It seemed to John that a great weight had been lifted off his chest and, for what seemed the first time in a long period, he was able to inhale freely again. The sense he had of almost being drowned, of trying to inhale air and managing only to breathe in liquid, had passed and now he lay, relaxed and drowsy, content to float in a comfortable darkness that filled him with peace.
For what seemed an immeasurable amount of time John floated along but gradually his awareness shifted and the comfortable drowsiness thickened and congealed into a heavy, groggy feeling that he recognised. He had been here before, several times, mostly since the establishment of International Rescue. John knew this state of existence only too well, even if he could not right now remember what had caused it.
'Anaesthetic' he pondered sleepily, 'I've been given an anaesthetic. I wonder why.' Slowly he wandered through his memories, trying to account for the requirement for an anaesthetic but after a few seconds all he had decided was that the headache that had just come to his attention was growing worse with every second that he tried to remember. Giving up the idea as a bad job John left his mind to go blank and let time wash over him.
His mind, however, seemed to have other ideas. Now freed from searching for memories his brain began to detail and catalogue what it could feel. Soon John was aware of a dull ache around his left shoulder and arm and the continuing ache that seemed to encompass most of his head. Thinking of his head brought John's attention to his other senses and his brain instantly alerted him to a steady bleeping coming from nearby that he had no difficulty in recognising as a heart monitor.
'Then I must be in the infirmary.' The thought was followed by his eyes flickering open to take in his surroundings. Lying flat in bed John got a blurred view of a typical, white, clean ceiling which, as his eyesight gradually focussed, singularly failed to resolve itself into anywhere that he recognised. Turning his head to his right he was not overly surprised to find a figure sleeping in a chair by the side of the bed, although the fact that the figure was his father did give him pause for thought. A little further away, lying in another bed was the sleeping figure of his oldest brother. Scott looked decidedly paler than usual but bore no obvious sign of damage that John could see.
'We're definitely in a hospital of some sort' decided John, 'but not on the island. Interesting.' Opening his mouth to call his father John found his throat to be so dry and rough that not even a squeak came out. His father was too far away to touch and for a moment John was at a loss as to what to do. Spying a glass of water, complete with ice, on a cupboard at the side of the bed he sat up and began to reach for the drink.
A small cry of pain was all that made it past John's parched throat as the whole of his chest, back and abdomen went into spasm. The white hot agony caught John by surprise and he froze in a half-upright position, his mouth open and his eyes screwed shut as he vainly tried to draw breath. He heard an exclamation from nearby and felt two hands on his shoulders trying to push him back against the pillows as his father's voice encouraged him to 'relax' 'take it easy' and 'just lie back'. Those were all things that John would have dearly loved to do but right at that moment he was certain that the super glue that was holding his muscles in a rigid vice would surely shred any muscle that dared to try to elongate itself enough to allow him to comply. From nearby a monitor began to bleep as the rising carbon dioxide levels in his blood triggered an alarm and the now terse voice of Jeff Tracy ordered someone to summon aid.
The spasm continued for another few seconds and then, as suddenly as it had come, it was gone. All of the muscles that had previously been clenched tight relaxed at the same instant and John's limp body collapsed back into his father's arms, his chest heaving in relief as his father lowered him to the bed. Opening his eyes he found Jeff anxiously peering down at him but he was too busy trying to restore his breathing to normal to answer Jeff's requests for assurance that he was alright. Somewhere a door banged open and rapid footsteps approached the left side of the bed followed shortly after by a light haired man with a competent, authoritative air who took his wrist and looked down at him with a smile.
"Ah, so you're back with us John. Your colleagues have been quite concerned about you. Now, what's the problem?"
John tried to talk but his voice again failed him. He caught a movement in the corner of his eye and his father, who had been hovering on the right hand side of the bed, took something offered to him from behind and then turned back to John, his hand going behind John's head to lift it from the pillow as a glass of water was pressed to his lips. Gratefully John sipped the cool, refreshing liquid and mentally sighed in contentment as the roughness of his throat found instant relief. As he drank he heard his father explain to the doctor what had just taken place.
"Sounds like muscle spasms. Did you try to move John? To sit up maybe?"
As John nodded weakly the doctor tutted his disapproval.
"That was a bad idea young man – as you just found out. You body has been badly battered and one of your lungs was perforated by a rib, not to mention the other four broken or cracked ribs and both bruised kidneys. You are going to be in bed for a number of days I'm afraid and after that you mustn't do anything too strenuous or taxing for several weeks to ensure that your body heals correctly."
Seeing a movement at the foot of the bed John looked down and his eyes widened in surprise as he found Scott standing there, dressed in a hospital robe, watching him with a strange expression of regret on his face as the doctor continued.
