I do not own any of the Thunderbirds, nor do I pretend to. Alpha thanks to my betas.
John opened his eyes and stared blearily at the sun streaming in through the window. Even after being back for almost two weeks, he was still waking up confused.
He was trying to think of the island as home, but it was just too alien to what he normally thought of as home to really feel like it. This place – a riot of plant life, the air filled with the cries of strange birds and buzzing insects, and the constant presence of the Pacific ocean – by comparison, the moon seemed homier. At least it reminded him of Kansas during the droughts.
He sat up and swung his legs out onto the floor and rubbed his hands over his face. He stared at the floor absently for a moment. There was something he didn't quite recognize next to his foot.
Virgil halted as his younger brother rocketed out of his room and slammed into the back wall of the hallway.
"What's wrong with you?" Virgil muttered, a little testily. He didn't wake up well. John gave him a wide-eyed look, reached over, and closed his bedroom door.
"Well, kill it." Virgil said, continuing on to the kitchen. John trailed after him.
"This is not some…I'm not..." John struggled for a minute. "This is a really large spider."
Virgil poured himself a cup of coffee, added milk, and took a long drink. "Is it bigger than, say, a Shetland pony?"
"John, it's a bug. You're six feet tall. Step on it."
John looked around the kitchen, and started opening up cabinets. Virgil watched him, sipping his coffee.
"What are you looking for?"
John pulled out a large cast iron frying pan. He hefted it in his hand experimentally. "A weapon."
Virgil started to laugh.
"Mock all you want," John said seriously. "I'm not going in there unarmed." He padded back down the hall. Virgil topped off his coffee and followed him. John was standing by the door, one hand on the doorknob.
"If I'm not back in fifteen minutes, call for reinforcements," he told Virgil.
Virgil rolled his eyes.
John opened the door and stuck his head in. Virgil tried to peer over his shoulder. "Where was it?"
"Next to the bed."
"Hm. Probably fell off the bed when you woke up."
John turned and gave Virgil a look of loathing, then turned around and continued to scan the room.
"Oh, for crying out loud." Virgil grabbed the frying pan from John's hand and pushed him aside. "Grow a backbone, will you?" He walked into the room. "You're always overreacting to holy shit!" He flung the frying pan across the room, knocking the desk lamp off the bedside table, and hurtled himself out the door. His hand struck the doorjamb, knocking his coffee mug out of his grip as he collided with John, sending him flying backwards. They both tumbled out of the room, landing on the floor. John reached up and shut the door.
Virgil jumped up and dusted himself off frantically. John watched him with satisfaction.
"Big, isn't it?"
Virgil stopped brushing himself off. "That was…" he stopped. "That's a big spider."
"Did you hit it?" John asked.
"Not even close." Virgil said. "But your lamp isn't going to be giving you any more trouble."
"Well, that's a relief." John said. He got to his feet. "Hey, you don't think maybe it's a fake something Gordon put in there?"
"It's not fake." Virgil said. "It sort of…" He made a clawing motion with his hand. "Came at me."
"I like that in a giant spider." John said. "A tendency to attack."
"We need a strategy." Virgil said thoughtfully. "A plan."
"Well, we know the running-and-screaming technique doesn't work." John said. Virgil pointed at him.
"You're not up for any bravery medals either, Johnny boy." He looked at the closed bedroom door and narrowed his eyes. "Bastard has my coffee."
"It's amazing how primal it is." John said. "This is something that got planted in our brains when we were still living in trees."
"You're not making me feel better."
"Consider that it's a good trait. I mean, if we didn't have instinctive fears of certain things, the human race never would have survived."
"So I have the survival instincts of a howler monkey?" Virgil said. "I don't find this reassuring, John."
Scott appeared at the head of the hallway. He was surprised to find his two brothers, sitting on the floor in pajamas outside of John's room, drinking coffee.
"What are you doing?"
"There's a spider in John's bedroom." Virgil said.
"We're justifying our fear." John told him.
"You're kidding me, right?" Scott said. He walked down to where they were sitting.
"See for yourself." Virgil said, gesturing at the door.
