About time to mention, again, that I don't own the characters, that it's very alternate universe, and that I couldn't have done all this new "Super-chapteriz-ation" without Tikatue...

4

It was night time, he thought. The lights in his room had been dimmed, and he was checked on much less often. Good.

After watching them for awhile, getting a feel for his doctors' routine, Alan had cobbled together a plan of sorts. Over the last week he'd stopped visibly fighting them, acting relaxed and stupefied, answering their questions with all the docile simplicity he could muster. A great many questions seemed to center on Gordon; what he did, where he went, anything Alan knew about his brother's secret activities.

Completely taken in by his performance, the doctors thought Alan was giving them straight answers, that their drugs had overwhelmed his resistance. They were wrong.

Alan had been fighting meds most of his young life, defeating first Adderall, then Ritalin, and everything else the behavioral specialists could throw at him, and if this latest crew of white coats thought their needles and pills could force him to do as he was told, they had a lot to learn about Alan Tracy.

Early that evening, just after bed check, Alan turned off the monitor and pulled out his IV. He allowed himself twenty minutes to shake off the last dosage, no more. No telling what the monitor was hooked up to, or who might come looking.

He'd decided to get out. He wasn't sure what was going on, but this was no legitimate hospital, or why hadn't his family come? And if these "doctors" had lied to him about that, maybe kidnapping him from the scene of a... from the crash..., maybe they were lying about all the rest. About Gordon.

He got out of bed, surprised at how weak and wobbly he felt... and how injured he wasn't. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to do a high-tech patch up job. Someone who wanted him well enough to talk.

Squinting slightly, Alan began weaving his unsteady way toward the room's single closet. The open-backed, teddy-bear print gown he was wearing just wasn't going to cut it. He needed his clothes.

Somehow, he got to the wardrobe, then clung to the wall for a few seconds, panting hoarsely.

'Dang...,' he thought, 'kinda wrung out... but I gotta keep going, gotta find Gordon.'

Panic welled up, suddenly. More than he could handle. He had to clench his teeth to keep them from chattering. He so badly wanted this to be a dream; to wake up and find himself home in bed, or back at the island, or even slouched at his desk in school, drooling on a math paper. Anything but that he'd crashed a car, and killed his brother.

Silently promising a lifetime of good behavior, if only everything turned out okay, Alan opened the closet door. There were his khaki shorts, sneakers and Hawaiian shirt, put up just as they would have been in a real hospital. Something crackled as he yanked on the shorts.

Confused, Alan patted his pockets. They'd been emptied... or nearly so. A zippered inner compartment contained a folded piece of paper, which Alan pulled out and examined. Gordon's note.

'Out to N.Y. ... Father ... Back late.'

G.D.T.4

Signs and influences. His mother was forever talking about them. Nodding to himself, Alan re-folded the note, put it safely away, and finished dressing. Then, scooping up three hypodermics that lay upon a chilled metal instrument tray, Alan headed for the door, and a rescue.

Not far away:

Tania inclined her head respectfully as the General's image flashed up on the screen before her. His voice and face were electronically blurred, but she knew it was he, for no one else used this particular encryption. When the screen buzzed, she'd ordered the guards away and closed the door to her makeshift 'war room'. All was private, and as secure as she could make it.

"Tania," the distorted voice snapped out.

"Speak, Sir. The line is secure." She kept her gloved hands clasped behind her back, her tawny eyes on the floor. Humble, apparently, and terribly patient.

"You are behind schedule. When I give orders, I expect results. I'm not getting them. If you aren't capable of handling this assignment, I have an agent more than ready to replace you."

Briefly, Tania considered explaining the situation; that the subject's resistance was greater than expected, that her team would soon be forced to try something dangerously experimental. She resisted the urge. The General cared nothing for excuses, only body counts and technology.

"Sir, you shall have your information by tomorrow morning. I swear it."

The distorted figure seemed to nod, saying,

"I hope so, Tania, for your sake. The Hood is waiting to take your position, and your life, should you fail."

