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Hiding in Plain Sight

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Summary: Buffy goes to Tracy Island to collect some money. Response to JustAGuy's "Collection Work" challenge. Crossover with Thunderbirds.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Thunderbirds(Recent Donor)DonSampleFR1515,9210111,54330 Jan 1130 Jan 11Yes
Acknowledgements: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the creation of Joss Whedon. Thunderbirds is the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

This story is a response to TTH Challenge #1455, Collection Work, by JustAGuy.


Hiding in Plain Sight


Buffy looked out the window of the small jet that the Council had chartered to carry her on the final leg of her journey. For once, Giles wasn’t being cheap, though in this instance he really hadn’t had a choice, unless he wanted to make her row the last thousand miles. It wasn’t like there was any other way to get across the expanse of ocean to reach the small, rocky, volcanic island that she could now see protruding from the seemingly endless blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. From this altitude it looked green and lush. The sole visible sign of human habitation she could make out was a runway on the only flat portion of land.

Buffy turned to the pilot sitting beside her. The plane only had four seats, two of which were vacant. “Are you sure you can land on that?” she asked. The runway looked entirely too short to her eyes. It stretched from the edge of the water to a sheer cliff face. It didn’t look like it would be very forgiving of pilots who made any mistakes, or planes with bad brakes. Once they were on the ground, they either stopped before they ran out of runway, or they smashed into the mountain. There would be no going around for a second attempt if he blew the first one.

“No problem, Miss Summers,” said her pilot. “This plane can land on a runway half that length.” He reached out and patted his instrument console. “Can’t you, sweetheart?”

Buffy almost expected to hear the plane answer back. She had met a talking car on a previous assignment, after all. Her pilot was a weird guy, and he’d talked to his plane almost as much as he’d talked to her during this flight. “If you say so,” she said, still not feeling very secure.

“As long as you keep your hands and feet off the controls, we’ll be fine,” said the pilot, with a note of exasperation in his voice. Hey, it wasn’t her fault that she’d rolled the plane twice before he took back control from her when he’d offered to give her a “flying lesson” to pass the time during their two hour flight from Honolulu.

They dropped lower, and Buffy began to make out other signs of habitation on the island. They were coming in from the wrong direction to make a direct approach to the runway, so they overflew the island before her pilot turned the plane around to make his final approach. She could see several buildings built into the slopes of the mountain, and surrounded by the verdant tropical vegetation. They looked like the architect had used a bunch of 60s concept drawings for what ‘the buildings of tomorrow’ would look like to get his ideas. The number of buildings surprised her, considering that fewer than a dozen people were supposed to be living here.

“Don’t know why anyone would want to come out here,” said her pilot. “There’s nothing on this island. Don’t know why they even bothered with the runway.”

Buffy looked at him in surprise. Sure, all those buildings did blend into the landscape reasonably well, and her eyesight was better than most people’s, but anyone who wasn’t legally blind should be able to see some of them by now, and they didn’t let blind people fly planes, did they? And anyway, the way he’d checked her out when he’d met her at the airport had told her that he wasn’t blind.

Then she remembered the reason for her visit to this tropical island, and the charmed bracelet that Willow had given her. She took the bracelet off her wrist, so she could see what the pilot was seeing.

The island shimmered before her eyes, like a desert mirage. Nearly all of the buildings vanished. There was still the runway, and a building that looked like a hanger beside it, and above it, built into the side of the mountain, was a house, much less impressive than any of the buildings she had seen before, and it blended in better with its surroundings. She put the bracelet back on, and the island shimmered again, and all the other buildings came back. The house was still there, but it was larger now.

Okay, now she knew what they were using that glamour spell for, but she still didn’t know why. What was Jeff Tracy hiding on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

Buffy ran over what she knew of Jeff Tracy in her mind: former astronaut, aerospace tycoon and billionaire, turned semi-recluse. He had moved to this island with his five sons and a small staff after the death of his wife, and had rarely been seen in public since. The house she could see when she wasn’t wearing the bracelet was large enough to accommodate the known population of this island quite comfortably. With the bracelet … well it looked like everyone who was supposed to be here could have a rather large building all to themselves.