Scott looked at the closed door, and then down at John and Virgil. "Is this some sort of setup?"
"Not at all." Virgil said.
"I haven't seen Gordon yet today. He's probably still swimming."
"You two are acting a little suspiciously."
"We have the inner calm of men who have reconciled themselves to fear." John told him. Scott stared at him for a moment.
"If I open the door, is something going to fall on my head?" Scott asked. Virgil laughed, but John just rose and opened the door a fraction of an inch. Virgil stopped laughing and jumped up, moving away from the door.
"Exactly how big is this spider?" Scott asked, watching Virgil retreat.
"Bigger than average." John said. "I'll give you a hundred bucks if you go in there and kill it."
Scott laughed. "Are you serious?"
"Is there really a spider in there?"
"There really is a spider in there, Virgil and I have decided that we are incapable of overcoming our fear, and I will give you one hundred dollars if you kill it."
"And you swear that this isn't a set up?"
John raised his hand. "Swear."
Scott shook his head. "Okay. But if this is some sort of joke, you are both going to pay." Slowly, he pushed the door open all the way. John backed away.
"Give 'em hell, Scotty." Virgil said. Scott rolled his eyes and walked into the bedroom. He gave the room a quick once over.
"There's no spider in here, boys." He walked to the other side of the bed, looked down, and started to laugh. "Did you try to hit it with a frying pan? You killed the lamp." He turned around and stared at the wall. "Did you throw coffee at it? What the hell happened in here? Kyrano is going to kill you."
"I'll clean it up." John said. "Bring me the head of that spider and Kyrano won't know a thing."
"There's no spider in here." Scott said. "You probably scared it away. It's on the other side of the island by now."
"Look under the bed." Virgil suggested. He had come to stand next to John in the doorway. Scott gave him a suspicious look. "Is this where the punch line comes in?"
"If this was a set up, don't you think we'd come up with something more plausible than this?" Virgil said.
Scott considered this, and then got down on his knees next to the bed. He flipped the cover up, and peered underneath. After a minute, he stood up and quickly walked out of the bedroom, pushing John and Virgil aside. He closed the bedroom door behind him.
"Well?" John said.
Scott let out a breath. "This is pretty simple. I'm just going to tell Father that we're going to have to move."
Virgil and John both started laughing. Scott stared at the closed door. "Seriously, I have never seen a spider that big in my life. What the hell is it?"
"I don't know." Virgil said. He looked at John. "You're the scientist."
"I'm the scientist?" John said. "Since when? I'm not an entomologist."
"Gordon's been here the longest." Scott said. "And he spent a lot of it behind binoculars."
"How much actual information do we need?" John asked. "If we find out the name of it, is that going to make it any easier to kill?"
"It would be nice to know if it's poisonous or not." Virgil said mildly.
"This is ridiculous." Scott said. "We are three grown men. We are not about to be beaten by an insect."
"Spiders aren't insects, they're arachnids." John said.
Scott ignored this. "We must have some…spray or something? Bug spray. That might work." Scott headed for the kitchen.
Virgil looked at John. "Captain Tracy takes command," he said. "This should be interesting."
In the kitchen, Scott was rummaging under the sink. He glanced up at Virgil and John. "You two need to put some clothes on. You can borrow something of mine for the moment, John. And put shoes on. Ah ha." He pulled a large spray can out from under the sink and looked at the label. "Goddamn it. There must be bug spray in here somewhere." He paused and looked up. "What are you waiting for? Go get dressed!"
About ten minutes later they reemerged to find Scott talking to Gordon, who had just come in from his morning swim in the ocean.
"I've never seen any really big spiders, but that doesn't mean there aren't any," Gordon was saying. "I don't really know what's out here. I was mainly looking at birds, and even then, I never looked anything up." He looked at John and Virgil curiously. "How big is it?"
John spread out his hand. "Like this?"
Virgil shook his head, lacing his thumbs together and wiggling his fingers in Gordon's face. "More like this."
Gordon swatted his hand away. "You're exaggerating."
The three of them shook their heads.
"Do you want to help?" Scott asked.
"No," Gordon said. "I plan on watching and laughing." He went into his room.