As the transmission ended, Tania raised her head and smiled. Let him try. The Hood would no more balk her plans than would that stubborn child, or the General himself, for that matter. After all, what were a few broken bodies to her, but fun and exercise?

Elsewhere:

Alan positioned himself beside the door, out of sight, but close enough to spring on anyone who crossed the threshold. Then, taking hold of an IV stand, he hurled it across the room, making as much noise as possible. Wiping his sweaty palms on his shorts, he listened as footsteps hurried up the hall. The door opened. A scowling orderly strode into the room, eyes locked on the bed where Alan should have been, but wasn't.

Alan got behind him, cracked the stiffened edge of his hand as hard as he could against the back of the man's meaty neck. The orderly grunted, took a few wobbly steps, then started to turn around. Too late. Alan whipped out one of the drug-filled needles, jabbed it into his jailer's hip and compressed the plunger.

"Pleasant dreams, Butt-head!" he snarled, shoving the man onto his abandoned bed. The orderly made one attempt to rise. Then his eyes rolled back in his head, and he collapsed, snoring like an entire holding pen full of drunks. Hurriedly, Alan went through the man's pockets, coming up with a jack-knife, some kind of ID badge, and a bottle opener. Not much, but useful in a pinch, maybe.

The boy found himself shaking, again. He had to take a couple of deep, hard breaths to steady himself, before sliding out into the corridor.

'Weird,' he thought, looking around. The illusion of a hospital extended only a few tens of feet beyond his door, the tiled floor and sparkling white walls ending in bare concrete and plaster. There was a metal chair about twenty feet away to the right, a pencil stub and crossword puzzle resting on the seat. Okay. Alan filed that one away under: 'never trust people who like word games', and looked around.

To his left, the corridor was dark and deserted, the quiet hiss of a ventilation shaft, the languid dance of an insulation wisp, all he heard and saw. To his right... Was that a faint glow, around the corner, there? Another 'hospital set', maybe?

Patting his pockets to make sure of the needles and jack-knife, Alan crept forward. Several long minutes passed before he summoned the nerve to look around the corner.

More concrete and plaster, and then, about halfway down, bathed in a pool of fluorescent light, a heavy door with what seemed to be a reinforced window set in it. No guards, though. Alan breathed again.

'Okay..., count of three,' he told himself, 'one... two... THREE!' And then he whipped around the corner at a low, crouching run, making for the distant door. Bad idea. His 'caretakers' harsh drug regimen had left Alan too weak for that much exercise. He arrived out of breath and woozy, clammy with sweat.

Peering nervously along the corridor, Alan tried the door, only to discover that it was locked. He cursed quietly, pounding his fist against the electronic scanning device that warded the cell. Then,

'Wait..., where's that card...?'

A hurried search through his pockets turned up the orderly's ID badge. Crossing his fingers, Alan turned the card so that its laser strip pointed toward the door, then drew it downward through the slot in the wall-mounted scanner, almost dropping the thing in his haste.

A small light on the scanning box flashed from red to green, a chime sounded, and then the door clicked open.

'Hurry...,' Alan told himself. 'Gotta hurry! Our luck won't hold forever.'

The cell lit up when he entered, bright enough to be blinding. Alan gave a small, involuntary cry, lifting one hand to his eyes. In the few seconds it took him to clear the spots from his vision, a figure who'd been crouched against the padded rear wall pushed himself to his feet, head lowered, ready to charge the door. Gordon.

He was wearing a strait jacket, some kind of hospital pajama pants, and a feral scowl. His face was bruised and cut, the canvas around the jacket's needle port blood-stained. Apparently, he'd been giving his captors a very bad time.

"You're alive...," Gordon whispered numbly, sagging back against the padded wall.

Alan managed a grin.

"Funny, I was gonna say the same thing to you." Hurrying over, he helped his brother to his feet again, and pulled out the jack-knife, saying, "C'mon man, let's get you out of this piece of crap."

It was hard work, sawing through nylon straps and heavy canvas with a blade no longer than his thumb, but Alan managed it, freeing Gordon without cutting him up too much in the process.

