Chapter Three

Tracy Farm & Ranch

Sometime Later

Virgil carefully pushed open the door to the bedroom that he was sharing with his youngest brother for the next few days. Though the Tracy farmhouse was quite large and spacious inside it didn't have enough space for them to all have their own rooms – so some of them had to double up. Not that Virgil minded having to share a room with Alan; he'd done it before on holidays when they were younger, as no one would allow Alan and Gordon to bunk together. The two youngest Tracy boys together could be trouble at any time of the day or night as both had a prankster's streak a mile wide. They were bad enough on their own but when they joined forces for a prank everyone could watch out.

Glancing around the room Virgil spotted his little brother. Alan was sat at the desk with a laptop computer open in front of him. From his posture Virgil could tell that Alan didn't like what he was reading, that it was obviously upsetting him. It had obviously distracted him as well as Alan didn't have a shirt on, though a fresh, thicker one was waiting on his bed. Virgil had a clear of his younger brother's powerful, muscular arms and chest. Though Alan was slimmer than he was, his physique shaped by Alan's love of martial arts and the need that came with martial arts to perfectly balance strength, speed, endurance and agility, he was very athletic in build, they all were though Virgil outdid all his brothers in terms of mass and brute strength.

"Alan," Virgil called out. Alan jumped, startled by the sound of his voice before turning to look at him.

"Hi, Virg," Alan said. "You gave me a bit of a fright there."

"Sorry, Al. You seemed pretty intent there. What are you reading?"

"The NTSB accident report, I've not really had chance to read it properly before now," Alan replied, his voice dark and shaking slightly with emotion. Virgil nodded in understanding; those idiot college authorities had a lot to answer for not letting Alan really read the report, forcing him to finish his work instead.

"Its not nice reading is it," he said.

"No. Especially where it says that the deaths – that mom's death – could have…" Alan's voice trailed off. His jaw quaked and his blue eyes shone and it was obvious to Virgil that Alan was struggling not to cry. It only lasted a few moments before Alan took a deep breath and seemed to pull himself together, pushing aside his grief. Virgil knew that it wouldn't last though; soon the grief would come to the surface again. Alan wouldn't be able to hide it for very long. Not even Dad could do that for very long, Virgil frequently heard his father crying softly at night in his room at the apartment they shared in New York.

"Did you want something Virgil," Alan asked, changing the subject. He didn't want to talk about this now.

"Yes. Grandma sent me up to get you," Virgil replied, giving Alan a look that said they would talk later. "Dinner's ready, she wants us all around the table before she starts serving."

"Cool I'm starving," Alan replied, standing up. "Let's get down there then."

"Not so fast Al, I think you should put something on first."

"Huh? What are you on about Virg?"

Virgil resisted the impulse to roll his eyes. For someone who was so intelligent, having been gifted with a minor genius IQ just like John, Alan could be so dense sometimes. Silently Virgil tapped the fabric of his own shirt then pointed at Alan. Alan frowned and looked down and blushed slightly as he hadn't realised he hadn't put a fresh shirt on yet. Normally walking around without a shirt on would not pose a problem, but he knew Grandma especially would frown on it here.

"Oh right," Alan said, looking up before picking up the fresh shirt he had set aside on his bed. "If Grandma saw me walking around without a shirt on she'd hit the roof."

"That she would," Virgil agreed as Alan put his shirt on did it up and made himself presentable. "Okay now we can go downstairs."

Alan grinned. "Lead on then, Virg," he said. Virgil smiled and led the way out of the room with Alan following a few paces behind him.


Dining Room

Jeff sat in deep, thoughtful silence near the head of the large, old oak dining room table. They were almost all here, only waiting for Virgil to arrive with Alan. But Jeff's attention wasn't on his boys at the moment, but elsewhere. He couldn't stop thinking about the conversation that he had had earlier with his father. Particularly the suggestion Grant had made about him making sure the country and the world learned the lessons of the disaster that took away his soul mate. Learned the lessons and made the changes and improvements that were long past due.

