Scott gets stuck. Still don't own any of it though.
Scott dropped the pouch at the entrance to the chamber and went over to
"Hi Ned. How are you feeling? Anything broken?"
"No, I don't think so buddy. I'm a bit bruised, but I sort of slid down
with the mud, so I didn't hit the bottom so hard. I got onto this rock
okay, so I guess I'm alright. How's Taylor?"
"He the guy you were with?" Ned nodded. "He's fine, a bit shaken, but
he's going to drive back to your base in the Jeep soon..." at this, Scott
and Ned heard the sound of an engine starting up and felt the rumble of
tyres over the ground above.
"Get down!" Shouted Scott, and flung himself onto Ned, pulling him into
the shelter of the boulder as the roof of the chamber at the far end
collapsed, leaving huge boulders blocking the exit. They crouched in the
small space, coughing in the dust, then Scott poked his head up and
"The roof's fallen on my pack. Dammit! I shouldn't have left it behind
there." He kicked the boulder in frustration before recovering himself.
"Yeah. I guess we're both stuck in here now aren't we?"
"Well, until my buddies get here, I guess so. Oh well, I can still check
you out, see that there really is nothing broken. We don't want to go
hauling you around when Thunderbird Two gets here if your leg's about to
fall off!" He winked at Ned and helped him back onto the boulder.
Scott ran his hands up each of Ned's legs in turn. Ned shuddered slightly
as Scott felt round his thigh.
"Okay? Is that hurting?" Scott asked, worried.
"N-no. I'm, uh, cold I guess."
"I'm sorry. I should have remembered. The blanket's in the pack under
that chunk of rock there. I tell you what, I'll give you my uniform top,
they're made of fantastic stuff our scientist dreamed up for us, keep you
warm or cool as you need them."
"You'll freeze. I can't take it."
"Don't be silly. I've still got the bottom half, besides, I've been
working all day, I'm warm as toast."
Scott took off his sash and gave it to Ned to hold, then pulled off the
uniform top and swapped it for the sash.
"There you go Ned, pull that on. I'm sorry if it's a bit damp, I swear it
isn't sweat, it's clean on, but my undershirt was still wet from a sea-
"It doesn't matter. Say, what's your name? I met uh...Gordon, but I only
saw you from a distance the last time...gee, I don't suppose there are many
people who make this much trouble for you twice."
"Not many, no. I'm Scott."
"Good to meet you. Hey, this uniform is tremendous! I'd love to do a
report on this stuff, you could make a fortune from it."
"Never stop looking for a story do you?"
"I couldn't...I guess that's why I get in trouble so much. I hope you're
not mad at me."
"Why should I be?"
"Well, I know that really we shouldn't have stayed here. We worked out
how unstable it was hours ago, had a couple of close shaves. But we
didn't leave. Same as at the Empire State. I guess I should have learnt
my lesson by now."
"Well, maybe. But it's not my job to get mad at people, it's my job to
"Well you sure do a great job. Is it right that you're all brothers in
"I can't really talk about that Ned. You know that. Hold on a minute, I'm
just going to call Thunderbird Two, tell them what's happened."
Scott lifted his wrist and spoke to his watch.
"Scott calling Thunderbird Two. Come in please...Virgil, do you read me?"
"Scott Tracy to Thunderbird Two, come in please." Scott listened intently
for a moment, but no sound came through on the watch.
"No luck?" asked Ned.
"No. The signal's not getting through at some point, but I don't know
whether it's me or them."
"It's probably you. We were investigating this place because it's meant
to have been some sort of temple where amazing things happened. You know,
strange phenomena, lights, odd things happening to people's possessions,
that sort of thing. We reckon there's some sort of natural force field -
electromagnetic or something similar, making strange effects in this
region. We think that might be what's made it so unstable too. Taylor and
I were trying to capture something weird on film. We didn't see anything
"Well, it shouldn't matter too much. I guess they'll be worried, but I
told them what I was doing, so they'll know where to find me." Scott
shivered, maybe just the bottom half of his uniform wasn't quite as warm
as the whole thing, especially with a damp undershirt.
