Contrary to belief, life in the
rescue business isn't always perfect. Sometimes there is a
real need for reflection.
balcony of the Tracy Villa had long been a useful haven of
escape for those on Tracy Island. A secluded spot for an
evening drink, a place of quiet solitude to reflect, or, in
his case, on more occasions than he could count over the past
few years, a private location to offer words of fatherly
advice on just about every subject on the planet.
standing out on the balcony.
at the moment when he needed to simmer down.
didn't disagree often; in fact, for a household of adult men,
they hardly disagreed at all. It often crossed his mind
sometimes that things were almost too good to be true. Five
sons who loved and respected their Father; a Father who loved
and respected each of them in return; five brothers who'd
looked out and cared for each other ever since the day they'd
that was the case, what in the hell had just gone wrong back
witnessed an argument between his sons quite as severe as this
one. To say it had totally floored him was the understatement
of the year. Sure, they all had their differences of opinion
at times. They knew that. He knew that, too. Why else did he
insist on a thorough debrief after each and every rescue? The
answer was simple, in his thinking. He insisted on it because
it was an avenue for his boys to get things off their chests
and to appreciate each other's opinions and judgements. It had
never been a forum for finger-pointing or accusation.
suddenly found himself concentrating hard on the colours of
the setting sun. The sky rewarded him with a vivid combination
of oranges, pinks and reds. He tried to breathe deeply and
admire its magnificence. Funny how he only ever tended to
notice these things whenever there was argument.
then he also noticed the painful churning in his gut and
realised, despite the distraction, it was going to be a long
time yet before he began to simmer down.
couldn't believe it. He simply couldn't. The whole thing had
blown up like dynamite, and almost completely without warning.
the one who had started it. He'd been far too forthright about
the delay in the actual handling of the rescue. Scott had
taken offence at the inference immediately and had risen to
his feet, threatening to knock some common sense into him. The
delay had had nothing to with it, he'd barked, his eyes boring
all the way through Alan's. Even if had, there was still no
excuse for Alan to have barged in there half-informed,
half-cocked and try to do the impossible. It was
irresponsible. It was stupid. And it was about time he thought
before he acted for a change. One of these days he was going
to get himself killed.
thing he knew it was on. Everyone lost their cool. Even the
easy-going Virgil and Gordon swung around and lost their
tempers. John cut communications from the satellite in a rage.
pursed his lips together in grim recollection as his mind
pored over each individual component of the rescue.
Scott had delayed going in because he and John had argued over
what degree of stability was still left in the burning
building. Granted, it was one of those rare occasions where
both of them were probably wrong. Right or wrong, it hadn't
affected the outcome of the rescue. The building hadn't
completely fallen until after everyone was out.
had taken a stupid, mindless risk which in the end had nearly
cost Virgil his life. Yes; Virgil, in going in after him, had
demonstrated a complete and utter disregard for his own. It
was pointless continuing to dwell it. Virgil had managed to
get Alan out just before the building fell.
... hell he didn't know how to explain what had gotten into
Gordon. Gordon knew damn well it was dangerous to go back in
and try to haul the last two victims out. Especially, as Scott
had pointed out, when the building was almost a complete
inferno when he decided to take the risk and do it. Scott was
right of course, but the bottom line was that the Firefly had
been able to withstand the temperature long enough for two
more lives to be saved. What Gordon had done was a gamble and,
fortunately, the gamble had paid off.
to tap his fingers impatiently on the ornate iron railing.
should have been said and would have been said if
he'd been given half an opportunity; was that even though what
had happened today was unacceptable, it also needed to be put
in perspective. Despite the significant deviations from their
usual procedures, International Rescue had still managed to
wrench ten people from the jaws of certain death and somehow
survive the experience to come home.
his brow furrowed and his eyebrows knitted tightly.
needed to be said, and he had no qualms whatsoever about
saying it either; was, unless they tightened up those
procedures, the next time they deviated, one of them might not
be so lucky.
drink, Mr Tracy."
controlled voice of his long standing friend and confidante
echoed from the doors behind him. Turning, he motioned Kyrano
forward to join him at the railing.
things rest better with you now, Mr. Tracy," Kyrano continued,
moving to place the tray on the nearby table. He paused for a
few moments before offering Jeff the glass. "You appeared to
be much concerned."
Jeff Tracy felt bad.
were two good words for his outburst of bad-mannered
aggravation. He knew without anyone telling him he'd barked at
Kyrano like a bear with a sore head after the volatile
debriefing. The words "Kyrano get me a blasted drink and
get the damn thing for me right now!" sounded ten times
worse now he'd had fifteen minutes to think about them.
second thoughts make that twenty times worse. There was no
excuse for venting his frustration on Kyrano. Why he tended to
be terse and overbearing when he was worried was something he
still couldn't figure out. It wasn't as if he didn't realise
he did it.
Kyrano, I'll be OK when they all cool off." he finally growled
in a tone of gruff dismissal. "And I'm sorry about the way I
spoke to you earlier. You know what it's like when these
things happen around here."
of the Malaysian retainer remained characteristically unmoved.
Jeff Tracy had to admire his iron self-control. Always so
calm, always so cool... nothing seemed to faze Kyrano.
Sometimes he wondered if his old friend even felt the same
worry he did when International Rescue left base on a mission.
He supposed he did even if he didn't show it; especially when
his precious daughter was on board.
Tin-Tin became the centre of his thoughts, Jeff's mind
filtered back to the near disaster of the Sun-Probe. Somehow
at the last minute International Rescue had managed to pull
that off, too. How they managed it, he still didn't know. He'd
never forget how useless he had felt as two of his sons and
Kyrano's only daughter drifted aimlessly toward the sun. It
still tore him clean in half whenever he thought about how
close he had come to losing them.
shrugged and allowed the mellow liquor to burn a welcome trail
down the back of his throat. Probably better not to think
about it. Thinking made a man uneasy.
silence of the dusk now completely surrounded the Tracy villa.
He knew he was being optimistic, but maybe force of habit
would be the catalyst for his sons to settle down. Maybe
Scott, who enjoyed nothing more than a stiff drink in the
evening, would join him on the balcony. Maybe Virgil would
saunter down into the lounge and begin to tinker on the piano.
Maybe Gordon would choose to start his evening ritual of
training. Maybe the two shadows would walk side by side on the
beach, carefully disguising their intertwined hands.
he frowned at the noise emanating from the kitchen. Well, one
thing was for sure. His mother hadn't settled down. He shook
his head as the noise continued to escalate. Something told
him rather clearly that preparing supper was the last thing on
there is still much tension within our walls, sir," Kyrano
all of it pent up inside my sons it seems." Jeff grimaced as
another saucepan crashed down heavily on a bench.
is most unhappy at what has occurred."
well, she's not the only one around here, Kyrano." His voice
trailed off into the breeze as his eyes met the horizon.
"Believe me old friend ..." he sighed, "...she's not the only
men continued to stand side by side on the balcony. It was
going to be another beautiful evening. Waves lapped the
rapidly darkening shore; the breaking of water the only sound
to be heard above the violent clanging and banging.
remained intentionally silent.
sought refuge in his glass of saving grace.
aren't they down there yet, Kyrano?" he suddenly blurted out
with a growl. "Since when haven't those two taken every
opportunity to be together?"
pondered for a few moments on the wisdom of revealing what he
knew. "Those two" were down there all right but unless some
sort of miracle had occurred in the last forty five minutes,
he seriously doubted they were together.
had been dismayed at Alan's outburst during the debriefing and
had followed him in earnest after he stormed his way out of
the lounge. She had finally managed to stall him halfway down
the stairwell, urging him to turn around and face her with a
gentle and persuasive hand. Had he given thought to the fact
he might have been at fault, this time? Maybe it wasn't too
late to go back and apologise to his brothers?
Kyrano saw, Alan had simply glared at her with smouldering
eyes and warned her to keep out of it. For a start she hadn't
been there, secondly she wouldn't know and thirdly, he was
tired of being treated like a child when it came to
International Rescue and that included by her.
had turned away, cheeks red, striding angrily towards the
beach. Moments before, she had walked away too ... in
completely the opposite direction.
they may have quarrelled, sir," seemed the safest thing to
say, rather than pass any judgement.
Jeff rolled his eyes and swallowed what little scotch he had
left in the bottom of his glass. The last thing he needed
around here was the boy upsetting young Tin-Tin too. He waited
for Kyrano to elaborate so he could try to figure out the
extent of the damage.
was all he managed to groan when Kyrano made very sure he
take too much imagination to conjure up the image of what
would have happened, with his youngest firing on all cylinders
and Tin-Tin standing firm trying to talk some much-needed
sense into him.
figure wandering aimlessly amongst the palm trees soon took
his mind off Alan.
fell. It was obvious Scott didn't have any intention of
joining him on the balcony soon. Jeff supposed he couldn't
blame him. Scott hated making errors of judgement and no doubt
needed to be alone for a couple of hours to figure out how the
heck it had happened. That, or beat himself up for endangering
the lives of his brothers.
burning in the suite above him indicated Virgil wasn't very
happy either. When Virgil was unhappy he isolated himself from
everything; his family, his beloved Thunderbird, and his
precious grand piano. And it was fairly safe to say Virgil had
been more than just a little unhappy when he'd left the lounge
after the debriefing. Virgil rarely lost his temper over
anything. Jeff knew he'd stew about his loss of self-control
splash into the dark end of the pool instantly caused his
spirits to lift. Thank God, he breathed, glancing gratefully
up towards the heavens. At least one of them was letting it
relaxed long enough to share his relief with Kyrano until he
suddenly noticed the almost animal urgency with which his
son's powerful shoulders ploughed his body through the water.
Jeff knew right then his relief was destined to be
his body past its capabilities was the only way Gordon knew to
deal with anything, including anger.
looked down at his empty glass and contemplated the value of
another drink. It mightn't help the situation, but the way he
was feeling at the moment, it sure as hell wouldn't hurt.
like a word with you in private if I may."
was low and expectant and he'd been waiting for it ever since
the banging and crashing had finally eased off in the kitchen.
Without flinching, he acknowledged the presence of his elderly
mother, who stood in the doorway; a scotch for herself in one
hand and a larger one for him in the other.
Mother. Come and sit down," he nodded, indicating the two
empty seats nearby.
immediately he shot a glance in the direction of Kyrano.
Kyrano politely bowed his head and proceeded to excuse
himself. Both of them knew while Josephine Tracy banged,
crashed and otherwise expressed herself in the privacy of the
kitchen there was nothing much to worry about. When she
lowered her voice and placed herself in charge of the scotch
bottle that was something else again.
balcony doors closed and Kyrano disappeared from view, Jeff
moved to seat himself beside her. He reached over to relieve
her of the larger glass. "I gather that's for me then." he
gather correctly," she replied, allowing him to take it. "I
assume, like me, you still feel the need for something
Tracy was never one to stand on ceremony. Before he could even
answer she steeled herself, swallowed half the contents of her
own glass and looked him squarely in the eyes.
know about you, Jeff, but I didn't like what just went on in
this house ... "she announced in her usual no-nonsense tone,
"...and I want whatever caused it sorted out well and truly
before anyone thinks twice about laying their head on a pillow
expectation in her eyes warned him he'd better be careful
about what he chose to say next. She was bristling enough
already without adding fuel to her fire. Of course she
wouldn't have liked what went on. She lived for her family and
had zero tolerance for anyone who upset the balance by
engaging in unproductive arguments.
out of ten he would be the first to agree with her.
time. This time the argument was about the rescue business and
when it came to how he handled International Rescue, she was
well outside her jurisdiction. Life in the rescue business was
dangerous. Things tended to blow up under stress. When they
did, she needed to understand it was necessary to give his
boys the freedom to say exactly what they thought.
mused, remembering the less than gentlemanly language his sons
had exchanged with each other in the lounge ...maybe not with
quite as much expression perhaps but on the whole still
what you're saying, Mother. I'm sorry." He smiled, patting her
hand in gentle reassurance. "I guess the boys tend to get a
bit carried away in the face of a near miss."
seemed enough to pacify her long enough that he could catch
his breath. Unfortunately, the momentary reprieve didn't last
for very long.
near miss or no near miss, son," she started on him firmly, "I
know what I heard those boys say to each other in there and as
their grandmother I know it wasn't healthy. You might not
think I understand how this rescue business works but when it
comes to how it makes them tick, I'm afraid you've got to
accept I know more than you give me credit for. They're
brothers first, no matter what, and a family never lets the
sun go down on an argument without making amends. Your father
would never have allowed it to happen and I'm exactly the
to dismiss the pointed reference to his father and all of a
sudden thought better of it. No matter what he came up with
his Mother would always champion his father's methods as the
only way to head the family. Pity his father never had to deal
with the highs and lows of a multi-billion dollar rescue
let me assure you I don't intend to let the matter rest," he
stressed, swirling the amber liquid in his glass. He knew he
was about to displease her. "But the way I see it, a good
night's sleep is what they need right now, not some
long-winded family discussion."
continued, sounding more like he was trying to convince
himself than his mother "...forcing the issue with any of them
at the moment is only going to make the situation worse."