"The bullet wound was clean and only really damaged the muscle but once you're up and about you're going to have to work on that to build up its strength again."
At the doctor's words John was astounded to see Scott's expression change to one of – was that shame? As he watched a different picture came to him in his mind's eyes, a picture of Scott, his face impassive but his eyes reflecting horror and dread, pointing a gun at his heart. John's shock must have been reflected on his face as Scott coloured, turned on his heel and headed for the door. John's view of him was blocked as the doctor leaned across him.
"Now, as you're awake we'll take the opportunity to check out this head of yours and make sure you've not done too much damage to your brain."
Over the next few minutes John's head and eyes were examined and studied to the nth degree and he had questions asked of him until his head spun. He was not sure if Jeff was in the room or not, his field of view being blocked by the doctor. Finally the examination was over and, with a joviality that had long ago worn thin on the rapidly tiring Tracy brother, the doctor took up a hypodermic from a tray by the side of the bed, swabbed John's arm and then injected him.
"Well, you seem to be on the mend my friend. This will ease the discomfort I'm sure you are feeling again by now and make your journey home more comfortable. Good luck."
With that he was gone. Dazed and rapidly growing sleepy John lay back with his eyes closed. A little while afterwards a quiet movement by his side roused him and he opened his eyes to find his father moving the chair nearer and sitting down.
"Dad" John asked drowsily, "where's Scott?"
Jeff's face was tired and careworn and showed his years but his eyes were warm and smiling as he looked down at his son.
"He's just outside. He needed some air. How are you feeling?"
John ignored the question, and returned one of his own.
"Is he alright? Did the serum .. . . "
Jeff cut him off.
"Scott's just fine, tired, but fine. We'll talk about it all later, when we get home. For now you just need to rest. Virgil will be here soon and then we'll leave."
The room was starting to fade into the background and John was fighting his eyes to keep them open and focussed.
"Need to talk . . . Scott . . . .so . . .tired . . .Can't . ."
As his eyes finally closed and his breathing deepened and levelled out, the door to the room opened slowly and a dark head was poked round it. Seeing his brother was asleep again, Scott quietly walked to stand behind his father's chair.
"Did you contact your brothers?" Jeff asked, without looking round.
"Yeah. Gordon's just reached base and Virgil's dropped off Penny and Parker. He should be here in about thirty minutes."
"He's fine now he knows John's awake."
Jeff nodded in response, his eyes still on the sleeping figure in the bed. There was a moments silence before Scott spoke again.
"How is he?"
"Concussion, but his skull's intact and there doesn't seem to be any permanent damage. The swelling around his face should be going down soon but it's going to take a while before he's back to full strength. Doc says it's safe to move him." Jeff paused and then glanced up at his oldest son. "He wants to talk to you."
"Yeah, I'll bet he does." commented Scott, his voice quiet and subdued as he sat down heavily on the second bed.
Jeff looked at his oldest son quizzically, who was just sitting, watching his sleeping sibling with a peculiar expression on his face. As Jeff watched, wondering what was passing through his eldest son's mind he suddenly recognised what he was seeing. Scott's face was covered in guilt. Astounded Jeff switched his gaze backwards and forwards between his two sons, trying to fathom the cause. He cast his mind back to the little he really knew about that had been happening to Scott and John over the last few days. His thoughts were thrown into turmoil when Virgil's words came back to him, "He didn't know us father, he just didn't know us. Whatever Mestari has given him has completely taken him over."
"Scott?" called Jeff softly.
Scott's head turned towards his father and a thrill of fear ran down Jeff's spine as he saw the haunted look that filled his son's eyes.
"What happened down there Scott? How did your brother get hurt?"
Scott looked down at his feet, refusing to meet Jeff's eyes. He was silent for so long that Jeff thought he would not reply but then his voice, quiet and hesitant, drifted up from his down-turned face.
"It's kind of a long story sir and Virgil will be back soon. Maybe it would be better if we left it till tomorrow, when John and I can tell everyone at the same time. Save repetition."
Jeff's eyes widened in dismay and disbelief and for a moment he could not speak. Scott glanced up quickly at his father's face, and Jeff's heart lurched at the pain he saw there.
"Son" Jeff's voice nearly broke but Scott quickly ducked his head and looked back at his feet without replying. Swallowing down his grief at the hurt that had befallen his sons Jeff breathed deeply and forced his voice back under control. "Alright Scott. Get some rest. I'll wake you when Virgil arrives."
With a short nod Scott slipped back beneath the covers and lay down on his side, facing the opposite wall, denying his father sight of the despair covering his face.
For the next little while Jeff Tracy sat in the hospital chair, his gaze alternating between the sleeping forms of his sons.
