View Full Version : Fonziebirds Are Go (A HD/ Thunderbirds crossover)
Jefferson High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Charles Alan 'Chachi' Tracy sat bored out of his skull in the last class of summer. The subject was mathematics a subject he hated. No hate was too strong a word it was just something that didn’t interest him. Like all his brothers, Chachi was smarter than average but well short of genius level but he could do well in most subjects especially if it held his interest. Unfortunately, mathematics was not one of them.
Instead of focusing on what the teacher was saying, Chachi’s gaze was drawn out the window to the sky and space beyond it. Up there in geostationary orbit was his brother Arthur a.k.a 'Fonzie' onboard Fonziebird Five. Chachi wished he could be up there on the great space station built by his father as part of the ultra secret organisation known as International Rescue or more commonly by the name given to there amazing machines the Fonziebirds. All of which were operated by his father and his brothers and he so longed to join them to be a part of the organisation his father had created in the memory of a mother he had precious few memories of.
"Mr Tracy." The sharp voice of Mrs Suthers the mathematics teacher said drawing him back to reality. "Mr Tracy, are you going to join us in this lesson?"
"Sorry, Mrs Suthers." Chachi said making it sound genuine when in his heart it wasn’t genuine. He so wished he was a few thousand miles away on the tropical paradise island that was the home of the Tracy family as well as the base for International Rescue instead of here.
"Now that you have returned to us from outer space." Mrs Suthers said causing a spate of laughter from most of the other students in the room. Almost all aside from Chachi’s best friend Joanie Belegrant and Gina Hackenbacker, the only other people in the whole school who besides him, knew the secrets of the Tracy’s and International Rescue.
The spate of laughter from his fellow students made Chachi’s cheeks flush red and he internally glowered at the students.
"Enough or all of you will end up with detention." Mrs Suthurs shouted to the class. That did it everyone shut up as though a switch had been thrown no one wanted detention on the last day of term. "Now all of you turn to page four."
Like everyone else, Chachi opened his textbook and internally groaned as he saw what maths subject they were to study during the last half of the last lesson of term. Algebra. He hated Algebra. If he could work his will he would shoot the sadist who’d come up with it.
Sighing to himself, he started work on the first sum.
A Short Time Later
Chachi and his fellow students filed out into the corridor as the bell sounded. All around other students were filing out their classrooms filling the corridor with an excited hubbub of noise. Chachi waited just outside the room for Fermat to join him in the corridor. Though younger than him, Gina was in the same class as a result of her intelligence. The niece of his father’s scientist/engineer Alfred ‘Al’ Hackenbacker, Gina had inherited her uncle’s intelligence.
"Am I glad that’s over." he said to his best friends. Gina and Joanie looked up at him and smiled.
"Yeah, so are we." Gina replied. If everything went well and there was no disaster somewhere in the world that required the Fonziebirds to come charging to the rescue, Chachi’s father would be along to pick them up soon and take them back home to Tracy Island.
"It will be great to go back home," Chachi said. "Hopefully, dad won’t be too long."
Suddenly one of the kids ran down the corridor yelling excitedly.
"Come to the common room, it’s the Fonziebirds, they're on TV." The kid ran past them still yelling as Chachi, Joanie and Gina started to turn away to head to the common room both knowing immediately that Howard Jefferson Tracy was going to be somewhat late.
As he began walking, a blinding pain abruptly lanced through Chachi’s head and he staggered groaning against the wall. Gina and Joanie noticed immediately.
"Chach, are you okay?" Joanie asked in concern. Chachi was barely aware of it the pain was incredible unlike any headache he’d ever had and for a second he felt strange really, really strange. And then with the same suddenness that, it had appeared with the pain and the odd feeling was gone.
"I’m okay, Joanei." Chachi replied pushing away from the wall. "What the hell was that?" The girls shrugged and the three friends turned and ran for the common room.
They reached it in moments to see a crowd of students already there. Pushing there way to the front so they could see better they got many grunts and snide comments though none of the students dared do anything about it. Chachi was one of the most athletic boys in the school taller and stronger than most of the boys. Indeed his athletic abilities made him a valuable addition to school sports teams. It also ensured that no one messed with him and by association with Gina. Normally, Gina would have been a magnet for school bullies but since she was friends with Joanie and Chachi, none of the schools bullies risked harassing her because they’d have Chachi to deal with. A few had learned that the hard way.
Reaching the front, Chachi, Joanie and Gina watched the screen to see a huge oil rig wreathed in fire and wracked with explosions. A reporter could be seen talking from the dig of what was probably the rigs support ship and the heading ‘disaster in the Bearing strait’ was written below her.
"It was twelve minutes ago when a large explosion rocked the rig behind me. Most of the crew have evacuated the rig but six workers are still trapped clinging to the hull. The rig will not last much longer. A call went out to the Fonziebirds moments ago and here they are now."
With a roar a sleek silver and blue rocket appeared over the scene. Fonziebird One. The camera zoomed towards the sleek ship though its sophisticated stealth systems prevented anyone from seeing into the cockpit or getting precise details of the hull. Up close images were constantly blurred. Many a reporter and many a spy had been frustrated by the fact that they were unable to get decent photos of any of the Fonziebirds.
Fonziebird Two a large green transport appeared in the picture as well hanging over the rig and being buffeted by the hot air rising from the burning rig. An explosion erupted from the rig and the craft was visibly punted to the side with the concussion wave.
"Come on, Dad." Chachi breathed under his breath knowing his father would be the one commanding and flying Fonziebird Two along with his brothers Ralph and Richard a.k.a 'Richie'. His second oldest brother Warren a.k.a 'Potsie' would be commanding/flying Fonziebird One. "You can’t get it on that approach."
Sure enough, Fonziebird Two pulled back a little and came in at a different angle then a platform lowered from the central section. A platform manned by a single individual in a white uniform with green trimmings and wearing a helmet. Chachi knew immediately that it would be Ralph, his was the only one that had that colour scheme. His dad’s was white and red, Richie's white and yellow, Potsie’s white and blue and Fonzie’s white and gold. Wonder if mine would be white and red if dad ever lets me be a Fonziebird. Chachi thought.
Ralph fired a series of rescue lines from the platform and locked onto the six trapped workers then began wincing them to safety.
As soon as Fonziebird Two was clear, Fonziebird One came in and fired a missile at the burning well head. The brilliant explosion of the impact rocked the rig and blinded the camera for a moment but when the blast cleared the fire had been extinguished the explosion sealing the well head and also depriving the fire enveloping the rig of the oxygen it needed to keep burning.
Cheers erupted throughout the common room as the two Fonziebirds shot passed overhead heading for the US coastline. The reporter came back on but Chachi tuned out what she said.
"Tracy," the voice of the headmaster called and all the boys in the room froze then parted. "There’s someone here to see you."
A familiar beautiful woman in a pink outfit entered the room. Lori Beth Crieghton-Ward, Milwaukee heiress and secret agent for International Rescue. One of many that they had and one of there most trusted.
"Chachi," she said in a refined American voice. "Lori Beth Crieghton-Ward at your service. Your dad asked me to pick you up for him he's been delayed." So I saw Lori Beth, so I saw, Chachi thought. "Now will any of the other students be coming with us?" Though her voice was perfectly composed Chachi clearly saw a hint of humour in her eyes.
Immediately every other studnet in room put their hand up aside from Joanie and Gina. Chachi chuckled to himself. She knew that would happen. he thought. He put each of his hand on each of Joanie and Gina’s shoulders.
"Just Joanie and Gina." A silent sigh of dismay settled over the crowd of students and they looked at Chachi and the girls in envy and jealousy.
"Okay." Lori Beth replied, her eyes smiling. She wouldn’t let anyone else accompany them at any rate. Only Chachi, Joanie and Gina were coming with her and her pertner Tom Parker. She’d never transported Chachi, Joanie and Gina home before. It was the least she could do for him.
"Go and get your stuff," she instructed the trio. "But try not to take too much time."
Chachi chuckled then he, Joanie and Gina hurried off to their lockers, it was just a matter of going and grabbing their stuff.
A Few Minutes Later
Chachi, Joanie and Gina climbed into the back of FONZ1, Lori Beth’s bright pink car – like everything else she owned. Lori Beth had this to them bizarre love affair with the colour pink. Her chauffeur/butler Tom started the engine and the car pulled away from Jefferson High and left the grounds.
Neither Chachi, Joanie nor Gina were alarmed when the car picked up speed and kept on picking up speed as it drove along. Nor were they alarmed when the car began making a beeline for the coast. Tom pressed a button on the dashboard and the car’s profile alerted. A jet engine appeared from the boot and wings sprouted out from the sides. A second later the car was in the air having changed itself into a plane of sorts.
Equipped with the same kind of stealth technology as the Fonziebirds, FONZ1 went completely undetected by US military radar. Even sensors designed with stealth aircraft in mind couldn’t detect them as they shot towards the Pacific Ocean so they received no challenge from the air force.
Alan and Fermat leaned back in their seats content as they headed for home.
A Short Time Later
Darkness had fallen on California and the city of San Francisco turning the city into a carpet of lights glowing brightly in an organised grid work. Through the night sky over the city shot Fonziebirds One and Two awing the people who saw them from the streets below. A number of tourists tried to take pictures of the Fonziebirds but naturally there camera’s refused to get clear photo’s the stealth systems on both Fonziebirds reducing them to blurred images to a camera lens.
The two awesome machines dumped speed and then came to a dead stop over San Francisco General Hospital. Having received an earlier radio message from Fonziebird Two, doctors and nurses stood ready with stretchers waiting for the rescued oil workers. They were all currently staring upwards in awe at the two craft hovering in the air.
A door opened on the underside of Fonziebird Two and the rescue platform was again lowered to the ground. This time it wasn’t to pluck anyone from the jaws of death but to drop off the rescued oil workers. Ralph Tracy – still wearing a helmet to obscure his face and hide his identity from those who he had just helped save – again operated the platform.
"Okay, guys, end of the road, time to get off," he said to the workers opening a small door in the rim and side of the vaguely bucket like platform.
One by one, the workers climbed off the platform into the waiting arms of the medical team waiting for them. All of them quietly offering words of thanks for saving their lives.
Unnoticed one of the workers manipulated a hidden control on his belt. A hidden panel flicked open and a tiny missile streaked away and struck the nose of Fonziebird One striking the machine on its nose cone. Had it been equipped with an explosive head it would have severely damaged the machine and probably killed Warren 'Potsie' Tracy outright. Instead the missile released a compound onto the nose, a compound that contained hundreds of small nanobots in a gelatinous suspension fluid. Immediately on impact the nanobots began multiplying and spreading through the paint into the metal fuselage underneath. In moments the nanobots had completed there spread and having reached a critical number began broadcasting a simple signal on a very low encrypted frequency.
His mission accomplished the fake oil rig worker smiled and allowed the medics to take him away. He would give them the slip in a moment and head for the rendezvous point with his superior.
Completely oblivious to what had happened, Ralph closed the exit to the rescue platform and pressed the control that activated Fonziebird Two’s winch and without fuss the platform and himself were taken back on board.
Moments later, the two Fonziebirds departed heading out over the Pacific and the retreating sun making a straight beeline for home. They were completely unaware that one of them had been tagged and was now being tracked.
Bottom of San Francisco Bay
A Few Moments Earlier
Sitting silent and deadly on the bottom of San Francisco Bay a large submarine waited patiently. No body knew that it was there as the submarine was invisible to even the most sensitive underwater detection equipment currently in used by any military force in the world. Indeed its stealth capabilities were very impressive second only to those of the Fonziebirds themselves.
Aboard the sub in surprisingly spacious quarters, an overweight man in a white suit sat in quiet meditation. He had waited and planned for what was soon to follow for years, soon he would get his revenge on those who had left him to die.
"Tracking systems activated," the voice of the subs computer said interrupting the mans meditation. The man now known only as the Candy Man opened his eyes and looked over at the single computer screen in his quarters. A screen that normally showed a representation of his submarine but which now showed a tracking display following the course of the two Fonziebirds.
Both machines had just left US airspace and were flying over the open ocean exiting back out into daylight leaving the dusk that was falling over North America behind them. The Candy Man knew that his submarine despite its advanced nature couldn’t hope to keep up with the Fonziebirds – nothing existed in the world that could – but it didn’t need to. Now that the tracking system cleverly designed for him by his pet scientist Sticky was activated he could track the Fonziebirds wherever they went and follow along at his own pace.
"So, the gods have tired of dallying with the mortals and are now returning to Olympus," the Candy Man said to himself. "But now I can follow them."
Focusing on an internal communications unit, the Candy Man flicked it on with nothing but the power of his mind.
"Sticky, send the minisub to pick up Eugene and then set a pursuit course." he ordered.
"Yes, Sir." a female voice responded then signed off.
The Candy Man permitted himself an evil smile. Soon revenge – and the secrets of International Rescue – would be his. And he intended to enjoy every moment of it.
Charles 'Chachi' Tracy was getting board just being sat in the back of Lori Beth’s car turned plane. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the surroundings. Fab 01 was luxurious and extremely comfortable but he was just impatient to get back home. He was comforted slightly to know that Joanie was equally impatient to get back to Tracy Island and see her parents and Gina to see her uncle.
"Approaching Tracy Island, Lori." Tom called to Lori Beth from the front. Chachi leaned forward to look.
Sure enough, there was home a beautiful tropical island with three peaks surrounded by sandy beaches sitting in a calm blue sea. It had been so long since he had last seen it. The island seemed to be silently beckoning him to come home to relax and put the pressures of school behind him, to just sit on its sandy beaches and watch the world go by.
"It appears that we've got company." Tom added. With a roar that was felt even in here through the soundproofing of the glass and doors, Fonziebirds One and Two appeared on the right and left side of FONZ1. Look across to the right, Chachi waved to Potsie who he could see through Fonziebird One's cockpit windows. Potsie smiled and waved back. Then Chachi looked to the left and saw his dad giving him thumbs up from Fonziebird Two, which Chachi returned.
And then the two machines shot passed overhead with Fonziebird One performing a barrel roll around, Fonziebird Two showing off its superior manoeuvrability.
"Now that's showing off." Lori Beth said. Chachi smiled knowing Potsie was probably going to get yelled at again for doing that. Howard always hated it when Potsie did that though as far as Chachi knew he had long since given up trying to get him to stop.
"I agree, Lori." Tom agreed.
Chachi leaned back in his seat again as FONZ1 dropped height and began making its final approach to the island.
Less than ten minutes later, Chachi walked into the bedroom in the main house. He hadn’t seen dad or his brothers yet they would all be in mission debriefing in dad’s office which was currently in control room mode. And while he could get access since he had comprehensive security access like everyone on the island he didn’t want to walk in on a debrief.
The only soul he’d seen on the island so far had been dad’s loyal housekeeper and manservant Frederick Belagant who’d greeted them on arrival. Kyrano’s wife Marion was currently in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.
Chachi took a look around his room. It was so nice to be back here. Like all the bedrooms, his was bright and spacious and had all the comforts a person could want including an on suite bathroom and walk in wardrobes.
Chachi walked over to his balcony access and opened the door before stepping out and looking out. The sun was slowly beginning to set evening was coming and from his position he could see Frederick laying the table on the sun deck besides the upper swimming pool. Dinner would be soon.
Abruptly, the same blinding pain that he’d experienced at Jeeferson High lanced through him again but this time it wasn’t just in his head, it was everywhere as though every nerve in his body was crying out in sudden agony. Chachi leaned on the balcony rail for support his eyes closed against the sudden surge of agony. He barely avoided screaming. What’s wrong with me? he thought struggling against the pain.
Then the pain was gone again and he gasped in relief and almost dropping to his knees in relief. Opening his eyes again he turned around and walked back inside not noticing that around where he had been touching it the balcony rail was now soaking wet.
A few minutes later, Chachi left his bedroom. Even with the air conditioning keeping the inside of the house cool and the humidity minimal wearing it had been uncomfortable.
Now dressed in much more appropriate clothing, Chachi went out to the sun terrace besides the first and smaller of the two swimming pools to find his father and brothers there already and back in normal clothing which like his own was comfortable and thin.
"Dad." Chachi said picking up his pace as he came out onto the sun deck. Howard Jefferson Tracy turned from where he’d been pouring himself a drink – naturally non-alcoholic since he was completely t-total not even drinking alcohol at Christmas – at the sound of his voice.
Seeing Chachi approaching, a wide smile crossed Howard’s face, he missed seeing his youngest son but like the other four, Chachi did have to go to Jefferson High. Chachi was turning into a confident young man though it was hard not to look at him and still see a little boy. Kids grow up so fast don’t they, Howard? he thought to himself.
Wordlessly, he pulled his youngest son to him in a welcoming hug before pulling away and allowing Chachi to greet his brothers. There was a considerable degree of back slapping and friendly greetings.
"So, how are things going in school?" Richie asked before Howard could ask himself. Howard knew he should have expected it. Despite the two year age gap between them, Chachi and Richie were very close and were practically inseparable whenever they were on the island together and could usually be counted on to get themselves into trouble of one kind or another. And that hadn’t changed with Chachi getting his Fonziebird wings. They were still the Tracy family’s resident mischief-makers.
"Athletically or intellectually?" Chachi asked.
"Both but especially intellectually am I going to get a nasty surprise when your report card arrives?" Howard asked.
"Well you can rest easy things are going okay!" Chachi replied trading a grin with Joanie and Gina. They helped each other a lot in school. "Intellectually I still hate Algebra and english literature is a pain especially when its Shakespeare. Why cannot they translate it into modern english?"
"Where would the fun be in that?" Loei Beth asked from where she was joining the Tracy’s and the Belagant’s for evening meal. "You need to learn to understand culture, Chachi. Shakespeare is a good way to learn. Though I admit it's a little hard to read."
"A little," Chachi asked. "Try like impossible."
"You’ll just have to try harder." Potsie said a slight note of condescension in his voice, he’d never had a problem with Shakespeare when he’d been at Jefferson High. And chuckled at the daggered look Chachi gave him in return.
"Easy to say, Smarty-pants." he retorted.
"Okay, cut it out, none of you start." Howard said breaking in before anyone could start. He looked pointedly at both Potsie and Ralph. "And no teasing Chachi please." One of the favourite pass times of Potsie and Ralph was baiting their youngest sibling. Which only lead to an argument with Richie almost invariably wading in on Chachi’s side.
"Would we bait Chachi on purpose?" Ralph asked.
"Yes." everyone around the table with the exception of Potsie said in unison. Ralph exchanged a look with Potsie that said ‘rats foiled again’.
Marion appeared at that moment carrying bowls of soup to start the meal. Carefully, she placed them in front of everyone before going back and getting her own and joining everyone else.
The first part of the meal passed in silence everyone enjoying their soup in the case of the boys, they attacked it with a vengeance since they were all hungry, Chachi included. Naturally, he, Joanie and Gina finished before everyone else.
Chachi then stood up and went to the drinks counter.
"Anyone want something?" he asked since he was going to pour himself a drink and manners had been drummed into him by dad from an early age.
"Orange juice please, Chachi!" Joanie replied.
"Same here." Ralph added. Chachi poured them both orange juice first and brought it over before going back and pouring himself one.
He was walking back over to the table when for the second time in less than half an hour that blinding pain tore through him and he couldn’t stop the gasp escaping his lips as he staggered forward and grabbed the back of a chair to steady himself.
Everyone looked at Chachi in alarm especially as they could see pain woven across his face, a lot of pain. Almost in unison, Howard, Potsie, Ralph and Richie leaped to their feet and started to move over to see what was the matter.
Chachi was completely unaware of it all he was aware of was the pain. It was worse now than it had been up in his room. What's wrong with me? he thought for the second time. What's this pain? Where's it coming from? And then he felt something else happen, suddenly his hands felt cold, really cold but not painful or numb.
Howard and the boys froze immediately and their eyes went wide in shock as Chachi’s hands began to shake.
As his sons gaped at their brother in disbelief, realisation came to Howard. Oh my god, he thought, Chachi’s worried about something. But what? And then he remembered what had happened ten years ago a few months before the skiing accident that claimed the life of his beloved wife.
A few seonds later, the pain Chachi was experiencing didn’t stop instead it got worse and a cry of pain was torn from his lungs right before a strange lightness filled him a feeling of being almost insubstantial. And suddenly, he couldn’t breath and instinctively began to panic gasping helplessly for air.
Howard flinched when he heard Chachi cry out in pain. Chachi, like his mother before him, had a high tolerance for physical discomfort he had to be in intense pain to cry like that. Indeed, the only times Howard could recall hearing his wife Marion scream was when she was in the middle of giving birth.
A look of panic had come to Chachi’s features now and Howard could see him frantically trying to breath and he felt panic building inside as he watched his son suffocating before him. Was Chachi going to pass out in front of them? Oh, please don’t let him die, Howard prayed silently to whoever might be listening. Please don’t take another one from me. I couldn’t bear to go through that again.
Chachi was by now panicking wondering if he was indeed dying and what of. Suddenly, the pain stopped and he could breath again. Darkness raced up to embrace him and Chachi gratefully gave himself up to it.
Howard darted forward as Chachi solidified again before them right before his eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled and would have landed in a heap on the floor had Howard not quickly caught him.
Howard quickly checked to see if Chachi was breathing, he was he just seemed to be completely out of it. Gently, he picked Chachi up and cradled his unconscious form in his overweight arms.
"Let’s get him inside," he said. "Marion, go and grab a medkit."
"Yes, Mr Tracy." Marion replied before dashing off to do as she was bid. Medical kits were kept all over the island and the closest was in the kitchen.
Howard carried Chachi inside with his other sons following closely behind with Joanie and Gina seemingly in a race to follow behind. A shocked Lori Beth, Tom and Al followed along behind. None of them could believe what they had just witnessed.
Howard laid Chachi out on a couch in the living room.
"What was that," Potsie demanded to know. "What just happened?"
"There is only one logical conclusion," Gina said. "Chachi's really worried about something."
"What!" Ralph exclaimed. "How can Chachi be worried? He’s never been like this before."
"Actually, he has, Ralph." Howard replied.
"What do you mean, Dad?" Potsie asked. Howard sighed.
"A few months before your mother died, she went to New Jersey to see her sister Nicola. You were all in elementary school and I was in orbit on my last shuttle mission. Since Chachi was too young to go to school at the time, she took him with her. She left Chachi asleep in one of Nicola’s spare rooms with the window open, as it was hot and muggy. The first of the two disaters to rock New Jersey occurred that night in the docks and you know Nicola’s apartment is close to the docks."
"Some bald guy came in through the open window," Richie guessed. Howard nodded. "But if Chachi was screaming, then why's this only happening now. I thought when people are exposed to bad guys, they scream like crazy immediately."
"Not necessarily, Richie," Al replied. "There have been a number of documented incidents where people have been exposed to the mutagenic compounds like the one that was twice released in New Jersey but who haven’t changed immediately. Though a decade is along time for a delayed reaction."
"Perhaps but its obviously happened now," Howard replied. "Do you know anything at all about a man called the Candy Man, Al?"
"I’m afraid not," Al replied. "I’m afraid genetics and organic chemistry were never my strong points so I've got no idea what to expect to happen next."
"Perhaps Aunt Nicola knows someone in New Jersey who can help," Ralph suggested. "Someone who can be trusted and can be brought here."