Tracy had no hesitation in throwing down the challenge. With
the flick of an annoyed wrist she indicated Gordon in the
swimming pool below.
your son's doing to himself down there is making the situation
better for him then, is it? "
Now it was
Jeff Tracy's turn to feel displeased. It was hard not to feel
annoyed when she refused to get the message. To make matters
worse, she also knew exactly what jagged his nerves and any
reference to Gordon's health was a sure fire way to do it.
Gordon only had to grimace and he started panicking sideways.
Mother, it isn't good for him. However, he is more than well
aware of his physical limitations these days," he finally
replied, and he was surprised at the tightness with which he
said it. And the fact that he stood firm in his decision not
to say anymore. She'd soon realise his lack of communication
meant he was happy with the way he intended to handle things.
silence between them magnified as the minutes ticked slowly
I can say is I hope you know what you're doing, son." she
eventually murmured, the discontent in her voice obvious.
"...because I'm telling you right now I'm more than a little
He bit his
lip and remained steadfastly silent. He was sorry she didn't
understand his decision but contrary to her belief, she wasn't
the only one around here who knew how each of his boys ticked.
doing the right thing.
needed the night to think things over and then he'd take
control of the situation. He would order a second and thorough
debrief. All communications would remain open. There would be
no opportunities to argue or apportion blame. Only the mission
would be discussed. Only critical errors would be identified.
He would remind them what International Rescue stood for and
what the outfit had been created to achieve. He would applaud
them for their bravery and acknowledge a job well done.
would deliver the message all of them needed to remember the
next time he commissioned the Thunderbirds to fly.
them were to tighten up communications and watch each other's
the message was clear that if they didn't ...
time they might not be so lucky.
he'd thought about the fact night was falling before he'd gone
overboard and blown his stack. He forgot how cold it could get
down on the beach in the evening and to say it was cold out
here at the moment was being pretty darned reserved.
rolled down his shirt sleeves and pulled his knees in as close
as he could to his chest. The sudden warmth to his body was
welcome. Too bad it didn't make him feel any better.
thing had sounded like it was his fault once the debriefing in
the lounge got started. He was the one who'd made the
first critical error of judgement. He was the one who
had nearly cost Virgil his life. He should have known
better than to go in there sight unseen, trying to pull a kid
out of an inferno before he had the proper clearance from
mobile control to do so. Scott had stood there and said it.
John had looked at him through the screen and made a point of
saying it, too.
his face to the darkness and felt his anger burn. Hell, for a
while it had even looked like Father wanted to damn well say
it. Father didn't frown and press a finger tent against his
lips for nothing. He only resorted to the finger tent when he
clearly wasn't pleased.
up a handful of sand with his fingers and flung it towards the
ocean as hard and as far as he could. They could all shove
their opinions. This time he wasn't wrong. Going in to save
the kid wasn't a crazy thing to do. John hadn't seen
the terror on her face. Scott hadn't heard her scream.
the ball of sand disintegrated in a thousand directions after
being aimed at the centre of a palm tree.
everyone around here just get it? His reaction under pressure
was instinctive. He'd never make any deliberate attempt to
hurt or endanger Virgil. Virgil was his brother. But someone
had to do something before the fire swallowed the kid up,
didn't they? Couldn't they understand why he did what he did
when he did it?
it wasn't about why he did it; it was the point that he'd
miscalculated and she was too far out of his reach. He didn't
agree. He'd reached the kid in less than three minutes and was
on his way back out. There was even time to tell her not to
panic ... time to ask her to trust him. The dull ache at the
base of his skull reminded him she trusted him so much she'd
damn near wrenched his neck.
heard Scott panic all right; yelling at him through the flames
to get his ass back out of there on the double. What he didn't
hear was the part about the change in the wind direction. When
the entrance disappeared he didn't know which way to turn. He
was trapped, surrounded by blistering heat. The kid started
screaming again. Neither of them could breathe.
the next thing he heard. That and the sound of a collapsing
building. Less than twenty feet away the Firefly was rumbling
into shutdown. The fresh air and a massive coughing fit told
him he'd somehow managed to get the kid out. He wasn't sure
exactly how until he'd looked to his left at a blackened
Virgil lying face down in his smouldering uniform, hardly able
fistful of sand travelled twice as hard and far as the first.
should have bawled him out on the way home, instead of waiting
until they all stood in front of Father making it sound one
hundred and fifty times worse. Yes, he did know there
was a fine line between bravery and stupidity and no, he
didn't need a lion's dose of expletives when he'd dared to
suggest that the real problem had been the delay in taking
command of mobile control. Hell, he wasn't criticising Scott
or anyone else when he said what he said to Father. He was
only saying what he thought. Wasn't that why Father made them
endure the mandatory debrief the moment they'd set foot in the
lifted his chin in defiance.
regret one single thing he'd done out there today, and he'd do
it all again right now if he had to. If Scott had given the
all clear the moment Gordon had the Firefly out of the pod,
the evacuation would have been routine. He didn't understand
why the information from Thunderbird Five needed to be
checked, double checked and then rechecked. This was Johnny
they were talking about. Johnny was so blasted particular
about everything, it was sickening.
No; he was
standing firm this time.
evacuation should have happened immediately, and he'd said
exactly those words to Father. How dare Scott stand
there and threaten to knock some sense into him simply because
he didn't like what he'd heard? His fist slammed downwards
hard and fast into the sand. One of these days he swore Scott
was going to learn the hard way he wasn't a kid anymore.
there was the argument with Tin-Tin...stalling him on the
stairs like that ...trying to make him go back inside and
apologise to his brothers for nothing...
pursed his lips together and replayed the sequence of events
which had resulted from her trying to calm him down on the
take long for the blond head to lower.
right. He had behaved badly. It wasn't her fault he couldn't
cope with his pride being threatened and there was absolutely
no excuse for losing his temper with anyone; and least of all
probably should have gone after her instead of hot headedly
striding off in the opposite direction. But she didn't
understand. She wouldn't understand. He was angry when
he walked away from his brothers and he needed time to think.
Why couldn't she have sensed his mood and left well enough
Remorsefully he began to trace her name into the sand with the
tips of his thumb and index finger.
mess he'd made of everything...the rescue...the debrief...the
argument with Scott... and now her.
mirrored up at him despite the darkened shore.
wondered where she was right now.
she wasn't crying.
as he laid the palm of his hand flat on the glass of the small
round table. Carefully, he assessed his fingers. Fingers he'd
kept well hidden from everyone until reaching the privacy of
was cool to the touch and at least decreased the burning
sensation which continued to tear at his nerve ends. There was
no doubt about it. The blistering was getting worse.
goodness Father would be thinking anger was the reason he
wasn't playing his favourite pieces tonight. The way things
were shaping up, he wouldn't be able to play anything for at
least the next couple of weeks. The burning in his fingers was
Tracy made a fumbled attempt to lift a glass of cognac with
his less than unco-operative left hand. He didn't realise how
useless he was without his right one, until now. Right hand.
Left hand. Both hands usually co-ordinated perfectly; whether
it was playing the piano, painting his latest canvas or flying
Thunderbird Two like a maniac to get the right equipment to
the danger zone.
allowed waves of mixed feelings to wash over him. How close
had Father come to finding out that little chunk of
information? The next time John mouthed off about unsafe
practices he needed to think a bit more carefully about who he
was dumping head first in front of the firing squad. Virgil
was surprised he hadn't been summoned back to the balcony
already. He knew Father didn't buy his story.
was rich and soothed the dryness in his throat. Normally, he
didn't get a dry throat during the rescues. He preferred to
leave the order-barking completely up to Scott. Scott was like
Father. He liked being in command.
second mouthful, he systematically relived each and every
order he was given. The third reminded him he'd chosen to
ignore a few of the more vital ones. He shrugged and swallowed
a fourth. Oh well; there was a first time for everything in
his life, he supposed, even a little insubordination.
hour passed and a second glass emptied, Virgil closed his eyes
and exhaled long and hard. He didn't think he could take the
burning too much longer. It was time to give in; swallow his
pride and seek some attention in sick bay. No amount of cognac
was enough to numb the pain he was in orprotect him
from the fuss he knew Grandma was going to make when she saw
the extent of his injury.
of his elderly grandmother mellowed into the shape and form of
Why in the heck did he have to do that? The moment Scott had
given Gordon the all clear; the Firefly had gone straight in.
There had been no need for risk taking or heroics. When was
Alan ever going to get it straight in his head that he
couldn't take chances where the risks were that extreme?
past victims only fuelled the anger inside of him; the charred
figures, the burning flesh; Father's consolation that despite
their best efforts sometimes it just wasn't possible to save
everybody. Those bodies were the stark reality of what Alan
didn't want to know. Those bodies were the stark reality that
Alan didn't want to face. No matter how many times Father
warned him, Alan just kept on pushing his luck. That kid
deserved to have his butt kicked from one end of Tracy Island
to the other. It was almost like he thought he was invincible
or something. Didn't he understand how close he came had come
to being one of the ones "they couldn't save?"
to be as diplomatic as he could when Father asked for his
version of what had happened. Angry as he was at Alan, he was
very reluctant to make a scene. But when Scott swung around
from the window and interrupted him in mid-sentence, he
unexpectedly fired up. The pointed statement that Alan had
gone in without orders, he agreed with, but he wasn't about to
cop to what Scott went on to aim squarely in his direction.
Going in against orders was not worse than going
in without them and he didn't care if someone with his
experience was expected to know better. What was
he supposed to do when Alan and the kid didn't come out? Leave
them in there to frickin' fry?
made no secret of the fact he was furious at the way the whole
thing was handled, even before anything was said. He'd left
the danger zone as soon as everyone was accounted for and made
no contact with anyone during the flight. Usually when a
rescue went according to plan, the journey back to base was a
celebration. They would share a few laughs, mainly at Alan's
expense, before settling down to what they'd fondly come to
know as "the debrief before the debrief"; Scott's no holds
barred assessment of their performance during the rescue.
Scott would outline over the frequency what had and hadn't
gone right and if any of them had screwed up, he'd say so, and
in no uncertain terms.
was where it ended.
rarely let Father in on the details of any screw-ups. He said
what Father didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and besides he had
enough to worry about with the rescue co-ordination without
hearing about near-misses, too.
took a deep breath and held it to work through another
debilitating crescendo of pain.
Father had certainly gotten to hear about the screw-ups this
held nothing back.
had Gordon, John or Alan.
even been prepared to stand his ground when Scott threatened
to take him out for his show of blatant immaturity. Alan had
never done anything like that before. He respected Scott
almost as much as he respected Father.
was the moment Virgil knew he'd lost what little was left of
still see himself pushing in between them.
the two of them do everyone a favour and just back the hell
right off? Taking each other out wasn't going to change things
or make anyone feel better about them not pulling together as
team. What happened, happened. Yes, there had been
communication problems. Yes, three of them had nearly died.
