Birds of Plague

Chapter Seven

The hanger of Thunderbird Two was in a disorganised chaos, coils of pipe were lying around the green transporter as it was covered in scaffolding as it was being taken apart to be rebuilt into a more modern and sleeker form.

The blueprints were pinned up on the main work bench, which was covered in a different variety of circuit boards, wires and a variety of tools or scrap metal from the machine itself. Entire section of the fuselage took up one corner of the hanger little more than scrap for recycling or to be thrown out along with the rest of the unnecessary debris from the refits.

Music blared out from a beaten up stereo, covering up the sounds of Scott and Virgil working together silently. Brains appeared now and then, checking up on the progress or changing the plans for the engines slightly, the bespectacled genius looked exhausted and less than enthused about the total redesign of his craft, the weapons and heavier armour were causing problems for the engine redesigns even the most advanced atomic motors used by Tracy industries were finding it difficult to keep up.

Jeff watched from the walkway high above, seeing the mess of rebuilding Thunderbird Two while watching two of his sons working on the plane. He leaned against the rail and wondered how long it would take to rebuild the big machine.

He sighed and closed his eyes, they weren't moving fast enough and now with Gordon acting distant he was worried how much more their family could take before they were broken up. Jeff could see how Scott and Virgil had buried themselves in the work, but they were missing their brother terribly. Looking over to the exposed runway through the massive hanger doors he could see the last of his remaining sons peering in before turning way, with the loss of his other brothers the redheaded Tracy was the soul of what remained of IR.

John, where are you now... wish you could be here, but why did you have to leave Jeff thought to himself before leaving the hanger, going up to the office trying to clear his mind ready for the paperwork waiting for him on his desk.

Listening to the chatter around him, John was thankful for his gift of learning languages. He listened as the old ladies at a table close by talked about the prices in the market, some teenagers talking of their futures together and the radio playing in the window.

He had managed to travel to Europe, thinking of backpacking it for a while instead of being in America. He had stopped in France for a little while but after one or two close encounters with agents searching for him, more likely on his father's wishes, he had moved on and now found himself in Spain.

"Se ha anunciado que el Reino Unido ha declarado un brote grande del virus que está barriendo las partes del mundo. Hay equipos de científicos que intentan actualmente encontrar una manera de parar o de tratar las nuevas tensiones a medida que continúa transformándose.

Otras noticias, Jeff Tracy de las industrias de Tracy han anunciado una recompensa por la vuelta de su hijo que falta y Juan conocido Tracy autor." The radio burst into life with the hourly news.

John looked up and then back down at his drink as he listened, as the locals did so himself. He did his best to keep his head down, thankful that it was a radio and not a Television as there would have been a picture up of what he once looked like.

In order to hide himself, John had gotten rid of his clean upkeep and taken to not shaving and dyed his hair to black. It was a challenge but he had the private funding and was slowly learning the know how, or at least remembering some from his college years.

He looked down at the travel worn rucksack, seeing months of rough living but he didn't mind. He felt that it was lucky to him, so he kept it along with his close possessions. Or in his case, his life saving possessions. That made him sigh and tug at his shirt to cover the tip of the yellow coloured skin poking out from the top of the sleeve.

The virus had mostly passed him by, but it had done its damage to him. His eyes had lost the blue sparkle that he was known for, replacing it with a dull red almost brown. That was a clear signal of someone that had either once been infected by the virus or still carried it within them, just like the hard skin that felt like fingernails to the touch.

That had originally spreaded across his body, leaving him to cover up every inch but thankfully he had been in the Alps during that time so no one had noticed. But now he was in Spain, where scarves were not recommended to blend in.

John sighed and looked at his drink, picking up his pack to rummage through it, thinking of where to go next to keep off the radar of anyone suspicious of him.

That was how his family knew he could and would disappear if he wanted, from when he went missing for two months while backpacking in America but back then he just wanted time to himself before going back to his studies and to his family.

Sighing, he looked up and left the correct money plus a tip for the waitress before picking up his hat and left the restaurant. He looked up at the cloudless sky before putting his wide rimmed hat on, feeling the strange woven textures and carried on walking back to his hotel.

"Phew, only understood half of that... but that Jeff Tracy guy huh, what a joke" A tourist was saying outside a newsagents looking at postcards with his partner, who shook her head.

"Honestly Bill, he's just concerned for his son in these trying times... especially what that news broadcaster said about the virus in the UK, all those people" She replied with a soft sigh, adjusting her own hat that was keeping the sun off her.

