Disclaimer: The Thunderbirds Universe belongs to Gerry Anderson. This story was written for fun only and no profit is made from it.
I'd like to thank Pen for her amazing beta-work. She was the one who filled the biggest plot holes, made me realize where I wanted to go with this story, and kept me writing with her constant encouragement.
story is going to be a long one, so stay tuned.
Chapter One: Surreal Awakening
The first thing I noticed was the cold. It wasn't mere cold; no, I was basically freezing. Dimly, I was aware of the fact that I should be warm. Cold was wrong. Very wrong. In more aspects than one.
But that wasn't the only thing amiss. I expected to lie on something soft, but the ground under me was hard and uneven. Lumps poked into my back, made it uncomfortable to lie there. Not soft at all.
Annoyed to be awoken from my slumber, I blinked wearily. Found my way back towards consciousness. And made a sound of discomfort as I realized yet another thing that wouldn't fit .
I was wet.
Soaking wet, to be brutally honest. Icy water trickled down my face, collected in my lower back and made lying there damn uncomfortable. The clothes stuck to my skin, heavy with water and dirt.
What a wonderful way to wake up, soaked to the skin and freezing to death.
Opening my eyes revealed a grey sky over me, full of clouds. I blinked. Somehow, I had the impression that I should be in my bed instead of here…where was here, anyway? My mind was all fuzzy; I didn't really function yet. A bed would definitely be nicer than this, I decided grumpily, as several aches announced their presence.
Slowly, I tried to sit up, only to notice a nice collection of bruises all over my body. Where had those come from? I didn't have the slightest clue, but damn, they hurt! Wincing, I touched a couple of them. They looked nasty, sporting all colours ranging from blue to purple. There was also a ragged gash running along my left arm, not very deep, but painful.
Now, what was I doing here, all on my own?
I looked around, trying to find out where I was. Next to me was a huge river, the muddy water flowing very quickly. I was on my back not far away from it, sprawled on the ground like a limp rag doll.
What the hell had I been doing? Gone for a swim in there? I looked at the river in disgust. No sane person would go for a swim in that; and besides, I was still wearing my clothes. If I had really been swimming, I should have been clad in swimming trunks.
However, I was wet. So I had been in the water. And the only water in sight was the river. Very confusing.
I shook my head, feeling very befuddled. Maybe this was only a dream, I tried to reassure myself, and rubbed my face gingerly. It hurt, especially my temple, where I found an open wound, bleeding all over my cheek. Well, great. That made me feel so much better. I must have been pretty stupid to get injured like that. Hmm. So, how did that happen again?
Gee, you'd think I'd be able to remember that, but obviously…man, that must have been the hell of an accident, or my name wouldn't be…wouldn't be…what the heck…
I opened my mouth like a fish, but it didn't change the gaping hole in my memory, right there where my name should have been. I couldn't remember my damn name!
An uncomfortable feeling of dread fluttered in my stomach. This couldn't be. I had to know my name, maybe I was only disorientated...it would come back any second, I was sure...
But nothing happened.
A name is such a basic thing, holds so much importance, that it felt utterly horrible not knowing it. I mean, it was my name! I was born with it, yet I couldn't…didn't…didn't even remember whether I had liked it or not. Nothing. Just emptiness.
I burrowed my head in my hands, trying to think, trying to remember, but whatever I did, my mind stayed blank. There was simply nothing, a whiteness that scared me much more than the awkward situation or my injuries. I felt lost, out of control, and so terribly alone that tears sprung to my eyes.
I wiped them away very quickly. Panicking wouldn't help me, I told myself and tried to get my breathing back under control. It might not be permanent. It may come back any moment. Just breathe. Relax. Breathe.
I waited, but no memories popped back into my head. Well, I hadn't really expected them to. Something told me that this wasn't my lucky day (gee, really?).
Reality check. What did I know? What could I remember?
Obviously I hadn't forgotten everything - I knew enough to make sense of the situation and recognize that I was suffering from amnesia.
Amnesia. What a horrible, cruel word. And yet it was the first one that popped into my name when I thought of my situation. Amnesia. Memory-loss.