Surely the most important thing to come out of all this was a
warning that they needed to be more careful? International
Rescue wasn't as sharp as it needed to be. Steps needed to
taken to make certain the same thing didn't happen again.
nodded and opened his mouth to agree with him, but Scott
hadn't given him the chance to say a single, solitary thing.
maybe Scott was right. Maybe it had happened because no-one in
this family was prepared to follow orders. Maybe the rap he
was handing out in front of Father was very well deserved too.
But one thing he didn't deserve was the guilt trip. Alan was
their brother. There had been no option but to go in after
him, and Scott was fooling himself big time if he believed he
wouldn't have done the exact same thing himself.
hadn't appreciated the challenge of being confronted with his
own principles. The look he'd thrown from across the room at
that moment was nothing but pure acid. At the time Virgil
remembered thinking that for once in his life he didn't care
less. Scott knew he was right, but he was so damn fired up
about everything that he wasn't prepared to admit it.
later, Virgil wished he'd remained calm and kept his opinions
had stormed off towards the beach, Scott had bulldozed his way
out too and this time there was more than just acid in the
glare he'd directed over his right shoulder. Scott had
expected his Virgil's support, particularly in front of
Father. Most of the time he was happy to give it...choosing to
express any difference of opinion when he and Scott were
couldn't support Scott on principle.
sorry to say it, but today Scott needed a dose of his own
hard-nosed directness. He needed to hear he was over-reacting
and he needed to hear it in front of Father. There were times
when his orders couldn't be followed and he had to trust them
to do their best. The only regret he had about the reality
check was the rare display of his Tracy temper.
eyed gazed worriedly into the blackness.
would still be peeved at him and it didn't take an engineering
degree to know he'd be taking the whole thing hard. Despite
the pain, despite the burning and despite the fact that
Grandma would lecture him into the next century for failing to
attend to his injury, perhaps it was time that he was out
continued to heave up and down despite the fact it had been
almost ten minutes since he dragged his body out of the pool
and promised himself a shower.
into his chest, he tried to contain his breathing.
breathlessness was a signal his fitness in the water would
soon be under scrutiny too. Why not? After all, it had just
been made very clear that his fitness for anything else was
under the microscope at the moment.
many more times did Scott have to interrupt what he was saying
to insist he was way out of line? It had been a split second
decision to take the Firefly back in. All he was trying to do
was explain his reasons to Father. He'd meant what he said
when he warned Scott to shove a fist in it. Scott wasn't
giving him the chance to say or explain anything.
couldn't believe how little had been said about the extra
lives he'd saved. Why wasn't Scott focussing on the positive?
Why wasn't Father? Two extra people were still alive thanks to
his quick thinking and all Father seemed willing to do was
fold his arms against his chest and wait for Scott's bawling
out to finish.
Tracy sat on the edge of the swimming pool; ignoring the chill
of the breeze and how icy it felt against his crop of dripping
red hair. One hundred laps of the pool since then and he was
still sitting here all worked up. He didn't like it either.
Life was too short to deal with this sort of crap, especially
after what he'd already been through.
day as if it will be your last, dear," had been Grandma's
bedside recommendation. "Remember, one of these days we will
all have the misfortune to be right."
hadn't been kidding. After the hydrofoil accident, Gordon had
woken up to the reality that he needed to make the most of
every minute. He soaked up the billionaire lifestyle and
treated International Rescue as a buzz. He enjoyed working
with his brothers and made sure he did everything Father
required him to do. When the rescue team was despatched, he
played his part with enthusiasm. When Scott called the shots
at the danger zone he followed the instructions to the letter.
He saved lives. He felt good. He didn't have a problem with
International Rescue. So why all of a sudden did International
Rescue seem to have a great big problem with him?
hung his head, clenched his jaw and refused to acknowledge
that he was shivering.
care how much Scott had to say about the importance of
following procedure. He was not going to accept that he
had acted irresponsibly in saving those people's lives. The
building had looked stable enough to him before he'd gone for
broke the second time and the Firefly had more than the
required capacity to handle the expected increase in
temperature. In his opinion, Scott simply liked to hear the
sound of his own frickin' God-damn voice. How did he think a
guy made first lieutenant in the WASP outfit if he didn't
exercise good judgement?
shrugged and moved his feet absently through the water,
wishing his thought process had kept a few seconds ahead of
shouldn't have overreacted to the inevitable silence that
followed. Father had filled the void with, "that's a very good
point, son," but he knew what the rest of them were thinking.
First Lieutenant Tracy wasn't always renowned for his good
judgement, now was he? Seven people would still be alive today
if it wasn't for good old First Lieutenant Tracy.
hands made savage swipes down and across the length and
breadth of his face. The past was the past and he didn't want
to think about the hydrofoil accident anymore. He'd saved ten
times the number of lives lost in that accident since
International Rescue began. He hoped he would get the chance
to save a whole heap more.
the mother and the kid out there today.
Alan had gone after.
he had saved with his "act of irresponsibility."
saying what you boys did wasn't worthwhile ..." had begun what
Gordon knew was the lead up to one of Father's stern-faced
warnings. He and Alan had received one too many of them over
the years not to recognise the signs. The clearing of the
throat, the slow focussing of the eyes; all of it a clear sign
Father was about to deliver his parental address on where one
or both of them had gone wrong.
hadn't been in the mood to stomach it. He'd been dirty, tired
and sore. He also hadn't eaten a damn thing since Grandma had
forced two pieces of fruit into his hand on his way down to
the hangar with Alan. The words had come out before he could
contain them and definitely before he had had time to weigh up
the consequences of challenging Father with his heart and not
hastily added "sir", hadn't made the interjection sound any
stopped in mid-sentence; the expression on his face quickly
reducing Gordon to a small boy about to be berated for his
he'd stumbled on.
like he was being disrespectful or questioning Father's better
judgement. What he was trying to say, badly, was he took the
rescue business seriously. To him, every life was worth saving
and that was all he'd been trying to do.
why the hell didn't you think more carefully before risking
the loss of your own?"
churned. His temper burned. A liquid fire rose inside him,
threatening to consume his chest.
have hit him.
have hit him.
wanted to hit him.
echoed into the stillness as Gordon Tracy forced his exhausted
body to plough up and down the pool once more.
didn't know how lucky he was to be too many thousand miles
made it very clear to him what the role involved long before
International Rescue began.
resident astronaut in Thunderbird Five was expected to
complete a month on, month off stint in the satellite.
Two...during the period of duty in the satellite, the
communications were to be monitored twenty four seven and
potential rescue situations identified.
the services of International Rescue were required, it was
essential to contact base without delay and provide the
resident astronaut would stay in constant contact with the
danger zone until Thunderbird One arrived and mobile control
was in place.
Five...additional information was to be researched and made
available to mobile control immediately.
short, he was expected to do everything he could, as quickly
as he could and as thoroughly as he could to ensure the
success of every rescue.
thing for a young man, Father had said in one of their initial
conversations, and one he could guarantee would be very
draining at times. He would need to adjust to broken sleep,
nuking all his meals and be happy to live alone with nothing
but the universe for at least five months every year.
Dad, you know that's what we do."
response back then had been a verbal acknowledgement of the
special bond he was proud to share with Father. They were both
astronauts. They knew the dangers, they loved the silence, and
sleep was the last thing on their minds when it came to the
rush of the rocket ships.
paced the length of Thunderbird Five and reminded himself that
chewing his nails when he was aggravated was a habit he needed
to kick. He seemed to be doing a lot more of it, and
noticeably too, at least according to Grandma. Only yesterday
she'd tactfully suggested it might be a good idea to ask
Father if he could take an extra couple of weeks off the next
time he returned from rotation.
looking tired, John," she'd observed, her blue eyes filled
with concern. "You need to take some time away from all this.
Your father will understand."
sighed. No matter how hard he tried, he could never hide
anything from Grandma. She knew when he was unhappy. She knew
when he had something on his mind. She was also one hundred
per cent right that he was well overdue for the opportunity to
rest and recharge his batteries.
had been demanding lately. Sleep didn't come easily and was it
fitful at best. The rescues were frequent and most of the time
they were hectic. Scott pushed him to the limit for updated
information. Alan's heroics scared him half to death. Father
expected to be kept informed at all times.
was stressful and the work was tough and until today he'd been
enjoying every single moment of it.
had been different. Today he had nearly lost three of his
brothers; the two who nearly drove him crazy with their antics
and the one who still allowed him to see the face and smile of
of white teeth clamped down once again on agitated, restless
misunderstanding should never have happened in the first
place. It had been nothing more than a straightforward rescue
when he'd patched through the distress call to base. Father
had even toyed with the idea of not sending Gordon at all.
think we need..." he'd begun to say, until a last minute
update from the danger zone indicated they were going to need
the Firefly. Then, Father's whole demeanour changed. The
Firefly meant everyone and when it came to fire-based rescues,
Father always became uneasy.
we're on our way, John," he'd directed with his usual
controlled calm. "Scott will be in contact with you as soon as
Thunderbird One is airborne to obtain the latest details."
growled at the universe and wished he could give all four of
his brothers a dose of good old FAB. One minute he was rolling
his eyes at the verbal ping pong going on in the lounge; the
next he was being implicated and Father was dragging him into
the equation. Was it true what Scott was saying? Was there any
valid reason why Mobile Control didn't have access to full and
Father had frowned at him through the screen when he'd been
too speechless and shell-shocked to answer.
Scott stand there right in front of Father and say he had no
access to the information? Scott knew he'd given him every
piece of information he had. He'd made sure he ran the
required data the moment Thunderbird One hit the dirt. He'd
gotten it all...construction material, slab depth, wind
direction, terrain. He'd even run a blasted profile on the
structural Engineer. Jesus, what more did he want?
the point, what more did Scott expect? He'd done everything by
the book. He'd stayed in contact and followed orders; right
down to when Scott contested the information on the wind
direction and expected him to run the whole damn thing again.
taken him a few minutes to find the right words, each minute
feeling like an hour with Father's eyes fixed firmly on him.
information I had was accurate, sir," he'd heard himself growl
quietly. "Unfortunately Scott still seems to be of the opinion
that I should have been some sort of mind reader."
had come out calmly...too calmly...a combination of one too
many sleepless nights and hours of constant drain.
Virgil take a sharp intake of breath as Father turned back to
Scott and looked at him for an explanation.
felt his own breath falter as Scott denounced every word.
"I made it
very clear to Thunderbird Five what I wanted, Father and until
I received it, I was not prepared to take any risks."
had been slow, low and deliberate, and the inference behind
them was clear. Scott was right. He was wrong. End of
de-briefing had then blown sky-high.
prepared to take any risks? Surely that was a laugh and a
half. The risks of entering a burning building were nothing
compared to the risks he'd already expected Virgil to take
getting the Firefly from base to the rescue zone. Pushing
Thunderbird Two to deliver an earlier ETA was downright
All of a
sudden the focus was on Virgil, who'd vehemently shaken his
head. Everything Scott had asked him to do had been in order,
he insisted. There hadn't been any risks involved. John must
have somehow misheard.
probably would have intervened by now; telling him to calm
down or that red didn't suit his blondness. Even as a child
he'd coloured up the moment he was out of his depth or angry.
he was just plain angry.
There was no way in hell he'd misheard. Scott had needed
Virgil on site and he'd needed him on site damn fast. Virgil
always cut heaven and earth to meet Scott's deadlines. The
math was there for everyone to see. Eighty six minutes did
not equate to two hours.
"that's enough, John," failed to shut the floodgates. It all
just poured out of him. Father could ignore the facts if he
wanted to. He refused to bear the brunt because the rest of
them didn't shine. No matter what information he'd provided or
how fast, it still wouldn't have satisfied Scott. Scott had
chewed out his ass every rescue for at least the past two
weeks. Maybe Grandma should suggest to him he needed a
little vacation. He wasn't sticking around to hear one more
word of this crap.
resumed his pacing, satisfied that cutting all links with
Tracy Island was the only way his voice would be heard.
why the hell didn't you think more carefully before risking
the loss of your own?"
it to Gordon and when he'd said it, he'd meant it. In
hindsight, he should have said the exact same thing to Virgil
and Alan too.
no right to play at being heroes and expect him to shoulder
knew where the other one was. It was a wonder the house was
still standing, he'd banged the door so hard.
