A glimpse into the future of
the Tracy family and IR.
Scott's an old man now and long
retired, but there's one more flight he has to make for
With all my thanks to SamW for
her help.Click here for the full-screen version.
woman lay in her hospital bed, slowly fading away. The pain,
caused by the cancer ravaging her now frail body, was finally
under control. Most of the time she just dozed, waking only
occasionally to stare lovingly at her husband.
smiled. She, all her colleagues, everybody who worked on the
ward had more or less fallen in love with the old man. Soon
after the woman was admitted, the nursing staff had forced the
hospital's administrator to block the second bed in the double
room, so old Mr Tracy could use it. They had asked for meals
to be served to him on the ward. And now he spent almost all
hours of the day and night next to his wife, only leaving her
for his daily walk in the hospital gardens and at night,
roaming the ward and charming all the nurses. Unnoticed by
him, his hearing aid often emitting an ear-splitting and
maddening whistling sound. The approaching wail was the
nurses' cue to pour a coffee and cut of a piece of pie. The
coffee machine worked overtime and many nurses had already
tried their hand at baking apple pie as soon as the ward's
kitchen assistant had found out the man was fond of that. The
man would then sit in the nurses' office, a still imposing
figure with his white hair and piercing blue eyes. 'Must have
been a military man,' the nurse thought.
visitors came to see Mrs Tracy, in small groups, three at the
most. And although they never stayed long it was obvious that
they all loved her very much.
nurse stood in the room and watched Mr. Tracy patiently
spoon-feeding his wife a bowl of soup.
soup, remember that?" he said, putting the bowl down for a
moment and wiping her mouth. "Tomato soup and a limp ham
sandwich, the first meal we had together, remember?"
you so much, Scott," she whispered weaving her fingers through
that?" he asked, fumbling with his hearing aid. "Can't hear
you, you know!"
turned around from checking the IV drips. Bending over the old
man she articulated in his ear, "She says that she loves you
that!" he said, sounding indignant, and looking back at his
wife, he repeated it. "I know that!"
years, nurse," whispered the old woman. "We've been married
for over sixty years and he almost never, ever, said..."
'L' word?" asked the nurse. "But it's obvious he does. You
only have to see his face when he looks at you to know that."
something in their genetic make-up, huh, nurse, that men can't
say that they love us," said the old woman, not looking away
from her husband's face.
of his oscillating hearing aid, the old man covered the limp
hand lying on the sheet with his own hands.
understand why you women always want to hear us say that,
Serina!" Scott muttered annoyed. "I do, you know that. I
always have, I always will."
answered. "I know...Ace!"
feeding her again.
picked up the stack of old newspapers and the tray on which
the old man had stacked the used glasses and coffee-cups and
left the room not knowing if she wanted to laugh or to cry.
'Not on my shift, Mrs Tracy,' she thought. 'Please, don't die
on my shift. I don't think I can handle your husband's grief.'
by the secretary's desk she said, "That poor old dear keeps
that room so tidy."
an old Navy man," said Simon and rescued the papers before the
nurse dropped them on his desk. "My grandfather was Navy, a
place and a time for everything."
called him 'Ace'."
shrugged, "Air Force, then."
Scott sat next to the bed holding Serina's hands in his, until
suddenly he looked up and saw her looking at him.
I could not be the husband you wanted me to be, Nini," said
were, you were, Scott," she whispered.
of life disappeared from her eyes. Reaching out his right
hand, he gently shut them and let his hand rest on her
forehead. He closed his own eyes, a single tear rolling down
over his face from each of them. For a few minutes he remained
sitting, not moving at all. Then, pressing her left hand
against his cheek, he bent down and kissed her lips. He then
kissed her hand, and stood up.
look, a shaky sigh and Scott left the room with, for the first
time in all his 98 years, slumping shoulders.
came out of a room and saw the look on his face. "Is..?"
gone," said Scott, "my wife's gone."
sorry," she said. "So sorry. Erm, I'll call the doctor. Are
you...are you going back to the room, to your wife?"
his head. "She's not there any more," he said. "I'm going to
the garden, I have to call my daughter!"
you're welcome to use the phone in our office," she said; but
she spoke to his back as he was already walking away.
