In Too Deep
The road to hell is paved with good intentions…
Some of the characters depicted below are components of the Thunderbirds Universe, the rights to which are currently held by Carlton. At present, no financial consideration is received in the publishing of this work. Any characters not identifiable with the Thunderbirds Universe are my creation and remain my property.
I've been working on this story since January 2006. It's been a long, hard process and it's only through blood, sweat and plenty of tears that it's finally complete. It's been an education and I hope it's an improvement on some of my past efforts.
Before we begin, there are a few thank-yous to hand out. Firstly, to Amanda, Marg, Pen and Lynn who have all leant me their Beta-ing skills and opinions in one form or another. I know I've said this before but you ladies have played a big part in the completion of this story – without any one of you, it would be ten times worse. (If you don't believe me, just ask Marg, she was unlucky enough to read the REALLY bad drafts!) Pen and Marg, particularly, have been constantly helping me to improve even when that help hasn't been easy to provide, very often spending time just listening to my frustrations and convincing me that this was worth finishing. Equally, Lynn has had a mammoth task on her hands in taking my Briticisms and turning them into Americanisms!! Thank you.
Secondly, thanks to Tikatu who helped me out with a few comic facts about the Mole – much appreciated!
Thirdly, Agent 5 and Dawn Rice; thank you for all of your advice too – some of which is reflected a little later on and some of which became redundant but thank you anyway!
It should be noted that about two months into me actually starting to write this tale, a story materialised as part of the TIWF fic-swap challenge that contained a few comparisons. Without giving too much away about the plot at this point, the author of that story and I agree that whilst the subject matter and chief protagonists of our stories may be broadly similar, we take the issues in entirely different directions.
When uploading a story, I normally try to post chapters regularly but apologies in advance, because my current situation regarding access to a computer/internet will make this difficult. Chapters will be posted as soon as I can, though I can't guarantee when or how often.
Anyway, enough from me, on with the show…
In Too Deep
An endless frontier.
More specifically a silent, endless frontier.
Above the soft beeps of machinery and ongoing chatter of radio channels, a gentle snoring was all that could be heard. Night on Thunderbird Five was a lot like night on Tracy Island; quiet, calm and still. John Tracy was tucked up in bed and sleeping like the proverbial baby. A small smile ghosted his features, an outward indicator of his pleasant dreams. He mumbled and rolled over in his sleep, unconsciously tightening the covers around him. For a few seconds he might've opened his eyes but instead he sighed and drifted back to the world of his contented sub-conscious.
The soft beeps of machinery were becoming louder, though.
Lights began to flash on numerous control panels.
John continued to sleep, unaware that words such as 'danger', 'help' and 'International Rescue', were being broadcast amongst the incoming, meaningless chatter. With an eerie glow, the large red indicator above the recorder began to flash and the tape wheels were set in motion after a muted click. Someone, somewhere in the world uttered those immortal words…
"Calling International Rescue…. Calling International Rescue…"
John's eyes snapped open at the sound of the beeping console coming to life, shattering all illusion of peace and tranquillity. Pulling on his robe, he hurried into the control room to answer the call, without a second thought for his soothing dreams. His bare feet slapped against the hard floor of Thunderbird Five but he didn't flinch at the contact with the cold metal; his mind was already on the job at hand. As he reached for the microphone, he allowed himself the luxury of a glance at his reflection; it was one of those times when he was grateful to be in solitude.
"Calling International Rescue…."
"This is International Rescue, what's your situation?" John asked, trying not to sound as though he's just tumbled out of bed.
"Oh, International Rescue, thank God! We need your help! You've got to help us!"
"Okay," he adopted the soothing tones he always used to keep the caller calm. "First you need to calm down and tell me what the problem is…"
Within a few minutes, John had opened up a channel with Base and was explaining the details to his father, "So, you see father the laboratory is underground meaning normal fire fighting methods are out of the question. And those three scientists trapped down there are asking for our help."
"Not another one!" Jeff Tracy groaned and let his head drop into his hands. "Whose idea was it to put all these research centers underground anyway?" he grumbled. "Alright John," he looked up to meet his son's image, "tell them we're on our way and get as much information as you can."
"FAB." John signed off, just as Scott entered the lounge.
Scott had already been up and half way through showering when he'd been summoned. He approached his father's desk, already bursting with energy and fully alert.