Tracy sighed in frustration from the solitude of her personal
balcony and reflected on the leaves in her tea cup.
told her this wasn't a family matter.
warned her not to interfere.
much as she disagreed with him this time, she knew she would
have to honour that.
shadow slumped wearily, long and hard, against the trunk of a
secluded palm tree. Arms folded, head bowed, he didn't know
how long he'd been out here. Long enough for dusk and twilight
to turn into the late evening, he supposed, and definitely
long enough to replay what had happened in front of Father too
many times over in his head.
shoulders of the shadow slumped further.
never walked out on one of Father's debriefings before. There
were times, of course, when he'd been tempted, especially when
he didn't agree with some of the things Brains or Father
recommended. Father tended to base too many of his decisions
on what Brains had to think and say. In fact, Father usually
asked Brains for his take on things before anyone else was
invited to open their mouth. It could be tedious at times and
very aggravating, particularly when Brains went nowhere near
the danger zone and only had second-hand information about
what had actually happened.
Tracy shook his head; remembering the moments of irritation.
Brains had had anything to do with this particular debacle.
Brains didn't know how lucky he was to be safely out of the
firing line at the aerospace conference in Houston. He was
probably sitting across the table from some young and pretty
brunette scientist right now, sipping an exotic cocktail and
pretending to be engrossed in the world of nuclear physics.
Come to think of it, knowing Brains, he probably wouldn't be
pretending. Physics was the man's entire life.
shrugged. Not that it mattered to him one way or the other.
Whatever Brains was doing, whether it was business, pleasure
or both; he had to be having a much better time in Houston
than standing here under a palm tree for hours.
rubbed his hand across his growing stubble, and glanced up
towards the balcony of the villa.
Father would want a "quiet word" with him when he finally
managed to calm down. He wasn't looking forward to that.
Father didn't approve of raised voices at the best of times
and no-one EVER walked out on a debriefing.
of the glass door crashing closed behind him reminded him that
he was guilty of more than simply walking out. The words
self-control, self-discipline and restraint came to mind,
together with the image of Father inviting him to join him at
the railing to remind him they formed the basis of the Tracy
family values. Values their father had single-handedly raised
them to uphold; just as he had raised them to demonstrate
leadership and take responsibility for their actions.
Father was going to have a lot to say tonight; their eyes
level on the darkened balcony. That low commanding voice was
no different now to what it used to be in the old days when he
or his brothers stepped out of line.
an expectation in the Tracy family, he would say. The
expectation that everyone showed respect, not only towards him
but towards each other.
trees rustled in the growing breeze; a sound he usually
welcomed to temporarily block out some of the less appealing
images of the rescue business. He liked the gentle noise. It
allowed him to put things in perspective...to get a grip
again... to relax and find the inner strength to lay his life
on the line again tomorrow.
even with the rustling, he couldn't put things in perspective.
raised his voice at all of them; Alan, Johnny, Gordon... even
Virgil, his closest friend. He'd allowed his iron control to
snap trying not to express how scared he'd been. Scared not
only for them, but for himself, when things had gone wrong in
the danger zone.
trouble was when Scott Tracy got scared, Scott Tracy exploded.
pulled any punches when it came down to the dangerous work he
undertook with his brothers. Neither did he play the "what if"
game when it came down to making decisions. He made the hard
calls and he stuck to them. He focussed on being in command.
It was one of the most important things he had learnt as a
captain in the Air Force. Father agreed with him. Delay bred
doubt and in the rescue business, the combination could be
with your gut instincts, son." Father told him. "A good
commander can't afford to do anything else once he's decided
to take a risk with his men."
Father was right and he was such a good commander, why was he
standing out here questioning his own judgement and saying the
words "what if?"
Virgil hadn't pulled Alan out? What if the Firefly hadn't held
up for Gordon?
all three of them had burnt to death right in front of his
very eyes? Virgil, Gordon and Alan weren't just his "men".
They were three of his four little brothers. Brothers he'd
promised to look out for ever since the day Father had broken
the news they no longer had a mother. How could they expect
him to forgive himself if any of them had died? How did they
think he would have been able explain such a thing to Father?
News like that would finish him. He was still retreating
inside himself to find the answers about Mother twenty one
years after she had died.
fingers dug into the corners of tired eyes, trying to rub out
thing had been destined for trouble from the moment Father
took the distress call from Five. He, Virgil and Alan had only
been back at base for seven hours after dealing with a routine
operation in the Philippines.
That was the story they'd finally agreed to give Father.
was, the operation had almost ended up as anything but
routine. The delay in Johnny relaying the clearance
requirements had nearly resulted in catastrophe when he had
brought Thunderbird One in to land. Fortunately, his Air Force
training had come in useful and he'd been able to perform one
of his more spectacular landings.
going to say this to you again, Johnny. You need to drop your
ass into the cot the moment I get off this frequency or I
swear I'll say something to Dad."
was fair to say he'd been pretty direct with John as the
Thunderbirds headed for home. It was also fair to say that
John hadn't liked it. Even Virgil hinted that he might have
overreacted a bit when they downed a cognac together, later.
said to Johnny, it wasn't the apparent lack of focus that was
starting to rub his edges raw. It was the fact that Johnny
expected him to believe the problem was the result of too many
back to back rescues.
casual shrug of the shoulders was really annoying when Scott
was trying to make a point. The simple gesture threw him into
defensive mode each and every time he did it. It was even more
annoying when coupled with Virgil's cool, relaxed exterior.
goodness' sake, it wasn't like the new volume on astronomy
John was writing was any kind of deep, dark, family secret.
Father had told him only yesterday that John's latest book was
three months ahead of schedule. Three whole months. There was
only one way someone monitoring the safety of world 24/7 could
get three months ahead of anything. Johnny's lack of sleep was
detrimental to his performance and if he didn't start taking
Scott seriously soon, his eldest brother was going to make
damn sure the message would be handed down from the one person
he wouldn't ignore.
see," Virgil had replied, after a few moments of contemplating
his glass. Then the brown eyes had lifted and looked directly
at him. "You need to justify your decision on what's the right
time to rat out on Johnny to Dad."
the sarcasm, Virgil had remained ridiculously composed. AND he
knew Scott too well. It was more than simply annoying
sometimes. It was as frustrating as all hell.
Johnny knows the deal, OK?" he'd heard himself snap before
draining his own glass and muttering a curt good night. The
amused observation that John wasn't the only one in need of
sleep had followed him all the way out the door.
the emergency call had come in the next morning, he had
expected to see John rested and in complete control of the
situation. It had been over eight hours since their terse
exchange over the frequency and eight hours of continuous
shut-eye should have been enough to pull almost anyone back
they had actually slept.
remembered clamping his lips together as he was faced with the
sight of his bleary-eyed little brother. It wasn't that Johnny
didn't look OK. Johnny always did. The blond hair was never
out of place and the long lean body always stood straight and
tall. John knew the way it was. He made very sure he was
everything Father expected to see when Thunderbird Five
radioed in a call, because he knew if he didn't, Father would
be asking the reason why. The trouble was, when an emergency
occurred, Father tended to forget about everything else. How
else could he explain Father failing to notice the dark
circles underneath Johnny's eyes?
failed to notice a couple of other things too; like Alan
arriving shirtless from the direction of the Kyrano apartments
and reeking of Tin-Tin's latest perfume. Alan's drowsy,
red-rimmed eyes told a unique and sordid story of their own.
had much sleep either.
suspicions were confirmed when Tin-Tin arrived a few moments
later; her shapely body hastily covered by Alan's missing
worse than he did.
Father had drawn him into a conversation about the danger zone
before he'd said something he would probably regret.
is right alongside the Monte Vista fault line, Scott," he was
musing, pointing at the image on the map. "Mmm...here...here...and
here. Those minor quakes sure are causing us some problems
lately. How many did you say were trapped this time John? "
looked up, momentarily concerned at the delay in providing the
information. John obviously realised it, because he cleared
his throat, and then said confidently, "Ten, sir," without any
reference to his notes.
nodded, gave John a brief smile of affirmation and returned
his attention to the map.
ten it is. "
both Virgil and Gordon were dressed and waiting in the middle
of the lounge. Virgil leaned against the door jamb, listening
attentively. When Father glanced over at him he nodded to
indicate he understood. It was a sharp contrast to Gordon, who
announced his presence with a cheery, "Land, space or sea,
Dad?" and a wink in Alan's direction when he saw Miss Kyrano's
preoccupied reply of "It's land, son, so it doesn't look like
you'll be required..." soon wiped away his cheerfulness.
Father was still being very careful with Gordon and unless
Thunderbird Four was required or the rescue looked like it was
major, he tended to leave Gordon at home. The lack of balance
was an uncomfortable subject particularly where Gordon was
concerned. He continued to stress to Father he was fully
recovered from the accident. Father, like the rest of them,
continued to observe otherwise.
need me to do anything, Mr. Tracy?" Tin-Tin enquired as Gordon
flopped on the sofa in complete dejection. Father looked up
from the map again to ask her if she'd mind bringing him some
coffee; nearly choking on his simple request when he saw her
hurried selection of attire.
hard glare in Alan's direction indicated he wasn't very
face didn't move. He was concentrating hard on what Johnny had
to say about the rescue. John had just received further
information that the authorities were trying to contain
several small fires burning either side of the damaged
building. The cause of the fires was unknown, he said. He was
waiting to receive more information.
How long have they known about that?"
at this stage, Scott. All they said was there were two small
fires burning in the neighbouring buildings. They didn't give
me the impression there's any need for us to panic. The head
guy said our main involvement is still only to get the people
are the buildings together, son?"
you mean you're not sure?"
Scott, but the details coming in are still rather sketchy."
don't like this. Scott, I think you'd better get out there and
check out the current situation. "
tell the authorities we're on our way. Scott will be in
contact with you as soon as Thunderbird One is airborne to
obtain the latest details."
like you're going along with your brothers after all."
right! FAB, Dad."
us to load the Firefly then, Dad?"
Virgil. Hopefully we won't need it, but if we do, you know
words were the last Scott heard before he rotated out of view
to take up his position in Thunderbird One. Thunderbird Two
would follow the moment the rescue equipment was on board. He
heard the familiar clank to his left. Father wasn't wasting
any time. Virgil had already begun his descent into the hangar
of Thunderbird Two.
Destination: Los Altos Hills.
managed to get airborne, Scott thought long and hard about his
timing when it came down to the required contact with John. He
was still feeling pretty cheesed off that his order to sleep
had been ignored. John knew the consequences of
sleep-deprivation, despite all the smart-assed argument.
Sleeping eighteen hours at a stretch, then tossing and turning
all night was no way for a guy to spend two weeks out of four
when he came home from Five on rotation. No wonder Grandma
said he looked like hell half the time. What he was doing to
himself was ridiculous.
thoughts turned to Alan. Alan ought to have more sense when it
came to the sleep department too. He was going to have
something to say about that to Father, the moment he got back
to Base. Burying himself in Miss Kyrano's charms might be fine
when there was temporary lull in operations. The rest of the
time he had an obligation to the outfit to bury his head in a
Thunderbird One headed at top speed towards the American
coastline, Scott decided that if anything went wrong this
time, he was going to involve Father to the max. The welfare
of his brothers meant the world to him and things weren't
going all that well lately when it came down to balancing ego
Virgil, not John, who made the first contact; forty minutes
after Thunderbird One had headed away from base. Thunderbird
Two was well on its way to the danger zone, Virgil reported.
