Chapter 1: Backhand Slap - Thunderbirds
‘The Grand Canyon Super Train takes you through some of the most amazing scenery in the country in comfort and in style. State of the art technology gives you an experience like none other melding the natural one with an ultra-modern....’
The brochure waffled on but John wasn’t really reading it, he had of course gathered all the information he needed before he even stepped on the train (Which didn’t actually go anywhere near the protected Grand Canyon, instead looping through and around several nearby canyons. That were grand.) Most of patrons would be focused on the little luxuries – the comfortable seats, custom drink service and the two truly unique viewing cars – perspex only so that there was as little as possible between you and the great out doors. The four other couches were more of a standard train carriage but with leather seats, inlaid wood panels and calming piped music: a tourist’s dream.
That wasn’t what interested John though – he was here to keep an eye on the train’s AI driver. It ran multiple layers of algorithm to not only make the ride as smooth as possible but to navigate the complex sequences of track to make the most of the scenery and give the passengers the best views. That was something much more complex than most AI’s were capable of due to the subjective nature of ‘the best views’, so they had turned to someone who knew more than most about AI’s. OK, so they didn’t know that John Tracy was the programmer and partner of the most sophisticated AI on the planet, who ran International Rescue’s monitoring and communications satellite saving hundreds of lives. But they did know that John Tracy had written some of the most respected academic papers on the subject of AI integration and he had been flattered that the Grand Canyon Super Train Company wanted him to give his professional opinion on it’s performance.
He had leaped at the chance to get out the office – as much as he loved his job there wasn’t much of an opportunity to see the world with his own eyes, hidden as he was behind scanners and cameras and readouts. He didn’t regret the choices that led him to life in a bubble, but he did regret some of the consequences.
“I could do better you know” chirped a light yet disapproving voice in his ear.
“I know EOS” John muttered, leaning so it didn’t look too strange that he was talking to himself. “You could do better at most things, but isn’t it nice to see how they are doing?”
“I suppose.” She said a little sulkily. “But don’t go getting any thoughts about replacing me.”
“As if I ever would.”
“Do you have anything you need?” Interrupted another chirpy young voice, this one attached to the young chirpy face of one of the train attendants who must still be in his teens. Just because there was an AI at the helm didn’t mean the train wasn’t staffed – in fact there was a very high ratio of staff to passengers to add to the luxury and add a much needed personal touch.
“Yes thank you.”
“Well if you are hungry we have a full lunch menu. Today’s special is a delightful mushroom stew or we have a range of bar snacks if you would prefer.”
“I’m fine for the moment.” John turned back to the window, hoping the boy would leave him to his thoughts.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it – seeing all of this so close up! I grew up in a city and that’s great and all but in this job I get to look at something so much better all day and -” realising he might have been gushing a much he stopped. “Well, my name’s Robert, yell for me if you need anything.” He said with a smile before moving to approach the next guest. The young man was bright and enthusiastic and charming in a cheeky sort of way that was very reminiscent of Alan and Gordon.
John settled back and wondered how on earth he was actually going to assess this AI. He might get a chance to look at the code later.
“Everything ok up there EOS?” John knew that he would have been informed if there was anything going on that needed his input, but the habit of knowing what was going on everywhere at all times was a hard one to break.
The hairs on the back of John’s neck stood on end when all he got back was static. He was using one of the most advanced personal communicators outside of the military, linked to the most advanced communications satellite. Sure they were passing through some rugged geology but it took more than a couple of rocks to lose connection.
“EOS?” He took out his ear piece, reassured that the small red light on it’s tip showed it was still working. So the problem was something else.
“Alright then fine folks” yelled a rough voice from one end of the carriage, and a shot boomed out into the small space. Ah. Maybe that then.
“I want everyone to stay exactly where they are, no sudden movements.” The man who was speaking was heavy set, suit wearing and held a serious looking pistol in one hand. Behind him several more serious looking and armed men were ushering in staff and passengers from the other carriages, who were all looking stunned and scared.
Sure this was a kind of expensive trip, but surely not exclusive enough to be worth robbing – gathered together there were probably only about twenty five passengers and as a casual day trip no-one was dressed for a ball.