"Was that John? What's the situation?" he asked, anxious for news. The adrenaline pumping just at the prospect of a rescue call.
"Research laboratory in Wales," Jeff told him with raised eyebrows. "Apparently there was a big explosion, though they're not sure why…" he rolled his eyes.
"Let me guess?" Scott smirked. "Trapped scientists; a job for the Mole and some oxhydnite. Sounds pretty simple," he shrugged.
Jeff nodded, turning to Brains and Virgil as they made their way into the room and sat on the sofa opposite his desk. "More t-trapped scientists, M-Mr. Tracy?" Brains asked with a frown
"Afraid so, Brains. This is a job for you, Virgil; take the Mole and fire fighting gear. Head for England, John'll give you more information as soon as we have it." Jeff glanced between his two eldest sons, "Okay, off you go."
"Yes Sir!" Scott smiled and headed over to the passageway that would take him through to Thunderbird One.
Virgil meanwhile, rolled his eyes at his brother's enthusiasm and responded with a much calmer, "Sure, Dad."
Jeff turned back to Brains, "You know, I don't know why they still build these places underground, Brains." He shook his head, "It's blatantly obvious that we don't have the resources to control them when things get out of hand."
Brains frowned, "Well, there are err a-arguments either w-way Mr. err Tracy. The i-idea is that any l-leaks can be err q-quarantined because the whole f-facility is under- underground." He looked up to meet Jeff's gaze, a little uneasy at questioning the Tracy patriarch, "It was a err g-good idea at the t-time a lot of these p-places were err being built."
"Well I hope they've learned their lessons," Jeff told him with a scowl. The engineer nodded but didn't have time to reply before John called through with another update. "Go ahead Son," Jeff acknowledged as he sat forward, ready to listen to John's findings.
"Father, I've sent Scott and Virgil the coordinates and briefed them already. It seems this place has been testing the effects of nuclear warfare." John raised an eyebrow, waiting for the predictable response from his father.
"Great," Jeff replied sarcastically. "Okay, John, go on. What else?"
"The three scientists are trapped well below the ground; two steel blast doors came down after the explosion trapping them in place. All the other personnel have been evacuated by normal procedure but these three have been caught in one of the laboratories." John explained in a calm, steady voice. He was an old hand now at liaising between his father, his brothers and the victims on the other end of the line. "The guys in charge seem pretty calm, Father. The fire's close but Scott and Virgil will have them out before it becomes a real problem."
"Does Scott have a plan yet?" Jeff frowned.
"Sure," John replied, exuding confidence. "Virgil thinks it'll only take him about five to ten minutes to cut through the steel doors if he uses the oxhydnite. They're going to drill down in the Mole and cut the scientists free."
Jeff gave a nod, agreeing with the plan. "What about the fire, John?"
"Well, Dr. Hunt, the head scientist has already shut down all the air vents, so once the scientists have been removed we can leave the fire to burn out. Right, Brains?" John looked down at the engineer, in the bottom right hand corner of his screen.
"As err l-long as all the err o-oxygen supply is c-cut off John," Brains began, offering the blond astronaut a grimace of calculation before continuing. "There's err less o-oxygen under err underground anyway. The fire should b-burn out." He nodded, approving of the plan. "Doesn't the f-facility have its own err f-fire fighting equipment, built into the structure?"
"Yeah, Brains, that's already working." John nodded, "I don't think the fire's going to pose a problem. The facility's own system seems to be containing it at the minute."
"John," Jeff waited for Brains nod of agreement before turning back to his son with a concerned frown. "You said they were testing nuclear warfare, what are the dangers of chemical leaks or further explosions?"
"Well, the research center protocol means that any aggressive substances are locked away in specially designed cabinets. They're heat resistant, so any further explosions are unlikely as the fire seems to be under control now." John told his father, he shrugged indicating that he didn't think it posed a problem, "They think the first explosion may have been caused by some gas canisters that were wrongly labelled."
"Well that just fills you with confidence," Jeff sighed. "Okay, John. Keep me informed."
John agreed to his father's request, before closing the link down.
Jeff sat back at his desk with a heavy sigh. From the moment John had called this one in, he'd had a sinking feeling in his gut. He hated sending his sons out to face the unknown at the best of times, but today was different. There was a little voice deep inside of him screaming out that this mission wasn't going to be as 'simple' as Scott had declared earlier.
And deep down in his heart and soul, Jeff Tracy believed it.
