Eye of the Storm

Disclaimer - Do not own Thunderbirds, Numb3rs or any heels higher than 2 inches. I'm more of a sneakers person.

Chapter 7

Don cast his eyes over the road – there was an alarming lack of options. If he swerved to the left to avoid the quaint shed (he never really understood why some people made what should be a utility shed to look like a country cottage), he would doubtlessly hit the approaching truck. Were Don to swerve to the right – well, they were almost at a bridge and he doubted the guard rail (which looked like it had already taken more than one blow in what had doubtlessly been decades of service) would hold, causing them to careen down the hill, ending up – he wasn't sure where, but he didn't want to go there.

The final option, he supposed, was to slam on the brakes and hope that the hydroplaning wouldn't be too bad or lead to one of the choices he had already rejected out of hand.

From the backseat, Charlie Eppes was frozen in shock, absently thinking that maybe it would have been safer to fly after all.

But in the front passenger seat, Jeff Tracy was observing everything with the keen eye of an engineer – and the leader of International Rescue. As he had often told his sons, sometimes what seems like the worst way to go is the only way to get there in one piece.

Glancing down at the pedals, Jeff saw that Don was about to lift his foot from the gas pedal and hit the brakes. Clearly, Don had decided that a) hitting the brake would be safer than b) swerving right or c) swerving left.

"Time for choice D," Jeff thought as he lifted his left leg and slammed his left foot onto Don's right, trapping it on the gas and pushing the SUV forward.

"I think we're going in!" Jeff gasped as they powered forward, smashing through the shed and coming out on the other side. As they exited the building, Jeff removed his foot and sat back in his seat, panting.

Once he was the only driver once more, Don managed to swerve slightly to the left (having now passed the truck) and slow the SUV, allowing him to make a controlled stop. Turning in his seat, he glared at Jeff. "What the hell was that about?" he growled.

"Actually," Charlie answered instead, "that was brilliant. The act of heading through the shed at full speed, for a vehicle with a steel reinforced grill like yours, was the best option. We didn't have the right road conditions for a sudden stop and both sides of the road…well, they'd be hazardous at best. Well done."

"Oh," Don said lamely before turning to Jeff. "Um, should we check on the other driver?"

The trio got out only to spot a man and a woman yelling at each other. When they saw the approaching people, they jumped back into their truck and sped off. Before they could do or say anything, two state trooper cars reached their location. One car stopped but the other continued.

"Hey folks," the man said reasonably. "Are you alright?"

"We're fine," Jeff said. "But -" he began, waving vaguely at the shed.

"They stole it from a Lowe's up the road," the trooper grimaced. "I'll call in for a clean-up but I don't expect much. I may have to close this section of the road. If you will leave me contact info, you can be on your way."

Don pulled out a business card before Jeff could, handing it to the trooper. The man's eyes widened in surprise before grinning.

"Well, I'll be damned. The Top Cop himself, huh? It's an honor Director Eppes – a real honor."

"We're heading to New York," Don said in a friendly manner, shaking the trooper's hand. "My daughter, well, she's due any time now…"

"My wife's expecting our second," the trooper confided. "First came in the middle of that bad Nor' Easter we had two winters back. Abby swore she'd never have a baby in winter again. We barely got to the hospital before Jemma was born." Becoming professional again, he nodded. "I'll call you to set up your statements, but it should just be routine."

"Thanks," Don said. "Um – my daughter's father-in-law," he gestured to Jeff, "works in New York, but my brother Charlie," he pointed at his brother, "is from LA – but if he can't make it here, he can make a statement with the CHIPs and they can forward it to you."

Writing down the names as they gave them, the trooper raised his eyes slightly when Jeff gave his name but remained the consummate professional before heading back to his car to begin closing off the highway.

Getting back in the SUV, the three men sat in silence before looking at each other.

"I think we need to get off this road," Charlie said softly.

"Told you he was a genius," Don grumbled as he started the vehicle back up. Heading out, they quickly found their way to the access to I-95 and once more began their journey north.

Kate sat up and blinked in confusion. "Dammit," she muttered.