"You're getting cold. I told you you would. Here, have your top back."
Ned went to remove the top, but Scott stopped him.
"'Fraid not Ned, my priority is to keep you safe and warm. I'd sure as
hell get a bawling-out if you froze while I was warm."
"Okay. So tell me about your brothers."
"Why? I can only think of one reason why you'd want that information, and
it isn't a good one."
"I know what you think. You think I'm going to store up all the
information and use it to make some career-topping story to put on my
show. Well I'm not. I made a promise, to you and to myself. You saved my
life. If I can't hold my tongue for that I really am a bad guy. Now here
you are, working on saving me again. I'm not going to say a word, I give
you my solemn vow."
"So why do you want to know if it's not for that?"
"Well, for one thing, we've got to talk about something. I get the
feeling you're not all that keen on my work, so I'd rather not talk about
that. What else is there? Secondly, I'm really intrigued by your family.
I've met two of you, and heard a little about the others. I want to know
how a whole family can get so...I don't know...closely involved all at once I
suppose. I mean, do you have siblings who aren't involved?"
"Look Ned, I really can't..."
"Just tell me what they're like. How could that possibly compromise your
"I'll decide that. I guess I could tell you a little, but if I can't tell
you something I won't. What do you want to know?"
"Who are they?"
"I guess... Well, there's John. He does the monitoring mostly, picking up
distress calls and keeping us all in contact."
"What's he like?"
"He's, um. Geez, I don't know, I'm his brother...he's pretty quiet. Likes
astronomy a lot. A bit self-centred I guess. Not very social. Great guy
though. I think he probably had the worst time of it when Mom died. I'm
not sure about Virgil." Scott found himself relaxing, almost starting to
enjoy talking about his family to an outsider, a thing he hardly ever got
to do with their stringent security precautions. Ned didn't say a word
regarding the revelation about his mother, but let Scott go on. "He's
pretty quiet too. He's the artistic one - paints like a demon and plays
really good piano. Actually, I think dad was a bit surprised that he
decided to follow a more technical career path. He could have made it as
an artist I reckon."
"Do you do anything like that?"
"Me? Hah!" Scott laughed, "I couldn't play the piano to save my life, and
you don't want to see me with a paintbrush! I can just about pick a line
on a guitar, if you don't mind waiting! Give me a spray-gun and tell me
to paint a ship and you've put me more in the right area. I'm a fiend
with a pool cue though."
"You're the oldest?"
"Yeah. Then, um, then there's Gordon. Gordon's the athletic one, or was.
He used to do speedboat racing, he was a champion swimmer, all that sort
of thing. Had a nasty accident in a hydrofoil though - smashed it up and
nearly killed himself. He's been pretty tough on that score, pulled
through and got back in the water. He does all our underwater rescues.
Cheeky devil sometimes, you have to keep your eye on him. Then the baby
is Alan. Crazy about cars, trains, anything fast. Used to be a...no, I
can't tell you that. He's really our astronaut, but he's a great help on
normal rescues too. Doesn't know much fear. He can be quite naughty
really, likes to play the odd practical joke, but really cannot take them
in return. You should see his face when we try. He's an easy target you
see, he's got a bit of a thing going on with this girl who lives with us.
Dad kind of adopted her, she's a stunner, but boy can she flirt! I've
told her off for it before now. You can always get at Alan by suggesting
Tin-Tin's up to something. You know, you sound a lot like him."
"Yeah, very similar voice." Scott shivered again. Ned looked at him,
"Look, for goodness sake, come over and squeeze up to me, keep warm. I
don't care if you get a tongue-lashing for it, you're not freezing in
front of me." Scott looked at him, then shuffled over and sat next to Ned
who put his arm round him and pulled him tight.
"Hey!" said Scott, "who's helping who here?"
"We're both in the same boat right now. Want to keep warm don't you? You
look like you're about to keel over anyway." Scott rubbed his eyes.
"Yeah, it's been a pretty rough day really. We had this rescue earlier,
called out of bed for it at four this morning, after what I will admit
was not an early night last night; spent a couple of hours hanging onto a
boat and a cage for dear life in high seas and a gale, soaked to the
skin. Then just as we were headed for home, looking forward to a hot
shower and a bit of shut-eye, we got your call. I'm the rapid response so
I turned straight here. Virgil at least got to go home for a minute."
