PROLOGUE TO TRIANGLE
This story brings in characters from Gerry Anderson's Stingray. I am not terribly familiar with the background to Stingray. The only information I was able to find (Stingrayonline) was that Captain Tempest was supposed to have taken over the command of Stingray in 2068. As the Thunderbirds series was set either in 2026 or 2046 (depending on your point of view) this would completely louse up my story!
So here, for the purposes of my story. Captain Tempest is twenty years older than Gordon Tracy. Marineville exists, not as a futuristic village but a collection of subterranean research stations. The Ocean floor and it's trenches are the subject of investigation but as yet, no traces of Ocean dwelling intelligent life forms have been found. The links between Troy Tempest, Marina, and an explanation of ‘Titan’ and ‘Agent X' will be revealed in the coming chapters.
Stingray and Thunderbirds were created by Gerry Anderson and are licensed by Carlton International Media Ltd. This story is intended for education and entertainment purposes.
Chapter 1 - The Aftermath
Gordon Tracy stood up to his knees in fetid water, surrounded by mud and rubble, in what used to be a quiet Mexican village at the bottom of a hillside. Only now the hill was gone - washed away in a torrent of water, which had cascaded down onto the hapless residents of Monte Christos. Two solid weeks of rain had caused this massive landslide. Fortunately the town had a small population, and there had been enough warning for many of its residents to reach safety. There had been inevitable fatalities, of course. It would have been nothing short of a miracle for everyone to have escaped unharmed. International Rescue Operatives, Scott, Virgil, Alan and Gordon Tracy had the grim task of pulling bodies, as well as casualties from the quagmire.
Gordon peered through the gloom to see a slime covered creature slipping and sliding his way toward him. It was Virgil, his brother, covered from head to toe in mud.
"You gave me quite a turn there. I thought you were the creature from the black lagoon!"
"You should take a look at yourself, brother!" was his retort. "You don't look so hot either!" Virgil, dirty and exhausted, tried to wipe the grit from his red rimmed eyes. "Whoa, this is some job. Do you know who we could do with right now?"
"Seamus O' Rourke."
"Who?" repeated Gordon.
"Our Irish agent and County Derry bog snorkelling champion!"
"Oh, the guy with the farm. I remember now. Scott used his place as a base when we were tracking the Fireflash."
"Scott told me about his hobby. I remember we all thought it was kind of amusing at the time. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to dive into a dirty peat bog for fun. Sure wish we had him here today. You never know what talents are going to come in useful."
"Did you find any more casualties?"
Virgil's face looked grim. "No. I'm pretty sure all of the people have now been accounted for. Some of the dead are still waiting for positive identification. But their relatives could be among the dead or injured, so it could take a few days. Scott's pretty sure that we are unlikely to find anymore survivors in there. All that remains is the clean up operation. I reckon the local authorities can handle things now. They are trying to save the facade of the old Town Hall. Scott is holding the front of it up with the Domo, while the building workers make it safe. Alan is in the excavator trying to shift some of the mud. Scott told the Mexican authorities we would loan them the excavator and earth mover for a few days. Their equipment is rather outdated. It would take them twice as long to do the job."
"Did he okay that with Dad?"
"Of course." Virgil's watch started to bleep. It was Alan. "Go ahead, Alan," he instructed.
"I've done as much as I can here and I'm heading back to Thunderbird Two to clean up. Scott reckons it’ll take another half hour to make the building safe and then we can think about moving out. The military have got things under control now. I don't think there will be any further landslides."
"I wonder what could have caused that much rain to fall. They had the equivalent of a whole year’s rainfall in just two weeks!"
"I dunno. The weather experts are baffled. Freak of nature, I suppose. Anyway see you later, Virgil."
"F.A.B." Virgil and Gordon also made their way back to Thunderbird Two. Gordon paused outside the huge green transporter and stripped off his muddy protective suit. Wrinkling his nose, he sealed it in a black plastic bag. Clad only in his underwear, he made his way down to the lower deck of Thunderbird Two for a welcome shower.
"Don't use all the hot water," warned Virgil.
Gordon let the steaming water cascade down his back. He flexed his aching muscles, and then vigorously lathered his red hair. The shampoo smelled of chamomile. He inhaled deeply hoping this fresh smell would cleanse his nostrils of the smell of death. .He closed his eyes and let the water pour down his face. He tried to blot out the images he had seen that day. They were not the first dead people he had seen, nor would they be the last. They were ordinary men, women and -worst of all - children. He knew that the sight of a mother's body, still protectively shielding her smothered child, would haunt him for the rest of his life. He tried to blank it out of his mind. He was beyond crying. He had a job to do and could not afford to be emotional about it. People looked up to International Rescue. They wanted to see order, control and results, not weeping and wailing. That would come later, when the job was done. All of them had learned to by-pass their human emotions while dealing with disasters such as these. If they ever cried it would be in private. After the reports were filed, the most harrowing rescues were never discussed between the family. But, some of them would never be forgotten.
Gordon roughly towel-dried his hair and changed in to casual clothes. He was now off duty. Virgil was to drop him off at Key Largo, to stay with a friend and ex- colleague from the World Aquanaut Security Patrol.
"Are you okay?" asked Virgil, as Gordon slumped exhaustedly on to one of the bunks.
"Tired, aching, trying to get the stench of raw sewage out of my nostrils."
"Well you rest for a while. I'm going to help Alan secure the equipment back into the pod. Scott's on his way back too, then we're out of here."
Gordon closed his eyes. He was looking forward to a week’s rest and recuperation. Most of all, he was looking forward to diving in one of his favourite haunts, with an old friend he did not get to see enough of. Noah Brady was so laid back he was practically horizontal! He shared Gordon's wacky sense of humour. Noah would be just the person to lift his jaded spirits. He had been Gordon's diving partner when they both served in the W.A.S.P. Gordon hoped a week of sun, sea and male bonding would exorcise the depressing scenes he had witnessed during the last two days.
"Lazy bones, sleeping on the job again."
Gordon opened a moist blood-shot eye. That irritating voice could only belong to his younger brother Alan. He chose to ignore him.
"I'm bushed!" complained Alan as he flopped on to the bunk beside him. Still Gordon did not acknowledge him.
"Are you really asleep?" asked Alan giving him a prod.
"Yes." Alan could see that Gordon wasn't okay. He was biting his lip so hard it was almost bleeding.
"Was it bad?"
Gordon nodded and swallowed hard.
"Sorry I wasn't there to help."
"It's not your fault. We can't be everywhere at once. We did the best we could."
"What was the final death toll?" asked Alan tentatively.
"Fifty two at last count," replied Gordon flatly
"Considering the scale of the disaster, that's not too bad. It could have been a lot worse. It's lucky the landslide missed the village school. That doesn't bear thinking about. This sort of thing is always harrowing when kids are involved. It stays with you."
Gordon blew his nose loudly.
"That bad huh?" Alan gave Gordon a sympathetic pat on the arm. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Gordon gulped. "You know how sometimes it's the little things that get you going. You pull out bodies of people you never knew. You keep going ... another one ... then another. You bag them up, number them and then you come across a child's doll. or a little shoe..." he paused to wipe his nose again, " and you find yourself crying like a baby."
"It's happened to all of us at some point."
Gordon continued, "I went in to this house. The roof had caved in. There was mud everywhere. I pulled some of the rubble away and underneath was a young woman, about Tin Tin's age. When I reached her it was obvious her neck was broken. I couldn't have done anything for her. She was sitting in a chair hunched over something. When I moved her, I saw she had been trying to protect her baby. It must have been only a few days old. It was a beautiful little girl ..." Gordon turned away to wipe his eyes with the back of his hand. He quickly regained his composure and blew his nose again. Alan did not know what to say.
"I dunno, Gordon. Grandma says things happen for a reason."
"Why? It's so dammed unfair. A little life snuffed out just like that." Gordon clicked his fingers. "Why?"
"You did your best. That’s all we can do. Some we will win and some we will lose."
Gordon shrugged and sat up abruptly. "Yeah. You're right." He swung his legs over the side of the bunk and strode to the galley to get a cold drink, to wash the grit from his throat. As he was pouring water into a glass he could hear Scott relaying a report to their father.
" ...and that's about all we can do for now. The authorities have one hell of a clean up operation ahead of them. They are very grateful for the loan of our equipment. I just hope we don't need it for the next few days."
"Good work boys. Get back to base."
Alan was banging on the door of the shower, asking Virgil how much longer he was going to be. Virgil came out dressed in a towelling robe with his thick chestnut hair standing up in spikes.
"Is everything secured in the pod, Scott?"
"Yes. There was only the firefly. I decided to let them borrow the domo as well. I still wasn't happy with that building. It will take them another few days to make it completely safe."
"That's quite a lot of expensive equipment we've left there. Supposing some of it disappears?"
"I doubt it Virgil. I know these people are poor, but they are honest. Their stuff is antiquated. Ours will do the job in no time. It was the least we could do for them."
"Sorry, Scott. You're right of course."
"Aargh, it's freezing cold!" shouted Alan. He leapt from the shower cubicle and pulled on his clothes. "You've used all the hot water."
"You're getting soft, Alan," scoffed Virgil.
Scott smiled. "Well I'm going to hit the road now. Are you coming with me, Alan, or taking the scenic route with Virgil?"
"Well since he's seen fit to use all the hot water, I'm coming home with you. I want to get back as soon as I can. I can't wait to get in to a nice hot tub and have a good long soak."
"And get Tin Tin to scrub your back," teased Virgil.
"Well a guy can dream," replied Alan.
"See you back home,” called Scott. "Enjoy your vacation, Gordon. Dad says that's an order."
Gordon smiled weakly. "Bye, Scott."
Alan eased himself in to the cramped passenger seat. In the confines of Thunderbird One’s cabin, both he and Scott were aware of how badly they smelled. A mixture of sweat and stagnant water.
"That was a tough one," remarked Alan.
"Yeah. I think Virgil and Gordon got the rough end of that one. The northern end of the village where they were was hit the worst. I expected the death toll to be much higher than it was. I suppose that's something to be thankful for."
"Gordon had a pretty bad time,” said Alan. “Found a mother and baby. He's pretty choked up about it."
Scott sighed. "I'm glad Dad let him have a few days off. He's not been his usual jovial self. Sometimes it can be claustrophobic living as we do, on an island. I know we all get on each others’ nerves from time to time. That's only natural. We're brothers! But living together all the time and working together, sometimes it can get you down. You need your own space."
"Well at least John and I get that," joked Alan, who with his elder brother took turns to man International Rescue's communication satellite- Thunderbird Five.
Scott strapped himself into his seat as the silver/blue rocket ship fired up for vertical take off. Flying at five times the speed of sound, they would soon be in the luxurious surroundings of their Pacific Island home.
Chapter 2 - The Disappearing Act.
Virgil flew back over the disaster area. It looked worse from the air. Half of the village had been engulfed by sludge. There was still a lot of work to be done clearing it all up, and by people who were feeling just as exhausted as he was. He felt guilty for being able to just fly away and leave the inhabitants to it. The village was in turmoil. It would take months to rebuild. The heart had been ripped out of it. Life would never be the same. Still his job was to save lives, not repair property, and that had been done. Lives had been lost, but many more had been saved, thanks to the prompt action of International Rescue.
"Shouldn't take us too long to reach Florida. It's just a hop across the bay," he told Gordon.
"Where are you going to land? I don't think Noah's back yard is going to be big enough for Thunderbird Two." Gordon was starting to feel a bit brighter.
"There's a strip of wasteland nearby, I can put down on that. I know I'm bound to attract a bit of attention, but the whole world knows we've been out to Monte Christos."
"I can walk the few miles to Noah's place. A walk will do me good. Give me chance to clear my head."
"Okay. But watch out for the alligators!"
Gordon smiled and reached up to retrieve his suitcase from the luggage rack. Virgil was already flying low across the Bay of Mexico. He could see the Florida Keys below him, connected by a series of long bridges. Strung out like a necklace of jewels. What a contrast to the scenes he just left! Large opulent, waterfront houses stood amidst green tropical gardens. With expensive cars in the driveways and luxury yachts moored by private jetties.
Gordon spotted Noah's house. "That's his. I recognise his boat. Set me down somewhere near that scrubland. I'll say I hitched a lift from the airstrip. I know he wanted to come and pick me up, so I'll have to tell a few white lies."
Virgil landed briefly; just long enough for Gordon to sneak out un-noticed. Then he waved him a cheery farewell and became airborne again. He put in a call to Scott who was already well on his way home.
"Leaving for home now. I'm just hovering above Gordon now, making sure he doesn't stumble into an alligator swamp or something."
"How is he? He seemed quite down when we left."
"Better now," replied Virgil. "Oh, I can see him; he's just found the main road. Guess I can leave him now. He wanted to walk. I think he wanted some time on his own to get his head together."
"Yeah. It doesn't get any easier though does it?"
"No," agreed Virgil.
"See you back at base."
Leaving the Florida Keys Virgil flew in an easterly direction. He scanned the horizon in front of him. The weather was looking a little misty. Surely there was not going to be anymore rain on the way! Virgil groaned, that was the last thing the poor people of Monte Christos needed. Their part of the world seemed to go from one extreme to another. Months of having no rainfall at all, resulting in parched soil and poor crop yields, to having too much for the ground to cope with.
Virgil cast an eye over his instrument panel. "That's odd." he muttered to himself . Then he gave his navigational compass a sharp tap. "Hmm. Strange!" he made a mental note to report this minor defect to Brains when he got home. Although it was not a serious problem Virgil decided it needed to be checked out. He put in a quick call to John on board International Rescue's communication satellite Thunderbird Five. John was able to confirm what Virgil had suspected. Instead of pointing to magnetic North, Thunderbird Two's compass was pointing to true North."
"Not to worry, Virgil," assured John, "There could be any number or reasons. The atmospheric conditions over that part of the Ocean are notorious for whipping up the odd electric storm now and then. My instruments are picking up a surge of charged atmospheric particles. Like static."
"Must be why the hairs on the back of my neck are tingling then," replied Virgil.
"Might be a bit of a storm building over the bay, but don't worry, you'll be out of it soon."
"Oh, I'm not worried. Not for me anyway. If there is a storm building there could be more problems in Monte Christos. That's what I am really worried about. It was pretty grim back there."
"Can't see any signs of anything serious from here. The atmospheric pressure has risen to the south of Bermuda. It might whip up a bit of a squall, but it would probably blow itself out before it reached Mexico bay."
"Well, that's something I suppose."
"You could get a bit of sea mist stirring up."
"Yes, I've just hit that right now. It's all around me. Darn it. I should be over Cuba right now. The compass needle tells me I'm flying east and now the satellite navigational computer tells me I'm flying east too. I reckon it's more like north-east."
"Yes, Virgil. I'm tracking you now you. I've got you just south of Bermuda."
"Bermuda? How the hell..." he broke off suddenly as he noticed the compass needle twirling wildly. "What the hell is going on?"
"What is it Virgil?" John became concerned.
"The compass is going haywire. Must be one hell of a magnetic surge. What the heck is in this area? Are there any Top secret Government installations we don't know about?"
"I'm picking up something too. It's interfering with my tracking beam."
"Hell! Now this mist is closing in. I'm going to be flying blind for a while. Can you stick around I might need you."
Virgil was feeling disorientated. His visibility was down to a few yards. Swirling milky, white mist made the sea appear to be steaming.