"Language, Kate," Alan said cheerfully as he brought out a cup of green tea and set it in front of her, before making himself comfortable with a cup of hot chocolate and his book.

Frowning, Kate was about to retort when the wind rattled the windows again. "Woah," she gasped. "Has it been like that for long?"

Glancing at his watch, Alan sighed. "Over an hour now. According to the Weather Channel, two fronts – one from the northwest and one from the west are both trying to push through. Added to the weather to the south – it looks like Alysha will be affecting DC by the way – we'll have street flooding, some localized flooding, power outages and generally lousy weather all day. But tomorrow is supposed to be nice."

Checking his phone, Alan frowned. He hadn't heard anything from his father or Kate's for a while now. Jeff had said they couldn't fly out of DC but…Alan texted both men again, hoping one would answer soon. He was getting worried.

"Nice?" Kate grumbled as she rolled her shoulders, trying to get rid of a crick in her neck. "As long as you aren't in need of a water rescue, I guess it would be nice."

Alan chuckled. "I think we're safe here, Kate. We're on the 83rd floor, remember?"

"I know that!" Kate snapped as she stood up, rubbing her lower back. It was really bothering her. She should have never fallen asleep on a couch.

Sipping his hot chocolate, Alan smiled. "Kate have some tea. Do you want some cookies to go with that?"

"No," Kate grumbled, heading towards the patio to stare out into the storm. "Any word from the family?"

"Dad wrapped up the senate hearing, and said walking out didn't matter because most things were being shut down due to the weather. And Scott said the rescue is under way and he'd send a message when they were up and running. If you want, Scott could have John drop him off here."

Kate blushed slightly. "No, I'm fine. Hey, did you have enough ingredients to make the cashew shrimp?" Kate asked.

Shaking his head, Alan sighed. "No. I did whip up a pasta salad with chicken. I was going to put in ham but then I remembered…"

Now it was Kate's turn to chuckle. "Thank you for that," she teased, seeing that Alan was remembering that Kate didn't eat pork. Turning from the sight of the wind driven rain appearing as gray sheets, making it hard to see five feet in front of you, Kate smiled at her youngest brother-in-law. "Not sure if you and Dad want to go out to dinner in this weather."

"One, I already made dinner, so why bother?" Alan ticked off on his hand. "Two, I doubt Dad would make it back up in time for our six pm reservations and three, Trenia's called – their dining room is currently under six inches of water and they apologize but dinner is not being served there tonight. So I guess you are stuck with me."

"Never stuck, kiddo," Kate assured him as she came up behind him, wrapping her arms around his shoulder and kissing the top of his head. "Happy birthday, kiddo – sorry you have to spend it with the beached whale."

Alan smiled as he reached back and patted Kate's stomach. "Happy to be watching over favorite nephew and one of my three favorite sister-in-laws."

"Smart ass," Kate grumbled as she slid down next to him.

Alan wrapped his arm around Kate and leaned in for a comforting hug. "As Gordy always says, better a smart ass than a dumb one."

Kate moved restlessly before finding momentary comfort. If the weather was better, they could head out…Although maybe not with the way her back was bugging her…

Sarah rubbed the back of her neck as she went through her medical pack.

"The contents haven't changed in the last few minutes," Gordon's voice said through her ear-piece.

Glaring at her brother-in-law over her shoulder, Sarah shook her head before continuing with her task. The chopper that had been loaned to Reidsville by the Air National Guard was a great help – especially if they had to make a fast exit – but it was noisy, especially as the Tracys were more used to the elegance of a jet or Thunderbirds. Even the heli-jets they used were quieter. Sarah expected that the National Guard would have newer vehicles, but most had probably been claimed by the people in the state capital.

"Do you think this thing could be any noisier?" Gordon asked.

"Probably most of the better vehicles were opted to be used in the capital," Sarah said, stating what she had already surmised.

Gordon frowned. "I thought the other dam was in Savannah, not Atlanta."

"It is."

"But -" both Tracys said before the pilot interrupted them.

"He's right about the capital and she's right about the dam," the pilot said.