Bill shrugged, "Well if it was my son, I would want to know why he left in the first place and be truthful to my face" He said, "But not in a demanding way, after all, that's how Aaron's kid left him" He said.

John sighed and went up to the couple, searching for a postcard to send to the postbox for Gordon. "Su hijo será muy afortunado " He said softly to the couple, not finding a suitable postcard and walked on.

"Jean, what did that young man say?" Bill asked his partner, John listened as he walked away.

"He said, your son will be lucky" Jean replied softly, her hand resting on the small growing lump on her stomach as she watched the young man walk away with sad eyes.

It was hard to make out amongst the white sheets of plastic what exactly was going on to Thunderbird Two, but the loud roaring sound of the engines being tested echoed off the carved rock walls and the crackle tell tale signs of welding going on in other parts all pointed out that it was almost time for her first appearance.

"How much longer do you think it would take?" Jeff asked, looking down at the mess that was the transporter of their fleet. His ears ringing as the engines slowly powered down.

"The majority of the main fuselage is in place, so are the engines, support systems and cockpit rebuilds, our major problem is the rebuilt hydraulics and the new pod design neither has been as easy to install as we hoped by give us another month for the last few parts to arrive, then another two for the test flights... then she'll be up in the air like Thunderbird One is." Virgil said as he looked over the blueprints, he sighed an rubbed a hand across his grit filled eyes. "How's Gordon?"

"He's getting there, slowly... but Scott is doing his best to keep him occupied" Jeff replied sighing and rubbed the back of his neck.

"Having second doubts father?" Virgil asked softly, leaning against the table that had the prints led out on. He looked over at what was once a beautiful machine that he loved, even though he felt that the engines did need altering and upgrading but what pilot didn't. Now she was being rebuilt and modified into something so different to his lady that he no longer knew what she was.

Jeff looked over at his son, "You know I do Virgil, but its got to be done... the world governments are calling for action and we're the only ones with the sense and know how to do what they're asking for" He said softly as the lift arrived behind them.

The doors opened to reveal Scott, looking older and tired. "I give up with him, I really do!" He muttered as he walked over to the edge and leaned on the hand rails.

"I'll talk to him Scott, he's just upset that we've lost two brothers" Virgil replied looking over at his eldest brother.

"But that was over six months ago now Virgil, that John up and left us in the middle of the night... what happened to Alan... I should have been able to stop him" Scott said, and thumped the handrail.

"I should have been able to stop both of them" He added softly.

"No one's blaming you Scott, it's just unlike John to remain out of contact like this with us... when he went on that holiday in America, he remained in touch in some way or another but this, it's just unlike him" Jeff replied resting a hand on Scott's shoulder.

Scott sighed and shook his head, "What's the progress on her then Virge?" He asked, changing the subject from the breaking up of their family.

Virgil looked between Scott and their father before going through exactly what the list of tasks were for completion of the upgrading of Thunderbird Two.

Gordon sighed as he rested his head on his damp arms, looking out over the tropical gardens to the ocean on the far side of the jungle.

As much as he wanted to go swimming there, he was stuck to the pool. Their father had a strict rule when it came to swimming in the ocean and that was to never swim alone, that went for everybody but now with Scott and Virgil down in the hangers almost constantly. There was no one around.

There was never anyone around, not any more. Not in the last year, actually how long had it been? The red head frowned in thought, trying to figure it out before groaning in frustration and pushed himself under the water. Pushing himself through the pool he allowed his mind to wander, his time with WASP had led inevitably to his command of TB4 and the numerous missions he had had to perform to rescue and to defend the people of the planet. He loved his little boat and had a little pride in the fact he was the only one of the brothers capable of those missions, everyone else had a back up.

With the loss of his brothers the space arm had been depleted and he had done his best to step into the gulf that now existed but to almost no appeal. It had been too long, too long since his brothers had been lost, death, guilt or simple drive had led to the loss of his entire family to their own duties or to flight leaving him all but alone.

Surfacing he looked around the blazing sun beating down on the island once comforting now seemed alien... maybe he would request duty on TB5 for a while spend some time alone to come to terms with his thoughts. It was the only bird so far unaffected by the reconstruction of International rescue, maybe the two of them together might just find solace in peace.

With that thought in mind, Gordon decided to continue swimming laps for a little while longer to stretch out his arms and legs before getting out for a shower and to find his father for the talk he wanted to have.

