fic was written for the TIWF 2006 Fic Swap Challenge. The challenge wish was:
"I'd like to see a rescue where the people being rescued turn against the thunderbirds. The thought I had was a rescue or evacuation of prison inmates who take the opportunity for escape, but any situation that involves ungrateful rescue victims will satisfy me."
Thanks a bunch to Pen for her excellent beta-reading skills and useful advice. I certainly needed it :)
It has been a while since I wrote this story, but quite frankly, I forgot about it. I've never been an action writer, so it isn't anything special.
Virgil groaned as awareness slammed into him with sudden force, throwing him back into reality. Pain throbbed in his head; his cheek was pressed against something solid and cold – a rather uncomfortable feeling, he decided. He certainly should do something about that pillow. Chuck it out, or, even better, put it in Alan's room to annoy him. Yep, that would be great.
It took him a while to realize that he was lying on the floor, not his own cosy bed back on Tracy Island. That confused him. The days when he'd woken up passed out on someone's floor were long gone; and besides, he'd never been a fan of those kinds of parties.
"Those stupid, ungrateful bastards!" someone cursed not far away from him. "We saved their lives, and this is what we get? We should have left them to burn!"
"Calm down, Gordon," another voice replied softly. "Swearing won't improve our situation."
That was John, Virgil realized dimly, and his confusion grew. What was he doing here? And come to think of that, where was 'here'? It certainly smelled like Thunderbird Two, but why was he lying on the floor of his own 'bird?
"I'm rather worried about Virgil." John continued. "That injury looks pretty nasty, and he's been out for quite a while."
Nasty. Yep, that definitely described how he was feeling. Hearing the concern in John's voice, he tried to open his eyes. Ugh…not a good idea…
The slight movement made his head hurt even more, and to make matters worse, he started to feel nauseous. Great. He refused to be sick in his own 'bird, thank you very much.
What the hell had happened?
He remembered voices, a lot of them, shouting and fighting…Scott asking worriedly what was wrong…Gordon screaming at the top of his voice, furious despite his usually laid-back self…and he himself, yelling 'Code Seven! Code Seven!' before something hard collided with the back of his head and darkness surrounded him.
Virgil groaned. He'd rather not have remembered at all. It didn't sound pleasant.
"Virgil?" John had obviously heard his groan. "You awake?"
"Come on, Virg, grace us with your presence." Gordon added. "Those guys are damaging your precious 'bird."
"Shut up." Virgil managed to say through the pain. Then Gordon's last words registered and his eyes flew open. "Who's damaging my bird?" he exclaimed loudly and immediately regretted it. His own voice echoed loudly in his ears and increased the headache tenfold.
He took a deep breath and winced. Okay, no shouting. He'd learned that lesson.
Then he turned his head to look at his brothers. They were sitting across from him, hands and feet bound tightly together with something that resembled duct tape. Trying to move his own arms, he realised that he was tied in the same fashion. Gordon had a black eye and John's left arm was bleeding. They both looked rather pale and bedraggled, but their faces brightened as soon as they saw him looking at them.
"Nice to have you back." Gordon commented and grinned. "You were starting to resemble sleeping beauty, with the only difference that you're not beautiful."
"How are you feeling?" John asked, ignoring Gordon with well-practised ease.
"I'd be feeling great if you'd stop shouting," Virgil grumbled and closed his eyes again. The light was hurting and now that he had seen his brothers, he didn't want to be exposed to it any more than necessary. He'd seen enough, anyways. The fact that they were bound and injured, sitting in the sickbay of Thunderbird Two, couldn't be good news. "What happened?"
"You want the long story or the short version?"
"The short, please. I'm not sure my brain can cope with too much input at the moment."
"Alright." John sighed deeply. "You remember the rescue? The fire?"
Virgil frowned, sorting through the hazy pictures of his memory. "Oh yeah…the prison in South America?"
"But…but we rescued them, didn't we?" As far as Virgil could recall, they had used the Firefly to get into the building. The fire had been bad and the building old, not keeping up any safety standards. Nobody had bothered with it; it was a prison, after all. Unfortunately, the men and women in there hadn't been able to escape and nobody wanted to see them burn to death. International Rescue had been called because local authorities didn't have the necessary tools to fight the fire.
