Hello all, I'm back. I've taken a long hiatus from writing as my brother had been very sick last year and then, unfortunately, last September he died. Today would have been his 34th birthday. So I'm posting this story in memory of him. It's kind of rusty because I was out of practice for so long, but hopefully the plot's entertaining enough.
It is a predominately h/c plot, so if you don't like those, you won't like this. It's all from John's POV and every single one of the characters (in the Tracy family) screw up at some point during the story. If you don't like your favorite character to be imperfect, you won't like this. There is a lot of redemption though, some obvious, others, more subtle.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Thunderbirds or their characters. I'm making no money from this. This is for fun and entertainment only. No copyright infringement is intended. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Anderson for inventing the Thunderbirds and sharing their story with the world.
Warnings: A bit of grossness and some BAD words in a later chapter (I'll let you know when).
Dedicated to Michael. Love you and miss you, bro.
Chapter 1: Sunday
Smiling, I signed off and swiveled my chair to look out the window. Far below me, the Earth shined, a blue and white sphere containing everyone I cared about. Well, everyone with the exception of one. Apparently Gordon was on his way up in Three to join me.
Still grinning, I shook my head. Father and Scott had been discussing this for awhile now. Although Alan and I were the usuals up here, both Scott and Virgil had done their time on Five as well. Both spent a week with me training them directly and then spent the rest of the month on their own. Neither had been back since Alan and I both looked forward to our time up here and Scott's and Virgil's talents had better use on the ground level. Gordon's talents certainly had better use on the ground level as well, but father felt it was important for all International Rescue Operatives to have experience with all the equipment.
Really, Gordon should have been up here earlier, but the hydrofoil accident and the long recovery had gotten in the way. Gordon had been recovered for a few years now and despite his avoidance of the issue, clearly our father felt it was time for him to complete a tour on Five.
So, he was on his way, about to spend his first night on board a space station. My smile faded. Gordon on board my space station... Worse, a bored Gordon on my space station, because let's face it, Gordon didn't quite share the same love for space that Alan I did. Damn... He was going annoy the hell out of me.
Concerned now, I bit my lip. Shit. I had a week to train him before leaving him on his own. That meant a week of dodging pranks and then coming back to whatever booby traps he left for me. Shit, shit, shit.
With a grimace, I put my hands over my face and leaned back in my chair. I whined into my hands. This was so going to suck. Scott and Virgil weren't overly excited about being up here either, and to be honest, Scott had been extraordinarily annoying when he was here, he needed to know the reasoning behind every single freakin' protocol we had. I came close to throwing him out the airlock without a suit. But neither Scott nor Virgil had Gordon's gift of hyperactivity. Sure, he had spent six months underwater on a submarine while he was with WASP, but Gordon's love for the sea and everything in it provided a focus for the never ending energy. There was no sea up here in space. He was going to be bouncing off the walls...
"Thunderbird Five from Thunderbird Three."
Speak of the devil. I switched the video link. "Five receiving, go ahead Gordon."
A serious face greeted me. "I'm on final approach. Extinguishing thrust and aligning locks."
I turned my attention to Five's airlock controls. The entire procedure that connected Three to Five could be completed independently from either ship, but as it was Gordon's first solo up here, I figured I'd give him a hand. "Airlock ready to accept."
I heard the whine of Three's docking through the video screen. Followed by Gordon's confirmation. "Lock's connected. Initiating shut down procedures."
I nodded. "Okay, I'll secure the lock and meet you on the other side."
"FAB." And the screen went dark.
Three minutes later I found myself standing by the doors, waiting for them to open. I folded my arms and stared at the seam where the door was sealed. What could he possibly be doing in there? I half expected to find him waiting for me. It didn't take three minutes to shut down.
Finally, there was a hiss and the seam separated.
I looked up and found my brother standing on the other side of the door, bouncing on his toes. Oh boy, he was already bouncing. His lack of a space suit gave me some insight as to what he'd been doing the past few minutes. Readjusting the duffel he had flung over his back, he stepped out of one ship and into the other.
I smiled at him. "Hey." I hit his shoulder and he looked at me. "You ready to be an astronaut?"
"No." His head went down and he took two steps away from me before turning back around. "I don't know where to put my stuff."