It was late at night on Tracy Island when Thunderbird Two returned. Scott and John had slept the whole way home, watched over by either Jeff or Virgil as the other piloted the rescue craft back to base. They were met by Gordon, who had returned hours earlier with Thunderbird One, and Brains and Tin-Tin but neither of the sleeping siblings awoke as they were transferred to the sick room. By the time Brains had checked them and settled them to his satisfaction it was the small hours of the morning and the family dispersed to bed, leaving Tin-Tin and Brains to divide the remainder of the night watch in the sick-room between them.
Now it was late afternoon. Scott, although being washed out and both physically and emotionally drained, appeared to be physically unhurt. He had woken up mid-morning and, after being checked over by Brains, had been allowed to get up, shower and get dressed. John, waking shortly after Scott, had been allowed a light meal of soup and had then dozed on and off until his father and brothers had come down to the sick-room to go over the events of the last few days.
Jeff, Virgil, Gordon and Scott sat in chairs around John's bed while a live feed from the space station, connected to the television set mounted on the wall across from the bed, allowed Alan to join them from the space station. John sat propped up against a bank of pillows, his fair hair showing through the bandage wound around his head and his left arm in a sling, immobilised against his body. Jeff had gone over the events immediately following Scott's disappearance, the location of his chronometer and discovery of Tony and Bob with their father in the homestead.
"Have we heard anything more about Mister Williams' or Lord Silton's condition father?" asked Gordon "Surely they should have woken up by now?"
"Yes son, we have. I forgot to tell you with all the concern about John and Scott. Alan heard from the hospitals while John was in surgery. Williams and Lord Silton have both regained consciousness 'though the last I heard they were both still pretty drowsy and confused. Alan, have there been any updates since?"
"Yes father" Alan's youthful face looked down at them from the television set "Mister Williams seems to have recovered with no ill effects and the state hospital is considering letting him go home sometime tomorrow if everything continues okay. Lord Silton seems to be suffering from some loss of mobility in his right arm and they'll be running tests on him over the next few days."
A silence fell over the room for a few seconds and then Jeff briefly explained Brains' report of the characteristics of the drug used on Scott and Lady Penelope's information of the proposed auction before handing over to Virgil to cover the happenings at the 'auction' in London.
" . . and then this guy Price reaches down his neck and then rips off his face." Virgil was well into his retelling of the events when Gordon broke in, his voice animated and amused.
"Yeah, I couldn't believe it. It was just like a film taking place right in front of your eyes. I wondered if he was going to turn into 'The Invisible Man' or something from a B horror movie. I thought Mestari's eyes were going to pop out of his head."
Jeff and Virgil chuckled at Gordon's addition to the story and Virgil continued to tell of the confrontation between the World Police officer and Mestari. John, however, from his vantage point on the bed, fixed his gaze on Scott, whose bright blue eyes, wide and unblinking, were staring out into the distance. As Virgil's report of the events covered the use of the gas pellets to spread confusion and panic in the auction room an expression of dismay covered Scott's face and as Virgil went on to tell of Mestari's flight into the room at the side of the stage John could stand it no longer as the dismay suddenly changed to surprise and shock.
"Scott? Are you alright?"
Instantly Virgil stopped speaking and all eyes in the room were fixed on Scott.
"Scott? Son?" Jeff, from his chair next to Scott, reached out a hand and touched Scott's arm "Are you with us?"
Jeff sucked in his breath sharply as Scott blinked, his gaze shifting slowly to Jeff and then turning to fall on Virgil. Once again his eyes were filled with the haunted look that Jeff had seen in the hospital and an expression of confusion and hopelessness, that Jeff could not recall having seen for many years, covered his face.
Virgil, startled by the look levelled on him by his oldest brother, was not sure what to say.
"Scott? What is it? What's wrong?"
"I shot you." Scott's voice was tight with emotion "I remember now. We were in a room, Gordon was there" his eyes flicked quickly to his copper haired brother for confirmation before returning to Virgil "and Penelope and Parker. You were just standing there . . and I shot you."
"Scott, it's okay." Virgil quickly interjected "It was only gas. We're fine."
"That's not the point Virgil" Scott replied vehemently, his words sharp "I could have killed you. If it had been bullets instead of pellets I would have killed you. Just like John."
"Scott, what are you talking about?"
Virgil and Gordon looked at each other in confusion and looked up at their blond brother where he sat on the bed. However, in John's head a light had just come on.
"So that's what you meant! Well that explains it."
Puzzled now, the gazes of Jeff, Virgil, Gordon and Alan were all diverted to John, and away from Scott who slumped forward, his arms resting on his thighs and his head hanging down.
"John," Jeff was growing steadily more alarmed as he looked between John and Scott, dreading what tale the two brothers had to tell of their time in Mestari's lair "what do you mean? Explains what?"