Though he was normally reluctant to get involved in anything that was to political the idea appeal to Jeff. Appealed to his need to do something, something to make sure that the tragedy that took Lucille didn't happen again, he would use his power to do it. Yet he also knew how hard it was going to be, though he hated playing the game he was no fool where politics were concerned. He knew that it would take a lot of cajoling on his part to get the politicians to do anything but offer platitudes and promises that they would never keep. Just how to get them all to listen, he thought, listen and do something for a change. Something that will benefit all of humanity, every nation not just this one, I'll think of away. I always do.

The sound of footsteps approaching brought Jeff out of his thoughts. He looked up just in time to see Alan and Virgil pull up chairs and join the rest of the family. I'm going to have to talk to the boys after, tell them what me and dad discussed, Jeff thought, see what they think of the idea and if they'll all get behind me in the fight ahead. And it's not just my sons I'll need to talk to about this. I'll need to talk to Peter and the rest of Lucille's family in England; they have as big a right to be involved as the boys.

"Dad are you alright," Alan abruptly asked. Jeff jumped slightly at the sudden sound; then blinked and realised he had been getting lost in his thoughts again. He looked at his youngest son – who was giving him a look of mild concern – and gave him a reassuring smile.

"I'm fine, Alan," he said warmly. "I was just thinking."

Alan raised an eyebrow. "Must have been something really important to have you just staring into space, Dad," he replied.

"It is important, Alan," Jeff answered with an enigmatic smile. "Important for the future, for our family's future."

Alan frowned in confusion and looked at his brothers to see if they knew what their father was on about. From the blank looks he got back off his brothers he could tell that they were as clueless as he was.

"What do you mean, Dad," Scott asked hoping that he would get an answer to the question that was on all their minds. He had learned long ago though that getting a straight answer out of Jeff Tracy when he didn't want to give one was harder than getting blood out of a stone. The only person who'd ever managed it had been Lucille, and even she'd fail more often than succeed. Thankfully he didn't have to worry about not getting a straight answer this time.

"I'll talk to you all about it later," Jeff said, he could see that all five of his sons were curious as to what he was planning. "I want to work out the details in my head a bit more first. Plus now is not the time or place for such a discussion."

"Indeed it is not," Rose Tracy said, coming into the dining room from the kitchen, the first two plates of steaming hot food in her hands. "Now its time for food, talking can wait until later."

"I'll second that, Grandma," Scott said grinning wolfishly at the sight and smell of food. His comment drew a round of laughter from his farther and siblings. Even Rose smiled softly, even as she put the two plates down in front of Scott and Jeff. They all knew what Scott's appetite was like; it led to many jokes about him having hollow legs.

"Thanks, Mom," Jeff said, feeling his mouth watering a little.

"Thanks, Grandma," Scott echoed. Rose smiled approvingly at the good manners being displayed before disappearing into the kitchen to get the next two plates.

After a few more short minutes all three generations of the Tracy clan were sat around the table all with steaming hot plates of food in front of them. Without any further conversation between them they started on there meals, all quietly enjoying there first meal together as a family in months.


Sometime Later

Scott wandered through the farmhouse deep in thought. After dinner had ended they had all gone off in different directions. Virgil and Gordon had disappeared into the living room with their grandfather to watch a football game on the television. John was also in the living room with them, but oblivious to the world as he had his nose stuck in a book. Alan and dad had headed back upstairs. What his father and youngest brother were doing upstairs Scott had no sure idea. But he was willing to bet that his father was working on whatever it was that had been occupying his thoughts before dinner.

As he began ascending the stairs Scott thought back to that conversation. Try as he might he couldn't figure out what dad had been on about. What idea does he have for the future, Scott thought, trying to make some sense of their father's enigmatic responses when they'd questioned him. Is it somehow connected to the NTSB report into the accident that killed mom?

Reaching the top of the stairs Scott sighed and shrugged, trying to dismiss the thoughts from his mind for now at least. He knew that when their father was ready to tell them what he was thinking about or planning he would do so. Until then they would have to endure a very frustrating waiting game, a game that would not be easy on any of them.