Okay... that was odd. Gordon was acting distinctively, well, un-Gordon like. Deciding to ignore his strange behavior for the moment, I walked past him. "Follow me."
I brought him around the ship before hitting a button and opening a door to a tiny room. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. It was the spare room on the ship, complete with a foam mattress on the floor. Hey, Five was built to be manned by one and other than these brief training periods and Brains' occasional upgrading visits, this was a solo job. I moved out of the way so that Gordon could see his 8'x4' room.
He looked down at the mattress and swallowed. "Is there a light?"
"Yeah." I flicked the switch and an overhead bulb turned on.
With a relieved exhale, he carefully stepped over the mattress and placed his bag on the lone shelf. When I had showed Scott and Alan the room, both of them had argued with me, refusing to stay in it. Eventually, they both had, but Alan left the door open. I think Scott honestly thought I was messing with him. Hey, it wasn't me who didn't spring for the bigger second bedroom. I decided to give Gordon a break. "It's just for this week. After that you can take my room. It's bigger and there's a real bed."
He shrugged. "It's fine. On the sub we didn't get rooms and we didn't even really get a bed. We shared enclosed beds based on staggered shifts. This is fine for me."
And there you go. Well, Gordon may have always had high energy, but he was also always incredibly easy going. Speaking of the high energy though...it was distinctly missing. "What's up with you?"
He looked up at me confused.
I went to explain but he interrupted me, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, John. I didn't even say hello to you."
In two steps he engulfed me in a hug. "Hi, John."
I was never big on physical affection, men don't hug, but Gordon felt differently about that- always had. I returned the hug briefly, slapping him on the back. "Hey, Gordon."
He pulled back and I got a good look at him. He had bags under his eyes. "Are you okay?"
The head went down again. "Um..." He looked at me apologetically. "Don't take this the wrong way, I know how much you love space and all that."
I found a smile tugging at my lips as he stumbled through whatever he was trying to say. "But, I really hate the idea of not being on Earth. It freaks me out."
I laughed. "Says the man who spent six months in a tin box under 2000 tons of water pressure."
"That's...that...that doesn't make sense. I'm not freaked out by hydrostatic pressure. I'm freaked out by a lack of atmosphere."
"Well, I'm not too keen on 2000 tons of water pressure constantly pushing down on me."
"First of all, at the deepest point, it's 8 tons of hydrostatic pressure per square inch, not 2000. And second, you don't have to spend a month there...alone. I hate being alone."
His breathing started to pick up and I suddenly realized that this wasn't just a casual conversation, he was close to a panic attack. I put a hand on his shoulder. "Well, you're not alone right now. I'm with you so just live in the moment. You're fine right now, you're safe, you're not on your own. You'll be fine. Don't worry about me leaving right now. By the time that happens, you'll be a lot more comfortable with being here." Being the 'voice of International Rescue,' you get quite adept at calming people on the verge of panic.
He nodded quickly and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. Forcing a smile, he nodded towards the main room. "We should let Dad know I docked."
I cringed. Yep, we should've done that about ten minutes ago. "If he asks, you just got on board."
He shot me a scandalized expression, "John! Are you asking me to lie to father?"
Well, it seemed the panic attack was over. Gordon was back to his true irritating self. I didn't even respond- no point in reinforcing his obnoxiousness.
I got a genuine laugh for my lack of response. "You want me to grab my duffel again to make it look more authentic?"
Rolling my eyes, I continued to ignore him and moved into the control room. Walking up to the console, I paused. I was training Gordon now, might as well get started. "You want to do the honors?"
The smile vanished from his face instantly and he shook his head. Okay...what was that about? This was going to be a long week. Moving on, I pushed the button. "Base from Thunderbird Five."
Immediately, my father's face appeared. He must have been waiting for the call then.
"Hi John. Gordon on board?"
I nodded and moved slightly to the left so my father could see my brother behind me. Dad nodded his approval and directed his question to Gordon. "How was the flight, son?"
Gordon straightened to military attention before responding, "Flight was smooth, Sir; no deviations from standard operating conditions. Control was set to document the flight for your approval, Sir."