"Are you out of it yet?" asked John tersely
"No. As Parker would say ' It's a real pea souper' ... Oh my God!"
"What is it?"
"It's incredible ... Oh, my God!" Virgil's voice was filled with panic
"What? What is it?" Now John was alarmed. His knuckles were white as he gripped his microphone. "Virgil!"
John trembled as he heard Virgil's cry accompanied by a swishing, sucking noise. Then it all went quiet. The only thing John could hear was his own pounding heartbeat.
"Virgil? .... Come in, Virgil." John could hear something which sounded to him like waves rushing over a rocky shore. The sort of sound you would hear on a relaxation tape. John felt anything but relaxed. He wanted desperately to hear his brother's voice, but when the rushing sounds subsided all that remained was eerie silence. John's face turned pale as he scanned the map in front of him. Thunderbird Two had vanished in to thin air!
Chapter 3 - The Devil's Triangle
Safely home on Tracy Island, Scott returned Thunderbird One to its silo hidden beneath the family swimming pool. He took up position on the moving gantry which would take him directly to the Operations Room of International Rescue. He stepped off the gantry, stood with his back to the wall and located two fake lamp brackets positioned either side of a special panel. When he pulled the brackets down, this section of the wall swivelled round to deposit him in the family living room. He entered the room and saw his father in earnest conversation with John, via the video link. John's face looked grim. Immediately Scott realised that something was wrong.
"More trouble?" he asked. "Don't tell me I've got to head back to Monte Christos again!"
"No. It's not that." Jeff shuffled some papers on his desk. " Is Alan with you?" he asked.
"He came up via the passenger lift. I expect he's soaking in a hot tub right now. We're both filthy."
"I need him up here and Brains too." he pressed a red emergency button on the top of his desk to summon his team.
"What is it, Father?"
"Sit down, Scott." instructed Jeff.
Scott gripped the back of Jeff's chair. "John, what's happened?"
"Sit down, Scott. " John's voice was shaking. Scott thought he looked dreadful.
"Something's happened to Gordon hasn't it? Has he been in an accident?"
"No. No, Gordon's fine."
"Well, what is it?"
"Son, I asked you to sit down." urged Jeff gently. He knew how close Virgil and Scott were.
Alan came rushing in wearing his tracksuit top back to front, his blond hair still had shampoo suds in. Brains followed behind him, a large frown creasing his high forehead. Kyrano, Jeff's assistant, and his daughter Tin Tin heard the alarm. They too, were regarded as family and included in all family matters. Only Grandma was absent. She was spending some time in London with Lady Penelope. Jeff was grateful for this. She should not have to learn of the fate of her grandson like this.
"Thunderbird Two has gone missing," announced Jeff solemnly. Tin Tin gave an audible gasp followed by a short cry. Her father put his arms around her.
"Are you sure?" asked Alan.
Scott clutched the arms of his chair. He was stunned, "How? Where?" was all he could manage to say.
"John lost contact with Virgil fifteen minutes ago. We are still trying to get through to him, but so far we have had no answer."
"Perhaps it could be a fault in the transmitter. Check your dishes, John. Alan and I will check the aerial."
"Scott, I've done that. It's fine,” said John sadly.
"Where was he when you heard from him last?"
"John recorded his last conversation with Virgil," announced Jeff "You can listen to it, but you will find it distressing."
"Go ahead. Play it," snapped Scott.
Scott heard his brother's bemused voice over the humming engines of Thunderbird Two.
"I should be over Cuba right now... The rest of the family listened in silence as Virgil relayed details of the thick fog that engulfed him. "... as Parker would say It's a real pea - souper ... Oh my God ! Jeff visibly stiffened. Tin Tin bit her nails. Then they heard John's anguished cry." What? What is it? ...Virgil!"
"Virgil? .... Where are you Virgil?" John sounded like a frightened child, calling out in the darkness after a distressing nightmare. Scott had not heard him sound like that since he was a five.
Alan's face turned deathly white . He got up and walked shakily to the French window. He ran across the decking and leaned heavily on the balcony overlooking the sea. Then he rested his head on the crook of his arm. Tin Tin ran to his side. Kyrano took him a glass of water.
Jeff gave his youngest son a sympathetic look. He knew there was nothing he could do to lessen the pain. "He'll be okay, just give him a few minutes."
Scott too felt as if he had been kicked in the stomach. He buried his face in the palms of his hands. For a moment there was only a stunned silence. Then Brains spoke up.
"I-I kn -know it's distressing for everyone , but c-can I hear the tape again? Not all of it just the last bit. I'm puzzled by that sound" John replayed Virgil's scream. Scott winced. "There that's the bit. That swishing noise. Can you get that any louder ? And can you slow it down?"
The slow, drawn out sound of Virgil’s scream made Scott feel sick. He hastily gulped down a glass of water.
Brains was frowning intently. "Hmm."
"Well?" asked Jeff urgently. "Can you make anything of it?"
"It s-sounds to me like s-some kind of vortex."
"Something like a tornado?"
"I-I'm not sure. I could hear water s-sounds. F-first a sucking noise. P-play it again John...there...that noise ... n-now, l-listen again.. w-we have a swishing noise in the background. C-can you hear it?"
"Yes I hear it. Like water being sucked down a plughole," said Scott.
"Th-then here we have the sound of water rushing over something,” continued Brains.
"So did Virgil crash into the sea?"
"No, Scott. I don't think he did," cut in John, "he didn't seem to be losing height. He sounded as if he was still in control. Whatever happened took him entirely by surprise. It was quick too. One minute he was there, the next he was gone."
"I-it could be that Th-Thunderbird Two was sucked down in to s-sea. If V-Virgil had crashed, John would have heard it hit the water. It would have m-made a pretty bigsplash."
"But how could it have been sucked down? And by what?" Scott paced up and down restlessly.
"I don't know. What was his position when he made that call John? Can you show us a map?"
"Sure Brains." John relayed a map of the area he had enlarged, showing a section where the cold Atlantic Ocean met a warm Caribbean Sea. John drew a line from Bermuda to the Florida Keys and across to the island of Puerto Rico. "Virgil went missing somewhere around her" he explained. He then extended the line from Puerto Rico back up to Bermuda. Jeff was looking at the shape of a triangle.
Kyrano dropped the glass he was holding. It fell to the floor and shattered in to pieces. "The Devil's triangle!" he gasped.
Brains looked annoyed. "Pure superstition," he said crossly.
"This area- The Bermuda Triangle - it is a bad place," argued Kyrano. "Many ships and planes have disappeared, never to be seen again. It is the devil's work."
"The Bermuda tr-triangle does not exist anymore than the L-Loch Ness Monster does!" snapped Brains. "Th-there is a scientific explanation. A-as John detected from the er satellite. Th-this is an area where the er cold Atlantic meets the warm Caribbean. Highly charged p-particles are present in the atmosphere, a-and as Virgil um found out they can cause a sh-ship's or plane's navigational system to give um incorrect readings. It is also an area prone to sudden v-violent storms. In the er fifties and um sixties, m-many ships and planes were reported lost in that area. A c-combination of bad weather and disorientation would be the most likely cause of a ship or plane coming to grief. They were p-probably never um found because they were not actually in the area they were thought to have been. In the nineteen fifties and sixties they relied purely on compass navigation. If the pilot had hit bad weather he would have relied solely on his instruments to guide him. Again, Virgil mentioned the fog, another freak weather condition. Before the advent of computers and satellite navigation systems, a pilot would have read his instruments and thought he was in a particular area. H-he would have probably relayed his assumed position over the radio. When he failed to reach his destination, It would be assumed that he had crashed in to the sea. A search would have been mounted to recover the wreckage. The rescuers would have concentrated on the area the pilot was thought to have been in when he went down. But in reality he would have been much further away."
"So you think Thunderbird Two could be at the bottom of the sea?" asked Scott.
"The only answer to that I'm afraid is yes,." replied Brains soberly.
Alan walked in silently and sat down on his chair. He stared miserably at the floor. Tin Tin clasped his hand.
"Do you want to go and lie down for a while, Alan?" asked Jeff gently.
"No. I want to get out there. I want to get out there and start searching for him."
"There's still a chance he could be alive," said Scott. " Thunderbird Two is fully sealed. Heck, Virgil puts it in to the sea every time he picks up Thunderbird Four in the pod."
"Yeah," agreed Alan, "All we need to do is get Thunderbird Four out there and start looking."
Jeff frowned, "You forget, Alan. Thunderbird Four is slow. It was not designed for long distance travel. We need Thunderbird Two to transport it."
"We've got to figure out a way to get Thunderbird Four out there as soon as possible," voiced Scott.
"Maybe the Navy could help again," suggested Alan, "They did last time, when we had to get to New York to rescue that reporter."
"Well, they owed us one," replied Jeff gruffly, remembering the time when the US Sentinel mistakenly opened fire on Thunderbird Two.”
"We can't sit around waiting for them to wade through all their red tape," exploded Scott. "You know what the military are like! Forms in triplicate for a pencil sharpener! There's got to be another way."
"I can pilot Thunderbird Four," volunteered Alan.
Scott had a better solution. "The main problem with Thunderbird Four is that it cannot hold enough fuel and is too slow for long journeys. Maybe if I could fix a magnetic line on Thunderbird Four, you I could tow you part of the way in Thunderbird One. There's still a chance, Dad, Alan's right. We've got to get out there." Scott was now fired up with adrenaline and itching to get behind the controls of Thunderbird One. "It could work."
"You would have to go slow though, Scott. I wouldn't want to be thrown all around the place. I won't be much use if I'm suffering from chronic sea sickness."
Jeff started to look hopeful. "Virgil would have twenty hours of air supply on board Thunderbird Two. We must be positive and assume that Virgil has had to ditch in to the sea. We must pray that he was uninjured and that Thunderbird Two sustained no serious damage. Thunderbird Two's structure has been built to withstand several tons of water pressure. I don't know why we haven't had a signal from his wristwatch communicator. He may be unconscious. We're going to find him. I just only hope we'll be in time. Go to it," decided Jeff.
Scott and Alan didn't need to be told twice. They were already at their stations.
Chapter 4 - Finding Virgil
Jeff Tracy knew he was clutching at straws. It would take at least twenty hours for Scott to tow Thunderbird Four to the search area. He had to remain optimistic for the sake of his sons. He knew Scott and Alan would go crazy just sitting around waiting for news. His heart went out to John. Although John was used to having to sit and wait for news, he was thousands of miles away from the comforting touch of another human being. Jeff wanted to fetch him back home, but John would not leave his post. He clung to the faint hope that Virgil might get in touch. It was the only thing that was keeping him going.
After the conversation with his father, John radioed the Florida based search and rescue team to report Virgil missing. They had been working in tandem with International Rescue. Three of their helicopters and most of their operatives were still tied up with the Monte Christos disaster. They had only one helicopter on standby, and the best they could offer to conduct a search, was the service of their rescue hydrofoil equipped with a four man diving team. John sighed. That was not going to be enough, but he realised the needs of many would outweigh the needs of the few. John had to be grateful for any offer of help no matter how small. He pounded his fist on the wall in frustration. Without Thunderbird Two International Rescue was severely hampered. Thunderbird Four was miles away from where it was so badly needed. John desperately needed to get hold of someone in the vicinity who could supply a submarine. He did not get much joy from the Navy whose subs were on 'secret manoeuvres'. He decided to try the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. He prayed that their nuclear powered Swordfish would be available to help. The W.A.S.P. sympathetically informed him that the Swordfish was undergoing maintenance checks, and would out of service for the next few days. It's sister craft the Marlin was tracking in the Antarctic Ocean.
Meanwhile Jeff put in a call to an ex-colleague in NASA to see if they had seen or heard of any unexplained disturbances in the area. Jeff had heard many fanciful notions concerning the Bermuda Triangle. The area had a high degree of electromagnetic energy. There had been numerous reports of UFO sightings. Even wild theories that the area was a time portal to a parallel universe or a wormhole to another galaxy. Jeff didn't know what to believe anymore. He kept a calm and steady voice while he thanked his friend for his sympathy and offers of help. Next came the unenviable task of letting the rest of the family know. He almost broke down while speaking to his mother. He was glad Penelope was on hand to offer comfort and a good old English cup of tea. Now he sat with a glass of whiskey in his hand trying to summon the strength to call Gordon.
Unaware of the drama. Gordon Tracy was being welcomed by Noah Brady and his wife Cheryl.
"You should have called us Gordon." scolded Cheryl. "We would have picked you up from the airstrip."
"You look as if you've been boiled!" laughed Noah. Gordon's face was red from sunburn. His hair was flattened with perspiration, and his shirt was clinging to his back. It had only been a three mile walk but in the ninety degree heat he was dripping and drained.
"Man it's hot! And I'm covered with flies!” Gordon swatted a black bug busily feasting on sweat at the nape of his neck.
"There's only one place for you then!"
"The pool Daddy." squealed Noah's six year old son Jake. "Throw Uncle Gordon in the pool!"
"Oh no." cried Gordon in true pantomime style. "Not the pool! Please don't throw me in the pool!"
"He's got all his clothes on and his watch too." noticed Cheryl.
"Do you want to see Uncle Gordon go in the pool?" asked Noah theatrically.
"YEEEES!" roared Jake.
Gordon slipped off his wristwatch and put it on a table next to Noah's. It was practically identical.
"So you've got one of those new fangled watch phones too," observed Noah. Gordon's wristwatch communicator looked like any other mobile phone. Technology had made them small enough to fit into the face of a wrist watch . "How do you get on with it? I'm all fingers and thumbs. Damned Japanese technology. Granted they can make things smaller, but then they have smaller hands. I've got palms the size of meat plates and fingers like sausages. I keep getting the numbers wrong."
"Are you going to throw him in Daddy?" urged Jake who didn't wish to miss the fun. Gordon didn't mind. Being hurled fully clothed into the cooling waters of the pool would be the nearest thing to heaven right now.
Noah, a well built man, hoisted Gordon over his shoulder and unceremoniously dumped him in. He hit the water with a loud splash. Jake shrieked with laughter as Gordon grabbed Noah's leg and pulled him in as well. With all of the gleeful shouting and splashing. No-one heard one of the wristwatches bleep.
Gordon raced across the pool with Jake. "Beat you. Uncle Gordon."
"I must be getting out of condition," panted Gordon.
"Have a beer," called Noah, pouring himself a drink and one for Gordon. When he set Gordon's glass down on a nearby table, he heard a watch emitting a loud bleep. Noah picked it up, strapped it to his wrist and put his finger to his ear.
"Okay ...I'll be there in five minutes." Noah hastily pulled on his trousers. "Duty calls," he shouted to Gordon.
Gordon hauled himself out of the pool.
"Sorry," apologised Noah. "I'm afraid I'll have to cry off our evening dive. I'm on call tonight. I've got to go."
"What's the problem?" Gordon lifted the cool glass of beer to his lips and drank thirstily.
"Dad rescues people," piped up Jake, "He pilots the rescue hydrofoil. We saw International Rescue today. They flew over our house in a Thunderbird Two."
Gordon playfully ruffled Jake's hair. "Did they really? What a shame I missed them."
"I'm going to help International Rescue," announced Noah proudly.
"Really Dad. Are you going to help them rescue someone?"
"I hope so, Son." Noah took Gordon aside, out of Jake's earshot. "I don't want to upset Jake, but it's International Rescue who need rescuing. You know that craft he got so excited about..."