Still watching the bowed head of his older brother John quickly explained how sick Scott had become while they were hiding in the cave system and of his confusion and words when he had suddenly woken up in the dark.
"I thought he was hallucinating or thinking Virgil was me but he must have been remembering the encounter at the auction."
"Why would your brother confuse you with Virgil? You weren't even there at the time."
The room fell deathly silent as Jeff waited for his reply. Gordon and Virgil, looked at each other, questions and a growing unease in their glances as their brother's silence continued. John sat propped up on his pillows, his gaze still focussed on Scott's dark head where it hung from his shoulders.
"John?" Jeff's voice was calm and even but the rapidly ageing billionaire felt far from calm. A whispered dread had entered his mind in the hospital room and it had not gone away over the intervening hours, if anything it had grown.
"Tell them John" said Scott, his voice sad and hollow. "Tell them the truth."
"Scott, it wasn't your fault. You had no control, it was the serum." John leaned forward in the bed, reaching out to his brother.
"Control or no control it makes no difference." Scott's head came up sharply as he glared at his brother "It was still my finger that pulled the trigger. It was still me that tried to kill you."
Cries of shock and amazement came from the other three brothers at this revelation but John was concentrated on the man in front of him and spared them not a glance. Grasping the bed covers with his only good hand he curled his fingers tightly around the material, using it as an anchor to haul himself off his pillows, and half dragged, half threw himself towards where Scott sat at the bottom of the bed.
"Scott, you've got to stop . . ."
John got no further as the sudden and energetic movements demanded more of his body than it was ready or able to give at that moment. As both Gordon and Jeff, seated on either side of the bed and closest to John, sprang from their chairs to force him back on his pillows, John's damaged body was wracked by explosive and violent coughs. He would have fallen forwards onto the bed, so far had he managed to force himself upright, save for the arms of the two men on either side of him. Instead he lay helpless, face down, coughing and heaving and choking, his lungs and diaphragm now starting to go into spasm and his face rapidly turning bright red. Alarmed Jeff and Gordon righted him and held him upright, as he continued to cough and splutter while Scott, who had also jumped to his feet when John had got into difficulties, stood helpless by the side of the bed. Virgil turned towards Brains, who had been sitting silently at the desk in the background since the debriefing started. Brains, however, was nowhere to be seen.
"Brains!" Virgil jumped to the open doorway and yelled down the corridor "Brains, where are you? John needs help." Getting no immediate answer Virgil also disappeared out of the room to look for the young scientist, his face frantic with worry.
Back on the bed the coughing had slowed a little and Jeff and Gordon gently sat John back against the pillows, where he lay with his eyes closed, breathing rapidly and with some difficulty, his face now changed from red to grey, his hand trembling where it lay on the bed covers. Gordon was leaning close to his brother's ear, murmuring quietly in reassurance.
"I did this" The low muttered comment was loud enough for Jeff to catch and he looked around sharply to find Scott standing beside him, looking down at his brother with anguish in his face. "This is my fault. I wish he'd given me the full dose. Then at least I'd probably have been dead before I could shoot John."
At this Jeff rounded on his oldest son, taking him by his shoulders and shaking him hard.
"Now you listen to me Scott Tracy and you listen good. I don't know all that happened down there but I do know enough to know you would have shot yourself before you'd harm any of your brothers. Whatever it was Mestari forced you to do it was against your will and I'll not have you wishing yourself dead on account of something you had no control over. Do you hear me?"
Scott just stood, his eyes fixed on John, who was still struggling to restore his breathing to normal and control the intermittent coughs that still caused his frame to shudder violently. As he watched, Brains, followed closely by Virgil, came running through the door, a container of oxygen and breathing apparatus with him from the room which doubled as an operating theatre. Setting the cylinder by the bed he quickly squeezed in besides Gordon, who moved away to give him more room, and began to fit the mask over John's head.
"Do you hear me Scott?" Jeff shook his dark haired son again, not about to release him without an answer. Tearing his eyes away from the scene around the bed Scott looked back into his father's face, his eyes tormented with guilt and sorrow.
"I let this happen to him Dad. I just stood by and let it happen. I'm as guilty as if I'd done it myself."
Jeff shook his head, torn between anger and frustration.
"No Scott. You would have given your life to protect your brother. I know that, John knows that and if you're honest with yourself you know it too don't you?"
Scott stood silent, his eyes looking into his father's face but his thoughts examining his own soul. In a corner of his brain he knew that his father was right, knew that he was blaming himself for something that had been out of his control. However in his heart there was only darkness and dismay and a weariness so heavy that he could not throw it off. Knowing he was lying, to his father and to himself, he forced a false, weak smile onto his face.
"Yeah, yeah I guess so."
