Follow on to 'Trapped in the Sky.'

This story was written in response to the Tracy Island Writers Forum's 2008 Adult Follow-On Challenge and was voted the winner!

Author's Notes: Many thanks to Sam W. for her excellent beta help. And LMC...good catch!

As Virgil approached the two figures at the base of the London Airport tower, he saw immediately that his brother was involved in a heated discussion with an officious-looking man whose voice carried with it an air of authority as well as irritation.

"...I want to know what your organization is going to do about it," he was saying.

Scott had his hat in one hand and was massaging his brow with the other. His face visibly brightened though as he noticed Virgil walking towards them.

"Hey, V-"

He caught himself just in time. Wouldn't do to reveal the name of a member of International Rescue in public.

He started again. "Hey. 'Bout time you got done playing with your toys and got over here."

The light, teasing tone belied the shadow that came into his eyes as he added: "You okay?"

"Sure, no worse for wear. What's up?"

"Well," Scott said, " Mr. Upshunt here is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. He's a bit upset over the wake of destruction we've left on the tarmac."

Virgil turned his attention to the man in question.

"You're kidding. We've just saved six hundred people from being blown to bits! Not to mention the fact that thanks to us, the Fireflash is also very much salvageable."

The man in question eyed Virgil intently, as if waiting for the rest of the story. Finally, he spoke.

"Ah, I see you've conveniently forgotten the part that didn't go so well. Nemsis Aire has lost two of their three charter aircraft. You have shut down the majority of their operation and I want to know what compensation they can expect from you for lost business and destruction of property."

Virgil paled a bit. Oh, damn, the elevator car malfunction. "Oh. I'd...forgotten that part."

Mr. Upshunt's sarcasm was evident.

"How convenient." He turned back to Scott. "Look, my good man. It's evident that you did your best to help those people but facts are facts. When an aircraft is damaged, it's not as if one can just go to a warehouse and pick up a replacement. Restitution must be made to the injured parties."

"Well, I can assure you sir, that if it had been in our power to stop that damage from occurring, it wouldn't have happened."

"Ah, you see my point then. It should have been in your control. For heaven's sake, you Yanks just rush in like Rambo and then expect everyone to clean up the mess you leave. Not to mention that the control tower was basically bullied into letting you land and accepting your help. "

"Now wait just a damned minute," Virgil said between clenched teeth.

His rising anger was evident in the reddish hue that had blossomed quite nicely, beginning from the base of his neck and progressing all the way up to his hairline. Scott privately agreed with him, but part of his job at Mobile Control was to act as public liaison and general good will ambassador.

He placed a calming hand on Virgil's arm and excused both his brother and himself for a moment from any more of Upshunt's ramblings. They walked out together toward TB1 without a word. By the time they'd reached the landing struts, Virgil finally had to let loose.

"Can you believe this load of horse shit? Who the hell does this guy think he is?"

Scott regarded his brother for a moment, remembering what he had just accomplished and what had almost happened to him as a result.

"Virg, the guy's an asshole. On the one hand, he acknowledges that we saved all those people and on the other, he insults us. It pisses me off too...to the nth degree, but he's a local official..."

"Local bean counter is more like it. That's all people like him care about, the bottom line. They put that above everything, even human life. I'll never understand..."

"Don't try, Virg. Just take a deep breath and nod. This is a very crucial time for us. We're establishing our reputation. We can't afford to start out on the wrong foot here. What happened with that car wasn't your fault. It just happened. Not everything's going to go flawlessly on every rescue. There are obviously still some bugs that need working out. In the meantime, I'm gonna call Base and see what they want to do about this mess."

"Dad's gonna hit the ceiling"

"More like the moon."

Back on the island, the call was answered by the distinguished looking commander with salt and pepper hair. He took the news his eldest son had relayed to him as he took everything in life...with a calm demeanor born of his years of both military and business experience.

"He-e-e WHAT!?"

Scott held the mike on the radio a bit further from his face as the inflection of that last word echoed around Thunderbird One's cockpit.

"Uh, yes, Father. He wants us to pick up the tab for the damage to that airline and the airport property involved."

"Well, you tell this Upstart..."

"Upshunt, Father."

There was a slight pause, and Scott knew his dad was trying to collect himself and his temper. Jeff continued, more evenly.

"Whatever the hell his name is,you tell him that not only was this rescue operation done completely gratis, but that one of our operatives was nearly involved in a serious injury accident and basically risked life and limb to save not only those six hundred people, but also the reputation of the flagship carrier of his country, Air Terrainean. Furthermore..."

While all this was transpiring, Virgil had gone to secure Thunderbird Two. The security guard on the transport plane had been removed and he was now concentrating on getting her ready to leave the scene. He knew that Scott was right in that they couldn't afford to alienate the public, not if they were going to establish a good reputation for themselves. He was also glad that Scott was the one doing the negotiating, lest he show Mr. Upshunt what a real disaster feels like.

Back in the rocket plane, Jeff Tracy was having the last word on that very subject.

"...and then you can tell him that I will see to it a full investigation is launched into who approved an atomic powered aircraft, with only two hours worth of safety shielding...for passenger service!"

Scott already knew where his father was going with this. No aircraft in England was considered to be air worthy unless it had received a John Hancock from the Under Secretary of State on its release papers. The newly confident field commander signed off with the base commander and proceeded to gather up his sibling. Now, armed with something besides the painfully obvious facts, they walked side by side, back to the tower and the waiting government official...

"Scott, that was brilliant!" Virgil was transmitting from Thunderbird Two, looking out over his port wing at his brother in the cockpit of One as they flew home together.

"Yup, I knew Dad would come up with something. After all, he didn't get to be where he is by kowtowing to every Tom, Dick and Harry who tried to give him a hard time."

"You've got that right! So Upshunt's even going to pay for the whole mess out of his office's fiscal budget?"

"Yup, along with a goodwill contribution from Air Terrainean."

"That's great! I wonder if they'll ever catch that bomber."

"Well Penelope caught the guy who was taking pictures. There might be a connection."

Scott could hear the grin in his brother's voice.

"I'm scared of her!"

"Well, Virg. I didn't want to have to tell you this, but you should be."

"Oh, and why's that, pray tell?"

"Well, remember that hangar near the Nemsis Aire planes that were destroyed?"

"Yeah, it was pretty much toast as I recall."

"Well, remember when Penny was trying to find somewhere inconspicuous to dry-dock FAB Two in the off season...?"

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