An automated alert sounded from the main console indicating Thunderbird 3 was aligned with the guidance beams above the round house.
Alan Tracy flicked a control switch and the descent motors roared into life, gently lowering the 287-foot tall rocket into the secret underground silo.
As the three huge boosters came to rest on their landing pads, the extractor system switched to full power, filtering the excess fumes out of the bay.
A steel cover slid over the entrance, giving the impression that there was nothing more to see above the surface than an ornamental garden.
Taking the transit couch back to the Tracy lounge, Alan reported to his father.
“Mission successful, Father. That space station won’t be falling out of orbit any time soon. They were sure grateful for the assistance though. Reckon those guys are going to be okay now.”
Jeff’s craggy face creased into a smile as he replied, “Great work, son. Sorry you had to go alone.”
“That’s okay. Guess the others are still mighty busy with the flooding in Italy.”
“Yeah, though Scott reported in just before you got back. Seems like they’ve got things under control. They’re going to stay on at the worst affected area a while longer to stabilise the situation, but I figure they’ll be heading back to base within the next few hours.”
“Okay, Dad. Think I’ll mosey down to the workshop for a spell.”
Jeff chuckled, “Still hoping to get that antique flying again, huh?”
Alan grinned broadly, “That’s the plan!”
The workshop was empty when Alan arrived. Brains had practically locked himself away in his laboratory working on his latest pet project.
Alan looked over at the shape covered by a large tarpaulin in one corner of the bay. He smiled to himself and started getting into his overalls. His father had been right, it was certainly an antique. But with a little hard work and perseverance, it’d come out alright.
He set to work, losing track of time as the task absorbed all his focus and concentration.
In what seemed like no time at all, a siren sounded and the floor quivered as the huge artificial rock face concealing the entrance to the bay began to descend into the ground.
Then, with a whir of motors, the giant red engine housings of Thunderbird 2 appeared, followed by the great green bulk of the craft’s fuselage as it reversed inside and came to a halt.
As the motors cycled down, Alan saw Virgil, Gordon and Tin-Tin exit the craft and make their way to the post-flight diagnostic computer terminal.
Alan hurriedly covered his work-in-progress with the tarpaulin before they could see it.
“Hi!” he called to the others, “How’d it go?”
Virgil nodded with satisfaction, “Everything went pretty well. There were a few minor injuries, but thankfully we didn’t lose anyone.”
Gordon cocked his head back towards Pod 4, which was sitting below the huge transporter, “Thunderbird 4 took a bit of a beating, but it’s nothing that a little paint won’t put right.” He looked over Alan’s shoulder to the bulky shape under the tarpaulin, “Speaking of which, when are we gonna see what’s under that?”
“Whenever I’ve got it working.”
Tin-Tin gave him a wry smile, “You’re just enjoying teasing us. I wonder what it can be?”
Virgil shrugged, “Well, I guess it’s not going to be working in the next ten minutes, so I say we get cleaned up and have something to eat. Never know when we’ll be needed again!”
Gordon had been about to lift the edge of the tarpaulin when Virgil caught him by the shoulder and whisked him off towards the exit to the transit system.
Alan laughed, “Typical, he can’t wait to see it.”
Tin-Tin rested a hand on his shoulder, “Neither can I, I’m sure it’s wonderful.”
“Oh, gee. Thanks, Tin-Tin.”
“Come on then, let’s join the others. I’m starving!”
Alan smiled, “Me too. This downtime between assignments makes a nice change, but boy does it give you an appetite!”