"Good. No matter what's happened to you over the last few days I want you to know that I have every confidence in you and I always will. Just you remember that."
Satisfied Jeff nodded and turned back to John. Brains was sitting on the side of the bed, one hand holding the mask firmly in place, the other holding John's wrist and taking his pulse. Virgil and Gordon were hovering nearby, watching anxiously. Eventually the scientist turned back to the waiting family, the tense, anxious look that he had worn on his entry to the room now more relaxed.
"Brains?" Jeff asked anxiously.
"H .h. he's alright Mister Tracy. Only it would, uh, be better if he didn't try to do any talking for the next, uh little while and he, uh he really shouldn't be moving quickly at all."
"Okay Brains. Thank you."
Brains nodded and quietly slipped back to his chair at the back of the room, leaving the men of the Tracy family to retake their seats around the bed, Virgil and Gordon murmuring encouragements to John as they sat down.
"Right, Virgil go back to what happened after the auction and Scott can carry on when you've finished." ordered Jeff. Gordon opened his mouth as if in protest, keen to hear more of Scott's revelation but one look from his father silenced him and he subsided back into his chair. Virgil took up the tale again, quickly telling of their encounter with Lieutenant Svenson and their flight to Finland via Tracy Island. When he had finished all eyes turned to Scott.
"Scott?" Jeff questioned cautiously, "do you want to start?"
Scott hesitated, looking over to John for confirmation before replying. John's colour was more or less back to normal, although at the moment 'normal' constituted pale and tired. He still wore the breathing mask but as Scott looked at him he nodded, reaching up to remove the mask.
"I don't think there's much point in me starting sir." Scott replied quietly "Mestari shot me with some sort of drug as soon as I arrived at the homestead and the next thing I remember is seeing Virgil, Gordon and the others and shooting them. After that I don't remember anything until I met John again in the caves."
"You don't remember anything?" questioned Gordon in disbelief "But Scott there were two whole days between you being kidnapped and the auction. He couldn't have kept you drugged for the whole time surely? Didn't you eat? Or sleep? Did he tie you up?"
"I said I don't remember anything kid alright?" Scott turned sharply on his brother, his eyes flashing with sudden anger. "Just darkness. I couldn't move, couldn't feel. I didn't know if I was awake or asleep. I couldn't think for most of it – I didn't even know I couldn't see until the damned stuff started wearing off. The only thing I could hear was his voice giving orders and I couldn't do a thing about it! I didn't know if I did what he told me except by what he said. Now if you don't want to believe that, that's just fine by me. Just don't ask any more damn fool questions."
Taken aback by his brother's outburst Gordon just sat, staring at Scott, opening and closing his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out. Jeff, his brows constricted in a deep frown, laid his hand on Scott's arm.
"Hold on there son, take it easy. Your brother was just asking a question. There's no need to bite his head off."
Scott glared at his brother for another moment and then turned to his father. As his gaze met Jeff's he blinked once, twice, then raised a slightly shaking hand and wiped it over his face. A quiet sigh came from the young man and when he looked back at his father the sudden anger was gone as quickly as it had come.
"I guess so." He turned towards his younger brother, true regret in his face "I'm sorry Gords. It's been a hell of a week and I guess I'm still sore about it all."
Gordon, whose expression had changed from surprise to anger, opened his mouth to reply but stopped when Virgil's hand descended on his arm.
"Gordon, let it go."
Virgil's quiet voice caused his younger brother to look over at him and, catching a small shake of Virgil's head, he bit his lip and then nodded briefly at Scott in mute acceptance of the apology. Breathing a sigh of relief Jeff turned to John.
"Okay John, if you're up to it I guess it's over to you."
Nodding John took a few seconds to order his thoughts and then commenced his narration at the point where he separated from his brothers on the stairs. Pausing every so often to take sips of water from a glass by the bed he continued until he reached the point of his capture by Mestari and the subsequent attempt to elicit information. Gordon, his face once more filled with shock and disbelief, opened his mouth to comment but John, seeing his expression, forestalled him.
"Scott couldn't do anything about it Gordon" his voice was weary as he leaned back on the pillows and closed his eyes. "That poisonous muck Mestari had given him meant he couldn't as much as move a muscle without Mestari ordering it. He couldn't have moved to save his life."
"I sure as heck moved to take yours." muttered Scott to himself, his head resting in his hands. If Scott had not intended his words to be heard by anyone else he did not achieve his aim. Three head swivelled to fix gazes on him and the silence was brittle until Jeff spoke after swallowing the lump of apprehension in his throat.
"What happened boys?"
Before John could utter a word Scott began to speak. His voice was flat and monotonous at first, as if he were reading a statement with which he profoundly disagreed but as he continued his words came more haltingly and at the end his voice wavered with emotion.