So, I wasn't totally brain-dead, that was a relief, if only a small one. But what else? Look at the facts, some invisible voice whispered deep in my mind, and then try to put the pieces together.
My name? Nope. Still not there.
My age? Hmm…difficult to say, but not too old, judging from my body. Not a kid, either. Probably in my twenties. Not in a bad shape, as I might say, even though I was a mass of scratches and bruises.
My appearance? Not even the slightest clue. My skin was white and my hair short, that was about all I could say. Didn't even know the colour of my eyes – somehow, that depressed me the most. I mean, who doesn't know his eye-colour? I ran through the possible colours in my head, but none of them rang a bell. That annoyed me no end.
I tried to look up at my hair, but I only saw a blur and concentrating that close made my head ache. Headache. Ugh. I could have lived without that, but the pounding seemed very insistent to stay.
My clothes? I stared down at my body, unable to identify what I was wearing. Trousers, that much was sure, nearly shredded to pieces and soaked with murky water. The shirt – had it been a shirt? – was laughable, full of holes and so dirty that I couldn't even recognize the colour. My boots were sturdy, but didn't tell me anything. There was no tag on the clothes, no label, nothing.
Great. I patted my body, trying to find some sort of identification. But all the pockets were empty – except one that was filled with mud, but I didn't think that was going to tell me anything about my glorious life.
I was wearing a watch, as well, but one look told me that it would never be working again. The plastic had smashed and the insides were filled with mud, as well. What had I done, wrestled with a mud monster?
"This sucks." I said loudly and was surprised at the roughness of my voice. It sounded strange in my ears; shouldn't I be used to my own voice? And if I can't even remember my own voice, that means bad business, doesn't it?
Hmm. That left me in quite a dilemma. As far as I could see, I was on my own. The forest was empty – how can you know about forests and not remember your name? – full of mud and debris. Somehow, that irked me. I knew for certain that a forest floor shouldn't be littered with broken planks and parts of things.
"Who am I?" I whispered, looking down at my rough, battered hands. Nobody answered me, and the isolation, the pain seemed greater than ever. Like…like hanging in the air without any ground under your feet. No tether. Nothing to keep you secure. No safety harness…Safety harness? That seemed to ring a bell. I frowned slightly, trying to catch the memory, but it darted away again, leaving me as clueless as before. Well, great.
I didn't remember anything about my life, my history, my interests…I didn't know what I was, who I was, where I was! I lost the most basic of things - my memory – and it took all my will not to scream in panic.
Finally, I pulled myself together enough to get up on my knees. It hurt like hell, but I managed to stand. The world was tilting around me, slightly out-of-focus. I blinked, willing the dizziness to disappear, and oh wonder, it worked.
Then I started walking. Nothing better to do, eh? And who knew, maybe I'd find someone who could help me.
Have you every experienced something similar to amnesia? Have you ever lived through the pain of…of not having anything? Of being utterly alone?
It's nothing that can be described with words. Imagine having everything torn away from you – everything you know and love, everything you remember, even the tiniest details. Imagine feeling like a new-born – everything is strange and frightening, new and exciting at the same time.
The more I thought about it, the more things came to my mind I didn't know about myself, and each one added to the mental anguish I was going through.
What was my favourite food? My favourite colours?
The river reminded me of swimming. Did I like swimming? Could I swim?
What about my family? Did I have a family? Did I have a wife? Maybe even kids? No, I was pretty certain I didn't have kids – far too young for that – but I couldn't be certain. Man, it would be terrible if I had kids and had forgotten them. A shudder ran through my body. I sincerely hoped that I had neither wife nor kids.
While I was dragging myself through the forest, confused, hurting and very much alone, I couldn't stop questioning myself. I kept looking for clues, for hints who I was, what I was doing there and why I was injured. But all I encountered was blackness, and the longer it took, the more frightened I became. It was a puzzle with all the pieces missing, an empty picture frame in my mind.
There were things I knew, almost by instinct – I knew what a tree was, for example, and that I needed to get medical help – but everything that concerned me was just a black hole.
