Chapter one of Sotto Voce
25-26 Aug 2018
Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/ Thunderbirds TOS
Summary: Sometimes the voices are far too loud to ignore.
Word count: 4051
Spoilers & warnings: None
Author’s note: this one took a long time to jell in my head and was particularly difficult to write. It wouldn’t behave. I’m hoping now that it is well and truly started that it will flow better. And, I’m sorry, but this definitely ends in a cliffhanger, so be warned.
Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother.
Sometimes the rescue itself wasn’t the hardest part. In fact, that was often the easiest. Focussed, pumped full of adrenalin, it happened, he didn’t think he just did. There was a goal and he tunnel-visioned until he achieved it.
Sometimes it was afterwards, when all that adrenalin was spent, when the aches and pains demanded attention, when his body just wanted sleep, that were the worst. Because no matter the rescue, there was always cleanup, whether it was successful or not.
Today was a mixture of both. They’d saved the children, but lost the parents and it just tore at him. It tore at all of them.
The sound of rushing water was the continual reminder. He wanted nothing more than to escape this place and the life taking river beside them. Thunderbird Two stood with him, silent in the rain, cranked up on her struts, the pod bay door open awaiting the pods’ return.
One pod wouldn’t be returning. Not in one piece. Thunderbird One was chasing it down the swollen river in the hope of recovery. Heavy flotsam had been too much for the argument between TB2’s grapple and the current. They had nearly lost Gordon as well, his brother only just managing to grab the grapple himself, before the pod was swept away.
Rain dripped into Virgil’s hair.
Gordon was bundled up in the medical bay. Bruises, a possible concussion, a little battered, but thankfully safe. The children had been handed over to the local emergency services.
Scott was swearing over the comms as he tried to fish the pod out of the river.
The rain continued, uncaring.
And people kept on staring.
Despite the rain, despite the horror of what had happened, International Rescue still had spectators staring at him and his Thunderbird. They had been cordoned off by local police, but there were eyes and muttering as he remoted the remaining pod into the bay. The one use the swollen river had was to protect him from eyes on one side and he took advantage of it as much as possible.
Rain ran down his neck.
Hiding from the crowd he took a moment and lent back against the side of the pod, his ‘bird’s engine and wing protecting him momentarily from the godawful rain. He wished Scott would snag that pod so they could leave.
Another expletive rolled down the comline.
He startled. He must be tired. A young woman stood metres away, her dark hair wet, her clothes equally so. He straightened, professional façade falling immediately into place. “This is a restricted area, ma’am. I will have to ask you to leave.” He eyed the river. “It is not safe.”
She swallowed, her eyes also darting to the river. “I know, sir, I just had to speak to you.”
Virgil frowned and she held up her hands placatingly.
“I know, I know. Just one moment. Please?”
He shook his head, taking a step towards her. “This area is not safe, please return to the barricades.” He blinked as he stepped out into the rain again.
“Please, Virgil. This will only take a moment.”
The use of his name set him on edge. “Who are you?”
She shrunk in on herself a little. “J-just a fan.”
She looked harmless, but Virgil knew looks often counted for very little. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you will need to return to the barricades.”
“I-I just wanted to thank you.” She shuffled closer to him, her gaze somewhat bedazzled.
“For everything you do.” And suddenly her hand was on his arm.
He flinched and took a hurried step backwards, but she followed, closer, and then he was being kissed.
A gasp on soft lips and he was stumbling further back, attempting to get out of reach, but his boots slipped in the mud and her grip was stronger than expected.
A brush of a tongue, then she was leaning in even closer, a whisper in his ear. “A shame really, you are quite beautiful.”
Shocked and confused, he didn’t see the knife.
Scott was moments away from declaring the pod unsalvageable when he finally got a good grip on it and yanked it from the floodwaters.
He hauled in the grapple line close to TB1 to reduce drag in this awful weather. There wasn’t any wind, thankfully, but the rain made up for it. He would be quite happy to return to sun-drenched Tracy Island as soon as possible.
