Introduction: A few years ago I wrote a Thunderbirds story entitled "Asylum". This is a direct sequel to that work and I recommend you read that story first. It can be found here: s/7574830/1/Asylum
This one's for JanetM74 who asked for it!
Summary: Scott Tracy, suffering PTSD after being tortured for the secrets of the Thunderbird aircraft, hesitantly goes on duty again, not knowing that he'll face his torturer again.
Title: Safety, sequel to Asylum
Reviews: Oh yes! Please!
This story takes place six months after Asylum.
CHAPTER 1: Recovering
Scott Tracy's Journal:
I don't even know why I'm doing this, except that my shrink says it will help me. Anything that stops my family from giving me those looks will help. They seem to think I'll crumble in a strong wind, just because I have a few bad dreams at night.
"Yeah, well, your screaming wakes the house, Scott," Virgil said amiably, looking at the screen over my shoulder. I blanked it quickly and spun around in my desk chair, suddenly furious and ready to pound my nosy brother into the floor. I curled a fist, then opened it and let my hand drop.
Virgil watched intently. "Are you okay, Scott?" he asked gently.
"I'm fine," I muttered through gritted teeth.
Virgil just nodded. "Father wants to see you in his office," he said and left.
Father was seated behind his desk, surrounded by piles of paper and files stacked neatly on the credenza. I felt suddenly guilty at the sheer workload he'd been covering lately. I used to help him with it before…But I was getting better. And maybe I should pick up some of the slack, especially since I was on leave from International Rescue. For illness, I reminded myself. Yeah, mental illness. PTSD the doctor had called it and I was no stranger to the diagnosis. Coming home from being a POW in Bereznia, I'd suffered through a few months of it. A good doctor and some meds and, okay, sheer cussedness and I got my life back. Now, it was harder somehow.
"Scott?" Dad's voice came through the fog.
"Uh…yeah Father? Virgil said you wanted to see me," I answered, taking a seat. Keep your mind in the game, Tracy!
Father frowned, brows meeting in the center. "You've been grounded for half a year now. I want you to think like the Field Commander you are and give me a report on International Rescue Operative Scott Tracy. Is he ready to return to duty?"
My immediate response of "Hell, yeah!" died before I uttered it. I could never lie to the Old Man; he could always see right through me. I pondered the question, trying to treat the question as if it were an evaluation of Gordon or Alan."
I sighed. Better keep this impersonal. "The pilot is capable of handling Thunderbird 1 competently, both physically and emotionally." Yeah, I could fly TB1 in a thunderstorm drunk to the gills with one arm missing. It's the rest of it… "However, the symptoms of PTSD and post-torture syndrome continue to affect his behavior." I wasn't sure I could be trusted in the hot seat, to run a rescue. I was so afraid, so often. Hell, a good rain storm sent me running for shelter to avoid the feeling of water running down my face, and the choking sensation of drowning. Waterboarding is such a simple torture but so hard to recover from. I breathed deep through my nose, reminding myself that I was in clear air. No water around me or on me. I was safe. "I…I can't recommend his reinstatement," I finished despairingly. "His professional judgment is still affected by the…uh…incident. He's not fit for duty."
"And this is your professional assessment?" Father asked, fixing his blue eyes on mine, drilling into my soul.
"Yes sir, it is," I replied, firming my shoulders. The mission is the most important thing, I reminded myself.
Dad leaned forward. "I disagree," he said. "While Field Commander Tracy has taken some hard knocks in the line of duty, I believe that he has had a good recovery from his injuries. He is ready for duty….No, don't interrupt!" He said as I stood up. "At this point, you need to rebuild your self-confidence, Scott. You were trapped in a terrible situation where you had no control and expected to die. That leaves a mark and I understand that," he said, shaking his head sadly.
"Night terrors are more than a mark," I said. "I don't sleep, Dad! I'm not a hundred percent and…and I may never be. I could get somebody killed with one bad decision! And besides, would they trust me to lead them after all this?" In the past six months my brothers had seen me crying in despair, screaming out in terror, blowing up with rage at a careless word. I didn't seem stable. Hell, I didn't feel stable. Granted, it had been hard to watch them taking off on rescues, Alan flying my beautiful bird. Give him credit, he hadn't so much as scratched the paint job. I rubbed my nose, or at least they'd patched it without my knowing about it.
