After-effects

Chapter 20

Gordon answered the ping on his watch almost immediately and greeted Alan with a cheery news broadcast. "This is Gordon Tracy of Tracy Island news. Breaking news just in, Tracy penal colony makes contact after unexplained silence. Subjects of Tracy Island breathe collective sigh of relief."

Alan's bark of laughter echoed around the cockpit of Thunderbird 4 where Gordon was sitting. "You're nuts. Well and truly, one hundred percent guaranteed, hazel-nutty goodness."

Gordon grinned, huffed on his hand and polished his knuckles against his shirt. "One does one's best, what with living in a family of overachievers and all." He typed a series of commands into Thunderbird 4's console and swapped Alan's feed from his watch onto the larger screen in front of him. "That's better. I can see you properly now." He gazed sadly at his brother for a moment and then sighed. "It's stupid. I'm on an island full of people but I'm lonely. When are you coming home?"

Alan shrugged. "I don't know. Whenever Dad says so, I guess; or whenever John gets fed up with me and decides to bring me down. I'm locked out of Thunderbird 3 at the moment 'cos they think I'm some sort of a flight risk."

Gordon raised an eyebrow at this. "And are you?"

Alan looked sheepish and glanced away from his watch. "Er...kind of. I mean, I can see why they'd think that but it's only when my mind and body go different ways…or rather, when my mind sort of goes off on its own and takes my body with it."

"Your mind goes off on its own and takes your body with it?" Gordon shook his head. "…and you call me nuts."

Alan shrugged. "Sorry. It's kind of the best way I can think to explain it. John stopped me when I tried to leave this afternoon and I know I'm locked in now so it's kind of a moot point now anyway. I can't go anywhere so I'm as stuck here as Tin-Tin is in Kansas."

"Well I had something to do with that so I guess I owe you an apology. Dad didn't give me any warning; he just sort of sent me on my way and I hadn't even had breakfast." Gordon hunched forwards in his seat and looked earnestly at his brother. "I'd have warned you if I could have but I didn't know anything even after I was on my way. Mind you, even after I'd been to Kansas, settled the Kyranos into the farmhouse and left them to it…even then, I didn't actually know what was going on. I've never seen Kyrano in such a weird mood. Never."

Alan shrugged again. "He's still in it now, by all accounts. He's giving Tin-Tin a hard time and it's getting her down. I spoke to her after lunch and he knocked on the door while we were talking. She told him to go away but then it all got on top of her and she got really upset. She's allowed to fly so, from a medical point of view, she's be able to go home but she can't because Kyrano won't let her. She got upset and I couldn't do anything to help her so I got upset and that's…that's when I discovered that my codes don't work the airlocks any more."

"I see." Gordon's reply was softly spoken but Alan heard it clearly in the quiet environment of Thunderbird 5. "I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, that seeing the mother of your firstborn child in a traumatised and fragile state is as good a reason as any for going completely off the rails."

Colour flushed into Alan's cheeks and he smiled self-consciously. "How did everyone take the news? Did Dad tell you all together? And what about Grandma? What did she think?"

"Grandma found out before anyone else," Gordon replied. "It sounds like she drew the short straw for taking coffees in to you and Dad. He had to tell her what was going on or she'd have never let him out of the office. Scott found out after breakfast the next morning after he took Dad to task about his…well…I suppose he was challenging Dad's whole attitude and persona from the day before. Dad told him what was going on and between them they told Virgil, Brains and myself. They didn't really explain themselves very well but I worked out what they were saying and I think Brains did as well. Virg though, he'd been busy thinking about…um…other things and he got his head in a right knot. He assumed the baby was Scott's and got uppity because Scott hadn't said anything to him before speaking to Dad. Scott sort of beat him up for suggesting it and then Virg knocked Scott over; Scott got up again, got Virg back up off the floor and then everything was fine."

