Gordon’s face was pale when they reached
the comms room. Alan was absent having flown Brains to the mainland that
morning. There was no doubt John had called them back, but they weren’t here
It was probably for the best.
Gordon’s expression of concern the moment
he set eyes on Virgil, could only be ignored to a point.
But as he stood in front of John’s
hologram, it was with Scott on his right and Gordon on his left, and he
straightened his posture, drawing strength from his brothers’ presence.
John spared him a worried glance, not
unlike Gordon’s, but dove into the topic regardless.
“She’s being held in an abandoned palm
plantation on one of the smaller islands north of Java.” A holographic map
appeared momentarily, zooming in to the suspect island, down to the level where
a series of ramshackle buildings scattered over a couple of hectares. A single silver
icon flashed in the centre of the largest building.
Virgil stared at it.
“I’ve been able to hack their security
system.” His brother fiddled with a control and a video image appeared next to
Virgil tensed and flinched as a hand
gently caught his wrist. Scott offering just that touch of comfort mixed with
Her eyes were closed, her face etched
with pain, and piebald with bruising. One eye couldn’t open and her lip was
split enough to leave smudges of blood across her mouth where she had been hit.
A man was talking to her, demanding
something, but they had no sound and his back was to the camera.
All four of them flinched as he suddenly
kicked their sister in the shin, startling her.
The hand on Virgil’s wrist tightened as
he took a step forward.
And Scott was saying something.
“We go in hard and fast. Thunderbird One
and Two are not equipped for stealth. Gordon, you will take Thunderbird S and
while Virgil and I provide distraction and support, you will get her out.”
And Virgil was suddenly reminded of the
strength of the two military men beside him.
“Deploy camo and land TBS here, enter
through the windows. The building is minimally populated and Virg and I will
aim to empty it further. Your extraction route should back track your entrance
route. If that is not viable, we’ll take you out through the roof. John, you’re
on overwatch.” Scott took in a breath. “Guys, I know this isn’t our usual
method of operation, but these are unusual circumstances. They’ve taken one of
ours and quite frankly, I don’t trust the GDF to act fast enough, so that
leaves us.” The hand on Virgil’s wrist squeezed gently.
The video feed cut out at a signal from
Scott and Virgil was left staring at the blinking icon.
Hang on, Kayo, we’re coming.
Virgil operated like a possessed
Despite the situation, Gordon found it
creepy. His brother said nothing more than was absolutely necessary, he
operated smoothly, fast and efficient.
But there was something missing, as if he
had switched off part of himself to function.
He didn’t have time to speak to Scott,
but he knew something was wrong, something serious and it was related to Kayo.
The flight to Jakarta was deadly quiet.
Thunderbird S was a familiar yet uncomfortable
sight. The lack of his sister’s presence marked even more by her empty ‘bird.
Virgil, after helping Gordon with
preflight, reached out and touched her fuselage with his fingers. The
expression on his face was lost.
Gordon placed a hand on his brother’s
shoulder. “We’ll get her out, Virgil. We will.”
Virgil didn’t look at him, his voice
rough. “Yes, we will.” He let his hand drop to his side. He finally turned to
Gordon, his expression intense. “Fly safe.” And he turned back to his ‘bird,
the automaton well in control.
Thunderbirds One and Two hit the
plantation’s airspace loud and hard. They came in from opposite directions,
their mere presence shaking the palm trees and rattling windows. The buildings
were old and more than one window fell from its pane.
John had reported no anti-aircraft
munitions on the site. That didn’t stop the rough dressed inhabitants from
shooting their guns at the ‘birds. The chances of damage were small, but Virgil
grit his teeth anyway.
Shortly after One and Two’s entrance, S
ghosted in under their radar, the ripple of her camouflage barely noticeable
even to the brothers.
She landed beside the main building,
Gordon’s figure seen appearing from nowhere and dashing into the structure.
And Virgil pulled the roof off one of the
Scott did the same on the other side of
And then Virgil started chopping up an
empty storage barn with his laser.
The whole plantation was in an uproar,
armed men running, firing at the Thunderbirds. There was a lot of yelling.
Virgil cared for none of it.
Kayo was in the central building and
everything in his body ached to get to her. To get her out.
“Uh, Thunderbird One? These aren’t
terrorists.” Gordon’s voice was worried.
“What?” Scott echoed Virgil.
“Well, they are, but this is the Hood.
I’ve seen several of his stupid henchmen already.”
Virgil’s blood ran cold. Her uncle, the
bastard who had taken so much from them already.
Thunderbird Two spun on her axis and
started carving up another building, the red of her cutting laser violent in
It was taking too long.
“Gordon, what’s the hold up?”
There was a pause, but then his younger
brother answered, a little out of breath. “Having some difficulty getting to
her. I think we’ve lost what little surprise we had. The bastard knows us too-”
There was a gasp over the line and a groan.
“Stay in position, Virgil.”
