Access Denied

Title: Access Denied

Author: Gumnut

24 – 25 Jul 2018

Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015

Rating: Mature (for some violence)

Summary: He found a way.

Word count: 5650

Spoilers & warnings: Season 2 in general. Occurs
sometime before 2.07 Home on the Range. Also there is some violence in this fic
and some bits are kinda creepy. Virgil!Whump

Author’s note: Ever wondered how the events of Home on the
Range were made possible? Many thanks to the wonderful welcome I have received
in this fandom. Here I am again stretching my writing muscles with a fic a
little different again from the previous one. I hope you enjoy a little whump,
because even I feel sorry for Virgil in this one. My next fic will have to be
fluffy to him to make up for it. Ouch!

Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t
have any, don’t bother. Scenes parroted from the episodes are definitely not
mine.

Chapter 1

“Why does it always have to be snow? I hate snow.”

“It’s only water, Gordon. I thought you loved that stuff.”

“Only in degrees above zero.”

Thunderbird Two banked to port as Virgil sought out a place
to land. Landing on ice was one thing, landing on a glacier, a river of
fractured ice, was a completely different kettle of fish. At least the weather
was being kind. Blue skies, almost no wind. If it wasn’t a rescue, it would
make a beautiful painting.

Well, except for the massive scar of black meltwater that
led to the downed air freighter in the middle of said glacier. This one was
going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, the site was a relatively close one, being
halfway down New Zealand’s South Island, so International Rescue had managed a
fast response. Scott was already here, obviously doing a thorough site
assessment, TB1 hovering quite a distance above the wreck.

“Thunderbird Two, welcome to the party. We have a single air
freighter. Three lifesigns. No contact since initial distress call. Cockpit is
embedded in the glacier, looks like we are going to have to dig them out.”

“FAB, Thunderbird One. Locating a suitable landing site. On
the ground asap.”

“Watch that ice. It’s fragile.”

“Noted.”

Of course, it was fragile, it was ice. Virgil forced himself
not to roll his eyes.

Scans revealed a chunk of rock half covered by snow, not far
from the site, just big enough to support TB2. As Virgil deployed the VTOL
gear, most of that snow was blown off. The clunk of her landing gear hitting
rock, reassuring.

Sure, he had landed on ice many times before, but the
fractured, rippled surface of the glacier below just screamed melt and die.

“So how are we going to get down there?”

“You’re not going down there. You’re staying here. I’ll take
the exo-suit and zipline down. You’re on retrieval.”

“Fine by me.”

Virgil levelled a look at his brother.

“What? I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Ignoring him, Virgil flipped a switch. “Thunderbird One,
zipline it is. Recommend you stay in the air in case we need to stabilise the
vehicle.”

“FAB, Virgil.”

-o-o-o-

Virgil loved his exo-suit. Sure, it could be awkward and
clunky sometimes, but it enabled him to do so much. It had helped him save so
many people.

And in what way was having your own super-suit not totally
cool?

When Brains had first come to him with the idea, he had
jumped on it. He could see the possibilities. Of course, the teasing that had
initially resulted from four brothers was a lot to be borne, but hey,
super-suit!

Totally worth it.

As he rolled his shoulders back into the metal skeleton and
slid his arms into the sleeves, he felt himself relax just that little. The
equipment hummed and enveloped him, the framework connecting with his boots,
re-enforcing his legs, and thoroughly encasing his spine.

He stepped forward, the whine of servos playing in concert
with his every move. It always reminded him of the look on Alan’s face during
testing. For some reason seeing his older brother doing the Robot Dance in a
robotic suit had fried his brain.

“Gordon, deploy zipline. Ice pick grapple.”

“Copy that.” The clunk and whistle of the forward launcher
echoed through the ship’s frame. A moment later, Gordon joined him in the pod
bay and Virgil raised the body of his ‘Bird, activating the pod bay door.

There wasn’t much in the way of wind, but the air was brisk.
The roar of Thunderbird One was a continual, but familiar background noise.

“God, why can’t people crash on tropical islands once in a
while?” Gordon’s breath puffed and clouded around his face. Virgil was quite
happy to have his helmet on.

Double checking his supplies, he hooked the bag of equipment
to the zipline pulley and sent it spinning down to the crash site.

Gordon checked and double checked his harness, before giving
him the thumbs up – zipline is go.