“Scott!” Virgil’s voice was sharp over the comline. His name conveying trouble.
“Virgil? What’s wrong?”
There was a gasp and a groan. “S-she stabbed me.”
It took only seconds for Thunderbird One to return to the danger zone. Thunderbird Two stood silent in the rain as he hurriedly let the pod down nearby before lowering his ’bird in a cloud of muddy steam. He was out and running. “Thunderbird Five, where is he?”
“Far side of Thunderbird Two.”
His feet splashed in the mud as he ran through the rain, darting around the green behemoth, the lights of the still open pod warm and beckoning against the grey.
In the shadow between the river and his ‘bird, his brother was in the slush, rolling, attempting to get up.
“Virgil!” Scott skidded in the mud as he reached his brother’s side.
Virgil’s left hand was at his collar bone, his eyes squeezed shut, his right struggling for purchase. “Where is she?”
Scott’s eyes widened as red leaked into the rain between Virgil’s fingers on his neck. “You’re bleeding!”
“I know! She- argh.” Virgil made it to his knees, but hunched over in pain, his free hand stopping his fall into the mud. “Where is she?”
A glance around. “There’s no one here, Virgil.”
His brother let his head drop a moment. “So stupid.” A single drop of blood landed in the slush and was washed away.
“Let’s get you inside.” Placing his hands under Virgil’s armpits, he helped his brother to his feet. He didn’t miss the groan or the slump of his weight as he turned him around to face him, Virgil’s forehead resting momentarily on his shoulder before the man steeled himself and drew up to his full height.
Anger flashed in his eyes.
Scott hovered as they both strode around into the full view from the barricades, Virgil lowering the hatch enough to climb on, they quickly disappeared from view once again.
The peace and quiet inside the cockpit were a blessing, but Scott didn’t hesitate to wrap an arm around his sodden brother and corral him towards the medical bay. “What the hell happened?”
“A fan. Said she wanted to thank me.” A stifled grunt of pain. “Kissed me. Stabbed me.” Another grunt as they entered through the door. Whispered. “So stupid.”
Gordon stirred as they entered, his eyes blinking at them in concern. “What happened?”
“Virgil’s been stabbed.” He leant his brother up against the nearest cabinet, one hand holding him there, the other fumbling through medical supplies. Blood began to drip on the floor.
Gordon struggled to get off the bed.
“Stay there, Gordon.” Virgil’s voice was raspy. “I’m good.” He let his head drop back against the cupboard with a groan and closed his eyes. He winced as Scott peeled away his hand and unzipped the collar of his uniform. A pair of scissors took care of his undershirt and finally exposed the wound – an inch long cut just inside his brother’s right collar bone. There was a considerable amount of blood, but it was bleeding sluggishly, so no artery had been hit. A damn miracle considering how close it was to his neck. He cleaned it quickly, removing as much of the muck as he could before padding it and wrapping a bandage awkwardly around his brother’s torso in an attempt to keep some pressure on it.
He stripped off Virgil’s gloves, rinsed his hands and placed his left over the injury. “Keep pressure on it.”
“Aye, aye.” Virgil didn’t even bother to open his eyes. He knew his brother knew the drill.
Scott eyed his two brothers. “Gordon, how are you feeling?”
“I’m good, Scott. Want me to co-pilot?”
“Can you stand?”
Gordon did so, ignoring the slight stumble. There was no way these two were flying. Scott sighed. “Virgil, you’ve got the bed. Gordon, up front with me.”
“No.” Virgil still hadn’t opened his eyes.
“Virgil, I want you immobile. John can take Thunderbird One, I’ve got Two. You’re in bed. Now.”
Damn, the mangled pod was still beside his ‘bird. “I’ll take care of it. You, bed, now.”
Finally, Virgil opened his eyes, his head dropping slowly with another wince, his gaze moving to pin his brother. “I’m fine, Scott. I would rather sit in the cockpit.” When Scott didn’t immediately respond, Virgil sighed and walked out of the medical bay, still holding his collarbone.
Scott looked at Gordon who shrugged and followed his brother out of the room.
