CHAPTER TEN

Day Four (continued)

"I'm here. I'm here, Virgil. I'll help you. Just stay with me," Scott said softly.

"C-Can't th-th-think-" Virgil panted as he began shivering. "H-H-Help..."

Scott reached up and unfastened the restraint holding Virgil's head. John and Jeff reacted by removing the rest of the binds. Tin-Tin ran from the room as Brains continued administering hypo sprays of medication to Virgil.

"His temperature's too high!" John exclaimed, watching the life monitors above the bed.

"Brains, what's happening?" Jeff asked, still holding tight to Virgil's hand.

"H-He's going into shock!"

"Oh, God, why? What's making him into shock?"

"I-I don't know. I-I'm trying everything I-I can."

"The di," Grandma spoke from behind them. She'd picked it up off the floor and now held one broken piece in each hand. "It's broken."

"Oh, no. That means Kyrano can't play again," John said.

"Gordon," Jeff sighed, eyes closing in anguish. Now he would never regain his memories. And Virgil...who knew how much Virgil had been able to recall before the Hood's most recent attack?

"You don't have to think, Virgil," Scott whispered, still in his brother's full line of sight. "Don't panic, just stay calm."

But Virgil was shivering so badly he couldn't keep his arms and legs still. His head thrashed from side to side as he cried out. John held Virgil's feet while Jeff grabbed his other hand so that he was holding both.

Scott couldn't think of anything else to do...toeing his shoes off, he crawled into the bed, his back resting against the wooden headboard. He pulled Virgil up until the younger man was sitting between his legs, his entire back up against Scott's chest. He wrapped his arms around his middle and began whispering into his ear.

"Virgil, listen to me. Listen to my voice." A small smile formed on his lips. "Do you remember the time you climbed up into the tree house? You were scared of heights and by the time you got up there, you were terrified to even try and come down. Do you remember?"

It was like being underwater. Somewhere dark and full of things to bump into, like creatures clawing at you from every direction. Above he could see the surface, but no matter how much he fought, he couldn't get any closer. These things, they kept him down, hundreds of fingers digging into his flesh, pulling him down, down, when all he wanted to do was go up.

Then the surface rippled and Virgil saw something enter the water. A hand. It was a hand. But not one of the ugly lifeless ones keeping him below. It was brilliant white; it glowed as it extended itself further and further into the water, coming nearer and nearer. Virgil cried out and reached his own hand up. If only he could grasp it. If only he could reach it.

"Virgil," he heard in his mind. "Do you remember the time you climbed up into the tree house? You were scared of heights..." Virgil grabbed hold of that memory. Yes, he remembered it. The white hand-it was that memory. One memory he could fish out from all the others tearing at his mind. "...and by the time you got up there, you were terrified to even try and come down. Do you remember?"

"Yes...yes..." Virgil wheezed. His fingers were just inches from the hand...the memory of the tree house...Scott had climbed up to help him...but he wouldn't come down...he couldn't...in his mind, he so clearly saw himself at age six and Scott at age nine that he could've sworn it was real.

With his last ounce of strength, Virgil's fingers met the white hand...the memory of the tree house engulfed him...he'd been so frightened that he'd backed up against the tree house wall, crying...he sank to the wooden floorboards...Scott sat down next to him and put his arm around him..."It's okay, Virg, it's okay. You don't have to go down. We can live up here." "You'd stay with me?" "Of course I would. But then you won't see Mom or Dad again. Or Grandma and Grandpa. Or Johnny or little Gordon. Or the new baby Mom's going to have." "I won't see the new baby?" "No, Virg, you won't." "But I wanna see him." "Then you'll have to come down."

Virgil recalled how Scott had gone down the ladder, sheltering him on the inside as he clung to the outside...Virgil slipped once and cried for help...Scott pressed into him from behind, keeping him from falling...Virgil didn't want to continue, he was too frightened..."Virgil, I'm right here with you. I've got you, like always. Stay with me. Come on, you can do it."