A nightmare that wouldn't end.
Finally, I found some sign of civilization. A road. It was full of debris, but still intact. I stood still for a second, trying to decide which way to go. Then I shrugged and walked to my right. Since I had no idea where I was, there was no way I could know which way to go.
The first house I saw I greeted with obvious excitement. It was a small farm house, huddled between the trees and made of wood. As soon as I saw the structure, I hurried there, looking all the way for some sign of life.
I found none.
The door was open, revealing a cluttered interior. There had certainly been people living here – there was a television, some bottles, clothes strewn around – but it looked as if they had left in a hurry without bothering to take anything with them.
"Hello?" I called cautiously into the eerie scenery. "Anybody home?"
No reply. The floor creaked under my feet as I stepped towards the table. Some bread was lying there – that's something to eat, isn't it? Yuck, well, at least it was...looks a bit on the other side, now – untouched. This house had obviously been abandoned, but why?
Even though I didn't have any memories, I knew that this wasn't good. People didn't just leave their homes, not voluntarily. And they certainly didn't leave everything behind. The only logical conclusion was that they had been forced – maybe by some kind of disaster.
The idea of being the only one left in an abandoned area made me shudder. I quickly left the house, trying to get those images out of my mind. My imagination was playing tricks on me; it surely couldn't be that bad, I kept telling myself. There could be a logical explanation for this, one I simply didn't find. After all, I wasn't exactly in top shape, either.
(You're just getting paranoid. Yeah, that's it. Maybe they had a big family fight. Things like that happen.)
Determined to find someone, anyone, who could tell me what was going on, I trudged onwards, following the road that curved through the forest.
However, as the hours passed and my exhaustion grew, I found that I was still alone. I encountered a couple of houses, but they were all empty – the windows broken, the gardens untidy. Everywhere I looked, I saw signs that the inhabitants had left very quickly. Doors were hanging from broken hinges, some cars – mostly old pick-ups – overturned at the side of the road. And the ground, so dirty, full of mud and covered with rubbish.
I grew more and more uncomfortable. What if something horrible, something dreadful had happened and they had left me behind? (Whoever 'they' might be...)
I tried to shake off that thought, but when I passed a burned out car that had crashed against a tree, I gulped with sudden fear. Without my memories, I was helpless; if I had been left behind, I would never know…
It wasn't fair. I balled my hands into fists, as a sudden wave of rage swept over me. Why me? What had I done? Wasn't it enough that I couldn't remember? Did I have to be thrown in some weird psycho movie as well?
"I don't think that's funny!" I shouted at nobody in particular, glaring at the trees that surrounded me. I needed to vent my anger, needed it to keep myself together. I didn't like feeling helpless, and I felt the burning need to lash out at…at something!
"ARGH!" I screamed, frustrated at myself and the whole world. Why was there nothing I could do? I was going mad from anxiety. The loneliness seemed more tangible than ever, almost suffocating me. What if I was the only one left? What if everybody else had died? What if I was the only person alive?
No, don't go there, I told myself, when I felt the panic crawl over my heart. You need to keep a grip on yourself. There's no evidence for that. You don't know what happened. Just…stay calm.
So I tried to ignore the tremors that ran along my spine every time I passed an empty house. Those people certainly had valid reasons to leave. Maybe…maybe…
Valid reasons, the hell! I couldn't think of any logical reasons why anyone would leave their house behind, with the exception of some virus attack or other dreadful things.
That thought made me look around. I really hoped that the air wasn't infected with any strange viruses, I didn't want to catch some kind of sickness…Maybe I was already ill? Maybe that was the reason for my amnesia?
I grabbed my head in confusion, trying to sort through the tumbling thoughts.
Why the hell did I know what a virus was, and yet couldn't remember my name? Goddammit, that was annoying.
The houses became more frequent (yet I didn't go inside again; it was simply too freaky), until finally the road opened up into a small town near the riverside. Everything was empty as well; the streets covered with mud and rubbish. The houses looked normal; well, as normal as they could – I really didn't remember how houses looked like, but they seemed normal.
