Chapter 1: Scott
Scott, so when you thought Virgil had been killed by the
falling steelwork, how did you feel?"
Scott shifted position and the leather chair creaked beneath
looked out of the window, down at his impeccably shiny shoes
and at a small potted plant on the table. Scared, oh boy, had
he been scared.
yeh, shocked," said Scott.
going to be a good day, I can feel it," remarked Virgil in a
cheerful tone. Scott glanced down at Thunderbird 1's vid comm
and smiled indulgently at his brother.
you on and can I have some?" he replied.
on, Scott. Visibility is excellent and the winds are calm both
en-route and at the rescue site. It's a perfect flying day."
looked out of Thunderbird 1's cockpit window where the
'perfect day' was speeding passed a lot faster than outside
Thunderbird 2's cockpit.
got a point; however, some of us are concentrating on how to
get 30 people out of collapsed silos in some remote part of
Nebraska where the total number of available emergency workers
is either one or zero depending on whether or not it's Bingo
night at the local church"
laughed at that. "Don't worry. You usually come up with a
great plan about 30 seconds before I land."
confidence in me is reassuring, Virg, but, if I'm going to
make sure your day ends as well as it has started, you'd
better shut up and let me confirm a couple of things with
John." Scott glanced down at the vid comm again to check
Virgil's reaction. Virgil grinned and then pulled a serious
face. His tone of voice changed from cheery to professionally
Thunderbird 2's ETA at rescue site is 20.9 minutes. Gordon and
Alan are in the pod prepping the Mole and the Fire Truck.
Thunderbird 2 out."
chuckled as the screen went blank. Virgil had the ability to
wind him up and show his faith in him all at the same time.
Well, he'd had plenty of practice over the years and it was
something Scott had begun to rely on. What Virgil had said was
true: it was going to be a good day.
that point in time, had you ever considered that Virgil, or
any of your brothers, could die in a rescue?"
ever considered it? How could he have not considered it? He
had to rescue victims but he wanted to protect his brothers,
too. What if Gordon's wretched yellow tin can got smashed
under some sea junk or John made the wrong decision twenty
feet underground or Alan let his enthusiasm overtake his
common sense? But Virgil dying? He couldn't hold that thought
for longer than a nanosecond. Virgil couldn't die, he just
couldn't go out on rescues if we entertained the possibility
that one of us might die. You couldn't be an effective
rescuer," said Scott.
happy, sunshiny day been knocked out of you yet?" enquired
Scott with a smirk as Virgil walked towards him mopping his
to talk to Brains about the heat our vehicles give out when
they're pushed to the maximum," replied Virgil, still
sweating. "The Domo might stop a wall from falling on you but
when it's at full power and you're standing next to it in 90
degree heat it's enough to make you want to stop and grab a
nodded. Virgil may have turned his hard work into a joke but
Scott could see that he was close to heat exhaustion from
pulling people out of the collapsed building as Gordon used
the Domo to hold the shaky steel from shifting anymore.
discuss it with Brains later. Let's wrap this up. Gordon's on
his way back."
I'll just make sure Alan's finished."
turned back towards the rescue scene and Scott watched Gordon
powering the Domo towards the pod. Suddenly, there was an
almighty crash causing dust to swirl around Scott. He looked
over his shoulder and shock hit him like a speeding train. A
corner of one of the remaining silos had disintegrated right
at the spot where Virgil had been walking. There was no way he
could have survived that. Virgil was dead.
you, your brothers or father ever discuss the emotional
effects of rescues? The emergency services have post-traumatic
stress counsellors in place and available if and when their
employees need them. Does International Rescue have anything
set up like that?"
just about had enough of all this but he couldn't bail yet. It
had been a difficult few months, as hard a time as
International Rescue had ever had. Natural disasters,
terrorists and plain carelessness had kept them continually
busy and Scott, as Field Commander and pilot of Thunderbird 1,
had been to virtually every rescue. He had become exhausted
and strung out but had kept it to himself. Pointlessly, as it
turned out, as Virgil had soon identified the problem and had
followed him around, like a sheep, trying to help him in some
way. Worse than that, his father had caught on to his state of
health. Jeff's gentle hints of a vacation had been ignored by
Scott and the situation had got to a point where Jeff had told
Scott in no uncertain terms that he either got professional
help or he was out of International Rescue indefinitely.
why Scott was now in the Brisbane office of Dr. Harold Powell,
a psychologist of some note and, more importantly, the father
of an Australian International Rescue agent and a respected
friend of Jeff's. He could be relied upon to help and not
compromise the anonymity of International Rescue.
rarely felt the urge to run away from something unpleasant but
right now the only thing that kept him glued to the leather
chair was the thought of never piloting Thunderbird 1 again.
