by EJB

A malfunction at International Rescue's Base causes a rescue not to take place.

Written for the 2008 TIWF Halloween Challenge.

Alan Tracy recorded the details of the distress call he'd received while up in Thunderbird Five and contacted his father.

"Go ahead, Alan," Jeff Tracy said routinely as he opened up the video-link from Tracy Island to the space satellite.

"I've had a call from a girl pleading for help, Dad," Alan replied. "She told me that some of her friends were taking party stuff into a cave in Yorkshire County in England to prepare for a Halloween party tomorrow night. She was outside with their vehicle when the roof caved in on her friends."

"Okay, Alan, tell her we are on our way," Jeff told him. "Get on to the local authorities and tell them too so they can be on standby with emergency vehicles. "I'll get the boys up from the games room."

"FAB," Alan said as the video link was cut.

Outside a cave in a small wooded area of England two figures were standing talking in the early afternoon sunshine.

"That metal gate was nice and easy to get open once I shot the lock off," the powerfully built man with Asian features smiled evilly at the girl beside him. "You have done well," he added. "You will have now convinced International Rescue to come to this place and go looking inside for a nice fresh cave-in. While the fools are doing that, my next little trick will keep them safely occupied with a genuine cave-in that will keep them away from their machines for a long time, maybe forever. Then at long last I can gain access to their machines and learn their secrets. Then untold wealth will be mine."

"Just as long as you remember me in that wealth, like you promised," the girl replied. She looked up into the face of her companion who was now wearing a smile of greed and pleasure at the thoughts of what he could be gaining if his plans came to fruition.

"Of course I won't forget you," he assured her. "You only have to continue your act when they arrive until they are lured into the cave. Foolish young people that don't know any better use these places at this time of year for their stupid Halloween parties. They know nothing of the real meaning of what they are celebrating, it is all fun to them. So it's easy to fool International Rescue to come here. If I know them, and their machines, it won't take long to get here and I'll take care of them."

The police car drew up at the entrance to Bluestone Caverns, a popular tourist attraction, set under a large hill. The place was often used by locals for parties, ghost hunt vigils and caving enthusiasts when the tourists had gone at the end of the day. Privately owned, permission had to be sought from the owner for these late evening activities and right now it was the end of the tourist season. It appeared that nobody was in sight and the entrance to the cave was sealed by a strong steel door with a padlock on it. In front of that was a sturdy metal gate also padlocked to give maximum security to the cave mouth.

"Everything looks normal to me," the young policeman said to his partner as they walked back to the car. "Can't see any sign of cave-in here or how anybody could get inside there anyway."

"Best to report in that we've checked the place and it must have been a hoax call to International Rescue," his partner replied.

The police officer called in and informed the radio room of his findings and was told by the operator, "There's been a new development. Stay there and I'll patch you through to the sergeant."

Sergeant Jordan told them, "I've been informed that you've found nothing out of place there. As you are in that area, go and see the owner of the caverns, Michael Hinkley. He's reported trespassers on his property close to the mouth of the cave's emergency escape tunnel. He heard gunshots too. He lives in Bluestone House close by. You get to there from around the hill road."

"Will do, Sarg. I know where that place is," the policeman informed his superior as he turned the radio off and began to drive the car to its new destination a short distance away.

Meanwhile on Tracy Island, Jeff Tracy and his sons were all gathered in the lounge.

"Okay, boys, that's the details from Alan," Jeff told his sons of the latest rescue mission. "You'll probably need the Excavator and the rest of the caving equipment for this one."

"I'll g-go and put them in the pod n-now, Mr. Tracy," Brains said as he got up to go down to the hangar.

"I'll help you, Brains," Tin Tin volunteered and left the room with him.

"Off you go then, Scott," Jeff said to his eldest son. Then he added, "Virgil and John will soon be following you in Thunderbird Two. Good luck it's going to be a long night for all of us."

Gordon was relieved that he wasn't going out on this night time rescue. He didn't particularly like cave-ins and was pleased his father had chosen John this time. He would instead though be keeping his father company during the long hours while his brothers were away.

Scott reached the cockpit of Thunderbird One and, after changing into his uniform, he pressed the controls that would send the fast, rocket plane on the first part of its launch sequence, down the rollers towards the launch pad beneath the swimming pool on Tracy Island. To his astonishment, nothing happened and Thunderbird One remained where it was.

