Categories > TV > Thunderbirds

Back in the Saddle

by Macx_Larabee 0 reviews

The Hood didn't just steal a Thunderbird... he invaded their home, their lives, and nearly killed them. Now it's time to go out into the world again and fly rescues - but how do you deal with the f...

Category: Thunderbirds - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Published: 2006-11-05 - Updated: 2006-11-05 - 9746 words - Complete

Back in the Saddle Back in the Saddle
by Macx

Author's Voice the second:
Since the Movie Scott doesn't really have a whole lot of character exposure and lines, this is my interpretation of the character. He's a bit of a mix between the TV and the Movie version, but since the Movie Scott is younger than the TV one I put in some of that age difference as well.

There is a lot of conflicting information concerning the age of the movie characters. The reference book gives John as the oldest, but the Fanderson website claims it's Scott, followed by John. Well, John's more mature in my eyes, but having Scott being the oldest works for me in this story. So much better, even ;)

This is a companion piece to Recovery. At least it fills a few blanks and continues after Recovery for a few more scenes. Hope you have fun. I sure did.

She was a beauty.
115 feet long with a wing span of 80.
15,000 mph at top speed.
Sleek and fast and a metallic silver that glistened in the artificial light of the hangar bay. No other rocket or plane could reach her speed. She was highly maneuverable, able to perform like nothing else anyone had ever built or flown, and she was his. His plane, his Thunderbird.
Scott Tracy stood on the catwalk that led to the hatch of Thunderbird 1, International Rescue's reconnaissance aircraft, looking at his machine, his plane, though calling her a plane or a jet was actually close to a sacrilege. She was a Thunderbird. There was no other designation for her.
Running a loving hand over the smooth finish, Scott let his eyes travel over the unblemished exterior, taking in the red nose cone, the blue stripes with the bold letters of 'Thunderbird 1' and the silver shine of the hull. Gone was the slimy substance, the tracer The Hood had applied. Gone were the scratches and bruises from the latest mission. Alan might be able to fly, but he sure didn't know how to land.
He smirked a little at that. Alan meant well and he could fly them all, but only as much as a simulator could teach him. There was a difference between simulating Thunderbird 1 and actually feeling the power of the engines as they rumbled underneath you, as the steering vibrated ever so gently, as the 'bird waited to be released, to fly full speed, to be allowed to show what she had.
Brains had had a few repairs to make to the hydraulics and landing gear, but Scott didn't feel anger or outrage.
Alan had saved their lives.
His lips curled into a vague smile. His youngest brother had pulled their bacon out of the fire, had saved the day, had done what every Tracy would do. One day he would make an excellent addition to their small team of rescuers, though at the moment Alan had other problems. One of the most prominent ones was school, a problem they all had mastered somehow. Some with more grace than others, he added silently, chuckling at the memories.
Yes, Alan was growing up, but he had a lot more to do still. Dad would take care of that, and his brothers. Scott had no intention of letting the teenager slack off, play hot jock, and believe that he could fly when he was barely able to pass math classes, let alone physics. He could understand perceiving literature and associate subjects as superfluous, but a pilot needed more than the passion of flying. He needed the basic knowledge what it meant to be airborne.
Still resting his hand against the cool metal, reveling in the feeling of his 'bird, Scott wondered when their father would allow Alan to co-pilot Thunderbird 2. Sure, the kid had flown her, but that had been short distance in almost perfect weather. Let him battle a thunder storm or adverse winds, then they could talk.
Grinning more, he finally completed his rounds, admiring the perfection that was his 'bird. Alan would never get to fly her as the primary pilot. Probably not even the secondary. Scott was possessive where his bird was concerned. Not that Virgil was any better when it came to Thunderbird 2. He usually shared her with their father when he came along. Jeff Tracy was about the only person who could fly all 'birds without the primary pilot griping about it. Scott wasn't even going into what Gordon and John thought about theirs.
He stopped and froze for a moment, none-too-recent events coming back.
Thunderbird 5 was a wreck and John looked little better than his beloved space station. His brother had suffered severe injuries from the missile impact and while John tried not to show it, he was fighting with the pain, especially the headaches. He slept a lot, was forced to inactivity while the others took care of TB 5, and he was grounded.
Scott shuddered a little.
The worst word for a pilot. While John didn't fly his 'bird, he was still her pilot. Thunderbird 5 was as important, maybe even the most important, as the others. She was the space monitor, the central relay station, the heart of the communication, their coordination throughout rescues, and their eyes and ears in the sky. Scott relied on his brother's guidance, his calm information as to the danger zone and conditions before they even entered it.
Thunderbird 1 was their reconnaissance, but Thunderbird 5 was their safety net and anchor.
Now she was out of commission and rescues would be severely handicapped. For the first time Scott felt crippled, half dead, half blind, and underneath all that unease was the residing fear of what had happened.
He leaned his head against the rocket ship, gazing at the ceiling of re-enforced concrete high above. Just past the layers of steel and stone was the swimming pool where he and his brothers had been swimming and horsing around only a few days ago. They had returned from a mission well done, saving six oil rig workers from certain death. Alan had come home for spring break and had promptly butted heads with their father again; nothing new there. They all had gone through that phase. So everything had been so wonderfully normal.
Days ago.
He smiled wryly.
It felt like weeks. It felt like another life.
The Hood had been in control of International Rescue for a few hours only, but the consequences would be forever.
One was his fear. The fear to go out onto a rescue while everything was still in tatters, broken and barely working, while Brains and Fermat were working on their equipment, while Kyrano and Onaha tried to clean up and run Tracy Island like normal.
While John and Thunderbird 5 were out of commission.
Scott closed his eyes, feeling that tremor again that usually accompanied thoughts of his injured brother. Throughout the space station's decline, the crisis aboard the monitor, he had lost only a thought or two where John was concerned. His brother had been able to stand, move, had been coherent, and all worry had been shoved away. Scott had done what needed to be done, even though he had fought his own fear and terror all the time.
No second thoughts.
No thoughts at all.
Just action and reaction.
He had them now, those second thoughts. Well, he probably had a lot more than just second thoughts. He was thinking way too much about past events to be completely comfortable with it.
The moment the adrenaline had dissipated, when exhaustion and pain and worry had flooded back, a virtual tsunami of signals assaulting his mind, he had for the very first time taken notice of his brother's serious condition. Sure, he had noticed that John had been hurt, had needed oxygen, had needed Virgil to keep him upright, but Scott would never have guessed the severity of the injuries...
John had collapsed in London, pale as a sheet underneath all the soot and sweat and grime and... blood. Scott had seen the wounds hidden by the torn uniform, had looked into a pair of glassy eyes that reflected nothing but pain and bone-deep exhaustion, and his stomach had clenched in fear.
He was okay now. Healing. He would be fine soon, but for the first time Scott had been terrified to lose a brother. All their other rescues had gone off without much of a hitch. A few scrapes and bruises, a broken bone here or there, but never a situation where death had been so close at their doorstep. For all of them.
Even his little brother.
The shudder came back and he refused to succumb to the fear once more.
Alan was fine. John would be fine.
All of them... were fine... all of them.
And if he kept repeating that over and over, he might just start believing it.
Just maybe...
"... terrible explosion this morning at around 4 a.m..."
"... people were shocked out of their sleep by windows shattering to pieces as an explosion of tremendous proportions rocked the small town of Daranta this early morning..."
"... a freight train passing through the sleepy little town..."
"...Rescue. Can you hear us? We request help. Please, respond. International Rescue..."
"... hazardous material... chemical spill... fire... catastrophe..."
"Officials have called International Rescue, hoping to receive aide from the unknown heroes who were so very nearly killed not two weeks ago when a mad man..."
"... and we're hoping that the Thunderbirds can help the shaken town prevent the worst disaster in the history of the Daranta area as the fire eats away at crops and forests, coming closer and closer, encircling the town and its inhabitants."

