Learn

Title: Learn
Part 5 of 6, some time after Laugh
Author: Gumnut
10-14 Aug 2018
Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015
Rating: Teen
Summary: For the world is unkind and it needs your touch.
Word count: 4313
Spoilers & warnings: None
Author’s note: Unlike the previous chapters of this fic, this one ends at a point that obviously needs to be continued. I wouldn’t really call it a cliffhanger, but part 6 is definitely needed to finish it off. As to the content – you wanted whump, you got whump, lots of it. Not graphic, but still, poor Virgil.
Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother. 

Virgil woke to dust and pain.

Shoving his eyes open didn’t give him much further information other than dim light, blur and haze. Blinking he forced his vision to clear somewhat, his head threatened to spin him away, but he grit his teeth. Dust and pain were not a good combination, he knew that much.

He was on his back, in dim shadowy light, on lumpy hard rock. His hand twitched and his fingernails caught dirt. Experimenting, he lifted his arm. It worked. Ached with what was likely a mass of bruises, but it still worked. He held his hand in front of his face. He could see it, his fingers moving in the dim light.

There was no glove on his hand.

Where was his uniform? Uh.

What the hell had happened?

He was in civvies. His usual flannel shirt, grey undershirt. His hand brushed his thigh. Jeans.

He lifted a leg, but was told in immediate and no uncertain terms that it was a bad idea. His leg seemed fine, but his gut screamed loud enough to shut down most of the processes in his brain. The world greyed for a moment.

No.

Stay awake.

He forced his eyes open again.

Dust floated in the air.

His head was at an angle enough to see partway down his body. And what he saw was enough to let him know that moving pretty much anything was out of the question.

Something was sticking out the right side of his abdomen. A three-quarter inch thick mangled rod of metal protruded by about four inches. His grey undershirt was soaking up red.

Panic hit him. Oh, god. Get it out, get it out!

No.

You can’t move.

Reason clamped down on him and strangled his scream into a whimper.

“Mr Virgil?”

Huh?

“Mr Virgil?” A high-pitched voice. A kid? There were scrabbling sounds from his left and one of the shadows got darker. Without thinking, Virgil grabbed the edge of his flannel shirt and covered the wound, hiding it.

“Mr Virgil, are you okay?” A young boy of about eight, coated in dirt, sporting scratches and a bleeding scrape above his left eye appeared amongst the floating dust.

Daniel. His name was Daniel.

And it explained so much. Virgil was in Wellington with Angela and the kids art group.

Several years ago, Virgil had rescued Angela from a gondola lift on the South Island. She had been the last one to be evacuated and, to keep her calm, he got her talking. Turned out she was an art teacher who helped disadvantaged kids in Wellington. Virgil found himself interested and investigated further. For the last couple of years, he had been dropping in when he could to help with the kids. He’d even learnt a little himself. The kids didn’t know of his involvement with International Rescue. He was just Mr Virgil who liked to play with paint.

Virgil liked it that way.

So he was in Wellington, at the school with the kids. What had happened?

“Mr Virgil?”

He blinked and realised he hadn’t answered. He croaked, “Daniel, are you okay?”

Wrong question. Daniel’s face immediately crumpled and he burst into tears, throwing himself at Virgil’s chest. A good thirty kilos of kid hit his body, forcing out a gasp of pain.
“Mr Virgil!” Daniel jumped back, tears still falling.

“I’m…I’m okay.” He forced it out between his teeth. Breathe. In. Out.

He needed help. He needed it now.

Civvies, but ever since John’s adventure at the charity auction, Brains had embedded comms in all their clothes. He poked his collar. “J-John?”

“Virgil? What’s wrong?”

“W-we have a situation.”

-o-o-o-

Scott was in the shower when the alarm went off.

Damn it.

Soap was hurriedly washed out of his hair, the water cut off and a towel deployed. He left wet footprints in the hallway.

