Five

Title: Five
Part One of Il Mago
Sequel to Sotto Voce
Author: Gumnut
15-16 Sep 2018
Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/ Thunderbirds TOS
Rating: Teen
Summary: “How can we trust him, if we don’t even know he is Virgil?”
Word count: 3700
Spoilers & warnings: Spoilers for Season 2 and Sotto Voce
Author’s note: And here begins the sequel to Sotto Voce. Truly this began as a Tale of Sotto Voce but it got too big – blame Alan. Just like Sotto Voce it took a bit for my writing to get going in this. also like its predecessor, Cliffhangers Ahoy! It is just that style of writing, sorry, everyone. Oh, and a note for Tales of Sotto Voce – there will be more – this fic will likely answer several of the requests I’ve had regarding the brothers discussing the events of Sotto Voce, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing more in the Tales series. Kayo still needs her story written. I really hope you enjoy this and I can write to your expectations ::hugs::
Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother. 

-o-o-o-

“International Rescue, we have a
situation.”

The response was immediate and
reassuringly familiar. As Scott entered the comms room, his other three
brothers converged on the hologram of their fifth brother at the centre table.

Unusually, John was dressed in a
black uniform instead of blue, his gold baldric reflecting the temporary blond
of his hair. It was a striking look, but no one mentioned it.

As Scott stepped into the
circular lounge, Virgil moved to his side. The engineer was still grounded, but
that didn’t stop him. He still had knowledge, he could still help, and to be
honest, Scott worked better with his brother at his back.

“What have we got, Thunderbird
Five?”

“Mountaineer stranded on K2.”

“Again?”

“Yup.”

“Hopefully not the same one?”
Scott remembered the last one. He had been a whiner.

“No, this one is female.”

Gordon grinned. “Maybe you can
pick up a hot date.”

A glare at his brother. “That
was lame, even for you.”

Gordon shrugged. “You’re hard
material to work with.”

Scott turned his back on him.
“Okay, I’ll take Thunderbird One and assess the situation and hopefully
complete the rescue. Gordon and Alan hang back here and I’ll call if I need
you.”

“FAB.”

A glance and a small smile at
Virgil, a couple of strides, and he was at his hidden entrance. He triggered the
door and the comms room disappeared.

He always felt a spike of
adrenalin when he faced his chute. There was something about the fast drop, the
abrupt change of clothing, the impending rescue, that always got his blood
pumping. It was likely a design aim to get him prepped not just in clothing. In
any case, it was one hell of a ride.

As he stepped onto the platform
it began its familiar plummet. The spinner deployed, its perfectly synchronised
arms swooping around him in a smooth arc, removing the specially designed
casual clothing. It separated at hidden seams and was quickly replaced by his
uniform. It was horribly boring at times to have to wear the same clothing day
in day out, but when a rescue call came in, the speed of which the chute was
able to remove his comfortable daywear and replace it with his uniform made it
worth it. A life was not worth a fashion choice.

It worked extremely quickly. A
hiss, the flutter of cloth, the briefest draught on an arm, a leg…

A horrible grinding crunch, a
screech of metal on metal, and he was suddenly thrown to the floor.

All the lights blinked out.

Total silence.

The soft sound of cloth falling
to the floor.

What the hell-

He had one bare leg, one bare
arm and most of his torso was open to the breeze. The bare arm was complaining
loudly and investigation found it warm and wet. Damn, he was bleeding.

Poking around in the total
darkness, he found a piece of his disassembled clothing and wrapped it tightly
around his forearm hoping it would stop whatever was causing the blood loss.

Next job was to locate his
comms. There were two options, the comm in his casual clothes collar or the
comm in his uniform baldric. He struggled to his feet.

In the dark, he could find
neither.

Damn.

As he shifted from one foot to
the other, there was a whining groan and the elevator car shuddered.

Shit.

Very carefully he lowered
himself to the floor. It wouldn’t be long before his brothers realised that
Thunderbird One was going nowhere.

He looked up towards the
entrance far above him.

C’mon, Virgil.