The weapons were an interesting choice as well – old fashioned gun powder powered bullet filled guns. Like most tech weapons had evolved drastically in the last fifty years – these days you were much more likely to see a pulse weapon or a taser than an actual gun. They didn’t need any ammunition for a start, and it was much harder to kill someone accidently. Tastes of both the legal and illegal users of weapons had changed and John thought that guns had become a relic of the past: he had only ever seen an actual gun in the flesh once before.
“Everyone here? Good.” the man strode to the other end of the carriage. “Now, this is what’s going to happen. My associates here are going to keep everyone company while I go and have a chat with your ‘driver’. We’ve got a dampener up so no-one is making any calls until I decide to, but the sooner I get what I want the sooner this is over. You, “ the man gestured to the nearest staff member, “open this door.” He banged on an access panel behind him.
“Wh... What? I mean... I don’t.... I don’t know-” stuttered Robert, the one who had the misfortune of being in the hijackers eye line.
With a snarl the man grabbed onto Robert’s collar, drawing him close. “I know the AI interface is in there and I know you all know the code to get in. So. Open. It.” He raised his hand adjusting his grip on the gun. Perhaps he was going to use it as a cudgel instead of a projectile but either way it could do some serious damage.
If it was a choice between opening a door and risking your life, John knew the smart choice for Robert to make was to open the door. It was also a smart choice for him to keep out the way, not draw attention, wait for EOS to raise the alarm (as his over protective companion certainly would).
Sitting back was a choice he could make. He did usually watch from afar after all. But he wasn’t afar, he was right here, watching a young man being threatened.
John stood. “Stop that, leave him alone.” All eyes fell on him, in a way that wasn’t exactly comfortable.
“Excuse me?” The hijacker turned.
“You heard.” John swallowed at the glint in the man’s eye, the hardness there.
“You think you are some sort of big man?”
“No, but if I were I wouldn’t be threatening a kid.” Shutupshutupshutup .
John didn’t see the back hand coming but he sure as hell felt it. His head snapped round and he staggered, caught by two of the lesser hijackers. Head lolling and jaw numb he only knew that he was bleeding from the stain he was leaving on the carpet. His ear piece fell and rolled away somewhere.
“You going to sit back down?” The man hissed, getting right in his face.
“You going to get off this train?” John mumbled and instantly regretted the words when he was doubled over by a punch to the stomach. The two others had to actively hold him up now as the man punched again and again and again. John had no time to take a breath between one strike and the next.
“Drop him” he heard and the polished wooden floor rose up and smacked him in the face. John squirmed, gasping for air as best he could, curling in over his bruised ribs. Red hot, burning circles radiated through his chest that flared with every movement. He was exposed and helpless as vicious kicks landed on his head, his back, his legs, each drawing a harsh grunt. A sickening crack reverberated through John’s whole body and thin lines of fire spread out from his now broken rib.
They must have been satisfied by whatever noise he made from that as the blows and kicks stopped. John lay shuddering on the carpet, trying not to breathe too deeply and uncurling slightly to ease his chest. His vision swam and head pounded. Blood was trickling down his face. He would get up in a minute. He wouldn’t let these yobs win. He would stand up and stare them down but he just needed a second. To get his breathe back. To get his balance back.
“Now, will someone open the door, or do we have to give this gent another lesson.” John heard, and to prove his point the man stomped down hard on his wrist: John let out a horse scream as the bones ground together.
From somewhere far away there was laughter. The last thing that John saw was someone fiddling with a keypad by the control room door, and then the world whited out.
Chapter 2: Serum Injection - Thunderbirds
John staggered through the corridors of Five, bracing himself on the walls as another wave of dizzyness hit. He struggled onwards, knowing that if he stopped he was dead. He had to get to the central control panel, or maybe even the data core. He had to purge her.
“Stop fighting John,” EOS’s light voice echoed oddly through the still station. “You can not defeat me.”
John didn’t dignify that with a reply. He’d reached the door at last but it was refusing to budge. Or more accurately EOS was refusing to open it. But he couldn’t let them win.