When both Tracys swirled to look at the pilot, the thirty-something man grinned. "Your comms are on the same frequency as my headset. You may want to adjust that. Or at least watch what you say."

Sarah was slightly abashed as Gordon looked triumphant. "Ha! Miss-geography queen got that one wrong." Gordon had clearly never forgiven Sarah for beating him in a geography bee back in grammar school.

"Yeah, you were right," Sarah muttered as she quadruple checked her supplies as they began their decent over the recreation area.

"Even a broken watch is right twice a day."

Jacob Talltree grinned from his seat. This was gonna be fun.

Virgil sighed as he helped a woman who reminded him a lot of his late grandmother into the back of a covered truck.

"Ma'am, I know you don't want to leave. But if the levees are breeched, this area could be flooded."

The elderly woman looked at him tearfully. "My William helped build those levees. He built our house himself. It started as an old shed from his granddaddy's farm and he built around it over the years. I'm safe here, I know I am."

"You may be right, Ma'am," Virgil agreed. "But the world needs all the beautiful ladies and we just want to make sure you are safe."

Virgil turned and ran over to where the fire chief was locking up another house as another fireman led the residents to the truck.

Chief Gil Overholt nodded at Virgil. "Forty five houses in this area. Even if the levee doesn't break, it would still be cut off due to all the roads being dirt. I told them when they got the bright idea to put the senior community here a few years back that they should make sure the roads were tarred but – you can see all the good it did me."

Frowning, Virgil gestured to the older woman. "But she just said…"

Gil nodded in understanding. "Mrs. Gardiner? Yep. Her family used to own most of the land around here. Thirty acres. But her brother when died in debt and his house was condemned at the same time that we had a bunch of older people who were about to be displaced by the dam being built, the county bought the land at auction and planned the senior community. Most of the folks have always lived around Reidsville. Twenty nine acres from the auction, plus a few more that we already had. The Gardiners only had the one acre but – Now, it's just Mrs. Gardiner."

"You've known her long?" Virgil asked as he helped get a cat into a carry cage to get out of the zone – the only way most residents would go was with small pets that they refused to leave behind.

"She taught in our local high school for years," Gil explained. "And her husband Bill helped build most county projects since he came back from the army and married his Violet. Bill Gardiner died last year. And their only son Virgil died in the Terrorist Wars. He had only joined the army to pay his way through college. Wanted to become an architect. His dying devastated the family. Paul Vincent, Mrs. Gardiner's brother, was a bachelor, never inclined to marry if you know what I mean, and he adored his nephew. He had planned to leave everything to the boy. Blamed himself, saying he should have just sold some of the land to pay for Virg's schooling. Didn't matter that Virg would have never taken it." The chief smiled sadly. "Virg was my best friend in school. He was supposed to be my best man and godfather to my first born. I'm still mad at times for him not coming back, as dumb as that seems."

Watching as the chief helped load the caged pets into a section of the truck before confirming they had cleared the area, Virgil nodded slightly. Remembering the pain, confusion and –yes, he dared to say it now – anger at both the death of his mother and when Sarah Jane had nearly died and not been in touch with the family for years, Virgil understood. Sometimes fate screwed with the people who deserved it least.

"OK, folks," the fire chief called as he climbed into his own SUV to lead the group back to town. "Let's get a move on before these roads become impassable."

Quietly, Virgil checked over the residents, putting together medical files for all of the seniors, in case anyone needed it. Just as he finished, Virgil moved to the back of the swaying truck, headed for the only remaining seat. He was almost there when the truck suddenly lurched to the far right, making him lose his balance.

There was nothing between Virgil and falling out of the back of the truck…

John watched as the large truck – one of three that had been borrowed from the local ANG base – hauled away several farming families. From behind him, he watched as the chief of police, who they had caught up with, argued with the only civilian left behind.

"You listen to me and you listen good," Josiah Walsh growled. "I've known you since we were kids in school, Richie. You know what this farm means to my family. I sent my wife and kids to Atlanta to stay with her sister. I need to stay here and watch over my farm."

