Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Insert Fantastic Rescue Equipment Here

It was a lovely sunny day on Tracy Island, which wasn't that unusual for that part of the pacific to be honest. Nor was the fact that two large rescue aircraft were approaching from the South-West as if the owned the place, which was partly because they did.

The radio message that Scott Tracy sent to his younger brother Virgil in the slower and heavier Thunderbird Two however, was a little out of the ordinary.

"Someone's in your parking place..."

Virgil groaned. It had been a long day, culminating in a tricky operation that had meant cramming twenty terrified children into the Mole before their school collapsed completely as a result of the crash landing of a military re-fuelling tanker in the area. Put simply, his nerves were frayed to breaking point, and he wanted nothing more than to collapse into his own bed and sleep for a week.

Or until he was needed on call again, whichever came first.

"Does that mean we have to land at Mateo Island until they leave?" he asked, "Or is father keeping them out of the way again?"

"I'll check." Scott changed radio channels. "Thunderbird One to Base. Noting unknown aircraft on the runway, is operation cover-up in effect?"

"Negative Scott." came Jeff Tracy's voice. The International Rescue Patriarch sounded strange, as if something life changing had happened while Scott and Virgil had been absent. "Land and come to the lounge as soon as you can."

"Understood..." Scott acknowledged. There was something wrong about this whole affair he couldn't put his finger on. The feeling persisted when he noticed that the aircraft was parked in such a position on the runway that left ample room to accommodate Thunderbird Two, as if the pilot had known about the International Rescue Base when he landed...


"Where does this go?"

"Top shelf."

Dave reached up to the shelf Valerie had indicated and placed the medicine bottle there. The society healer was still helping him with the jumbled mix of memories and nightmares his unique experiences had planted in his head, but had established that sitting directly across from him as they spoke just made him self-concious. Allowing him to feel like he was being useful by helping to tidy the medical wing at the same time reduced his guilt at taking up so much of her time, and relaxed him enough to open up more than he had previously.

However, despite Phoenixia's insistence that she had spoken to him on the subject, Valerie could sense there was still a lot more he wasn't saying. Was this something to do with his being held hostage less than a week before?

"Any new nightmares?" she asked. "How about this black winged Angel you said you saw?"

"Bits and pieces." Dave replied, "Some battles, some random stuff, some..." he coloured slightly, "...intimate moments..."

"Right..." Valerie paused. This didn't sound like the sort of thing Dave regularly dreamt about. "And you still don't have any clue where it came from?"

Dave tensed, as if the question was an accusation. "I was thinking it might be a side-effect of the Psychic paper. Stormherald, or whoever was using it, accidentally downloaded some of their memories into my head." It sounded like he'd rehearsed this answer before hand.

"Sounds plausible," The healer replied, taking a drip stand from Dave's Luxray, Asuka, who was pushing it into the cupboard they were tidying as best she could in the absence of opposable thumbs. "Is there something else?"

Dave frowned, and Valerie sensed a build up of tension in his mind, like he wanted to say something he was afraid would terminally offend her. He stared at a bottle of an unpronounceable drug apparently containing copious amounts of benzene, as if trying to read something significant in the label.

"Well, ever since the whole... basement thing..." He faltered, seeing Asuka's guilty expression. (She had gone to answer a call of nature at precisely the wrong time, and had missed the incident.)

"You've found it hard to trust Louise?"

"No!" Dave surprised her by saying. "Adrian."

Valerie switched her surprised look to one of polite enquiry.

"The way he dealt with Alice and Louise was way harsh." Dave elaborated. "I'd call it counter-productive in fact. Louise was acting in a way that was seriously out of character for her, just a few months after she'd been captured and tortured, and he either didn't make, or chose not to make the connection. You want to get rid of foreign thoughts in someone's head, you do not give those thoughts a major sympathy in the victim's concious mind to get their teeth into, and make the problem worse!"

That wasn't all of it. He was testing the water, seeing how she would respond. Valerie could see this.

"Well, he doesn't know her as well as you." Valerie replied, trying to make it clear she hadn't supported Adrian's actions whole-heartedly either. "But Adrian's been dealing with this sort of thing far longer than we have. What if Merle had gotten to Alice as well?"

Dave sighed. "You're still..." he faltered, and the society Healer felt a deep anger, accompanied by a strange mixture of emotions, including mistrust, bubbling inside him, which he was trying hard to suppress. The water it seemed was unfavourable...

Dave's eyes wandered to something on the lower shelf of the cupboard. Suddenly, he clapped a hand over them, as if in pain, and his efforts to suppress his emotions became more frantic. Asuka, seeing this, ran up to him and placed a paw on his leg in an encouraging fashion.

"Dave, if you want to talk..." Valerie said, quietly, and slightly worried now.

Dave shook his head. "I'm still not sure what the problem is myself, but ever since Adrian returned, I've had this nagging feeling that something was different about him. I mean, we now know he has... other responsibilities..." Dave seemed to have wanted to say "divided loyalties" at this point, but held off. "I was putting it down to the psychic paper, but now... after all that... I'm just not so sure..."

He wanted to say more, but something was telling him to stay quiet. Something in the back of his mind was telling him Valerie couldn't be trusted... But before she could question this Valerie was cut off by the sound of an alarm ringing through the library, closely followed by a tinny rendition of the first bar or so of Caramelldansen from the vicinity of Dave's left trouser pocket. Every agent had a list of specialist fandoms, and many of them had set up a system that rang their communicators whenever a Sue was detected in one of them.