A look of confusion passed across Alan's face and he shook his head. "Weird." He huffed quietly and looked at the floor. "The…um…'other thing' that Virgil was busy thinking about. That wouldn't be anything to do with a broken plane, would it? One that someone may have inadvertently knocked from the sky in the middle of the other night?"

Gordon raised an eyebrow at his brother. "You're not supposed to know about that. John told everyone to keep schtum about it so you didn't get even more upset than you already were." Gordon paused and then shrugged. "But seeing as how you already know about it; yeah, that's what Virg was thinking about. A little broken plane that someone whose mind was flying with his body along for the ride may have, however inadvertently, crashed."

Alan nodded. "I thought as much. It looked…um…close. On the CCTV, it looked very…close."

Gordon shuddered. "It scared the living crap out of me," he replied. "…I can tell you that for free. One minute I was flying along, minding my own business and having a nice little chat with Tracy 2. The next minute there was fire and brimstone raining down on me and the devil was trying to take me for his own. I kind of managed to land her but Virg had to drag her off the beach using Two and a couple of elevator cars 'cos the undercarriage didn't really survive. Dad took it surprisingly well though and didn't even yell. I was expecting to get a right roasting but I got a hug instead."

Alan sighed softly and looked troubled. "He doesn't like you getting hurt and it's not like any of it was your fault. I…I don't really know what I was thinking. I just…I was upset with you 'cos you'd taken Tin-Tin away, I couldn't talk to Tin 'cos she wasn't there so the only one left who understands me at all was John. I thought he could help and he has but now I'm stuck here…"

"Your reasoning was sound," Gordon murmured. "…but it sounds like your mind was running on overdrive and you just couldn't cope. You missed a few…er…vital points about leaving with Three and T2 paid the price. You didn't hurt me, Alan. You scared me and nigh on gave me a heart attack right there on the beach but you didn't actually hurt me. I'm no worse off than I was this time last week and I'm still here to tell the tale. Okay?"

Alan nodded slowly and gave Gordon a sheepish grin. "I am sorry though. However out of it I was, I still should have checked there wasn't anything nearby. Not that I'd ever expect to hit anything but in case there was anything out there that could have seen me."

Gordon shuffled forwards in his chair and looked thoughtful. "Maybe, once everything's calmed down and you're back home again, maybe you could suggest to Brains that he might want to create some sort of warning system for Three. Some big glowy light or some sort of alarm that says something like 'Object visible on sensors. Please advise.' It might not stop you taking her in the long run but it might just make you stop and think for a moment before you do anything…um….rash."

"Maybe," Alan sighed softly. "…but that'd kind of be saying that everyone'd be expecting me to go off and do something stupid again. All I want to do is be with Tin, Gords, it's not that complicated. If Dad hadn't tried to keep us apart then it would never have happened and if people stop trying to keep us apart then it won't happen again." Alan paused and then shrugged. "That doesn't sound right but you know what I'm trying to say. Hey, do you want to see the baby? Tin sent me a picture."

Gordon startled slightly at the sudden change in direction of the conversation but nodded anyway. "Uh, sure. Let me put you back on my watch…" Gordon lifted his arm and grinned at Alan. "Okay, you're back to being little again. Send the picture to Four so I can see it properly."

The screen on Gordon's watch went blank for a couple of seconds while Alan retrieved the picture and transmitted it down to Thunderbird 4, he then reconnected himself to Gordon who smiled broadly. "You made that, Al. That's way cool. You've gotta let me take him swimming when he's still tiny. Everyone's always said that babies can swim right from day one but I've never had the chance to see it for myself. I'll take good care of him. Honest I will."

Alan chuckled loudly. "I'm sure you will. You'll have to check with Tin-Tin but if she says it's okay then it's fine by me. He'll have to learn to swim if he's going to be safe on the island and if he's got to learn then he may as well be taught by the best. I can't imagine there's many babies with an Olympic champion as their own personal trainer."

"And he'll be trained in a proper, Olympic-sized pool." Gordon nodded proudly. "He'll be the best swimming baby around. Aw, man, it'll be awesome."