-o-o-o-

Virgil had his sketch book on
his knee and he was drawing John.

His brother was still hovering
above the table, but his focus was elsewhere, simply staying in shot so Virgil
could draw.

It was yet another simple
exercise to retrain his brain not to fear his next youngest brother. John had
been amazingly understanding and patient with him over the last few months,
altering his appearance quite dramatically in the process. He had to say that
the black looked great on him. The blond hair, however, Virgil missed the red.
He had always been just a little envious of John’s red hair. Not the associated
sunburn that came with it, but it was a dramatic colour and John wore it well.

Maybe it was time to let it grow
back.

He sketched a line of his
brother’s original hairstyle, his eraser skipping out the spikes of pencil
lead. He drew the shapes, daring his subconscious to complain. Daring his mind
to launch into its instinctual cringe away. Daring himself to fear his brother.

The pencil scratched at the
paper, shaping the familiar wave of John’s hair, the soft cut of his eyes.

Something was missing.

Virgil frowned and looked up. He
had been expecting the sound of the pool rolling back, the closing of the glass
doors, the inevitable roar of his brother’s Thunderbird.

Nothing.

He checked the time.

Well past the required sixty
seconds.

“John, where is Scott?”

His brother frowned.

Of course, that’s when he felt
the cringe. Damnit. Get over it for, goodness sake! He swallowed his reaction.

“Thunderbird One is still in
dock. Scott’s comms…” John’s eyes widened. “He’s stuck in the chute.”

Virgil was standing, his
sketchbook hitting the floor. “What?”

“Virgil, the elevator has
deployed emergency braking, but it is unstable. There is no answer from his
comms.”

But Virgil was already moving.
He vaguely heard his brother deploying Gordon and Alan in Thunderbird Two, but
then he was activating the wall sconces and jamming the chute door open.
Peering own into the gaping hole in the floor he yelled out to his brother,
“Scott?!”

Far down the chute he heard a
faint answer of his name. “Hold on, Scott, I’ll grab some gear.”

He made a beeline to the
equipment room, grabbing one of his baldrics and fastening it quickly over his
jeans and shirt. He gathered a rope and climbing gear, mentally calculating the
winch setup he would need to use.

Hitting his comms while on the
move, he related to Brains what had happened. “Can you secure the elevator?”

“I-it should b-be secure. It is
d-designed with triple red-dundancies.”

“Well, its not. John can give
you details. At the very least, the power is out as there is no lighting down
there.”

Reaching the comms room again,
he dropped his load and grabbed one of the couches out of the comms pit,
shoving it securely against the chute opening. Climbing over and into the
entrance, he deployed his shoulder lamp, its powerful beam leaping down into
the darkness. He once again heard his name faintly, as the light hit the
elevator car far, far down below.

Eos, can you activate his comms?

Her musical response was
immediate. I can try.

He activated his own. “Scott,
can you hear me?”

Scott’s answer was faint, but
his comms were active. Thank you, Eos.

He is not wearing them, so the pickup is minimal. It appears his
clothing is caught up in the machinery.

Shit.

“Status, Scott?” he climbed over
the couch and began securing his rappelling line and electronic winch.

“Get Gordon and Alan onto
Thunderbird Two.”

“Already done.” Cue the thunder
of his bird launching in the distance. It was always odd to hear her take off
without him. “What is your status?”

“I’m stuck, Virgil.”

“Goddamnit, Scott, medical
status!”

“Hey, calm down, Virgil, I’m
okay. A scratch on my arm is the worst. Though my dignity is in shreds.”

Virgil took a calming breath,
wishing he could centre himself as easily as he used to.

A last secure knot, a hook onto
his harness and he was ready. “Okay, I’m coming down.”

“Virgil-“

“I’m coming down.”

Virgil had never really
appreciated exactly how long and how deep the individual chutes to their ‘birds
were until now. Scott’s elevator and his shuttle moved so fast, distance was
hidden in speed. He was also rather grateful for his lamp. It kept the darkness
at bay.

Eventually the roof of his
brother’s elevator came into view and beyond it a pair of familiar eyes peered
up at him. “Hey, Virg.”