Groaning at seeing the headlights coming around the corner in the road that I had not long passed, I was able to dive behind a rock hoping that the tail end of my long thick cloak wouldn't give my hidden location away as the truck passed me by.

It had to be them, only they would patrol around the long abandoned roads throughout the world in the middle of the night hoping to catch a brave individual travelling above ground. Or better for them, a infected group.

Either way, it wasn't good for me, after talking to Catherine I had decided to come above ground and look for the infected people that lived in the scarce cave communities scattered around the world.

Listening as the truck's engines faded away into the rocky country surrounding me, I wondered if I had got my directions wrong when in the underground and by some crazy chance ended up in the United States or to be more accurate, Nevada.

Getting up and adjusting my battered bags and cloak, I used the poor fading light of the moon to see a tattered road sign and shook my head. I was going the right way it seemed, I was in Turkey.

It was strange to be journeying like this again but it had to be done, from what Catherine had told me as I prepared to leave. The infected people needed some hope, even a small glimmer of it would be enough for these people.

These people were unfortunate, they were badly infected by the virus and unable to live out in society or had been discovered to be a carrier. It felt strange being able to walk amongst those lucky people that had escaped the virus, or the Thunderbirds wrath of being near a plague outbreak.

Catherine was putting a lot more pressure on me than I needed but she told me, If anyone could give hope to these people, then its you John Smith.

Sighing to myself, I lowered my hood and looked around to try and find the hidden entrance to the group I was searching for.

I was surprised when a bright and strong beam of light was shone directly in my face, I covered up my face hoping that I haven't been found by the Thunderbirds.

"Identify yourself!" A voice rang out strong and sure, a loud clack of a shotgun was heard.

"Don't shoot! I'm looking for someone" I called back, trying not to flinch at the bright light. "Can you please move the light, I can't look at that for long!"

The torch wavered a little and moved down, I inwardly sighed with relief, "I would talk but its not safe here, and as you probably guess... I'm not one of them" I added, a little unsure of my surroundings because of the spots swimming in my vision.

"Stay where you are and keep your hands to the side." The voice replied, "Now who are you and what do you want."

"I'm here on behalf of Catherine Hawkins, she said that I could be of help." I called back, trying to make out where the man was.

"Keep your hands where they are." The figure detached itself from the shadows and approached me, grabbing hold of my outstretched arms the figure pulled up my sleeves showing the mass of brown and yellow discolourations where the virus had hardened my skin and then cracked flaking off. I held my tongue as he looked over the small patches of fingernail like growths that still existed on the very outer edges of the yellow patches, pulling out a small sharp knife he tapped the 'nails' and pushed the blade slightly under the hardened skin. I tried not to flinch but couldn't help show my pain as his knife's actions shot agony along my arm.

Nodding the bearded man let my arm go and peered into my eyes, his pair of discoloured eyes stared into mine, he was checking for any and all possible chances that i may have been was. He must have been happy that there was no sign of contacts in my eyes I watched with relief as the man smiled and dropped his weapon to his side.

"Come on in, sorry about that friend" The voice replied and the sounds of the shotgun clacked again, telling me that he had activated the safety on his weapon. "The Thuds have been trying to sneak agents into our encampments for the last few months, the fact you made it here didn't mean a thing the fact your infected does. Welcome to Blue Sector."

He pressed a well hidden button and it revealed a small door in the side of the rock, I would have never spotted it in this light so was thankful for the guard standing there.

"Got a name?" He asked me after we entered the cave, nodding to a replacement guard as we walked past. Finding the tunnel unlit for a few meters before small torches lit the way to the inner dwellings of the cave complex, the man next to me wasn't a professional guard but anyone willing to do his job was more than worth his weight in gold, especially those who had had and survived the virus.

I took a slow deep breath in, wondering if my tales had reached here yet in any shape or form, "It's John Smith, I came up from the underground complex because Catherine said you wanted any and all news that I could bring here"

The man startled ahead of me almost dropping his weapon before continuing to walk, just to prove that he had heard of me. There were few people that hadn't around the world, I was one of the few that helped start the underground and cave communities and somehow rumours had come about that I was going to find a way to bring down the Thunderbirds reign over us all.

"How about you?" I asked as we continued to walk, I saw smaller tunnels leading off this main one and felt eyes staring at me through the gloom.

"It's Samuel, if you're wondering where we're heading, I'm taking you to the outer sections of the cave, as like you said... we have been waiting for news for a while" Samuel introduced himself as he continued to navigate the cave. "But we can't risk you being an agent using John Smith's name."