"This is International Rescue. We read you loud and clear, Daranta. We are on our way. ETA is twenty minutes. Please stand by. This is International Rescue. We're on our way. I repeat, we are on our way."

Thunderbird 1 streaked over the ocean, briefly skimming over the coast line and then heading inland, the landscape a blur. Going full speed was normally an adrenaline high, only tempered by the knowledge that he wasn't flying for fun, that he was going toward a serious, dangerous situation involving people needing their help.
Scott had never been afraid of a rescue. Never in all his life as a member of the secret organization his father had founded. He had flown into storms, blizzards, hurricanes, into earthquake centers, volcano outbreaks, explosions and avalanches. He had been under fire, literally, before, and he knew his job meant he would always be in danger, one way or the other.
He had never been afraid.
He had been worried, sure. He had felt apprehension and excitement, tension and exhilaration, all mixing together into that emotional cocktail that let him think so sharply and within seconds to handle the job as the first man on the scene, assess everything, and guide his brothers in their rescue attempts.
No, he had never been truly afraid...
Now he was close to terrified.
It was an alien feeling, something he wasn't used to. Fear was one thing, terror another. Terror was only associated with one situation -- the rescue aboard Thunderbird 5.
Data streamed across his screen, telling him his flight speed, the power output of the engines, his height, the aviation weather, and the conditions up ahead. He didn't really need any sensors to see the thick column of black smoke rising at the horizon.
This was where he was going.
This was where they were needed.
The first rescue after the disaster, after The Hood had nearly destroyed them.

-- Docking procedure complete --
-- Airlock pressure equalized --
And they were in, running through the hatch and the tunnel leading to the heart of Thunderbird 5.
The badly damaged and charred heart.
Dim lights, emergency lamps flickering, fires burning inside the station. He ran into the darkness, his helmet lights the only source of illumination before he reached the control center.
There was smoke everywhere.
Charred consoles, instrument panels and exploded screens. The air was thick with the acrid smell of burning wires.
And there was a slumped figure, bright blond hair streaked with black and a color that could only be associated with blood. There were burn marks and smudges all over the uniform.
"Scott! Tackle that fire!"
His body reacted to the order without asking his mind whether or not there was an objection. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and aimed it at the fire burning not far away, leeching away precious oxygen.

"Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 1. I'm right behind you, Scott."
Virgil's voice made him jump a little and Scott blinked at the displays, showing him that he was quickly approaching the accident site. A small dot not far from him indicated the behemoth transport ship.
"Roger that, Thunderbird 2. I have visual."
He looked at his screen where the onboard cameras were showing him the site of a train crash. Not just a simple train. That probably wouldn't have warranted the arrival of IR. No, a freight train, loaded with flammables, had been derailed by unknown causes, and wagons had overturned. The flammable liquids had spilled and finally part of the freight had exploded, creating a sea of fire that was quickly spreading. There was a small town near-by, which was currently being evacuated, and the shockwave of the first explosion had flattened and uprooted whatever vegetation there had been.
Scott was looking at a hellish fire, moving fast, feeding on the gasoline and other flammable liquids, trees and grass. No one knew where the driver and the train's crew was, but at least the engine seemed to be okay. They would have to look.

A soft groan escaped the injured man as he was moved by their father and Scott winced in sympathy. John's face was covered in soot and grime, and he was barely conscious.
"Am I glad to see you, guys," he rasped.
"Easy, John, you're hurt," his father soothed him, helping John sit up, though it took a visible effort for the blond to stay upright. "Virgil, take care of your brother! Gordon, give me a damage assessment!"
Scott's eyes strayed over to where his father was barking orders and his brothers immediately followed them, not questioning him for a single second.
He tried not to think how badly John could be hurt, but the pain-filled voice filtering through the audio receptors of his helmet told him enough.
Virgil knelt next to the injured Tracy, starting emergency treatment, while Scott and Jeff put out the small fires burning here or there. Gordon was trying to access the damage protocols, fighting the smoldering and burning consoles.