"Its risky," Potsie said. "We know our aunt can be trusted but bringing an outsider here."
Howard considered what to do now. The final call was his. He looked down at his unconscious youngest son. Chachi looked peaceful now but who knew what was happening inside him. They needed help here, help from someone who dealt with metahumans and knew what to expect. But as Potsie said, bringing an outsider to the island was risky. If there was a disaster somewhere in the world and they needed to go then the secrets of International Rescue would be exposed.
He looked at Chachi again and came to a decision.
"We’ll take the risk," he said. "I’ll contact Nicola myself. Watch him while I’m gone call me immediately if he wakes up."
"Sure, Dad." Potsie replied for all of them.
With that, Howard turned and headed off to his office to contact Nicola. Hopefully, Peter knew someone in New Jersey who could help them.
Nicola Davison sat in the quiet of her office on the top floor of the crescent shaped Tracy Inc building that was one of the newest and sleekest skyscrapers in Dakota City. The building had only been finished two years ago and now served as the North American regional headquarters of Tracy Inc the now global corporate empire built by his brother in law. Though Tracy Inc wasn’t Howard Tracy’s greatest achievement, that one was much more secret.
And it was called International Rescue. Nicola was one of the few people in the world who knew that the Tracys were the rescuing heroes that in the mere four years since operations had begun had become revered the world over for there selfless bravery and courage. She knew because she’d helped Howard build it and it had been built in memory of her sister after all.
While he was looking at a computer screen showing a quarterly report from marketing that she would have to review before sending it to Howard he wasn’t really paying attention to it. Instead, she found her thoughts drifting to Howard and the boys. It had been awhile since she’d seen them last and he was thinking of booking some holiday time – not that she really needed to since she was basically the boss where Tracy Inc’s activities in this city were concerned and answered only directly to Howard – and going to Tracy Island and spending some time with her brother in law and nephews. Who knew they might even convince Fonzie to come down from Fonziebird Five for a bit and they could all be together for a time, it would be nice.
A sudden soft beeping caught her attention and abruptly all thoughts of planning a holiday to Tracy Island vanished from her head, as did thoughts of reviewing the quarterly report. The soft beeping coming from a hidden buzzer in the desk was alerting him that she was being called but not regarding Tracy Inc. But before she could do anything he needed to do something.
Quietly she flipped open a hidden panel and pressed one of the two switches hidden there. The switch read her thumb print and activated a security system that had been built into this part of the building from the start. Immediately, the floor to ceiling window that made up one wall of the office went opaque and a metal shield slid over the office door preventing anyone from accessing the room.
Then she pressed the second control and a slit appeared in his desk and a small screen rose from the desk and lit up showing a familiar face. And Nicola smiled warmly.
"Hello, Howard, what a pleasant surprise," she said. "It’s nice to see you."
"Hello, Nicola, it's good to see you too," Howard replied. "But this isn’t a social call I’m afraid."
"I gathered as much otherwise why call me this way," Nicola replied. "How can I help, Howard?"
"It’s a mixture of advice and help that I need. Do you know anything about the Candy Man, Nicola?"
"No," Nicola replied confused. "Why do you ask?"
"Its Chachi." Nicola raised an eyebrow why was Howard asking her about the Candy Man and mentioning her youngest nephew in the same conversation. Then Howard spoke again. "He just had nightmares about him."
"Chachi’s having nightmares?" Nicola asked shocked. "But ho.." Then like Howard before her, she remembered Chachi’s exposure during the first big bang. "The first big bang and Marion’s visit."
"That’s the only explanation. But for one of the few times in my life I have no idea what to expect and Al's clueless and all."
"Al clueless about something that’s a rarity," Nicola commented. "I don’t know anything specific about the Candy Man but I know you and your boys do."
"Thank you, Nicola."
"You know I’m always glad to help, Howard. I’ll see you soon."
"I’ll see you soon, Nicola." Howard signed off and the screen went blank before lowering back into the desk.
Nicola turned off the security isolation system then A few minutes later, her car pulled out of the underground parking area and began heading out of the city but in the opposite direction to the airport which was on the other side of the city from Tracy Inc. She left the city via the main highway and immediately turned off onto one of the side roads and there speed began increasing. If Nicola worked for International Rescue, then that could only mean that the Tracys were International Rescue. They might even be the Fonziebirds. Nicola waited and wondered what wonders she might see on Tracy Island after she’d figured out what Chachi was going through.
Chachi returned to consciousness with a soft groan. For a few moments he was confused wondering what had happened to him, how had he gotten into the living room. And then shivered as he remembered the pain, that strange overwhelming pain and the strange sensations that led up to that terrifying incident when he couldn’t breath.
As he opened his eyes he found his brothers, father and friends standing over him looking concerned. Yet he also got the impression that something more was up with them than concern for him. They seemed he didn’t know surprised by something, something to do with him. What that was he had no idea.
Slowly he sat up shaking his head to clear a strange sensation that he couldn’t really describe. He was also aware of a strangeness inside himself. How he knew that he didn’t know but he knew that somehow and someway, he had got worried. And that frightened him. Why did he suddenly feel different? What inside him had changed? And why had it happened so suddenly and so painfully. He didn’t think that somehow his brothers had experienced anything like that awful pain when they’d been growing up. In fact he was absolutely certain of it.
"What happened?" he asked hoping they would be able to give him an idea of what happened out there.
"You don’t know," Richie asked. "You were having nightmares about some fat guy called the Candy Man."
"I did." Chachi exclaimed looking at the brother that was closest to him in age wondering if he was joking. Richie was after all the practical joker of the Tracy family.
"You did." Potsie confirmed. Chachi still looked disbelieving.
"But how could I do that?" Chachi asked. "Last thing I remember clearly is heading back to the table with orange juice then pain again and then not being able to breath."
"Again," Howard interrupted. "You’ve had pain before." Chachi looked uncomfortable.
"Twice," he answered his father reluctantly. "First was at school just before you showed up at that oil rig rescue. But it was gone in a moment and no where near as bad. The second was just after I got here. I was in my room when boom there it was but it still wasn’t as bad as it was out there and nothing happened."
"Why didn’t you say anything?" Howard asked.
"What time did I have?" Chachi asked. Howard had to acknowledge that Chachi had a point there. Though what had happened had made it seem longer Chachi had only been home for two hours.
"How could I do what Rich said I did," Chachi asked. "I mean I'm not …" he cut off and his eyes widened as the realisation dawned. He shook his head refusing to accept it. He couldn’t be worried. I’m not worried, I’m not. he thought.
Howard exchanged concerned looks with his other three earthbound sons and in fact with everyone else in the room. It was obvious that Chachi had just figured out what he was but was refusing to accept it.
Chachi started to get up from the couch still denying what he knew in his heart to be true. He was worried. But he didn’t want to be. He wanted to be normal. Before he could completely clear the couch he felt something happen, something that felt like a wave of power coming from somewhere deep inside him. He fought against it with almost desperate strength.
But not matter what he did to block it the power came surging to the fore and he felt his hands begin to tingle. He looked down and raised his hands so he could look into his palms. He watched helpless and horrified as his hands literally began to glow with a strange blue light like some kind of nimbus that pulsed and flowed around his hands. And water drops immediately began to fall from around the perimeter of the glow. Instantly a puddle of water began to form on the hardwood floor. Everyone gaped in surprise at seeing the blue glow and the spreading pool of water.
"Chach, you’ve got to stop them." he heard Potsie say.
"I’m trying." Chachi snapped back concentrating trying to stop the power surging down his arms to his hands. It took awhile and he was aware that his sneakers were now completely soaked and the pool of water was growing wider by the second.
Though he was now standing in the middle of a pool of water, Chachi just stared at his hands for a good few moments then not thinking and not really caring at the moment he turned and ran outside. He paid little attention to the dusk that was beginning to fall on the island he just ran.
"Chachi," Howard called after him but Chachi gave no sign of having heard him. "Someone clean this water up, I’m going after him." He then set off after his youngest son who seemed to be running in sheer blind panic.
Chachi’s brothers and friends watched Howard leave after Chachi.
"It doesn’t look like Chachi’s taking this well at all." Ralph commented.
"Would you if you suddenly found out that you’re having nightmares?" Richie asked.
"Probably not," Ralph admitted. "I’d probably freak out just like Chachi."
"I would for sure." Richie added.
"Excuse me." Marion said and the three Tracy brothers, Joanei, Gina and Lori Beth moved aside as Marion, accompanied by Tom, appeared with mops and began clearing up the very big puddle Chachi had created.
"I hope Chachi’s gonna be okay." Richie said.
"I'm sure he'll be." Potsie replied.
Chachi ran for awhile eventually he came to stop and bent over trying to catch his breath his hands on his knees. He looked at where his hands were resting on his knees. Hand’s that looked completely normal yet moments ago had been surrounded by a blue glow that made water come out of nowhere. Why has this happened to me? Why? he thought.
As he thought that he felt his eyes begin to sting. A tear fell from his eye and in moments he was leaning on a rock and crying full force. He knew he should try to be strong, to be a man but he couldn’t. This was just too much for him to bear.
That was how Howard found him a few moments later leaning against a rock crying. He’s not taking this well at all, Howard thought, not well at all. Howard was surprised by how well he himself was taking it. Maybe it was because somewhere in the back of his mind he’d somehow known that it was possible that something like this might happen to Chachi one day.
"Chachi." he said softly and held open his arms.
Chahci was startled when he heard his name being called. He turned and saw his father standing there holding his arms open. He took the offer of comfort without question and in moments his head was buried in his father's chest. And he felt his father's strong arms envelop him in a comforting embrace.
"Why has this happened to me, Dad," Chachi wept into his father’s chest. "Why?"
"The why doesn’t matter," Howard told him softly. "All that matters is we're going to get through this, son, we're going to get through this."
"I don’t want this," Chachi sobbed. "I want to be normal."
"Now you listen here, Charles Alan Tracy," Howard told him strongly. "You are normal. You are my son and I don’t want to hear you say things like that ever again."
"You say that now," Chachi said pulling back. "But suppose I worry more. Would the Candy Man show up?"
"If he were to show up, Chachi, it probably would have happened already," Howard told him. "And if he did show up, it wouldn’t be pretty.
"Chachi, I can’t pretend to understand what you are probably feeling right now," Howard continued. "But you don’t have to go through it alone. We’re here for you. No matter what happens."
Chachi smiled at his father’s words feeling as though some great weight had just been lifted off his shoulders. A weight he had not even known was really there, he hadn’t realised how afraid he’d been of his family rejecting him because of what he happened to him.
Howard was relieved when he saw a smile appear on his youngest son’s face. He was about to speak when his wristcom chirped for attention. Talk about awkward timing, he thought. He could see Chachi laughing to himself obviously amused by the wristcom’s timing. The wristcom chirped again.
"Okay, okay," Howard said irritated. Raising the comm unit he accepted the call and Potsie’s face appeared on the screen in place of the normal digital time display. "What is it, Potsie?"
"Dad, our tracking systems are picking up an approaching vehicle in stealth mode. We’ve identified it as Aunt Nicola’s car." That was quick, Howard thought, I only called Nicola an hour and a half ago.
"Very well, prepare to receive." Howard ordered.
"Sure thing, dad." Potsie signed off then.
"Aunt Nicola’s coming here," Chachi asked surprised and happy that his aunt was coming. Nicola was practically the only one who ever talked about mom. Dad and his brothers found the subject of Marion Tracy too painful to talk about much and in detail.
Chachi was always curious about his mom wondering what kind of person she had been. Aunt Nicola knew how much he wanted to know about his mom so she did tell him some things about her when they were alone and when she was in the mood to do so. Thanks to his aunt, he knew that personality wise he was quiet close to his mother in the way he loved life and wanting to live it to the full. Though Nicola was fond of saying that even at her worst, Marion had never been as reckless as he could be sometimes or even close.
"Yes," Howard confirmed. "And she might be able to help you and us understand what’s happened to you."
"What?" Chachi asked knowing it had to be someone really special for dad to allow Nicola to come to the island.
"Yes. We better go back to the house. We need to be there when she arrives," Howard said. He held out a hand to Chachi. "You coming?" Chachi nodded and carefully took his fathers hand.
Together they began the trek back to the house.
Nicola smiled as she saw the familiar silhouette of Tracy Island appear on the navigational system of her heads up display. She couldn’t see it through the windscreen but that was only natural since the sun had gone down and the island wasn’t brightly illuminated except for the lights around the main house. And those didn’t radiate nearly bright enough to be seen properly from here.
But she didn’t need to see the island the navigational systems built into the car knew it was there. A symbol flashed up on his display the car had just been scanned by the islands security system which could see through the cars stealth system with no trouble at all after all it had been designed by the same person who designed the stealth system used by the cars and the Fonziebirds, Al.
Nicola pressed a single button on his steering wheel sending an acknowledging pulse to the island. And a second later, a series of rings outlining an approach trajectory appeared on her screen. She would begin her approach for landing in a few moments.
In moments, she was flying level only a few feet above the ocean surface and heading straight for the island. She passed through the concealed entrance and were flying along a circular tunnel that in the islands distant volcanic past had been a lava tube. Though the tunnel had been lined with metal with inset lights. As she flew down the tunnel that lead deep into the island, Nicola reduced their speed until they were only just staying in the air.
The tube gave way into an underground hanger facility where two more cars similar to his were parked. Landing the car, she switched it back into car mode retracting the wings and jet engines before manoeuvring into a parking spot and turning off the engine.
In moments it exited into a large brightly illuminated cavern. Far below neatly lined up facing doors that probably lead to another cavern were a variety of machines all with international rescue insignia. Nicola recognised them as various machines that were used in rescue operations. It was strange seeing them here doing nothing just sitting inert waiting to be called upon.
The monorail followed its track round and they were through that cavern into another short tunnel the opened into a second much larger cavern and below them she could see Fonziebird Two. What she wouldn’t give to have a look at the inside of that machine.
She needed to alert Howard to the possibility of the unthinkable having occurred, that someone might have planted a tracking device on Fonziebird One. She pressed the call button and Potsie’s face appeared on the vidcom screen immediately. Potsie opened her mouth to greet her but Nicola jumped in first.
"Warren, is your father there?" Potsie caught the concern in his aunt’s voice.
"He’s not here, aunt Nicola," Potsie replied. "Chachi realised that he’s having nightmares and hasn’t taken it well. He ran off, dad went after him but they haven’t come back yet. What’s wrong?" Quickly, Nicola explained about the near death experience she went through.
A look of shock, horror and alarm flashed across Potsie’s face as he spoke. Shock that there could possibly be a homing beacon, horror and alarm for the same reason.
"Can you meet us at the monorail station with some scanners set to low end radio frequencies we need to find the source of the signal. We think its coming from Fonziebird One but we can't be sure?" Nicola said. Potsie nodded.
"We’ll be right there!" Potsie answered then signed off.
Potsie got up from the communications unit in the main living room to see Richie, Ralph, Al and Gina looking at him in curiosity. Joanie and Marion had left the room to clear up the uneaten dinners. Marion would cook something else a little later when everyone felt like eating something they didn’t feel like doing at the moment. As for Lori Beth and Tom, they’d had to leave to return to Milwaukee though they had wanted to stay but they’d had to go. Lori Beth after all had to go to a garden party tomorrow in Wisconsin time, a garden party being held by the mayor of Milwaukee so it was one social engagement that she could not miss under any circumstances.
"What is it, Pots?" Ralph asked.
"Yeah, what’s going on?" Richie added.
"Aunt Nicola thinks that someone has somehow managed to attach a homing beacon of somekind to Fonziebird One."
"What, that should be impossible." Al exclaimed as Ralph and Richie gasped in shock. "I designed it so that would be impossible. What makes Nicola think that?"
"What makes Nicola think what?" Howard’s voice abruptly said. Everyone spun around to see Howard coming back into the room through the open doors to the swimming pool and sundeck area. Chachi was walking behind him and everyone noticed that he looked like he’d been crying.
"Aunt Nicola thinks that someone has somehow managed to attach a homing beacon of somekind to Fonziebird One," Potsie explained again. Howard’s eyes went wide. "She thinks it because she picked up a repeating signal on a very low radio frequency coming from the Fonziebird One silo. She says it’s like a beacon of somekind. Aunt Nicola wants us to meet him with some scanners so we can find what exactly is causing it."
"You and Al get down there," Howard ordered immediately. "Take the scanners Nicola indicated. Find that signal and shut it off."
"F.O.N.Z." Potsie replied as he and Al took off first for an equipment storeroom to pick up the scanners and then for the monorail station.
Howard turned to Ralph.
"Ralph, go to the sensor control room and turn our perimeter scanners to full active mode turn on the underwater detectors as well. If someone has bugged Fonziebird One, then we should be alert for possible uninvited guests."
"F.O.N.Z." Ralph took off as well heading for the hidden panel in another room that would give access to the sensor control room.
"What can I do, Dad?" Richie asked silently hoping he wouldn’t have to do anything major he wanted to talk with Chachi on his own as it was obvious that Chachi wasn’t taking this whole experience well. And he couldn’t blame his kid brother for feeling that way. He would have freaked as well if it happened to him.
Howard caught that Richie didn’t really want to do anything and it fitted in with what he needed to do next. He needed to go to his office and fill Fonzie up on Fonziebird Five in on what had happened to Chachi as he still didn’t know. Howard realised that he should have told Fonzie earlier just after he’d called Nicola but for some reason it had slipped his mind and he realised that he hadn’t been fair to his oldest son by not telling him earlier about Chachi having nightmares. He knew Fonzie would immediately worry about Chachi and would continue to do so until his tour of duty on the station was up at the end of next week and he got to see Chachi in person. Fonzie always worried about his brothers but especially Chachi. Though there was a difference of five years between them, Chachi and Fonzie had a strange sort of bond that no one could explain. Fonzie wasn’t quite as close to Chachi as Richie but he wasn’t far off.
"Richard, I want you to stay here with Chachi and Gina. I need to go and speak to Fonzie."
Howard turned away and once again headed for his office. Gina, looking at Chachi and Richie, saw that they really needed to speak alone.
"I’m going to my room for a little bit." he said before leaving the room for the chalet her uncle lived in. Marion and Joanie lived in a similar chalet only the Tracys lived in the main house full time.
Now that they were on their own, Richie sat down on one of the couches and to his total lack of surprise, Chachi sat beside him and leaned against him not wanting to talk just a little bit of comfort from the brother he was closest too. Richie was happy to oblige and gently put his arm across his younger brothers shoulders pulling Chachi in close and letting him know by the simple contact that as far as he was concerned, Chachi was still Chachi, still his brother even if he was now having nightmares.
Chachi read the silent message and knew that Richie meant it and he realised that dad was right. The fact that he was worried was irrelevant to his family they were here for him. And for really the first time since his powers had abruptly appeared Chachi really knew that everything was going to be all right on the family side of things at least.
When Potsie and Al arrived at the station for the monorail – which ran beneath most of the island connecting different facilities in different parts of the tropical paradise to each other – they found Nicola waiting for them. Normally upon seeing his aunt, Potsie would have rushed up to give her a hug. All the Tracy boys were close to Nicola but at the moment he couldn’t the situation was too important for emotion to get in the way. At this moment in time, Potsie was in business mode as he would be if he were out on a rescue.
Fortunately, Nicola seemed to notice and indeed seemed to be in a similar mode at least at the moment. Once the beacon signal had been located and shut down then they could greet each other properly.
"Hello, Alfred. Have you brought the scanners?" Nicola asked Al.
"Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep." Al replied nodding his head. "I brought three."
"That should be enough," Nicola replied. "I don’t need a scanner I’ve got backpack." he silently commanded backpack to raise a tendril tipped with a scan unit. The little robot on her back did so and a mechanical tendril rose to just above the level of his shoulder and began moving back and forth in a scanning motion.
"Handy little robot." Potsie commented even as Al handed out the scanners.
"Believe me, tracking down a covert homing signal will hardly scratch the surface of backpacks abilities," Nicola replied. "How do we get down to the hanger floor from here?"
"Here!" Potsie replied pointing to a lift in the wall.
They all piled into the lift it was a bit of a tight squeeze as the lift was only really meant for three people at a time and was rarely used by more than one person at a time. Normally when being deployed on a mission, the Tracys accessed their Fonziebirds through specialised shoots in the control room. Despite the tight squeeze, they managed to get into the lift as it automatically began to lower down to the hangar floor.
The lift reached the ground in moment and they piled out and using their scanners and backpack began to trace the beacon signal to its source.
"It’s definitely coming from Fonziebird One." Nicola said as all their readings showed it was coming from Fonziebird One’s launch silo.
"Then let's find the beacon and shut it off." Potsie said as he input the security code the opened the heavy blast proof doors. They walked into a space beneath the engine block a darkish room lit by blue lights lining the silo. The floor wasn’t quiet even either; as it was split up into a series of ducts that when opened during the launch sequence would take the exhaust from Fonziebird1’s thrusters and channel it away from the underground complex. All in all the space under the engines was not a comfortable place to be.
Looking up the sides, they could see the sleek graceful rocket looming over them held steady in place by massive docking clamps extending from the wall.
As soon as they entered the space though the scanners and backpack went crazy. The beacon signal was unbelievably strong here. It only took a moment to determine that the beacon signal wasn’t coming from one specific point on or in Fonziebird One but from the entire hull of the rocket.
"How can it be coming from the whole of the hall?" Nicola wondered aloud as she shut off her scanner the beeping was getting to her.
"I don’t know." Al stated frowning up at the gleaming silver and blue outer skin of the Fonziebird.
Al looked over at Nicola wondering what she was thinking about when she said that. And then the realisation dawned.
"Nanobots." he said looking at the woman impressed.
"Precisely," Nicola confirmed. "Whoever planted this thing must have known that all they’d need do was somehow get nanobots onto the hull in a localised area. The nanobots would then spread making more of themselves from materials taken from the hull itself until they reached a number powerful enough to generate the beacon signal."
"If that’s the case then how do we get the blasted things off," Potsie asked inwardly miffed that someone had used his ‘baby’ for this purpose. "Any ideas, Al."
"I’m afraid not!" Al admitted. Though he knew quiet a bit about nanotechnology as the field was interesting he’d never dealt with it directly. The closest he got to it was reading papers and going to conferences being given on the subject.
"It’s actually quiet easy," Nicola broke in. "There is only one way to really get rid of nanobots and it’s with more nanobots programmed to seek and destroy the other nanobots. I could easily modify a zap cap to deliver a nanobot charge to the hull it will only take a few minutes."
"My lab," Al said. "I most likely have the tools."
Nicola turned to look at Potsie.
"I think you better let your father know what’s going on, I’ll keep an eye on them. We don’t want them getting sidetracked by other things. You know what scientists can be like." he said. Potsie chuckled.
"Yeah I know. I’ll let dad know what’s going on."
"But first," Nicola said moving closer and pulling Potsie into a hug. Although startled, Potsie returned the loving hug and for a moment forgot about everything that was going on with Chachi, the beacon signal, everything. He was just happy to be with his aunt again.
Then Nicola pulled back and Potsie went back into IR mode and raised his wristcom to call his father and update him on what was going on.
Howard Tracy’s Office
A Few Minutes Earlier
Howard walked into his office the lights turning on automatically when he walked into the spacious room. Moving over to his desk he sat down and switched on his terminal that connected to the islands main computer system. The terminal lit up immediately and he skimmed through the functions until he found the place where he could input a specialised access code.
