Author's preamble: This, my 9th story so far, has probably taken more time, and given me more trouble, than all the rest put together. I owe a big debt of thanks to Mad-Friend. Thank you, my friend. You have read so many versions of this story that you must be sick and tired of it by now. You pointed out all the weak spots, ruthlessly dragged my style back when I strayed from my chosen format, and above all, helped me to get inside Scott's head. You have been so much help. I almost feel I should be citing you as joint author. So thank you - you are not at all mad (unless we all are) but you are most certainly a friend.

Standard disclaimer: I acknowledge Carlton plc as the owners of the 'Thunderbirds' characters, and I thank Gerry Anderson and his team for creating them and giving us so much pleasure.

All dates and ages based on Chris Bentley's 'Complete book of Thunderbirds'

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Scott

Private diary - Not to be read by anyone else - Especially YOU, Gordon

16th January 2071

I was talking to John last night and he suggested I try writing a diary as a way of sorting out what's going on in my head. I'm not used to doing this sort of thing - I'm the action man, I leave the introspection to John, but if it will help, then here goes.

How should I begin? Well, I suppose describing how it all started might help.

It was only a week ago - somehow it seems longer - that we were called out to help at a train crash in the Rockies. A goods train had collided with a passenger train, and some of the passengers were trapped in the wreckage. Because of the remoteness of the site and its location in a narrow gorge, the ordinary rescue services were having trouble lifting some of the wreckage, so had called on us. To make matters worse the goods train had been carrying some type of flammable liquid, and one of the containers had exploded on impact, sending a blast of heat through the passenger carriages. By some miracle the other containers had not ignited, but a lot of the passengers were badly burned.

We had freed most of the passengers, but one carriage - it had been the dining car - was still pinned under one of the containers. Our infra-red detectors were no good except at close range because of the heat still left by the explosion so one of us had to crawl into the wreckage to see if it contained any survivors. Alan was helping Virgil operate the grabs in Thunderbird 2, Gordon was away that week at an oceanographic conference, so that left me.

I inched my way through the twisted metal, for once wishing I had John's slim build, until I saw the first victim. Sometimes I wonder if we could have saved people if we had got to a rescue quicker, but this guy had obviously been killed outright in the initial crash - a piece of metal had gone right through him like a spear. Moving on, I came to another guy. This one was alive, but unconscious and badly burned. I decided there was nothing more I could do for him at the moment and moved forward until I came to a mass of twisted metal that not even a cat could have got through. "Is anyone there?" I called out, "Can anyone hear me?"

Then I heard this female voice, laden with fear and pain, say "Thank God, I thought no-one would ever find me in here". I tried to get through the barrier but could only succeed in getting one arm through. I felt someone grasp my hand. I shone my torch through another gap. Its beam fell on a dark-skinned young woman lying on her side, with one leg pinned under a mass of twisted metal. One side of her face and body was a mass of angry red blisters where the heat had hit her, burning away the hair that on the other side of her head fell in rich black waves.

Her voice had sounded slurred, like someone who'd had a few drinks too many. I realised she was probably in shock and on the point of losing consciousness. I had to try and keep her talking. She told me her name, Elizabeth Bach, like the musician.

Just then Virgil contacted me on my wristcomm to see if I had found any survivors. I reported in the two I had found already, asking Elizabeth if there had been anyone else in the carriage at the time of the crash, but she said most had gone back to the passenger carriage because there was a movie just starting, leaving only her and a couple of guys. Virgil told me they were going to have to drain the tank above us before moving it, as it looked too fragile to lift in its present condition - there was a risk of it breaking in mid-air and dowsing us all . I shuddered at the thought of that flammable liquid pouring down on us. I told Virgil I was going to stay in the carriage and keep an eye on these people. I wanted to go back and take another look at the unconscious guy, to see if there was anything I could do for him, but when I let go my grip on Elizabeth's hand she pleaded "Scott? Is that your name?" (She must have heard Virgil talking to me) "Please don't leave me, Scott! I'm scared."