Scott had Thunderbird 1 in a holding pattern over the accident site, the VTOL engines easily keeping the massive ship in place, peering down, trying to determine the next course of action while his mind was flashing wildly to another fire, to another crisis, and he was feeling his muscles freeze.
He was the point man, the one-man-reconnaissance team, the first at the site, the man to make the decisions on how to proceed. It was his job to assess everything...
with the help of John.
John, who was up in Thunderbird 5, having the bird's eye view, had all the satellite data, who had a broader spectrum of information. Where Scott only saw a fraction, he would have the whole picture.
But John was injured. Thunderbird 5 was out of commission.
Scott was alone.
He inhaled deeply, trying to steady his feelings.
It was the first time he was alone, the first time he had no second opinion, the first time he had to monitor and guide and assess himself. Sure, he usually did it anyway, but the knowledge of John keeping an eye on things had helped a great deal. It was a subconscious thing, but a very calming one.
Panic crept along his peripheral vision.
He was alone.
Thunderbird 2 with Virgil and Gordon and his father was still a good fifteen minutes away and they needed his guidance to start on the rescue mission. He had to find a good landing spot, look for the safest way to proceed...
Scott's fingers clenched around the steering controls.
He was looking at the display without seeing anything.

Scott stared at the flashing red lights in growing panic. "We've got a red light on our EPS system!" he shouted.
"Attempt manual override!" his father ordered from where he knelt next to John, holding the oxygen mask over his son's nose and mouth
Scott flipped a switch and felt the panic multiply.
"No, that's negative!" he reported, trying to stem the flow of hysteria.
Goddamnit, he was a Thunderbird!
Get a grip on yourself! he yelled silently. You're supposed to be in control, calm and on top of things.
Right now, he was far from any of those things.
Thunderbird 5 was close to dead in the water and things were growing worse and worse. Losing the station would be a heavy blow, but nothing that could be replaced. Losing a brother... he shut that thought down.
His father's expression tightened and he shot up, leaving John in Virgil's care, then checked the read-outs himself.
"Back to Thunderbird 3!" he ordered. "John," he addressed the injured young man, "we gotta move."
Just standing up, more or less pulled to his feet, made John gasp in pain.
"The locking mechanism's jammed!" Gordon yelled, immediately having their attention.
The world came to a screeching halt, his insides clenching in terror.
Like rats.
And then that voice filtered over the system. That smooth as silk voice.
"Attention Thunderbird 5. As you can see I've taken over your facilities. You no longer control your operation systems."

"Thunderbird 1, this is base," a calm voice suddenly reached his ears and Scott felt himself flinch, jolted out of his memories.
"John?" he blurted.
He could almost hear the smile.
"Affirmative. Thunderbird 1, there's a wide unaffected area south of your position. I believe it would be the best base of operations. The fire is heading toward Daranta. I talked to the chief of police and he says evacuation is in full flow, but the speed of the fire and its unpredictable course make it hard for everyone to leave."
Scott stared at the com console. John? But John wasn't in Thunderbird 5! He couldn't be there, looking down at the scene, calmly relaying information from other outposts or the people they had to rescue. He couldn't be... because Thunderbird 5 was still non-operational, a lump of metal in space that needed more than a new paint job.
"Thunderbird 1, do you copy?"
The voice was a little sharper now, cutting through his confusion.
"FAB," he stammered.
"Thunderbird 2 can take care of the fire and the train. Scott, you head over to the town and take care of coordinating the rescue efforts. I'm in contact with the Rangers and they're about thirty minutes away, ready to coordinate with us."
The professional took over, the pilot, the trained man. Scott shoved everything aside, aware that he would have to deal with it later again.
"Understood. Heading over to Daranta."
"Roger that, Thunderbird 1. I'm in contact with Thunderbird 2 and they're almost with you. You should be able to see her in a few."
And Scott did. An ever-bigger growing shadow in the distance, quickly coming toward the catastrophe. He swung Thunderbird 1 around and banked to the right, heading over to Daranta while listening to John's so calm and anchoring voice relaying instructions, talking to Thunderbird 2 and keeping him informed of whatever he couldn't see.
How he could do that was beyond Scott. His mind was blanking again and again, and whenever he didn't concentrate on what he was doing, it flashed back to the disastrous day aboard Thunderbird 5.
The fires.
The heat.
The thickening air.
Scott felt himself tense up and tried to distract himself by talking to John. It was the first time they upheld conversation on such a level throughout a rescue.
He was calm impersonate on the outside. He acted with his usual professionalism, helped evacuate the small town of Daranta, talked to the police, the fire fighters, the special units coming in one after another to assist Thunderbird 2 in the task of dousing the flames, keep the sea of fire from the evacuees, and securing the still damaged wagons and engine.
Explosions rattled the Thunderbirds as a few more wagons gave up to heat and pressure, but except for a few shook up men and women, a few bruises and cuts, nothing serious occurred. Daranta was mostly saved, except for two houses outside the town borders, which fell victim to the flames.
And throughout it all, Scott heard John's even voice, listened to the data coming in, adjusted his actions to it. His brother was like the eye of a vicious storm, keeping the freezing panic from clutching at his mind again, keeping the pilot from thinking about the possibilities. Scott clung to the sound of John's tenor like a drowning man.
One wrong move, one wrong decision... and he might trap himself and his family in that fire. They might all be in danger again, unable to escape, victim to another mad scheme of revenge.
Like before.
Just a few days ago...
"Thunderbird 1," he heard his father over the open communications channel. "Good job. I think the local rescue can take care of things from here on. We're leaving. Let's go home, boys."
"FAB," Scott replied automatically and took off smoothly.
Thunderbird 1 briefly hovered over the town, then he adjusted the flaps and opened the valves. The engines howled with power and the rocket ship shot off. He was soon joined by Thunderbird 2. She dwarfed her sister ship, and Virgil, steering the green titan, gave him a thumbs up. Scott replied likewise.
A rescue well done.
The first after the mind-numbing experience with The Hood.
It had felt like his very first one ever.
The flight home was as blurry as the rescue. He knew he was guiding his 'bird with the same precision and care as usual, but he just couldn't catch a normal thought.
They had come out of it unscathed.
No one had shot at them, had tried to kill them...
They were all fine.
John was okay. He wasn't close to suffocated, bleeding, burned and semi-conscious.
Thunderbird 2 separated from him as they approached the tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific and headed over to her hangar, and Scott readjusted the engines, slowing down to land his own ship with the usual precision and care. For a moment it hung above the hangar, held aloft by engines far superior to anything the world had to offer, then gracefully descended.
Scott trembled as he let his 'bird settle down on the landing pad. He stared out of the canopy, his breathing too loud in his ears, his heart thundering, and then he finally detached himself from the seat.