Buffy’s attention shifted back to the runway, and the side of the mountain that was now coming toward her much too quickly. She glanced back at her pilot, and saw his hand reach out to push some buttons. She felt a vibration, and a bit of a clunk from below her, which she hoped was the right sort of noise that the landing gear should be making. His hands moved over more controls. Buffy assumed that he was adjusting throttles and flaps and doing other piloty things. She pulled on the strap to tighten her seatbelt.

The landing was so smooth that she didn’t feel it, but she heard the brief squeal of the tires as they touched the concrete. Then she was slammed forward against her shoulder strap when the pilot engaged the thrust reversers on his engines. The cliff was still getting closer, much too quickly for Buffy’s liking. She hated being in a situation like this: where all her Slayer strength and speed meant nothing; her life in the hands of a regular person, though she supposed that she still had a better chance of surviving a crash than her pilot did. Another glance at him showed calm concentration on his face, which made her feel a little better.

The force of the seatbelt across her chest vanished as quickly as it had come, and they were moving slowly along the runway, at a lower speed than Buffy would have driven in city traffic. Buffy let out the breath that she hadn’t realized that she was holding. The pilot taxied them to a stop by the hanger, and the whine of the engines faded away.

Buffy opened her door, and climbed out of the plane while her pilot was still flipping switches to turn things off. She stretched out the kinks that came from sitting too long, and took a deep breath, smelling the fresh sea air. It was warm, and the sunshine felt good on her skin. She wondered if this island had a nice beach anywhere on it. She hadn’t noticed one as they’d flown in, but she remembered seeing a nice big swimming pool by the house. When Giles had told her that her next trip was to a tropical island, she’d been sure to pack her bikini.

Two men that Buffy hadn’t noticed earlier stepped out from the shade beside the hanger. “Miss Summers?” asked one of them.

Buffy gave him her best smile. “That’s right!” He was quite handsome looking: tall, with dark hair that reminded her a bit of Angel. There was a similar seriousness about his expression too, but he didn’t have that deep sadness that always lurked beneath Angel’s surface.

He smiled back at her. “I’m Scott Tracy, and this is my brother Virgil.” he held out his hand to the other man. “Welcome to Tracy Island.”

“Thanks, and please, call me Buffy.”

“All right, Buffy. Father is waiting for you, up in the house.”

The pilot came around the plane, carrying Buffy’s bag, that he’d retrieved from the luggage compartment. She’d packed light, bringing a minimum of weapons, so he didn’t have any difficulty carrying it. Scott took the bag from the pilot. Buffy decided to let him be a gentleman.

“I’ll help you get refuelled, so you can fly back to Hawaii,” Virgil told the pilot.

“How am I supposed to get back?” asked Buffy.

“Our regular grocery run is scheduled for a couple of days from now,” said Scott. “We can give you a lift back.” He pointed to a path that led around the hanger. “This way, Buffy.”

Scott led Buffy up a long flight of stairs to the main house. He looked back at her a few times to make sure that she wasn’t lagging behind. This island clearly wasn’t a place for anyone who wasn’t in pretty good shape, with long sloped paths, and lots of stairways between the buildings. He seemed surprised by how well she was keeping up with him.

The house was furnished in the same ‘future as seen from the 60s’ style as the architecture. Scott led her through it, to a large office. Buffy looked around curiously. The most conspicuous items of decoration in the office were a series of portraits along the walls. Buffy recognized the pictures of Scott, and Virgil, and figured that the three other men must be Jeff Tracy’s other three sons. She also recognized the woman in another portrait. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward had been instrumental in setting up this meeting.

Buffy recognized Jeff Tracy — sitting behind a large, neat, desk — from the photos she had seen of him. He was older now, with more grey hair, but he still looked to be in good shape, kinda like what she imagined Giles might look like, in another ten to twenty years. He rose from his chair, and extended his hand across his desk. “Miss Summers, a pleasure to meet you.”

