Polished, shining, not a spec of dirt or a burn anywhere. The oxygen tanks and neighboring structures had been rebuilt and replaced and the space station hovered gracefully above Earth, ever-watchful.
The whole command center had been refurbished. Where there had been only dim blue emergency lights and electrical fires, the atmosphere thick with the rising CO2 levels and the stench of burned wires, there was nothing but warm lights and untouched consoles.
Scott looked around, wondering when this vision would shift to the charred interior he remembered. The place where he and his family had fought for survival. But nothing happened. Everything stayed as it was.
Thunderbird 5 was as good as new.
No, she was new.
New insides, partially new outsides, and new equipment. Brains had truly outdone himself.
As John walked over to the main command console, switching on the monitors and fine-tuning the receptions from all over the globe, Scott let his eyes wander toward the wide view screen that showed his home planet. It was a marvelous view, unrivalled by anything that could be found on Earth itself.
He still remembered the surge of fear when he had heard the emergency alarm go off, Brains announcing that a meteor had hit their space monitor where his brother was on duty. And he would forever remember the state it had been in. Now there was no sign left.
"Looks good," John announced, turning to him.
He looked fine. Completely relaxed and at ease. No lingering fear or panic at returning to a place that had nearly killed him.
Then again, wasn't it all the same? Space was a dangerous habitat, but so was Earth itself. If Thunderbird 1 went down over water, in the mountains, in the desert or wherever else, Scott knew he was in danger as well.
"I'll help you unload the rest of the stuff and then you can take TB3 back home," John drew him out of his musings.
Scott nodded automatically. "You sure you don't want a bunk mate for the first few days?" It was meant half teasingly, half serious. "I'd volunteer."
John chuckled. "Nah. Thanks for offer, though. You've got a ship waiting for you to fly her, and I'm not used to having someone look over my shoulder."
Scott smiled. "It's not like I'd help you with that science stuff," he teased. "That's geek stuff."
"Ah, yes, and you're more into the hot jock race pilot things of life."
His grin widened. "Yep. Could teach ya."
John laughed softly. "Let's get Thunderbird 3 unloaded before I teach you science, bro."
"Ewww, no thanks. Contagious stuff."
Bantering lightly, they unloaded the space rocket.
Two hours later he was on his way as Thunderbird 3 detached itself from the station. The rocket fell away from the much larger station and for a moment seemed to plunge toward Earth, then her boosters lit up.
"Fly safely," John called over the com lines.
Scott grinned. "Wouldn't think of hurting Gordon's baby."
"Ah, yes, retaliation for that is gruesome. See you in a month, Scott."
And then the red rocket ship headed home.
° ° °
"Thunderbird 1, the storm is heading your way. Watch it, bro, or youll end up putting some dents into that new finish."
Scott chuckled. "In your dreams. This 'bird can outrun any storm. Unlike that behemoth of a ship my brother calls his own."
John's laugh echoed through the audio receptors and Scott could very well imagine the wide smile on his face.
"Just take care not to get too close. I think Brains could use a breather."
"FAB!" he called lightly.
He glanced at his radar and found that the storm was indeed heading his way, faster than he would have given it credit, and he was glad for the heads-up. John had eyes everywhere.
Scott looked through the canopy and grinned at the darkening sky. Somewhere past those clouds, high up in orbit, was their monitor station Thunderbird 5. John had 'relocated', as he had joked, a week ago and things were back to normal. Operations as usual...smooth, uninterrupted as they were used to.
Because John was back.
Because Thunderbird 5 was back.
Because International Rescue was back.
Scott skimmed the edges of the storm, delighting in the feel of the strong winds rushing past his 'bird, giving her another boost, and then gunned the engines to shoot ahead and change course for safer waters, so to speak.
"Show off," John called.
How his brother managed to see all of this was beyond Scott, but the instruments aboard Thunderbird 5 did more than just create blips on the screen.
He chuckled and set his course home, away from the storm and out of the danger zone. The adverse winds were heading out to sea and there were no ships in danger or anyone calling for assistance. International rescue had helped save those people who had been caught on a cruise ship in this weather, guiding the damaged vessel to a safe port, and Thunderbird 2 was already on her way home, having a little head start. Not that it was any great feat for the sleek reconnaissance vessel to overtake them in no time flat.
Nothing could match Thunderbird 1. He loved flying his 'bird, he loved the thrill it gave him to sit in the pilot seat of the fastest aircraft in the world. Nothing could beat her. Nothing could even remotely close. It was a wonder, a joy and sometimes outright exhilarating to feel the thrum of the powerful engines.
