Usual disclaimers apply. Don't not own, only borrowing and perhaps tormenting a little! Warnings for descriptions of violence and some strong language in this story.
As the first tear slid down Penelope's cheek, Virgil reached over and took her dainty hand between his tanned, rough one. The scene before their eyes was a tragedy, a young woman wailing for her lost love, pleading for someone, anyone to bring him back...
And as the strings began their crescendo to a minor finale, Virgil felt his own heart lurch a little. Penelope squeezed his hand momentarily as the female soprano hit a note so high it could have shattered glass. Her voice was clear as a bell and Virgil heard himself gasp above Penny's murmured approval.
Virgil often found that a night at the Paris Opera did wonders for his state of mind after a number of tough rescues.
His wrist communicator vibrated against his skin and he sighed, letting his head drop. Penelope felt the movement and turned to face her companion.
"You're needed?" she asked softly. He nodded, acknowledging the signal from base with a one of his own. He got to his feet, smiling apologetically at those behind him in the box and gracing the top of Penelope's head with a chaste kiss, made his way towards the front of the opera house, through ornate corridors lit by extravagant glass chandeliers. Virgil removed a tiny earpiece from his suit jacket pocket, placing it into his ear, already hearing the drone of Thunderbird One's engine's above him as Scott made his approach.
The earpieces had been another of Brains' inventions following a rescue which had Gordon yelling for help as his wrist communicator was trapped under a mountain of fallen debris. The earpiece kept each of them in constant contact with their island base, Thunderbird 5 satellite and the others on the mission.
"Scott, Father, John," Virgil greeted the men he knew to be listening on the other end of the line as he trotted down the grand steps which adorned the entrance to the Opera House. He glanced over his shoulder, giving the building, one of his favourites, a last lingering look.
"Virgil, receiving you loud and clear," John reported back from Thunderbird 5. "How was the opera?"
"Lovely..." Virgil sighed. "Would have been nice to have stayed for the champagne reception..."
"I need you to get to the Jardin des Tuilieries," Scott interrupted, always keen to get straight to business. Virgil managed a smile as he began walking through the quaint streets that he'd always admired, past quant café's filled with people drinking café au lait.
"I'm sending you the GPS to you now Virgil," John added. Virgil lifted his wrist communicator as a detailed map of the area appeared on the screen. A route directly along the Rue de Rivoli took him directly to his pick up point with Scott.
"Merci John," he smiled, quickening his pace and saving his admiration of the Parisian views for another time.
Luckily, most Parisians were inside, huddled away from the cool November air and the appearance, albeit very brief, of Thunderbird One, was only witnessed by a few romantic couples. Virgil was glad to get into the warmer temperatures of Thunderbird One, securing the door. Scott glanced over his shoulder and smiled a greeting at his younger brother.
"Look at you," Scott commented as Virgil settled himself into the passenger seat. "Very dapper...makes me think you were out to impress this evening..." The force of Scott pushing his Thunderbird towards the rescue zone, pushed Virgil back into his seat.
"It's the opera Scott, there is a dress code," Virgil sighed, waiting for the number of teasing comments he'd receive at having accompanied Penelope for a cultured evening...for the third time in as many months.
"Gordon's got your uniform in Two so you can have a quick change before we arrive. Wouldn't want to get your best dinner suit all dirty..."
"Yeah, yeah." Scott glanced again at his brother, who had loosened his bow tie and unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt. He didn't look entirely pleased to have been called away at such short notice. Scott sighed silently, he understood his brother's annoyance. There had been a large number of rescues recently, many of them man-made disasters. Terrorist attacks in remote villages across South East Asia. Scott and Virgil had been given a few days of down time, Virgil immediately accepting Penelope's offer of a night in Paris. Scott didn't blame him. He'd planned a day of hitting the gym, checking over Thunderbird One and swimming before the call had come in, a mere eleven hours after the last one.
"What are we looking at then?" Virgil asked him. Immediately the earlier joking was pushed aside and both were quick to assess the situation, ever the face of professionalism.
"It's a big one Virg, a bomb in an Indonesian village. Pretty isolated and the local towns and villages have the man power, but not the equipment to clear up the mess and rescue those who have been trapped in pretty poorly built structures."
"Another bomb. In South East Asia," Virgil sighed, rubbing his hand across his eyes wearily.
"Penelope's going to have her work cut out for her finding anything out about the group behind it though. John says there's nothing on any networks. He was wondering if perhaps they've been monitored by MI6 or the CIA, but…" Scott trailed off with a shrug. With the recurrence of the attacks, Jeff had shared all information the boys gathered during on rescues with Penelope, in the hope that she could focus the attention of senior MI6 personnel on working towards finding the leaders behind this group.
"Well, whatever we hear about or see here, we can pass on to her. Alan will be able to pull the audio feeds from the earpieces, right?"
"Yeah. Let's hope it helps."
The trees surrounding the tiny clearing began to stir as early evening approached. A tall man, broad, solid and muscular placed down the fish he'd caught that afternoon. Manap was a man of thirty, his wife and child taken from him during a vicious battle between the government and the villagers. Their attempts to save their forest, their homes and their traditions had failed. Manap had been punished in the more horrific way, his life stripped from him as he heard the wails from his family.
He'd watched the other men of the village share his own grief as their closest relatives were cruelly taken from them.
When the stranger had arrived the next morning, he found men more than willing to extract revenge on a government that had taken everything. His eyes had gleamed with near excitement as he told them of his plans to seek revenge on those that had hurt them so much. Manap listened closely, sharing the drink the stranger made them. It had a spicy taste on his tongue and left a warm path as it trickled down his throat. The flames from the fire flickered across the man's face as he spoke softly, his words mesmerising the group of men before him.
When he'd woken, Manap was no longer the man from before. The stranger smiled as he wordlessly followed his companions deeper into the forest, further from government control and any watchful eyes.
This stranger, he was now their leader. He'd made them a band of rebels, fighting back against the authority which had treated them so brutally.
His plan was swiftly falling into place. His own revenge was not on the Indonesian or Malaysian governments, but on an organisation determined to stop him and who had prevented almost every attack, every opportunity of gaining their technology.
Not this time.
This time he was well prepared.