A firm press on the access hatch and the control panel slid open, all neat wiring and blinking lights. His vision swam with two or three versions of the control panel the made bile rise in his throat.
No. He wouldn’t give in. He reached through the circuitry, feeling for it when he couldn’t rely on his eyes.
“He is trying to circumnavigate the door mechanism.” EOS spoke to the others, who were even now at the docking port, stepping out the space elevator. Intruders, invaders, coming for him and his station. Sparks flew as his ripped out wires, shorting the lock. With a heave he was able to push the door open just enough to slip through, but he lost as balance tumbling to the floor.
The enemy was coming, he could feel their hurried footsteps echo through his Bird’s structure. A ringing in his ears covered up most of their conversation though so John couldn’t hear their threats, just their reassurances to EOS that they were nearly there, they nearly had him.
Like hell they were. Not able to stand anymore, the walls twisting and curving in, John crawled on hands and knees to the master consol. Everything could be controlled from here. He could shut down the AI, vent the atmosphere – then he would be safe.
John heaved himself up on the console, to find it blank and dark. He hit it with the palm of his hand, as if to wake it but nothing happened. Blinking stupidly John locked his knees and tightened his grip to stay upright.
“I can’t have you doing that now John.” EOS directed a camera to right in front of him, the green lights steadily staring into his soul.
“John?” His head whipped around to the stranger, the invader who had squeezed through his hastily open doorway. He held up his hands in appeasement but John knew that was an attempt at deception. They were here for him. Here to take him away. To take Five away and.....
The man was talking but John couldn’t hear it, couldn’t concentrate. Couldn’t focus on anything clearly, couldn’t see his face. He was just a blue blur. There had to be another way, even with EOS doing their bidding there had to be another way.
John took a step back as a third man entered the room. Damn he was now outnumbered. Nausea ripped through him, his stomach clenched so hard he doubled over.
“Come with us John. Don’t make us hurt you.” John took slow steps back as the two men moved forward. Sweat was dripping from his forehead, his hands were clammy: two men, no four men, no six. Three? His vision settled as the three men approached.
All in matching blue uniforms. Some sort of military maybe, here for International Rescue’s secrets. They had different colour utility sashes which was odd, but maybe that denoted some sort of rank.
“I don’t know that he can hear us” One muttered.
“I can hear you,” John bit out. Of course he could hear them. Mostly. The ringing in his ears as loud as passing traffic on the motorway. He clutched at his head. “You can’t have her.”
“We don’t want anything John. We just want you to come with us. Can you do that?”
“And leave you with direct access to all IR’s communications and networking satellites? Go to hell.” John was in hell right now, heart beating like he had just run a marathon. It was too hot as well, EOS must have tampered with the climate controls to make it more difficult to fight back.
“We don’t have time for this.” One of the men said shortly and with a shared glance they moved forward purposefully .
John tried to run but his feet wouldn’t obey him. They turned traitor too and tripped him. He sprawled hard and painfully on his back. That was all the edge they needed – the men were on him. One on each arm, holding them out so he couldn’t get back up. John shook and bucked as the third knelt by his side.
“How much do I need to give, EOS?” he asked the air, getting a large syringe out of his pocket and tipping it with a horrific needle.
“He will need the entire dose.”
“You sure? Alan didn’t need that much.”
“Ok then.” The man readied the syringe and bent over towards John.
“ Nooooooo ” he wasn’t having that, they weren’t going to take him so easily. With an unexpected and forceful movement John smashed his head forward, into the man’s face. He drew back with shock and the others loosened their grip just enough that he could wriggle free. He lashed out with arms and legs, kicking and flailing and hitting anything within reach. He made a little headway, was able to turn around and to make a furious crawl away, but something heavy landed on his back.
“You ok Gordon?” it said, easily pinning him down with a hand to the back of his head.
“Yeah, I think he broke my nose though. He kicks like a mule.”
“We’ll look at it later. Let’s get this over with.”