He couldn't explain how or why, but he knew. He had a feeling this was going to be a tough one.
Scott Tracy could never say that flying at the phenomenal speeds that Thunderbird One reached could ever be tedious or boring. But at some point during the three years International Rescue had been operational he'd come to the conclusion that flying to the danger zone was very similar to flying to any destination; it always took twice the time to get there as it did to get home.
Adrenaline already pumping his system into a state of full alert, he had to admit it felt pretty good to cruise along at 12,000 mph. He'd formulated a plan long ago and now his mind was sifting through the possibilities of what he would face in Wales. He was functioning on automatic pilot; skilled and well practiced, his hands operated the controls without any conscious effort whilst his brain worked overtime.
Scott was in full field commander mode and ready to take on their latest challenge with enthusiasm.
"Thunderbird Five calling Thunderbird One," John's voice startled him out of his thought process and he reached for the radio, activating the headset he wore.
"Thunderbird One, go ahead John," he acknowledged the call. "You got some more information for me?"
"Sure have," came the cheery reply. "I'm in contact with the three trapped scientists, I'm trying to keep them calm but they're a bit agitated, Scott. By the time you arrive the area will be clear of everything and everyone except the two guys I've been in contact with on the surface. Over two hundred and thirty people have been evacuated successfully. They've been taken to a hospital, some suffered smoke inhalation." John saw his older brother nod but continued, "The center's in a small clearing in the hills, I've already sent through some coordinates; there's two or three options of places that look pretty safe for you and Virgil to land, going on the information I have up here anyway."
"Okay," Scott smiled, his serious commander authority settling around him. "Thanks, John. Who are the guys you were talking to on the surface?"
"Oh err, Dr Hunt, he's the head scientist. He's in charge of the scientists down there and he knows the research center pretty well so I figured you might need his expertise. And then there's also a Matt Foster, he's the chief fire marshal there and can liaise with any external emergency services, if we need them. Though I think conventional rescue services will struggle to reach the area. They should both be on the ground waiting for you," John informed his brother, waiting for any questions Scott might have.
"The research center has its own chief fire marshal?" Scott questioned, raising his eyebrow in surprise.
From the screen projecting John's image, he could see his brother reflect his own surprise. "Yeah, it pretty much has everything. It's self contained, according to the blueprints I have up here. The scientists have their own rooms and there are even restaurants and a movie theater down there."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Scott grinned and shook his head. "The place must be huge!" he exclaimed.
"Its stretches about four and a half miles by two," John told him. "It's all underground except for the entrance though, so it doesn't look that big." He paused, "In fact, I'm picking up local news reports that aren't saying anything about a research center; it's almost as if they don't know it's there. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere though."
Scott knew what his brother was getting at, "Out of sight…"
"Out of mind," John completed Scott's sentence in an absent tone. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking too," his glum expression said it all. "I'll keep an ear out, I'll be interested to see how they explain this explosion if the research center isn't known about."
"Yeah, I agree, but if there's no-one for miles then no-one will have heard it anyway," Scott replied with an abundance of cynicism. "I'm beginning to get a bad feeling about this John," he admitted. "Keep in touch with those scientists trapped underground and try to keep them as calm as possible. Let me know if there are any developments."
"FAB," John signed off and Scott went back to thinking about what action he would take when he arrived at the danger zone.
John's latest discovery meant that he was now thinking from a very different perspective. They'd dealt with top secret operations before, so it wasn't as if this would be the first call they'd had to a destination not widely publicised. Most of the time, it worked in their favour; no press attention meant they could be in and out with little fuss. The authorities were always willing to play the incidents down; nine times out of ten, they were just grateful for International Rescue's help.
This one could still go either way though, he concluded with a sigh. His previous enthusiasm was dissipating as he put in a call to Virgil.
John sipped at the coffee in his hands as he studied the blueprints on the screen in front of him. One of the few luxuries of being on Thunderbird Five was that, whilst his brothers were getting cold, dirty and hungry, he could direct them from the warmth of Thunderbird Five's leather control chair, coffee in hand. Sometimes, that thought made him feel incredibly guilty. But then, he'd been on his own share of rescues and he knew how it worked. Whether it was Alan or he, whoever was in Thunderbird Five during a rescue played an important role in making it a success; coordination and communication between base and the field was imperative. Not to mention the research. Research was of crucial importance in any rescue; Scott had to know where he was going and what he was facing. Virgil had to know what machinery would be needed and whether he would need an extra pair of hands.
