A “Thunderbirds” story
by Polly Amber (2001)
The first episode of the Thunderbirds television series starts with a sabotage attempt on the Fireflash aircraft. This episode was written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The first chapter of my story refers to this event, but goes on to explain a bit about Kyrano's background and relationship with the Hood. The story is rated PG ,as it suggests that the Hood became Kyrano's half -brother as a result of a criminal act committed on their mother. The story is about Kyrano trying to recover his past, and Alan coming to terms with his feelings for Tin Tin now that they are both adults. Also, Lady Penelope has an eventful holiday.
Thunderbirds is a Gerry Anderson Production licensed by Carlton International Media Limited. I did seek their permission to use their characters in fan fiction, but I did not receive a reply. The episode 'Trapped In The Sky' was written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. This story is intended for entertainment and educational purposes only.
The sun tanned, Australian doctor carefully withdrew the needle of a hypodermic syringe from the wrinkled upper arm of his patient. He turned to face Jeff Tracy, the Billionaire businessman who had summoned him to this luxurious villa, hidden amongst the lush green foliage, on the Tracy's private island.
"He seems to be breathing a lot easier."
"He will be alright now, won't he?" asked Jeff.
"I have given him a powerful sedative. He needs to rest."
"Any idea what causes these attacks Doc?" Jeff looked anxiously at his good friend and assistant, Kyrano, who was lying prone upon his bed. The alarming hyperventilation had ceased. Already Kyrano's eyelids were drooping, the colour was returning to his cheeks and his chest was rising and falling with a regular rhythm.
"I have given him a thorough examination and I can find no physical cause for his collapse. His blood pressure is raised, but that is to be expected in the circumstances. He is worried about his daughter."
"We all are," replied Jeff. "She is travelling on the Fireflash."
"Yes, I heard about the bomb. It seems an impossible situation. I only hope that International Rescue is able to do something."
"So do I," said Jeff.
Leaving Kyrano asleep in his room, Jeff walked with the doctor, down the pathway that led towards the jetty, where the doctor's sea plane was waiting.
"So you know nothing about Mr Kyrano?"
"Not even his full name, or his age, but I guess he must be in his early sixties. I have known him for many years. He never talks about himself and appears to have no recollection of his past life."
"No memories of parents or relatives?"
"He has a daughter, but he is a widower and has no other relatives that I know of."
"Something of a mystery then!"
"I'm worried about him," admitted Jeff. "Kyrano is a stubborn man and refuses to go near a hospital. He believes he can cure himself with his herbal remedies and meditation."
"I'm not against alternative medicine myself. The medical world has a lot to thank Mr Kyrano for. His skills and knowledge of herbology have produced many cures, but I hope you can persuade him to see a specialist. It may help him regain his memory."
"I think that's the last thing he wants to do," replied Jeff. "Something dreadful must have happened to him that he wants to forget. His country was troubled by a civil war thirty years ago. I think that something bad happened to him during that time and his brain has just blocked it out."
"That is a possibility. Perhaps these bad memories come back to haunt him when he is under stress."
"He once told me that he has a powerful enemy who wants to see him and his daughter killed."
"Oh!" replied the doctor. "Is this enemy real or just in his head?"
"He seems real enough to Kyrano," stated Jeff.
"Have you seen this enemy?" interrupted the doctor.
"Well no," admitted Jeff.
"How do you know he exists?"
"Someone or something seems to have a powerful hold over Kyrano. During his attacks, he believes that this enemy is speaking to him, asking him for information."
"What kind of information?"
"I have no idea, but today I saw him in the throes of one of these attacks. He seemed to be fighting against something inside him. Whatever it was, it was real enough to him. He begged to be left alone and appeared to be in pain when he tried to resist."
"I would like him to see a specialist," insisted the doctor. "He is an elderly man living with demons that are affecting his mind."
"Do you think he's getting senile?" snapped Jeff. "He is as sane as I am!"
"It is possible that he could have an early onset of dementia, but we have no family history to go by. We would need to admit him to a clinic, keep him under observation and run some tests."
"Kyrano would rather die than go into a psychiatric unit."
"Well," said the doctor as he stepped in to the cockpit of the plane, " I can only offer my advice. I will call again to check on him tomorrow."
"Yes...and thanks, Doc," muttered Jeff.
He watched the doctor take off in his sea plane and then walked towards Kyrano's villa with a heavy heart. Jeff realised how little he actually knew about the man he regarded as his closest friend. There were few people Jeff would entrust with the secrets of International Rescue. Kyrano was one of the privileged few. He had seen Jeff's plans to form a super efficient rescue organisation come to fruition after years of dedicated hard work. Now International Rescue was up and running and ready to be deployed to any region in the world to rescue people in danger. Little did Kyrano realise that their first rescue would involve his daughter Tin Tin, who along with her fellow passengers and the Fireflash air crew, were trapped in the sky by a bomb fastened to the plane's undercarriage. There seemed to be no way the plane could land without detonating the bomb, and blowing them all to smithereens!
Kyrano was still sleeping soundly when Jeff called in to check on him again. His eyelids flickered and a fleeting smile played across his lips.
"Well at least he's having a pleasant dream," mused Jeff as he silently closed the door and returned to Tracy Villa.
Kyrano drifted in and out of a dream-laden sleep. Hazy memories of his shattered past whirled around in his unconscious brain. Some were happy memories of his childhood, riding in his father's jeep, around the family rubber plantation. Others were confusing, like the bruised face of a woman weeping in a ransacked room, and the baby basket on a table, and inside, an angry infant demanding the attention of a mother who turned away from him and stared blankly out of the window. The images blurred. The angry baby's face turned into the sweet smile of his own daughter Tin Tin. An evil face with vivid staring eyes turned into the kindly face of his friend Jeff Tracy.
Having fought off his demons, Kyrano slept for a further ten hours. Blissfully unaware of the tension and drama that enveloped Jeff and his International Rescue team, as they fought to save the sabotaged Fireflash. Finally Scott, Jeff's eldest son, radioed in.
"Father, we've done it! The crew and all passengers are safe! and Virgil is bringing Tin Tin home."
Jeff congratulated them. "Good work both of you." Then he walked to the cocktail cabinet, took out his best malt whiskey and poured himself a stiff drink.
It was the day after the excitement of the rescue and Tin Tin's homecoming. Kyrano had recovered from his collapse. He pulled back the blinds to reveal another cameo-pink dawn breaking over the Pacific Ocean. He silently opened the door to his daughter's room. She was sleeping peacefully. Reassured, he left the apartment they shared, and made his way to the garden, for an hour of meditation and prayer for his daughter's safe return.
Tin Tin was his only living relative, apart from the one he did not wish to speak of. Until the day that Kyrano's world came tumbling down, he did not know that he had a half-brother. One who had spent years waiting and plotting, until the time was right for him to return to the family plantation and steal what should have been Kyrano's inheritance.
Kyrano's half-brother was known to International Rescue and the Federal Agents Bureau as The Hood. A master of disguise, he had been the leader of a fledgling terrorist group who were responsible for the civil unrest in Kyrano's native country. Kyrano's birth certificate and land and property deeds had been lost when government buildings were torched. Kyrano's father had died leaving the rubber plantation to his wife and son. The Hood had seen the plantation as a viable commodity, occupying several acres of prime fertile land. The rubber trees were cleared to make way for a more profitable crop - opium. The profits from this trade served to make the Hood a rich and powerful man.
Kyrano had only one memory left, that of his first encounter with his evil relative. In the dead of night two men had broken into his home, and taken him and his mother into the jungle at gunpoint. There, they had been imprisoned and starved for five days until they were moved to another location. Kyrano's mother was weakened and did not survive her ordeal.
When Kyrano's blindfold was removed, he found himself in a temple face to face with an effigy of himself. The temple was shrouded in an atmosphere of menace. Years of studying voodoo and the black arts had given the Hood the power of erasing and controlling the mind, leaving his victims unable to remember even their own names. Kyrano could only remember the eyes... burning, glowing eyes as he sensed the presence of unworldly evil. When the Hood had drained him of his strength and erased every memory of his life, he ordered his henchmen to tie him up and leave him to the mercy of the jungle.
That night, the jungle was merciful, and Kyrano managed to survive on luck and instinct. Using sharp bamboo shoots to sever his bonds, he managed to escape and live rough in the jungle until he stumbled upon a remote village. The inhabitants of this village restored his physical health using their knowledge of plants as food and medicines. However, they could do nothing to restore his memory. The name Kyrano was found engraved on the back of his watch, but whether this was his first or second name no longer mattered, because now it was his only name.
While living in the jungle, Kyrano gained his knowledge of botany. He also developed a flair for simple, nutritious food using the exotic fruits of the jungle. The Hood however, had been enraged when he failed to find a body and was certain that Kyrano was still alive. Kyrano had had a close call a few days ago. While he was up a tree picking fruit he heard a group of men below. The voice of one of them made his blood run cold. He realised that he must quickly escape and start a new life as far away from his homeland as soon as he could.
The opportunity presented itself when he was offered a job in the galley on board a large cruise liner which took him to the United States of America. He quit his post to further his research into food, nutrition and homeopathy. He decided to go to college. He gained impressive qualifications, married a fellow student, and secured a job as a nutritionist for NASA. Their astronauts were setting up the first Moonbase, and as these men were spending many months in a hostile environment, it was important they received the right balance of vitamins and minerals. Kyrano's delicious cuisine came as a welcome change from the bland paste-like substances the astronauts were used to.
During his time with NASA, Kyrano became friendly with astronaut Jeff Tracy. Jeff had learned that he was about to become a father for the third time. He was worried. This was unplanned as he already had two young sons. He knew that this next mission to the Moon would have to be his last. The demands of his growing family were now of more importance and he was finding it harder to leave them. As the friendship between Jeff and Kyrano grew, events conspired to put it on hold. Jeff was forced to withdraw from the Moon mission when his wife gave birth prematurely to another son, a sickly baby, who needed hospital care for the first two months of his life. He took extended leave to care for his wife and family and later resigned from NASA to start his own aerospace company. Jeff's job as an astronaut rewarded him with a huge salary which he invested wisely, and he now found that he was a very rich man
Secretly he hankered for the excitement and camaraderie he shared in the 'old days', and he was more than a little hurt that his old friend had not made any contact, not even to ask about his wife and newborn son. Upon making enquiries he was surprised, and even more upset to discover that Kyrano had left suddenly without a word to anyone. Jeff's former colleagues told him that a sabotage attempt had been made at the space station just days before the Mars probe was launched. A man of oriental appearance had been apprehended but had managed to overpower the security guards and escape. Kyrano had disappeared around the same time and his colleagues were suspicious.
Jeff was to meet Kyrano some ten years later, at a smart Parisian hotel, where he was working as Head Chef. The European branch of Tracy Engineering was staging an important conference with several heads of state. Kyrano was in charge of the catering arrangements. The meal was excellent and the evening hailed as a great success. Jeff visited Kyrano to convey his thanks with a bottle of the best champagne. The meeting was awkward at first but the tension was diffused by the antics of Kyrano's charming eight year old daughter. It was then that Kyrano explained why he was destined to be a fugitive, and Jeff learned of the existence of a very powerful and evil dictator.
"You are now one of the richest men in the world," Kyrano had explained. "This man they call The Hood will be interested in you. You have the sort of advanced technology that he can only dream of possessing. Through me he will be able to find you. He is a Devil."
"But what about you and your family?"
"My wife has died," replied Kyrano. "I have only my daughter Tin Tin. We will stay here while we are safe. But who knows how long that will be? We will always be looking over our shoulders."
"I have an island retreat," announced Jeff. "It is remote, hidden and totally secure. My top secret research unit is based there. Come and work for me. I need a personal assistant, someone I can trust. Your daughter will have the best education money can buy."
Kyrano sadly shook his head. "I would bring only trouble. This man knows my thoughts. We are linked by blood ties. I feel his presence and he feels mine. I would bring his evil to you."
"That's superstitious nonsense!" snapped Jeff. "Your daughter needs stability in her life!" And then he continued sadly, "I am a widower too. My wife died while giving birth to our fifth son Alan. But I am lucky to have five healthy boys."
Kyrano was roused from his contemplation by a soft musical voice.
"Here you are, Father," called Tin Tin brightly. "I've been looking all over for you."
During her two years away, her tomboy appearance had changed and she had blossomed into an elegant woman, as beautiful as one of the orchids Kyrano was tending. With brains as well as beauty, she returned to the island with impressive qualifications - degrees in Maths and Electronics. A year’s sabbatical had taken her on a tour of Europe.
In the emotional reunion that followed the attempted Fireflash sabotage, Tin Tin was shaken by her father's appearance. He had aged so much. She guessed that his age must be around sixty, but he looked ten years older. He had been ill, Mr Tracy said, and the doctors were mystified. They could find no physical problems, but his head was full of fragmented images, like having pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. On the day Tin Tin was due to fly home she had called her father, but he seemed rather on edge. Jeff tried to reassure Kyrano that the Fireflash had undergone rigorous tests, and was considered to be the safest aircraft ever built. But he could see that Kyrano was still troubled. While Jeff was talking to him, Kyrano had suffered a throbbing pain in his head, like something trying to suck out his very soul. He collapsed mumbling in delirium. Jeff confided to Tin Tin that he was afraid Kyrano might have a tumour, but luckily scans had shown that all was clear.
Kyrano smiled proudly at his daughter. "You have grown so very like your mother."
Tin Tin took her father's arm and together they walked through the garden.
"I feel her very close to us," said Tin Tin. "I feel that she is watching over us, protecting us. I don't think of her as being dead. Just in another place. We have been very lucky... meeting Mr. Tracy ... Coming to live here and of course my escape from the Fireflash..." She broke off and then added: "The bomb. Do you think it was him?"
Kyrano nodded. "He will not rest until he finds me."
"He will not find us." reassured Tin Tin. "International Rescue will be a force to be reckoned with and I am proud to be part of it."
In the heart of the steamy Malaysian Jungle, stood what looked like an ancient and eerie temple. But any unsuspecting traveller who might accidentally stumble across it, would be well advised to give it a wide berth. For this was the hideout of one of the World's most evil criminals - the Hood! Caring for no-one, he lusted only for wealth and power. He had been forced to look after himself from childhood. He never knew his father. But he was repeatedly told, by the nuns who brought him up, how evil his father had been and of the monstrous crimes he had committed. He had been given up for adoption by his mother and her gentle husband who wanted to forget the horrible crime that had resulted in his birth, and threatened to shatter their once happy family. He believed that evil was ingrained in him. He grew up embracing it, and vowing to seek revenge on the mother who deserted him, and the half-brother who had been given something he would never have - his mother's love.
The Hood was clad in an elaborate gold, jewel-encrusted regalia, reminiscent of an ancient Siamese king. He stood in his temple hideout, beside the effigy he had created of his half-brother. He was angry - losing his touch maybe. Or perhaps Kyrano was getting mentally stronger and more able to resist him. He had picked up his half-brother's trail at NASA, but Kyrano had managed to evade him. Perhaps the telepathic link worked both ways and Kyrano had been able to sense his presence. It took many more years of searching in America and then across to Europe before Kyrano was finally pinpointed in Paris. But from there he seemed to have vanished from the face of the Earth. Yet he still lived, and while he lived there was a danger that he might rediscover his past and rightfully claim the land and property that had been left to him by their mother.
The Hood was a powerful man who had many agents on his payroll. One of these was an electronics expert who could hack into the computers of airlines. This man reported seeing the name Kyrano, on a list of passengers booked on to the maiden flight of the new Fireflash travelling from London to Tokyo. The Hood seized his chance. Explosive devices were easy for him to acquire. The flight engineer who had been carrying out last minute maintenance checks succumbed immediately to his hypnotic powers. The flight seemed doomed. But he had been thwarted.
The morning papers hailed this new rescue organisation a resounding success. They had done the impossible. With revolutionary new technology and equipment, they enabled the crew to land the plane without touching the runway, which would have detonated the bomb. It was then that the Hood made the connection. As he watched from a van he had disguised as a laundry service, he saw the plane land safely. Then the bomb disposal squad arrived, and the passengers were escorted off. He scanned the crowd with binoculars. There was no sign of Kyrano. However there was a beautiful Malaysian girl with the same name, and he remembered that Kyrano had a daughter, Tin Tin. He managed to escape the detection of International Rescue, but they had succeeded in destroying the film he had secretly shot of their amazing rescue craft. He was angry, but there would be other times. Donning one of his disguises he had made his way back to the airport lounge to enquire about the well-being of his ‘niece’, Miss Tin Tin Kyrano. The clerk at the airport assured him that she and all the other passengers were safe, but all flights in or out of the airport had now been suspended for twenty-four hours while security checks were made. Passengers who still wanted to travel would be transported to another airport or taken to the Wyatt International Hotel for the night. The clerk had not been able to find Miss Kyrano's name on the list of passengers transferring to the other airport, so the Hood decided to check out the hotel. He found no sign of her. The only aircraft allowed to fly out of the airport were those belonging to International Rescue. They must have taken her with them. Now Kyrano would be of more use alive!
Alan Tracy awoke early on New Year's Eve. He felt excited. He had drawn the short straw over the Christmas Holiday and had been on duty in Thunderbird Five. But tonight barring call-outs he was determined to enjoy himself. He was particularly looking forward to seeing the beautiful and elegant Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. He still harboured an adolescent crush on her from the last time Tin Tin had invited her to stay on the Island. Parker would be coming along too. 'He’s a character' mused Alan, as he stepped into the shower. He was quite envious of Parker's close working relationship with Lady Penelope. How could Parker keep his cool! She was every man's dream. He switched the shower setting to cold and shuddered as the water trickled down his back.
Aloysius Parker waddled into the kitchen below stairs, in the Creighton-Ward Manor and stood in front of Lil, the cook. She took one look at him and laughed so much she almost dropped her cigarette into the stew she was preparing.
"Well 'ow do h'ai look then? he asked, standing with his feet turned out and one hand on his hip.
Lil laughed again, "Like a right Charlie if you ask me!"
"I feel like one an' all!" answered Parker. He was clad in a light blue/grey skin-diving suit and wearing a mask on his face. On his feet were a pair of flippers. These were giving him the most trouble. They made him walk like a penguin. He inadvertently stood on one of them, and then was not able to free his other leg. He was fed up with tripping over.
"Is this one of 'er Ladyship's latest fads?" asked Lil.