"What about it?" asked Gordon in alarm.
"I've just had a report that it's missing. It may have come down in the sea. My team are mounting a search for the pilot."
"Uncle Gordon," cried Jake, "Look out, you're spilling your drink all over the sun bed!"
"Jeez Gordon, I'm so sorry you had to find out like that. I just don't know what to say." Noah and Gordon were breathless, having just raced full speed to the jetty where the rescue hydrofoil was stationed.
"How fast will this thing go?" asked Gordon earnestly.
"I didn't know your brother was a pilot for International Rescue."
"It's top secret. I would appreciate it if you didn't mention it to anyone else. Not even Cheryl. Virgil dropped me off a few miles down the road. He had been called to Monte Christos. He's not supposed to take passengers. He would be in trouble if they found out I hitched a ride."
"My lips are sealed, but that's the least of his problems right now. We need to find that bird before his air supply runs out."
"It should be good for at least another twenty four hours. Thunderbird Two is water tight and strong enough to withstand heavy water pressure. That's what I remember him telling me."
Noah started up the hydrofoil. "How do you feel about travelling on this thing again. They've greatly improved the safety features since...."
"Yeah no problem just go," interrupted Gordon.
"They changed the design after the accident with the prototype. What happened to you couldn't happen again. This craft is model is far more stable than the old one, and it's just as fast."
"I wish we had Thunderbird Four," said Gordon in frustration.
"Have you seen Thunderbird Four? I've only seen it in action once. That was from a distance and through high powered binoculars. It looks neat. Bit on the small side though, not as sleek as the old Stingray. That was a classic."
Gordon looked affronted. "It's as big as it needs to be. It's tough and it's fast."
"I don't really know anything about it. International Rescue are pretty touchy about publicity. Now they need our help. It's ironic, they have all that expensive equipment and now they have lost their only means of transporting it all. What's that Thunderbird plane worth.? A few billion I would guess."
"Virgil only flies it," replied Gordon. "He didn't buy it."
"Sorry, I'm not trying to pry. I'm sure your brother has been sworn to secrecy. I can't help being curious about them. I would love to be part of their organisation."
Noah and Gordon were joined by the other three divers, who were already in their wetsuits.
"Do you have a suit I can borrow?" asked Gordon.
"I have a spare suit, but I'm not sure whether you should go down," replied Noah.
"You'll make an odd number," explained a colleague. "We go down in pairs."
"Yes, yes I know the procedure," snapped Gordon. " I'm a diver myself. I want to help."
Noah pulled Gordon aside. "Gordon. I really don't think it's a good idea. You're obviously emotionally involved. You won't be thinking rationally."
Gordon angrily pulled away. "I've got to do something!. I can't just sit around and wait!"
"Gordon I'm asking you as a friend. Man the hydrofoil for us, you have the experience. Man the radio. We need someone to do that. It will release an extra man to dive."
Gordon apologised for his outburst. Noah made good sense. "Gordon, I want you to co-ordinate activities with International Rescue. Use the radio link on the hydrofoil . If we find their man you'll be the first to know. It's better this way."
Gordon agreed, he desperately wanted to be in touch with his family. He watched as two of the divers flipped backwards in to the water. Gordon picked up the radio mike and called,
"International Rescue... this is.... this is Gordon Tracy. I'm with the Key rescue unit. We are nearing Bermuda. Can you give us the last known position of Thunderbird Two?"
"Receiving you, Mr Tracy." John tried to keep a neutral tone to his voice as he relayed the co-ordnance.
"Thank you, International Rescue. Keep this channel open we will let you know if we find anything." Noah moved the hydrofoil a few miles east and then cut the engines. Leaving Gordon at the helm, he and the other diver waved to a helicopter circling overhead and then jumped in to the sea.
"They've gone in, John," whispered Gordon.
John gave way to his feelings. "Thank goodness. Dad's been going frantic trying to contact you. Why didn't you have your communicator on?"
"We were horsing around in the pool. How is Dad? How are Alan and Scott taking this?"
"As well as can be expected. Scott and Alan are being positive."
"If only I had Thunderbird Four!" cried Gordon.
"We're working on that." replied John, "Alan is piloting her. To save on fuel Scott has attached magnetic grabs to the front of Thunderbird Four to tow her along."
Gordon shook his head, "That will still take too long! We need a sub now."
"I know, Gordon, I know. Believe me I've tried everything I can think of. I even asked the Navy and the W.A.S.P. They can't help. It's down to us as usual."
"What happened, John?" asked Gordon desperately. "There were no mechanical problems that I was aware of. When he left the weather was perfectly clear. I just don't get it. What went wrong?"
"The curse of the Bermuda Triangle."
"You don't seriously believe that stuff do you. This is two thousand and forty six, not nineteen sixty six."
"It happened to Virgil. He reported the compass acting strangely. He was off course. As I was speaking to him he ran into a thick sea mist. Then suddenly he was gone. I swear it Gordon, it was in a matter of seconds. I was tracking him all the time."
"Did you lose sight of him at all."
"I had a bit of interference but that was over in seconds. I heard Virgil cry out and then Thunderbird Two was gone."
"No. This is the stuff of science fiction. There must be a rational explanation. What does Brains say?"
"That there must be a rational scientific explanation. He did mention the possibility of a freak tidal wave."
"It would have to be one hell of a tidal wave to be able to knock Thunderbird Two out of the sky. It would need to be the size of a five storey bock of flats."
"Not so long ago that would have been considered the stuff of science fiction. Now scientists have back tracked on that one. Where you get two opposing air currents merging, it could indeed cause a tidal wave. Brains has been boning up on them. He has found eye witness reports of waves over a hundred feet high."
Gordon sighed. "That would dash Thunderbird Two to pieces!"
"I'll patch you through to Scott. He can give you an update on his position."
Scott's authoritative voice came over the radio. "Gordon! We're on our way, but it's going to take a while yet. It's calm here and we've made good time. It's tough for Thunderbird One to fly slowly. She wasn't designed for it. Alan keeps complaining that I'm bumping him around. He's afraid Thunderbird Four will flip over."
"I know you're doing your best Scott. I just feel so helpless!"
Two hours later Noah came up for a break. He had nothing to report. No signs of any wreckage, which was good news to Gordon.
"So it probably wasn't a tidal wave then?"
"It's unlikely. A tidal wave would have smashed the craft to pieces. There would have been wreckage scattered all over."
"What could it be? Do you believe all that stuff about The Bermuda Triangle? You were with the W.A.S.P. longer than me. They made an in depth study of the area. Did they dismiss it as science fiction."
"It was a long time ago. About ten years. I was eighteen, and a raw recruit from naval college. I spent some time at Marineville under the guidance of Captain Troy Tempest. He captained the Stingray prototype. Man that was some craft! Did you ever get to go out in it?"
Gordon shook his head. "No I didn't get to meet Captain Tempest. I heard a bit about him. Had some kind of breakdown I believe."
"I don't know the full story myself. But I know it was during the Bermuda Triangle program. The files on that one are still open. They never did find Stingray."
"So the stories could be true! Did Stingray suddenly disappear like all the other craft?"
Noah pursed his lips. "It's doubtful. It was more likely a simple case of human error."
"What? On the part of Captain Tempest?"
"Captain Tempest drove himself very hard. He worked hard and he played hard too. He was a workaholic and something of a womaniser. I found him a bit on the arrogant side. He thought he was some kind or super hero. He took risks too. He once ran out of air at the bottom of a sea trench, maybe that's what started his problems."
"What happened? Did he start drinking or something?"
"No. I think he had some mental problems. He suffered hallucinations and paranoia. Only no-one realised at the time except for his co-navigator and hydrophones operator."
"Why didn't this guy report him?"
"I don't know. Misguided loyalty perhaps."
"You said Stingray disappeared? Do you know what happened? How did Captain Tempest survive? Was anyone else on board?
"Whew! I need to draw breath. One question at a time! I don't really know what happened or why they survived."
"Do you know where Captain Tempest is now? Is he still with the W.A.S.P.?
"No. He retired. I believe he married the Commander's daughter."
"Yes, her father died recently. He had a house on the Bahamas."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I met Commander Shore while I was hospitalised. He came to give me moral support."
"He was a good guy at heart. His bark was a lot worse than his bite. He had us raw recruits jumping around in circles. We were terrified of him. Atlanta was the apple of his eye. I suppose that was because she was his only child."
"I remember Atlanta. Pretty girl. Flame red hair and a temper to match."
"She took after her Dad. She was the only one with the temperament to tame Tempest. No pun intended, but I bet it was a stormy relationship."
"Do you know where I can find Captain Tempest?"
"Not really. Even if I knew where he was, he probably wouldn't be much help. He might not even remember what happened."
"What about this other guy? The hydrophones operator."
"No idea where he went. He left soon after Troy. I can't even remember his real name. Everyone called him 'Phones'"
"So that's it then."
"I have an idea. It's a long shot but it might work."
"Commander Shore died two months ago. He would have left his estate to Atlanta. If we can find his address or even better his phone number, maybe we can find Atlanta. Perhaps she would be willing to talk to you."
Gordon was enthusiastic. He wanted to go there right now, but Noah insisted on a thorough search of the Ocean floor. He radioed to the other divers who had also found nothing.
By nightfall the search was called off.
Chapter 5 - At Home with the Tempests
Gordon had not been able to sleep properly all night. He dozed fitfully and dreamed he was back on Tracy Island. He awoke in the middle of the night and thought he could hear Virgil playing the piano. Virgil's favourite tune had invaded his head. Stress and lack of sleep played a strange havoc with his mind. He walked to his window, a gentle breeze flapped the curtains. Gordon gazed out on to the calm Ocean. Dawn was breaking. He made an anguished plea,
"Virgil. Where are you?"
Gordon left his room and made his way to the kitchen to make himself a coffee. He tiptoed past Noah and Cheryl's bedroom. He didn't want to be a nuisance and wake them up too early. He could hear a gentle snoring coming from Jake's room. In front of him he saw a light shining underneath the door of Noah's study. He heard the sound of voices. Without wanting to be seen to be eavesdropping, he waited outside the door.
"...Yes. Thank you for that I'll tell him when he wakes."
Gordon thrust open the door, "Has there been any more news?"
"No. Not about Virgil. I've just been speaking to Atlanta Shore - sorry Tempest. I was awake early this morning, something was playing on my mind. I came across an advert in one of my diving magazines. It was from a company wanting to organise a dive to try to discover the ' Lost City of Atlantis’. I remembered the company was called Tempest. I managed to find the article and I called the contact number to say we were interested. Atlanta answered, I then explained the real reason I was calling. I told her you wanted to come and see Troy. Atlanta remembers you. Seems she had rather soft spot for you, Gordon. I told her about Virgil. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind? That's the best news I've heard so far."
"Don't get your hopes up too high. Troy likes to spin a yarn or two. He finds it hard to distinguish fact from fiction these days."
"I've got to see him. I believe Virgil is still alive .He must be."
Noah handed Gordon a bunch of keys. "Take the speedboat. It's fast. Good luck, I hope it helps to shed some light on your brother’s disappearance."
After communicating with Gordon, Scott radioed through to Alan in Thunderbird Four. "How are you doing. If you're tired we can stop."
"No I'm fine," lied Alan. In truth he felt very tired and slightly seasick.
"Are you hungry?"
"No way. Just don't get me thinking about food. I've been bouncing up and down on those waves all night long."
"Sorry, Alan, I know it's been a rough ride, but we'll soon be there."
"Do you want to stop for a while? If I'm tired you must be dead beat yourself. You should have a rest. Don't go falling asleep at the controls."
"I took an amphetamine. We used to use them in the air force, to keep us awake and alert when we were on a mission. I've just had a call from Gordon. He says he is on his way to the Bahamas to visit the chap who used to Captain Stingray for the W.A.S.P."
"Can he help us?"
"Gordon thinks so. The trouble is, this guy has had mental health problems. He gets a little muddled. He seems to believe in an underwater city. He swears blind that he's been there before. I don't know what to think. Gordon may be clutching at straws here."
"Does Gordon trust this guy?"
"He doesn't really know him, Alan. He just says he has a hunch that this Troy Tempest chap may know something."
"Well I hope he's right. I hope he's not going off on a wild goose chase with some nut who thinks he was an angel fish in a previous life!"
Gordon walked the few short steps from the jetty, where he had moored the speed boat. He caught a glimpse of a sprawling, lime-washed bungalow through flourishing tropical vegetation. 'Impressive' was the word which sprang to his mind. This was obviously a residence befitting a man who had been a high ranking officer in the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. Gordon felt a little apprehensive as he walked up to the front entrance. Although he was expected by the occupants of 'Shorewaters', which was the name swinging from a wrought iron sign attached to a mailbox, he still felt as if he was intruding. He was going to open some old wounds.
Gordon walked along the driveway, paused to watch a trio of hummingbirds feast on a deep red hibiscus flowers and then rapped on the polished front door . He stood with his eyes downcast, as he heard footsteps approaching.. An attractive woman in her late forties opened the door. She beamed a welcoming a smile. Her hair was still the same flame red, her skin untouched by the tropical sun was still pale and softly freckled, but there were lines around her eyes and deep frowns etched on her forehead. Life had not always been easy for Atlanta Tempest and she looked every one of her forty years.
"Gordon Tracy!" She held out her arms. Her red polished nails lightly brushed Gordon's shoulders.
"Th- thank you for agreeing to see me. I-is it okay with Troy?" Gordon was nervous. He was stammering, and sounding just like Brains.
"My dear boy." Atlanta embraced him in the folds of her floaty blue caftan. "He will be delighted to see you. He doesn't get many visitors these days."
"I'm sorry. I know I haven't been in touch for the last two years, and I was sorry to hear about your father. He was kind to me after my accident."
Atlanta's hazel eyes clouded with tears at the mention of her father.
"I-I'm sorry," stammered Gordon again. "I should not have come."
"Nonsense." Atlanta masked her emotions with a cheery smile. "It's good to see you again. And it's good to see you walking so well. Two years ago I would never have thought it possible."
"Neither would I," agreed Gordon.
"You're looking well."
"Yes I am. Thank you."
The conversation ground embarrassingly to a halt with both parties grinning at each other, not really knowing what to say.
"Troy's in the garden," said Atlanta. "Come with me." Gordon followed her into an opulent hallway. He stopped to stare at a magnificent painting which almost covered the whole of one of the walls. It depicted a sleek blue, yellow and silver submarine diving in a sea of tropical fish and corals.
Gordon recognised it immediately. "Stingray!"
Atlanta gazed wistfully. "Troy painted this last year. It was one of the things closest to his heart."
"Wow, he's good. My brother was an artist too ."It was a silly slip of the tongue, but Gordon was furious at himself. "My brother is an artist," he corrected.
"You have four brothers don't you? Which of them is the artist?"
"Ah. The one who is missing."
"Yes. That's the reason why I am here. He went missing over the sea just off the coast of Bermuda."
Atlanta looked solemn. "I can't promise that Troy will be able to help you. Some days are better than others," then she added." He talks about her." Atlanta stopped in front of a portrait of a beautiful young woman, unlike any other Gordon had ever seen. "He painted this too."
"Marina?" Gordon had heard all about the mysterious Marina from Noah.
Atlanta nodded. The picture was surreal. It showed an impossibly beautiful girl with huge, sad, limpid green eyes. She looked almost like a caricature with her translucent skin and silver/ green hair.