There were no smart ass comments when he hit the comms room, however. Both his brothers’ expressions were more shocked than anything else. John was hovering in the middle of the lounge, a hologram of a collapsed building in front of him.

“Report!”

“St Bart’s College has been bombed.” Gordon’s voice was hoarse.

Scott stared at him. “St Bart’s as in Virgil’s St Bart’s?”

John interrupted. “Preliminary reports claim a student disgruntled with his grades is responsible. A good percentage of the building has collapsed…including the section where Virgil was assisting with his class.” Scott opened his mouth, but John continued. “Virgil has made contact.” Oh thank god. But John had a calm expression and this wasn’t it. “He’s injured, but conscious. I have no readouts on his status as he is not wearing his uniform.” John swallowed, obviously frustrated at the lack of information he usually had. “There are multiple lifesigns under the rubble. They need us.”

Scott didn’t hesitate. “Gordon, you have Thunderbird 2, Alan, you’re with him.” He clung to his towel, moving before he had even finished speaking. “Thunderbirds are go.”

-o-o-o-

John had a lot of questions.

Daniel had a lot of questions.

Virgil had no answers.

Breathing was beginning to hurt.
“John, just gimme a sec.” A breath.

“Virgil-“

“They are on their way. They will be here soon. I get it. Just, I need to breathe, bro.” He tried to keep it light, but there was a gasp in his breath he couldn’t hide.

John went silent. Virgil closed his eyes a moment and tried not to move.

“Mr Virgil?”

He forced his eyes open. “I’m okay, I’m okay. Daniel? Are any of the other students with you?”

“I’ll look.” The boy turned away and began to crawl back through the gap in the rubble.

Virgil reached to grab his ankle. “No! Stay he-“ Augh, oh god, don’t move, damnit! The boy slipped away, leaving Virgil by himself.

“Virgil?” No, never entirely by himself.

“John, how many life readings are you receiving from the classroom?” Or what was left of it.

“Seven.” The single word held all the apology and sympathy his brother could convey. Seven out of fifteen. His eyes slid closed again.

“Virgil?”

Was it possible to get sick of hearing your own name? “I-I’m here.”

“You still haven’t given me a report on your injuries.”

“Daniel w-was here.”

“Tell me, Virgil.”

He took a breath. “M-mostly okay. Maybe concussion. Worst is ab-abdominal. Right side. Maybe rebar. C-n’t move.” Abdominal was never good. He dreaded to think what was happening down there. And how much time he actually had left.

John was quiet a moment, then the channel switched over to a background sound ever so familiar. Thunderbird One. “Virg?”

“Hey, Scott. S-sorry to r-ruin your day off.”

“I was in the shower, Virgil. Very inconvenient.”

“G-good practise.” Virgil smirked just slightly.

“Next time I’m making you a contender in the towel Olympics.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Hey, if you got out of bed at a reasonable hour, you wouldn’t be caught so often.”

“Your ‘r-reasonable hours’ are anything but, f-flyboy.”

Scott’s laugh was forced, but it was a valiant effort. “I’m on approach now, Virgil. Won’t be long.”

“Gordon, f-flying?”

“Of course.”

“Not a scratch.”

“Too late.”

“W-What?!”

“He clipped her wing exiting the hanger.”

“What the hell?!”

Somewhere in the distance outside his tomb of rock and dust he could just hear the roar of TB1’s approach. “Landing now.”

“Scott!”

“Sorry, can’t talk. Busy rescuing.” His grin danced down the comline.

Virgil glared at the slab of wall hanging over him.

-o-o-o-

The college grounds were a mess.  One building was levelled, no lifesigns. Another, the one pinning his brother, had sagged to one side. Half up, half down, entirely precarious. Fourteen lives hung in the balance under the rubble. One was his brother’s.

On landing, he was immediately approached by the site head and briefed. Moments later, Thunderbird Two’s engines took over the soundscape, her massive green bulk landing beside her sister before pushing herself up on her landing struts to reveal Module Two beneath her wings.