Meanwhile Virgil and John had reached the cockpit of Thunderbird Two and had also changed into their uniforms while the pod with the rescue equipment needed was being selected and attached to the huge carrier plane.

"I hope that cave-in is not too far into the cave," Virgil said to John as he settled at the controls again. "I won't be able to get the Excavator in too far and it will involve us both digging through to get at the trapped people. That's a dirty and time consuming job."

John buckled up his seat belt and replied, "Depends what the cave-in's made of too. If it's solid rock, that'll take a lot longer to get through than just soft soil and sand."

Scott was surprised when nothing happened and pressed the controls again. "What the heck's going on?" he asked himself out loud when nothing happened. Frowning, he tried again and still the rollers failed to operate. Scott then had no other choice but to contact his father and tell him about the problem.

In Thunderbird Two, Virgil was having similar problems. After selecting the pod that was needed and descending down to connect it to the rescue craft, he pressed the remote control switch that should have opened the huge hangar door beneath the cliff face. The hangar door remained closed after several attempts by Virgil to get it to open.

"I don't understand this, John," Virgil told his brother. "This hasn't happened before. There must be a fault somewhere. It looks like I'll have to contact Dad and Brains to see what the problem is."

Scott, in Thunderbird One, was trying to do the very same thing and was puzzled when he realised that his radio contact to Base control was dead, as was his radio link to Thunderbird Five. His next thought was to try to call his father by wrist-comm but this was not working either, all he got was static interference.

Gordon had wandered over to the balcony in the lounge as he often did to watch Scott take off. He had expected to see the swimming pool open by now and Scott soaring off high into the night sky but this was not happening.

"Hey, Dad, Scott's not launched yet!" Gordon exclaimed. "The pool's still closed."

"He should have launched by now," Jeff agreed and went to turn on the vid-screen to Thunderbird One.

The portrait of Scott remained motionless on the wall instead of becoming a live picture of Scott at the controls of Thunderbird One.

Jeff tried the emergency signal controls from behind his desk and found them lifeless too. "Something has gone wrong!" he said to Gordon. "Find Brains and get him up here. Then you go and check if Scott is okay."

"Sure Dad," Gordon said as he left to do just that.

While he waited for Brains to appear, Jeff tried to see if he could contact Virgil in Thunderbird Two and met with the same response as he got with Scott. The vid-screen remained dead and the emergency signals did not work.

He then tried to see if he could contact Alan in Thunderbird Five. "International Rescue Base to Thunderbird Five, come in, Alan."

To his relief Alan's portrait changed to a live video link. "Thunderbird Five here, Dad," Alan replied. Then puzzled, he asked, "Why haven't Scott and Virgil taken off yet?"

"We seem to have had some sort of power failure. I'm waiting for Brains to come up here. I can't contact either of them by the vid-screens or radio," Jeff told him. "See if you can contact either of them from there."

"FAB, Dad. Hang on, I'll try now," Alan replied as he turned to the radio controls on Thunderbird Five.

Jeff waited anxiously while Alan did this. He couldn't understand what had possibly gone wrong; nothing like this had ever happened before.

Seconds later Alan contacted his father again, "No, Dad, nothing from either of them," Alan told him looking very worried.

"Okay, son," Jeff answered. "At least I can still get in touch with you. Get on to the police again and inform them that we have equipment problems here and have been delayed."

"I'll get on to it right now, Dad," Alan replied and cut the video link with his father.

Gordon met Brains and Tin Tin in the hangar of Thunderbird Two. "The power's gone dead for the radio and vid-screens up in the lounge," Gordon told them. "Something's stopped Scott from launching too. The pool didn't slide back."

"Same thing's happened to me," Virgil said as he and John joined them from Thunderbird Two. "I couldn't get the hangar to open or get any radio contact."

"You as well?!" Gordon asked in astonishment. He then added, "I'm going over to check if Scott's okay."

"I'll come with you," John said to Gordon. Turning to the others he said, "You three go up and see Dad."

John and Gordon met Scott about to go up in the elevator to the lounge. "What's going on around here?" he asked. "I couldn't contact anybody by radio or by wrist comm. I couldn't get Thunderbird One to move down to the launch position."

"Some sort of power failure," John told him. "Same thing happened to Virgil and me when we tried to launch Two."

"Virgil's gone up to the lounge with Brains and Tin Tin to discuss it with Dad," Gordon added.