"We're going diving, h'if you please," announced Parker.
"Can't see 'er Ladyship doing that. She'll get 'er 'air all wet."
"We have been invited to the Nautilus 'Otel in the 'Awaiian islands," announced Parker pompously.
"Oh very posh, I'm sure. And you've got to go dressed like that?"
"Well that's just it you see. This ‘otel is underwater."
"What will they bloomin' well think of next?" remarked Lil, returning to chop up some more carrots.
"It's one of 'er Ladyship's mates wot owns the place. The trouble is you can't just drive up to it and park the rolls outside like in a proper 'otel. So I've got to get used to this clobber. The only diving I've ever done is to the bottom of the school swimming pool with me pyjamas on to pick up a brick!"
"Well, sooner you than me," said Lil. They were interrupted by a ringing noise. "That will be 'er Ladyship now . I should think she'll be looking for you. She'll be needin’ some help with 'er packing."
"Blimey. I'd better get out of this lot then." Parker attempted to turn around to walk out of the door but got his flippers tangled together and tripped up again. He swore under his breath.
When Parker had changed back into his butler's livery, he opened the door of Lady Penelope's elegant Drawing Room to find her deep in conversation with a teapot!
"I was so very relieved to hear the she was unharmed. Your boys did an excellent job, Jeff. I have finished packing and will be boarding my flight in an hour’s time. Parker has just walked in. Did you have a word with Gordon about the little favour I wanted him to do for me?" On closer inspection, the 'teapot' was a carefully disguised radio communicator.
"Yes," answered Jeff. "Gordon will be only too happy to oblige. I will pick you up from the airport later this afternoon. Have a pleasant flight." With that, he signed off and Lady Penelope placed the silver teapot back on to the tray.
"You ...rang Milady?" said Parker.
"Yes, Parker. You can load the cases. We will be dropping of to visit Jeff, Tin Tin and the boys for the New Year, and when you have had a few diving lessons from Gordon, we will move on to the Nautilus. I must say I am absolutely fascinated by the sound of the place, but I just don't know what one will be expected to wear!"
Parker regarded the pile of cases in the corner of the room and his heart sank.
"I 'ope we're not taking all this lot on the boat, bloomin thing will sink like a stone!"
Lady Penelope gave him a tight lipped stare of disapproval and Parker knew better than to voice any more of his opinions on the subject.
Jeff Tracy's private jet taxied to a halt at the end of the palm lined runway on his beautiful island. The island had all the outward signs of an affluent paradise home with a swimming pool, games room and luxury yacht moored in the jetty alongside a glittering white sandy beach. There were many other islands, owned by the rich and famous dotted about the South Pacific, but this one concealed a secret. Beneath the Tracy's luxurious villa, a network of caverns and a maze of tunnels hid the aircraft and machinery used by International Rescue.
Most impressive were the Thunderbird craft themselves. Thunderbird One - a sleek silver rocket ship piloted by Jeff's eldest son Scott, was hidden beneath the family's swimming pool. The Round House high on a cliff top concealed a powerful red space rocket - the pride and joy of Alan and John Tracy who were both trained astronauts like their father. Secreted in the caverns beneath the Tracy's villa was a massive green transporter, Thunderbird Two. It was the work-horse of the fleet, and piloted by Virgil Tracy. It carried machinery used for fire fighting, drilling, and moving debris. These were contained in a row of half -barrel shaped 'pods' numbered one to five.
There was the mighty machine used to tunnel underground, aptly named the Mole. The Domo had powerful suction pads to hold up the walls of a crumbling building. The Firefly was able to withstand intense heat due to the protective materials developed by International Rescue's genius inventor nicknamed 'Brains'. He was also the man responsible for the invention of the elevator cars which had saved the Fireflash. There was an excavator, a cannon and many other top secret inventions. In pod four was a small yellow submersible craft, Thunderbird Four, which was piloted by aquanaut Gordon Tracy. The island had few visitors other than trusted family and friends like Lady Penelope and Parker. The Tracy family fiercely guarded their privacy and secrets.
Lady Penelope inherited her stately home a year ago following the death of her parents in a car crash. Her father, a close friend of Jeff Tracy, had been head of the Federal Agents Bureau, a division of the Secret Service which was linked to International Rescue. Lady Penelope was following in his footsteps as an accomplished secret agent. Unbeknown to her, Jeff Tracy was on the verge of making her an offer to join International Rescue as an agent. He also recognised the dubious 'talents ' of Parker or 'Nosy' as he had been known in his previous occupation. Parker was an expert safe cracker, who had learned the error of his ways after a brief spell in Dartmoor Prison. Lady Penelope vowed to help him keep on the straight and narrow. Besides, his skills could prove useful to her in the future as long as they were used on the right side of the law!
Lady Penelope stepped down from Jeff's plane looking fresh as a daisy, and as immaculate as ever, in spite of a four hour journey. Parker followed, sweating profusely as he struggled with the luggage. Tin Tin was delighted to see Penelope again and the two women embraced. Jeff smiled. He was happy to see that the girls were such firm friends. When Tin Tin had graduated from college, Jeff arranged for Penelope to take her on a tour of Europe. The two girls had formed an inseparable bond when they spent a Winter season in Switzerland as Chalet girls.
Alan, the youngest Tracy son, watched them from the balcony of the Villa. At the age of fourteen he had waved goodbye to Tin Tin as she was whisked away in his father's jet to take up residence at an exclusive girls’ school. It was difficult for her being the only girl living on an island with five healthy adolescent boys. Jeff and Kyrano feared that she would grow up to be too much of a tomboy. Alan was depressed for weeks after she had gone. She was his best friend. Someone to share in his horseplay and a worthy partner in all sporting activities.
For a while, Alan and his brothers all went their separate ways, and attained their own notable achievements. Scott became a pilot for the US Air Force and won an award for bravery. John gained a degree in laser communication and followed in his father's footsteps to become an astronaut. Virgil graduated from the Denver School of advanced technology, Gordon became an Olympic swimming champion and Alan pursued his dream of becoming a champion racing driver before training as an astronaut. Tin Tin left her boarding school to go to College and study Higher Mathematics and Engineering. She excelled in all of her chosen subjects, gained impressive degrees, and was rewarded with the trip to Europe. Alan had only seen her at holiday times while she was studying. Her trip took her away for a further year. The formation of International Rescue brought them all together again
Since her return on the near fated Fireflash, Tin Tin had spent most of her time with her father. She was eight months older than Alan, but now that gap seemed to be so much wider. He had expected his rough and tumble childhood friend back, but this Tin Tin was different. She was so poised, so elegant, she was so... well like Penelope! Alan now felt a little awkward in her company.
The late afternoon found Alan strangely quiet. He sat by the pool reading a book and felt a little left out. Tin Tin and Penelope had a lot to catch up on. Their trivial conversation revolved around Paris fashions and celebrity gossip. Scott and Virgil were both competing for Penelope's attention. Gordon called the girls to join him in the pool. Tin Tin wanted to leap in and dive bomb him, but then she saw Penelope untie her pink sarong to reveal her designer bikini. She then walked to the side of the pool and tripped daintily down the steps. Tin Tin followed her, imitating her poise and elegance. Penelope swam with her head raised so as not to spoil her hair style. Gordon still considered Tin Tin to be the feisty tomboy he regarded as a sister. He saw no reason why he should treat her any differently. He swam underwater and grabbed hold of her legs, pulling her under. She squealed, and then spluttered. Her hair clung to her face giving her a bedraggled appearance.
"Oh Gordon," she sighed in a mildly exasperated tone. She waved him away and swam to the side of the pool.
For some reason Gordon's antics irritated Alan even more. He wouldn't have dared do that to Penelope! Gordon just shrugged and went to look for someone else to annoy. That someone was Alan. He splashed water all over Alan's shirt and the book he was reading. Alan shot him a withering look and stalked off in a huff to change.
"What's eating him?" asked Virgil.
"Dunno," replied Gordon "He's always a bit tetchy after his term of duty in the satellite. It must be something to do with all that recycled air. I'm glad I don't have to do it."
The evening was not much better for Alan. During dinner, his father rebuked him in front of Penelope and Tin Tin, for snapping at Gordon, who had just made a joke at his expense. Alan knew just where he stood in the Tracy family's pecking order. Scott the eldest son had chiselled good looks and a swaggering air of confidence. John had academic prowess and he envied Virgil for his charm and easy going nature which made him a favourite with the ladies. Unlike Alan, he always knew the right things to say. Although he was nearly twenty one, Alan still felt very much the baby of the family. No-one seemed to have noticed that he had grown up. He excused himself from the table, pleading a headache and sought solitude in his room. Tin Tin watched him leave, somewhat bemused by his moodiness.
After dinner Brains Jeff and Scott were planning the firework display to celebrate New Year’s Day in four hours time. Parker was getting quietly drunk. Penelope was telling everyone within earshot about the new hotel she was going to visit.
"It's called the Nautilus. It is located just off the Hawaiian Islands, but the most exciting thing about it is that it is completely submerged."
"I've heard about that," chimed in Gordon. "Gee, I've always wanted to visit. When will it be open to the general public?"
"I have a brochure in my bag if you would like to have a look."
Brains walked over and peered over her shoulder, as she flicked open the glossy pages for Gordon to see.
"A-are you sure th-that it will be safe?" he stammered anxiously.
"Absolutely," replied Lady Penelope. "Everything has been thought of. It has powerful twin turbo- charged engines and can dive to one hundred feet if required. With its own battery capacity, on board generator and life support systems, one could live on it for up to six months. It even has its own waste disposal system! At the moment it is based in shallow waters around the reefs and lagoons. There it can be connected to surface cables to feed air, fresh water, cable TV and electricity from the nearest island. It makes the whole venture a lot more commercially viable."
"H-how well c-can it stand up to the water pressure in d-deeper waters?" asked Brains.
"Well, as I said, for the moment it will be anchored at a maximum depth of one hundred feet. But there should not be any problems. It has been built with a specially toughened shell."
"Well, you will have to get your hair wet to get to it." quipped Gordon. "Parker won't be able to drive Fab 1 up to the door!"
"Yes, I had thought of that. My diving skills are somewhat rusty and Parker's are practically non-existent. We would like you to give us some lessons."
Gordon was only too happy to oblige.
Alan had been dragged from his room to join in the celebrations for the New Year. But after the fireworks, he had enough of the festivities and he slipped away to the beach. He sat by the jetty, watching the sea. Immediately, he began to feel calmer. He shared a rota with his brother John on board Thunderbird Five - International Rescue’s communications satellite. Although he did not usually mind his month of enforced solitude, he was not looking forward to going back up there in a month’s time. He knew he would miss seeing Tin Tin. He wished that Scott or Virgil could occasionally take a turn, but they were usually needed on every rescue. Gordon was spared satellite duties on health grounds.
"Are you okay Alan?" He felt a light touch on his arm. It was Tin Tin. "You have been so quiet this evening."
"Just tired, I guess. I only returned from the satellite a few days ago. Your body gets kind of out of sync, up there. I find it difficult to establish a proper sleeping routine. Sorry I've been so crabby to everyone."
Tin Tin gently caressed Alan's arm. He could feel himself blushing.
"It's wonderful to be back," she whispered and planted a gentle kiss on his cheek. "Happy New Year."
"How do you find a needle in a haystack?" The Hood growled as he regarded a map of the Pacific dotted with over two thousand islands. Some were clustered together, some remote and uninhabited. While others were the property of various governments and used for weapons testing. International Rescue's Headquarters had to be out there somewhere. Where else could you launch such huge and powerful craft without attracting attention? The Hood was drawing up a plan. Many of these Islands were privately owned by reclusive billionaires and film stars. They were exclusive playgrounds for the rich and famous, who wanted to escape the public glare. But how would he gain access? He figured they would all have one thing in common. They would need regular supplies from the mainland, and of course the daily delivery of the mail! The Hood's evil mind was ticking over. He gave a low guttural chuckle as he wondered what qualifications he would need for a job delivering the mail! He was already a competent pilot, having acquired a light aircraft, as well as a tank and a submarine. Delivering the mail would give him access to all of the remote islands, and also reveal the identities of the people dwelling on them.
The bespectacled Head of the Postal Department had interviewed ten people for an extra post that had been created. He had almost decided who to appoint, but there was a late applicant, an odd-looking man with dark greasy hair, and a drooping moustache, who was sitting outside, impatiently drumming his fingers. The interviewer motioned the waiting man to come into his office. The interview was the shortest on record.
"YOU WILL GIVE ME THE JOB," applicant number eleven spoke in a menacing guttural tone. His eyes blazed brightly and burned into the consciousness of the Department Head. The Hood had landed himself a job as a postman!
After the first week in the job, the Hood, in his disguise, was growing more and more impatient. As well as delivering the mail, he was expected to deliver the milk, papers and perishable goods. He had been allocated a specific area and that was all he was allowed access to. He hated being an employee. He hated dogs, but the worst thing he hated, was having to work for a living. He had only been able to visit a handful of the islands. The military bases had kept him well clear of their buildings and that only served to inflame his curiosity. However the next day he found that he had been given a different route. The regular delivery man was off sick, and the Hood was asked to take over at the last minute. One of his first deliveries was to a Mr Jefferson. The tiny island of Moyla was difficult to find. From the air it looked uninhabited, but then he noticed a small runway just big enough to land a light aircraft. He touched down and found a pretty Malaysian girl waiting for him. She thanked him politely for the letters and waved goodbye. The Hood was impressed by her beauty, but he had no time for women, he was only interested in power. However, this girl seemed familiar to him.
Kyrano, as 'Mr Jefferson's' Personal Assistant, would usually collect the mail and food supplies from an administrative building on the neighbouring island of Moyla, which was also owned by Jeff Tracy, but today he was indisposed and Tin Tin offered to fly across in her own light aircraft 'Ladybird'. On her return to Tracy Island, she conveyed the same thought to Jeff Tracy as she handed him the mail.
"There's something odd about the new delivery man," she stated.
"Oh? What's that?" asked Jeff.
"I just don't like him. He gives me the creeps! I feel as if I have seen him somewhere before, but I can't remember where," she continued. "His skin looks sallow and unnatural, and I'm sure he was wearing a wig."
"Do you think he could be a spy?" asked Alan.
"Well, I know who can check him out for us if he comes back tomorrow," said Tin Tin. " That's just the job for Penelope and Parker!"
The next day, Tin Tin waited by the runway. Sure enough the man returned. This time he had a letter which he refused to hand over to Tin Tin, insisting that it required Mr Jefferson's signature. Tin Tin was apprehensive, and returned to the villa to seek further advice.
"Let him come here," said Jeff.
"What, here to Tracy Island?"
"He obviously wants to snoop around for some reason. If we refuse him entry, it will make him even more suspicious. We will treat him as if we suspect nothing. This could work in our favour, we may be able to find out more about him."
"Are you sure, Mr Tracy? I don't trust him at all."
"We will be prepared for him. It would be only a matter of time before he finds his way here anyhow. "
"But suppose the letter is a bomb?" cried Scott in alarm.
"You go in the next room with Brains. He has had this man under surveillance all the while since the moment he got out of the plane. He flew over to Moyla with me last night and we planted some hidden cameras.” Jeff pressed a button on his desk and a TV monitor appeared showing, the stranger gazing around impatiently. Tin Tin gasped when she saw a close up of his eyes.
"I don't like him at all." She shuddered.
Kyrano, had just entered the room with a pot of coffee. He gazed at the screen, transfixed . The coffee pot crashed to the floor.
"Those eyes......." he began. "I've seen those eyes somewhere before......"
"Do you recognise this man?"
" I recognise the eyes. He is evil! That is all I can remember about him."
"Is he the man who wants to harm you?" asked Jeff anxiously.
Kyrano nodded. "I believe so."
"Oh, Father! What shall we do?" gasped Tin Tin.
Alan put his arm protectively around her. "He won't touch you while I'm around," he said firmly.
"I- I don't know if he is the same man," said Kyrano. "I only know that I feel an evil presence when he is around."
"If this man is the 'Hood' in disguise, you must go back to your quarters and keep out of sight. You too, Tin Tin. I will fly over and collect the letter myself."
"Yes Mr Tracy."
Jeff donned a large pair of mirrored wrap around sunglasses to disguise his features. He then walked toward the cliff-side steps which overlooked the runway.
"Yes M-Mr Tracy. I hope this works."
Jeff depressed a tiny button secreted on the side of his sunglasses. The steep cliff path in front of him suddenly vanished.
"Now t-take a few steps, Mr Tr-Tracy."
Jeff did as he was told and was amazed to find that he could 'see' his way ahead even though he was effectively 'blindfold'. "It works Brains."
"G-good. I h-had developed the glasses f-for use at night. They h-have an infrared sight. Y-You will be able to 'see' in pitch darkness or th-thick s-smoke."
"But will they be able to blot out the Hood's hypnotic stare?"
"Th-that is s-something I have not been able to test."
Jeff landed his private plane on the tiny runway of Moyla. He paused to put on the sunglasses and study this strange man kicking his heels beside a light aircraft. The man was looking in his direction. Jeff raised his arm in a friendly wave.
"What have you got for me today?"
The 'Mailman' held a brown envelope aloft. As Jeff drew nearer; he noticed the stranger fixing him with a steady gaze. Jeff hoped that the special sunglasses designed by Brains would do their job. Kyrano had warned Jeff of the Hood's powers of hypnosis when the attack on the Fireflash had failed. Kyrano was certain that his evil half-brother would now try even harder to find him. It looked as if Kyrano's fears were being realised.
The Hood tried to fix his gaze upon Jeff's eyes but all he could see was his own reflection staring back at him. Feeling thwarted, he thrust the letter in to Jeff's hands. Jeff signed for the letter and looked at it in a bemused fashion. He muttered good humouredly, " I hope it's not a tax demand."
The 'Mailman' gave a strange half smile and stepped into his plane. After ensuring that the plane had taken off and returned to the mainland, Jeff flew back to Tracy Island.
"What's the problem, Dad?" asked Virgil who was the first to notice his father's puzzled expression when he walked into the living room.
"It's not really a problem. Just something a little odd. I am going to have to make a phone call to my accountant"
At the other end of the line his accountant assured him, "No. All your affairs are in order. Ignore the letter. It's probably a mistake."
"Humph," snorted Jeff as he put the phone down.