New York City.
In the top
floor corner office of the Tracy Corp. tower Margaret Tracy
Jackson sat at the conference table across Mr Yamamoto and his
interpreter. 'Darn those Japanese,' she thought. 'How can you
become head of such a large company without speaking a word of
English?' Making sure her face was as unmoving as his was and
ignoring the younger man, she spoke direct to him.
care who told you you hold most of our company's shares, and I
don't care what you paid for them, but they are
falsifications. This is a family business, only family members
have shares and I assure you that no one, absolutely no one
would sell them to an outsider." She fell silent while the
interpreter started to translate. 'Far too direct, Maggie,'
she thought, 'far too direct, must not make him lose face.
Grandpa and dad would never have done that; I sure hope what's
his nameβ¦ Hyata polishes my words.'
her cell phone rang.
sorry," she said. "My mother is ill and that's why I didn't
turn it off." Not waiting for an answer she got up and walked
over to the window. Already knowing what the message would be.
It's me," said her father.
contracted. "Is Mom..?"
an inadequate word. "Were you with her?"
long silence. "She...she went...went p-peacefully." He
stumbled over the words.
I wasn't there."
Seri...your mother wanted it."
long silence followed eventually broken by her "Do you want me
to come out to you?" and her father's, "I'll stay here for
another day or two. There's someone I have to see. So, no, you
don't have to come here."
going to the island afterwards?" asked Maggie.
go to the island too."
like that," said her father.
see you there. Dad? You want me to call Lucy?" Her cousin
Lucy, uncle Virgil's daughter, was now head of International
please," said her father. "I have to go now. Bye."
broke the connection and turned back to Mr Yamamoto. "I'm
sorry," she said again. "My mother just passed away."
already begun talking when Yamamoto raised his hand, silencing
the younger man. He stood up. "We will continue this
discussion at a later time," he said in fluent and accentless
English. "We will leave you to your mourning." He bowed deeply
and left the office.
those Japanese,' she thought and dialled her husband's phone
number. "Mark? Mom is dead." And then she began to cry.
down on a bench in the hospital garden. He'd called his
daughter, he'd called the undertaker, and he'd called the
doctor grandson of an old friend. Serina's doctor had come and
gone. The nurses finally had stopped bothering him. Did he
want to see his wife? No. What was lying in the bed in that
room was not her any more. Should they pack her belongings?
No. She would not need them and there was nothing that he or
Maggie would want to keep. Did he want to see the chaplain?
No. What could he possibly say to make him feel better?
still sat surrounded by all the ghosts of the past. He saw
before him the faces of all he'd loved and lost. His mother
gone so long ago, he hardly could remember what she had looked
like. His granddaughter, who had joined the Air Force like her
mother, her grandparents and her great-grandfather, killed in
a training accident above the Atlantic.
Virgil's wife, in what should have been her last mission as an
International Rescue field operative, swept away when that dam
in Idaho broke. Virgil himself, there one minute, gone the
next. A massive heart attack in his sleep.
baby brother, murdered. Murdered by the Hood. They'd finally
got that son of a bitch but that had cost them the lives of
Dad and of Gordon's eldest.
after Alan's death, Tin-Tin had married Brains. And 30 years
later they had lost their lives while on an archaeological
expedition in Italy. An earthquake striking the island of
Sicily had ruptured the magma chamber of the Stromboli and the
inrushing seawater had caused an enormous explosion.
old age. Kyrano had suffered a stroke when he was 80.
wading into a cloud of live steam to turn off a valve. If he
hadn't, the whole power plant would have exploded. He was
still alive when Scott and Gordon reached him but died while
they carried him out.
Gordon's wife, from a virus she contracted at that medical
Penny, not even FAB1 could withstand a head-on collision with
a freight train.
The official cause of death was a fall, but Scott had always
suspected Parker had returned to burglary and the fall would
have been out of a window.
middle child had died when a meteorite had struck TB3 on a
simple personnel exchange run.
every funeral the team had performed the missing man flyby. It
had never felt good that they had to use the Tracy jets for
this but it would have attracted unwelcome curiosity when
every time a member of the Tracy family was buried IR appeared
on the scene. But he had used Thunderbird One for his
granddaughter's flyby and Virgil Thunderbird Two for Ashley.
