. He than punched Scott to the floor, and assumed that he would die"
"Well, at least it bought him time to escape."
"I'm not so sure it would work a second time. The Hood would be wise to it, and would probably kill any one of us for the hell of it," replied Virgil.
"I say we should have finished him off while we had the chance," cut in Alan,
"Now we've been through all that before, Alan," said Jeff sternly. " We do not have Government Authority to 'take people out' however evil they are. We save human life. All human life."
"I doubt whether anyone would have shed any tears," muttered Alan.
"That's all I have to say, Alan," countered Jeff "The military police and secret service dealt with the matter in their own way."
"Yeah, They let him slip right through their fingers," said Gordon in disgust.
"Well according to Scott, he was rather an oily character," chimed in Alan, earning a reproachful look from his father.
Kyrano stood up again, "This man is my half-brother He is evil, there is no doubt about that, but he also has my mother's blood in his veins. She was a good, kind person. I believe that good can overcome evil. I do not wish to see him killed. To murder him would bring us down to his level."
Alan and Gordon looked at the floor, shame-faced A silence fell upon the room. Of all people, Kyrano was the one who had the most reasons for wanting the Hood dead. The Hood had killed their mother, brainwashed Kyrano and falsely claimed his inheritance. Six months ago, Kyrano and Tin Tin had been captured and taken to the Hood's jungle hideout, where they were mentally and physically tortured. Alan's feelings were still raw, but if Kyrano could show compassion and forgiveness, then surely he could. But try as he might, he knew that if he were to ever meet the Hood face to face, one of them would die.
On a crisp February morning, Lady Penelope saddled up Fabian, her dapple grey gelding. Scott gently stroked the nose of a handsome black stallion, before climbing onto the saddle.
"Are you sure your back is up to this?" inquired Penelope.
"It's fine," answered Scott, and he dug his heels in to the horse's flank. It galloped across the paddock and out on to rimy, ploughed fields. Penelope's horse swiftly cantered after him, and eventually managed to catch him up by the entrance to Foxley wood.
"I see you haven't forgotten how to ride," she called.
Scott smiled. He looked more relaxed than Penelope had seen in days. His old sparkle was beginning to return. Penelope suspected that he rather enjoyed playing the role of an English country gentleman, but she knew the longer he stayed, the less enthusiastic he would be to return to Tracy island.
On his last visit, Jeff decided to tell Scott about International Rescue. Scott was surprised to learn that he had been the pilot of such a powerful machine as Thunderbird One However this knowledge seemed to make him less inclined to return home.
"Scott, Your father told me he will be flying over again tomorrow."
"Oh really?" he remarked and then added, "That will be nice." but only because he felt required to say something else.
"Can you remember anything at all about your family? It's been over a month now. Brains said that the antidote should have started to work by now."
Scott looked blank "Perhaps I should take another shot of it. I recall odd snippets of things, but nothing I can make sense of. I know my father wants me to come home, but...."
He let his sentence trail off into nothing, unable to voice his worst fears - that he was afraid of being a failure. His face darkened. He kicked his horse and galloped away. Penelope felt annoyed at herself for pushing him. It was obviously going to take longer than Brains or Jeff had anticipated.
"Look Scott, I'm sorry," she said after she had caught up with him again. "I didn't mean to push you."
"Not trying to get rid of me, are you?" he grinned.
"You know you are welcome to stay as long as you like. I am just afraid that the longer you stay, the further away you will grow from your family. They are the most important part of your life. I am an only child. My childhood was spent with servants and nannies, and then boarding school. You have your brothers and your father. I still miss my parents. They were very busy people, and I wish I could have had more time with them."
Scott looked downcast "You're right, Penelope. I've got to face facts. My memory may never return. I can't hide here forever."
"You can start over again. You must have faith in yourself. You can learn to fly Thunderbird One again, and once you are up there, you may find that you never really forgot how to. Just like riding a horse, it's probably second nature to you."
"Yeah, well, there's a difference between falling off a horse and falling out of the sky."
"You can do it, Scott. You may not have your memory, but you still have your strength of character. Look at Gordon, he had to learn how to walk again after the dreadful injuries he sustained in a hydrofoil accident, and he did it because he had the support and encouragement of a loving family. Don't push them away. You can learn it all again, and you can be the best again."
Scott felt uplifted, and for a moment, he wanted to take Penelope in to his arms and kiss her. She reached across and touched his hand. "Come on, I know the perfect place for lunch."
"Good. I'm famished," replied Scott.
Side by side, the horses trotted down the main street of a small picturesque hamlet. Its pretty, thatched cottages were covered with a dusting of snow.
"Wow. I thought places like this only existed on the front of Christmas cards," remarked Scott.
"They are very few and far between," said Penelope sadly "Hamlets like these are being slowly strangled by motorway development. The locals have fought tooth and nail to prevent one being built over the fields we have just ridden across. but then the locals have an indestructible weapon... Lady Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown. If there was a contest between her and a bulldozer, my money would be on her."
Scott laughed "Sounds quite a formidable character."
They stopped at a quaint old English pub and tied their horses to a fence.
"The pheasant does a particularly good Sunday roast... Oh Lord! Speak of the devil!" Penelope had spotted a large lady being dragged along by six boisterous Labradors. She looked around in desperation, but there was nowhere to hide. Penelope pondered upon her fate - perhaps it was to be death by Labrador Four of the dogs were now upon her, probing her with their cold, wet noses. It was all she could do to remain on her feet.
"Down Badger... Stop that Monty... Oh, Penelope dear, I'm so glad to see you..."
"Marjorie! " exclaimed Penelope, and kissed the air a few inches to the right of Lady Cholmondley-Brown's left ear.