"Is that the woman he claims to have seen?" asked Gordon.
"Yes. But he saw others too. He saw a sort of Neptune character if you can call him that. Troy refers to him as Titan. He believes Marina was his slave"
"I'm sorry all this must be hard for you."
"Not really. It's a sort of normality. You get used to it. We are part of an eternal triangle. Me, Troy and Marina. He misses her. At first he refused to take his medication because he still wanted to believe in her. " She smiled wryly and then continued, "Don't misunderstand me, Gordon. How can I be jealous of someone who is a figment of his imagination? Troy is still intelligent and lucid, and even with his schizophrenia, I still love him as much as I did back in those days when he was a dashing Captain and I was a spoilt daddy's girl."
"Oh you were not a spoilt daddy's girl. No-one thought of you in that way. You reached the rank of lieutenant. That's something to be proud of."
"We had some good times, until Troy's paranoia began to affect his job. He started to see this 'Titan's' spies everywhere. He hid it very well at first, not even 'Phones' realised how sick he was becoming. Then he used to see Marina everywhere. Even in Stingray when he was out on patrol. She was as real to him as you or I. He became obsessed with her. He started to have conversations with her, but he said that she could not speak. Odd isn't it? You always assume that people with his sort of illness would hear voices."
Gordon really did not know what to say. He had been inspired by Captain Tempest and was saddened to hear of his mental decline. Atlanta led him through a light airy living room which opened up on to a balcony overlooking the sea. Captain Tempest sat with his back to them scanning the Ocean with his binoculars.
"We have a visitor, Darling," cooed Atlanta, laying a manicured hand lovingly on his shoulder. "Young Gordon Tracy. Remember, I told you I had a phone call from Noah Brady early this morning?"
Captain Tempest turned and peered at Gordon through narrowed eyes. Gordon was afraid he might have forgotten him. He had not really had that much to do with Captain Tempest during his time with the W.A.S.P.
When Gordon joined at the age of eighteen, Captain Tempest had already relinquished his command. A few months later, he accepted early retirement on health grounds. Atlanta stayed on for another two years to assist her father. She and Captain Tempest were engaged, and when they married Atlanta gave up her career to care for him. They moved in to Commander Shore's home which they had now inherited.
"Gordon Tracy?" Captain Tempest looked bemused." Are you the same young man who won the Olympic gold... The young man who was injured in the hydrofoil accident."
Gordon extended his hand. "Good morning, sir. Thank you for taking the time to see me."
A look of recognition suddenly crossed Captain Tempest's face. He gave a broad grin. "Well you're a sight for sore eyes. They said you would never walk again."
"Well, they were wrong."
"You are one lucky kid. Commander Shore told me all about you. I didn't really know you, back then, but we were all rooting for you." He pulled up a chair and motioned Gordon to sit down. Gordon was surprised to see how well he looked. He still had his handsome looks. His dark hair was greying slightly at the temples, which gave him a distinguished air. Gordon supposed he was around ten years younger than his own father.
"Honey, would you get young Gordon here a drink? What would you like? Gin and tonic? Some good Caribbean rum?"
"Oh, just some iced lemon thanks."
"Can I get anything for you Troy? It's almost time for you to take your tablet."
"I'll have the same. " Atlanta smiled sweetly at him and returned to the kitchen.
"Not a drinker yourself then, Gordon.?" noted the Captain.
"No, I'm driving my speedboat back to the keys. I need a clear head."
"Too right, you don't want to go seeing strange sea monsters. The local firewater is lethal or so I'm told. Can't touch it myself. I've got enough problems!" Captain Tempest laughed aloud and Gordon didn't know whether he was expected to laugh as well. Captain Tempest sensed his unease and changed the subject.
"What are you doing these days? I hear you left the service too."
"I'm working for my father."
"The Tracy Corporation? Your dad's quite a big shot now isn't he?"
"Yeah. I suppose so."
"So. What brings you to this part of the world.? You've got to be here for the diving. Don't tell me you've given that up for a desk job!"
"Have you done the blue hole yet?" That's always a favourite. I took a group down a few weeks ago. It always gives me a buzz."
"Do you still dive?"
"Yeah sure I do."
"Not on your own though."
Captain Tempest laughed again, "You're never alone with schizophrenia."
"I'm sorry," mumbled Gordon. "I didn't mean ..."
"Don't worry. I've learned to live with it now. I have learned how to relax. I have Atlanta. I have the sea, and if I had a mind to flush my pills down the toilet, I could have Marina. What more could any man ask for?"
Again Gordon smiled nervously. He didn't know how to take the Captain. Gordon did not expect him to be so blasé about his illness.
"I want to ask you for a favour." Gordon thought it best to get to the point. "I'm not here on holiday. I am looking for my brother. His craft went missing in this area. His last known position was reported to be somewhere in the region of Bermuda. The strange thing is, he reported his position as being over the Puerto Rico. He had state of the art technology aboard. The latest flight instruments - everything. There’s no way he could make such a mistake. He's an experienced pilot, and yet he's just disappeared in to thin air."
"The Bermuda triangle strikes again."
"But that's a legend. Everyone knows that. It's been explained."
Captain Tempest shrugged. “Many things are unexplained. Who can explain what is real or unreal?"
"You know what I am going to ask you?" said Gordon.
"I kind of figured that's what you were leading up to."
"If you don't want to talk about it, I will understand. But I think it might help me find my brother."
"You think he is still alive then?"
"We Tracys don't give up so easily."
"I hope you're right. The incident you are about to ask me to remember, some days I don't know what I believe myself . It happened some ten years ago. Phones and I were patrolling the area to the East of the keys. We had received reports of strange disturbances in the area. We were investigating the disappearance of a freighter. The Bermuda Triangle phenomenon! I suppose, looking back, I was receptive to the idea of an underwater kingdom. I had also read reports about the lost city of Atlantis. It was fantastic stuff. I was hooked. The adventurer in me wanted to find that city. I wanted there to be a race of sea dwelling people, and that was the start of it all." He paused to take a drink from Atlanta's outstretched hand. He reached in his pocket for a bottle of pills, unscrewed the cap and swallowed a couple. Atlanta looked on approvingly. He then continued.
"We had some sort of malfunction on our instrument panel. Then communications failure and suddenly, just as we were struggling to fix the panel, we were whirled round and round. Like being in the spin cycle of a washing machine. When the spinning stopped, we found ourselves at the bottom of a deep trench. It was very dark, when we switched on the arc lights all we could see was a wall of rock. Our life support systems had been damaged and we were on emergency power. Our radio was down and our air was running out. So you see, I still don't know if what I saw was real or not. Perhaps Phones would have been the best person to ask."
"He has left the service too. No-one knows where he went."
"He never kept in touch," said the Captain sadly. "Not many of them did."
"Go on tell me anyway," prompted Gordon.
"We both eventually passed out through lack of oxygen. By all rights we should have died. But we didn't. Phones was unconscious for most of the time and remembered nothing. I remember finding myself in a tunnel. I was being transported through that tunnel and I found myself in a room. A bit like a hospital room. The light was bright and it hurt my eyes. That's where I saw him.. This strange man. I could have been completely off my head at that point. I remember something odd about his skin. It was kind of scaly, a bit like some reptilian mask. I saw a lot of strange things after that. I was probably hallucinating through lack of oxygen. Maybe that was the trigger the illness needed to take me over completely. But what I can't explain is how we both survived. Someone removed us both from our craft while we were unconscious. Someone took us to some sort of underground hospital and somehow we ended up on the deserted island where we were found by our rescue team. But who or how? I can't explain."
"And what about Stingray?"
"Lost. We never found it. They commissioned another sub. Bigger and better. But I have always wondered what happened to Stingray. I suppose its quietly rusting in some black void. It would cost too much to salvage it, besides it would probably be beyond repair by now."
"If I was able to get a submarine, could you show me the spot where you went into the trench."
"I don't know. Anyway, where are you going to get a submarine capable of withstanding that sort of deep water pressure?"
"It's top secret."
"Don't tell me your dad makes them."
"Sort of. My dad's company supplies the materials."
"I'm not sure. Have you spoken to Atlanta about this? I don't think she would be too happy."
"Please, try to persuade her. I want to try to find my brother. If there really is some kind of underwater laboratory, maybe he'll be there."
"It's a long shot. Just you and me and a great wide Ocean."
"No. Not just us. I have back up. I can't tell you about it unless you agree. What do you say? You were the best at your job. No, you are the best. You know this part of the Ocean and what's more you know its trenches."
"Okay, I'll speak to Atlanta. You've got me hooked."
Chapter 6 - Into The Deep
"Thanks, Scott. I can make it by myself now." Alan sounded determined, but weary.
Scott detached the magnetic grabs from the front of Thunderbird Four and slowly reeled them in. "Gordon is still in the Bahamas with Captain Tempest. He wants you to meet him there. Tempest's house is the large one on the waterfront. When you get within a mile of the coast, give Gordon a call and he will guide you in."
"What are you going to do Scott?” asked Alan.
"Park Thunderbird One, book in to a hotel and sleep!"
"So you're not joining us then?"
"Not much point really. I'll keep an eye on things from the air."
Scott flew on ahead, leaving a vapour trail of white smoke across the blue sky. Alan, tired of bobbing up and down on the surface, decided he would feel more comfortable submerged. Thunderbird Four smoothly cut its way through the waves. Alan dived down to seventy feet. The Ocean floor was still, calm and most important - stable. Alan's eyeballs still felt as if they were jumping up and down. But gradually, as they focused on the constant seascape in front of him, his stomach began to settle and he became aware of how hungry he was
. Gordon was tucking in to a mid-morning breakfast with the Tempests. Troy had just chosen this moment to inform his wife of his intention to help Gordon mount a search for the mysterious vortex that had claimed Stingray. Atlanta's lips grew noticeably thinner.
"Do you think that's a good idea, Troy?" her tone indicated her displeasure.
"I know this area better than anyone. At this moment International Rescue are on their way here with Thunderbird Four. They want my help."
"Darling, I know you want to help, but what if you become ill again?"
"I've got the damn pills," snapped Troy. "And I'm not an invalid. Even though you enjoy treating me like one!” He slammed his coffee cup down on the table top and stalked out of the room. Atlanta glared at Gordon as if she wished she had never set eyes on him. He felt guilty and embarrassed.
" Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause any trouble."
"I know you didn't. It's just that my husband isn't the man he used to be. He forgets that. He can be very stubborn. All this fanciful talk about lost cities and mysterious whirlpools just fires him up. I don't want him to go back to that world. Do you understand?"
"I'm sorry. I'll tell him it's all off. I'll go on my own if necessary. "
Atlanta reached across the table and patted Gordon's hand. "Gordon, I sympathise with you, I really do. I know what its like to lose someone you love. Troy and Phones were missing for nearly four weeks. I went through agony. I didn't know whether he was dead or alive. I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone."
"Well let him help us, Atlanta? I'm going through that agony right now. So are the rest of my family. I believe Troy can help us. I believe he is capable of doing his job. If you wrap him up in cotton wool, he will grow to resent you."
Atlanta dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. "Oh dear, I don't know what to do. I just want him safe. I want us to grow old together."
Gordon put his arm around her shoulders. "Please Atlanta ... for me?"
Atlanta was unable to resist the pleading look in his honey-brown eyes. "You'll look after him?"
"You'll make sure he takes his medication on time?"
"Okay, just give me a minute. I'll go and find him."
Gordon heard his watch bleep, as Atlanta left the room. It was Alan. "He'll do it., Alan," said Gordon triumphantly. "Troy Tempest has agreed to help us."
"I hope that's good news. I'm nearing the shore. I think I can see the house. Does it have a red speedboat moored alongside?"
"Yes, that's Noah's. He let me borrow it. Can you get it back to him after we've set off?"
"But I'm going with you, aren't I?"
"No room, Alan. Thunderbird Four is cramped enough. Two is more than company. Three will definitely be a crowd."
"That's not fair. I want to go! He's my brother too!"
"You must be exhausted, Alan. Both you and Scott need to rest. I'll take over now. Troy Tempest will be in control."
"Well, I just hope the two of you know what you are doing."
"We don't, Alan."
Gordon raced to the jetty to greet Alan. He was relieved to see his bright yellow submersible bobbing up and down on the waves. Gordon leaned over the jetty and stretched out his hand to help Alan from the cockpit of Thunderbird Four. Alan was bent double. He groaned as he tried to straighten his aching back. His legs felt like jelly. Although he was on dry land, he still felt as if he was bobbing up and down on the sea.
"I never want to have to do that again!"
Gordon smiled. "Thanks, Al. Come on, I'll help you up to the house. I've told Atlanta that you are from International Rescue and that they are prepared to lend us Thunderbird Four, but she doesn't know that we are related."
"Do you think she will let me freshen up. I've been cooped up in there all night. I need a good long soak in a hot tub to get my joints moving again."
"I'm sure Atlanta will let you freshen up, and I bet she'll be happy to cook you a breakfast. She likes having someone to fuss over."
Minutes later, Alan was gratefully soaking his aching body in a deep hot tub. He momentarily closed his eyes. The next thing he felt, was his head slipping beneath the water. He snorted and spluttered and sat upright. He was absolutely exhausted. He got out of the bath, dried and put on his clothes. Then he dragged his wobbly legs across the landing. He was drawn to a large picture window in the master bedroom. The view of the bay was magnificent. The sun shone invitingly on glittering white sand and turquoise sea. Taking in this panorama, Alan sat on the edge of the bed and towel dried his fluffy blond hair.
Troy was eager to get started. "I still have some of my old navigation charts. I kept everything. Atlanta doesn't know it, but I still have all Stingray's logs under the bed. I couldn't bear throw anything away."
"They could be useful. Would it take you long to find them?"
"No, I'll go get them now."
Troy marched in to his bedroom, and to his surprise he saw a figure stretched out on his bed. He calmly closed the bedroom door and called to Gordon. When Gordon appeared, Troy opened the door and pointed to Alan who was sleeping like a baby.
"Tell me. What can you see? Do you see anyone sleeping on my bed?"
Gordon smiled. "Goldilocks."
"Do you see any bears?"
"No. Just Goldilocks."
"Me neither. Thank goodness for that. I thought my hallucinations were starting again. By the way, who is he and what is he doing on my bed?"
Gordon laughed." That's the guy from International Rescue who brought us the sub. He's whacked. He'll probably be like that for another eight hours. I hope Atlanta doesn't mind."
"No. At least it will give her someone else to cluck over like a mother hen."
Troy hunched up his shoulders in the cockpit of Thunderbird Four. "It's a bit cramped," he complained.
"Well, it may be small, but it can get to places you wouldn't have been able to take Stingray." Gordon felt the need to defend his beloved craft.
"Stingray was sleek and fast. There was nothing like it, Gordon. It was like driving a classic car."
"I'll have to take your word for that."
"It's a pity you didn't get chance to go in her during your W.A.S.P. days." Troy proceeded to go in to raptures about the craft. Gordon had to bite his tongue. Once Troy had got on to his favourite subject there was no holding him. Half an hour in to their voyage Gordon knew every single one of Stingray's specifications. He was beginning to understand how Lee Sheridan might have got his nickname 'Phones' . Troy had hardly drawn breath! Gordon wished that he could blot him out with a pair of headphones too. Another of Troy's pet subjects was the Lost City of Atlantis
"It exists I'm sure."
