The ramblings of a Nut who should be doing something else – Adelaide, South Australia

Father

Title:
Father
A Tale of Sotto
Voce

Author: Gumnut
10 – 13 Oct 2018
Fandom:
Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/ Thunderbirds TOS
Rating: Teen
Summary:
Perhaps it was worth the pain, in some small way.
Word count:
6627
Spoilers & warnings: Spoilers for Season 2, Sotto Voce
and Il Mago 
Timeline: Set shortly after Il Mago.
Author’s
note: So here we are. This took longer than expected and I’m not
really sure it is what it needed to be, but it is what it is. This
was written for @the-lady-razorsharp who welcomed me into this
wonderful fandom, showed me around and continues to be a wonderful
inspirator (and a fabulous writer as well :D). Thank you, hon, for
everything. I so hope you enjoy this.
Disclaimer:
Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t
bother.

-o-o-o-

“JOHN!”

Virgil
staggered sideways into his father’s desk as Eos screamed through
his mind. He grabbed his head, gasping at the fear and the terror,
assaulting his brain. “God!” His elbow hit the woodwork, his feet
slipping from beneath him.

“Virgil!”

Scott’s
yell added to the clamour and he scrunched his eyes shut.

And
then came the images. Shit! “John!”

He
vaguely heard his big brother yelling for Thunderbird Five, but all
he could see was John coming in contact with an arc of electricity,
his body spasming, smoke, oh god. Virgil’s stomach roiled. Eos’
emotion rolled over him in waves. The hardwood floor leapt up and hit
him.

Eos

Eos,
please
.

John!

I-I
know. Get help.

Images
of Brains rushing to his brother’s aid. Alan not far behind him.

A
hand touched his cheek. He jumped and flinched away, skidding on the
floor, coming up hard against the base of his father’s desk.

“Virgil?”

Scott.

He
forced his eyes open and found wooden floor out of focus. He turned
his head and encountered the concerned face of his brother. “John’s
hurt.”

”We
know. Brains and Alan have him.” A pause. “You?”

Virgil
swallowed bile. “Been better.” He put his hands on the floor and
attempted to push himself up. Predictably, Scott grabbed him when he
faltered, his brother lifting him under his arms and helping him into
a sitting position against the desk.

Eos
still roiled in his head, agitated, scared, worried.

Virgil
ran his hands over his face. “Damn.” Images flickered through his
mind. John prone, unresponsive. Brains and Alan darting around him.
Reaching out, he sought information.

His
brother was not responding.

Virtual
sparks as the cardiostimulator was applied.

Concerned
words, controlled panic reached the mic pickups. Alan yelling at his
brother.

Limp
blond-red hair.

Please,
John.

Eos
wailed in his ear.

Please.

The
electronic registration of a single heartbeat was one of the most
wonderful sounds he had ever heard. But not so much as the second,
the third, or the rapidly increasing rhythm of beats that followed.
The sight of John drawing in breath was beautiful.

“He’s
back.” Alan’s voice was a whimper.

Eos’
intensity dropped a grade and Virgil found himself releasing a breath
he hadn’t known he was holding. His mind felt fuzzy. Someone was
yelling.

Scott?

And
he realised what he had done.

Shit.

Catching
the sound of John’s heartbeat with his own, he stepped backwards,
letting himself fall back to where he belonged.

There
were arms around him. He was being held.

His
face was wet.

Blue
eyes. Worry. Cursing.

“G-Grandma’s
goin’ to kick your ass.”

Thinned
lips. “Not as far as she will kick yours.”

“True.”
His voice was hoarse. “J-John’s alive.”

“Alive?”

Whispered.
“Alive.”

-o-o-o-

Alive
is a relative term. Anything can be alive. A potato up to the point
of boiling is alive, peeling it one of the most horrifying concepts
around.

Unfortunately,
his brother was just as unresponsive as a potato. They stabilised
him, they got him home and into the infirmary. He was alive, heart
beating, breathing on his own, but no matter what they did, he
wouldn’t wake up.

Virgil
was absolutely horrified to discover that the accident had occurred
due to his actions. When he had diverted the power in Thunderbird
Five to electrify the airlock in an attempt to repel the invaders, he
had inadvertently electrified several other undetected sections of
the station.

He
rubbed his hands over his face, his elbows on the bed beside his
prone brother. “I’m so sorry, John. I…” What else could he
say?

I
should have detected it.

Another
sigh. Eos…

No,
it was my responsibility to check for damage.

It
is not your fault.

Then
how can it possibly be yours?

Virgil
didn’t answer.

