All Thunderbirds characters and references are not mine. Pity. All other characters that might crop up are entirely ficticious and not intended to represent any actual person. Good job, too ...


"Thunderbird 1 to Thunderbird 2. You seeing this, Virg?"

"Yeah … what the hell - ?"

"Hmm." Scott peered down through the thin cloud layer that hung somewhere beneath the transparent Plexiglas cockpit shielding. "I'm gonna check it out."

"F.A.B. I'll hang here for you."

Scott glanced out to his port side and saw the immense green form that hovered effortlessly on a parallel course. He banked his own craft hard to the right and sank down beneath the cloud line.

Amid the occasional glare of midday sun bouncing off new snow, the complex was almost hidden. Had he not been scouring the surrounding forest for evidence of any further fires, he would not have noticed the place.

"Well?" Virgil urged in interest.

"There's activity." Scott replied distractedly, frowning as he looked down and saw the convoy of vehicles that were making their way across the clearing towards the complex.

"I thought this region fell inside the DMZ." Virgil continued.

"It does."

"Oh."

"I don't like it." Scott muttered as he steered back round for another pass. "Thunderbird 1 to Thunderbird 5."

"Go ahead." Came the quick reply.

"John, we've got some unusual activity in the forest down here."

"Specify "unusual" …?"

Scott looked away from the view and entered a command into the console beside him. The monitor before him flickered into life and clear digital images from the camera nestled in the underbelly of the craft began to play. "Hard to say." Scott replied, zooming the camera in and now able to see more clearly the four snow-covered hangers. "It just doesn't feel right." He tapped in another command and waited a few seconds for the images to transmit.

"What the - " John gasped over the comm.

"That's what I said." Virgil laughed softly.

"Confirm grid reference two-eight-zero-niner?" Scott asked.

"Confirmed." John replied quietly. "But that doesn't make any sense. Give me a moment to check it out."

"Sure." Scott watched the images on the screen and ensured that the camera was making a record of what he had discovered.

"Hey, what's the deal here, Scott?" Came a new voice over the comm.

Scott glanced up from the vid-screen and saw that his huge green companion craft was still holding a steady position above the light clouds. "We just need to check something out, Sprout?"

"What?" Alan urged, "What's so interesting?"

"Those buildings between the trees down there." Virgil began to explain. "We've no record of them."

"So?"

"So we need to see what they are."

"Why?"

"Because this area is meant to be empty."

"And?"

A wide smile pulled at Scott's lips and he glanced back up at Thunderbird 2, suddenly very glad to be flying solo. Alan's eagerness and enthusiasm throughout this - his second - mission had been endearing when they had set out. But that was five hours ago. And Scott didn't have Virgil's patience.

"This is neutral territory." Virgil continued, his voice betraying only the slightest hint of frustration. "And this looks like a military complex."

"Oh."

Scott swung round for another pass and leaned forward to again peer out at the forest clearing, sure that his youngest brother was no doubt attempting the same from the cockpit of Virgil's craft. "How we doing, John?"

"I'm at a loss." John sighed in reply, "I've rechecked the activity reports and military intel from the past few days and there's no mention of anything there. No supply depots or refugee stations or anything."

"Maybe they just got here." Alan offered lightly.

Scott looked back at the digital recording. "I doubt that."

"Any idea on numbers?" John asked.

Scott typed in a new instruction and watched the images on the screen flip into negative. Amid the blackness of the clearing, ghost-like infrared figures could now be seen moving inside the suddenly transparent buildings. "Twenty … maybe thirty." Scott replied, noting the new arrivals that could be seen climbing from the recently arrived trucks. "And most of the vehicles are cold. They've been here for a while."

"Dude …" Virgil breathed.

"I don't understand." John repeated in an almostwhisper. "I checked the area thoroughly. I'd never have directed you on this course if …"

"Hey, no one's blaming you, man." Scott urged quickly. "You can only go on the information you've been given."

"I guess." John conceded, "I sure hope it's a simple oversight."

Scott nodded in agreement but his frown grew. "Somehow I don't think so." He looked back at the digital images that had converted back to the normal live feed. Despite the quality of the recording, it was hard to get a clear view of the complex because of the glare of the snow. "I'm going lower for a closer look."

"What!" Virgil gasped loudly, "Hey? Whoa! Closer? Why?"

"Leave it, Scott." John agreed hurriedly, "I'll call it in. Let the proper authorities deal with it."

"Fine. And while I'm here I'll get them some more info to go on."

"No!" Virgil urged, "Leave it to the military."

"And what if these guys move on?"

"That's not our concern." Virgil replied. "Tell him, Gord."

"Oh, I'm staying well out of this." Came the somewhat amused response.

"Hey, John?" Scott continued, brushing off Virgil's protests with a slight sigh. "You got any comm. traffic coming out of here?"

"Checking …" John responded. "No."

"Odd."

"It's probably nothing." Alan urged. "Come on, Scott. Let's go home, huh? I'm hungry."

Scott smiled in understanding, aware of his own stomach rumbling with the need for post-mission refuelling. It was the adrenaline rush. They always returned to the island energized and ravenous. And Onaha would fire up the grill as soon as she got wind of their impending homecoming.

"Huh? Scott?" Alan persisted, "Come on, man. We've done what we came here to do. This is boring."

Scott laughed despite his concern, amused at the innocent honesty of his little brother.

"Wait."

Scott's smile faded. He didn't like the tone of John's voice and a sudden shudder ran through him.

"There's nothing on the usual bands but they're not using digital. I've got chatter on one of the old VHF frequencies."

"Odd." Virgil observed.

"And?" Scott prompted. "How's your Russian?"

"Fine." Came the uneasy reply. "But they're speaking English."

"Hey?" Scott and Virgil exclaimed in unison.

"They sound American." John confirmed.

"See!" Alan declared merrily. "It's nothing. Probably just a bunch of nerdy saddos who bought themselves some second hand Humveys and are out here playing paint ball."

"Yeah," Scott chuckled, "Maybe."

"It's not precise military language." John continued.

"That's what I'm saying!" Alan sighed in frustration. "Come on, man. It's nothing. Just some war game weirdos."

"It's pretty unstable territory." Scott countered, "Maybe we ought to warn them."

"Maybe we ought to leave them to it." Alan argued. "Come on, dude. Let's go before they see you."

"They can't."

"Dude!" Alan groaned, "Maybe you're off their radar – if they even have one – but they've only got to look up!"

"Leave it, Scott." John joined in. "I'll get onto our contacts and see what's going on."

"I just - "

"Sco-ott …!" Alan whined, "You heard Dad. He doesn't want us hanging around this region too long."

Scott smiled and glanced up towards where he guessed Thunderbird 2 hung above the clouds. "And since when do you do as you're told, Sprout?"

"That's not fair!" Alan protested.

"Yeah, Scott." Virgil agreed, "Alan's done impressively well. Come on. Ditch the curiosity and come home."

"Okay. In a minute. I'll just - " Scott was interrupted by the sudden loud shrill of a warning siren and his heart sank as he spun back to look at the console before him. "Shit!" He hissed and instantly pulled his craft steeply up out of its low pass over the forest. "I've been marked! Taking evasive action!" He managed through clenched teeth as he was pressed hard against his seat and Thunderbird 1 tore up through the clouds. "Virgil, get the hell out of here!"

tbc ...