“Gordon, we need both pods, pick and throw.” It would have helped to have Virgil in his exo-suit. “Alan, you have one, I’ll have the other. Gordon, you’re on heavy lifting with Thunderbird Two. We’re going to have to take this one slowly. This house of cards is just asking to fall.”

-o-o-o-

The rock above him was beginning to blur when he was startled by movement in the gap Daniel had disappeared into.

“Mr Virgil! I found Marissa, Johnny, Alex and Jana.” The eight-year-old clambered into the space beside him and four other children, ragged and tear streaked, followed him in. “Ms Angela won’t wake up. Neither will Chrissie, and I couldn’t find anyone else.”

Virgil stared up at the five faces peering down at him. Alex was holding his arm awkwardly, Jana had a large scrape down one side of her face and appeared unsteady, but the other two seemed okay.

“O-okay, Daniel, good job.” He tried not to spare a thought for Chrissie or Angela, knowing in his heart that at least one of them was dead. “Are any of you hurt?”

Alex nodded, but Jana didn’t respond. “Jana?” He couldn’t reach her from where he was lying. “Daniel, can you please check on Jana? B-bring her closer?”

“Jana! Mr Virgil wants you to come over here!”

Virgil blinked. Not quite what he had in mind. But it worked. Jana started and clambered over the rocks to Virgil’s side. He looked up at her. It was hard to see in the dim light, but her expression was glazed. The scrape was seeping blood and plasma. “Jana? Can you hear me?”

She blinked slowly, looking down at him. “Mr Virgil?” Her voice was a whisper. “I don’t feel very good.”

“Johnny?”

“Yes?” “Mr Virgil?” The answer came from two sources – his collar and the young boy in front of him. He sighed. “John, meet Johnny. He’s going to help look after Jana.”

“Hello, Johnny.” John’s gentle voice bounced off the rocks.

“Who’s that?” Four of the children crowded even closer. Jana still had a vague look on her face and was staring at nothing in particular.

Virgil’s concern for the girl grew even more. “John is my…from International Rescue and he is going to help us.”

“International Rescue? Really?” Daniel looked like his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

Virgil couldn’t help but smile just a little. “Yes, there are two Thunderbirds outside right now. And they are going to help us get out of here.” He swallowed as a wave of dizziness wafted out of nowhere. “But in the meantime, Johnny, I need you to help Jana. She is not feeling very w-well, and she needs you to look after her.”  

The young boy eyed the wavering girl before shifting over and wrapping an arm around her. “Okay, I’ll look after her.” He seemed hesitant, but at the same time, having a job to do appeared to stabilise him too. Jana slowly looked up at Alex before resting her head on his shoulder.

Virgil drew in a shaky breath. “John, how’s it going? I have five children, two with injuries.”

“Sorry, Virgil. Scott says it is slow going. They have to secure large parts of the building remains to prevent further collapse.” As if to emphasize that statement, dust suddenly poured through a gap just on the other side of Marissa. She squealed and scooted forward, directly into Virgil’s left side.

He gasped and bit off a scream. Spots swam in his vision. “Pl-please…”

“Don’t touch him!” Daniel shouted at her and dragged her back. “He’s hurt.”

Marissa’s eyes widened and filled with tears. She began to cry.

“Virgil?” John’s voice was beyond concerned.

“I’m…”He tried to breathe without moving. “I’m…o-okay.” Focus. Calm. He reached out a trembling hand to Marissa, managing to catch her knee. “I-it’s okay. W-was an ac-cident.” He had to shut his eyes for a moment as another wave of dizziness hit him. God.  “Scott? M-may need t-to hurry.”

-o-o-o-

IR pods were of the most efficient design possible, but this was a haphazard game of pickup sticks with lives as the prize.

And they weren’t moving fast enough.

Each chunk of masonry had to be checked for possible movement before moving it. Keep everything balanced. They had had to start on the opposite side of the building to where Virgil and the children were due to stability issues and it was taking forever.

“Scott.”