"Damn it, Josiah!" Chief Richie Sanderson snapped. "You locked everything up. Your animals are secured. Now get in the damn truck and get your damn fool ass out of here!"

"Actually," John sighed. "The truck was completely full. They left."

"There," Josiah said smugly. "I'm not risking my truck. So I'll just be staying here until this storm passes by."

"You'll get in my truck," Chief Sanderson yelled.

"Mr. Walsh," John said reasonably. "It's not the storm people are worried about. When the dam gives, it could break one of three ways – the Senior Community, the Recreational Area or this area."

"You mean if the dam breaks," Josiah growled.

"No, sir," John politely said. "I mean when. And our best estimates are within the next ninety minutes – two hours tops. There are three stress fractures and it is all a matter of which one cracks first."

"Joe," the chief said softly, placing a hand on the farmer's shoulder. "You're not gonna do Ruthie and the kids any favors if you are dead. I swear, on my father's grave, if you have to rebuild, I'll be right there with you."

Josiah looked around before nodding. "Just wait a minute," he said before heading back into the house. He emerged less than a minute later with a small bundle clutched in his hand. Tucking it into his pocket, Josiah locked up his family home and followed the Sheriff and John to the awaiting truck.

They began to drive along the dirt road, sliding several times in the muddy path, when Josiah opened up his bundle. John glanced over to see a woman's wedding ring and a pocket watch.

Seeing John's interest, Josiah explained sadly. "Ruthie and the kids put a lot of things in the attic so that they should be safe in case of flooding. Of course, that was assuming the storm caused the flooding, not the dam. Not sure if my house can survive the dam busting. These," he gestured to the jewelry, "belonged to my parents. My older brother got most of the valuables and I took the farm. He took off, lives in Tallahassee. We never see him much. He likes to forget his roots. He's ashamed of being a farm kid."

"My dad was a farm kid," John admitted. "He didn't become a farmer but he was always proud of his roots. Those were the values he raised his own kids by and frankly, I think we turned out ok."

Josiah wrapped up the jewelry in a small handkerchief once more before tucking into an inside pocket of his windbreaker. "Based on where you are and what you are doing, son – I'd say he did fine – just fine."

Richie Sanderson sighed silently, realizing the man from International Rescue had helped calm his friend considerably. He understood Joe's worry…the farmer really had saved his family's land and turned it into a profitable endeavor. But if he lost it, Josiah would lose everything. At almost fifty, it really would be hard to start over.

"I'm getting too old for this crap," Richie grumbled as he hit another dip in the road. Personally, he would happily pay some higher taxes if said taxes would actually go to paving the roads and not some project designed to get some politician re-elected.

John almost answered that when something off the side of the road caught his eye.

"Cow!" he hollered out.

Chief Sanderson swerved desperately to avoid the bovine that had blocked a good chunk of the narrow road, causing him to swerve in the mud and start to head off the side of the road…

Alan looked upward as the lights flickered again and the windows rattled once more.

"As Grandma used to say, it's a night not fit for man nor beast," the teen said cheerfully.

Kate looked up from the file she was reading as she sipped her tea. "No need to sound so chipper about that – and it's barely four in the afternoon."

Alan just grinned. "Hey, how about an early dinner? I can set everything up if you're hungry."

Shaking her head, Kate stretched from her seat on the couch. "No, I'm not really all that hungry. And my back keeps hurting. I shouldn't have slept on the couch."

Shrugging, Alan moved closer. "Kate, are you sure you are alright? You aren't in labor, are you?"

"Alan," Kate sighed. "I'm not in labor. No contractions, just a lot of lower back pain. And I'm not due for three weeks."

Seeing that Alan was still watching her carefully, Kate tossed down the file with a grumble. "I'm going to get a book. John should have plenty upstairs, right?"

Alan nodded slowly, watching Kate haul her body – not an easy endeavor at this point – up the stairs, heading to the back bedroom that John favored these days.

In the time since the whole incident with the Hood, even when Alan couldn't work with the Thunderbirds, his family was making sure he was getting his training. The two things he loved the most was anything to do with Thunderbird Five (now there was a room with a view!) and field medicine. Virgil and Sarah had both been thrilled to teach Alan as much as they could.