With his own sigh and muttered expletive, Scott followed them.
Taking a minute or two, Scott used one pod to grab the other pod and stuff it in the module before closing the bay door, lowering TB2 and launching both ‘birds into the grey and godforsaken rain. Once they were airborne, John nabbed TB1 and Scott headed for their local military hospital, determined to get both brothers checked over. Gordon seemed mostly fine, but Virgil had a hole in him that could be deep. His brother sat behind him and Scott had to force himself not to check on him every five seconds. By the time they made it to the hospital helipad, Virgil was slumping in his seat, eyes closed and pained frown on his face. He had refused pain medication, wanting to wait for the hospital.
It hurt just to look at him.
Gordon, on the other hand, kept yawning and, in turn, setting Scott off.
Fortunately, their stay at the hospital was short. Gordon tested out fine and was simply recommended rest. Virgil’s wound turned out to be about an inch deep. It had nicked a vein, but some local anaesthetic, stitches, antibiotics and a painkiller that sent Virgil a little loopy and they were out of there.
Virgil hummed an old tune about singing in the rain all the way home.
He shouted himself awake, tangled his feet in the bedclothes and fell out of bed.
The floor was hard and cold.
“Augh.” Virgil groaned and rolled over onto his back, his hand automatically going to his collarbone. “Owww.” He was shirtless, his usual pyjama top irritated his injury despite the dressing, so he had taken to not wearing it. It made the floor that so much colder.
This was the second morning he had woken yelling. Though it was the first he had actually fallen out of bed. Why he was yelling himself awake, he had no idea. His heart was thudding, so probably a bad dream, possibly with knife-wielding psycho fans in it, but honestly, he couldn’t remember.
And he didn’t really care anyway. This wasn’t the first time a rescue had screwed with his sleep and it wouldn’t be the last. Came with the territory. He’d get over it eventually, he always did.
But damn the floor was cold.
Pulling himself upright, his eyes sought the clock. Seven am. Great, there went his sleep in. He leant back against the side of the bed and let the tension drop from his body. First thing in the morning and he was tired. His collarbone and neck ached, in turn giving him an ongoing headache. Fabulous.
A knock on his door and before he could answer, Scott dipped his head in. He obviously had something to say, but was interrupted by finding his brother sitting on the floor. A frown. “You okay?”
Virgil sighed. “I’m fine.” Scott had been hovering for the past week, as expected after any injury, and Virgil appreciated it, but it was starting to get tiresome.
“Why are you on the floor?”
“Because it is comfortable.”
Another frown. “Did you fall out of bed?”
“No, I swam out of it.”
The non-sequitur made his brother blink before the concerned frown turned into an exasperated glare. “Are you okay?”
There was silence for a moment, then Virgil found himself smirking, despite everything. His brother also appeared to be trying to keep a straight face. “Doofus.”
“Well, you are flat on your butt, aren’t you?” Scott finally entered the room and offered him a hand up. Virgil mocked glared up at him as he took his hand and levered himself off the floor. He didn’t miss the pair of blue eyes assessing him as he did so.
“C’mon, Scott, I’m fine.” It wasn’t a whine. Really.
“You ready for the testing schedule today?”
Virgil blinked. That was today? “Sure.”
The word was punctuated by his bedside alarm going off. Yes, he had set that for this exact reason – he had to get up early today for equipment testing. He slapped the alarm a little too hard and it fell off his bedside table.
Scott arched an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. “You sure you don’t want Gordon to pilot?”
Virgil rolled his eyes. How many more times was he going to ask that. “No! My design, my testing phase. Now will you get out of here so I can get dressed?”
A shrug. “Sure. See you at breakfast.” His brother ambled back to the door, slipping through before ducking his head back in. “That is, if you’re feeling okay.”
The flying pillow missed him by millimetres.
They hadn’t managed to locate Virgil’s assailant. Despite having the feed from TB2’s external cam, it gave little information other than a woman had kissed then attacked Virgil. John had captured what he could from the footage and was running facial recognition software, but he wasn’t optimistic.