"Where we off to?" Asuka asked, her translation collar completing the sentence with a high pitched squawk of feedback. Dave's mood seemed to lift as he read the auto-message on the screen.

"To visit some old friends."

As Dave left at a trot, Valerie turned to where his eyes had rested just before the pain in them.

A bag of leather medical restraints.

Valerie understood. She took them and locked them in a cupboard only she had a key to. She felt like she should have done that weeks ago...


Scott and Virgil entered the lounge of the Tracy Villa, and were confronted with a scene almost reminiscent of a family album. Their brothers, Gordon and Alan, were listening with rapt attention to a young man only a few months older than Alan, the youngest Tracy brother.

He was tall, but well built, with wavy brown hair. His eyes were mildly startling, in that one was a relatively normal dove-grey, and the other a depth less green. I could go on, but I think its now obvious to the readers that this IS the Gary-Stu.

"Welcome home boys." Their father beamed at them. The young man stopped his conversation with the younger brothers and inclined his head to them, willing to let their father explain his presence. Scott, and Virgil exchanged glances. Something was up...

"I'd like you to meet your half-brother on your mother's side." Jeff Tracy went on. "Ryouga Thomas Hikari Ward Chekhov. He's been schooled with his father in Japan for the last twent..."

The Thunderbird Patriarch's introduction slowed to a graceful stop as Scott and Virgil's expressions turned from confusion to anger. There were two, almost simultaneous clicks, and both of them abruptly had their guns out.

"What in the world is going on here?" Virgil asked.

"Boys..." Jeff said, slightly alarmed by their reaction. "I've already expl-"

"Which is a lie," Scott said, calmly and rationally. "And everyone present knows this, so why are you all going along with it?"

The Stu's jaw dropped in surprise. Gordon and Alan looked at each other, then at Ryouga, strange looks of almost-but-not-quite-comprehension on their faces. Jeff subsided into a thoughtful silence. Now that Scott had said it, something wasn't quite right about Ryouga's story...


The same moment found Dave flat on his back with Asuka under his head. Not something that usually happened in the monitor room you can be sure.

"Hey! What am I, a pillow?" Asuka groaned. "You have a hard head, boss!"

Dave staggered to his feet, and tried the portal again. Again, the rainbow coloured hole in front of him solidified and threw him backwards, baring his entry.

"What's this about?" he asked, as an attempt to insert just his arm produced nothing more than a loud raspberry, which amused Michael's Combee, who was flitting around near the ceiling, no end.

"Not a clue." admitted Miri, as confused as he was. She looked at the read-outs again. "Apparently, you're not allowed in there..."

"Really?" Dave said sarcastically. "I'd never have guessed."

Tash arrived, flash-stepping into the room so suddenly that everyone jumped.

"Dave, were you trying to get into a Gerry Anderson fandom?" she said, in her best society leader manner.

"I can see why I'm not supposed to be," Dave replied, in his best you-have-made-an-error-I-am-distinctly-unhappy-about-and-you are-going-to-put-it-right manner. "but, Thunderbirds is set before first contact with the Mysterons. So where's-"

"Thunderbirds!" Tash repeated. "What's he doing there?"

"He has found the copyrights we gave Scott and Virgil to protect them from Mesha." Dave explained, gesturing to the monitor screen showing the Tracy Brothers holding the Gary-Stu at gunpoint. "And he is only level three, and not powerful enough to control everyone there completely, so there is a risk of a fatal crossfire if-"

Tash reacted instantly. Propelled by fangirl instincts, she tapped a combination into the console too fast for anyone to follow, then grabbed Dave's t-shirt neck. Dave just had time to sigh, before he was yanked off his feet and through the plothole.

"I'll just... wait here then, should I?" Asuka asked the blank wall where the portal had been. "Oh, hello there." she added, finally divining the source of the buzzing noise above her head.

Combee blinked three pairs of eyes at her. "You look like Shmeti, but you've got two voices." she said, thoughtfully, thinking of Tash's Luxray, and noting the translation collar in addition to her normal voice. She thought hard for several seconds, then relaxed, satisfied with her deduction. "You must be a Doduo!" she buzzed.

"Better Doduo than Mousey I suppose..." Asuka muttered to herself.


Ryouga meantime was sweating. He hadn't a clue why he couldn't influence Scott and Virgil, and nor was he powerful enough to override Jeff's paternal instincts for very much longer, especially since he needed to keep a grip on Alan and Gordon to stop them turning on him immediately. To summarise, he needed a distraction.

It was at this point that Dave and Tash arrived, and since the plothole had, for some unclear reason, opened parallel to the ceiling, they landed in a heap on the floor. A large vase of flowers on a nearby occasional table wobbled ominously.

"That'll do nicely..." Ryouga muttered, moving faster than Scott could aim at him. Tash tried to leap to her feet, just as the vase fell over. Dave instinctively caught it as it fell towards where he was lying, but it was heavy, and pulled his arms over to one side. The water and flowers within drenched Tash, and turned the fire attack she was targeting Ryouga with into a puff of steam.

The assistant librarian glowered at Dave as the Stu fled.

"That's one plothole glitch we can do without..." Dave muttered. Tash responded by pulling a tulip from where it had fallen in her hair, and slapping him across the face with it.