Whoa. I raised my brows at that one. All of the Thunderbirds had flight recorders that could be set at various levels. Normally they were set to record any deviations from standard operating conditions so that malfunctions could be repaired or pilot error could be uploaded to the simulator for further practice. There was a second level of recording though, which when turned on, recorded every aspect of the flight. It really had been installed for security purposes to be activated remotely if a 'Bird was hijacked. Theoretically, it could also be used to 'supervise' a pilot in training, but we had only discussed using it in that context. It never happened. To ask one of us to do that would just be insulting. I couldn't imagine a reason my father would have for asking Gordon to record the flight in full.
"That isn't necessary, son. I have no reason to question your piloting skills."
My father's voice brought my attention back to the vid-screen. I knew that look, dad was pissed. At least he hadn't actually questioned Gordon's piloting. Still, obviously something had gone on. Gordon's formal speech and stance was not standard operating procedure.
Behind my father, my brother Alan got my attention. "John, I am so glad that it's you up there with him and not me. I don't know what he has planned, but I'd sleep with one eye open tonight if I were you."
I smiled; I had been thinking the same thing. "If Gordon knows what's good for him he'll keep his plans in the planning stage. Otherwise he might find himself floating up here alone."
Next to me there was a quick intake of breath and looking over, I found Gordon staring at me with betrayal in his eyes.
Immediately my face flushed. I hadn't meant anything by that, but I could see by his expression that he thought I was mocking his confession of fear. Shit. I'd have to apologize after we signed off.
Scott's voice popped up through the speaker. "Hey John, do me a favor?"
"When you get to the part of the training where you put on the suits and inspect the outer ship, give Gordon the long tube and record it for me." The tube was an extension cord that kept it's user from floating away into outer space. One of the tubes was too long for the job and if you used it, you'd find yourself being the ball in a game of paddle ball with Five- not fun.
"That's part of the training?"
My attention was drawn back to Gordon. He was literally shaking. He wasn't kidding when he said space freaked him out and believe me, Gordon is not an easy scare. I should know, I've tried to scare him every Halloween for the past 25 years and have failed every time.
"Yep, you have to stay out there for a full hour. It's not too bad, as long as you can dodge the meteors." And now Virgil was in on it.
"He's right, Gords. You get hit by one of those suckers and you'll get knocked back so hard the tube will just unsnap..."
Another look at Gordon told me he was actually believing this. "Knock it off, Alan."
My youngest brother feigned innocence. "What? I'm just giving him some advice. I spend six months out of the year there too you know."
Before I could respond, Scott chimed in again. "I wasn't kidding about the long tube, John. You do me that favor and I might be able to score you those Flourish tickets you wanted..."
I could hear Gordon's rapid breathing next to me and my protective instincts kicked into full gear. "Scott, cut it out."
The smile wiped off his face and he looked startled. Before he could recover, I turned my attention back to my father. "I'm going to help Gordon get settled and then begin the training."
I received a nod of response. "Okay. Keep us in the loop of any activity."
He smiled at Gordon. "Good luck up there." And then turned to me. "To both of you."
It wasn't an unusual statement, we all kidded each other all the time and I could tell by his expression that he was just joking around. But given the barrage of teasing Gordon had just endured, and how nervous he was about being up there, I found myself angered by my father's comment.
After a moment of staring, I realized that I wasn't going to be coming up with a good response anytime soon, so I settled for, "Goodbye, Father." And shut off the vid-screen.
The phone call over, I turned back to my brother. "Hey, I'm sorry about the ditching you crack. I didn't mean anything by it. I wasn't even thinking when I said it."
He shrugged. "Yeah, I know. Sorry. I'm just on edge."
Clearly...his hands were still trembling. "So, uh, what was with the military report?"
With a loud sigh, he dropped into the second chair. "Father and I had a relatively heated disagreement about my coming up here." He looked at me. "I really don't want to do this. And I know, I get it, don't let fear keep you down and all that. But John, being up here scares the crap out of me and I tried to tell him. You know, I get that I have to do this, don't get why, but fine, dad's made it a requirement of IR that all operatives do a solo tour on Five. That's fine...I guess. But even if I have to do this, I thought maybe there'd be another way. Maybe I could go up for the last week of your shift and then Alan's shift and keep spending weeks at a time up here with you guys until I felt more comfortable. It wouldn't even be more in fuel because we'd be flying to pick you up anyway..." He laughed and rubbed a hand over his face before continuing. "You know what Father's response to that was?"