"I do hope you have managed to sort out that problem with your sprinkler system. All your lovely paintings and carpets. I hope they were not ruined."
Penelope looked shamefaced "No. fortunately, they were saved. I do hope your lovely frock wasn't spoiled. I do apologise."
"No need for apologies, my dear. In spite of the mishap, the evening seemed to be a success. But I do feel that the audience were cheated. I was saving the best of my programme for the second half. So I have agreed to repeat my performance at the Foxley Civic hall tonight. There are a couple of other musical acts on before me, and it promises to be an exciting evening. I recall sending you an invitation a few days ago, but your staff told me you had gone away. I do hope to see you there, and you must bring along your handsome young man."
"Oh but...." Penelope began to protest.
"I insist," said Lady Cholmondley-Brown. "I'll see you both at 7.30." She disentangled herself from her dog leads and strode off down the path. Penelope put her head in her hands.
"What was that all about?" asked Scott,
"We don't have to go. I'll say that you were ill. I'll make some excuse."
"Believe me, Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown's singing is not something I would wish on my worst enemy."
"But won't she be offended? She seemed rather a sweet old lady."
Penelope sighed, "Yes, her heart's in the right place, and you're right Scott, she will be terribly offended."
"Then we will go," he decided.
"Oh dear!" sighed Penelope again, and then she noticed that Scott was giving her a rather peculiar look.
"Penelope...." he began hesitantly. "Have we...? I mean ... before I lost my memory... Did we ever have...?"
Penelope linked arms with him as they walked towards the door "We have always been, and always will be very good friends."
At 7.15 pm, Parker drove the pink Rolls Royce up to the civic hall. With a beaming smile on his face, he leapt out of the driving seat to open the rear car door. Penelope swept out of the car wearing a pink sequined gown underneath a white fur coat. Scott was handsomely attired in a hired evening suit.
"Do h'enjoy your h'evening, M'lady."
Penelope, realising that this was sarcasm responded with a stony stare. Scott replied jauntily, "Thank you, Parker."
"Not at all, thank you. Sooner you than me," he added under his breath.
They were ushered to their seats and handed the programme for the evenings entertainment.
"There is a God!" exclaimed a man two seats behind them.
Opening the programme Penelope saw a hastily added amendment. 'Our soprano Lady Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown regrets that she will be unable to perform tonight owing to a bout of laryngitis. Her place will be taken by the talented pianist Miss Alicia Davenport.'
"Well, it seems we are in for a treat this evening. Your brother Virgil will be most envious. He is a great fan of hers. I knew she lived in this locality, but since her career has taken off, she spends most of her time in Europe. She last played at the Vienna opera house. What luck to see her here in Foxley."
The first musical act featured a trio of elderly ladies playing Mozart. Scott found it pleasantly relaxing. So much so, that he almost drifted off to sleep, Penelope had to nudge him in the ribs. But when Alicia Davenport walked on to the stage wearing a clinging dark blue satin gown, Scott sat up and took notice. When she took her position at the grand piano and began to play, Scott felt the back of his neck start to tingle. She was as beautiful as she was talented. Her ash blond hair tumbled over her delicate features, as she played her music with a passion. The audience was rapt. Scott closed his eyes and let the music take him over. There was something familiar about the soft, gentle song she was playing. It evoked feelings of warmth and safety. He began to see pictures forming in his mind.
He could picture his grandfather harvesting ripe ears of corn under blazing blue skies. His grandmother baking apple pies, and his mother Lucy sitting at her piano with Virgil by her side, teaching him how to play. She taught John as well, but Scott had never really been interested. Now he regretted that He remembered his father taking him to his mother's first public concert. She wore a blue satin dress, and looked so much like the young woman playing for him now, that a lump formed in his throat. The young Scott felt immensely proud of his mother, and at the end of the concert, she stood up, looking radiant even in the fifth month of her pregnancy, and blew him a kiss.
Slowly, the mist started to clear from his mind, and his memory began to return. The final piece of music built up to a crescendo, it was like listening to a storm, first the calm, and then the fury and chaos. Scott remembered the Kansas twisters that struck with speed and devastation. He could remember sitting underneath a table with his frightened younger brothers, while his mother sang to them to calm their fears. Then he remembered the day when his father came home from the hospital, carrying a screaming red-faced infant, who seemed to be raging at the unfairness, of having his mother snatched away, before she could even hold him. Life was never the same after that. Scott remembered his three year old brother John, asking God if he could swap the new baby back for his mom, as they already had baby Gordon and didn't need another one.
When the music stopped, Scott was overwhelmed by a tide of emotions. He could feel tears pricking his eyes. He got up and walked out. Penelope found him sitting alone on a bench in the cold night air. She said nothing, but sat down and put her arms around him. After a while Scott spoke, in a clear decisive voice,
"Thank you for all you've done for me. I want to go home now. I must call Dad, I need to call all of them, especially Alan. I left him alone and injured after we crash-landed."
"Well, he's fine now. You've been talking to him."
"Yeah, well, it was kind of awkward. Sometimes I just couldn't figure him out. He can be so reckless at times. Almost as if he had some kind of death wish. When we were kids, I was always getting him out of scrapes. I guess I understand him a little better now. When I saw service in East Asia, I saw friends of mine killed. I felt guilty for surviving when they didn't. Alan has had to live with the fact that he survived and Mom didn't."
"Your experiences in life, whether good or bad, shape you as a person."
"Yeah, that's what Kyrano says. Boy am I looking forward to tasting his cooking again! No offence to Lil, but she seems to think that all I can eat are hamburgers and fried chicken."
Penelope laughed "Welcome back Scott."