Suddenly the white hand closed around his, and Virgil felt himself being pulled toward the surface. When at last he broke free, his eyes opened wide and he inhaled deeply, his chest roaring from the effort.

"Scott!" he cried out, his body stiffening.

Scott tightened his grip. "Right here," he said into Virgil's ear. "I've gotcha."

Every muscle in Virgil's body gave way as he sank into Scott's arms. As soon as Virgil had stopped thrashing, John let go of his feet and practically fell onto the edge of the bed, wiping his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand. Jeff released Virgil's left hand, but kept his right firmly within his grasp. Brains fell against the wall as Grandma backed into Kyrano's bed, completely spent.

Tin-Tin charged into the Sick Room, expecting to find it in as much chaos as when she'd left. But she was shocked to find everyone quietly staring at Virgil who, it seemed, had calmed. Jeff looked up at her, his face pale and drawn. Then he looked down to her hand. In it she held:

"The di."

Tin-Tin nodded breathlessly. "It's Father's second one, Mr. Tracy. I remembered where he kept it. That's why I ran from the room before."

"Then all is not lost," Jeff replied, allowing himself the luxury of a smile. He turned toward the head of the bed. Scott had relaxed his hold on his brother, whose head now rested on Scott's shoulder. He watched as Virgil's breathing slowed, and the life monitors showed all other bodily functions returning to normal.

"Virgil?" Jeff said, doing his best to keep his voice level. "Virgil, how are you?"

Virgil blinked as his eyes came to rest on his father's face. "F-Father."

"Virgil, how old are you?"

"What?"

"How old are you, son?"

"Uh, um...I'm twenty-five, Dad. Why? What-what's going on?"

"Damn," Jeff swore softly. Their scheme had worked...but not enough. "Is Kyrano awake?"

"No, Jeff, he's really out this time," Ruth answered.

"Virgil needs to hear more. He's not back to the present yet."

"I can play, Mr. Tracy," Tin-Tin offered sheepishly.

"You?" John said, rising to his feet. "You know how to play that thing?"

Tin-Tin nodded. "It's been awhile, but I know the song Father played for Virgil. I would like to try."

"Scott?" Virgil asked, cocking his head sideways to get a better view of his brother. "Why are...why are you in bed with me?"

Scott's face reddened as tension found release in laughter. He disentangled himself from Virgil and helped him lie back down. "And that's the thanks I get," he mumbled good-naturedly.

"Thanks," Virgil said softly, his eyes never leaving Scott's. "I know what you did. I don't know what's going on, but I know you brought me back."

Scott smiled.

"Virgil, we have to get the rest of your memory back."

Virgil nodded, although he had no idea what his father was talking about. But he trusted him, and he could tell something very strange had been happening, so asked no questions.

"It's gonna hurt, Virg."

"It's okay. Whatever it is, I'm ready."

"Brains?"

"Yes, uh, Mr. Tracy. He seems fine. I think it's o-okay to proceed."

John turned to Tin-Tin, who raised the di to her mouth. "Play well, little sister," he said softly.

Tin-Tin's eyes met his and she smiled, pursing her lips and beginning to exhale. Air swept through from her mouth and tickled the top of the bamboo instrument. The same melody as before was brought forth, and everyone's eyes were once again on Virgil.

It took less than a minute for pain to find Virgil again. "Owwww!" he cried out, squeezing his father's hand so tight Jeff wondered if he were breaking it. He twisted in the bed as John grasped his other hand. Scott placed his hand protectively on Virgil's head.

What was he seeing? What were these things? What kind of movie was running through his mind? Pictures sped by so quickly he could barely register one before it moved on to the next.

His brother Gordon, lying in a hospital bed after his terrifying hydrofoil accident...Thunderbird 5 being built...the elevator car crashing after Fireflash came down...being in the freezing cold at Mount Arkan with Brains...pushing reactor rods back into place at the atomic irrigation plant in the Sahara...catching Alan on the Jet Air Transporter as he falls from the San Miguel River bridge...shooting Lady Penelope free just as the Anderbad Express approaches...being attacked by missiles...he and Alan saving Tony and Bob from the mine...talking to Chip about Thunderbird 2...catching the KLA satellite on Thunderbird 2's wing and crashing it into the desert...bloody bodies and body parts scattered over a clearing on Cumbaquay...diving into the well tank to save John...