“Thanks, Gordon.”

A hook onto a pulley, a staggering run and he was flying
across glacier. A few seconds of weightlessness and racing white, and his boots
skidded in snow, coming up hard against solid ice. He grunted, gaining back his
balance before releasing himself from the line.

Nothing put size into more perspective that being on the
ground. He was surrounded by a sea of cracked and jagged ice. The freighter had
ploughed into the side of one of the many crevasses, its snout embedding itself
in the crevasse wall just below the surface. With a bit of luck and the right
equipment, he should be able to break through the crumbled ice above the
cockpit and enter through the top of the vehicle.

“Thunderbird One, recommend you secure the backend of the
freighter. I don’t know how stable she is. Removing weight here may alter the
balance.” And send her plummeting down that great gaping hole.

“FAB, Virgil. Deploying grapple.” There was a whoosh and an
almighty thunk as TB1’s huge electromagnet made contact. “Grapple secure.”

And Virgil started digging.

A combination of shovel, claw and laser work did the job.
Fortunately, the cockpit was only a couple of metres below the surface, so it
didn’t take long, the exo-suit taking most of the punishment.

“I’ve reached the outer skin. Thunderbird One, can you give
me confirmation on my position. I’m not going to hit anything explosive if I
cut through here?”

“Negative, Virgil. You are directly above the cockpit. She
is lying at an angle, so you’ll actually be going in through her upper port
sector. All clear.”

“FAB.” Standing in icy dross, his feet slightly apart,
Virgil recalibrated his laser and cut a seventy-five centimetre diameter hole
in the fuselage beneath him. “Any further response from the crew?” They had to
have heard him.

“Negative.”

Damn. That was never a good sign.

Using the pincers on his left arm, Virgil peeled back the
metal.

-o-o-o-

Scott stretched in his seat, rolling his shoulders. Skyhook
duty was notoriously boring. But Virgil was right. They couldn’t risk it.

When John had interrupted their breakfast, Scott hadn’t been
surprised. Virgil, on the other hand, hadn’t had his breakfast interrupted.
He’d been dragged out of bed, by Gordon. Scott had no doubt that the aquanaut enjoyed
every minute of it.

Scott, in turn, had made sure his bed-head of a brother had
taken some coffee and a power bar with him.

And here they were.

Scott yawned.

Maybe he should have had a power bar too. Or extra coffee.
Extra coffee sounded nice.

“Thunderbird One, I’m receiving a strange power reading from
the freighter. Has Virgil reported in yet?”

“He’s cutting the fuselage now. What kind of reading?” Scott
sat up straighter in his seat.

“I’m not sure-“

“SHIT! Get-“ Virgil’s voice cut through everything. And then
cut out.

“Virgil!” Nothing. “Virgil?”

“I have him on my scanner, Scott. He is still outside the
freighter.” John’s hologram frowned even more. “He’s not moving.”

His pulse hit the inside of his skull. “Thunderbird Two, do
you have eyes on Virgil?”

“Negative.” Gordon’s voice was strained. “He’s still in that
hole.”

“Virgil!”

No response.

Scott flung up his restraints. “I’m going down for an eyes
on. John, what’s with that power reading?”

“I’m still not sure. Working on it.”

“Keep me apprised.” He grabbed his jet pack, opened the
cockpit and jumped.

Darting down, he approached the excavation from a shallow
angle, enabling him to peer over the edge without exposing himself.

Virgil lay on his back, halfway up the side of the hole he’d
dug. But he wasn’t still. His head was thrashing side to side, his torso
struggling within the confines of the suit, but the suit appeared
non-responsive, both legs held out straight and not moving. A malfunction?

“Virgil?”

His head turned and fixed on Scott. His brother’s eyes were
wide and his lips were moving. He was shouting, but Scott couldn’t hear him. A
comms malfunction?

Scott eyed the open hole in the freighter. No-one was making
a sound. No one seemed have come out. All the bootprints in the snow and ice
clearly belonged to his brother.

But then there was John’s strange power reading.

“Virgil?” He let his feet hit the ground and Virgil started
shaking his head vigorously. Scott stopped at the edge.

But Virgil suddenly moved, his left side bending backwards
at an angle it was never meant to bend. His brother screamed. And this time he
heard it in full digital stereo.

Oh, god. Instinct took over and he rushed in.