They had the Firefly on board. He'd also spent the last
fifteen minutes sorting out the kindergarten squabble between
the two kids over whose turn it was to operate the rescue
he'd found himself laughing.
relaxed and laughed, too. Well, Alan hadn't been very happy at
first but he'd finally agreed that Gordon should be allowed to
take his turn this time. Gordon would be operating the
Firefly. He also had a couple of ideas on how they could get
the ten people out fast.
unknown of the fires is probably going to complicate things,
though..." Virgil trailed off, deep in thought.
the fact that Johnny's still tired," he retorted back. "I
don't want a repeat of what happened to us yesterday, Virgil.
Let me make that extremely clear."
remained silent, no doubt deciding whether it was a good move
or not to continue with his comments. When he did, it all came
out with the same straight down the line candidness he'd
displayed the night before.
your problem, Scott?"
besides my ETA."
too much emphasis on assumption, big brother."
"Oh I do,
do I? Well, Johnny's lack of sleep has nothing to do with
know how much sleep he had."
don't. I also don't know how much sleep Alan had and you saw
the look Dad gave him."
voice cut in. "Hey! That's not fair. We...I mean...I...I mean
me...err...I did go to sleep last night."
we all know who with, too."
guys start all that stuff about me and Tin-Tin again," he
protested. "I told you there's nothing going on between us."
why she was wearing your shirt in front of Father this
information Virgil, Tin-Tin was only wearing my shirt because
it was an emergency and she had trouble finding her own."
touching that one, kid."
you shut up, Gordon?"
wasn't the one without the shirt, OK Al?"
tried to keep a straight face and refrain from joining in the
banter. At the moment Father had entrusted him with the role
of Field Commander. He needed to concentrate on the job. He
wanted to remind his brothers they needed to concentrate on
the job, too. He'd do that just before they hit the danger
call finally came in from Thunderbird Five, Scott was ten
minutes away from the town of Los Altos Hills. The rush of
adrenalin had already begun to invade his body. As always, he
was calm about the part he was about to play.
about an hour behind him. The kids had it clear on who was to
operate the equipment. He was ready to talk to John and
receive the final updates. After that he would take control of
the rescue and set up Mobile Control.
protocol began the moment he flicked the switch on the
frequency. No niceties. Just business. He was impressed.
Johnny had really pulled his act together in the past one
quake had been categorised as "strong" by the local
authorities. Confirming no further seismic activity recorded
on or near the site. Confirming building concerned was masonry
B?" Scott interrupted with a frown. "I wonder exactly what
they mean by that."
didn't look like he knew, either.
Scott - Masonry B just comes up on the town plan as a
reinforced building not designed to resist lateral forces. The
building was designed by some local guy; a millionaire
structural engineer by the name of Harvey T. Giles. You want
me to check it out further?"
"Affirmative. What else have you got?"
expected, some movement has been detected in the foundations.
A couple of wall panels thrown out, too. We have ten...
repeat...ten persons who still require our assistance."
John. What's the latest on the fire situation?"
authorities keep saying they only need our involvement to get
the ten people out of the building, Scott."
out again, John. I don't want any surprises."
"Oh - and
while you're at it, try and get a handle on the whereabouts of
the Harvey T Giles guy. He might be able to give us the proper
low-down on the actual stability of the building."
apprehensive when Scott radioed through the update. He frowned
when the name of Harvey T. Giles was mentioned. He'd heard of
the guy all right. He made his money by taking shortcuts. He
certainly wasn't renowned in engineering circles for his
expertise. The story was that one of his Los Altos Hills
buildings had collapsed a few years back before the Richter
scale hit four.
careful, son. What's the latest update on the fires?"
yet, Father. I've asked John to make further contact with the
authorities to confirm the fire situation is under control.
I'll be flying over the danger zone in just under four minutes
so I'll be able to see things for myself. I'll request John to
provide you with further information when he receives it from
the authorities. "
right, son. Keep me informed...whatever you find out."
minutes seemed to take four hours when a man was feeling
tense, particularly as he waited with impatience for his first
glimpse of the unknown. That first glimpse coincided with a
call from John in Thunderbird Five. The firm, steady voice
from the previous communication was no longer firm or steady.
have to tell me anything, Johnny. I can see the damn things
below his Thunderbird craft blazed wildly into the sky. Black
smoke billowed in thick clouds towards the height of the
surrounding mountains. He swore and began his descent
immediately, demanding on the way down that John patch him
through to Thunderbird Two and do it on the double.
the rest of the information while I figure out how to reduce
Thunderbird Two's ETA," he barked into the frequency. "I want
to know everything there is to know about those fires, Johnny,
the moment I hit the ground."
landed and cut the engines, Virgil's face appeared on the vid.
Scott. What's up?"
your ETA, Virgil?"
Fifty-two minutes. Why?"
you to halve it."
just need you to do it. We've got big trouble down here. I
haven't got time for specifics. The two fires reported earlier
look to me like there's no differentiation. Our building is
smack bang the hell in the middle of it."
thought John said we only..."
what John SAID, Virgil. That's why I need to see you fly over
that ridge in the next half an hour, OK? We both know we've
got the capability to do it. "
Scott...but Brains said..."
care what Brains said. Tell the kids to get suited up. They'll
need to work fast. I'm going to go over to set up Mobile
Control and check out the situation further."
closed his eyes and took a deep breath before returning to his
communication with the satellite.
Scott Tracy calling John Tracy in Thunderbird Five. I have
landed at the danger zone. I repeat, I have landed at the
danger zone. Do you have the required information?"
repeat...do you have the information?"
the fires combined and gained intensity, resistant to all the
authorities' best efforts to contain them.
until twenty seven damn minutes later when Thunderbird Two
soared over Los Altos Hills, twenty-five minutes ahead of
John. Where the hell have you been?"
you mean? I've been on the other frequency as instructed,
trying to track down Harvey Giles."
"And all I
can do is reconfirm the previous information. Sorry Scott, he
wasn't very helpful."
It doesn't matter. We're nearly ready to go down here."
John. Virgil's here. Please open all frequencies and reconfirm
worry about it, John. Reconfirm information as requested."
Thunderbird Five reconfirming all required information.
further seismic activity.
containing ten trapped persons confirmed as standard Masonry
defined as building reinforced with good workmanship and
mortar. It is not ...I repeat NOT designed to resist lateral
forces in presence of violent activity.
"Foundations have moved.
wall panels thrown out."
about the f..."
located in danger zone can no longer be contained. I repeat -
can no longer be contained.
persons located in Zone 1.
situated centre left on ground floor.
direction north west."
west? You sure about that John?"
"Re-confirming north west, Mobile Control."
listen up. John, do you also have the rundown on Masonry
standards C & D?"
to me again Mobile Control?"
will be in position within the next two minutes, Scott."
Do not proceed until ordered."
with me Johnny? I said I require basic information ... repeat
... basic information ...on Masonry standard C and D. C for
Charlie ...D for Delta."
"C & D?
Scott, I've already confirmed twice that the building
is a category B."
that. Forget that. Just get me the hell what I need!"
Scott, I spoke to Giles myself. He guaranteed the building is
a clear cut category B."
get me the information, John and get it for me NOW."
to Mobile Control. I'm ready and in position Scott."
Gordon. Stand by pending re-confirmation of current building
Mobile Control. We need to enter the building immediately.
Please give me the necessary clearance to proceed."
Do NOT...I repeat...DO NOT enter the building until given the
order to do so."
Firefly standing by."
what the hell is the delay in getting that information?"
Control, this building isn't going to hold out much longer."
we're not in a position to do that, Scott."
"Do as I
argue with me Virgil."
"Thunderbird Five to Mobile Control. I have the requested
"OK...OK...give me D for Delta, first."
"Confirming Masonry D - weak materials, poor mortar, low
standard of workmanship. Building...horizontally weak.
Building not permitted in sphere of influence of Los Altos
Hills town plan."
the hell is C then?"
says here no extreme weakness but building not reinforced. Not
designed to withstand horizontal forces. Legal but ..."
it. That's the lowest possible standard he can use."
don't have time to explain. Mobile Control to Gordon
Tracy...Gordon, you have less than five minutes to get those
people out. Clear the pathway as quick as you can and then get
the hell right out of there. That building has no ability to
withstand the upper floors crashing down on top of it."
proceed, Gordon... NOW."
broke nearby. Scott's body jerked. He lifted a shaking hand to
his forehead to realise it was drenched in sweat. The five
long minutes that followed were the longest five minutes of
reacted immediately and feverishly began his work. Scott heard
John on open frequency, providing an update to Father. Father
began demanding to be patched through to Mobile Control. Scott
didn't have time to talk to Father. He could only hope his
assessment of the situation was right. If Giles was as crooked
as Father said he was, the stability of that building would be
barely enough to meet the legal requirements.
saw Alan unexpectedly move towards another entrance to the
burning building. He should have known what was coming next.
The kid didn't wait or take the time to ask any questions. The
kid just didn't think. He scooted inside the building without
warning and disappeared into the flames.
stuck in his throat as Virgil saw Alan, too, and headed in the
same direction. He watched Virgil panicking when he realised
the entrance was gone.
at Virgil to stay put and ran towards the building himself,
screaming at the top of his voice that the wind must have
changed direction. They needed to abandon the rescue. They
needed to get out of there. The building was coming down.
He saw the
Firefly. He saw Gordon. He thought he counted eight people
staggering blindly out of the wreckage. But he still couldn't
see Alan. Virgil was missing too. He saw the Firefly lurch
God...not Gordon too.
remembered his promise to Father.
later, the building fell.
stared into the fire as it flickered and danced against the
shadows on the secluded island shore.
sandy inlet; far removed from the villa. The place where he
had first plucked up the courage to tell her how he felt about
her. The place they came when they wanted to be alone.
looks. No rolling of eyes.
life away from their roles in International Rescue.
the fire for them yesterday, trying to appear casual at her
suggestion that it would be nice for them to spend an evening
together on the beach. Sure, why wouldn't he jump at another
chance to look at nothing but stars, stars and more stars? It
had been a whole two weeks since he'd been clammed up in
Thunderbird Five. He was really starting to miss the
won't get you anywhere, Alan Tracy," she'd frowned at him,
kicking at the carefully constructed pyramid and folding her
arms in a huff.
just finished that!"
scrambled to repair the damage, his frown now identical to
hers. What had she gone and done that for? Couldn't a guy joke
around with her a little, every now and then? She should know
he didn't mean it.
paused before he stood back up and winked at her, his face
dissolving into its customary, mischievous grin. Besides,
there was a lot to be said for exploring the universe with a
girl late on a Saturday night. Why wouldn't he make the most
of THAT sort of opportunity?
howled in protest to the sting of the unexpected slap. "What
was wrong with that?"
ignored his look of feigned innocence and turned her back on
him completely. If he didn't know what was wrong with a sexist
statement like that, she wasn't about to explain it to him.
Honestly, she didn't know why she bothered with him half the
time. Sometimes, he was nothing more than a typical,
on Tin-Tin; give a guy a break ..." he'd laughed, pulling her
squirming body towards his. "I can't help it if my idea of the
universe has nothing to do with astronomy."
course, it had happened. Their playful charade had once again
been interrupted by the urgent flashing of his wrist
honey. I've got to go," he'd blurted apologetically after a
short exchange with his father.
the Island with two of his brothers soon after; instructed to
assist Scott and Virgil with "a routine matter" in the
Philippines. Nothing major, a relaxed Jeff Tracy had told her.
In fact, he'd said, sipping coffee and making himself
comfortable behind the massive leather desk; the boys would
all be home in time to join them for one of her father's
famous post rescue suppers.
think it would be wise for us all to take advantage of an
early night," he'd added firmly, with no particular reference
to her. "International Rescue has been in pretty high demand,
lately. We could use some extra rest."
smiled and agreed with his statement despite the undercurrent
of disappointment. Alan's father was astute when it came to
the efficiency of the outfit and he knew exactly when it was
the right time to make an appropriate point. They were all
tired. Scott was functioning on nothing but pure adrenalin at
the moment and with Brains away at the conference on the
mainland, even she was starting to feel weary from the
constant drain on their time and their resources.
had looked forward to the fire too, and being with Alan under
had come and gone before she was woken from a fitful sleep by
the quiet hissing of her bedroom door.
she'd blinked at the shadow in the darkness. "Alan? Is that
it's me," he'd grumbled, flopping down on the edge of her bed.