"Gee I'm sorry."
"I'm not complaining. It's not your problem. It's just one of the more
unpleasant things about a job like this. You can't say 'no thanks, not
today'. But then you save someone's life and it's all worthwhile."
"Are you always first out to anything?"
"Pretty much always. I'm the only one who flies Thunderbird One, and
she's the fastest. No, actually, Alan has flown her, but it terrifies me
when he does...I'm kinda attached to her."
"Have you ever flown his ship?"
"Thunderbird Three? Yeah...all the time, I ferry him around in it on
occasion. That's probably why he gets so mad that I won't let him in
Thunderbird One much. She's the best craft you see..." Scott smiled,
thinking about his sleek, silver ship. "Oh, by the way, the others
wouldn't agree about that!"
"Are any of you married? Paired up?"
"No. I mean, Alan's got Tin-Tin, but it won't get too serious at the
moment. Our jobs are too dangerous. You wouldn't want to bring someone
you loved into the middle of all that. The risk is too high. It's bad
enough when it's your brothers out there. It's really killing watching
your little brother driving straight into an inferno, and knowing that,
but for grace and a dollop of luck, he might never come out. I don't
think any of us could put that burden on someone else."
"You don't date at all then?"
"Sure...a bit. Well, Virg does and Gordon does, and Alan when he's trying
to pay back Tin-Tin. But they can't really come back to base, it's too
difficult if we have a call come in, not being able to reveal who we
really are and all that."
"But I know who you are. What's the difference?"
"You don't know where we come from. You can know one or the other, not
"What about you then? Do you date?"
"Not much. I don't see the point, it just makes you feel bad later when
you can't take it anywhere. Why the interest?"
"I'm just curious as to how you spend your time."
"There's quite a lot to do. Everything has to be kept up to scratch. We
spend a fair bit of time practising. You know, training in endurance,
target practice, safety...all that." Ned wasn't really listening.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is it always girls you date?"
"What the heck makes you ask that?" Scott sat up straight and looked at
Ned, who quailed a little under his unfaltering blue-eyed gaze.
"I-I just...well, I get this sort of feeling...forget it. Forget I said
anything." He stopped and looked away. Then his shoulders seemed to
stiffen and he turned back quickly.
"No. Don't forget it actually. I'm Ned Cook: Fearless reporter. Who isn't
going to ignore a chance, even if he can't report it to a soul." He
leaned in suddenly, wrapping his other arm round Scott, and kissed him
hard on the lips. Then he pulled back just enough to look into Scott's
eyes again, with a look that clearly said, 'Well now Buster, what are you
going to do?'
Scott stared back, knocked completely off kilter. Hell, it was a long
time since he'd been kissed by anyone, let alone a relative stranger who
just happened to be a famous television reporter...and the subjects of
rescue missions. His tired brain ground into action and tried to work
through his options. Yes, he had been kissed by a man before...and yes, if
he admitted it to himself, he had probably enjoyed it more than any of
the kisses he'd ever got from girls. And yes, if he admitted it to Virgil
who had happened to spot the man kissing him when they were meant to be
well hidden in the car outside a restaurant, he had gone a little further
with the man than he had ever expected himself to...but this was...well,
different. He was pretty sure that his father wouldn't approve of
fraternisation with a rescuee. Particularly not one of the same sex. On
the other hand, it was very warm and cosy, wrapped in Ned's arms...the kiss
had been pretty chaste, but there was a look in Ned's eyes that promised
more...he wasn't bad looking and he sounded like his baby brother...
No. What was he thinking? His father would kill him if he found out.
Scott had never really liked Ned, there was something about his
ruthlessness and drive for a story that just didn't sit easily with him,
Scott was always so straightforward and open. No. He was tired. He'd
regret anything he did now. Virgil would be here in a moment, with
Alan...with Alan...Ned sounded a lot like Alan. But he didn't fancy his
brother. No. But it was nice to hear something so familiar when he was
"I'm on duty." He said, in as non-committal and casual a way as he could
"Hardly. You're stuck underground in half your uniform waiting for
someone who won't be here for a while to come and dig you out. I call
that off-duty." Ned reached his arm further round Scott who had started
to pull away, and dragged him back close, rubbing his hands on his back
to warm him up.
