Just One of Those People
Chapter 5 - Fireflash
I was gazing, as always, at the Numean with longing when I heard, “Jeff Tracy to Thunderbird 5.”
“Go ahead, Jeff,” I said absently, though concerned. “Do you have a cold? Your voice sounds odd.”
The viedophonic screen snapped open. I remembered it was midnight on Tracy Island and, with dread, looked up at the simmering glare of Stormie. I was beside myself with fury. “You’re wasting Jeff’s funds with a call just to make sure I’m not using your damn telescope!”
“Do you really think I’d sink that low?”
“Um, yes actually. ” I glared at him.
John did not look pleased. He snapped, “If you must know, Miss Fitzgerald, I wanted to commend you on your insight on the recent mission. I also thought it would be a favour to point out a Stargate: Universe marathon on TV1.”
My pause must have been translated as gratitude for he smiled smugly. I clenched my fists. “You know what would be a favour? If you would just let me use the Numean.”
“After your inane performance,” John snarled. “Don’t dare even think about using the telescope.”
He cut the transmission.
Alan stepped onto the satellite and waited for me to give him a high five before shuffling aside to admit a glowering John. For no reason at all, I found myself shaking. I felt kind of guilty about the call a couple of days ago.
“Um, hi guys,” I began nervously. “What’ve I missed this last month?”
Alan chattily launched into a narrative of Grandma’s scoldings and how pretty he remembered Tin-Tin had looked. I slapped him on the shoulder. “Just ask her out already!”
I noticed John, the Stormie shadow, skulking around the Numean. Satisfied that it was untouched, he drifted towards the view port and gazed out. Alan’s words washed over him, but he didn’t take any of it in. The brooding look on his face reminded me of the conversation Scott had with me at the beginning of our hating spree.
Everyone has their baggage…
“Alan,” I sighed, trying to forget that I’d had a brief moment of weakness and sympathy. “You should try a little tenderness. I’ll get Virgil to email the lyrics.”
“Have you no repentance?” demanded John suddenly as we hurtled towards Earth.
I, immersed in the functions of Thunderbird 3 (it was my first official co-pilot stint), had to ask him to repeat the question. I felt my ears burning with shame, but answered, “I would like to use any of your telescopes, but I’m beneath your attention.”
“I informed you of the marathon,” he reminded me stoutly. “I have all the interests of those in International Rescue at heart. Nothing is beneath my attention.”
I allowed a marginal defeat by a small confession, “I appreciated it. There – happy now?”
“Yes,” he growled, but softly.
A thoughtful expression passed over his face, but then it was gone. His snarl was back in place.
A hot afternoon saw me lounging over the couch in the living room. Gordon invited me saucily to swim, but I declined. Scott spent ten minutes with me, discussing “Da Hood” and the latest news.
I wailed, “You’ve turned me into a pacifist!”
“Do you still want to shoot the Hood?” Scott wanted to know casually.
“Then you’re not a pacifist. If you’d have caught him at the nuclear plant, you most probably would have shot him.”
I rolled my eyes. “Aren’t I supposed to be the perceptive one?”
“I’m joining Gordon,” he said suddenly. “The heat and your head strong personality are stifling.”
I sighed audibly. So I wasn’t reformed into a pacifist – thank goodness! My next visitor was Brains who entertained me with the improvements, uh, modifications to my craft (I’d rechristened it Stormie Dodger, much to John’s chagrin).
“Oh, one thing I must have,” I told Brains. “Air conditioning. I’m completely cooked whenever I fly it. I did mention this before, yeah?”
Brains looked embarrassed. “I j-just assumed you h-had air c-c-conditioning.”
“Don’t sweat it,” I advised him, but it was unable to put my advice into practice due to the intense heat of the day.
Grandma popped round to remind me that just because I wasn’t being fed proverbs from Kyrano didn’t mean I could be nasty to John. She seemed particularly upset that she had been evicted from the kitchen at Kyrano’s request. When John, I mean, Stormie came by I glared at him until he was out of sight.
