Disclaimer: Thunderbirds and associated characters are owned by Gerry Anderson and his affiliated studios etc. I write this purely for entertainment, and no money is made off it.
Authors Notes: Huh. This one came out of nowhere, I wouldn't leave me be. I really love the Thunderbirds, and while I don't know where the idea for this little Alternate Universe emerged, it was too interesting an idea to be filed away. I don't know where I'm going with it, or if there is anywhere to go, but I thought it best to get it out there anyway.
In case you can't tell by reading, I'm a real sucker for brotherly and familial love and affection, and smarm.
The fic doesn't come from the movie-verse or the tv-verse, but is in a little world of its own. I used ages and seniority order more in common with the movie-verse, though. You might see those magnificent machines sometime later in the series.
Please read and review (and enjoy, of course).
By Ryuuza Kochou
"Gordon! Don't even think about it!"
"Since when are you clairvoyant?"
"Hah! It doesn't take a clairvoyant to know how you think."
"You are getting kind of predictable there, Gordy…"
"It's always embarrassing watching a tapped out performer doing the same old tricks."
"You should talk, Sprout, you never had any!"
"Guys! Can we please have one photo that includes no glaring, blinking, grimaces or unfunny gestures? Grandma will kill us if we can't at least get one!"
"She's got one! She's got hundreds…"
"Not including the half-a-dozen we've been standing here for. Why do we need copies anyway?"
"We have to be sure one comes out."
"At least three will. Come on, I wanna go down to the vintage car exhibit."
"Uhg, I can't take this! This is sooo boring."
"That's it. I'm the oldest, I don't have to take this. Company! Eyes Forward! One more then you can all scram and do what you want."
"Can we get a hallelujah!"
"Gordon! Hands down, eyes forward! And I want smiles or no dessert tonight."
"Geez, you're no fun when you're uber air force man."
"Forward, got it."
"Oookay, that should just about do it (Scott do the honours now, while the gettin's good)."
"Finally!" Freed from his prison of posture, red-headed Gordon Tracy bounced out of the family pose to turn and look at the back drop of their portrait. "You know they've overblown a picture when you can see the nose hairs." His face wrinkled with distaste. His own father's enormous head looked down on him with a trademark quiet smile.
"They certainly made the display eye-catching I must say," John commented as he began to pack up the camera that had been perched rather precariously on the flat surface of a modern sculpture.
The other Tracy boys had to agree – giant faces stared at them from the walls and hung like tapestries from the ceiling, making the whole room look like a bizarre trophy room, peppered with glass cases, models and flickering screens filled with real life footage and interactive menus. Across the far wall, lit up with studio lighting, a raised sign proclaimed the hall a TRIBUTE TO THE HEROES OF THE MODERN AGE.
It had been a source tremendous amusement to the Tracy boys when they had learned of the exhibit at the metropolitan museum. John had appeared one morning snickering uncontrollably over the morning paper, where the others had been stunned (and then in fits) to see their father, Jeff Tracy, looking back at them as one of the main selling points of the museums exhibit.
They had questioned their father about it, and Jeff had shrugged uncomfortably and mumbled about some charity work and art patronage that the museum seemed to feel the need to pay him back for. By the time the usually reclusive billionaire had learned of the tribute, the plans were well in the works and there was no polite way to refuse the museum curators starry-eyed vision. Scott, the eldest Tracy son, had suspected that his father hoped the museum would escape the notice of his associates and his boys – it was the way his face had frozen up and gone blank when Grandma had called and loudly proclaimed her pride to everyone within earshot, and had promptly demanded that the boys go to the museum and 'take lots of photos' since she couldn't come up from Kansas herself. Scott also suspected that Grandma was well aware of this fact – old though she might be, the woman's sense of humour was still firmly intact. She always allowed herself the odd rare moment to wind her son up.