He considered Dr. Powell's question. The only therapists that
he had regular access to were Grandma, Kyrano and Tin Tin and
usually they were enough.
He and his
brothers never discussed the emotional effects of rescues but
they supported each other in different ways. A couple of
months ago he'd spent a lot of time with Alan working on
Thunderbird 3's radiant cooling fan. A malfunction during a
routine swap with John on Thunderbird 5 had shaken Alan's
faith in the space rocket. Scott had spent many hours working
through the problem alongside Alan and Brains, as much to
rebuild his baby brother's confidence as to help technically.
Similarly, Gordon had taken Virgil on several fishing trips
over the course of a particular week when, after a bad rescue,
Virgil had wavered in his enthusiasm for International Rescue
and had needed the laid-back calmness of Gordon to convince
him that he was on the right track. And how many times had
Virgil passed Scott a large Scotch and just sat next to him in
the lounge, his companionable silence somehow providing Scott
with the support and strength he needed to deal with another
helped each other all the time but with actions not words.
usually find it more helpful to discuss the technical issues
related to a rescue," Scott told Doctor Powell quietly.
didn't have time to shout a warning. At the same time as he
saw Virgil walking towards him, head down, deep in thought, he
also saw the edge of the silo above Virgil wobbling
dangerously. With lightening reactions honed over many years
of driving cars way too fast, Alan leapt forward and dragged
Virgil away from the falling steel panels. There was a yelp of
pain; a crash of steel hitting dirt and Alan found himself in
an untidy heap on the ground along with a very much alive
you' would have been fine; you didn't have to hug me." Alan
grinned into Virgil's face, centimetres from his own. A
stunned Virgil came to his senses and leapt away from Alan at
speed. He gave another squeak of pain and sat on the ground
surveying first the wreckage where he had just been walking
and then the huge gash in his leg that had just started to
over and looked at Virgil's leg. "Oh Grandma's going to love
you," he said, tentatively pulling at the ripped uniform to
get a better look at the injury. He could see Virgil biting
back another expression of pain. "Stay there. I'll go get the
med kit from the pod."
did you feel when you found out Virgil was actually alive?
Relieved, ecstatic or angry with him for scaring you?"
looked around again. The sky was still clear outside the
window, his shoes were still shiny and the potted plant had
not moved. Then, for the first time, he made direct eye
contact with Dr. Powell.
the above," he stated with just the hint of wry humour.
think a few more sessions might be useful. Same time next
week?" asked Dr. Powell with his usual calm expression.
to his feet, nodding dully.
Chapter 2: Jeff
felt he was invincible. He thought of himself as superhuman.
He hadn't got to where he was today by not coming up with
bright ideas and then following them through to their
conclusion. He was not only a completer-finisher he was an
instigator. Where most people could only manage one role in
life, he could manage many. He was a pioneering astronaut, he
was a billionaire business man, he was head of the most
powerful rescue operation in the world and he was both father
and mother to 5 very fine, high-achieving sons. He was a
philanthropist but he could be ruthless in business. He had
very high standards
often a disappointment to Jeff Tracy. He felt like an island
alone in a huge ocean. Other people just didn't have his drive
to succeed and he didn't understand it. He saw people not
giving something their best shot, settling for, and being
content with, second best. It didn't make sense to him. He saw
contemporaries squandering money on nights at the casino or on
high-class hookers. He saw fathers content to have their sons
be store managers or bank clerks. He saw his friends not
reaching for the stars but only reaching the end of their
attracted to people like himself. To Brains, who didn't rest
until he had concluded an experiment. To Kyrano whose strength
lay not externally but internally where it was less overt and
more important. To Lucille, to his wonderful wife. Her perfect
beauty had been matched only by her determination. Her
determination to marry him, her determination to turn their
home into a haven, her determination to have children and to
devote her life to them. Of course she had tried to distract
him from work, or get him to take holidays or to come to bed
early or any number of other things. But she knew as well as
he did that you only got out of life what you put into it.