"Have you seen it then?" asked Gordon.
"I wish I could understand just what I did see."
"How does this Marina fit in to all this?"
"Oh, she told you about Marina did she?"
"Yes, and Titan too."
"I accept that 'Titan' was the product of an oxygen starved brain. But Marina.... well don't laugh at me, Gordon, but I believe she exists."
"Green hair and all?"
"Yeah, gills and a tail! You're going to laugh at me, just like the rest. I thought you would be different!"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. It just seems hard to get my head around all of this." Gordon took a sharp intake of breath. He was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake. "Where did you see this Marina person or whatever she was?"
"I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Just as I thought I was finished, someone put a mask on my face and I found I could breathe again. I opened my eyes and there she was... I know it sounds corny. I remember her eyes, they were aquamarine. Her skin was white and her hair ...well, it had a kind of green light shining on it ... or maybe her stylist just messed up her highlights! I don't know!" he sounded so genuinely frustrated that Gordon almost believed him.
"What about the mysterious man with scaly skin?"
"Same sort of thing really. I was drifting in and out. I saw Marina's face and sometimes I saw his. Like he was bending over me ... observing me."
"Did they say anything to you?"
"I'm not sure. The man asked questions. I could see his mouth moving . I could hear my own voice answering. But I can't remember what I said or what he said. Marina was silent. She never spoke a word."
"Do you suppose she was deaf?"
"No. The man called her name and she came over to him."
"You say this man and woman were observing you, did they actually do anything to you? Experiments or anything like that?"
"I don't know what they did. I would just see their faces and then I would black out again."
"Sounds like they could have been drugging you."
"It's been bugging me for years. It's like some kind of mental rape. I have these flashbacks of Marina inside Stingray. I am sitting in the cockpit. I don't know whether it was a dream or whether it really happened."
"So when you returned to Marineville what happened to you?"
"I was hospitalised and checked over. I was very weak. I still wasn't really aware of what was happening to me. Then I started to see her again. She would be in the room with me. I would see the strange man and all these other nightmarish characters. They were so real, Gordon, as real as you are. I had some kind of breakdown. I was convinced Marineville was going to be attacked. My behaviour was pretty erratic. I guess I was difficult to live with."
Gordon's forehead was furrowed. He recalled what it felt like to be in a drug induced haze. Dreams and reality blending into one. He was given high doses of painkillers following serious injuries sustained in the hydrofoil accident. They made him hallucinate. He could have so easily believed he was going mad. "Do you have any regrets about leaving the W.A.S.P.?"
"I didn't have much choice. The decision was made for me. Commander Shore did all he could for me, but he was over-ruled by those above him. Of course I have regrets. I would gladly trade the last five years of my life for just one whole day in command of Stingray again."
"Atlanta would have something to say about that. She just wants to grow old with you by her side."
"I think she was jealous."
"No. Of Stingray. Sure I liked women, but my mistress was the sea. It was something she couldn't compete with. I know she was glad when I was retired."
"But you're not, are you? "
"Would you be? I sit in the garden. I watch the birds, listen to the radio, do a bit of water colour painting. The only thing exciting thing I have in my life is diving. I think Atlanta would wrap me up in cotton wool, if she could."
Gordon began to feel rather sorry for Troy Tempest. Gordon had seen this man's eyes come back to life when he took the controls of Thunderbird Four, and dived beneath the waves. The more time Gordon spent in Troy's company, the more he doubted this man was suffering from the mental illness he had been diagnosed with.
Troy handed the helm over to Gordon, and went to check his charts. "It's got to be somewhere around here. This is the last entry in my log book. I remember the rock formation on this part of the Ocean floor. See those cone shaped rocks? That indicates volcanic activity. The Earth's crust is probably quite thin here. Look at the temperature gauge; see how it's gone up? The sea temperature has risen...”
"Well I hope one of the volcanoes doesn't pop while we're sitting on top of it. We'll be boiled like a couple of lobsters."
"No, they have all been dormant for several years. There is a ring of volcanic islands just pass this ridge."
Gordon could see a wall of rock in front of him. "There's a narrow opening up ahead, I'm not sure Thunderbird Four will be able to squeeze through." Cut in to the rock was a passageway. Troy wanted to know where it went.
"Shall we give it a try?"
"Why not?" replied Gordon. “This is getting curiouser and curiouser."
"Well, if you happen to see a white rabbit, don't let it out of your sight!"
"We're well and truly in now. There’s nowhere to turn around. So we've got to see it through."
Gordon skilfully manoeuvred Thunderbird Four through the tunnel. He noticed that the walls looked smooth. “Looks like this tunnel could be man-made."
Troy began to get excited. "This could be it! This could be the breakthrough we need."
"I don't see how this will help us find Thunderbird Two. There's no way it would fit in this tunnel."
"Neither could Stingray, but it must lead somewhere."
"What we are doing is risky. Supposing it just leads to a dead end, reversing all the way back out will be tricky. We could find ourselves stuck in here."
"Do you want to go back then?"
"I know I shouldn't take the risk.... but hell, I'm just as intrigued as you are." Gordon put in a call to his father to report his position. He explained what he was doing and waited the go ahead from his father. Reluctantly, Jeff agreed to allow him to proceed.
"You mean this sub is yours?"
"Yes. I pilot Thunderbird Four for International Rescue."
"So that's why you didn't come back to the W.A.S.P."
"Yes, but that information is classified. Okay?"
"Sure. Your organisation does a great job. I wouldn't want to put them in jeopardy."
"We have our enemies. There are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on our aircraft."
The tunnel started to widen out. Gordon could see brighter waters ahead. “I think we're at the end of it now." The tunnel opened on to an enclosed lagoon. Gordon remarked on the total lack of any current in the water. Thunderbird Four hung motionless in eerily still water.
"What do we do now, Gordon? We are surrounded by rock. The only way looks to be up."
"Up it is then." Gordon had barely finished his sentence when the water started to swirl and bubble, as if someone had just switched on a giant Jacuzzi.
"Jeez. What's that?" yelled Gordon in alarm .He hastily tried to turn Thunderbird Four around to high-tail out the way he came in. The controls were unresponsive. "Everything's locked!"
"It's happening again." remarked Troy who seemed to be surprisingly calm in the circumstances.
"Calling International Rescue ..... We're in trouble John!" Gordon was frantically shouting into the radio mike. He was answered by a monotonous grating hum. "Nothing! I can't get through to John anymore. I can't get the controls to respond. We're stuffed!"
Suddenly Thunderbird Four was in the grip of a powerful whirlpool. Gordon and Troy were thrown about like a couple of rag dolls. Gordon was so disorientated he didn't know if he was moving up, down or sideways. His head was aching and he momentarily blacked out. When he came too, Thunderbird Four was slowly being sucked upwards in a mysterious vortex.
Chapter 7 - Island of noises
Gordon supposed he must have passed out again. He could feel a crushing sensation in his chest. His eyes flickered open. His brain felt as if it had been in a cocktail shaker. He tried to move, but something was pinning him down. It was Troy. He looked as if he was unconscious. Gordon wriggled from beneath the dead weight of his friend's body. He quickly assessed Troy's condition. The pulse was steady, breathing regular. He lifted one of Troy's eyelids. Troy moaned and tried to swat him away.
"Have we stopped spinning yet?" he slurred.
"Yeah. I think so. Are you okay?"
Troy sat up and rubbed a goose-egg sized bump on the back of his head. "I'm fine. Can you see where we are?"
Gordon peered through the window. "It all looks the same. We could be in some underwater cavern, but I felt as though we were moving upwards. We could be near the surface."
"Let me take a look."
"Do you recognise this place?"
"I'm not sure. I think we could be deep in the bowels of one of those islands we saw."
"But how did we get there?"
"That vortex. We were sucked in by its whirlpool."
"That was some whirlpool. We were lucky Thunderbird Four wasn't damaged."
"I don't think this was a freak of nature. You were right, Gordon, I felt as if we were moving upwards too. This is exactly what happened to me before. I think we should suit up and get out of here."
"What? And just leave Thunderbird Four?"
"I think we were brought here by some unknown force. We may get visitors. I want to get a good look at them before they see us."
"Do you believe there could be people down here? Gordon looked concerned; he didn't really want to leave Thunderbird Four. He did not entirely trust Troy's judgment. The guy had just received a nasty knock on the head. "When were you supposed to take your medication?"
"About two hours ago."
"Do you think you should take it now?"
"But I promised Atlanta ..."
"You promised her you would look after me, is that it?"
"Not exactly ... she was concerned."
"Sorry, Gordon, but I need a clear head down here. That stuff just fogs my brain. I guess, if I freak out again, she won't let me out to play on my own. But I'm just going to have to take the chance."
The two men changed in to their diving suits, then put on flippers and special helmets equipped with two way radios. They strapped double oxygen tanks on to their backs. Leaving Thunderbird Four hidden underneath an overhanging ledge, they slipped silently through the airlock and into the sea.
Troy grabbed Gordon by the arm and pulled him behind a rock, "What? What is it?"
"I heard something." Troy's eyes were wide as they darted from side to side.
"I didn't.” Gordon raised his head to peer over the rock.
"Keep down," hissed Troy.
"There's no-one here, Troy. It's just your imagination playing tricks. This island is full of strange noises. Come on let's go."
"No ...Wait!" yelled Troy, grabbing him by his flipper.
Gordon heard a harsh mechanical noise coming from a rock face behind him. He turned round to see a concealed door sliding sideways. It looked like an airlock. He ducked down behind the rock again. As he watched from his hiding place, he saw two black suited divers swim towards Thunderbird Four. Gordon had secured the hatch and only he knew the entry code. The divers were curious. They seemed to be trying to find a way to get inside.
"Okay, you were right," whispered Gordon to Troy.
"So you see them too?
"What do we do now?"
"I'm not sure," answered Troy, “Let’s just watch for a while."
"They can't get inside Thunderbird Four. But now they've found it ,we can't go back to it. We'll just have to wait for them to go and then follow them."
One of the divers made wide sweeping movements with a searchlight. It came to rest on the rock Troy and Gordon were hiding behind.
"It looks like they've spotted us."
Gordon made a grab for his stun gun but it was dashed out of his hand as he was grabbed from behind One of the divers had already overpowered Troy and ripped off his face mask. Gordon tried to fight off his assailant to go to Troy's aid. The diver replaced Troy's mask with one of his own which was attached to a small canister. Troy breathed steadily and then went limp. Suddenly Gordon's own mask was torn off. He struggled and gasped as his lungs began to fill with water. He lashed out at the man who restrained him. Then he felt another smaller mask being strapped to his face. He gulped greedily for oxygen. He felt his body floating. He felt weightless as if in zero gravity. He began to see colours flashing around him. Brilliant, vibrant colours. After a while he began to feel calm and intoxicated. He stopped struggling; he no longer cared where he was or what was happening to him. He saw Troy smiling vacantly as he was being led by the arm like a child.
One of the black suited divers went back to the rock face entrance and appeared to pull a lever hidden in the doorway. Gordon was deafened by a grating, droning noise. He saw Thunderbird Four moving towards the door, on its own.
Gordon tried to muster the will to leap into action and save his craft, but his attention was distracted by a series of wavy lines snaking up and down in front of his eyes. He blinked and shook his head as he was hauled in to the airlock. When the inner airlock opened both he and Troy were hustled through. They found themselves in a long corridor. Round porthole windows displayed the ocean and its teeming marine-life like living pictures in a frame. The other divers had removed their breathing masks but their faces still remained covered. Gordon began to cough; he tried to pull off his mask.
"Keep it on," a gruff American voice ordered.
Gordon spluttered as a spasm seized his chest, again he tried to tear his mask off.
"Are you gonna hurl?" the gruff voice asked. Gordon bent over to cough water out of his lungs. He took several gulps of air while trying to regain his composure. His head started to clear. He seized his chance. He grabbed his captor's arm, caught him off guard and threw him to the floor.
"Who are you? What do you want?" asked Gordon.
The fallen man called out to his colleague, who pulled a pistol from his belt. He took aim and Gordon fell to the floor. The last thing he saw before he lapsed in to unconsciousness, was Troy Tempest, propped up against a wall, like a marionette with its strings cut. His eyes were staring vacantly ahead. His mouth set in an imbecilic grin.
When Gordon eventually came too, he felt as though he was waking up with a dreadful hangover. However, he could not remember going to any party. He screwed up his bleary eyes and peered at the face bending over him. Someone was slapping his face. It was a gentle tap not intended to harm him. Gordon moaned and curled himself up in a foetal position.
"Come on," a distant sounding voice instructed. "Wake up."
Gordon groaned. His head was still spinning. "Troy?" He closed his eyes again. He could still see the wavy lines and colours dancing in front of them.
"Gordon. Come on now. Wake up." The voice was sharper now. Someone was trying to drag him to his feet and get him to stand. Gordon waved him away irritably.
"No ... don't wanna.... wake up. I wanna sleep!"
This person was not going to give up and allow Gordon to slip back in to oblivion again. Gordon could feel a supporting arm around his waist, trying to haul him to his feet.
"Stand up, Gordon! Walk!" the voice ordered. Gordon's legs quivered like jelly. He seemed to have forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other. "Come on walk.... Keep going!"
Gordon moaned and tried to lie down on the floor.
"Get up. Come on Gordon you've got to get up!"
"Look Virgil, will you just go away and leave me alone! ... Virgil?"
Gordon sat bolt upright. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Am I still dreaming or is that really you Virgil?"
He tried to focus his eyes. He could see the outline of a face with concerned brown eyes and familiar chestnut hair. "Virgil, thank God. We thought we had lost you!" Gordon tried to stand but he was still feeling woozy.
"Try to keep walking, Gordon. You've been tranquillised. You've got to try and get the drug out of your system."
Gordon shook his head and tried to unscramble his brain. He scanned his unfamiliar surroundings. Someone was missing. "Where's Troy?"
"Who's Troy?" replied Virgil.
"He came with me to try to find you. He used to be an aquanaut with the W.A.S.P. Where are we Virgil? What is this place?"
"I was hoping you could tell me."
"This is crazy. How did you get here? Dad's worried sick. No-one knows if you're dead or alive. Did they take your communicator? "
"No, but it doesn't work. Something's jamming the frequency. I hear this high pitched whine from time to time. It seems to come from above us."
"I suppose they have Thunderbird Two."
"Yes." answered Virgil sourly, "I think it was a trap. Not long after I had dropped you off, my instruments started going haywire. I had hit a bank of fog. John was tracking me from Thunderbird Five. I could hardly see where I was going. The mist was so thick. Then I saw this water spout . The biggest I've ever seen. About as tall as Thunderbird Three! I remember being sucked in to it. Then I guess I must have passed out, because when I woke up I was in here."
Gordon took stock of his surroundings. An eight-by-six cell, with bunk-beds, a washbasin, and a bucket in the corner. There was not even a window; the only light was in the form of a harsh fluorescent strip. "Not exactly the welcoming type, are they?"
"I wonder where they took your friend?”
"They captured us both at the same time," stated Gordon. "I would have thought they would have imprisoned us together, or put us in solitary. Why put me in with you? Unless ..." Gordon began to feel around the door frame.
"What are you ...?"
Gordon put his finger up to his lip. He knelt down on the floor and began to feel around the skirting board. He yanked out a tiny device no bigger than a pea and crushed it underfoot.