Nobody could ever accuse John Tracy of having an easy job; from the moment a rescue call came in, he was gathering information, mediating between parties and assessing the dangers. One of the most important of tasks was to keep the rescue victims calm in the time between the call and Scott arriving on the scene.
He stopped his study of the blueprints and turned to the radio in order to do just that; check in on the trapped men.
"Jake? Jake can you hear me?" he asked into the microphone.
"Yeah, yeah we can hear you," came back the reply. The anxietyin the voice was a familiar sound to John and he responded with an ease of familiarity.
"How are you doing down there?" he asked, studying the blueprints and making notes as he spoke. Multi tasking was another undertaking Thunderbird Five's operative had to be good at.
"Not so good," Jake responded. His sigh crackled through the speakers and it sounded loud. "It's damned hot down here. How long before your friends arrive?" his voice came back, a little stronger than before.
"Don't you worry," John told him. "They're on their way, they'll be there soon. What about your other colleagues, are they okay?" John listened more carefully to hear them mutter responses as Jake asked.
"Billy's okay," Jake's reply rustled through, "but Luke's freaking out a bit. I think he's claustrophobic, he doesn't like the idea that we're trapped."
John frowned hard. The fact that a scientist with claustrophobia would work in an underground research facility was more than surprising; it didn't make sense. He turned back to the microphone, "Okay," he soothed, "you just try to keep him as calm as possible, Jake. Listen, why don't you tell me a bit about what you're working on?"
John was unsurprised but slightly panicked when there was clear hesitation on the other end of the line.
"Jake?" he asked, hoping to prompt the scientist into an explanation. "Jake, can you hear me?"
"Yeah," Jake replied. The stressin his voice had been replaced by something else. Something John couldn't put his finger on, but it was harsh and cold. "Yeah, I can hear you. It's just…" he trailed off. John got the feeling that he didn't know what to say. "It's just we can't tell you," Jake blurted out.
John frowned, the immediate question on his lips was why but he refrained from asking. He needed to know the truth about just what his brothers were walking in to and he wasn't about to get that if he didn't proceed with caution.
"I see," John replied, doing his best to keep his cool. "Jake," he was cautious of antagonising the situation, "we need to know what we're heading in to so as we can be prepared to deal with it. We want to get you and your buddies out of there but you need to tell us exactly what the situation is. You understand, right?"
"Of course I do!" Jake snapped back. John put the response down to the obvious fact that the scientist was harassed and waited for him to expand his response. "We've told you everything; we just need you to get us out of here. The fire's closing in."
"You've got plenty of time," John told him, stern but steady, "the fire isn't that close to you; it's being contained. We'll have you out of there before it gets that near. Are you sure there's nothing else we should be aware of?"
"I told you, no!" Jake barked back.
"Okay, I'm just going to check on my colleagues' progress, all right?" John's eyes were already glancing towards the GPS readings from Thunderbirds One and Two. "I'll get right back to you, but I need you to stay calm and keep talking between yourselves."
"Sure," Jake's response wasn't filled with the bite it had been before. Nor were there any traces of the apprehension John would have expected in someone trapped below ground.
Scowling as he scanned the information in front of him, he opened up a channel with Base.
"It shouldn't take that long; did John say how thick those blast doors were?"
Scott Tracy nodded his head. He was still anxious but in his heart of hearts his unease had been reduced throughout this conversation by a considerable amount. Sometimes, just the sound of Virgil's voice was enough to settle any apprehension he felt. Scott knew from experience, his brother was nothing if not consistent and steady; an anchor in the choppiest of waters.
"About 200mil I think," Scott shrugged.
"Oh," Virgil hesitated, surprised. "I was basing my calculations on about 100mil. Those doors are thick," he exclaimed, clearly surprised. "Still, that's only what?" Scott watched as Virgil shrugged and a calculating frown crossed his features. "Say it's fifteen minutes per door, that's a worst case scenario. It'll still only take half an hour to cut through the doors," Virgil stated with confidence. "That's half an hour cutting time. We could be in and out within an hour."
"Yeah, sounds good," Scott nodded in reply. "Have the Mole ready as soon as you land, will you?" Virgil didn't need to reply, so Scott continued, "I'm already calculating gradients and co-ordinates. John sent through some landing spots, did you take a look?"