Jeff's one, glaring failure was not to have saved her. Not to
have stopped her dying young. But no money or tenacity on his
behalf could have made the difference to the outcome. He was
on his own now but that was fine. He could handle that just
fine. He would not marry again. It would be an insult to
Lucille. Besides, the boys had turned out okay, hadn't they?
Scott was going through a tricky time right now. Jeff didn't
really comprehend why, but Scott seemed to have got a little
overwhelmed with life and had stopped functioning to his best
ability. That had shocked Jeff. As far as he was concerned,
Scott was the sensible one. He had excelled at his studies. He
had been a hero in the US Air Force. He looked out for his
brothers and was courteous to the other members of the
household. He had taken on the responsibility of Field
Commander of International Rescue with relish. Of all his
sons, Scott was the one you could rely on. John was extremely
clever but was sometimes distant and hard to talk to. Virgil
could be very focused but he would also sit at the piano for
hours just playing and playing, like his mother used to....
Gordon, a fine aquanaut and determined young man but sometimes
he wanted to joke around and have fun at the most
inappropriate moments. Alan? Once he had been the world's very
best racing driver. No doubting his will to succeed. But now
and again, dammit, that boy seemed to think the world owed him
was the one he relied on to be on-message 100 percent of the
time. Which was why this recent, wholly unpleasant lack of
dependability from Scott had been such a surprise. He just
hadn't been able to get over the rescue in Nebraska where
Virgil had narrowly escaped being hit by some falling
steelwork. Eventually, and with much reluctance, Jeff had
grounded Scott and called on the help of Dr. Powell. The
trouble was, grounding Scott had much more serious
implications for the family these days than it had when he was
a teenager. Scott not being able to drive his brothers around
when he was being punished for some misdemeanour had been
irritating to Jeff but that was all. Scott not flying
Thunderbird 1 was a huge disadvantage and had kept Jeff on his
toes logistically speaking. Also, Scott had always been around
for Jeff to share his thoughts with. Jeff didn't like
discussing problems with him now or at least not until Scott
had finished his sessions with Dr. Powell. He felt a bit like
one of his supporting piers had been yanked out from under
was this negative thinking going to get him? Jeff was
perfectly able to cope with things on his own. He was made of
stern stuff. What was it Penny said he had? Oh yes, a stiff
upper-lip. Apparently that was a compliment in England. Penny,
bless her, was always so concerned about him. But she was a
woman and, like women were apt to do, fussed and asked if he
was alright and expected him to tell her all his problems. Not
that he had any problems, of course.
you're just pretending to sleep, Jefferson Tracy. Open your
eyes and talk to me."
reluctantly opened his eyes. He squinted into the bright day.
Penny and he were sitting on sun loungers on the balcony just
outside the lounge. He had insisted that he had work to do but
Penny was equally insistent that he should come and sit
outside. She had wanted to talk so he had shut his eyes but
Penny could read him almost as well as Lucille used to.
so worried and tired. Is there anything wrong?" she asked with
paused for a second too long and then sat up straighter. "Of
course not, Penny, why would there be?"
am sure you're concerned about Scott but, you know, he seems a
lot brighter. I think he just needed a break from the
pressure. He'll be back on top in no time."
pressure?" asked Jeff.
sighed delicately. "Well, Jeff darling, being the Field
Commander of International Rescue to start with. Not to
mention the eldest brother and his father's second-in-command
to boot. I'm not saying he's not capable, just that even the
most perfect people need a break sometimes and Scott was well
overdue for some time off."
been trying to persuade him to take a vacation," replied Jeff,
very hard, I expect. After all, you don't take holidays
so why should anyone else have to?"
am going to be completely honest with you. You think you're
indestructible and you're not. You need relaxation and fun
like the next man. That is not a criticism, just an
observation that every human needs both physical and mental
downtime. You should set a good example for your sons and show
them it's okay to take a holiday now and again."
very well how busy I am."
do. I'm pretty busy myself but I still find time for an hour
of shopping or a week at the farm. Scott needs the occasional
break too and you should show him that it's okay to do so."
going to your sheep farm again, not after what happened last
a cruise on FAB 2? We could sail slowly around the Pacific. If
the boys really need you, Gordon can just pop along in that
funny little submarine of his and whisk you away."
little submarine? Penny, Thunderbird 4 is a
high-specification, multi-million dollar..."
you to be quiet. I'm not arguing with you. I suspect that
Scott will be ready to take the reins in a couple of weeks.