"Fine." Scott said. "Okay. Here's what we're going to do. John, you need to chase it out from under the bed with this broom." He thrust a push broom into John's hands. "Virgil and I each take a side of the bed, and get it when it comes out."
"Did Virg tell you about the whole "gah, spider" paralysis that happens when you actually see it move?" John asked.
"That's why there'll be two of us." Scott said. "Strength in numbers. People are much more likely to overcome their fears and act with bravery when someone else is present."
"Is that true?" Virgil asked John, who shrugged. "How are you going to kill it?"
Scott picked up an aerosol can from the floor and held up a lighter. "Fire."
Virgil's eyebrows nearly climbed off his head. John held up his hands. "No way. No. Absolutely not."
Scott shrugged. "Suit yourself." He reached into the cardboard box at his feet and handed his brother a massive three ring binder. "The original specs for Rescue 2. Should be heavy enough."
Virgil took the binder, hefting it appreciatively. "It feels spiderworthy."
Scott bent down and picked up another binder identical to the first. "Rescue 1. All of these are out of date, so it doesn't matter if it gets…whatever…on it."
"I feel I got a little shortchanged in the weapon department." John said.
"You're not artillery. You're operations. Unless you want the flame thrower?"
John rolled his eyes. "Let's just get this over with. Gordon!"
Gordon stuck his head out his bedroom. "What?"
"You want to point and laugh, get over here."
"Be right there."
"Okay, John. You go in and make sure it's still under the bed." Scott said.
"It's part of operations."
John looked at Virgil. "The sad thing is, I'm going to accept that answer as reasonable." He opened the bedroom door. He could feel Scott right behind him, and gave him an ungentle elbow in the ribs. "Quit breathing down my neck." John stepped into the room and gave it a quick once over. No spider. He knelt down a few feet from the bed and hesitatingly looked under it.
"I can't believe Father thinks that we're going to actually be able to assist people in dangerous situations." Gordon said. "If this is the caliber of people we're going to be sending out."
"Shut up, Gordon." John said, a little automatically. He got up. "Okay, it's still under there."
"Are you sure?" Scott asked.
"Yes, I looked straight into its sixteen eyes." John said grimly. "Trust me. It's still there."
"Can I take a quick look before you kill it?" Gordon said.
John gestured under the bed. "Go ahead. But if you start with another lecture on how the beauty of nature needs to be preserved, I'm locking you in with it."
Gordon knelt down, peered under the bed, and gave an appreciative whistle. "Wow. Do you reckon it's some sort of tarantula?"
"Don't know. Don't care." Virgil said, shuddering slightly.
"What if it's endangered?" Gordon asked.
"I'll send the International Spider Foundation a check. Get out of the way." Scott said.
"Do you really think it's endangered?" John asked. "There are a lot of endangered spiders and insects."
"Kyrano might know." Gordon said. "He knows a lot about the flora and fauna of his place. And he's got that big garden." He got up. "I'm sure he'd like to see it anyway. Hang on a sec." He pushed by Scott and Virgil and walked out to the main area of the house, calling for Kyrano.
Scott looked after him for a minute, and then turned back. "All right. Let's go."
"You don't want to find out if we're about to kill the last living dodo bird of spiders?" John asked.
"No." Scott said simply. "I think Gordon is just being Gordon, and this is a very ordinary spider."
"That is no ordinary spider." Virgil said. "But yeah, I think Scott's right. Let's just do this, so I can stop dreading it."
"All right." John said. It seemed a little silly to worry about preserving the ecosystem of a tropical island chain when they had blasted half of the island away to build the underground hangars. Also, John had an idea that Scott didn't want Kyrano to see the spider extraction-and-destruction campaign. Kyrano had an inner self-possession that often rivaled Scott's own, and Scott didn't always appreciate it. "Stake your side."
Virgil chose the foot of the bed, and Scott took position opposite John. The three looked at each other for a moment.
"Ready when you are, John." Scott said, binder raised and eyes trained on the floor.
Virgil glanced at Scott, and then pointed at him. "Push it to him," he whispered.