"This is terrible," Scott said as they got in the elevator. "Lives may be lost due to this and International Rescue will have let people down."

"I haven't approached them yet, officer. When I heard the shooting noises I thought it best to stay here and inform you first," Michael Hinckley told the policeman when they arrived at his home. "I've seen them through my binoculars from upstairs. There's two of them, a foreign looking man and a young woman. I can't understand why they are hanging around the emergency exit to the cave."

"Good thing you stayed back," the policeman replied. "Seeing as they are armed and dangerous. I'll go and tell my colleague to get us armed back-up before we investigate any further. Apparently International Rescue has been called to rescue people trapped inside following a cave-in."

"International Rescue!" exclaimed Hinkley. "Why? As far as I know there is nobody inside or a cave-in. The only people that are due are the public safety checkers before the annual Halloween party is held tomorrow night."

"Is that emergency exit as secure as the main one?" the policeman asked.

"I've only got a padlocked metal gate on there so it can be opened quickly in an emergency," Hinkley replied. "Nobody ever bothers to go up there. Those two have driven up the emergency vehicle dirt track and parked outside for some reason."

"Leave it with us, Mr. Hinkley, and keep yourself and your family indoors," he was told as the policeman went outside to join his colleague and radio in to the station for more back-up. "We may need your help later."

Michael Hinkley closed the front door of his home and ushered his wife and family upstairs for safety. Then he went into the rear upstairs room and continued his observance on the two trespassers through his binoculars and wondered just what they were up to out there.

After receiving a telecall from Radio Control, Sergeant Gareth Jordan, at the desk of the police station in the small town of Thornburn Bridge, turned to his colleague and said, "I've just had a message to say armed units are required at Bluestone Caverns. The trespassers there have guns on them."

"I'll get on to that right now," his colleague replied.

"It's a bit of a mystery," the sergeant continued. "There's nobody supposed to be inside the caves according to the owner and the main entrance is secure. No signs of a cave-in there so why International Rescue have been called out, I just don't know. They have problems getting here too according to the radio room. They've been informed of our findings and that it may be a hoax call. Anyway, if guns are involved though it's serious and the ambulance service will be needed on stand-by. Get on to it now, Phil."

"Okay, Sarg," the young policeman replied and contacted the radio room to send the armed back-up team and emergency services up to the caves.

On Tracy Island Jeff and his four sons had been doing detailed checks on the radios and the power systems to try and find the fault. Tin Tin and Brains were each in the cockpits of Thunderbirds One and Two respectively so they could check radio responses as the checks were made.

Jeff met up with John first in the hangar. "I just can't find anything wrong, Dad." John said to his father after checking the circuits to the radio system.

"We've all done detailed checks on the hangar doors and the other launch mechanisms and found nothing wrong there either," Virgil added as he and Scott joined them.

"When were the last full maintenance checks made on the systems?" Scott asked.

"It'll be in the log file but I don't recall any problems being reported," Jeff answered. "I'll check that out too. Let's all go and get a cup of coffee and discuss this upstairs and try things again from up there."

Kyrano brought coffee in for everybody as they gathered in the lounge to discuss the problem further.

"Thanks, Kyrano," Jeff told his loyal friend and servant. "No point in you staying up half the night too. You can go to bed now."

"I will do that, Mr. Tracy," Kyrano replied. "Goodnight"

"Goodnight, Kyrano," Jeff answered. He took a sip from the steaming mug of fresh coffee and turned his attention back to International Rescue's major problem.

"We can't get the hangar door for Two to open by the emergency switches in Landing Control either for some strange reason," Jeff told his sons and scribbled this down on a pad.

"There must be some major fault to the circuits for the rollers for Thunderbird One," Scott said.

"We can contact Alan in Five but can't communicate with One and Two by using the normal method or the emergency one," Jeff added, writing this down on the list. "Whatever it is, only the communication system on those two radios is affected."

"What about Lady Penelope?" Gordon asked. "Have you tried to get her?"

"No, I haven't," Jeff replied. "Good thinking, son. I'll try now."

"I can't help thinking about those people in the cave," Scott said looking depressed. "I feel as though we've let them and their friends down."

"I know how you feel, Scott, but it's not our fault," John told him. "Brains and Tin Tin are in the computer room now trying to solve the problem."

They all looked relieved when the portrait of Lady Penelope turned into a live picture of her in her home in England.

"Hi Penny, it sure is good to see you," Jeff told her.