Standing in the silo of Thunderbird 1, Scott just couldn't bring himself to walk the last few meters to the exit, into the bright sunshine of the South Pacific afternoon. His brothers would most likely be taking a dip in the pool, tease Alan who would return to school in two days, talk with Onaha and Kyrano, tell Tin-Tin and Fermat about the rescue, and his father would be telling Brains about the performance of the 'birds. There would be flight checks, diagnostics, reports to do, and more tests to run.
Normalcy after a mission.
Everything was so normal.
But not for Scott Tracy.
He knew he had to go there, too, or he would be missed.
So he did.
One step after another.
His mind was both a complete blank and then again wildly resolving around how John could have been there with them. It was something he held onto, something to occupy his racing thoughts, to keep him from flashing back to those terrible hours of hoping against hope, of praying that Alan might do the impossible.
Alan had fought The Hood, had done more than he would ever have thought his youngest brother capable of doing, but then again, he was a Tracy. Scott saw a lot of himself in Alan, the same temper and energy and adventurous streak. Ten years apart and still so much alike. It was frightening sometimes, like looking into a mirror. Alan was a teenager, as they all had been. To be exact, Gordon was still somewhere in that area age-wise, even with nearly twenty, but it was so easy to tease and pick on the youngest.
Scott loved Alan. He loved all his brothers. Just thinking that he might have lost him to The Hood without being able to help - because he had been too far away, had taken care of the accident scene while his little brother was fighting the bad guy... it gave him nightmares. He hadn't been able to help John either, who had come away with physical wounds and a twenty-four-hours observation stay in the hospital.
It had left marks.
On all of them.
Some more visible than others, but Scott had to admit to himself that he wasn't putting all of this as easily behind himself as he had hoped. The first rescue had shown that.
"Hey, Scott. I was starting to think I had to forcefully remove you from the pilot seat."
He almost jumped at the unexpected voice. John, dressed in a light blue shirt and white shorts, smiled openly at him. Scott did a quick visual check, something he had taken a habit of doing in the last few days. There was a bandage covering the deep cut on John's arm and Scott knew there was an equal bandage on his back, hiding a much more serious injury.
It had taken John three days after coming home to recover from the blows his body had taken and while pain medication helped stem the pain signals from the burn and the cut, it influenced his performance. He had slept a lot, had been of little entertainment value when he had been awake, but now things were going back to... normal.
"Hey, John," he managed.
"The rescue went well," his brother went on conversationally, falling in step with him as they went to the locker room where the uniforms were dumped. "Considering how rigged-up the whole system is. But Brains did a marvelous job."
Scott shot him a questioning look. "Just how did you manage to monitor us?" he wanted to know, curious.
John grinned. "Brains thought that since Thunderbird 5 is out of commission at the moment, we need a kind of emergency monitor station. So he did his magic and the control room was rigged as a surveillance station. I had access to the satellites in orbit over the area. Don't ask me how he did it, Scott. I'm still in awe. I did some minor hacking myself and bounced our signal across a few relay stations without them knowing it, and we could communicate. All the other data was taken from ground and air stations, from science outposts and geo probes. It's not very sophisticated and a lot of it was kinda sketchy, but I think I can do the job from here for the time being."
Scott just stared at him. John was so casually talking about it as if he did it every day. As if being attacked, nearly killed, and having his 'bird scrapped to almost non-functional hadn't left a mark on him.
Sure, John was close to unflappable. He was their anchor when it came to rescues, he was guidance and information and control and a lifeline if things went wrong. He was the heart of International Rescue. Scott and Virgil and Gordon were the pilots, but John was the one who had control of operations. Officially their father was in charge on field missions, but without the voice from up above, giving them a heads-up on the territory they were embarking upon, things might sometimes really end in a mess.
Scott had never really realized how important his brother's voice was to him until it had been silenced.
Wordlessly peeling off his uniform, Scott changed into the more leisurely shorts and t-shirt. John sat on the bench of the locker room, elbows resting on his knees. It wasn't usual for him to wait, but also not really so out of the ordinary.
"You did okay, Scott," he broke the silence.
Scott stopped in the middle of pulling on his shirt. "What?"
Serious blue eyes regarded him calmly. "You did okay," John repeated.
The first emotion was indignation. Of course he had done okay! He was a Thunderbird and he did his jobs well!
The second was confusion, quickly followed by embarrassment. John had witnessed his black-out.
God no...
Please, no... He didn't want anyone to see him like this, to find out that Scott Tracy had freaked. He was supposed to be cool and in control, not lose it over something menial as that...
Refusing to fall for the bait, Scott just shrugged and smoothed his t-shirt.
"It was an okay mission. No trouble, nothing bad. Routine."
"You know better than anyone that no two missions are alike, therefore there is never a routine."
He almost snapped at his younger brother.
Younger in years, a voice sneered, but a lot more mature than you. Look at what happened to him. Do you see him losing it? Do you see John Tracy cowering in fear and terror. No.
Ah hell.
He evaded those too old for his own liking blue eyes and quickly slipped into his shoes, and went outside.
Scott knew he was running.
From his brother.
From someone who knew too much about him, who had seen something Scott hated to have a witness of.


