Unexpected Encounter

Authors note – this is my first ever attempt at writing anything (except a story several years ago that I may return to someday but has never got off the ground) so comments, particularly constructive ones, would be welcome. I loved Thunderbirds as a child and this story just popped into my head – and I had to write it down! Rather T mainly because I'm not sure what is coming next, and want to be safe.

DISCLAIMER – I have no rights over the Thunderbird characters, they belong to Gerry and Silvia Anderson and them alone. Also, I have no rights over catwoman for that matter.

Chapter One – A meeting

The flames were slowly dying down as International Rescue's impressive fire truck went to work. There were fewer explosions now, and many buildings no longer glowed, but instead long tendrils of dark smoke emitted from them that had turned the morning sky dark. The chemical factory had been blazing since the middle of the night, and had been completely out of control when International Rescue had been called to help out the local fire crews that had been working fruitlessly on the ground. Their intervention was just in time as set away from the other buildings was a huge warehouse that contained an explosive compound, and it wasn't yet touched by the blaze. Not that they had much to do with that, the wind was in their favour and the fire had started in the far corner of the site. When Scott had arrived at the scene, an exhausted fire officer had informed him that should this building catch on fire, it would be a disaster beyond anything experienced in recent years. In short, since before International Rescue had been working to stop this type of disaster occurring. As Scott watched the flames dying further, he saw the fire truck backing away from the smouldering ruins that once had been a state of the art synthesis plant. Millions of dollars worth of damage must have been done by this one fire, and earlier he'd seen the managing director and principle shareholder of ChemDeli being taken away to recover, as he had come to witness the destruction of his company. Now he saw his younger brother Virgil coming out the fire truck in his heat proof suit to talk to the chief fire officer at the scene. The grey overalls and large mask were a far cry from the crisp blue suits the Thunderbird pilots usually wore on duty, and that he himself was wearing, but these were hopelessly inadequate for approaching the flames as close as Virgil had just done.

The brother in question was now driving the fire truck towards where Scott stood waiting, with the mobile control unit from which he coordinated the rescue activities. As he got closer, Scott could see that the fire had taken its toll – both Virgil and the fire truck were blackened by the smoke, and there were some large dents that hadn't been present before they'd left Tracy Island earlier that day. Looking over at his fourth brother Gordon, driving the Firefly vehicle to backup Virgil's work, he could see they were in a similar state.

"Brains isn't going to be happy you've messed up his toys," he commented, referring to Tracy Island's resident genius who designed all the machines the brothers used in their call of duty. Virgil smiled wearily, taking off the large mask that had been protecting his face.

"I'll clean it down later, he'll never know."

Scott smiled in response, and then gestured to the Firefly, that was making its way back to Thunderbird 2, parked a long way from the fire. "I'm guessing this means you're finishing up?"

Virgil nodded in reply, "The local crews can take it from here. You want help packing up mobile control?"

"No, you've done enough today. Head back home and get some rest – I'll be on my way soon."

Virgil smiled, and climbed back into the fire truck before driving off towards Thunderbird 2. Scott watched him as he drove into the pod, and then as the large green aircraft settled back around the pod like a bird sitting on eggs. With a roar, the craft's thrusters jumped into life, and the giant cargo carrier took off, spinning onto the correct bearing before heading home. Next to where it had been, his sleek silver Thunderbird 1 was waiting for him to load up and follow.

Looking from it to the mobile control station he was stood by, he sighed. He couldn't have accepted Virgil's help in packing up given how tired his brother had been, but it was going to be arduous packing up the unit. He couldn't help the wry smile flit across his face as he thought how inaccurately named mobile control was.

Before he started, he put in a call to the headquarters. "Hello Scott," his father replied as he appeared on Scott's monitor. "Is the fire under control?"

"Yes father, the local crews have taken over," Scott replied. "Virgil and Gordon are on their way home, you should hear from them with an ETA shortly. I'll just pack up and head back myself."