At that moment a soft sound, like the faint sound of a sob, reached Scott's ears and he froze in place to listen so he could locate the sound. He knew it wouldn't be Jeff crying, he rarely did that now though they all knew he was still pining for their mother that left one of his siblings. Years of practice listening in the night for his younger brothers so they didn't unnecessarily disturb their parents had left Scott with the unique ability to recognise any of them by even the smallest of sounds. When another soft sob reached him Scott was immediately able to determine that it was coming from Alan.

Instantly concerned for his youngest brother Scott made a beeline for the bedroom that Alan and Virgil were sharing. Pushing open the door Scott saw that Alan was sitting at the computer reading something, something that was obviously upsetting him. Even from the doorway Scott could clearly see a single silvery tear escape the corner of Alan's right eye and make its way down his one cheek. Alan sobbed slightly again and Scott noticed that his jaw was visibly shaking, it was immediately obvious to him that Alan was struggling not to cry, trying to hold in his emotions.

"Alan," he said softly, hoping to get his brothers attention, even as he started walking over to him. Alan did not reply, or even show the slightest sign of having heard him. It was a worrying sign. Like John and Virgil, Alan had very sharp hearing Scott knew Alan should have heard him. The fact that he hadn't filled Scott with even more concern as it meant Alan was seriously disturbed and distracted by whatever he was reading.

Stopping behind his youngest brother Scott looked at the computer screen and understanding came. Scott recognised the displayed text as the last few paragraphs of the NTSB accident report, the part that detailed the final conclusions and recommendations to address them. Recommendations that Scott knew very unlikely to be acted upon by the government, these days such things were rarely if ever acted upon properly. Scott knew the government would make token changes designed to shut the media up but that was all they would do.

"Alan," Scott said, reaching out and putting a hand on one of Alan's strong shoulders.

What happened next was almost to fast for Scott's eye to follow; the moment his hand touched Alan's shoulder Alan yelped in surprise and alarm before exploding into motion with all the speed and power of striking snake. Leaping to his feet Alan spun around and landed a powerful tae kwon do kick to Scott's left side. The force of the blow knocked Scott back and to the side, depositing him on Alan's bed even as pain from bruised muscles exploded along Scott's left side ripping the breath from his lungs while simultaneously drawing a cry of pain from his lips.

At the sound of Scott's cry Alan blinked and suddenly realised exactly what had just happened. What he had just done to his oldest brother. Guilt and shame filled him, he had always promised himself that he wouldn't use the combat skills gained from the various martial arts he practiced on his siblings. Yet now he'd gone and done just that, it didn't matter that he had acted without thinking, having been so lost in his own thoughts and feelings that he'd struck out reflexively. He had hurt one of his brothers and he wouldn't be able to forgive himself for that.

"Scott," he said racing over to help his brother, who was just starting to get his breath back. "Oh man I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"

"Its okay, Alan," Scott said, interrupting his little brother. He could tell that Alan felt genuinely terrible about what had just happened. "You have nothing to apologise for," he continued in a soothing tone of voice even as he sat up ignoring his throbbing side. "It was my fault for startling you."

"That doesn't excuse what I did," Alan objected.

"Yes it does. You were really distracted when I came in here, I should have known better than to put my hand on your shoulder like that," Scott replied standing. "Besides I'm not really hurt, just bruised and that will fade in due time, especially if I put some healing gel from the first aid kit on it. Don't beat yourself up over this, Alan. Promise me that you wont, we all have enough worries at the moment."

"But…"

"But nothing, promise me."

Alan sighed and looked at Scott. For a few moments two sets of expressive blue eyes met and held each others gaze in a silent, familiar battle of wills. The oldest and youngest Tracy sons got along most of the time, but occasionally they did have differences of opinion and usually resolved them by staring each other down. This time it was Alan who broke the gaze first, submitting to Scott this time at least.

"I promise," he said at last, drawing a smile from Scott.

"Good. Now tell me what is the matter? What was bothering you so much when I came in? Was it the NTSB accident report?"

"Yes," Alan admitted, drawing in a shaking breath. "I've just finished going through it, its not nice reading."

"No it isn't, in fact it's downright hard, depressing reading."