“I know, John.”

“I know you know and I know. I’m sorry.”

There had to be a faster way than this. He paused a moment taking a few extra precious seconds to reassess the structure. Six lifesigns where his brother was. Plus one in a larger area just beyond him. Seven more in the remains of another classroom, two of whom they had already managed to rescue. Virgil was under a collapsed wall, its remains supported by the collapsed roof in the corner of the former classroom. Beyond that wall, a shallow crawl space had been created by another wall that appeared to be supported by nothing other than tables and chairs. That wall had fallen before the roof and the roof was piled on top of it in pieces which in turn was supporting Virgil’s wall. A wrong move and all seven lives, including that of his brother, would be lost.

All they could do was pick and throw, gently removing the weight from above, clearing the way for TB2 to get a grip on the masonry and secure it.

“Virgil, you with me?”

“H-here.” His voice was shaky.

“You’ve done it properly this time, little brother. You wanting to test my skill set or something?”

“Or-or something.”

Scott swallowed, forcing his bravado. “Well, just as well you’ve got such a cool brother, because this is no challenge, you hear me? We’ll have you out of there in no time.”

“G-great, Scott.”

“Yeah, yeah, Doc Brown. You hang in there, you hear me?”

“Do my-my best.”

“You better.”

-o-o-o-

“Your brother works for International Rescue?”

Virgil blearily turned to look at Daniel. “Yeah, S-scott, he’s f-field commander.”

“Wow, that is so cool.”

Virgil’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Yeah, ‘tis.”

“Have you ever got to fly in a Thunderbird?”

“Yeah.” He frowned, his head was getting foggier.

“Which one?”

“Two.” Of course.

“Not One? I think One is the coolest. Shaped like a rocket and everything. Then there is Three. That one is a rocket. It would be so cool to ride on Three.” Virgil let the boy’s chatter echo around him. At least it was keeping him and the other children distracted from their situation. He closed his eyes a moment and let himself drift.

No.

Stay awake!

“T-two’s pretty cool.”

“I guess, but what’s with the colour? That green is so not cool.”

“Is, t-too. Mom’s colour.”

“Whose colour?”

“Mom’s.” Virgil shook himself, and gasped. No, no movement. Stay…stay awake.

“Mine’s red. Like Thunderbird Three.”

“E-emerald green. L-like the grass after rain.” Mom.

“Virgil.”

Rain.

“Virgil.”

Thunderbird Green.

“Virgil!”

He started. “Oh, god. John?”

“You hanging in there, big brother?”

“He’s your brother too?” Daniel was staring at him.

“Uh, huh.”

“Daniel, can you hear me?” Great, now John was talking around him.

“Mr John?”

“Yes, you are being very good, Daniel. Now I need you to help Mr Virgil stay awake. He has to stay awake. Do you think you can help him with that?”

“Is he tired?”

“Yes, but he can’t sleep. Not yet, not until his brothers get you out of there. See if you can keep him talking.”

“Okay, I can try.”

“Thank you, Daniel.” A pause. “Virgil?”

“Huh?”

“Scott and Alan are on pick and flick. They will get to you soon. Your job is to stay awake and hang in there. Can you do that?

“C-can.”

“You better.”

-o-o-o-

“What if we reinforced this section here and tunnelled our way to that crawl space.”

“Risky.”

“I know that, John. We’re running out of time.”

“Virgil’s isn’t the only life at stake here.”

“I know that, too. For god’s sake, John.”

“I’m voting for the crawl space. We are getting nowhere with pick and flick. The pile is too fragile. We can reinforce it from beneath and make our way through that way.” Gordon’s voice was tired and on the edge of desperate. Despite rescuing seven people already, four of them children, nothing they had tried so far had gotten them any closer to their brother. The strain was showing. They had no doubt that with an abdominal perforation, chances were that Virgil’s time was severely limited. They had to move faster.

But without risking more.

Scott stared at the hologram and weighed their chances.

“Deploy the jacks.”