It made Scott smile too. Being the son of such a brilliant engineer, astronaut, entrepreneur, military man and stern patriarch was both daunting and brilliant, and the Tracy boys rarely ever got the opportunity to make the great man squirm. In the end, he had sighed, dragged out their most expensive camera with the air of a man going to the gallows, and told them to have fun, be careful and look out for one another.
Thirteen-year-old Alan Tracy looked around, and Jeff Tracy looked back from all directions. He sniggered over a photo of a young Jeff Tracy in the early days of his career in old NASA. "I can't believe Dad used to have a goatee."
Twenty one year old Scott grinned over his small blonde brother's shoulder. "That's nothing. When Mom was pregnant with Gordy he tried to grow an Errol Flynn moustache."
"I don't remember that," Eighteen year old Virgil looked up from the model of Olympus ('Ollie') 7, his dad's carrier for his first Mars landing.
"It didn't last very long," Twenty year old John chuckled as he slung the camera over his shoulder. "He had it for all of two months before mom cornered him with great-grandpa's straight razor and a calculating expression…"
Sixteen-year-old Gordon hooted with laughter. "No wonder she never watched Errol Flynn."
"She hated that moustache," Scott remembered reflectively.
"Hey, we're in here," Virgil pointed out a family portrait.
"Awww look, its Sprout when he was just a li'l shoot," Gordon's face cracked into an evil smile.
"A least I didn't have a big freckle for a face," Alan retorted, annoyed. There were times when he loathed being the littlest little brother.
"Yeah, well, neither of you had pimples," John grimaced at himself in all his pre-adolescent glory.
"Not your best side," Virgil agreed, grinning.
"Mom looks pretty," Gordon said softly.
Yes, she surely did.
"Alright," Scott broke into the moment. "We had a deal. You can all go wherever for a couple of hours. Gordon, you stay with Alan."
"I have to go with him?"
"I have to go with him?"
"Yes," Scott rolled his eyes at the near-stereo outrage. "You do. No arguments, compromises, deals or contracts," he added before either could open their mouths again. "Dad gave me specific instructions not to let either of you wander around alone, and I'm willing to let you go off without an adult chaperone, but that's as far as I'll bend. You can both go together wherever you like inside the museum," Scott had learned not be ambiguous in his orders when it came to his mischievous youngest siblings. "Without Virgil, John or I, but you will be together all the time. And that's as good as it gets, so live with it."
"I'm sixteen Scott!" Gordon glared irritably. "Sixteen."
"Consider it a safety measure, Gordy," Virgil smirked. "This way when you get into trouble, we won't have to run to two different places. Efficient, see?" He sniggered as he got a double "Shut up Virgil!" and an added "Whaddya mean when?" from an indignant Alan, who knew from experience that this was a losing fight but was determined to see it through to the bitter end.
"Oh, come on you two," John consoled philosophically. "The Vintage Vehicles hall and the maritime display are right next to each other. You'd be going there together anyway."
Gordon glared at John for his annoyingly inescapable logic, and huffed. "Fine. Fine! Come on Sprout, we're going to Sea Stalkers."
"Hey, how come you get to pick!"
"Because I'm older, taller and wiser."
"Two out of three, anyway."
"Have fun!" Virgil called after their retreating backs as they bickered back and forth.
"Hey, hold on," Scott called after them. "Remember…"
"Don't split up, don't talk to strangers, don't draw attention, don't stray from the crowds," Alan answered him with the air of one reading off a checklist. Scott opened his mouth to try again. "And we'll meet in the food court in two hours, no more, no less." Alan finished for him.
"Not bad!" Gordon said admiringly as they rounded the corner out of the display hall.
"Not really," Alan shrugged. "Scott's as predictable as a metronome."
Scott was left standing with his finger raised and his mouth open. Without even turning to look he growled "Shut up John!"
John was shaking with suppressed, silent laughter. Virgil was a lost cause, nearly prostrate on the floor, his face red as he guffawed.
