6

John got away from Scott, then headed past Thunderbird 1 for the Civil Defense Crews' hasty staging center. Jeeps and armed military doctors rushed about, far too busy to question his presence. He looked around for a moment or two, tired and sore, then spotted her.

John knew triage, and her position wasn't good. They'd filed her away in the 'don't bother' section, a few yards from the corpses. Understandable, in a way; the radiation had done so much cellular damage that she was hemorrhaging inside and out like an ebola victim.

He snagged a water bottle, went over and sat on the sand beside her, arranging himself so that he shaded her face. Then, helping the mortally poisoned young woman to drink, he started a conversation, waiting long minutes for each hoarsely whispered reply.

She was an engineer, two years out of Tehran University, her name was Fatima, and she was a brave woman. John listened, spoke a little of himself, and held her hand until she died. And all the while, the chaos and hurry of transport went on about them, like white water pulsing and surging past a small, frozen island.

When it was over, John closed her eyes, covered her pale face with her blood-stained head cloth and left, feeling utterly useless. Hadn't done a damn bit of good, he thought to himself. Wrist comm seemed to be fried, or he would have contacted his computer. Several brief, gentle pulses from his ID chip let him know that 5 was there, though. Other than that, it was a long, silent wait for Thunderbird 2.

After pickup, John betook himself to the rear crew cabin and sat down to wait out the ride. He'd developed a headache, and the opening salvo of radiation nausea, so the dark and quiet were a relief after Persia's white-hot summer sun.

They were ten minutes in the air and on their way when the forward hatch opened up, and Gordon bounded in.

"You shouldn't be here," John reprimanded his younger brother, quite reasonably. "I'm contaminated."

Gordon shrugged, flopped down on a nearby seat, and strapped himself in.

"So am I, probably. The whole lot of us, for that matter, an' they've got a trick for that, back on the island. Virgil's alright alone, for the time being, and I thought you could use some company."

Ordinarily, John would have packed him off, but this time, he let it alone. Gordon meant well, after all.

"So, what happened at your end?" his nearly youngest brother asked him, brushing what looked like chocolate and animal hair off himself.

"Not much," John replied tiredly. "Got in, pulled some scientists out, then helped Scott shut down the reactor. Two, three hours, maybe."

Gordon shook his head, smiling. That was John, for you; Iceman, through and through. He said,

"Right. No panic. Damn reactor threatening to melt down right beside you, an' you're bored! Must be nice. Let me tell you what kind of day I had. Huh...? Oh..., the smell, right. Goats. Hang on..., I can explain."

John listened, smiled from time to time, and got on with things. Business as usual.