John watched his brother, face reflecting his emotions. He had a pretty good guess as to what was going on inside Scott. The same was going on inside all of them, though not everyone showed it the same way.
The first rescue after the near-miss, after having to witness a stranger, a mad man, invade their home. The Hood had set foot on their island, their secret base, their sacred home. John had always seen Tracy Island as a kind of refuge, a safe haven, the calm center of a life that was anything but normal or calm. The island was his home, the place he had grown up on after his mother's death, a home he cherished.
Now someone had nearly destroyed it all.
Everyone dealt differently with the shock and aftershocks, and John knew he wasn't the only one with nightmares.
Gordon spent a lot of time doing laps in the pool or diving, taking out Thunderbird 4, or immersing himself in the repairs of Thunderbird 5. Virgil was no better. When he wasn't running his usual mileage on the beach he was with Brains and tackling engineering problems with the monitor station.
John and Jeff had talked about events. He had a good rapport with their father, born out of countless nights spent talking. Jeff was haunted by all of this as well, trying to battle guilt and what if scenarios while pouring all his energy into the safety of the island and his family.
He had even talked to Alan. The kid was dealing his own way. He had Fermat and Tin-Tin, and he was a strong and resilient young mind.
They would survive.
They had survived.
Gordon and Virgil had now and then sought him out as well, reassuring themselves that he was fine. John had told them that he was healing, that things would be okay, that he wasn't about to pass out because they treated him as usual. Sure, they were more careful about the physical stuff like shoving him into the pool, but otherwise he was perfectly capable of enduring a little brotherly teasing.
Scott was different.
Scott had taken to spending a lot of time in the hangar, brooding.
Older brother privilege.
John smiled a little as he followed the other Tracy outside where he was immediately greeted by the rest of the family. Gordon was already going into the details of the rescue, Alan listening with rapt attention, and Onaha was giving all that motherly smile of hers. Their father sat on his chair.
When their eyes met, John just gave him a little nod, then let his gaze stray to Scott again who was trying his best not to let his emotions of before show.
John knew better.
Scott hated to lose control and he had. He had lost it briefly throughout the rescue, but only one person had noticed.
They would have to talk.
And they would.
Scott had tried sleeping. Really, he had. It was normally so easy.
Close your eyes, relax, let your body do the rest. Exhaustion would take over and the brain shut down.
But it didn't.
Instead there had been the endless rerun of their rescue, of the train exploding, the fire eating toward Daranta, John's voice relaying information, and so on. Mixed into that were images from a burned out Thunderbird 5 and his injured brother.
He couldn't sleep.
Lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, Scott felt his mind race. Again and again he was flashing to the hours aboard Thunderbird 5, the suffocating thick and hot air. The emergency lights that spread barely any light at all. The uselessness he felt at the situation.

The air was thick enough to cut it with a knife, stifling hot, and each breath was like inhaling a dense soup that held no more oxygen for his struggling lungs. Sweat ran down his face and Scott looked around. Virgil was softly talking to John, who was leaning hard against a console, valiantly trying to keep his 'bird running or to at least coax it into holding on a bit longer. Virgil's expression was worried. Gordon was almost invisible further away, hidden by the shadows everywhere. And their father was staring at the read-outs, expression grim.
There was nothing he... they could do. Nothing.
Their lives were in the hand of The Hood and their only hope was Alan, who was their kid brother, the youngest...
Scott felt his whole body clench in fear for Alan. He was alone, against a mastermind criminal, someone insane enough to take down International Rescue for his petty revenge.
God, Alan, please don't die, he thought desperately, eyes straying to John.