"Have you got a tax demand, Dad?" inquired Scott.
"No, son. Quite the reverse. It says that they owe us money. An official wants to come here and go over my accounts. He says that I may have been paying too much!"
"Now that is suspicious," stated Scott. "A tax man chasing you to give you back some money!"
"More than a little suspicious," agreed Lady Penelope sitting down at the breakfast table.
"Well what are you going to do about it?" asked Virgil.
"I'm going to let him come to Tracy Island," answered Jeff.
"Is that wise? It could be some sort of a trick!" warned Scott. "Someone is obviously using this as an excuse to snoop around."
"I'm pretty sure it is a trick and I am going to check it out right now." Jeff put in a call to the Revenue Department to verify the letter. When he had finished the call he announced, "Just as I had suspected, it is a hoax. Although the letter is on official paper, I think it has been tampered with. Our new Mailman has a hand in this somewhere. The letter asks if one of their Inspectors could fly out tomorrow. It says he will ring us this morning to arrange a convenient time. I have a hunch that this 'Inspector' and our new 'Mailman' will be one and the same person. I figure he must have a reason to be suspicious of us, and if we refuse to cooperate he may assume we have something to hide. We must all be on our guard. People have been here before and have suspected nothing."
"But this is different, Dad. This man could be the Hood!"
"If he is, we'll be ready for him. You all know what to do."
The next morning a light aircraft from the Revenue Department touched down a little earlier than had been expected. Brains had only just managed to secure the rock face door, which concealed the entrance to Thunderbird Two's hangar, as the small plane came into view. He was having trouble with one of the potted palm trees, that helped to disguise the true width of the runway. The trees were planted in pots, and were designed to tip over to allow for Thunderbird two's wingspan. A short circuit in the mechanism was causing one of the trees to sway backwards and forewards as if in a howling gale. Brains held his breath and hoped that it would not come crashing down at an inopportune moment. The avenue of palms had been Brains idea. No-one would suspect that the runway could be used for anything other than light aircraft. The pots were buried underground and operated electronically.
Jeff sent Gordon down to greet the 'Tax Inspector' while he watched, unseen from his balcony, with high powered binoculars.
"If you would like to follow me. I will take you to my father. He is never too busy to talk about money."
The Hood, in his disguise, nodded approvingly. This was going to be easy. All he needed to do was flash his hypnotic eyes and these people could be made to do anything he wanted them to.
As they walked away from the runway, Gordon saw to his horror that one of the palm trees was swaying. Quickly, he propelled the visitor toward the steps to the pool and terrace. It was too late. The tree crashed to the ground. The 'Tax Inspector' turned round. "Your tree..." he began.
"Termites," said Gordon swiftly. “The place is riddled with them. Are they tax deductible?"
Penelope reclined by the pool, in a sun lounger. Her wet hair was piled up underneath a towelling turban. Her eyes were shielded by mirrored wrap around sunglasses. She fiddled with the frames as she peered over the top of her magazine. The image she focussed on was magnified ten times. A miniaturised infrared camera showed that this man was wearing a wig and a mask. She was one hundred per cent certain that this was the same man whom the police wished to question over the Fireflash incident. She fingered a small pearl drop earring. Jeff felt a prickling sensation behind his left ear. He twisted a strand of grey hair interwoven with fine wires. He heard Penelope's voice:
"Jeff, this man is suspicious. He is wearing a disguise. I think he may well be a spy. He looks very much like the man who is wanted in connection with the bomb on the Fireflash. Warn Tin Tin and Kyrano to keep out of sight."
Kyrano was in the kitchen preparing lunch. Parker had been assigned to assist, but Kyrano was not terribly pleased to have his company. The two men were from different cultural backgrounds and had, to say the very least, a communication barrier. Half of the time, Kyrano did not understand Parker's cockney rhyming slang, and disapproved of Parker trying to tell him how to do his job. But today he would have cause to be grateful to Parker.
Tin Tin came bursting into the kitchen to warn her father that the mysterious man had arrived. They both hurried to the conference room to study a picture relayed by the specially designed sunglasses that Penelope was wearing. The picture showed a stocky man in his late forties or early fifties. He was wearing a smart suit and carrying a briefcase. But his hair and moustache, looked odd and unnatural. His skin, yellow and waxy. Kyrano and Tin Tin did not really recognise him at first, but as they magnified the picture the man's eyes became more noticeable. They were the same cruel, staring eyes. Kyrano gave a gasp and clutched Tin Tin's arm.
"Those eyes!" he cried in alarm. "There's something about those eyes. Now I remember... I was in the jungle... in a hut ... I was looking at those eyes. I couldn't look away."
"It's alright, Father," comforted Tin Tin.
"If only I could remember. This man wants to harm us for some reason. He must not see us here."
Jeff was seated in his lounge when Gordon showed the visitor in. All traces of International Rescue had been covered up. On the wall were the five portraits of his sons dressed in casual clothing. Jeff walked over to the large picture window where the sun was streaming in and put on his pair of mirrored sunglasses. The Hood stared in to Jeff's eyes but again saw only his own reflection staring back. He felt angry, but knew he had to conceal his irritation and bide his time.
Jeff, for his part in the charade, strode over, shook hands with his visitor and offered him a cigar. "They're Cuban of course. Only the best will do."
Jeff played his part well. He offered to get his 'butler' to fix his 'guest' a drink The Hood, in his disguise as a tax inspector, listened to 'Mr Jefferson' bragging about his house, his money and his expensive yacht. "Of course," Jeff continued, "I'm a self made Billionaire. To get this far you have to break a few rules. If you know what I mean."
The Hood gave a low chuckle. This man was talking a language he understood. This man obviously had money and power. The only things the Hood admired.
"So what do they pay you in your line of work?" continued Jeff, lighting his cigar. "Not a lot, I should imagine."
"The job is what you might call... 'temporary'. It will do until I get a better offer."
"And what sort of offer would that be?"
"Something which combines my interests and my talents," replied the Hood.
"Making money and making more money," the Hood laughed.
"If I may say so," said Jeff. "You seem like a guy who is destined for better things. You have that air of authority about you.....That air of power.”
The Hood liked that word. He was beginning to think that Mr Jefferson sounded like his kind of person. He felt sure that any minute now, Mr Jefferson would offer him an incentive to fiddle his next tax bill.. That would be a nice little sideline. But the Hood's true mission was to find the location of International Rescue. He had visited over twenty of the larger islands in his travels. He was beginning to get impatient. The secret base of International Rescue must be hidden somewhere in this location. He cast a beady eye over the islands sheer rock face and palm lined runway. It was a relatively small runway, not one you could easily use to launch a mighty craft like Thunderbird Two.
The Hood decided that this man, 'Mr Jefferson', was empty, brash and boastful. The Hood still did not know the name of the man who ran International Rescue; his attempts to take over Kyrano's mind had been strongly resisted. But he felt sure that the man responsible for setting up such a benevolent organisation would be above reproach and as devoted to the cause of good, as he himself was to evil.
"You are very isolated here," remarked the 'tax inspector'.
"It's the way I like it," replied Jeff
"Who are your nearest neighbours?"
"Oh they are miles away," replied Jeff dismissively. "Strange people. Not particularly sociable. You would think that they had something to hide."
The Hood's interest was aroused. "What do you mean?"
"We see a lot of strange aircraft flying about. Must be some sort of secret government base."
"What sort of aircraft?" asked the Hood.
"Large. Very high tech stuff."
"Really, and in which direction is this island?"
Jeff casually waved his arm towards a south westerly direction. "Of course if you were a paying guest on one of my islands, I could organise one of my boat trips to show you around the other islands."
The Hood's eyes lit up with interest.
"That's what I do now," continued Jeff. "I open my home to a few select guests. People who want to get away from it all. Business men, film stars. The rich and powerful."
"Ah, here's my butler with our drinks." Parker walked in impeccably, dressed in his grey pinstripe suit and tail coated jacket. "He's British," said Jeff. "He appeals to the American tourists."
Parker gave a discreet bow. "Your bourbon an' soda, Sir." He held a brimming glass out towards the Hood who was now seated opposite Jeff on the balcony. Parker's hand shook and he tipped the drink over the front of the visitor's jacket. The Hood spluttered angrily.
"You stupid old fool!" barked Jeff
"H'im so sorry, Sir. H'allow me," Parker took a napkin and dabbed at the man's clothing. His years in the company of 'light-fingered Fred ' had been very educational. He managed to lift the Hood's wallet, a small transmitter and the ignition keys to the light aircraft.
"Get out of here!" thundered Jeff. "I will have you dismissed!" He was starting to bury himself in the part and Parker, determined to out act him started to ham it up as well.
"No, please, Sir! I'm sorry, Sir, you can dock my wages. Please, don't fire me; I have a wife and kids to support."
"That will do, Parker," hissed Jeff out of the Hood's earshot. He turned back to his 'guest'. "I do apologise. I will arrange for your jacket to be cleaned, you can have it back within the hour. Please stay and be my guest for lunch. We can talk business this afternoon."
"I suppose there would be time for a boat trip… to that island you were telling me about... I would like to go on such a trip," requested the Hood.
"Then it will be arranged." Jeff activated his desk top intercom.” Alan, will you come here, please?"
Alan, who had been waiting for his cue, breezed in, wearing a jaunty yachting cap and obligatory mirrored wrap around sunglasses.
"This is my youngest son," announced Jeff. "He operates the boat trips. Would you like to go now?"
"Then he will take you to the jetty. I hope you have a pleasant trip."
After half an hour of Alan's company in the confines of a speedboat, the 'guest' had decided that he did not like Alan one little bit. He wanted to knock those stupid mirrored sunglasses off his face, and get on with the true purpose of the trip. The stupid boy was showing off his rich boy's toy, revving up the throttle and turning the boat around zigzagging across the waves. The Hood was beginning to feel slightly seasick, and there was no sign of any land. They were travelling too fast, and every time the Hood tried to stand, Alan would wheel the boat around, so that he fell back again. The Hood was feeling angry and disorientated, and rather helpless. He was unable to stand still long enough to engage his hypnotic powers.
"Isn't this fun?" called Alan.
Fortunately, the rushing waves deadened the Hood's reply. Suddenly a large wave hit the side of the boat. It somersaulted into the air, catapulting its occupants into the water. The boat miraculously landed back on its hull, and sped off leaving the two men stranded in the water. The stupid boy was going to die for this! The Hood stuck out towards Alan, who was treading water around some sixty feet ahead of him. He just was looking forward to slowly drowning Alan, when something made him stop. Alan suddenly gave a cry and vanished, as if he had been pulled violently underwater. It all went strangely quiet and then Alan reappeared on the surface, screaming and thrashing. The Hood caught sight of a fin, and then Alan vanished again leaving a patch of sticky red liquid floating on the water. The Hood wasted no time. The stupid boy had got his just desserts! Although the Hood's hypnotic powers had been known to work on humans, and the occasional guard dog, he had yet to test his powers on a great white shark! And now was not the best of times to go head to head with one. The water dislodged his coarse brown wig as he swam for his life.
"Wow! Look at him go!" called Gordon, as he retrieved the wig, and attempted to attach it to the 'shark's' Polythene head. "I wouldn't have stood a chance in the Olympics if I had been up against him!"
"Careful. Get down in case he sees you," hissed Alan.
"He won't look round," assured Gordon. "He's too busy swimming."
"Gee, I feel bad about leaving him to drown, even if he is an evil guy."
"There's an island about a mile ahead. He'll reach that pretty soon. It's uninhabited apart from the rats and snakes. He should feel right at home!" Gordon looked at Alan, gave an amused grin and then asked, “What did you put in that capsule?"
"Well, obviously I didn't use real blood," replied Alan. "I didn't want to attract his real live friends, so I used food colouring, mixed with a tube of Virgil's red oil paint."
Gordon grinned again and disappeared under the sea. Alan took a deep breath and followed him down to the ocean bed where Thunderbird Four had been secretly tracking him. Safely inside the vessel Gordon let the air out of the inflatable shark and switched on the radar to track the speedboat. It was well on course and would be back to Tracy Island before they were.
"Alan, can you radio Dad and tell him that everything worked well?" asked Gordon.
Jeff gave a hearty chuckle when Alan's face appeared on the screen.
"What's so funny?" snapped Alan. "I just don't get it!"
Penelope had now joined Jeff, and Scott was peering over his shoulder.
"What did you put in that capsule?" laughed Scott.
"Gordon asked me that, just food colouring and some paint."
"And don't tell me, you hid it under your hat."
"Yes," replied Alan getting more and more irritated.
"Oh dear," laughed Penelope. "It's just not your colour!"
Gordon decided to put Alan out of his misery and handed him a mirror. He regarded his reflection. Tinged with a delicate shade of pink, his wavy blond hair now resembled candy floss.
It was Lady Penelope's last night on Tracy Island, before her visit to the underwater Hotel Nautilus. The family were holding a grand farewell dinner.
"I hope we have seen the last of our unwanted guest," remarked Penelope as she sipped a glass of wine.
"Oh I don't think he will give us any more trouble," voiced Jeff.
Scott wasn't so sure. "I still think we should maintain a red alert. Something must have aroused his suspicions."
"I hope that it wasn't me," said Tin Tin. "Penelope thinks he is The Hood, the same man who tried to sabotage the Fireflash. This man wants to harm my father for some reason. If only my father could remember his past. I'm sure these attacks he has are somehow connected with this man."
"I will return the plane tomorrow and alert the authorities,” assured Jeff.
"What can they arrest him for Father?" asked Virgil.
"He's a suspected terrorist and he was impersonating a Government Officer," replied Scott.
"I shall inform the authorities of his connections. I will tell them that there was a boating accident and he is missing. They will mount a search. If he managed to reach that deserted island he won't be able to get off it in a hurry," replied Jeff.
Kyrano and Parker walked into the dining room, set down large platters of food and then took their places at the table. Grandma Tracy had insisted on doing the cooking and had prepared a buffet style meal. The table was overflowing with enough food to feed an army.
"Hi Parker," called Gordon from the other side of the table. "It was a pity I didn't get the chance to take you down to see the Water Mambas. You could have had your first real dive."
"Yes, Parker, do tell me how you have been progressing," said Penelope.
Parker mumbled, "Er well... I-I'm not sure..."
"Nonsense," said Gordon. “You were doing very well in the pool. All you need is a real dive to boost your confidence."
"Er, h'excuse my h'ignorance," said Parker, "but what the 'eck are Water Mambas?"
"Snakes," replied Gordon. “Water snakes. We have a whole family of them down in the caves."
"S-s-snakes!" cried Parker in alarm. "I didn't know there were snakes in the sea."
"Oh, it's not the snakes you have to worry about Parker,” assured Alan. "It's the sharks!"
Everyone laughed except Parker who gulped and turned pale. "I 'ope you'll excuse me, but I seem to have lost my h'appetite." He left the table and walked out of the room. Lady Penelope followed him voicing her concern.
"What's wrong, Parker? I hope you're not ill."
"No it's not that, Mi'lady," he replied sadly.
"Well. What is it?"
"I... I'm afraid that I'm going to 'ave to resign from my post, Mi'lady."
"Parker!" cried Lady Penelope in alarm. "Whatever for?"
"I can no longer perform my duties to your satisfaction."
"That's utter nonsense Parker. I will never find anyone as loyal as you. What has suddenly brought this on? This has got something to do with the diving trip hasn't it?"
“Yes, Mi'lady," replied Parker dejectedly.
"You don't want to come with me do you?"
Parker shook his head.
"Are you afraid of being under the water?"
"It's not being under the water that worries me. It's being in the water. With them 'orrible slimy things wot swim about in it."
"But the Water Mambas are completely harmless."
Parker squirmed. “I was referring to them things wot 'ave all the teeth." He could hardly bear to say the word 'shark'
"Oh I see," said Penelope. "My dear Parker I have no intention of forcing you to partake in anything you have an aversion to. I cannot abide mice. It makes me shiver just to think about them. So I know how you must be feeling."
Parker and Lady Penelope returned to the dining table, where Penelope announced, that she would be taking the holiday alone, unless she could find another companion. At once, she had offers from all four of the Tracy Brothers. She thanked them, but politely turned them down, as she didn't want to show favouritism. Penelope looked pleadingly at Jeff. "I have a little favour to ask."
"What's that Penny?" replied Jeff,
"As I said, I am in need of a companion, and I would like to ask Tin Tin to join me."
"Oh, Penelope," enthused Tin Tin, "That would be wonderful !"
"Could you possibly spare her for a few days?" again Penelope turned her big blue eyes on to Jeff. He could refuse her nothing.
"I'm sure she deserves a holiday," he smiled.
"Oh thank you Mr. Tracy," replied Tin Tin.
The next morning, Parker loaded Tin Tin's and Penelope's luggage into Jeff's private plane. He whistled as he completed his task and then walked jauntily back to the house to enjoy his week off duty.
Gordon looked envious. "Sure wish I was going with you," he said.
Kyrano looked nervous as he embraced his daughter. But he was determined not to spoil her enthusiasm for her trip, by relaying his own anxieties. He wanted her to enjoy her life without having to look over her shoulder waiting for the next attack from the Hood.
As Penelope walked on to the runway with Jeff, he slipped a small container into her hand. "Edible transmitters," he whispered. "You never know when you might need them."
"You must have been the best boy scout in your troop," replied Penelope. "You are always prepared!"
Scott took his seat at the controls and Penelope sat next to him. Tin Tin kissed Alan on the cheek, and climbed into the seat behind her. Waving cheerful goodbyes, they watched until the island became a small green dot, in a shimmering blue ocean, as the plane climbed high into the sky.
The island of Rutura was the stop off point for visitors to the Nautilus hotel. It was a relatively short hop from Tracy Island. On their arrival the two women were met by Luke Hamilton the hotel's owner. He was sitting by a jetty, wearing a black and yellow wetsuit. He was tanned and handsome and rather like Scott in appearance with the same wavy, dark hair and cleft chin. He welcomed Penelope warmly and then introduced himself to Tin Tin. After transferring their luggage to a small submersible he announced,
"Ladies, would you prefer to dive down to the Nautilus with me, or keep your hair dry and travel in the submersible?"
Tin Tin had made her mind up straightaway. "The water looks beautiful. I can't wait to dive!"
"Me too," added Penelope. Although she sounded a little more hesitant.
