A/N: I was incorrect about the David Bowie song name. It isn't "Major Tom" it is "Space Oddity". And, as usual, I don't delay about getting my plot going. There isn't any reason to. So, enjoy it! Also, for those that were curious, John's watch is set to Tracy Island time, no matter what part of the world he is floating over.
Chapter 1: The Stars look Different Today
A frown crossed John's face as he stared at the bewildering sight sight in front of him. Since when did coffee cans have bottoms? He had definitely been up here for too long if he was seeing this. John was always careful to bring double the amount of coffee as it would usually take because he could never be sure how often sleepless nights would hit. So, seeing the bottom of his can meant that he had been here almost double what he had originally planned, and had had more than a few of those days in the last couple of months.
Originally he was only meant to stay an extra two weeks so Alan could take his leave, and really John hadn't minded. Not a lot, anyway. He'd intended to call his father after a spell when he'd been up three days straight, to remind him that Scott was supposed to take over and ask him to come a couple of days early. But then some of the communication equipment had started storing instead of dumping all the excess signals, and John was the only one with the programming expertise to fix it. By the time he'd managed that, John had figured he could just finish out the month since there was only about nine days left in it.
Now his mental countdown told him four days, but that was going to be too long for his supplies at least. This was, at least partly, his fault since he'd told Jeff he would be fine until supplies could be brought up with Alan. Very much an overestimation, it seemed. There was no avoiding it, he was going to have to call home and remind them that space monitors could not subside on reconditioned air alone.
Although it helped. A lot.
Maybe he could get them to bring up a new filter for the water system while they were coming up. Alan always had trouble putting them in, and would put up with the copper taste instead of try. He might as well put it in now and save them both the headache.
John nodded to himself, certain that this was the best course of action, even if it would only be eight in the morning on Tracy Island. Someone was probably awake down there, and he could always use his nonemergency channel so as not to wake anyone that wasn't.
It didn't come as a huge surprise that the consol started beeping before he actually reached it. Of course there would be a rescue right now. That's just how his life worked.
"International rescue?" A man's voice, shaking and obviously strained, came over with the flashing lights. "Please, help, I need International Rescue."
Odd, this guy was sending in a video signal as well as radio. That didn't happen often, but every once in a while the caller only had their cell phone and used the emergency number they put out. Most of these John would end up transferring to local authorities, but sometimes the calls were genuine. Careful to flip the switch he had installed to block any transmission of video from him while still enabling the reception, John spoke in the manner he had trained. "This is International Rescue receiving you. What's the trouble?"
A face popped up on John's screen, the background behind him clearly a white shuttle of some kind. The man was young, probably about Scott's age, with mousy brown hair and wide green eyes. He was pale, sweating, and shaking; it matched the tremor in the transmission perfectly. "Thank, God. I need your help. Please, you must help me. I don't want to die."
This was always the most difficult part for John. Receiving calls from those who witnessed a disaster was one thing, but one from the panicked people inside would end up being something else entirely. They were panicked and desperate, which could make them difficult to talk to and get the information he needed.
Good thing he was very good at his job. He hit the button to trace the call, something he'd built in to be done automatically for Alan, and John was surprised to see the result. The call was coming only a few miles off his own ship, not somewhere on earth.
"Can you explain to me what's happening?" John was already moving as he spoke, activating two of his external cameras and sending the coordinates to them to see if he could get a visual on what the situation was. There wasn't a whole lot that caused emergencies up here.
The man was blinking rapidly, and he swallowed. "My engines are losing power and I…I don't feel so good. Can't focus….I can't land her on the moon."
Yes, there, he had it. One of the small shuttle buses that ran between the moon colonies and earth. John couldn't see anything wrong with the small white ship, but it was possible the man had been suddenly seized by an illness. And, well, it wasn't like he could usually see engine trouble anyway. This guy certainly looked ill, too, with his sweaty pale face and darting eyes. "Any passengers?"
"N-negative." The man twitched, wincing in obvious pain. "Please, I don't know how much longer I can last."
"Stand by. We're going to see what we can do for you."
The man said something, but John didn't hear it as he had muted the sound. They always begged them not to leave them alone, but long experience told John that he had to. Even if it killed him a little every time, the fastest way to help them was to shut them out and call home. It was easier to plan how best to rescue them when they could talk freely. Their lives depended on John putting them on hold.
"Go ahead, John." Unsurprisingly, it was Scott that answered his call. Although his attire—jeans and a towel around his shoulders, making it seem he had scrambled out of the shower—could use some work.
