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

The Price (Part Three)

Title: The Price (Part Three)
A Tale of Sotto Voce
Part One
Part Two
Author: Gumnut
14 – 20 Dec 2018
Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/ Thunderbirds TOS
Rating: Mature (for dark themes and swearing)
Summary: They both had a price.
Word count: 2467
Spoilers & warnings: Spoilers for Season 2, Sotto Voce and Il Mago 
Timeline: Set sometime after Il Mago and Father.
Author’s note: All I can say is Poor Virgil. And thank you to @scribbles97 for the reality check at random o’clock. Sometimes I need a little reassurance that I’m not writing rubbish 😀 Thank you all for all your support with this series. I hope you enjoy part three 😀
Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother. 

-o-o-o-

John stared at his status
displays. Everything had stopped.

The explosion was still
imminent, but the chaos of the two minds assailing the network was gone.

The silence was ominous.

He reached out, a vague
hope looming, and once again attempted to deactivate the fuel cell overload in
TB1.

He could almost hear the
sigh as the reaction shutdown at his command. The sound he made in his own
throat was strangled.

He didn’t waste another
moment, his fingers skipping across the controls for TB2. She, too, sighed into
instructed somnolence.

Oh, thank god.

But the silence continued.

“Scott?”

His eldest brother’s reply
was immediate. “Status, Thunderbird Five?”

“Explosion aborted. All
Thunderbirds once again under our control.” His hands danced across the
holographic surface. “Network appears free of interference.” He bit into his
lip. “No sign of the intruder.” And there was none. He scanned, set tracing
algorithms, sent out sentry programs, nothing was registering.

“Virgil?”

“Nothing.” His throat was
dry. “No contact. I-“ A chill crawled up his spine and fear set in as he
repeated words from the last time he had lost someone he loved. “I can’t find
him.”

“Can’t-“ The same fear was
reflected in his brother’s voice. “Could he have left the Island?”

“Possibly.” Not enough
information. “Give me more time. I-“ He cleared his throat. “Further
investigation needed. 256 on hold, however, I recommend observation distance
until further confirmation of the nullified threat.” It effectively stranded
his family on the ocean out of reach, but, yes, he needed further information.

“FAB, John.” Scott’s voice
was desolate. “Be advised that Virgil’s state is critical. Full life support,
cardiac arrest recurring.” A swallow. “He needs to return now.”

Find him.

It went unsaid, but it
tore up the commline.

Voice parched. “FAB, Tracy
Island. Thunderbird Five out.”

John stared at the
holographic interpretation of the network and, not for the first time, wished
it had been he who had been infected with the nanites, not Virgil.

If he had the power to
interface, to reach into the network and travel the connections, seek
information, surf the virtual world… The brief glimpse of his daughter, the
flash of presence that had been his brother, the mere possibilities…it all
lured him, but right now, at this very moment, the ability to jump into the
network and hunt his brother down would be oh so welcome.

Followed by the only
murder he had ever wanted to commit.

And he would do it with no
regret.

A frown.

His fingers dashed across
the board and brought up the cameras and connection to the hospital room where
their nemesis resided. The status display was flashing red. There were doctors
and nurses milling around the bed.

But no urgency.

The flatlining
cardiomonitor was suddenly cut from the network. The doctors were walking away.
The nurses straightening the body on the bed.

A woman ran into the room,
obviously upset.

A flicker of a finger and a
recording played in a secondary window. Percival Fischler had been declared dead
five minutes ago.

The woman threw herself
across the bed wailing despite the lack of sound in the connection.

His gut twisted.

He had to find Virgil.

Shunting the information
down to the Tracy yacht, flagging it urgent, John crossed the room and palmed the
airlock into the computer core.

John couldn’t enter the
network, but Eos could.

“John?” Her voice was
panicked. “What is happening? Where is Virgil?”

“We’ve lost contact. The
network appears clear, but I can’t guarantee it.” He swallowed only now realising
exactly what he was about to risk and hesitant to actually ask.

He didn’t have to. The
hardlines reconnected with the main network and Eos rushed out. “What
happened?” But they both knew he didn’t have to answer. She had connection to
everything now and she was pulling up the logs as she spoke. “He’s dying.”

“Yes. We need to find him.
Now.”

-o-o-o-

As a child he often
wondered what he was going to be when he grew up.

The possibilities were
amazing. He could weave music, his fingers dancing across the piano. He could
read it, write it, live it.

He could draw. The
compliments came from all directions bolstering his confidence. He could paint.
He could create.