Luke pointed to his diving school supply shop near the water's edge. It sold all the equipment a diver would need. Soon the girls were kitted out with wet suits air tanks and face masks. When they were ready, they followed Luke into the crystal clear water.
About fifteen feet below the surface, he pointed to a structure which resembled a futuristic space craft. Its centrepiece was a huge acrylic domed window. It was cylindrical in shape, and had rows of large porthole windows but no obvious door. A 'garden' consisted of a living coral reef swaying gently like flowers in a summer's breeze. Colourful, fat sea slugs glided silently with billowing skirts. The tubeworms waved their ferny tendrils too and fro like feather dusters. Darting in and out amongst the reef, were shoals of bright, blue and yellow fish. The sheer beauty of it all was intoxicating. Penelope jumped as she came face to face with a large parrotfish, its lips were puckered as if it was expecting a kiss.
Luke directed them to dive underneath the structure. As they followed him they saw a star shaped opening. Luke motioned them to swim inside. Suddenly they found themselves in a small enclosed Moon pool. The inverted points of the star shaped hatch formed an air tight seal behind them. A member of staff helped them out of the pool and handed them white, fluffy towelling wraps. She then escorted them to private cubicles, where they were able to change out of their wetsuits and enjoy a warm shower. To Penelope's delight, they were then taken to a beauty parlour, where they were massaged and pampered. Their wet hair was then expertly styled. Their luggage had been unpacked for them, and there were complimentary flowers and champagne waiting in their rooms. Although small, the rooms were luxurious, with private facilities, TV, video and a cocktail cabinet. There was even a telephone connected to the island by underwater cables. Penelope remarked to Tin Tin that the TV and video were unnecessary. A huge, porthole window offered a living, changing spectacle that no nature programme could possibly compete with.
When the two women had settled into their new accommodations and changed into comfortable clothing, they set out to explore their surroundings. Although described as a 'Hotel' it was more like a small scale, luxury cruise ship. Penelope and Tin Tin marvelled as they gazed up at the spiral staircase designed to resemble the chambers of a nautilus shell. This staircase brought them up into the dining area beneath a huge dome. Above them swum brightly coloured, reef fish and graceful rays performing their own underwater ballet. Luke greeted the women and invited them to the cocktail bar.
"Well what do you think of the place?" he asked.
"Breathtaking!" exclaimed Tin Tin.
"It's quite the most fascinating place I have ever seen!" enthused Penelope,
"Do you have many visitors Mr Hamilton?" Tin Tin wondered.
"Please call me Luke. We usually take a maximum of six guests at a time. I have another guest and you will be able to meet him later. He is here studying marine animals, and I believe he has some entertainment lined up for you."
"I am intrigued," remarked Penelope.
"Well I will let him tell you all about it. I don't want to spoil the surprise," said Luke furtively.
While Tin Tin and Penelope were sipping their cocktails the Chef came to inquire as to what they would like to eat for dinner.
"Well it has got to be seafood," decided Penelope. "One is spoilt for choice down here."
"And it's is guaranteed to be fresh," announced the Chef proudly. “We have oysters, lobster..." He waved his arm towards the domed window. "Look at that beautiful swordfish, and that succulent red snapper, just imagine that with a little garlic and pepper and fennel."
The red snapper, as if reading his thoughts, fixed the Chef with a baleful stare. For a moment it reminded Penelope of Parker. Tin Tin shuddered. She was a vegetarian.
"I don't really like the thought of eating something that I have watched swimming around. Poor thing, I would feel so very guilty. Supposing some of its relatives were up there watching me eat it."
Luke laughed at her, and the chef began to brag about his vegetable dishes. It was difficult to make a choice, but Tin Tin settled for a crispy seaweed based dish, and Penelope picked lobster thermadour. Luke recommended a good wine to accompany their meals. He waved to a tall, ruggedly handsome man who had just reached the top of the spiral staircase. The tanned Australian beamed a dazzling smile, strode over and introduced himself as Joe Austen.
"You must be the Marine Biologist," said Lady Penelope formally shaking his hand, after Luke had introduced her. When Tin Tin was introduced, Joe squeezed her hand a little, and held on to it for a few moments after they had finished their handshake. Tin Tin demurely lowered her eyes and slowly withdrew her hand. With his piercing aquamarine eyes and sun bleached blond hair, she had to admit that he was a very attractive man.
"Pleased to meet you Mr. Austen," she said shyly.
"The pleasure is all mine," he replied. "Please call me Joe, and may I call you Tin Tin?"
She blushed and then nodded.
"Joe is a regular visitor here," explained Luke.
"You could say that I sing for my supper," joked Joe. "I pop in from time to time, and give Luke's guests talks about the marine life they may come into contact with down here. Luke is an assistant on a pet project of mine, which you will find out about later. I have a little show lined up for you. It never fails to impress."
The waiter sidled up and gave a discreet cough. "Your table is now ready," he informed them.
They took their seats in front of a huge porthole window, and watched the marine life glide silently past. There was something surreal about dining fifty feet below the ocean. The cuisine was faultless. Tin Tin agreed it was every bit as delicious as her father’s cooking. The girls were too full to manage a pudding. After coffee had been served, Joe excused himself from the table. The three remaining diners made small talk, until Tin Tin noticed a man, in a diving suit, weaving fluidly in and out of the darting shoals of fish. He swam up to the window and waved.
"It's Joe! He's outside," said Tin Tin.
Luke turned on the speakers set into the window ledge and they heard Joe's voice relayed by the special microphone he was wearing.
"I would like to begin my talk by telling you a bit about this coral reef. As you know this reef is a living breathing organism. It has taken thousands of years to form, and sadly it could all be destroyed within about fifty. This reef is in a protected area. This 'Hotel' as Luke prefers to call it, although to me it is more like a luxury submarine, has been granted permission to moor here because it does it's bit by oxygenating the water. When there are no visitors it is used as a base to study marine life. Which is where I come in, I am a native of Sydney Australia, and I have spent many years studying the Great Barrier Reef. I also study the flora and fauna of the more remote Pacific islands"
Joe talked at great length about the many different types of corals and the creatures that live amongst them. He was obviously very passionate about his subject. Even more so when he got on to the subject of reef sharks. When he eventually he had to pause for breath, he held out a microphone that emitted a series of clicking noises.
"What is he doing now?" asked Penelope.
"Wait and see," replied Luke.
Joe turned towards the porthole window to talk to his audience again. It was then that Tin Tin noticed a huge, silver streak circling above him. She waved her arms at him. Joe carried on talking. The silver streak circled again, and then dived purposefully. Tin Tin gave a gasp of horror. Penelope stiffened and grabbed Luke's hand in fright.
"It's a shark!" they both screamed.
Joe, ignoring the look of horror on their faces still continued to talk as if there was nothing wrong. Tin Tin banged on the window.
"Can't you see it's behind you!?" she shouted as if she were part of some horrific pantomime.
Penelope stood up gesticulating wildly. "A shark is behind you!" she screamed.
Luke sat immobile, with a sly grin on his face. The shark was about fifteen feet long. It's head was now so close to Joe, that it looked as if it could open its mouth and swallow him whole.
"I can't look!" cried Tin Tin burying her head in her hands.
The shark gave Joe a playful nudge in the small of his back. He turned round and chased after it. It darted around him for a few seconds and then rolled over. Tin Tin heard Luke laugh and peered through her fingers. Joe was rubbing the shark's massive underbelly. He then grabbed it's fin and 'rode' it through the water. Penelope's jaw dropped.
"Let me introduce 'Cuddles', " announced Joe
"That was a rotten trick!" said Tin Tin crossly.
"I thought it was a very good trick," chuckled Luke. Tin Tin was not sure whether she liked Luke. Her heart was still pounding. Joe was tickling Cuddles under her chin and was rewarded with a 'smile' which showed pearly, rows of jagged teeth. Penelope was glad that Parker was not with her. He would surely have had a heart attack by now!
"But how do you get a man eating shark behaving as if it were a dolphin?" she cried in disbelief.
"Cuddles is part of an Environmental Programme," explained Joe. " I hope you will forgive my little circus performance. I could see the horror on your faces and I am touched by your concern. Your reaction was typical of people who do not understand these magnificent creatures. Their numbers have declined steeply since the beginning of the twenty first century. Where I come from in Sydney, some have been hunted down, but the majority have been killed in the shark nets, that surround our shoreline to protect surfers and bathers. There are now fewer than forty Great White and twenty-five Hammerhead left in the Pacific; even the smaller harmless reef sharks have succumbed.
There are many who have a pathological fear of these creatures, and would not care if they disappeared altogether. I am hoping to change that. Cuddles was created in a laboratory. She was genetically engineered using DNA from a dolphin. We have successfully bred ten of these hybrids, fitted them with red transmitter tags and released them into the wild. Although they retain their shark-like appearance, they have the nature of a dolphin. Their behaviour patterns have been altered. They will no longer pose a threat to humans."
"But will people be prepared to trust them?" asked Penelope.
"The answer there is probably no," he replied. "Your reactions proved that. You were scared when she appeared behind me. If you had been in the water with a harpoon you would have probably tried to kill her. I hope to be able to rear more of her kind, and re-introduce them into our waters. When the authorities see that the sharks have no interest in human flesh, I am hoping to persuade them to abandon the shark nets. They kill not only sharks, but many dolphins, rays and turtles too. As you can see Cuddles is as playful as a puppy. I have been able to train her to perform like a dolphin. Look, she even comes when I call."
Cuddles swam towards Joe and rolled over and over. Joe rewarded her with a titbit and then she swam off.
"What does she eat ?" asked Tin Tin.
"She still eats flesh but the flesh of other fish and smaller sharks. She still has her natural hunting instincts. We couldn't tamper with nature to that extent," explained Joe. "You can swim with her tomorrow. That's if you're brave enough!"
Penelope looked uncertain, but Tin Tin volunteered, “Yes I will swim with her."
Joe's admiration for her grew even more.
Alan was feeling restless, and late that evening he put a call through to the Hotel Nautilus hoping to speak to Tin Tin. When the phone rang she had been lying on her bed watching the fish. Although she was tired she couldn't take her eyes off the spectacle outside her window. It was dark now and she could see the Moonbeams rippling in the water. The fish took on a kind of iridescence, glittering like fairy lights.
"Oh, Alan, it's truly beautiful," she said when she heard his voice.
"I wish I was with you."
"It's the perfect spot for a romantic hideaway, and tomorrow I am going to swim with a shark!"
Some four miles to the west of Tracy Island, The Hood gazed out to sea under the same bright Moon that filtered down to the depths of the Nautilus. He was going out to set his traps. He had always lived on his own, and was an expert tracker, but the raw food supply on this four by two mile island was somewhat limited. So far, all he had been able to catch were the plentiful rats. He had eaten barbequed rat, roast rat and casseroled rat. Tonight he was hoping for a succulent wild boar or even a fat snake! He cursed as he cut a path through the tangled undergrowth. He cursed Mr Jefferson and his brash show-off of a son. He cursed Kyrano for mentally resisting him. Was there no way to get off this wretched Island? He assumed his transmitter had been lost in the water, along with his other documents. He couldn't even call one of his accomplices to come and pick him up. His clothes were filthy and he was now sporting a dark stubbly black beard. The hot sun had blistered his bald head, but his eyes still blazed with anger.
He had not been able to get on with his mission to seek out the headquarters of International Rescue. He had visited about twenty islands, but none had revealed the secrets he desired. It could take the rest of his life to check out every island in the Pacific.
He was curious about the girl who worked for Mr. Jefferson, he was sure that she was Malaysian, and he was keen to know what her name was. It was a long shot, because many wealthy households had Oriental staff. If by chance, she was Kyrano's daughter, then she would know the whereabouts of her father. The Hood now had plenty of time to ponder on the possible locations of International Rescue. Maybe they didn't operate from an island after all. A base hidden underneath the sea would be more secure, and almost impossible to find.. His eyes scanned the air and sea constantly for any signs of activity. He also hoped that he might eventually be rescued!
Kyrano had made up his mind to ask Mr Tracy if he could take a few weeks off.
"Are you still feeling threatened?" asked Jeff.
"I am feeling uneasy,” replied Kyrano.
"This man they call the Hood. Do you know him?" asked Jeff.
Kyrano paused. "I don't know him and yet I do know him. I feel his evil presence."
"Do you know why he wishes to harm you or Tin Tin."
"I think he wishes to harm all of us. But me most of all."
"But why Kyrano?" Jeff was puzzled. So was Kyrano, he really did not know the answer himself. He had fragmented images in his brain. Things were slowly coming back to him, but they were things that he really wanted to forget.
"To answer your question, I need to return to my homeland. I need to visit my parent's home, and try to find out what happened to them. I cannot even remember their faces,” added Kyrano sadly. "But I need to do this for Tin Tin's sake, as well as my own."
"I understand Kyrano," said Jeff, placing his arm on the old man's shoulder. "Do you wish to go alone or will you take Tin Tin with you."
"I will go alone,” stated Kyrano.
"Are you absolutely sure,” asked Jeff. "You haven't been in the best of health recently."
"I need to do this on my own. I hope it will not inconvenience you."
"Of course not. But I hope you will take care of yourself and stay in contact. If you get any trouble call immediately and we will be there."
"Thank you Mr. Tracy,” with that Kyrano left to pack his bags.
Jeff announced Kyrano's impending departure to his sons later that afternoon.
"Should we call Tin Tin and let her know?" asked Alan.
"I'm not sure, son,” replied Jeff. "I have a feeling that he may be about to put himself into danger, and there's not a thing that I can do to stop him."
"One of us could go with him,” suggested Virgil.
"He wants to be by himself. I think he feels in some way responsible for the Hood gaining access to the Island."
"But that's ridiculous!" said Virgil.
"You know he turned me down when I first asked him to come and work for me? He said that he would be a liability. He knew that this man would eventually come looking for him."
"Is he involved in some sort of vendetta?" asked Gordon.
"I have known Kyrano for many years. He is one of my oldest friends, and yet I know so little about him."
"Do you think he would ever betray us?" asked Scott
"No,” replied Jeff firmly and then hesitated and added. "Well... not knowingly."
"We can't really be sure can we?" said Scott.
Jeff had to admit that he was right. When Kyrano was in the throes of one of his attacks, he could say anything. Jeff knew that Kyrano would die rather than knowingly betray his organisation, but he didn't know how much of a hold this evil entity had over him. He was unhappy about Kyrano going into this alone. He felt guilty about mistrusting his friend, but he also knew that Kyrano was free to make his own decisions, whether he liked them or not.
"Father have the authorities picked this 'Hood' guy up yet?" chimed in Gordon.
"I'm afraid not,” replied Jeff
"Well, why ever not?" demanded Gordon. "He can't have got off that island - it's miles from anywhere. Why don't they just go in and pick him up?"
"Bureaucracy, Gordon! The thing that stops anyone from doing anything, and one of the reasons that we operate on our own. The authorities are still arguing over who has jurisdiction over the island, who is going to cover the cost of sending a boat to pick him up, and who has to complete all the paperwork. While they argue about petty things, I have asked for investigators from the Federal Agents Bureau to step in, they want to question this man about the Fireflash sabotage. They will be arriving on the island tomorrow.
"If they arrest him then surely Kyrano will be safe,” assumed Alan
"No-one can be safe from this man Alan,” replied Jeff tersely.
Jeff insisted upon flying Kyrano to Malaysia. There he left Kyrano to make his own way to the arrivals terminal at the main airport.
"Do you want me to tell Tin Tin where you are?" asked Jeff.
Kyrano shook his head. "She will worry about me. Tell her I have gone to the jungle to hunt for a rare orchid for my collection."
"Well Kyrano," replied Jeff, "I'll make a deal with you.” Kyrano looked surprised. "I will lie to Tin Tin for you, if you will do something for me."
"I am sorry to ask you to lie to my daughter, Jeff, but it is for her own good. What do you wish me to do?"
"Wear this." Jeff handed Kyrano a medallion. "It's a powerful transmitter. John can pinpoint you anywhere in the world, and as an extra precaution take these. They are edible transmitters, disguised as pills."
"And Kyrano..." called Jeff as he watched his friend walk away . “Take care. Keep in touch."
Kyrano smiled and waved, and Jeff was suddenly aware of how frail and vulnerable he looked.
Alan called Tin Tin again that evening to find out if she had survived her swim with a shark. Tin Tin was full of excitement and relayed the day's events enthusiastically.
"Joe is marvellous with animals... Joe let me tickle Cuddles under the chin....Joe did this, Joe did that! Alan began to feel pangs of jealousy gnawing away inside him, as Joe Austin's name cropped up frequently during Tin Tin's conversation.
“Great,” he replied with a slight edge to his voice. "Sound's like you're having fun."
"Oh, yes,” she gushed, and then added, "How is my father? Can I speak to him?"
This threw Alan. "Er, well he's not here at the moment."
"I'll call him at the apartment later,” she replied.
"He won't be there either,” said Alan.
"He's not ill again is he?" asked Tin Tin urgently.
"No. No, nothing like that,” assured Alan, "He's just taken himself on a little trip of his own."
"That's odd. He never goes anywhere. Where did he go?"
"Back home?" queried Tin Tin, "But he has always told me there was danger there. I don't understand why he should want to go back now. Or why would he go without telling me?" She was worried. Alan could tell from her voice, and he felt a bit of a heel for ruining her holiday. "I will come straight back,” she decided.
"No. No, Tin Tin, I'm sorry. I'm sure he will be fine. Don't worry. He told Dad that he wanted to find a rare orchid for his collection."
"I just worry about him, Alan. He's all the family I have."
"You have all of us Tin Tin,” replied Alan. "You and your father have always been regarded as part of our family."
"Yes. I know, Alan. I'll try not to fret over him."
"Yeah. He's probably tougher than he looks."
The next day, after breakfast, Joe Austen bade fond farewells to Penelope and Tin Tin. His work was taking him away to a remote island, where he was to study rare and poisonous snakes.
"My, what an exciting life you lead,” remarked Penelope.
"Yep. Staring danger in the face is what makes me feel alive. You don't know what an exhilarating feeling that is."
"Well, I'm afraid I'll just have to take your word for it,” smiled Penelope sweetly. Tin Tin gave her a knowing look. If Joe only knew how many times Penelope had diced with danger.
"Where will you be going?" inquired Tin Tin.
"Not so very far from here. A small island in the Pacific. Rather tricky to find, and completely covered in dense vegetation. But the perfect habitat for snakes. With a plentiful supply of vermin for them to feed on, they flourish."