"What... just..." Gordon muttered.

"Hang on." Dave replied, clambering to his feet. "Let me explain..." He pushed his Scene Transition.


One explanation later, Dave had gone with Scott to lock down Thunderbird One to prevent Ryouga using it to escape the island. Virgil and Gordon had gone to do the same to Thunderbirds Two and Four (simply by selecting pod four and locking the whole of Thunderbird Two down), Alan to Thunderbird Three, and Brains to his lab. Grandma Tracy, Kyrano, Tin-Tin and Jeff were still in the lounge of the villa with Tash (who had used the intervening time to glomp as many of the Tracy boys as she could) watching the communication portraits of the others in the vehicles as they reported back.

Tash hadn't expected to be going on a mission when she had headed for the monitor room, and consequently didn't have any copyrights with her, so in order to mitigate Ryouga's influence as best they could, they had given Dave's two to Jeff and Brains, and recommended that those unprotected stayed in contact with those who were at all times. Jeff had thankfully taken this on board, and given the appropriate instructions.

Of the Stu himself, nothing could be found, although it was clear he had at least passed through Brains' lab on his way into the chambers and hangers under the island.

I don't think I've missed anything there... So, back to the story then!


"Thunderbird Three secure." Alan reported.

Jeff acknowledged him, and turned back to the picture of the second eldest Tracy boy, John, who was in Thunderbird Five, high above them. "And you're sure the download origin was the island?" he asked.

"Positive." John replied. "What's more, whoever it was used Brain's security code so I didn't think to stop it until it was too late."

"I see," Jeff sighed. "So Ryouga now has a copy of Thunderbird Five's search program as well as whatever blueprints he's managed to pick up..."

Everyone present knew how serious this was. If fitted out for military purposes, Thunderbird One alone could pretty much conquer any fandom with technology roughly contemporary to the present day. Who knew what Ryouga had planned for the specifications he had taken...

"Not that I'm crazy about having our minds twisted around, or technology thievery," John put in, somewhat diffidently. "but I'm not fully sure what the problem with being too perfect is." He looked at Tash, who floundered for a second, trying to come up with a convincing counter-argument. To her surprise, Jeff had a response ready.

"John, that perfection is unnatural, and dependent upon Ryouga. We would have been dependent on him for that perfection for the rest of our lives, like addicts to a drug."

John nodded, conceding the point.

"Isn't that the reason you formed International Rescue in the first place, Jeff?" Grandma added.

"Well said, Mrs Tracy." Kyrano put in, bowing slightly to Jeff's mother.

"I'm... lost now...?" Tash said.

Jeff Tracy sat back in his chair, his brow darkening.

"A few years ago," he said, "I saw a report about an air crash. Eighty people died, owing to inadequate rescue equipment. It was incredible to some that such a thing could still happen in 2063, but I'm in the business of civil engineering and construction, so I knew how dependent the world of today was, and still is upon automated systems. Error and outside interference can wreak havoc on all that, and it seemed that no-one was willing to invest in counter-measures against it..."

At this, the Thunderbird Patriarch smiled. "Then I remembered I was a multi-billionaire, with a family of pilots, divers and astronauts. I could do something about it, and I would." He beamed around the room at his sons, and all those who shared his vision, both in the room, and far away. Then sighed again.

"The trouble is, its as if no-one has learned anything. That those we rescue are just taking us for granted... Doing this is my life... and yet, in a strange way, I will never be happy until the day International Rescue is no longer needed."

Dave, sitting the pilot's chair of Thunderbird One under Scott's watchful eye, applauded.

"I think," he said, "that that is the reason you have all been my heroes since I was five years old."

"I'm flattered..." Jeff replied, "If... a little confused..."

An alarm sounded in Thunderbird Three, and Alan called out a proximity alert.

"Looks like we have more pressing concerns though..." Jeff finished. A quick glance at the screen behind him confirmed that a door in the spacecraft's Silo had been overridden and opened.

"Looks like he's trying to get back to his own jet." Tin-Tin said, noting where the corridors connected and ran to. "If we can cut him off in the pod vehicle storage bay or the Thunderbird Two hanger..."

"Leave that to me." Tash said decisively. Then she stopped in her tracks. "Um... which way is that?"


A few minutes later, Tash was creeping towards the Pod Vehicle storage bay, the fan girl part of her still bouncing over the fact she had got to ride on the sofa Alan used to get to Thunderbird Three for part of the way.

She entered the bay, concealed from anyone inside by the great blue shape of the Jodrel Six transmitter truck, and moved cautiously along the back wall of the bay, behind a row of parked equipment. She was reasonably certain that starting a vehicle's engine with the intention of running her over would give her sufficient time to move away before the vehicle actually moved at all.

Ryouga was a Stu however, which did put a different complexion on things...

After a few minutes she reached the other end of the hanger, where a security door was still locked, although it had clearly been tampered with. There was however, no sign of Ryouga.

Tash became bolder, and moved across in front of a red fire-fighting appliance with two two-fingered claws on the front. It was as she did this that one of these claws reached out and snapped closed around her. The claw however, had been designed to clamp around trees in order to rip them out and create fire-breaks, and Tash (being significantly thinner than your average Redwood) had ample room to spread her wings and escape upwards before the appliance fired a blast of foam at the closed claw.

