Gordon had a long swim and then joined Scott, Virgil, Jeff, Brains and Ruth for a pleasant lunch. Nearing the end of the meal, talk turned to the afternoon's plans. Ruth was less than impressed that Gordon intended to spend most of the afternoon out in Thunderbird 4 and was even less so when she questioned the aquanaut about where he was intending to go. Gordon simply turned to the window and pointed, "I'll be going that way, Grandma."
Scott and Virgil both took large swigs of their coffee to smother the laughter that threatened to escape. Both brothers knew that a deep ocean trench lay in 'that' direction and it was one that Gordon had retreated to on many an occasion. If the aquanaut was unduly stressed, pressured or just simply needed a break from island-life, he would take Thunderbird 4 and 'explore' the trench for hours on end. As a general rule he would reappear on the island as dusk was falling but on one occasion, after a particularly spectacular argument with Alan, he had spent more than three days at the bottom of the ocean just a few miles away from the island.
Gordon gave Ruth a hug and kissed her cheek before waving at the others and setting off through the house towards Thunderbird 4. Scott clambered to his feet and nudged Jeff in the direction of the lounge. Jeff nodded and then continued on his way, leaving Scott to wander in the opposite direction with Virgil.
Jeff sat down at his desk and pressed the button to call Thunderbird 5. There was a long pause and Jeff had begun to wonder if his call had been heard when John's portrait finally sprung to life. John paused just long enough to check that it was Jeff who had called and then immediately went on the offensive. "So you finally decided to get in touch," he spat. "I could excuse you not calling if it was, say, incredibly busy or maybe if you were off the island but neither of those apply to the fifty four and a half hours since you last made contact. It's been quiet and you haven't gone farther than the beach in four days which makes the fact that you haven't tried to call in the thirteen or so hours that Alan's been up here even more deplorable. He's been in a right state, all day, and if Tin-Tin's anything like the same then God help Kyrano."
John flopped down onto his control chair and sat, scowling at his father.
Jeff looked across at him in dismay. John was usually unflappable and the very epitome of calm. Other than the occasional heated debate with Scott, the astronaut rarely raised his voice and tended to quietly keep the entire family grounded from his position high above them. The mild-mannered blonde was known for keeping his head, even under the most extreme pressure, so the outburst was most unusual.
"John, I…" Jeff paused as John raised an eyebrow to acknowledge him. "John, I'm sorry. I wasn't…I wasn't myself yesterday. I know I should have called you but my head was…elsewhere. I was upset and had a lot to think about. It slipped my mind and for that I can only apologise."
"I know all this," John responded tersely. "…and I said that I could excuse you yesterday. What I can't excuse is the fact that it's taken you until almost mid-afternoon today to call and check on Alan. Alan who was so traumatised by the goings on of yesterday morning that he was willing to risk life, limb and your continued wrath by leaving the island in the only way left available to him. You upset him so much and gave him so few options that you equivalently forced him to leave the planet and join me in exile up here. Oh, and I wouldn't suggest even trying to explain why you hit him. You're a hypocrite, Dad and you can't deny it. You've drilled into us throughout our whole lives that violence is never the answer; remember that? NEVER the ANSWER. And then what do you do? Turn around and take a swing at your youngest son. Hypocrite, Dad. Hy. Po. Crite." John sat back for a moment and ground his teeth together. "I'm not dealing with this now. Go away."
John punched the button to disconnect Jeff from Thunderbird 5 and sat, slumped in the control chair with his head in his hands. Alan crept into the room and sat himself quietly on the floor beside his brother. He rested his shoulder against John's leg so that the elder blonde knew his whereabouts and then sat quietly to give John time to work through his thoughts.
John's sudden disconnection left Jeff staring across at a dark and silent portrait wall. Jeff sat and studied the portraits for a moment and then shook his head, clambered to his feet and wandered into his office.
Scott and Virgil spent several hours in Thunderbird 1's hangar, cleaning and adjusting the exhaust jets on Scott's beloved rocket-plane. They had just finished tightening the final bolt on the last of the jets when Scott's watch chimed loudly. "Scott, could you come to the lounge please?" The voice was John's and Scott nodded briefly before setting off back into the house with Virgil following closely behind.
Brains was standing in front of Jeff's desk talking quietly to John when Scott stepped into the lounge. Scott stopped, looked around and frowned. "Where's Dad?"
"He's in his office," John replied. "…and that's fine by me. There's going to be nowhere for Thunderbird 1 to land, Scott so you might as well fly the desk. It's only really Thunderbird 4 that's needed so, Virgil, I'm afraid to say that you'll just be playing chauffer and as Gordon's right at the bottom of his trench at the moment, you'll have to pick him up on the way."
"Right," Virgil took a step towards his rocket painting and then stopped and shook his head. "Let me know where I'm going once I'm on my way." He continued across the room and keyed his watch as he walked. "Gordon, you're not going to like this but I need to borrow you for a couple of hours. I promise to put you back when I'm done with you but I need you to meet me on the surface in approximately eight and one half minutes from now."