Virg had never flown her after that; in fact she had never
flown again at all until Scott had piloted her during Virgil's
funeral. 'And now,' he thought, 'come hell or high water I'll
fly TB1 again.'
stood in her hangar under the pool on Tracy Island.
Meticulously looked after by Tin-Tin and Brains'
grandchildren. Scott smiled. She could still fly. He could
sighed. Of the original group only Gordon was still alive and
John's widow Vi. And now he had lost Serina. It was enough. He
had had enough. The living were adults, the family business,
both businesses, in good hands. His daughter Maggie ran Tracy
Corp. now, Virgil's Lucy was head of International Rescue and
her son, young Virgil, was field commander.
fell on his face and he looked up. Before him stood the two
nurses Serina had liked best, young Matthew, holding his
travel bag and not so young any more Sandra who handed him
Serina's wedding ring.
"I want to
bury her in her uniform," Scott said. "But I don't know if it
sure that will not be a problem," she said.
out of uniform," he said, surprised.
she said. "They don't teach those children the things I was
taught in nursing school any more. But this kid was so smart
enough to call me when they ran into a problem."
blushed. "We couldn't remove your wife's ring. Not without
hurting her, I mean... We didn't want to..."
came in on your free time..."
teach these youngsters a trick of the trade." She nodded.
"Matthew, take that bag and hail a cab for Mr. Tracy."
nurse slung the travel bag over his shoulder and jogged away.
in on your free time," repeated Scott.
smiled. "I was 5 years old when I was rescued by International
Rescue, and even though that's now 50 years ago, I've never
forgotten the face of the man who carried me out."
eyes narrowed. "And you told everybody here about that man?"
man?" she asked innocently. "Come, I'll walk you to the cab,
Sandra and Matthew watched the cab drive off he suddenly
asked, "How do you know that Mrs Tracy's uniform will fit?"
will cut it open from behind and sort of wrap it around her.
They do that all the time, you know."
up from her desk when Margaret, her eyelids a little puffy,
entered the lounge. The cousins briefly embraced each other.
"I'm sorry," said Lucy.
Margaret sighed and smiled ruefully. "You can't exactly say
that she was, like, smothered in the cradle." Lucy snorted,
stifling a laugh. "But still..."
Had a good flight?"
I did tell you dad's coming out a little later, didn't I?" Her
did. Come with me to the kitchen, maybe there's some lunch
there's nothing left of what I served at lunch," said Horrie,
Lucy's husband, "after all the name 'Tracy' is a corruption of
the Chinese words 'Tla Chi'!" He fell silent while stirring
brown sugar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce through the
Maggie exchanged glances. "OK, we bite," said Lucy. "What does
'Tla Chi' mean?"
legs," said Horrie. "And now, ladies, I have to finish this
marinade, so Lucy, shoo! And Maggie --- go to your room and
rest and I will bring you something on a tray. You look like a
for dinner?" asked Maggie.
steak with Midwest marinade, peas, mashed potatoes and corn on
the cob," answered Horrie. "And for those who think they need
to watch their figures, chicken fillet and apple salad."
mused Maggie, walking to the door, "I think I'll have the
steak, and then the chicken to watch my figure." In the
doorway she turned back to Lucy and said, "You know Dad will
want a part in the missing man flyby."
her head. "He's 98, Mags. I can't let him do that."
whistled and left, calling over her shoulder, "Boy, am I glad
I only have to run the company."
leaned against the counter and watched her husband whirling
through the kitchen. He'd gained some weight and lost some
hair but apart from that he was still the man she'd met almost
40 years ago now. She smiled when she thought about that
small, friendly restaurant where she'd had dinner often while
in her last year at college. And how she once jokingly had
answered the serving staff member's question 'if all had been
all right?' with 'no need to wrap the cook, I'll take him home
with me as he is.' When she was about to drive away a rapping
on the car window made her look up. And there he'd stood,
smiling broadly, in one hand a plastic bag containing the few
clothes he'd owned, in the other the box with his cooking
knives. She had taken Horrie Delanty home 'as he was' and they
had never looked back.
up from his work. "Don't you have to figure out how to forbid
Uncle Scott to fly?" he asked.