"Yeah," Virgil nodded, "I did."
"Good," Scott replied. "I'll let you know which one to use when I land. I'm about ten minutes away now; how far are you behind me?"
Virgil stopped a groan from escaping his lips, "Twenty three minutes exactly, Scott."
"Okay," much to Virgil's surprise, Scott's reply was calm. "I'll let you know the situation as soon as I land; there should be the chief fire marshal and the head scientist on the ground to meet me. John's on the line with the three trapped scientists, he's trying to keep them calm and he's been studying the blueprints so he'll be able to direct you to exactly where you need to be."
"That'll be a help. What about after we've reached the surface?" Virgil queried. "Will they need transportation to a hospital?"
"Well, they're not injured as far as we know," Scott thought aloud. "Though, they may need checking over, they'll probably be in shock. We should be prepared to airlift them out," he decided. "I'll get John onto it."
"Won't there be emergency vehicles at the scene?" Virgil frowned. "Couldn't they transport them?"
"Apparently it's a difficult place to get to; it's pretty much off the beaten track. Emergency personnel have been on the scene but they'll all be gone by the time we get there," Scott told his brother. "We could arrange for an ambulance to get through but it'd be difficult to get to the exact location; it's in a clearing on rough terrain. It'd be quicker and safer to airlift them out."
"Yeah, you're right." Virgil nodded. "Okay, I could do that once I have the Mole stowed away."
"Or you could take them across to the nearest hospital as soon as you get to the surface. If you left the pod, I could have the Mole ready to go by the time you got back," Scott suggested.
"Yeah, sounds good to me," Virgil agreed. "Though maybe we should concentrate on getting them out first," he added.
Scott's reply was distracted by a flashing light on his console, indicating an incoming call. "Yeah, listen Virg," he said. "I've got a call from John; I'll let you know what it's like when I land."
Virgil signed off with a cheerful "FAB."
"Okay John," Jeff sighed and nodded towards the portrait that framed his blond son's features. "Let Scott know, will you?"
"FAB," the feed winked out and Jeff found himself faced with two curious expressions.
"So what do you think Dad?" Gordon was the first to voice his thoughts, still clad in his robe "There sure is more to these scientists than meets the eye."
"You can say that again," Alan nodded from the sofa, where he sat alongside his brother. "What are we going to do?"
"Now listen boys, let's not overreact." Jeff, as always, kept a level head. "We don't know anything for sure yet."
"But father," Gordon cried, "you heard what John said. They don't seem like scientists to him and he's worked alongside plenty of scientists when he was at NASA, he should know."
"Yes Gordon, but I'm pretty sure people don't suspect us to be International Rescue; we shouldn't judge a book by its cover," Jeff frowned, thinking through his options. Despite what he'd just said, he hated to think the research centre were keeping things from them. In order for the rescue to be successful it was imperative they got their facts right first. "Those scientists are mighty scared down there; they might not be themselves right now. Maybe with a little encouragement on John's part they'll tell him what they've been working on."
"What if it's dangerous, Father? Scott and Virgil could be walking into some kind of chemical explosion!" Alan frowned in concern for his eldest brothers.
"John'll find out and let us know what they were working on," Jeff sighed and found his gaze on the portrait that hung on the far end of the wall. "In the meantime…"
All eyes followed his line of sight.
"Lady Penelope, Father?" Alan asked, "You really think she can help?"
"Sure she can," Gordon replied for his father. "She's got contacts in the government; she could do some digging and find out what the hell's going on at that center. It's a great idea, Dad!" he enthused.
"You've got to admit, Father, things aren't adding up," Alan supported his brother's line of reasoning.
"Yeah," Gordon nodded again. "The evacuees were flown straight to a high security hospital in Kent," he paused for effect, "Why there? I've checked and there are closer hospitals than Kent."
"You don't think it's a trap do you, Father?" Alan cut in quickly, his frown became a deep scowl and his eyes widened.
"Even if it is, how does that change things?" Gordon asked, sitting forward in his chair. "We can't turn back if there's even the slightest chance that those scientists need our help."
"Gordon's right," Jeff nodded. "Those scientists are trapped. There's no mistake about it, John's traced their call to exactly where they say they are. We're their only chance at survival. Now let's not go jumping ahead of ourselves. John's going to report back with what he's managed to get out of the scientists. In the meantime, I've got a call to make…"
That nagging feeling in his gut took on a completely new meaning as he reached forward to contact Lady Penelope.