Despite Virgil’s embarrassment, no one had attempted to make light of the kissing part of the incident. If anything, Gordon, the most likely source of heckling, had been more offended by the woman than Virgil. His shorter brother had produced a number of expletives, none of which were commented on by their Grandmother despite the fact she was standing right next to him at the time.
Scott had pulled Virgil aside later and firmly counselled him to not let strange anybody so close to him ever again. He was concerned about Virgil’s lack of self defence in the situation. Virgil hadn’t felt he had needed any self defence at the time. Scott pointed out the hole in his neck as proof that he did. The glare Virgil had thrown back at him was set to bore a hole in return.
But he knew his older brother was right. He should have done something. He hated to be the cause of that worried crinkle in Scott’s brow.
It could have ended up so much worse.
But today was not the day for thinking about such things – he had done enough such thinking over the last week. Headache be damned, today was the day he got to test out a new pod design. One designed specifically to skim across water.
The core pod designs were a mixture of both Brains and Virgil with a dash alcohol one wintery night before they had moved to the island. They had been trying to think of a way to transport the necessary equipment to a rescue site when they didn’t necessarily know what they would be needing. It had been an inspiring night; the ideas had just flowed. One engineer would suggest something, then the other would grab the idea and add to it, which in turn would inspire the first again and back and forth. Virgil and Brains worked well together. Brains was indeed the brains and master engineer behind the Thunderbirds, but Virgil was the spine. He had grown into the position, connecting all the pieces together, human and machine, and kept them going.
And they both made great sounding boards for each other.
So, both of them were in the module pod when it was dropped onto the calm waters of the lagoon in Tracy Bay. Alan had Thunderbird Two in hand, hovering above with Scott in the co-pilot’s seat. Thunderbird Four surfaced nearby, Gordon clearly in the cockpit and, in the distance on Tracy Island, Grandma could be seen standing beside the pool, a pair of binoculars in hand.
Virgil was dressed in an IR wetsuit, helmet included, and Brains had his jumpsuit on. Virgil was to pilot and Brains to monitor performance.
The younger engineer started the assembly sequence and the machinery buzzed to life. He loved the rhythm of pod assembly. There was just something harmonious about how all the pieces came together as a whole. There should be some music to it, something upbeat. He threw a few notes together in his head and made a mental note to work them out later on the piano.
Assembly went as smoothly as it ever had and within minutes a little hydrofoil pod sat in the bay.
This was one of the reasons why Virgil felt that he should do the testing and not Gordon, despite the water factor. The word ‘hydrofoil’ was permanently scarred on the family’s psyche. Virgil had wanted to call it something else, but Gordon had shouted him down. It was a hydrofoil, damn well call it one.
It was a neat little craft and it was designed to be fast for use in shipwreck and any other time there was need to move fast across the water. She was designed to reach up to 150 kph or around 80 knots, something of a speed record for her vehicle class. Then again, her designers usually had speed somewhere at the top of their list of requirements for any design. The Guinness World Records mob would never hear about it…they hadn’t heard of any of the others either, so that was nothing new.
“V-visual assessment.” Brains took one side of the pod, and Virgil the other. Scanner in one hand, with bare fingertips of the other, they each worked across their side of the pod checking connections and interfaces. Once their side was done, they swapped and double checked the other sides.
A grin at each other and Virgil held up his hand. They high fived, Virgil compensating for the inevitable miss of his co-ordination challenged friend.
Virgil hauled himself into the cockpit, scanner still in hand and ran through all the pre-operation checks.
“G-go for launch?”
“Go for launch.”
John’s hologram appeared suddenly in front of him. “Status, Virgil?”
Virgil blinked. He had been about to notify his brother. “We are go for launch.”
His brother looked closely at him. “Are you ready?”
“For Christ’s sake, John, I’m fine!” He hit the connection to cut his brother off. The hologram frowned at him before flickering and disappearing.
He looked down at his fellow engineer. “We are go for launch.” Brains was frowning at him, but he muttered FAB in acknowledgement.
