Author's Note: Sorry this took so long. Jeff gets a shock. Scott makes preparations. Jeff and Gordon make plans. Kerr has interviews a leader. Fernando can't sleep. Thanks to Lillehafrue betareading and for being a sounding board.
The character of Berenora, and the events he relates are from the comic book story, "The Trapped Spy", written by Alan Fennell. Published first in TV Century 21, issues 112 through 117, February 25, 1967 through April 15, 1967, and reprinted in Thunderbirds the Comic, issues 4 through 6, December 13, 1991 through January 10, 1992.
Disclaimer: I don't own the canon characters, I'm just writing about them. Please do not copy this fiction without my consent. I may be reached at my email of record. If you add this to a C2 community, please let me know. Any and all original characters, including Cindy Lou/Lucinda and her cats (especially the cats) are mine and may not be used without my express written consent.
Jeff froze mid-breath, stunned and shaken. Even after all the lead up that Gordon had been giving to that inevitable decision, it still shocked him to hear the words. He must have looked as stunned as he felt, for Gordon was suddenly sitting beside him again and had one hand on his shoulder, and the other on his wrist, two fingers feeling for his pulse. He turned to see an intense, concerned expression on his son's face. Suddenly, he could breathe again, and he gulped air.
"Are you okay, Dad?" Gordon gave Jeff's shoulder a firm squeeze and a minute shake. "You looked pretty pale there for a minute."
Jeff drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly, then moistened his lips and gave his son a weak smile. "I'm... I'm okay, Gordon." A small nod, and Gordon let go. "I was half-expecting something like this, but it's a shock to actually hear the words, if you know what I mean."
"Maybe we should talk about this later..."
"No." Jeff ran a hand through his hair, and shook his head. "No. Let's talk about it now, get it out into the air. See what we can do to accommodate you... and maybe find a way to minimize the impact to International Rescue."
Scott hummed a little as he worked. He'd offered to load Thunderbird Three for its flight to Five, an offer that had surprised Jeff when he made it.
"No reason for John to stay up top for any longer than necessary," he'd explained. "This way, Alan can get his rest when he returns, and we can make the run as soon as he's ready." And I can be on my way as soon as I get back, he thought.
The cargo bay was now filled with the non-perishable items: dry foods - vacuum-packed for easy storage, round water tanks that would be switched for the used and much filtered water on board, medical supplies, an assortment of replacement parts that Brains expected to be exchanged and upgraded during the next month, paper goods, and a variety of smaller items that were normal for the trip to Five. Perishable foods, sealed and cryo-frozen, would be loaded at the last minute, the portable cryofreezer plugged into Thunderbird Three's power grid.
Scott moved the last of the water globes into its slot, his whistle ending abruptly with a grunt as he applied pressure. It clicked into place, and he smiled. "That's the last of them," he murmured as he checked it off on Three's manifest. "This will give us a good head start."
"So, you think Paul would be a good man for Thunderbird Four?"
Gordon nodded. "Yeah. He's had the same WASP training I've had; he's had to keep up his diving certification. As part of the Coast Guard, he's had rescue experience. Is still fit, too – he has to be for the Coast Guard."
"Sounds promising." Jeff made a note on his data pad. "What about family? Wife and kids? Elderly parents? Any entanglements I should know about in advance?"
"Y'know, that's something I hadn't thought about." Gordon frowned, looking pensive. "If he has those kinds of 'entanglements', would you remove him from consideration?"
"I don't know, son. I used to think that I could take on a family man as an operative, but after Peter Riordan... it's hard to say." Jeff shook his head. "I guess it would depend on what the situation is. And I would have to know to prepare appropriate housing, should he decide to take the offer." He recalled what Lou had said, and smiled. "Our villa's big, but it isn't the Biltmore."
Jeff chuckled at the confused look on Gordon's face. "Huge mansion in North Carolina, not far from where Lou used to live. They have a very nice winery."
"Oh." Gordon's face cleared somewhat. "Did you visit it while you were at Lou's?"
"No, though I'd have liked to if certain events hadn't happened. But Lou did serve me some of their wine." Jeff looked back at the data pad. "Now, back to the subject at hand: Paul and possible family entanglements."
"Right." Gordon paused, thinking hard. "Paul's estranged from his parents, but he's mentioned a sister. They'd be likely to turn to her if they need care in the future. And I know he was between partners when I visited last..."
This brought his father up short. "Partners? What exactly do you mean by 'partners'?"
"Well..." Gordon colored a little. "You see, Paul is bisexual. His last partner was a man, but he's had women, too." His father's eyes widened, causing Gordon to huff out a breath. "Dad, he's my friend. Nothing more, nothing else. When it comes to romance, I like women. End of story." He rose to his feet and folded his arms. "You can't let Paul's orientation stand in the way..."
Jeff put up a hand. "Easy, Gordon. Paul's orientation isn't an issue. I was just... surprised, that's all." He shook his head. "I've been a businessman long enough to realize that a person's orientation has nothing to do with their suitability to do a job. My only reservation with Paul is how your brothers might see him."