"You might want to try…" John suggested innocently as he straightened, his face twitching. "To be just a little more…surprising?"
Virgil went double again at the look on Scott's face.
"Surprising, he says," Scott rolled his eyes. "As if anyone would have any trouble guessing where you want to go, star boy."
"I'm the academic," John replied with dignity. "I'm supposed to be reliable."
"You mean boring," Virgil ribbed, grinning.
"Says the man about to make a bee line for tanks and trucks. Scott's not the only one getting predictable around here." John prodded Virgil's shoulder. "And you know what they say about guys who like big cars…"
"Yeah." Virgil punched John's arm playfully. "They don't have to compensate for anything."
He waved as he left on John and Scott's laughter.
John raised an eyebrow. "Aeronautical design?"
"Astronomy dome," Scott countered, and John chuckled. "When did we hit predictable-ville anyway?"
"We aren't predictable," John argued unconvincingly. "We're just too busy to be impulsive."
"Uh-huh," Scott looked idly out of the exit arch.
"Stop worrying, Scott, it'll be fine."
Scott snorted and his brother's soft-spoken advice. "I wouldn't if I wasn't totally convinced by now that if they aren't looking for trouble, it's only because its trouble's turn to look for them. And Virgil can attract his own brand when he wants to, he just chooses not to. Usually."
"Scott, they may be young but they certainly aren't stupid. They know they can't attract attention here, the know it. They don't ever get the chance to do things like this either. They won't do anything to blow it, not on purpose."
"They don't need to…" Scott stopped himself, because John was right. Whatever notable dangers there were in letting the Tracy boys out on their own, they did hardly ever get the chance to do something so…so normal. Scott certainly didn't want his brothers growing up living in fear of the outside world. "Never mind. I'll see you in a few."
Besides, Scott admitted to himself later as he critiqued the history of fighter jets up in the promenade level, it was kind of nice to get away and have the chance to quietly indulge in all their own interests for a while. Anyone who spent any time with the Tracy's for any length of time knew that they were the centre of each others universes, but it could get very exhausting at times.
It was just the way it had always been. They had moved around so much during the years after their mothers death – they were either shunted from city to city, going where the business was, or spending months at Grandma's farm miles from anywhere, certainly from any younger people. (And television sets. Computers. Video games. Oh, and mobile phones. The farm had belonged to the Tracys for centuries, they said, and apparently none of them had seen fit to change it from the day they owned it.)
So, the clan of Tracy boys had pretty much come to depend on one another for friendship and support. They bickered, fought, ribbed, pranked, teased, competed and argued relentlessly and endlessly, all day, any day, every day, unless of course some foolish outsider made an ill chosen remark about one of them, in which case the boys would lock together in an impenetrable Tracy fortress and bulldozer over anyone else like a siege engine. Otherwise, strong willed and responsible Scott would guide the mature and creative Virgil, quiet and scholarly John would keep the boisterous and mischievous Gordon in line, and they all turned around and utterly doted on the sensitive and chipper Alan.
It was a good family, Scott knew. He'd known others in school, and some of Dad's business associates too, that dreaded the Christmas holidays, the family reunions, the weekend visiting with grandparents. It had always confounded Scott. His brothers crowded him certainly, annoyed him sporadically and even angered him occasionally – but there had never been a single day where he'd thought about leaving it forever and actually meant it. None of them had. They were the Tracys.
And at their head? Jeff Tracy, brilliant, pragmatic engineer (astronaut, entrepreneur, ex decorated Air Force Major), stern and disciplinarian patriarch and a tenderly affectionate and loving dad, who could broker international deals, steer the ship of Tracy Enterprises through currency crisis's, redesign and market Tracy Corp's machines, keep his boys in line, offer them advice and commiseration in their teenage and pre-adult agonies and encourage and take interest in their lives and talents, all in the same breath, all without missing a beat. Small wonder he had ended up immortalised in a museum long before death got a say in it.