I sighed. I really could have done with a chat with Tin-Tin, but she was out shopping with a woman I was yet to meet – Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward of England. Apparently she was International Rescue’s London agent and a very good friend of the Tracy family.
Mr Tracy tried to persuade me to join everyone else by the pool, but I deftly said, “Someone needs to be here if Alan calls in.”
“Family album!” Jeff countered, holding the item in his hand.
Virgil entered the room and seated himself at the piano. “Leave her be, father. I’m not down at the pool either and, if I recall correctly, you prefer work to swimming.”
Mr Tracy gave up at that point. Virgil started playing a serenade.
“So this cousin of yours…” he said over the cascade of notes. “You say she isn’t an art lover?”
I smiled. “I lied before. She adores art as much as music.”
“Hm,” was Virgil’s comment.
Suddenly, Alan’s eyes lit up on the portrait. The wait and boredom was over for another day! Mr Tracy obviously answered it and decided the mission was worth doing. I felt cold dread in my stomach.
Please let me stay behind, I silently begged. Or Stormie.
“Tara, you’ll be joining Virgil and Gordon,” Jeff ordered as he entered the room. “The new Fireflash craft has encountered trouble. Oh, I’ll send John too.”
I hummed for a while, until Stormie kicked me. I allowed myself a small pleasure. “You don’t know any other way of shutting people up, huh?”
“Tara,” Virgil warned from the front of the cockpit.
Gordon had a silly grin on his face and I half expected him to whip out popcorn and start munching. John gave me a smothering glare, “Sometimes a kick might bring them back to reality.”
“What reality, Stormie?” I asked sweetly. “That they may be an awful miser?”
I kicked him. Virgil said off-hand to Gordon, “I thought father sent you to be the peace maker.”
“This is way more entertaining,” protested Gordon, but cowered under the glare that Virgil shot him.
I fell silent, not wanting to end up with Jeff biting my head off over some report from the assigned peace maker. John failed to get the hint and he said scathingly, “You aren’t the saint you like to think you are. You’re stubborn, self-centred and unfeeling.”
I smiled sweetly. “Gordon, are you getting this?”
“Leave me out of your squabbles.”
Virgil made sure to interrupt the conversation by threatening to blackmail us. I’m sure I gaped at him. Of course, he was sweet natured but that didn’t mean his temper flared every now and then.
Gordon brought up a new topic of conversation. “How many Fireflash craft have we had tohelp in the past couple of years?”
“Five, I think,” Virgil mused.
“No, six,” John objected. “But who’s counting?”
I’d heard about the various Fireflash disasters. It was a source of amusement for pilots and engineers back home – those damn amateurs losing another plane. I asked curiously, “So what’s the problem this time? Mice? Bomb? Da Hood?”
“Brains reckons all three,” Gordon answered with a straight face.
Virgil struggled to keep a smirk off his face. He said in an off-hand way, “Penny once saw a mouse in here.”
“There’s no way,” John muttered to this. “I cleaned this last before that mission.”
I snorted. “You, Stormie, clean? Well no wonder. When am I going to meet this Lady Penelope anyway? Jeff said something about shopping in Milan.”
Gordon scrunched his brow in mock concentration then brightened.
“Oh yes,” his eyes twinkled. “You’re meeting her tomorrow. If you don’t give Stormie here too much grief.”
Damn Jeff Tracy, I thought darkly.
John didn’t deserve any silence on my part. I’d give him hell when Gordon and Virgil weren’t looking.
While Gordon was busy attaching cables to the distressed Fireflash Forever and while Virgil was checking in with Scott, I snuck in a few snide comments to John about mice and cleaning. He was not impressed.
“Can you not let things rest?” he demanded.
I rolled my eyes. “Of course not. But, Stormie, you’re about as friendly as faulty equipment.”
I sauntered over to Gordon, who was frowning in concentration. He noticed my arrival, however, and asked innocently, “Nervous?”