In the grounds of her Foxleyheath mansion and deep under the cover of forest, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was rather busy. Her distinctive Rolls Royce could just be made out in the background as she stood in a wire cage, to one side of a carefully cordoned off paddock. Loaded shot gun at the ready, she took a few moments to soak in the peacefulness around her.
"Pull!" The words were spoken with such delicacy but were loud enough for Parker to hear the command and the sounds of two clays firing into the air could be heard. Immediately after the two shots that followed, both clays dropped to the ground, broken.
"H'excellent shooting, M'Lady," Parker smiled. "Sh'all h'I ready h'another round?"
"Yes, Parker," Penelope replied as she turned to her butler, elegant to the last. "Though I think I shall try with my other shotgun. This one seems a little heavy," she weighted the weapon in her hand before breaking it and passing it to her chauffeur.
"Very good, M'Lady," Parker responded. "H'I shall go h'and fetch your h'other gun."
"Thank you, Parker," she watched him walk over to the Pink Rolls Royce, distracted only by the gentle bleeping coming from her handbag. She retrieved the bag from its precarious perch on a wooden post and held out her compact.
"International Rescue, England," she responded in her soft, lush tones. "Lady Penelope speaking."
"Penny," Jeff replied. "You look busy," he gestured to the chequered outfit, complete with cap and cape, "I hope I'm not interrupting."
"Oh, just indulging myself in a little shooting practice, Jeff," Penelope replied. "Now tell me, how can I be of assistance to you?"
"Well Penny, we have a situation. The boys have been called to a research center in Wales," Jeff explained. "Some scientists are trapped underground but the thing is…" he paused to glance away from her. "Oh sorry Penny," he returned, "just hold on a second, will you."
He engaged in some off screen conversation but was back with her within a few minutes. "That was John; he's managed to establish that these scientists have been testing nuclear weapons. More specifically, he was just calling through to tell me that they've been monitoring the after affects of some chemical concoction. Now Brains tells me there isn't any real risk to the boys," Jeff went on, "the tests from the effects of these chemicals have concluded that they're pretty harmless. But I want to know exactly what it is we're dealing with. There are things here that don't add up."
"Go on, Jeff," Penny encouraged. "What kind of things?" her eyes sparkled with excitement.
"Well for a start, John doesn't think these trapped guys sound much like scientists," Penny offered him an intrigued nod and he carried on again. "Then there has to be a reason why over two hundred people were evacuated to a high security hospital in Kent when there are hospitals much closer that could've easily dealt with two hundred patients." Jeff sighed and ran a hand over his forehead, eyeing Penelope's bubbling enthusiasm, "Then there's also the reason as to why no one seems to know about this place."
"So what exactly is it that you'd like me to do, Jeff?" Penny smiled, cocking her head to one side, fascinated and thrilled at the same time.
"I want you to find out everything you can about this research center. I want to know what's going on, Penny, and I want to know as soon as possible," Jeff was determined; if this rescue was to be a success, this information would be critical.
"I see," Penny responded. "I'll get on to it straight away; I know just the man for the job."
"Who's that, Penny?" Jeff couldn't stop his interest peeking.
"Why Sir Jeremy of course," Penny smiled back, "Do you remember his good friend Professor Borender, from that awful incident in Anderbad?" Jeff nodded his recollection and she continued with a sly grin, "Well Jeff, he knows every one who's anyone in the world of research. If he doesn't know what this place is up to, I'll eat my hat."
"Well thanks, Penelope," Jeff smiled his gratitude at her, "I'd really appreciate the help."
"Not at all, Jeff," Penelope smiled back, "not at all. You shall be hearing from me shortly."
"FAB," Jeff signed off.
"Oh dear," Penelope muttered as she placed her compact back in her handbag and positioned the exquisite accessory on her shoulder. "It looks like I shall have to cut short my practice. Never mind," she sighed, turning to face Parker as he approached.
"M'Lady," Parker acknowledged. "H'I've tak'n the liberty h'of loading h'another round." He held the broken shotgun out to her, "Your gun, M'lady."
"Oh, thank you, Parker, but I'm afraid I won't be needing that," she smiled at him with a familiar glint in her eye. "We have a little errand to run," she said, beginning to walk towards the waiting Rolls Royce.