"Are you hoping to tame them too?" asked Penelope.
"No,” he replied. “I don't need to. They are not a threat to anyone. This island is completely uninhabited." Then taking Penelope to one side he added. “When you next see the Australian Prime Minister, I hope that you will be able to put in a good word about my work with the sharks. I have written to him many times regarding the shark nets, but I have had no reply. You are a lady of high social standing, and you carry a lot of weight."
Penelope laughed and ran her hands over her hips. "It must be Luigi's cooking."
Joe blushed at his gaffe. "I meant that in the nicest possible way."
"I will do my best,” replied Penelope.
Joe kissed both girls on the cheek. They walked with him down to the pool, where a small submarine was waiting for him. He stepped inside, sealed the hatch, and when the airlock at the bottom of the pool opened, the submarine dived downwards, and Joe waved goodbye.
"I shall miss him,” said Tin Tin.
"Yes he's quite a showman,” agreed Penelope. "Our evenings are going to be rather quiet from now on."
Little did Penelope realise how wrong her assumption would be.
The rusting boneshaker of a bus rattled along an unmade jungle road. It lacked air conditioning and comfortable seats. The few passengers it had on board clung on to hanging straps, as they were bounced up and down on the bumpy dirt track that passed as a road. The bus stopped in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, to let a passenger disembark.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" asked the bus driver. His passenger nodded. "This is bandit country. Take care, my friend." And with that the driver noisily revved the aging engine and disappeared, leaving a cloud of dust behind him.
When the dust had settled, the frail, old man took out a handkerchief, and wiped the perspiration from his face. He sat beside the road, and took a few sips of mineral water. He had long forgotten how draining the humidity could be. He touched the small medallion he wore around his neck. As he did so a picture of a handsome, blond-haired man, in his mid-twenties appeared in its centre. He was wearing the uniform of International Rescue with a lilac sash worn over one shoulder. He was standing in front of a console holding a microphone.
"Receiving you loud and clear,” announced John Tracy from Thunderbird five. “I have your position, and I will relay this back to Dad. Take care, Kyrano. Keep this channel open at all times."
Thunderbird five orbited some two and half thousand miles above Earth, and had some of the most sophisticated tracking equipment ever designed. Its high powered telescope could pinpoint any house on any street, anywhere in the world. In the living room of Tracy Island, the eyes of John Tracy's portrait began to flash.
"Go ahead, John,” said Jeff.
"I have just received a signal from Kyrano. I will give you the map reference. It's a lonesome spot. I told him to keep the channel open."
As John relayed the coordinates, Virgil plotted Kyrano's position on the map. "Father, that's terrorist country." There was concern in his voice.
"I'm not at all happy about this," said Jeff. "Don't let him out of your sight, John."
Kyrano was not sure as to which direction he should be heading. He stood still, surveying his surroundings, trying to retrieve the jigsaw pieces from his fragmented memory. There should have been a flourishing rubber plantation here, he felt certain of it. He decided to head south. This was more by instinct than judgement. He hacked his way through the undergrowth for many miles, pausing now and again to try to get his bearings. For all he knew he could have been going round in circles. He pounded his fist to his head in frustration. He must remember something. He sat down, crossed his legs, and inhaled deeply, letting his mind go blank. His senses were alert to the animal noises around him. The chattering monkeys playing in the tree canopies above, and the shrill screeching flocks of brightly coloured birds. Somewhere near here there was a house. He knew immediately where to head, and strode with renewed vigour and purpose.
The house was visible in a small clearing, although it was in a dilapidated state, Kyrano recognised it instantly. It was the house where he had lived as a child. He walked through the unlocked door and into the empty rooms like a silent ghost. This house had once been filled with happy family memories, although Kyrano could still not recall anything. He felt disappointed. He hoped that standing here would jog his memory. He did not know what had happened to his parents but he knew that they were dead. After his ordeal at the hands of his half-brother, Kyrano had learned that his father had died of natural causes, but nothing was known about his mother's mysterious disappearance. This part of the country was now regarded as dangerous. A den of bandits, terrorists and opium growers. He walked sadly out of the house. There were still a few rubber trees left, and Kyrano sat in their welcome shade. He knew roughly in which direction the nearest village lay, and he decided to head there and seek accommodation.
He had been walking for about half an hour when he thought he heard a rustle behind him. He turned, but no-one was there. He walked again for a few more metres, then suddenly he felt something hard and metallic pressing on a spot just behind his ear.
"Keep very still my friend!" a voice ordered in his native language
Kyrano heard the click of a rifle being primed.
The Hood was beginning his fifth day as Lord of Snake Island. As usual he spent the day sitting on the beach scanning the horizon. This particular day he was intrigued by a series of bubbles coming up from under the sea. He decided that it must be a pretty big fish. He grabbed his home made spear, and was about to head down to the water's edge when he saw a periscope break the surface. Soon the whole of a small submarine was visible. The Hood crouched back behind the bushes and watched.
Three men stepped out of the submarine hatch. A blond man was relaying instructions to a couple of other men who were loading cameras, and sound recording equipment into a motorized dinghy. The Hood watched them like a cat stalking its prey. They had a lot of boxes with them. The Hood deduced that they must be a film crew making some sort of wildlife programme. He had no particular interest in them; his gaze was focussed on the sub. He saw a way to get off this wretched island, if he could only get the submarine pilot alone. As he watched, four men sped towards the shore in the small inflatable craft. They hauled it onto the beach and proceeded to unload their equipment. The blond-haired man disappeared into the undergrowth hauling some canvas tents. The dinghy was still on the beach and its three other occupants were unloading more supplies.
The Hood's eyes were still trained on that submarine. Then he noticed that two of the men were walking away from him, carrying a large heavy crate into the jungle. When they had vanished from view, he knew that he had to act fast before the submarine disappeared back beneath the sea. He broke his cover and came staggering out of the bushes. He walked unsteadily towards the remaining man, and sank to his knees on the beach.
"At last!" he gasped. "I thought I would be stranded here for ever."
"What the blazes....?" began the astonished man. “How on earth did you get here?"
"Shipwrecked,” replied the Hood weakly,” I haven't eaten for days. Please, help me."
The man took hold of the Hood’s arm. "Sure, pal."
He produced a couple of cereal bars, and some mineral water from the supply bag. "Take this; I’ll soon have you out of here. I'll radio the sub. I've just got to help those other guys unload the rest of their stuff. They are making a television documentary about snakes. They will be here for a month. Can't say that I envy them."
"Pity," thought the Hood as he stuffed the cereal bar into his mouth, but instead he said humbly, "Thank you, thank you."
As soon as the man had disappeared from view, the Hood pushed the dinghy into the sea and sped towards the waiting submarine.
The submarine pilot was absent-mindedly reading a book. He heard the sound of the dinghy's outboard motor, and opened up the hatch to receive his colleague.
"Are we ready to go now then?" he asked without even glancing over his shoulder.
"Oh more than ready,” replied an unfamiliar voice behind him.
This made the pilot turn around with a start. "Who the hell are you...?" he began, but the Hood's eyes glowed intensely, and the pilot could feel himself growing weaker. "Who the hell..?." he repeated, but his voice died away, and he was left gazing blankly into space.
The Hood quickly dispatched him into the sea, and settled down to study the control panel in front of him. This was a piece of cake. He had acquired a submarine of his own, and was familiar with the controls. All he needed now was a direction to head in. He eagerly studied the ocean map in front of him. Suddenly his attention was distracted by a flashing amber light and a bleeping signal. Someone was obviously trying to contact him. Intrigued, the Hood flicked a switch and opened a channel of communication.
"Base to Swordfish,” crackled a voice over the radio.
The Hood acknowledged, "This is Swordfish."
"If you have completed your mission, please return to base."
The Hood's eyes widened. A secret base! Underneath the sea! Now he felt that he was getting somewhere. That would be the perfect headquarters for an organization like International Rescue. Why hadn't this occurred to him before? Hastily he accessed the submarine's navigational computer. All he had to do was plot a course to 'base' and the submarine would take itself there.
Penelope smiled to herself when she heard Luke radio the submarine that had taken Joe and his film crew to Snake Island. She thought he sounded like a James Bond villain addressing his accomplice.
"And when your man has finished his er ‘mission’,” she teased, "Will he be available to take myself and Tin Tin back to the surface."
"It's a pity you have to go back so soon,” replied Luke.
"I'm rather worried about my father,” stated Tin Tin. "He has not been well recently. I don't like to be away for too long."
"I understand," said Luke. "I'm going to miss your charming company. You know you are both welcome to come and stay at any time."
"Thank you,” replied Penelope graciously.
Luke went back to the radio. "Strange,” he mused, "I seem to be getting a lot of interference. I thought Bob’s voice sounded rather distorted, but now I have lost contact with him altogether. Still at least he is on his way back."
The radar was showing a small blip some fifty kilometres away. It was getting closer by the second!
In the living room on Tracy Island Jeff saw the eyes of John's portrait flash urgently.
"Go ahead John,” he acknowledged.
John's faced appeared concerned. "I don't want to alarm anyone, but I thought I ought to let you know that Kyrano hasn't checked in yet."
"Can you still track him?"
"Yes, I'm still picking up his signal, but it hasn't moved for over an hour. He was due to check in fifteen minutes ago."
"Thank you John. There may be a simple explanation. He could be resting. Just keep tracking him, and let me know if you still haven't heard from him in an hour’s time."
Jeff sighed. He was starting to get bad feelings about Kyrano's trip, and had wished that he had not granted him permission to go. His anxiety did not go un-noticed.
"He's not in his dotage yet,” quipped his mother, as she replaced the needlepoint tapestry she was working on back into her sewing bag.
"I'm sure Kyrano knows what he is doing, and has a good reason for it. Young Alan had no right to go worrying Tin Tin like that. That boy always seems to manage to say the wrong things. Now she intends to cut short her holiday with Penelope, and wants to come back and look for him."
"Well I hope that you are right, Mother. It's just that he's in dangerous territory. He may not realise what he is getting into."
"Walk,” ordered the sweating Oriental man as he jabbed a rifle butt into Kyrano's back. Kyrano was growing tired and had faltered. The man jabbed him with the rifle again. "And don't try to turn round,” he growled.
"Where are you taking me? " asked Kyrano.
"No questions,” came the curt reply.
Kyrano stumbled on through the fields of ripe opium pods. He had been walking for over two hours in blistering heat. His throat was dry and sore. Some five miles back in the jungle lay his medallion communicator, which had been discarded by his captor, when he realised that it was not worth stealing, as it contained no precious metals. Kyrano leaned against a tree panting for breath.
"Please, I am not as young as you are,” he gasped. "Please let me rest. My heart is pounding and I cannot get my breath."
"Five minutes, old man,” growled his captor.
"Please, I need some water to take my pills. I have a weak heart,” pleaded Kyrano.
The man shrugged, and handed Kyrano a filthy bottle. Kyrano unscrewed the cap from his bottle of 'pills' and swallowed an edible communicator. This was another stroke of genius from Brains, and they were surprisingly palatable. This one was strawberry flavoured. Kyrano took a gulp of water and then handed the bottle back with thanks. He knew that the communicator would be active for about twenty four hours. Now it was up to John, and the technology on board Thunderbird Five.
His captor roughly grabbed Kyrano's shoulder, and pushed him. "Walk,” he ordered once again.
John’s eyes were flashing again.
"There you are,” said Jeff's mother. "That will be John with a message from Kyrano. He has probably found himself somewhere to stay for the night."
Jeff flipped over the glass ashtray on his desk to reveal a microphone. "Yes, John?"
Now John looked really worried. "Father something is definitely wrong! I'm picking up an emergency signal from one of the edible communicators. It's very faint and it's taking all the power I can muster to keep track of it."
"Where is he? Can you get a fix on him?"
"It's going to be difficult . The signal is so weak. "
"Well do your best. I'll get Scott down here right away."
"Oh dear!" worried Grandma twisting the handles of her sewing bag together.
Scott was in the recreation room playing pool with Alan, when he was summoned by the emergency alarm.
"You'll have to concede defeat,” said Scott laying down his cue.
"What do you mean I'll have to concede defeat,” argued Alan preparing to pot a green ball. Scott snatched the cue from his hands and flung it down.
"We haven't time! Let’s move!"
Alan smiled to himself. Scott was competitive in everything he did and he hated to loose. Together they raced to the lift that would take them directly to the lounge to await their father's instructions.
Jeff was studying a map in front of him, and had marked out an area in red. He looked up as soon as Scott and Alan entered the room.
"It's Kyrano; he's in some kind of trouble. John has tried to get a better fix on his position but this is the best he can do. Kyrano is somewhere in this area. I want you to fly out and see if you can find him. Take Alan with you in case you meet with any trouble."
"F.A.B.," they both answered together.
Alan headed back to the lift, while Scott grasped the two lamp brackets fixed to a revolving section of the living room wall. It swivelled around and deposited him onto a gantry high above a vast rocket silo hidden underneath the family swimming pool. Scott balanced perfectly still as the gantry reached out to the nose cone of Thunderbird One. As he was changing in to his uniform, Alan arrived via the passenger lift. The rocket was then motioned into its launching position, as the pool slid aside. With a thunderous roar, the powerful blue and silver machine streaked into the air, and had all but disappeared from view in a matter of seconds.
Jeff and his mother watched from the balcony. "Oh dear! It seems I was wrong,” she said. "I just hope that Scott can find Kyrano before Tin Tin gets back."
Kyrano had now been walking for three hours. His legs felt like lead. Perspiration ran in rivers down his face, and puddled in the folds of his neck. The jungle humidity was stifling, and what little air he had around him reeked of his captor's malodorous body. Stopping briefly at a jungle clearing, his captor paused to strike a match on a nearby tree, and light another cigarette.
"This is where I have been instructed to bring you."
By way of indication, he waved his gun in the direction of an old ruined temple. Kyrano gave a gasp, but this time out of shock rather than the heat. He realised that he had seen this place before.
"Why do you bring me here? I mean no harm,” he asked
"You are a trespasser. You are on private property,” came the harsh reply.
"But I mean you no harm,” repeated Kyrano. "I am an old man. I am unarmed why do you consider me a threat?"
"You have already seen things that you should not have."
"But...." Kyrano was about to protest again, and was silenced by a rough hand hauling him back to his feet.
"Enough you will tell your story to my boss. He will decide your fate."
Kyrano was marched at gunpoint towards the temple. A family of monkeys fled chattering upon their arrival. Kyrano noticed a lever on one of the stone slabs in the wall of the temple. His captor pulled it and the stone slab rolled back to reveal a steel door with a sophisticated looking lock. His captor tapped out a code and the door opened onto a steep dingy staircase lit by candles fixed on wall sconces.
As Kyrano descended the staircase, he became aware of a waft of heady incense. He paused near the entrance to a vast room, decorated with gold statues and various jewel encrusted treasures. Flames cast ghostly dancing images around the room. Kyrano found himself drawn to enter. He stopped in front of a statue that stood on a plinth beneath a gold leafed tiered roof, supported by four sturdy pillars. The statue was hidden by a heavily beaded curtain. Kyrano was compelled to pull the curtain aside to take a peek. He gasped, as he recognised his own face and body, immortalised in bronze, but looking some twenty years younger.
"I do not understand..." he began.
His captor had seen him enter the room, and roughly dragged him away cursing loudly. Kyrano was unceremoniously flung in to an adjoining room. He cowered, fearing that he would be attacked. He threw himself onto the floor, and curled up into a ball. He closed his eyes, waiting for the first blow, but opened them again when he heard another voice ordering his captor to leave him alone.
A man, with a tattoo of a tiger on his forearm, was standing over him with a smile on his face. He helped Kyrano to his feet, and sat him down in a chair.
"Who are you?" asked Kyrano.
"I know it is an old cliché, but I am the one who asks the questions,” laughed the tattooed man, "And I will start by asking you what business you have here?"
"I come only to find out what happened to my parents."
"Did someone send you here?"
"No. It was my own decision."
"Did anyone else come with you?"
“No. I am alone."
"Well you are either a very brave or very foolish man to venture in to these parts alone." This man's tone was kinder than that of his captor, but somehow Kyrano felt this was more menacing. "I will ask again, who sent you?"
"N-no-one,” stammered Kyrano.
"We have to be very careful. We are farmers, and our crop is very precious. It is our livelihood. But there are people who want to destroy it. Did the Government or the police send you? Perhaps they think that we will be fooled by a frail old man."
"I came alone,” insisted Kyrano.
"No-one in their right mind comes here alone!" retorted his interrogator. "Even the police come in groups."
"They make very good fertiliser for our fields!" laughed Kyrano's captor who was watching from the doorway. The man with the tattoo heard the remark, and smiled.
"Look, I carry no guns no weapons,” Kyrano held his arms in the air. " I tell you, I wish only to find my parents graves. They lived here many years ago. My father had a rubber plantation here."
"Is that so?"
The tattooed man shot a knowing glance at his accomplice, who moved from the doorway, and walked back towards the room with the statue. He parted the beaded curtain, and stared long and hard at the bronze figure.
"Tiger," he called. He was smiling broadly revealing yellow rotting teeth. “I think we have a very important visitor here. When the Master returns, I will be rewarded well."
"If he returns,” corrected Tiger. “We have had no word for five days."
"He will be back."
"We shall see,” replied Tiger. "In the meantime, I will make the necessary decisions."
"What is you name old man?" asked Kyrano's captor.
"I do not remember my full name. I answer to only one name - Kyrano."
"See! See!" cried the Captor almost dancing with glee. "I will be rewarded for this."
"So,” smiled Tiger, "you have come to seek your family."
"Yes,” answered Kyrano meekly.
"Then you must stay as our guest. I'm sure you will have your family reunion quite soon, my friend." He emitted a strange and evil laugh as if recalling a private joke.
While Penelope and Tin Tin were packing their cases, Luke was preparing to receive his next guests. He could only accommodate a maximum of six guests at any one time. He had received a request from a well known pop star, who wanted his wedding to be conducted underwater, and his honeymoon spent on the Nautilus. He was so busy pouring over his paperwork, that he did not even look up as he heard the approach of the small submarine that ferried his guests too and fro. He languidly flipped a switch which opened the outer airlock. The submarine glided effortlessly inside.