“Eat sand, sonny Gord. This isn’t my first mission or anything.”
“No, but it’s the first time Father is letting you do something that’s actually risky,” Gordon reminded me, smiling almost evilly.
“Hey, the time I used the Mole – that was a risky mission.”
“All you had to do was burrow a new passage for the underground river.”
“I manned that Mole like a pro.”
“Oh yes. Right into a sewage line.”
I grimaced. “That was one time. Besides, all we have to do is evacuate the pilots. Fireflash goes boom, they make another one and we save their sorry arses again.”
“If you don’t hurry,” snapped John, striding over, “then it will go boom with them on it.”
Gordon nodded encouragingly at me. “Go to it, Tara. Show Stormie what it’s all about.”
John scowled at him.
John manned the cabled harnesses attaching TB2 to Fireflash Forever. We had a short altercation over who would get the pilots. Fortunately, Scott cut in over the communication system reminding John that I didn’t know how to operate the cabled harnesses yet.
I’d barely escorted the pilots onto the top of the plane when I heard an ominous snapping coming from my harness. I looked down. The hook that would connect me to the cables was broken. I hesitated when I got to the top of the plane.
“What’s wrong?” I heard John’s voice squawk from the communicator attached to me collar.
I imagined the look of disgust on his face when he found out my hook had broken. Wanting to avoid this, I lied, “Nothing.”
The pilots got hook one fine and John zipped them away up to where Gordon, grinning like a maniac, helped them on board. John waved me over to be hooked onto the cables. I made sure I didn’t lose my footing. When I was in range to hear over the howling winds, John reached a hand out. “Give me your hook.”
“I can’t,” I gritted over the wind. “It snapped.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded. “Because you thought I’d make a deal out of it? Equipment fails sometimes.”
I refused to have a response to that. John reported the broken hook to Gordon who could only utter obscenities. Virgil’s voice came through reminding us that we didn’t have much time. John quickly said, “How strong can you hold onto me?”
“What am I, a preschooler?” I griped.
Noticing how close the water actually was, I sighed and thought to hell with it. I fastened my hands on his harness and flinched when he slid an arm around my waist. Stormie hit the release and we went flying upwards to Thunderbird 2. I became aware of my hands losing their grip. Sensing this, John tightened his hold on me.
I was angry with myself. Here was the sad, sorry SOB saving my sad, sorry ass and I wasn’t even screaming at him about the injustice of it all. I imagined all the horrible ways that John Tracy could die.
That made me smile a little.
When we reached TB2, I was thoroughly winded. Gordon hit the release mechanism and the cables wound back up. He reported to Virgil that we were on board. The craft shuddered into acceleration. John commented dryly, “I guess I am friendlier than faulty equipment. That’s the first time you haven’t given me a piece of your mind.”
Damn him. I was only winded. I gasped for breath then, when I had some, I snapped, “You’re the damn expert on these missions! Couldn’t you see I was fine? I don’t need your help, Stormie.”
“Remind me that next time,” John glowered, “when I have to save you, not to!”
The two Fireflash pilots watched us in apprehension. Fed up with John, I stormed into the cockpit, Gordon at my heels. Seeing my red face, Virgil asked, “What happened?”
“Oh, nothing,” Gordon answered, “John saved her life. Tara forgot to say thanks. I kept the peace.”
Virgil raised an eyebrow.
“Right…,” he said sceptically, then switched on the radio. “Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 1. No problem, just Tara blowing up at John and vice versa.”
“VIRGIL!” I shouted indignantly.
Hearing me, Scott spoke conversationally, “I guess that’s a no to shopping Milan to Lady Penelope, Tara?”
“I don’t like clothes shopping terribly much anyway.” I sighed in defeat.
“Too bad,” Scott said. “Father’s going to make you go either way.”
I slumped back into one of the cockpit chairs, royally fed up. I was more than a little annoyed to discover that John was authoritative and responsible. I supposed I could be wrong sometimes.
But that didn’t make up for the fact that he was such a bastard.