"I thought I should come and apologise in person for standing
you up tonight. Things were a little more complicated in the
danger zone than what we first thought."
tell from his disgruntled tone that something had gone wrong
during the rescue. She braced herself and waited for him to
confide in her, hoping it had nothing to do with him.
nearly went ballistic after the way he had to bring
Thunderbird One in to land," he griped. "I swear John's going
to be in it up to his eyeballs if Dad ever finds out what
herself up on one elbow and flicked on the bedside light.
say he was going to tell him?" she quizzed him in a worried
shrugged and subconsciously tugged open the last three buttons
on his shirt.
what Scott's gonna do, Tin-Tin. All I know is he didn't need
to take it out on me before he gave John the earful. I had
nothing to do with it and I told him so, too."
his shirt to the floor and started on his shoes. "I
mean...what gives with Scott and Johnny lately? Geez, working
with the two of them today was like being in the centre of
frickin' World War Three."
Alan," she'd soothed him. "They're both tired. There's nothing
more to it than that. Things will settle down once they get
some decent rest. Here..." she pulled back the rumpled covers
and invited him to join her in the bed. "... Why don't you go
through and shower and then come and tell me all about it."
Kyrano continued to gaze into the flames and re-live the hours
spent the rest of the night talking about the rescue, her body
pressed tight to his. He was clearly worried about the issues
that seemed to exist between his brothers and before long
began debating whether it was "a good idea to talk to Dad".
Virgil's wound up tighter than I've ever seen him," he told
her, his voice heavy with frustration. "Something's gonna blow
around here soon, Tin-Tin and I'm not sure I want to be around
to witness the explosion."
worry too much about nothing." She reassured him with a gentle
stroke to his forehead. "Come ...we both need to get some
sleep now. It's nearly dawn and you're exhausted."
and allowed his eyes to close to the softness of her touch.
know, Tin-Tin," he murmured from beside her. "Thank God you
door banged open during the rescue debriefing, she thought she
was doing the right thing going after him. He'd only had an
hour's sleep before his Father had summoned him back to the
lounge before the rescue and he clearly wasn't thinking
straight about what the outcome could have been.
tried not to make it sound like she was siding with anyone
when she finally managed to stop him on the stairs. Couldn't
he understand why everyone was so upset? He should never have
gone into the burning building without Scott's clearance. He'd
risked not only his own life but Virgil's as well. That was
the real issue, she'd stressed; not how Scott had handled
things in the danger zone. He needed to go back inside and
acknowledge that. He had to swallow his pride and apologise.
still hear the thunder in his voice. Still saw his eyes harden
... those normally warm blue oceans turning to razor sharp ice
before he tore his arm away from her.
it, Lady - the last thing I need around here is YOU telling me
what to do, too!"
argument erupted like a wildfire and neither of them held
back. He was being hot-headed and stubborn and she
wasn't telling him what to do. She was a member of
International Rescue too and she had every right to say what
that so? And exactly what DO you think, then? Huh, Tin-Tin?"
behind her eyes came back.
to spend an evening together...a fire he'd built for her,
himself...jokes, innuendo and teasing ...all of it forgotten
as they headed towards a final, explosive crescendo...
bit late to be out on the beach alone, Tin-Tin," the voice
behind her suddenly said. "I think you should go back inside
the house now before Kyrano starts to worry something's
hesitated, blinking back the blur and trying to swallow the
lump which had suddenly appeared in her throat.
you," she finally murmured, without any attempt to acknowledge
him. "I need to stay out here by the fire until I feel a
suddenly filled with concern.
Tin-Tin, are you OK?"
dissolved into an unfamiliar watery haze when she felt the
brotherly arm wrap around her. No, she wasn't OK. She should
never have told Alan that she thought he was wrong. She should
have simply walked away to let him cool down and figure the
whole thing out for himself.
"Hey...hey...don't cry..." Virgil's words of comfort were
awkward. "For what it's worth, I don't feel so good about what
just happened, either."
have thought she was still preoccupied over her argument with
Alan but it was hard not to notice the roughly applied
dressing which covered the whole of his wrist and right hand.
appeared indifferent at the observation and folded his arms,
trying unsuccessfully to hide the damage. It was nothing to
worry about, he mumbled uncomfortably. He'd simply sustained a
few burns when he hauled Alan and the kid through the flames.
what's going to happen when Mrs Tracy finds out about it,
don't you?" she warned, giving him a rueful smile. "She
expects you to report all injuries to sick bay so she can give
them the proper care and attention."
watched him conjure up a weak smile and plead that by the time
he went down to sick-bay, Grandma had gone to bed. The last
thing she needed was to be woken and asked to take care of a
few minor burns. It was no big deal. He'd managed to dress
them himself and locate a couple of painkillers to take away
Yeah...OK...She didn't have to look at him like that.
not the wisest thing to do after a glass or two of cognac but
it was too late now to worry about the consequences of mixing
painkillers with a little alcohol. The main thing on his mind
right now was finding Scott to patch things up.
saw the fire burning, I thought I might have been in luck."
he focussed on the fire.
he supposed Scott would be in the mood to listen to anything
he had to say, anyway. Father was usually the only one who
could settle Scott down when he was fired up and Father had
gone to bed at least an hour and a half ago.
expression hovered between resignation and worry.
going to bed so early only meant one thing, too. He was
intending to order another debrief in the morning. Scott sure
needed to get things in perspective before that one-sided
nodded and agreed. She could only recall one other instance
where Jeff Tracy had ordered a second debriefing and one-sided
was definitely the right choice of word. The whole thing had
been run like a military style inquisition and had been so
harrowing she was certain none of them would want to endure
the same experience again.
Tentatively, she eyed Virgil's bandaged wrist and then turned
her attention to her watch. Virgil had removed his in the
fumbled attempt to attend to his injury. Was this the right
thing to do, or not? She wasn't sure. Mr. Tracy had made it
very clear to all of them they were only to use the specially
concealed button on their wrist communicators in the case of a
memories of the past debriefing made the decision easy. She
moved to disguise her hands. No, this wasn't the right thing
to do and if Mr. Tracy ever found out, he was going to be
absolutely furious with her.
couldn't think of any other option.
the only way to make them listen...all of them...as Virgil
addressed the flames...
opinion, Scott's performance in the danger zone had taken a
lot of guts, he began. Holding the Firefly back to the last
five minutes wouldn't have been an easy thing to do knowing
one wrong move might cost ten lives. Neither would watching
vital minutes tick by without the required information. Having
said all that, he also had to acknowledge it wasn't exactly
Johnny's fault that he didn't have all the information.
supposed it sounded like he was sticking up for Johnny and in
a way, he guessed he was. Scott had to get his head around the
fact that it was Father's knowledge of Giles' engineering
standards which had caused the last minute panic over
information, not John. Granted, John shouldn't have argued the
point like he did; but then again, Scott could have at least
filled him in on why he needed the extra information.
shoulders heaved towards the stars.
was the cognac starting to talk; or the painkillers...
at her and smiled a little. No doubt it was probably both.
objective in the middle of an argument between Scott and
Johnny wasn't an easy thing to do at the best of times. He
ought to know. He was in the middle of them often enough. Both
of them had issues with each other and had done since the day
International Rescue began.
spoken to Father about it, of course, but Father kept telling
him there was absolutely nothing to worry about. The sharp
exchanges between Scott and John only happened under pressure,
Father said, and merely disguised a healthy respect for each
other's skills and abilities.
It was a
pity they didn't think to show the same sort of respect for
couldn't believe Johnny dumped him straight in the deep end
with Father when he only knew half the facts. For a start, it
should be taken as a given that he would never compromise the
safety of anyone, let alone risk damaging his craft.
Brains had only told two people about the newly developed
capability he was about to test in Thunderbird Two. Scott
seemed really excited about it and so was he, when he was
told. But Brains had made them both promise not to experiment
with the enhancement until he returned to base from the
mainland. Brains knew how adamant Father was about being
briefed on the risks of trialling new equipment.
Johnny, he was going to have to come clean tomorrow when
Father demanded to know how Thunderbird Two got to the danger
zone so fast. He could see the look on Father's face already.
Boy, he was really going to get it.
that wasn't bad enough, he also had to put up with the fact
that Scott refused to respect his decision to go into the fire
where he drew the line.
Scott's back-up for a long time, not only in International
Rescue but as the second eldest. He knew what made Scott tick,
how he acted, thought and felt. He also knew how much Scott
loved Alan and how seriously he took the promise he'd made to
Father to take care of him, all those years ago.
know Tin-Tin," he confided, turning his head to look at her,
"when Alan didn't come out of that building today, Scott
wasn't the only one whose heart stopped dead in his chest."
be a real pain in the ass at times. He could be direct,
inconsiderate and selfish. Even so, the thought of never
seeing him again was something he wasn't prepared to face.
He'd never made the promises to Father that Scott had. The
only promise he'd ever made was the one he made to himself. If
Scott couldn't be there, he would be.
had to honour that promise.
Swallowing, he squared his jaw and returned his attention to
decision I made to go in after Alan was no-one else's but my
own. If it was wrong and Father wants to throw the book at me
I'll have no option but to stand there and take it. The only
thing I won't do is stand there and listen to Scott say he
wouldn't have done the exact same thing himself."
else do you think I was so jacked off at the kick in the ass
he was giving me?"
The two of
them turned as the voice cut through the darkness. Stubborn
and fiercely resolute, Gordon Tracy left the security of the
nearby shadows and limped in the direction of the fire.
start on me. I'm fine," he growled at the sight of their
instantly worried expressions.
his hands and sat down with a grimace. It was five full
minutes before he spoke again.
like this. It wasn't as if he couldn't take his fair share
when it came to getting kicked in the ass. Hell, he'd be lying
if he said he hadn't expected to get at least a double dose
for the things he'd done out there. Hearing that he'd nearly
been taken out by a falling building wasn't something Father
wanted to hear when he'd been reluctant to let him go on the
rescue in the first place.
had gone too far with the crack that he lacked responsibility,
especially when it was common knowledge that Scott tended to
ignore more of Father's orders than he followed.
paused momentarily to roll his eyes at Virgil's shocked
on. He had to be kidding. Of course Scott disobeyed orders. He
did a lot of other things too when it suited him. What Father
didn't know wouldn't hurt him, right? It was Scott's favourite
excuse for everything.
the matter, Virg?" he went on, sarcastically. "Didn't think
anyone else but you knew that, huh? Why else do you think it
pisses me off so much when he won't cut his "poor little
invalid brother" any slack for doing the exact same thing?"
"invalid" left his mouth with loathing.
It was a
while before he composed himself.
no right to call him irresponsible and he was standing firm.
Like he'd said earlier; he used to be a first lieutenant. He
was more than capable of making a decision, any decision,
under pressure. The hydrofoil accident had absolutely nothing
to do with what had gone on out there today. The damn accident
was in the past and it had cost him enough without making him
doubt himself too.
it's not like we..."
stopped his brother in mid-sentence with a hand held up in
warning. No, he wasn't finished yet and he was going to say
this. He'd wanted to say it for months.
International Rescue was supposed to be the chance for him to
forget about the accident and get on with his life again. How
in the hell was he expected to do that if everyone, including
Father, wouldn't lighten up? Constantly leaving him behind on
the land rescues; only prepared to risk his involvement when
there was no option but to deploy Thunderbird Four... Father's
hang-up about him aggravating his injuries was driving him
he glanced at Tin-Tin.
the way...speaking of my Father and his hang-ups..."
often he was deadly serious about anything, but she'd sure
better hope that his Father was well and truly asleep before
she hit that hostage button on her communicator. If not; she'd
be needing a pretty good excuse and soon. Didn't she realise
what she was doing?
felt herself redden as Virgil remembered he wasn't wearing his
wrist communicator and riveted his head in her direction. The
hostage button? Why did she do that? Didn't she
understand the hostage button automatically opened up
communications right across the entire organisation?
you guys. It's fine."