"Well it is always a pleasure to see you too, Jeff, but I'm sure you have not contacted me just for that reason," she replied. "What can I do for you?"

Jeff explained to her the problems they had been experiencing and why he had contacted her.

"How strange, Jeff, and a most inconvenient thing to happen," she sympathised. "I do hope you get the problem solved soon. Is there anything else I can do to help?"

"No, not at the moment, Penny, but stand by just in case. Goodbye," Jeff told her.

"Alright, Jeff, but don't hesitate to ask. Goodbye," she replied as the live link was closed.

"So we can contact Alan and we can contact Penny," Jeff said. "The odds are in favour that we can contact our other agents too."

"So what the heck's the problem?" Scott asked with impatience. "You should know, John, you're the radio expert. Can't you get this thing sorted out?"

"Don't blame me!" John exclaimed. "You know I've been over everything and could find nothing wrong."

Jeff could sense the frustration and worry developing amongst his sons. They were getting tired too, he thought. He said to them, "Look, it's no good getting all fired up about this. I know it's upsetting and annoying but we won't get the problem solved by losing our tempers and arguing. We've got to look at this with a clear head and a calm state of mind. I know you are getting tired also. Now if you've all finished your coffee we'll go and see if Brains has come up with anything and then we'll try again to find the fault."

Just then the eyes on the portrait of Alan Tracy began to flash. "Go ahead, Alan," Jeff responded quickly to the call.

"I've had a reply from the police about that cave-in, Dad," Alan replied. "It seems that it may be a hoax but two trespassers have been seen at the emergency exit to the caves and the police believe that they are armed with guns. At this stage they don't think anybody is inside the caves and are investigating the incident."

"Well that's a relief and it buys us more time to find out where these faults are," Jeff told him. "Okay, Alan, keep us informed of any new development."

"FAB," Alan replied as the link to the space satellite was cut.

Outside the emergency exit to the cave, the man known as The Hood was waiting patiently for the first sign of Thunderbird One to appear. So far his plan had gone well and he and the girl had not been detected, or so he thought. Nothing was to go wrong now as it had often done before when he'd tried to gain access to the secrets of International Rescue. The foolish girl he'd brought with him could be easily disposed of later once she had served his purpose; he would have no further use for her. She'd been easily tempted to help him by promising her a share in the wealth he hoped to gain.

"When will they get here? I'm getting cold," the girl whined to him.

"Soon, they will be here," he replied scanning the skies still and hoping he was right.

"Well I hope they do," she said. "It'll be dark soon and it will be colder then and I've no coat with me. Is that them now?"

Looking up he saw not the sight of Thunderbird One hovering above. Instead it was a police helijet. They had been discovered, his plans were foiled.

A squad of police cars were also coming up the dirt track, headlights blazing and blue lights flashing. Knowing he was cornered he did the first thing that came into his head. Grabbing the girl in one of his powerful arms as a hostage and his bag full of equipment with his other hand he ran into the open cavern.

Anticipating that he would probably do this, the police had taken Michael Hinkley down to the main entrance to the caves to open it for them to get through to meet the trespassers in the emergency tunnel. Their colleagues at the emergency entrance had informed them of the escape attempt made by the criminals and the need for caution.

After Hinkley opened the steel door he said, "If you don't want the lights on I have torches here ready charged up and safety hats. The route to the emergency cave exit is lit by red ropes on the side of the walls once you get into the main chamber. Do you want me to come with you and show you?"

"Best if you do but stay behind us and give out directions," the policeman told him as they went in and picked up a torch and safety hat each from the shelf inside.

The Hood ran deeper into the cave carrying the struggling, confused girl with him. What light there was from outside was dimming the further he ran in and soon he could not see where he was going in the narrow tunnel. He had to get his torch and gun from his bag and in order to do that he would have to put the struggling girl down.

"What did we come in here for?" she asked. "It's cold and dark. I don't like it in here."

"Shut up!" he told the girl whose whining was starting to irritate him. "The police are after us. Do you want to get us arrested? We'll make for the main entrance and I'll blast the locks off there. I may have to cause a landslide for International Rescue to save somebody after all."

After he got his torch he switched it on and put his gun in his pocket. Then pushing her in front of him, he picked up his bag. "Just keep walking," he told her.