Only to have his arm grabbed by Virgil’s right claw.

-o-o-o-

 

Chapter 2

The moment Virgil pulled away the fuselage, several
somethings flew out of the resulting hole.

Whatever they were, they buzzed and immediately attacked
him, one landing on his right arm, the other on his left, and there was another
one…somewhere.

He jumped backwards, awkwardly attempting to shake them off
himself. “SHIT! Get off me!” Electricity sparked across the metal of his suit
and burnt into his shoulders. He yelled in pain. There was a scuttling and
Virgil realised that at least one of them had legs.

He tried to pull his arms out of the sleeves, to shed the
suit, but his right arm was pinned by something sharp. And his left…

The suit convulsed, pulling his left arm backwards. More
backwards than it was ever meant to go. Something snapped and tore. Virgil
cried out and fell.

There was nothing for a few moments, the pain in his arm and
shoulder taking his focus. Sweat broke out on his brow.

Something crawled up his side and nestled inside his left
sleeve, jostling his injury. He hissed. “Scott?” Nothing. “John?” More nothing.

His left side was a mass of pain, so he gingerly attempted
to move his right.

He couldn’t. None of the controls responded.

He attempted to move his legs.

His body moved within his uniform, but the exo-suit held him
still.

Again he attempted to free his right arm from its exo-suit
sleeve. That something sharp reminded him of its presence rather abruptly and
he gasped in a breath.

Spread-eagled on the ice, he was being crucified by his own
equipment.

He bit his lip, trying to calm himself and think.

Scott and Gordon would notice his lack of response. They
would investigate. He’d be out of this shortly.

Something buzzed near his left ear and scuttled over his
shoulder. His instinctual flinch away set his left side screaming again. He
panted as the small mechanical creature crawled across his chest and across to
his other shoulder, secreting itself just behind his neck. It made a chirp.
Another chirp came from his left arm and something down there began moving.

Virgil had never been so helpless and terrified in his life.

Or so he thought until above his left arm, a fuzzy hologram
of his beloved Thunderbird Two spat into existence.

Oh, god. No, no, no!

If this was some attempt to get his ship… He struggled and
it blinked out.

Scott appeared over the edge of the excavation and Virgil
realised that his brother could not come anywhere near him. If these creatures
were trying to hack the system, Scott would be their next target.

He shook his head until he saw stars, his arm screaming at
him, but Scott still landed. No, no, no, no! He yelled at his brother. Stay
away! Please, Scott. No!

No. Please.

And the suit folded beneath him and wrenched his left arm
backwards once again. His world whited out and he screamed.

Then Scott was there. Virgil’s right arm was moving by
itself and he had a millisecond to realise exactly what they were trying to do.

His claw reached for his brother’s arm, its teeth wrapping
around his bicep…No! Everything that he had and he forced his body to move just
enough to create just enough momentum. The suit slipped a matter of centimetres
in the icy dross, but it was enough for his brother to slip from the claw’s
tightening hold.

Scott scampered backwards, his eyes wide. Virgil heard him
shout something into his comms, but his head was swimming.

The sharp thing in his right sleeve twitched and stabbed
directly through his fore-arm.

The world went away for a while.

-o-o-o-

Scott landed on his butt in the snow, but his legs kept
peddling, throwing himself backwards out of the reach of the claw now snapping
repeatedly in his direction.

“Virgil?!”

His brother’s head was lolled to one side, his eyes closed.

The claw was still reaching for him.

He clambered out of the hole, putting a solid distance
between himself and his brother and his possessed suit.

The claw dropped to the ice and a mechanical insect about
the size of his hand crawled across his brother’s chest.

Mecha!

The Mechanic! His eyes darted across the landscape, but
there was only ice. And the downed air freighter.

“Thunderbird Five, Thunderbird Two. Confirmed sighting of
mecha. They’ve got Virgil. John wide area scan, can you find the Mechanic?”

Shock from the other end of the comline was quickly followed
by John’s strained, “Negative. The only unusual reading is that power reading
we discussed earlier.” A worried breath. “It should be noted that there are now
no lifesigns aboard the freighter.”

“Alert-“ A sharp, green hologram appeared above his
unconscious brother’s arm. “John, they’re trying to hack Thunderbird Two via
Virgil’s wrist remote!” Thunderbird One’s idle roar was suddenly accompanied by
a rising whine from Thunderbird Two.

