A ruthless industrialist hatches a devious plot to steal the secrets of international rescue while Scott wrestles with a deep personal dilemma.
Tracy Island, Two Days Later
Brains sighed in relief and swiped some of the sweat off his forehead with one hand. He had just finished changing the last of the shock absorbers in Thunderbird One's landing gear. It had taken longer than he had thought it would to change them, but that was understandable, as he'd had to change every single one.
When he'd run diagnostics on Thunderbird One two days ago, he had indeed discovered that the shock absorbers were wearing out in all three sets of landing gear. Though the wear hadn't been that bad, a lesser pilot than Scott might not have noticed it at all. Still Brains had gotten to work on replacing the offending devices, with some occasional assistance from Scott and Virgil. Only one more thing to do, Brains thought, climbing down the small ladder he had been using to get up into the wheel well, then Thunderbird One can be returned to her silo. Ready for action once more.
Moving over to the workbench, Brains picked up a portable diagnostic computer before climbing into the wheel well again. Using the computer, Brains began to run diagnostics on the landing gear components; after a moment, the results flashed up on the display and Brains smiled. Everything was reading exactly as it should; nothing had gone wrong. One down, two to go, Brains thought.
He was about to climb down when a strange soft tapping noise caught his attention. What in the world? /Brains thought, looking around for the source of the strange sound. After a moment, he realised that it was coming from behind an inspection cover in the ceiling of the wheel well, a cover that would allow access to the feed lines from the cockpit to all systems. /There shouldn't be anything in there that would produce a tapping noise, he thought. With a puzzled frown, he put aside the diagnostic computer and fished in his lab coat pocket, extracting a screwdriver.
"Okay, w...w...what's g...g...going on h...h...here?" he muttered to himself as he reached up and started to undo the panel's securing screws.
It only took a few moments to undo the panel screws. Putting the screws and the screwdriver aside, he reached up and pressed the panel with his free hand. The panel came away in his hand, and Brains frowned when it seemed to be heavier than it normally was. Confused, Brains brought the panel down to his eye level and froze when he saw what was standing on the panel.
It was a spider, and quite a big spider, too. It had a body the size of a golf ball and was a dull brown in colour. Seeing it, Brains went as white as a sheet and began shaking slightly. A small, frightened squeak emerged from his mouth. Then, in a sheer blind panic, he dropped the panel, scrambled down the ladder, and ran for his life from the maintenance bay.
That Same Time
Scott grinned as John laughed. He had just told John about the latest exploits of a certain younger brother.
"You're serious? Gordon really put purple dye in Virgil's shampoo bottle?" John asked through the computer screen.
"He did," Scott replied. "And Virgil didn't notice until he came down to breakfast after his morning shower." John smirked then, unable to resist, started laughing again. Scott joined in as he remembered this morning's scene.
"Man, I wish I could have seen that," John said, still laughing. He brought himself back under control. "So what's Virgil doing now?"
"After breakfast, he got another bottle of shampoo from the store room and is trying to wash out the dye," Scott answered. "It's going to take him a while; the type of dye Gordon used takes up to thirty washes to get out."
"Ouch. And Gordon?"
"He's making himself scarce."
"I bet he is. You can bet that Mount Saint Virgil will undergo a cataclysmic eruption the moment he gets his hands on him."
Scott chuckled at John's description of Virgil, knowing that it was true. Virgil didn't get mad - really mad - very often, but when he did, the target of his wrath could look out. Virgil, like their youngest brother, could be like an elemental force of nature when enraged. But whereas Alan's temper was more like a hurricane - all noise and fury that quickly died down - Virgil's temper simmered, building up its force until it exploded, just like a volcano. The effect was the same though; when those two really got mad, the whole place knew about it. The only ones who could deal with Alan and Virgil when they really blew were John and Dad himself.
"I don't doubt it," Scott agreed. "In fact, I think it's an absolute certainty."
"One thing is for certain, I wouldn't want to be in Gordon's shoes," John replied.
"Me neither; he'll be lucky if he's still alive this evening."
"Very true. On another topic now, Scott... have you spoken to Dad about that personal matter we've talked about before?" John asked without elaboration. He didn't need to; Scott knew what he was talking about.
"No, I haven't," Scott replied.
"Because you haven't had chance or because you're afraid to?" Scott sighed and looked away for a moment.
"The latter more than anything," he admitted reluctantly looking back at John.