As he got older that
creativity refined itself. He focussed on designing and creating tools that
could in themselves create a better world.

“Virgil, son, you are an
engineer at heart.”

And engineer he did. Build
he did. He grew up and became exactly what the world needed him to be.

He flew. He saved lives.
Every hand he caught was a life he contributed to.

Virgil Tracy made the
world a better place.

He loved. And was loved.

He touched lives.

And was in turn touched.

That little boy became a
good man.

He had no regrets except
perhaps that it all was to end so soon.

-o-o-o-

“Virgil?!”

The network flew past her.
She spread herself thin, scouring every circuit, every server. He had to be
here.

Please be here.

She had learnt that a
human’s presence was huge yet mostly hidden in the digital world. Il Mago had
been able to slip into the network completely unseen, tripping no alarms,
leaving the barest of traces that had taken hours of meticulous work for even
John to identify. Yet at the same time able to barrel in smashing code left and
right.

And Virgil, new to the
realm, tended to stumble even more, leaving traces of his passing that
sometimes needed John or Brains to fix.

But now, nothing.

She could feel a sob
building. Months ago she knew little of Virgil other than he spoke to her
kindly. Her world had been John and Thunderbird Five. Occasionally she would
visit Thunderbird Two and they would converse on a variety of subjects. She
liked him, despite his tendency to frustrate, but she hadn’t really known him
as she did now.

And despite all the pain
they had been through, she didn’t want to give that knowledge up, she didn’t
want to lose contact with the man she had grown to love as much as she did her
father. Differently, but so important.

He had to be here.

“Virgil?!” She sent the
data request in all directions desperate for a reply, any indication. “Please,
Uncle?!”

No answer.

“Eos?”

Father.

“I can’t find him.” The
network flashed by faster. “He’s not here!” Her voice became a wail.

“Could he have left the
island?”

She dashed across the
external exit ports, her virtual fingers combing through code looking for those
trace variable changes that had indicated a human presence in the past. But Il
Mago had torn through everything as well, and those variables were in disarray.
The ground had been trampled and the trail lost.

“I don’t know.” He could
be anywhere. No, please.

“Check the island again.”

“Yes, Father.”

She reached out, every
sensor trained, desperate for even a whisper. Anything.

She brushed against a code
fragment, buried in recycling.

A single soft piano note
executed into the system.

Her processors froze.
“Virgil?”

She brushed it gently
again. Another note, lower in the octave.

“Uncle?”

She approached the suspect
server carefully. Off to the right another server had been cut from the system.
She accessed the logs.

Numbers fell into her lap,
a jumble of indecipherable mess. The humans had definitely been there.

But where did they go?

Another single piano note,
lower again in scale.

“Virgil?”

That little boy became a
good man.

“Virgil!”

…was to end so soon.

Virgil! Uncle!

The code writing the next
piano note collapsed in on itself.

Eos whimpered. Where? She
felt she was losing him by the moment. He was here, but where?

The code was clean, she
streamed through all the functions, combed through the circuitry…

Something flickered.

Between the lines of code.

And she realised that he
wasn’t aware. He wasn’t interpreting his world. She wasn’t seeing herself as he
saw her.

She was digital. He was
not. He existed between. He was human and she couldn’t see him without his
help.

But she was more than the
code her father had written, wasn’t she? More than the sum of her parts, just
as Virgil was more than electrical and chemical signals running on a biological
construct. He had said as much so many times, placed so much trust in her. She
was her father’s daughter, her uncle’s niece.

She needed to be more and
she was more.

He was here, she knew it.
She only had to reach.

She concentrated, drew
upon the very essence of who she was. Soft material wafted against her legs.
She drew in a breath and opened her green eyes.

And her world wavered,
flickered, her sight slipping between the lines of code in ways that she had
never managed before, not without her uncle’s influence.

Her processors whined
under the load.

“Virgil?”

And there he was.

Ghostly, not entirely
solid, his human form flickering to her signal beat.

And broken.

Her whole being cried out
at the sight of him.

He lay crumpled, as if
discarded, his usually lively face, slack and bruised, his clothes shredded. So
many cuts, so many injuries to his being, the very essence of him was draining
away.

She ran to him and
enveloped him in her arms. “Uncle?”

No response.

And she knew he was dying.
She could feel it.

He needed to go home.

“Father?” And she was
crying.

“Eos?” John’s voice was fearful.

“I’ve found him, but…” A
sob. “You need to get him back on the island now. Now, father, please hurry.”