"Mestari ordered me to shoot him. I did everything I could to stop the gun but I couldn't, I just couldn't. I tried and tried but I could only slow it down and even that wasn't enough. I could only stand there and pray that John would understand. That he'd know that I couldn't stop it and that he'd run before it was too late. . . . And then he did . . . .and Mestari yelled . . . and I . . I . . I . shot him. I shot my own brother." Scott raised his head and looked across at John's face, whose eyes were now open and watching him closely. "I'm sorry John. I'm so sorry."
John smiled and nodded back in acknowledgement. "It's okay Scott." His smile was warm and reassuring but its warmth did not reach Scott's face which remained clouded and troubled. "I know you had no choice."
"What happened next?" questioned Gordon uneasily. "How did you get away?"
"I lied to Mestari, told him John was dead and we headed back to his lab."
Scott resumed the tale, telling of his gradual re-awakening from the control of the drug, and of John's intervention and fight with Mestari. As Scott's memory faded at the point where the new injection of serum took effect John took over again and then, between them, the two brothers covered their escape into the tunnels, their elusion of their pursuers and their eventual return to Thunderbird One.
"I thought we were too late when I saw you both fall" said Jeff as their report concluded, his voice uneven with the remembered fear. "I was sure Mestari had killed you both."
"What happened to him?" asked John, his voice now barely above a whisper, his eyes once again closed as his head rested on the pillows.
"We took them down with the knock-outs" said Gordon, his face full of anger at the memory "They were lucky we didn't kill them for what they'd done."
"Gordon" Jeff growled warningly, looking sternly at the young man. Gordon glared mulishly at his father before continuing.
"While Virgil and father brought you two here Penelope and Parker helped me tie them up." Gordon paused and Virgil, sitting next to him saw a familiar glint of merriment appear in his brother's amber eyes.
"Gordon, what did you do to them?" asked Virgil, a mixture of unease and amusement surfacing in his mind. Gordon turned large, innocent eyes on him.
"Do to them Virgil? Nothing. We called the nearest corps of the World Police like Dad told us to and then dumped them out on the plain to await collection. It wasn't our fault the land was little more than a briar filled bog in places."
Thin smiles appeared on the faces of Virgil, Alan and Jeff as Gordon continued.
"They were too heavy to carry so we had to drag them most of the way. Most unfortunate as they always seemed to get stuck in the thorny patches and their clothes were absorbent. Then, once they'd been collected we high-tailed it to the hospital, where you dear brother..."
Gordon turned back to John but hesitated as he saw by the peaceful expression on his brother's face that sleep had once more claimed him. Jeff, following his gaze, signalled silently to the rest of his sons not to disturb the injured man and slowly stood up. Nodding, Virgil and Gordon followed his lead and, after subdued farewells to Alan, closed the link to the satellite and turned to the door. Brains stepped forward from his desk at the back of the room and quietly drew Scott and Jeff to one side.
"If it's a . a. . alright with you Mister Tracy I'd, uh, like to take a blood sample from Scott and, uh, run a few checks on it."
Surprised Jeff looked at his oldest son who shrugged his acquiescence.
"Okay Brains, if you need to. What are you looking for?" asked Jeff, a little uneasy at the request.
"I, uh, I am concerned that Scott had a, uh, a fit after John gave him the, uh, the antidote. None of the others did so and, uh, I'd just like to check to make sure no harm has been done."
"Harm Brains?" asked Jeff sharply "What harm?"
"I, uh, I don't really know Mister Tracy. I, uh, I didn't have too much time to fine tune the, uh, antidote formula before it had to be used and as, uh, Scott is a pilot then I want to make sure he's, uh, A OK before he flies Thunderbird One again."
Jeff frowned for a minute then nodded his head.
"Okay Brains, go ahead. But let us know the minute you find anything. Scott needs a few days to recover from this mess anyway but I don't want him flying again until I'm certain he's fit for the job."
Jeff turned to his eldest son to forestall the objection that he knew was coming his way. He stopped cold when he saw Scott calmly turning up the sleeve of his jumper without a word of complaint. Grimly Jeff waited as Brains drew the blood sample and then, after making a final check on his sleeping son, turned and silently followed Scott from the room.
Dinner that night was a subdued affair. Scott ate little, picking at the food on his plate and moving it around with his fork, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. There was a little desultory conversation between the others interspersed by frequent silences as Scott's family and friends exchanged worried glances and shot concerned looks at the brooding, dark haired brother. Most of Scott's first and only helping was left on the plate and he refused desert – an occurrence which left his father frowning and his brothers with open mouths – before excusing himself from the table, pleading the requirement for sleep.