"Hm." Gordon rubbed his chin, then held out a palm. "Do you really think any of them would have a problem?"
"What do you think?" Jeff asked, eyebrow raised.
Gordon sat back down. "I never thought about it before. I always figured they'd react the same way I did. But maybe not." He sat quietly for a little bit, then began slowly. "I guess Virgil would be okay with it, and probably John, too. Alan... I guess I'm not as sure about him. Or about Scott either. I mean, his military experience..." He glanced at his father. "What are things like in the Air Force, Dad? Are they accommodating of people with different genders?"
"More than they were in my day, according to Tim Casey," Jeff admitted. "But from the comments Scott has made lately, I'm not sure he is, personally."
Nodding, Gordon let out a sigh. "I think you may be right, Dad." He shook his head slightly. "It's so easy to assume everyone in your family believes the same way you do on a subject, especially if you don't really talk about it." He shrugged. "It's not an issue with our work, though. For any of us."
"Very true. And it should never be." Jeff tapped on his data pad. "How do you want to handle this? In person or via secure email? Should I make the invitation, or do you want to?"
"I'd like to personally make the invitation, if that's okay with you, Dad. It'll give me a chance to see the college I'm interested in, too." He paused, giving his father a keen glance. "Dad?"
Gordon's serious tone made Jeff take special notice. "Yes, son?"
"If I had told you that Paul and I were lovers, what would you have said?"
Jeff blew out a long breath and passed his hand through his hair again. "I don't know, Gordon, I really don't. I'd be shocked – make that very shocked - to say the least. But who you love is up to you, and I hope – at least, I think – I'd be able to accept it. Might take a bit to get over the initial jolt, though... much like getting over the one you gave me a few minutes ago." He faced his son, his mien serious. "The one thing I do know is that you'd always be my son. Nothing would change that."
Gordon nodded, and smiled slightly. "That's what I figured." He squared his shoulders, mentally dismissing the previous subject. "So, when do I leave?"
"You would ask that," Jeff groused. "It depends on when Scott gets back from Unity City. We have a lot of comings and goings and I can see that all these transitions are going to increase them." He stood, and went over to his desk. "I'll pencil you in for a week from tomorrow. In the meantime, get hold of Paul and let him know you're coming."
"Consider it done, Dad."
The day had waned, and John was moving from "on duty" to "off duty" status. He never really changed out of his uniform until he was ready for bed – changing into civvies made for too much laundry and putting on his pajamas so early felt odd. He did, however, take off those things that made him feel most official. Sliding his sash off over his head, he hung it up in the tiny cubicle he called a closet. The hat joined it, and in a few moments, the boots as well. He stuck his feet into a pair of athletic shoes, and pulled the ends of his shirt from his trousers.
Stretching, he touched the ceiling, his hands flat on the cool metal. He could feel his shoulder joints pop a little, and hear the shifting of his vertebrae as he pushed upward. "Could use a little time with the weights," he murmured. Being alone in the station, he'd developed the habit of talking to himself. Occasionally he'd pick up the threads of a conversation in a language he knew and would follow them, interjecting his own commentary, needing the diversion and at least the pretense of a dialog. For the most part, however, he was comfortable with his own company, especially now, when he was under pressure to finish updating his first book... and feeling the inspiration to create his next.
He shuffled through the dozen or so prepackaged meals left in the cryofreezer, looking for something that appealed to him. His ultimate choice made him wrinkle his nose and sigh, but he popped it into the warmer anyway. The galley was just big enough to walk in, turn around, or squat down. Narrow stainless steel cabinets, counter tops, and drawers lined both sides; the cooking and cryonic units were built in. He opened the cryofridge and pulled out two cold drink pouches, both lemonade this time. Sipping from one, he leaned up against the counters as the scent of Kyrano's cooking filled the tiny space. At last the warmer signaled it was through, and he picked up a silicon mitt to handle the heated, recyclable tray. A quick rummage in a drawer brought out a fork; he added that to his pile and brought it out to what was optimistically called, "the lounge".
John set his tray, mitt and all, on the adjustable table, then settled himself in one of the leather-covered recliners. It, like almost every piece of furniture aboard the station, was bolted down – the exception being any pieces which had to move; those had magnetic grips to keep them in place should the gravity generator fail. However, the recliners could be moved back and forth on a set of tracks, and both the chairs and the table could be automatically raised or lowered to more comfortable positions.
This he did now, sliding the recliner forward, raising the table to a suitable level not only for eating, but also for using his laptop, which lay closed beside his steaming meal. It would be easy to use the station's computers for writing; they possessed a huge amount of processing power and archiving space. But the laptop was portable; any changes he made went with him, and password protected so he didn't have to worry about Alan poking around.
He opened the computer, and used one hand to maneuver through its windows while he speared a morsel of food with the other. "Check email first," he muttered before putting the food in his mouth.
Opening up his primary email account revealed a number of missives. "Let's see. Two from my publisher... an email from Brigitte." He smiled. "Save that one for last. Hm... looks like some fan mail directed from my publisher's account... and something from Virgil? With an attachment? Hmm..."