It
had been three days. His brother was now hooked up to several IVs and
other invasive support mechanisms, his unconscious body needing
assistance to survive. The usually agile, calm and kind man now lay
pale, his hair unkempt and limp, eyes bruised smudges on his lifeless
face, hands wrapped in copious bandages.

Virgil
reached over and ran his fingers through that blond and red hair,
attempting to straighten it out, forcing the flick to behave itself.

“C’mon,
John, speak to me.” Virgil’s voice was little above a whisper. “I
can’t do this without you.” And the statement was suddenly true.
Spoken without thought, Virgil realised that through everything that
had happened to him in the last few months, John had been there, even
when Virgil was too terrified to see him, John had stood strong while
his brother dragged him through the mud. He had done everything in
his power, everything, to support Virgil. “God, don’t let a
faulty circuit be your epitaph, you are worth so much more than that.
So much more.”

He
needed his brother’s dry wit. He needed his calm voice. He needed
him.

Virgil
let his head drop to the bed.

Please.

-o-o-o-

On
the fifth day Scott hauled in Virgil’s neurologist. It was the
third time the man had been dragged out to Tracy Island, but the
first time for anyone other than Virgil.

Virgil
managed a weak smile for him when he arrived and the doctor gave him
a look that clearly said he would expect to see him for a check up
later.

John’s
scans were far less dramatic than Virgil’s but no less frightening.
The EEG said John was there. His brain activity clearly indicated
that what made John John was active. What it didn’t say is why he
wasn’t responding. All indications said he should be waking. But he
wasn’t.

Doctor
Emery stared at all the scans, once again commenting how he would
love to have their equipment in his hospital. “There does not
appear to be any brain damage.” He pointed to one spot. “Did he
suffer a recent concussion?”

Both
Virgil and Scott started. “Yes. There was an accident. He was
thrown across a room.”

“And
he received a severe electrical shock. Perhaps a combination of the
two? I’m unsure. What was his emotional state prior to the
accident?”

Virgil
stared at the man. Scott managed an answer. “Emotions have been
running high of late.” Scott was not looking at Virgil, but Virgil
knew that yet again he was a cause.

Dr
Emery looked between them both. “Understandable.” A pause. “The
reason I ask is that with the absence of an obvious physical reason,
my instinctive next step is to look for a psychological reason.”

There
was silence in the room for a moment. Then Virgil opened his mouth.
“You mean he might not want to wake up?”

The
expression in the doctor’s eyes was kind. “Yes, it is a
possibility.”

Virgil
swallowed.

Scott
took over the conversation from there, Virgil drifting, thoughts
spinning through his head. Why wouldn’t John want to wake up?

Life
had been pretty shitty of late, but it was on the improve. He and
John had spoken at length just recently. With the Maggot incident,
Virgil had turned a corner and no longer felt that instinctive fear
of his brother…well, nothing he was going to mention to the man.
Things had slowly been getting back to normal. Hell, Virgil had been
spending his time fixing Thunderbird Two as much as John had been
repairing his girl. International Rescue was still mostly offline,
but they were getting there.

Everything
had been getting better.

“And
how are you feeling, Virgil?”

He
jumped. Emery was looking at him with enquiring eyes, the
intelligence behind them sharp. “I checked with Joshua Slick on my
way over here. He said you missed your last appointment.”

“Uh,
yeah, I was unavoidably detained. IR business.” His consciousness
had been in orbit at the time.

“Other
than that, he was very positive about your progress. How are the
headaches? Your sleep pattern?”

“Still
get the occasional headache.” He’d had a doozy five days ago due
to his inadvertent trip upstairs. Scott and Grandma had been furious
with him once he had recovered. “Sleeps good.” Mostly. Occasional
nightmare notwithstanding. “Still snooze from time to time.” He
still owed Gordon for the pink nail polish pedicure from the last
incident of crashing by the pool.

“Uh,
huh.” God, the man’s eyes were boring into his brain. “Any
neurological incidents you would like to report?”

“Uh,
no.”

“Are
you sure?”

Virgil
frowned. “Yes, sure, Doc.”

“Very
well.”

He
didn’t believe him. Virgil didn’t know why, but the neurologist,
now looking away, clearly did not believe a word he had said.
Something cold crawled up his spine. He felt Scott’s eyes on him
and behind the doctor’s back, Virgil made it very clear that he now
wanted the man off the island. As soon as possible.

His
brother obliged, wrapping up the conversation and the consultation
quickly and walking the man out to the airstrip.

Virgil
didn’t go with him. Instead he put a call into Lady Penelope. They
needed to do another check on the doctor.