Finally Scott gave up on sleep and left his room, heading for the kitchen first to get himself something to drink. He then proceeded out to the pool, settling down on one of the lounge chairs and gazing at the dark water that moved lazily. Not far out he could hear the ocean, the surf gently lapping against the sandy beach.
Everything was so peaceful here, so quiet.
Sipping the cold water, he forced his mind to relax, but the more he tried, the worse it became.
"Late night snack?"
"Jeezus!" he exclaimed in a gasp, almost dropping his water. "Damnit!"
John chuckled and took a seat on the other chair, grinning. It was a very visible grin in the meager light.
"What are you doing up?!" Scott demanded, voice harsher than intended.
"Couldn't sleep," was the light answer. "Wrong time zone."
Scott's eyes narrowed. Thunderbird 5 might not be operating on South Pacific time, but he knew John had an almost similar sleeping pattern as they had.
The blond smiled ruefully at his expression. "Okay, okay. I can't really lay on my back and my side's not an option either, so sleeping's done while the pain medication knocks me out," his brother explained. "It wore off a few minutes ago and I usually take a walk before chugging down the next dose. Helps."
"Oh." Scott lapsed into silence, then finally looked up. "Thanks for today."
John watched him, so very, very calm. Scott hated him for it, but he also needed it. He needed his brother to be balanced and cool, to be reasonable when the pilot in him, the hot jock, took over and the adrenaline pushed him past his limits.
"You should thank Brains for his idea to rig all of this together. All I did was my job."
All you did...?
Scott exhaled softly. "That's not what I meant. I freaked out there, John. You know I did."
John leaned forward a little, catching his wavering gaze. "It's normal," he said softly.
"No!" Scott snapped and exploded from his chair. "It's not! I freaked on a rescue! I was frozen stiff and couldn't think! I've to be in control, John! I'm the first on the scene! I have to assess the situation, not just stare at it like brain-dead!"
"You did fine, Scott," his brother told him firmly.
"I didn't!" Scott snarled. "I freaked, John! I freaked! I'm supposed to be the field operative on point and what did I do? I just sat and stared and... and..." He exhaled explosively. "What kind of field commander will I make like that?" he groaned.
His father would not always come along on rescues. Scott knew that. There had been missions without him because of some official or bureaucratic thing or other. His father was still the owner of Tracy Industries and as such supposed to make an appearance now and then.
So Scott stood in as the one in charge.
What if he freaked again?
"No one came away from the attack unscathed," John told him firmly, "and you don't have to pretend everything's fine. It isn't. I dreaded this first rescue as much as you did, because I'm helpless. My 'bird's still down for the count and I'm your eyes and ears. I can't assist you at all like I'm used to. All of this here," he made a sweeping gesture toward the control center above, "is just a child's toy compared to Thunderbird 5. I feel like I'm blind and deaf, unable to intervene should one of the Thunderbirds malfunction or worse."
Scott stared at the blond, blinking stupidly. "But... you did just fine today," he argued.
"As did you." John smiled a little. "We did what we have to do, what we are meant to do, and we did it as best as possible with the limited resources we have."
Scott plopped onto the chair again and buried his head in his hands, trying to calm himself. He pressed the balls of his palms into his eyes, feeling them treacherously slicken with tears he was so hard fighting to keep inside. It were tears of frustration, of fatigue, of stress.
This was an aftermath he had never experienced before, not even after his first rescue gone wrong. He had been shaken back then, had needed a few days to come to terms with the fact that they couldn't save them all. Now... now his whole world had been uprooted by a single man driven by stupid revenge.
"I was afraid, John," he finally whispered, voice harsh. "Terrified. I was wondering when The Hood would pop up, creating another trap. Oh god, how stupid can I be! He's in prison!"
"Have you talked with Dad about it?"
"No," he whispered.
"Why not?"
"I... I don't know."
John's voice never lost its soothing quality, something Scott was so very thankful for. "Then why tell me?"
He swallowed hard, whishing he could get his emotions under control. "You're my brother. You don't... have so many... expectations."
John chuckled softly, but without mirth or sarcasm. "I do, Scott. I have expectations. I expect you to be my brother, my friend, someone I can trust and rely on. I expect you to listen to me when I'm relaying data or instructions or even orders."
"That's different." Scott evaded the blue eyes. "Dad... he... I'm a Tracy, John. We all are. Freaking isn't part of the family heritage."
"How do you know? Because you never saw Dad lose it? You think being cool-headed is genetic? You think Dad never has doubts or is terrified for us or himself?"
And you saw him lose it? Scott wondered for a moment, reminding himself that there was only one person aside from their late mother who knew their father very well and that was the man sitting opposite him.
"This fear... it's natural survival instinct. It'll pass, Scott. You're back in the saddle and you didn't fall off again."
He looked up and grimaced at the picture. "Thunderbird 1 is not a horse!"
"No, she's a damn fine 'bird. And you handled her well. You handled the mission. We all did."
And he sounded like their Dad. So very, very much. But unlike Jeff Tracy, John wasn't really after flying any of the wonderful machines Brains developed. He was content with keeping an eye on things from above.
John briefly lowered his gaze. "Scott, I freaked, too. I have nightmares from the attack and I'm not sure what will happen when I get back up there."
Scott's eyes widened and he stared at his usually so controlled and even-keeled brother. John rarely talked about his emotions and if he did, it was probably with their dad. Those two had a way of communication that came from nights spent online. Scott knew about the late night talks and he knew that it was their father's way of being as close to their brother up in space as he could.
In Scott's mind John was the most mature of them all. Probably more mature than all of them put together. Sure, he could play a prank or have fun with them, but where Gordon and Virgil were truly their age, and Alan even more so, John was older. A lot older, and Scott wasn't thinking in lifetime.
There was a reason why their father had chosen John as the primary pilot for Thunderbird 5. He was the most level-headed, could cope with the loneliness up there, and he could multi-task. Scott had been up there, too, and it had overwhelmed him how much his brother did while handling a single mission. Scott only flew TB 1; John flew them all in a way. He monitored their status and he kept an eye on all the data of the rescue area, as well as kept track of possible other hot zones or emergency calls.
"It could happen again, you know," John went on, voice almost conversational. "Some weirdo targets Thunderbird 5 because of a grudge or dislike of us. I'm a sitting duck. I can't fire up any engines and take her to safety."