Buffy shook his hand. “And you, Mr. Tracy.”

“I trust you had a pleasant flight.”

“It was pretty boring,” said Buffy. “Nothing to see but water, most of the way.”

“Please, have a seat. Kyrano will have dinner ready soon, but can we get you anything before then?”

Buffy sat in the chair that Mr. Tracy indicated. “No, thank you. I’m good for now.”

“Very well. Scott, why don’t you take Miss Summers’ bag to her room?”

Scott clearly got the message that Mr. Tracy wanted to speak privately with Buffy. “F.A.B., Father.” He picked up Buffy’s bag from where he had set it down by the door. “I’ll see you at dinner, Buffy.”

Scott closed the door behind himself as he left, and Buffy turned her attention back to his father. “So, what can I do for the Council?” he asked.

“Um, this is a little awkward,” said Buffy. “We really appreciate the million dollars a year that you’re paying us to maintain the glamour that’s hiding most of what you’ve got here, but, um, Quentin Travers made some deals with some, ah, less than savoury characters, back before he was killed, and if we had any record of just what it is that you’re hiding here, it was lost when our old headquarters blew up. I’m afraid that if we’re going to continue the arrangement, we’re going to have to know just what it is that you are doing here.”

“We’re not doing anything, Miss Summers,” said Mr. Tracy. “We just like our privacy.”

“Most people would think that the thousand miles of empty ocean surrounding this island would grant them more than enough privacy,” said Buffy. “And you have much more on this island than you would need, or even want, if you were just living here.”

“We only have this one house, Miss Summers,” said Mr. Tracy.

“Please!” said Buffy. “We created the glamour, you think I can’t see through it? I counted at least a dozen buildings as we were coming in to land.”

“I assure you, Miss Summers, that there is nothing untoward going on here on the island,” said Mr. Tracy. “We do have several engineering workshops, that we use for building prototypes of aircraft that we are developing for my company, and things like that. We are doing nothing that need concern the Council.”

“You know what the Council does?” asked Buffy.

“Indeed I do, though my sons do not. I’m honoured that they chose to send the Senior Slayer out to visit us, though I’m afraid that your trip might have been in vain.”

“Well, if nothing else, I might get to lay on a beach, and work on my tan for a couple of days,” said Buffy. “So, tell me, since you know about me, what is it that you’re really doing here?”

“I’m sure that you did your research before you came out here,” said Mr. Tracy. “You know my history. You know the sort of activities that I support. What makes you think that we are doing anything that should concern the Council?”

“I do know what your public record shows,” said Buffy. “Tracy Aviation provides free transport of disaster relief supplies all around the world. When a fault was found in the backup, of a backup hydraulic system on the TA-Triple-8 airliner, the FAA was willing to give the airlines a year to fix it, as the planes came in for their regular maintenance. You paid the airlines to take the planes out of service and fix the problem right away. You, Mr. Tracy seem to be too good to be true, and I’m sure you know the old saying about that!”

“Indeed I do, Miss Summers, though I would point out that Tracy Aviation receives substantial tax credits for our charitable activities, which when coupled with the free publicity of seeing our logo on aircraft delivering food to famine victims on every news program on Earth, gives us more than ample compensation for that work. Sales of the Triple-8 — as well as every other aircraft that we make — rose substantially after we made that fix. While a narrow minded view might have seen our response to that problem as a loss, when you look a the ‘big picture,’ we came out several million dollars ahead.”

“So, you’re just in it for the money,” said Buffy.

“Of course not,” said Mr. Tracy, “but I have a board of directors, and while none of them are so crass as to only look at the bottom line, they have a responsibility to our stock holders to ensure that that bottom line remains in the black.”

“What’s in it for you?” asked Buffy.

“For me?”

“If it’s not the bottom line, what’s in it for you? Where’s your profit in all this?”