“Shit!” From Gordon.

“EOS!”

-o-o-o-

At John’s panicked yell, EOS dove into the z-band network,
flinging herself across space, seeking the familiar confines of Thunderbird Two.

She was suddenly grateful for those moments she had spent
with the ship and its pilot. Virgil, of the four other brothers, was the most
like John. Different and somewhat difficult at times, he still seemed happy to
speak with her and answer questions from time to time while doing maintenance
on his Thunderbird.

She knew TB2’s systems well and knew immediately what was
not supposed to be there.

They were like teeth with tentacles. A multitude of tiny
little programs munching on the security system while the tentacles reached
through the network seeking control.

She threw up an electronic shield, drew a knife and started
hacking.

How dare these creatures invade her network. Teeth scraped
against her, but she slashed and she burned. Get out!

Her sensors registered the panicked movements of the second
youngest brother as he made his own attempts to regain control of the ship.
Unfortunately, he was hampering more than helping, so she cut off his access.

There was a yell as the console sparked.

She threw an apology at the comline. “Sorry!”

But then her attention was taken by a renewed vigour from
the invaders. They were attempting to reach around her and gain access to the
propulsion systems.

No, you don’t.

Flaring out across the ship’s circuits like a tsunami of
fire, she shredded the incoming commands, disabled the programs and abruptly
severed the connection between Virgil’s wrist comm and his Thunderbird.

The engine whine dissipated
and Thunderbird Two settled back onto her haunches.

She pulled herself back together, re-enabled pilot access,
and sat threateningly in Two’s directive cache, ready for another assault
should one come.

“EOS?” John.

“Yes, John?”

“What did you do?”

“Repelled the invaders. You once again have control of
Thunderbird Two.”

“How?”

“Your brother Virgil’s remote access is no longer viable.”

“Where are you?”

“On Thunderbird Five. And Thunderbird Two.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Will you be coming home soon?”

“I am home. However, I would like to shadow thunderbird
Two’s systems until the possibility of further attack has been neutralised.”

“Can you access Virgil’s exo-suit?”

“No. That system is low level with minimal computing power.
The mecha must be supplying the processing power and direction to take
control.” She hesitated. Stepping outside the z-band network was definitely
possible, but the thought frightened her. “I would need to invade their systems
to take control and I have just severed the only direct link. To open the
connection again would be enabling another attack…and the territory would be
unfamiliar, John.”

She could almost sense him thinking, considering her
trepidation. “We may have to consider it a possibility, EOS. Virgil’s life is
at stake. Would you be willing to try?”

It could be her life at stake. She had won this time, on her
own turf, but it hadn’t been easy. “Maybe. It would be dangerous…for me.”

It was better than a no, but the silence at the other end of
the comline set her worrying.

The eldest brother’s voice cut through the conversation.

“Oh, hell. They’re moving Virgil.”

-o-o-o-

 

Chapter 3

 

Scott’s feet crunched on the ice as he stepped backwards.
Down in the hole below, his brother’s body was standing up. Despite the fact he
still appeared to be unconscious. It was definitely one of the most horrible
things he had ever witnessed.

His brother’s head lolled forward as the exo-suit forced him
to stand. It rapidly became clear that there was more than one mecha attached
to the suit. One for each arm and another on his right shoulder.

The suit started climbing out of the hole.

“Scott, get out of there!” Gordon.

He still had his jetpack, he could flee at any time.

But this was Virgil.

And he was leaving a thin trail of blood in the snow.

As the suit carried him above the edge of the excavation,
the movement of his limbs must have drawn his brother back to at least a
partial consciousness, as his head lifted a little, his dreadfully pale face a
mask of pain.

“Virgil?”

“Sc-tt…no” A gasp as the suit straightened up. “Go..way.”

As if to re-enforce his brother’s urgency, the mecha on his
right arm suddenly detached from Virgil and flew directly at Scott.

He stumbled backwards, activating his jet pack to the sound
of a yell from both Gordon and John.

He was not two metres off the ground when the mecha made
contact.

With his jetpack.

It sparked, stuttered and he was suddenly falling. Snow and
ice jumped up and bit him.

“Scott! Move!”

John’s voice fired all the neurons in his brain and he was
moving, snow and ice flung up in his wake.

Virgil was screaming.