"Excellent,” murmured the Hood as the outer airlock closed behind him. The submarine rose to the surface to a special docking bay. The Hood stepped out, and looked around him. He examined the rooms full of equipment. The base was smaller than he had expected. He knew that International Rescue had an advanced aquatic rescue vehicle, and he assumed that this base was where it was stationed. The larger craft were of more interest to him. Especially Thunderbird One - the fastest rocket ship in the world. With this craft in his possession, the Hood felt he would be invincible.
Luke did not see the need for a security system, after all many of his guests were friends, scientists or media people. At eighty feet beneath the sea, he was hardly going to be a victim of many crimes. The Hood was amazed to find that he could get right into the very room which housed the control systems. He activated the radio and called softly, “Hood calling Tiger are you receiving me?"
"At last,” answered Tiger. "I was beginning to fear that you were lost." This was not strictly true on Tigers part, for he had secretly hoped that the Hood would not return. As next in command Tiger stood to take over the lucrative opium trade, and a bigger share of its profits.
"We have a visitor, master, a man who calls himself Kyrano."
"Kyrano? You have Kyrano with you?" The Hood could hardly believe his luck.
"What do you want me to do with him?" asked Tiger
"Keep him prisoner until I return. I will require a plane. I will let you know where to pick me up when I call again. But for now I have some business to attend ..."
The Hood abruptly switched off the radio, and whirled round to find Luke striding angrily towards him. "Who are you? How did you get here?" Luke demanded.
The Hood flashed his hypnotic eyes, but he didn't use his full power, he still wanted Luke operational. Someone was going to have to teach him how to manoeuvre this ship. Luke stood meekly aside, while the Hood walked out of the control room, and then he followed like a puppy walking to heel.
Penelope heard Luke's shout. She had gone below to find out when the submarine would be able to take her, and Tin Tin back to the surface. Her instincts and training as a secret agent had told her that something was wrong. She ducked out of sight, behind a filing cabinet, and watched The Hood cast his mesmerising spell over Luke. She recognised him instantly, and knew that she must warn Tin Tin. Penelope waited until Luke and the Hood had left the room. Then she watched them climb the staircase to the upper deck. When they were safely out of sight, she scuttled along the corridor to Tin Tin's cabin, and rapped on the door. Luckily Tin Tin was still packing,
"Come in,” she called breezily.
Penelope closed the door behind her. Tin Tin could tell by her expression that something was wrong. "The Hood is here,” stated Penelope.
"Here!” repeated Tin Tin. "But how did he find us? What are we to do?"
"He has hypnotised Luke. I suspect that he intends to steal the Nautilus for his own evil ends."
"But he may recognise me,” realised Tin Tin with horror. "And if he recognises me, he will realise that we have a link with Mr Tracy, and ... and... Oh, Penelope, the whole cover of International Rescue could be blown."
Penelope put her arm around her worried friend, "We will just have to try and think of something. At the moment the Hood does not realise that we are here. But I'm sure he will find us soon, and if he doesn't find us, he will probably ask Luke how many people there are aboard. He will be able to enslave the staff as easily as he did Luke."
"Should we call for help?" asked Tin Tin.
"Not just yet." Penelope handed Tin Tin a small bottle. "Jeff gave me these edible transmitters. If we are in trouble we will take one, but at the moment we do not know what this man wants. At some point we are going to encounter him. I suggest that we act like what we are - two friends on a holiday together. If he shows any signs of having recognised you, I will tell him that we were the guests of ‘Mr Jefferson' for a couple of nights before moving on to the Nautilus."
"Do you think he will believe that?"
"Probably not,” replied Penelope truthfully.
Tin Tin again looked worried, but she was thankful that her father was away from Tracy Island. She hoped that he would be safe wherever he was.
"We must get a message to Mr Tracy somehow. Should we try our communicators?"
"If anyone is in the control room there is the chance that our message could be intercepted…” Penelope broke off suddenly. "Shh, I can hear footsteps."
Tin Tin stiffened as the footsteps grew louder. They stopped outside her cabin. A sharp tap on the door made her jump.
"Penelope? Tin Tin? " The voice belonged to Luke, but the tone was strangely flat and robotic. "I would like to remind you that dinner will be served in fifteen minutes. I have a new guest ,and he is looking forward to making your acquaintance." The footsteps receded back down the corridor again.
"Well, now he knows that we are here I suppose we had better meet him."
"No. I don't want to go,” replied Tin Tin. "I'm afraid that he will try to control me, like he tries to control my father. Tell Luke that I am ill. I couldn't eat a thing anyway."
"I will see if I can bluff this out. Meanwhile don't open the door to anyone but me."
Tin Tin hugged Penelope. "Do take care. He's cunning and dangerous."
"So am I,” smiled Penelope as she closed the door.
Tin Tin sat on the bed her heart was pounding. She looked at the wristwatch on her left arm. All she had to do was voice activate her communicator, and International Rescue would be alerted. But then so would the suspicions of the Hood. He was an unpredictable man. He could kill everyone on board before Thunderbird One had even taken off. Every person on board the Nautilus was a potential hostage. She knew these situations were the type that International Rescue most feared. Tin Tin decided to trust in Penelope's judgement.
The Hood was certainly impressed by his surroundings, and for a moment put his quest to find the Headquarters of International Rescue aside. His eyes had spotted a table laden with food. A spectacular buffet fit for a king. The Hood, who had been feeding on rats and rainwater for the past five days, fell upon the table and greedily devoured a salmon mousse in one gulp. He then moved on to a plate of tiger prawns. He washed the whole lot down with a swig of champagne. It had filled a small gap, but he was still ravenous. Once more he descended on to the table of food. He picked up a lobster, and tried to wrench the shell apart to get to the succulent meat inside. By now his eyes were bulging and his mouth salivating. The lobster was a tough customer, and even in death, would not easily succumb to being eaten. The Hood slammed it down onto the table and cursed loudly.
"Please allow me to assist."
The Hood looked up with a grunt. He saw an elegant blonde woman brandishing what looked like a small pair of silver pliers.
"There is a knack to this,” explained Penelope in cut-glass tones. She proceeded to crack open the lobster's claw and handed a portion to the Hood.
"Have you tasted lobster before? It's really delicious
The Hood snatched the shell and swiftly dispatched its contents. Penelope hoped that he would not promptly spit it on to the floor. She had guessed that this man was so hungry that he would consume his food before he had taken the time to taste it. She was not sure about pairing lobster with a strawberry flavoured transmitter, but she had to seize her chance, and hope for the best. The Hood swallowed and pulled a face as he flung the offending lobster onto the floor.
"It is rather an acquired taste,” said Penelope
Luke and his staff stood together in the middle of the dining room.
"Is this everyone?" demanded the Hood, spraying particles of food as he spoke.
"No," replied Luke "Where is Tin Tin?"
"She is unwell. She sends her apologies." Penelope was aware of the Hood's penetrating eyes upon her.
"Tin Tin, an unusual name. The name means 'sweet' in my native tongue. She is not an Englishwoman,” noted the Hood.
"No, she is Malaysian. She is my assistant,” answered Penelope.
"Has Tin Tin ever worked for a man called Jefferson?" asked the Hood.
Penelope realised that the Hood must have recognised Tin Tin. “No, she has always been my assistant; however, we were the guests of a Mr Jefferson. We spent a few days on his island before coming here."
"I do hope she will be well enough to join us later. She needs to be made aware of certain changes."
"I don't quite understand Mr ... I'm afraid we haven't been introduced."
"You do not need to know who I am, Lady Penelope. All you need to know, is what I require you to do. Luke here has very kindly offered to lend me his excellent craft, and with the help of his navigator, I am going to take it on a small voyage of discovery. Meanwhile, I would like you to remain here with the rest. I want to keep you all in one place."
"Oh but I would be so fascinated to see how everything works…” began Penelope, but Luke interceded.
"You will stay."
"You make me sound as if I am your prisoner rather than your guest."
"You are,” confirmed Luke, as he pointed a handgun at her.
The Hood had the Pilot and Navigator of the Nautilus completely under his control. Whatever they were asked to do, they did without question. These were the kind of people the Hood liked to have around him - ones who would never dare to question his decisions, be they right or wrong. This was the first of the Hood's mistakes, for the Navigator had no knowledge of the structure of the Nautilus. The Hood insisted on piloting the craft after a few rudimentary demonstrations by a robotic Luke. He had a submarine of his own, and all he needed to know was how to start, stop, surface and dive. He was of course, wrong again, but no -one could tell him.
The Hood was a little alarmed to hear a loud bang, and see a shower of sparks, when he moved the Nautilus away from its moorings. He had broken the feeder cable that was connected the surface of a nearby island. This supplied the Nautilus with electricity and telecommunications. He cursed as he realised that he had blown a fuse somewhere. He tested the controls. The Nautilus still moved up and down, and started and stopped when he wanted it to, so he decided that the damage was minor and of no consequence. The emergency lighting and air supply had operated, and they would have enough air to stay submerged for two to three days. The Hood instructed the Navigator to plot a course for the South Pacific. He intended to make sweeping searches of the area in his bid to discover the base of International Rescue. As he moved further away from the shallow waters in which the Nautilus had been moored, the sea bed began to slope quite steeply. The Hood dived deeper and after an hour of travelling they were now two hundred and fifty feet below the sea, and still descending.
Penelope, Luke and his staff were still assembled in the dining area beneath the huge Perspex viewing dome. It was starting to emit strange creaking noises. Penelope was concerned. "Luke!" Luke ignored her and stared blankly ahead. "Luke, will you listen to me! How deep can this craft go without sustaining structural damage?"
Luke answered automatically, “A maximum of one hundred and fifty feet."
"But we have been diving steadily for the past hour. Look, the water above us is darker, and there are not so many fish."
Luke was not able to share her concern. Penelope wanted to shake him or slap him around the face. Anything to bring him back to his senses.
"Can any of you do something?" she implored, but they all stood like statues. She made a decision to try to tackle Luke, and disarm him. She grabbed his arm and attempted to wrest the gun from his hand. Although he was in a trance like state his reactions were still sharp. He struck Penelope with a glancing blow, which sent her sprawling across the room. She momentarily blacked out, as she hit her head on one of the tables. She came to lying face down on the floor. She didn't know how long she had been lying there, but the first thing she noticed was a chair sliding slowly past her. She sat up, and was still feeling a little dazed. As she shook her head, she heard a series of crashes as crockery started to fall off the tables. She sat bolt upright with a start,
"We're listing!" she cried. "Either there is something wrong with the stabilisers or we are taking in water." This time she saw a flicker of concern on Luke's face. Perhaps the Hoods hypnosis was wearing off. She shouted at him again. "Luke! Luke, do something! Can you hear me?"
Luke was looking bemused, like someone who had been woken up by a loud noise, in the middle of a deep sleep.
"Penelope? What are you doing on the floor?
"Luke, thank goodness you're back ... just put that gun away,” she added gingerly.
Luke looked at his hand as if it no longer belonged to him. "I don't understand ..."
"It's a long story we need to get to the control room. We are too deep, we need to surface."
Luke was still mystified. He was looking through the porthole windows at an unfamiliar part of the ocean.
"But we've moved. What happened? How did this happen?"
"We have been hijacked. You and your staff were hypnotised. A dangerous man now has control. Quickly we must stop him."
The Hood was wrestling angrily with the controls. The Nautilus felt sluggish and unresponsive. He had the feeling that it was just floundering in the ocean. He could not get it to move as fast as he wanted. It was now useless to him. After relaying a message to Tiger, he abandoned the control room, and proceeded along to the submarine docking bay.
Tin Tin was getting worried. She knew that the craft was moving, and she was concerned that Penelope had not returned. She opened the door of her cabin and took a few steps outside. She had been told to keep out of sight, but she wanted to know what was going on. It all seemed to be deserted. She could hear no voices, only sinister creaks and groans from the Nautilus, as it struggled under the weight of water above it. She suddenly became aware of a presence behind her, she turned around and stared into a pair of burning evil eyes, beneath dark bushy brows, knitted together in a evil grimace of pleasure.
"Miss Tin Tin Kyrano. We meet at last."
"What do you want?" asked Tin Tin feeling very afraid.
"I'll settle for a little family reunion. It has been so long overdue. And after that I will pay a visit to International Rescue,” he chuckled in a very self satisfied way as he ushered Tin Tin down the corridor towards the docking bay.
Luke and Penelope burst into the control room, Luke was brandishing his gun. The Hood had disappeared. The only person left was the Navigator who was beginning to come out of his trance like state. He was scratching his head in bemusement, "I don't know where we are, or how we got here."
"I've no time to explain,” snapped Luke," Just surface as soon as you can."
"He pulled a lever, and the Nautilus started to rise slowly and unsteadily.
"Something is wrong with the controls it feels as if we are drifting through jelly."
"It's because we are too deep,” explained Luke. “The Nautilus was never designed to go this far underwater. This craft was a prototype intended purely for recreational purposes. Some of our scientific craft have used the same design, but have been manufactured using stronger materials able to withstand greater water pressure."
"I have set the controls to maximum speed,” said the Navigator.
"It's still too slow; just listen to the place creaking. That dome could collapse under the pressure at any moment, and we would all be swamped."
"What happened to the man who was with you?" Penelope asked of the navigator. "Did you see where he went?"
"No,” replied the navigator.
Luke was suddenly alerted. "Look, the submarine is leaving the hatch. That must be the rat fleeing the sinking ship."
Penelope suddenly remembered Tin Tin, and sprinted down the corridor. She threw open the door of her cabin, but already knew that Tin Tin would be gone. She raised her hand and spoke into her wristwatch communicator. "Calling International Rescue..."
Jeff smiled broadly as he acknowledged Penelope, but then his face darkened as he heard her anxious tones.
"This is disastrous,” he said, as Penelope relayed her plight. "First we loose Kyrano, and now Tin Tin. Scott is on his way to try to find Kyrano. Is the Nautilus breaking up yet? I can get Virgil and Gordon to you, but it will probably take about half an hour."
"Luke is trying to get the Nautilus to the surface but the controls are unresponsive. We all have diving suits and enough air in our tanks to get us to the surface if we have to abandon ship."
"Do you want me to send Virgil and Gordon?” asked Jeff
"We are not in any immediate danger yet, but could you ask John to keep tabs on the Hood. I slipped him one of your edible transmitters. Hopefully the signal will be activated now."
"Good work. I knew they would come in useful one day."
Penelope was about to return to the control room when she heard a loud crack followed by screams. She raced up the spiral staircase, and immediately saw water pouring through a large crack in the dome. This new terror had snapped the staff out of their apathy.
"Quickly,” called Penelope. "Put on your diving gear and air tanks. We are going to have to swim for it."
As she retreated down the staircase, Penelope bumped into Luke who had already donned his diving gear, and was about to issue the same instructions to his staff.
"Did you find Tin Tin?” he asked
"No,” replied Penelope. Just then the ship gave a sudden lurch throwing Luke and Penelope to the bottom of the stairs.
"You go on to the pool with the others,” insisted Luke. "I will check again."
Luke swiftly checked the upper deck, some of the cabins had now filled with water. He called out to Tin Tin, and receiving no reply he was convinced that she was no longer on board. He headed back to the pool to take a roll call of his staff. As he called their names, he instructed them to dive into the pool, as he prepared to open the outer hatch. He pressed the button, but nothing happened. He cursed; the short circuit must have loused things up. He switched to manual and began to turn a wheel in an anti-clockwise direction. It wouldn't budge; Luke tried with all his might. The veins in his temples were raised under the strain, and a thin film of perspiration covered his forehead.
"It won't move! It's stuck fast!" he shouted, and ran over to the docking bay to try to open the submarine hatch. The submarine had been able to escape so it must still work. He was wrong. He realised that the Hood must have sabotaged their only escape routes.
"We're trapped! Everyone out of the pool. I'm going to call for help."
Penelope scrambled out of the pool and followed him to the radio room. There was water seeping in through the ceiling . "Who are you going to call,” asked Penelope
"Well I'm putting out a general mayday. Perhaps the coast guard will pick it up... damm! All I'm getting is static. I think the water has damaged the radio."
"Keep trying,” urged Penelope, and she slipped out of the room while Luke was preoccupied. Alone in the corridor she raised her right arm. "International Rescue," she whispered. "The Nautilus is breaking up, and we cannot open our escape hatches. I fear they may have been sabotaged."
Jeff's reassuring face appeared on her wristwatch, "Virgil and Gordon are on their way. Keep transmitting, and John will home in on you and give them your exact position. Brains is here with me now, he has managed to obtain construction plans for the Nautilus. He is none too impressed. They used pretty cheap materials, but at least the hatch should be easy enough for Gordon to cut through. Thunderbird Two should be overhead in about ten minutes, and it will probably take about another five for Gordon to reach you. Don't worry it will be straightforward enough. We will have you out in no time."
"I would like to be able to reassure the staff. Some of them are starting to panic. I can hear Luke shouting into the radio, but I think it has been damaged."
"Just try to keep everyone as calm as possible." replied Jeff. “I will put out a call to the nearest coastguard, as Gordon will not be able to fit you all in Thunderbird Four."
"F.A.B.," replied Penelope.
She returned to the Radio Room to find Luke punching the door in frustration. "I can't get a thing out of that radio. We will just have to pray that someone out there managed to pick us up."
Virgil hovered above the sea in Thunderbirds Two. It was early evening and the sun hung low in the sky casting an orange glow over the horizon. As he reached the coordinates given to him by John, he radioed to Gordon who was standing by in Thunderbird Four.
"Stand by to launch."
Gordon braced himself. Although Thunderbird Four was securely positioned in the pod, with clamps, and had springs to cushion the impact as it dropped into the ocean, Gordon still hated this part. He felt his stomach rise up into his mouth, and he wished that he had not had that second helping of grandma's apple pie. After the unpleasant free fall, he felt himself landing on the water. When the pod had finished bobbing around, he opened the door, and operated the remote control ramps which launched Thunderbird Four into the water. He switched on his powerful search beam, and began to dive. A few minutes later he radioed Virgil
"I can see the Nautilus now it's directly ahead. Its taking in water, the domed window has cracked under pressure. I can't see anyone on board and I can't raise them on the radio. I'm going over to take a look."
