After-effects

Chapter 17

Alan woke early the next morning knowing that Tin-Tin had a scan booked for eleven am and that she was due to receive the results of her blood tests, which had been taken at the hospital the previous afternoon, during the same appointment. The youngest Tracy boy moped around Thunderbird 5 for several hours, annoyed John with constant questions and inane conversation and then found himself parked in his brother's usual seat in front of the computer which John used to keep track of everybody.

"Why don't you keep your eye on Tin-Tin, then you'll know when she sets off for the hospital?" John suggested. "You won't be able to contact her until later on but at least you'll be able to see where she is, even if you can't see exactly what she's doing. I know it's not the same as being there but it's the best I can do."

Alan nodded and hunched over the screen to peer at the little purple dot that represented Tin-Tin. "Do you do this a lot?" he asked. "Spying on everyone, I mean? Were you watching me, the other day, when I…when I was…"

"…hiding in the caves near Gordon's cove?" John finished Alan's query and laughed. "Yeah, I noticed you…even tried to ping you a couple of times but I guess you had a lot on your mind and didn't notice."

Alan looked at his watch and frowned. "I guess I was. Sorry if it looked like I was ignoring you, I could have done with someone to talk to as well…"

John patted Alan's shoulder. "As I said, your mind was obviously elsewhere." He nodded at the screen. "Heads up, she's on the move."

~#~

Alan watched as Tin-Tin and Kyrano left the Tracy farm and headed to the hospital. He then sat and stared at Tin-Tin's purple dot for almost half an hour but she remained almost completely still within the hospital building and he found his attention beginning to wander. He fiddled with the settings on the computer until the screen was displaying the island and he could see where Scott, Virgil, Gordon, Jeff, Ruth and Brains were. He smiled when he worked out that Gordon was in the pool, Jeff was sitting at poolside and Brains was in Thunderbird 2's hangar. Ruth was out in her garden and Scott and Virgil were heading towards the beach together. "Everyone's outside," he announced. "…apart from Brains. I reckon he's tinkering with something out of one of the pods 'cos he's not moving much."

John stepped up behind Alan and glanced at the screen. "I reckon you're probably right. Scott and Virgil aren't hanging around though. Look."

The blue and yellow spots designating Scott and Virgil were now travelling away from the house at high speed. "Pre-lunch jog?" Alan asked.

"Nah," John shook his head. "…they're moving too fast. Hoverbikes'd be a safe bet. I know Virgil's been trying to make them faster and Scott's wanted them more stable since you took your tumble in South America."

"Don't remind me," Alan shuddered. "If Gordon wasn't such a good shot I'd've been lunch."

John patted him on the back. "You would," he agreed. "...and talking of lunch, I'm going to go and rustle us something up. You feel like anything in particular?"

Alan thought for a moment before replying. "Something orange."

"Orange?" John cocked an eyebrow at his little brother. "I'll see what I can do. Will you keep your eye on things in here while I'm gone?"

Alan nodded and turned back to the screen so John shook his head, turned and walked away.

~#~

Alan soon became bored with watching the coloured spots on Tracy Island and decided to see for himself whether John had been right in his guess that Scott and Virgil were testing the hover bikes. He used the computer to log into the CCTV system on the island and immediately selected the camera which covered the section of beach where Alan knew Scott and Virgil were.

His brothers had a hoverbike each and were enthusiastically chasing each other up and down one of the longest stretches of beach on the island. Virgil's enhancements to the small machines had obviously had quite an impact because both Scott and Virgil were getting far greater speeds out of them than would have previously been possible. "Whoa," Alan breathed. "I've got to get me a go on one of those. Way to go, Virg, they look great."

Alan watched Scott and Virgil for a couple of minutes before redirecting the cameras onto Gordon and Jeff. Gordon had completed his swim by that point and was curled up on one of the sun loungers beside the pool, talking to his father. There was no audio on the CCTV system so Alan couldn't hear what was being said but he laughed as he watched Jeff being very animated as he explained something to his water-loving son.

Alan and the CCTV system paid a short visit to Ruth as she tended the plants in her vegetable garden. The old woman was, in Alan's opinion, picking non-existent weeds out from between the vegetable plants and he soon moved on to the remaining person on the island; Brains.

~#~

Brains was exactly where Alan expected him to be but wasn't working on one of the pod vehicles. He was working on a very pitiful looking Tracy 2 which Alan could see tucked at the back of the hangar, well out of the way of Thunderbird 2.

As the youngest Tracy boy watched, Brains pulled something off the underside of the plane and laid it carefully down on the floor behind himself. He then sat cross-legged beside the part and dismantled it before picking up one of the components and wandering out of view.

Alan frowned at the screen. "I guess Dad'll have to use Mirabel if he needs to go anywhere in the next few days," he murmured. "Scott won't like it but it's not like Dad to crash. I guess something must have broken."

Alan leant back on the chair, put his hands above his head and stretched his arms. He yawned, looked around the control room for a moment and then huffed and tapped his watch. "When's lunch?" he asked. "I'm hungry, I've run out of people to watch and I'm about to get bored."

John sighed loudly and Alan began to wonder if John was hiding out in the kitchen just to get some peace and quiet when he replied with "Lunch will be as long as it takes. Have you checked on Tin-Tin recently? She might be on the move by now and you can go back to watching her."