Scott lay on his bed in the dark watching the weak shadows cast on the ceiling by the moonlight, as the louder noises of the villa carried faintly through the wide panoramic windows standing ajar along one side of the room. Virgil was playing the piano, the soft strains of one of the old masters floating gently on the breeze, a clear indication that Scott was not the only one with things on his mind. Virgil's preferred taste for evening relaxation was jazz, the older classical pieces of his repertoire usually only surfacing when his mind needed distraction from other things. A soft tap at the door announced the presence of a visitor and with Virgil at the piano and John in the infirmary it was not difficult for Scott to guess who it must be. Snapping his eyes closed Scott turned his head away from the door and forced his body to relax, waiting for what he guessed would follow. When a second tap went unanswered there was a soft click as the door was opened and a sliver of light shone into the room from the corridor beyond.
"Scott?" The voice was soft but carried easily to the still figure on the bed. "Son? Are you awake?"
Scott didn't move, keeping his breathing slow and even and mentally instructing his body to stay relaxed. There were a few soft footsteps into the room and Scott was aware of a presence approaching from the foot of the bed. He desperately tried not to tense in anticipation of the gentle touch that was certain to come. The presence stopped nearby and the room was still for some seconds. Then, as Scott began to feel as if he were about to scream, the footsteps retreated to the door and there was another soft click as the light was cut off. Scott continued the pretence for another minute before opening his eyes and scanning the deserted room. Only when he was certain he was once again alone did he go back to studying the shadows.
It was dark all around him and Scott could see and hear nothing. He stood silently, waiting, knowing something was about to occur but unable to do anything to bring it about or to stop it. A cold, sick feeling of helplessness and despair filled his being together with a dread of what might be about to happen. Then, from a distance, he heard them. The sickening thumps and slaps and thuds that told of things landing hard on human flesh. He heard groans, and moans of someone in pain but still he was in darkness. He tried to move but his feet were glued to the floor, his arms listless at his side.
Slowly, so slowly, the darkness thinned to a grey mist and then to a faint wisp before disappearing altogether. There in front of him was the sight he had known he would see – the bloody, beaten figure of his brother, lying on the ground facing him. His face was covered in blood, one eye completely closed, blood lining his lips, spilling down his chin mixed with spittle and tears. His clothes were torn, hanging in strips from his body, revealing the weals and cuts of his abuse. One arm was clutched to his chest, the fingers swollen and twisted, cruelly broken and battered.
As he watched John became aware of him and dragged himself to his knees – reaching out a hand imploringly. The fingers on this hand were also broken but blood dripped from it, running in a crimson streak down from the hem of his sleeve and pooling in the palm before dripping onto the floor.
"Scott, help me."
John's voice was weak and hoarse from screaming. His eyes were pleading with him, begging him for help. Him, Scott Tracy, his brother. Asking him to stop this torture, to help him, to free him from his tormentors and captors. Scott just stood there and watched, unmoving.
"Scott, please. Stop them. Help me."
The hand was still there, reaching out to him. The hand that used to have long, delicate fingers, practised and accurate on sensitive equipment, now bent and bruised and distorted.
"Please Scott. It's me, John, your brother. Please. Help me."
Inside Scott was shaking. Inside he was sick. Inside he was desperate to help, to move, to shout, to do anything. But he did nothing. Except watch.
A hand came into view. A hand holding a gun. And then a voice. His voice. The voice of his tormentor, his controller . . . his . . Master.
Two words. Two simple words. That's all it took. And Scott Tracy, eldest of the Tracy brothers, protector and defender of the younger sons of the Tracy family, reached out and took the gun, betrayed all he held dear and turned it on his brother. Still John looked at him, begging him, pleading with him to help. Still the blood dripped down. Still the gun moved towards it's target.
"No Scott, no. Don't do this. It's me, John. Don't."
The gun was level, in line for his brother's heart. Slowly comprehension dawned on John's face, followed by fear, and betrayal. Slowly John turned away, denying his brother the sight of his face as the bullet left the barrel. In slow motion Scott saw the bullet move across the gap, heading straight and true for his brother's body. Deep within him a cry broke out, a cry of denial and despair.
The bullet stuck home, the force of it spinning John around. As his brother turned in slow motion, his face came back into view and as the anguished eyes of Scott watched, the face and head morphed. The hair darkened, changing from white blond, through dark blonde to light brown and then chestnut. The battered features of the face broadened, the skull becoming wider and shorter and deeper. The eyebrows darkened to the same colour as the hair and when the eyes appeared, open in shock, rapidly glazing over into death, they were the deep brown eyes of his musical brother. When the shattered, abused body hit the ground, it was Virgil, not John who lay at his feet.
