The couple, a man and a woman, sat to the side, heads down, saying nothing.
Virgil looked from them to where Gordon and Alan were talking with their four children, positioned deliberately between them and the tableau happening six feet away from them.
“You can’t do this,” Scott was saying again, a hard edge creeping into his voice where he had been Good Citizen Field Commander before. Virgil shot him a glance, then looked back at the two feds. He hoped this wouldn’t get ugly; it would be a pisser to have to lawyer up and get Scott out of a sticky situation. Again.
“I’m sorry, sir, but yes, we can.” One of the plainclothes agents looked over his shoulder at the cowed couple. “They were here illegally, and we have orders to transport any illegals back to their home country.”
“In the middle of a state emergency?” Scott gestured broadly to the ruined landscape, the toppled buildings, the cracked pavement. “Buddy, you need to rethink your priorities.”
The other agent stepped up almost right under Scott’s nose, but Virgil had to give him credit; his brother didn’t move an inch, just looked down his nose at the young woman. “Mr. Tracy, you’re an American citizen,” she gritted. “I should think that you of all people would understand the necessity of what we do.”
Scott’s nostrils flared, and Virgil had to fight not to take a step back at the sight of an impending explosion. “What I understand, ma’am,” Scott purred, making the hair stand up on the back of Virgil’s neck, “is that these two people are parents of four frightened children. They have just survived a major natural disaster, and by the grace of God or fate or whatever you want to believe in, they are unhurt–largely thanks to my team’s intervention. They have the right–”
“They have no rights!” the woman blurted. “They are here illegally!”
“They have the human right,” Scott continued, loud enough so that the six young people behind him looked up, the two youngest immediately gluing themselves to Gordon, “to comfort their children and to recover from their ordeal. You’re right; I am an American citizen, but these people want nothing except what my country promises: Freedom.” He shifted, and Virgil got ready to pounce, but Scott didn’t take a step forward. “I’m no law student, but I think the processes of the United States government will bear up just fine if these two people–this mother and father–are allowed to comfort their children, ensure they are unhurt, and THEN deal with whatever you need them to deal with as a family.” He raised his chin to fasten the man with a hot sapphire glare. “As a concerned citizen–no, as a fellow human and a first responder who wants to see that my work isn’t completely for naught–I would ask that you allow my team to remain while that sequence of events is completed. Sound reasonable?” He turned to Virgil. “What do you think, Virg?”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Virgil said with a shrug, as Gordon and Alan brought the children forward, keeping all four between them.
“Oh, one more thing.” Scott tapped his iR symbol. “John, are you getting all of this?”
The voice snapped back immediately. “Video capture has been engaged since boots were on the ground, per iR policy.”
“Thank you.” Scott turned back to the two plainclothes agents. “Well?”
The agents had a quick word, then stepped back. The father got to his feet, helped the mother–who Virgil now saw was at least six months pregnant–and the children ran forward into their parents’ arms.
“You’re not above the law,” the man snarled. “What, are you going to play Mr. Boyscout hero for every one of these situations?”
“No,” Scott assured him, eyes on the family reunion. “Of course that’s impossible. But my father–Jeff Tracy, maybe you’ve heard of him? First man on Mars? He wouldn’t be able to stand by when he saw something, and neither will I–nor my brothers.”
“Step carefully, Tracy,” the man returned, then moved to the parents. “Okay, let’s go.”
As they were herded off to a waiting van, the father raised his head and fastened Scott with a tense, yet grateful look. Scott nodded once, then turned. “Thunderbirds, let’s go.”