The radio earpiece that she had been given to keep her in contact with the others suddenly chattered into life.

"Miss T-tash." Brains stuttered in her ear. "A master r-remote command m-module is missing from my lab. Ryouga may have C-control of the remote vehicles."

"I'd noticed..." she replied, as the fire appliance tracked it's turret-mounted foam nozzle around to lock onto her again.

In the nick of time, Tash noted two other remote appliances tracking her on the other side of the bay, and dodged their streams of foam. A drop of it landed on her bare arm, and began to sting, thus disinclining her from getting any more of it on her. Whatever was in it was probably very nasty. Her right wing felt heavy as well, and a quick glance at it confirmed it had caught a glancing hit from the foam stream, and its fire was dimmed.

At this point, she considered gaining access to the Master appliance, sitting inert where it always had been, in order to override the remote-controlled engines. But the hidden Stu had planned for that, and sent a remote-controlled Elevator Car from the pilot episode slamming into the side of it, buckling the door to the cabin shut with several tons of force.

Tash swooped, slightly off balance from her dimmed wing, over a small vehicle with what looked like two jet engines mounted vertically on the back. As she did so, the jet air transporter (a mobile safety net, in effect) switched itself on, and blasted a strong wind in her direction, almost lifting her into the path of a foam stream. But Tash was ready for that, and rolled in mid-air, allowing most of the air to blow harmlessly past her. Unfortunately, the tip of her left wing caught the foam, which clung to its surface like napalm, dimming it as well. On the positive side, she could now balance her flight properly...

The air filled with foam again, and Tash looked around for somewhere to land, but the remaining elevator cars, the remote recovery vehicle, and a mobile box that looked like a zoo cage had been given wheels were zipping all over the bay, meaning she could only safely land on top of the stationary manual vehicles, just as Ryouga wanted her to do... Unless...

She selected the Firefly Bulldozer/Tank as a landing pad, and was duly targeted by the fire engines, together with a nearby conventional (Well, as conventional as Thunderbirds ever got anyway) appliance. At this point, she feigned a slip, and before Ryouga knew what was happening, she had neatly glided down behind the vehicle's dozer blade.

If he wants to get at me now, Tash thought from under her improvised umbrella and shield, he'll have to get in the cockpit, and I'll be waiting for him when he does.

No sooner had she thought that, the Cahelium Extract X blade of the Firefly began to quiver, ever so slightly. The sonic barrage grew and grew in intensity until it was painful to be too close to it, and it was impossible to concentrate enough to generate a door to anywhere. But Tash had nowhere to go, as the foam continued to flow off the top of the blade, leaving very little space for her to shelter under the convex side of it. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, as did the foam.

"What did that feel like?" came Ryouga's voice. "How does it feel to know that the tables have turned, and you're the one facing execution?"

"What are you raving about?" Tash replied. Why had he stopped, when he thought he had her?

"Do you think we're just sitting around waiting for you to find us?" Ryouga went on. "No. Some of us have more sense than to draw attention to ourselves."

Tash didn't respond, but peeked around the blade to see if she could act, while he was busy sermonising. But he was too far away to be within reach of any attack she could make without exposing herself to the foam sprays. Come to that, it looked very slippery...

"I thought it would die out," he continued, "this holy crusade of yours. Just keep my head down, and when it all blew over, I could live in peace." he scowled at her, and Tash ducked back, anticipating an attack. But none came. Ryouga went on with his discourse.

"But it never stopped. You continued to hound us, even after your puppet Willowe was dead. Her carefully masterminded betrayal, proving once and for all that our kind could not be trusted, that peace was impossible. You finally had the excuse to hunt us down and slaughter us all without fear or favour."

"We don't kill Sues unless we have to." Tash argued. "Some former Sues are members of the society."

"Only because someone wants to sleep with them," Ryouga shot back, "Or for their political advantages. You make the rules to suit yourselves, and don't even practice them!"

"Wha..." Tash was confused. Political advantages? What did that mean?

"I mean like the clichés you get away with on a daily basis!" Ryouga went on, "Your habitual response to anyone telling you that you are hot, or cute, or any compliment of any kind, is a vehement denial! That's the biggest cliché I have ever heard! You know full well that most of the society either fancies you, or looks up to you as a big sister figure!"

Tash spluttered incoherently, the fact that Ryouga clearly considered this an absolute fact, both arresting the habitual response he had mentioned, and igniting a burning sensation behind her cheeks and ears. But before she could respond, Ryouga added a final question.

"Isn't that right, Dave?"

There was a short pause. Then Dave, standing up from behind the rack of Hoverbikes that had hidden him from view up to this point, spoke.

"I wonder if there's a device in here for disarming loaded questions..."

"Well, we can soon find that out." the Stu sniggered. "Scott? Virgil? Gordon? Brains? Is there?"

"Um, No..." Brains said, slightly surprised, from behind a pile heavy looking equipment boxes.

"Now that's just annoying!" Scott put in, stepping out from behind the Whale deep-sea Bathescape, and levelling his gun.

Ryouga smirked. "Well, I am very good at this..."

"Not as good as you think." Virgil put in, pointing his laser rifle at the shadow beside the D.O.M.O from his prone position on top of the Excadigger. "Gordon is still in Thunderbird Two, so who's that?" He fired.