"They are listening to us." he said. "I suspect whoever is in charge here knows that we are part of International Rescue!"
"Now they have Thunderbird Four as well as Thunderbird Two!" cried Virgil in alarm.
"We've got to find Troy. Now let’s take a closer look at this door. I'm going to find a way out." To Gordon's surprise the door slid open and narrowly missed crushing the tops of his fingers.
A man, dressed from head to toe in black, stood inches away from him. "Ah, gentlemen. I see it's time for me to introduce myself." His voice betrayed a heavy Eastern European accent.
Gordon's face could not conceal his shock when he looked at the man responsible for his imprisonment. This man's face was covered by a silver mask moulded to his features. Red rimmed eyes and a lipless mouth were visible through its slits. The skin on his wrists and neck was scaly and reptilian. He wore thin black silk gloves on his hands. His hair was sparse, grey and unruly.
"My appearance shocks you," the stranger noticed. "I have not always looked like this."
"Who are you?" asked Virgil. His question seemed to cause annoyance.
"I am Dr Igor Balanic," the man announced grandly. He paused dramatically, as if he had expected instant recognition from his prisoners. He did not get the response he was hoping for.
"Balanic? " muttered Virgil trying to remember where he had heard the name before.
Balanic was a man clearly obsessed with his own importance. "I am a Scientist and Inventor. You, gentlemen, will be privileged to help me in my research. You will come with me now."
"Where?" asked Gordon defiantly.
"You will find out soon enough."
Two guards, with pistols drawn, demonstrated that this was an order rather than a choice.
Chapter 8 - The Tempest Machine
Virgil and Gordon were taken to a large purpose-built laboratory. In its centre stood a cumbersome machine pointing toward a dome in the ceiling.
"Looks like a giant garden sprinkler," remarked Virgil.
"This is my invention," announced Dr Balanic proudly. “I call it the Tempest machine!"
Gordon was about to ask what it did, but the obvious answer sprang to his mind. "It creates storms!"
"It does indeed, and very spectacular ones too. Giant whirlpools, tidal waves a hundred feet high. I have only to aim it at the sky and release a shower of chemicals. When they hit the air and water the reaction is spectacular."
"WHY YOU! Do you have any idea what your 'invention' has done to the people of Monte Christos?"
"I had to test it on something," replied Balanic casually. "They just happened to be in the way."
"Fifty-two people are dead!" Gordon swore at him and aimed a punch. He was hit across the face with the butt of a pistol by one of the guards. He could feel blood trickling from his lip.
"What do you intend to do with this machine?" Virgil asked, realising it was better to keep his cool. Gordon had just received a knee in his stomach for his outburst and was doubled up in agony.
"I intend to use it to block out the sun," answered Balanic. "Sunlight causes me intense pain. The outside world is denied to me because of the severe chemical burns I received in an explosion. I want to regain my liberty. I have been imprisoned on this island for eleven years. The only way I can travel is beneath the sea. With this device I can control the weather, and with that I can control the world. I can cause enough rainfall to destroy any city in the world. I can live in the outside world again, but on my own terms."
Gordon decided to risk another beating. "What have you done with Troy Tempest?"
"Ah, the dashing Stingray captain. I have made sure that this time he will not escape. He is far too useful. Just as you two gentlemen are."
"You won't get away with this!" snarled Gordon.
"We shall see," replied Balanic.
Virgil managed to disguise his disgust and hatred better than Gordon. He wanted to get as much information about the island as possible.
"What is my purpose in all of this? You conjured up the storm to bring me here. Why?"
"I require your Thunderbird craft. I also require a capable pilot."
"I assume you want me to transport this machine for you."
"That is correct. I have only a limited range. I can target Florida, Cuba and Mexico, but my real target is Washington DC. The machine has now been made ready for transportation to the east coast of America. Your machine is the only one that is capable of doing this."
"Did you steal Stingray too?" asked Gordon.
"Stingray is now eleven years old. It has served me well, but has become unreliable. I hope Mr Tempest will be able to fix it for me."
"Can we see Mr Tempest?" asked Virgil.
"Your friend is well. You do not need to worry about him. He is being co-operative."
"What do you mean by co-operative?" asked Gordon, who had niggling seeds of doubt beginning to take root in his mind.
"He has his tasks. You have yours. That is all you need to know."
Gordon's mind was whirling. He thought it unlikely that Troy would be a traitor. If he was co-operating, Gordon felt sure it would be against his will
"We've got to find him," he mouthed to Virgil, when Balanic had turned his back.
"We have no choice, but first I need to see Thunderbird Two." Virgil was speaking to Gordon but Balanic overheard and gave a twisted smile.
"A man of reason. Unlike your colleague who prefers to learn the hard way."
Gordon was holding his bruised stomach. Virgil explained. "My 'Colleague' will do as I say. I outrank him. He is young and inexperienced." Gordon had a face like thunder but then he suddenly cottoned on to Virgil's plan.
"I need to see Thunderbird Two. If I am to fly her I need to check that she has not been damaged by the water."
Even a megalomaniac like Balanic could concede that this was a reasonable request. "You will be under surveillance at all times. I warn you gentlemen, it would be very unwise to try any tricks."
"We're at the bottom of the Ocean. What the hell can we do?" snapped Gordon.
Again the slow sinister smile played across Balanic's lipless mouth. He said nothing in reply and walked on ahead. When he was safely out of earshot Gordon grabbed Virgil by the arm.
"Have you got something planned?" he hissed.
"No." replied Virgil. "Like I said we have no choice. If I want to get my craft back I need to be co-operative."
"What's with the 'inexperienced' bit?"
"I need you to play along with that. We are dealing with a vain, self important man. We must learn his weaknesses and bide our time. We need to leave here with Thunderbirds Two and Four intact. We need to find Troy Tempest. Keep your emotions in check Gordon. I know it's hard for you because of what happened at Monte Christos, but our lives may depend on it. I have been here for longer than you. See those portholes over there."
"Yeah I can see fish swimming. How are we going to fly Thunderbird Two underwater?"
"Stop and look at the fish."
"Just do as I say. Faint or something just for a few minutes ... and then watch."
Gordon sagged against Virgil's body, then crumpled to the floor. Balanic noticed his prisoners had not caught up with him. He became irritated. "Follow me. I warn you. No tricks."
"He's hurt. He passed out. Can you give me a few seconds to bring him round?" A guard moved forward and started to shake Gordon roughly by the shoulder. Virgil pushed him away angrily. "If you want our co-operation," he yelled to Balanic, "call your guards off. They've done enough damage already. This man is a good mechanic. Your goons have beaten the hell out of him. I need him fit for work."
Balanic dismissed the guards, while Virgil lay Gordon down on the floor.
"Now look, can you see the fish? One large blue one, and there ... a shoal of little yellow ones?
Gordon nodded as Virgil pretended to slap his face. "See the two striped ones beside a mottled looking one? If you look closely at the larger striped fish it has a torn fin. I was taken down this corridor when I was captured. The same fish swim up and down past those two windows. This is the third time I have been along this corridor and that fish with the torn fin is still there."
"I'm beginning to see what you mean," whispered Gordon.
"That's not all. The noises never change. The sea makes the same swishing sound. The generators hum that same monotonous drone. But early this morning I swear I heard a seagull's cry."
Gordon's eyes snapped open.
"Come on," snapped Balanic. "Get the man on his feet. We haven't got all day."
Virgil put his arm around Gordon's waist and hauled him upright.
"So, do you think we could actually be on the surface?" whispered Gordon.
"Yes, but he wants us to believe we are still on the ocean floor."
"You mean all of this could be an illusion?"
"Do you remember the story Grandma told us when we were kids? The one about the Wizard of Oz?" Gordon nodded. Virgil continued. "The wizard was a bit of a fraud. He lived in a splendid emerald palace and created an image of power, but in reality he was a little man with a lot of electronic tricks up his sleeve. I think this virtual ocean here could be one of them. The same fish swimming up and down the same corridor? I think we're looking at a film or clever computer animation. Keep your eyes and ears open, Gordon. We'll have to play this one by ear."
Balanic paused in front of a steel door set into the rock face. He keyed in a special code. The door opened to reveal an astonishing sight. Subtle blue lights recessed in stone walls, illuminated an unworldly chamber. A huge chair, reminiscent of a throne, dominated centre of the room, scattered about the floor were large plump cushions. A massive mural spread the entire length of one of the walls. It depicted a fantasy of mermaids and sea monsters. The whole scene resembled an ethereal underwater kingdom. It was all beginning to make sense to Gordon now.
"This must be where Troy was taken! This is his 'Atlantis.'"
"So, You have recovered," stated Balanic as he sat down on his 'throne'.
"Is this the Lost City of Atlantis?" asked Virgil.
"It is my Atlantis. I have created my own interpretation of it. You will be comfortable here while you are my guests. You will eat. You need to be fit enough to work."
Balanic rang a bell. A willowy female entered the room with her head bowed. She had yellow blonde hair, which took on a greenish hue when the blue light illuminated the crown of her head. Silently she stood awaiting instruction.
"You will feed our guests. Give them some wine. I am feeling generous." Balanic was clearly a man of changeable moods. Here he was offering them hospitalities; a few minutes ago he was threatening them. The Lady herself looked as though she needed a good meal inside her. She was waiflike. Gordon thought she was a young girl until she turned around and looked at him with tired, sad eyes. Her face had the unhealthy pallor of someone deprived of sunlight. She looked as if she was in her mid-thirties. Gordon gasped as he recognised her face. It was Marina!
When she brought Virgil and Gordon their food, she held on to the tray for a few seconds after Gordon had grasped it. Almost as if she did not want them to have it.
"Marina," whispered Gordon. Her eyes widened in astonishment. She gave a slight nod of her head. "The food is it drugged?"
Marina's eyes darted towards Balanic who was watching her every move. She dare not nod her head again. She gave a slow deliberate blink. When she handed Virgil his drink she placed her hand over to top of the glass. As Virgil reached out to take the glass she crossed her middle finger over her index finger. Virgil was puzzled. Was this gesture was supposed to mean something? He was thirsty; he raised the glass to his lips and took a sip. Marina's eyes reproached him. As she set his tray of food down on the table she knocked his arm, spilling the rest of the drink down the front of his uniform.
"You will fetch the young man another glass, Marina," ordered Balanic. "That was clumsy of you." Gordon took advantage of Balanic's distracted attention and tipped his glass of drink on to the floor. He hastily kicked one of the floor cushions over the wet patch. Then he pushed the tray away while holding his stomach.
"Thanks... er... Marina. That's a pretty name. But I'm afraid I'm not hungry. Someone kicked me in the stomach!" then he added, "The drink was good. I needed that." This seemed to satisfy Balanic who did not press him to eat. Balanic was watching Virgil who was toying with a piece of fish.
"Do you have a nice juicy steak by any chance? I'm allergic to shellfish."
Balanic looked irritated again. "You must appreciate, it is very difficult to rear cattle underneath the sea. Consequently our menu is a little rigid. However I am told fish is good for the brain, so I eat it all the time." Marina returned with another drink for Virgil. This time Balanic took it from her and handed it to Virgil himself.
Virgil realised that this was another invitation which sounded more like an order. Under Balanic's watchful gaze he drank half a glass of a sickly sweet liquid. He pulled a face. It made him gag. Balanic was appeased. He invited Virgil and Gordon to sit down and make themselves comfortable. Balanic sat opposite the two of them watching silently. Gordon saw Virgil's head loll on to his chest. Gordon copied him. Virgil sat staring blankly ahead. Gordon assumed the same position. Balanic seemed satisfied with their placid demeanour. He dismissed Marina, and called in his guards. "You will bring me Troy Tempest and the Professor."
Gordon tried not to let his face betray his consciousness. He wondered who this Professor might be. He glanced sidelong at Virgil who truly was in a trance-like state.
Troy entered first, wearing the same brainwashed expression. He did not acknowledge Gordon or Virgil. It was as if they were invisible. Behind him shuffled an elderly man with a sad, careworn face and a long white beard.
"Ah Professor. Your task force awaits you." Balanic walked over to Virgil and placed a hand on his shoulder. "This is the pilot of Thunderbird Two. He knows all there is to know about the craft. He has been given the truth serum. He will tell us everything we wish to know about Thunderbird Two ... and International Rescue!"
Balanic then stood in front of Gordon. The Professor scrutinised him with rheumy, red rimmed eyes.
"This man is an aquanaut. Now we have two submarines at our disposal. Stingray and Thunderbird Four."
"Are they ready?" asked the Professor.
"Troy Tempest is ready, but then again he had already been modified. He will believe whatever we want him to. The other two will have to undergo a full programming."
Gordon was rigid. He dare not let his fear register on his face. So that was it. He and Virgil were to be brainwashed and used as this man's puppets. He was intrigued by the Professor who appeared to be co-operating of his own free will. What hold did Balanic have over him, and where had Gordon seen him before?
Gordon and Virgil were taken by the mysterious Professor to a cavernous workshop. Virgil's face remained set, but Gordon registered a look of surprise and relief as he saw the massive green hulk of Thunderbird Two. It did not look to be too badly damaged. Balanic turned to the Professor. "Put them to work immediately. I need to get this craft repaired as soon as possible." The professor nodded. Balanic began to speak slowly to Virgil who was still under his influence.
"Your magnificent craft will be useful to me. I'm sure you know how to repair it. You will work until it is fixed. Then you will teach me how to fly it."
Virgil tonelessly answered "Yes."
Gordon wanted to grab hold of his brother and shake him, but he too was under the watchful eye of Balanic. There was nothing he could do other than go along with Balanic's devious plan.
They had been working for nearly two hours when Gordon saw Virgil shake his head. He looked as if he was beginning to snap out of his trance-like state. The two men were busy working inside Thunderbird Two with their heads bent over the console. Gordon had to get Virgil's attention without being noticed.
"Virgil," he hissed. "Virgil! Come on you've got to snap out of it."
Virgil's eyes gradually lost their glazed look and began to return to normal. Gordon could see signs of recognition in them again. "Virgil, look at me, it's Gordon. Your drink was drugged."
" Wh- what..." began Virgil. He felt as though he was just waking up from a deep sleep.
Gordon put his finger to his lips and switched on the damaged air conditioning. He set it to full power. On the way to the rescue in Monte Christos, Gordon noticed that one of the vents had become loose. It was hanging on by a couple of screws. The constant rattling had annoyed him, but now he was going to use it to his advantage. Hopefully it would drown out the noise of any conversation.
"Virgil, you've got to pretend that you're still under the influence of the drug. A camera is watching us all the while. Troy is still out of it and the Professor is working for Balanic."
A light tap on his left arm alerted Gordon to the fact that the Professor had just overheard him. "You are wrong. I am a prisoner here just like you. So is Marina. She is my daughter. I am old and frail; Balanic knows Marina will not leave me. I beg you, if you have a plan of escape, please take her with you. We have been here for ten years. Our hopes were raised when we were found by Troy Tempest. My daughter loves him dearly. She nursed him when he was injured. She helped him and his colleague to escape. I pleaded with her to take her chance and go with him, but she refused. Even though it broke her heart. She fell in love with him and I think he fell in love with her."
"So that's why Atlanta won't let him out of her sight," muttered Gordon.
"Troy Tempest wears a wedding band now. Marina's heart is broken," added the Professor sadly
"How did Balanic brainwash Troy Tempest?" asked Gordon. "No-one at Marineville believed him when he said he had been imprisoned beneath the sea. They all thought he was having some kind of a breakdown."