John chuckled. "All right. Here goes." Virgil raised his binder. John got down on one knee, thrust the broom under the bed and began sweeping it back and forth. Nothing happened.
"Maybe it's not under there anymore?" Virgil said.
John moved the broom in a wider arc. "It's probably by the top of the bed." He stood up, and pulled the broom out. "Maybe if we…whoa! On the broom! Attacking the broom!" He began shaking the broom as Scott leapt up on the bed and Virgil came racing around the side. John was trying vigorously to shake the spider, who covered nearly the entire brush, off the edge of the broom. Virgil saw it and winced. "God, that thing is disgusting."
"Stop moving, John." Scott ordered. John dropped the broom handle and backed away. The handle landed on the bed. The spider seemed stunned. At any rate, it wasn't moving. Scott raised his binder over his head.
"Okay, Virg. Get ready, because this is probably just going to knock it off the broom."
Virgil nodded, and raised his binder. John backed into the corner as far away from the broom as possible.
"Ready?" Scott asked. The two brothers nodded.
The spider bolted up the broom handle towards Scott, who leapt backwards with a startled shout and stumbled off the bed. Virgil threw his binder at the broom handle, knocking the top end of it and sending the spider catapulting to the other side of the room. John watched it sail across the room, and started to laugh.
"Where'd it go?" asked Virgil wildly.
"It's the corner…it's heading for the…where's the broom! John, throw me the broom!"
John leapt for the broom, but Scott jumped back on the bed and grabbed it first. "I'm going to chase it around to you, Virgil." He started whacking the floor on the other side of the bed.
"Wait! I'm not armed!" Virgil lunged for his binder.
"It's heading to your side…get it!"
The air was punctuated by a whizzing sound, followed by a thunk. John looked up.
Kyrano stood in the doorway, with a very startled-looking Gordon right behind him. On the floor next to the foot of the bed was the spider, impaled on a Wusthof 10" chef's knife. The handle of the knife was still quivering.
Nobody said anything for a moment.
"Yes, Gordon, you are correct." Kyrano said into the silence. "That is a spider quite common to this area, and it is, I believe, a member of the tarantula family known as the huntsman." He stepped forward, knelt down, and tugged the knife from the floor.
"You might wish to show it to your father when he returns from the mainland." Kyrano added. "He is always eager to see examples of life on the island." He swept quietly out of the room.
The four brothers looked at each other. Scott got down from the bed.
"Well." Virgil said. "That was…" He thought for a moment. "Interesting."
"Disconcerting." Scott said.
"I was thinking more along the lines of 'emasculating'." John said.
"That's the word." Scott said.
Gordon was bent over, staring at the dead spider, hands on his knees. "Do you want to show it to Father?"
Scott looked at it. "I don't know if Father really needs to know about this."
Virgil nodded. "I don't think we need to bother him with something so trivial."
"Yeah." John nodded. "He's got enough on his mind as it is. I'm just going to get something to put it in." He walked out quickly.
Virgil sat down on the end of the bed and stared at the spider. "We suck."
"We're not going to be rescuing giant bugs." Scott told him.
"Sure, I know. But still, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it?"
"I'm not that impressed." Gordon said.
Virgil stuck the toe of his shoe under the spider and flipped it up at Gordon, who jumped back quickly.
"That's not funny, Virgil!" Gordon said angrily.
"Just making a point." Virgil said with a smile. Gordon shook himself and made a retching sound. "That was just…gross."
"So…we're not going to tell Father?" Virgil said.
"Do you think Dad really needs to know we haven't changed any since we were eight years old?" John asked, coming back into the room with a large paper bag.
"Speak for yourself." Scott said.
John swept the spider into the bag. "So long, giant spider. Nice knowing you." He peered in the bag. "You fought valiantly, young one." He closed the bag and looked up.
"He really hasn't changed since he was eight." Virgil commented.
"Shut up." John said. "He was a warrior. He deserves a warrior's funeral." He looked at his brothers. "Anyone game?"
There was a brief pause.
"I'll get the flame thrower." Scott said.
"Brains has been working on that new fuel compound." Gordon said. "I think I can steal some. Let's go."