Immediately the screen changed from business information that it had been tracking to be replaced with the same style of display you would see on one of the thunderbirds. The stylised T.I symbol of Tracy Inc also vanished to be replaced by the insignia of International Rescue. Now that he was in to the right system he accessed the satellite communications array and hailed Fonziebird Five.
Fonzie appeared on the screen immediately looking a little surprised as the nightly check in wasn’t due for another half-hour.
"Heeey, Dad." Fonzie said from the screen.
"Fonzie, how are things going up there?"
"I could do with a pizza, you know any place that delivers?" Fonzie responded smiling. It was how their opening exchange always went. Howard would ask how things were going up on Fonziebird Five and Fonzie would ask for a pizza.
"Thirty minutes or free, right?" Howard replied humour in his tone. Fonzie took up with the proper status report from there.
"There’s a forest fire in Russia, a typhoon is bearing down on Singapore but other than that everything is quiet," Fonzie replied. "So what’s happening down there on planet Tracy?"
"Chahci’s home for the holidays. In fact, Chachi’s the reason I called early."
"What’s he done now?" Fonzie asked, a note of fond exasperation in his voice his youngest brother could really be a troublemaker when he wanted. Especially when he and Richie got together to plan one of their infamous pranks on everyone else.
"He hasn’t done anything," Howard said. "But something has happened with him that’s going to affect all of us." A look of concern appeared on Fonzie’s face, he had caught the tone of his father’s voice and knew that something major had happened with Chachi.
"What happened? Is Chach okay?" Fonzie asked.
"He’s fine, its just… there is no easy way to say this so I’ll just say it. He’s been having nightmares."
Fonzie’s eyes went wide and a look of total shock appeared on his face. For a few moments, Fonzie found that he was not able to speak he was so shocked.
"Whoa," he repeated at last. "how could Chachi be so nutso? Never mind it’s not important to know how. Is he all right? Does he even…"
"He looks just the same as he always has," Howard broke in. "He hasn’t changed form or anything like that."
"Do we know he’s been like this. That’s easy." Howard explained what had happened at the poolside when Chachi's screaming had come so suddenly and so painfully to the surface, and what happened later in the living room.
"So how's Chachi taken all this?" Fonzie asked looking very concerned.
"Not well," Howard admitted. "As you would imagine. He’s shocked and frightened. I think I’ve eased his fear a little bit he was scared that we’d reject him. That he’d be outcast."
"How could he even think that," Fonzie exclaimed. "Did you tell him otherwise, Dad?"
"I think I got it through to him. Though with Chachi, you never know sometimes things seem to go in one ear and come out the other one. Teenagers."
"We all went through that phase, Dad." Fonzie reminded him.
"Don’t remind me," Fonzie replied internally wincing at how much mayhem there had been having a pack of teenagers in the house all at once. To say war zone would have been to underestimate it sometimes. "As I said though I think I’ve convinced Chachi otherwise. And if I haven’t then I know Richard will. I’m hoping your aunt Nicola can allay the rest of Chachi’s fears. And give some pointers on how to control this."
"Aunt Nicola, our Aunt Nicola?"
"Yes. I’ve had her come here. And she’s just uncovered another problem. Someone has somehow managed to put some kind of homing device on Fonziebird One."
"How on earth," Fonzie started to say.
"I don’t know. I’m hoping Al and Potsie can provide some answers. I’ve had Virgil put the perimeter scanners on full alert. What I want you do to as well is keep an eye open from up there as well. If you see anything suspicious coming towards the island then let me know."
"Will do, Dad. I’ll keep an eye on that typhoon and forest fire as well if helps needed I’ll give you a call."
"Give my best wishes to Chachi will you, Dad."
"Certainly." Howard’s wristcom started to bleep for attention. Not again, Howard thought, what’s with my wristcom and awkward timing tonight. Fonzie clearly heard the wristcom bleeping for on the screen Howard could see Fonzie’s shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. It was eerily like how Chachi had reacted when his wristcom went off earlier.
"You better answer that." Fonzie said as the wristcom chirped again. At least its not my wallphone, Howard thought thinking about the irritating ring tone that he kept meaning to change but never got round to doing.
"Yeah I’ll check in with you again in the morning." Howard replied.
"F.O.N.Z, Dad." Fonzie replied then disappeared from the screen.
Howard raised his offending wristcom and acknowledged the persistent hail. Potsie appeared on the screen.
"What have you found, Potsie?"
"I’m afraid Aunt Nicola’s right, Dad. Someone did manage to attach a tracking device to Fonziebird One. A nanobot based tracking device." Nanobot trackers, Howard thought, Now that is devious and ingenious. We never anticipated that kind of tracking system.
"Nanobots. Does Al have any idea how to neutralise them?"
"No, Dad but Aunt Nicola has. There modifying something called a zap cap with nanobots taken from his robot which he calls backpack of all things." Howard couldn’t help but chuckle at that. "Al's in hia lab and Aunt Nicola's gone to keep an eye on them."
"Keep me appraised, Potsie." Howard ordered.
"Yes, Sir." Potsie disappeared from the screen and Howard stood up from his desk and went to head back to the living room to see how Chachi was doing.
Fonzie broke off the communications link with his father and for a moment leaned back in his chair before the main control console in the control room for the advanced and secret space station built by his father. His mind still trying to really process everything his father had told him.
He could barely believe what had happened to Chachi especially. Chachi having nightmares was nothing he – or anyone else – would have really expected certainly not Chachi himself. The fact that Chachi didn’t seem to be taking it well worried him. How he wished he was back on Tracy Island now so he could put his arms around his baby brother and let him know that everything was going to be alright. That it didn’t matter to him that he was going nuts.
But he was stuck up here in Fonziebird Five and would be for another week. After a moment, Fonzie sighed he was just going to have to put with it. But he silently promised himself to change priorities when he got back down to Earth. Normally when he got back the first thing he did was head to the US mainland for a week to enjoy himself but this time, he promised he would spend some time with Chachi and let him know in his own way that everything was okay. That what had happened was perfectly fine with him, that as far he was concerned Chachi was still his brother and always would be. That having nightmares was irrelevant.
After a moment though, he sat back up properly turning his attention to the other problem currently facing International Rescue. Increasing power to sensors he turned the on the ocean around Tracy Island. The station would only be in sensor range for another twenty minutes before its orbit took it over the horizon but he would monitor as best as he could until he was out of range. It was all he could do.
For now at least.
Al watched interested as Nicola worked to modify one of his zap caps to deliver a nanobot charge to the side of Fonziebird One. It was interesting watching the woman work, he was so quick and though some of the tools Al had provided had been unfamiliar Nicola had adapted to them and was now using them like an expert. Al had to admit that he was impressed with the female genius, once this thing with Fonziebird One was dealt with and Nicola had had a chance to look at Chachi he would take the opportunity to speak with her. It would be nice to exchange ideas with someone who had equal – and possibly even superior – intelligence to herself.
"Almost done," Nicola said, not stopping what she was doing. "Just another minute."
Within a few more moments, she finished screwing the zap cap back together and checked it over to see it was working exactly as it should. It was. Which was a relief if it hadn’t he would have had to start all over again. Which could have damaged backpack. She had taken and reprogrammed as many nanobots as she dared from her faithful robot to take any more would risk serious system damage since a number of backpack’s functions these days were linked to the robots internal nanobots.
"Done." she said to Al.
"That was quick." Al said as he’d been doing a similar calculation in his own head. Nicola just shrugged, she had gotten so used to her brain working at such a high speed that she now no longer thought about it.
"We should deploy that zap cap then." Nicola said heading back out the door. Al followed her.
Within moments, they were standing underneath Fonziebird One again to find that Potsie was still there.
"Good you're back," Potsie said in greeting. "I’ve been thinking how're you actually gonna get that thing to hit the side of Fonziebird One considering that the throwing angle from down here's impossible."
"Leave that to me." Nicola replied smiling backing up a bit until she was clear of the engine block with a clear line of ascent to the top of the silo not that she needed to go all the way up.
Then, she turned on her boot jets and shot up into the side of the silo for a short way until she was level with the red nose cone of Fonziebird One where backpack revealed the nanobot concentration to be at its greatest. Looking he could see a faint oily sheen at one point on the nose cone which is where he guess some sort of projectile carrying the initial load of nanobots in a chemical suspension agent – most likely gallium as it was the one most commonly used for nanobot suspension – had impacted and burst.
Arming the zap cap, she threw it at the side of the rocket and the zap cap burst with a loud pop on impact. Immediately on impact, the nanobots contained within the zap cap were released onto the hull. Immediately, they passed through the outer paint work and began attacking the transmitting nanobots.
By the time Nicola landed back at the base of Fonziebird One, backpack reported that the transmission had stopped as there were now no longer enough nanobots to generate the signal.
"The signal’s stopped." Potsie commented looking at his scanner.
"Yes," Nicola agreed. "And the nanobot concentration is dropping much more rapidly than I thought it would. Obviously whoever designed the nano-trackers never anticipated that they would be detected so didn’t equip them with a defensive capacity. Complete neutralisation in two minutes."
"What about your nanobots?" Potsie asked.
"Once they’re done with their task they’ll dissolve." Nicola assured him.
The Candy Man’s Submarine
Four Hundred Miles Away
The Candy Man once again sat in quiet mediation in his quarters as his sub cruised at maximum speed towards the south pacific island where International Rescue’s base was located. They would arrive in a few hours and he was quietly preparing himself for what was to follow and to keep his expectation under control. Finally after all these years, revenge would soon be his.
"Tracking signal loss." the subs computer abruptly reported. The Candy Man's eyes flew open. What? he thought.
Standing up, he left his quarters and went to the submarines control centre.
"Sticky, what is going on?" he asked. A small man in a lab coat looked up from one of the main consoles.
"We’ve lost the beacon signal from Fonziebird One," Sticky reported frowning at his display. "The Fonziebirds must have found and neutralised the nanobots somehow impressive."
"Is that admiration I hear, Sticky?" Eugene asked from where he was working. "You shouldn’t admire your enemy."
"On the contrary, Eugene," the Candy Man countered. "You cannot defeat your opponent if you don’t know his full capabilities and your own. As Sun Tzu said ‘know thy enemy and know thyself and you shall always be victorious’. We now know a little more about the Fonziebirds capabilities."
"Yes, Sir." Eugene replied not really believing. The Candy Man looked at the huge former wrestler turned metahuman mercenary. He didn’t like Eugene’s tone at all. He concentrated and anyone noticing would have seen a strange glow come into his eyes.
Eugene abruptly stiffened and gasped in pain as his brain suddenly felt as though it was being held in a vice.
"You must learn to appreciate your enemies strengths, Eugene. One of the basic tenants of eastern martial arts is to use and opponents own strength against him. You cannot do that if you do not completely know your opponents power."
He released Eugene from the mind lock and Eugene gasped in relief. Had anyone else done that to him he would have beaten them to a pulp but he dare not try that with his current boss. Though a big time evildoer, the Candy Man was extremely powerful and even with super-strength, Eugene knew he wouldn’t have a chance. One time, the Candy Man had made an example of a minion who tried to betray him to the authorities – the results hadn’t been very pretty that unfortunate minion was now as good as dead. Eugene had no desire to end up like that.
"This doesn’t change much," the Candy Man said as though nothing had happened. "We will just have to be much more cautious in our approach to the island. International Rescue will be on its guard now. Sticky, keep an eye on the sensors if were detected I want to know immediately."
"Yes, Sir." Sticky replied.
The Candy Man then turned and left to return to his quarters. While this was a worrying new development, he had designed his plan with contingencies to cope with such shocks. He would adapt.
The secrets of International Rescue and revenge would still soon be his.
Fonziebird One Silo
Nicola smiled when she saw the nanobot count on the hull of Fonziebird One drop down to zero and her own nanobots go into safe dissolve.
"The last of the nanobots have been eliminated," ahe said to Al and Potsie. "My own nanobots are now dissolving themselves."
"We will have to talk about this later," Al answered. "I'll have to develop nanobots of our own to stop this from happening again."
"I’ll be glad to help." Nicola replied.
"Now we need to go upstairs and get back to why we originally asked for you to come here, Aunt Nicola." Potsie said.
"Yes, I need to see Charles." Nicola agreed.
She was especially intrigued by why if Chachi had been exposed to big bang gas at big bang number one, he had been having ngihtmares a few time before now. Why had ten years passed before his visions had shown themselves? And probably scaring the poor kid half to death in the process. There were a number of possible reasons for the long delay but until he actually did a proper scan of Chachi he had no idea what the reason was.
"Lead on then." she said to Potsie.
"This way," Potsie paused. "A word of warning though Potsie might not appreciate some things that you might tell him."
"Well, whether he likes what I find or not, he’s going to have to deal with it," Nicola replied.
"I know it's just don’t expect an easy time convincing Chachi of that he can be somewhat stubborn."
"Hark, who's talking." Nicola replied. Potsie blushed in embarrassment.
"I’m not that bad, Aunt Nicola." he objected.
"Yes you are," Nicola replied. Potsie sighed knowing he wouldn’t win this argument with his aunt. They’d had it before and he always lost.
Without speaking any further, he left the silo and headed across the main hanger floor back towards the lift. Al and Nicola followed quietly. All eger in there own way to get to the bottom of the mystery of why Chachi’s nightmares had shown themselves so suddenly.
As he walked, Potsie thought about his baby brother. Maybe Nicola would be able to convince Chachi that this was not all that bad, that it depended on the individual. It was down to the young man in question to decide what he shoudl do. But Potsie also knew that no matter what Nicola said one of the biggest deciding factors in Chachi accepting that he was going crazy was if his family accepted it. And of that Potsie had no doubt. Chachi was still Chachi as far as he was concerned. And he knew dad and his brothers felt the same – even though he hadn’t spoken to Fonzie. They just needed to convince Chachi of that.
Assuming of course that Chachi hadn’t already realised it himself.
Chachi waited nervously for Gear to arrive in the main house from the secret complex hidden beneath the tropical paradise exterior of the island. While part of him was looking forward to actually meeting his aunt again – not many people ever got that chance – the rest of him was worried about what Nicola was going to say, what she was going to find when he inevitably scanned him.
And then there was the constant fear that something else was going to happen to him. That he was going to change more, possibly into something completely inhuman. While he knew it wouldn’t matter to his brothers or father what happened to him there was still this edge of doubt, this slim fear that if he did become something else that he would be rejected by his family, cast out on his own. It was an irrational fear but somehow he couldn’t quiet get rid of it.
What didn’t help either was he could somehow feel what happened to him. Randomly surging coming close to bursting through the tentative barrier he had somehow erected around them. Lord only knew how he’d done that he just had presumably when he’d stopped the one power, which definitely had something to do with creating and possibly controlling water. So far the power surges hadn’t penetrated the barrier but he was aware that every time a power surge occurred the barrier came closer and closer to failure. Trouble was he was afraid to try and shore it up as he didn’t know how he’d created it in the first place and worried that even trying to could cause it to collapse.
In fact he was getting so nervous and inwardly agitated that he’d gotten off the couch where he had been sitting with Richie to wander aimlessly around the room in an effort to sort of distract himself from the nervousness and the fear. Not that it was working.
Sitting in his favourite armchair, Howard watched his youngest son in carefully concealed but very real concern. But he knew he couldn’t really do anything to help Chachi except offer emotional support, to be a shoulder to cry on if Chachi needed to. Though truth be told it was much more likely that Richie would fill that role. He couldn’t do anything else, couldn’t offer advice or guidance on how to deal with what Chachi had become. And it was frustrating and somewhat painful. To see one of his beloved sons in such obvious emotional turmoil and not being able to do anything to help hurt Howard more than anything and a look at the other two sons in the room with him showed that they were feeling the same. Richie and Ralph so wanted to do something to help their brother but they couldn’t do anything.
Chachi paused in his movements as he felt another surge of power come from somewhere deep inside. The barrier within fluctuated again and to his horror he somehow felt part of it break and power surged forth and his hands began tingling again. But this time there was something else besides the tingle what he didn’t know but he felt it. He closed his eyes and concentrated trying to stop the flow of power and trying to remember what he did to create the barrier in the first place.
Howard started to get up out of his chair when he abruptly saw Alan pause in his movements and stiffen. Was something else happening? Was he changing again? He didn’t see any signs of pain on Chachi’s face though so it was unlikely. Abruptly, Chachi’s hands began to shake again. His eyes widened slightly when he saw a silver glow also come into Chachi’s eyes before Chachi closed them a look of intense concentration appearing on his face.
He opened his eyes and looked around to see if anything had happened during that episode if that particular power had done anything. And saw a slick of ice starting near the patio doors running right across the room to the far wall right to where the hidden doorway that was one of the access points to the underground complex was located.
"Did I do that?" he asked though he already knew the answer. Unless someone else in the room was secretly a metahuman as well he was the only one who could have.
"You did!" Richie confirmed.
Howard started to open his mouth to speak but before he could do so the hidden doorway opened.
"Dad, how's Ch….yahh," Potsie said as he came through the door and immediately slipped on some water. Potsie surfed helplessly along the puddle of water yelling at the top of his lungs. He disappeared out the patio door still yelling and a moment later there came a very loud splash indicating that Potsie had just ended up in the pool.
For a second there was silence in the room and then everyone including Chachi burst into laughter.
"Sorry, Potsie." Chachi called out the patio door fighting and failing to contain his laughter. He hoped his second oldest brother didn’t think he’d done that on purpose because he hadn’t.
Still chuckling at what she had just seen happen, Nicola cleaned the puddle of water carefully to avoid the same fate. True all of his tech was waterproof but she didn’t fancy walking around in a soaking wet uniform. She’d been in that position a few times over the years and it wasn’t very nice.
She looked around impressed by how bright and spacious the room was. It was exactly the kind of thing you would expect to see at a billionaire’s retreat, there was nothing here on the surface to indicate that this island was anything more than that. Certainly nothing to indicate that the island was the home base of the most technologically advanced rescue organisation in the world. The retro modern style of the décor was also very appealing.
Howard got up completely from his chair to properly greet his sister in law who had already helped to detect and eliminate a major breach of their security. He was careful to avoid the slick of water that Chachi had accidentally spilt – a slick that was already slowly starting to melt – as he had no desire to join Potsie in the swimming pool.
Coughing and spluttering on water, Potsie hauled himself out of the swimming pool that he had landed in thanks to a slick of ice stretching right across the living room floor. A slick that he knew Chachi would have created, most likely by accident. He guessed it would have been an accident as Chachi was new to the thing about the Candy Man or even what he could and couldn’t do altogether. So this time Potsie would forgive him for sending him flying into the upper swimming or diving pool.
Of course though if he later found out that the squirt had split that glass of water on purpose.
Getting to his feet dripping water from his now soaking wet clothes, Potsie sighed. As soon as he got back to the house he was going to have to go to his room to dry off and put on some dry clothes.
Out of the corner of his eye, Potsie caught sight of something glittering in the light cast by the light shinning up from the pools underwater lights. Turning so he could see better he was rewarded with the sight of a palm tree completely cocooned in water. A tree directly in line with the patio doors. Looking at it, Potsie whistled slightly in appreciation how Chachi could have done that from all the way inside the house a good three meters away he had no idea but it was very impressive. It must be those nightmares Chachi had, Potsie thought, he can certainly create it and possibly even control it. But what about when he turned transparent earlier.That has nothing to do with ice or water so it must be a third power. But what is it. Hopefully Aunt Nicola'll be able to tell us.
Potsie sighed and shook his head. Even thinking about Chachi having what were basically superpowers seemed unreal but it was real. And it was something that they were all going to have to come to terms with and live with – Chachi especially.
Turning away, he began walking back up the steps to the sundeck before heading into the house his wringing wet trainers making squishing noises with every step he took.
He reached the patio doors in moments and went inside to see that Nicola had moved quiet close to Chachi with dad nearby. Conversation cut off when she came in.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in." Richie commented. Potsie threw a glare at Richie who just laughed it off. Chachi approached nervously.
"Are you okay, Potsie?" he asked. "I didn’t mean to ah send you flying into the pool." He thinks I’m gonna be mad, Potsie thought, Surely, I'd be but this is not an ordinary situation.
"I’m okay, I know you didn’t do it on purpose. Just a little soaked, that’s all." he replied and Chachi looked relieved.
"Potsie, can you go and dry yourself off before you create another puddle on the floor?" Potsie said looking at his soaking wet second oldest son and suppressing the urge to laugh. It was so funny seeing Potsie standing there his soaking wet clothes sticking tightly to the contours of his body and dripping water all over the place.
"I intend to," Potsie replied. "Excuse me please."
Without further ado, Potsie walked across the living room the hallway and the stairs that led up to the first set of bedrooms on the second floor. As he walked, he left soaking loafer prints all over the floor and he heard both Richie and Ralph snicker. Pausing, Potsie turned and glared daggers at them before leaving the room and heading for his bedroom to dry off and get some dry clothes on.
As soon as Potsie left to go put some dry clothes on, Nicola and Howard returned their attention to the still nervous Chachi.
"Charles, you said you started really experiencing pain this afternoon think back was their anything before that. Something you might have dismissed at the time but which could have been a warning that you were starting to change." Nicola said.
Chachi did as he asked trying to think back over the events of the last week trying to remember if he'd experienced anything like his aunt described. Try as he might he could not think of anything.
"I can't remember anything." Chachi replied surely that momentary headache when he, Joanie and Gina had learned about the oilrig disaster in the Bearing straight didn’t count.
"Nothing at all? No strange cramps or muscle spasms? No headaches?"
"No nothing. Wait the first time I experienced any pain it took the form of a sudden viscous headache that lasted all of thirty seconds."
"Strange," Nicola said frowning, she would have expected there to have been some early warning signs that Chachi was going mad. The sudden headache could have been one but the change really occurred such a short time after it.
"How so?" Howard asked.
"I'd have expected with a delayed reaction there to either be precursor signs or for changes to occur gradually over time as they did with me. It’s unusual for a delayed reaction to happen all at once. The headache Charles just described could have been a precursor but the timings so close that it’s more likely to be the point where DNA mutation started to take place or…" Nicola blinked as an idea occurred to him that could explain some of this.
"Or what?" Ralph prompted right before Jeff or Alan could ask the same question. Nicola was standing nearby not saying anything just watching and offering silent support. Al had left the room to go and find Gina since his own niece would probably be having his own problems coping with what had just happened to one of her best friends.
"Or it could be that the changes in your brothers DNA have been happening gradually over a long period of time but have been dormant until now. Like reaching a critical mass." Nicola explained.
"Are you alright, Chachi?" Howard asked seeing that Chachi was a little wobbly from whatever effects the scan had had on him.
"I will be, Dad!" Chachi replied struggling to get his equilibrium back.
"Sit down a moment." Howard instructed gently helping Chachi over to the couch where Richie was sitting. Alan gratefully sat down even as the residual disorientation began to fade away. Richie put a hand on his brother’s shoulder and Ralph leaned forward from where he was sitting and put a hand on Chachi’s leg.
Chachi was grateful for the silent support offered by his brothers it meant a lot to him, that and the fact that they didn’t seem to mind the fact that he was going nuts, it was making it easier for him to accept the reality of what he was.