Scott sighed – their lives weren't perfect, far from it. But surely alone it would be far worse.
He checked his watch – thirty minutes to go. Maybe he'd take them out to dinner, since they were living normally. Dad wouldn't be home until late and, Scott smirked wickedly, they could get the photos processed.
Around him, there was a rising murmur. He looked up, and was all the screens and lights start to flicker and crackle.
Then he felt it – like a cold wind across the bare matter of his brain, a tingling, ticklish sensation. And then words, stamped across the inside of his mind in white hot light, cutting through thought, memory and perception.
Scott, get to the vehicle hall right now!
He broke speed records. He may have even broken the sound barrier.
When he arrived in the basement hall he had a confused sense of…fire. There was fire – a teen appeared to be holding a cigarette lighter that had gone crazy, flaring like a torch right near his face.
The crowd wasn't acting right either – instead of being drawn to the spectacle they were spreading out like a blooming flower, showing extraordinarily intense interest in the racing cars of the 20th century. Alan was talking to a group of people near to him, his face set in a shaky smile. The people kept trying to see past him, but their eyes seemed to skitter away from the scene. Their faces were confused, and were slowly turning to understanding under Alan's chatter. There were a few unctuous nods at the still frozen teen and his staring friends. No one appeared to notice the fire.
The fire was dying away, fizzing out like the oxygen had been sucked away from it. Around the flames shimmered a blurry, translucent rippling, a heat haze that looked confined. Scott looked around and saw Virgil's dark hair and solid form moving down the other set of stairs at the other end, one hand on the banister one hand out in from of him like a battering ram.
Scott flew down the stairs and dodged through the dispersing crowd. As he reached the teens and his brothers, the flames had died, starved, and Gordon appeared from where he had been bending down, retrieving Alan's backpack from where the stunned, nearly scorched teen had dropped it. Scott looked over at Alan, whose face was clearly bloodied.
They both turned, and Gordon winced slightly. Scott knew that gesture. It meant Gordon knew he was in for it.
"He…he…" the stuttering teen was still gripping his silver lighter while his friends all backed up. "That psycho, he…"
"Are you all right?" John appeared behind the teen, making him jump about two feet. "That was a nasty fall."
"Fall! That…he…he nearly set me on fire! And the other one was messing with me!"
"I didn't see any fire," John said softly. "Are you sure? Maybe your lighter just flared a little. Smoking is a filthy habit, by the way."
"There was a fire!" One skinny blonde girl piped up. "It was really big! Everyone saw!
"I never saw any fire young lady," an old woman retorted from the crowd. "I did see your young man hit that one there," she pointed to Alan, whose face was being tended to by Virgil. "And then…well, he must have fallen." The words sounded a little uncertain, but a sudden disbelief flared in her eyes. "Besides, fire that big would have started in a lighter!" There were uncertain nods from the few still watching, who were quickly dispersing to crowd around the exhibits.
"But…there was…" certainty seemed to drain out of the group of teens. Even the one with the cigarette lighter was frowning down at it.
"All right, everyone listen up," Scott spoke up in his most commanding voice. "That," he pointed to Alan, who was holding Virgil's handkerchief up to his nose. "Is my kid brother, and I don't like guys who take swings at him. You're lucky I don't need the hassle or I'd have you up on charges. Get lost, the lot of you! Before I call security!"
The teens fled from Scott's wrath. Scott could really say it like he meant it. Spectacle over, the people started flowing naturally among the exhibits again, unheeding of the five Tracy boys gathered in the centre.
Scott took a breath. "Right. All of you, follow me," he glared at his two youngest siblings and shepherded them ahead of him. Virgil and John followed, keeping a wary eye on the people around them as they took up sentry positions at the rear.
