Thunderbird 5 was operational a month after the attack, able to sustain a person for more than a few hours, able to uphold life support. The oxygen tanks had been replaced, the wiring redone, the cables renewed, and whatever sign there had been of the attack, it had been wiped away. The station was as good as new with a few more additions from Brains to keep something like this from happening again in the near-- or even distant-- future.
John had spent the time he was 'grounded' with his family. His brothers were alternating on the station's repair, shuttling parts to and from it with Thunderbird 3, while Alan was moaning about having to do a paper for his class. John had simply sat on him, by his father's wordless request, until his youngest brother had finished his assignment. And then some. Alan had to pass classes and get school done to become a true Thunderbird.
"I can fly the ships already!" Alan protested one evening while he slaved over math.
John smiled, leaning back into his comfy chair. "Yes, you can. Barely. Alan, it takes more than a few lessons in the simulator and one mission to fly a Thunderbird."
Blue eyes that were so much like his own glared angrily at him. "I got the job done."
John nodded. "Yes," he said seriously, "you did. You saved us. You and Tin-Tin and Fermat. You flew the 'birds, but that doesn't make you a pilot. A pilot has to have many skills."
"Gordon aced his classes and he enrolled in home college. He's still studying, Alan, just like the rest of us did. Scott wasn't born an expert pilot either. Sure, he has a talent, just like Gordon has one when it comes to diving. But he took lessons, went to flight school."
Alan gnashed his teeth, radiating frustration. "All you see is the kid," he finally whispered. "The little brother who's just turned fifteen and can't do anything to help. But I can! Do you know how bad it is to watch it on TV? Knowing you guys are saving lives and risking your own?"
John met the enraged gaze and suddenly Alan looked away, realizing just who he was talking to.
"Yes, Alan, I know," John said quietly. "Only too well."
"But you're a Thunderbird," was the soft addition.
"No, I'm a Tracy. Like you are. Soon you will fly and do rescues, but for now you should enjoy childhood."
"I'm not a child!" There was the anger again.
"You're a young man," John conceded, nodding. "And we all were your age once, Alan. We all know. Why do you think we watch out for you? Why do you think you get teased all the time? We know what it's like to be your age. And I know how hard watching is, being unable to help should anything go wrong. But we all have our places, Alan. All of us. Soon you will be a more active member of International Rescue, but to have that place you need to do more than fly one of the 'birds from A to B."
Alan stared at his math paper.
"You know the pre-flight checks, you know where each and every button is," John went on, voice calm and collected. "But what do you know about engines, airframes and systems? Theory of Flight and Aerodynamics? Flight instruments other than the ones you used to lift off or touch down? Aviation weather, navigation, flight operations..."
He tried to catch the lowered eyes and caught Alan briefly peeking at him from under his lashes. John smiled encouragingly.
"Alan, I didn't know squat about that until I was about Gordon's age, and even then it overwhelmed me. You've got an advantage. You have four brothers who already went through that stuff, and you can fly the Thunderbirds in simulation. You know more than I did when I was fifteen, and my interests were in the stars, not the machines."
Finally he looked up, the anger gone from his face.
"Yeah, I know," he conceded.
"Finish school, bro. You could ace some of those classes with the knowledge you have through IR. Just get your head out of the clouds and think on the ground, because it's where it all starts. No pilot comes from those hot jocks who think flying's cool and ace every video game. They come from students of mathematics, physics, engineering. You can't fly a plane until you know how it works."
Alan sighed explosively, their eyes meeting. John gave him an encouraging smile.
"Thanks," his youngest brother murmured, glancing at his paper again. "Uh, you being the science geek and all... could you help me with this?"
John laughed. "I take offence at the geek part, but let me have a look. I'm not writing it for you, though."
Alan grinned at him. "Never would have asked you to."
And John snatched the book, reading over the math problems, smiling to himself.
It was late.
At least on Tracy Island, in that region of the world, where night had encroached on the Southern paradise and the sun had set an hour ago. Silence reigned in the house of Jeff Tracy, his sons in their rooms, watching TV, talking, reviewing past missions in Scott's case most likely, or dozing off.
"Quiet night?" he asked, looking at the image of his only son not on the island at the moment.
John smiled. "Very quiet on my front. There's a storm coming in over Northern Japan, a minor earthquake hit Germany, but it only rattled a few windows, and a forest fire in British Columbia, but so far it's under control."
Jeff smiled, too. "Quiet," he agreed.
He looked at the blond young man, took in the relaxed features.
"You okay up there?"
A chuckle. "Dad, I've always been okay up here."
But Thunderbird 5 had been attacked, John had been hurt, and ever since then Jeff had been seeing the wrecked station drifting through space in his dreams, had relived the terrible moment of running into the almost completely dark control room and finding his son on the ground, coughing, injured, trying so badly not to look that worse off.
"I'm fine," John reiterated. "Really."
He had returned to Thunderbird 5 a week ago. Gordon had stayed for two days, then had left in TB 3. He would return for the usual rotations in a month. Soon Alan would be part of that rotation, too, but he had to finish school first. Lately his grades had been picking up, had started to climb, and Jeff was hopeful his youngest had finally overcome that stubborn phase.
Now he nodded, looking into those serious blue eyes that told him not to worry.
"I'm turning in," he only said quietly. "Keep me informed about the storm."
"Will do. Good night, Dad."
John switched off the monitor and leaned back in his chair. He gazed out the panorama screen that showed him Earth, hanging just below him in the blackness of space. He smiled as he watched it, having an unrivalled, fantastic view no one else could ever have.
Yes, he was fine.
The nightmares were gone, had turned into dreams, had started to fade off. He loved Thunderbird 5, had wanted to be back. As he had told Alan, for him there was no comparison to this feeling of being here. Some would call it isolation, but to him it was what he did. He was a Thunderbird. He didn't fly fast rocket planes or the largest transport plane the world had ever seen. He didn't dive into the depths of the ocean or could jet around the planet and into outer space. He was here, watching the world, keeping an eye on things.
Maybe it was boring to a young mind. Maybe it was hermitic to others, but this was his life. He loved it.
Flexing his shoulders, feeling the scar pull a little, John glanced at his screens. One showed Japan and the storm brewing over the north end of the island. It didn't look so bad yet and not even close to a hurricane. Sensors would tell him when it hit the worst part and then they would see if help was needed.
John smiled more and stretched as well as he could without agitating the scar.
Well, it was time to turn in as well. Up here, time was different from down on the planet. Up here, there was no sunrise or sunset, no morning or evening. Only the clock and his watch told him how early or late it was, but that was also only South Pacific time.
Right now, it was past midnight. His father had turned in, his brothers were asleep, and he would be soon, too.
"Night, guys," he murmured as he left the control station after setting it to priority alarms that would go off should anyone call for their help.
Half an hour later, John Tracy was deeply asleep. No medications, no bad dreams, just normal sleep.
Thunderbird 5's sensors kept track of the happenings on Earth, as well as in space. And the new defensive mechanisms surrounded the station with an invisible electronic net, keeping the sleeping guardian inside safe.
Author's Voice: Thank you all for the kind reviews and the encouragement. Every single review made my day. This was my first foray into the Thunderbird universe and the welcome was very warm and inspiring. This is a wonderful fandom. Thanks!
I'm currently working on a second story, dealing with a different point of view and continuing some of these scenes. You'll have to wait a little longer to read it since I'm still writing and rearranging scenes.