Alan sent the CCTV system into the background and brought John's usual screen back up. He selected Tin-Tin and then huffed loudly when he discovered that she was still in the hospital. "She hasn't moved," he complained. "I'm not sitting here watching a purple dot that might not do anything for the next two hours."

"Well do something else then," John snapped. "Look, why don't you do…whatever it is that you normally do when you're up here. What would you be doing if I wasn't here? If you had Thunderbird 5 all to yourself, what would you be doing, right at this moment?"

Alan glanced at his watch and thought for a moment. "I'd be making lunch. I'd be making lunch and I'd be making it way faster than you are."

John gritted his teeth together and growled quietly. "Assume that you've already eaten lunch," he said quietly. "You've eaten lunch, you've washed up, you've…been to the bathroom and then what? What would you do after lunch?"

"I'd kill some zombies," Alan replied, matter-of-factly. "Gordon's threatening to topple me off the top of the leader board and I need to get higher so he can't manage it."

John looked at his brother in disbelief. "Seriously? You're sitting here inside one of the most technologically advanced pieces of equipment on, or above, the planet and the best use you can find for it is killing zombies?"

"It's a good game," Alan replied. "…and I haven't got anything else to do so why not?"

John shook his head and looked disappointed. "Whatever. Do what you want. Lunch'll be ready soon."

John disconnected the call which left Alan staring at a blank screen of his watch. "Well he's certainly tetchy today and I definitely got the impression that he doesn't want me using you to beat Gordon." Alan patted the console in front of himself. "So what are we going to do instead?" Alan flicked backwards and forwards between Tin-Tin's immobile dot and the CCTV feed showing Brains who had reappeared beneath Tracy 2. He flicked the screen several more times and then allowed it to stop on the live feed from the island. "How about we find out what Dad did to his plane, eh?" He patting the console again. "It's not zombies so John can't moan and it might be useful for Brains to see what happened. Right, where to start?"

~#~

John felt mildly guilty for being short with Alan but remained in the quiet kitchen for quite some time. The astronaut had long-since accustomed himself to sustained periods of silence aboard Thunderbird 5 and often struggled to relax in the noisy hubbub of everyday life down on Tracy Island. He relished the company of his family but at the same time needed the peace and tranquillity that only Thunderbird 5 could provide and Alan, while being a welcome distraction for a short while, had proved very trying that morning and John found himself feeling unusually out of sorts.

He sighed and gathered the lunch together on a tray so he could take it back to the control room. He wandered slowly through the space station and pushed the control room door open with his bottom so he could keep hold of the tray with both hands.

John turned around to put the tray down on the table and noticed Alan staring at the computer screen with a deep frown on his face. "What's up?" he asked. "Have the zombies eaten your brains or something?"

Alan turned to his brother and his frown deepened. "Did I knock Gordon out of the sky the other night?"

"Ah," John winced. "Not zombies then?"

Alan shook his head. "You obviously didn't want me playing it so, for want of anything better to do, I went back to messing with the cameras. No-one was doing much of anything so I thought I'd try and find out what made Dad crash his plane. I figured that I might be able to see something on one of the camera feeds that'd help Brains work out what went wrong." Alan sighed loudly and slumped against the back of his seat. "But nothing did go wrong, did it? At least nothing mechanical, electrical or anything-else-ical. It was me, John. I went wrong. It looks like I kind of tried to fly straight through Gordon when all he was trying to do was go home."

John stepped around his brother and looked at the screen which Alan had playing on a short, continuous loop. "It's never going to look any better, no matter how many times you watch it. All you're going to end up doing is upsetting yourself."

"I know," Alan nodded. "It's just…I know that Gordon made it out okay but…I don't really know how he did. How did he walk away from that completely unharmed?"

John pressed a button to stop the looping footage and flicked the cameras back to displaying live footage from the island. He opened up the feed of the poolside area and zoomed in on the sun loungers. "It's kind of…what he does." John sighed sadly. "It puts years on Father every time he has another of his near misses and it worries me that one day, when Gordon's luck finally runs out, we'll lose them both."

Alan reached out and held a finger against the patch of screen showing Jeff's face. "He said something like that to me…the other day, when we were talking. He said that he doesn't send Gords out that often because he can't bear the thought of him not coming back and that it makes him think about the hospital…after the accident." Alan shrugged and fell quiet.

John patted Alan's shoulder and nodded. "If you watch him, Father I mean, if you really watch how he looks at Gordon, it's almost as if he knows that Gords is living on borrowed time. He'd do anything…and I mean anything…to extend that time, even if it means limiting Gordon's freedom by such a crippling degree."

"I guess that's why Gordon's allowed to take Four and just go…off; 'cos Dad knows he won't go far and that he'll be relatively safe 'cos he's just sort of floating around down there." Alan leaned back against John who wrapped an arm around him. "I'm sorry for bugging you earlier. I didn't mean to."

John squeezed him gently. "I know and I'm sorry for being short with you." He jiggled Alan slightly and pointed towards the table. "I've done my best to make an orange lunch for you. Carrot and coriander soup with crackers and rehydrated orange juice. Is that good enough?"

Alan unwrapped John's arm from around his shoulders, leant towards the table and smiled. "Yep. Definitely. Let me put Tin-Tin back on here, then we can watch her while we eat."

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