Then another signal came in. “Oh my, it
is International Rescue to the rescue. Thank you so much for delivering your
equipment to me.” A smarmy chuckle. “And now I have two operatives to add to my
collection. Though I would like a couple more. After all, it is good policy to
collect them all.”
Virgil’s knuckles clenched white on the
steering yoke. “Scott, please.”
His brother didn’t answer immediately,
and it gave him hope.
“Go in through the roof. Two has the
equipment. Make it fast.”
Thunderbird Two spun, her VTOL raking the
air. Her laser struck out again, slicing a decent sized hole in the roof of the
main building, and cutting all the way through the floors to the point where
Kayo’s signal…he blinked…and now Gordon’s icon flickered on his hologram.
Thunderbird One darted around him,
causing a moat of havoc to prevent any approach.
Setting his ‘bird to remote and auto,
Virgil scrambled down to the bay and lowered himself and the rescue rig through
the hole in the roof. The winch ran hot as he lowered it faster than he ever had.
She was down there. Gordon was down
The rig hit a solid surface with a clunk.
He didn’t hesitate, flicking on his
shoulder light, illuminating the room.
Kayo was tied to a pole at the end of the
room. Gordon was slumped unconscious at her feet.
Her one open eye was wide and frightened
in the stark light. She shook her head violently, the gag in her mouth muffling
whatever it was she was trying to say.
“Well, well, well. Operative number three
has arrived.” The voice came from above, in the darkness. Virgil looked up,
directing the light towards the voice. The Hood stood on some kind of mezzanine
With a gun aimed directly at Virgil.
“Which one are you? Pilot of Thunderbird
Two perhaps? Vincent? Vernon?” A smirk. “Virgil Tracy.”
Virgil flicked his light to his cutting
laser, aimed, and fired.
In the retina induced afterimage there was
a yelp and the sound of the gun clattering to the floor beside him.
He took the opportunity and moved.
Setting his lamp on dim, enough to see,
but not blind, he strode over to Kayo and began tackling the knots holding her
hands to the pole.
She heard him before she saw him. She
could hear the familiar roar of Thunderbird Two far overhead and she greeted it
with both hope and fear. A moment later, she was blinded by the red arc of a
cutting laser slicing into the building.
A soft circle of light lit the floor.
Followed by the rescue rig.
As always, the name meant safety.
But he wasn’t safe here.
She knew her uncle was here somewhere.
There was an overhead ledge or mezzanine to this room. She couldn’t see him,
but she knew he was there.
Please, Virgil, no.
The gag prevented her from saying
anything intelligible, so she was reduced to moaning at him and shaking her
head as his lamp light landed on her.
At the sound of her uncle’s voice, she
thought that this was it, she was going to see her brother shot in front of
her. She screamed into the gag.
But there was another bright slice of
red, a yelp, a clatter of a dropped weapon in front of her and he was there,
his ever familiar aftershave in her nostrils as he leant around her, grabbing
at her bound hands.
“Move away.” Her uncle had recovered
himself somewhere above them in the darkness. She yelled into her gag again.
Virgil kept pulling at her bonds.
A gun fired and Virgil flinched towards
her, a gasp forced from him.
But then his eyes, half in shadow latched
onto hers and he continued to pull at the knots. “We have to go.”
The gun fired again, and this time she
felt it impact his body. He shuddered, stumbling forward a step into her space.
He almost fell, his groan hot on her cheek.
But her hands were free.
She steadied him, but darted around him,
and leaning down grabbed the gun she knew had fallen there.
She located the shadow of her uncle and
He dropped with only the sound of his
body hitting the floor.
It ends here, Uncle. No more.
She turned back to Virgil, only to find
he wasn’t where she left him.
“Gordon?” His voice was almost a whisper,
his dim lamp staggering off to the right.
She followed him. “Virgil?”
“Gordon is here.” And his lamp brightened
as he searched, moments later landing on his little brother, limp and discarded
in the corner of the room.
Kayo drew in a sharp breath at the sight
of her unconscious young brother, limping over to him to assess his condition.
“He’s out cold.”
“John?” Virgil’s voice was trembling.
“Virgil, what happened? You’re bleeding.”
“Unconscious but all signs are that he is
stable. You are not.”
And as if to illustrate his brother’s
comment, Virgil began to tip sideways. “We need to get out of here.” There was
the sound of feet running in the hallways outside the room. “Hurry.”
Kayo grabbed Gordon, staggering under his
weight until she could get him into a proper hold. Her abused body complained
extensively, but she ignored it.
Virgil staggered towards the rescue rig,
clinging to it for support when he reached it and accessing his wrist remote.
Kayo deposited Gordon in one of the harnesses and secured him before turning to
her rescuer. “Come and sit down.”
He looked as if to protest, but yet
another waver had him listing sideways, so he obeyed, letting her hold his arm
as he lowered himself painfully into the harness beside her.
For a moment she thought he might pass
out, but his eyes latched onto hers before he activated the winch to recall.
She paid no attention to the body on the
mezzanine as they rose through the ceiling.
He had made his choice.
And she had made hers.