Virgil flipped over backwards and disappeared into the shaft behind the rocket painting before Gordon could reply. Scott looked at Brains and John and sighed. "He's not going to be happy about that."
John shook his head. "No he won't, but the rescue'll more than make up for it. You know how much he loves being able to do something that the WASPs can't?"
"Oh, yeah," Scott grinned. "This is another one of those times, I take it?"
John nodded. "It sure is…and Gordon's going to absolutely love it. He's got to save some WASPies because they can't save themselves. He's got to excavate and then evacuate one of their deep sea labs that's been buried in some sort of an underwater rockslide. There are some small tunnels, like natural fissures left that lead around the back of the lab but the bulk of it is completely buried. WASP don't have anything small enough to get into the fissures and they can't blast their way in for fear of further damaging the lab and risking the lives of the WASP crew who are trapped inside." John pressed a button on the console in front of him. "I've sent the coordinates down to Virgil and there's a copy waiting for you on the desk computer."
"D-D-definitely a job for G-Gordon," Brains smiled. "S-Scott, if you don't need me then I-I-I'm going to get back to Tracy 2. You-you know where I-I'll be if you n-need me."
Scott nodded and watched Brains until he was out of sight. "What's going on, Johnny?" he asked, turning back to his brother. "Between you and Dad, I mean? I'm going to have to tell him about the rescue, you know that, don't you?"
John pursed his lips and looked out of his portrait, across the room and out of the window to where Thunderbird 2 was setting off to collect Thunderbird 4. "I know," he replied. "…but you can do that once I've gone. He…we had…words, Scott; or at least I had words. He tried to apologise, I had more words and then, kind of, well, cut him off." John looked sheepish as he met Scott's gaze. "I…I may have overreacted a little but I just got so mad at him. He's being totally selfish and…" John threw his hands in the air in exasperation. "…he hit Alan."
"He what?" Scott stood up straight and looked towards the office door. "When?"
John shrugged. "Some time yesterday morning, when they were talking. Alan told me that he said something that pissed Dad off, big style, and that Dad literally launched himself across the desk, smacked him and then kind of had some sort of a breakdown. I…I take it you're up to speed with what's going on?"
Scott nodded. "Tin-Tin? Yeah, I know about the baby. Father and I had a real good talk this morning; although he neglected to mention anything about coming to blows with Alan."
John looked down at his console. "Thunderbird 4 successfully retrieved. Virgil and Gordon, now on route to rescue zone."
Scott nodded again. "Look, do you want to disappear for a bit? I need to tell Father what's going on and as much as he goes on about wanting me to learn the desk, we all know that he'll take over as soon as he finds out there's a rescue underway."
John gave his brother the ghost of a smile and nodded. "I'll go for now but, Scott, I don't want to leave things like they are. Life's too short and...anything could happen. Could you talk to him for me?"
"I'll get him to call you later," Scott promised. "After the rescue, once everything's calmed down again. Okay?" Scott waited for John's acknowledgement and hovered with his finger over the disconnect button. "Stay safe, Johnny. Look after Al and I'll speak to you soon. Bye."
The rescue went off without a hitch and, rather than being dropped back into his trench, Gordon returned to the island in high spirits. "You should have seen it, Dad. The lab was almost completely buried and the front corner had been crushed by falling debris. WASP had scrambled Stingray, Sawfish and Seadragon to try and get the crew out but they're all the same design so none of them were going to manage it. Four fitted down the fissures at the back of the lab with no problems and apart from needing to do the trip three times to get everyone out, she was fine. I hate that I have to use it but Brains' new obscurer film worked great. I had much better forward visibility than the last time I had to fog the windows and one of the lab guys even commented that he'd have liked to put a face to the 'disembodied voice' who'd rescued him so they definitely couldn't see me." Gordon stopped, took a breath and then snapped his fingers together. "Oh, oh, that reminds me, Virg, do you remember Malika Maloney? The one you went to college with? She's been promoted. I don't know when or anything but it was definitely her. I saw her as clear as anything 'cos she was piloting Sawfish."
"Good on her," Virgil nodded approvingly. "…and good on WASP, it's about time they gave a decent spot to one of the girls. Ha, Malika, well done that girl."
Jeff smiled. "And well done to you, Gordon, for another successful rescue. Are you going to stay for post-rescue munchies with your brothers or are you wanting to go 'out' again?"
"I want munchies," Gordon grinned. "I want munchies soooo, soooo badly."
Jeff rolled his eyes at Gordon. "Well if you're that desperate then you'd better go and see if your grandmother's finished getting them ready for you. Virgil, Scott, Brains, go with him or you won't get a look in. I'll be along in a moment."
Everyone headed for the kitchen and left Jeff standing in the now-quiet lounge. The Tracy patriarch glanced at the portrait wall and sighed. "I'll speak to the pair of you…" he pointed, first to John's picture and then to Alan's, "…after I've eaten." He turned towards the door and shook his head. "…assuming they've saved something for me, of course."