Something
had changed.

-o-o-o-

By
the end of the week, there had still been no improvement in John’s
condition and the family were getting frantic.

Eos
had begun to cling to Virgil. She was always there, her worry gnawing
at his own. Scott had noticed, cornering him and demanding he rest.

But
he couldn’t.

Scott
spoke to Eos and for a short time she stayed away.

It
was worse.

Virgil
worried about her and found himself venturing into the network
looking for her. This led to more headaches, angry Scott, worried
brothers and a grandmother wielding traditional cures that tasted
even worse than her cooking.

So
ultimately Eos returned to sit with him, sometimes beside her
father’s bed, sometimes late at night when Virgil couldn’t sleep.
Sometimes in his dreams.

But
still John wouldn’t wake up.

-o-o-o-

“You
know it almost makes me wish John had the same circuitry that you
do.”

Virgil
froze, glass of whisky half way to his mouth. “What? Why?”

“Because
then we could send in Eos to drag him out like she did for you last
time you refused to move your ass.”

He
stared at his brother, his thoughts spinning.

They
had access to the nanites, it was a possibility. But the thought of
putting his brother through that…”No.”

“What?”

“No,
Scott. I would rather he die.”

Scott’s
eyes widened and he sat up straighter in his chair. “You can’t
mean that.”

Virgil
threw back the whisky, its heat burning the back of his throat. His
voice was cold, but hoarse. “I do. This is never happening to any
of you.”

Eos
crowded into his thoughts.

Uncle?

“No,
Eos. While it has a few positives, you being most of them, I would
never wish this on my worst enemy, much less my family.”

“That
may not be your decision, Virgil. It has to be an option that at
least should be considered. If Eos can reach him, it might be worth
the risk.”

“Risk?!”
Virgil tensed on the edge of his chair. “You want to talk to me
about risk? How about being open to mind rape? How about not knowing
if you might be attacked at any moment, have your very will taken
away from you and made into someone else’s puppet?” He spat the
words at his brother. “How about being stared at by your family in
fear that you might hurt them? Scorned when something does go wrong,
and having to live with the guilt when you do actually hurt one of
them due to that damn piece of technology in your head. It will never
be gone. I have to live with it for the rest of my life, however
short that is, as we don’t even know how long it can be maintained
and what happens if it fails.” He drew in a shaky breath. “So,
no, Scott. It is not an option. John would be better off dead.”

His
empty whisky glass hit the table harder than it should have.

Scott
had paled.

Eos
was trembling.

Virgil
closed his eyes and let his head drop to his hands. His elbows dug
into his knees. Voice muffled. “I’m sorry. I just can’t do that
to him.”

-o-o-o-

The
room fell silent except for Virgil’s harsh breathing. Scott stared
at his brother, heart tight at the harsh and painful admission. He
wanted to deny it all, reassure Virgil, instinctively fight the
monsters in the dark for his little brother. But this was beyond him.

Mind
rape.

God.

“Scott?”

Eos’
voice was hesitant.

He
continued to stare at the top of his brother’s dark-haired head.
“Y-yes, Eos?” His voice cracked.

“What
if we didn’t need to infect my father with the nanites? What if
there was another way for me to reach him? Would you still want me to
try?”

Scott
looked up. “What? How?”

“Uncle?”

Virgil
looked up, his face strained. “Eos, please get to the point.”

“I
might be able to reach my father through Virgil.”

“Through
Virgil? How?” His brother’s brown eyes latched onto his, a spark
of hope rising within them. Scott fought it off. He couldn’t afford
it.

“The
circuitry is an interface. I can interact with Virgil through it. You
could almost equate it to something like turning a digital signal
into an analogue signal that he can interpret and vice versa. If I
was able to interface with Virgil and somehow we could connect his
nervous system to my father’s then I may have a conduit to send a
signal.”

“Connect
my nervous system…” Virgil’s concentration turned inwards and
Scott was sure he was conversing with Eos outside the conversation.
It rankled him, but he chose to ignore it. He had to.

“And
how do we do that?”

“You
can’t.” And Virgil was looking directly at him. “My body is
full of nanites. I can not, and will not, infect him.”

“I
am aware of that, Uncle.” Virgil’s lips thinned. “I’m hoping
that proximity will enable me to jump across.”

“Proximity?”
That spark of hope was definitely rearing its head.

“Sustained
contact. Skin to skin. I do not know for sure, Scott, it might be
enough. I believe it is worth an attempt.”

“Would
any harm come to Virgil?” Scott pinned his brother with his eyes.

“No,
I do not think so. He will only be the conduit.”