They walked further into the tunnel, slipping and stumbling on the uneven, muddy ground. The roof of the cave was very low in some places and the girl bumped her head against the hard rocks and cried out in pain. The tunnel opened up into a wider chamber and the Hood noticed torch lights ahead in the distance coming towards him.

"Police!" he exclaimed quietly. "International Rescue must have informed them." Uttering curses when realising he was trapped by the police coming in both directions, he grabbed the girl roughly and dragged her to one side, forcing her down on the ground while he too crouched down and put out his torch.

The girl became confused and frightened of her companion's actions. Up until now he had been charming and courteous to her, promising her great wealth and a good life with him if she helped him out in his plan. Now she was cold, wet and muddy. Her head was bleeding where she had knocked it on the cave roof. She lay trembling with fear on the ground and wondered what was about to happen next.

Behind them the rest of the police were following at a safe distance and soon both parties met up, shining their torches on the couple on the cave floor. They stopped and pointed their guns at them.

The Hood drew the gun from his pocket and held it against the head of the prostrate girl. "If you fire a shot at me, I will kill the girl, then kill some of you, too," he threatened.

"Don't be a fool, man, and make things worse for yourself," one of the policemen told him. "You know you can't get away from all of us so just hand over the gun now."

The girl began to cry out in terror and struggled to sit up and pleaded with The Hood, "Please don't kill me, let me go, please."

"Shut up," he told her again holding her tightly down with one strong arm while still holding the gun at her head.

Michael Hinckley had owned the caves for many years and knew every inch of them. He was an experienced caver and was used to the darkness. While The Hood's attention was on the police that surrounded him and the girl, Hinckley switched off his torch and crept quietly over to edge of the wide chamber behind them. He came to a pile of loose rocks that had lain there for several years and picked up the biggest one he could manage and aimed it at the large bald head of The Hood.

Stunned by the unexpected blow, the arch criminal fell forward firing his gun at the same time, wounding his young female companion as he did so.

It was all over in seconds. The Hood was handcuffed and arrested while semi-conscious. The girl sustained a wound in her shoulder and was whisked away in an ambulance that was waiting on stand-by outside.

As soon as everybody was out of the cave, the police opened the bag that The Hood had been carrying. They found several explosive devices and realised to their horror that he could have used them and killed them all inside that cave if things had gone wrong. Michael Hinkley was thanked and praised by the police for his actions even if he had put himself at risk.

"It was the only thing I could do," he told them. Then smiling he added, "It seemed a good idea at the time but I'll probably be shaking about it later when I think of it."

Back on Tracy Island the Tracy's were still trying to discover the fault and repair it. So far nothing out of the ordinary had been found after countless checks and computer system analyses had been made. "We may as well break for something to eat," Jeff told everybody. "We've done all we can for now. It's a relief to know that last call was a hoax but we need to be prepared for the next call-out."

"We'll give it one more shot afterwards, Dad," Scott told him. "Tired as I am, I won't be able to sleep until I know everything is operating again as normal."

"Me too," Virgil added.

"I hate unsolved problems," John added as they headed off to get washed before their meal.

They continued the conversation around the kitchen table. "There has to be a reason for the malfunctions," Jeff said. "I wish I knew what it was."

"Now everybody just eat your food," Ruth Tracy told them. She had been unaware of the problem that the family had spent all night dealing with and had got up to make breakfast as usual.

"You'll all think better and find the reason with some breakfast inside you. You've

been so busy all night and haven't had a decent meal since dinner last evening."

"That's true, Grandma," Scott replied. "I guess I do feel a bit hungry."

"No malfunctions there with you then, Scott," Gordon said smiling.

After breakfast they all gathered in the lounge to discuss what their next plan of action should be.

"We m-may have to fit new, er, components to everything to g-get the, er, system working again," Brains told them.

"That's going to take some time but if it is what we have to do I suggest we get started straight away," Scott replied. "We just can't afford to be out of action any longer."

They were interrupted in their discussion by a call coming in from Alan. Jeff walked over to his desk and switched on the communication screen. "Go ahead, Alan."

"I've had another call from the police regarding that cave-in, Dad. They told me they've arrested two people, a man and a girl. They haven't got any information out of the man yet, he's refusing to talk. The girl wanted to talk though, and talk she did. The man told her to call us with that false information and when we got there he was going to lure us into those caves and set off bombs and trap the boys inside or kill them. He wanted to gain access to our machines, Dad. He promised her great wealth if she did as he asked."