I promised her I would return in a few minutes, and left the torch so she wasn't in the dark. I must have spent the best part of an hour inside that carriage, mostly with my arm stretched through the gap in the metalwork, with Elizabeth holding my hand. Every time she seemed to be drifting off into unconsciousness I would ask her another question to pull her back. She told me about her job, her childhood, music - she likes jazz too -anything I could think of.

Eventually Virgil signalled that he was ready to lift the tank. There was a roar of jets as Thunderbird 2 hovered above us, then, moments later the shriek of tearing metal. Elizabeth's grasp on my hand became even tighter.

Suddenly bright light and fresh air poured into our prison. The shrill sound of cutting equipment was heard, and after a few moments I was able to stand up and stretch my cramped muscles. By the light of the floodlights that now illuminated the crash site (I hadn't realised that it had got so dark) I pointed to where the unconscious man lay, and one group of medics moved to that spot, while another worked round Elizabeth. "Scott!" she called out "where are you?"

I bent over her and squeezed her hand, trying to reassure her that she would be OK now, before the medics whisked her off to one of the waiting ambulances.

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The following day I was giving Virgil a hand greasing the suspension on Thunderbird 2. That's a big job, and we had stopped for a coffee break. Virgil made some crack about the fact that Gordon was due home that afternoon, and we would be able to tease him some more about 'La belle Nicole'. Normally I join in the ragging - heaven knows, I've been on the receiving end of enough of Gordon's jokes over the years, it's nice to be able to retaliate. We're all sure he wouldn't go to half these conferences if he didn't fancy a French marine biologist. This time, however I didn't respond - all morning I had been thinking of Elizabeth, all alone in that hospital. I kept thinking about when Gordon had his accident - he had one or other of us dropping in to see him every few days, but she had no-one. I'd had time to hear most of her life story while the others were getting ready to lift that tank. Her father had walked out when she was small, her mother died a couple of years ago, and she didn't have any brothers or sisters. There had been a boyfriend, but she dumped him when she found he was two-timing her. She doesn't even have a proper home - she works in hotel catering, and usual lives in the hotel where she works. She moves around every few years, and was on her way to a new job in Denver when the crash happened. I don't understand how some people can survive like that - it makes me appreciate just how lucky I am to have a family like mine.

Virgil suggested that I ring the hospital and find out how she was doing to put my mind at rest. I tried to protest - after all we're not supposed to have any contact with the people we rescue - Dad would do his nut if he found out.

So then Virgil proposed that we choose a time when Dad wasn't around - he even offered to keep watch for me. (See what I mean about appreciating my family?) He suggested I should just say I had been on one of the rescue crews - there were certainly enough of them there.

I rang the hospital that I knew the medical crew had come from, only to find she had been transferred to the specialist burns unit at Reno. They gave me the number and I rang there. When I had been put through to the appropriate ward and asked about Elizabeth Bach a female voice (I had made sure the call was voice-only) had said "Are you Scott? The boyfriend?"

That surprised me a bit, but I replied that I was Scott.

The nurse then told me that Elizabeth been calling for me, crying out in her sleep, 'Don't go, Scott, don't leave me'. The nurse sounded a bit hostile, so said I would try to get to see her in the next couple of days.

Virgil, who had been listening to the call was a bit taken aback, but. what else could I do? She needed me, she hadn't got anyone else. Alan was here, so he could cover for me. I reckoned if I took the fighter I could be there in a few hours, and back within the day. I'd just tell Dad I was spending a day on the mainland.

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I thought I'd had my fill of hospitals after Gordon's crash, but here I am, back inside one again. When I got there it wasn't at all like I'd expected. I was shown to where she was lying in a dimly-lit side room. The nurse explained that the burns on one side of her face had actually burned away her eyelid, so the light was kept low and her other eye bandaged as well while the regeneration gel worked to grow the new skin. She's lying there, with a frame keeping the covers from touching her skin, the whole left side of her face and body covered in a pale green gel which has a network of tubes running from it to some sort of nutrient drip, presumably to feed the new skin. She can move her right arm, but that's about it. Most of the time with all the medication she's being given, she's only semi- conscious. I sat there holding her hand, just talking to her now and again whenever she seemed to be awake. I don't see how Dad could mind that - it's not as if I'm telling her any of our secrets.

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