A glance behind him saw the suit staggering, attempting to
run towards him. Something crawled down his left arm towards his remote
control.

No, goddamnit, no! He swiped with his other hand and the
mecha went flying. Without hesitation, he took a leap and when it hit the
ground, he landed his full weight on it. There was a satisfying crunch. He
stumbled, but kept moving.

-o-o-o-

Virgil’s world was pain. Every movement was fire.

But all he could see was the fear on Scott’s face. All he
could think was what these things were trying to do. He couldn’t let…

The devices had full control. They were using him to get to
his brother and through him, control of his Thunderbird. He had no idea if
Thunderbird Two was safe or lost. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t let…

Scott had run out of ice. He was cornered. Gaping crevasses
either side. His eldest brother was looking at him in anguish.

He couldn’t let…

The suit approached Scott.

He couldn’t let…

Shifting his weight on the next step, he overbalanced the
suit. It slipped, falling sideways, his torso loomed out over open air. Another
sudden shift and he sent himself plummeting down the crevasse.

He had enough time to thank god before everything blanked
out.

-o-o-o-

 

Chapter 4

 

Scott screamed, reaching out. “No!”

The suit trapping his brother disappeared over the edge and
was gone.

God, no. No, no, no, no.

He staggered over to the edge, his comms yelling in his ears.
He crept up to the precipice, terrified to look, but forced to by the tiniest
amount of hope.

About twenty metres down, his brother lay sprawled on his
back in the snow. On a ledge next to a further hundred metre drop.

As he watched, two mechas detached from his brother’s suit
and flew upwards. He flung himself backwards, throwing his hands up to protect
himself.

They ignored him.

Flying straight up, they passed out of sight.

“John.” His voice was hoarse. “Can you track them?”

“They’re gone.” The impreciseness of his reply betrayed
John’s state of mind. “He’s still alive, Scott.”

“He is?” His heart hurt so much.

“That power reading is gone.”

“They’re gone?”

“They’re gone.”

“John, you have Thunderbird One. Gordon, full altitude
retrieval pack. Stretcher.” A pause. “And bolt cutters.”

-o-o-o-

It took Scott ten agonising minutes to reach his brother,
both Gordon and John hovering above and on his comline. It took another twenty
for him to extricate Virgil from the suit. There was some dark pleasure in
severing the mechanical connections to ensure it would never work again.

Then it was attending to the still bleeding puncture wound
on his right arm – a spike of metal still protruding from it, spine and
shoulder stabilisation, along with a full body splint for his left side.

Virgil remained unconscious the entire time. No response. Once
he was secured in the stretcher, ready to be pulled up by Gordon above, Scott
cupped his brother’s hair in his hand, leant over and touched a trembling kiss
to his forehead.

His hands were shaking.

“Gordon, haul us up.”

-o-o-o-

Hospitals varied. Fortunately, New Zealand hospitals were
rated amongst the best. They ended up at Wellington Hospital in the country’s
capital. Unfortunately, Thunderbird Two was too big for their helipad, so
International Rescue would be footing the bill for lawn repairs at the local
oval.

But Virgil was still alive when they made it.

He was still alive after surgery.

He was still alive two days later.

But he wasn’t awake.

Tracy Island was in an uproar. Brains was completely beside
himself with horror at the thought one of their family being tortured in the
attempt to gain access to their technology by
their technology.

Both John and EOS were losing sleep in the attempt to track
down the Mechanic. The fact they could not detect him anywhere, was
frightening. The thought that this kind of thing could happen again was the
stuff of nightmares.

And there were plenty to be had. No member of the family was
free of them. Scott fell asleep in the chair beside his brother several times
only to wake screaming, the suit disappearing over the edge so many times.

Virgil didn’t even twitch.

-o-o-o-

Sally Tracy had had moments in her life of true pain. She
had lost so many members of her family, sometimes she wondered if she could bear
losing another.

Her second eldest grandson was almost as pale as the
bedsheets he was lying on. One arm was wrapped in a bandage, the other in a
cast. His dark hair was tousled and a contrasting smear against the white.

Her eldest grandson was sprawled in the chair on the
opposite side of the bed to her. His almost equally dark hair splayed out on
the covers as he slept the sleep of the thoroughly exhausted. She’d only
allowed him to stay because at the suggestion of a break he had almost fallen
as pale as his brother.