I shook my head.
"Ironically, it was something like, 'That would put you up there for a longer period of time all together and we need you down here in case we're called for a deep sea rescue.' You know, 'cause I'm the only one that has expertise and training at those depths."
My brow furrowed. "So-"
"So why am I up here at all? I have no freakin' idea. I asked that. What happens if there's a deep sea rescue in the next month?" Gordon gave an impression of my father. "If that happens, son, we'll send someone up to get you." He glared in my direction. "So even though we have 5 people on the team that can run Five and Five can be automated if we need, and even though only 1 of us can do a deep sea rescue, father felt it was important that I spend a month up here. Essentially it came down to him, as commander of International Rescue, ordering me to be stationed up here. So having learned my place, I reported appropriately."
I rolled my eyes. Gordon had always had a flair for the dramatic. Still, he had very good points. He was the only one who could conduct a deep sea rescue and including Brains, there were 5 of us who could competently handle Five. It would seem that the more prudent measure of training would be to have Gordon train someone deep sea on Four, not send Gordon up to Five...not that I wanted to ever go through a deep sea training program.
I wasn't kidding when I told Gordon that being under all that pressure freaked me out. I don't even like it when we're scuba diving deep enough to worry about pressure. The one time I went with him, I was so afraid of getting the bends that I spent twice as long coming up than I needed to. Then I had to worry about running out of air. Gordon had laughed at me the whole way, but he also stayed next to me, keeping me from floating up when I wanted to remain at that depth. In fact, despite the laughing, he had been very understanding about the whole thing, and let me take the lead on how slowly we ascended. I hated every second of it.
"You're right, you know. We really should have deep sea training. It's not good that we only have one member who can do it."
He shook his head. "It's alright. Worst comes to worst, Four can be operated remotely, which doesn't help as far as deep sea knowledge, but it removes the danger if someone else has to perform the rescue. Besides, I'm not comfortable training someone in a week; I'd need at least 6 months to know that whoever I'm training can handle themselves at an expert level. The sea is a dangerous place, especially at that depth, and the simulators aren't close to sufficient."
I nodded in understanding, and a little bit of relief. Father was unlikely to force us to train deep sea on Four if Gordon was requiring a six month training period. Unlike the simulators for Four, the simulators for Five did a pretty good job. So after full simulator training, a one week training period was really all my brothers needed up here. And so far, that formula had worked.
Okay, well, whether he liked it or not, Gordon was up here for the next month, so it was time to move on. Standing, I spun his chair towards the kitchen. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. You ready for some yummy dehydrated dinner?"
We actually had some pretty good food up here, but Gordon didn't know that yet and truth be told, I always got a kick out of making my brothers think they'd have to eat dehydrated space food for the next month.
He shook his head. "No, grandma made me a big sending off lunch. I'm stuffed...and a little nauseous from the flight."
I nodded. "Okay then. I'm just going to grab something in the kitchen. Why don't you monitor the airwaves until I get back."
I had rummaged through half the food packets looking for the turkey when my brother walked in carrying a covered glass container. I paused in my ministrations and looked at him confused.
He handed the container over to me. "Here, I brought you up some leftovers from home."
I stared at him suspiciously for a moment before opening the container. The scent of my grandmother's mashed potatoes, porkchops, and apple stuffing wafted up at me. My mouth watered. Resealing the container, I squinted at my sibling. "What'd you do to it?"
Looking confused, he shook his head. "Nothing. I felt bad that you haven't had grandma's food for five months."
I wasn't buying that for a second. "Yeah, I'll bet. Why don't you take a bite out of it first then?"
"I told you, I'm nauseous."
Uh huh...sure. "So what's in here? A laxative? Ipecac?"
"Ipewhat? John, there's nothing wrong with the food. It's straight from grandma's oven to that container."
I put the container down and resumed rummaging.
"John, I'm not pranking you."
"Look, I know you think I have all these things planned to torture you, but I don't. I just want to get this the hell over with and I really don't need to be worrying about you retaliating against me. Being here terrifies me enough as it is."
I turned back to him. "That's exactly what you would say if you wanted me to drop my guard. I know you too well Gords. There is no way you came up here without major plans for a prank. This opportunity is way too good for you."