Virgil eyed the emergency clamps
on either side of the top of the car. Only one was deployed. His lips thinned.
No way was he adding his weight to the elevator’s payload. He secured his line
and hung midair. “Catch.” And he chucked his brother a harness, giving him the
light he needed to put it on. He didn’t miss the injured arm. “You okay for the
climb up?”

“I’ll live. You okay?”

Virgil frowned. “What? I’m fine.
Hurry up, the elevator is not secure.” He unravelled the extended line, letting
it drop down to his brother’s reach.

Scott attached it to his harness.
“Okay, Virg, time to use all those muscles you’re so proud of.”

“Hah!” Why use muscles when
machinery was available. He activated the winch far above and it began to
evenly pull both of them upwards.

Just as Scott cleared the roof
of the elevator car, it shuddered and dropped another couple of feet. The screech
of metal on metal grated against his eardrums. His brother squawked and the
secondary line shook. “That was close.”

“You okay?”

“I’m fine, Virgil.”

Good. Stay that way.

-o-o-o-

To say he was surprised to find
John, flesh, bones and all, in the elevator room when they made it to the top
would have been lying. With Grandma on the mainland and Kayo still on
assignment, that left just Virgil to save his older brother. He doubted anyone
would trust him to save him alone.

To find John above him was
jarring in itself, but he ignored it. “Hey, John. Dropped down to help?” Ask
the obvious.

John offered him a hand out of
the hole and he took it, levering himself over the edge and turning to help his
brother the last few feet.

Scott was a mess. Emerging out
of the darkness, a bare and slightly bloody arm was followed by messed up hair,
a torso with half his uniform on one arm, the remains of his day shirt caught
underneath, the rest of his torso bare and goose-pimpling. He had a belt on,
but one side of his jeans were similarly caught up in parts of his uniform
while the other leg was bare. Fortunately, his underwear had survived, keeping
both the remains of his dignity and his brothers’ eyeballs intact.

Though Virgil hadn’t known you
could get adult male underwear with planes printed on them. Or why anyone would
want to.

“That’s a great look, Scott.”
Virgil had one arm and John had the other.

“Yeah, yeah.” He looked over at
John. “What are you doing down here? Who is monitoring Gordon and Alan?”

Virgil cut in before an argument
could start. “Gordon and Alan are still en route.”

Both brothers looked at him.

“What?” Then he realised they
thought he was discussing it with Eos. “Oh, for goodness sake, I know the
travelling time between here and K2. We’ve done it enough.” He unfastened the
line from Scott’s harness and began taking off his own gear. His baldric really
wasn’t made to work with flannel.

Eos, Gordon and Alan okay?

Crossing the Indian Ocean. Thunderbird Two is performing optimally. The
thruster clean out yesterday has improved performance by a factor of five
percent.

Only five? I was hoping for seven.

I told you it would only be five.

Hmph.

John helped Scott out of his
harness and they all clambered over the couch and into the comms room.

Virgil turned to both of his
brothers. Pointing at Scott, “You are going to the infirmary.” He held up a
hand. “No. No arguments.”

“I’ll monitor from down here.”
John walked over to his father’s desk and deployed the holoprojector interface.

Virgil grabbed his brother’s arm
and dragged him from the room.

-o-o-o-

Gordon and Alan returned from K2
about three hours later. Gordon had taken a dive into a massive snow drift so
wandered in dripping melted K2 in a trail behind him, his damp hair sticking up
at all angles. “Stupid woman. Let’s climb a mountain. Climbing gear, what’s
that? Safety harness, what’s that? Frickin’ Fischler’s sister, I swear. Then
she blasts me for not grabbing her politely when she stumbles and nearly
plummets off a thousand foot cliff. I’ll damn well grab anyone anyway I feel is
damned necessary if it will save their life! Stupid woman.”

The expletives faded into the
distance as his brother continued down the hallway to his shower. Virgil just
stared after him, a small smile on his face. Alan followed shortly after, a
smirk on his face, which faded when he encountered Virgil.

Virgil swallowed and held his
smile. “Debrief in ten?”