"Yes, we rescued them, and a fat lot of good it did." Gordon muttered darkly. "Bastards."
"Most of the last load were unconscious, so we brought them aboard Firefly." John supplied helpfully when he noticed Virgil's confused gaze. "But it seems as if some of them were only faking it. They used the opportunity and kidnapped me. Gordon didn't stand a chance, and before we knew it, we were on Thunderbird Two with a lot of prisoners running around."
"They knocked you out with a steel bar." Gordon continued, his face expressionless. "John and I, we tried to fight, but there were too many of them. They captured us, tied us up and put us here. Then someone dragged you in as well and we've been here ever since. They forced us to close all the hatches, so that nobody could enter, and we had to cut communications. Scott must be frantic by now."
"What a mess!" Virgil sighed and listened. "But we're not flying."
"Nope." John smirked. "We told them that you were the only one who could fly this thing, so of course with you unconscious, they couldn't do anything. We actually hoped that it would buy us time…well, it did, but nothing has happened so far."
Gordon frowned sullenly. "We should have left them to die."
"It's our job to save people's lives." John reprimanded gently. "They must be pretty desperate."
Virgil remembered the few facts he had read about South American prisons. They certainly hadn't sounded pleasant, and he didn't blame those men for wanting to escape. But still, hijacking Thunderbird Two, kidnapping International Rescue operatives? That was by far the worst thing they could do – the whole world would hunt them down. And anyway, he could understand Gordon's anger. They had risked their lives trying to save those people, and this was how they showed their gratitude?
"So, what's the plan?" he said through gritted teeth. The pain wasn't lessening, but slowly, he was getting used to it.
Gordon snorted. "We sit here until we get rescued."
"We don't have a plan – yet." John sounded regretful. "There's not a whole lot we can do. We tried to get rid of our bonds, but they're tight and we can't move to the cupboard to get any tools. They took our watches, so we can't communicate. I'd try to negotiate with them, but they didn't even give us a chance. In fact, we've no idea what they are doing."
Virgil tried to sit up, but stopped immediately as the effort made him see stars. "Scott knows." He remembered dimly shouting over the microphone. "I told him we had a code seven before they got me."
"Really?" John brightened immediately. "That's good!"
"Why is that good?" Gordon looked annoyed. "It's not going to help us. We're still stuck."
"But they know that we have a hostage situation, and therefore will act upon it." John explained with his never-ending patience.
"Yeah, but they can't do any…" The redhead was interrupted by the sound of heavy boots. "They're coming!"
"Quick, Virgil!" John hissed alarmed. "You have to close your eyes - and don't move. If they think you're still unconscious, Thunderbird Two will stay as she is."
Virgil immediately obeyed, forcing his body to relax. It was difficult to feign unconsciousness, but he had to do it. If they really believed he was the only one that could fly Thunderbird Two, that would spare him a lot of pain. He hoped.
The doors opened and several people stormed in, judging from the vibrations Virgil could feel.
"He awake yet?" A voice with a rough, Spanish accent drawled.
"No." John sounded terse. "You knocked him quite hard and he needs medical attention. Even if he was awake, he wouldn't be able to fly. Thunderbird Two is a delicate machine and needs…"
"Shut up!" another one barked. Virgil heard a muffled sound and a hiss of pain. John had probably been kicked, he realised, and anger flowed through him. Virgil was usually a gentle man, with an easy temperament. Angry outbursts belonged to Alan's or Scott's department. But hearing how his brothers were treated made him angry. What had they done to deserve this? After all, they had all risked their lives, had come all the way to rescue these people
Sometimes, you could really despair thinking about humanity.
He tried to let go of his anger, knowing that it would put them in danger. But it was so hard, especially when he heard the sound of another kick and Gordon yelping in surprise and pain. How dare they injure his brothers!
Above him, he could hear a quick conversation in Spanish and immediately regretted not having taken the advanced courses at college. He could only get a couple of words, and those didn't bear well. 'Fly' and 'escape' was mentioned more than once, and something that could be translated as 'drastic measures', but also mean 'basic house supplies', so he wasn't really sure.
Then someone dragged him up and he very nearly opened his eyes.