A feminine yelp issued forth from the shadow of the demolition vehicle as the laser struck it's caterpillar trends. But Virgil had aimed to miss. This might have been a mistake, as an arrow shot out from where the figure had jumped back into, and whistled by close to his head.

Ryouga's surprise at his being wrong was swiftly eclipsed by a devious notion that he could use the distraction to cover his own escape, and he triggered the remote device again. Tash's hiding place was once again drenched with the stinging foam, and the sonic barrage returned with renewed intensity.

Brains, seeing the danger, leapt towards Jodrel Six, it's dish pointed ominously at the Firefly's blade, and pulsing with power. Virgil kept his head down, and remained covering the mysterious intruder. Scott aimed several shots with the intent of bringing Ryouga's legs out from under him, but was distracted by the Number Two Recovery Vehicle charging towards him, and was forced to roll out of the way, placing the wayward device between himself and the fleeing Stu.

Dave had a similar problem with the Number Four Remote Elevator Car, and reacted by throwing himself to the ground in front of it as it smashed through the rack of hoverbikes. It's ground clearance, thankfully, was more than adequate for him to survive such a course of action, although he lay stunned for several seconds beneath it when it struck the wall of the storage bay.

Ryouga meanwhile, in a balletic motion that is impossible to describe, grabbed one of the Hoverbikes as it flew out from the impact, jumped on it, and began to ride away. The security door had to have been opened to allow the others in, so he could easily get out now.

Scott ran to the now inert Elevator Car, as Brains put a stop to the sonic waves, which at least allowed Tash to shelter without covering her ears.

"Hey under there." Scott shouted as he reached it. "You okay?"

"Little shell-shocked..." Dave said in a small voice, crawling out from under the vehicle. "Where's..."

"Your boss is good for now," Scott reported, "But your quarry is making a run for it. Come on."

Scott helped Dave to his feet. They picked up one of the fallen Hoverbikes, and set off in pursuit.

The unknown intruder apparently had the same idea. There was a sound from behind the D.O.M.O of someone stamping on the spot for a second or so, and a figure in a white dress, with long red hair, shot out at a speed that shouldn't have been possible. Her red shoes were a blur, and her Tan-coloured cape billowed out behind her like a banner. She leapt over the spreading puddle of foam, and was propelled by some other factor than her speed, higher into the air than should have been possible.

Tash saw her land, menaced by a couple of speculative shots from Virgil.

"Crap..." She breathed. "Brains, is this foam of yours actually corrosive?"

"Dicetylene? No, b-but very I-irritant." the young scientist explained in her earpiece, "I don't recommend y-you move j-just yet."

Tash sighed, and turned on her society communicator. "Dave, our mystery visitor is Romani. Just so you know..."


"Thanks Tash." Dave replied, clinging to the Hoverbike for dear life as Scott propelled them through the corridors that led to the row of Thunderbird Two pods, in frantic chase of Ryouga.

Romani was the woman who served Stormherald by killing Mesha, the Sue that had re-made him as a Mysteron in Captain Scarlet. Her presence here was something of a surprise...

He looked back over his shoulder, and saw the running figure of the woman following them, just rounding Thunderbird Six (A Tiger Moth Biplane). As he did so, Ryouga decided he had had enough of the chase, and pointed a gun at them.

There was a bang, a hiss of broken electronics, and the Hoverbike began to wobble and lose speed. A particularly violent gyration sent Dave's Plothole Generator and Scene Transition bouncing out of his pocket, where they clattered to the floor in their wake.

"He's hit the cooling system." Scott explained, "Top speed is automatically curbed."

As he said this, Romani overtook them, just out of range of Dave's axe, and Scott had his hands too full with the controls to fire his own weapon at her. They watched as she ran on ahead of them, already stringing another arrow to fire at Ryouga, just as the Stu himself passed the open door of Pod Four, beneath Thunderbird Two itself.

Hang on. Wasn't Pod Four supposed to be locked down?

There was a whine of engines, and Thunderbird Four powered down the ramp, supported by its emergency hover-jets. It seemed Gordon had tired of sitting on his hands, and his World Aquanaut Security Patrol instincts had told him how he could get involved with a minimum of risk.

Scott, Dave and Romani watched, as the Submarine turned Tank powered after the Stu, who tried to evade the great yellow shape with some difficulty. It wasn't long before the two parties collided, and Ryouga's Hoverbike span off into an adjacent bay where a tank of aviation fuel was stored. Gordon and Thunderbird Four overshot the bay entrance, coming to a stop some 100 metres later, and beginning a slow turn on the supporting cushion of the hover-jets.

Romani, putting the arrow away again, arrived at his crash site first, and was greeted by a bullet. It didn't actually hit her, and was instead deflected by a diamond-shaped blue force-field that had mysteriously appeared around her, and vanished into a nearby tank, deforming the metal.

She slowed down to a semblance of normal speed, almost tripping over her own feet as she did so, and approached a pile of scattered Blueprints, stolen from Brains' lab.

Ryouga spoke two words. One of them was "Off".

"I need those more than you do." he elaborated.

"No, you don't." Romani replied. She dropped several red objects onto the pile of papers, which immediately caught fire, hiding their secrets forever. Then turned towards a dropped computer disk several metres away.

Ryouga made a desperate lunge for it, but Romani jumped again, her cloak fanning out around her as she covered the distance and plucked it from under his fingers. The Stu leapt to his feet and attempted to grapple with her, but to his surprise, she lifted him off his feet with a little effort, and threw him into a corner with her metal-gloved right hand.