Alan nodded once and kept
walking.

Once his youngest brother was
out of sight, Virgil let his shoulders drop. Alan still hadn’t forgiven him for
what he had done to Thunderbird Three. He was wary around Virgil, hardly spoke
to him, and ignored him when he could. It had been months, and it hurt.

Virgil had tried everything he
could think of to help repair the rift that had formed between them, but Alan
just didn’t seem to want to come to the party. He was civil, but little else.
All Virgil could do was hope his brother would eventually get over it.

Alan had the right to be angry,
Virgil just wished Alan could forgive him.

Virgil continued onto the comms
room where Scott sat at their father’s desk, his arm wrapped in a white
bandage. It wasn’t serious, some tape and butterfly bandages had sealed the cut,
but Virgil had no doubt it would be annoyingly painful.

John was conversing with Brains
and Eos in the centre of the lounge, a hologram of code scrolling in front of them.
He had that frown on his face that set Virgil on edge. He bit the inside of his
cheek and ignored it again.

“What do you mean the results
are unclear?”

“Exactly what I said, John. I am
unable to determine why the elevator failed, much less why the safety
precautions also mostly failed.” Eos was irritated.

“W-we cannot use the ch-chute
until it h-has been d-determined and cor-rected. Sc-cott’s life could be at
risk.”

Virgil lugged the safety clamp
he had in one hand over to the two men and dumped it on the table.
“Mechanically it is sound. I even connected it up to our testing apparatus and
checked its command reception. Performed perfectly.”

He had rappelled down to the car
and secured it with a heavy winch, and with help from John, disengaged the
safety clamps that had worked, and lowered the disabled car to the bottom of
the chute. He had spent the last hour disassembling the thing trying to find
out what went wrong. “Everything mechanical appears to be in perfect working
order. I have yet to get my teeth into the cable system, but my guess is this
is electronic, not mechanical.”

John was staring at him.

“What?”

“Uh, you have grease on your
nose.”

Virgil blinked and rubbed a hand
across his face.

“And now you have grease on both
cheeks as well.” John was smirking.

Virgil waved a dismissive hand.
“Whatever. Not the first or last time.” He gestured at the hologram. “You find
anything?”

“Nothing clear. The power failed
at 1.12pm. By rights, the safety mechanisms, which have their own power supply
for that exact reason, should have deployed immediately. Six out of eight
safety clamps failed to fire.”

“That should not be p-possible.”
Brains pointed at the hologram. “See here, the c-command was sent. It should
have b-been received.”

“It was received, but only by
two of the clamps.” John screwed up his face in frustration. “And I can’t work
out why.”

John is not happy. He gets crabby when he is not happy.

Eos.

Do you get crabby too?

Impression of a glare. You tell me.

It wasn’t often John and Brains were
stumped like this. They were used to having all the answers from their genius
brother and their genius engineer. Not knowing was obviously rankling.

Virgil understood. They couldn’t
use the chute until it was proven safe. “I’ll start on the cable system after
debrief.”

John nodded distractedly.

Several minutes later they were
all interrupted by Gordon, still complaining. “Then she pitches me into a snow
drift! The nerve of the woman.”

“So no date?” Scott was
grinning.

Gordon didn’t even blink. “I
asked for you, but apparently your eyes are too blue.” Back to Alan who
followed him into the room. “And then her handbag. Who takes a handbag when
climbing one of the highest mountains in the world? When I say its not a priority,
she threatens to disengage her harness right there and then – hanging ten feet
under TB2 over that same thousand foot drop. I swear. Never again. Next time,
she can damn well freeze up there.”

Gordon looked up to find
everyone in the room staring at him. “What?”

“A handbag?” Scott frowned at
his brother.

Both hands out in supplication, “Yes,
exactly, why?!”

“Perhaps you should start from
the top, Gordon.”

Well, this was going to be a
long one. And sure enough, the string of complaints started again. Virgil sat
down on the lounge and stretched out.

Virgil?

Yes, Eos?

Could you have a look at this for me?