I can do that here as well as in the lounge."
opened and their son stuck his head around. "Dad, have you
seen...oh, there you are, Mom." Young Virgil came in and put a
handful of folders on the counter. "Pilot roster for the
funeral and the flyby," he said. "Latest maintenance figures,
training results, the info you wanted about that new tunnel
roared Horrie. "Both of you, out! It's like trying to cook in
Grand Central Terminal!"
rested his hands on the desk, once his father's desk, once
his, now Lucy's. "I'll fly lead in the flyby."
Lucy. "Granddad would not have okayed this and neither will
winningly he said, "Amazing how much you look like your
Scott, flattery will get you nowhere. I'm sorry, but you're
way too old."
surely you can understand that what I did for your father I
also want to do for my wife!"
wavered and he pushed on. "As you said, I'm old...so if I were
to crash would that be so bad?"
if you crashed on Independence."
crash on the prairie," he grinned.
a prairie fire?"
a wet summer. Please, Lucy, let me do this." It was the
closest he'd ever come to begging.
and held out her hand. "A clean bill of health, Uncle Scott.
In my hands before lunch or it is a no go." 'There, he will
never get that before lunch,' she thought.
slapped a memory stick on the desk. "Computers here still have
USB ports nowadays? As you will see, I'm fit as a fiddle."
you were never a musician!" she growled. "Oh, OK, you fly the
lead jet but you will wear a g-suit."
never worn a g-suit," said Scott. "Not since I quit the USAF."
Uncle Scott, I guess that 98 is young enough for a first
how much you sound like your mother," he answered. "All right,
I'll wear one, but I fly TB1."
Not in my lifetime you don't," she shouted.
But in the
end she had to give in. Uncle Scott had never been a man to
stray from the path he'd chosen.
and peered into the distance when she heard the planes
approach. 'It's too hazy,' she thought, 'we won't be able to
the four planes appeared from the clouds, flying in a perfect
'finger-four' combat formation, three of the Tracy jets and in
the second-element leader's position the sleek, silvery
Thunderbird One. Seemingly slow, the formation neared the
burial site and when it was directly above, Thunderbird One
abruptly pulled up in the time honoured salute to their fallen
comrade, while the other planes continued in level flight till
they were out of sight.
away the tears that filled her eyes. She had lived in a
military family long enough to understand and appreciate the
missing man flyby and it never ceased to move her when she saw
it performed. And now, seeing Thunderbird One in the sky,
after so many years, bitter-sweet memories of her active years
as an International Rescue member overwhelmed her. She looked
away and her eyes came to rest on the grave of her husband,
Gordon struggled to his feet. "Goodbye, Scott," he whispered.
Vi tore her eyes away from John's headstone and saw Gordon
standing stiffly to attention, holding his salute. Margaret
clutched his left hand with both her hands and stared upwards.
Smiling through her tears she spoke, "It's OK, daddy, I
followed his eyes, seeing immediately what he was looking at.
Thunderbird One was still climbing, almost vertically now,
showing no signs of levelling off. Alarmed, she raised her
wristcom to her lips β but knew even as she did so that
there was nothing anyone could do.
Thunderbird One Scott fought the g-forces and the bucking
plane, every alarm flashing and shrieking. "Sorry, old girl,"
he gritted through his clenched teeth, "just stay with me for
a little longer. Up, up, up into the air!"
wristcom began beeping urgently for attention, but he ignored
it. Higher and higher the old rocket plane struggled. Buckling
metal screeched. Scott saw black spots begin to swirl before
his eyes. "Serina, wait for me." He gripped the controls more
firmly and looked up at the sky. "You will be there,
Virgil,"he yelled over the pandemonium of noises. "At this
ending and beginning you will be there, I know you will!"
couldn't take more. For a split second he saw a bright
shattered and mixed.
at the cemetery, next to the open grave, Vi sat back slowly in
her chair. Looking down at her hands in her lap, she imagined
she heard the rumbling of an explosion.