"That's great Scott, good job today. Let me know an ETA when you're airborne."

"F.A.B. father," Scott replied, and signed off. He began packing the unit, and took the first half back towards Thunderbird 1. He put them on the ground beside the craft, and went for the rest of the control centre. This time, as he returned he heard a noise, and putting down his cargo he looked around for its source. Out the corner of his eye he saw a shape flitting, and spun around to look for it. "Who's there?"

No reply came back to him, and as he shone his torch around in the unnatural darkness caused by the fire he saw the disappearing haunches of a deer vanish into the undergrowth.

"Scott Tracy, get a grip," he muttered to himself, and turned back to start loading the packages onto Thunderbird 1. He was nearly finished when a voice called out behind him, causing him to drop the box he was loading and stumble backwards out of the craft.

"So this is a great Thunderbird machine."

He turned to look at the speaker, and his jaw dropped. In front of him there stood a figure dressed from head to foot in black. A black mask covered her face, with large eyes looking at him out of carefully carved slits. All he could see of her was her mouth and jaw, with bright red lips and pale skin. The suit was figure-hugging and distinctly female, and his first thought was that she resembled the catwoman character from the comic strips that Alan and Gordon used to read. He voice was neither filled with the admiration he normally heard when people first saw any of the Thunderbird craft, nor with scorn. Rather she said it neutrally, as though stating a fact. She was leaning against the craft, arms crossed and head tilted as she studied him. Eventually he realised he was staring, and cleared his throat.

"What….who are you?"

She just laughed in reply, and starting walking up to him. She passed closely by, and Scott felt lightheaded by her presence. She stopped close to him, and looked inside the machine.

"What would you say if I told you that the fire was set deliberately, to enable someone to plant cameras inside your machines?"

Scott frowned at her "Are you suggesting that someone is trying to steal our technology?"

"Maybe, maybe not. But it wouldn't hurt to do a check when you get back to inspect them for damage, would it?" Her accent was British, but not the clipped English tones Scott was familiar with through association with Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, International Rescue's London intelligence agent. It was softer, with a slight lilt that he couldn't place.

"Were you involved in the fire?"

She laughed softly again, this time without mirth. "What would you say if I told you that on the orders of the MD of ChemDeli several years ago a batch of industrial chemical waste was deposited in a river in India, a river used by many local families as their only source of water?"

"I'd say that in that case the evidence should be collected and the people responsible prosecuted."

"Would you now," she said, drumming her fingernails along the side of Thunderbird 1. Looking closely, Scott could see that protruding from the gloves she was wearing there were sharp points, almost like claws. He could also see that they were damaging the paintwork of his beloved Thunderbird, and he was just drawing in breath to scold when she stopped, and began walking away. Scott watched her go, his mind reeling.

"Hey!" he called, starting after her, and when she didn't respond he called out the first thing he could think of. "Cat!" Seeing her turn to look at him, he asked hurriedly "What happened to the families?"

She smiled slightly "Cat, I like that. I'll see you again, Thunderbird." She resumed walking away, then said softly over her shoulder so that he could barely hear her, "They went blind. Whole communities of people went blind and starved." With that, she vanished into the murky light and was gone.

Scott was jolted from his reverie by the sound of his intercom on Thunderbird 1. Answering it, he found it was his father looking concerned. "Are you alright Scott? I expected to hear from you by now. There's nothing wrong, is there?"

"No father, I just had some trouble packing up mobile control," Scott lied, sensing his father wouldn't approve of the conversation with a strange woman in the artificial darkness. "I'm on my way home now. ETA is 14:00 hours your time."

"F.A.B. Scott," his father replied, and signed out. Scott strapped in and launched Thunderbird 1, setting the course for Tracy Island. He then sat back and wondered how much of the last half hour he would disclose with his family. Unused to reticence, he felt that he couldn't share these events with them, and that fact worried him more than any other.