Virgil activated the cockpit seal and the overhead slid into place with a hiss. Flipping switches, he powered up the engines and deployed the ramp that would ease her into the water. The little craft edged forward, down the ramp and slid into the rippled surface of the lagoon. The body of the pod core floated gently.
“Good luck, Virgil.” Scott’s soft voice in his ear.
Virgil smiled and hit the accelerator.
Gordon had to admit to himself that he had mixed emotions regarding this latest addition to their arsenal of equipment. He definitely could see the value of having the fast little water craft, but the word hydrofoil…he had no doubt that he would end up piloting her at some point. Hell, he wanted to pilot her. She was sharp and he loved speed. She had the International Rescue branding all down her side which basically was a synonym for safety. And she would never travel at the ridiculous speeds WASP had attempted.
He sat in his beloved Thunderbird Four and watched as Virgil accelerated slowly out of the lagoon, the little pod sliding smoothly through the water. He activated his own engines and eased in gently to follow at a distance. Overhead Thunderbird Two moved out beyond Mateo Island, also keeping her distance, but ever hovering above her favourite pilot.
Gordon slipped out between the two headlands of the lagoon and the open ocean began to toss his little craft around. In the distance he saw Virgil’s pod lift herself above the chop on her foils as she gained enough speed to fly over the water.
Knowing he could only keep up if he slipped under, he dove his submarine below the waves and pursued his brother across the ocean.
This was definitely fun. Virgil had a grin on his face. He honestly wasn’t a water baby like his brother, but he did appreciate speed, and speed on water was completely different to speed in the air.
The waves flew beneath him.
Brain’s voice brought him a little closer to Earth and he rattled off the required speed readings and response times. “She’s as smooth as we expected, Brains. This is great.”
“F-forty knots and there appears to b-be little strain on the engines.”
“She’s not even trying.”
“FAB.” And if there was glee in his voice, he wasn’t going to deny it.
He did a series of safe turns, each time checking the built-in scanning units which accurately reported the presence of both Thunderbirds Two and Four in his vicinity. That and a pod of dolphins that had him changing his course the moment he detected them.
John’s hologram suddenly appeared in front of him. “Why are you making such a vast detour?”
“Dolphins off the port bow, bro.” He grinned at his brother.
“I can see that you are enjoying yourself.”
“I am.” Virgil was still grinning.
“Everything working well?”
“She is responding like a dream.”
John raised an eyebrow at him, a slight smile on his lips. “So, you are feeling good?”
Huh? “Yes, of course.” He frowned. “I told you before, I feel fine.”
“Good.” And his brother’s hologram winked out.
The frown stayed on his face after his brother disappeared and for a moment, he cursed the sudden interruption to his amusement. But another frown had him shaking it off. This was one of the best parts of engineering design, playing with the final product.
And he was going to have fun.
He swerved, enjoying the smooth motion of the craft at his fingertips. Then straightening her out, he accelerated again.
Scott wasn’t a water baby like Gordon either, but he definitely was a fan of speed and as he watched his brother fly across the ocean below, a little spike of envy couldn’t help but stab him at the sight. This was one fast little craft and he wouldn’t mind a turn at her helm sometime in the future.
He was using Thunderbird Two’s scanner arrays to follow and monitor the hydrofoil and forward any extra information on her diagnostics to Brains back in the module. So far everything had performed exactly as her specs said they should.
His little brother was a damn good designer.
Scott laughed at the jubilant yell across the comline. “Oh, he’s having a great time.”
Alan grinned at him. “It certainly looks like fun.”
She was at sixty knots and still climbing, her foils dancing across the wave crests. “Virg, you want to halt her at seventy or go for the full eighty?”
“Would love to push her to eighty, but no, I’ll keep her to sixty-five. Need to do a stress test before realising her full potential.”
And once he hit sixty-five, he set her at cruise and she maintained her flight.
Until something went wrong, and for the second time in his life, Scott had to watch in horror as a hydrofoil containing a brother flipped end over end over end over end until the ocean swallowed it whole.
End Part One.