"They told me you were dead," his brother said very quietly, "That I got clear of the wreck, but you were trapped and burnt up. They said all this business about... you know..., that it was me raving 'cause I was tryin' t' make up f'r lettin' you drive, an' gettin' you killed."

"Yeah," Alan replied, working loose the last strap. "Sounds familiar. I got to hear that you were thrown out of the car and died on the road. They kept asking me questions about you, and, uh, the family business."

"Did y' tell them anythin'?"

Alan shook his head. "No... I don't think so. Did you?"

"Nothin' I'd care t' repeat, or they'd want t' hear again," Gordon growled.

His clothes turned up in a small side room. Their wrist comms were gone, though, and judging from the matching scars they sported on the backs of their left hands, their ID chips had been removed.

"Guess we're on our own, then," said Alan, keeping watch at the door while his brother struggled into his clothing.

Gordon shook his head. "They'll be looking... jus' need t' get quit of this place, an' make a signal."

They decided to head downstairs, toward the back of the echoing building, which seemed to be a half-finished office complex. Peering through a window, the brothers saw a dimly lit parking lot with a few cars in it. Their target.

Alan couldn't help noticing that Gordon was looking a little troubled. Something was bothering him, but Alan didn't realize what, until they came to a water fountain. Gordon lunged for the quietly humming dispenser, drank without lifting his head for a solid two minutes. Then he rubbed a little water on his face, let it pour across one hand, enjoying the cold, silky feel of it. He'd actually shoved past Alan to get to the fountain.

Recovering a bit, he gave his younger brother a slightly embarrassed smile and cut off the water.

"Sorry. They couldn' get near me, the last day or so..., so they quit lettin' me drink or eat. Didn't mean t' knock youover like that."

Alan shook his head, as they continued along the corridor, an important thought slowly coming to him.

"No prob, Dude. Hey...," he whispered, "you remember when I got mad at Scott that time, on the island? And I went rock climbing and fell downthat old lava tunnel?"

Gordon glanced over, curious.

"Yeah. What of it?"

"Well, you came looking for me, remember? And then you found me, only you decided to climb down and see if I was okay, and you fell in, too, and we were both stuck. Remember?"

"Right," Gordon grunted sourly. "So I'm thick."

"Nah..., you're the best friend I've ever had. You cover for me all the time, and let me get away with stuff..., and I've been taking advantage of that. Just wanted to say I'm sorry, and that I'm gonna change, starting now. I mean it."

"Well...," his brother replied distractedly, eyes on the next bend in the hallway. "You came after me, once, when we were pullin' guys off that sub."

"Uh-huh..., 'Course, I had the sense to bring a rope."

Gordon turned and shoved him, temporarily forgetting the danger they were in. As he was clutching at the wall to regain his balance, Alan squinted through a half-open door and spied...,

"A telecom! Gordon, look, in that office! There's a comm screen! We can call for help!"

But his brother hesitated, stubbornly worried.

"I dunno, Alan... Somethin's wrong. Seems a little easy, doesn' it? Only one guard, place is deserted, an' now a telecom, jus' like that? Maybe we should...,"

Alan was already inside the bare little office, though, so Gordon reluctantly joined him, still protesting.

"Alan, it's not a good idea. Lines c'n be monitored, and...,"

"Relax! You said yourself we need to make a signal, remember? Just watch the door. I'll only take a second!"

Alan hurried to the comm screen's touch pad, hastily keyed in a certain number, and his secure code. He bit his lip, waiting; silently begging the call to go through. Moments later, the screen flashed, then cleared. John's image appeared. Not in Thunderbird 5. The computer had re-routed the call, after accepting his code. And just like that, unwittingly, Alan betrayed his older brother. No one realized it, though. Not yet.

John, looking deeply relieved, actually smiled at him.

"You two alright?" He asked, glancing past Alan, at Gordon.

