First Rescue

The passageway I entered was covered with spider webs and showed no signs of having been disturbed in a decade or more. I quickly became more or less accustomed to the cold that sat like a blanket in the midnight dark corridor. But as I continued, I saw more and more signs of usage and began to be more wary of my surroundings. I kept close to one wall, not touching it, but using it as a guide. There was still no sign of life, nor was there any artificial light.

I had noticed doors from time to time, embedded in the stonework. They were covered with webs, so much so that I could not tell whether the doors were of wood or metal. So I was startled to find a door not covered with any of the thick webbing. It was a wooden door, made of strong, dense teak, next to impossible to break. There were two locks, simple metal bolts at the top and bottom of the door that slid into holes carved from the stone for the purpose. Not strong enough or complex enough to keep anyone out, but more than enough to keep someone in. My curiosity was piqued. I wanted to know who, if anyone, was behind that door.

When I had schooled my mind to resist my half-brother's attacks, I found, to my complete surprise, that I had some latent mental abilities of my own. The ability to enter another's dreams, to find a person by their thoughts, to reach into the willing mind of a friend. During the years that followed this discovery, I worked on honing these abilities, and they had been useful in more than one instance. That is why I was sensitive to the faint mental echoes that swirled around the temple.

Up until this point, I had not reached out to the soft voices that tickled my mind. To do so would have invited discovery by my half-brother. But with the defeat of Scott, and the hopefully permanent severing of his mental link with his captor, I was almost certain that Belah already knew of my presence. Now, I decided, was the time to open myself up to the voices. I understood the dangers inherent in this choice; there was no guarantee that the feathery tickles were the confused thoughts of my friends. They could just as easily be those of demons residing in the temple, or of victims long dead. Yet there was a familiar tang to the whispers, a sense of the intimacy shared among friends and family. If my days were not so filled with the aural noise of the Tracy household, I thought my mind would hear these voices in the background all the day.

I sat in the dark, my back against the door, my eyes open. The cold of the floor seeped through the tough trousers, but I paid it no heed. Composing myself, I found my center and entered a trance-like state. On one level, I could see and hear things around me and would be warned of the approach of any person. But on the deeper level to which my consciousness retreated, I was enveloped in a velvety dark, on which small points of light danced like stars. Some moved, as the bodies that hosted them would move about. One slightly duller one was positioned some ways away to my right; it was the slumbering Scott. And as I turned my mind's eye behind me, I saw a flickering light, the mind of someone trying to stay conscious. I reached for the light and it brightened at my approach. Then our minds met and I recognized the formidable intellect of the engineer, Brains. He was in pain, physical pain, and was trying to stay awake. I gently broke our contact and came out of my trance.

The locks were stubborn and refused to give way easily. It took several minutes of tugging, then sliding each lock minutely back and forth for the bolts to come free of the holes in the stone. The door swung silently outward on hidden hinges, as if they had been recently oiled. To keep the door from closing silently upon me and perhaps locking me in again, I took one of the round grenades from my pouch and placed it on the floor between the door and its jamb. I went from darkness to darkness, only my infrared glasses and torch allowing me so see the figure slumped by the wall. I nearly wept at the sight.

Brains's arms were held up by manacles around his wrists that were chained to the wall with a chain long enough for him to stand or sit, but not to recline. His chest was bare, and long parallel cuts crisscrossed the skin in places. There were the same cuts on his arms, and upon examination, upon his back. His glasses had been taken from him, and his face showed signs of the same abuse, as well as bruises that swelled one eye shut. I cursed myself for not being farsighted enough to bring a medikit with me.

"Mr. Brains!" I whispered. He jumped at the sound, but soon calmed, opening his one good eye. He could not see me, but could see the red light emanating from my torch.

"Kyrano?" he croaked softly. I touched him gently on the shoulder. He was shivering from cold and shock. For a moment I considered my options. The only true option revealed itself almost immediately. I could not leave him here. I had to free him and take him to Thunderbird 2. There I could treat his wounds and safely leave him in a healing, sedated sleep.

I set out to free him from his restraints. The slim white staff that Dr. Barnes had provided proved to be invaluable as a lever. Mere iron gave way beneath the assault by the nearly indestructible metal that made up the rod. Soon I had removed the manacles from his wrists. While I worked, I whispered my plan to him. He nodded wearily.

"Who did this to you?" I asked him as I pulled him to his bare feet and supported his weight with my shoulder.

"H-Hei-m-mana," he answered, following the word with a hiss as my hand made contact with cuts along his other side. I nodded in the dark. I remembered the description of the Asian woman that he and Dr. Barnes fell afoul of in London.