"Balanic uses a mind altering micro chip," explained the Professor, “Troy Tempest still has one inserted under his scalp. It acts as a radio receiver. A drug is administered to relax the brain making it susceptible to auto suggestion. While the victim is in this semi trance-like state Balanic plays a tape next to his ear. When Troy Tempest awoke he believed whatever Balanic wished him to."
"So he's not really mentally ill! All he needs is to have this chip removed then he'll be the same as he was before. He can go back to his old job!"
"If it has not done any long term damage. Unfortunately I was the one who was ordered to place it there. Balanic threatened to torture Marina."
"What did he do to her?" prompted Gordon. "Why can't she speak?"
"She has not spoken since our plane went down. My name is Professor Salvatore Propores, I am a research scientist from Rio de Janeiro. I was employed by NASA to carry out research on the weather. Many areas of our planet have been reduced to dust bowls. People there were facing droughts and starvation, while other countries have too much rainfall. I invented a device that could manufacture rain clouds, using a chemical compound. I was on my way to the United States to show my prototype to Space Agency Officials. They were interested in funding my research, but before I was able to reach them, my plane crashed on to this Island. My wife was killed instantly. Marina was sitting next to her. When I regained consciousness, I found her cradling her mother's body with silent tears pouring down her cheeks. She has not been able to utter a word since that day."
Gordon looked pained. "We'll get you both out. I just wish I knew how!"
"Do you know how many people there are on this island?" asked Virgil who had now recovered full use of his senses.
"Balanic has his henchman."
"That would be the two goons who go everywhere with him. Is there anyone else?"
"I hear different voices. Many of the doors are locked, but I hear the noise of machinery, people talking, that sort of thing. I assume he has other people working for him, either willingly or unwillingly."
"You assume," stated Virgil. "But how many have you actually seen?"
"The guards, Troy and you two."
Virgil and Gordon exchanged anxious glances, they were moved by the Professor’s story, but they did not know if they could trust him. Balanic's spy camera was watching them the whole time. It was going to be almost impossible to escape.
"Professor Propores. Tell us what you know about this island? When your plane went down did you see anything odd?" Virgil was firing questions like a machine gun.
"I was sitting behind the pilot when the plane went down. It was night time; I could see the outline of trees and bushes. The island looked very small. I lost consciousness before we crashed, and the next thing I remember is waking up in the wreckage. The pilot and my wife were dead. Marina and I suffered minor injuries. Balanic rescued us from the wreckage. He led us to his home. Although. I thought it a bit odd that a man who had chosen to live on a beautiful tropical island, would build a home for himself underground. Then I saw Balanic's disfigured face. I was shocked but Marina did not flinch. I think that is why Balanic was fond of her. She cried when he told us about his tragic accident. You see at first he seemed such a kind man."
"There's nothing kind about a man who has such a disregard for human life as Balanic!" snapped Gordon.
"Balanic was once a handsome man. His disfigurement has turned him in to the cold hearted person he is today."
"You seem to be making a lot of excuses for this guy. Why should we trust you?" asked Gordon brusquely.
"Because I bitterly regret what I have done. I have created a terrible weapon. When Balanic realised who I was, he refused to let me go. He was fascinated by my prototype. He took my design and forced me to create a bigger, ten times more powerful version. He promised our freedom if I co-operated, and I am ashamed to say that I did so willingly."
"So don't tell me- he didn't keep his word," mocked Gordon.
The Professor looked miserably at the floor. "I made a mistake. I and my daughter are paying the price."
Gordon was still not convinced. "What I don't understand- is why no-one came to look for your plane. How does Balanic hide this island? Is he a Magician? Is it all done with mirrors or something?"
"It is not a natural island. It is man-made."
"I don't understand. It's made of rock which goes right down in to the sea bed. I saw it when we were drawn in to the cavern in Thunderbird Four. It looked solid enough!
"So it's an island that isn't an island. We don't know if we are at the bottom of the sea or on the surface,” stated Virgil.
Gordon was exasperated. "None of this makes any sense, and how do Troy Tempest and Stingray fit in to all of this?"
"I know only what I was told by Balanic. Ten years ago the World Aquanaut Security Patrol was sent to investigate strange disturbances in the area. Troy discovered Balanic's island and his secret laboratory. Balanic captured Tempest and his partner. He drugged their food and drink. Balanic wanted Stingray. He ordered me to implant a micro chip in to Tempest's scalp. Troy Tempest was powerless to resist, subconsciously he told Balanic everything he needed to know about Stingray. He even taught him how to pilot the craft. After that Balanic had no use for Tempest or his colleague. I knew he would kill them both. When I told Marina of my fears, I realised she had fallen in love with this man Tempest. I knew she would put her life in danger to save him."
"So Marina rescued Troy and Phones," said Gordon.
The Professor nodded.
"But how did she get them to safety?" asked Gordon.
"Marina is a beautiful woman. Balanic is a vain man. He assumes that power is as attractive to women as good looks. He did not see Marina as a threat. Like all tyrants he sees women as second class citizens. Marina was given a certain amount of freedom. I believe Balanic became very fond of her. He genuinely wanted to make her happy. He trusted her. He knew she would never do anything to risk my life. She managed to release Tempest and Phones and guide them to the open sea, but Marina would not leave me, so she returned to face the wrath of Balanic. Until today, I did not know if Tempest and his colleague managed to swim to safety."
"They were found exhausted on a rocky outcrop. Neither of them remembered a thing." answered Gordon.
"I was saddened to see him back here again. Balanic is a jealous man. He will kill Tempest this time."
"Then we've got to get out of here. All of us. You included, Professor. We can't let Balanic get away with this. I think I have a plan," announced Virgil.
"Well are you going to let me in on it too?" asked Gordon.
"You'll pick it up as we go along."
Virgil began to carefully dismantle the housing unit of a miniature video camera, used for surveillance in Thunderbird Two.
"Now all we need is some duct tape. Which...thankfully, I never leave home without." The camera was small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Virgil hid it up his sleeve and purposefully walked towards the surveillance camera tracking their every move. Gordon had no idea what he was going to do. Virgil stopped and thrust his face full view in to the lens. "Now when do we get a bathroom break around here?" he demanded. Simultaneously he taped the miniature camera to the swivelling bracket beneath the larger one. He hoped the guard would not notice this sleight of hand.
The steel door rumbled aside. “You got five minutes," snapped one of the guards. "You two get back to work."
Gordon was compliant. He now knew what Virgil intended to do. To his credit, the Professor said nothing about the other camera. Gordon decided he had no choice but to trust him.
When Virgil returned, he ordered Gordon and the Professor to work in silence for the next thirty minutes. He then walked up to face the camera again.
"Hey, we have a problem here."
As the spy camera focused on Virgil's face, he removed the miniature one he had taped beneath it. This he slipped to Gordon. Gordon knew what he had to do. Hastily re-winding the tape, he set it to replay in a loop. The recorded scene, showing the three men working quietly, now had to be positioned in front of the main surveillance camera.
Virgil's face was still monopolising the camera lens. "Tell Dr Balanic we have a technical hitch."
"What is the problem?" came the guard's voice over the intercom.
"Damage to the electronics," stated Virgil. "There is rust forming on the contacts. We will have to clean every connection. It could take hours."
"Then that is your problem. Dr Balanic expects only results."
Virgil made a feeble attempt to protest, just enough to buy Gordon some extra time.
"F.A.B." whispered Gordon as he waggled a small wire protruding from the camera.
"Hey, something's wrong with the monitor," called one of the guards. Black and white lines appeared to be racing across the monitor screen. "Oh it’s just cleared."
Luck was on Virgil and Gordon's side. When the second guard came over to check, he saw the three men working diligently, satisfied with this, he took out a magazine and started to read.
"We've got to take our chance and hope to God this works." hissed Virgil. “Quickly let's get that porthole window removed."
"But it's sealed to stop the water coming in. We'll drown." cried the Professor in alarm.
"You're gonna have to trust me again. I have a hunch, and I think I am right," Virgil and Gordon were using all their strength to pries the toughened Perspex from the window.
"Quick get the laser cutter from Thunderbird Two," ordered Virgil. Gordon had pre-empted this request and was already on his way back with it. The laser cutter made short work of the window. Virgil gave it a kick. The Professor stared open-mouthed. The fish were still swimming up and down, but there were no gallons of water cascading in to the room. Virgil gave the Perspex window a kick. It tore through a screen of silver material.
"You were right Virgil. It is a trick!" voiced Gordon.
"Now, I see what you are doing, " said the Professor. "You are using Balanic’s own tricks against him."
"As you can see, we are not under the sea. This film projection is a clever trick to make us believe we are. Now assuming we are on the surface there must be a way out."
Virgil squeezed his frame in to the gap between the window and screen. Gordon followed. Above them was an air vent. Gordon stood on Virgil's shoulders and prized the cover off. He then hoisted himself inside. He held out his hand to assist Virgil. When they were both inside he replaced the cover of the air vent. They moved slowly crawling on their stomachs. This caused Gordon some discomfort from his bruises. He started to complain.
"Shh." Virgil paused to listen. They were over the surveillance room. Peering through the grating of the air vent. Virgil could see the two guards sitting in front of the screen. One was reading. The other was eating a sandwich. Gordon pulled from his pocket, one of the capsules he had taken from Thunderbird Two. He dropped it through the grating. It landed behind the two men and smashed, releasing an odourless gas. The two men slumped in their seats.
"Looks like it worked. Now for Balanic."
Marina stood with tears streaming down her cheeks. Balanic was unmoved. "You are more beautiful when you cry." He wiped away a glistening tear with a clawed gloved hand. “Even your teardrops are exquisite - like diamonds. Why do you waste them on this man Tempest? He does not care for you. He did not come back for you. He is married to another woman."
Marina's large limpid eyes fell upon Troy who lay helpless on the floor. His eyes were open and he seemed aware of what was happening around him, but he was powerless to move.
"Why did you betray me for this man?" Balanic continued. "Was it his handsome face? Is that all that matters to you? How a man looks? I was once as handsome as Troy Tempest. Do you know what nitric acid does to the skin?" He tore off his silver mask, revealing a brown scarred reptilian skin; one of his eyes was sealed shut. The other had no eye lid. Marina looked away, but Balanic held her chin firmly, and turned her face to look at his. She flinched.
"Would you still love him if he looked like me? Would you?" Marina could not answer, but her defiant eyes screamed 'yes'
Troy groaned and tried to stand up. "What have you done to my legs?" he slurred, "I...I can't... move."
Balanic pushed Marina aside, "I have programmed your brain not to send any messages to your legs. That is why you cannot feel them. But the rest of your body can feel. Particularly your face. You will feel the same excruciating pain that I felt, when the acid burned and ate in to my skin. Take a good look at him Marina. You will not see his handsome face again."
"Nooooooooo!" Marina visibly jumped, startled by her own shrill scream.
"Marina! Your voice! I heard you speak!" cried Troy in amazement. Even Balanic was taken aback, his hand, holding a phial of acid faltered. Troy rolled over on to his stomach. A tiny drop of acid fell; it sizzled and smoked as it touched the floor.
Virgil heard the cry from inside the air vent He tensed. "What was that?" he asked.
"It sounded like a woman's scream," replied Gordon.
"But Marina is the only woman here and she can't speak."
"It sounded as if it came from a few yards in front of us."
"Come on, Gordon. It sounded like someone was in trouble." Virgil inched his body along the cramped air ducting. He stopped over the grating. He saw Troy Tempest lying on the floor. Then he saw Marina, screaming and clawing at Balanic like a cat. He held the phial at arms length as she lunged at him.
"Don't , Marina. Don't do it!" pleaded Troy.
She dashed the phial from Balanic's hand. Its corrosive contents pooled on to the floor. Balanic slapped Marina to the ground. He then grabbed a handful of her hair and began to drag her towards the spilled acid. Suddenly a noise above startled him. Virgil had just kicked the grating away from the ceiling. He dropped down on to Balanic like a spider on to its prey. The two men rolled over and over as they fought. Virgil's head was inches away from the acid as Balanic resisted him with renewed strength. Gordon sprang to his brother's aid.
"It's all over Balanic," spat Gordon. "Where are the controls to open the doors?"
"Behind you," said Marina. "I know the code. I have watched Balanic many times while he was working with my father. I memorised it." Marina tapped in the secret code while Gordon ran from the room to free the Professor.
When the door slid open, the Professor was astonished to see Gordon standing there. "Did you see Marina? Is she safe?"
"She's fine. Quickly, - we've got work to do."
"What about Balanic?"
"He won't bother us."
"Have you taken care of the guards too?"
"Yeah. I think there were just the two of them. Do you now how to disarm the Tempest machine?"
"It responds to Balanic's voice pattern."
"Can you re-program it?"
"Possibly, but it will take time."
Gordon and the Professor ran to the room where the Tempest machine was housed. They came up against a huge re-enforced steel door, which seemed impenetrable. Gordon pounded it with frustration.
"Only Balanic can open it," said the Professor.
"Then we'll just have to go and fetch him."
Balanic was resigned to his fate. He did not even try to struggle when Virgil bound his hands together behind his back. Troy was still trying to stand. Marina had her arms around him.
Gordon burst in to the room. "Virgil! We need to bring Balanic to the Tempest machine. We have to de-activate it. It's blocking our communication signal. I can't get through to John."
The Professor ran to Marina. "I was so worried about you," he exclaimed, taking her in to his arms.
Marina replied. "I'm fine now Father."
Tears of joy poured down the old man's face. "You can speak. It's a miracle!"
"Very touching," said Balanic. "What a pity there will be no happy ending."
Troy stood up but his legs gave way and he promptly fell down, as if he had had too much to drink.
"What do you mean?" asked Virgil.
"I cannot stop the Tempest machine. Once it has been activated no-one can. If you care to press the red button you will be able to watch it in action. It is a marvellous feat of engineering and it has another victim in its sights. See... look at the big silver fly as it draws nearer to the spider's web. Do you see it? Do you recognise it?" Balanic's lipless mouth cracked in to a hideous grin. His maniacal laugh echoed mockingly through the room. Virgil felt his blood run cold in his veins.
With shaking hands, Virgil depressed the button. The table top in the centre of the room turned over, to reveal a row of monitor screens and a bank of controls. Virgil gasped as he caught a glimpse of one of the screens. Flying across the clear blue sky was Thunderbird One. Seconds later it was engulfed in a thick swirling sea mist. Virgil pounded his fist on the table in helpless rage. Scott must now be feeling the same disorientation as he felt just before Thunderbird Two was sucked down in to the sea.
"We've got to warn him." shouted Gordon.
"Professor, you’ve got to stop this!" pleaded Virgil.
"I can't. The Tempest machine will only respond to Balanic's voice."
"If Scott hits the water he will sink like a stone!" agonized Virgil.
"Believe me if I could destroy this evil machine I would. If it were not for you brave men and my daughter, I would willingly destroy the whole island. I would rather perish than cause the loss of any more innocent lives."
Balanic interrupted with a maniacal laughter. “You can do nothing to stop me! Not even International Rescue can stop me! I am invincible!"
With almost superhuman strength springing from resentment brought on by years of enslavement, Professor Propores lunged at Balanic, caught him off guard and knocked him to the ground. Balanic's head hit the hard marble floor with a sickening crack. His one good eye rolled back in to his head, until only the white was visible.
