Virgil's hands were treated again at the hospital, where a burn specialist looked at them.
"They are mostly second-degree burns. Keep them moist with this cream and make sure you change the bandages on them each day," he told Virgil.
"No flying for me for a while, huh, Tin-Tin?" Virgil groused. Tin-Tin had accompanied the patients into the hospital, and now she and Virgil were on their way out to meet Alan in Thunderbird 2.
"Be thankful for a break, Virgil," she answered, trying to cheer him up. "In fact, be thankful that the burns were the worst of what you got. You could have died."
"You're right. I have Alan to thank that I didn't." The pair climbed up into Thunderbird 2's cockpit.
"Alan, thanks for all you did. I really appreciate it." Virgil said as he strapped himself into a passenger seat.
"Hey, what are brothers for, anyway?" Alan turned his attention to the controls. "This is not going to be an easy ride, folks. A lot of equipment got fried during that storm and we'll be flying home on a wing and a prayer. But first," he toggled open the radio, "Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbirds1 and 4. Taking off from hospital. ETA to pod, 10 minutes."
"FAB, Thunderbird 2." Gordon's voice came through loud and clear.
Scott didn't answer.
"He's asleep, Alan." Virgil told his youngest brother.
"Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 1. Wakie, wakie, Scott!" Alan quipped.
"Yawn. Can't a guy get a little sleep around here?" came the expected response.
Alan and Virgil grinned at each other. They knew their brother very, very well.
Thunderbird 2's ride got shakier and shakier. Alan was having trouble keeping her steady in the air. Tin-Tin had disappeared under the front console with her tools, trying to find a way to make controlling the big craft easier. Virgil gritted his teeth to keep his mouth shut. He hated it when one of his brothers had to handle Thunderbird 2, but he knew that it wasn't lack of skill on Alan's part that was causing the rough ride. This time.
Gordon was asleep. He had the reputation of being able to sleep through almost anything and he was so exhausted that sleeping during this crisis was easy.
Tin-Tin slid out from under the console.
"I've managed to reroute the gyro compensator. Go ahead and reinitalize it. It should help."
Alan did as he was told. The shuddering stopped. Virgil let out a pent-up breath.
"I don't know how long it will last, but it's good for now." Tin-Tin buckled herself in again.
"I'm still having trouble with the steering, but it's not as bad as before. Thanks, Tin-Tin." Alan turned his full attention to flying again.
"Base to Thunderbird 2. What is your situation?" Jeff Tracy's basso tones rang through the radio speaker.
"Thunderbird 2 to Base. Better, Father. Tin-Tin rerouted the gyro compensator. It's helping." Alan answered.
"We will be standing by in fire control, just in case. Base out." Jeff looked around at the fire control station at the end of the island's air strip. Brains and Bekkah were there, manning the posts for effectively dousing any fire from a crash landing.
Brains spoke up. "I-it sounds like T-Tin-Tin has things, uh, under control. Rerouting the g-gyro compensator should, uh, get them h-home in one piece." Brains' stutter was almost non-existent in the lab, or when he was immersed in his work, or when he was among his friends. But during stressful situations like this one, it tended to reappear. Especially if Jeff Tracy, whom he idolized, was around.
"It sounds like we have a lot of work to do in the cockpit when Thunderbird 2 gets back, Jeff," Bekkah chimed in. "A good thing that extruded cockpit console showed up yesterday. We can do the cockpit upgrade at the same time as the repairs. I wonder how the microcomp stood up to the lightning?"
"You'll find out soon enough, Bekkah. Here they come." Jeff had his binoculars on, watching for the large green aircraft. Thunderbird 1 was already home and in its hangar. Scott now joined them at fire control.
"Easy, Alan. Take it slow and easy." Alan said to himself. He positioned Thunderbird 2 over the runway, and began to descend to the tarmac. The controls bucked in his hands and he tightened his grip on the steering.
"Hold it. Hold it. Slowly." he encouraged himself under his breath. The craft came down the last few meters too quickly and it landed with a solid "thud". Alan wiped the sweat from his brow, and began to slowly back the machine up and into the hangar. He managed to maneuver it into the spot where Pod 4 usually resided.
"Don't release the pod, Alan." Virgil said. "I'm not sure how reliable the hydraulics are right now. We can release the pod once the scientific team runs a diagnostic on them. You did a good job under the circumstances, Alan. You got us home in one piece."
"From you, that's high praise!" Alan teased as he collected up his things and prepared to disembark. He looked over at Gordon, still asleep in his chair.
"Should we wake him?" he asked quietly.
"Nah." answered Virgil, a mischevious glint in his eye. "Let's leave that to Bekkah."
Bekkah took the passenger elevator to Thunderbird 2's cockpit. She was dressed in her denim coverall and carried her equipment duffel and her tool belt. She barely glanced at the sleeping form buckled up in the passenger seat, but went straight to the remote access console and the microcomp that enabled it. She pulled the cover off of the computer, and began to evaluate the condition of the motherboards and drivers.
"Took you long enough." came a growl from behind her.
"I'm down here to work, not wake," she explained cheekily, not turning around.
She heard a metallic snap, then a rustling behind her. She stood and strong arms wrapped themselves around her from behind. She turned her head, and a mouth fastened onto hers with a strong kiss. She turned around in the embrace and returned it, her arms around Gordon's neck, kissing him with as much passion as he himself had put into his first sally.
"Too bad you're wearing that coverall," he said as his hands sought purchase on her clothes.
"Well, you're not exactly dressed for any heavy petting yourself," she said of his wetsuit.
"That impediment can be...eliminated." he suggested between kisses.
"A tempting offer." she admitted. Then she sighed. "But you are expected at debriefing any moment now. And I really do have to check out the microcomp and run a diagnostic on the hydraulics."