Jeff Tracy just looked at her for several seconds before he responded. “My wife died in a preventable accident,” he said eventually. “If someone had just fixed a known fault in the backup of a backup system, she would still be alive today. I don’t care about money. I have more money than any man can spend on himself, or his children. Even if Tracy Aviation went completely bankrupt tomorrow, I, and my sons, would never have to worry about having food, or shelter. Beyond that, everything that I have is dedicated to ensuring that no other husband, or wife, or child, or brother, or sister, or anyone has to go through what I went through after my wife’s death.”

“I want to believe you, Mr. Tracy,” said Buffy, “but I grew up in Sunnydale. Our Mayor was the nicest, most sincere guy you could ever hope to meet. He talked lovingly about his dear departed wife. He built more museums, and schools, and parks and other things than a city ten times Sunnydale’s size would have, and he was one of the most evil creatures it has ever been my misfortune to encounter.”

“I don’t know what I can say, Miss Summers, to assure you, that I have no evil intentions,” said Mr. Tracy. “I value my privacy, and I don’t want the exterior world knowing what’s going on here on this island.”

“Then it seems we have a bit of an impasse,” said Buffy. “The Council considers the thousand miles of ocean you have surrounding you sufficient for any normal amount of privacy. We need a better explanation than what you’ve provided, if you want us to give you any more.”

“And if I offered to double our payment?” asked Jeff Tracy.

“That would only double my curiosity,” said Buffy. “Don’t get me wrong, we can use the money, but we’re not that desperate for it.”

“I think I’m going to have to think about this, some more,” said Mr. Tracy. “In the meantime, won’t you please accept our hospitality?” He consulted the clock on his desk. “Dinner will be served shortly. You are welcome to join us.”

Buffy smiled at him. “Thank you very much. I look forward to it.”

---
Dinner was delicious. In addition to Scott and Virgil, two more of the Tracy sons were there to share it: Alan and Gordon. They were joined by another man, wearing the geekiest glasses that Buffy had ever seen, and affectionately referred to as “Brains” by everyone present. He was one of the few people Buffy had ever met who gave off an aura of intelligence as strong as Giles’, but in his case it seemed that his interests were in the physical sciences, not history, linguistics and demonology.

Also present at the dinner were Mrs. Tracy: the matriarch of the Tracy clan — mother of Jeff, and grandmother to his sons; and Tintin, the daughter of Kyrano, the man who served their meal. Buffy’s first impression of Kyrano was that he was the perfect servant, completely attentive to the needs of his employer, but as the meal progressed, and she saw the respect given him by everyone present, she couldn’t help thinking that Xander would have been comparing him to Alfred, Batman’s butler.

Everyone tried to keep the conversation to neutral topics, with no discussion of Buffy’s reason for being on the island, or with what they did there. They did spend some time talking about Tintin’s work. Buffy was surprised to learn that she was an astrophysicist, and was currently consulting with the Discovery Channel, on a program about the latest discoveries made by the Hawking X-Ray Telescope, which was sitting about half a million miles farther out from the sun in the Earth’s shadow — to aid in keeping its cryogenic systems cold — making observations of known and suspected black holes in the galaxy.

“We’ve got some really good new data on Cygnus X-1,” said Tintin, “that I’m using to update our models of it, and feed that into a CGI rendering engine to show what might happen when the black hole consumes HDE 226868, or it goes supernova.”

“HD-what?” asked Buffy.

“HDE 226868,” said Tintin. “It’s a blue supergiant star that the black hole is currently orbiting. Eventually they’re either going to run into each other, causing a massive explosion that will shoot out enough X, and Gamma rays to wipe out all life on Earth, or the star is going to go supernova, which will shoot out enough X and Gamma rays to wipe out all life on Earth. Either way, in a few million years, we’re cooked.”

“A few million years?” asked Buffy.

“At least five, maybe as many as ten,” said Tintin.

“Whew, for a little while there, you had me worried,” said Buffy.

---
Buffy retired to her room at what to her, was a pretty early hour. She’d crossed five time zones that day, on her trip here, so even though it was still early in the evening, by local time, by her internal clock it was pretty late.