"You can't put it off forever, Scott," John answered softly. "You're going to have to tell him eventually."
"I know, but it is just I'm scared to tell him, John."
"I guess I can understand that. But the longer you keep putting it off, the harder it's going to be for you to tell him."
"I guess. But how do I tell him? What if he hates me afterwards?"
"Dad would never hate you or any of us, Scott. He loves us all too much for that. He'll be shocked, of course, but he won't hate you."
"How can you be sure?"
"Trust me, Scott, he won't hate you. You have to tell him and soon."
"I know," Scott replied with a sigh. "Just let me think some more about how I'm going to do it."
"Ok. But if you want to talk about it just give me a yell. I'm not going anywhere."
"I will. Thanks, John."
"Anytime, Scott, anytime."
Scott smiled. He was about to reply when he heard a dull thud followed by a crash come from the direction of the hallway.
"That's strange," he said. "I just heard a thud and a crash from the hallway. I'm going to go and check it out."
"Ok, Scott. I was going to head off for a workout anyway," John answered.
"Ok, just don't overdo it on the weights, John." John laughed, knowing Scott was referring to some of the things he'd done when he'd been a teenager and first started using weights in his workouts.
"I don't do that these days, Scott. I know my limits. I'll catch up with you later."
"Ok, talk to you later, John."
John grinned, then broke the connection from his end. The communications window vanished and the computer's desktop returned. Scott smiled and shut down his computer. He stood up and headed out into the hallway to investigate the noise.
Stepping out of his room, Scott paused and took in the scene before him. Kyrano was picking up his linens trolley. Sheets and towels were now all over the floor. Brains was standing against the wall nearby, pale and shaking, as if he'd had a very nasty fright.
"Brains, Kyrano, what's going on here?" Scott asked, a puzzled frown on his handsome face. Brains didn't respond or even give an indication of having heard him. Kyrano, on the other hand, looked over at the sound of his voice.
"It's alright, Scott," Kyrano explained. "I was just bringing these towels and sheets to the bedrooms when Brains came racing around the corner and crashed into me."
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine. It won't take me long pick all this up," Kyrano answered, getting to work picking up and refolding the sheets and towels. Scott watched him for a moment before walking over to Brains.
"Brains," he said, trying to get the attention of the scientific genius. Brains did not respond or give any indication of having heard him. "Brains," he repeated, grabbing Brains's arm.
This time Brains did react, by blinking then looking straight at him, his blue eyes wide and frightened.
"S...S...Scott," Brains said, his voice shaking and stammering heavily. "A s...s...spider; I s...s...saw a s...s...spider."
Scott nodded in understanding. He knew that Brains suffered from a very strong form of arachnophobia; even the tiniest spiders terrified him and could induce a full force panic attack. From Brains's state, Scott guessed that was what had happened here.
"It's ok, Brains; the spider is gone now," Scott said soothingly. "Come on, let's go and get you something to help you calm down. Then you can tell me all about it." Brains nodded in reluctant agreement and allowed Scott to lead him away in the direction of the living room.
A Few Minutes Later
Scott watched quietly as Brains took another sip of the tea that Onaha had just made for him. The scientist was visibly calming down and his colour was coming back as one of Onaha's various herbal concoctions worked its magic. It never ceased to amaze him how useful and how powerful Onaha's knowledge of herbal medicines could be. Sometimes it seemed to Scott that Onaha and Kyrano had a remedy for everything.
"How are you feeling now, Brains?" Scott asked. Brains looked over at the oldest of the Tracy boys and smiled softly.
"B...b...better, Scott, t...t...thank you," Brains replied. Scott smiled back.
"You're welcome. Do you want to tell me what happened? Where did you see the spider?"
Brains sighed and looked down at the half-drunk cup of herbal tea. He was never comfortable talking about his deeply ingrained fear of spiders, but he knew he owed Scott an explanation for why he had freaked out so completely.
"I w...w...was running final d...d...diagnostics on the new s...s...shock absorbers in Thunderbird One's l...l...landing gear," Brains explained before taking another sip of his tea. "I h...h...had just finished the f...f...first group in the f...f...front w...w...wheel well when I h...h...heard a s...s...strange t...t...tapping noise."
"From inside Thunderbird One?" Scott asked, a puzzled look on his face as he recalled the strange noise he had heard in the silo a few days ago.