Howard turned to look at Nicola to see that her eyes were closed and she seemed to be concentrating on something. He had been about to tell Nicola that she was not to scan Chachi but those words died on his tongue as he watched his sister in law. It only took a second to realise that the woman was analysing the scan results as he was standing there. And Howard realised that what he had heard about Gear was true, that her brain worked with more speed and efficiency than the best supercomputer.
"I’ve completed my analysis of the scan results." Nicola said. Analysing the scan of Chachi had been interesting and had yielded a number of things.
"And?" Chachi prompted bracing himself for the worst.
"You're not in danger of changing anymore," Nicola replied. "The changes to your DNA are complete. I was correct in the theory that your DNA has been gradually changing over time and the changes are now very deeply interwoven into your system. Why your powers never appeared before now I do not know and that may be a piece of this puzzle that we will never know. But I now know what they are."
"What are they?" Chachi asked.
"You already know two of them. Your primarily having nighmares about the Candy Man. Including creation and manipulation. It’s unusual for there to be more than one nightmare for you in a lifetime."
Normally, Chachi seemed to have a boundless supply of energy rarely showing that he was tired even when he saw shattered. To see him yawn like that was surprising.
"Tired?" Howard asked.
"Strangely, yeah. I suddenly feel really, really tired!" Chachi answered truthfully knowing it would be useless to deny it. And he didn’t feel like hiding it either. Yet he was confused at to where the tiredness had suddenly come from.
"Perhaps you should go to bed early." Howard suggested to his son silently bracing himself for a sharp objection from Chachi. Normally when he suggested Chachi go to bed he would expect a blistering retort that he wasn’t tired from Chachi and would go to bed when he felt like it not before.
"I think your right, Dad." Chachi admitted even as he yawned again. Jeff blinked startled. Chachi was agreeing to go bed early? This was a first in his experience. He caught the surprised looks that Gordon and Virgil exchanged as well.
"Chachi, are you sure you’re alright?" Richie asked putting a hand dramatically to his kid brother’s forehead as if to feel his temperature like when he was sick.
"Ha, ha, very funny, Rich." Chachi shot back before yawning again and shaking his head as a wave of exhaustion induced dizziness passed through him.
When he was sure the dizziness had passed, he got to his feet.
"If no one minds I’ll go to bed now. Before I fall over." he said.
"Go on then, Chachi, we’ll see you in the morning." Howard replied.
"Good night, everyone." Chachi said before turning and leaving the room.
In a few moments, he was upstairs heading for his bedroom.
"Are you okay, Chach?" he abruptly heard Potsie’s voice say from behind him. Alan turned around to see Potsie had just emerged from his own bedroom dressed in dry clothes and with his dark hair shimmering slightly in the light clearly still slightly damp.
"I’m okay, Pots," Chachi replied. "Just I’m tired so I’m going to bed early."
"You must be tired to be going to bed this early." Potsie commented teasingly. Chachi rolled his eyes.
"According to aunt Nicola, it's pretty normal considering what has just happened to me." Chachi answered. Another wave of tired dizziness rippled through his head and since he wasn’t sitting down this time he staggered and would have fallen if Scott hadn’t caught him.
"You really must be tired." Potsie said as Chachi stood back up with effort.
"Yeah I am." Chachi replied realising himself just how tired he really was. Pulling away from Potsie, he went into his own bedroom. Footsteps behind him let him know that Potsie was following.
As soon as he was in his room, Chachi turned to look at his second oldest brother.
"I’ll be alright now, Potsie, I’ll see you in morning."
"Are you sure, Chach?"
"Yeah, I’m sure."
Potsie looked at Chachi and for a few moments debated staying until he actually saw Chachi get into bed but in the end he decided against it.
"Good night then."
"Good night." As Potsie walked away, Chachi closed his bedroom door before getting undressed and turning off the lights before climbing into bed. He was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow, descending into a deep dreamless sleep.
When Chachi awoke the following day it was well into the morning. His still sleep-fogged brain wondered briefly if it had all been a dream, discovering he was having nightmares, his aunt Nicola being here on Tracy Island, all of it.
But as the fogginess of sleep began to fade away and he became more aware of the world he knew that it hadn’t been a dream. He could still feel the energy inside him yet somehow it was different now. Calmer! Instead of randomly pulsing and surging straining against the barrier inside that contained it the power was quiet. Indeed it was as calm as a mountain lake a tranquil reservoir of power that he could tap into and direct whenever he wanted to.
Looking over at his bedside alarm clock, Chachi blinked in shock and surprise when he saw what time it was.
It had barely been 2100 hrs when he’d gone to bed, all the clocks on Tracy Island – save for the antique grandfather clock in the library – were digital and set to the twenty four hour time format. I must have been asleep for almost fifteen hours, he thought in shock, I must have been really, really tired.
Getting up, he decided he would have a shower before getting dressed and heading downstairs.
When he arrived downstairs, Chachi found everyone pretty much where he would have expected them to be. Dad and Aunt Nicola were sitting at the poolside table a laptop open between them showing rows of figures and a graph which he guess was related to Tracy Inc. Richie was sitting at the cocktail bar talking with Marion while sipping some orange juice. Potsie and Ralph were in the swimming pool playing water volleyball with Joanie standing on the sideline acting as referee.
For a moment, Chachi Alan was confused that he couldn’t see Al or Gina – if he was still here – but then he realised that they would most likely be in Al's lab.
That was when Richie noticed his presence.
"Well, hello, sleepy head." he said teasingly to his younger brother. As Richie spoke, Howard looked over from where he was going through a quarterly sales report with Nicola.
"Good morning, Chachi," Howard said. "And how are you feeling this morning?"
"Fine, I guess," Chachi replied wondering if he should mention anything about how the energy inside of him felt. He decided not to as it would too hard to explain. "I can't believe I slept so long." he added fishing some sunglasses out of his jeans and putting them on before sitting down on one of the sun loungers.
"Believe it," Howard replied glad that Chachi did indeed seem to be all right. He’d been getting worried when he hadn’t shown any sign of waking up this morning – even when they called him for breakfast. It was so unlike Alan that he had been starting to think that something was seriously wrong with his youngest son that it was quiet common for teenagers to be in such a coma like sleep for an indefinite period of time. According to Nicola, it was one of the means by which the body recovered from such a sudden massive change.
"Have I missed anything?" Chachi asked.
"Nope. Except that whenever we’ve seen them, Al and Gina have all be chatting about this scientific theory or other!" Richie answered. Chachi smiled easily imagining that happening.
"Are you hungry, Chachi?" Marion asked. "I’ll do a sandwich for you if you are."
"That would be kind of you, Marion, thanks." Chachi replied remembering that he hadn’t eaten since that soup last night and was now absolutely starving.
"It's no trouble." Marion replied before leaving the cocktail bar and going inside heading to the kitchen to quickly fix Chachi a sandwich as he hadn’t eaten today and it would be another hour or so before she even started on dinner.
Back outside, Chachi leaned back on the lounger to enjoy just lying in the sun doing nothing. It was such a refreshing change from work, work, and work which was all he got at school. After Marion returned with the sandwich – or knowing her sandwiches – for him and he’d eaten them he decided he would go for a little walk. He had some things to sort out in his head, things to do and he had long ago discovered that going for a walk usually helped him clear his head.
The Candy Man's Submarine
Approaching Tracy Island
The Candy Man entered the control centre of his submarine with a faint frown of puzzlement on his features. He had been aroused from his mediations by a call from Sticky and since he knew that Sticky would never disturb him unless it was important he came to the control room immediately.
"Yes, Sticky, what is it?" he asked.
"Sir, we're approaching the island, we tracked Fonziebird One to but there's a potential problem preventing us from approaching closer," Sticky reported. "The detection systems protecting the island seem to be operating at much higher power than expected. They possibly have enough power to penetrate our stealth systems."
"Weapons systems are armed and ready," Eugene added. "We can destroy the main complex from here."
The Candy Man sighed not surprised by Sticky’s report it was only to be expected that after finding the nanotrackers, the Fonziebirds would put there detection systems on high alert but Eugene’s attitude irritated him. Eugene always liked employing direct force, in many ways he was the a-typical thug. Still, he was useful when brawn was required which was the only reason the Candy Man put up with him.
"Eugene, why would I want to destroy what will soon be mine," he asked. "In any case attacking the main structure would not eliminate the Thunderbirds. It would be almost impossible to force them to leave the island but it would take no effort at all to let them go."
"I don't understand." Eugene replied inwardly bracing himself for a telepathic or telekinetic attack. When explaining something that to him was perfectly obvious the boss sometimes used his incredible mental powers to get the point across, usually in the form of a mind lock or a telekinetic shove into a bulkhead.
"International Rescue exists for one purpose, to rescue people in danger," the Candy Man replied in the tone one would use when lecturing a child. "To get the Thunderbirds to leave the island all we have to do is give them a victim who needs there help. Sticky." As usual, Sticky anticipated his command.
"Tracing transmissions to Fonziebird Five," he reported manipulating his controls. "I've got the stations co-ordinates, locking into fire control system. Missiles ready opening launch tube."
"Fire," the Candy Man ordered. Sticky pressed a button and with a whoosh of propellant a missile launched from the submarine.
Breaking the ocean’s surface almost immediately the missile shot spaceward, its own stealth capacity and speed making it invisible to even the Fonziebirds scanners. In moments the missile reached escape velocity and left the atmosphere heading straight for the disc-shaped International Rescue space station.
The missile impacted the stations outer ring seconds later and detonated. The explosion of the warhead causing a serious breach in the hull immediately there came a second much larger explosion as a mixture of an exploding oxygen storage tank and explosive decompression caused the breach to widen tearing apart a massive chunk of the stations outer ring.
Sitting at the main console in the control room of Fonziebird Five, Fonzie found that his attention was not focused on any of the monitor screens or even out the window at the stars he loved so much. No he was thinking and worrying about Chachi and how he’d turned out to be having nightmares.
For one of the few times in his life, Fonzie wished he wasn’t on Fonziebird Five but was down on the planet so he could comfort his baby brother, let him know that everything was alright.
He started to reach for the communications unit to call dad to see if anything new had happened when there came a horrendous roar and the stations artificial gravity went berserk.
Fonzie was thrown from his chair to slam into the deck hard. All around consoles exploded in sparks and flame, debris rained down and alarms screamed at bone jarring volume. Overhead the main lights flickered once then died as the station lost main power, dull red emergency lights came on immediately barely penetrating the smoke filled gloom of the control room.
Fonzie staggered back to his feet as gravity reasserted itself and looked at the few still functioning systems readouts and his eyes widened in a mixture of horror and disbelief. Outer ring sections three through five were gone. Main power was out the fusion core that powered the station going into emergency shut down. But most worrying was the readout that showed that the stations orbit had been destabilised by the explosion. Thrusters around what was left of the outer ring were firing in an attempt to stabilise the station but they didn’t seem to be having much luck.
Flicking on the communications channel he spoke quickly.
"Yo, Fonziebird Five to Tracy Island. Mayday, mayday, mayday," he said. And then not sure it they heard him he activated the stations automated distress signal. Before setting about putting the fires out and assessing the full extent of the damage to Fonziebird Five.
Tracy Island, A Few Moments Before
Al found Nicola an interesting, rewarding and very eye opening experience. Along with Gina, they were sat at the main worktable in Al's laboratory working to develop nanobots that could be used on the Fonziebirds for a variety of purposes one of which was to avoid a repeat performance of the nanotrackers found on Fonziebird One’s hull. The practical knowledge of nanotechnology that Nicola had was proving invaluable and they had already worked out a basic design. Now it was just a matter of refining the design and manufacturing the machine that would create and program the nanobots.
"If we change this circuit slightly, it'll give the nanobot increased flexibility in carrying out its assigned tasks." Gina said drawing a circuit diagram.
"Indeed but it would also put a great deal more strain on the processing system," Nicola answered. "It might be possible to reconfigure the processor in the bot to cope with the stress."
"We could certainly try." Al agreed flipping back to the page in the design book that contained the circuit design for the nanobot processors.
Alarms abruptly rent the air and they both jumped before Al leaped to his feet and raced out of the lab.
"It looks like the Fonziebirds are needed somewhere come on." Gina said leaving the room herself heading through the corridors and passageways to Howard Tracy’s office.
It was only a short run from Al's lab to Howard Tracy’s office. They reached there at the same time that Al was sitting down in the chair behind the desk. He touched a hidden panel and a palm print scanner slid out from the desk.
"Switching to command and control centre." Al said putting his hand on the scanner for a few seconds before lifting it clear.
And the office changed. The desk moved across the room out the way. Panels opened in the floor and ceiling and banks of consoles and displays rose or lowered. Heavy metal shutters appeared over the windows and the mural of Howard Tracy and his sons on one wall faded away to be replaced with what looked like alcoves each with a giant portraits of the Tracy’s – with the exception of Chachi – in International Rescue uniforms.
Looking around the room, Nicola was impressed by what she had seen, very impressed. The Fonziebirds did have some really remarkable technology and if he hadn’t known this was here he wouldn’t have expected this room to be anything but an office.
Reading information displayed on monitors on the main console, which had risen from the floor in place of Howard’s desk, Al felt his eyes widen in shock when he saw the damage to Fonziebird Five it was a miracle that the station hadn’t cracked open like an egg when it had been hit possibly by a meteor.
At that moment, Howard came running in with Potsie, Ralph and Richie in tow.
"What is it, Al?" Howard asked.
"Fonziebird Five's been severely damaged possibly by meteor impact. Outer ring sections three through five destroyed. Main power has failed. The stations orbit has been destabilised. Possible strike by a meteor."
Howard and the boys walked over to their portraits, which immediately along with the whole panel rose out the way to reveal individual lift compartments. As they stepped in the blue light shining down inside, the compartments turned to red.
"Fonziebirds are go." Howard said once they were all in. Doors slid across before the panels slid back down and in unison four lifts dropped down to the silos all heading for the access corridor to Fonziebird Three.
"Preparing launch sequence for Fonziebird Three." Al said, his hands dancing across the consoles. In order to raise the antidetection shield, he had to reduce power on the perimeter sensors since the two systems both consumed a lot of power more than the islands generators could supply all at once. It was a problem he’d never been able to solve.
"I better go tell Chachi what's happening." Gina said.
"He went for a walk, Gina, so you might not find him." Nicola cautioned.
"Don’t worry, I know where he’s most likely to be." Gina answered before she left the control room.
"Fonziebird Three launch sequence initiated." a computer voice said softly.
Barely a moment later, a distant rumbling noise filled the control room as the majestic red rocket, that was Fonziebird Three launched from the top of the island indeed from the centre of the ring formed by the library building – a building which had split into three distinct sections and pulled away to facilitate the launch.
As soon as Fonziebird Three cleared the silo, it's main boosters came on and the great rocket shot spaceward riding on a beautiful pillar of fire. Aboard it, Howard and three of his sons worked to get every ounce of speed out the craft that they could as they needed to get to Fonziebird Five and Fonzie as quickly as possible. For this was a mission like no other.
This mission was personal.
The Candy Man's Submarine
A Few Minutes Earlier
Sticky kept his full attention on the displays for the sensors that were trained on the Fonziebirds island which on the surface looked like any other tropical paradise island that you would find in the South Pacific. A few minutes had passed since he’d fired the missile at Fonziebird Five causing severe damage to the space station and they were now detecting an emergency beacon signal transmitting from the wounded space station to the island. Now it was only a matter of patiently waiting for International Rescue to respond and dispatch Fonziebird Three to assist the damaged space station.
After a few minutes of waiting, the first signs that they were beginning to respond came when the subs sensors suddenly recorded a change in the power levels of the islands perimeter security sensors. Power levels suddenly underwent a dramatic drop dropping right down to the point where the underwater scans at least would not penetrate the subs stealth system. Almost simultaneously the surface scan sensors mounted on a secondary periscope that they had raised so it was sitting above the surface of the sea showed the islands surface scan profile waver for a second then vanish completely. A look through their main periscope would show that the island was still there but as far as their sensors were concerned the island was gone. For a moment, Sticky allowed himself a feeling of admiration. The stealth technology that International Rescue had was very impressive and he would love to get his hands on the plans for it. And he would soon.
"Sir, the sensors are recording a significant drop in the power level of the islands security sensors. And some sort of stealth field has just appeared around the island." he reported to the Candy Man.
"They must be preparing to launch," the Candy Man replied drawing the logical conclusion. "Can we approach the island without being detected now?"
"Yes. The underwater scanners no longer have enough power to penetrate our stealth system. However if we surface they will detect us immediately. But we already knew that would most likely happen."
"Yes we did," the Candy Man replied knowing that Sticky was true. Sticky had designed and built this submarine, he knew its strength’s and weaknesses better than anyone and he had never hidden them from him. His honesty was one of the reasons why he was his favourite minion and his most trusted. So much that he had become a sort confidante to him as his loyalty was absolute. "Helm, take us in."
"Yes, sir." the helmsman replied.
"Sticky, block their communications."
The Candy Man permitted himself a slight evil smile as he heard and felt the submarines engines start up again. Everything was proceeding almost exactly as planned. The time for revenge had come at last. And he was so going to enjoy it.
Chachi sat in quiet contemplation on one to the islands beaches of pure white sand looking out at the ocean. He had only wandered for a short time after leaving the house before inevitably coming here to the beach. When he was troubled or needed to think and he was on the island this was usually the place he came to.
Predictably his thoughts were dominated by the fact that he was going nuts, no. Reluctantly, he had accepted that fact, the fact that his family and close friends seemed to accept it and not consider him any different because he was one had helped him accept it. But accepting it didn’t mean that he had to like it. But whether he liked it or not he was going to have to live with it as well as lean how to control and use his powers. And just how am I going to live with these nightmares, he thought, somehow I doubt there is an instruction manual out there entitled In Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
He looked down at his hands for a moment as an idea occurred to him on how he could possibly control his powers. Pointing a hand at a nearby lump of dead coral that had been ripped from the reef surrounding the island by a storm, he imagined a jet of water striking it.
For a moment nothing happened that he felt what he could only describe as a spike from the energy within him. With really thinking about it he let the surge of power through the barrier that normally contained it and the hand he was pointing began to tingle.
Well that was easy, Alan thought to himself as he calmed down. He was surprised to find that he did it almost without thinking. Maybe controlling my mind won’t be so difficult after all, he thought.
Chachi was surprised to find that he did it almost without thinking. He was about to try something else when out of the corner of his eyes he noticed that Joanie was watching him.
"Hi, Joanie," he said turning so he could look directly at her. "How long've you been standing there?" he asked.
"Hi yourself, Chachi. I only just got here," Joanie replied coming forward and looking at the chunk that Chachi had just made. The jet of water had struck with such force that a sizeable piece of it had been eaten away. "Impressive demonstration. What did you…."
"Do it for," Chachi finished. "Simple to practice. I didn’t ask to have these crazy nightmares but since I do, then I just have to get used to it. And I have to learn the full extent of my mind and how to control it. And to do that I need to practice."
"I understand." Joanie replied and it was clear from her tone of voice that she really did understand. Chachi looked at her curiously wondering how she could understand. He was about to ask her when a distant powerful thrumming caught their attention.
They both looked around for the source of the sound of powerful motors. It didn’t take them long to see that the library was moving splitting into its three component elements like it did when Fonziebird Three was about to be launched. A moment later, there came a tremendous roar of sound and smoke rose from the centre of the peak almost as if the volcano that it had once been had suddenly burst back into life. Then the familiar sleek form of Fonziebird Three came shooting up through the plume of smoke riding a pillar of fire as it climbed into the sky. The booster rockets engaged and the great red rocket picked up speed so that in seconds it was impossible to see the craft directly only its trail of smoke and stream.
Chachi and Joanie inclined their heads watching the craft as it streaked spaceward both wondering exactly what was going on, why Fonziebird Three had been launched. Fonzie wasn’t due to return to Earth until the end of next week and as far as they knew there were no astronaughts on the International Space Station at the moment and no shuttle launches were scheduled.
The sound of rustling in the bushes lining the shore caught their attention and they looked in the direction the noise was coming from. A moment later, Gina came running out of the bushes.
"Chachi, Joanie," Gina panted coming to a stop and doubling over slightly her hands resting on her knees. "Fonziebird Five's been hit." he wheezed.
Chachi stared at his best friend in shock and horror. Fonziebird Five hit, he thought, Fonz! Is Fonz okay?
"Do you know if the Fonz is okay?" Chachi demanded.
"I don’t know, Chachi," Gina replied. "All I know is the station is severely damaged."
"International Rescue can deal with it." Chachi said confidently though he was deeply worried about his oldest brother. He hoped he was all right.
Before he could speak again, he heard a loud splashing noise coming from the ocean. They all spun around to see the impossible.
A submarine had just surfaced in the lagoon. All three of them stared at the submarine in shock as it moved in closer and closer. Closer than they would have thought possible considering that the water in the lagoon was quiet shallow. Fonziebird Four could manoeuvre in the shallow water but for a sub as big as the one that had just appeared it should be impossible. Obviously whoever was behind it had technology that was comparable to their own.
The sub came close and close and they could see hatches starting to open on its top deck.
"Run." Chachi said and the three of them disappeared into the jungle not wanting those emerging from the sub to see them.
The sudden sharp bleeping of the security alarm made Al and Nicola jump. Al turned to look at the offending control panel and his eyes widened in shock and disbelief.
"Intruders." he gasped.
"What?" Nicola exclaimed.
"A sub's appeared in the lagoon."
"Are they landing anyone?" Nicola demanded to know.
"Yes." Nicola knew immediately that she would be going out there to confront the intruders. Al guessed that Nicola was probably fully capable of holding her own in a fight.
"Al, contact Fonziebird Three and advise Howard what’s going on," Nicola said. "Something tells me that the arrival of this sub right after Fonziebird Five being damaged is no coincidence and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the damage was caused not by meteor impact but a missile strike. The people on that sub must also be the people who tagged Fonziebird One."
"A logical conclusion," Al replied. "I’ll call Mr Tracy."
Nicola couldn’t help but smile at hearing Howard being referred to just as Mr Tracy. While he would call the boys all by their given names, Al never called Howard by his given name. It was always Mr Tracy, never Howard. He knew Howard had tried to get Al to stop doing that to actually call him by his first name but Al always stuck to formality just like Marion did.
Left alone in the command centre, Al turned on the communications link.
"International Rescue to Fonziebird Three, respond," he said. He was greeted only by static. "International Rescue to Fonziebird Three, respond, please." he tried again only to once again be met with static and silence.
Frowning, Al fed commands into the main console. A felt desperation drop on him like a ton of bricks as he saw that something – presumably the submarine – was blocking the islands communications.
Tracy Island was completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Approaching Fonziebird Five
From his command position in Fonziebird Three, Howard observed the approach to Fonziebird Five with growing concern.
Debris from the massive explosion littered the surrounding space plunging slowly downwards into the atmosphere where it would produce a spectacular but short-lived light show for anyone on the ground that saw it. As they approached he could see the massive chunk taken out of the outer ring of Fonziebird Five the impact that had to have caused it must have been massive. It was a miracle that the station hadn’t been cracked open like an egg when it had been struck.
As it was the station was very badly damaged. The main lights were off with only emergency marker beacons pulsing. Small thrusters around the outer ring were still firing sending out bursts of yellow chemical flame in an effort to counter the ominous wobble that the station had picked up.