He's already moving from stressed to bored. In three weeks you
and I will be cruising the Pacific. I'll go and tell Kyrano to
consider what clothes you'll need to take. We may need a
shopping trip before we go."
Penny stood up and walked smartly into the house.
I'll be..." said Jeff, stunned.
followed Penny into the house, intent to give her a piece of
his mind for being so brusque with him. Following the scent of
her perfume he tracked her down to the laundry room where she
had failed to find Kyrano. He closed the door behind them.
don't expect you to talk to me like that."
you do. I've been talking bluntly to you ever since we first
met. It's one of the things you respect me for."
sometimes you over-step the mark."
about to retaliate angrily when she took in Jeff's body
language. His shoulders were tense, his hands were curled into
tight fists and he looked like he was about to take on an
angry lion rather than have an argument with an old friend.
Penny decided to switch tack, knowing she wouldn't get through
to Jeff in his present state.
dear," she began more softly, "you have always told me that
you don't abhor failure as long as a person learns from their
mistakes. Am I right?"
a pause as Jeff took himself in check and then he replied,
trying to match Penny's calmness.
correct. I've always told the boys that you need to have
failed before you can succeed. I've made some bad mistakes in
my past but I've learned from them and they've made me
here you are, repeating your mistakes and encouraging the boys
to do the same."
remember about a year after Lucille died when Virgil went
missing for the day?"
face went white under his tan and he suddenly found the side
of a box of detergent chemicals to be fascinating reading. "I
recall how the little chap disappeared after breakfast and
none of you could find him? How you called me over from my
hotel in Chicago to help with the search? And how Scott
eventually found his little brother under a bush not 100 yards
from the house and discovered that he had sat there crying all
day? And do you remember why he was crying?"
his mother, Penny, I don't see what relevance...."
only missed his mother, he missed you. He talked about losing
his mother and then losing you all in the same year. Of
course, you weren't dead, you were just dealing with Lucille's
death by spending 18 out of 24 hours working and leaving your
mother to look after the children."
pushed the detergent box away and picked up one of Virgil's
T-shirts that had been thrown, no doubt by the owner, in the
general direction of the clothes washer.
that. I will admit that I didn't attend to the boys as much as
I should have done during that first year but I was made to
understand my mistake and I learned from it and spent much
more time with them after that."
you did and look at the boys now. Not boys at all but grown
men. But, Jeff, inside we never really grow up. We feel like
children even though we have adult responsibilities. Your sons
still need you, as much as they ever did. They need your
approval, your love, your time and your counsel."
that we all live on the Island they get it."
Your attitude is 'Do what I say, not as I do'. You may give
them solid advice but your actions speak differently. I don't
know what truly sent Scott to his recent breakdown but stress
must have been a factor. Scott sees that his father's reaction
to stress, both 20 years ago and now, is to work harder. It
must have made it difficult for him to admit he needed a
have a breakdown he just....he faltered...he..." Jeff thrust
the T-shirt back down next to the detergent and looked at
Penny. The tension in his eyes told a different story to his
failed, Jeff," replied Penny firmly. "In your eyes and his
eyes he failed. But did he accept the failure, take a break
and then move on a stronger and better person? No. You let him
hit rock bottom and then you took away the one thing that gave
him any purpose in life: flying Thunderbird 1. You punished
him for failing. And now I see you stressed in a way I haven't
seen you for a long time and do you admit you need a break to
step back from things, see the bigger picture and then move on
with renewed purpose? No, you tell me everything is fine and
you don't need a holiday. You are not leading by example. How
can you expect Scott to do the right thing for himself if you
won't do the right thing for yourself?"
run out of words. She faced her oldest and dearest friend,
Jeff Tracy, and watched him think over what she said. There
was a long silence and then they both started as the clothes
washer next to them moved onto a different cycle and started
to rumble. Jeff returned from his thoughts to the present
think Scott is getting better?"
much. I am not saying you were wrong to make him see Dr.
