And so, to the end. Thanks to everyone who's been following this through, especially Ms Hobgoblin. It's been fun.

32. I'll Let You Live

Later;

So it had turned out, a great deal can happen in just 48 hours. In fact, a hell of a great deal, actually.

There'd been first accidents, then rescues and missile strikes. Not exactly an average day by anyone's standards, but John was beginning to wonder if, for him and his family, it wasn't far from it.

Walking along the beach waterline, back on Tracy Island, he ignored the warm water as it lapped over his shoes and was drawn up by the bottom of his trouser leg. It was a small discomfort in return for some quiet, thinking time.

It seemed the truth lately had taken on the appearance of light from an ancient kaleidoscope; tinted, and scattered, and refracted on all sides.

But, whatever, it'd worked out in the end, right.

John had landed in England, with a hold full of replacement parts in the middle of the night, GMT.

All three of his brothers had been stood in the shadow of Thunderbird Two's great belly; the odd line-up bathed in the soft glow of under lights as they watched his slow decent from the skies.

There'd been no rushing hugs or cries of joyful reunion like you saw in the movies, but a slight nod from Scott and a handshake from Gordon. Virgil went as far as to sweep a hand to his back, patting him like a favourite dog, but that was all. Then it was to business.

He'd joined his brothers in catching a couple of hours rest, which he'd been surprised to find came easily after all of the drama of the past day or so. Then, all four of them (Gordon included) had risen as the sun did, getting to work early on repairs.

The short period of laid-down sleep appeared to have done the second-youngest Tracy more than a world of good. Not only was the aquanaut moving freely again, but also he'd managed to scrounge together a breakfast of sorts (a mug of instant coffee each, six power bars, three sachets of boil-in-the-bag chicken noodles and a packet of dried banana slices) having searched through the little 'kitchenette' aboard.

Okay, so if they'd been desperate they could have ventured in the Creighton-Ward Manor for food, but it'd seemed rude to be there, when Penelope wasn't.

Thus, improvised breakfast done with, the brothers had worked the remainder of the morning on fixing up Two; loading parts onto hoversleds to ferry them across from the leviathan's smaller sister.

Scott and Virgil'd used the outside access points at the rear of the craft to climb out to the tail ramjets, whilst John and Gordon had laboured over the main left engine and VTOL jet.

As lunchtime began to approach, and Gordon had threatened to 'have a look in his locker' and see what he could find that was 'maybe edible' the repairs were finished up. Two wasn't completely mended, nor without the odd dent and scorch mark, but she was once again air-worthy and filled the wind-stirred earth with a quiet rumbling of vast, inconceivable power.

The four brothers had come together, in the aft crew cabin, grease smeared but contented. Gordon'd flopped straight down on to a pull-down bunk, stretching his legs out in front of him, before Virgil had shifted him over, none to politely.

Stood, leant up against a work surface, Scott'd asked,

"So, I reckon we put it to a vote. Stay here and brave lunch courtesy of Gordon's locker or head home now?"

Immediately Virgil had elected for home, followed soon after by Gordon. John, leant up against the doorway, had shrugged, then said,

"Home it is then, I guess. Scott, you want to take her back?" The astronaut had jerked a thumb in the direction of Thunderbird One outside. "I'll ride back with these two."

And so it had gone.

Scott had waited, hovering above with the grace and poise of a beautifully speckled dragonfly, until Virgil had brought Thunderbird Two up into the nearly cloudless sky. Then, together the two crafts, unique to the world below, had flown back Island-wards.

They'd returned to Tracy Island as the sun was rising, and John'd been struggling to find peace since, despite all of the good news the day was bringing.

That morning (about the same time as he and three of his brothers had landed), the police department had released Alan, with their deepest, sincerest apologies for his mistaken detention. He was officially 'not guilty' and free to go, as new evidence had appeared in his favour.

Martha Bailey, a 21-year old Computer Sciences graduate, had loaded up her computer as she got to her office, to find the CCTV footage she'd been working on, suddenly easy to clean up and fix. She'd sat, chewing on the end of a pencil, and watched the video clip, before immediately dialling up her supervisor with the unexpected news.

The whole case had been growing into some high profile, media attraction (it couldn't be helped with the large American Super Cars following, and the Tracy name being dragged through it all), and everyone involved was much relieved for hard evidence to have appeared.

Well, everyone except Richard Lanning. IPD had launched a large-scale manhunt the moment he'd been identified from the video recordings.

There'd been no news yet of his arrest, but well, it was still only hours after they'd started searching, and there was always the soothing contentment of knowing that when the police department pulled up Lanning's past history, they were going to find a whole stack more of incriminating traces.

Distracting and fragmenting his thoughts, off towards the upper edges of the beach, something stirred drawing the pale blond astronaut's attention.

Alan.

The teenager (often everyone had to keep reminding themselves that Alan really was still that young) was sloping down towards the waterfront. He was still wearing the trousers and shirt he'd donned earlier for the required press conference he'd been made to attend, but the tie had been discarded and the collar loosened some time before.

Figuring maybe his youngest brother had sought him out, John waited till Alan reached him before saying,

"You alright, then?"

The rising moon was casting strange shadows and reflections across the water, distorted and fractured. Alan kept his line of sight firmly planted on the sand gumming his shoes as he spoke.

"Thanks."

Slightly bemused, John continued to walk, but replied softly,

"That answer doesn't really match the question I asked, Al."

Shrugging, Alan stopped suddenly, turning out towards the ocean, looking past his taller brother's silhouetted form. It was a long moment before Alan decided to reply.

"Tag is going to be alright, apparently. He's got a concussion the size of Texas, some cracked ribs and a broken leg, but he'll be fine so the doctors say. I'm going to try and see if Dad'll let me go and visit him in a couple of weeks when life's calmed down a bit. I imagine any chance of me rejoining the race circuit's gone and totally disappeared now though."

"Maybe. You'd have to speak to him about that. But what I do know is you're still dodging the question."

Reaching out, John squeezed his brother's shoulder gently, pulling Alan round to face him.

"I'm fine, John. And you know I am, since it's because of you I'm here."

Raising a slim eyebrow, the astronaut's mouth quirked slightly, almost too rapidly to catch, upwards in a smile.

"What makes you think I had anything to do with your release? Maybe you just got too much for the good police-folk of Indianapolis to handle."

All of a sudden, Alan found himself grinning. Reaching out to place a hand on his brother's forearm, to stop him turning away again, said Alan,

"Whatever, huh? You keep that as your story if you want, Johnny. For you… I'll not tell. As they say, your secret is safe with me, but, all the same, just in case you ever meet the guy responsible for saving me, and my family, I'll give you this so you can pass it on to him."

Reaching out, Alan took his older brother's hand, clasping it tightly within his own.

"Thank you."