Tracy's expressionless voice and tired image crackled to life
on Gordon's communicator.
no need for anyone to panic or sweat the small stuff about
what Father might have heard. Luckily, he'd managed to disable
Father's communicator a few moments after it began to flash.
Fast enough to convince Father he'd only been dreaming when he
there's a lot to be said for the thirty second time delay I
rigged up for communications passing through Thunderbird
Five," he added.
instantly looked relieved and said she owed him one.
did Dad buy it?"
shrugged at Virgil's impassive tone.
I think so. He said he was going back to bed, so that's a good
sign. Told me I should think about getting a decent night's
sleep too if I knew what was good for me. And get this
one...sleep might make me a little less "disagreeable" around
my brothers in the future."
advice...ought to take it, sometime," Gordon mumbled
begrudgingly under his breath.
sighed and resigned himself to making the inevitable apology.
Gordo...about what I said ..."
for some sort of wise-ass reply to come and when it did it was
nothing less than he expected. Gordon could be as gruff as
Father at times, particularly when he wasn't happy.
in the mood for any sarcastic, Johnny-style apology, he
hear me out this time, OK? You have no idea what I had to go
through up here."
you went through?"
Johnny but you didn't go through anything."
that's where I think you're wrong. "
going to make any secret of the fact that he had been
terrified when he heard Scott scream "NO!" over the com-link.
He'd heard Scott lose his cool before but he'd never heard him
sound so afraid. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't help
from Five ...he didn't want to alarm Father. All he could do
was stand there gripping the console...hoping...praying they
minutes. Fifteen damn minutes, you guys," he ground out as if
he was actually re-living the agony all over again. "That's
how long it took Scott to pull himself together and let me
know that you weren't buried, hit or fried."
should have stayed more in control of himself; but anger, not
relief, had replaced the terror, the moment he heard Scott's
voice. He swore if he would have been in punching distance of
the danger zone at that point, he would have decked all four
of them with one hit. They had no right to risk their lives
like that. He didn't want to be the one left behind to help
Father pick up the pieces.
know I was too young to remember what Dad was like when Mother
died but I do remember how he was when he thought he was going
to lose you, Gordon. Trying to hold him up and deal with
things myself was the worst time in my whole life. I'm still
not over seeing Dad like that. Why would you want to put me
through that hell all over again?"
abruptly looked away from his communicator.
wouldn't." he murmured guiltily.
that's my point, Gordo. You nearly did. And it pissed me off
he'd made his point; John pulled himself together and moved
was getting late and like Father said, he really needed to get
some sleep. There wasn't anything he could do about the things
he'd said during the debriefing. He'd said them and that was
that. All he could do is say that he was sorry. Things hadn't
been going too well in Five lately and today had been the last
straw. He was pissed off with Scott for continually chewing
him out over information. He was pissed off with them for
nearly losing their lives. He was pissed off that he'd been
stuck in Thunderbird Five at a time when they really needed
started to laugh.
He was so
damned pissed off about everything at the moment he was
starting to sound downright offensive.
"Disagreeable, I think Father said."
probably that, too, at times, Virg..." John conceded, "...and
I'm sorry you have to take the rap from Dad tomorrow for the
things I let slip about Thunderbird Two."
big deal. I'll survive."
wouldn't push my luck if I were you."
Kyrano found her eyes wandering, relieved at the growing
reconciliation. She wondered when Alan and Scott would join
them. They both still stood in the shadows nearby. They'd been
there from the beginning...both as stubborn as each other when
it came to apologising, and by the looks of things, both still
waiting for the other one to make the first move.
you two come out of hiding and join us?" she encouraged in her
husky voice. "We know you're there and the fire's warm."
conversation between John and Virgil stopped.
shifted his weight and frowned.
A flash of
lightning in the distance gave warning of an impending summer
disappoint her. He never did. She could read Alan Tracy like a
book. She knew the only way he could keep his pride intact was
to change the subject and accuse her of scaring him half to
never run a beach so hard or so fast in my life, Tin-Tin," he
grumbled, plonking himself down in front of the fire next to
Gordon. "And then I find out that it was nothing but a
false alarm and an intentional one at that."
telling that to my hamstring."
He said no
more in front of his brothers. As always, he kept anything to
do with their relationship private. No International Rescue,
he'd stressed from the beginning. No International Rescue, she
as their eyes briefly met through the flames of the fire,
Tin-Tin could tell he was anxious about their argument. The
usual bravado was gone. In its place was a kind of naked
away from her, cleared his throat and began to speak to his
OK, so he
was here, all right? But he wasn't going to stay for long.
Like John, he hadn't had much rest lately and he needed to get
some sleep. Besides, he'd already opened his big mouth too
many times for one day and it was time he put a clamp on it.
He was sure Father would say that tomorrow.
needn't worry too much about what Father was going to say to
them. By the time the old man was finished with him, anything
they'd done would be completely off the radar.
understand what had come over him when they got to the danger
zone. A kid trapped in a fire and a reckless head. It hadn't
made for a good combination. Neither had making assumptions
about the timing of Scott's decision-making. He didn't know
the delay in going in was due to engineering deficiencies.
Scott would have said something earlier," he trailed off.
too cheesed off to say anything to anyone," Gordon offered in
support. "Don't worry about it, Al. You weren't to know."
Tracy wasn't so easily pacified.
that, Gordo." he faltered with real guilt. "Irrespective, I
made a lot of accusations this afternoon and all of them were
looked directly across at Virgil.
deserved the rap you gave me too, Virg, even though I didn't
appreciate the timing. I want you to know I owe you my life
and I'm very grateful. I've always been grateful for what you
do for me. "
gave him a silent acknowledgement with his head.
what we do safely, kid," he said and then more quietly, "And
in future, when you're around me, I'd watch how you speak to
opened his mouth to deny it. She wasn't his lady. They were
eyes caught sight of her beautiful face in the firelight.
that," was all he said.
lightning appeared to be closer and the breeze on the beach
had picked up. The flames of the fire were leaping in a
multitude of different directions. The storm was moving
better put this out and get back to the house," Gordon
observed with a worried glance at the sky.
help," Alan offered as Gordon struggled painfully to his feet.
the case, I'll say good night. We disagreeable types need to
get our sleep."
think any of us will argue with you, Johnny."
like a word."
on the beach to the left of them. What would have been
moonlight was gone. The wind blew. The thunder rumbled. He was
shivering but denied he was cold.
had to say wouldn't take very long but he wanted to say it
before Father asked him for his version of things in the
morning. If they didn't want to listen, he wouldn't push it.
It was no skin off his nose.
remained on the wrist communicator.
Virgil who offered the olive branch.
Scott. Why don't you come and stand by the fire?" he invited.
thanks. I'd rather stand over here," Scott replied.
yourself. The offer's there."
what's with the bandage?"
Grandma can look at them for me in the morning."
that's a burn..."
thought you said you had something to say to us."
curtness in Virgil's tone seemed to rattle his confidence.
Apprehension momentarily lined his face. He reluctantly moved
towards the fire and stood amongst them. He cleared his
throat. Yes, he did have something to say.
it as an uneasy invitation to proceed.
second debriefing was going to be really serious shit, he
stressed. Father wouldn't be asking for their opinions in the
morning. He would stick to the facts and it wouldn't be
pleasant. They needed to get that in their heads already.
figured things would be OK if they made sure the operational
matters were kept separate from family business. Doing that
wasn't going to be easy. Before they came together to form
International Rescue the family factor had never been a part
of the equation. Now the family factor was everything.
was simple and if they were smart they would take it.
only to focus on the job.
listened to everything that had been said tonight. Some of it
he agreed with. Some of it he didn't. He seriously doubted
Father would agree with any of it. Thank God Johnny had had
the sense to cut the com-link so he hadn't been able to hear.
I'm on the subject of the com-link, Tin-Tin..." he said,
turning to her, with authority, "...I'm sure you are more than
aware of the protocol surrounding the use of your wrist
communicator. What you did was out of line. You got that?"
bit her lip and looked up to acknowledge him.
Scott. I understand."
As for the
rescue; it wasn't hard for him to figure out what Father would
consider had gone wrong. The first thing he'd address was the
fact that John and Alan weren't at full capability when the
rescue call came in.
of you had had much sleep..." he pointed out, "...and Father's
not going to waste any time asking you the reason why you
hadn't. You both know the deal. I know you do. You have the
same responsibilities as me."
rule of International Rescue broken: "Anyone involved in
any rescue must be fit for duty and alert."
warning you to be prepared for Dad's lecture when it comes and
if I were you guys, I wouldn't try to justify whatever it was
you were doing."
at Alan. "Although I'm sure in your case it would be most
thing Father would want to know is how Thunderbird Two got to
the danger zone so far ahead of schedule. They all knew there
was only one answer to that question. It was innovation.
Innovation Father didn't know about and hadn't approved.
rule of International Rescue broken: "New equipment was not
to be trialled without their father's express permission."
prepared to take the rap for that one. He'd given the order.
Virgil had obeyed it. The buck would stop with him.
Scott," Virgil interjected. "I won't let you do that. Dad
needs to know we were both equally to blame."
said I gave the order. Humour me for once, OK? It was
the only order you obeyed all day."
looked down at his wrist communicator and spoke directly to
wanted to discuss the matter of the information exchange.
Whether he liked it or not, Father was going to be informed
tomorrow that the whole thing should have been handled better.
simple as this, Johnny," he said frankly to the communicator.
"When Dad told me about Giles' dodgy background, the
information you'd already relayed about the building stability
went from adequate to inadequate in my eyes. There was nothing
personal in my decision to ask for more from you. I was doing
what I was supposed to do. My job. I needed the
information and you should know me well enough by now to know
that I wouldn't proceed without it. Am I right?"
reluctant "yes," broke through John Tracy's lips.
least we agree so far. I know Father's going to tell me the
delay wasn't your fault and that I should have taken the time
to explain things properly. He's probably right but the fact
is, John, there wasn't any time to do anything except
get the information. You wasted vital seconds arguing.
So it doesn't matter what I say tomorrow or what you say
tomorrow. We'll both be wrong in Father's eyes."
rule of International Rescue broken: "You're there to save
lives, not argue."
a deep breath and looked around at all of them. He didn't have
any idea how Father was going to handle the rest of it. If
past history was any sort of benchmark, he wouldn't be taking
them had broken the primary rule of International Rescue and
that was something Father was never prepared to take lightly.
take unnecessary risks that could endanger your own life."
It was the
first thing Father had said to all of them, the very first day
the outfit was formed. Even though they were there to save
lives, it was imperative they never put themselves in a
situation where they might actually lose their own.
was where the "job" got confused with the love they had for
each other as a family.
on board the things he'd heard over the wrist com. Yes, he and
Johnny did have differences of opinion at times. Yes, he did
disobey Father's orders when he had to. And whether he wanted
to admit it or not...yes, what they did to save lives today
was exactly what he would have done.
honestly think Father doesn't already know that, Scott?"
shrugged his shoulders and glanced towards the villa.
what our father knows?"
straightened his back. He looked at the sky. He had two final
things to say and he was done. Not as field commander this
time. This time he spoke as their brother.
... when it came to who respected who around here, they were
wrong if they thought he didn't respect them. He respected all
of them; not just for their skills and abilities but also for
their tenacity, their professionalism and their bravery.
all that impressed with the stubbornness factor, though," he
frowned, indicating Virgil's bandaged hand. "I wouldn't like
to be you when Grandma finds out you were injured and didn't
tell her. Trust me; Dad's debriefing will be nothing in
comparison with the blast you'll get from her."
smiled, including Virgil.
two ...nothing was more important than the bond they shared as
a family. Father said it all the time. He did too. But it had
taken today for him to fully appreciate just how strong that
could have lost three brothers. Brothers he cared about more
than his own life. To stand there feeling so completely
hopeless was something he'd never had to deal with before. He
couldn't help how he reacted.
was born I made a promise to Dad that I'd take care of him, no
matter what," he said, looking steadily around him. "Dad
trusts me to take care of all of you and has done since I was
nine. Don't any of you ever put me in the position of
letting him down, again. I mean it."
he turned and strode back into the darkness.
you in the lounge in the morning."
deafening rumble from below the roundhouse...
taking to the air in fright...
of other rescue activity indicated the significance...