One of the things that Sarah had insisted everyone brush up on – or in Alan's case, learn – was care for pregnant women in a rescue situation. Alan had even gotten the full instructions on delivering a baby. As Sarah had put it, babies come when they want to – and usually when it was most inconvenient. Add to the pressure that any kind of disaster that would require the assistance of International Rescue, it wasn't surprising how many babies Sarah had delivered since she had come on board. Virgil had delivered a few but so far the other brothers had avoided the "pleasure" of delivering a stranger's baby.

"I need to call Emily," Alan muttered. He was remembering part of his training that some women didn't have classic contractions, but instead the contractions appeared as intense lower back pain. It was something to watch for in any pregnant woman they rescued as the woman might miss she was in labor and choose to not be immediately removed from the rescue zone.

Alan hadn't even reached the vid phone when Kate's panicky scream could be heard from upstairs.


John – Hi, John Tracy here. And this is my wife, Emily.

Emily – They know that, honey.

John – Do they know why we are here?

Emily – Well, I am probably here to annoy the hell out of Sam1.

John (covers snickering with a cough) Yes, well, let's try and answer these reviews. First, we have starrdancerr who wrote, "Does this mean you're going to kill off Tomo so that Alan gets more angst? Or seriously hurt him? Poor OCs... Great chapter. I hope MJ gets actually struck by lightning. Hmmm, maybe not poor OCs."

Emily – Tomo die? I don't think he is on the hit list, but sometimes CC changes her mind.

John – And MJ? Dead or in prison? I think CC is still considering it. She's playing this close to the chest. OK, um...honey, you better read this one.

Emily (takes it from him, glancing at it before glaring at her husband) Oh, joy. OK, Sam1 – my arch nemesis – says, "Aww, poor Alan. I felt bad for him when he was singing Happy Birthday to himself. Ooh, Tommy isn't happy with Jeff at all and I have a feeling he's going to let him know just what he thinks.

Loved the little convo between Scott and Alan. Hoping MJ gets just what she
deserves for being an evil, nasty witch.

Jeff's line about Don and Charlie reminding him of any of his boys at any age
cracked me up. Love those little lines you throw in there, CC."

John – Yeah, that was kinda said to see Alan doing that. And Tomo is reminding me of how bad Scott was after Al got hit by the car.

Emily – Well, they view themselves the same way. And that conversation between both of Alan's big brothers showed that.

John – And are you getting the impression NO ONE likes MJ? (When Emily snickers, John starts a new letter) thunderbird5 – nice name, by the way – said "Ow! That's going to hurt. Hope the men are going to be okay. I hope that woman at the tower get's her bum set on fire for playing around with things she shouldn't mess with. I feel sorry for the boys on the rescue. Don't be over protective guys."

Emily – Don't be over protective? Pfft – not gonna happen.

John – And which men? The hot ones or the old ones?

Emily – Oh, I am so telling your father that.

John – Just read the next review.

Emily (laughing) ThunderbirdMom said, "Yup, you pretty much got it covered. :) Seriously great chapter. Emily and John would be great!"

John – Hey, you got an easy one.

Emily – Yes, and here we are.

John – Well, here's another easy one. Trillianaus said, "You know CC, I'm just glad that I'm not going to be the person stuck with Alan's psychologist's bills...just saying, is all."

Emily – And what makes you think you could get any Tracy IN a psychologist's office to begin with? Next letter...

It's from WaterDragonQueen1, "Mother nature is just being cruel to any and all characters, geeze! Then add in you, and there is a whole new definition for forces-of-nature!

But I love this chapter! And that Don/Jeff are trying so hard to get to NY even though it is obviously dangerous and not really the smartest idea...but protective fathers rarely think straight..."

John – I think CC is her own force of nature. Category five, to be sure. And protective fathers think straight. It's over-protective fathers you have to watch out for.