"But Brains installed the new security net..." Scott argued.
John's wry smile stopped him.
"I know that, Scott. I know it'll be fine, that she will be perfectly in order again, that I'll be safe, but this safety was compromised before. We all know it. We all feel it. The Hood did more than just grab one of the Thunderbirds and damage another. He invaded our home and he seriously rattled our feeling of safety. I always felt very much at ease up there, but now I dread it. Sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes I scold myself for it."
Scott studied the other man, aware that it was exactly what he felt as well. Their home and their 'birds had been breached. The Hood had sat in Thunderbird 2 and he knew how grossed out Virgil had been at the thought that 'his baby' had been kidnapped and some stranger had sat in 'his' chair. Scott could sympathize.
And he still wondered if the next rescue might mean another lunatic trying to get his grubby hands on them.
"Dad had to watch The Hood torture Alan, nearly kill him," John went on, voice soft. "We all have our nightmares and we all fight them alone, because neither one of us is without them. We were all affected and we all have to come to terms with our pain." He smiled at his brother. "Don't think I'm not seeing the explosion again and again, bro. I do. And sometimes it doesn't end all happy down on the ground. Sometimes it's worse."
Scott felt his stomach clench and his heart constrict.
"But I'm not letting The Hood win, Scott. I won't give him the satisfaction of rolling over and dying."
"Neither will I," Scott told him firmly.
Because it wasn't what a Tracy did.
Because he wouldn't let himself.
Because he had a family who'd see to that, too.
They were all there for each other, even though not everyone sought out the other to talk like he and John had done. And Scott would never have actively initiated the conversation. It had fallen to John again to start the talking, as he always did.
He gave his brother a smile and was relieved when he received one in turn. It transformed into a brief wince and Scott was once again reminded that John was still healing. No pool time, always wearing a shirt, swallowing pills after every meal, and Onaha assisted him with applying the burn salve.
"I think it's time for those pills again," he remarked.
"Yeah, I guess." John looked rueful as he rose slowly. "Believe me, I'm glad for them, but I hate depending."
Yes, he understood that. Only too well.
Scott stood, too, and for a moment they gazed awkwardly at each other, then John just slung his good arm around his neck and gave Scott a brief, hard hug.
"You hang in there," he whispered. "We'll get through this."
Scott returned the hug, feeling the edges of the bandage on his brother's back. "Yeah. We will."
He pulled himself together, taking a deep breath.
"And if you ever feel like having another midnight session at the pool," John added lightly but with a serious addition to his expression, "you know where to find me."
"Thanks," Scott murmured.
He received a brief grin, then the two men walked back into the house. John headed for his room to take his pills and Scott dumped the water bottle in the trash, then went to bed as well.
Neither of them saw the tall, dark-haired man watching them from the shadows. Jeff Tracy smiled briefly, proudly, then headed for his office.
° ° °
Scott didn't fall asleep right away. He lay awake, staring at the ceiling, his mind still active, but the thoughts were no longer so sharp and painful, so much cutting into his soul. He let his brother's words run by once more, recalled the soft, even voice, the balancing effect John had on him.
He smiled a little, sleepy now.
/Thanks, bro/, he thought and closed his eyes.
He dropped off half an hour later and didn't wake until the middle of the new day. No one said a thing when he finally came for what could be a late breakfast or an early lunch. His father just nodded at him, smiling briefly, and Scott responded in kind.
There was no sign of John, but maybe he was down at the beach. His brother had taken to walking an hour or two per day before rejoining them when there wasn't much to do. Otherwise he and Brains tinkered in the lab or he was helping out his father with some bureaucratic matters. The medication still made him too fuzzy to think complicated thoughts as he had claimed before.
So Scott joined his brothers, falling into the light banter, the recollection of the rescue, shop talk... and he tried to ignore the unease that still settled deep in his stomach now and then.
It would get better.
It had to.
She looked fabulous.
Polished, shining, not a spec of dirt or a burn anywhere. The oxygen tanks and neighboring structures had been rebuilt and replaced and the space station hovered gracefully above Earth, ever-watchful.
The whole command center had been refurbished. Where there had been only dim blue emergency lights and electrical fires, the atmosphere thick with the rising CO2 levels and the stench of burned wires, there was nothing but warm lights and untouched consoles.
Scott looked around, wondering when this vision would shift to the charred interior he remembered. The place where he and his family had fought for survival. But nothing happened. Everything stayed as it was.
Thunderbird 5 was as good as new.
No, she was new.
New insides, partially new outsides, and new equipment. Brains had truly outdone himself.
As John walked over to the main command console, switching on the monitors and fine-tuning the receptions from all over the globe, Scott let his eyes wander toward the wide view screen that showed his home planet. It was a marvelous view, unrivalled by anything that could be found on Earth itself.
He still remembered the surge of fear when he had heard the emergency alarm go off, Brains announcing that a meteor had hit their space monitor... where his brother was on duty. And he would forever remember the state it had been in. Now there was no sign left.
"Looks good," John announced, turning to him.
He looked fine. Completely relaxed and at ease. No lingering fear or panic at returning to a place that had nearly killed him.
Then again, wasn't it all the same? Space was a dangerous habitat, but so was Earth itself. If Thunderbird 1 went down over water, in the mountains, in the desert or wherever else, Scott knew he was in danger as well.
"I'll help you unload the rest of the stuff and then you can take TB3 back home," John drew him out of his musings.
Scott nodded automatically. "You sure you don't want a bunk mate for the first few days?" It was meant half teasingly, half serious. "I'd volunteer."
John chuckled. "Nah. Thanks for offer, though. You've got a ship waiting for you to fly her, and I'm not used to having someone look over my shoulder."
Scott smiled. "It's not like I'd help you with that science stuff," he teased. "That's geek stuff."
"Ah, yes, and you're more into the hot jock race pilot things of life."
His grin widened. "Yep. Could teach ya."
John laughed softly. "Let's get Thunderbird 3 unloaded before I teach you science, bro."
"Ewww, no thanks. Contagious stuff."
Bantering lightly, they unloaded the space rocket.
Two hours later he was on his way as Thunderbird 3 detached itself from the station. The rocket fell away from the much larger station and for a moment seemed to plunge toward Earth, then her boosters lit up.
"Fly safely," John called over the com lines.
