Just One of Those People
Chapter 1 - Nowhere to Go
I’d just finished looping the air with my self designed flying craft when I saw them. Two men dressed to kill, one carrying the oldest weapon in the book – a briefcase. The luggage-totting man had greying hair and a stern look about him. The other wore dorky turquoise rimmed glasses, furtively looking for a place to hide.
Oh yes, very inconspicuous.
I landed my aerodynamic craft (12 metres long, 12 metres wing span) and swung my leg over the side as the cockpit as it popped open. I waved them over. “Hey, how’s it going?”
“Fine thank you, Miss Fitzgerald,” the grey haired one answered measurably.
Alright, they had one on me – they knew my name. I waited for an explanation while I took off my helmet. He spoke again with steel disguised as courteousness in his voice, “I am Jeff Tracy. This is my associate, Hiram Hackenbacker.”
Associate…oldest lie in the book. I’d heard of the Hiram guy and his sky craft invention. I’d also heard of Jeff Tracy…his company made him an A class billionaire. An odd company for either of them to keep. I eyed them warily. “I’m Tara Fitzgerald, as you doubtless know.”
Silence again. Finally, Hiram burst out in a stutter, “T-That’s come f-f-fine c-craft you have there, M-Miss Fitzgerald.”
“Yeah, it is.” I threw a look back at it proudly. “Designed and flew it myself. I’ve had nothing else to do with my time…mainly because I don’t have the connections to get me anyway in the Air Force. Or NASA,” I added wistfully.
It was the billionaire who said something next, almost sounding sympathetic, “I’m sorry to hear that. Is your craft registered?”
I shifted. “Short answer – no. I did christen it…” I felt a flush rise to my cheeks. “Well, I have these heroes see…oh stuff it. It’s not legally registered but I named it Thunderbird 6.”
Hiram and Mr Tracy exchanged glances. They obviously thought I was mad.
“I’m not crazy!” I laughed uncomfortably. “I just really admire International Rescue because I once saw a female working for them…and I’d’ve become a famous feminist if I didn’t attempt the Air Force.”
Hackbacker was positively socially inept. He managed fearfully, “S-Surely you m-m-must admire them f-for something e-else.”
I narrowed me eyes. So Jeff Tracy and his Hiram buddy were interested in International Rescue, huh? Well, I’d give them my answer anyway. Even if they were my last chance at achieving my dream of flying full time, I’d be honest.
I lifted my chin. “They save people, dammit! Who has the guts these days to do it? And they’re not hiding because they’ve got something to hide; they’re hiding so fans like me don’t swamp them for autographs. They’re that good and appreciated.”
I was blabbing again. Embarrassed, I looked away out of the hanger. It seemed Hiram was going to save face for me.
“T-Tara,” he managed, looking genuinely interested. “T-Tell us about your c-c-craft.”
“Oh!” I jumped at this chance hastily. “2000 mile an hour speed and fitted with state of the art technology in laser communications. Original shell colour was akin to the frames of your glasses.” Hiram smiled at this. “But lilac is the best I say.” I swung around to Mr Tracy. “Do you mind telling me what you’re doing here? Last I checked drop out pilots like me didn’t rank high on billionaires’ radars.”
The billionaire in question inclined his head thoughtfully. “Do you wish to work for me?”
I blinked like a deer caught in the headlights. Jeff Tracy, billionaire, Top Gun, astronaut and generally well-know guy was offering me a job? Sweet! I patted my frazzled bobbed blonde hair. “Well, that was unexpected. Did he do the same thing to you, Mr Hackenbacker?”
“W-Why yes.” Hiram offered me an encouraging wink.
I could see he and his superior “associate” were fair impressed with me – they’d obviously read my file and liked my own craft. Two men interested in my work!
“What kind of pay?” I asked curiously. “What kind of work?”
Mr Tracy merely smiled. “See for yourself.”
Needless to say, I was pretty much taken in, hook, line and sinker.
I clicked a button on the console of my craft absently. The silence was deafening as I flew my own baby, my personal Thunderbird, after Mr Tracy’s light plane. I was following him to who know where, but to hopefully a steady job. Then I saw it – the sprawling Tracy Island.
I gasped with awe. My job had better be there! Valet parking or roast cooking, I was definitely in.
I touched down on the runway before Mr Tracy, having overtaken him by a double loop. I had ignored the protests squawked at me through the radio. He didn’t seem livid when I saw him upon exiting my craft.
“Hi, Mr Tracy!” I smirked at him. “Didn’t see you there. I did try to get into Top Gun.”
I had to drop the reminder – I was a skilled employee. It might mean better pay, even if it was a cooking job. I’d used the technique before. It had one of the desired effects – bailed me out of trouble.
He remarked coolly, “I was aware of that Miss Fitzgerald. Do not attempt to sell yourself short – you’d well have been enrolled if not for your weak connections.”
I saw the Hiram guy going over my baby, but forced my attention away. Let the geek have his fun, I decided. He sure looked like he needed it. I shook my hair out as I removed my helmet. “So what now?”
“Come to my office,” Mr Tracy invited. “You’ve got some papers to sign.”
I persuaded myself to read the whole contract before even picking up a pen. It said I was basically flying their craft as well as assisting the main mechanic (Hiram guy, I wagered) in technical design. There was a secrecy agreement, which concerned me somewhat. What did Mr Tracy have to hide?
The thing that really bothered me was that some print mentioned that should I perish, an apt compensation would be paid to an agreed party.
“Compensation?” I squeaked.
“There are risks involved,” the billionaire replied evasively.
I snorted. “No one’ll miss me. Build a rocket with it instead. So five years and no real explanation as to what I’m doing that would warrant a secrecy agreement.”
Mr Tracy looked me straight in the eye. “It is a matter of the greatest security. Where else can you go, Miss Fitzgerald?”
“You’ve got a point,” I admitted and signed.
He cracked a tiny smile and reached his hand across the table to shake mine. “Welcome to International Rescue.”
I suffered a delayed reaction. I started having an attack of hyperventilation, not pleased with the amusement Mr Tracy was getting out of it. I had to make sure –
“So we’re talking about the International Rescue?”
He nodded. I leapt out of my chair and whooped as loud as I could. My dream had come true! International Rescue – my heroes!
“Oh, sweet,” I sighed happily, collapsing back down into the chair.
And indeed it was.