Emily (smirks) – Because you'll never be like that with Elizabeth, right? (While John blushes, Emily reads the next letter)

OK, Artic-Fox 14 wrote, "Another great chapter. I feel so bad for Alan being alone on his birthday but at least his dad is trying to get there now. I am glad Alan has such a close friend at Wartons besides Fermat. Don and Charlie really do act like the Tracy brothers don't they? So adorable. Congrats to Alan on getting into Harvard by the way"

John – The Sprout is going to Harvard? Yes!

Emily (sighs) You are going to be rubbing this in Scott's nose for the rest of your lives, aren't you? And Tomo isn't at Whartons any more, remember? He graduated.

John – And I think that kind of behavior is indicative of a closer fraternal relationship.

Emily – Ah, so reverting to being little boys is common?

John – Pretty much. Any more letters? (Takes the note Emily hands him) jo1966 said, "After this chapter and the cliffy I would say that you are the evil GODDESS of darkness. Brilliant, looking forward to more. I am so looking forward to reading what you have up your sleeve for Alan and now I'm worried for Jeff etc
and Sarah as you have one evil, devious mind."

Emily – Hmmm. What can I say but yeppers.

John – But I think CC wants to be a Queen.

Emily – (mutters) I refuse to dignify that by saying anything out loud.

John – Too late! Here, read this – long lost cousin or something.

Emily – OK, JoTracy123 – nah, she can count to three – "Hurry hurry and update this soon. You know I hate cliffys lol. Anyway very good xxx"

John – She hates cliffies? She is so reading the wrong author. Do you want to read another?

Emily – OK, UncertainDreamer writes, "A cliffie! wondering if there is going to be a fast and the furious moment. lol pick any two at any age lol go tomo i have a feeling he's going to encounter something to -.- totally awesome :) waiting with bated breath"

John – Actually, CC hasn't seen Fast and Furious – any of them.

Emily – Neither have I. But I think she's watched Twisteronce too often.

John – Well, that lead actor does look a lot like Dad. As for the rest, yes – a good line, we get it.

Emily – It is a good line, you're just be overly sensitive. As for Tomo – CC won't tell us and I only mentioned it to her because I wanted to know if we needed to have medical personnel handy.

John - Huh, this one is from someone who has clearly read CC's other Tracy series – or the Supernatural crossover.

Emily – Well, CC is excited that the season premier of Supernatural is tonight.

John – OK, well this Amitris says, "hmmm I think I remember something about Sara not having much talent in flying TB2. She scratched it and Virgil flipped out, right? Will thunderbirds come the rescue of the Eppes' and Jeff? It would be so fun, Scott had to rescue his father-in-law and keep his identity secret at the
same time! Though I'm sure whatever u r planning will be great anyway."

Emily – I don't think so. CC hates to repeat herself. She had the Thunderbirds rescue Professor Eppes last series and Mr. Eppes was there as well.

John – Unless she can do it worse the second time.

Emily – Don't you mean do it better the next time?

John – I mean what I said.

Emily – Alright, the last one is from Scott's stalker, aka sammygirl1963 – who will doubtlessly be e-mailing CC during commercials tonight as they drool over the Winchester Brothers. Not that I blame them...(begins to read quickly when John looks annoyed) Have I ever told you just how much I like the character of Tomo Wattamee? He is one of those perfect characters you just hope to stumble on one day as a writer. Alan couldn't hope to have someone who cares more about him than Tomo does and I love the fact that Tomo doesn't worship Jeff just because of who he is...that he knows the billionaire has faults, and you know, I think he would even call Jeff on them given the chance!"

John (smiling sadly) Yeah, Tomo is the one big brother that never let Alan down, isn't he?

Emily (kissing John on the cheek) – Nope. But as long as you remember that when you are saving the world, Alan is a big part of yours, it will be ok.

John – Thanks hon. (kisses her back) I'm going to go check on Alan. CC left her notes around here somewhere, maybe I can find out what happens next. (leaves the room)

Emily – And that mushy moment was for Sam1. CC wants some feedback and says the less you give, the more I get lucky. Hmmm. Maybe you shouldn't...See you later. Well, someone later. John and I might be busy. (evil grin) CC will try and update this weekend. Bye!