“What
about you?” Virgil’s tone was abrupt, challenging, and the answer
was obvious.

“I-“
And the conversation went internal. Virgil scowled, apparently at
nothing, his brow creasing in worry.

“Guys,
you going to let me in on the conversation?”

“Eos,
don’t play it down. No, c’mon. For the love of-…We’ll use
duct tape. Yes, we will. I don’t care how stupid it looks and
neither will your father. It is for your safety.” Virgil shot to
his feet. “Don’t you dare devalue your existence! You are just as
important as any of us!” Virgil’s agitation increased. “We love
you, you idiot!”

Eyes
widening as Virgil stumbled in place, his hand going to his head,
Scott leapt out of his chair, reaching to steady his brother. “What
the hell are you two doing?!”

A
pair of brown eyes snapped to his, as if surprised he was even there.
“What?”

“Sit
down, Virgil! Eos, back off!” He deployed a glare that had been
known to melt world leaders and brothers alike. Virgil sat down. Eos
muttered something over the comms. It could have been a sorry. “Now,
calmly, what is the threat to Eos?”

Virgil
dropped his gaze a moment before looking back up at his brother. “If
we do this, John and I will need to be in constant contact. If the
contact is broken, even for a moment, Eos could lose the section of
herself that is connected to John. The last time that happened, it
caused a cascade failure in her primary memory. John was able to
correct it in time, but this time we may not have him and it could be
life threatening for Eos.”

“It
is worth the risk.” Eos’ tone was firm.

Virgil
glared towards the ceiling. “We will assess the risks fully before
attempting anything.”

“Yes,
Uncle.”

“Yes,
we will.” For all three of them. Scott glared at his brother.

Virgil
didn’t answer.

But
the hope remained in his eyes.

-o-o-o-

John
Tracy was angry.

In
fact, John Tracy was royally pissed.

It
didn’t happen very often. John was the calm, calculating one. A
Spock to Scott’s Kirk.

But
John was pretty sure Spock would be just as pissed as he was if
someone had come along and trashed the Enterprise like those three
a-holes had done to his beloved Thunderbird Five.

But
even worse than that was what had been done to his brother.

John
coasted through his ‘Bird. The gravity ring was no longer spinning,
its controls destroyed by a desperate Virgil. So his home was eerily
quiet. Even the beeps and clicks of working electronics were muted.

All
was calm.

If
he hadn’t been so angry, he might have revelled in it. Peace was
his sanctuary, an uninterrupted place to concentrate and create.

But
he had far more important things to do.

He
needed to protect this station. He needed to protect his brother.

He
needed to put up some defences.

-o-o-o-

Another
day of watching his younger brother fade away.

Virgil
was frustrated. They had a possible solution, but Scott was refusing
to action it without thoroughly going over every single detail. Hell,
it was usually Virgil who was the pedantic one, but Scott in full big
brother mode was a force to contend with. No way was he letting any
of them attempt anything without dotting all the i’s and crossing
all the t’s, and in the meantime, John got paler and thinner, and
goddamnit!

Eos
was just as frustrated as he was. She continued to buzz around him
like a mosquito bent on blood.

It
didn’t make Virgil’s temper any better.

He
tried sitting with his brother, but the urge to grab his hand and ask
Eos to just do it was so tempting, so real, that he had fled the
infirmary.

This
was beyond his paintbrush, beyond even the piano, he feared he might
break the keys. So he ended up in the gym, borrowing a page from his
eldest brother’s book. Hands wrapped, shirt off, he beat the living
shit out of Scott’s favourite punching bag.

Of
course, it wasn’t canvas that he hit. No, it was faces. The Hood
was prominent, quickly followed by Percival F-ing Fischler. Muscles
complained, sweat ran down his back and at one point he found himself
yelling and cursing.

His
knuckles hurt.

Pale
blond John, wasting away.

He
hit it some more.

“Hey!”

And
Scott was standing there. Forever worried blue eyes framed by black
smudges.

Put
there by Virgil Tracy.

He
swung again, putting everything into his arm, forcing the anger into
motion, burning it before it could burn him.

The
canvas wobbled, the shock absorbed, it mocked him.

“We’re
ready.” And Scott was beside him, a hand on his shoulder.

Virgil’s
chest heaved. Sweat ran into his eyes. “About damn time.”

“Get
cleaned up and meet me in the infirmary.”

Eos
buzzed in his ears.

Scott
squeezed his shoulder.

About
damn time.

-o-o-o-

They
had hauled a larger bed into the room and placed it beside John. On
closer inspection, it appeared to be Gordon’s.