-o-o-o-

“Why don’t we sing a song?”

What?

Things were getting fuzzy. Daniel…

“How about Camptown Races?” A girl’s voice.

“Ugh, I hate that chicken.”

“Mulberry Bush?”

“Nah. Mr Virgil, do you have a favourite song?”

Mr Virgil? Oh, that was him. He blinked repeatedly attempting to bring his brain back online. “Um. Uh, I-I don’t sing.”

“You don’t sing? Why not?”

He screwed his eyes shut a moment. “Um…”

“Why don’t you sing, Mr Virgil?”

Hurts.

“Mom…died.”

“Your Mom died? Really?”

There was something in the boy’s voice that brought Virgil back into focus abruptly. “I-it was a l-long time ago. D-don’t worry.”

But it didn’t seem to be enough and Daniel stopped talking. He turned his head towards the boy, blinking blearily. “Daniel?”

“Do you think we are going to die?”

“N-no, no, Intern-tional Rescue will get us out. Th-they will.”

“But what if they don’t?” Tears were appearing in Daniel’s eyes. There were sobs from the other children.

A breath. By force of will. “Because I know they will, Daniel. I trust them with my life. I-I trust them w-with yours.” He sagged and held back a whimper. Please, Scott, hurry.

He focussed on breathing for the next moment or two, the children’s sobs slowly dropping off. Somewhere in the distance there was an erratic hammering.

“I- I know a song.” The words were out before he could think about it any further.

Four pairs of eyes fixed on him. Jana was still awake, but not fully aware of her surroundings.

“Can you sing it, Mr Virgil?”

“I c-can try.” Using as little of his stomach muscles as possible, he drew in a breath.

Listen, my son.
Listen and learn
Be what you can
And make what you will be

The tune was slow and gentle, but his voice was scratchy and broken and he wasn’t doing it justice. He suspected his mother had made up the song. Some of his earliest memories were of her singing it softly.

L-Love with your all
Share with your heart
And know
I am there for you
And will always be

Maybe she was. He didn’t know. All he knew is that she was gone.

If you can hear
A-answer
If you have v-voice
Sing
For the world is unkind
And it needs your t-touch.

There was dust in his throat and it brought tears to his eyes.

Then he was coughing and the world disappeared in a blaze of pain.

-o-o-o-

It became a tunnel under the debris. Jacks held up everything but even then there was only enough room to crawl on his belly. Virgil was their expert on this kind of excavation. He would have known exactly where to dig, what support was needed, the safest way in…focus! It was no good wishing for what you didn’t have. Work with what you do have.

His father’s voice echoed inside his head.

Securing what he hoped was the last tunnel jack, he lasered through the remaining chunk of collapsed masonry. Shining his flashlight into the gap beyond, he encountered a forest of school desk legs. Art tables. Strong, sturdy, flecked with paint.

“Gordon, I’m through. Follow with the jacks and secure.”

“FAB.”

He dragged himself into the darkness, the tough material of his uniform doing its job as he scraped over rock and grit.

His light landed on the face of a woman, her eyes closed. He reached out and touched her dust-coated throat. A thready pulse. “Alan, we have a survivor, unknown female adult. I need you in here with a drag board.”

“FAB, Scott.”

Behind him he could hear Gordon lugging in the jacks. At least being smaller the aquanaut would be able to navigate the table legs with more ease than Scott was managing.

As he moved the darkness lightened to reveal a young girl. Not a survivor. There had been so many today. He passed her by.

He could hear singing.

Virgil?

Shuffling on his stomach he headed slightly to his left, bending his shoulders sideways to get around the table legs and avoid a tipped over chair. He dare not touch anything before the jacks were in place. Beams of light flicking around behind reassured him that his brothers were making that happen.

The words of the song in his brother’s strained voice reached his ears. Goddamnit, Virgil! He shone the light around desperately attempting to find that hole between the crawl space and that bolthole his brother was in. There, no….damnit….there.