Huh? And in his mind’s eye, a stream of code appeared. He blinked,
what? The image was clear and he could read it. His sight blurred a moment, so
he shut his eyes.

I’m not sure, but do you think this code here has been altered? A
segment lit up.

It appeared legitimate. Virgil
frowned. This from the safety cascade?

Yes.

How does it compare with the backup?

Exactly the same. But Virgil, something doesn’t feel right.

What do you mean?

I’m not sure. The code does what it is supposed to do. I’ve tested it
in simulation, but…

The emotion coming off the AI
was extreme uncertainty.

Quarantine it. Quarantine all of it.

John says…

Quarantine it now.

“Virgil?”

He jumped at the hand that
landed on his shoulder. Scott was crouching in front of him, that familiar
frown of concern on his face. He could almost see those words ‘Are you okay?’
forming on his lips. Everyone else was staring at him.

“I’m sorry. Eos is worried.” A
closer description might have been ‘freaked out’.

John turned around. “What?”

“She has some concerns about the
programming in the safety cascade.”

“We’ve tested that code multiple
times now. It came up clear.”

Virgil tilted his head to one
side and shrugged a shoulder. “She’s worried, John. she doesn’t know why, but
that code has her on edge. I trust her judgment. Told her to quarantine it all.”

John’s gaze flickered back to
the hologram where some code had started flashing in red. “You know this means
the chute is disabled.”

“It’s disabled anyway. There is
no way I’m letting Scott down there until we’ve worked out exactly what’s
wrong.” He turned to Scott. “Sorry, bro, looks like you are taking the long way
for a while.”

Scott sighed and unfolding from
the floor, sat beside his brother on the lounge.

I think this may have been intentional.

Virgil froze. “What?!”

It feels wrong, Virgil. I don’t have proof, but it feels wrong.

“I want you to run a self-diagnostic.”
He found himself on the edge of his seat. “Now, Eos.”

Don’t you trust me?

“This is not a matter of trust,
Eos. It is a matter of health. Run the diagnostic. Now.”

“Virgil, talk to me.”

This time it was John in front
of him sporting the worry lines. So close and so sudden, Virgil couldn’t help
but shift backwards in his seat. “Eos thinks this may have been intentional.”

“What? We haven’t even worked
out what caused it yet.” John frowned even more and Virgil had to force himself
not react further.

“She says it feels wrong. I don’t
know, John, she has no proof, but trust me, she is unnerved and it’s worrying
me.”

John stared at him, eyes a
little wide for a frozen moment or two before swallowing and standing up. “But
who? The Hood is dead.”

Virgil looked up at him. “I have
no idea.”

“I do.” It was quiet, but firm,
and it came from his youngest brother.

“Who?” John got the word out
before Virgil could open his mouth.

Still quiet, but determined. “Virgil
could have done it.”

“WHAT?!” Three voices. Scott,
John and Gordon. Virgil appeared to have lost his.

“It wouldn’t be the first time!”

“Alan!” Scott was on his feet. “What
the hell?”

“Someone has to say it! If this
was deliberate, Virgil could have easily have done it. In one of those funks he
claims he had the first time.”

Virgil stared at his brother,
eyes wide. Something inside was tearing.

“Virgil would never-“ Scott was
on fire.

“But he has! I know it was not
him, but it was! He still has that thing in his head, who knows what or who
could tap into it. He may not even know what he was doing. Eos did exactly that
to him just a second ago.”

“I did not! It was a simple
conversation!” The AI’s tone was furious.

“How do we know that? How does Virgil
know that? You could be influencing him and he wouldn’t even know. That’s what
that thing is capable of.” Alan drew a breath. “How can we trust him, if we don’t
even know he is Virgil?”

All these months and this is
what his brother had been thinking. There was a shocked silence in the room.
Virgil opened his mouth and a hoarse whisper came out. “How do I prove to you I
am myself, Alan?”

His brother’s blue eyes looked
down at him. “You can’t.”

And with a glance at his other
brothers, Alan turned his back and walked out.

Virgil’s heart simply stopped.

-o-o-o-

End Part One

Part Two

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