At
Virgil’s raised eyebrow, Scott shrugged. “His was the easiest to
disassemble, and besides, he volunteered it.”

Odd,
since Gordon hadn’t been seen since Scott had announced Eos’
plan.

There
was no doubt his brother was disturbed by the idea. Virgil still
hadn’t managed to speak to him. Gordon hadn’t let him apologise
for literally dying on him.

So
much pain. All because of him.

Perhaps
John had it right.

Don’t
be stupid.

Virgil
closed his eyes.

None
of this is your fault. You know that. Stop this self destructive
train of thought and focus. I need you to help save my father.

I’m
sorry.

Don’t
be sorry, just don’t do it.

Easier
said than done.

Please,
Uncle.

A
sigh. She was right. This crap was getting him nowhere. He opened his
eyes to find both Scott and Brains staring at him. He ignored them.

Tired
voice. “So how are we doing this?”

“P-Please
t-take off your shirt and lie on the b-bed.”

He
did as he was asked, throwing off his shoes as well. The mattress was
rather firm, a legacy of Gordon’s back injuries.

Scott
lent over and began attaching the pads of a cardiomonitor to his
chest. “Is that really necessary?” They were going to hurt like a
bitch to come off.

“You
bet your ass they are. Just like the EEG.”

“Really?”
His hair had barely recovered from the last time.

“Really.”
That was not the ghost of a smile on his brother’s face. No, not at
all.

Damnit.

It
seemed to take ages, probably because it did, but eventually he had
stickers and plasters all over him aimed at monitoring his health.
John was equally decorated, and as they lay him beside Virgil, it was
hard to prevent tangles.

Virgil
took his long and lanky little brother into his arms, dismayed at how
frail he felt. He lay John’s head on his shoulder, and Scott
arranged those long limbs as gently as possible, wrapping him around
Virgil.

“Are
you comfortable?” Scott’s eyes were filled with concern.

“I’m
okay.” He wriggled a moment. He was going to have to hold this
position for a while. “Tie us up.” A forced smile.

“Are
you sure you don’t want a sedative?”

“No.
I-I need to be here for them.”

Under
the worry there was sadness in his brother’s eyes. Barely
whispered. “Okay.” A hand brushed his shoulder.

Virgil
had one arm wrapped around his little brother. He placed the other
protectively across his cheek and neck as Scott brought the straps
across their bodies, securing them tightly together. It was rather a
confronting position. Strapped to his brother and strapped to the
bed.

John
hadn’t twitched through the entire procedure.

God,
he hoped this worked.

“Are
we ready?”

“W-we’re
r-ready.”

-o-o-o-

John
wove code like a weaver wove cloth, but unlike the weaver, John’s
code was stronger than synthsteel.  He first built the framework,
impregnating it in TB5’s superstructure. Then, with the delicacy of
a spider spinning its web, he interconnected the network of spars
with layer upon layer of firewall.

Nothing
was getting into Thunderbird Five.

Nothing
was getting to his brother.

Nothing.

-o-o-o-

Eos
was nervous.

And
not a little scared.

She
watched from above as they strapped her father and uncle together. It
hurt to see. Her father was so sickly looking and Virgil…she hated
to put him through even more after all he had suffered already.

But
her father needed her.

Virgil
closed his eyes.

Eos.

She
hesitated.

Please,
Eos, he needs you.

I
know. This will likely be uncomfortable.

Nothing
new there
.
His tone was dry. C’mon,
Eos, anticipation hurts almost as much.

I’m
sorry.

I
know.

She
reached out and connected with the interface. She slipped smoothly
into her uncle’s mind. He was calm, though resigned, and she was
sad to see it, but then beyond it all was a spark of hope. The same
hope that had sustained him through the past months. Despite
everything he was he was still trying.

She
embraced him with her whole self. Thank
you, Virgil
.

Half
a smile. He’s
my little brother, Eos. Now go to him.

She
navigated the maze of her uncle’s mind. She had never travelled
this deep. She darted from the heart of his soul, past his primitive
to his central conduit. Beyond lay his body’s electrical system.

Again
with the hesitation.

Go!

He
was behind her.

And
his love and support radiated out to surround her.

She
reached out for her father.

-o-o-o-

A
flicker of pain passed over Virgil’s face.

“Virg?”

Whispered.“Burns.”
His brother’s eyes were still closed, but his brow furrowed.

Another
flicker and he screwed his eyes tight. “Ow.”

“I-it
is as ex-expected. His n-nerves are not designed to take the l-larger
current.”

“Eos
said it wouldn’t hurt him.”