"Well that was a lucky break for all of us," Jeff answered. "Keep us informed of the situation, Alan. See if you can find out any more details about that man, he may be the one that's caused trouble for us before."

"FAB, Dad," Alan replied. "By the way how is the launching problem and the radios malfunction going?"

"We're still working on it, son," Jeff told him.

"Well I wish you luck," Alan said as the link was cut with Thunderbird Five.

"Come on, let's get back to work," Jeff told everybody.

"Why don't you start at the beginning?" Gordon suggested. "Pretend you've just received a call-out from Alan and proceed normally from there."

"I can't see what good that will do," Virgil answered. "It will just be wasting more time."

"Well, we all have to check things out so we have to go to the Thunderbirds anyway," Scott told them. "We've got nothing to lose."

"Okay then, Scott, away you go," Jeff said. "Virgil and John will be right behind you. When you get to the cockpits try and contact us by radio."

They watched as Scott grabbed the lamps on the wall and vanished behind on route to Thunderbird One. "Your turn now," Jeff indicated to Virgil and John.

When they had gone, Gordon went over to the balcony and looked towards the pool, just as he had when Scott attempted to leave earlier.

Scott reached the cockpit of Thunderbird One to attempt his usual routine to launch the sleek rocket plane once again. The only thing he didn't do was change into his uniform. He switched on the radio and was surprised and delighted to see his father's face. "I'm here, Dad, and somehow as you can see so far, things look good. I'm going to attempt launching sequence now. Can I have air clearance?"

Jeff studied the scanners and smiled back at him, "You're okay to go, son, good luck."

Scott worked the controls and everything appeared to work as normal, the rollers carried Thunderbird One down to its launching position beneath the pool.

Gordon gave a commentary from the balcony. "The pool's opening, Dad!" he exclaimed with excitement and relief.

Scott switched on the ignition and to his immense relief and bewilderment Thunderbird One was launched high into the early morning sky. "I'm airborne, Dad!" he said over the radio. "I don't know how or why but I'm airborne. How's Virgil doing?"

"I'm about to try launching now," Virgil said. "I've got no problem with the radio now either."

"Okay, Virgil, if you get Two launched and there are no problems, you and Scott go on a test flight circuit," Jeff told his sons.

Virgil pressed a switch and the huge hangar doors in the cliff face opened and with another flick of a switch the huge green aircraft moved forward and outside in a normal routine launch operation. "I'm launching now," Virgil told his father as Thunderbird Two pointed up to the sky then lifted off from the ground with no trouble at all.

"Well what do you think, Brains?" Jeff asked the young scientific genius.

"It seems that, er, everything is functioning n-normally," he answered. "I c-can't understand why it wasn't before, though."

"Well, let's just be glad that it is and we don't have to fit those new components," Gordon told them.

"I'll r-run a diagnostics check through the er computer when the b-boys get b-back and see if everything is still, er, okay," Brains told them.

When Thunderbirds One and Two returned without any trouble and Brains had run a check through the computer and no further problems were discovered, Jeff announced. "Well it's been a long and trying time. I don't know what caused that malfunction but I'm sure glad it put itself right."

"I think we can all agree on that, Dad," Scott said. "I don't know about anybody else but I'm off to get some sleep."

"Just be grateful the boys didn't go out on that call to the caves, Jeff," Ruth Tracy said looking up from her sewing after Scott's brothers decided to get some sleep too and the two of them were alone.

"I am, mother, very grateful," he replied looking at the portraits of his sons on the wall. "That malfunction couldn't have happened at a better time even if it did give us a scare, a lot of work and a night with no sleep. I dread to think what might have happened if they had gone out to that cave. Now I'm off to bed as well, mother. I think most of us will all be asleep until after lunch. Goodnight, or in this case, good morning."

"Have a good sleep, son," she replied. "I'll see you all later."

After he'd gone, Ruth Tracy put her sewing back into her sewing box and closed the lid to get ready to do some baking. "Men," she said out loud. "Heads full of technical systems and science. They never look beyond that for any other explanations."

She watched as a beautiful coloured tropical butterfly flew in from the balcony. It flitted across to the portraits of the Tracy brothers and rested on each one in turn. Kyrano had told her once that people in many lands held the superstitious belief that these insects were spirits of loved ones who came visiting now and then. Ruth Tracy smiled and said, "We know though, don't we, Lucy? How strong a mother's love can be and the urge to protect our children from danger."

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