"What's the point Ned? I don't even...that is I've never liked you all that
much. I don't like the way you go about things. You're a bit too ruthless
and...idiotic for me. I'm not really into one-night stands. I've done it
before and it leaves me cold. You're being quite, um, sensible in a way
today, so I've probably warmed to you a bit, but why do anything? In,
say, twenty minutes, Virgil and Alan turn up in Thunderbird Two, come and
rescue us, you say 'Gee thanks, International Rescue', I say 'So long
Ned, try not to get into any more scrapes!' and I fly off into the
sunset. Bang goes anything more. I'm not doing it."
Ned looked at him...fondly was it?
"You get better." He said, wonderingly, "You know, I don't blame you for
not thinking too much of me. I guess I wouldn't if I were in your line of
business. I'm a liability, I know. But I've admired you since the first
time I saw you in action. I was dead set on getting those pictures of
your machines, not for the glory of having the exclusive story, so much
as wanting to be the one who showed everyone how fantastic you were. And
boy, when you chased after me and like a fool I kept driving and filming,
all I could think of afterwards was how you'd handled me. You didn't get
really mad, you didn't shoot me down, you even apologised when it was
over. If that didn't deserve a bit of admiration, I don't know what does.
I fell for you that day. Hell, when we were trapped and the water was
rising, I was scared for Joe, but I didn't give a damn about myself,
because if you couldn't reach us in time, I'd die hearing your voice
coming over the headset. That was enough. I'm not going to let this
opportunity pass. If we could work something out? I don't know. I go all
over the place for my work anyway. I've usually got a cameraman, but
sometimes I go on my own, when I'm doing something a bit more secretive.
I could meet you anywhere in the world, anywhere. Surely you get time
"Not from such hard work?"
"Well Ned, it's not a case of a rescue a day and weekends off you know.
When one of us is on leave, it puts a lot of pressure on the others if a
call comes in. We get a lot of free time to relax in, but we're on call
still. I only get about three weekends and two full weeks off a year."
"That would do to start with."
"Yes, but it couldn't get us anywhere. In the unlikely event that I fell
in love with you, I still couldn't take you home. Besides, I'm not sure
about dad's views on same-sex relationships. Hell, I not sure about my
"Well the idea doesn't freak you out, that's a start."
"Sure. But it still leaves you and me meeting twice a year and not
"What happens when your dad retires?"
"I probably take over...or one of the others if something happens to me."
"What about when you retire?"
"One of the others, or one of our children..."
"Which children are those?"
"Well, I suppose Tin-Tin and Alan will get round to it one day...that is if
the radiation dose she received on Fireflash didn't make her sterile." He
muttered the last part under his breath.
"What if they don't then? What about the rest of you? Some of your
brothers must want kids."
"I guess when they get older they'll find nice young wives and get on
"And how do they do that if they're not allowed to bring a wife back to
"I don't know Ned. I guess dad would vet them and decide if they'd be
loyal enough to risk it. I know what you're heading towards, but it won't
work. I'd have to ask dad and he'd never let you. He's seen you on the
telecasts and he's organised rescues around you."
"Alright. Let's cross that one later. I can't let a minor point like that
get in the way. I'll do anything that doesn't offend you to get closer to
you. Please Scott."
Scott looked down, running over what Ned had said. He was right in a way.
It could be a hellishly long time before Scott ever got close to anyone
if he played by his current set of rules. And it was good to be held...
"Okay Ned. But go slow. I'm still not sure about you." Ned grinned and
moved in ever so slowly for a kiss. Scott stopped him just before their
"And not a peep of any of this to my brothers when they arrive?"
"Not a word, not a hint." said Ned.
Fifteen minutes later, Scott was slipping into sleep. His arm wrapped
itself around Ned's shoulder.
"FAB." He muttered, and was asleep.