"Y...y...yes," Brains replied. "It was c...c...coming from b...b...behind the p...p...panel over the c...c...cockpit power and data c...c...conduits. When I r...r...removed the c...c...cover, the spider was t...t...there."
"The spider was inside Thunderbird One?"
Scott frowned slightly, wondering how on Earth a spider could have gotten aboard his Thunderbird. Then it dawned on him; the spider Brains had encountered was a stowaway. It wouldn't be the first time they had gotten back to base to find that they had picked up an animal hitchhiker during a rescue.
"I must have picked up a little hitchhiker at the Madrid rescue," Scott said. "It's the most logical explanation for the spider's presence in my Bird. It's also not the first time that kind of thing has happened."
"T...t...true," Brains agreed before drinking the last of his tea in one gulp. "I s...s...should get b...b...back to w...w...work and f...f...finish the diagnostics on T...T...Thunderbird One." I just hope the spider is gone now, he thought to himself.
"You don't have to, Brains," Scott said knowing Brains was probably worried that the spider would still be there. "I know how to run the diagnostics. I could finish them off for you and call you when I'm ready to start the procedure to return Thunderbird One to her silo."
"W...w...would you, Scott?" Brains asked hopefully. He was rewarded with a grin from the oldest Tracy son.
"Sure, no problem," Scott replied. "I'll go and get started right now."
"T...t...thank y...y...you, Scott."
"You're welcome," Scott answered standing up, then heading for the closest entrance to the underground complex.
Brains watched Scott go, then sighed and decided to go back to his lab while he waited for Scott to call him. He had a few experiments running with remote supervision; it would be nice to check their progress himself.
Smiling, Brains headed for his lab and almost collided with Virgil, who was coming the other way. Virgil's damp hair was back to its normal brown colour, though his obvious anger made his face resemble a thundercloud. Virgil definitely looked more than ready to pound Gordon into the side of one of the island's extinct volcanic peaks.
"S...s...sorry, Virgil," Brains said.
"It's ok, Brains," Virgil replied, his voice dark and angry.
Look out, Gordon! Virgil's on the warpath!, Brains thought. He couldn't help feeling a twinge of sympathy for the copper-haired Tracy son, even though it was Gordon's own fault that he would be on the receiving end of Virgil's volcanically explosive temper. That was not a situation that Brains would wish on anyone, not even his worst enemy.
"Have you seen Gordon, Brains?" Virgil asked, doing his best to keep from shouting as he spoke. He wasn't angry at Brains and he knew it wouldn't be fair to take his rage out on the scientist.
"N...n...no, I'm a...a...afraid I h...h...haven't," Brains replied. "I've b...b...been in the m...m...maintenance b...b...bay most the d...d...day."
"It's ok. I'll just go and find him," Virgil answered and walked away, determined to find and teach his prankster brother a lesson.
Brains shook his head and uttered a prayer that Virgil wouldn't find Gordon until after he had calmed down a bit. Then he sighed and resumed his trek to his lab.
Thunderbird Maintenance Bay
Scott climbed down out of the last of Thunderbird One's wheel wells with a relieved sigh. He'd finished the diagnostics on the new shock absorbers, replaced the small inspection panel in the nose wheel well, and given his Bird a thorough once over. He had seen nothing out of the ordinary, certainly nothing like the spider Brains had seen. He wasn't surprised that he hadn't found the arachnid; it was certain to have run away and hid somewhere away from Thunderbird One, as scared of Brains as Brains was of it.
Moving over to the workbench, Scott put the diagnostic computer pad down before flicking a switch on the bench intercom panel.
"L...l...laboratory," Brains responded, his voice sounding slightly tinny coming from the intercom's speaker grill.
"Brains, it's me Scott," Scott replied. "I've completed the diagnostic checks on Thunderbird One. Everything is testing perfect; all the readings are exactly as they should be. I'm ready to return her to her silo."
"F-A-B, Scott. I'll b...b...be right d...d...down." The process of returning a Thunderbird to its silo from the maintenance bay was quite a tricky, though largely automated, one. Scott knew Brains was always happier monitoring it personally.
"F-A-B." Scott acknowledged before signing off.
While he waited for Brains to arrive, he turned and looked at Thunderbird One and, not for the first time, just admired her. Even earthbound she was incredibly graceful, every one of her sleek lines hinting at her speed and effortless power. Soon, baby, he thought lovingly. S/oon you'll be back in your silo ready for the call of duty. Soon you'll be ready to take to our natural element again./