And it felt good to be out on rescues on a regular basis again. It was what they did best; all of them.
° ° °
It was beautiful as always. The sun reflected on the dark blue water, creating colorful palettes, a work of art each and every day. Sure, there were the tropical storms, but no storm or bad weather front could erase the beauty and serenity of this place.
A real paradise. His home. Their home.
Scott was in the pool, playing ball with Virgil while John was floating leisurely in the middle of the water, looking very much at ease with himself.
"Scott!" Virgil yelled and threw the ball.
Scott deftly caught it and was about to chug it back when John playfully kicked out at the ball.
"Get him!" Virgil laughed and launched himself at his brother.
Scott was immediately in on it and they dunked John under. He laughed and joined the melee. The water fight was in full flow.
Two months had passed since the attack and normalcy had finally really settled in. Alan was back at school, though he had done so reluctantly. Scott didn't know what John had told his youngest brother, but something seemed to have stuck with the teenager. Their father was considering having Alan up on Thunderbird 5 for a few days a week throughout summer break, also learning to fly Thunderbird 3 in the process. Gordon had moaned and bitched about it, but Scott suspected that Gordon was looking forward to spending more time with his beloved submarine.
His younger brother was currently up in the station as long as John was having a spell down on the island.
Scott sputtered as his brother dunked him under and immediately retaliated. John evaded his grab and dove away, surfacing a few meters up ahead.
"Slow!" he teased, grinning widely.
Scott snagged the ball and threw it at the blond, who caught it deftly.
It felt good to play like this, to be someone else for a moment, to forget all about missions and rescues and the past. John still bore all the reminders. The cut on his right upper arm had healed, but it had left a thin, red line that would one day maybe turn lighter, but it would never disappear. Neither would the burn scar on his back, which was just as visible as the one on his arm.
There was a loud banging and their father's voice echoed over the din of their play.
"Dinner's ready, boys! Grab it before we've to throw it away!"
John shot his brother a grin and lithely climbed out of the pool, for a moment showing the burn scar on his back before he toweled off and covered his upper body with a shirt. Scott followed, feeling hungry. It smelled like steak and his mouth was watering. Onaha's steaks were legendary, closely followed by her pasta dishes.
"Gordon's missing out on something!" Virgil laughed as he quickly grabbed a chair and sat down.
"Ah, but he has wonderful MRE's," John teased.
Virgil grimaced. The 'Meals Ready to Eat' were standard Airforce and Army food packages that contained everything a soldier needed and could be heated quite quickly. John had a few of those up on Thunderbird 5, as well as powerbars and whatnot. Supply runs were always hugely appreciated because it meant he had a chance at home cooked meals.
Soon they were all chewing on steak, talking about this and that, and Scott let himself sink into the warmth of his family, even if two were missing. Three, if he counted Fermat who was like an adopted younger brother more or less.
For a moment he caught John's eyes and there was a relaxed, warm expression in there, and he nodded at him. John returned the barely perceptible nod.
There was a musical sound and all eyes went to their father who had picked up his special cell phone. Only one person called on it.
"Yes, Madam President?"
Almost palpable anticipation rolled off the pilots and Scott put his fork down. Their father listened intently, then nodded once.
He snapped the cell shut and looked at his sons.
"Saddle up, boys, we've another call."
Virgil and Scott immediately headed for the main control room that allowed them access to their crafts. Jeff Tracy wasn't far behind, followed by John, who didn't need to be asked. He would be flying with Thunderbird 2. Gordon had Thunderbird 5's duties at the moment and he wouldn't play monitor from Tracy Island while there was a rescue going on that might need another pair of hands.
Four panels in the wall closed, four men descended into the giant hangar bays, and minutes later Thunderbird 1 gracefully rose from underneath the pool, quickly accelerating. Thunderbird 2 followed, lumbering out of the hangar and onto the runway as the blast-shield rose. Not much later the green leviathan joined Thunderbird 1 as they headed for their next rescue.
Scott smiled to himself as he let the thrum of the engines seep into his body, into his blood.
Thunderbirds are go, he thought to himself, the very words resulting into a kick of adrenaline.
The two mighty ships streaked across the Pacific, heading for the North American continent, their crews ready to assist, to help, and to save lives.
A/N: this was a brief last chapter, but I didn't want to go into an innuendo of Scott-doubting-himself-etc... I'm also not describing the whole psychological healing thingy. You can only read so much before skipping chapters.
Thank you all for your wonderful reviews! They are a real treat each and every time!
Story 3 is in the writing, taking another approach, involving Jeff (darn, I like Bill Paxton as Jeff Tracy! Yummy...) and also Alan to a degree.
See you then!