I picked up the little grenade on our way out, and made sure the door bolts were back in place before we moved down the dark corridor. He leaned heavily on me for support, his strength failing much faster than I had anticipated. We came to the end of the tunnel, and I eased him to the floor before playing my torch around to find the hidden catch that would activate the door. It was on the floor this time, much easier to access, and with just a touch the door opened. I helped Brains to his feet and we walked out into the starry night.

The celestial grandeur above me was as familiar to me now as it had been to me as a boy. By orienting myself to the constellations, I knew I could approximate the direction in which I would find Thunderbird 2. I stood still, Brains's arm draped over my shoulders, and looked long at the sky. Then I turned, and half-dragging my charge along, set off to find the cargo carrier. I risked a glance back to the wall to see that Scott was still there, still sleeping. I thought, 'Perhaps I can come back for him once I have the engineer settled.'

We trekked through the jungle, following a dim path that wound through the trees. The darkness under the foliage was almost as bad as that in the temple, but once in a while, starlight would find its way to the ground, highlighting the path we trod. But at last, Brains' meager strength gave way, and he fell to the ground, almost taking me down with him. He was unconscious now, and would be of no more help in his own rescue. I slipped one end of the torch into the pouch at my waist and lowered myself, bending at the knees, to pick up the young man, and put him across my shoulders as I had often seen the Tracy sons do in training simulations. I pulled out the torch once again and used it to guide our way. Somehow, even with carrying the full weight of the engineer on my back, I made better time than before.

The jungle gave way to a clearing, an open space filled with the bulk of a huge, steep hill, almost barren except for some scattered bushes. I closed my eyes in despair of ever climbing the hill, and of the time lost skirting the monstrosity. Then I opened my eyes again, and laughed aloud at my own stupidity. I had found it! What I had easily discerned as the camouflaged bulk of the giant green aircraft from the air by day, had fooled me on the ground by night!

I walked to the point closest to the bow, and then tried to move the heavy netting that covered the craft. I could only move it up a foot or so, and wondered how I would get myself and Brains inside. Finally I decided that I would hold it open with my body while pulling the engineer through along the ground. In order to keep his wounds from getting dirty, I removed my tee shirt and put it on him. Then I pulled the netting up, and using my back as a prop, I made a tunnel under which Brains could pass. When I had pulled and pushed him through as far as I could, I ducked out from under the netting on the inside and draped his unmoving form once again across my shoulders.

It was a short walk to the bulk of Virgil Tracy's pride and joy. There was no easy way to access the cockpit area when it rested on the ground. The only entry and exit were through the pilot's slide or the passenger lift on top of the vessel, and through the pod itself. Since the front portion of the ship was not elevated to reveal the pod, I despaired of gaining entry to the machine. But then I saw that the box-like rescue capsule stood on the ground. 'Yes,' I thought. 'That would be the only way to leave Thunderbird 2 without exposing the pod and ruining the camouflage.' I carried Brains over to the metal box, and climbed inside.

The capsule was operated by a set of controls within the Thunderbird. Those controls had been put on the remote access link in the main computer and could be activated by voice. Using my own wrist telecomm, and Dr. Barnes's security code, I started the winch mechanism and was soon standing in the lower part of Thunderbird 2's bow. I hefted Brains once again across my shoulders and moved toward the passenger lift.

The lift within took us quickly to the cockpit level, behind which the crew's quarters could be found. I sat Brains down on a bed and quickly gathered up the supplies I needed. Hydrogen peroxide to clean his wounds, antibiotic gel to seal them from infection, yards of gauze to cover them and keep them clean. I removed the tee shirt, and worked as swiftly as possible. When I was satisfied I could do nothing more for him, I laid him back on the bed and covered him with the blankets, securing him with safety straps. I loaded the hypospray with sedative and injected him with it, then reloaded with a painkiller I found among the supplies and used it on him again. He would sleep painlessly for hours, safe in the confines of this vessel.

Now I tended to my own needs, food and water most of all. I relieved myself in the appropriate place in crew's quarters, then found a prepackaged meal and some bottled water. These I dispatched quickly. I put the tee shirt on once more and I added a small medikit to my supplies. I took out the little bottle of drops and applied its contents to my eyes. Then I restocked my pouch with more ampules of sedative, and went back down to the ground level in the rescue capsule. I debated whether or not to send the box back up into the ship, thus foiling any attempt to get at the engineer in my absence. However, I realized that a quick getaway might be necessary, and so left the transport where it was. I did take the time to lock the capsule in position, and used Dr. Barnes's code as a fail-safe. No one could override it and gain access to Thunderbird 2 without that code, with the exception of Jeff. His code could override all others. I dearly hoped that when he came to Thunderbird 2 again, it would be as himself and not as a tool of the Hood.