"What are you doing?" Gordon exclaimed. Beside him, John switched into fluent Spanish, talking with the men in a rapid exchange of words. Virgil really regretted that he couldn't understand anything; it seemed as if his blonde brother used quite a few swear words, something he would have liked to hear. If only to blackmail him later.
"Silencio!" From the sound of it, John was silenced by another harsh kick. Virgil gritted his teeth. Any more abuse and he'd certainly implode. Or explode. He didn't really know what was worse.
Then he didn't have the time to be angry anymore, for he suddenly was dragged out of the room by forceful hands. His headache returned with vengeance, stars exploding behind his closed eyelids, and he couldn't prevent a groan escaping from his lips.
He heard laughter, and then he was shoved roughly to the ground. "Your eyes. Open," someone commanded and untied his hands. Virgil immediately knew the game was over. He had never been a good actor.
The light hurt at first and he blinked, trying to get a grip of the situation. He was in the cockpit of Thunderbird Two, surrounded by four burly looking men. Their faces were soot-covered and two of them sported nasty burns, but they all had the same look of determined intensity. One of them held a gun, and for a short moment he wondered where he'd gotten it from.
"You fly." A brown-haired man said, pointing to the console. "Get away."
"Can't…"Virgil motioned to his head, indicating that he couldn't fly in his current state. He really didn't feel up to it, quite frankly; his head throbbed and his vision was blurry around the edges.
The kick into his stomach caught him totally by surprise. He yelped in pain, as all the breath left his body, and curled up in a protecting position. Damn, that hurt.
"You fly." The command was final, leaving no room to budge.
"No." Virgil gritted out, clutching his stomach.
"No?" The man raised an eyebrow. "No? Your friends. They hurt. You want them hurt? Dead?"
Then he started grinning maliciously. "You will watch, eh? Blood, lots of blood. Nice."
Virgil's blood ran cold. That…bastard was talking about injuring his brothers just to get him to fly! And he seemed to enjoy it as well, seemed to enjoy inflicting pain.
Looking at the man, he knew he was serious. His face was normal; could have been anyone's, with the slight stubble and the unruly, brown hair. But his eyes held a glint of malice in them that spoke volumes.
Swallowing his anger, he tried to get up and nearly fell over as dizziness hit him. "Okay." He managed to gasp.
"Quick!" He was thrown into the pilot's seat with unnecessary force. Virgil hissed and turned towards the communication device. "I need to contact…our monitor."
"No. No contact. You fly."
The auburn-haired Tracy set his chin. "I need…coordinates to fly…Thunderbird Two is a big machine, it's impossible to fly for one person." Lying through his teeth became easier and he desperately hoped that they would believe him. He didn't need Thunderbird Five's help, was perfectly capable of flying TB2 on his own, but those men didn't have the slightest clue.
The prisoners exchanged worried glances and held a muffled conversation in Spanish. Virgil sat in the pilot's chair, not daring to move, wishing for some aspirin to dull his headache.
Finally, the one with the gun shook his head. "Fly." He commanded. "No contact."
Damn. Virgil cursed inwardly, but his face showed no emotion. "It will be nearly impossible to find the way."
"You manage. We have your friends. You get lost – they get hurt. Understand?"
"Understood." Resignedly, Virgil turned towards the controls. He flipped on several switches, aware of the scrutinizing gaze he was under. The engines powered up, and even though he tried to be as slow as possible, soon the 'bird was lifting off, leaving the rescue scene below him. He could see the nose of Thunderbird One not far away and wondered what Scott was thinking. How long had he been out anyway? Had his message reached the others? Did they know what was happening? Surely Scott, Alan and Dad were working frantically to save them. Sooner or later their kidnappers would get caught – after all, Thunderbird Five could trace Two anywhere on this planet. But would they be alive?
No use worrying about that, Virgil decided (he had always been the sensible one). He needed to concentrate on the present.
"Where should I fly?"
Virgil raised his eyebrows. What did the escaped prisoners want in Europe? It had an excellent safety and security system – surely it would be difficult for them to avoid detection, especially approaching in Thunderbird Two.
But he didn't comment. Thunderbird lifted off and the comm crackled to life. "Virg? Virg, are you there?" Scott's worried voice asked.
Virgil's hand automatically twitched towards the answer switch, but it was held back by one of the prisoners. "Stop it." The guard growled, pointing to the loudspeaker.