“It
is un-unlikely it will do any p-permanent damage, but I doubt it
w-will be p-pleasant.”

“Can
we give him a painkiller?”

“No!”
Virgil didn’t shout, but his choice was clear. “I-I’ll be
fine.”

Scott
grit his teeth. C’mon Eos, find John and get this over with.

-o-o-o-

Eos
spread herself out across a range of nerve endings, each leading to
skin in contact with her father’s face.

She
could feel Virgil’s pain and it hurt her to hurt him. She had to be
fast. She built up a charge strong enough to bridge the gap.

And
jumped.

-o-o-o-

John
felt it the moment it made contact.

It
hurt him.

So
you think you can attack us again, do you?

He
flexed his shoulders. Think again.

The
code flew from his fingertips, the firewalls flared, he tuned the
anti-viral for the incoming invader and deployed his own special kind
of shielding.

Nothing
was getting through.

-o-o-o-

Her
father felt different to her uncle.

Where
Virgil was blue flame, John was blue ice. Strong, still, and, she
frowned, ominous.

She
rode his network as fast and as delicately as she could, reaching for
his mind.

And
was slapped away.

Eos
stumbled back, tripping nerve pathways. Father!

She
reached for his main conduit again. She had to get into his mind.

A
solid wall of ice slammed into her, its cold wrapping around her and
leeching her strength.

No!

She
lit up, her hands bursting into flame. Beyond everything she felt
Virgil flinch. She was drawing more power.

But
she had to get through!

Father!

She
melted the ice, powering herself forward. Dodging another slap, she
slipped into her father’s mind.

It
was a wasteland.

Everything
was burnt.

Oh,
Father, dear John.

An
avalanche of ice swept towards her. No!

She
threw up a shield of fire, set herself and let it rush over her. It
roared, it screamed. In her father’s voice.

John!

The
ice kept coming. She pushed forward. Please,
Father!

Her
flame flickered so she drew more and pushed forward.

And
suddenly she was spinning amongst stars.

They
wheeled.

Around
and around.

It
took her more than a moment to orient herself. Where?

Of
course.

Thunderbird
Five hung amongst those stars. It beckoned her.

Until
a bolt of brilliant blue shot out and cut into her.

-o-o-o-

Virgil
cried out in pain, his teeth slamming shut, gritting tight.

“What
the hell is going on?” Scott stared at his brothers in fear.

“E-Eos
is drawing m-more p-power than she sh-should be.”

Both
cardiomonitors were recording elevated heartbeats. Virgil’s EEG was
jumping all over the map. John’s was spiking erratically.

“John-John
is f-fighting her.” It was gasped out. Virgil’s eyes were open
and gazing about wildly. Scott moved into his line of sight and those
brown eyes latched onto him like he was a lifeline. “He’s
fighting her.”

“Why?”

“She
doesn’t know.” He blinked. “He’s hurt her.” His eyes
screwed shut again.

“Call
her back.”

Those
eyes flung open again. “N-no! W-we have to do this.” And he
flinched again.

“Virgil.”

“No.
John needs us.”

“V-“

“No!”

-o-o-o-

Eos
staggered, her code shrinking back, her own defences absorbing the
injury and working to repair.

So
he wanted to play it that way.

If
there was one thing she knew how to do, it was play.

Very
well, Father, you asked for it.

She
dove for TB5, weaving in and out of the oncoming bolts of blue. She
flipped, she rolled, she spun. She flexed her code and the illusion
of a ship formed around her. At first it was green, big, bulky and
roaring, but moments later it morphed into the larger red Thunderbird
Three. She needed to dock and TB3 could do it.

Flipping
again, she spun the ship around thrusters firing, flinging herself
sideways, dodging yet another bolt bringing her in range of dock. An
echo of the youngest brother bounced through her processors as she
drew on docking procedures and slammed TB3 home into her docking
ports.

Level
One complete.

-o-o-o-

John
cursed.

The
invader had managed to dock. How the hell? Did it have his little
brother? A chill ran up his spine. Please no.

He
hit the comms. “Alan? Alan, do you read?”

Father?

“Eos?
Where have you been? We are under attack.”

No,
John. You’ve been ill. It is not an attack, it is me.

“Where
is Alan?”

The
youngest is on the island waiting for you to wake.

Wake?
But he was awake. He was here, repelling invaders. Invaders who could
take on any guise. Who could take Virgil.

“No.
You can not have him.”

Have
who?

“You
will not hurt my brother again.”

Three
sections of code, he spun the program and let it loose.

-o-o-o-

She
saw it coming, but there was no way to avoid it.