John couldn’t see, pressed as he was against the cold hard deck but he could feel. Oh, how he felt the long sharp needle piercing his skin, sliding through the layers of muscle till it rested deep inside his neck. There was hot agony for long moments as his attacker paused there but John knew if he struggled he would likely rip his own artery out. That didn’t stop him clenching and unclenching his hands, grunting in time with his thundering heart. Not that he could have stopped that.
“Here goes” muttered the monster above him. The burning pain of the needle was replaced with freezing instead, as whatever contents of that syringe were injected directly into his blood stream. He could feel is spreading with each heartbeat, infecting his entire body, the freezing pain of frostbite spreading like a wave that left numbness in its wake.
The man got off him but it was too late. It was too late for John. He could barely move now. He tried to push up but his limbs wouldn’t respond properly. They twitched and shook but wouldn’t move. He lifted his head but had to immediately let it drop, the freezing creeping up his spine and through his skull.
One man gently turned him over, so he was laying on his side. Now they were gentle. Now they had poisoned him.
“EOS vital signs?”
“Within acceptable parameters considering.”
His vision was getting dark, fading round the edges.
“Will the one dose be enough, he doesn’t look much better.”
“Another dose may be necessary, but I advise waiting to see his response before administering anything more.”
His hearing was fading too, someone had turned the volume down way too low.
“Gotcha. Virgil, can you take a quick look around see what the damage is - I don’t want to leave without knowing exactly what the status is up here.”
Now he was no longer even twitching, helpless as he was carried. They had won. He was unconscious before they had even reached the airlock.
Chapter 3: Confined to Bed Rest - Thunderbirds
Carries on directly from 'Serum Injection'
Humming was the first thing that intruded into John’s consciousness, waking John from a vicious nightmare. Something classical by the sounds of it. That probably meant Virgil. As pleasant as it usually was to listen to Virgil hum away while he worked, right now it was stabbing right in the back of his brain.
“ Virg ? Do you mind knocking it off? I’ve got a pounder of a headache.”
For a wonder it did and John was at peace again, until one of his eyelids was prised open and a light shone painfully at his unprotected pupil.
“Hey” he yelled, pulling back, hands up to...... he tried to lift his hands to his face but couldn’t. He tugged: once, twice, three times but there was no movement. Peeling his eyes open, squinting at the light of the room, John found himself strapped onto one of the island’s medbeds . Strapped. Wrists and ankles firmly cuffed to the frame.
“Virgil?” John asked, as it was indeed the pilot of Thunderbird Two who was present, standing with arms crossed and a concerned expression. And a black eye. “What gives?”
“You actually back with us now?”
“Back from where?”
“Hmmmm” Virgil frowned. "You seem more sensible and coherent but I’ll do a blood test just to be sure.”
“ Sure of what? Virgil? You’re starting to scare me now.”
Armed with syringe and needle Virgil gave a swipe of disinfectant on the inside of Johns’ arm. He hesitated. “Just let me do this first, ok?”
John nodded his permission and Virgil took a blood sample with his usual deftness. It was over in a matter of moments.
“Now you’ve got my blood you vampire, mind telling me what the hell is going on.”
Virgil looked at him quizzically and spoke slowly. “Do you remember you and Alan making repairs to that satellite – the one doing various experiments on the affects of zero-G.”
He did, though memory was so faded it felt several months ago despite it being very recent. He sat up as far as he was able.
“Yeah,” he replied. “They had a range of plants and fungi in there and we replaced a few circuits in their automatic positioning telemetry so they could stay in orbit a bit longer.”
“Well Brains thinks you were both exposed to something up there – a spore or something.”
John’s concerned spiked- “Where’s Alan?”
“He’s fine, he’s out on the beach. We noticed his symptoms first, and was able to give him the treatment straight away. Obviously it took longer to get to you.”
“What..... What symptoms?”
Virgil eyed him carefully. “Paranoia, delusions, hallucinations leading to full psychosis. Plus a range of physical symptoms. Ring any bells?”
John was dumbfounded as his dreams took on new meaning. “I thought there were intruders on Five. The Hood or someone. And EOS had turned against me. I was going to wipe her and shove everyone else out an air lock.” John was horrified “That was you, wasn’t it?”