Scott grinned. "Wouldn't think of hurting Gordon's baby."
"Ah, yes, retaliation for that is gruesome. See you in a month, Scott."
And then the red rocket ship headed home.
° ° °
"Thunderbird 1, the storm is heading your way. Watch it, bro, or you'll end up putting some dents into that new finish."
Scott chuckled. "In your dreams. This 'bird can outrun any storm. Unlike that behemoth of a ship my brother calls his own."
John's laugh echoed through the audio receptors and Scott could very well imagine the wide smile on his face.
"Just take care not to get too close. I think Brains could use a breather."
"FAB!" he called lightly.
He glanced at his radar and found that the storm was indeed heading his way, faster than he would have given it credit, and he was glad for the heads-up. John had eyes everywhere.
Scott looked through the canopy and grinned at the darkening sky. Somewhere past those clouds, high up in orbit, was their monitor station Thunderbird 5. John had 'relocated', as he had joked, a week ago and things were back to normal. Operations as usual... smooth, uninterrupted... as they were used to.
Because John was back.
Because Thunderbird 5 was back.
Because International Rescue was back.
Scott skimmed the edges of the storm, delighting in the feel of the strong winds rushing past his 'bird, giving her another boost, and then gunned the engines to shoot ahead and change course for safer waters, so to speak.
"Show off," John called.
How his brother managed to see all of this was beyond Scott, but the instruments aboard Thunderbird 5 did more than just create blips on the screen.
He chuckled and set his course home, away from the storm and out of the danger zone. The adverse winds were heading out to sea and there were no ships in danger or anyone calling for assistance. International rescue had helped save those people who had been caught on a cruise ship in this weather, guiding the damaged vessel to a safe port, and Thunderbird 2 was already on her way home, having a little head start. Not that it was any great feat for the sleek reconnaissance vessel to overtake them in no time flat.
Nothing could match Thunderbird 1. He loved flying his 'bird, he loved the thrill it gave him to sit in the pilot seat of the fastest aircraft in the world. Nothing could beat her. Nothing could even remotely close. It was a wonder, a joy and sometimes outright exhilarating to feel the thrum of the powerful engines.
And it felt good to be out on rescues on a regular basis again. It was what they did best; all of them.
° ° °
It was beautiful as always. The sun reflected on the dark blue water, creating colorful palettes, a work of art each and every day. Sure, there were the tropical storms, but no storm or bad weather front could erase the beauty and serenity of this place.
A real paradise. His home. Their home.
Scott was in the pool, playing ball with Virgil while John was floating leisurely in the middle of the water, looking very much at ease with himself.
"Scott!" Virgil yelled and threw the ball.
Scott deftly caught it and was about to chug it back when John playfully kicked out at the ball.
"Get him!" Virgil laughed and launched himself at his brother.
Scott was immediately in on it and they dunked John under. He laughed and joined the melee. The water fight was in full flow.
Two months had passed since the attack and normalcy had finally really settled in. Alan was back at school, though he had done so reluctantly. Scott didn't know what John had told his youngest brother, but something seemed to have stuck with the teenager. Their father was considering having Alan up on Thunderbird 5 for a few days a week throughout summer break, also learning to fly Thunderbird 3 in the process. Gordon had moaned and bitched about it, but Scott suspected that Gordon was looking forward to spending more time with his beloved submarine.
His younger brother was currently up in the station as long as John was having a spell down on the island.
Scott sputtered as his brother dunked him under and immediately retaliated. John evaded his grab and dove away, surfacing a few meters up ahead.
"Slow!" he teased, grinning widely.
Scott snagged the ball and threw it at the blond, who caught it deftly.
It felt good to play like this, to be someone else for a moment, to forget all about missions and rescues and the past. John still bore all the reminders. The cut on his right upper arm had healed, but it had left a thin, red line that would one day maybe turn lighter, but it would never disappear. Neither would the burn scar on his back, which was just as visible as the one on his arm.
There was a loud banging and their father's voice echoed over the din of their play.
"Dinner's ready, boys! Grab it before we've to throw it away!"
John shot his brother a grin and lithely climbed out of the pool, for a moment showing the burn scar on his back before he toweled off and covered his upper body with a shirt. Scott followed, feeling hungry. It smelled like steak and his mouth was watering. Onaha's steaks were legendary, closely followed by her pasta dishes.
"Gordon's missing out on something!" Virgil laughed as he quickly grabbed a chair and sat down.
"Ah, but he has wonderful MRE's," John teased.
Virgil grimaced. The 'Meals Ready to Eat' were standard Airforce and Army food packages that contained everything a soldier needed and could be heated quite quickly. John had a few of those up on Thunderbird 5, as well as powerbars and whatnot. Supply runs were always hugely appreciated because it meant he had a chance at home cooked meals.
Soon they were all chewing on steak, talking about this and that, and Scott let himself sink into the warmth of his family, even if two were missing. Three, if he counted Fermat who was like an adopted younger brother more or less.
For a moment he caught John's eyes and there was a relaxed, warm expression in there, and he nodded at him. John returned the barely perceptible nod.
There was a musical sound and all eyes went to their father who had picked up his special cell phone. Only one person called on it.
"Yes, Madam President?"
Almost palpable anticipation rolled off the pilots and Scott put his fork down. Their father listened intently, then nodded once.
He snapped the cell shut and looked at his sons.
"Saddle up, boys, we've another call."
Virgil and Scott immediately headed for the main control room that allowed them access to their crafts. Jeff Tracy wasn't far behind, followed by John, who didn't need to be asked. He would be flying with Thunderbird 2. Gordon had Thunderbird 5's duties at the moment and he wouldn't play monitor from Tracy Island while there was a rescue going on that might need another pair of hands.
Four panels in the wall closed, four men descended into the giant hangar bays, and minutes later Thunderbird 1 gracefully rose from underneath the pool, quickly accelerating. Thunderbird 2 followed, lumbering out of the hangar and onto the runway as the blast-shield rose. Not much later the green leviathan joined Thunderbird 1 as they headed for their next rescue.
Scott smiled to himself as he let the thrum of the engines seep into his body, into his blood.
/Thunderbirds are go/, he thought to himself, the very words resulting into a kick of adrenaline.

The two mighty ships streaked across the Pacific, heading for the North American continent, their crews ready to assist, to help, and to save lives.
Sign up to rate and review this story