They had managed to establish some short-range radio contact with the station and what Fonzie had reported was not encouraging. Emergency power was rapidly failing and the remaining control thrusters weren’t able to re-establish a stable orbit. The station did still have its emergency batteries independent of the secondary generators, which were the ones that were rapidly dying.
"Dad, Fonziebird Five’s auto docking system isn’t working." Richie reported from the pilot’s station.
"Switch to manual docking. Give me thruster control." Howard ordered taking hold of the control joystick on his own panel. While the boys had been trained to do manual docking, they’d never done it out of the simulator whereas he had. Granted, it was many years ago but he had done.
With careful precise bursts of power from the thrusters, Howard manoeuvred Fonziebird Three into docking with the crippled Fonziebird Five. Fonziebird Five’s docking arm latched onto the side of Fonziebird Three.
"We’re locked on." Richie reported as hard seal was established.
"Emergency breathing gear, boys, let's get in there." Howard ordered.
The interior of Fonziebird Five was dark and gloomy. Thick acrid smoke filled the air and the emergency lights were barely able to penetrate the gloom. Broken bits of bulkhead panelling, circuitry and conduits were everywhere. Periodically damaged wires sent out massive sprays of multicoloured sparks. And underscoring it all was the wail of emergency klaxons and the occasional groan of stressed metal from the hull of the station.
They moved quickly but cautiously through the damaged darkened corridors towards the control room. As they entered, a battered looking, sweaty and soot covered Fonzie appeared out of the gloom.
"Am I glad to see you guys." Fonzie said.
A grim faced Nicola walked through the corridors and hallways into the main house which the discretely hidden outside camera’s had shown the intruders were heading for. She didn’t know who these people were but she knew she had to do her best to stop them getting inside and gaining access to Howard’s office and the underground complex.
It didn’t take her long to reach the main house and the living room. The corridors and chambers cut into the rock were actually part of the main residential complex after all built to allow access to Howard’s office and to storage areas. The intruders were not in the main building yet through they could see them just coming on to the sundeck besides the diving pool.
There were five of them. Three men in black body armour and the biggest of the three looked familiar to Nicola and she tried to place the man. A quick search of Backpacks files provided an answer. The man called himself Eugene a former pro wrestler turned mercenary. The other two people were also men. Backpack identified the fat man as a criminal mastermind who referred to himself as the Candy Man. Backpack's file on him was limited so Nicola had little knowledge of what the man got up to.
Before she went out to confront the intruders, Nicola gasped to find the man her youngest nephew was having nightmares about.
Nicola put on her best indignant tone as she spoke next.
"Who are you?" she said to the approaching group as she walked down the steps to the sundeck. "This is private property. Leave now and I assure you no charges will be brought against you."
The fat man came forward and just looked at Nicola and Nicola immediately sensed the evil radiating from the man.
"Please don't try false games with me," the man said. "We know this place is the base for International Rescue. Take us to the control room."
"No chance, Fatso." Nicola replied dropping the pretence of an annoyed island resident.
"Take us to the control room," the fat man repeated as a strange glow came into his eyes. Nicola stiffened as she felt a force enter her mind pushing at her. A terrible compulsion to do what she was told began to build within her. She tried to fight against it but she could feel the compulsion winning.
Nicola realised that the Candy Man was somehow mentally influencing her and kicked him in his back smacking his head hard on the ground breaking his concentration.
"Get her." the angered Candy Man shouted.
Eugene and the two guards charged forwards while Sticky moved to help the Candy Man get out of the restrain.
She would have recovered his balance but Nicola struck at that moment landing a powerful kick to Eugene’s torso. Though it didn’t hurt him physically the force of the impact sent Eugene yelling backwards into the diving pool creating an enormous splash.
One of the two other hired hands dove at Nicola. Nicola grabbed his arm and in a quick martial arts move sent him flying over his shoulder to land on the steps up to the main house. Nicola started to move towards the second hired hand only for Eugene to haul himself out the pool at that moment and try to grab him from behind. Nicola dropped to the deck and rolled away to the side evading Eugene's attempted at a grab.
Eugene whirled angry that his quarry had gotten away from him, no one dumped him in a swimming pool and got away with it. He started to advance towards Nicola only for Nicola to get back to her feet, swing around and kick Eugene in the crotch.
Eugene fell forward to land flat on his face. Howling in rage, he tried to break the restraint that held him to find it didn’t move. Straining with every ounce of strength that he had he tried to break the restraint again. Eventually it gave but it took a worrying amount of effort to break the restraint.
Working on the Candy Man’s restraint, Sticky at last managed to trip its release mechanism and the restraint came off. Sticky helped the Candy Man get his feet back under him. Nicola kicked the Candy Man in the butt again. Concentrating, the Candy Man telekinetically lifted Nicola in the air and threw her to the floor. Reaching out telekinetically again, the Candy Man grabbed hold of Nicola and pushed her hard into a palm tree.
Giving the Candy Man an annoyed look, Nicola released the restraint with a single quick command to backpack. She started to get back to her feet. Seeing this, the Candy Man struck again telekinetically picking the blonde up and slamming her into the palm tree again. The second impact with the tree stunned Nicola but the Candy Man wasn’t finished, he pulled Nicola away from the tree before slamming him into it for a third time. This time, Nicola crumpled knocked unconscious by the impact.
One obstacle dealt with the Candy Man turned to see how Eugene and the two guards he’d brought from the sub were doing, inwardly wincing at the headache that was starting to pound away inside his skull.
"Take them somewhere where they won’t be able to cause anymore trouble for us," the Candy Man ordered. "Then search the facility."
"Yes, sir." Eugene replied before picking up the unconcsious Nicola and swinging her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
Eugene didn’t really have much time to consider as the paused outside the kitchen and the one guard went inside. For a few moments there came the unmistakable sounds of a scuffle and a scream from Marion. Then the guard returned hauling a struggling Marion pleading to be left alone.
"Bring them." Eugene ordered and lead them over to a metal door in the rock wall that made up one wall. A door that was opened by an electronic control on the side but also with a manual locking pin on one side. He’s going to throw us in the fridge, Marion realised as Eugene opened the door and chucked her in first. She landed on the cold floor with a thud.
However, Marion was not thrown in. Then, Eugene closed the door and the lock engaged. Getting back into a seating position, Nicola glared at the frost encrusted door and thought about the kids. I hope there all right, he thought, that these intruders don’t get them.
Chachi, Joanie and Gina moved quickly and quietly through the jungle undergrowth heading back towards the main house. They were carefully avoiding the main paths since the risk of the bad guys seeing them on those paths was to great.
They reached the edge of the jungle and peered through the undergrowth to the main house just in time to see the battle between Nicola and the intruder’s end with Nicola losing the battle. They watched helplessly as they were taken inside.
In silent agreement, they moved back before they were seen.
"We need to know what’s happening inside." Chachi said to his two friends.
"True but how do we get inside past them?" Joanie asked nodding her head back in the direction of the main house.
"If we try, they'll catch us." Gina agreed. Chachi considered for a few moments, Joanie and Gina did have a point. They couldn’t go in through the main entrance or any of the official entrances to the building or the complex hidden beneath their feet but they needed to know what was happening.
"The vents." she said at last. They all looked at each other and released that the external ports for the islands ventilation system were the only way they would get inside without risking detection. Though going in through the vents would be a risk if they got lost they could find there way to one of the vertical shafts that connected to the cooling units for the air condition system.
Without speaking again, they headed for the closest vent located just up the hillside from them. It took less than a minute to reach the vent and Chachi pulled off the grill that prevented island wildlife from getting access to the ventilation system.
"Quickly, get in." Chachi said. Joanie went in first, followed by Gina with Chachi himself going in last and replacing the grill behind him.
Sticky, along with the Candy Man, waited patiently in the living room waiting for Eugene and the two guards to return. Another pair of guards had just arrived from the submarine and the Candy Man had stationed them outside the patio doors to guard their rear. Though they had seemingly disposed of the only opposition on the island the Candy Man wasn’t about to take any chances. He hadn’t become a master criminal who was wanted in practically every country by taking unnecessary chances.
After a short while, Eugene and the guards returned.
"Sir," Eugene said coming in. "We found someone who you might be interested to see." Eugene stepped aside to reveal Marion who he had been holding behind him.
When Marion saw the Candy Man, she gasped in surprise and recognition. As well she should.
"Well, well if it isn’t my dear sister," the Candy Man said mockingly. "Been a long time, Marion."
"Not long enough, Anthony," Marion replied glaring at the person who was her brother in blood only these days and had been for a long time. "Or whatever you call yourself now."
"Such hostility," the Candy Man answered. "You haven’t changed."
"Neither have you."
"Oh but I have." the Candy Man answered concentrating the glow coming into his eyes again. Marion gasped as she felt a forceful telepathic probe slam into her mind. Psychic abilities had long been a gift/curse to the Belagant family all had them in varying strengths and forms. His psychic gift being a gift of empathic empathy, the ability to sense another’s pain and soothe it. But he had never heard of the psychic skills of their family being used in this way before, in fact such a thing had been strictly forbidden for generations. Feeling the probe boring into his mind bringing with it intense pain, she fought back blocking the attack with a mental wall deflecting the probe back.
The Candy Man staggered momentarily as the refracted attack slammed into his own mental shields. Then he looked at his sister, the strange reddish glow of his own eyes meeting the golden glow that had come into his brothers.
"I see you’ve broken another rule," Marion said in the language of their ancestors birth as opposed to English, which was a second language. "Why must you always break the rules, brother?"
"Rules are for the weak." the Candy Man answered in the same language striking again with more force this time shattering Marion’s weak mental wall and making her drop to her knees in pain. He contemplated striking again when Eugene spoke.
"Sir, we need to get to their control centre." he respectfully reminded his boss. He knew some of the details of the long running hostility between Anthony and Marion Belagant but now was not the time for them to go head to head.
"Yes, you're right," the Candy Man said breaking off his attack on Marion, who gasped in relief, as she wouldn’t have withstood the psychic assault much longer. "We'll continue this at another time," the Candy Man added then looked at Eugene. "Bring her." he ordered.
"Yes, sir." Eugene replied hauling Marion to her feet.
"Find the control room." the Candy Man ordered getting his priorities back straight and silently berating himself for letting his long running feud with Marion get the better of him.
"Yes, sir," Sticky replied pulling out her scanner and making a few adjustments before smiling. "This way."
He led them through the main house back into the corridors and three flights of stairs before they came out to a long hallway that ended in a thick metal door. One of the hallway walls was bare rock the other wall was presumably concrete that had been plastered over then painted. The same was true with the ceiling and the floor was hardwood. Decorative plants and paintings lined the wall.
"This way," Sticky said following the corridor to its end. "The control rooms beyond this door," he said scanning the door. "One inch steel plate with a sequential titanium locking mechanism which is currently engaged."
"Eugene." the Candy Man ordered.
"I love a challenge." the super strong man said smiling and moving towards the door.
Howard’s Office/Command and Control
Al sat nervous and dispirited in the chair behind Howard’s desk pretending to read a magazine. After Nicola lost the battle with the intruders – he’d seen it all on the security camera’s – he’d switched the command centre back to normal so that it was once again Howard Tracy’s office and study as opposed to the control room for International Rescue.
It was the only thing he could do since it was inevitable that the intruders would come here and if they’d found the room in command and control mode they would have immediately had access to International Rescue’s main computer and operational systems. By turning the control room back into Howard’s office, he denied them access to that computer.
A sudden loud thumping noise caught his attention and he looked at the door to see it shiver. Another thump came at the door shuddered again. On the third thump he heard metal break with a loud snap. The door flew open with the forth thump. And the intruders came charging through one pulling a strangely battered looking Marion behind him.
Eugene came forward and yanked Al from the seat and carried him over to a couch where he was forcibly forced to sit down.
"So this is Mount Olympus," the Candy Man said looking around and spotting the mural on the one wall. "And these are the Thunderbirds." he added looking over them and smiling.
"I should have guessed," he said looking at Howard's face. "Howard Tracy, the billionaire ex-astronaught, of course. Didn’t he loose his wife in an accident a few years ago? Avalanche wasn’t it? How tragic."
While the Candy Man looked at the mural, Sticky scanned the room and found the control switch.
"Sir, I’ve found the control switch," he reported. "It’s a palm and thumb print recognition system."
The Candy Man looked away from the mural and straight at Al. And inwardly, Al shivered at the evil he could sense radiating from the man.
"Professor," the Candy Man said recognising Al immediately. "Please operate the control switch."
"No." Al snapped back. The Candy Man sighed.
"Professor, you and I share an interest in the science of the mind," he said. "But unlike you, I was born with my powers. Trust me when I say you'll barely scratch the surface." He gestured to Eugene who hauled Al back to his feet. "Even the strongest minds can be broken it would be a pity to break yours," the Candy Man continued. "Operate the control switch."
"No way." Al replied. The Candy Man held up a hand and a reddish glow came into his eyes and Al felt a force enter his mind.
"Operate the control switch." the Candy Man said again. Al tried to stop himself but his body moved of its own volition moving jerkily towards the desk and the control switch the Candy Man following telepathically forcing his will on Al.
Al could only watch in helpless horror as his hand descended towards the activation panel and pressed down on the surface and was scanned.
And again the office transformed into the command and control centre for International Rescue. As the room changed, Al felt the force leave his mind and he glared at the Candy Man in hatred. Never before had he felt so violated, normally he wasn’t a violent person but right now he was extremely tempted to go over there and punch the living daylights out of the Candy Man. But Al knew he would never get close enough to the Candy Man to hurt him.
"We have control." Sticky reported looking at the consoles and smiling.
"Excellent." the Candy Man said sitting down in the seat that Al would normally sit in. Sticky took a seat at another console.
"It’s time to make Mr Tracy aware of our presence and intentions," the Candy Man said. "Open a communications channel to Fonziebird Five, Sticky."
Chachi, Joanie and Gina moved quickly but cautiously through the ventilation system of Tracy Island. It was cramped and dusty in the ventilation ducts so none of them was particularly comfortable. Yet despite their very real discomfort they kept going finding there way more through luck than anything else.
They found their way to the control room air vents just as the Hood gained access to the systems. Peering through the main vents above the lift alcoves they saw three of the five intruders in the room with Al and Marion apparently there as prisoners. Try as they might they saw no sign of Nicola.
"It’s time to make Mr Tracy aware of our presence and intentions," the fat man in the white suit said as he sat in the seat normally occupied by Al. "Open a communications channel to Fonziebird Five, Sticky."
"Yes, sir." a small dark haired man replied from another console.
Chachi, Joanie and Gina listened intently putting aside their discomfort at the dark, dusty and cramped environment of the ventilation duct. If they were to stand any chance at all of saving themselves, their families and International Rescue itself from these intruders then they needed to know exactly what it was that the intruders were planning to do.
Standing at the main console in the control room of Fonziebird Five with Fonzie, Howard assessed the full extent of the damage inflicted upon the space station by the meteor impact.
It was a long list. The most spectacular damage was naturally the three destroyed sections on the outer ring but the impact had caused collateral damage all over the station. Whole systems had fatally crashed or been blown out altogether, the fusion core was off line since its main regulator controls had been fried and melted by a random power surge caused at the moment of impact. Secondary power generators had taken serious damage from the shock waves one knocked out all together. The other two were damaged and would soon give out taking almost all emergency power with them, and they couldn’t get near the generators to hope to repair them since the maintenance gantries were blocked by debris. The emergency batteries charged directly from the solar power cells built into the stations surface were undamaged but they had been meant as an emergency power supplement. They would not be able to cope with anything near the full energy demands of the space station. They would be able to power the life support systems and artificial gravity plating for a short time but that was all.
They had at least managed to stabilise the station so it was no longer in danger of falling into the atmosphere. They’d even got it back up into its normal orbital position though only just. While the main booster rocket meant for major adjustments in position as opposed to the thirty-two control thrusters – though they only had twenty left operational twelve had been in the destroyed sections of the ring – hadn’t been damaged they had had to bypass multiple failed systems to get it to fire. And they’d only been able to fire a few short bursts – the stations structural integrity was too weakened to take any more.
Basically what it boiled down to was they had done all they could up here for now. Fonziebird Five was back in orbit out of danger of destruction but it would take months of repairs and refitting before it was actually really habitable not to mention fully operational again.
"We’ve done all we can up here ain’t we, dad." Fonzie said his eyes wandering around scanning the wreckage of the control room, taking in the broken bits of bulkhead littering the floor, the open access panels showing charred circuits and broken cables, and the shattered burned consoles.
"Yes, Fonzie, we have for now," Howard answered. "But don’t worry, son, we’ll get the station back operational again but it will take awhile."
Potsie, Ralph and Richie came back into the control room at that moment. All of them were covered in soot and sweat having finished putting out the remaining fires and locking down as many damaged systems as possible.
"Back to Fonziebird Three, boys," Howard said turning to look at them. "It’s time to go."
Before any of them could moved however, the emergency pressure doors to the control room suddenly slammed closed.
"What the-?" Howard started to say when abruptly the still functioning main monitor flashed to life showing and unfamiliar bald headed man, backdropped by the familiar sight of the control room on Tracy Island.
"Attention, Fonziebird Five, you may have noticed that I've taken over your facilities. You can no longer control your operational systems."
Howard whirled and looked at the face on the screen. And suddenly, he understood that somehow the man on the screen had caused this to happen. A meteor hadn’t hit Fonziebird Five as Brains had thought; no a missile had hit it. Obviously, the attack had been a distraction to draw him and the boys away from Tracy Island allowing this man and whoever was with him to take over control.
"Alright, you have our attention. Who are you?" Howard demanded.
"Oh how rude of me, I forgot to introduce myself," the man said. "You can call me the Candy Man. Now listen here, Mr Tracy, we won’t be negotiating. You're only alive now because I want you to watch while I destroy in hours what it took you years to build. An eye for an eye." Howard was confused. Who was the Candy Man? He didn’t recognise him at all. He was also angry with him. Angry that this man threatened his family and the institution that he had built in Marion’s memory.
"An eye for an eye," he repeated. "What are you talking about?"
"Perhaps you have forgotten me," the Candy Man replied. "But I am sure you remember saving my brothers life." The Candy Man nodded to someone off screen and suddenly Marion was thrown into the camera’s view. "You left me to die that day four years ago," the Candy Man continued. "You may have broken my body but you've got no idea how powerful my mind has become."
Looking at the man, Howard remembered now. Shortly after International Rescue had begun operating, Marion had gone on a routine supply run to the US mainland in a jet they kept on the island for the purpose of getting around. She didn’t return and the plane was found left at the private aircraft terminal of Orlando airport where it had landed.
For several weeks, there had been not a sight nor sound of Marion and everyone even had begun to fear her dead. Then, they’d received a distress call from an illegal diamond mine in Italy that was collapsing. Naturally, they’d come charging to the rescue and found Marion there kidnapped by her own brother Anthony to work in the mine along with many others. They’d saved Marion and many others but when the main shaft started to collapse they’d been forced to seal the mine trapping Anthony and many others inside. It had been an agonising decision for Howard to make but he’d had no choice. Now it appeared that Anthony Belagant was back.
And he was after revenge.
"Now you'll suffer, Mr Tracy, as I did," the Candy Man said. "Waiting for a rescue that'll never come. And you'll also watch as I use the Fonziebirds to rob the biggest banks in America starting with the Bank of Wisconsin. The worlds monetary system will be thrown into chaos causing a global recession and International Rescue held responsible. Instead of heroes, you’ll be villains and you might just live long enough to see it happen." With that, the Candy Man gave an evil laugh before breaking off the communications link.
Howard, Fonzie, Potsie, Ralph and Richie all stared at the screen in horror for a moment. They had to stop him. But before they could even do anything, the emergency lights went dark as did the few console lights and monitors that had still been working. And they heard both remaining secondary generators spooling down having been deactivated from the ground.
Artificial gravity vanished and they started to float helplessly off the floor. Then the emergency batteries automatically cut in and gravity returned along with emergency lighting and a single part of the main console.
Fonzie recovered first from suddenly being yanked to the deck again. He moved to the console and checked the readings.
"The emergency batteries have cut in." he said.
"How long have they given us?" Ralph asked.
"About four hours!" Fonzie replied.
"Four hours," Howard repeated. "Can you open the pressure door?" Fonzie tried but nothing happened.
"Negative, we’ve been locked out of the system. All computer control has been routed to the island. Manual release won’t work. Air in the corridors to the airlock is being vented into space."
"Then what do we do?" Richie asked.
"I don’t know," Howard replied. "But were not going down without a fight."
"But what can we do?" Ralph asked.
"First off, try to regain control of the environmental systems and door controls," Howard said decisively. "Then back to Fonziebird Three. If the Candy Man thinks he’s killed us, he’s got another thing coming."
"F.O.N.Z." all four boys said in unison and set about work. They were the Fonziebirds they would not go down or let their name be dishonoured without a fight.
Chachi, Joanie and Gina listened intently as the Candy Man outlined his plan to destroy International Rescue. And they knew that it was up to them to stop him and save the rest of the Tracy family now trapped up on the crippled Fonziebird Five.
Leaning back against the wall of the duct, Joanie’s mind was a whirl. She found she could not believe what the Candy Man had said to Howard about leaving him to die while saving his sister's – her mother's – life. If the Candy Man said that Marion was his sister, then that would make the Candy Man her uncle. And she didn’t want to believe that it could be true. That a member of her own family would want to destroy the Fonziebirds and the family that had given her immediate family so much. If it hadn’t been for the generosity of Howard Tracy, she would not have enjoyed the life she had enjoyed on this island paradise for almost nine years or had the education that she had had. It wasn’t fair that one of her own relations wanted to destroy that.
"The Candy Man's my uncle." she whispered horrified and disbelieving. Chachi and Gina immediately turned their full attention to her.
"Every family has it's black sheep." Gina told her softly. Chachi nodded in agreement with Gina and put a comforting hand on Joanie’s shoulder. Like Gina, he could tell that the Candy Man being related to her had come as an unwelcome revelation to Joanie.
Chachi’s movement stirred up a cloud of dust that drifted towards Gina. Who inhaled them and immediately, she sneezed. Loudly!
"Someone’s up there." they heard a voice say from below.
And then a hand literally punched up through the metal and concrete wall of the duct and grabbed Chachi’s leg.
Chachi yelled in surprise and pain at the phenomenal strength of the grip. He desperately kicked his leg trying to break free but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't break free. Gina and Joanie beat at the hand trying to get it to let go but the hand held fast.
Chachi abruptly felt the powers within him flare and with nothing to loose he went with it allowing the power to flow through him. To his surprise, he didn’t feel his head tingle like it had the last few times when his newly awakened visions had shown themselves or when he had experimented with them earlier just before Fonziebird Three’s launch.
Abruptly, Joanie bit the hand causing the hand to let Chachi's leg go, along with a cry of shock and surprise.
"Come on, let's get out of here." Chachi said to his friends.
"Back the way we came." Gina asked. Chachi shook his head and opened a grill covering one of the lift shafts to the silos.
"Down here, we can get through to the silos." he said. Nodding in agreement, Joanie was the first to jump down into the shaft, followed by Gina with Chachi himself bringing up the rear, all three of them yelling as they flew down the shaft.
Eugene was startled when he heard a loud sneeze come from the control room’s ventilation duct.