Powell, I'm just suggesting that if he'd felt able to admit he
was...faltering...earlier you may not have had to ground him.
And I'm also suggesting that putting Scott in charge of
International Rescue and taking yourself away for a week will
not only show him your confidence in him but will also show
all of the boys that it's okay to take a break when you need
for your opinion, Penny," replied Jeff, sounding more like
himself again. "I will consider what you've said, as I always
do." Jeff turned away and opened the door. Then he turned
briefly back to Lady Penelope.
not just a pretty face," he said, smiling a little at last.
Jeff," she replied as if that was a fact that hadn't needed
walked back through the house, deep in thought. Coming out
onto the patio again he was stopped by a sound. Drifting up
from the pool was the sound of Scott laughing. Gordon was
taking his mission to cheer Scott up very earnestly. It had
been a long time since Jeff had heard Scott laugh and he
hadn't realised it until now. He thought back over Penny's
words. She was a wise soul. Occasionally, over the last couple
of decades, Jeff had admitted to himself that the only way he
had coped with Lucille's passing was to be as much in control
of everything in his life as possible. He tried to manage his
life and those around him in a way he had failed to do with
Lucille. He wasn't going to let anyone else down and he would
succeed whatever the cost. It was the least he could do. He
suspected that Dr. Powell would have something to say about
that but it was all Jeff knew how to do. Did he thrust
impossible standards on his sons?
down on the lounger again. He felt an aching tiredness. A
holiday with Penny would be good and she may well be right
that it would set Scott a good example. His sons had been the
only thing worth living for during his darkest moments after
Lucille's death. If she were here now what would she say?
Scott laughed again and, in his mind, he saw his wife and
eldest son laughing together as they splashed on the shore of
some beach. Scott has just started school. On the sand next to
him, Virgil and John had been making a sandcastle. At the
sound of Scott's laugh they had looked up and laughed too, not
even knowing what the joke was. They just knew that, if Scott
was happy, everything was okay. It had always been the same.
To get the family to do something you got Scott enthusiastic
about it first. He and Lucille had called it the 'domino
effect'. What if the domino effect started with Jeff and not
right; not that he was going to tell her that straight out.
But he would go on that damned vacation and see what happened.
He closed his eyes and, this time, fell asleep.
Chapter 3: Virgil
just..." Scott struggled to remain in control, "...leave me
alone!" Despite the moderate tone of Scott's language, Virgil
still looked like a puppy whose nose had been hit with a
rolled up newspaper for no apparent reason. He turned and
walked away from Scott knowing that if he stayed it would lead
to trouble. Scott watched him go with an expression that
seemed to tell of a deep, physical pain.
sitting on the floor of Thunderbird 2's hangar, fiddling with
the radio equipment in front of him. He felt uneasy and out of
sorts. Beside him loomed the enormous green bulk of his
Thunderbird. Despite the fact he would have been more
comfortable in his small office, he found some peace of mind
from being next to his beloved aircraft. She was solid,
reassuring, got him out of trouble on a regular basis and
never let him down. That was the same description he would
normally use for Scott.
sighed for the sixteenth time that morning and continued
fitting the small components together. What was he going to do
about Scott? Scott was always so...well...Scott. Reliable,
determined, flexible enough to consider other people's points
of view but confident in his own abilities. He had endless
patience with all of his brothers, even Alan. When Scott had
been off around the world at college and then with the US Air
Force they had not seen much of each other. In a way this had
been a good thing as when they had moved to Tracy Island they
had resumed their relationship but this time as two adults and
the sibling rivalry and squabbles were left behind in another
lifetime. He could say with honesty that Scott was his best
friend as well as brother and it had upset him to see him in
such emotional distress.
situation had, at first, crept up on Virgil and he now
realised that this was because Scott tried so hard to be the
best big brother and Field Commander he could. He hadn't
wanted to let Virgil see that he felt troubled. Virgil hadn't
connected it with the Nebraska rescue because, at the time,
Scott had shown his concern at Virgil's near miss, not with
relief, but by admonishing him to be more careful and alert at
every moment during a rescue, even when the danger seemed to
next couple of months Virgil had found Scott less and less
communicative. Scott would discuss rescues and maintenance and
development of the Thunderbird craft, but when it came to
something personal he could clam up. Virgil began to miss
mulling over the state of the world with his big brother. It
was when Scott started to become unsure on rescues that Virgil
really began to worry. 'I don't know', 'What shall we do?",
"Ask John" were phrases that started to crop up way too often
on the comms link from Thunderbird 1.