With a sigh, the pilot cut all communications – at the same time leaving open the channel. Now Scott and Alan wouldn't be able to talk to him, but they could still hear what was being said in the cockpit.
It wasn't much, but for now, it had to be enough.
They had been flying for approximately fifteen minutes when the shouts started. At first, Virgil thought he had been imagining them – his headache had been growing worse by the minute and he wasn't entirely sure what was real anymore – but the men in the cockpit heard them as well. And reacted with worry. One of them barked an order he couldn't understand.
Then a crashing sound came closer, yells and curses filled the corridor. "BASTARD!" someone screamed in a heavy accent. Instinctively, Virgil turned around, but was prevented from leaving the seat by a gun in his face.
"Stay." The prisoner growled, his eyes flickering between the door and Virgil. The pilot lifted his arms in a gesture of peace. "I'm not going anywhere," he pronounced clearly, hoping that his brothers weren't doing anything stupid. He could count on John to have some sense, but Gordon…
But then again…It almost sounded as if the prisoners fought amongst each other. But why?
"Attentione!" someone called, his words followed by a string of curses and another loud crash. A scream of pain, the unmistaken sound of a body tumbling to the ground.
"Shit!" The man beside Virgil – the one with the gun – looked out of the cockpit to see what was happening. For a moment, the pilot was forgotten in the midst of the chaos, as everybody looked outside to see what the commotion was. Some of the men seemed to be getting involved in the struggle, and now he was quite certain that someone had started a fight amongst them. That was his chance, Virgil realised, a determined expression on his face.
He took it.
Sincerely hoping that his brothers were safe and sound, he ignited the booster rockets that he normally used only when taking off from the ramp on Tracy Island and pulled the nose of Thunderbird Two up. The plane reacted quickly and soon the floor was almost vertical. Anybody who wasn't secured – and that was everybody with exception of Virgil – couldn't help but respond to the pull of gravity.
He smiled grimly when he heard the prisoners falling over. Spanish curses and screams filled the corridors of Thunderbird Two. Served them right, those bastards.
Quickly, Virgil pressed a hidden button under the console, while his left hand was fumbling under the seat. For a short moment, his fingers only encountered empty space. He panicked, knowing all too well that they were doomed if he didn't find what he was looking for…but then his fingers touched hard plastic.
Virgil unstrapped the gas mask and put the mask over his nose, just in time as the gas started hissing out of the ventilation shafts. It was one of Brains latest inventions; an additional security measure.
He just hoped that the sleeping gas worked before the prisoners had time to injure anybody. Mainly his brothers. Or Thunderbird Two, which would be just as bad.
Almost immediately, the shouts dimmed down, and he could hear more than one body sliding to the ground. The gas worked splendidly. Virgil grinned in relief, switching on the screens of the inboard cameras. The prisoners were sprawled on the floor, sleeping soundly.
Virgil levelled the mighty plane off. The sudden silence was almost eerie, the only sound the soft hum of the machines.
"What a mess…" He rubbed his aching head. That had been the hell of a ride.
"John?" he called over his shoulder, until he realised that his brother would be asleep as well. Damn. He waited patiently for the ventilation system to clear the corridors and took of the mask.
Then he turned to switch on the comm link.
"Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird Five, come in Alan."
"Virgil!" Alan sounded surprised and frantic. "What's going on? I've been hearing everything over the audio link, but we didn't know what to do, and suddenly it was silent, so I thought something terrible must have happened, especially when Two pulled up like that…"
"Relax, Alan." Virgil interrupted his brother's ramblings, aware that this could go on forever. He really couldn't deal with that right now, not with his headache. "I used the sleeping gas – it worked fine. Everybody is out like a light. Can you check the air space for me? I'm going to put Thunderbird Two on autopilot – I want to check on Gordon and John."
"Sure." Alan immediately started working. "There don't seem to be any problems."
Another voice joined in. It was Scott – Alan had probably contacted him, knowing all too well how the eldest Tracy would worry. "Virgil, are you sure you're okay? What happened? Can you fly Thunderbird Two? I'm close to your position, I could..." Scott did his best to sound cool and in command, firing off questions at a rapid speed.