My life, Virgil thought. This is my life. But other scenes soon came into play, and seemed to slow down enough for him to grasp their meaning.

"Probably because he's sick of being in command all the time, just like I'm sick and tired of being the Second Fiddle ferry boy," Virgil retorted from the piano bench. His brothers looked at him in surprise. "We oughtta switch places. See how he'd like being stuck in Thunderbird 2 for a change."

What? Second Fiddle ferry boy? I am not a Second Fiddle ferry boy!

"I'm tired of playing second banana to the Great and Powerful Scott," Virgil began, pacing across the Lounge to the patio doors and back as he spoke. His voice dripped with hatred. "He always goes first, he's always telling us what to do. He's not so great. I don't get a chance to make my own decisions unless for some reason you can't get hold of the Golden Boy."

"Virgil, that's not true, and you know it."

"You can deny it all you want, Father, but you stuck me behind a goddamned freighter. I wasn't good enough to pilot Thunderbird 1. I wasn't smart enough to be made commander of International Rescue whenever you left the Island. I'm the one who has to do all the dirty work while your perfect firstborn sits on his ass at Mobile Control! God forbid one flippin' lock of hair gets out of place or one tiny scratch mars his James Bond face."

What the hell? That's not how I feel! What am I saying? But then there was another flash.

"Just...anger. I'm so angry."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I'm angry at Father, at Scott...I was angry with you for shutting Thunderbird 2 down."

"S-Sorry about that. I-I was afraid you'd, uh, you know."

"I know. I'm just...now I'm sad. This overwhelming despair, I can't-I can't explain it. It's so hopeless. Everything is so hopeless."

"Virgil, I think you may have been infected by something on Cumbaquay."

"Huh?"

The virus! Of course! This all started with that virus! The virus given to them by...The Hood. Suddenly it all became clear. But just as it did, the pictures faded from view, leaving him locked in a place void of light. Gratefully, Virgil succumbed to the nonentity of unconsciousness.


"Tin-Tin, you did it!" John exclaimed, rising and enveloping her in a bear hug. "You did it!"

"Let's hope so," Jeff said, finally releasing Virgil's now-limp hand.

Scott sagged against the wall as Brains reviewed Virgil's vital signs. "H-He looks good," he announced.

"Thank the stars for that," Grandma said.

Suddenly they heard a cry. But not a cry of anguish or cries for help...the cry of a baby.

"What the-?" Scott said, heading for the door. Everyone else followed as they traced the cry...to Gordon's room.

"Oh, my God!"

"What is it, Scott?" Jeff asked, entering the room. Then he saw.

Kicking his arms and legs like an infant, Gordon wailed and cried, tears streaming down his face.

"No!" Jeff exclaimed, rushing to his side. "No, no, not yet. BRAINS!"

"Y-Yes, Sir?"

"Sedate him! We have to do it NOW!"

Brains ran back to the Sick Room for the sedative, returning within seconds. He quickly injected Gordon, who at last stopped crying and fell into a deep sleep.

"Father, he's a baby!" John said worriedly as he touched Gordon's arm.

"I know, John, I know," Jeff ground out. "You and Scott get Virgil out of the Sick Room. I'll bring Gordon in. We have to kill that damned thing in his head, there's no time!"

Everyone scurried out of the room to prepare as Jeff sat on the bed next to Gordon's still form. He gently wiped the tear tracks from his son's face and whispered, "My boy. You've suffered so much. I only hope we're not too late."


Everything was set up. Gordon was strapped to the bed as Virgil had been. This time, John insisted upon taking up the position at his head, while Scott stayed at his feet. Jeff stood nearby while Kyrano slept on in the next bed, oblivious to the goings-on. Tin-Tin and Brains had prepared the radiation machine and Antidote L for their latest intended, and Grandma sat on the edge of Kyrano's bed. The room was crowded, holding every member of the house save Alan in Thunderbird 5 and Virgil, who was resting in his own room.