Alan chuckled again. "He won't be here for a while yet so don't get yourself too excited. He does look kind of cool though, doesn't he? I'm calling him Peanut for now, by the way. I was going to ask Tin if he had a proper name but I got side tracked with wanting to call you and forgot to ask her. John said that Peanut's okay for now but that we need to change it before he starts college or he'll get picked on."

Gordon looked at his brother as he tried to work out if Alan was being serious. "I don't know, it might be seen as trendy in the 2080's. Peanut Tracy. It's got quite a ring to it, don't you think?"

"No, I don't," Alan laughed. "…but it'll do for now until Tin-Tin tells me otherwise."

Gordon smiled. "What if she picks something weird? Or something you don't like?"

"I don't know," Alan shrugged. "I guess I'd have to say something but as long as it's nothing too…um…peculiar then I'll probably just let her run with it. It's not like I ever had any names picked out anyway. That's a girl thing, isn't it?"

"Kind of, I suppose." Gordon cocked his head to one side. "I always liked the name Abalone though. I always thought that if I ever had a daughter that I might like to call her that. It's…" He stopped and winced, "…pretty."

Alan let out a quiet chuff of laughter. "I like it. It's nautical and very 'you'." Alan paused for a moment, blinked hard and then yawned widely. "Ugh, sorry, Gords. It's been a…um…strange couple of days. I want to clear the air with Dad before I go to bed so I'm going to have to disappear in a minute."

Gordon nodded. "I understand but before you speak to him you need to know that Dad's quiet and not quite himself at the moment. He's mostly okay but he seems…um…tired, somehow; like he's got too much on his mind and the overload's making him work slightly slower than normal. Just try…try not to throw too much at him at once. I know he can usually take anything, anyone can chuck at him but I don't think he'll cope if he gets much more lumped on him at the moment."

Alan looked thoughtful. "I guess most of that is down to me. I know he wants to speak to me, he tried to apologise the other evening but I couldn't face him at the time. I didn't know what to say, how to act…what to do. I didn't want another confrontation then and I still don't want one now but I need to clear the air with him. I need there not to be this…black cloud hanging over us. I…I just want my Dad back." Alan quickly scrubbed away the tears that were making his eyes prickle. "Sorry. I just…I really want a hug right about now."

"Aw, hey, don't," Gordon murmured. "Not when you're so far away and I can't do anything to help. Call Dad, have a good old heart to heart, get everything squared up between the pair of you and then go and raid Johnny's sweet drawer. If he gets mad tell him I'll treat him the next time he's down here. I probably owe him already and a few more candy bars won't make a huge amount of difference."

"Heart to hearts and candy," Alan grumbled softly. "You make me sound like a girl. I…um…do you reckon I should send Dad the scan before I call him? To break the ice and kind of warn him that I might be about to call? I don't want to upset him but I need to speak to him."

Gordon gave his brother a sad smile. "I know you do and yes, I think sending him the scan would be an excellent ice-breaker. The little guy is Dad's first grandchild and no matter how scared and screwed up he is at the moment, Dad's going to love him. The scan'll give you a way into what's bound to be an awkward conversation and as long as you stay calm then Dad should too. I'll head upstairs in a minute so I'll be nearby if you need me. Okay?"

Alan rubbed the base of his hands across both eyes, sniffed and then nodded. "Okay…and thanks. Thanks for the chat, for not judging me and for…just being yourself."

Gordon inclined his head towards his watch and sighed softly. "You're my only little brother and I miss you. Go and call Dad, stay calm, stay safe and…come home soon."

Gordon waited a couple of seconds for Alan to bid him a quiet 'goodnight' and then shut down the connection on his watch. He sat in silence for several minutes, staring at the screen showing Tin-Tin's ultrasound scan and then smiled. "You've upset the balance of the entire island and you're not even here yet. Dude, you are going to be awesome."

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