"Scott. Scott! Can you hear me?" Scott was aware of his name being called from a long way off. Then something cold and damp was placed on the side of his head. It stung for a moment, but then the pain eased, though he wished whoever it was could also turn off the pounding sensation in his skull. He opened his eyes, then shut them in protest at the bright sunlight.
"Come on, Scott, try again." He knew that voice. This time he just opened his eyes a fraction, to see Virgil bending over him.
Virgil smiled down at him. "Welcome back, big brother." Behind his brother, Scott could see the radio mast poking skywards and to one side was the looming bulk of Thunderbird Two.
"What happened?" His voice was rough.
Virgil looked at his brother, concern in his eyes. "You got a knock on the head, just before we finished breaking through the wall to where those cavers were. You went a bit woozy on us, so I thought I'd better bring you out. Just as we got to the entrance you blanked out for a minute. Gordon's bringing out the last of the cavers now."
Scott sat up gingerly, his mind trying to reconcile the two different versions of events.
Virgil patted him on the arm. "You sit tight for a minute. I'm just going to have a word with Alan."
Scott watched his brother walk away, then a shadow fell across him from the other side.
"I told you not to touch anything!" The old man's eyes were blazing with fury. "You never listen do you? You always think you know best. Why can't you do what you're told for once?"
Some instinct told Scott that the old man, mad as he seemed, might have the answer to some of the questions buzzing in Scott's bemused brain. "What was all that?" he whispered, half to himself. "What did I see? What happened down there?"
"Something that you weren't supposed to see." The old man, realising Scott's bewilderment, spoke in a gentler tone. "Not yet, anyway. Probably not in this lifetime."
Scott put his hand to his throbbing head. "Those men, down there. They woke up. They thought I was …" his voice trailed off, unable to say the words.
The old man smiled. "Yes, you are Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons."
"No!" Scott shook his head unable to grasp what he was hearing. "I'm Scott Tracy, I'm an American!"
"In this life, yes. This soul is too good a one to lie dormant for long. You are honing your skills, leading men into danger, protecting those who need help, until your time comes again. When the time is right, you will know, and I, Merlin, will be there to help you." He crouched down beside Scott, passing his hand across the younger man's eyes. "You are not ready for this yet. You will sleep soon, and when you wake all this will be just a dream." He straightened up, with a small smile on his lips. "Now I'd better go and put everything back. Goodbye, Arthur. "
He turned and slipped around the limestone slab and out of sight.
Scott was still staring after him, slack-jawed, when Virgil returned.
"What's the matter, Scott?" he asked, concerned at his brother's dazed expression.
Scott gestured in the direction the old man had gone. 'The old guy…" he broke off, unsure how to continue.
"What old guy?"
Scott looked up at him. "The old tramp. The one who was just here."
Virgil shook his head. "Scott, I've been watching you all the time I was at Mobile Control. There's been no-one near you. That settles it. You're riding home in sickbay. Alan says he can fly One even with his bad shoulder, and Dad agrees with me. Now can you walk, or do you want me to get a stretcher?"
As his brother's words sank in, Scott felt a wave of relief rush over him. If he had imagined the old man then the cave, the sword, the knights, the ruined countryside and everything else must also have been his imagination, brought on by the blow to his head. That, and watching old movies with his brothers. Much as he hated the idea of Alan flying his 'bird, right now the idea of lying back in a bed in sickbay and drifting off to sleep sounded an attractive proposition.
He put his hands on the grass to help himself up and his fingers touched something hard. He picked it up to see what it was and froze, the colour draining from his face.
Virgil wondered what his brother was staring at so intently, and bent forward for a closer look. It was a brooch, presumably dropped at some time by a walker. Quite pretty really. Shaped like a dragon.