He shifted just as the song burst into a fit of coughing, a cut off scream and a painful moan.

“Virgil!”

No answer.

“Gordon, get a jack over here!” He turned his head only to find his brother right beside him, the lightweight jack already in his hand.

“Crawl space is secure as it is going to get.” His smaller brother, lithely slipped between the last of the table legs and set up the jack to support the opening.

Children were crying.

“Gordon, get in there. Get the kids out.”

His brother didn’t hesitate, slipping easily into the small hole. “Hey, kids. It is time to get out of here.”

“Who are you?” The challenge was little more than a sob.

“International Rescue, at your service.”

“Are you Mr Virgil’s brother? Mr John?”

“Uh, no, I’m Mr Gordon. Now kids we need to hurry. Mr Scott needs to get in here and help Mr Virgil.”

And then there were kids filing out.

He did his best to smile at them, but every fibre in his being needed to be in there with Virgil. Gordon appeared last, helping a little girl. The expression on his face made it clear he was torn, not wanting to leave, but there were kids to care for and he knew his responsibility. “I’ll be back asap.” His eyes latched onto Scott’s and the eldest steeled himself.

As soon as his brother was out of the way, Scott made it to the gap and squeezed himself through. His flashlight painted his brother in pale skin and red blood.

Not daring to think, Scott immediately set into a first aid assessment. His brother had lost consciousness and no prodding or calling of his name got any response.  His pulse was fast. There was a darkening bruise on his right temple, but it was the spreading stain of red at his waist that had Scott gently pulling away his red flannelette shirt to reveal the injury he knew was underneath.

Scott bit his lip to hold back his reaction. “No challenge, bro. None.” He drew in a breath. “Gordon, we need another drag board in here.”

“Here already, Scott.” His brother’s head poked through the gap. “Kids are with the paramedics.”

Scott didn’t respond. “He’s impaled on the wall’s rebar. We’re going to have to cut him out. Pad the wound while I try to find a way to free him.”

Gordon palmed the board’s heavy duty first aid kit while Scott attempted to find a way to get to the other side of his brother in this cramped space. He ended up straddling him, one knee either side of his hips and bending awkwardly to see where that blasted piece of metal entered his brother.

There was blood everywhere.

A combination of his flashlight and his fingertips found the entrance wound and the tiny amount of space below it. He didn’t want to move his brother at all, but getting the laser down there… Screw it, he’d obliterate the wall if he had to. “Gordon, hold him.”

His brother anchored Virgil with his own weight, holding him as still as possible. Scott activated the laser and cut through stone and metal, severing the impaling rebar from the fallen wall, leaving the chunk still inside his brother, but freeing him for evacuation.

“Okay, pad it and ready for transport.” His fingers were covered in his brother’s blood.

No time to think.

Fistfuls of wound wadding later, his brother was stabilised for transport.

A small sigh and Virgil stopped breathing.

“Oh, goddamnit, don’t you dare.”

Gordon grabbed the drag board and lined it up with his second eldest brother. A count to three and they lifted Virgil onto the flat surface, Scott tipping his brother’s head back and forcing breath into his lungs. Don’t you dare, Virgil. Don’t you…

“No pulse.” Gordon’s voice broke.

“Goddamnit, Virgil!” He let the anger fuel him. Counting in his head as Gordon began compressions and he breathed for his brother. Why don’t you listen? The world needs you.

I need you.

Alan poked his head in, face pale, wordlessly handing over a bag valve mask. Scott grabbed it and placed it over his brother’s face, pumping filtered air into his lungs. His fingers sought his brother’s pulse. C’mon, Virg, please.

There was a cough under the mask.

Gordon paused, hovering to resume.

A soft thud beneath Scott’s fingertips. Another. Virgil’s chest rose by itself.

Okay.

“Move.” His brothers moved in concert, not a word said. Virgil was likely in hypovolemic shock and could crash again at any time.

They moved.

-o-o-o-

Part 6 – Love

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