"I don't hear anyone calling me to the lounge." He began kissing her neck and under her chin. Just then, Bekkah's telecomm watch beeped for attention. Gordon stopped as his father's face appeared in the watch face.
"Gordon, I understand your watch isn't working, so I have to go through Bekkah's" Jeff said. "If the two of you can stand to be apart for a bit, I need to see Gordon in the lounge for debriefing. Now."
"FAB, Dad," Gordon answered, resignedly. He made his way to the passenger elevator, Bekkah walking with him. They locked lips for one last kiss, then he stepped into the elevator and it rose out of sight. Bekkah smiled indulgently after him, then put her computer interface in one ear and went back to her work.
Dinner was a noisy affair. Everyone in the house was there for a change. Bekkah's children weren't too pleased about the menu and dawdled over their food, whining. Virgil had trouble eating with his hands all bandaged up, causing him to complain and gripe. Scott and Bekkah held a heated conversation from one end of the table to the other.
"Thunderbird 2 will be out of commission for at least a week, Scott! There's nothing we can do about it!" Bekkah insisted. Brains and Tin-Tin looked at each other and wisely decided to stay out of the fight.
"We can't have her down that long! Thunderbird 2 is the most essential craft we have!" Scott shot back.
"Even more essential than Thunderbird 1?" Alan asked coyly. Scott shot him an irritated look.
This caused almost everyone at the table to put in a comment about Scott's admission. Gordon and Alan were sniggering together. Virgil smilingly agreed with his older brother. Tin-Tin and Brains tried to put forth reasons why the two crafts were equally essential. Finally, Jeff stepped in.
"Okay! All right! EVERYBODY--SHUT UP!" he bellowed.
There was silence.
Then a small voice from the other end of the table piped up.
"Mommy says we're not supposed to say that. It's rude."
Jeff took in a big breath and let it out.
"Okay, Joey. I'll try not to use it again." His eyes looked daggers at Bekkah for her son's comment. She did her best to hide a broad smile.
Jeff composed himself. He addressed Bekkah in an even tone.
"Now, Bekkah. Why do you say that Thunderbird 2 will be down for a week?"
Bekkah cleared her throat and took a sip of water.
"I saw the scorch mark left by the lightning bolt that hit Thunderbird 2. It really hit in the best possible place, right over the crew bunks. The insulation cut down on the voltage going through the wiring harness immensely. If it hadn't, not only would Virgil have been killed, but there would have been no way to get Thunderbird 2 home." She looked at Tin-Tin, who nodded in agreement.
"The repairs to the hull alone will mean replacing at least three hull plates. I looked at the microcomp carefully. Two of the motherboards and the main drive are totally fried. I've never seen such extensive fusing. And the lightning went not only toward the cockpit, but also toward the back of craft. Fortunately, sickbay is better insulated than most of 2; or else the equipment there would have fused and perhaps hurt the patients. So this means the whole wiring harness on the starboard side of 2 will have to be replaced. The hydraulics are functioning, but fitfully, their drivers will have to be replaced as well. I did get 2 to lift off the pod; I'd like Alan or Scott to bring her down around an empty spot so we can work on her better."
"Plus, I figure that while we are doing all of this extensive rewiring and such, let's do the cockpit refit as well. The new console has arrived and we might as well install it instead of replacing all the little gauges and readouts that have been damaged by the overload." She took another sip. "With all of us working 24/7, I think, mind you I think, we might get it done in a week."
Jeff turned to Brains. "Do you have anything to add to this, Brains?"
Brains pushed his glasses back on his face. "N-no, Mr. Tracy. I think B-Bekkah has, uh, assessed the situation pretty comprehensively. Of course, I h-haven't had a chance to, uh, look over Thunderbird 2 myself, but, uh, I don't expect t-to have any different conclusions." He smiled at Bekkah. "If I do, I'm sure B-bekkah and I can, uh, work out our differences." Bekkah smiled back and winked at him.
"And what happens if a rescue call comes in?" Scott asked, scowling.
"We'll have to take it as it comes, son," Jeff answered. He thought for a moment.
"Since we will need every pair of hands available, I want Virgil to take a spell up in Thunderbird 5 and get John back here to help." He held up his hand to forestall an objection from Virgil. "It will only for a week, at the most two, Virgil, and you are not going to be going on any rescues in the meantime anyway. You can sit in for John with your hands bandaged up. You'll have a chance to heal."
Alan piped up. "Think of it this way, Virg. Being up in Thunderbird 5 means you're still part of the action. You'd go crazy down here, wanting to get in and help when you know you can't."
Virgil acquiesed. "Okay. I'll go. When do you want me up there, Father?"
"Pack up your things as soon as we are done here, Virgil. Scott, you will fly Virgil up and bring John back. Alan's had a hard day flying today." Scott nodded. Alan grinned.
"Don't think you're getting out of anything, Alan." Jeff warned him. "You're going to move Thunderbird 2 over to the repair bay, then start getting the scaffolding set up for the hull repairs. Gordon, you help with that. Brains. Tin-Tin, you start taking apart the control console. Bekkah, once your kids are in bed tonight, start replacing those motherboards. Put some extra insulation in that computer to keep this from recurring. I'll be helping Brains and Tin-Tin."
"Scott will rest when he gets back, we'll get John to help out, and we'll come up with a work and sleep schedule. Kyrano and Mother, food and plenty of coffee around the clock, please. And keep an eye on the kids for Bekkah during the day." He looked around the table. "Does everyone have their orders? Now, let's get moving! Thunderbirds are go!"
Everyone got up from the table, eager to get on with their work. Soon the only one left was Grandma Tracy. She frowned.
"Hmph! He didn't even let them stay for dessert!"