Thunderbird Three was ready for lift-off...
Destination: Thunderbird Five.
come as any big surprise. Thunderbird Five was the ideal place
for Alan to think long and hard about what could have happened
to him if Virgil hadn't saved his butt. They'd all be thinking
long and hard after what they'd just been through in the
expected, Father hadn't taken any prisoners.
Tracy stood alone on the balcony of the Tracy Villa and waited
unhappily for the launching. He could still picture the look
on Alan's face when Father ordered the early rotation.
not four...and he'd better get his head together while he was
up there. Bravery was one thing. Putting Virgil in a position
where he had to risk his life was another. He didn't think and
he could have lost his own life because of it.
understand what I'm saying to you, son?"
swallowed hard and remembered the rest of it. Father sure knew
how to make the best use of that particular line.
expected, the second de-briefing had been ordered the moment
they'd finished breakfast. They were all to report to the
laboratory immediately, Father had said, before he left the
table. Tin-Tin was given a brusque instruction to contact John
and patch him through on channel five.
please Tin-Tin," he'd instructed bluntly when she threw a
nervous glance in Alan's direction.
the Jeff Tracy who had no time for pleasantries.
going to be "serious shit" all right.
he thinks it's non-confrontational."
doesn't want Grandma to hear."
like there are heaps of places to hide the bodies."
frowned at his brothers in disapproval as they all descended
in the elevator. This was no time to try to figure out
Father's logic for ordering them to the laboratory, he'd said.
They'd be better off thinking about the way they were going to
conduct themselves when they got there.
waiting for them when they arrived. His features were solemn
and his voice was stern.
image appeared soon after, courtesy of channel five.
It had all
started exactly the way Scott had said it would. Father told
them point blank he was no longer interested in their opinions
or any arguments. After a night of tossing, turning and
imaginary hostage signals, he was only prepared to deal with
sir," they'd all replied.
didn't pull any punches. Alan and John were slam-dunked in the
first five minutes for failing to ensure they had adequate
rest. There were no excuses for the condition they were in and
if they thought he was going to ask if there was some sort of
explanation for it, they were very heavily mistaken. He
already knew why they'd had insufficient sleep and an
International Rescue debriefing was not the place to discuss
any of it. There was a rule in place around here; an important
it?" he'd demanded, looking first at Alan and then at John.
involved in any rescue must be fit for duty and alert, sir,"
they'd both mumbled in shamefaced unison.
You boys seem to have forgotten that."
shared his silent glare of disapproval with all of them.
paced up and down the length of the laboratory, stopping
periodically to inspect one of Brains' many experiments. It
didn't take long for his philosophical monologue to unnerve
"Constantly seeking to improve the performance of the
stopped to uncover some twisted metal parts that Brains was
currently storing in the laboratory. He'd looked at them for a
while, glanced deliberately in Virgil's direction, and then
resumed his pacing.
six minutes early."
an impressive performance..."
in front of the huge steel bench, leaned forward and fisted
his hands together.
craft that already flies to danger zones at maximum speed."
expected question was fired at Virgil. At what point had he
been informed it was in order to trial any new enhancements in
his word, Scott had stepped in.
was my fault. I ordered Virgil to do it."
frown immediately became every bit as intimidating as his
tone. His eyes moved from Virgil to Scott to Virgil and then
ordered him, Scott?"
ordered your brotherto double his speed with
something Brains clearly told you not to trial?
full well there might be consequences?"
there's no point me lying to you, Dad."
should have known that his admission was never going to save
either of them. Father's voice lowered by at least an octave.
He'd heard enough. They would now listen to him.
that he had made himself perfectly clear on this subject.
No new innovation was to be trialled without his
express permission. Brains knew it. They knew it. And not
only that, they knew exactly why he'd made that
decision. There were risks to consider; precautions to take.
Did they need to be reminded about the close call they'd had
trialling the recent "foolproof" improvements to the Mole?
That useless pile of crap in the corner was all that was damn
well left of it.
slammed down on the bench.
Thunderbird Two arrived at the danger zone twenty six minutes
early, he considered both of them to be equally at fault.
order should never have been given in the first place,
that's why I said it was my..."
no intention of being interrupted.
Virgil, let me tell you right now, the order should
not have been obeyed!"
for effect and effect he got. Neither of them moved or said
Gordon were aboard that craft," he rumbled dangerously,
without taking his eyes off either of them. "If something had
gone wrong up there Virgil, what the hell would you have
don't know. Scott, what about you?"
know either, sir."
exposure to the Jeff Tracy glare had followed.
his chest sink into his stomach at that point. He knew what
was coming next.
requested an accurate and clear summary of the effectiveness
of the exchanges with Thunderbird Five.
thing could have been handled much better, sir," he'd replied,
without making eye contact with John.
do you say that?"
inquisition had begun.
pushed for time, sir."
Thunderbird Two's early arrival?"
The fire was pretty much out of control when Virgil landed."
needed more information about the building structure before I
was prepared to risk the Firefly."
asked John to get you the information that you required, is
did, sir. Several times."
two of us argued about it and wasted valuable time, sir."
you think to explain to John why you needed the information?"
didn't have time."
the time to argue though."
no guessing about that, son."
inquisition moved to where John waited silently on channel
do you have to say for yourself, John?"
looked like he was about to be sick.
"I know I
shouldn't have argued with him, Dad."
of authority bore through him.
right John. You are there to save lives, not argue. I placed
Scott in command."
you did, sir."
pleased that you know. You certainly didn't seem to know when
I tried to debrief with you, yesterday."
Father dealt with the rest of it.
with Gordon who, so far, had somehow managed to escape
everything but the glares. In fact, Father began almost
pleasantly. He commended him for saving nine out of the ten
people involved. Saving lives was indeed worthwhile. It was
the reason International Rescue had been formed in the first
place. He never lost sight of that fact.
came straight out of nowhere.
had also completely overstepped the mark by taking risks that
clearly endangered his own life. When it came to his life,
there was no room for negotiation. Acting like a cat
with nine lives was no way to live a long life in the rescue
business. He'd already used up at least half of them. If he
expected to be used on the land rescues more often, he'd be
well served to think a little harder before he acted.
building could have come down on you, Gordon...straight down.
No more nine lives. No more second chances."
came down on the bench for a second time.
understand what I'm saying to you, son?"
A curt nod
was Gordon's only reply.
was Virgil's turn. Once again Father had started out calmly;
enquiring after the burns to his hand and if Grandma had made
her point yet about them not being given proper attention.
felt his way carefully.
but I expect she'll find the appropriate moment."
guarantee you that and I don't blame her.'
reprimand was coming. Everyone looked straight ahead.
appreciate the fact that you only risked your life yesterday
in order to save your brothers'. I'm sure that all of you boys
would have done the exact same thing."
line followed before Virgil had time to agree with him.
other behaviour in the danger zone had certainly left a lot to
"I rely on
you to keep a level head on your shoulders, Virgil," Father
berated him, without apology. "Putting pressure on Scott and
disputing his decisions is not the way I expect you to
conduct yourself in a danger zone. You rattled him at a time
when he needed to make a critical decision; a decision that
ten people's lives relied on, not to mention your own life and
the lives of two of your brothers. It could have been
catastrophic for everyone. Do you understand me?"
understand what I'm saying to you to son?"
Of course I do."
because I'll expect nothing less from you from now on."
prediction about what would happen to him ended up being
accurate right down to Father's very last word. By the time
the old man had finished with him, everything everyone else
had done had completely fallen off the radar.
a request; it was a command.
eyes had slowly lifted to Father's.
times had he told him? He wasn't on the racing circuit, now. A
danger zone simply wasn't the place for impulsive or reckless
behaviour. This was International Rescue and he had a lot of
responsibility on his shoulders. Responsibility did not
take the form of running half-cocked into burning buildings.
Neither did it give him the right to question his Field
Commander's methods, make assumptions or throw accusations
left, right and centre when he wasn't in possession of all the
no right to accuse anyone of anything, Alan. Your brother
saved that child. And your brother had to save you. I suggest
you take the time to appreciate that fact and try expressing
some sort of gratitude."
remained silent. It was obvious there was more to come.
you haven't made the effort already; I expect you to apologise
to Miss Kyrano for your uncivilised behaviour. Is that clear?"
A nod and
the curling of Alan's lip wasn't enough to satisfy Father.
said, is that clear, Alan?" he repeated.
dropped his eyes again.
sentence came down. John was to return to base immediately.
Alan was to be ready to leave for Thunderbird Five within the
hour. Virgil was to go straight upstairs to sick bay and
receive the well overdue "treatment" from their grandmother.
ready to leave in an hour too, sir."
won't. You have some serious thinking to do. Gordon, you are
to go in Scott's place."
Father turned and walked out of the laboratory.
returned to life as it was and watched Thunderbird Three roar
into the sky.
knew how Gordon felt.
didn't care that much for the feeling.
the kids would be OK without him. Johnny would soon be home
again. They'd be shooting the breeze and waiting for action.
It would be like this whole thing had never happened.
and glanced behind him in the direction of the lounge room.
Grandma would stop lecturing Virgil about not attending to his
I'd find you out here."
He was no
longer the International Rescue Commander they'd faced in the
laboratory. Dad was back to being just plain old Dad. Two cups
of coffee, a roast beef on rye...and an hour to kill before
"I find I
do my best thinking when I'm out on the balcony Father," Scott
heard himself reply a little sharply.
nodded as he set down the tray.
what you mean. Fresh air always has a tendency to put things
down and began to drink his coffee.
"And is it
helping?" he enquired casually, after a while.
turned his back on the ocean view and shrugged at him.
honest I'm not sure this time, Father."
nodded his head again.
never gets any easier, Scott."
doesn't. But that's what I do."
invited him to sit with him and enjoy the sunshine for a
while. He indicated the second cup of coffee and offered him
half the sandwich. Roast beef on rye. No mustard. Not exactly
his first choice but with their grandmother still in full
flight and no sign of Kyrano, it was all he could manage to
rustle up in the kitchen.
waited for a while before he spoke.
all over for me yet, is it Dad?" he asked his father quietly.
depends on whether you want it to be, I suppose," Jeff
down his cup.
Dad. You can give it to me straight. I know I let you down,
that what you think?"
that what you think?"
of fatherly advice began.
had nothing to do with letting him or International Rescue
down. Making tough calls under pressure was always difficult.
So was maintaining the respect and trust of his brothers when
they got into such a tight and dangerous situation. He didn't
need to say anything further about that.
sure he'd learnt a valuable lesson. Scott would continue to
learn and so would his brothers. They were a good team and he
led them well.
is one thing you still haven't learned about leading your
looked at him.
reached out and squeezed his shoulder. It wasn't an easy
lesson to learn, especially for someone like him.
remember the night his mother died? The night he had promised
to help him take care of Alan and to always look out for his
tried not to allow his features to cloud.
squeezed his shoulder again and then continued on.
been only nine years old...the eldest of five in a darkened
room, trying so hard to console his father. And his father had
taken so much comfort in the promises his nine-year old had
made to him that night. He'd watched his eldest son grow up
constantly fulfilling all of those promises. Even in college
and the Air Force, he'd been there to help out with his
brothers. At thirty one years of age he was still trying to do
But it was
time he gave himself a break.
brothers weren't those frightened little boys left to grow up
without their mother anymore. They were the men of
International Rescue now. So he didn't have to be that nine
year old anymore, either.
no more promises you need to keep to me, son," Jeff assured
him. Accept that your brothers are responsible for themselves.
You've done everything you said you'd do for me since the
night I lost your mother."
remember that when you go out there next time."