Jeff, Ruth, Scott, Virgil and Gordon were sitting at the dinner table talking when Alan's distraught call came through. Jeff had taken to carrying his personal view screen with him at all times and he immediately connected it to Alan's watch. "I'm here, Alan. Whatever's the matter? What's happened?"
"John's hurt," Alan croaked. "He…he fell and he's hurt and his shoulder's out and I can't get it back in. I need to bring him down and I need Virgil but it's dark and I'm locked out of Thunderbird 3." John mumbled something from his spot against Alan's chest and Alan shrugged. "Okay, the Thunderbird 3 issue…isn't an issue but everything else applies. We need to come down and we need to come now."
Jeff nodded. "Then come. Switch Five to automatic, put your brother into Thunderbird 3 and bring him home. Scott, I want a flight plan. Gordon, go and find Brains. Virgil…Alan, can you tell Virgil exactly what happened to John so he can get things prepared for when you arrive."
Alan hugged John tightly. "He fell. From about half way up the ladder to the astrodome. Kind of face first...or rather arm first, straight onto the floor. His face was all cut...nasty, deep cuts which I've fixed…and he's going to have one hell of a black eye. His left shoulder's totally out of its socket, his arm's swelled up and there's something crunchy…um…broken inside it. I've given him a shot of Diazepam and I made sure it had time to work but I can't…and I've tried really hard but I can't get his arm to go back in."
Virgil nodded to himself. "Al, is he awake? Can I talk to him a minute?"
Alan adjusted his grip on John and gently pushed him into a more upright position. John hissed softly at the disturbance and then smiled gratefully when Alan wrapped the space blanket back around him and then unbuckled his watch and held it securely in front of them both. "Virg. Hi."
"Hey, John," Virgil replied softly. "How are you feeling?"
John huffed softly. "Like I picked a fight with Thunderbird 5…and lost. Alan's patched me up the best he can but my shoulder's out and Al can't get it to go back in."
Virgil nodded. "I'll get it back in and I'll fix whatever you've broken in there while I'm at it. It'll be easier once you're down here but I'm a little dubious about the idea of you coming down with it out. It's going to hurt, a lot, no matter how well strapped it is and regardless of how carefully Alan flies. There's no way to stop Thunderbird 3 shuddering during re-entry so you're going to get jostled, bumped and shaken." Virgil paused and scratched his head. "If I was there I'd opt for strapping you in, knocking you out and waking you up again when it's all over."
John looked across at Alan who shook his head. "Not going to happen, Virgil. Not a chance. I'll give him some more muscle relaxant and I'll dose him up with painkillers but I will not be knocking him out. There's too much chance of something going wrong and I can't monitor him and fly Thunderbird 3 at the same time. I'm not doing it. No way."
John reached out of the blanket and patted Alan's arm. "It was only a suggestion. Something that Virgil would do if he was here. If he was here, Al, but he's not, okay? He's not here so I'll be staying awake." John peered at the watch and raised an eyebrow at Virgil. "Agreed?"
Virgil raised his own eyebrow in response. "It's up to you and no matter what you decide, I'll be waiting when you land and I'll fix you. I promise."
"Thank you." John nodded gently. "…and for future reference, Virg, if you feel the need to knock me out for medical reasons, at any point, then please feel free."
Scott walked back into the room with a laptop under his arm. "There are a couple of no-go time windows over the next few hours, Father but we're mostly clear until about 0530 when the mail plane will be in the vicinity. I've uploaded the details direct to Thunderbird 3 and they're here when you need them. How's John?"
"Better than he'll be by the time he gets down here," Virgil grumbled. "He knows he'd be better off coming down unconscious but he's going to do it awake to stop Alan feeling bad. That wasn't my imagination, was it, Father? John did agree with me?"
Jeff nodded. "He did and I got the impression he was asking you to knock him out if he's still awake when he gets back here later on. He's in pain already and knows it'll be worse after he's been through re-entry and landing. Just be prepared, Virgil…for anything."
Alan measured out a dose of painkiller, injected it into John's arm and then helped his brother to shuffle backwards so he could lean against the wall. "Will you be alright here while I go and automate everything?" he asked softly. "I'll be as quick as I can then we can go home and Virg can fix you up. Okay?"