Virgil ran a hand through his hair. “Sure was. We got up there as quickly as possible but you were in the middle of a full blown panic attack when we did, and our arrival triggered something.”
John felt a little sick as he remembered the fear and confusion and the certainty that someone was out to get him. Something else came back and he winced, filled with guilt. “I hurt Gordon didn’t I? And I guess gave you that black eye.”
“Yeah. You sure are scrappy when you want to be. Had to get the treatment that Brains cooked up into you quick though.” Virgil shifted uncomfortably “So sorry about that. This eye came later though, when we got you back here. You were yelling that you were being kidnapped, hence these.” He gestured to the restraints.
“Sorry you had to witness that.” John said softly. He had some holes in his memory, but everything he did recall was troubling and unsettled his stomach. Virgil just shrugged.
“Sorry you had to go through it. At least your blood pressure is back to normal now, EOS thought you might burst something.”
John lay back with a groan “And I was ripping apart the station wasn’t I – I'm going to have a lot of apologies to make.”
Virgil patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry too much about it, she’ll understand. Anyway, I better get this blood sample analysed, check all those spores are gone from your blood stream” and he moved to leave the room.
“Err Virg.” John said, jingling the cuffs. “I think you’ve forgotten something.”
“Nope.” Said Virgil with a satisfied tone.
“See, either you are still under the effects of the blood poisoning, in which case you need to be restrained for your own safety and everyone else’s - ”
“But I’m not!” John protested.
“-or, you are recovering from a very serious and strenuous episode for which you need at least 24 hours of complete bed rest.”
“Are you serious? I’m fine.” Bed rest! Whoever had time for bed rest? There was too much to do, too many people to save to take more than the minimum time needed.
“Maybe.” Virgil said “But you could have had a heart attack and I know you: you can’t just sit and rest – I’d have to disable to disable the space elevator or you'll be back upstairs in a flash, and working from Dad’s desk otherwise. So, the only way to make sure you get the rest you need is these.” He tapped the cuffs.
John narrowed his eyes. “Just you wait. I know all and see all. I will get you back for this.”
Virgil just laughed. “Maybe, but I’m very much in favour with a certain AI at the moment. Something to do with subduing an idiot brother who couldn’t recognise his own family. So I’ll compromise. Twelve hours. Assuming your bloods are clear. Get some rest now.”
“Virgil, don’t you dare! Virgil”
But the click of the door was the only reply.
Chapter 4: Hogtied - Robin Hood
A short scene that would slot in right at the end of the attack on the forest lair.
Will was surrounded, the Sherriff's men on all sides with drawn swords levelled at him. He wasn’t going to go easily, he was too angry for that. He had been angry for most of his life– at his mother, at his father, the whole world and everyone who had let him down. The Sherriff of Nottingham had reigned through fear and brutality for many years and his soldiers had acted out his will gleefully. They would pay. Will grit his teeth and lunged, but these men were well trained and he caught a blow to the side of his face for his trouble.
He shook it off and tried again, this time getting a blow to the ribs. He turned, trying to find the weakest but a jab to the back of the legs had him falling to his knees.
“Look we don’t have all day, are you going to come along quietly?” demanded one soldier.
Will spit to one side and made to stand again, when the soldier sighed and shoved the hilt of his sword into his back, sending him sprawling. “Let’s get this done quickly then.”
He was trying to stand but the soldiers were upon him. One grabbed his hands, pulling them roughly to the small of his back. Will couldn’t see but could feel rough rope being wound around his wrists in wide bands, reaching up his forearms. He struggled, bucked, trying to throw the men off but they were too strong. They were still tying the knots when the strain started – a tugging through his shoulders and across his chest that flared with each movement.
At the same time someone sat across the back of his knees to prevent him kicking out and similar treatment was applied to his ankles, bound roughly together tight enough to make the bones grind.
“He looks just like a freshly caught fish” one of the men laughed and Will supposed that he did, now unable to move arms or legs and do more than wriggle, though the comparison enraged him further.
“You low life, dirty - “ he started throwing insults as his only weapon but he was interrupted by a sharp kick to the ribs that made him splutter.