"Hello?" I called cautiously, feeling very alone in this ghost city. My feet made squelching noises as I waded through ankle-deep mud. "Is anybody here?"
I opened the door to one of the houses and grimaced. Yuck, even the floor inside was covered in mud! Didn't the people here know how to clean their homes? The brown stuff made interesting squishy noises under my boots, while I carefully peered into the darkness.
Immediately a word sprang into my mind – living room – and I knew what I was looking at. Annoyance crept up at me; why couldn't it be that way with my memories? Just look at something and pouf! I'd remember everything. I waited for a while, desperately listening into myself, but nothing happened. Well, it figured.
In the corner of the room I saw some clothes, thrown carelessly across an armchair. That gave me an idea. My own were pretty ragged and wet. Wearing dry clothes probably wouldn't bring my memory back, but it would be an improvement nonetheless. I'd feel better, at least.
Hesitantly I looked into a few cupboards, feeling like a burglar, and grabbed some jeans, a T-Shirt and a flannel jacket. There was also a couple of black boots, which I took gratefully; my own were soaked and shredded.
Getting rid of my soaked clothes was a relief, I can tell you! And then the bliss of having dry, warm cloth on my skin…still, I couldn't bring it over myself to leave the rags of my old clothes there – after all, they were my only link to the past. So I stuffed them in a random plastic bag I found, closing it carefully.
Feeling much better, I left the house, determined to find out what was wrong with the world. It couldn't be that everybody had left – I just had to find some people. Something to eat wouldn't be bad, either. I was starting to feel quite hungry. Just as…always said…
Who? Who had said what? It had been on the tip of my tongue, but I lost it again. Frustrated I kicked against a piece of rubble, only to stub my toe. Great. The stream of curse words that flowed from my mouth was quite powerful and I had to smile at the irony. I could remember cursing, but didn't know my hair colour.
Don't you just hate life?
Across the street was a building with huge glass windows. There were tables inside, and a bar with lots of bottles. Yay. Food. And something to drink.
Can you imagine the eerie silence of an abandoned town? No? Now, have you ever been out on a hot Sunday, when the streets are empty and the shops are closed? You know that there are people there, behind the windows, inside the houses, but you can't see them and it gives you this horrible, otherworldly feeling? Now imagine that feeling multiplied by 100 and made even worse by the fact that you know there aren't any people there. Congratulations, you now have a distinct impression of what I was experiencing that very moment.
The door opened with a creak, revealing a dim interior. To my surprise, it looked rather inviting; soft, warm chairs, a room without any edges, but only curves and the walls painted in a pleasant sunflower yellow.
"Hello?" I called again, limping towards the bar – what in the hell was a bar anyway?
No reply, but by now it didn't surprise me anymore. I kind of had accepted that the town was deserted.
"Something to eat, something to drink." I hummed to myself, trying to escape the eerie calmness around me. "Hmm, let's see…" I picked one of the many bottles – bottles are those glass thingies, aren't they? – and tried to remember how to open it. My mind came up blank, but my fingers were working on their own accord. With a slight hiss, the lid snapped open. I took a cautious sniff, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't remember the right smell anyway, so I took a gulp.
Blargh. Nasty stuff – it burned down my throat and did nothing satisfy my thirst. I grimaced and shuddered as the liquid warmed my stomach. It tasted foul, but it seemed to warm me up, something I was grateful for.
Curiously, I turned the bottle over and looked at the label. The signs on it looked strange at first, but then they arranged themselves together. "Whiskey", it read. I took another sip of it, not because I liked it, but because it seemed to calm me down.
I know that taste.
Well, at least I was able to read, that was a relief, but everything else still stayed a mystery.
There was a tap – hey, I know what a tap is! – and I turned it eagerly. To my honest disappointment, no water came. Gee. Great. I scanned the rest of the bottles and finally settled for one with a red label on it. The content tasted sickenly sweet, but it was much better than the burning stuff from before.