"I'm fine, just a bump on the head. I can fly." He assured and stood up. "Scott, I can't really wait for you. I've got the plane full of escaped, dangerous prisoners, and two bound brothers that want to be rescued. I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
"Take your wrist watch, then you can update me while you're working." Scott suggested.
Virgil looked at his empty wrist. "Sorry – don't have it anymore. They took it off while I was unconscious." As soon as those words left his mouth, he already regretted them.
"You were unconscious? For how long? Do you have a concussion?"
"Scott…stop it." Virgil cut his brother off before he could get started. "I'm fine, okay? It's just a little bump, nothing serious."
"No buts. I'm going now. Virgil out."
Virgil made sure that everything was working properly, then he stood up and left the cockpit. The ground outside was full of sleeping men. He recognized the one with the gun and couldn't help a satisfied grin. "Serves you right, you idiot." He grunted and bent down to retrieve the weapon.
According to Brains, everybody would be asleep for about forty to fifty minutes, but Virgil felt he had no time to lose. He just didn't feel safe with all those prisoners lying around. He had to do something about that; maybe dump them in one of the lockers and close the lid. Yeah, that would be nice.
Gun drawn, he hurried towards the medbay. To his immense relief, his brothers were still bound and sleeping soundly – Gordon's head lying on John's shoulder, while the blonde leaned against the wall. Virgil relaxed slightly. He had to thank Brains for that invention; without it, things could have been disastrous.
He took a scalpel out of one of the cupboards and cut his brothers loose. Then he used the same tape they had been bound with to handcuff the prisoners. Grunting with the effort (most of those men were quite heavy), he carried them to the small store room, made a neat pile out of them and locked the door. Then he sank to the ground and allowed himself the luxury of doing absolutely nothing for a moment.
The pounding in his head increased. Great. He felt like death warmed over, all shaky and weak.
Nope. He couldn't rest, not yet. He had to land his 'bird safely; John and Gordon wouldn't be any help. Trying to wake them would be like trying to wake the dead, he had to wait until the effects of the gas passed.
Wincing, he made his way back to the cockpit – grabbing a couple of aspirin on the way - and announced to a frantic Alan and an anxious Scott that everything was under control.
"What about John and Gordon?"
"They're fine. Unconscious, of course, as I couldn't warn them, and a couple of bruises, but no serious injuries."
Scott sighed in relief, the lines on his face disappearing. "Thank God."
Alan was equally happy about the news. He beamed for a moment, then remembered his duty and schooled his face.
"There's a city about 96 miles north-east of your position," He informed Virgil matter-of-factly. "I've already contacted the local authorities – they agreed to take the prisoners. There's a field near some old factory building. You can land there. The police will wait there, and I guess Scott as well." The blonde grinned. "He will probably have walked a hole in the ground by the time you're there."
"That's great." Virgil ignored Scott's indignant 'Hey'. He was more than happy to get rid of the prisoners. Especially since his headache seemed to be getting worse by the minute.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Alan leaned closer to the screen. "You look awfully pale."
"Just a monster headache." The pilot assured. "It has been a hell of a ride."
"I can imagine." The youngest Tracy smiled. "Scott has been chewing my ear off because I couldn't talk to you, and Dad was his worried Everything-is-under-control-even-though-it-isn't-self."
Virgil nodded, not really feeling like making conversation. Instead, he concentrated on his flying. "My ETA is 25 minutes," he said softly.
Alan, sensing his mood, nodded. "F.A.B. Contact me when you're closer."
The link closed with a crackle and Virgil allowed his eyes to shut down. He felt dreadful; everything was hurting and things became fuzzy every now and then. Some rational part of his brain told him that he shouldn't really be flying in this condition, but he shoved it aside. After all, there was no other possibility. And he needed to be in control, at least for the moment, to assure himself of the fact that Thunderbird Two was safe and sound.
It was amazing how long 25 minutes could take. For Virgil, it seemed like an eternity. He just wanted to lie down, to rest, but he was forced to fly – and for the first time, he didn't enjoy it. Well, who would have enjoyed flying with a head full of cotton wool?
Finally, the landing strip came into view, with the police cars parked neatly near the factory buildings. Thunderbird One's nose was visible first, a red spot in the otherwise grey landscape. He could see Scott on the ground – and yes, Alan had been right, he was pacing. But no hole. What a pity.