The
program latched onto her and began to eat code. Eos gasped, hurriedly
attempting to shove it off. It burned.

She
threw up fast built shielding and it slowed, but it didn’t stop.

Please,
Father!

He
didn’t answer her.

She
grabbed the airlock, letting go of the illusion of TB3. Firewalls
flared at her touch, but she clung on anyway.

A
flash of determination and Virgil’s exo-suit wrapped around her,
fully equipped for firefighting.

She
busted her way in, spraying foam as she went.

Father,
please!

Sentry
programs lined up in rows like skittles. Spinning, she ploughed into
them, her claws catching, corrupting them one by one.

The
next airlock flared up, roaring flame. She froze it solid and broke
through the fragile remains.

And
she was in the command module.

Her
father floated amongst holograms.

The
exo-suit disappeared, her tattered white dress remained, marred only
by the program still gnawing on her side. Father!

“Get
out.”

No,
Father, you need help.

“I
asked you to leave. You can not have him. You can not hurt any more
of my family.”

I’m
not here to hurt you, Father. Please listen.

She was hurting. Virgil was hurting. Everyone was hurting. Please,
John.

He
advanced on her and Eos took a step back. She couldn’t hurt him
here. No…

He
loomed over her, one hand weaving code like a magician. The program
already attached to her dug in harder and she whimpered. He raised
his hand…

And
a blinding flash of blue-white light struck like lightning, flinging
him across the room. A presence hung in the air, massive and
overwhelming. For
God’s sake, John, she’s your daughter!

John’s
eyes widened, his jaw dropping in shock. “Virgil?!”

The
presence flickered and was suddenly gone. Eos folded in on herself as
she felt Virgil slip unconscious, his limits reached.

A
pair of green eyes, so similar to her own were staring at her. Eos?!

Yes,
Father.

The program continued to chew. she curled up in pain.

Oh
my god.

And he was suddenly there. Gentle hands, a magician with code, her
creator. The attacking program was wiped from existence, her code
rewoven, corrected, the white of her dress once again glowing.

With
a gasp, he wrapped her in his arms, his blue ice melting away to
reveal a soft amber flame, warm, yet fragile.

She
clung to him.

Thunderbird
Five faded around them to be replaced by a mountain peak on Tracy
Island. A telescope, a night sky. A gentle breeze.

I
am so sorry, Eos.

His head was bowed.

She
reached up and touched his cheek. We
don’t have much time, Father. This is a great strain on both me and
Virgil.

Virgil?
How?

He
lies with you now, enabling me to reach you. You have been
unconscious for over a week. Your brothers have been frantic. Please
come back to us.

He
was staring at her.

She
held out her hand.

He
took it.

-o-o-o-

He
woke in his big brother’s limp embrace.

Straps
held him down and he couldn’t see properly. His first instinct was
to struggle.

“Father,
you are safe. Please do not fight anymore.” Eos’ voice over the
comms.

Virgil’s
chest rose and fell, his breath soft in John’s hair.

“John?”
Scott. “You with us?”

“Yes.”
His voice was raspy with disuse. “What happened?”

“You
can release them now, Eldest.” Eos again.

The
straps were removed. John felt as weak as a kitten, his head was
pounding, his face and neck stung. He frowned at his bandaged hands.
What? He struggled to an elbow, desperate to see Virgil’s face. His
brother was decked out in EEG tabs, his eyes closed, tear tracks on
his cheeks.

He
reached up a shaky, bandaged hand and gently brushed away the
moisture. “Is he okay?”

Eos
answered. “He’s sleeping. He will be well.”

John
lowered himself back down, his head once again resting on his
brother’s shoulder. He found himself trembling.

A
warmed blanket was suddenly draped over them both.

“John?”

Scott
was crouching down to his eye level on the other side of the bed.
“Are you okay?”

John
swallowed. “No. What happened?”

So
Scott told him of the accident and Eos’ and Virgil’s plan to find
him. “Apparently they succeeded.” His biggest brother offered him
a small smile, his relief plain.

John
didn’t know what to think. He only remembered fear and the need to
protect. He had hurt Eos, and Virgil…

The
memory of that blue-white lightning strike, the power, the presence,
the determination.

“Father?”

The
petite green-eyed, red-haired girl in the dancing white dress, so
young, so vibrant, holding out her hand…his daughter. A sad smile.
“Eos, you are so beautiful.”

And
he let his eyes close, ever so tired, Virgil’s rhythmic breathing
lulled him to sleep.

-o-o-o-

Virgil
woke with a headache.

But
that was nothing new, so he ignored it. The burning sting in his neck
and chest, now that was new.