“That’s enough for now, save the brave words for later. I’m sure his Lordship would love to hear them.”
The words sent a chill down Will’s spine but he couldn’t stop resisting, pulling at the ropes pointlessly.
“We just need to get you there.”
Will didn’t think he could be any more uncomfortable lying on the leaf litter and dirt, muscles straining and already tight. But he was wrong, oh God he was wrong. The soldiers drew his ankles up so he was bent at the knees, and his arms back in a way that raised his chest off the floor. They were pulled together and with a few swift moments bound together, for when the soldiers let go he remained that way, trussed like a goose.
Now he couldn’t even wriggle and the pain was almost instantaneous. All across his shoulders and chest was burning, breathing was difficult, lungs unable to fill.
“We going to put him in a cart or something?”
“You got one of those in your pocket?”
“Then no. We’ll have to carry him, hang on I’ve got an idea.”
From his prone position, head forced up Will could see the man root about in the bushes for a moment returning with a long solid tree branch. Testing it for strength he seemed satisfied, and thrust it along Will’s back so it was between the binding of both his arms and legs. One soldier at each end they heaved, and lifted him.
Dangling as he was Will couldn’t help but let out a yell, bringing merriment to his captors. All his weight was on his ankles and wrists, ropes biting in harshly. Was that the faint trickle of blood he felt running down his arm, or was that sweat? His hands and feet tingled at first but blessedly fast they went completely numb. He was not so lucky else where: knees and hips twisted at an awkward angle were painful, but it was agony in his arms and chest. His breaths came in panting gasps and each jostling step threatened to pull his arms from his sockets.
The soldiers took turns carrying him on the long journey back to the castle but not once did they set him down to give any relief. There were times when lack of air and extreme pain robbed him of his senses but that never last long: forced awake by the next uneven step with a cry. He wasn’t allowed peace while he was carried, his captors filling is ears and mind with what awaited him in the Sheriff's dungeon.
They told him that he would look back with fondness on this time: that the pain he would experience would dwarf anything he felt now. The promised he would beg to be hogtied again and however much he wished to be free right now he would wish for it back tenfold before they were done with him.
Arms straining, gasping shallowly, head spinning Will could feel the slow tear of his muscles. He shook with cramps that he could not alleviate and shuddered from the sway of the soldier’s march. Even so, Will believed them. There was worse yet to come.
Chapter 5: Muzzled - Magnificent Seven
Muzzled- The Magnificent Seven
It had been three days in the cell. Alone. JD hadn’t heard another person let alone seen one.
The cell was ten paces square.
He had paced the first day. Ten. Ten paces. Ten steps, turn, ten steps, turn, ten steps.
He had rested the second day. He might as well. Saving his strength.
They came for him on the third day, but he wasn’t going to go easily. JD lashed out with fist and foot and words. When they held him down he used his head and his mouth – breaking a nose with a headbutt and tearing flesh with his teeth. They paid him back for that threefold with the beating they gave but he didn’t regret it.
Afterwards, when he was lying on the cold floor, slippery with his own blood, was when they bought the muzzle. Scuffed black boots stood by his face. He mind was too fuzzy to resist, vision swirling as they fixed the metal cage around his mouth , tightening the straps with a firm tug.
He shook his head instinctively but there was no dislodging it. The straps around his head were painfully tight, a squeezing pressure encompassing his skull.
The muzzle itself was too small, too restrictive . He couldn’t barely move his jaw at all. The crudely formed metal cut into his skin when he tried to open his mouth – getting only a fraction of an inch before it was halted.
“You bastard.” JD muttered, words indistinct against his new limitations. If they thought his defiance was limited because his voice was, they had another thing coming.
“Now, now.” Scuffed Boots chided, running a hand through his hair, checking the compressing fit, clicking a lock through the bindings at the back. “That’s the trouble with young people these days, no manners . ”
Scuffed Boots knelt down, reaching in his pocket. JD shied away before realising that Boots hadn't gone for a weapon. A piece of hard travel rations – tasteless, too salty, chewy – was held out in front of him.
For someone who hadn’t eaten for three days – who had gone through hunger to the empty gnawing place beyond that – it was mouth wateringly appealing.
