Author's note: At the start of 'Trapped in the sky', Lady Penelope is already the London agent for International Rescue, and the Hood knows about the organisation, even though they have not yet become operational. How did this come about? This story is my answer to that question. I know there is another version in the TV21 comic strip, but not everyone has seen that, and there are some inconsistencies between that and the programme, so I have chosen to write my own.

This story is set in the autumn of 2063, a couple of months after the end of my 'Ordeal' story (though is not connected). All dates and ages taken from Chris Bentley's 'Complete Book of Thunderbirds'.

My thanks to Purupuss and Lady Viva for proofreading, and to Molly and Sapphire for their help with Candy's dialogue.

As always, my thanks to Gerry Anderson and his team for creating the characters and my acknowledgement to the copyright owners for letting me play with them for a little while

Chapter 1 The watcher

It was a large, sprawling house, of the style built by the English in the early part of the twentieth century. The grounds surrounding it were extensive and well kept, and on this autumn evening there was nothing to be heard except the occasional bark of a dog and the far-off hum of traffic. It would have taken a keen observer to spot the man who stood concealed by the shrubbery at the edge of the lawn, positioned so he could see both the lights in one of the downstairs rooms and the car parked near the front door.

The Hood calculated he had been standing there for nearly three hours. But his goal was worth the time. Several years ago, when he learnt that his imbecilic half-brother would be living and working at the island retreat of multi-millionaire Jefferson Tracy, he had thought this would be an ideal opportunity for industrial espionage. He had long been able to tune in to his brother's mind, though he had to be careful to do it only when Kyrano was asleep – attempting to do so while his brother was awake once when they were children had rendered Kyrano unconscious. However, his attempts had proved fruitless, as, despite what was generally assumed, none of the company's research and development seemed to take place on the island. Lately though, Kyrano seemed to be aware of work on a new project – fantastic machines that were being constructed on the island itself, in a state of great secrecy. When the Hood had learnt that Tracy and his young scientist were making a trip to England this seemed an ideal opportunity to get his hands on some information even if it meant kidnapping one or both of them. With the secrets of such machines he could ask his own price from any government

Kyrano had supplied him with details of Tracy's flight to London, so he had been waiting at London airport when they touched down. Posing as a porter had enabled him to attach a tracking device to the hire car that Tracy was using, and he had followed them here to a house which his sources told him was owned by the English scientist, Sir Jeremy Hodge.

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Inside the house, Brains had finished explaining the plans contained in the small laptop computer. "Are you s-sure you understand the sch-schematics, S-sir Jeremy?"

"What? Oh, yes, quite, dear boy," replied the Englishman, staring at the screen. "I must say this machine of yours is fantastic, utterly fantastic. I'm glad I know of your reputation, and that it will only be used for peaceful purposes. It would make a formidable weapon."

"That's one reason we wanted to bring it to you in person," answered Jeff in his gruff voice. "Now this laptop has been keyed to your thumbprint, only the three of us can switch it on, so it will be safe to leave with you while you work on it."

" Yes," said the professor, scanning the diagrams of the engine yet again. 'I'm sure my new fuel will be ideal for the engines of - what did you call it? 'Rescue One'?"

"That's correct," answered Brains. The Tracy boys had already started referring to the craft as Thunderbirds, but Brains had not quite come round to the new name yet. "If there are any adjustments we need to make then you can let us know."

Jeff rubbed the back of his neck, stifling a yawn. Jet-lag was starting to catch up with him. "If you two have finished for now I think we'll head back to our hotel. We'll be here for a couple of days on other Tracy Corporation business if you want to get in touch."

From the shadows, the Hood watched two figures emerge from the house and climb into the car. He noticed that the small case Tracy's assistant had been carrying when they arrived was no longer with him. "So, they have left something with the Englishman? Maybe this is my chance." He waited until the sound of the car engine had died away before approaching the house.

From his study, Sir Jeremy heard the front door-bell ring, then the footsteps of his housekeeper as she went to answer it. Perhaps Mr Tracy had left something behind and come back for it. When the door of his study opened, he looked up. His smile turned to a frown at the sight of the burly, dark-haired figure who stood in the doorway. "Who the devil are you?"

The Hood caught sight of the laptop on Sir Jeremy's desk. "Is this what Tracy left with you? Give it to me!"

"How dare you come barging in here like this! Mrs Anderson! Call the police!"

The Hood laughed, an evil, guttural sound. "Do not bother calling for your servant. She will not hear you. Now give me Tracy's computer!" As Sir Jeremy looked, the man's eyes seemed to glow. He found himself unable to look away. The room seemed to be spinning around, and with a small cry he fell forward over his desk into oblivion.