Virgil allowed himself a small smile.
"It's good to see you, Virg." Scott's voice crackled over the loudspeaker.
"Same here. I can't wait to get rid of those unwanted houseguests." Virgil joked, while slowly setting Thunderbird Two down to land. It wasn't his smoothest landing, but Scott didn't comment. Virgil, on his part, was just glad to be on the ground.
"I'm opening the hatches," he announced, at the same time pressing the appropriate buttons. Then he burrowed his head in his hands, fully intending only to close his eyes for a couple of seconds. He felt so tired, too tired to get up and meet his brother, too tired to help with the prisoners, too tired to talk. The only thing that had kept him going was fear and adrenaline; and now that the danger was away, now that he wasn't needed anymore, every ounce of strength left his body. He felt like a wrung-out wash cloth.
Virgil didn't even notice that he was falling asleep. He had honestly intended to stay awake, hadn't even thought of it. But fate had other ideas. Consciousness left him and he embraced the darkness with open arms.
Penetrating voices interrupted his blissful rest.
He hated those voices. Couldn't they leave him alone?"
"Virgil, Gordon is flying Thunderbird Two and, oops, just now he crashed into a tree, I hope you don't mind…"
His eyes flew open with a jolt and he stared at his brother with an expression of utter horror on his face. John smiled at him, his eyes twinkling. "Gotcha."
Virgil narrowed his eyes. "What was that about Gordon flying?"
"Relax." The blonde held up his arms. "You were in no state to fly, my dear brother, after collapsing in the cockpit. You nearly gave Scott a heart attack."
"I did?" Virgil frowned and tried to remember.
"Yep. Pretty nasty concussion you've got there. A doctor examined you and said that you should be fine, only a couple of days bed rest. And we have to check on you every couple of hours. It was my turn to wake you."
"Did you wake me before?" He remembered vague images of Scott, and of cursing him to hell (had he really done that?) and then barfing on the floor (oh no, how embarrassing! In his own 'bird!) – no, that had to be a dream.
John's grin widened (oh no! it hadn't been a dream!), but he didn't say anything (thank you, John.).
Virgil tried to distract his brother. "So…what happened? Why was everyone screaming? I thought you and Gordon had done something stupid."
"It wasn't us." John sobered. "We were still bound and frantically thinking of a way to escape. With you gone and Thunderbird Two in the air, there wasn't much we could do. But suddenly, two of the prisoners started shouting and attacked the others. I didn't understand much of it, but it seemed as if they were angry that the others kidnapped International Rescue." He smirked. "I think the words 'ungrateful' were mentioned more than once."
Virgil digested the news. "So some of them…were actually on our side?"
"Yes. Seems as if they were just waiting to take their chance. They didn't think it was fair to endanger IR. But they became desperate and simply attacked the people." A shadow flickered over his face. "It could have ended badly if you hadn't activated the sleeping gas. That was a good move on your part."
"Are they alright?"
"Oh yes, they're fine. Lots of bruises and a few broken bones, but nothing serious. Gordon and I gave our testimony to the police and I believe they'll get leniency for helping us."
"Good." Virgil's eyes were already drooping.
"I'd better let you rest now." John noticed how tired his brother was looking. "We should be home in about an hour; I'll wake you then."
"Alright." Virgil concentrated. "John…did Gordon really fly into a tree?"
The blonde, already halfway out of the room, paused. "What if he did?"
Virgil hesitated. "Well, let's just say….Thunderbird Four would never be the same again."
"You'd be surprised how permanent oil paint mixed with some rough medium can be…"
John laughed. "I guess. No, don't worry, TB2 doesn't even have a scratch. He's doing fine."
"He'd better." Virgil grumbled, but it was only for form.
"The same can't be said for a certain someone who barfed all over the floor."
Virgil groaned and felt the urge to hide in a hole. He would never live that down! Gordon and Alan would tease him mercilessly, and Scott…Scott would be the worst, making those mean little comments in his usual Scott fashion, when you expected it the least.
He ignored John's laughter and decided that the only thing to do was to fall asleep again. Maybe he'd wake up and it would all be a bad dream.
Who rescues the rescuers?
Well, they rescue themselves, of course.