I nodded and smiled softly, "That's fine, is there someone in charge here? I would like to talk to them first before I talk to you all about what is going on out there" I asked as we continued to walk along the twists and turns of the caves.

I saw that these must have taken a long while to dig out quietly, as there were tool signs all along the walls but had been smoothed down over time but what surprised me was that there was hardly any smell of humans actually living here. Usually there were smells of cooking and human activity but it all depended in how long the people had lived in this cave set, sometimes they were discovered long before the rocks that formed their home absorbed the smell.

"We do, he will be able to answer any questions you may have or if not then I'm sure someone here will be able to help you if cannot" Samuel replied stopping to light a torch that had gone out. "Sorry, must have been a draught or something..." He said with a small smile of his own, returning the lighter in his pocket.

I shook my head, "Don't worry about it, it happens often... I can suggest a few items that may help" I said, thinking of the various light sources used in the underground communities.

"Any help with be received with much gratitude, I'm sure that you'll quickly find" Samuel replied as they continued to walk along the shadowy corridors.

I nodded and followed silently, hearing the residential activities echo off the cave walls of the many tunnels as I wondered how much deeper that the walkways would take us or how many people lived in this cave community.

Inwardly sighing, I rubbed the back of my hand wincing in feeling skin peeling there from what could either be a rash caused by the virus or just from a bad patch of sunburn. Had to inwardly laugh about that, being prone to sunburn after where I grew up but that's what happened when your skin changed because of a unseen circumstance.

Scott groaned and snapped the file shut, "I don't believe them, couldn't they get one simple order done correctly?" He said as he sat down on the couch with a flop.

"Take it easy Scott, just means that I have to modify it myself... but will need a few small parts from another company, which means another four months before she can fly" Virgil said as he looked up from the file in his hand, where he was leaning against their father's desk.

"Just tell me the parts you need son and I will order them, Scott, how about you go and hit the simulators? Put some of that frustration into something creative, I've seen the results of your tests" Jeff spoke up from staring down into a coffee, "I'm surprised at you, slipping like that"

Scott glared at his father, got up and threw the file down on the table. "What do you expect? I want to get out there! You know what we've got to do, so why are you all so calm about it? Or are you having second thoughts about this whole operation?" He asked, looking between his father and his younger brother.

"We've lost three members of our family to this, well one only by this, that's what he was hiding from us wasn't it? All those times he wouldn't join us in the pool, or how he was further away from us than usual... or Gordon, or how Gordon seems to have turned into John... just so distant and keeping himself to either 'Three's hanger or the pool" Scott continued, venting out his frustration.

"You can stop just there Scott Carpenter Tracy! Loosing Alan then John was hard on all of us, you were just so lost in keeping busy with the updates to Thunderbird One that you didn't realise that the rest of us was... is suffering from all of this" Jeff snapped, standing up and thumped his desk hard. "I didn't want it to come to this, any of this but we have been approached as International Rescue to try and solve this problem that is infecting the world!"

He sighed, feeling deflated, "Just go down to the simulators please Scott, brush up on your flight tactics.. you're going to need them once we are operational"

Scott glared and ran a hand through his hair with a groan. "Fine! Call me if anything happens" He said and walked away, cursing as he walked away.

Virgil sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Dad..." He muttered.

Jeff sighed, "I know son, go to work. I'll call you if anything happens" He said looking back down at his coffee.

Virgil sighed and nodded, retrieving the files from his father's desk and walked back down to the hangers to continue work on his Thunderbird craft. He looked up at the wall where the pictures of the unmodified birds still hung, each of them hand built and modified to save lives. Each had done so many times over no matter the danger or the risk to their pilots and crew, Two had been his baby from the get go even before International rescue had been formed he had had a hand in her construction and now he had a hand in her total rebuild to go from rescue to destruction.

Soon she would be ready to fly but for now, all she was was a complicated mess of wires, cables and scaffolding surrounding a war machine unlike any Earth had seen. Where once a wonderful life saving machine had been soon the total opposite would stand and above all Virgil wondered if he would be able to pilot her like that.

( A/N (*translation*( It has been announced that the United Kingdom has declared a large outbreak of the virus that is sweeping parts of the world. There are teams of scientists currently trying to find a way to halt or treat the new strains as it continues to mutate.

Other news, Jeff Tracy of Tracy Industries has announced a reward for the return of his missing son and known author John Tracy. ) End A/N )