She was still a light sleeper, so she was awakened in the middle of the night by a low rumbling sound that anyone who wasn’t a Slayer wouldn’t have noticed. She got out of her bed, and went out onto her room’s balcony. It was a beautiful, moonless night. The sky above her was darker and clearer, and full of more stars than she had ever seen before. Below her balcony was a lagoon with a sandy beach, on which a gentle, luminescent surf was washing. She couldn’t see anything that might have been making the sound she was hearing, nor could she tell from which direction it was coming.

Suddenly there was a much louder roar, and a bright light, coming from the other side of the house washed the the stars from the sky. For a moment, Buffy thought that the volcano on the island had started to erupt, but she quickly dismissed that notion. The roar got louder, and the light brightened for a few seconds, and then the source of it started to rise into the sky. She still couldn’t see it — her view was blocked by the house — but she could see the shadows cast by it shifting across the ground.

Buffy darted back inside, through her room, and out into the hallway, where she nearly knocked over Tintin. “What was that?” she asked.

Tintin looked like she had been awakened, too. “It’s just the boys, test launching a new booster rocket they’ve been working on. Most inconsiderate of them, don’t you think? If they must do it in the middle of the night, the least they could do is warn us first, so we could watch. A night launch is really quite beautiful to see, but it’s all over now. We might as well go back to sleep.”

---
Buffy awoke early the next morning, and after showering in her room’s en suite bathroom, went looking for breakfast.

She wasn’t the only early riser. Kyrano, Tintin, Mr. Tracy, and his mother were also all awake. There was no sign of Brains, or any of the boys, though. Tintin said that they were all sleeping in, after their late night rocket launch.

After breakfast, Tintin suggested that they go for some sun-bathing, and a swim in the lagoon. Buffy went back to her room to change into her bikini, put on a light sun-dress over it, and a hat with a wide, floppy brim on her head. She packed her carrying bag with a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and stuff, and her small tablet computer.

Tintin was waiting in the hallway for her, in similar clothing, and carrying an even larger bag. She led Buffy out of the house, and around to the path that wound down to the lagoon that her balcony overlooked.

There was a small shed there, that contained beach furniture, among other things. They got a pair of chaise longues from it, and set them up on the beach, and then Tintin pulled off her sun-dress. Buffy was a little surprised to see that she had been topless, beneath it, but she figured that when in Rome… She pulled off her own dress, and removed her own top.

Buffy and Tintin both slathered themselves with sunscreen, and did each other’s backs. Buffy knew that Slayers didn’t get sunburns, but so far none had lived long enough to know if skin cancer might be a concern. Once they were both well protected from the sun’s rays, they ran and dove into the water of the lagoon. Buffy felt the need to burn off a little bit excess energy. She had spent most of the previous day sitting in airplanes, and it didn’t seem likely that there’d be any vampires or demons for her to slay on this island, so she stayed in the water longer than Tintin did.

When she came back to the beach she found Tintin sitting in her chair, with a large tablet computer in her lap, working on something that seemed to be taking most of her attention. Buffy sat in her own chair, and got out her own tablet…much smaller than the one Tintin was using.

Tintin reached into her bag, and pulled out a chilled bottle of some sort of fruit juice that she handed to Buffy. “Here, you should probably drink this. Swimming in the ocean can dehydrate you, pretty quickly.”

Buffy took the bottle, and took a healthy swig from it. “Thanks, I was thirsty. This is good! What’s in it?”

“It’s a mixture of different juices. You’d have to ask my father to find out just which ones.”

“So, whatcha working on?”

“I’m refining my model of Cygnus X-1, and adding some false colouring to it, to make it look better. Most of the real action is taking place in parts of the spectrum that aren’t visible to human eyes, so I’m compressing the frequency range, so our poor eyes can see the details. What about you?” Tintin nodded to Buffy’s tablet.

“Oh, nothing so spectacular,” said Buffy. “This thing’s mostly just got my music collection, a few movies, and some books I’ve been meaning to read on it.”