Scott stalked out of the basement, up the stairs and into the main entrance hall. He sidestepped through an arch and down a corridor, where a dimly lit hall with a velvet rope blocking the way. This portion of the museum was closed for renovation.
The metal stand skittered a few feet to the left as Scott strode by, as if it too was eager to stay out of his way. Virgil gently slid it back with his foot as he followed John in. Boy, Scott must really be peeved off.
Gordon tried to get a word in. "Scott…"
"Two hours. Two hours, that's all I asked for. How hard could that be?"
"Don't even start with me Gordon!" Scott yelled, and then took a deep breath. "John?"
John concentrated. "Security was called, but they won't find us. No one is thinking about fire." It was harder than people assumed for telepaths to pick up thoughts, especially in large crowds where, John had explained, for the most part all he picked up was a meaningless babble of mental chatter. But groups thinking on the same theme could make certain words and subjects easier to pick up.
"We're in a blind spot," Virgil assured him. He nodded towards the cameras, which if you focused for long enough, a slight, blurred heat haze type shape walled them, holding them pointing away from the five of them. Virgil leaned against the wall, his eyes closed.
Scott whirled on the two youngest, who were standing bereft of support before him. "What happened?"
Alan took the handkerchief away from his nose. His cheek and jaw was already bruising. "My armband," he sniffed experimentally, checking that the blood flow had stopped. Visible around his wrist was a plastic tag-like tie, coded with numbers. "It slipped out from under my sleeve and those guys noticed it and started messing with me. They stole my bag, and I couldn't just let them run off with it 'cause its got my ID and cell phone in it." Alan took a breath. "I tried to get the guy to give it back. I tried to make him want to," here he paused and frowned. "But my concentration broke and something slipped." Alan shrugged in the face of Scott's glare. "I…he started to feel fear, and I tried to calm him down..."
"Then that jackass punched him in the face and started to kick him when he went down. All his friends were laughing and the security guard on the gallery balcony turned his back." Gordon's hazel eyes were smouldering and murky. "I wasn't hurting him, I was just making him back off." He glared right back at Scott. "The fire wouldn't have touched him."
"That is so far off the point it's in another galaxy, Gordon," Scott growled. He rubbed his temples with one hand. "Let me get this straight. Some idiots decided mess around with you because of a stupid prejudice, and instead of doing the smart thing and getting help from the museum guards, you decide to play right into that prejudice and attack them, which, by the bye, if a far more illegal thing to do. Am I right so far?"
"Get help from where, Scott?" Alan's eyes shone with hurt and anger. "The only guard on that level saw what was happening to me – I made sure he noticed. He just looked the other way! He couldn't have cared less what happened to me. If I'd gone to get the guards at the main level, those kids would have left by then, and guards have to check our cards when we leave. We'd have to call Dad to get me out of lockup."
"It's bad enough the kind of crap we have to put up with just to be allowed outside our own home," Gordon piped up, infusing the words with un-Gordon like bitterness. "We shouldn't have to let guys like that walk all over us just 'cause they need some entertainment."
"Oh, so you proved your point," Scott retorted angrily. "You really think what you did was vindicated? What if security had stuck around and saw what happened? It means a lot more that just a few hours in lock up and a fine if you get caught attacking people! If that what you two want? A padded isolation bin, getting doped up to your eyeballs and spending your days in a strait jacket? Do you honestly think it would be worth it?" Scott paced in a tight circle through plaster dust and plastic painters sheets. Neither Alan nor Gordon were looking at him. "Wake up, kiddies. Wake up and grow up! They don't like us very much out there. We're tolerated only because we're useful and only if we're careful. If you think things are bad now, you see how they start treating us when they really start fearing us!"
"You're a fine one to talk about being careful," Gordon shot back. "When we first started at Garstone people were flying around left and right when you walked in a room!"
"That was different," Scott replied coldly.
"Right, it's different when you do it," was the resentful rejoinder.