He took a breath. "John, I swear on mom's grave that I'm not going to prank you up here. "
That completely took me off guard. "Whoa, Gordon." Swearing on mom's grave was a sacred, extreme measure that we only ever used when absolutely necessary.
"I don't want you thinking I'm going to prank you. I don't want retaliation. Please."
He was serious. I help up my hands. "Okay. I believe you. And I won't prank you either, okay?"
His breathing was fast paced again. Looking down, I noticed his hands were back to shaking. Shit. He needed to calm down about being up here. He was going to give himself a heart attack. "Gords, you need to calm down. I know you don't like it up here, but you're fine. Take a deep breath."
He followed the direction, but the breath was shaky. He swallowed hard. "Do we really need to suit up and go outside as part of the training?"
I nodded. "In case a meteor hits, you need to be able to go out and repair it. Alan said you did great with the simulation at home."
Pulling out one of the dining chairs, he sat at the table. "That's because I knew we were on Earth and there was no danger of something happening and me floating off into space for all eternity."
I sat across from him and reopened the container. "Gordon, they were just teasing you. You're not going to float off into space."
He shook his head. "I'm not doing it, John."
Oh boy...It was going to be a REALLY long week. "It's not an option. You have to know how to repair the ship if something happens. What's your plan when you're alone up here? If a meteor hits, you'll need to put on the suit and go fix it."
He folded his arms on the table and dropped his head into them.
I tried to reassure him as I savored the mashed potatoes. "You'll be fine. You're one of the most competent people I know."
"I'm not an astronaut," came the muffled reply.
That was true. "Neither is Virgil."
"Can I forgo the suiting up if I admit Virgil's better than I am?"
I laughed. "You going to tell him to his face?"
He picked his head up, looking tired. "I'll call him right now if it gets me out of it."
With a shake of my head, I dashed his hopes. "Sorry, bro. The training's non-negotiable."
He looked me square in the eye. "I'm not doing it."
Another thing about Gordon- the few times in his life when he's put his foot down about something, he's been immovable. Sure, Scott, Alan, and my father definitely qualify as more stubborn in personality, but when it comes to certain things, Gordon's obstinance surpasses them all. After all, by all medical rights, Gordon should've died in that crash, and even then, he should've stayed in a coma, stayed paralyzed, stayed on a ventilator. Infallible courage, determination, and stubbornness defied all that...and Gordon won. And now I was up against it?
I just wanted to enjoy the first home-cooked meal I'd had in five months. "We'll discuss it when we get there. It's not for a few days."
He took the hint and dropped his head back onto his arms causing the fork to clatter against the glass dish.
"You look tired."
The muted voice returned. "I didn't sleep well last night."
Well that explained some of his nerves, but Gordon could usually function pretty well on little sleep. It wasn't like he was Alan... "We'll hit the sack early tonight."
Tired eyes peeked out at me. "How do you even know when tonight is?"
"The ship still runs on Australian Eastern Daylight Time, just like home."
"You can say what you want, but time is based on the spinning of the Earth. Since we are not on the Earth, there is no time."
I laughed to hear Gordon being philosophical. "We orbit the Earth, so we spin with it."
He shook his head. "Time in a day is based on actual spinning, the year is based on revolving around something. If we orbit, then we just have a shorter year because we spin around the Earth, not the sun. We still have no day or night or time."
The porkchops tasted great. "So you're saying that despite the fact that we are in a geostationary orbit and we orbit the Earth in a 24 hour period, that shouldn't count as a day because we're not spinning and instead, we should count the 24 hours as a year."
He nodded and dropped his head back down.
"You know, whether you're up here or on Earth, you, yourself are not spinning. Five spins with the Earth, we get daytime and nighttime the same time home does."
"Yeah, but at home the light's filtered. Here it's a heated, ultra-violet death ray."
Oye. "You're a real pessimist, you know that?" I picked up the container and sealed it in the vacuum bag to be brought home. The water on the ship was reserved- and not for washing dishes.
"Thanks for the food."
He picked his head up; now he just looked sad. "You're welcome."
With a smile, I slapped him on the arm. "Come on, I'll start filling you in on blackout procedures."
"Great. Can't wait." Pushing himself up, he followed me out the door.
I promise, it'll get more exciting. This is just setting the stage. I'd love some feedback if you have the time! And thanks for reading!