Gordon changed into his wetsuit and put on a mask and flippers. Then he strapped on his air tanks. He made his way out through the hatch of Thunderbird four and swam towards the Nautilus. He peered through the porthole windows. The cabins on the upper deck were rapidly filling with water. The Dining Room was well underwater, and now the lower decks were under threat, as it cascaded down the stairwell. He assumed that the lower cabins and control rooms would be sealed, any people on board would have probably taken refuge in one of the rooms there.
He swam to the lower deck, and tapped twice on the side of the hull. He was relieved to hear someone return his signal. He tapped again, three times to make sure. Again his signal was returned. He swam to check the outer airlock which was jammed. Then he returned to Thunderbird Four to fetch a special laser cutter. This high tech. piece of equipment soon cut through the metal hatch like a knife through sponge cake.
When Gordon came to the second airlock, he was able to partially open it and squeeze through, so as not to flood too much water inside. He found himself in a lop-sided pool. The top section of the Nautilus was already underwater, and it was beginning to list. Soon the whole structure would flip upside down. Gordon became concerned, when he heard Brains tell him that according to the plans he had in front of him, there were gas storage tanks adjacent to the room that contained the electronics generators. Brains was expressing his criticism of the materials used in the manufacture of the Nautilus. He felt that he would have been able to design and build the craft so much safer and better.
"Well that's shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted,” said Gordon. "Right now I need to locate these people and fast. When the water hits those circuits there could be a mighty big bang!"
As he spoke a wave of water swept him down one of the corridors. He could hear someone banging on the door of one of the sealed rooms. He knocked back and as the door opened a torrent of water rushed in and flooded the room. Gordon was relieved to see that Penelope, Luke and his staff were all prepared with wetsuits masks and air tanks.
"International Rescue!” gasped Luke. "but how did you find us? Our radio was damaged."
"We have our ways,” replied Gordon. "Now hurry, the outer airlock is open, as you are all experienced divers you should be able to get yourselves to the surface, where you will find a boat waiting to pick you up."
Gordon took Penelope aside. "Did you find Tin Tin? " he asked.
"Oh, Gordon, we couldn't find her anywhere!" wailed Penelope. "I'm sure The Hood has taken her with him. He seemed to think that the Nautilus was somehow connected to our organization. He must have kidnapped her."
"You go ahead, Penelope. I will take a good look around to make sure that she is not trapped anywhere."
Penelope followed Luke and his staff through the airlock. Gordon grabbed a spare mask and air tank, and prepared to search the lower deck. He then swam up the staircase to search the dining room and upper cabins. Satisfied that no-one else was on board, he was just preparing to leave, when he heard hissing and spitting noises. He realised water was dripping through and shorting the electrical circuits. He heard a series of small explosions, and smelled acrid, burning plastic. Now was the time to make himself scarce. But before Gordon could reach the airlock, the room erupted into a ball of flames scattering metal debris into the pool. He felt something impact into the back of his thigh. The pain was sharp, but not unbearable. He swiftly squeezed through the airlock. He knew it was only a matter of moments before the gas tanks would explode.
In seconds he was clear. He exhaled a sigh of relief. But as he inhaled again, he felt his nose and mouth filling with water. Gordon gasped and spluttered. Immediately, he realised that his air tanks had been damaged. He could see precious silver bubbles of oxygen escaping and rising to the surface. He held his breath and struck out towards Thunderbird Four. He was seriously worried that he might not be able make it. Fate then dealt him another blow, as the gas tanks exploded, sending a tidal wave that swept him another fifty metres in the opposite direction. He made a split second decision to aim for the surface. It was now nearer than Thunderbird Four. He would also have buoyancy on his side, and the worst that could happen to him, would be an attack of the bends. Then he noticed that the water surrounding him had turned red. As he looked at his left leg, he saw a chunk of metal sticking out of his thigh. He guessed it had severed an artery. Desperation blotted out the pain as he struggled to reach the surface. He knew he was in trouble. His chest was beginning to hurt. His teeth were aching. He was rising too quickly.
Suddenly, Gordon saw something that made his blood run cold. Above him, gliding silently in wide circular sweeps, he could see the silvery underbelly of a huge shark! Soon it would smell his blood. He spluttered and gasped, as his lungs took in more water. He felt as though they would burst. He was rising too fast. He felt as if he was going to black out. He rather hoped that he would. At least he would be unconscious before he was torn to pieces! He began to enter a strange tranquil state, as if he was now resigned to his fate. He stopped struggling, and let the still, calm envelop him. It was quite pleasant. He could think of worse ways to die!
Virgil was waiting anxiously as Thunderbird Two hovered above the empty pod. "Father, I can't get any reply from Gordon. He went in to get Penelope and the crew. He reported that it would be a fairly simple rescue."
"Well keep trying; he's probably on his way back to Thunderbird Four."
"But he has a transmitter in his face mask, and I can't reach him on that either! I think he may be in trouble. I heard a mighty big explosion down there, but now the water has gone cloudy, I can't see what's happening."
"Can you see Penelope and the crew?"
"I'm not sure. Yes, I can see five people in the boat. I recognise Penelope's distinctive pink wetsuit."
"Can you contact the rescue boat? Maybe they could send someone down to check on Gordon,” suggested Jeff.
Penelope heard Virgil's voice over the radio. She ran to the microphone. "International Rescue, this is Penelope Creighton-Ward. I was the last person to speak to your diver. He went off to search for my missing friend. I'm afraid she may have been kidnapped, but your man wanted to make sure that she was not trapped or injured."
"Well now he's missing," explained Virgil. "We need someone to go down and check that he's okay."
Penelope was about to answer him, when she heard a cry. "Shark! Shark!" she saw a large fin cutting through the water. One of the men on board the boat opened a cupboard and took out a rifle.
"Good God! It's got some poor soul!"
Penelope gasped in horror as she saw a limp body slip beneath the water, leaving a trail of blood. As Penelope watched, the shark dived and then surfaced again. The man with the rifle took aim. Penelope sprang forward and put her hand on the rifle butt. "No! No, don't shoot!" she implored. She had noticed a red tag on its fin.
"Look! Can't you see what it’s trying to do? Every time he slips under the water, the shark nudges him to the surface! Luke, it's Cuddles! Help me get this poor man into the boat!"
The others watched incredulously, as Luke and Penelope dived overboard. Luke grabbed the unconscious Gordon under the arms, and with Penelope's help, they dragged him back to the boat. One of the paramedics removed Gordon's fractured air tanks, and began to compress his chest, while the other inflated air into his lungs. Luke cut strips from Gordon's wetsuit to use as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. Penelope winced when she saw the chunk or metal sticking out of Gordon's thigh. She ran back to the radio to inform Virgil.
"Is he alive? Is he alive?” repeated Virgil urgently. "I saw him in the water with that shark! What did it do to him?"
Penelope heard a violent spasm of coughing. She turned to see Gordon expel the salt water from his lungs. "I think it probably saved his life,” she replied.
Gordon sat on the edge of his hospital bed. He slowly eased himself off the side of the bed, and gingerly put his feet on the floor. He winced, his left leg felt stiff. His chest still felt a little tight. He had spent the night under observation, breathing pure oxygen to ease his sore lungs. His injured thigh had been stitched and dressed, but he had lost a lot of blood, and the Doctor wanted to keep him in for a few more days. However, Gordon was determined to discharge himself. He hated being in hospital.
Another added incentive to escape, was the promise of a visit from a local television crew. A pretty nurse, whose company Gordon was beginning to enjoy, had informed him that he was something of a local celebrity. She said that when he was feeling well enough, the TV crew would like to interview him about his brush with death. Gordon was amazed to hear that the shark he feared would have him for lunch, had in fact, saved his life. The nurse expected Gordon to be pleased with this news, but this sort of media attention was the very last thing he wanted. He grabbed hold of a chair beside the bed to steady himself and tried to take a few steps. As he was testing his injured leg he felt a draught flap open the back of his surgical gown.
"Hello, Gordon. It's good to see you up and about." It was Penelope.
He whirled around to face her, blushed crimson, and backed away to the bed, holding his gown together behind him in an attempt to preserve his modesty.
"The Doctor has told me that you are determined to escape,” she said, seemingly oblivious to his embarrassment.
"Well someone has got to retrieve Thunderbird Four,” muttered Gordon.
"That's already been done,” announced Virgil as he entered the room behind Penelope. "I'm here to take you home."
"Well I sure am glad to hear that. But I'm afraid there's a slight problem,” voiced Gordon, as he tried to pull his hospital gown over his knees.
Gordon pouted and announced in a falsetto voice, “I haven't a thing to wear!"
Virgil and Penelope laughed loudly. "We had anticipated that,” smiled Virgil. "So me, and the High Priestess of shopping here, decided to pick up a little something for you."
Gordon eagerly opened the carrier bag Virgil had tossed onto the bed. His forehead creased in to a deep frown as he held up a garish Hawaiian shirt, splashed with flowers. The vivid red clashed with his hair and made his skin look more pallid than ever.
"This is a joke, isn't it? Come on, what have you really got me?" Penelope held up a matching pair of shorts. Gordon groaned. "It gets worse!"
"Well you won't be able to wear your jeans with that dressing on your leg,” said Virgil. "Come on, Penny, we'll wait outside while he gets himself decent."
"You call this rig out decent!" cried Gordon in disgust. They both grinned. Virgil ducked behind the door as Gordon lobbed an emesis basin at him. Fortunately, it was empty!
Gordon found the journey back to Tracy Island rather uncomfortable. He wished that Virgil had been able to bring Thunderbird Two instead of Jeff's plane. Thunderbird Two was equipped with bunks and Gordon was longing to lie down. Sitting still in the passenger seat was beginning to make his leg throb. He stood up to relieve the pressure, but was promptly told by Virgil to sit down and fasten his safety belt, as they were about to land.
Jeff was waiting on the runway to meet them. He helped Gordon down from the plane, and Virgil handed him his crutches. For once Gordon didn't argue with his father when he was ordered to rest. The painkillers had worn off and he was now feeling quite sorry for himself.
Back in the living room on Tracy Island Penelope was pleased to see Parker again. He greeted her with a steaming hot pot of tea. "Parker, you are an absolute angel,” enthused Penelope. "You have no idea how much I have missed you, and a decent cup of tea!"
Parker looked as if he wanted to kiss her. "How is Gordon?" he inquired
"He'll live," replied Virgil, stepping out from the lift. "Grandma's gone to fuss over him. She's given him something to help him sleep."
"Has there been any news about Kyrano or Tin Tin?" asked Penelope,
"Scott and Alan have taken Thunderbird One to search the Jungle. The signal has now become almost undetectable. The edible transmitters are only operational for a short while, before they are broken down by the body's digestive juices."
"What about the transmitter I slipped the Hood?"
"The same I'm afraid. It must be over twenty four hours since he ate it. John reported that the signal was deteriorating. It's my guess that even if John is still able to track it. All it will lead us to is the nearest sewage treatment works."
"Quite,” replied Penelope wrinkling her pert little nose. "So what do we do now?"
"Well I gave Kyrano a good supply of those transmitters, so I hope that he manages to swallow another without being detected."
"Tin Tin has some edible transmitters too,” informed Penelope. "But if he has hypnotised her she won't be able to take them."
Jeff produced a map which he spread out on to his desk. "This is the last known transmission from the Hood's submarine. It is beside the island of Motama. It is my guess that the Hood has now abandoned the submarine, and has acquired some other mode of transport. Also this island appears to be en route to Malaysia, so I suspect that he is making for home. Maybe his hideout is somewhere in the location where Kyrano went missing."
"So all we can do is wait?"
"I'm afraid so Penny," said Jeff. "I had to divert Thunderbird Two to the Nautilus when it was in trouble, and I had already dispatched Thunderbird One to search for Kyrano."
Grandma entered the room and announced that Gordon was sleeping like a baby. She embraced Penelope. "Oh, my dear we were all so worried. Poor Tin Tin, I hope that brute doesn't harm her."
Tin Tin took a sidelong glance at the man next to her, who was piloting a small aircraft over the dense jungle. The Hood looked at her and instinctively she averted her eyes. She had learned that in a hostage situation you should not make eye contact with the hostage taker. It was likely to be misconstrued as a challenge to his authority. She kept her eyes cast downwards. The Hood liked that. It looked to him like subservience. Tin Tin had hardly spoken during her capture. The Hood liked that too. A woman should only speak when spoken too. He studied her profile: she was beautiful. He was not immune to that. She had an air of gentleness about her. The Hood wondered if she could have inherited her looks and disposition from her grandmother - his own mother. These memories caused his mood to darken again and he set the plane down roughly on a small landing strip in a jungle clearing.
"Get out,” he ordered in guttural tones
Tin Tin caught her breath as the hot, steamy jungle air enveloped her. She gazed at a run-down temple at the end of the runway. The Hood gripped her roughly by the arm and forced her to walk on. Tiger and the rest of the Hood's associates were waiting by the secret door of the temple to welcome their master. Tin Tin felt their leering eyes roam over her body, and saw the lust and approval in their faces. She suddenly felt very frightened.
The Hood seemed to sense this and loosened his grip. "Dogs,” he growled to his minions. "Get back to work!"
He ushered Tin Tin into one of his private rooms, locked the door and then disappeared. She sat alone, and contemplated her surroundings. Flickering torches were secured to the stone walls by ornate golden sconces. The atmosphere was heady with the smell of incense. The whole room was reminiscent of a palace that once might have been occupied by the King of Siam. The incense was beginning to make her feel sleepy. She stretched out on a pile of cushions, feeling curiously light headed. Presently the Hood returned, but this time he was clad in a magnificent suit of armour, decorated with gold-leafed and encrusted with jewels.
"Welcome to my kingdom, Miss Kyrano." He looked approvingly at Tin Tin lying on her stomach on the cushions in front of him. The fact that she did not immediately get up impressed him even more. She was observing the correct protocol as she kowtowed to her superior.
"You may rise,” instructed the Hood.
Tin Tin didn't really want to rise; she was ready to fall asleep. She shook her head to try to clear it. The Hood sat cross legged beside her. He was holding an open casket overflowing with jewels.
"You see I am a very rich man. I am very powerful and soon I will have it all."
Tin Tin was fighting to keep hold of her senses. Her head lolled back. The Hood stretched out his hand and gently stroked her long shiny hair.
"You do not need International Rescue, they are nothing to you. With me, you could have the world at our feet. All the jewels and fine clothes you could possibly want. "
Tin Tin tried to murmur a reply, but was intoxicated by the smell of the powerful incense.
The Hood moved closer to her and placed his arm around her shoulders. She shivered and tried to pull away. "No,” she protested. She shook her head as she came back to her senses. She leapt to her feet and tried to run away. The Hood did not take kindly to being spurned. His venom and hate came flooding back with a vengeance. Tin Tin opened the door to make her escape, and found Tiger grinning back at her; he grabbed her arms and held her tightly. The Hood advanced towards her. He placed his thumb underneath her chin, and tilted her head to make her look into his eyes.
"I will have control of International Rescue,” he promised. "And one way or another I will have you."
Deep in the steamy jungle, Scott and Alan had just finished camouflaging Thunderbird One with branches and vines. They stood back to admire their handiwork.
"That's pretty good, Scott,” complemented Alan. “Must be your military training. I just hope that you're not planning to fry ants over a camp fire for our dinner."
"Nope. I've brought a stock of Grandma’s pies and a microwave."
"Good work. You get the dinner on, while I have a scout around."
"Now hold on, Alan!" argued Scott. "This isn't the type of place where you can take a stroll around the block. This is dangerous country. You can bet your life those opium fields are well protected. It's my guess they'll use trip wires rigged up to an alarm system."
Alan opened the hold. “Well, I could use the hover bike."
"Just put the bike back! You're not going anywhere without me. We stay together. I don't want to be chasing your tail around these parts. We're here to find Kyrano."
Alan pouted sulkily as he replaced the hover bike. "I feel so useless just sitting around,” he complained. "It will be dark in a few hours. I wish we could do something. Why doesn't Kyrano swallow another one of his transmitters?"
"I don't know. Let's just get inside and turn the air conditioning on. This heat is draining me!"
Back inside Thunderbird One, Alan called his father. "Has there been any signal from Tin Tin yet?"
"No, sorry, son,” Jeff replied. Watching the portrait frame, he saw Alan's face fall. "I'm sure she'll be okay."
"Is Virgil still out looking for her?"
"No. The signal vanished, he's back at base."
"Well, tell him to get back out there and keep on scanning the area. She must be out there somewhere."
"Alan, he can't do that, and you know it. Without a signal, it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Besides we are dealing with an unpredictable man. We need to apply stealth in our approach to him, and you could hardly call Thunderbird Two inconspicuous! I'm afraid we are just going to have to sit tight, and wait for his next move. Let's just hope that Tin Tin is able to get a signal through somehow."
"Okay, Father,” replied Alan dejectedly. Scott handed him a piping hot steak pie. He shook his head and pushed the plate away. "I'm sorry. I'm not hungry anymore."
The Hood had instructed his henchman 'Tiger', to take Tin Tin down to his cells and keep her prisoner. He hoped that a night in one of his dirty, stifling cells would change her attitude towards him. Tiger unlocked the heavy wooden door leading to a pitch dark hole. He paused to feast his eyes upon her again, before grabbing her by the shoulder and pushing her inside. Tin Tin shot him a haughty and defiant look as he closed the door behind her. She stumbled around blindly until her eyes became accustomed to the gloom. She imagined that she could hear rats scurrying around her. There was only one window, a tiny slit high up in the wall with bars to prevent escape. She was grateful for the sliver of moonlight it gave her. She could just about make out a hard wooden bed in the far corner of the room. As she walked over to investigate, she noticed that there were two beds, and on one of them, she saw what looked like a bundle of rags. As she came closer she heard a low moan. She stooped over the frail figure lying in a huddle beneath a filthy cover. Tears sprang to her eyes and poured down her cheeks.
"Father!" she cried. "Oh, Father, what has he done to you?"
Kyrano weakly raised his head. At first he thought that he must be dreaming, and when he saw Tin Tin he imagined that he was hallucinating. But when she cradled his head in her arms, he knew that she was really here and not just an apparition. This distressed him even more.
"I am sorry, " he rasped through parched lips. "I am a foolish old man. I have put you in danger."
"Shh. Don't try to talk." She raised a jug of water to Kyrano's lips, but he pushed it away.
"No, it is polluted. I drank some and have not been able to stomach anything since."
"I will ask for fresh water. They can't keep us here like animals." Tin Tin stood up and began to bang on the door. Tiger must have been listening outside, because he opened it straight away.