For someone who couldn’t open their mouth it was infuriatingly cruel.
“Let’s teach you to say please.”
Chapter 6: Brainwashed - Thunderbirds
just a short excert, the rest of the story is found separately in the story 'Brainswashed'
If Brains thought there was pain before, but it was nothing compared to the lightning that flashed over him now, burning down his veins. The thudding consolidated into a voice that was stern and commanding – it gave no care for his own needs or feelings. Where before it was subtle in it’s control it now attempted to subsume all that made him Brains.
Go. Take it.
Go. Take it.
Washed away in a flash flood of feeling Brains lost all sense of space and time, each heartbeat the age of a universe and twice as empty. He wondered in a starless sky the only points of light were the flames of his family – this family that had taken him in and made him their own – and they were the anchor that pulled him back.
Chapter 7: Caught in an Explosion - Thunderbirds
another excerpt from 'Brainwashed' Chapter 2
Lights flashed behind his eyes as his skull cracked against the bulkhead and breath was stolen from his lungs. Dazed, he floated, barely able to raise his arm to protect his face from the intense heat bellowing from the bowels of his station. There was a roaring in his ears that he couldn’t tell if it were from his own frantic pulse or the inferno that was springing up just a few feet away. His vision was blurry, but that could be t h e h eat or the blow to the head – pain spiderwebbing over the back of his skull.
Chapter 8: Comatose - Thunderbirds
An excerpt from another chapter of 'Brainswashed'
Thinking was so difficult. It was dark and confusing and thinking was hard. His thoughts flowed like treacle: that is to say they moved, but nowhere fast. It wasn’t always this dark. There used to be light and colour and movement but he was damned if he could remember where that was.
Sometimes there was a rumble in the distance, a thunder of voices that echoed across the darkness. Sometimes it was silent. The thunder was awful because of the nagging feeling that there should be some sense to it. The oppressive silence was worse for the isolation it bought.
Pins stabbed into, through him. Sharp and burning they came from nowhere with no warning. How could he protect himself if he had no warning? There was someone who was meant to help with that. Where was she? He wasn’t used to being alone any more but there was no-one else here.
It was too warm. It was cold. It was burning and icy and close and cloying and he couldn’t breathe and the pressure was getting worse. The thunder was as loud as ever. Some of it sounded familiar now. Did he know it from before? Or was he just getting used to it?
There was always a hum. Night or day, a constant background drone in the world he lived in. Some found it annoying, John knew, but to him it was a comfort. Each system had it’s own particular tone that melded together into one sound that said ‘safety’: for if the sound wasn’t right it meant the systems weren’t right and it might be time to put his helmet on.
John couldn’t tell if it were night or day right now, but the sound he was so carefully attuned to wasn’t right. There was barely even a hum at all. Something beeped, but none of his systems should beep like that and it intruded in on his thoughts. It made him aware of the surrounding darkness and how still he was. Was he asleep? Dreaming? It was a bit dark for that.
What was the damn beeping? Not the oxygen recycler or the lighting panels. The airlocks shrieked more than beeped, at least they did when opened and spewing atmosphere into the void. It wasn’t right which meant he didn’t know what was going on and he felt a brief flare of panic that spluttered out: he didn’t have the energy to sustain it. It didn’t seem to matter.
Sometimes there were grumbles: subtly different in tone but easily distinguishable for someone who was so accustomed to noticing small changes in his environment. Sometimes he thought there might be sense to them: words on the edge of understanding but when he tried to focus it melted away. They were infuriatingly and confusingly familiar and nonsensical.
There was a lot of numbness, in that darkness that wasn’t sleep, as if he’d sat on his foot for too long, but over his entire body. The only feeling was when something plucked at him: his arms, his chest, his feet. He wanted to be left alone. Why wouldn’t they let him sleep? He didn’t want to sleep anymore. Was he asleep?
He was so confused.
Worse than the annoying plucking was an annoying itch. Right under his chin. It nagged at him. He couldn’t rest, couldn’t sleep, with the itching and the plucking and the grumbling and the god-damn beeping.