No-where near as breathless as she should have been from her exertions, Romani turned to leave at this point, two further bullets pinging off her mysterious blue force-field, only to encounter Scott and Dave entering the bay, Thunderbird Four coming to rest behind them to block her path out to the Thunderbird Two launch bay. It's jets blew sparks from the fire onto a pool of liquid that was spreading nearby.

"Stay where you are!" Scott shouted, raising his gun, but he hovered indecisively between Ryouga and the woman he knew nothing of. Dave ran forward to try and grab her, but she span on the spot, and disappeared in a spiral of green light.

"What was..." Ryouga began, but he was almost immediately drowned out by a blaring alarm, and a solid looking shutter crashed down just in front of Scott, trapping Dave and the Stu inside the bay.

Tash arrived, carrying Brains, to his obvious discomfiture.

"What's happened?"

"Fire." Scott answered her, "In the Kerosene storage area..." Tash boggled at him.

"Well get them out!"

"I can't." Brains put in, miserably. "This s-system only kicks in if an explosion is i-imminent... If I override it, the w-whole hanger complex could..."

"We can't give up!" Gordon called down from the top hatch of Thunderbird Four. "Do it Brains!"

Tash was suddenly torn. If the hanger did go up as Brains said it would, that would do untold damage to fandom canon. But if they did nothing, who knew if Dave's new abilities could actually sustain him. The dilemma was abruptly solved, as the door bulged from the force of the explosion, and a flare of hot gas hissed over their heads as it found a breach.


Dave quickly grasped what was going on. The gunfight Ryouga had had with Romani had punctured one of the kerosene tanks, and the puddle of Aviation fuel this created had ignited. Already the flames were licking at the dribble of liquid that was still dripping from the hole. The tank was mostly empty it seemed, but that was worse in a way, as there was more explosive potential in the fuel vapour.

"Oh yeah, thanks for telling us exactly how we're going to die." Ryouga snapped.

"Not all the readers are scientists." Dave replied, "and neither of us are dead yet..." he looked around for some form of shelter. His eyes feel on a corner of the bay, as far from the tank as it was possible to get. A chill ran down his spine as he contemplated putting his unlooked for indestructibility to the test in so graphic a fashion.

I can survive no bother... at least I hope I can..., but I can't leave anyone to die like this. Not even a Stu!

"Ryouga! Huddle down in that corner, you mig-" Dave broke off as the Stu hurled a punch at him.

"And have you use me as a shield? No chance!" he replied. "Even if I get out of this, you'll just throw me in that dungeon until you decide to have another purge. I've nothing to lose now!"

Dave took a punch to the jaw which sent him reeling back, and the Stu closed in for another flurry. But Dave grabbed him, and allowed his knees to give way, pulling Ryouga down with him. With a twisting movement that was more luck than judgement, Dave managed to land half on top of Ryouga, while still between him and the now burning tank. Still blind to the agent's attempts to save his life, the Stu continued to punch and kick at everything he could.

As a flare of burning Kerosene flashed over their heads, Dave's thoughts turned to where he was.

Dying here might not be so bad, amongst childhood heroes...

Thunderbird One. The mighty aircraft he had always wanted to fly in. He'd got to do that. And today he'd sat the pilot's chair, in its silo beneath the pool...

The swimming pool in front of the Tracy Villa suddenly seemed to fill his thoughts like a blanket...

A swim would be so nice now... He thought, seeing himself fall into it in his mind's eye, as a loud bang swallowed everything. A sudden wetness enveloped him and the suddenly docile Ryouga.

Dave felt sick, dizzy, disorientated, and received a mouthful of...

Hang on... Since when does burning Kerosene taste like swimming pool water? Dave thought, fighting with his tentative grip on conciousness. At least, I assume it doesn't...

Opening his eyes produced a blurred and fuzzy image of blue and white tiles, and he was aware of a stinging sensation in his eyes, and a sense of floating in something...

Understanding snapped back into place like stretched elastic, and he rolled over onto his back, coughing and spluttering in parallel with Ryouga at the pacific sky above Tracy Island. His boots weighed him down, and he found himself standing up to his neck in the shallow end of the pool. It was a bit of a contrived co-incidence that he should discover that he had retained a Mysteron vanishing ability similar to Captain Black's at this moment, but he wasn't complaining.

The Stu was splashing towards the poolside, and was accosted by a surprised Jeff Tracy before he could climb out. Besides Jeff and his gun, Grandma Tracy stood by her son's side, armed with a large rolling pin and looking positively formidable. Kyrano had likewise armed himself as best he could, with a convenient pair of garden sheers. Ryouga seemed to be held in check by something only he knew about however, as he stared at Dave as he walked slowly through the water towards the little tableau.

"You saved me..." he muttered.

"You sound surprised." Dave replied, still not quite with it yet.

"I am."

Dave missed this, as he had just realised he was missing something else. "Where's my Axe?" he asked. "Oh there... Be right back."

Ryouga watched Dave submerge into the pool to retrieve his weapon, and lapsed into an stunned silence that lasted right up until Tash arrived, clamped a prohibitor onto his wrist, and made a loud and colourful speech in Dave's direction to the effect of "Please don't do that again!". She added that he seemed to have left his right sock behind as well.