"Someone’s up there." he said moving up to the duct and listening carefully. Then certain that he knew where they were he reached up having to stand on tiptoes a little to accomplish the manoeuvre, then he punched his hand through the concrete and metal wall of the duct and grabbed what felt like a human leg.
He immediately heard a yell of surprise and pain at the strength of his grip and Eugene hid a grin. His current grip was nothing he could easily turn rock or bone to powder if he gripped hard enough. The leg he was holding started thrashing as its owner tried to shake free. Eugene also felt hands slapping at his hand and wrist trying to make him let go. And there was more than one set of hands hammering at him so he knew that there had to be at least two people up in the duct.
Abruptly the leg stopped its mad thrashing and after a second, Eugene felt what he could only describe as somebody biting his hand. Suddenly thrown off balance by the loss of the grip, Eugene stumbled backwards and fell backward to land on his butt a cry of surprise being drawn from him.
From above, his could faintly here three voices talking and people scampering. The scampering almost immediately became yells as whoever it was disappeared down one of the lift shafts to the silos.
"Apparently the island is not as secure as you thought, Eugene." the Candy Man said both annoyed and amused. Amused by how Eugene had fallen onto his butt though he didn’t understand how his super strong henchman could have lost his vice like grip. Annoyed that someone on the island was still running around free and could conceivably pose a threat to his plans, and that was intolerable at this late stage.
For a moment, he wondered who could be running around free on the island. He considered trying to get the information out of Marion or Al. But his telepathic abilities were weak at the moment he’d expended so much effort already and he would need to rest them a little before he used them again. Then, his eyes were drawn to pictures on Howard Tracy’s work desk, which had slid aside when the room had changed from Howard’s office/study to the control room for International Rescue. And seeing the pictures he realised whom it had to be.
"Children," he said incredulously. "Did you find any children, Eugene?" Eugene shook his head.
"I’ll find them!" he answered getting back to his feet.
"You better." the Candy Man replied. Because if you don’t, I'll be most displeased with you. he added silently. Though he maintained his normal stoic appearance inwardly, Eugene shuddered in fear at the unspoken threat. The Candy Man was one of the few people in the world who he really feared, as the Candy Man could hurt you in ways that would make you wish you were dead.
"You won’t have to go searching the island, Eugene," Sticky said breaking in. "I've found them already."
"Where are they, Sticky?" the Candy Man asked.
"They're in Fonziebird Two’s silo, sir. There are three of them. A boy and two girls."
Eugene immediately disappeared out the door followed by two of the guards. Another two guards recently arrived ashore from the sub came into the room to take their place. The Candy Man immediately gave them an order.
"Put them in the fridge with the others." he ordered gesturing to Marion and Al. The two guards came forward and took hold of Al and Marion and manhandled them from the control room.
The Candy Man smiled soon the last people free on the island would be captured and he could then proceed with his plans without further interference.
Nicola groaned softly as consciousness returned. The first thing she became aware of was that it was cold, very cold. The kind of cold that chilled you to the bone damned fast and could give you very nasty frostbite after prolonged exposure. The next that her head was pounding like she had the grand daddy of all hangovers and she groaned again.
"Easy there, Nicola, you were thrown hard into that palm tree a few times." Al’s voice said.
At the sound of Al calling her, Nicola’s eyes flew open in shock. She barely noticed the blast of pain that the bright overhead lights sent down her optic nerves.
Struggling, she sat up which wasn’t easy as her hands were bound with rope and looked around. They were in a room that had been cut into the solid rock of the mountainside the residential complex straddled. The floor was covered in ceramic tiles of somekind, the side walls were bare rock he couldn’t see the rear wall from his position, the ceiling was metal with inset lights strips and a larger circular vent from which icicles hung. Sets of shelves and large containers filled the room and everything was coated in frost and built up layers of ice. He could see another person in the room with him, Marion.
"Where are we?" she asked shivering.
"The main fridge!" Marion answered.
"Terrific." Nicola replied even as she calculated the approximate temperature of the air and how long they had before hypothermia really started to set in. The results were not encouraging. They had about three hours before they froze to death.
"What?" Marion asked seeing a frown briefly appear on Nicola’s face.
"I just realised how long we have before hypothermia really sets in and we freeze to death."
"Must you do that?"
Nicola couldn’t help but smile at the tone of Marion’s voice, it was so like the tone her sister of the same name used when she was still alive.
"Sorry," she said apologetically. "I can’t help it. Having a brain like a supercomputer has its drawbacks you know."
"I can imagine," Al replied then looked speculatively at Nicola. "But when you say Marion, don’t you really mean your older sister?" Again, Nicola was astonished.
"How did-?" she started to say.
"Al guessed so to speak," Marion replied. "When Mr Tracy found out that my given name was Marion, he thought that I looked a lot like his wife of the same name."
"What is happening out there?" Nicola asked.
"The Candy Man’s got control of the base," Al answered. "He’s trapped Mr Tracy and the boys on Fonziebird Five."
"What about the kids?" Al asked. I hope they're okay, Nicola thought, Howard would take it very, very badly if something happens to Chachi.
"They're free at the moment and evading capture," Marion replied concern for all three but especially Joanie in her voice. "But Eugene's after them."
"What?" Nicola exclaimed in horror at the news that the Candy Man's strongest mercenary was hunting the kids. He would most likely catch them in no time.
"Don’t worry too much," Al replied. "Remember Chachi had nightmares about this. That might make things very interesting for Eugene."
"True but Chachi's still new to the nightmare vision thing. He’s not scared of the Candy Man and probably has an idea how to stop him."
"Don’t underestimate him, Nicola," Marion answered in a knowing tone. "When you’re a teeanger, growing up is tough. If he’s put in a position where he can save himself as well as Joanie and Gina, Chachi might well do it instinctively."
"I hope your right, Marion."
Fonziebird Two Hanger
The flight down the silo lift shaft was short but exhilarating and reaching the bottom, Chachi found himself wishing he could do it again. It was such an adrenaline rush. But he knew that they did not have time to waste as the Hoods henchmen were certainly coming after them. They would have to move quickly to stay ahead of them if they were to have any chance of saving their families and International Rescue.
It was at that moment that Chachi realised just how much responsibility now rested on the shoulders of himself and his two friends. It was a lot of responsibility far more than what teenagers normally were lumbered with. Silently, Chachi vowed to himself to do the very best that he could to thwart the Candy Man's evil plans because the consequences if he, Joanie and Gina failed did not bare thinking about.
Getting his breath back, Chachi looked around to see which of the Fonziebird silos that they had ended up in, as there hadn’t been time to select a specific lift shaft. They’d jumped down the closest one to where they had been in the duct.
He was surprised to find that they had actually reached the hanger bay/loading area for Fonziebird Two. In fact, they were on the crew access gantry to the huge green aircraft. A narrow walkway connected the gantry they were on to an access door on the side of the Fonziebird. Off to the side a set of stairs led down to the hanger floor since Fonziebird Two wasn’t on the ground but instead held aloft by massive mechanical arms extending from the walls. Below would be its transport sled and its primary pod bay doors would be open waiting for rescue equipment to be selected and loaded aboard.
"Come on," he said to Joanie and Gina. "If we can get into Fonziebird One’s silo, we can escape into the service tunnel."
Both Joanie and Gina nodded in agreement escaping into the service tunnel in Fonziebird One’s silo was a good plan. The service tunnel there connected both to the surface and to the larger network of service and utility tunnels that honeycombed most of the island and which had numerous points where you could get up onto the surface. A plus was most of the tunnels were not covered by the islands security net, they would be able to move through them without being tracked by the Candy Man.
Without speaking again, they began moving descending the stairs to the floor of Fonziebird Two’s hanger and began moving across it towards the massive doors that led to the base of Fonziebird One’s silo. All around them various rescue machines and equipment had slid out of their storage pens ready to be loaded. When the islands systems had gone to alert status the pen doors had automatically opened and the machines and equipment inside had slid forward so it could immediately be loaded onto Fonziebird Two and taken to the danger zone.
In a few seconds, they were clear of Fonziebird Two and moving quickly in the direction of Fonziebird One’s silo. Only to see to their horror the shield doors sliding closed and locking. Sipping to the right they saw the doors that led to the corridor connecting to Fonziebird Three also sliding closed and locking themselves.
"What do we do now?" Gina asked looking at the sealed entrances. If they had more time, she would use the terminals near the doors to hack into and override the door control protocols in the islands computer. She was undisputedly the best with computers on the island not even her uncle could match her.
From behind, they heard a humming noise and they spun to see the same passenger lift that Potsie, Nicola and Al had used earlier begin descending from the surface.
"Here they come." Joanie said. Chachi looked at the thick shield doors. He could probably use the moves he learnt from his father and brothers to get through it but he didn’t know if he could take Joanie and Gina with him and even if he could he really needed to practice phasing a bit before he tried walking through things.
"I’ll use the Thunderizer on the door," he said. "Joanie, can you and Gina slow those goons down with the Firefly?"
"Easily." Joanie replied eagerly looking forward to chance to strike back at the intruders and her evil uncle who led them in some small way.
"But, Chachi, the equipment here is only to be used in an emergency," Gina objected. Chachi and Joanie both looked at Gina as if she was nuts. Gina thought about their situation for a moment. "I guess this qualifies."
"Definitely." Chachi answered.
Without pausing and wasting more of the precious little time, they had all three of them burst into motion. Gina and Joanie heading for one of International Rescue’s three major fire fighting machines while Chachi headed for a machine that sported a very big particle energy cannon designed to cut through rubble but leave anyone trapped inside unhurt.
Climbing into the control cabin of the Thunderizer, Chachi started the engine just as he also heard the Firefly’s engine start. Taking a deep breath, he grasped the steering wheel and released the brakes before guiding the machine forwards and across the hanger towards the door to Fonziebird One’s silo.
Simultaneously, the Firefly drove out from its own place and the two machines passed each other. Chachi could see Joanie standing at the controls for the foam cannon turret, which meant that Gina had to be doing the driving. Which was kind of surprising considering that Gina would barely be able to reach the pedals since though she acted older, she was only seventeen years old.
Chachi shrugged it off and concentrated on guiding the Thunderizer into position. Then stopping, he began manipulating the control panel for the particle cannon what he had to do now was complex and he couldn’t afford to make a single mistake.
Sitting at the controls for the Firefly was both exhilarating and challenging for Gina since she had to stretch to reach many of the levers let alone the pedals. Yet, she managed it and as she settled into driving she found that she liked it.
"Watch it." she heard Joanie say as they almost crashed into a recovery vehicle.
"I took microbiology not drivers education," she shot back at Joanie as she manoeuvred the Firefly so she was side on to the lift. "Set the pressure to maximum." she called up to Joanie.
At the controls for the foam cannon, Joanie grinned evilly as she turned the pressure dial up to maximum and began rotating the cannon turret with its twin barrels towards the lift as the doors opened.
Eugene emerged from the lift first eager to grab the last remaining free residents of Tracy Island and take them first to the boss and then to the fridge with the others. The two guards who had accompanied him were right behind him.
As soon as he saw the cannon turret on the Firefly rotate towards him, Eugene stopped dead in his tracks. Sweet merciful crap, he thought.
"Retreat," he ordered to the two guards. Fat chance, Joanie thought and pulled the trigger for the foam cannon.
Twinjets of foam blasted from the Firefly’s turret at a pressure of 500psi. The jets impacted Eugene bang on and so great was there power that even with his superhuman strength, Eugene could not resist them. The powerful jets knocked him off his feet and sent him flying through the air into the two guards, before all three were physically slammed back into the lift. And still the foam onslaught didn’t stop instead it kept them pinned to the floor and completely covered in thick greenish foam in less than a second, foam which was slippery as hell not that they could move considering the power of the onslaught.
While Joanie pounded Eugene and his cohorts with the foam cannon, an idea occurred to Gina as to how they could delay the Candy Man's plans. Quickly, she turned off the engine but left power to pumps on and climbed out of the cab. Unnoticed by Joanie, she hurried across the floor towards the stairwell that led back up to crews access way for Fonziebird Two. She needed to move fast to get this to work.
While Joanie pounded Eugene and his men with the Firefly’s foam cannon and Gina went on her own little mission, Chachi finished programming the Thunderizer. Taking a deep breath and praying that he had gotten it right, he pressed the commit control. And immediately from above heard a humming sound as the massive cannon swivelled around on its mount and targeted the door to Fonziebird One’s silo.
Then a storm of energy beams reached forth and in a blaze of light that lasted barely a second the network of thin particle beams simply disintegrated a section of the shield door just big enough for them to escape through. Then the beams shut off.
Chachi sighed in relief that he had gotten it right that only a section of the door had been vaporised. He had been so worried that one of the beams might somehow hit and damage Fonziebird One. And if that had happened, Potsie would have throttled him. Potsie's protectiveness of Fonziebird One was a source of great amusement to his siblings and was sometimes used as something to tease him with. Especially by Richie though Chachi would chip in himself as well.
Shutting down the Thunderizer, he climbed out of the control cabin.
"Joanie, Gina, let's go." he said going over to where the Firefly was parked. The engine had been turned off and the cab door was open.
Joanie shut off the foam cannon and climbed down at the sound of Chachi’s voice. To see him staring at the door to the cab and she followed his gaze to see it was wide open and there was no sign of Gina.
"Where’s Gina?" Chachi asked.
"I don’t know, she was here a second ago!" Joanie answered.
"Gina, where are you?" Richie yelled to no reply.
But then, they had bigger problems than Gina’s sudden disappearance as Eugene was starting to get up from where he and the two guards had been pinned by the foam.
Eugene glared angrily at the two teenagers he could see they were so going to get it for doing this to him. The boss hadn’t said he couldn’t rough them up a little. Struggling, he managed to get up despite the slippery foam and he began advancing tentatively through the foam pool only to slip and fall.
Seeing one of the bad guys get up, Chachi realised that with Gina’s sudden disappearance, they were now in grave danger of getting caught right here, right now. Damn it, Gina, where are you, he thought, there has to be someway to stop these guys getting us. Then, a thought occurred to him. I wonder.
Raising Al's freezegum in his right hand so it was pointing at Eugene just as he slipped on the foam and fell flat on his back again, Chachi fired and immediately, the bad guys were all standing on ice.
"Cool." Joanie commented looking at Chachi in respect though she had been a little startled when she’d seen Al's freezegun in his right hand and noticed the glow in Eugene's brown eyes. And since Chachi’s eyes were also brown, a dark glow might not be noticed unless you were right up close to him. A little like what happened with herself or her mother when they used the psi abilities her own being she was telekinetic.
Though no one on the island besides her parents knew that. Marion had told her that the psychic gifts were a trait of the Belagant family but one that was intensely private. The fact that psychic powers of various kinds existed in her family line was practically the only secret that Marion had kept from Howard Tracy. I wonder how long it'll stay secret thought, Joanie thought, Chachi probably already suspects that I'm hiding something given my slip on the beach.
"Thanks," Chachi answered. "Now where's Gina? Gina!"
"Gina!" Joanie also called out.
From where he was helplessly trapped in the frozen foam, Eugene looked at the male teenager in surprise. He recognised him now. The teenager was the youngest son of Howard Tracy. So one of Tracy’s kids has a freezegun like Sticky, he thought, interesting. I wonder how the boss'll react to this.
Applying his strength, he tried to break free of the ice but his leverage wasn’t good and he could already feel the cold sapping at his strength. Cold was one of the few things that he was vulnerable too. He had long ago discovered the intense cold like ice and snow and his own power didn’t get on that well. The longer he was exposed to it the weaker he got. With growing desperation he continued trying to break the cocoon of frozen foam.
Oblivious to what Eugene was doing, Chachi and Joanie continued calling for Gina and were finally rewarded by seeing Gina running towards them from Fonziebird Two.
They jogged over to meet him and the three of them broke for Fonziebird One’s silo.
"What were you doing, Gina." Chachi asked his best friend as one by one, they moved out of the door of the Thunderizer.
"I had an idea." Gina answered quietly proud of herself. She had just made sure that the Candy Man would not be able to leave Tracy Island in Fonziebird Two for awhile at least.
Chachi looked at Gina and considered asking her what she had just done, as he knew from the tone of Gina’s voice that she had just done something clever. He decided to ask once they were in the relative safety of the service and utility tunnels. There they could plan their next move rather then having to constantly react to the Candy Man's actions as they were doing at the moment.
"I’ll open the tunnel," Chachi said looking at both Joanie and Gina. "Go back to the entrance and warn me if you see them coming. They’re not likely to get out of the ice but they might."
"Sure thing, Chach." Joanie replied heading back towards the door with Gina in tow.
"What ice?" Gina asked Joanie.
"One of the three goons started to get up once the Firefly’s foam jets shut off," Joanie replied. "So to stop him and the others, Chachi used Al's new freezegun. He made the foam freeze solid."
"Trapping them in a freezing cocoon as hard as concrete," Gina finished hearing the awe in Joanie’s tone and sharing it. Chachi appeared to be very strong and diverse what with demonstrated powers that involved water, ice and phasing. Once Chachi really got a handle on himself and when he figured out what he could do altogether, he would be as good as his brothers indeed. "Very nice."
While Joanie and Gina went to the door to keep a watch for Eugene or anymore of the Candy Man's henchmen, Chachi punched a code into the electronic keypad besides the door that connected to the service tunnel. Nothing happened but a beep to indicate code incorrect.
Chachi sighed and turned away from the door struggling to think what the code was. He knew that dad alternated the access codes every few months. He basically used five different codes based on the birthdays of Chachi and his brothers but written backwards. Chachi had just tried Potsie’s and it hadn’t worked. Great have to try all the others one by one, he thought right before he felt something brush against his mind.
He spun around to look at the door again to find himself face to face with the Candy Man who was standing on the other side of the glass.
"Charles," the Candy Man said in a pleasant conversational tone. "Quiet an impressive display in the hanger. Freezing poor Eugene literally."
The Candy Man and Sticky had seen it all on the control room monitors. To say that they had been shocked was an understatement. They’d also been amused at Eugene’s predicament.
"Were you surprised to hear what your father did to me, Charles," the Candy Man continued. "He left me to die that day. It is frightening when we realise that our parents are not perfect isn’t it."
"We can't go this way," Chachi called to Joanie and Gina. "He’s there."
"Why do you suppose your father built these magnificent machines, Charles," the Candy Man asked. "Do you suppose it was guilt. He let your mother die?"
"No!" Chachi replied shaking his head. He barely remembered the accident and the aftermath but he knew from what Aunt Nicola and Grandma had told him that dad had taken mom’s death really, really hard. Almost driven to the point of suicide in his grief and despair. Only the fact that his son’s needed him enabling him to survive the loss of the woman whom had been the other half of his soul. He knew as sure as he breathed that dad would have given up his own life in an instant if his death would have saved the life of Marion Alison Tracy.
"Open the door, Charles," the Candy Man ordered softly. Chachi did nothing but glare defiantly at him. Reaching out telepathically, the Candy Man tried again. "Open the door." Chachi felt the Candy Man's telepathic probe touch his mind but unlike his aunt and Al, he felt no compulsion to do as the Candy Man commanded.
Still, he was tired of listening to this guy feeding him lies about his father. He thought of the glass frosting over blocking the Candy Man from his sight. And felt his eyes flare and kciked the Candy Man in the crotch causing him to bump against the door.
The Candy Man was startled when his telepathic probe had absolutely no effect on Chachi. No one had ever been able to resist his will before though he hadn’t tried to mind dominate his sister since Marion could fight back and block him for awhile, overwhelming Marion’s will with his own would be very difficult. At the same time, he was intrigued as to how Chachi had escaped his influence. It would be an interesting puzzle to solve.
With a sigh, the Candy Man fished in his left jacket pocket for a moment then pulled out a handy little decoder device that Sticky had developed for him and stuck it on the control panel for the door. It looked like he was going to have to do this the old fashioned way.
Chachi turned away from the frosted over door it looked like they were going to have to get into the vents again. He started towards his two friends only to here a sudden crack from the Fonziebird Two hanger followed by running feet.
Joanie and Gina backed into the space beneath the engine block of Fonziebird One not a moment to soon as a shivering, strangely weakened looking but fuming Eugene came through after them. Followed by two shivering, half frozen but equally angry guards.
"I'm gonna pound you to a pulp," Eugene growled glaring at Chachi. "No one freeze’s me and lives." As he spoke, the door to the service tunnel opened and the Candy Man came through.
"You'll do no such thing, Eugene." the Candy Man said having heard what Eugene had said through the door. Had he been thinking clearly Eugene would have backed off at this point but at the moment he was too angry to care or to see common sense.
"Oh but I will." he growled advancing towards Chachi only for the sudden sight of Chachi gone for a second. Stopping him dead in his tracks and lookign around, Chachi was gone.
"You'll do as you are told or deal with me." the Candy Man growled warningly at Eugene. Coming back to his senses, Eugene gulped fearfully realising that he had overstepped the mark and the last thing he wanted was to face the wrath of the Candy Man.
Chachi, Joanie and Gina had backed into a huddle at the centre of the room by this point the two guards filling out and training their rifles on the three kids from separate angles.
"Surrender," the Candy Man said to the three kids. "You can't escape."
Chachi looked around searching for any possible means of escape and then his eyes hid on a large red button on a panel besides the Candy Man marked blast duct cover manual release. If that could be tripped, they would drop out of site along Fonziebird One’s blast ducts and out into the shallow waters surrounding the island. The problem was he had no way to trip it, his slingshot was up in his bedroom. Unless there’s a way I could trip it, Chachi thought, but how. A strange instinct gripped him then as he felt his left hand on the lever cauisng the bad guys to trip.
Having nothing to loose, Chachi went with the instinct and pulled the lever and the blast ducts open and yelling all three of them dropped right out of the Candy Man's clutches.
"Get them." the enraged Candy Man shouted at his minions.
"Sticky," Eugene said into his radio, which was still working despite getting trapped in frozen foam. "Fire up Fonziebird One and set it to broil."
Releasing what Eugene had just ordered, the Candy Man raced from the room followed by Eugene and the two guards.
Now sooner than they cleared the room, Fonziebird One’s jets fired sending a massive plume of flame down the blast ducts after the sliding yelling kids.
Chachi, Joanie and Gina flew down the blast ducts the massive fireball triggered by the activation of Fonziebird One’s engines charging down the shaft after them. They could all feel the heat and hear the roar of the shockwave of superheated proceeding the blazing engine exhaust gases getting closer and closer. It would be on them in seconds and the fireball half a second later when it hit they would be instantly vaporised.
Then they were out of the blast duct dropping into the calm, shallow, warm waters of the lagoon surrounding the island. The raging fireball burst out of the four blast ducts after them with a roar like an angry deity and shot skywards.
As soon as she hit the water, Gina began floundering as she had never learned to swim unlike Chachi, who like all his brothers and Joanie, was an expert swimmer. He had been meaning to ask Richie, who was unquestionably the best swimmer on the whole island, to teach him how to swim but he had never gotten around to it. He’d also been a little weary of asking Richie for assistance in learning how to swim considering his well-known penchant for jokes. Now he wished he had asked or even asked Richie even as he coughed on water and desperately tried to keep his head above the surface.
Abruptly, hands grabbed her desperately thrashing arms and held her steady in the water and her head above the surface. Having seen Gina floundering and realising that she couldn’t swim, Chachi and Joanie had intervened and grabbed her from each side.