These two were a pair. Two pieces of a puzzle different to
each other in a way that enabled them to fit together perfectly.

Consequently, when one fell, the other one fell with him.

Not to say the rest of the family fell any less. Both Gordon
and John were haunted. They had refused to tell her the full story, but she had
enough to give her nightmares already.

She held Virgil’s right hand in hers, her fingers caressing
his.

“Dear Virgil.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. “We
so miss your music.” A hitch in her breath. “Please come back to us.”

International Rescue was on full stand down. They were a
mess. Brains had frozen all but the most necessary assets in order to give
every piece of equipment a thorough security check and reinforcement. Kayo was
caught between the security of the island, Virgil, and hunting down the
Mechanic. Sally almost felt pity for him if she found him.

Almost.

Gordon was caught up in the ‘what if’ circular frame of
thought. She was going to have to pin him down and have a talk with him at some
point. Probably John as well. The astronaut had almost cut himself off from
conversation, his only contact a random appearance from time to time to hover
over his brother. With the security breach, Brains had demanded that both he
and EOS return to Earth for safety. Both had protested rather loudly, but Scott
had stepped in, and Sally suspected it was more the exhaustion on his eldest
brother’s face that had made John relent than anything else.

Alan had been out of contact on a mission at the time of the
incident and had the unenviable situation of returning to a very different home
to that from which he had left. There had been tears.

Scott…wasn’t sleeping. He had craters around his eyes. The
fact he was out cold at this very moment was simply due to the fact that his
body gave out.

“Grandma?” Two drowsy brown eyes were staring at her.

“Oh, god, Virgil.” She squeezed his hand. “How do you feel?”

He frowned. “Foggy. What happened?”

She hesitated. “What do you remember?”

The frown deepened. “Gordon hates snow.” Virgil’s eyes
unfocussed a moment. “He wants to crash in the tropics.”

A small smile. “Sounds about right.”

“Where’s Scott?”

She gestured in the direction of his brother.

Virgil sluggishly moved his head. “Oh.” A swallow. “What
happened to him?”

“He’s just tired. He’s been busy.”

“Huh.” Virgil’s eyes were drifting closed again. “Make sure
he gets enough sleep. Or he’ll…get grumpy.” And Virgil was asleep again.

She lent up and gently kissed him on the forehead. Turning,
as expected, her eyes were caught by a pair of blue.

She returned his tired smile.

-o-o-o-

It took weeks. Both for Virgil to recover and for
International Rescue to get back on its feet. Scott tried his best not to think
too hard about the possibility of lives being lost during that time because
they were not available. All calls had been redirected through local channels
and what little help they could give had been given.

Virgil claimed that he didn’t remember much about the
incident. He had been both traumatised and suffered a head injury from the
fall, so it was entirely possible. Scott had chased it up with several doctors
and the feedback all said the same thing. The scans said there was no damage,
amnesia was a possibility due to the initial injury or for psychological
reasons. The only way to handle it was to let Virgil take one day at a time.

And so he did. First in hospital, then at home, then through
the horrible rehabilitation period where he had to work both his arm and torn
shoulder back to health.

The day he finally sat in front of his piano and shakily
tapped out a tune was an emotional one.

Once all their equipment was thoroughly approved by both
Brains and Kayo, the last remaining question was what to do with the rest of
Virgil’s exo-suits.

No-one else could use them, they were specially designed for
Virgil’s rather large frame. Scott didn’t even want to look at them. He was
still waking in the middle of the night with one of them starring in the role
of ultimate nightmare material. But there was also the consideration of how
many lives those pieces of equipment had saved, not to mention the fact that
even while corrupted, that last suit had still saved his brother – it had
broken his fall.

Could they afford to deny themselves the use of this
valuable equipment?

In the end it was decided to ask Virgil. After all they were
his.

“What do you mean?” The question echoed around the hanger.

“Do you think you would be comfortable using your
exo-suits?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” His brother was staring at him.

Scott frowned. “You are aware of what happened with the last
suit you used?”

“Yes, apparently it got possessed, broke a few bones, stuck
a hole in me, and threw me off a cliff. Your point?”

“This isn’t a joking matter, Virgil.”

“I’m not joking, Scott. Those exo-suits save a lot of lives.
So a megalomaniac screwed around with the last one. Why should we deny innocent
people help we can give them just because of that asshole?”