"Got a situation up here. A moon shuttle is in distress. Looks like the driver has been hit by an illness all of the sudden and he can't get himself up or down. He doesn't look good, Scott. And they don't exactly have tow trucks on the moon."
Jeff appeared on the screen, leaning over Scott's shoulder to peer at the screen. "How much time do you think he has?"
John glanced over at where he was still getting the video. The man had begun trembling violently, his green eyes darting around wildly. To John's surprise and horror, the clear picture he was receiving showed a small bit of red foam that had appeared in the corner of the man's mouth. He wasn't an expert in anything medical, but he was positive that couldn't be good. "Not long at all, I'd say. He seems to need help right now."
"It'll take at least a half hour to get Thunderbird 3 up there," came Alan's voice from somewhere off screen.
John swallowed hard, fighting back his nerves. Talking in front of Jeff had always made him nervous. They so rarely agreed on anything, and John had learned long ago it was easiest just to let their father do as he pleased. This time was different. "A half-hour is generous, Alan, and probably too long. I have an idea, but you probably aren't going to like it."
"We're all ears down here," Scott was grinning at him in his most reassuring way, and John found that it helped. At least his older brother was willing to listen.
Looking at Scott instead of their father made speaking slightly easier. "He isn't very far from me, Father, and badly off course. It would take him only a couple of minutes to reach Thunderbird 5."
Jeff opened his mouth to say something, but Virgil must have just walked in as his younger brother's smooth voice interrupted. "What, you want to bring him aboard with you?"
"I have some emergency medical supplies. I can at least get him calm and do some basics while you guys are on your way." John fought the urge to bite his lip. It would do no good to appear nervous as the center of all this attention. "It could be the only chance he has."
"It's really that bad?" Scott had procured a shirt from somewhere, possibly Virgil, and was in the middle of pulling it on. "What if it's contagious?"
"Then you guys will be up here before I get in real trouble." John glanced over at the screen again. The man had gone from pale to ashen, his breathing obviously labored. "Please, Father, we've got to do something for this man. You always say that lives come first. Before even security."
"You're right, John, I don't like it." Jeff's face was a grim line, but, to John's surprise, he nodded. "But I don't see what choice we have. Give him the okay to dock, and call as soon as you have him. Scott and Alan will be on their way."
"FAB, Father. Thunderbird Five out." A few switches flipped and John was back to the shuttle's system. "Still with me, sir?"
"Liam." All John could see was the top of the man's head as it was nearly dropped on his chest. "Name's Liam. Someone…ought to know."
"Okay, Liam. My name is John. I'm going to send you some coordinates for our space station. Input them into your guidance system. We'll handle the rest from our end."
Liam's voice was raspy now, with long pauses between his words. John had no idea what could be wrong with him, but it was obviously quite serious. "Do you think…they'll get my…paycheck to my mom?"
John flipped of the alarm that let him know he was being set on a non-International Rescue system, and began the system check for docking. "You're going to have to find out another day. You should be on board in just minutes."
He didn't have any idea what the young man meant by that, but John didn't really stop to worry about that. Grabbing the emergency medical pack that always hung in the bathroom, as well as one of the oxygen packs he used when he had to reset the system, John made his way to the docking bay.
The doors opened and John stepped inside. These shuttles were built more for comfort than for speed, and John was already writing a letter to the company to prevent this in the future. Back up rockets to add speed in a medical emergency would certainly be a good idea.
Liam was lying across the control panel, which was slowly blinking. The young man didn't move at all as John approached, and something red was running down his chin. John's heart leapt to his throat, and he dashed forward, putting a hand on the man's shoulder. The slight movement sent blood spilling from a large wound in the man's side and onto John's shoes.
Startled, John jumped back, nearly dropping his pack as he ran into something warm and solid, then a cold cylindrical object was jabbed into his side.
"Quite the welcome committee…John was it?"
John didn't turn to look at what he now knew to be a man with a gun. A trap, then. And he'd walked right into it, although it did seem Liam had indeed needed his help. "Whatever you want, you aren't going to get away with any of this."
"I would be less concerned about me," the dark voice said, in a thick accent John couldn't quite place, "and more about whether you're organization will be able to help you better than you did this poor sap. Tried to warn you, you know. With his blinking."
John cursed and the gun was pushed harder into his side.
"Now, how about you show me some of International Rescue's technology? I have some plans I'm just dying to try out."