"Easy, Gina," Chachi said softly as the roar of the discharging engine exhausted faded away leaving four smoking cave mouths in its wake. "We’ll hold your head above water just kick your legs when we start moving for the shore. Can you do that?"
"Yeah!" Gina replied.
"Good we’ll go on three. One…two…three."
After Chachi said three, both he and Joanie stopped treading water and began swimming for shore holding Gina between them. As she’d been instructed, Gina began kicking her legs and soon got the idea of what she was supposed to do. Maybe learning to swim would not be that difficult.
In only a short time, they reached the surf at the edge of the beach and unable to swim any further they stood up and struggled through the surf to the beach.
"Can you warn me next time you pull a stunt like that," Gina asked Chachi. "I could've drowned."
"I’m sorry, Gina," Chachi replied. "I didn’t realise that you can’t swim. Why did you never say anything?"
"I was embarrassed," Gina answered stammering heavily as they moved up the beach away from the breaking waves. "Girls my age can usually swim."
"Not being able to swim is nothing to be ashamed of, Gina," Joanie said speaking for the first time. "If you want to learn how to then when this is over we’ll help you. Won’t we, Chach?"
"Yeah," Chachi replied. "I can always get Rich to help as well since he’s a better swimmer than anyone else on the island. Sometimes, I think he must be part fish."
Joanie and Gina both laughed at that. Richie loved the water just as much if not more so than he liked playing practical jokes. Though qualified in the operation of all the Fonziebirds like all the Tracy brothers – save Chachi since he wasn’t part of International Rescue yet – Richie was always happiest at the controls of the small but very advanced and powerful minisub Fonziebird Four. Just like he frequently went diving on the reef that surrounded the island save for a single gap creating the lagoon in his spare time.
"Thanks." Gina replied once she had stopped laughing.
"What are friends for," Chachi responded grinning. "Now we need to dry off and figure out how were going to stop the Candy Man before he leaves the island."
"He's not going anywhere for awhile." Gina answered and withdrew a transparent card like object engraved with a delicate pattern of electronic circuitry from her pocket. Chachi’s eyes widened in recognition even as he gently took the component from Gina and examined it.
"That’s the guidance processor from the main navigational computer of Fonziebird Two. It can’t take off without it." Chachi exclaimed.
"Exactly." Gina replied smiling proud of herself.
Chachi and Joanie smiled back knowing that for now the Candy Man was trapped on Tracy Island. After all, he couldn’t use any of International Rescue’s equipment to rob the banks if Fonziebird Two could not take off. The Candy Man would hit the roof when he found out he couldn’t leave though it wouldn’t take him long to figure out that they had the guidance processor. He would have to recover the component to start the launch sequence. And although it had been in water the processor wouldn’t have been damaged.
"Now we need to dry off and figure out our next move." Joanie said.
Chachi nodded in agreement as he put the guidance processor in one of the deep pockets of his jeans they had just escaped the Candy Man now they had to really think about what to do next. And they really had to dry off. It’s a pity the wind can’t just dry us off, Chachi thought then inwardly smiled to himself as he realised what he was thinking.
"What are you smiling at?" Joanie asked.
"Nothing important!" Chachi answered absently as he was suddenly remembering what Nicola had told him last night. Was it only last night? It felt a bit longer than that though it wasn’t. He was remembering what Nicola had said about manipulating water and ice as well as generating it. If he could manipulate water, then could he like make the seawater that had soaked them leave there bodies and clothes leaving them dry. Might as well have a go with Potsie's hairdryer, he thought.
Gina and Joanie were both surprised when Chachi’s pulled Potsie's hairdyer from his left pocket. He pointed it at himself and he was qucikly dry and the same thing happened to Joanie next and Gina last of all.
"Well what do you know, it worked," he commented looking back up. At the shocked looks that Gina and Joanie gave him he explained. "I remembered what my aunt Nicola said last night about me being able to manipulate water as well as generate it. I decided to have a go at doing that to dry myself and it worked."
"Cool." Gina said.
"Indeed," Joanie agreed surprised yet again by the level of Chachi’s use of technology. She got the distinct impression that even he was something of a wiz kid. "Thanks for dyrig us, Chach." she said.
"Pleasure," Chachi said thoughtfully. "There's certainly nothing to loose you can't get wetter than you already were."
"True," Gina answered. "That was crazy and I loved it."
"You’ve been a bit smarter than you were in the last half hour. I mean you told me to bit Eugene's hand when he grabbed you, you froze Eugene and two of his men in ice, kicked the Candy Man betwen the legs and now this. You’re bound to feel a bit weaker after all that." Joanie reasoned.
"You’re right," Chachi agreed. "Okay, no more bad ideas for a little while." Joanie laughed understanding what he meant perfectly.
"I’ve had an idea," Gina said. "Data to Fonziebird Five from Tracy Island is sent via satellite, is that so?"
"Yeah!" Chachi said cautiously as both he and Joanie looked at Gina waiting for her to continue.
"If we can reach the communications array, we can hack into the main computer and restore power and control to Fonziebird Five."
"Great plan, Gina but the communications mast is on the top of the islands central peak," Chachi answered. "How do we get there?"
"We’ll have to go through the forest!" Joanie said.
"But that's always been off limits." Gina objected. The jungles that dominated most of Tracy Island could be quiet a dangerous place. Filled with venomous snakes, poisonous fruit, spiders, scorpions and other various nasty insects. There weren’t any large animals aside from land crabs and oceanic birds that nested in some of the higher trees but the jungle was still dangerous.
"It’s going to be dangerous," Joanie replied. "But we don’t have much choice."
"I’m in," Chachi said holding a hand out. Joanie smiled and put one of her hands on his. After a moments hesitation, Gina did the same. "Now lets go."
Turning, they hurried into the jungle with Joanie taking the lead since she knew the jungles of Tracy Island better than anyone.
Lori Beth’s Mansion
Milwaukee, That Same Time
Lori Beth returned home from attending one of the mayor of Milwaukee’s regular summer garden parties and immediately headed for her private study in the huge stately home that had been the home of her family for centuries. As such it was crammed with priceless treasures and some of its décor harked back to bygone ages. The great house was the only place where she hadn’t made any real changes in the décor to favour pink. Pink did appear in her private chambers mostly in bed sheets and curtains but that was all.
Upon entering her private study, she settled down at the computer sitting quietly on the desk and looking out of place on a desk that had been made almost two hundred years before in the early days of Mayor Stevenson’s reign. Turning on the computer, she waited patiently for it to boot up before going through the menu’s into a secret section of the database. She tapped in a password and submitted a thumb scan into a scanner on the desk and waited.
In seconds, the normal windows screen vanished to replaced first by the insignia of International Rescue then a communications screen set up in the same style as on the Fonziebirds. Typing quickly, she put in a command to contact Tracy Island as she was worried about Chachi and wanted to see how he was doing, how he was coping with the Candy Man. And she wanted to check everything was okay with Howard as she had had the strangest uneasy feeling all day. A feeling that something was wrong somehow.
"Lori Beth to Tracy Island, respond please." she said into the microphone. There was no answer. Frowning, Lori Beth keyed in a query to be told that incoming signals could not reach Tracy Island. Mental alarm bells starting to ring in her head she selected a new destination.
"Lori Beth to Fonziebird Five, respond please," Again, there was no reply but silence. "Lori Beth to Fonziebird Five. Fonz, if you can hear me, please respond." Again silence. Mental alarm bells now ringing at full volume, Lori Beth keyed the internal intercom.
"Yeah, Lori." Tom responded immediately.
"Tom, prepare FONZ1. We're going to Tracy Island." Though her voice was its normal cool calm self, Tom clearly heard a note of real concern in it and knew that something was up.
"Okay, Lori." Lori Beth signed off with Tom and shut down her computer before heading for her bedroom. She needed to get into something much more appropriate for Tracy Island than her current outfit. Something she could easily move in if it turned out that there was a real problem on Tracy Island yet something that wouldn’t look wrong if there wasn’t and the Fonziebirds were merely having a problem with their communications systems.
"Sir." Sticky reported to the Candy Man as he and Eugene came back into the control room from the underground complex.
"What is it, Sticky?" the Candy Man asked.
"Someone just tried to contact both the island and Fonziebird Five. They didn’t penetrate the communications blackout still…."
"Still, it means that someone connected to International Rescue out there now knows that something is wrong," the Candy Man finished. "We're getting behind schedule we had been here too long. Eugene, get back down to the complex and select the equipment we need to get into those banks and load it into Fonziebird Two. And, Eugene, no more delays."
As Eugene left, the Candy Man sighed to himself. He hadn’t anticipated it taking this long to get a hold of the Fonziebirds. Chachi and his two friends had managed to delay his plans considerably. The Candy Man couldn’t help but feel a twinge of respect for the young man for doing that. And somehow he knew that despite what Eugene had done with Fonziebird One, Chachi was still alive somewhere. But at least he was out of the way for now at least. The Candy Man’s plans could continue without any further delays.
The trek through the jungles of Tracy Island was long, hot and arduous. Chachi, Joanie and Gina were all covered in sweat and bits of dirt from where they’d all stumbled and fallen a few times. Beneath the canopy formed by the leaves of the trees the jungle was steamy and ferociously hot.
Sweating streams, Chachi looked at his watch and estimated that they had been moving through the forest steadily moving upwards through the densely forested valleys that led up the side of the islands central peak, the peak that in aeons past had been the main cone of the volcano that had built Tracy Island for about an hour. Though he was in excellent physical shape thanks to all the athletics he did the climb through the crippling heat and humidity was very taxing even for him. It was the fact that it was constant and unrelenting that did it. It was like trying to hike through a sauna. A sauna filled with biting insects especially the red backed mosquito that was native to Tracy Island it was found nowhere else on the planet and unusually for mosquitoes it didn’t carry any harmful diseases though modern vaccines for things like malaria meant the mosquitoes weren’t a threat to their health just an annoying nuisance. Though Chachi had noticed that the mosquitoes seemed to leave him alone now something about him seemed unpalatable to them now.
Chachi looked over at Gina to see how she was doing. Gina was after all not the best in the physical fitness department small even for her age and preferred algebra to athletics. Though if they stayed in the same school, Chachi would do what he could to change that. He could see this trek was really taking its toll on Gina, the young genius looked like she was going to keel over from exhaustion any minute. We need to stop before Gina keels over, he thought.
He was about to shout to Joanie who was just ahead that they were going to need to stop for a little while to allow Gina and themselves to recover a little bit of strength before continuing the climb up to the islands communications array. They were getting closer to their destination the forest was steadily thinning out soon it would give way to bushes and then the rocky peak on which the communications mast stood. But they still had away to go before they reached their destination. Chachi didn’t have to call out to Joanie for at that moment she looked back and noticed the state Gina was getting in. She read the look on Chachi’s face the look that said ‘we need to stop for Gina’s sake at least’ and nodded her agreement.
Then she looked forward again and resumed the trek. They were almost to the top of this particular ridge at the top was an area of flat land before a forested embankment that led up to the rarely used road up the side of the mountain to the communications array. And the road wasn’t covered by the security net this far up just like the underground service tunnels, as it was nothing but a service road. Usually travelled up and down about once every month or so when Al would come up here to check on the communications array and do any necessary repairs. And repairs were quiet commonly needed since salty air and the delicate internal circuits and cables of the communications mast did not get on very well.
After a few more minutes of climbing, she reached the ridge.
"Okay, guys, take five." she said moving onto the flat area at the top.
"Five isn’t going to do it." Gina’s voice moaned even as Chachi climbed up onto the open area, his left arm brushing a bush as he did so and unknowingly allowing a small but deadly black scorpion to get onto the back of his jacket arm and unnoticed slowly begin climbing up the fabric.
Fortunately for Chachi, Joanie saw the movement and caught a hint of a small black pincer waving from behind his arm.
"Don’t move." she said to Chachi in a grave tone of voice. A tone that indicated the grave danger Chachi was suddenly in.
"What is it?" Chachi asked just as Gina climbed up onto the flat area at the top of the ridge huffing and puffing as he did so. Like Joanie, she also saw the scorpion and recoiled reflexively.
"Androctonus scorpion." Joanie replied as Chachi felt movement and looked at his left shoulder just as the scorpion climbed up onto it.
"Is it dangerous?" Chachi asked looking in disgust at the horrid black creepy crawly on his shoulder and the wicked looking stinger on the end of its upraised tail.
"Point zero two five milligrams of its venom is fatal!" Gina replied.
"I think dangerous is in fact an understatement." Chachi replied looking fearfully at the scorpion as it showed ever sign that it was going to sting him. Its venom had to be really potent for such a tiny dose to be fatal and was probably a neurotoxin like some snake venom was. With the scorpion on his shoulder he didn’t dare to anything to get rid of it or employ any of his powers.
Joanie knowing the scorpion was about to strike and that Chachi would die with in a few moments of being stung or at least become very ill depending on what effect the scorpion’s venom had on his body chemistry decided to take action. There was only one thing she could do and while it went against her mother’s wishes she had no choice, not if she was to have any chance of saving Chachi’s life.
Gripping the crystal pendant around her neck, she concentrated on the scorpion and getting it away from Chachi. A gold glow came into her eyes just like the gold glow that came into her mother's and the red that came into her uncle's when they used their own abilities.
The scorpion suddenly lifted into the air and moved a foot or two away from Chachi before dropping to the ground and immediately running away. Chachi and Gina stared at Joanie in shock and surprise as the gold glow disappeared from her eyes. She’s got powers too, Chachi realised in shock, just like her uncle.
"Joanie, what was that?" Chachi asked softly he could see that Joanie was nervous now that she had revealed that her uncle wasn’t the only one who had powers. It was understandable that she would be reluctant and nervous about speaking about it. He knew he would be nervous about talking about being a metahuman to someone who hadn’t already known.
"Telekinesis!" Joanie answered after a few moments of silence. She knew that she needed to give Chachi and Gina something of an explanation. Hopefully they would be satisfied with a brief expedition as she didn’t really want to give them two many details of a secret that had been in the Belagant family for centuries.
She knew that if they got out of this and drove her evil uncle off it wouldn’t stay secret for much longer. Though if any family outside the Belagant’s were to know of the psychic secrets then she would much prefer it to be the Tracy’s. As they were one family who knew how to really keep something secret.
"Telekinesis," Chachi repeated. "Please don’t get mad but are you a metahuman, Joanie?"
"I’m not mad," Joanie replied. For a second she contemplated saying that she was a metahuman to protect the secrets of her family but decided against it. Chachi and Gina were her friends she’d grown up with them especially with Chachi since he was the same age as her. She couldn’t lie to them like that and even if she did it was very likely that they would see through it since they knew her so well. "I’m not a metahuman." she continued.
"If you're not a metahuman, how can you do that?" Gina asked.
"It’s a long story and here is not the place to tell it," Joanie replied silently praying to whoever was listening that her friends would drop the subject at least for now. "We've rested enough we need to get going again." she added to distract them. Then she started up the steep embankment towards the level of the winding maintenance road that threaded its way through the forest and up the central peak.
Chachi and Gina followed along.
"Still think everything can be explained by science, Gina?" Chachi asked his friend referring to a conversation they’d had earlier when they’d started the trek through the jungle.
"Everything except you guys!" Gina answered. Chachi laughed as they started climbing up the embankment.
Primary Pod Bay
Eugene smiled as the last piece of equipment they would need to break into the biggest banks in the world was loaded aboard Fonziebird Two. Among them were the Thunderizer which Chachi had used so easily earlier and International Rescue’s mighty drilling machine known as the Mole. It was the last piece of equipment to be loaded aboard as it would be the first one they would be using. Getting into the Bank of Milwaukee from above would be almost impossible but getting at it from underground with the Mole would be a lot easier.
"We'll use this to get into the Bank of Milwaukee vault," he said to the Candy Man who had been watching the loading. The Candy Man smiled and shook his head.
"Subtle as usual, Eugene." the Candy Man replied. Eugene so liked to just bludgeon his way through things. Sometimes like now it would work wonders.
"We're robbing banks, aren't we," Eugene replied sarcasm in his voice. "I didn't realise we would be getting points for style." And I don’t really care about style, Eugene thought, all I want is the money.
The Candy Man sighed and shook his head again he knew what Eugene was thinking even though he hadn’t probed his mind or anything like that. Eugene was only real in this for the huge share he was going to gain from robbing the banks.
"Don’t worry, you’ll get your money." he told Eugene sending a slight telepathic probe his way that let Eugene know that he didn’t appreciate sarcastic comments. Eugene flinched as a momentary blast of pain rippled through his head. Note to self, Mullion thought, never again work for a guy whose has extremely powerful and unusual psychic abilities.
Even before he’d started working for the Candy Man, he’d heard rumours about the man’s mysterious abilities. But he’d always assumed that they were just that rumours. After all, the Candy Man was not a metahuman and as far as Eugene had known at the time, it was impossible for a normal to have such abilities. But as he knew now it hadn’t been a rumour in fact the rumours didn’t do the Candy Man's psi abilities justice.
Eugene shook himself out of his thoughts and spoke into his radio. As the Candy Man had said earlier, they had been here for too long. It was time to get moving.
"Sticky, initiate launching sequence." he said.
Sitting in the central pilot’s chair in the control cabin of Fonziebird Two, Sticky smiled as he heard Eugene speak over the radio. With a quick command, he closed the pod bay doors and then keyed in the commands to start the launch sequence.
Systems began humming as Fonziebird Two began powering up for launch and the huge hydraulic arms started to lower it onto the transport sled.
Abruptly lights on the control panels flashed read and the engines shut off from preheat and Fonziebird Two was lifted back to docked position.
"Warning! Warning! Guidance processor error! Launch sequence aborted. Warning! Warning!" Fonziebird Two’s computer said.
"What’s going on?" Eugene’s voice said over the radio.
"It’s the guidance processor!" Sticky replied getting up and moving to the back of the control room. Pulling aside a translucent green panel made of some sort of plastic that covered the circuitry panels for Fonziebird Two’s computer, Sticky frowned as he saw one pop out panel wasn’t quiet in its slot. Pulling it out, his eyes widened when he saw the crystal state processor was missing from the centre of the panel. Without it, Fonziebird Two would not launch since the main drives would not be able to function without the navigational computer.
"What’s wrong with it?" Eugene asked.
"There isn’t one," Sticky replied. Clever, he thought in admiration, the kids have disabled Fonziebird Two in a way that I can't fix without that one piece of circuitry. Especially since I don’t know where the spare parts for the Thunderbirds are kept.
"There isn’t one."
The Candy Man smiled and shook his head as Sticky's words echoed through the pod bay and Eugene cursed in rage.
"Clever boy, Charles." he said softly a hint of admiration in his voice. The young man and his friends were obviously smarter than he had previously given them credit for. They were proving themselves worthy opponents. But then he wouldn’t have expected anything less from Howard's youngest son. "It’s the children, they've got it." he added.
"No way," Eugene replied in disbelief. "They're dead. No one could have survived the blast from Fonziebird One’s engines."
"I did. Take my word for it, Eugene, they're alive and well," the Candy Man replied. "Find them, Eugene. And make sure you get the guidance processor before you loose your temper."
"Yes, sir." Eugene replied and left to do the Candy Man's bidding. He had no idea where to look when you were trying to find three kids Tracy Island was a hell of a big place to look. Still he would find them and bring back the guidance processor that they had taken.
"How are you doing, Gina?" Chachi asked Gina who was working on one of the circuitry panels for the satellite communications mast which had been designed to resemble a giant steel palm tree.
They had arrived at the satellite station about ten minutes ago and ever since then Gina had been working to reconfigure the satellite stations connection to the islands main computer. Once that was done they would be able to access the communications protocols and contact Fonziebird Five and then use the uplink to transfer control of the damaged space station back from Tracy Island. They wouldn’t have long to do that once the transmission was established as the Candy Man's henchmen were bound to detect it almost immediately and try to stop them.
"Don’t rush me, Chachi, this is very delicate equipment," Gina replied not looking up. "Shouldn’t be much longer." she added.
Chachi sighed and left Gina to it. Instead, he went and sat on one of the nearby boulders with Joanie. The views out over the island were spectacular from here with the blue of the Pacific Ocean dominating the horizon beyond the beaches.
"It’s a nice view from here." he said softly.
"It sure is." Joanie replied the gentle breeze blowing over the peak making her dark hair ripple slightly along its whole length. Despite the fact that she was looking out at the island and the ocean, Chachi could tell that Joanie’s attention was really elsewhere. And it didn’t take a genius to figure out that she was thinking about what had happened a short time ago when she’d saved him from the scorpion but in so doing revealed her powers.
"You know I didn’t thank you." he said softly so only she would hear though Gina was so buried in her work with the satellite station that she probably wouldn’t hear them anyway. Joanie turned and looked Chachi straight in the eye.
"For what?" she asked confused what was Chachi on about.
"For saving me from the scorpion. Thanks." Joanie smiled as Chachi spoke. Somehow hearing that word from Chachi made revealed her family’s secret to him and Gina worthwhile. If she were put in the same situation again, she would do exactly the same thing.
"You’re welcome." she replied still smiling. Chachi smiled back.
"Okay, we’re ready," Gina called making them both jump. Getting up, Chachi and Joanie joined Gina at the base of the communications mast. "We first need to get into contact with Fonziebird Five. We can use this." he added pulling out a modified satellite phone from the access panel in the side of the mast.
After a moments thought, she handed the satellite phone to Chachi since he would be the best one to contact Fonziebird Five. If he or Joanie did it, Chachi would pester them with questions or be looking over their shoulders all the time to see if his family were okay.
Taking the phone from Gina, Chachi turned it on and spoke into it.
"Tracy Island to Fonziebird Five, respond," he said into the device. "Tracy Island to Fonziebird Five, respond. Dad, if you can hear me, please respond." A burst of radio white noise came from the device and the small screen washed with static before Howard's face appeared. The image washing in and out as the communication was disrupted by the Candy Man's jamming field.
A Few Moments Earlier
Fonzie sighed as he struggled to regain control of the environmental systems and door controls. Off to one side, Richie and Ralph were buried in an access panel trying to do the same, while elsewhere in the control room, Howard and Potsie were working on trying to manually restart one of the secondary power generators to take the pressure off the solar batteries and give them some more time. Power levels from the solar batteries had dropped to sixty percent and the output dropped a little more every few minutes. Already, temperatures on board Fonziebird Five were dropping and the air was steadily getting fouler as the damaged life support systems struggled to function on minimal power.
Sudden activity from the communications system made Fonzie jump. He supposed it was the Candy Man calling to taunt them with the helplessness of their situation. Then a very familiar voice – though he hadn’t heard it for a few days – burst out the speaker and he knew it wasn’t the Candy Man calling though the signal was coming from Tracy Island.
"Tracy Island to Fonziebird Five, respond," Chachi’s voice said from the speakers. As they heard Chachi’s voice speaking, Howard, Potsie, Ralph and Richie all gathered around the only working console with Fonzie as Chachi’s voice came again. "Tracy Island to Fonziebird Five, respond. Dad, if you can hear me, please respond."
Howard reached forward over Fonzie’s shoulder and pressed the button that opened the communications channels. And Chachi’s face flashed up on the communications screen though it was only black and white and washed with the kind of static that came from a jamming field.