“So you’ll have no problem wearing them?”

“If I do, I’ll just have to get over it. There are more
important things.”

“You’re sure?”

“Why is it when I make a decision you feel the need to get
it in triplicate?”

“Because I’m worried about you, Virgil.”

“Well, you don’t have to be. I told you, I hardly remember
anything. And I don’t want to be put in the position where someone is going to
die just because I can’t get over myself.”

Scott wondered if Virgil realised he had just contradicted
his previous statement. If he didn’t remember much, what did he need to get
over?

“Okay. Then I’d like you to try one on, just to make sure
you are comfortable.”

“What? Now?”

“No better time than the present.” So okay, it was a direct
challenge, but then he needed to know his brother could handle this. It wasn’t
something that could be left to the field.

Virgil shrugged. “Okay.” He looked down at himself. “Just
let me grab my uniform.” He disappeared up the stairs.

Scott looked up at Thunderbird Two. Such an echo of his
brother. She, too, had needed some repairs. EOS hadn’t been gentle when she had
defended the ship. Gordon ended up with two small burns on his right hand and
several important pieces of circuitry had needed full replacements. But as Brains,
and later Virgil, had reassured her, it had been worth it.

She had also stood in as an advisor as to what defences
could be installed to prevent this from happening again. All their remotes had
been reconfigured, their casings reinforced to the point that a nuclear warhead
might not even reach the internal circuitry.

The exo-suits – Brains and John had thought long and hard on
that one. They were mostly mechanical, they enhanced Virgil’s natural body
strength and took directions from his movement. As far as they could decipher,
the mechas had managed to interface at that point – by trapping Virgil in the
framework, he provided the support while the mechas provided the processing
power and direction of the functions. This wasn’t something easily prevented. So
they came at it from another angle. The new suits all had the capability to
completely disassemble at will. Virgil should never be caught, unable to get
out. A double switch was located in both sleeves, that when activated, the suit
fell apart, freeing the wearer. No support equalled no zombie suit situations.

There was the hiss of an object approaching at speed and he
looked up to see the chute extender deploy. A moment later his brother shot
out, fully dressed in his uniform, and flung himself into the cockpit of Thunderbird
Two.

The lower hatch deployed and Virgil walked over to him.

“You know I think you really enjoy that.”

“Yeah, ‘course I do. Who wouldn’t?”

And no, Scott was not going to answer that.

He led his brother over to the module bay and activated the
door of Module Two. Without a word, they both entered and there, waiting to be
deployed, was an exo-suit.

They both stood there a moment. “Well, go ahead.” Scott
gestured his brother forward.

Virgil shrugged and stepped into the suit. A whirr of servos
as it deployed, wrapping itself around his brother. Scott froze, his heart in
his throat.

The stuff of nightmares.

He shook himself. He’d have to get over himself as well.

Virgil was standing still, a blank look on his face.

“Virgil?”

He looked up. “Huh?”

“You okay?”

“Uh, fine.” He waved his claw around and flexed his pincer.

Scott shivered.

“Are you okay?” Virgil’s
eyes had narrowed and were pinned on him.

“I’m good.”

He could tell Virgil didn’t believe him. His brother took a
step forward.

Scott took a step back.

Virgil pressed his lips together. “Sure.”  Stepping backwards he disengaged the suit,
slipping his arms easily from the sleeves, only to stop and freeze a moment.

Scott waited. Virgil stared at his left hand. He mouthed a
whisper Scott couldn’t quite hear.

“Virg?”

“Huh?”

“Am I allowed to ask if you are okay?”

His brother glared at him but didn’t confirm or deny anything.

Sighing, Scott walked over to him and wrapped an arm around
his shoulders. “C’mon, Virgil. Admit it, this is going to take some more time.”

A look, a flicker of vulnerability quickly masked. “I guess.”

“What if we come down here every day and give it another go.
Eventually we will get so sick of the sight of it, we won’t care anymore.”

Virgil was looking at his hand again, distracted. “Okay.”

He squeezed his shoulders.

Not okay, but getting there.

-o-o-o-

Several degrees north of nowhere, the Mechanic sifted
through the information the drones had captured. He had the codes, he had the
capability, now he just need to find an out of the way place with the resources
he needed.

As his eyes landed on Gran Roca Ranch, he smiled.

-o-o-o-

FIN

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