“We have open wi-fi available, all over the island,” said Tintin.

“Yeah, I found that last night, when I checked my email,” said Buffy. She had also seen that there was a second, encrypted wi-fi network. She’d considered setting Willow’s sniffer program loose on it, to try to break in, but she’d decided not to do it, yet. These seemed like nice people, and she was hoping that they’d come clean with her about what was really going on, but for that to happen, they had to trust her. Getting caught snooping in their private network wouldn’t engender that trust.

After a couple of hours baking in the tropical sun, they went back for another dip in the ocean. When they emerged again, Buffy found that a table had been set between their chairs, on which a light lunch was laid out. Buffy and Tintin chatted while they ate, about numerous topics. From their favourite books, to men. Buffy was left with the impression that Tintin was in a relationship of some sort with Alan Tracy. She was a little surprised that none of the guys had shown up yet. There weren’t many who would pass up the opportunity to see a couple of beautiful, half naked, sun-bathing women. Tintin just shrugged when Buffy commented on their absence, and made some vague comments about them often sleeping until well into the afternoon, when they’d been up all night working on one of their projects.

After lunch, Buffy used her tablet to check the news. The big story of the day was about a dam collapse in South America, and that International Rescue had shown up to aid in containing the flooding, and rescuing survivors. There was dramatic film of Thunderbird 2 hovering over a building surrounded by raging flood waters, lifting people to safety in its massive cargo bay. She showed it to Tintin, who seemed to be remarkably blasé about the whole thing, and went back to working on her simulation of of a black hole swallowing a supergiant star.

Tintin suddenly set aside her tablet. “Have you tried snorkelling, Buffy?” she asked.

Buffy was a little surprised that Tintin had waited this long before bringing up the possibility. “I’ve done a bit,” she said.

“Come on,” said Tintin. “There are some really wonderful coral formations out in the lagoon. I’ll show you.”

She went to the storage shed that had contained their chairs, and started pulling out swim fins, masks, and snorkels for them. “We’re about the same size,” she said, handing Buffy a mask, and set of fins. “These should fit you. Do you know how to check the fit of a mask?”

“Yep.” Buffy took the mask, brushed her hair away from her face, and put the mask up against it. She inhaled slightly through her nose, pulling the mask tight, and holding it against her face. She waited for a few seconds to be sure that there were no leaks. She exhaled again, and caught the mask in her hands as it fell away. “Seems good,” she said.

“Great!” said Tintin, and led Buffy back to the lagoon. They both donned their masks, snorkels, and flippers, and swam out into deeper water.

Tintin was right. The coral was spectacular, and so were all the fish. Buffy saw everything from small, colourful gobies, to larger angelfish. She even saw a couple of reef sharks, that were nearly as long as she was, but they seemed to recognize her as a much more dangerous predator, and stayed well away.

Tintin beckoned for Buffy to follow her, and dove down about ten feet. She disappeared into a hole in the coral. She didn’t come out again. After waiting for several seconds, Buffy dove down, herself. The narrow gap opened into a passage that led up into an underground cave.

Cracks in the rocks over their heads let in a little bit of light, and ensured that the air was fresh. More light filtered up from below, through the entrance that had given them access to the cave. Tintin had taken off her mask, was sitting on a ledge of rock, with her feet dangling in the water. Buffy climbed up out of the water, and sat beside her.

She took off her own mask. “This is amazing!”

“I found this place when I was a little girl,” said Tintin. “It was my secret hide-away, for years, when I needed to get away from the boys.” She let out a little laugh. “I was sixteen before I found out that they’d known it was here, all along. Mr. Tracy had forbidden them from bothering me, when I came in here.” She smiled at the memory. “It wasn’t until after I brought Alan in here, to show it to him, that I learned that he already knew about it. This is where we had our first real kiss.”

“It’s a beautiful place for it,” said Buffy.

“Yeah,” said Tintin, “but the rocks weren’t so good for some of our other ‘firsts’.” She rubbed her butt, in remembered pain.