John nodded tiredly and one-handedly pulled at the space blanket. "Help me with this before you go. I've got coffee soaked into my pants and I'm getting chilly."
Alan wrapped the blanket around his brother and gave him a gentle hug. "I'll be as quick as I can. Just sit there and don't try to move."
Alan hurried around Thunderbird 5, shutting down the non-essential systems and diverting the incoming feeds down to Brains' lab on Tracy Island. He paid a brief trip to the bedrooms to collect John's computer, threw the dirty washing into a bag and then, as an afterthought pulled the blanket from John's bed, carried it with him and dumped it with everything else he'd gathered at the air lock.
Once he was sure he had everything together Alan punched John's code into the airlock and breathed a sigh of relief when it whirred into life. "Don't worry," he murmured as he stepped aboard Thunderbird 3. "I'm not stealing you today. This is a mercy mission for a wounded spaceman and I'd like as smooth a journey as possible please." He smiled to himself as he carried everything further into the ship and stowed it all safely away.
"Hey. Are you awake?" Alan squatted in front of his brother and gently tapped his face. "Come on, John, it's time to go home."
John slowly opened his eyes and looked around. "You done?"
"Everything's either switched over, off or onto automatic," Alan replied. "Apart from this corridor, the elevator and the run down to the air lock. I grabbed your computer, your personal bag and your shaving kit and I've packed them all in Three. Anything I've missed will have to wait until one of us comes back up here." He fished a sling out of the first aid kit and held it up where John could easily see it. "I need to put this on you. I reckon it's going to hurt but hopefully not as much as it would have done before I gave you that last shot."
John rolled his eyes at his brother. "Thanks…I think."
Alan wrapped the sling around John's arm and secured it above his good shoulder. John hissed at him and grumbled a little but generally remained quiet and placid. Alan helped him to his feet and walked him a short way down the corridor where he propped him against the wall, facing back the way they'd come. He then hurried back down to where John had fallen, gathered up the various first aid detritus that was strewn around the floor and quickly mopped up the worst of the coffee and broken mug. He deposited the waste in one of the disposal chutes, hooked the first aid kit over his shoulder and headed back to take John home.
Alan pressed his brother gently into the co-pilot's chair and looked dubiously at the safety harness. "This isn't going to go on right with your arm like that."
John looked down at his wounded limb. "No choice. I need the sling and I need the straps. Just…" He paused and swallowed hard. "…just do it."
Alan nodded and carefully strapped John into the seat with his arm held tightly beneath the straps. He whispered a quiet apology for jostling him and then tucked the blanket from his bed around him. "I know it's not cold but you said you were damp and I thought it might make the journey a little more comfortable."
John sighed softly and settled against the back of the seat. "Thank you. For the blanket and everything else you've done today. I'm glad you were here, Al. I mean that. Really I do."
Alan nodded gently. "Me too. I'd rather you hadn't got hurt in the first place and I'm sorry I couldn't fix your shoulder but I'm glad I was here to at least try and help. Now, shall we go home?"
John gritted his teeth as Alan powered up Thunderbird 3's engines and disengaged from Thunderbird 5. Alan then angled the rocket away from the space station and pulled smoothly away.
John seemed to be coping well at first and Alan was just beginning to think that Virgil's misgivings about the journey were unfounded when Thunderbird 3 entered the upper atmosphere.
John let out a groan as he felt his seat tremble. Brains had designed the huge red rocket to be as comfortable and stable as possible but turbulence during re-entry was inevitable. Alan and John had long since given up worrying about any shuddering or vibration felt upon re-entering the atmosphere, knowing in their hearts that the ship was as safe as it was possible to make it.
John groaned again as the shuddering increased. Alan glanced over at him with worry in his eyes. "Hang on, we'll be through the worst of it soon."
John ground his teeth together and nodded. "Can't…aaah…can't come fast enough."
Alan winced at John's obvious discomfort. "Virgil's waiting for us. Just keep remembering that. Virg is down there and he's…he's got really good drugs."