"We're, uh, ready, Mr. Tracy."

"Go."

Tin-Tin injected Gordon with Antidote L and watched as his life signs remained stable.

"Okay, I'm, uh, switching on sigma radiation...now," Brains said, flipping the switch.

The tube glowed as a red light pinpointed the same spot on Gordon's head as it had on Virgil's, his hair slicked back to increase visibility. Six pairs of eyes watched the monitor closely. As before, the organism within Gordon's skull slowly reduced in size. In almost exactly six minutes, it seemed to disappear altogether.

"Tin-Tin..."

"Ready."

"Now!"

Tin-Tin flipped the switch and the radiation machine went silent.

"Vitals are still, uh, good," Brains said.

"The di, Tin-Tin."

"Yes, Mr. Tracy." She stepped away from the bed, pulling the di out of her white lab coat pocket. She began to play her song, silently praying for it to work. It was Gordon's only hope now.


Mom twirling him around the room, laughing as he laughed, holding him tightly, kissing his skinned knee. His first day of Kindergarten, how he'd been teased by his peers for talking about nothing but the ocean, and how John had found him crying on the playground at recess. "What is it, Gordo? Why are you crying?" "They don't like me. They think I'm weird." "We all do, little bro." "That's not funny, Johnny!" "Hey, shh, it's okay. If they catch you crying, they'll tease you even more." "I don't like it here. I wanna go home!" "Just stick with it, Gordo. It'll be okay. You'll see."

Just then, a group of four boys from John's class approached the brothers. "Aw, will ya look at that? John Tracy's playin' mama to little bro," they taunted in a singsong voice. John ignored them, moving his body to shield Gordon from view. "Come on, Tracy, give it a rest," the largest boy said, pushing his shoulder from behind. "Let's see the little mermaid."

Gordon began to cry as John rose to his full height, which, for a boy of eight, was pretty tall. "I would suggest you watch what you say about my little brother," John menaced. "Oh, yeah? What're you gonna do about it, Tracy?" "This," John replied quietly as he raised his fist. Before Gordon knew what was happening, John had flattened the bully with one good punch to the jaw. Then he turned and offered that same hand to Gordon. "Come on, Gordon. These boys aren't worth our time."

Gordon smiled to himself as he watched John lead him away. He had always protected him, even when John had been a senior in high school. He was never embarrassed to be seen with a mere sophomore. It was when John finally graduated and left for Harvard that Gordon came into his own, learning to fight his battles and stand up for himself, thanks in part to long late-night vid conversations. He'd always respected John for how much he'd helped him, but suddenly realized he'd never actually thanked him for it. He cringed as the next scene appeared.

Gordon's heart stopped as the hydrofoil sped out of control. He flew through the air, his one thought that he'd never see his family again.

He almost choked on the lump in his throat. God, how did I ever make it through that?

Again, it was John. He sat by Gordon's bedside 24 hours a day in the hospital, and was the first one Gordon saw when he woke. John patiently waited until Gordon could speak, developing a crude sign language with which they could communicate in the interim. All his brothers helped with physical therapy as Gordon regained his strength, but it was with John that he'd spent most of that time.

I have to let him know. I have to tell him how grateful I am. Pictures flew by more quickly now, as Time and Gordon finally began to catch up.

Designing and building Thunderbird 4 with Brains and his brothers...cutting off Fireflash's engines so it could float to the surface...holding the EPU wiring in place so Fireflash wouldn't crash into the ocean...in a shootout with Dr. Godber in the Anderbad Tunnel...finding Ned and Joe deep beneath the island of Manhattan just in the nick of time...ramming Thunderbird 4 into the Martian Space Probe command module to dislodge it from the main craft...pulling Brains out of danger at the bottom of Lake Anasta...retrieving the stolen film from a mini-sub at the bottom of a harbor in the French Riviera...shooting a massive alligator with a tranquilizer dart to save Alan from being eaten...hoisting the diving bell to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean...being attacked by Umbabwe on Cumbaquay..."