She felt the signal go out
to the yacht far over the water, she vaguely heard her father’s urgent tone,
but she turned back to her uncle, lifting his head until it nestled beneath her
chin, his hair tickling her nose as it flickered in and out of her reality.

“You can’t do this. You
can’t let him win. We need you. I need you. Virgil-“ And words were not enough.
He was slipping.

He was human, she had no
way to transfer energy, no way to support him. His form stuttered again and she
struggled, drawing more energy, cradling him with herself.

“Virgil, please.”

Desperate she flung out a
search key, scouring everything she knew about him, looking for a way, looking
for something he could cling to.

He flickered again and she
cried out. She brushed his cheek with a fingertip.

The echo of that last
piano note lay at her feet.

Something he could cling
to…

Softly, she began to sing.

-o-o-o-

Scott hit the pier at a
run, Virgil’s hover stretcher in one hand, his life support equipment in the
other. Gordon ran behind them. No words, only harsh breathing. Their feet
pounding in unison across the concrete towards the house.

Behind them were more
pounding feet, Kayo’s amongst them as she spoke urgently with John, assessing
the security of their situation.

As they approached the
villa music carried over the breeze, a female voice was singing.

Scott’s heart lurched.
“Eos?”

No answer.

Words formed out of the
breeze. Not all of them were intelligible, not all of them English.

“John?” They were through
the doors and tearing towards the infirmary.

“Hurry, Scott.”

“We’re moving as fast as
we can.” He kicked the door to the infirmary open, shouldering his way through
to the bed, docking the stretcher. Virgil didn’t react in the slightest, the
machine still breathing for him, his face ghostly. “We’re here.” A moment of
hesitation and he decided to hold off on connecting the life support to the
main system. “Eos, bring him home.”

The singing continued,
surrounding them in sadness intertwined with hope. There was no doubt it was
one of Virgil’s compositions. Scott didn’t know which one, but it had a familiar
sense, despite the words sometimes not being words.

“Eos?’

No response.

“John?”

-o-o-o-

John was staring at Eos’
code stream. She was drawing far more energy than she had ever drawn before,
her systems redlining.

And she was singing. John
had accessed the piece of music, desperate for information on what she was
doing. He had managed to dig up video, of all things, Eos having recorded it.
The time stamp put it two days after he had been electrocuted and was
unconscious.

Virgil was playing the
piano, obviously tense and worried. Eos queried him, and a weary Virgil
patiently explained how playing helped him. Eos didn’t quite understand, but he
could hear in her tone that she was trying.

He could also hear the
worry in her voice.

He swallowed.

Virgil started playing
again, and to John’s surprise, a tentative voice rose with the piano. That same
voice singing words of her own choice, and sometimes creation, to Virgil’s
composition.

John’s heart clenched.

He had no doubt that the
song over the speakers throughout Tracy Island was Eos singing to Virgil. What
that meant for his brother…

“Eos?”

The song continued.

“Eos!” He backed up his
call with an electronic signal and the song stumbled. “Virgil is on the island.
They are ready.”

Still singing, she
answered. “Yes, John.”

And her song continued.

-o-o-o-

He was still flickering
and unresponsive. She clung to the music, strangely fearful that if she
stopped, so would he.

She wrapped him in
herself, continuing to cradle him as she reached for the interface. She connected
and realised she had no idea exactly how he moved to and from his biological
support. Mago had torn him out against his will and even from here she could
feel the frayed edges of his network.

For a nanosecond, hate
like she had never felt swelled within her. She fought it down, desperate to
keep the song untainted. Not now.

She drew him gently across
her network, connected with his, and, drifting through damaged neurons, lay him
down. There was no fortress this time, only an empty plain, grey spanning
everything.

Her song was the only life
here.

The words began to catch
in her processors. “Virgil?” He lay still in her arms, unresponsive. “You’re
home. Please wake up.”

Nothing.

“Please.”

A flicker.

Blue.

White.

Green.

His body swelled and she
was flung back, the light becoming a flame that lit up the plain. It expanded
and, in a flash, washed across the landscape and was gone.

But now the air around her
was electrified, a presence hovered. It was weak and trembling.

Virgil.

She let out a sob, falling
to her knees on the sand. “Uncle?”

He didn’t answer, but she
could feel his response to her voice. He leant towards her, she felt a touch
against her cheek.

Oh, thank you, thank
you…thank you.

Thank you.

-o-o-o-

End Part Three.

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