"That's not what the boys tell me," Dad said. "I've asked them. They trust you as much as they ever have and have been nagging me, wanting to know when you'll be back on duty again. And then, there's this," he handed me a paper.
It was a letter from my shrink. Penny had found her and Dr. Stevens had been vetted mercilessly before she was allowed into the secret of International Rescue. The letter said that I was, cautiously, fit to fly again.
"Yes, we talked about my going back to International Rescue," I said, handing the paper back to my father. "But I don't feel…"
"You need to get back on the horse," Dad said. "You were thrown once, time to go back to it before your fear solidifies." Times like this I see the Kansas farm boy in my father. This was one of his cleaner similes, other favorites being "Shit or get off the pot" and "Never kick a cow patty on a hot day". And don't get me started on his favorite song "Moose Turd Pie".
"Is that an order?" I asked.
"It's a strong recommendation, son," he said, looking a bit disappointed that I wasn't the fearless son he'd raised anymore. I took a deep breath, duty warring with heartfelt desire. I wanted to fly! Oh, how I wanted to fly, high and fast but I couldn't let down my brothers. I wouldn't let down my brothers. No matter what, don't give up. Another of Dad's sayings.
"Okay, I'll do it. Put me back on the roster," I said.
"Good," Dad said. "In the meantime, I need to show you some procedural changes we'll be testing out that might ease your mind."
He led me to one of our conference rooms, usually fitted out with a test chamber, seating and a big screen. The table and chairs had been removed and a large aluminum panel with seat was there instead.
"Mobile Control?" I asked, looking over the instrument panel I routinely manned at rescues.
"We've been using it unchanged since International Rescue began," Father said. "I think it's not only dangerous to our operatives but obsolete."
"Obsolete? Wait a minute, you just persuaded me back on the roster! What will I be doing? How will I coordinate the rescues?" I demanded.
"You know yourself from experience how exposed you are at this station and it's unnecessary." He held up a hand as I began to sputter. "You remain Field Commander and will still make the calls. But coordinating multiple agents can be handled remotely from Thunderbird Five. Our communications have improved substantially from our early days and John can both locate and contact each operative from space. John, Brains and I worked this out during your leave."
"You've replaced me, then," I said dully.
"By no means," Father said firmly. "We need you now, more than ever! John can coordinate but only you can command. I can't do it and neither can John because we aren't physically there."
I laid a hand on the battered metal. "How will the signals travel when the team is deep underground? Mobile Control acted as a signal booster."
"We've miniaturized it and installed a booster in each Thunderbird. Two is primary but One and Four can do it just as well." He eyed me closely. "You did say that you didn't want to be shut up in a plexiglass box? You'll be leading the rescue the way you prefer—from the front. You'll be directly involved in the rescue along with your brothers, not behind a desk."
I gave Mobile Control a pat, then turned to Father. "All right. When do we unveil this?"
"The next suitable rescue, hopefully something small and uncomplicated and we'll test it. Also," he said, opening a drawer in Mobile Control. "You'll be carrying these."
"These" Were a small hand gun with a package of miniature rounds. He handed it to me and I looked it over.
"A hand gun? Dad, we already carry these."
"Look more closely, son," he said.
The gun had settings and looked like something from a science fiction show. "What are these settings about?"
"They range from stun to kill to destroy. Effectively, it's a hand laser, akin to the cutting torches we use with oxyhydnite. More powerful than the one Virgil used on the Bank of England. But at the lower setting, it effectively tases the target. We'll be able to use it for self defense as well as against thick metal barriers."
"Wow," I said, handling the gun. "Why didn't you tell me about any of this?"
Dad frowned more deeply. "Scott, what happened to you upset the entire family. Gordon especially. Brains and Gordon got together to make sure that you're never taken again like that. They devised the new procedure with John and created the new weapon. They didn't want to add to your burden, so nobody has told you about the steps we're taking to protect the entire team." Facing me, he rested his hands on my shoulders. "Never again do I want to hear that my son has disappeared from a rescue and we can't find him anywhere on the planet! I seriously considered closing International Rescue down permanently after we got you home but was talked out of it by your brothers. So, we go forward, older and wiser."
I felt shaken. I'd been so wrapped up in my own nightmares that I'd forgotten how my family was suffering along with me. Now it was up to me to deserve it.