With the passing of his brother's life came the end of the paralysis that had held him still and Scott staggered backwards away from the scene of horror, the gun dropping from his numbed fingers and falling to the floor to lie with the barrel pointing towards him. Loosing his footing, Scott's stagger became a stumble and he was falling, falling, backwards and down into a pit of darkness that gaped open behind him.
The bump of the landing vibrated through him and Scott's eyes shot open, his heart beating as if he had just been sprinting, his breathing rapid and his body slick with sweat. Scrambling backwards his shoulder came up hard against an obstruction and he threw his arms around it to ground himself. Still gasping for breath he looked around him frantically, looking for his brother's body – or was it bodies? He found only the moonlit shadows of his bedroom, the bed before him rumpled and disturbed and the sheets trailing down to the floor, partially tangled around his legs. Gradually his panic began to subside as his confused brain recognised the shadowed forms around him. His heartbeat began to slow as he forced himself to take slow, deep breaths, using long minutes to take in the reality around him.
Uncurling his fingers from the chair leg to which he was clinging he unwound the sweat soaked sheets from his legs and pushed them away from him with his feet then turned and used the chair as a climbing frame to help him to stand. His legs and hands were shaking and his body trembled, the residing panic now being replaced by minor shivers as the sweat evaporated, taking his body heat with it.
He switched on a bedside lamp dispelling the lingering darkness and grabbed his robe from the floor before heading for the en-suite bathroom. There he briefly washed his face in cold water, waiting while the lingering traces of the nightmare lifted and he was confidant that he was fully awake. Returning to his room he dropped a towel from the bathroom along the crack at the bottom of the door, dragged his chair up to face the window and then sat down and waited for the sunrise.
Ladc – Well diagnosed, although it was one not both lungs. And as for the sleeping for a month – well, we'll see.
Zeilfanaat – Thank you, I'm so glad that you are still enjoying it.
Kim – Whoops, guess I'm a bit late. Oh well. Thank you, I try hard. glad to know it works. A cross between the Terminator and a mad professor? Hmmm, nice description, I like it. I wonder how his circuits like bog water? Grin! Sequel? hmmm, well now you mention it . . . . see below.
Capt. Cow – There you go Cap'n, more it is and thank you kindly.
Joslin – Hope you haven't died – you'll have missed the ending.
Darkangel2005 – Well here it is. I hope it pleases.
Jules47 – 'Only the beginning for Scott' – if you only knew how right you were.
MsHobgoblin – Thank you – yes, that was exactly what I was hoping to achieve. I Hope I didn't keep you waiting too long.
Hwesta – Thank you, very much appreciated. I don't think I did – in fact I know I didn't. And I didn't even meet the timetable – sorry. You're right about the rant but, at least it worked – better than dying beside him in the fire I guess.
Phoenix – Cruel and unusual? Oh. Ooops. I guess you might not like this one either then. Oh dear.
Amanduriel – Thank you, thank you, you are too kind. I do try to be inventive although I admit I do seem to have neglected Tin-Tin and Kyrano somewhat. Hey ho.
Sarah – Sorry to hear about the computer problems. I hope they got fixed okay. I'm glad you've enjoyed the story and I hope you're more self-disciplined with reading than I am. Good luck with the degree.
The Thunderbirds characters belong to someone else, they do not belong to me. That includes the main characters and anyone else you may happen to recognise. Anyone you don't recognise is doubtless a figment of my imagination.
I wished only to borrow said characters and now, return them in one piece – sort of.
Well folks, my tale is once again told. I am really really pleased that it has gone down so well and that so many people have enjoyed following the story. Many, many thanks for your wonderfully kind and supportive comments – they are all very much appreciated.
As you may have noticed there is a slightly open ending. When I started posting I had got the story line all planned out and knew where I was going with it and had a neatly sewn up ending all waiting to be used. However, although I still ended up in the same place as planned, the tale took on implications and ramifications along the way that I had not fully considered when I started posting and the closed ending no longer worked. Some of the longer delays between chapters were caused by me trying to think through the new ideas that had occurred along the way and to build them into my plans.
As a result I leave you with a choice. Either you can choose to believe that Scott and John both recover and life in International Rescue resumes its 'normal' even tenor – whatever that might be, or you can design your own ending as you feel appropriate or you can wait on a sequel which MIGHT appear in the future. I hasten to point out I starting thinking through the plot to 'In Enemy Hands' in August 2003ish, I started writing it in October 2003, and, although Scott has been trying to sit down to wait for the sunrise for the last couple of months, he only got to do so about half an hour ago. Since I would not plan to post anything again until I had got the story COMPLETELY written and finished, I cannot anticipate posting anything before this time next year at the earliest – so don't hold your breath.
Once again, thank you for all of your support and thank you for taking the time and effort to read and follow 'In Enemy Hands'.