"Chachi, we hear you. Where are you? Are you safe?" Howard asked and a look of relief appeared on Chachi’s face as he heard his father’s voice.
"I’m at the satellite relay station with Gina and Joanie. Gina’s going to hack into the main computer and give control of Fonziebird Five back to you." As he spoke, Chachi nodded to someone that they couldn’t see. Presumably, it was a nod to tell Gina to start the hack.
"Okay, we're standing by." Howard replied.
Sticky accompanied by the Candy Man returned to the control room to see if he could use the islands network of sensors and security camera’s to find Chachi and his three friends. It was unlikely that she would spot them on the security net as they were no doubt doing there best to stay off it. Still there was always the chance that they would get careless and he would see them. Then it would only be a simple matter of alerting Eugene to their coordinates and trusting the mercenary to actually catch them this time.
As he entered the control room, Eugene heard one of the consoles bleeping for attention. Moving over to the main control station and sitting down, Sticky looked at the offending console and was surprised. Someone was sending a signal to Fonziebird Five from the islands satellite station, a signal that had been somehow boosted so it had enough power to breach the jamming field being generated by the sub. That same person was also steadily breaking through the firewalls surrounding the islands main computer banks they would be through to the operating systems in minutes. Once in there they would be able to lock her out of systems and transfer control of Fonziebird Five back to the space station. And without access to the computer the plan to rob the world’s biggest banks and forever ruin the reputation of International Rescue and make themselves filthy rich in the process would be ruined.
"Sir, someone's sending a signal from the islands satellite station and also attempting to break into the main computer." he reported to the Candy Man.
"Stop them," the Candy Man ordered knowing immediately that it was the kids who were doing it and that his carefully conceived plan was suddenly on a knife edge. "While I advise Eugene of their coordinates."
"Yes, sir." Sticky replied sending a signal to the sub to increase power to the jamming field then typing furiously on the consoles to block the kids access to the main computer.
Simultaneously, the Candy Man spoke into his own small radio unit advising Eugene of the location of the children.
"They're onto us," Gina called as she suddenly found her commands into the small computer terminal in the communications mast base being actively countered by someone in the control room. The amount of power to the communications system was also reducing as power levels in the jamming field. "We’re being jammed."
"Can you finish?" Chachi asked.
"I’ll try." Gina replied working with even more urgency. She had to get this to work she had to. It might be the only chance they had to save Chachi’s father and brothers from the Candy Man.
"Chachi, what's happening?" Howard demanded from the small hand unit Chachi was holding. The image of Howard with Chachi’s brothers standing in the background was flickering and washing with static interference more and more.
"Hang in there, dad, one more minute." Chachi replied as Gina cursed and hit the side of the mast with the heel of her hand in rage.
"It’s not gonna work, Chach," Fermat said. "The signal's too weak now for data transmission." On the screen of the satellite phone, Howard’s face had almost vanished in static.
"Dad, can you hear me," Chachi said into the phone. "We’re being jammed, we're going to loose you. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything." Because we have to there is no one else left free who can, he added to himself.
"Negative, it's t…." Howard started to reply than the transmission vanished all together and the screen went blank.
"NO!" Chachi shouted in sudden anger. "Sorry," he said apologetically to Gina and Joanie realising that he had probably frightened them with that display of anger.
"Its okay, Chach," Gina answered sitting down beside her friend. "You don’t have to be Mr tough guy and Mr always in control of myself all the time, you know." Joanie sat down besides Chachi as well.
"We’re worried about our parents too, Chach," Joanie added. "Losing your temper briefly as a result is nothing to be ashamed of." Chachi smiled.
"Thanks," he said softly. Then he looked up and spoke normally. "The Candy Man knows we're alive now, we should go." As he spoke, he also stood up.
"Even worse," Gina replied as she and Joanie also stood up. "He knows exactly where we are."
As if in response to Gina’s words, they heard the roar of a powerful engine and a powerful all terrain buggy appeared from the service road.
And came straight towards them.
"Run." Chachi said as the buggy came charging towards them from the service road. Through the windshield and open sides and top of the buggy, Chachi could see three of the Candy Man’s henchmen including Eugene, all with devilish grins on their faces. Complacent, he thought, they think they’re going to catch us easy now.
In unison, Chachi, Joanie and Gina turned away from the approaching buggy and started fleeing down the other side of the array clambering awkwardly over the rocks in their desire to escape the occupants of the buggy and flee into the jungle again.
They didn’t make it. The buggy came around the rocks that surrounded the concrete block the communications mast was built on and roared to a halt directly in front of them. Eugene and both guards jumped out immediately and came straight at them. Eugene especially ran straight at Chachi knowing that he needed to take him down quickly.
Chachi seeing Eugene barrelling towards him like an enraged bull knew he wouldn’t be able to move quickly enough to avoid a collision with the older super strong man. There was only one possible way he could think of to avoid being bowled over like a Human bowling pin. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he imagined Eugene passing through him rather than crashing into him.
Chachi moved as soon as Eugene tried to grab him and as he solidified let out the breath, he had been holding before almost crumpling to his knees as a wave of exhaustion rippled through and he could feel the level of power within him drop considerably. Note to self, don’t ever try that again, he thought as he tried to rally his strength and the remaining energy within.
One of the two guards seeing Chachi decided to take advantage of him. Unhooking a stun gun from its slot on his belt, he fired on Chachi.
Chachi jerked when he felt the two small metal darts from the tazer strike him, then a short but intense charge of electricity followed. The sudden blast of energy convulsed his muscles and dropped him to the floor just like it was designed to do. But that wasn’t the end of it. The blast of electricity somehow interacted with the power inside him producing what felt almost like some kind of internal explosion and waves of pain so intense that he cried out in agony right before gratefully giving himself up to the darkness that raced up to embrace him.
"CHACHI!" Joanie yelled in fury seeing Chachi fall and hearing him cry out in what had to be tremendous agony given his high pain tolerance, mercifully the scream of pain cut off as Chachi lost consciousness. Part of her was stunned that a tazer attack something that would normally only disable for a minute or two could have such a devastating effect on Chachi but the rest of her was furious. Literally seeing red, she lashed out telekinetically at the guard who’d just attacked Chachi. The blast of telekinetic force knocked the guard flying to land stunned a few meters away.
Joanie smiled slightly even as she felt a sudden surge of shame for giving in to her anger and using her power in a manner that was all to reminiscent of some of the things her uncle could do. Abruptly, her world reeled and she felt sudden pain at the back of her skull before everything went black and she dropped unconscious. Standing over her was the remaining guard who having finished subduing Gina and wrestling the kid into restraints had noticed her distraction and clubbed her around the back of the skull with the butt of his pistol.
Getting his wits back together, Eugene picked himself up from the floor shaking his head to clear the residual disorientation while mentally swearing every word he knew. He was surprised and pleased to see Chachi and Joanie both disabled and unconscious with the third smaller kid in restraints and glaring hatefully at them.
"Bind these two as well. Then load them all on the buggy." he ordered gesturing at Joanie and Chachi just as the guard who’d been hit by Joanie’s enraged telekinetic attack picked himself up off the floor and shook his head to clear residual dizziness before moving over to help his companion.
As the two guards did what he told them to do, Eugene noticed something shinning in the sun where it had fallen out of Chachi’s pocket. Moving over, he picked it up and smiled when he saw it was a crystal state processor unit – specifically the guidance processor that was missing from Fonziebird Two.
Smiling even more broadly, he secured it in a spare pouch on his belt. The Candy Man was going to be so pleased to have the processor back. Though Sticky would want to check it to make sure it hadn’t been damaged or tampered with which was proper. Once she was satisfied that the processor was okay and had reinstalled it in Fonziebird Two’s navigational computer, they would be able to leave Tracy Island and carry out the next phase of the plan.
And Eugene was so looking forward to it and all the loot they would get.
Ten Minutes Later
Shivering violently and aching all over, Nicola Davison struggled to remain conscious knowing that if she fell asleep that she might never wake up again. They had been in here for almost three hours and her prediction about hypothermia really starting to set in at three hours was coming true.
For the first time in awhile, Nicola thought about how her sister had died. She vividly remembered it as she had been with Howard and the boys on that day, a day that had to be one of the worst days of her life. They’d been in the lodge while Marion had gone off with a couple of other people for an early morning ski on the fresh snow that had fallen the night before. What no one had known was that a massive cleft of snow at the top of the mountain had become too heavy and collapsed just as the first skiers hit the slopes. Marion had been caught in the avalanche that resulted along with dozens of other people. She hadn’t been killed immediately instead had died about three hours after the avalanche occurred and two hours before her body was found. She’d died mostly from hypothermia as her injuries hadn’t been that severe mainly because Marion had always been something of a health nut. Is this how Marion felt as she was trapped in the avalanche and slowly freezing to death? she thought as she shivered in the frigid air of the main fridge.
"Are you alright, Nicola?" Marion asked shivering herself.
"Yes, I’m fine," Nicola replied taking a deep shaky breath feeling, her eyes stung with unshed tears. Like Howard, she rarely thought about the day Marion died as it always upset her. She could talk about Marion all day long from any other day in her life from her birth when she was two years old to the day before her death and she frequently told Chachi about her as the youngest Tracy had so few memories of his mother. But he could never speak of the day itself and Chachi had never asked about it. Normally, she avoided even thinking about it. But their current circumstances ensured that he was starting to remember it.
"Bad memories." she added though he didn’t elaborate further knowing that if she spoke about the circumstances of Marion’s death, she would start crying. Al sensing that the memories were painful ones didn’t ask anything more.
From outside, there came a distinctive clanking noise as the manual locking bolt was retracted followed by a few electronic bleeps as someone worked the electronic lock. Then, with a magnetic humming noise the door to the fridge opened and then they saw Eugene standing in the doorway. But only for a moment then, he stepped aside as one of the guards threw a bound Gina in, Gina stumbling as she was thrown in. Then, Eugene reappeared and threw in a just awoken Joanie before finally throwing the still unconscious Chachi into the fridge.
Then, Eugene closed the door again and they heard the manual and electronic locks engage again.
As their respective parents awkwardly greeted Joanie and Gina, awkwardly since everyone was bound with zip cuffs, Nicola looked over Chachi’s unconscious form with an eye that was almost as trained as a doctors. Like all International Rescue operatives, she had a full spectrum of emergency medical training which would surprise even some of the best emergency doctors. Nothing physically seemed to be wrong with Chachi that she could tell, he was just unconscious.
"What happened to him?" she asked.
"He was hit by a tazer," Joanie replied from where she had just sat down with Marion. "It seemed to have a disproportionate affect on him. He collapsed, screamed in pain and then lost consciousness he’s been like this ever since." Nicola frowned. Chachi screaming in pain was almost unheard of considering his high pain threshold.
Al also listened intently true, he knew Chachi and his brothers nearly as well as anyone else did yet he knew that he shouldn’t have had such a reaction to something as mundane as being zapped with a tazer. The power level in a tazer shot just wasn’t enough. It was certainly conceivable that the electricity had interacted with them perhaps caused something like an internal short circuit.
"Its possible that the electricity from the tazer shot negatively interacted with Chachi’s mind," he said in explanation. "Seemingly ordinary things can have adverse effects on metahumans."
"Will he be alright?" Nicola asked while looking at Chachi in concern.
"I believe so. I can't be absolutely sure without recourse to sensors but once his mind have had sufficient time to recover, he should be fine."
"How long will that take?" Joanie asked before Nicola could voice the same question.
"That's a question no one ever knows the answer to," Al replied. "But since Chachi’s been having nightmares lately, the cold environment of this room might speed up his recovery."
"Perhaps but I don’t see how Charles being conscious again would help us get out of our current predicament."
"Remember, I can use my Uncle Al's phase gun," Gina stuttered. "More so I can selectively phase parts of us."
Al was surprised by his niece’s words. Phase abilities were unusual in metahumans to start with but even among those who had phase-type abilities he had never heard of selective phasing before. But then even by the standards of their kind, his phase gun was something of an oddity in that he possessed three distinct powers two elemental the third it's power to phase and that it's abilities had taken so long to show themselves.
"Selective phasing, I've never tried that before. Still, phase-type powers are very rare among metahumans," Al said then he smiled. "If Chachi recovers enough then he can use my phase gun and stop us all from freezing to death. When he wakes up, he could use the gun to free himself and then untie us…"
"And then we can figure a way out of here," Nicola finished. "I just hope Charles wakes up soon because we’re not going to survive in here much longer."
Sticky smiled as his sensor pack reported that the guidance processor was undamaged. Eugene had just handed it back to him and he was carefully checking it over. The last thing they would have wanted to do was install it in Fonziebird Two and take off for Milwaukee only to find that the processor had been damaged or sabotaged. The consequences if something really went wrong with it in mid-flight could have been very nasty.
"The guidance processor's perfectly fine." he said looking up from the scanner display.
"Excellent," the Candy Man said. "How long will it take to reinstall it on Fonziebird Two, Sticky?"
"Not long, sir," Sticky replied. "I can have Fonziebird Two ready to leave within ten minutes."
"Excellent. Proceed to reinstall the processor."
"Yes, sir." Sticky started to get up from the main console only for the scanner display to give a sudden series of bleeps as it detective an approaching aircraft.
"Now what?" the Candy Man said in exasperation. The constant delays were getting very tiresome. Soon, Fonziebird Five would run out of emergency battery power and he wanted to be out of here and in Milwaukee robbing the Bank of Milwaukee before that happened. He wanted Howard to see the start of International Rescue's downfall before he died when Fonziebird Five’s life support systems shut down.
"Perimeter sensors are reporting a aircraft approaching the island at extremely high speed," Sticky reported, his hands dancing across the control panels. "I'm picking up an International Rescue identification transponder from the approaching aircraft. It reads as FONZ1." Consternation was in Sticky's voice when he said that last part.
"ETA?" the Candy Man asked.
"Then we must prepare a suitable reception for whoever the agent if that vehicle is. Eugene, get two guards and come with me. Sticky, get down to Fonziebird Two and reinstall that guidance processor."
"Yes, sir." Eugene and Sticky replied in unison.
Approaching Tracy Island
Lori Beth grew increasingly concerned as FONZ1 closed on Tracy Island. During the flight from her mansion in Milwaukee, she had tried twice more to raise both Tracy Island and Fonziebird Five but had not received a response, not even an automatic acknowledgement from Fonziebird Five’s transponder.
The total silence on all communications channels was very worrying, especially as it had never happened before. True there had been problems with the communications network in the past such things were inevitable but never before had the whole system gone silent. In fact, Al and Howard had built so many safeguards and backups into International Rescue’s communications network that total failure should have been impossible even if one of the main network hubs – like Fonziebird Five – should be put out of action. Yet now it seemed that the impossible had happened.
And as she sat in the back of FONZ1, Lori Beth got a very uneasy feeling. A feeling that something was very, very wrong. Possibly something more than a massive communications breakdown.
"Approaching Tracy Island, Lori," Tom reported from the driver’s seat. "The island security systems've just scanned us."
"Any communication?" Lori Beth asked. Normally when she was approaching Tracy Island, Howard would hail FONZ1 to greet her. The only times that didn’t happen was when the Fonziebirds had been deployed on a mission. And she didn’t think that that had happened here. There was nothing on the news about the Fonziebirds going to a disaster scene as there would normally be.
In fact, the media was awash with speculation as to where the Fonziebirds were. There had been a number of accidents and disasters in the world that they would either respond to or offer to assist if needed but there hadn’t been a peep out of them. And according to the news all attempts to get in contact with International Rescue had failed, no communications were answered or even acknowledged.
"No, Lori!" Tom replied confusion and concern in his voice. Lori Beth frowned thoughtfully more convinced now than ever that something was very wrong. That something bad had happened on both Tracy Island and Fonziebird Five.
"Tom, switch to hydrofoil mode and bring us in on the beach closest to the villa complex."
"Sure thing, Lori," Tom replied then noticed something on the sensors that set mental alarm bells ringing at full volume. "Dig this, Lori, sensors're picking up a large stationary contact in the lagoon off the beach near to the villa complex."
"Identify." Lori Beth ordered, her own mental alarm bells ringing.
"It appears to be a submarine, Lori. But the configuration and construction doesn't match any known design." As Tom spoke, Lori Beth felt a chill. That sub whoever it belonged to should not be here. The fact that it was here was very alarming in its implications.
It implied that somehow someone had uncovered the connection between the Tracy’s and International Rescue. Had uncovered it and attacked them presumably to plunder the islands secrets and steal the Fonziebirds. Sold on the black market the secrets hidden on Tracy Island would be worth billions and they could cause untold suffering if they fell into the wrong hands. In the wrong hands, the incredible technological power the Tracy’s commanded could be twisted to destroy life instead of save it. If terrorists or worse an aggressive government got their hands on Fonziebird technologies, they would be almost unstoppable.
The presence of the submarine did explain a few things though. Like why there had been total silence on International Rescue communications channels. The Tracy’s hadn’t been able to respond because they’d been attacked and either captured or killed.
Compressing her lips into a thin line and a determined look appearing on her face, Lori Beth vowed that whoever was on that sub would not leave here regardless of the fate of Howard and the boys. She could not allow the secrets of International Rescue to fall into the wrong hands.
"Tom, bring our weapons systems on line," she ordered. "Then target that subs engines." She wouldn’t sink the submarine just yet but she would cripple it so whoever was onboard could not escape. Then she would go down there and find out what had happened to Howard and the boys even if she had to beat it out of whoever was onboard that sub.
"Okay, Lori," Tom replied opening a panel on the steering wheel and targeting the sub. "Ready, Lori."
"Fire!" Tom pressed a button in the panel. A panel on the underside of FONZ1 opened and a mini-torpedo dropped into the water and sped towards the sub.
A second later, an explosion erupted at the rear of the submarine and a massive spurt of water accompanied by steam shot into the air. The submarine visibly lurched in the water before its rear end disappeared beneath the surface and the bow came up slightly higher in the water exposing the tops of the forward torpedo tubes as the main engine compartment was flooded.
"Direct hit, Lori, they ain't going nowhere." Tom reported.
"Great shot, Tom. Now land us on the beach."
"No problemo, Lori."
The Candy Man inwardly seethed as he listened to the report coming in over his comlink with the submarine. A torpedo fired from the approaching aircraft had slammed into the starboard engine fin literally blasting it apart. The main engine room had been flooded when the pacific had raced in through the resultant breach in the hull. The remaining main drive unit on the portside was therefore out as well since the flooding would have wrecked its power unit. Water tight bulkheads had sealed off the damaged area but there was collateral damage in all aft compartments from the shockwave. The main reactor was off line leaving only emergency batteries, three aft ballast tanks had ruptured. The secondary engines were still on line but were damaged and would only work at half speed.
Though furious with the damage his submarine had sustained, the Candy Man believed that they were fortunate it was only one torpedo. A second hit would have probably broken the subs back and in that instance it would have sunk in seconds. As it was the sub while badly damaged was still operational and could be repaired though it would have to limp back to the secret facility where Sticky had built it before the major repairs could be done.
And while it was infuriating, the damage to the submarine would not hinder his plans too much now that they had the guidance processor for Fonziebird Two back. He could still rob the banks before returning to his own base of operations. By the time he would need it again the sub would be repaired. Especially if Sticky had any say in the matter since the sub was his ‘baby’ and he took any problems with it or damage personally.
"Do as many repairs as you can here," the Candy Man ordered into his comlink. "Then head back to base at the best speed you can."
"Yes, sir." the senior guard he’d left in charge on the sub replied his voice backdropped by the sound of emergency klaxons.
The Candy Man signed off with the sub just as the aircraft landed and revealed itself to be flying bright pink car as it set down on the beach. What an awful colour, the Candy Man thought as the roof opened as well as side doors. Two people got out but showed no signs of having seen them yet.
"Ambush positions." the Candy Man ordered.
The Candy Man, Eugene and both guards immediately ducked behind bushes and trees where the cars occupants would not see them.
Until it was too late.
Lori Beth was increasingly nervous and on her guard as she and Tom left the beach and began walking up the path towards the two swimming pools at the front of the main house/villa complex. She could tell that something wasn’t right and she gripped the pistol she was holding tightly as she walked up the path. There had been no sign of anyone and no apparent reaction to the damage to the submarine.
Which was worrying. Either whoever the attackers were had left the island presumably on one of the Fonziebirds, they were aboard their submarine and busy with damage control or they were waiting in ambush for her.
"Be on your guard, Tom." she whispered softly.
"No problem, Lori." Tom whispered back gripping his own weapon tightly. He too was uneasy with the lack of response from whoever it was who’d attacked the island.
After a few minutes, the path led them out onto the lower sundeck besides the big main pool which in addition to being the pool that was primarily used just for swimming as opposed to games like the diving pool concealed Fonziebird One’s silo.
From behind a voice suddenly spoke.
"Well, what do we have here?" a cold voice said. Lori Beth and Tom spun around to find themselves face to face with four people.
One was an overweight mustachiosed man wearing a white suit with a black tie, another was a huge bearded man who radiated menace and strength. The other two were a pair of ordinary looking guys who like the big man radiated menace. The big guy and the other two wore black body armour of some sort.
"Laura Elizabeth Creighton-Ward," the Candy Man said recognising her from various news articles that he’d read. She was one of those goody-goody people that he so hated. "Of course. Howard Tracy has his palace so why not have a princess?"
"Flattery will get you no where, you fat jerk!" Lori Beth replied starting to bring her gun to bear on the Candy Man.
Annoyed at being called a fat jerk, the Candy Man reached out telekinetically and yanked the guns from the hands of Lori Beth and the man who assumed to be her chauffeur, before giving Lori Beth a hard telekinetic shove that sent her flying backwards into the pool.
Lori Beth hit the water with a shocked cry and coughed on water for few moments. How the heck did he do that, she thought looking at the overweight man, he's got to be a metahuman. Why do so many metahumans have to be evil?
Angered at seeing his mistress thrown into the swimming pool, Tom charged towards the Candy Man pulling a fist back ready to break his nose. The Candy Man smirked in amusement seeing Tom coming for him. As if he would let him get close enough to punch him.
"Eugene." he said.
Eugene took a few steps forward and grabbed Tom by the lapels physically lifted him up as if he weighed nothing and then throwing him at Lori Beth, who was just climbing out of the swimming pool dripping wet and more than a little mad.
Tom cannoned into Lori Beth knocking both of them into the swimming pool with a cry.
"Get them." the Candy Man said to the two guards as Lori Beth and Tom coughed and spluttered in the swimming pool. He was tired of these constant delays to his plans.
The two guards moved forward to comply just as Lori Beth and Tom started to haul themselves out of the swimming pool again. The guards grabbed them as soon as they were out the pool and wrestled them both to the ground and bound their hands behind their wrists with zip cuffs.
"Put them with the others." the Candy Man ordered to Eugene and the guards. "Then you two," he added specifically to the guards, "return to the sub with the others."
"Yes, sir." Eugene replied then together with the guards took the two struggling agents away.
The Candy Man watched them go and smiled. Sticky would be in Fonziebird Two by now reinstalling the guidance processor. In another few minutes, he would leave this island behind for a while and be on his way to Milwaukee. The final phase of his plan to ruin the reputation of International Rescue was about to start.
Smiling evilly, he headed back to the main house after Eugene and the guards. Once Lori Beth joined the others out of the way, it would be time to leave.
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