The only food I found was a bag with crispy, salty things that I munched greedily. "Chips," the label said, and immediately the phrase 'comfort food' sprang into my mind. Well. I could certainly need that. I munched happily, wondering whether I had liked chips before or not. They certainly didn't taste unpleasant.
Apparently, I could remember most day-to-day things – enough to get by – but now and then things eluded me.
"This sucks!" I told nobody in particular and rubbed my aching shoulder. "I can't even remember what I was doing here. Maybe I had a job to do?" Suddenly, another thought flashed through my mind, one that made me very uncomfortable. What was I supposed to do when I met other people? Talk to them? Go to a hospital? Go to the police?
Thinking of the police made me wary. A warning bell rang in my head, telling me to be cautious – but why? There was a need for secrecy…but only criminals had to stay away from the police! I wasn't a criminal, was I? The thought scared me; I certainly didn't feel like a criminal, but how could one be sure? Maybe I had done something horrible, maybe I had escaped and was pursued by hundreds of cops…maybe the people in this town fled from me…Alright, that sounded a bit far-fetched, even to my ears. It was obvious that something else had happened, with so much destruction and devastation everywhere. But the uneasy feeling remained.
Well, there was nothing to be done about it now, I argued sensibly. One part of me was surprised at how logical and detached I was behaving – shouldn't I be panicking and crying? But here I was, trying to be smart about everything (even though the rage was still there). Maybe I was used to stressful situations; or maybe I was simply too tired.
Anyway, I had to leave this town and not on foot. I was so exhausted that I wouldn't make it far, and I had no intention to sleep in the forest. But staying here wasn't an option either.
I frowned and looked out of the window, trying to find something that might help me. The road led slightly uphill, and there, on the highest point, I could see a car. My face lit up; it seemed dry and relatively undamaged. Maybe that was my rescue.
Do I know how to drive?
I jogged out of the building. The car was small, but sleek and slender. Whatever had happened here, it hadn't reached the car. It appeared unscathed. I peered inside. Something was missing, I realised and frowned. Something which I would need to drive the car.
A key. You need a key.
The image of a silvery small device slipped into my mind. That was it. Dammit. My hopes were crushed immediately as I slipped down the side of the car and sat on the ground. Tiredly, I rubbed my face. My head began to pound. I wanted to be out of here, wanted to be home…wherever that was.
Cars. I know something about cars.
Maybe the key was in there somewhere? Maybe it was lying under the seats? I didn't really believe it, but it was worth a try. I got up, every part of my body protesting, to look for a stone to smash the window with.
You shouldn't do that.
The uneasy feeling increased. Apparently, smashing car windows wasn't a nice thing to do. However, did I have another option? I reflected for a moment and found that I had none. Well, great. With more force than necessary, I struck the window with the stone. It shattered nicely.
Careful. Glass makes nasty cuts.
I growled at the insistent voice in my head. Why did it keep reminding me of useless things? Quickly, I unlocked the door and sat behind the round thingie – steering wheel. Used to steer the car. My eyes scanned the interior, but apart from lots of dirt and a few empty bottles, I couldn't find a key.
That was when my hands started to work automatically, as they had done before with the bottle. They opened the plastic under the steering wheel and fiddled with the wires. I could only watch in amazement as I picked the correct cables with expertise, holding them together until finally, I heard a distant rumble. Automatically, I engaged the clutch, surprised at myself. Obviously, I knew a bit about cars.
The motor hummed comfortingly, filling me with a familiar feeling. I grabbed the steering wheel and played with the pedals. Yep. Definitely. I was used to cars. Hmm. What did that tell me?
Gee…had I just hot-wired a car?
The criminal theory was thickening. Why else should I be able to steal cars that easily? Maybe I was a professional car thief.
The idea didn't seem right, but I couldn't think of another one. Well, I had to be careful. Better to stay low until I was able to get some light in the matter.
Without thinking I reached up and adjusted the rear-view mirror. Catching a glimpse of myself, I thought 'so that's what an arch-criminal looks like'.
Slowly, I started driving down the road, intent to get the hell out of here.
Well. Did you guess who it is?