Author's notes; this story takes place in the summer of 2059. Scott is 20, Virgil approaching his 18th birthday, and Alan 15 ½ (all dates and ages based on Chris Bentley's 'Complete book of Thunderbirds). This story acts as a prequel to my already-published 'Birthday gift'.
I would like to thank Closetfan and Purupuss for proofreading for me, and Rathead for the information on driving ages.
I acknowledge Carlton plc as the copyright holders of the Thunderbirds characters, and thank Gerry Anderson and his team for bringing them to life.
"Hey, guys, It's here! Come and give me a hand, will ya?" Alan called excitedly as he ran out of the house towards the flat-bed truck that had pulled up outside.
The driver of the truck leaned out of his window. "Where do you want me to put it?"
"Can you get it onto the drive, please, Joe? My brothers and I can take it from there."
By now the other boys had spilled out of the front door, and together they watched the tarpaulin-covered object being winched down onto the ground. Once the manoeuvre was completed the driver retrieved his tarp and put it back on the truck.
"Thanks, Joe," said Alan, "and tell your father I'll take good care of her."
"Sure thing, Alan," said Joe. "Have fun, now!" and with that he drove off, leaving the young Tracys staring at the object on the drive.
Gordon finally broke the silence. "You gave three months of your allowance for that? Brother, you've been had."
Alan bristled, "OK, so she hasn't been looked after lately. But look at the lines on her! That's a 2040s Zodiac XL5. When I saw her round the back of Mr. Kopecki's workshop last week when Dad took the Merc in for its service, I just knew I had to have her. Can't you just see her all gleaming red paint and shiny chrome?"
Gordon eyed the rusting hulk dubiously. "Not at the moment, no."
John spoke up. "2040? That makes it the same age as me."
"Yes, just think," cut in Gordon, "nearly as old as Scott here." He ducked as Scott aimed a cuff at his ear.
Meanwhile Virgil had pried open the hood and was examining the engine bay, muttering to himself. "V-8 engine, overhead cam, fuel injection." He looked up at Alan. "Well, kiddo, it's going to take a lot of work, but I'll tell you one thing – when this baby's finished she's going to go like a bat outta hell!"
"Come on" said Scott, "let's get it into the barn." The 'barn' was a prefabricated structure the size of a double garage that their father had had constructed at the side of the house to contain the hobbies of five extrovert boys. This was to keep the peace both with their grandmother who didn't want them cluttering up the house, and the neighbours who wanted the mess kept out of sight.
The boys opened the doors and looked in. At the front stood Scott's pride and joy, a state-of-the-art motorcycle, as sleek and gleaming as a thoroughbred racehorse. The floor around it was clear for a respectful distance, but apart from that there was hardly a bare inch of floor to be seen amidst the various bicycles, kayaks, windsurfing equipment, old model rockets and painting paraphernalia. A bench down one side was covered at one end with a partly disembowelled computer and a radio John had been given to fix by his grandmother that was so old it wasn't even digital. The other end contained Virgil's lathes and welding equipment, currently standing empty since he had graduated from high school the previous month.
"Ah well," said Virgil, "high time we gave this place a spring clean."
It took the rest of the morning to clear enough space to push the car inside. Once there, Virgil started to give it a closer examination.
"How long do you think it's going to take?" queried Alan.
Virgil looked at his youngest brother's eager face. "Well, the bad news is, it won't be ready to impress a certain young lady when she gets back from Europe with her father next month." Alan's face reddened as it always seemed to lately when any reference was made to Tin Tin. "But think of it this way," he continued, "by the time it's finished you'll have passed your test and be able to drive it on the highway."
"And you'll give me a hand?"
"Sure, kiddo –we'll all help."
"I'll help with the electrics" volunteered John.
"I won't be able to do much till next month," put in Gordon. "Don't forget I'm off to swim school next week for the Junior Nationals at the beginning of August, but I'll help once I get back."
"I'm going to be a bit busy too," added Scott. "What with spending the last year at Oxford I've got a lot of catching up to do."
"Yeah," said Gordon in a teasing tone, "and we all know what sort. All those girls who've been pining for you while you've been at college in England. Let's see, Marianne, Tanya..."
"Simone, Michelle…" John continued. Scott smiled, but wisely kept silent.
"I've just realised" said Alan, "August is going to be a busy month. We'll be going to Oklahoma to watch the web-footed wonder here," (Gordon grinned), "then it's Virgil's eighteenth birthday party, then Grandma will be taking us to her house at the end of the month for a week."
"Yeah, funny how we always seem to go there just in time to watch the races at Parola Sands."
"You wait. One day I'm not going to be watching those races, I'll be in them. And I'll be winning!"
"Yeah, and one day I'll have my own personal submarine."
"Hey," cut in John, always the mediator, as Alan opened his mouth for an angry reply. "It doesn't do any harm to dream. Maybe you will get that sub one day. Maybe I'll have my own private space station, and be able to watch the stars for weeks on end." He turned to his older brother. "What about you, Scott. What's your dream?"
Scott grinned. "That's easy. Mine would be the fastest plane in the world. What about you, Virgil?"
Virgil was just emerging from underneath the car, where he had been checking the bodywork for rust. "My dream?"
"Yes, what would it be? To win that international piano competition in Paris?"
To their surprise, Virgil shook his head, a faraway look in his eye. "No, that comes up every year. No, mine would be to build something that's never been done before. "He paused and looked at his older brother, "Maybe one day I'll help build that plane for you, Scott" He dusted his hands. "Come on guys, I'm hungry after all this work. Let's go and see if we can raid Grandma's cookie jar!"