Missing scene from 'The Duchess Assignment'
…or why Virgil would run a mile rather than face a certain member of the English aristocracy again
Author's notes; I had the idea for this when I was writing 'English symphony' then had to go back and work out exactly what had happened between Virgil and the Duchess (why do I never do things the logical way round?). I did not know about the competition in time to enter this, so would be interested to hear what you all think of it.
Standard disclaimer: I acknowledge Carlton plc as the copyright holders of the 'Thunderbirds' characters and I thank Gerry Anderson and his team for creating them.
Takes place between Virgil arriving in the cellar of the burning farmhouse and the Duchess talking to Lady Penelope in the hospital.
"Quickly! This way!" The heat in the cellar was suffocating, but to Virgil's amazement, the Duchess of Royston turned the other way and stooped to pick up an object, which he saw by the flickering light of the flames to be an umbrella. 'Does she expect it to be raining outside?' he wondered, as he grabbed her arm and hustled her into the Mole.
Scott's voice came on the radio, his terse tone indicating the stress he was under. "Hurry it up there, Virgil. This wall won't hold for ever."
"FAB Scott, we're on our way up now," said Virgil as he set the Mole into reverse.
As the giant drilling machine inched its way back up the tunnel it had created, a crash from in front signalled the collapse of the floors above into the cellar. Dust and smoke billowed up the tunnel towards them, but the walls, strengthened by the compound that the Mole had laid down as it dug, seemed to be holding. As the incline of the tunnel increased, the vehicle tipped forward.
A voice came from behind him. "Now just where did I put that dratted umbrella? I know I had it when I sat down!"
Virgil glanced round to reassure himself that his passenger was OK (after all she had been through a lot for a person of her age). He was horrified to see her unclasp her safety belt and reach forward to retrieve the errant object, which had rolled forward as the craft had tilted.
"Madam! Please stay in your seat!" Virgil knew the Mole would soon be reaching the steepest part of the tunnel, from where it would emerge onto its trolley at an angle of 60 degrees. Anyone not strapped in would be thrown against the front of the craft. Swiftly he undid his own belt and, making his way up the steep slope, managed to pick up the Duchess, who had fallen to the floor, and push her back into her seat. He noticed she had grazed her chin in the fall, and just hoped she had not done any more serious damage to herself.
With some difficulty (as the Duchess was no light weight) he managed to fasten her safety harness, just as Scott's voice came over the radio. "Scott calling Mole. Virgil, are you all right?"
'No, Scott, we're not all right – and trust you to pick such a lulu of a time to call,' Virgil thought to himself, as he hung on to the seat, trying to keep his balance. He reached forwards, but could not quite touch the back of his own seat. He let go of his hand hold just as the Mole rocked slightly, and was flung against the back of his chair with a force that knocked the wind out of him. Scott's calls on the radio were sounding more and more concerned, but he ignored them while he fought to strap himself in. By the time he was secure and had got his breath back enough to answer, the Mole had emerged from its tunnel and was inching its way back onto its trolley.
Scott was waiting in the pod by the time Virgil backed the Mole into place. One glance at the scorched front end of the Domo told Virgil that his brother had not had an easy time of it either. Neither of them had had time to dress in heat-resistant gear, and the Domo was not insulated against fire or smoke.
"Would you like me to give you a hand getting the Duchess down?" Scott called up from the floor of the pod.
"Thanks, Scott, that would be a great help."
Between the two of them, they managed to help the old woman down, then both men accompanied her to the passenger compartment.
Virgil turned to the Duchess. "Take a seat, please, your ladyship, and strap yourself in. We'll be taking off for New York shortly. I'll call Mr Dandridge and have him meet you at the airport."
The Duchess looked round at the small room, with its rows of seats. "Is this where all your passengers sit?"
"Yes," said Virgil, somewhat puzzled by her reaction. Most of his passengers were only too pleased to have a ride in a Thunderbird machine.
"Couldn't I ride in the cockpit with you?"
Virgil shook his head, "I'm sorry, ma'am, that's against regulations. Is something the matter with the passenger cabin?"
The Duchess looked at him haughtily. "Young man, I am a peer of the English realm. I only ever travel in first class accommodation."
Scott winced. He knew what was coming. Virgil took a deep breath, just managing to control his temper. "I can assure you, your ladyship," he growled, making the title sound like an insult, "all the accommodation on this aircraft is first class!"
Scott moved closer to the Duchess and spoke in a low tone. "Now you've done it. He gets really upset if he thinks people are being rude about his Thunderbird. Please, your ladyship, take a seat. It will only be a short flight."
The Duchess looked at the handsome young man with the dark hair and blue eyes, who was giving her a most charming smile, and decided to give in. Besides, her legs were starting to feel a bit weak, and sitting down suddenly seemed like a good idea. "Very well, young man," she said as she sank into a seat and allowed Scott to buckle her in. She looked across at Virgil. "My apologies. I did not mean to cast aspersions on this wonderful machine, especially after you had just saved me from such a terrible fate. But, for future reference," she said, looking from one to the other, "the correct form of address for a Duchess is 'your grace'."
"Thank you, your grace. Take off will be in a couple of minutes."
The Duchess watched the young men leave.' So handsome, and so romantic,' she sighed to herself.' Oh, if only I were thirty years younger.'
As the door of the passenger cabin closed behind them, Virgil let out a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair – a sure sign that he was rattled. "Thanks for your help back there, Scott. I nearly lost it."
"No problem – though maybe next time we get called out to rescue old ladies we'd better bring Grandma along to deal with them!"
Virgil laughed. "Can you just imagine those two head-to-head? It would be a classic case of 'the irresistible force meeting the immovable object!'"
"I'll tell you one thing" said Scott, laughing in reply, "if that's an example of the British upper classes you can see why our ancestors fought for independence."
"Yes, but it's a good thing there weren't ten like her in the British army, or we'd have lost!"
Still laughing at that thought, he made his way up to the flight deck.