Buffy laughed. “I can imagine. I’ve done it in some less than comfortable places, myself.”

Tintin raised an eyebrow in question, but Buffy wasn’t going to tell her about some of the places she’d had sex with Spike — or any of them. She was distracted by hearing that low rumbling sound again, that she’d heard last night. “What is that?” she asked.

“What’s what?” asked Tintin.

“That noise,” said Buffy.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“It’s really low, like some sort of heavy machinery. I heard it last night, before the rocket launch. Maybe the boys are up, and are going to launch another one!” She grabbed her mask and snorkel, put them back on, and slipped down into the water.

“Wait, Buffy!” called out Tintin, but Buffy didn’t. She had kinda figured out that Tintin had brought her into this cave to keep her from seeing something that was happening outside. She dived under the water, and swam back out of the cave, into the lagoon.

Buffy had a quick look around, after she surfaced. She saw a shadow moving over the ground, and looked up. She looked up, and froze for a moment, which made her briefly sink back beneath the water’s surface. She remembered to kick her feet again, and came back up. It was still there. Thunderbird 1 was cruising in over the island, coming to a hover just beyond the house. Attitude motors fired, tilting it up until it was standing on its tail, and then it slowly started to sink down, behind the house, about where Buffy figured the pool to be.

Tintin bobbed to the surface, but Buffy was already swimming as quickly as she could toward shore, and there was no way that Tintin was going to keep up with her. She pulled off her fins, and mask when she reached the beach, and ran for the path leading back up to the house.

She came around the house, to the balcony overlooking the pool, just in time to see it sliding shut over an immense underground hanger. She stood for a moment, just looking at at the waves in the pool’s surface slowly subsiding, the only evidence remaining that she had seen it moving.

Mr. Tracy appeared at the railing beside her. “I would have preferred that you not see that.”

“And now that I have?” asked Buffy.

He shrugged. “Now, we need to talk some more, before you go back to the mainland.” He saw the doubtful expression on her face. “Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of keeping you here, or of arranging for any sort of ‘accident’ to keep you from talking. The first would just attract more attention to us from your friends, and the second is against everything I have dedicated my life to. You can leave tomorrow, just like I told you, but first, we need to talk.” He glanced down at her bare breasts. “And I think you should put some more clothes on, before the boys get up here. They may be used to seeing Tintin dressed like that, but I fear that you would be too great a distraction.”

Buffy blushed. She’d forgotten, in her haste, that she was only wearing the bottom half of her bikini.

---
Buffy thought about what she was going to say, while she went back to her room to get dressed. This put a whole new perspective on things. Kyrano was waiting in the hall outside her room to escort her to Mr. Tracy’s office, when she was ready. It was different now. The portraits of his sons were still on the wall, but now they were shown dressed in the uniforms of International Rescue.

She decided to open the conversation. “Mr. Tracy, in light of what I now know, I’ve decided that the Council will renew the glamour over your island, for no charge.”

“I thank you for that,” said Mr. Tracy, “especially as it means that you intend to keep our secret.”

“I will have to tell a couple of people,” said Buffy. “The Council chairman, and our chief wiccan will need to know why I’m doing this, but you can trust their discretion.”

“I can accept you telling Mr. Giles, and Miss Rosenberg,” said Mr. Tracy, “but I would like your word that it goes no further.”

“It will be tough keeping the secret from Xander — he’s one of your biggest fans — but I think I can handle it. You have my word.”

“Thank you, Miss Summers.” Mr. Tracy opened his desk drawer, and pulled out a small slip of paper. “And you can have this.”

Buffy took the cheque, and glanced at it. Then she gave it a closer look. There was an extra zero on it. “Mr. Tracy, I told you: no charge!”

“That isn’t for renewing the glamour,” said Mr. Tracy. “If we at International Rescue are going to continue doing our work, there has to be a world for us to do it in. Consider that just a small token of my appreciation for the work you’ve already done.”

The End

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