"Tell me something I don't know. The hardest part though is this bit at the end, and knowing that the deaths, that mom's death could have been," Alan paused for a moment as tears welled in his eyes and started seeping down his cheeks, "should have been prevented. Mom would have still been here if they'd only…" his voice trailed off and he emitted a racking sob as his tears grew worse.

Seeing the inevitable beginning to happen with his youngest sibling Scott reached out and pulled Alan into a hug as he finally broke down, all the emotional dams inside him breaking apart allowing all the pain and grief to show.

"It's just so unfair," Alan sobbed into his brother's shoulder, while wrapping his arms around Scott. "Why? Why did she have to die? Why did anyone have to die? Why can't they fund emergency services properly?"

"I can't answer those questions, Alan. I really can't and wish I could," Scott replied, feeling his own tears beginning to fall. He did nothing to hold them back, not that he would have been able to at the moment, especially as despite his words to Alan he knew some of the answers as to why emergency services were so chronically under funded. In fact he was privately sure that Alan knew as well, his youngest brother was neither stupid nor naïve about how things were in the world these days.

"The NTSB say in their recommendations that funding for emergency services needs to be drastically increased," Alan said between sobs. "But we both know that government won't do it, they are too preoccupied with other priorities. They won't do anything, not really."

"Yes they will, Alan," Jeff's voice said abruptly, making both Alan and Scott jump. "Especially if I have any say in the matter."


Jeff had been heading downstairs to get a drink before he started working out what he was going to tell his boys when he'd faintly heard the sound of voices coming Alan and Virgil's room. He also clearly heard faint sobbing coming from the room, the sound of somebody crying.

Instantly concerned for his sons he had changed direction and headed to the room. Standing in the doorway he saw that it was Alan and Scott who were present. Alan was clinging onto his oldest brother, crying his eyes out and Scott didn't look that much better. Jeff could clearly see tears streaking down Scott's own cheeks, his eldest own anguish at their mothers needless death showing through.

He was about to withdraw quietly to give them some privacy when he heard Alan's anguished words between sobbing about how nothing would be done, not really. He couldn't help but flinch at the bitterness and anger he heard in those words and before he even realised what he was doing he was speaking himself.

"Yes they will, Alan," he said, and despite the situation inwardly smiled when both boys jumped. "Especially if I have any say in the matter," he continued as both Alan and Scott turned to look at him.

"What do you mean, Dad," Scott asked, with a slight sniffle as his tears subsided slightly.

"What I mean, Scott is that the government is not going to get away with making token changes then sweeping the report under the carpet," Jeff replied, a steely note of determination in his voice that contrasted sharply with the pain and grief visible in his eyes. "Not this time, no government on this planet is going to this time, this chronic under funding is a global problem, a global disgrace. It is long past time for it to be dealt with once and for all."

"What are you thinking, Dad," Scott asked, knowing instantly that there father was planning something, something that was based as much on his own sense of honour and justice as the anguish and rage he felt at the needless death of Lucille Tracy. For a moment Jeff Tracy did not respond, he knew then and there that the time had come to tell his boys what was on his mind. It was sooner than he had intended but one look at the faces of Scott and Alan, at the naked anguish he could see there convinced Jeff that now was the time.

"Before I answer that, Scott I would like you to go downstairs and get your brothers," Jeff said at last. "Bring them to my room; we all need to talk about this. There is something that I need to tell you all, something I need to get all of your opinions on as it involves all of you as much as it involves me."

For a moment Scott was silent letting his father's words echo in his mind. It occurred to him there that something truly momentous was in the works with his father. "Okay, Dad," he answered at last before quickly leaving his room to fetch his other three siblings from the living room.

Alan watched Scott leave the room, before sitting down on the edge of his bed and looking at his father accessingly. Despite the pain and emotional torment that was still burning strongly inside of him he could tell that his dad was planning something big, very big. Something that could change all of their lives forever be it for better or worse.

"What are you planning, Dad," he asked his voice rough and weak as his throat was raw from crying.

"You'll see, Alan," Jeff replied with an enigmatic smile. "You'll see."