Virgil could feel no pulse. "He's dead."
Professor Propores looked surprised. He was amazed by his own strength.
"He must have died instantly when his head hit the floor," explained Virgil. "His skull was probably half eaten away by the acid which destroyed his face."
"He deserved a more lingering death. He robbed my daughter and I of ten years of our lives."
"While we are on the subject of death, I would like to remind you all that the Tempest Machine is pulling Scott out of the sky!" shouted Gordon. "There must be a way to stop it! There just has to be!" he pounded the unresponsive controls in frustration. Thunderbird One was slowly being drawn in to a swirling vortex.
Suddenly Marina lunged forward and pulled a lever at the side of the table. The floor beneath them began to move like slowly descending lift.
"What's happening?" cried Gordon, a hint of alarm in his voice.
"This island will vanish beneath the sea and so will the Tempest machine." announced Marina. "Hurry we may have a chance to escape. Follow me to the airlock. From there, you can swim to safety.
"But what about Scott?" Virgil felt unable to tear himself away from the screen.
"We've got to get to Thunderbird Four," yelled Gordon. "We can only hope to God that Scott makes it."
"And to Stingray... I can show you the way," said Troy, then he added "But someone will have to carry me."
Virgil hoisted him over his shoulder in a fireman's lift. Gordon followed Marina and her father.
"The water should flood the top rooms first. The rooms at the bottom are sealed. If we can reach them we have a chance to swim to safety." said Gordon.
Virgil prayed the Tempest machine would short circuit before it managed to suck Thunderbird One down into the sea. Thunderbird Two would be safe to leave. It was tough enough to stand a battering. Virgil made sure he had secured it tightly to prevent sea water damage. Hopefully it could be recovered later.
"Which way now Troy?" asked Virgil when they came to a maze of corridors.
"This way - Stingray is moored in a pen next to Thunderbird Four."
"Can you pilot it Troy?" asked Gordon. “After all it's been ten years now. Also you are incapacitated."
"I'm slowly getting some feeling back in my legs. If I live to be a hundred I will never forget how to pilot Stingray! Although I might need some help getting inside. You can put me down now. I can feel pins and needles in my legs. I need to see if they can hold me." Virgil set Troy down and he took a few tottering steps before his legs started to wobble beneath him.
"Here, let me help you." Marina took hold of Troy's arm. For a moment the two of them stood gazing into each others eyes.
"Marina! I still can't get used to hearing your voice. It's a very beautiful voice."
Marina blushed. "It's been a long time, Troy. I never stopped thinking about you."
"I thought I had conjured you up in a dream," whispered Troy as he swept her into his arms.
Virgil looked embarrassed as he took Gordon aside. "Has he always been like this? The guy's married isn't he?"
Gordon gave a less than discreet cough. "I think we need to get our tails out of here pretty darn quick."
With Gordon's help, Troy managed to open the hatch to access the airlock of Stingray. The hatch door was stiff and rusting and groaned as if in protest. Troy's face broke into a wide beam as he rushed over to the controls and sat once again in the command seat.
"We'll soon have you ship shape again, old girl," he crooned as he caressed the control panel. Marina took her place at his side while Professor Propores sat behind them.
"Can you can get it to work?" asked Gordon tensely.
"Well here goes." Stingrays engines started to splutter, then they began to stall. "Come on! Come on!" urged Troy. "Don't let me down."
As if on cue, dials on the control panel illuminated as the engines sprang into life."
"Now go!" ordered Gordon. "Virg and I will follow in Thunderbird Four."
Gordon scrambled out of the airlock and ran to Thunderbird Four. Virgil was already inside with the engines switched on. They watched as Stingray veered shakily towards the surface.
"I sure hope the engines hold out," said Gordon.
"If it was half the craft I was led to believe it was, I'm sure it will," replied Virgil.
"It's been sitting here rusting for ten years and it starts practically the first time. I must admit I'd jump at a chance to handle it."
"Well, right now, we've got to find a way out of here and get to Scott."
"Thunderbird One to base! Come in base!" Scott, fighting with the controls of Thunderbird One, yelled urgently into his radio receiver but was answered only by the crackle of static. "John! Come in John! Can you hear me?” Again there was only static. “Nothing!" he breathed desolately. Beads of perspiration stood on Scott’s forehead as he battled to regain height. From his window he could see the sea churning beneath him. Suddenly a huge swell loomed up in front of him. His jaw dropped in amazement. He swore loudly. He had never encountered anything like this before. The gigantic tidal wave must have been almost as tall as the empire state building. This was the stuff of myths and mariner's tales. Slowly it advanced towards him. An immovable wall of water. Scott cried out in anguish. There was no escape.
"Watch out! Watch out! There's a tidal wave ahead!" It was Troy who radioed a warning to Thunderbird Four.
"It will sweep Scott right out of the sky!" cried Virgil. Gordon radioed back to Stingray who was further ahead.
"We'll have to go under it or we'll be dashed to pieces. Troy can you see Thunderbird One? Is it in the sea?"
"I can't see it," replied Troy. "There's too much spray. I'm going back down. There's a lot of lose debris being churned up."
In spite of the risks, Gordon made the decision to try to reach the surface. "I've just got to find Scott. He won't stand a chance if that wave hits him."
Gordon took Thunderbird Four to the surface a few yards in front of the freak tidal wave.
"I can see him," shouted Virgil. "He's still in the air!"
"We can't do anything," despaired Gordon. "He's just got to regain control before that wave hits him!"
"Can you see the island?" asked Virgil. "Is it submerged yet?"
"Nearly. The only thing showing is the dome that houses the Tempest machine. If the water can short circuit that, then Scott has a chance."
They watched and waited. Holding their breaths for what seemed an eternity. The powerful tidal wave rolled closer to Thunderbird One. At last the sea closed over the dome and the island disappeared beneath the waves. Thunderbird Four was rocked by a series of violent explosions. Sparks spewed from the sea like a giant roman candle. The massive wave halted in its path and then trembled.
"Look out," called Gordon. Both he and Virgil braced themselves as tons of water came crashing down upon them. Thunderbird Four was tossed aside like a piece of driftwood. Virgil was thrown across the cabin. He felt his head smack against hard metal. For a while he was seeing more stars than John in Thunderbird Five!
"Are you okay Virgil?" asked Gordon who was battling to keep his craft upright.
"Yeah. I think so. What about Scott? Can you try to contact him?"
"Thunderbird Four calling Thunderbird One," began Gordon shakily.
"Scott? ... Are you okay Scott? Answer me Scott!" beseeched Virgil, who was leaning over Gordon's shoulder. There was no answer. Suddenly the radio crackled in to life raising hopes. But it was only Troy calling to check on their status.
"We're okay," confirmed Gordon. “We didn't get away completely unscathed but we are still operational. What about you?"
"Fine," reported Troy. “We dived underneath it. The island has submerged and the Tempest machine has been destroyed."
"Give Marina our thanks, " relayed Gordon.
"Will do. Say! There's a guy above us in a big silver rocket who's waving his arms at me. Anyone you might know?"
"Scott?" Virgil hardly dared to hope.
"You mean he's safe!" exclaimed Gordon.
"You bet," came Scott's firm voice, over the radio. "Now we'll have to postpone the family reunion until we get Thunderbird Two back on terra firma." Then he added with a slight tremble to his voice. "Thank God you're both safe."
"Yeah, likewise," Virgil breathed a sigh of relief.
Scott, Virgil and Gordon sat in the shade of a clump of palm trees in the garden of the Tempest's home. Atlanta looked rather agitated. "Oh, goodness! In hospital? I must go to him at once! He needs his medication! He needs spare clothes. I knew it was a mistake to let him go with you."
"I think it was his decision Atlanta," explained Gordon. "And we have a lot to thank him for."
"Yeah. Professor Propores, Marina and I could not have managed to escape without him," stated Virgil.
"Marina?" Atlanta's lips had tightened. Her face became set. She wrung her hands. "It's started again hasn't it? He's stopped his medication. Marina isn't real, Virgil. Troy imagines her."
"She looked real enough to me," answered Virgil.
"No. She can’t be. Troy is ill, everyone knows that. What about this 'Titan' character? Did you see him too?"
Atlanta listened incredulously as Virgil told her about Balanic, Marina and Propores. She then put her head in her hands and started to cry.
"I didn't want all this to start again."
"I'm sorry, Atlanta. I know you have Troy's best interests at heart."
"So he's found Stingray again... and he’s found her!"
"Gee, I'm sorry, Atlanta. I didn't know it would upset you so much," said Gordon.
"We can take you to see Troy," offered Scott. "He wasn't hurt. He just needed a check up."
"You see there never was anything mentally wrong with him,” explained Virgil. "He was drawn into Balanic's trap while on patrol with ‘Phones’. He was drugged and fitted with a micro-chip which was used to 'brainwash' him. Titan and his kingdom were Troy's brain's fuddled recollections of Balanic and his island. Marina helped Troy and Phones escape. She is very much flesh and blood, but I expect you already knew that."
Atlanta tried to stifle a sob. Gordon soothingly patted her shoulder. "I gave him the tablets for his own good," she sobbed. “They helped him to relax. He was happy here with me. He was safe. You didn't see the effect that incident had on him. He was so confused when we recovered him. So was 'Phones', he left the service, we never heard from him again. Troy wanted to keep searching for Stingray, and for Marina. No-one believed his story about an undersea kingdom and a beautiful mute girl. He lost his credibility. He eventually suffered a breakdown and began to believe that it had all been a figment of his imagination. I was happy to let him believe this. It stopped him searching. We have a nine year old son, Troy Junior, he is away at school at the moment, but he needs his father to be there for him. My husband's job at the World Aquanaut Security Patrol often brought him in to dangerous situations. I was so afraid that we would lose him for good. I couldn't bear that."
"What did you give him?" interrupted Virgil.
"The doctor who diagnosed schizophrenia prescribed some drugs. I just obtained repeat prescriptions for Troy. The drugs made him calm."
"Did no-one ever question this ' Doctor's' diagnosis?” Virgil seemed to be getting angry. "Was that poor man was just dosed up with mind- numbing drugs to keep him out of trouble?"
Atlanta started to cry again.
"Leave it ,Virgil," Gordon spoke rather tersely to his brother. Although he could not condone Atlanta's behaviour, he knew of Troy's reputation as a womaniser.
"Y-you won't tell him will you?" sniffed Atlanta.
"It not up to any of us to tell him anything," replied Gordon. "It's really up to you ,Atlanta."
"Oh dear. What can I say? He will hate me for this. He will leave me for sure, especially now that Marina is back on the scene!"
"Why do you assume that?" asked Virgil. "You forget Marina is now ten years older than she was. She is no longer the beautiful siren depicted in Troy's painting."
Atlanta paused and delicately dabbed the corners of her eyes with a tissue. “Is Marina no longer beautiful? Is she fat?"
"A little plump around the waistline perhaps," replied Virgil. This information seemed to lift Atlanta's spirits.
"Yeah, I would say a bit fat around the hips," agreed Gordon "And a few grey hairs too."
"Grey hairs?" Atlanta preened her own chestnut red hair. Her eyes betrayed a slight glimmer of triumph. "Is she...?" she began, "I mean does she look as old as me?"
"Oh, older. Definitely," agreed Virgil and Gordon in unison.
"I must go to him. I will explain everything. He will forgive me won't he?"
"Atlanta, can you do me a favour before we leave?" asked Virgil.
"Yes of course."
"Will you flush all the remaining pills down the toilet?"
"Of course." Atlanta left the room meekly to comply with Virgil's request. Virgil gave an audible sigh of exasperation.
"Poor Atlanta," muttered Gordon.
"So, do I take it that I am going to be the one who takes her to visit Troy in hospital?" voiced Scott.
"Yes, seeing as Thunderbird Two is still marooned on Bermuda. Gordon and I have to take Thunderbird Four back to its pod this afternoon. The W.A.S.P. are going to meet us. They helped us recover Thunderbird Two. They are also interested in Balanic's island. It seems they could put it to good use."
"And Stingray? I bet they were glad to get that back again."
"Not particularly, Scott,” answered Gordon. “It needs a lot of work doing to it. Plus the fact that it's now ten years out of date, and today’s Aquanauts have trained on new, improved submarines which are different to Stingray. The W.A.S.P. commander plans to ask Troy if he would be interested in buying it at scrap value."
"What did Troy say about that?" asked Scott.
"Oh, he doesn't know yet," laughed Gordon. "I am going to tell him myself. I just can't wait to see his face."
"Or Atlanta's," put in Virgil.
"So, Troy Tempest could be back in charge of Stingray."
"I'm sure he'll jump at the chance."
"Gordon, do you suppose he would be able to get his old job back with W.A.S.P.?
"No, not now. He's past his prime, but he did tell me about one ambition he has left."
"What was that?"
"He still wants to find the 'Lost city of Atlantis.' He was saving up to buy a submarine so he could run 'Tempest Tours'. 'Stingray' could be the answer to his prayers. Just think of what folk would pay to be part of an expedition on the famous Stingray. I reckon he'll be on to a winner there. In fact I might do the same with Thunderbird Four when I retire."
Virgil laughed. "No chance of that, yet."
Scott glanced at his watch and tapped his fingers impatiently. “What’s keeping Atlanta? I've got to go and pick Alan up from the mainland."
"That reminds me, I have a call to make," Gordon raised his left hand and spoke in to his mobile phone which was strapped beneath his communicator. "Yeah... I'm at your house now... No, she's out of the room at the moment. She wants to come to the hospital to see you. Thunderbird One can have her there in ten minutes." Gordon grimaced and held the phone away from his ear. It was obvious to both Scott and Virgil that the person on the other end of the phone had just sworn loudly. "What's the problem?" asked Gordon. "...You're not at the hospital? Well, where are you then? .... What do you mean you don't want to tell me...? Your wife wants to see you... YOU'RE WHERE? ... SHE'LL HAVE YOUR HIDE! Do you realise that?"
"I take it Mr Tempest is not too keen on a visit from Mrs Tempest," interrupted Scott.
"He's not at the hospital... no, it's not Atlanta. I was talking to Scott... He was going to bring Atlanta to visit you in hospital, but since you've seen fit to discharge yourself, she is going to want to bring you back home... Well, you tell her that, because I'm not going to."
Scott leaned over and grabbed Gordon's arm. "Listen, buddy," he spoke into Gordon's wristwatch phone. "I'm bringing your wife to the hospital to see you. Now if you like, I can take the scenic route that will add a few more minutes on to my journey, but we will be there at 10.30 and I expect to see you reclining in your hospital bed, looking sorry for yourself. Now, I can't thank you enough for the help you've given us, but getting involved in your domestic strife is beyond the call of International Rescues duties."
"Sorry, Troy you'll just have to get yourself re-admitted. I'll talk to you later," with that Gordon signed off and put his head in his hands. “The Tempests are very appropriately named. Balanic's machine will be nothing compared to the fallout from Atlanta if she ever finds out where her husband is right now."
"Would I be right in assuming that Marina isn't fat or grey haired?" deduced Scott.
"She's a bit of a babe," answered Virgil.
"Yeah, in spite of her age and all she's been through. She's okay," agreed Gordon.
They all fell silent as Atlanta swept in to the room wafting expensive perfume and dressed up to the nines. "Well, shall we go now?"
Scott looked pained as both Gordon and Virgil grinned at him and waved.