Gordon felt like his head was about to implode, but he forced himself to continue watching this strange movie.

"Put some clothes on, Kyrano, Grandma and Tin-Tin will be returning soon. You can't be standing here like that when they do."

"Oh," Gordon snickered, "like Tin-Tin's never seen a naked Tracy before." Alan punched him in the arm. Hard. "OW!"

"What did you just say?" Jeff asked, his face turning scarlet.

Holy shit, did I say that in front Dad? Gordon winced.

"No, I will not go away, Gordon. You're in pain. Why?"

"Because of you, Tin-Tin."

"Me? What on Earth do you mean?"

"Why did you have to love Alan, Tin-Tin? Is it because he's stronger and heartier than me? Or because he has dashing blonde hair and blue eyes and I don't?"

Realization dawning, Tin-Tin covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh, my," she breathed.

Gordon sniffled and came to his feet, turning his back to her and leaning his elbows on the balcony railing. "I can't believe you've never noticed," he said quietly.

"Gordon, I-I'm sorry, I had no idea."

He groaned. Oh, my God, how can I ever face her again? Why did I tell her? Why didn't I just keep my mouth shut?

"I don't care what you want! You've made your decision!" he yelled, his eyes darkening. "Just go! Go to your lover!"

Tin-Tin backed away, tears welling up in her eyes. "I'm so sorry," she said before running out of the room.

Poor Tin-Tin. I have to tell her it's okay. I have to tell her. I've made my peace with it. I have to let her know. But Gordon didn't get the chance to take that train of thought any further. His mind went blank and he was left in total darkness. He felt something pulling at him, but resisted.

No, I don't want to go down there, he heard himself saying. No, I don't want to go. Let me stay. Please, let me stay.


"No, I don't want to," Gordon mumbled, fighting against the restraints. "Let me stay. Please, let me stay."

"Gordon?" John said, kneeling beside the bed.

"Johnny, please, please let me stay."

Everyone was surprised at Gordon's use of John's childhood nickname. They watched as John removed the arm and head restraints. Jeff silently removed the ones from Gordon's legs, and then came to stand on Gordon's left side. He picked up his son's hand as the room's occupants looked on.

"Shh, Gordo, it's okay, you can stay. You can stay. I'm right here."

"Johnny?"

"Yeah, little bro."

Gordon rolled his head toward the sound of John's voice, his right hand reaching up and grasping at the air as he squeezed Jeff's hand with his left. John took hold of the wayward hand and held it tight. That small gesture served to calm Gordon considerably. He lay there for a moment before slowly opening his eyes. He blinked a few times as the room came into focus. Then he saw John's blue eyes looking into his own amber ones.

"John," he smiled, his voice cracking. "Just like old times."

His older brother smiled, remembering the long hours spent in the hospital just like this. "Yeah, Gordon. Just like old times."


Epilogue

Whatever Kyrano had done during the last attack seemed to work, for as months passed into years, the Hood was never able to gain access to International Rescue again. Kyrano and Grandma had become closer during the horror of the virus and the strange organism The Hood had tried to kill them all with, and their friendship remained strong until Ruth Tracy's death at the age of one hundred and ten.

Jeff Tracy and his sons decided the best thing they could do was talk through everything that had happened. It took a couple of months, but at last they came to terms with their guilt and shame and put it all behind them. Gordon apologized to Tin-Tin, who told him they'd never speak of his confession again. And they didn't.

Both the first di, which had been broken, and the second one were placed into a display case in the Lounge, a constant reminder to everyone how close they'd come to losing it all, and that you never knew what seemingly simple and innocuous object could prove to be the one thing that would help save your life.

Rescues came and went. Thousands of lives were saved. Five brothers who were each other's greatest strength faced down countless dangers. The rigors of International Rescue never went away. And neither did the spirits of the men of Tracy Island who, with the touch of a virus, had fought their greatest battle ever...and survived.