"Been better," Alan admitted wearily. "And, uh..., if you happen to pass through LA, anytime soon...,"

"Already on our way," John told him. "We've got a fix on your position, and we'll be there in ten to fifteen minutes. Barricade yourselves in, stay low and wait for extraction. Understood?"

Alan nodded.

"Okay. And hurry, huh?"

"F.A.B. See you in a few minutes."

Alan turned to Gordon as the screen went blank.

"Hear that? They're coming!"

Gordon un-tensed enough to smile a bit. Maybe the phone hadn't been such a bad idea, he thought to himself.

Then a hidden wall panel slid aside, and a cadre of armed thugs began pouring into the room. Not again... ! Gordon lunged for the closest intruder, seized the man's gun hand and forced it down, smashing a fist repeatedly into his soon pulped and bloody face. Revenge felt very, very good. He wrestled the gun away, hurled the semi-conscious thug into several of his fellows, and whirled to cover his brother.

Alan was holding his own, using a rapid combination of kicks and jabs to keep his attackers at bay. Moving around a lot, though; Gordon couldn't get a clear shot off. So he dove back into the melee instead, and fought his way to his brother's side. Grabbing hold of one guy's hair, he brought the man's head down, hard, to meet his up-rushing knee, then flung him back through the door. Ducked a wild punch, felt a bullet hiss past his ear, reached down and up-ended a heavy metal office desk on a couple of gunmen, then found himself pressed anew from the right. Something grazed his jaw. Large fist, attached to an even larger guard. A familiar one. Guy had the reach on him, and about fifty pounds. Bit like boxing Virgil, really..., only neither combatant was pulling his punches. Gordon dodged a roundhouse that looked like it would have taken his head off, had it connected, then darted in while the big man was trying to recover his balance and delivered a vicious jab to his soft gut. The guard doubled over, wheezing, bringing that lantern jaw within easy reach of the follow-up left hook. He went down like a redwood, squashing two others. Alan put them to sleep with a couple of swift kicks to the head, and then all was still once more, and quiet.

The brothers looked around, wide-eyed and panting. Then Gordon jerked a thumb at the unconscious giant and said,

"My pile's bigger."

"Dude!" Alan protested hotly, "You were facing the door! I had to clean up what you let past! Which was a lot, by the way!"

Gordon flashed him a quick smile.

"Not bad, though. Seriously. Where'd you learn all that kicking stuff?"

John had said to hole up, but a room full of unconscious gunmen hardly seemed the best place to do that. As one, they turned and started for the corridor. Alan paused a moment to divest a guard of his weapons, saying,

"My mom put me in Karate, in the seventh grade, to, like, calm me down. Didn't work for crap, but I learned some really neat tricks. I... urrf!"

Gordon, who'd been peering through the door, half turned.

"Sorry, what did y...? Bloody hell!"

A dark-haired woman had seized Alan from behind. She had driven her long, sharp fingernails into his throat around the windpipe, and had the muzzle of a gun pressed tight to Alan's temple. She smiled at Gordon with the cold, unblinking patience of a snake.

"You two have given me much useful information, this evening. But we've little time remaining, and now I will have the rest. Drop your weapon, or he dies."

Murphy's words... 'One of these days, Kid, it's gonna be for real' ..., kept running through Gordon's head. He looked at his brother, trying to think what to do. Alan's blue eyes were very wide. He was scared to death.

"I got him into this...,' Gordon realized. 'I'm the one they recognized, and I'm the idiot who let him drive. This is all my fault.'

Without a word, he dropped the gun, heard it clatter to the concrete floor.

"Very good. Now, on your knees, hands behind your head, fingers laced."

Alan tried to say something, but the woman tightened her already cruel grip on his airway. Blood began trickling along his neck, pooling in the little depression at the base of his throat.

Gordon's legs folded, and he dropped to his knees, bringing his hands up behind his head, as instructed. Someone came up from behind, seized first one arm, then the other, and cuffed his hands roughly behind his back.

The woman's smile widened slightly. Giving Alan a little caress, she handed him off to one of the men who'd accompanied her, then stepped over to Gordon.