He shoveled in another forkful of food as he opened the email. Virgil wrote: "Hey, John! Could you look this over when you have a minute? No rush, really, I'd like your opinion, and if you find any spelling or grammar issues, let me know. Thanks! Virgil".
"Grammar and spelling issues?" John took a sip of his drink and frowned. "What is this?" Curious, he opened the attachment and began to read.
"So, Mr. President, what about this man who tried to kill you?" Eddie Kerr sat up straight, giving the gentleman on the other end of the connection his full attention. It was after eleven at night on the US west coast, but early afternoon in the tiny Baltic country of Bereznik. "I understand he was wearing an International Rescue uniform."
President Ustin Berenora frowned, the furrows in his craggy face deepening. He was middle-aged, his dark, wavy hair turned silver from just above the temples to his neck. He had been feared as the military dictator who ruled Bereznik with an iron hand, but now, two years after his encounter with International Rescue, he was the democratically-elected president of his country. "It is true the man who tried to assassinate me wore International Rescue's colors..."
"So, they tried to assassinate you?"
Berenora raised a thick eyebrow and continued as if Kerr hadn't spoken. "But not only did they warn me of the attempt, the man in the uniform admitted to being one of Colonel Toblosk's secret police. They imprisoned the operative that International Rescue dispatched to discuss their plan with me, taking his uniform as a disguise."
Kerr did not look pleased. He paused for a moment, looking over his notes, then shifted in his chair. "All right. Then what about this Toblosk? He was a trusted member of your government, wasn't he?"
"At one time." The president sat back, lacing his fingers together just below his chin. "After International Rescue saved my daughter and rescued their operative from Toblosk, documents and witnesses were found that proved Toblosk was a traitor. He wished to set himself up in my place as leader of Bereznik. He knew what I had planned as far as the future of our country's governmental structure was concerned. With him in power, those reforms would not have come to pass."
"But didn't International Rescue kill him?" Kerr looked at his data pad once again. "By... let's see... firing a missile from Thunderbird One?"
"We conducted a thorough investigation of the matter, Mr. Kerr, and even called in Interpol's terrorism directorate. The eyewitness testimony clearly showed that they first fired a missile at the cell where their operative was being held." Berenora's eyes were half-lidded, and there was a touch of impatience in his voice. "Once they had pulled the operative from the cell, Toblosk's men shot at him as he dangled below the lead Thunderbird. To stop the shooting, another missile was fired. This one, unfortunately, was aimed at Toblosk's office - as it was from there that the shots were being fired." A small, knowing smile played around the President's lips. "They did me – and my people – a very great favor, Mr. Kerr." He stretched a hand out in Eddie's direction. "But I am sure you have all this information already."
Eddie kept his face and attitude professional. "Just trying to fill in the gaps, Mr. President." He scrolled through his notes again. "What did Interpol have to say in the matter?"
Berenora tapped his fingertips together twice, then steepled them where Kerr could see them. "Perhaps you should ask them, Mr. Kerr. As far as I recall, they saw no flaws in our investigation."
"Ah, I see." Kerr paused, then asked, "And what about the attack at the harbor? Thunderbird One attacked two gunboats...?"
"The gunboats were guarding their small submarine; I believe it is called Thunderbird Four. It was needed to rescue the spy at the Russian border, and I had no time to call the vessels off." Berenora tapped his fingertips again. "As there was minimal damage and no loss of life on the gunboats. I was – and still am – prepared to overlook it." He frowned slightly at Eddie, then sat straighter in his chair. "I am puzzled, Mr. Kerr. Why you have not asked me how International Rescue saved my Katania's life, and the lives of all who were with her?" He raised an eyebrow again, this time as if in challenge. "Perhaps you have... how do you say it? An agenda?"
Kerr paused, considering the man in front of him, wondering what Berenora would do if he said yes. Then he smiled. "You're right, Mr. President. I haven't asked. So, how did International Rescue save your daughter's life?"
Fernando sighed and sipped his wine again, looking out over the lights of the harbor from his home's terrace. A slight breeze rustled through the palm fronds above his head, stirring the ends of his dressing gown and bringing the scent of the sea to him. He breathed deeply and let out another sigh. He had been restless all evening, without knowing why, and that growing uneasiness had kept him from sleeping. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, he rose and poured himself a glass of wine, taking it and the bottle out to the terrace. This was now his second libation, and still he was not sleepy.
He raised his sights a little, and gazed off beyond the harbor to the sea, letting his mind wander in the cloud-covered darkness. The breeze intensified, making the rustling of the palms louder. And somehow, in their susurration, he thought he heard a word, repeated over and over: "traidor". He shook his head sharply, bringing his wandering attention back to the here and now, dispelling the illusion. Frowning at the product of his imagination, he took a large gulp of the wine.
Turning back toward his house, he finished emptying the glass. Filling it again, he sipped as he moved back inside. There was a storm coming; he could smell it, could feel it, and Fernando wanted to be safe, sheltered and sleeping when it hit.