John let out a strangled chuff of laughter and clamped his eyes tightly shut. Alan turned back to the control panel and concentrated on keeping Thunderbird 3 safely on course.
John did his best to stay quiet so as not to upset Alan but the vibrations in the ship seemed to collect in his shoulder and by the time Alan swung Thunderbird 3 around to make the final approach to Tracy Island the pain was more than he could bear. Three let out an almighty great shudder when her booster rockets kicked in and John finally put voice to his pain and screamed.
Despite having part of his attention diverted by his brother suddenly passing out beside him, Alan made a picture perfect landing in Three's silo. He quickly shut everything down and then ripped off his safety harness so he could escape from his seat.
He squatted beside John and rested a finger against his neck. He let out a relieved sigh when he found a strong pulse and then dropped his head to his chest as he allowed himself a moment to calm down after the fraught landing.
Virgil rested a hand on Alan's shoulder and squeezed him gently. "Hey. Wakey wakey, Little One. Alan? You okay?"
Alan shook himself and looked up at him. "Virg. You're here…I…" Alan spotted his eldest brother standing in the doorway. "Oh, hi Scott. He made it most of the way down but the boosters kicking in for landing finished him off."
"Not unexpected," Virgil grumbled. "Shift out of the way and let me look at him." He gently nudged Alan in the direction of the door and crouched beside John. He rested a hand on John's forehead, checked his eyes, the cuts on his face and the pulse in his neck and then dug John's left hand out of both the blanket and sling and took the pulse there too.
"You did good, Alan," he announced. "He's stable, warm and secure. All in all, not a bad result."
Alan looked doubtful. "He's unconscious, his arm's not connected and when he wakes up he's still going to be in pain. He…I…can you fix him?"
"I can and I will," Virgil replied with a gentle smile at John. "…and you don't need to worry, he won't be in pain when he wakes up. I'm going to keep him out until I've fixed him and he'll be dosed up with the best stuff I have before I even think about waking him."
Scott wrapped an arm around Alan's shoulders. "Dad, Gordy and Grandma are on the gantry. Go and tell them what's going on while Virg and I get John moved. We'll head straight for the sick room, Brains is waiting for us there."
Alan looked sadly at John and nodded. "Okay. I'll guess I'll get everyone to meet you there. John doesn't need an audience while he's carried through the house."
Scott patted his shoulder and nodded. "No, he doesn't." Alan made no attempt to move so Scott nudged him. "You've done your bit here, Al. Go and find Dad and leave me and Virg to sort out the spaceman. We need to get him moved, settled and drugged before he thinks about waking up." He looked across at Virgil. "At least I assume that's the plan?"
Virgil nodded. "It is. Go on, Al, we'll look after him. I promise."
After a last look at John, Alan finally left Thunderbird 3. He wandered across to where Jeff, Gordon and Ruth were waiting and stepped into his father's outstretched arms.
Jeff hugged him tightly. "Welcome home, son. That landing was superb."
"Thank you," Alan replied softly. "…but it wasn't smooth enough for John. He's out cold and Virgil's going to keep him that way. Scott says we're to meet them in the sick room."
Jeff patted Alan's hair and sighed. "Does he really? Well Brains should have everything ready by now so I suppose it makes sense to head that way. Gordon, take Grandma's arm until we're back on solid ground. Alan, you're with me."
Ruth tutted loudly as Gordon held out his hand and bowed. "I'm perfectly capable of walking on my own, you know?"
Gordon feigned hurt and held his hand out again. "Do you want me to fall and hurt myself? I fell out of the sky last week, Grandma and if I can do that I can certainly fall off this rickety old tin shelf here."
"A likely story." Ruth rolled her eyes at him. "For pity's sake, Gordon, give me your hand or we're going to be standing here forever."
Gordon hooked his arm through his grandmother's and looked back to wink at Jeff who had his arm around Alan's shoulders.
Jeff winked back with a twinkle in his eye. He had all his boys back in one place. One, slightly damaged and worse for wear but all on the island none-the-less. All he needed now was to get the Kyranos back where they belonged and everything would be right again…for a while at least.