"Pity there isn't more time," she remarked lightly, pushing the auburn hair off his forehead. "I do so love children. But, we've a last bit to get at, haven't we?" Reaching into a pocket of her equipment vest, she pulled out a little rubber-stoppered bottle. "You'll find that this frees up the memory, I think. Experimental, true, but highly effective in field trials, and only occasionally fatal." Then, "Hold him still."

Yanking his shirt off one shoulder, she dripped a bit of the bottle's contents onto Gordon's skin.

"Now, what was it your darling little brother said? 'Pleasant dreams'?"

It sank in at once, like nerve gas, searing all the way. All of a sudden, Gordon wasn't in control of his body anymore. He felt weirdly dislocated, as though he were off to one side watching as the woman put her questions to him. She was asking... asking something about an engineer; about the engineer's name. Brains? 'But', Gordon thought, hearing himself saying something, 'I don't know his real name... nobody does...'

Alan's hand crept slowly over to his pocket, the one with the hypodermics and the knife. If only his captor remained distracted a little longer, caught up in what that bitch was doing to Gordon...,

He reached the pocket, fumbled within, holding his breath, then yanked out a needle, flipped the plastic tip off with his thumb, and smashed it as hard as he could into the goon's thigh.

The man screamed and let him go, trying to rip away the needle and reach for his sidearm at the same time. Alan shoved him aside and lunged. He collided with the woman, who whipped around and brought the edge of her hand down against the base of his neck. Something snapped. Alan's right arm flopped uselessly, exploding with sudden pain. Nothing wrong with his left, though. Gritting his teeth, the youngest Tracy lashed out with his fist. She ducked, swept a leg out in a low, fast circle, and knocked Alan's feet out of under him. He hit the ground with a hoarse cry, just as gunfire erupted in the corridor outside.

"Over here!" He called out. "We're in the off...!" Another explosion of pain, as the woman drove the heel of her boot into his kidneys. Then she met Penelope. Or, more accurately, Penelope's fist. Teeth and blood sprayed the far wall. Penelope seized the woman's braid in one hand, and the back of her vest in the other, and slung her to the floor, only to be tripped herself. Soon they were wrestling across the concrete, gouging, biting, punching and cursing like a couple of brawling sailors. Standing off to one side, Parker casually shot anyone who attempted to interfere.

Next, Scott, John, Virgil and Jeff piled into the room at a dead run, sidearms drawn. What little resistance was left, they ended emphatically and permanently, shooting with deadly precision and pent-up rage.

When the smoke cleared, and the few living enemy agents were being carted off by a local operative, the family gathered around Alan and Gordon. The youngest Tracy was crouched by his brother's side. Looking up at his father, he said, a little unsteadily,

"I can't wake him up, Dad. He kind of mumbles if I ask him a question, but he won't wake up."

Jeff looked away suddenly, hearing the dim, ghostly wail of sirens. Still a ways off, but growing nearer by the instant.

"Virgil..., John..., pick up your brothers. We'll deal with this at home. Scott, locate Gennine and TinTin, and bring them to the island. I want everyone safe at base. That includes you, Penny; and Parker. No exceptions, no arguments. Understood?"

Penelope came forward, Parker behind her with Tania's limp form slung over one shoulder.

"I understand, Jeff, and I appreciate the sentiment, but what of our... acquaintance... here?"

"Bring her along," Jeff replied, his voice hard. "I have a few questions to ask."

Then, as they were leaving, he placed a hand on John's arm.

"Thank you for finding your brothers," he said quietly. "You did a fine job, Son, and I'm... grateful... and very proud."

Surprised, John shifted Gordon just a bit, easing the pressure on his gun hand. Then, returning his father's gaze, he nodded.

"Thanks. And...," returning to an earlier question, "I would have given it back."

Jeff smiled wryly, followed his second son down the corridor.

"Got a real head for business, I see. We'll have to sit down and talk soon, figure out where the holes are, and plug them up. Among other things."

He had a cold, terrible feeling that his family was about to come under siege, and he wasn't at all sure they were ready.