"Changed your mind already?" he enquired with a leer.
"Please... Tiger..,” Tin Tin spoke his name softly. "Please I want to ask you a favour. We need some fresh drinking water. My father is sick."
Tiger rubbed his chin and sucked air through his missing front tooth. "Now that could present a problem."
"Please,” implored Tin Tin
"Well a favour works two ways. If I do one for you, you do one for me."
Tin Tin forced herself to smile sweetly at him. Her charm had the desired effect. Tiger returned with a jug full of fresh water. She helped her father to take a drink and then splashed a few drops of the cool water onto his face.
"Did anyone come with you?" he asked
"No, I came alone. I was brought here."
"But how did he find you, surely he didn't discover...."
He was silenced by Tin Tin who put her finger on his lips. "I was on the Nautilus, with my employer Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. The Nautilus was hi-jacked and I was brought here." She reached into her pocket and took out a small bottle containing some capsules. She popped one into her mouth and washed it down with the water. She instructed Kyrano to do the same. Then she sat and held her father's hand. It was going to be a long, uncomfortable night.
Alan had just managed to drop off to sleep. He was reclining in Scott’s chair at the controls of Thunderbird One. Scott was taking the first watch. His eyes scanned the jungle. His senses were heightened and his fingers gripped his pistol ready for action. A harsh bleeping noise jolted Alan violently awake. Scott's trigger finger twitched.
"Good grief, John! You gave me such a shock!"
John grinned. "Sorry, Alan, but I figured you would want this news as soon as possible. I am receiving two signals and I have managed to get a fix on them. The signals are coming from a temple two miles north of your location. They must be from Kyrano and Tin Tin."
"John, can you home in on the location and send us a picture through?" asked Scott.
"Sure. Just give me a few seconds." The video screen switched to an aerial photograph of the South Asian continent. It was being transmitted live from Thunderbird Five. John's impressive telescope magnified the image 1,000 times to highlight an area of jungle. Magnifying the picture yet again, he pinpointed a jungle clearing showing the Hood's temple hideout surrounded by his opium fields.
"That's as big as I can blow it up."
"Thanks John,” answered Alan retrieving the printout.
"Hope it will be useful," and with that John signed off.
"Well, what are we going to do, Scott?" inquired Alan who was now wide awake and raring to go. "Do we go over and take them by surprise?"
"We go out and take a look under the cover of darkness. We need to see what we are up against. We are going to need the thermal image camera and some weapons."
"F.A.B.," said Alan and scrambled into action.
Minutes later they had changed into jungle combat gear. Luckily, the hover bikes were a dark navy-blue colour, and would not stand out against the night sky.
Scott instructed Alan. "Right stay close behind me, and no heroics!"
"Yes, sir,” answered Alan flippantly.
"I mean it, Alan! We're not dealing with a bunch of amateurs here! You may depend they will have searchlights and powerful weapons. We need to look out for each other. Even if we do locate Tin Tin and Kyrano, that doesn't mean that we can just blast our way in and out of that temple. We may be seriously out numbered."
Alan apologised, and grudgingly admitted to himself that although Scott was a bit on the arrogant side, he was usually right.
"Now keep beneath the canopy of the trees, and for Pete’s sake watch out for the branches. I don't want you knocking yourself out before we get there. Just take it easy."
Alan glowered at his eldest brother, who had the knack of making him feel as if he was still ten years old.
Silently, they glided through the jungle on the hover bikes. Strange animal sounds came from the jungle floor, the odd rustle and snuffle - even the occasional roar - for there were tigers that had been bred in captivity, but re-introduced in to the jungle. Now that they, and their habitat were protected, they were beginning to breed in the wild again. A colony of surprised spider monkeys began to howl and chatter, in fear of the strangers in their midst. It was not an ideal night for an undercover mission. It was too bright. A silvery, full moon illuminated the tree tops. Scott and Alan had to keep hidden amongst the branches. Scott forgot to heed his own advice, and failed to notice a branch that caught the side of his head and scratched his cheek. The branch snapped back with a swish and started the monkeys off again.
One of the Hood's henchmen stood on guard outside the temple. A pump action automatic slung casually over his shoulder. He inhaled the last of his cigarette and threw the butt onto the floor. "The jungle is noisy tonight,” he remarked to his partner with whom he shared the night watch.
"Must be the full moon, gets the animals twitchy."
He strolled casually along the perimeter he was required to patrol, his partner took off in the opposite direction. He stopped in front of a small window a foot above ground level. The back of his boots rubbed against the iron bars. Suddenly he heard a roar which seemed to come from the ground beneath him. He jumped, swore and then kicked the bars.
"Be quiet, you brute!"
From the pitch darkness two yellow luminous eyes blazed angrily.
Under the cover of bamboo and long grass, Scott and Alan monitored the movements of the two guards. "As far as I can tell, there are four guards, one at each corner," Scott mused. “Each has his own area to patrol. Most of the security seems to be centred on the opium fields. There must be a cool, million dollars worth of dope in those fields. This temple looks deserted, so I figure it doesn't warrant so much protection."
"But what about inside, Scott? Has the camera been able to locate Tin Tin and Kyrano?"
"The walls are really thick, I have been able to pick up traces of body heat, but the images are blurred. There is something interesting over there though." He indicated the area where the guard was still shouting and aiming kicks at the bars on the window. "There's some kind of underground cell, with an animal in it, pacing up and down."
"Do you think it's caged?" asked Alan in alarm.
"Yeah, it’s caged alright and pretty mad about it too. I can hear it snarling now. That guard is provoking it."
"There are some people in a room above, possibly three of them. One is sitting the others are walking around. Stay here and keep watch while I take a look round the other side. I just need to wait for that guard to move."
The guard lit another cigarette and retraced his steps. Scott made his move and ran around the other side of the temple. He panned the camera along the length of the building. In the viewfinder, he could see the thermal image of one person, embracing another who was lying very still. He made sure that the coast was clear, and then spoke softly into his wristwatch communicator.
"Alan, I think I have located Tin Tin and Kyrano. I need to get close. Keep your eyes peeled. The moment that guard approaches the corner you call me, pronto."
"Careful, Scott," warned Alan. "And he tells me not to take risks,” he muttered under his breath.
Scott scuttled into the shadows, and edged his way along the wall. He knelt down next to a small barred window just above ground level. Pressing his face to the bars, he called softly, “Tin Tin."
Tin Tin looked around in disbelief as if she was hearing things.
"Tin Tin,” he hissed. "Up here."
She caught sight of Scott and almost cried out with joy, but then remembered that Tiger might be listening on the other side of the door. She put her fingers to her lips and pointed.
"Is there someone behind that door?" whispered Scott
"Are you prisoners?"
She nodded again.
"Have they hurt you?"
She shook her head. "My Father is ill though. Is Alan with you?"
"Yes. We're going to get you out of here, I promise. In the meantime, keep away from this window and the outside wall. We are going to have to create some sort of diversion. There are guards all around but we'll think of some…” he broke off sharply, as he heard Alan's anxious voice,
"Scott! Scott! He's coming! The guard's coming back."
"I've got to go,” hissed Scott, and darted back into the undergrowth, just as the guard turned the corner. He was distracted by a rustling noise, and fired a volley of shots into the bushes. One of them whistled past Scott's ear, a little too close for comfort. The other guard heard the shots and came running up.
"What is it?"
"Reckon I saw something in those bushes."
"Well, let’s take a look."
Scott held his breath, and lay prostrate on the floor. He could hear the footsteps getting closer. They stopped a few of feet from his head.
One of the guards started to smash down the bamboo with the butt of his machine gun. Fortunately this alarmed a couple of monkeys who scrambled to safety up the nearest rubber tree.
"Aw, it's only a few monkeys. Something's making them jittery tonight. Must be all that noise the tiger was making."
The other guard finished his cigarette, and threw down the burning dog end. It landed on a clump of dry bamboo inches from Scott's hiding place. He watched in horror as the bamboo smouldered and then caught fire. The other guard stamped it out, furiously admonishing his colleague.
"That's a filthy habit! And if this jungle wasn't so steamy, you would be a fire hazard!"
As they returned to their posts, Scott exhaled a sigh of relief, and slipped back to where Alan was waiting for him.
"Scott! Thank goodness! I heard shots and I thought that your number was up."
"Come on, Alan, let's get out of here. I've got a plan."
Tin Tin's spirits had lifted since Scott's visit. Kyrano was now sleeping peacefully and the colour was beginning to return to his face. His breathing was better too. The night air was cooler; she lay down beside her father and tried to get some rest. The sky was becoming lighter, the birds had started to squawk and chatter amongst the tree tops. Soon it would be dawn. She wondered what Scott and Alan were planning to do. How would they deal with the guards? She felt sure that they were going to try to blast their way through the wall. After all, Scott had told them to keep clear. But they would still have to make their getaway, and there were all those armed guards to get past. She decided that she would not dwell on such negative thoughts. She was sure that Scott and Alan would not fail them. International Rescue was not about failure.
She dozed fitfully and awoke to the sound of the door being unlocked. She expected to see Tiger's leering face. She was just steeling herself to be nice to him when the Hood swept into the room, clad in his golden regalia.
"Do you find the accommodations to your liking?" he asked sarcastically. Tin Tin averted her eyes and did not answer. The Hood continued, “I was hoping to be able to offer my only living relatives something more substantial. If you are willing to be co-operative, you will find me a most generous host. I have riches beyond your imagination. Kyrano, my brother, you have always worked for others. You have lived as a foreigner in other countries. This is your country. You were born here, you could join me."
"Money means nothing to me. I cannot embrace greed and evil."
"Then you are a weak and pitiful creature."
"What do you want from my daughter? Let her go"
"If I let her go she would not last very long. It's a jungle out there,” laughed the Hood.
"Kill me if that is what you wish, but let her go"
"No, Father stop it!" cried Tin Tin. "I won't leave without you."
"Such a touching display of family loyalty, but then..,” he added with theatrical pathos, "I have never been part of a family. I have never had the love of a mother or father like you have. I have never fathered a child... but perhaps it is not too late for me. Do you think that I should take a wife? I have built an empire. Yet, I have no heir to pass it on to. If anything were to happen to me, dogs like Tiger and his kind would fight over my wealth. All this and no sons to continue my dynasty."
He cupped Tin Tin's face in his coarse, hairy hands. Although she kept her eyes tightly shut, she could feel his eyes burning through her. "Your daughter is beautiful Kyrano. She will make someone a perfect wife."
Tin Tin could feel her conscious will slipping away from her. Her eyelids began to flicker. She was drawn into the Hood's hypnotic gaze.
"No!" shouted Kyrano, "Just tell me what you want from me!"
"What I want are the secrets of International Rescue. If I had their aircraft, I could master the world."
"What would I know of their secrets?"
"I believe you know where their base is. I know that when my attempt to sabotage the Fireflash failed. International Rescue took your daughter away with them."
"Yes, they rescued her. They rescued many people. That is their job"
"But they did not take the other passengers on to their destinations. The rest were put up in a hotel. You cannot fool me, I know your mind. You are weak. You cannot resist me, and soon, neither will your daughter."
The Hood turned his face toward Tin Tin, and moved so close that his lips were practically touching hers. This time she did not flinch or move away. "Soon she will do whatever I want."
"NO! NO!" shouted Kyrano in anger and torment. He summoned all of his strength, and swung a punch at his half-brother. The Hood merely laughed and pushed him aside. He taunted Kyrano again.
"I can do whatever I want with her."
"NO! STOP!" he shouted again. Tin Tin was momentarily jolted out of her trance. "Stop,” said Kyrano, and bowed his head in defeat. "I will tell you what you wish to know."
"No, Father, he will kill us anyway. I would rather go to my grave than betray International Rescue."
The Hood was taken aback. This girl was showing resistance to his powers. He became angry. His face grew as dark as thunder.
"How touching,” his sarcastic tone was back. "How noble. What sort of death would you prefer? I could be merciful, and grant you and your father a quick death. Or I could employ a little sport, and make it slow and agonizing. Have you ever watched someone die? It's quite compelling. It may help you to change your mind."
He grabbed Tin Tin and bundled her out of the room. He marched her back up the stairs into his private room. He pressed a button on his wall to reveal a row of concealed television screens.
"Watch closely, my dear. I am going to play a little game of hide and seek."
He switched on the first screen; it showed a labyrinth of tunnels connecting the dungeons. On the second screen Tin Tin could see her father sitting on the floor of his prison. A dejected and broken man. Her tears started to flow uncontrollably. No-one could save them now. The Hood switched on the third screen. Tin Tin recoiled in terror. Two angry yellow eyes stared back at her from a large tiger's face. It opened its mouth and snarled, revealing its sharp jagged teeth.
"This is my little pet,” explained the Hood. "As you can see he is very angry. He has not had his breakfast yet and he does not like to be kept waiting."
The Hood pressed another button. A door opened in the tiger's cage, immediately it sprang through, sniffing the air. The Hood switched back to the first screen. The tiger was now padding down one of the corridors. It stopped and sniffed again, and it uttered a low snarl. Tin Tin covered her face with her hands
"You can't do this,” she wailed.
The Hood was suddenly distracted by a commotion outside. There seemed to be a lot of shouting. One of the hood's guards came bursting in. He was breathless and covered in specks of soot.
"Master! Your fields! They are burning. We need more help. We cannot control the fire. The crop will be destroyed!"
The Hood ran towards the window. He cursed loudly as he saw thick clouds of acrid smoke rising from his precious fields. "Quickly - take all the men you need."
In all the panic, the Hood had momentarily forgotten about Tin Tin and Kyrano. He was no longer in the mood for sport. Millions of dollars were dissolving into smoke. Tin Tin seized her chance to escape and dashed down the stairs to find her father.
When the Hood realised that Tin Tin had gone, he switched to the second television monitor. As he expected, Tin Tin had managed to reach Kyrano. She wrestled with the door. The Hood watched her face becoming more agonised as she struggled to open it. He laughed, "You will go to your graves together. What is left of you, that is."
He flicked another switch and a panel slid open in the wall of Kyrano’s cell. The tiger stood and regarded its quarry. Kyrano stared the tiger and death straight in the face. He stood before the magnificent beast and closed his eyes. The Hood watched with mounting excitement as the tiger moved in for the kill. He had expected it to spring on to its victim, but instead it swayed unsteadily on its feet. The Hood struck the monitor screen in anger. "What kind of witchcraft is this?"
The tiger shook its head, swayed again and then sank to the ground resting its head upon its paws. It was sleeping soundly.
"Quickly, Kyrano, move away from the wall."
Kyrano shielded his head. Sparks flew as Scott cut through the iron bars. He gave them a hefty kick, then clambered inside and helped Kyrano climb through the window, and on to the hover bike
"Where's Tin Tin?" cried Alan. "She's not here."
"Alan. I'm on the other side of the door! Quickly, shoot out the lock. A tiger is loose down here we haven't got much time"
Alan did as he was told and then wrenched the door open. Tin Tin gasped as she saw the sleeping tiger,
"Tranquilliser darts,” said Alan. "Quick! Get through the window and on to the hover bike. I think I can hear someone coming."
The Hood burst into the room and fired at them, Alan dodged the bullets and sped for the cover of the trees. The Hood cursed and shook his fist. Then he heard a snort coming from behind him. The tiger stirred, and then yawned. The Hood ran out of the room and slammed the door shut. He wasn't going to take any chances; he manhandled a heavy statue to place in front of the door.
Scott had already taken off on his hover bike with Kyrano, and was trying to draw away some of the gunfire, to allow Alan and Tin Tin to make their escape. Most of the Hood's men were out in the fields fighting the fire, Tiger and one lone guard were the only ones left. They were joined by the Hood, who was the better shot. A bullet grazed the hover bike missing Scott's leg by inches.
"Get off the ground as soon as you can!" he barked to Alan and Tin Tin.
Tin Tin gazed wistfully behind her. She began to feel rather sorry for the tiger they had left behind to the mercy of the Hood. It had spent most of its life cooped up in the Hood's dungeon, and she knew what a miserable existence that was.
"Alan, I don't like the thought of leaving that poor animal there."
"That 'poor animal' was about to have your father for dinner!"
"But that's not its fault. It was starved and ill treated."
"Surely you're not going to ask me to go back in there and haul it on to the back of the bike."
"Alan… he might decide to kill it. Besides it's waking up - I can hear it snarling."
"Scott will go ballistic. We'll be risking our lives for that tiger."
Alan heard Scott shouting at him again. "Alan, will you get the hell out of there."
"Scott,” Alan called to his brother, "you go on there's something I have to do."
"Alan, are you mad? Just get out of here. They're still shooting at us!"
To Scott's horror, Alan steered the hover bike back to the temple. He was now out of view, and Scott heard a small explosion, as Alan blasted a hole in the wall to allow the Tiger to escape. He cursed Alan for his reckless nature. He was both angry and relieved to see Alan and Tin Tin speeding away from the temple.
The Hood's men were firing at them, but the bullets were landing short of their target. When Alan drew level with him, Scott gave him a piece of his mind - peppered by some strong adjectives. "What the hell made you go back there?" he bellowed.
"I forgot to put the cat out,” replied Alan smugly.
Suddenly Scott heard a calamity on the ground below him. The Hood's men were all shouting and running for their lives. The Hood was still firing into the sky and cursing as his ammunition ran out. He opened the gun to re-load. At first he did not hear the tiger approach from behind. Its hungry roar made him turn around. With his eyes wide in horror, he flung the empty rifle on to the ground. Quick as a flash, he shinned up the nearest tree. The tiger sat below patiently washing its face with a powerful paw. Tin Tin swore that it had a grin on its face.
"Curse you, International Rescue!" spat the Hood from his tree top refuge. "I will have my revenge!"
Back in the safety of Thunderbird One, Scott flew over the blazing opium fields. The fire he had created as a diversion completely destroyed the evil crop. Tin Tin felt the emotion of the last twenty four hours overwhelm her. She let tears of relief trickle down her cheeks. Alan wrapped his arms protectively around her.
"How can someone hate so much?" she asked between sobs.
"Shh. It's all over now. He won't hurt us again."
"I'm not so sure," replied Kyrano. "He is a powerful and cunning enemy. But, like all dangerous men, he will destroy himself. His most powerful enemy comes from within. The greed and hate which fuels him will also ultimately destroy him.