didn't know how to help his brother even though it was
apparent that things were very wrong. He attempted to jolt
Scott out of his moods by suggesting day trips to air shows on
the mainland, jamming together on the piano or schemes to wind
up Gordon and Alan. Scott had tried to respond but Virgil
heard 'Not right now, I'm busy' too many times and he had lost
knew he had to do something for Scott but he couldn't work out
what. All of his approaches just seemed to make his big
brother more and more irritated. In the end, Virgil had turned
to Tin Tin for advice. They had a long talk which had ended
with her suggesting to Virgil that he wrote Scott a letter.
The letter could express how he was feeling and how he wanted
to be supportive but would allow Scott to read Virgil's
thoughts in his own time and without pressure.
Virgil had decided this was a good idea. He had sat at his
desk and begun the letter. After his fifth attempt had ended
up in the trash he had leaned back in his chair in despair.
This was stupid. He wasn't a writer, he was do-er. He needed
to do something that he was good at to show his support to
Scott. But what action could he take that would get across how
he was feeling and still retain both their dignities?
What is it?" mumbled Scott as he stirred from his sleep and
found himself lying on his bed with Virgil standing over him.
He had been taking a nap and had thought he had locked the
door but then Virgil could probably take apart the outer
keypad and disable it in less than thirty seconds.
"Get up; I
need you to come to TB2's hangar."
there a problem?"
on!" replied Virgil and started to walk towards the door.
Scott was still too sleepy to put up an argument and followed
his brother. As they walked along the corridor Virgil glanced
back at him.
you to sleep during the day," he remarked.
tired," Scott replied in a sour tone. Virgil cursed himself.
Action, not talk he repeated to himself as they took
the lift down into the hangar.
walked towards Thunderbird 2, Scott observed that the aircraft
did not have a huge hole in the side and wondered what it was
that Virgil had woken him to see with such urgency. Virgil
walked over to a small box on the floor, picked it up and
handed it to Scott.
he said, smiling at his big brother. Scott looked at the box.
Virg, that's great," he replied, trying to sound enthusiastic.
Virgil rolled his eyes in amusement.
remote, you idiot. Push that lever up and watch the crate." He
pointed to a plastic crate a few metres away. Scott was even
more puzzled but duly pushed the lever forward and looked at
the crate. It shuddered for a few seconds and then a pointed
nose cone could be seen emerging, closely followed by the rest
of a small aircraft. It was a scaled model of Thunderbird 1,
perfect in every way.
watched transfixed as the model plane rose upwards. Virgil
couldn't help but give a smile of satisfaction at a technical
job well done. Scott seemed unable to speak but kept his
finger on the lever as the baby Thunderbird climbed higher and
higher. Belatedly, Virgil realised that Scott was not going to
change the direction.
"Horizontal flight!" he yelped as he leaned over the remote
and yanked the lever to one side. Thunderbird 1 turned on its
side and flew parallel with the ceiling.
beautiful, Virg, just beautiful."
words were so softly spoken that Virgil only just caught them
but they gave him a sense of relief. The fact that he had
called the model "she" rather than "it" showed how impressed
started to use the controls to manoeuvre the model as Virgil
watched in silence. He flew it up and down and was soon
competent enough to try acrobatic moves. Thunderbird 1 flew
around the enormous hangar, under the big Thunderbird 2's
tailplane and over and around the equipment. Then Scott, being
Scott, landed her back in the crate in her original position.
He turned to Virgil.
you," he said simply.
to play with until you're back in the real thing," grinned
Virgil. A look passed between the two brothers. The look told
Virgil that he'd achieved exactly what he wanted to achieve.
Scott understood the love, care and time that had gone into
the construction of the model. He knew that Virgil had made it
as a gesture of support and a show of confidence that he would
soon be back as Field Commander. To Scott the gift had said
"Say what you like to me but you can't push me away. I'm
staying right here beside you until you're ready to talk."
hoped that time wouldn't be far away.