As he watched this, Stormherald let out the breath he had been holding. "That was almost too close for comfort."

Romani was pale. "Good Lord... I almost..."

"You do need to be more careful." Stormherald replied, "But the unexpected happen-stance does seem to have had an effect that benefits our interests. Not unlike the charming Merle's efforts..."

"Can't we deal with her like we did Mesha?" Romani spat, clearly grateful for the change of subject.

"Sadly not, she is too smart for such a course of action to work, and besides, cutting down the tree you stand in is never a good idea..." Stormherald stood up. "But now we have a more immediate concern. The next delivery is due in a few days, and since we underestimated the chaotic anomalies in the vortex, we will need this search program up and running by then in order to find it."

He scanned the computer console through which he had watched Tash and Dave's mission, then looked down at the disk in his right hand and sighed.

"A Nineteen Sixties interpretation of a Twenty Sixties computer disk, and somehow I have to use a Twenty-Three Eighties computer to read it." he said, wearily. "Apparently, whoever built this thing had never heard of inverted-sideways compatibility..."


Tash and Dave were greeted by the usual cacophony of jeering when they entered the basement with Ryouga. The Sues had become more restive since Merle had induced Louise into starting a failed insurrection. As they steered Ryouga into a vacant cell not far from Reena and Kerrie, Dave couldn't help but feel something was wrong. Was it him, or did some of them look thinner than they had been when they were brought in? What were they saying?

"What did you do to her?" One shouted. Who was he talking about?

"You're just going to leave us to starve here, aren't you!" came another yell from elsewhere.

"When the Lieutenant catches up with you, you'll all be sorry!" another roared.

"Yeah! You and your pet Mercenary, Stormherald!"

Dave snapped to attention and rounded on the Sue who had said that.

"Stormherald doesn't work for the society." he said, "And since he's the reason for my current Mysteron status, he never will."

"Dave, leave it." Tash put in.

"Ah..." Ryouga said, in dawning comprehension. "Indestructible and Teleport, of course..."

"Teleport?" Kerrie said, her eyes widening.

"Ha! If you're going to lie, do it properly!" The Sue snapped back at Dave angrily.

"Dave, lets go." Tash said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away before he could respond.

The sue shouted after them, in a torrent of abuse that is not repeatable. Ryouga decided he had had enough.

"Give him a break."

The Sue turned to him. "Whose side are you on?" This comment attracted a sea of curious and occasionally angry faces.

"Not sure yet." Ryouga replied. "But he did save my life."

"You... did say... Dave can Teleport... Right?" Kerrie asked, in a voice that had all parties within earshot abruptly fall silent.

"Yeah. He Teleported me out of a burning Kerosene store..." Ryouga faltered, taking in the expressions of those around him. "Why? What am I missing?"

A spreading puddle of silence began to descend on the basement cells.

The rumour spread rapidly over the following days; Dave can Teleport. He could have escaped the hostage situation, taken Jess with him, and maybe even come back for more of the hostages... Why hadn't he? Then someone reminded them that Dave was one of the nicer and more principled members of the society. Perhaps he had thought that there was actually problem, and had sought to draw attention to it. Was that why Tash had dragged him away? Was he skating on the edge of the society's Treason laws because he had stood up for them like Louise had?

Many Sues and Stu's began to ask the same hushed question of each other. Did they dare hope they had just found an ally? Some scoffed, it was a ridiculous theory, and shot full of holes to boot. Others held onto it. It was the only hope they had...


"Tash, she knew something about Stormherald." Dave said, trying to get her to listen as she strode on, away from the Basement.

"Dave, don't get drawn." Tash said, her friendly advice somehow sounding like a telling off to him. "They just want a reaction."

"We don't know that!" Dave insisted. "They're-"

"I'll probably have to answer to Adrian for taking you into Thunderbirds in the first place." Tash went on. "You should have come and told me. That ban was put there for your safety."

"Today was the first I heard of that." Dave said, his eyes narrowing. "Would have been nice to know sooner..."

Tash stopped, and turned to him with an expression Dave saw as being mildly disbelieving. "You didn't know?" she said, in a matching tone of voice.

"I did not." Dave replied, anger mitigating the flurry of apprehension he felt. Tash isn't the same as she was a couple of months ago. He thought. It's like someone's flipped a switch!

A cynical thought crossed his mind that the aforementioned "someone" might have a tail and bewitchingly cute ears...

Tash shrugged. "Guess someone forgot to say." she said, "Oh well, you know now." And seemingly dismissing the matter entirely, she began to walk on. Noting Dave wasn't following, she turned again. "Something wrong?"

Dave remembered Tash leading Alice through the library like dog on a chain, apparently without a trace of shame or regret. The friend he had barely recognised...

"Fine. Just tired." he said, and excused himself as politely as he could, a very bitter taste in his mouth, and a stabbing pain behind his eyes that was frightening him even more now. It had been a very near miss...


Dave was in a field that was covered in poppies, digging a hole with a mattock.

Thunk, Thunk, Thunk.

Harriet stood nearby, dressed in the robes of a Babylonian King. Adrian stood a little way off, in the robes of the Emperor from Star Wars.

"Is this true, Adrian?" Harriet asked, in regal tones. "You plot the destruction of an entire people because one woman would not flatter you?"

Adrian grinned, diabolically. "Everything is proceeding exactly as I have arranged-, I mean, foreseen it. I don't need you any more. Kill her!"