"Oh, very good, M'Lady," Parker let out a weary sigh as he scurried after her purposeful strides.
"Mobile Control from Thunderbird Two," Virgil's voice crackled through the speakers, causing Scott to halt in what he was doing. He held a hand up to stop the barrage of questions flowing his way from Matt Foster and Dr Hunt.
"Excuse me," his tone was curt as he turned to his control system. "Mobile Control, go ahead Virgil," he sighed.
Virgil recognised the frustrated sigh in an instant and couldn't hide a grin from his lips. "Approaching danger zone, am going to land at the coordinates you suggested," he kept his message short and sweet.
"FAB," Scott responded. "As soon as you've landed, proceed with the Mole to reference: Juliet four, three, two, slash, four, nine, one; that's our drilling point. John'll guide us the rest of the way down."
Virgil picked up on the use of the plural and questioned it, "Us?"
"Yeah us," Scott replied, "the way I see it, we'll get through those doors twice as fast if I'm helping you."
Virgil was surprised; he'd assumed he'd be operating the Mole alone this time. It wasn't like he hadn't done it before and there was no real need for speed; the scientists weren't running out of oxygen. If there was one thing he'd learned though, it was never to question Scott when he had that air of frustration about him. He settled for a brief, "Okay," and informed his brother further, "I'll call you when I'm ready."
"FAB," Scott replied, "John's still got the scientists on the line, so he should be able to pinpoint their position easy enough. He's managed to talk the scientists into telling him exactly what they were doing down there," Scott continued after a brief check that Dr Hunt was out of ear shot.
"Yeah?" Virgil replied.
"Yeah, they were examining the effects of chemical warfare agents and what vaccines worked." Scott shook his head, the fact that the scientists had concealed their work in the first place had only added to his frustration. "It's nothing dangerous for us," he paused, lifting his head up as the whine of Two's motors preceded her great shadow moving across him. "Just an inconvenience that they didn't tell us in the first place."
"Well, at least we know now. It looks pretty quiet down there," Virgil commented, not as vexed as Scott by the deceit. Virgil being Virgil, moved the conversation on without dwelling. "I guess you're on your own," he commented as he lowered Two to the ground in the clearing, out of sight.
"Yeah," Scott replied, "It's just me, Dr. Hunt and Mr. Foster here. There's no-one around for miles but it gives us plenty of space to work."
"Okay, I'm just landing now. I'll go and get the Mole ready, stand by," Virgil told his brother as Two's motors droned to a halt and he pushed the steering column away.
"FAB," Scott responded before looking across to the approaching from of an anxious Dr Hunt with a groan.
With a great deal of reluctance, he approached the head scientist. "Dr Hunt," Scott called. "We're about to dig down to retrieve your colleagues."
"Oh excellent, excellent," the scientist rubbed one thumb along the other in a nervous gesture. "You will make sure they are okay, won't you?" Dr Hunt asked, his white hair being blown from it's swept over parting to obscuring his face in the wind.
He really did remind Scott of a mad professor. His white hair stuck up on end where it didn't assault his face and his large glasses covered the majority of his face. He wore a spotted bow tie and a pink shirt, his white coat fanning out in the breeze. Virgil would have a fit at his lack of colour coordination.
"We're doing our best, Doctor," Scott told him, attempting to be reassuring. "You stay right here, we won't be long."
"Don't you worry," Mr Foster replied, looming over the scientist in a threatening manner, "I'll keep an eye on him," he promised.
So far, Scott hadn't been able to work these two out; they'd been squabbling since he'd landed. At first, Scott had put it down to the stress of the situation; he, of all people, knew that people did strange things under stress. Before, he'd tolerated the bickering but now, it was starting to irritate him.
"I'll be waiting for my experiments," Dr Hunt replied to Scott, ignoring the still-towering Mr Foster.
"Dr. Hunt, we aren't going to be rescuing any of your experiments." Scott tried to remain tactful. "Just the trapped scientists."
"Oh," Dr Hunt reddened and fumbled with his hands again, giving a quick glance in Foster's direction. He offered Scott a shaky smile, "Of course, the scientists!" he exclaimed.
Scott frowned and looked across to Mr Foster before reaching a hand out to the scientists shoulder, "Dr. Hunt, I understand this has been a big shock for you," Scott put forward, trying to explain his odd behaviour. "Why don't you let Mr. Foster here take you for a nice hot drink, huh?" Scott paused before adding, "You look like you could use one."