"They were people you would be dealing with for your entire education, everyday," John raised an eyebrow from where he perched on the cross section of some scaffolding. "It was important that they knew what the score was from the beginning. These guys, on the other hand, you don't even know their names and the likelihood of ever meeting them again is slim. What do you have to prove here?"
Gordon turned his glare on John. "We shouldn't have to just take it, not because they're the ones who are stupid and scared. At the very least that jerk will think twice before trying it again. The world must be really messed up when they are allowed to do whatever they like to us, just because they have issues!"
"There are always going to people like that Gordon! Live with it! They've always got a reason, none of them are fair," Scott flung out a hand as he faced his unrepentant sibling. "What are you going to do, burn them all? What does that make you then? Don't think for a minute I like the way things are any more than you, but at least I know there a right time to protest! Attacking a guy just because he's stupid and narrow and trying to act like a big man in front of his friends? He wasn't even worth your time, certainly not worth risking a sentence. Jesus, the two of you could have gotten yourselves arrested! Pick your battles!" Scott stopped pacing and growling. He was running out of steam. "I can't wait to hear what Dad has to say," he groaned.
"You're going to tell him?" Gordon looked betrayed.
"Gordon, I won't have to. He'll know."
Gordon nodded gloomily. Jeff Tracy was neither a telepath like John nor an empathic clairvoyant like Alan, but he had a psychic power familiar to many otherwise ordinary men, which came under the category 'fatherhood'. Like most fathers, a look would be enough. He would know something had happened; after that it was a matter of time and patience.
"Two measly hours," Scott sighed. "It couldn't have been that hard Gordon."
Somehow Scott's soft disappointment was more damaging than his anger. Gordon began to look a little sorry. "It wasn't right, what they did."
"We have to go…"
Scott frowned at Gordon. "No, it wasn't. But you didn't do the right thing either. I know running to security is the wimp's option – I've been in the same position before. But anything's better than getting thrown into an institution and dragging Dad through the courts." That made Gordon flinch.
Neither of them had noticed Alan, but the still concentrating Virgil suddenly registered him.
"We have to go. Now."
"Scott," Virgil straightened from his lean and headed towards Alan who, at some point in the argument, had put his head in his hands.
"Alan? What is it?" Scott got in close and gently tried to prise his brother's hands away from his face. The rest of them were gathering around.
"There's been an attack," Alan whispered. "The President….or…or someone…some people…they were killed, or they're going to be, in the White House. They…there's a lot of blood…" Alan tried to get a breath. His face shone with panic, and his eyes were unfocused. "And…and…" Suddenly the focus snapped back. "They're coming for us Scott. They're coming for us, we have to go now! Oh God all those people…"
"Alan? Alan, calm down. It alright, you're in a safe place," Scott got his hands on either side of Alan's face. Scott had never had more powerful vision than mild déjà vu, but Alan's were clear, powerful, terrifying and incredibly disorientating. Scott could feel panic start to tighten in his chest, and knew Alan was unintentionally projecting through his empathy.
"We have to go Scott!"
"All right, we're going. John…" John was moving in before Scott even spoke. He could help Alan find some mental balance. He spoke to Alan quietly. Gordon took the camera case off him and packed in Alan's backpack, strapping it to his own back. Scott and Virgil moved to spy at the entrance and watch for an opportunity to move.
"Scott, Alan reckons it's just about to happen, if it hasn't already," John informed them, his arm around the pale Alan, gently shepherding a worried Gordon with his free one. Alan was beginning to show signs of a headache, from the tense lines of his forehead and bruised jaw.
"Right. Straight for the entrance, show your cards, don't say or do anything to attract attention." Scott clapped Virgil on the shoulder, and gestured him to take the fore.
As they hurried past the main hall's coffee shop, Scott felt a sharp concern shoot through his chest and spur his movements. On the television sets mounted in the café, the White House had appeared, headlines flashing.
So much for a normal day…
They were running
End – Part I