Uncle?

Eos?

How
do you feel?

Uh?

There
was musical laughter. Your
usual morning self then?

He
grunted.

She
laughed at him again.

As
a sign of how vague he was, it was only then he realised he wasn’t
alone in the bed.

He
startled, not remembering…

Virgil,
John is sleeping in the bed with you.

John?
John! And it all hit him.

Is
he okay?

He flung his eyes open only to find the room dim. There was hair in
his nose.

We
found him. He is simply asleep.

And
he could feel him. The soft rise and fall of his ribs, his breath on
his bare chest.

He
shivered.

“Virgil?”
Ever so quiet. Tentative.

Scott.

Turning
his head, he found his big brother beside the bed, where,
instinctively, he knew he would be. “Hey.” Ugh, raspy voice.

“How
are you feeling?”

Virgil
blinked. “Been better. Been worse.” He forced a small smile. “How
is John?”

“He
woke. He’s with us.” Scott reached for Virgil’s hand and
clasped it gently. “Thank you, Virgil.”

His
smile stretched his face just that little more. “What are big
brothers for?”

Scott
squeezed his hand.

-o-o-o-

It
took several weeks for John to get back on his feet and back up to
par. Virgil was back in Thunderbird Two’s hangar the very next day,
much to both Scott and Eos’ annoyance. The sting in his neck and
chest was tolerable and eventually went away, the red trace lines
faded until there was no sign Eos had ever been there.

The
missing hair on his chest and head was a completely different
grumbling matter.

He
visited John regularly and helped with his rehab. He did find it a
little unnerving when John looked at him for the first time,
something like amazement on his face. But his brother didn’t ask,
or comment, and for that Virgil was thankful.

As
for what he had seen when he desperately followed Eos…the intricate
web of blue ice and amber flame had been beautiful. Precise,
elegantly formed, so John.

Cobalt
blue, cadmium orange and yellow, Payne’s grey, the colours flared
under his paintbrush. They glowed, but only a hint of the reality.

He
hung the painting on his bedroom wall. He never explained it to
anyone.

The
evening John asked him to join him on Observatory Peak, he knew his
brother had some things to say. It was also a sign of his brother’s
full recovery, as the Peak was quite a hike.

The
sky was clear when they finally reached the point. Virgil hadn’t
been up here in years, and it brought back memories of the first
weeks on the island, John eagerly setting up his telescope, making
this his place as Virgil helped him lug the equipment up the hill.

John
stood staring at the sky. The sun was just below the horizon, the
stars not completely visible yet. His brother had tackled the problem
of patchy hair by shearing most of it off, the blond gone, the red,
short and slowly growing back. It wasn’t a great look. If anything
it emphasised the weight he still needed to regain, but the blond was
gone and the hint of his familiar flick was just starting to curl
above his forehead.

“Thank
you, Virgil.”

Virgil
snorted. “Not needed and you know it.”

“But
I needed to say it.”

Virgil
arched an eyebrow.

John
didn’t acknowledge it, his gaze drifting back to the stars. The
Southern Cross appeared low on the horizon. “She is beautiful.”

Quietly.
“Yes, she is.”

“Has
she always appeared like that to you?”

Virgil
blinked. “Like what?”

“A
young red-haired girl.”

“Of
course. She has your eyes.” Virgil smiled.

“But
she was simply a gaming program.”

Virgil
stared at his brother, his words aggravating even though he knew John
didn’t mean it quite that way. “She is your daughter.”

John
looked away. “I know.” He bit his lip. “Intellectually, I know,
but to see her…” His eyes were dark in the dim light as they
sought Virgil’s. “I think, despite everything, I’m envious of
you.”

Virgil
startled, but then set into a glare. “Don’t be.”

John
turned to him, and to Virgil’s surprise, grabbed his arms. His
normally non-tactile brother, reaching out to him. “I was able to
hug her, Virgil. I touched her. For the first and only time. Do you
have any idea how that felt? She’s my daughter.”

Eos
swelled in the back of his mind. The evening breeze caught his hair
and tousled it. Without hesitation, Virgil drew his brother into a
tight hug, ignoring John’s instinctive, self protecting flinch and
buried his face in his neck.

He
closed his eyes and held on tight as Eos rushed past him. The flush
of heat as she embraced her father for just the most fleeting of
moments was enough to wash away the chill in the air.

As
John gasped, Virgil realised that perhaps there were a few more
positives to his situation than he had thought.

Perhaps
it was worth the pain, in some small way, if a lonely man could hug
his daughter.

-o-o-o-

FIN.

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