Dr Hunt hoped from foot to foot for a few moments and then looked up at Scott as if he hadn't heard a word of what he'd just said. "Sorry, what?"
"I said you should get a hot drink, something with plenty of sugar, you're in shock; you're shaking," Scott observed.
"Oh no," Dr Hunt shook his head, "I shake like this all the time. Terrible accident with some nerve gas," he shook his head from side to side and Scott's eyes widened in shock; this guy really was priceless.
"Well," Scott continued, extracting his hand from the scientist's shoulder, "I really think you need to take it easy. Why don't you let Mr. Foster take you back to the nearest town in his truck?" Scott gestured to the waiting vehicle. "He can get you checked out, just to be on the safe side."
"No, no," Dr Hunt shook his head. "Can't do that," he muttered. "Must be here." His hands flinched together, nervous again as he looked at Scott, screwing his nose up to squint at the pilot. "Must be here to see my protégés when they're rescued, and besides, the village is miles away."
Scott frowned at the odd little man, "Okay, Dr. Hunt, but I strongly suggest you go with Mr. Foster. He could take you to the hospital where we'll take your scientists."
"Kent," Dr Hunt snapped. "Kent, they have to go to Kent."
Scott shook his head, "Well, you could rendezvous with them there then," he tried to be diplomatic; if the scientists needed hospital treatment, International Rescue would be taking them to the closest hospital equipped to deal with them.
"No, no," Dr Hunt repeated, "I want to be here."
Scott was about to reply when his watch vibrated; "Scott, I'm ready. Maneuvering Mole to drilling position now."
Scott raised the device and spoke clearly, "FAB, I'll be with you in a minute." He turned a concerned glance at the scientist, before Mr Foster stepped forward.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure he's okay," Mr Foster promised. Scott studied him, unsure whether there was a trace of malice in his tone.
Eventually he nodded and headed back to mobile control, "Thunderbird Five from Mobile Control," he called.
"Thunderbird Five, how's it going, Scott?" John's reply came.
"Okay, John. Virgil and I are about to drill down to the scientists, we're going to need your guidance so open a channel with the Mole." Scott waited for John to nod, "I'm heading over to meet Virgil now. I'll talk to you from there."
"FAB," John signed off.
Scott sighed and stood up; he was halted by Dr Hunt running toward him. "Wait!" he wailed, "Wait!" Scott stood still until the scientist had reached him, "You will save them won't you, they're my life, my career depends on those men!" he exclaimed.
"We're doing everything we can, Dr. Hunt," Scott's tone was calm, despite the panicked old man. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to my colleague over there," he waved a hand to where the Mole was now stationary.
Dr Hunt nodded and stood back in an awkward motion, Mr Foster came forward and led him back to a safe distance. Scott waited a few more seconds to be sure Dr Hunt was in safe hands before heading over to the Mole.
Jumping up onto the caterpillar tracks of the trolley, he keyed in the entrance code and let himself in. Virgil was already positioned at the controls. "What took you so long?" he asked, a wry grin lighting his features.
"That Dr. Hunt is really weird," Scott replied, "He's awfully concerned about those scientists."
"Well, I guess they must be close. Living together like that and working all the time," Virgil suggested. "He's probably just concerned about his friends Scott," he said as he made adjustments to the control panel; entering information and reading off important facts and figures. "The guy's worried, cut him some slack."
"No, I've dealt with worried people before, Virg," Scott assured him, "there was something different about this guy. He was…" he shrugged. "He was…"
"He was what?" Virgil asked, raising an eyebrow in his brother's direction.
"I don't know, he was just different," Scott admitted, at a loss to describe it.
"What do you mean different?" Virgil frowned. His older brother was a very good judge of character, he always had been and Virgil didn't doubt that if Scott said there was something weird going on, then there probably was. He did wonder though, if on this occasion Scott was just overreacting because of what they knew already. His suspicion originating from the scientists unwillingness to tell them everything, Virgil wondered if Scott was being overly apprehensive and looking for problems where they weren't any.
He didn't have time to voice his theory; he was interrupted by John's voice through the radio.
"Thunderbird Five to the Mole!" John didn't wait for an acknowledgement. "Scott," he called, "Thunderbird One's automatic camera detector has just been triggered. You'd better get over there, quick!"