Dave kept digging.

Thunk, Thunk, Thunk.

Michael, Cristoph and Valerie stepped forward to follow Adrian's orders, their eyes glassy and blank.

"Stop it!"

Alice and Louise stood nearby, weapons drawn.

"You don't want to do this!"

No sooner had they spoken, than roots shot up out of the ground and wrapped around them, until they were both spread-eagled on their backs on the ground.

"You DARE to question me, worms?" Adrian hissed. Silver meteors started to slam down into the ground around them.

Dave was digging another hole. The tenth one in a line. Two metres by half a metre.

Thunk, Thunk, Thunk.

Tash was dressed in a red and gold strapless dress, the skirt of which extended a full two feet out from her in every direction, despite the presence of the carved stone column to which she was tightly bound. Fire ringed the perimeter of the skirt, forming arcane symbols in the flames.

Adrian stepped over to her, and cupped her chin in his hand. Tash stared back at him with frightened eyes.

"But... I Love You..."

"My dear, why do you think it was so easy?" Adrian replied. He leant in, and planted a kiss bordering on the vampiric on her unwilling lips.

Tash seemed to grow pale, her dress turning to rags in an instant. Adrian by contrast, was growing stronger, his muscles growing more defined, wings erupted from his back.

Dave climbed out of the hole, and looked back along the row of them. At the head of each was a stone. They were filled in now.

"One left." said a voice, referring to the one he had just vacated.

"Who...?" Dave asked, looking for the source of the voice.

"Yours." The voice replied. A foot connected with the back of his head, pitching him forwards into darkness.


Dave snapped awake. He glanced over at his clock, its luminous hands barely visible in the dark room. Three-thirty AM.

"Blast it..." he muttered. He needed to be up at four-thirty to get to work for six. It was barely worth going back to sleep, and yet the lost hour would plague him for the rest of the day.

"Another nightmare?" Asuka asked, from her crouched position on the rug. "This is getting ridiculous!" She wandered over, still a little sleepy, and put her paws on the bed beside Dave's left arm. "Boss, your sleep patterns are messed up enough, and I don't know why you clammed up with Valerie all of a sudden! You need help, especially with the eye stuff!"

Dave shook his head, rolling over to face her. "I just can't trust her any more." he said. "I mean, I'm probably worrying about nothing, but my stupid primitive hind-brain..." he sighed.

Asuka's eyes widened, and she turned her head sideways to look directly at him. "You're annoyed with her for Alice's sake?"

"Well, not exactly, but that too... Part of the problem with that is, I don't know exactly what happened, I wasn't there..."

"Well, look up the camera footage. Find out. You're awake now, and besides," the Luxray added, "I'll get a crick in my neck if you don't sit up soon."

Dave smiled weakly, and did so. "Doubt I have access, but I suppose it's worth a try..." he said, ruffling her mane. "I'm just amazed Harriet allowed Adri-" He stopped short, a disturbing, but interesting thought crossing his mind.

Had Harriet allowed it? Did Harriet know exactly how Adrian had treated Alice and Louise? She relied on reports sent to her from Tash, Valerie and Adrian. All sources had a bias, even if the author was unaware of it, any historian such as Dave knew that, and anyway, the Society Leader had had a traumatised Emily to look after. Perhaps she hadn't thought to ask herself. Maybe she really didn't know what had actually happened. Or more importantly, what the incident had meant...

Come to that, perhaps he was the only one who could see the pattern. He alone, in the forty or so people that made up the society, could see the disturbing pattern. The repeating pattern that had been the reason he had joined the society in the first place. The pattern he thought they had seen when he spoke to them on the deck of Cloudbase. He was no longer sure they had...

The pattern of history. The inevitable, the avertible, the constant and the ever-changing. All dancing before his eyes.

But what if he was wrong? The nightmare had all but faded, but he could still remember the wings that had erupted from Adrian's back as he drained Tash's life-force. Six of them, so black that light fell into them and got lost. The wings of the faceless angel that had come to represent his manipulator Stormherald to him. Were his fears just a result of the psychic trauma?

Maybe that was what Stormherald had wanted all along, for him to lose his trust in his friends?

Sneaky little thing doubt, isn't it?

"Is that an idea?" Asuka asked. Dave nodded slowly. Familiar with this gesture, the Luxray asked him another question. "Well, is there any consequence of acting worse than the consequences of not acting?"

Dave thought about this. The worst case scenario of acting was that the entire society would turn on him, which he would only consider likely if he was in a cynical mood. Which to be fair was most of the time right now. The worst of not acting? Well, again that thought was coloured by cynicism, but it was definitely a more present danger.

If the rest of the society couldn't see where their actions led, then the consequences of their current path ended in a bloodbath.

If something bothers you, then say so. We don't bite, much...

Phoenixia's words of what seemed like a lifetime ago didn't exactly give him much hope, but could he really just sit on his hands and allow this?

This wasn't something to be done in the first flush of rage. It would have to be carefully thought out... but three years of writing Archaeology and History essays had trained his mind for this task adequately.

"Well put." he said, standing up and crossing to the computer that had come with his room. He didn't dare connect his own laptop in the library for fear of @ getting into it.

"Great. So what are we doing?"

Dave smiled at her words. It was good to know he had one ally here...

"Facing consequences, little Lion." he replied, starting the terminal. "Facing consequences."

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