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Oh. My. Gosh. I was absolutely astounded at the number of people who reviewed my first chapter! I mean, I was only away for a few days, and I come home to find all these lovely messages in my inbox! It made me happy. Very happy indeed. Thanks for all the great comments!

Now please, read on and enjoy!


"Alan!"

The blond-haired teenager looked up from his book as he heard his name being called, the sound drifting out through the double doors to the villa, faint and far off but clear enough to understand. Glancing down at his watch, Alan sighed. It was that time of day again. Swinging his legs over the side of the sun-lounger, he marked his page in the book and set it down on the small table beside him.

"Alan!" the voice called again.

"Out here, Virge!" Alan yelled back. He looked up towards the steps as Virgil emerged from the villa, a small box in one hand.

"Hey, Sprout," the older Tracy grinned, jogging down the staircase and towards where Alan currently sat. The young teenager automatically moved further down the sun-lounger so that he sat closer to the bottom end, giving Virgil enough room to sit on his left hand side.

Virgil plopped down beside his younger brother, placing the box on his lap and opening the clasps. "Whatcha reading?" he inquired, indicating the book with a nod of his head.

"It's a sci-fi novel that John recommended," Alan replied. "It was written years ago; when Dad was still a teenager, I think."

"Oh. It's practically an antique, then," Virgil smiled, taking out an antiseptic wipe and pushing up the sleeve of Alan's T-shirt so that he could wipe at an area of skin on his upper-arm.

"Don't let Dad hear you say that," Alan warned. "He has this new theory, you see. Since his entire generation have life a life expectancy of one-hundred years and over, he says that he's technically not even middle-aged yet."

Virgil snorted in amusement, reaching into the box to retrieve a hypodermic needle and a small bottle of light-yellow liquid. "Dad's never gonna admit to being old, Sprout. Not even when his hair's as white as snow and he's leaning on a knarled stick."

Alan smiled and shook his head. "You have a warped view of elderly folk, Virge."

The older Tracy chuckled, ripping turning the bottle upside down and giving it a light shake. Alan sighed and drummed his fingers against his knees, trying to distract himself as his eyes drifting over to where Gordon and Scott were playing in the pool. Gordon seemed to be intent upon drowning his eldest brother and was at present trying to avoid being strangled by a rather angry and irate ex-Air Force pilot. Scott dunked Gordon under the water forcefully, before glancing up and ctaching Alan's gaze. He smiled, swimming over to the edge of the pool.

"Hey Sprout," he said cheerfully. "You wanna join us?"

Then he noticed the syringe - the one Virgil was now filling with the light-yellow liquid - and frowned worriedly. "You feeling okay?"

"They're just my antibiotics, Scott," Alan assured him. "Although why I can't take pills like normal people, I don't know."

Virgil didn't even look up from his work as he replied, "Because this is an antibiotic cocktail, kiddo. You'd need to take at least seven different kinds of medication by mouth if you weren't having these shots. And besides, you'd need to take those twice a day, whereas you only need one shot every morning."

"Yeah, 'only'," Alan grumbled, although there was no real anger in his voice. "Personally, I think you just enjoy jabbing me with needles."

"Obviously." Virgil placed the small bottle back in the box and turned so that he faced his younger brother. "Now hold still."

"You know," Alan began lightly, as Virgil inched closer, "I'm tempted to wave my arms about just to see what happens."

Virgil paused, the needle centimetres away from Alan's arm. "Don't," he said firmly. "Unless you want me to sit on you while I give you the shot?"

Alan grinned and shook his head. "Nah, I think I can manage to stay still long enough. Although I can't make any promises."

Virgil frowned at him warningly, taking a light hold of his arm just in case, and carefully inserted the needle into the skin. Pushing down on the depressor, he injected the dose of antibiotics into Alan's body, before swiftly pulling the needle out and covering the tiny puncture wound with a cotton-wool ball. Taking Alan's hand, he pushed it over the white ball so that the teenager could hold it in place.

"Okay, all done," he said cheerfully, putting the cap back on the needle and dropping it into the box. He looked at Alan closely. "You alright?"

"No. Call Childline, I'm traumatized for life," Alan stated sarcastically, smiling and giving the older man a light shove. "Now stop being such a mother-hen and go worry over Gordon."

Virgil frowned questioningly. "Why do I need to worry over Gordon?"

"Because," Alan replied casually, reaching over to pick up his book, "he just bashed his head on the rail."

Both Scott and Virgil swiveled around to look at the copper-haired Tracy, who was clutching at the side of his head and grimacing slightly. When he noticed his brothers' eyes upon him, he quickly lowered his hand.

"I'm fine, it's nothing," he said hurriedly. But it was already too late.

Alan smiled to himself as his older brothers began fussing over his partner in crime. He knew Gordon would seek his revenge later on, but tha wouldn't be so bad. Anything to get back into the normal flow of things. Gordon had been so darn careful around him lately, as though Alan were made of glass and would break at any moment. It was driving him crazy. Maybe this would persuade his older brother into fighting back.

Scooting back up the sun-lounger, the young teenager swung his legs back onto it again and opened his book where he had marked the page, sighing in content as the sound of splashing could be heard from the pool. There was a yell, then a particularly loud splash as Virgil was clearly yanked into the pool by his struggling copper-haired sibling. Alan chuckled to himself and shook his head, returning his attention to the page before him. He was about to begin reading again, when he noticed that his watch was flashing. Sitting up quickly, he dropped the book onto the table beside him.

"Guys!" he yelled, trying to be heard over the loud ruckus his brothers were making. They quietened down slightly and turned to look at him. He held up his arm and pointed to his watch. "John's calling. Dad's gone down to the hanger to meet Tom, so one of us is gonna have to answer it."

Scott glanced down at his own watch, brushing the water out of his eyes. "I'll get it," he said, swimming towards the edge of the pool and heaving himself out. He grabbed a towel to dry himself off, before jogging up the steps towards the house.

"I'd get dressed first, Scott!" Virgil called, looking up from where he had been studying the small bump on Gordon's head. "You know how much Dad hates it when we get water on the Dicouche leather!"

Scott nodded in agreement, before turning around and running through the doors, disappearing from sight. Alan frowned slightly, wondering what it was that John was calling about. It couldn't be a rescue call, since there was a specific type of signal that John sent on such an occasion. Nor was it an emergency signal, as that would've set off an alarm on Tracy Island. No, perhaps John was merely calling to check on the family. He had done that an awful lot in the past three weeks, usually to inquire as to how Alan was feeling. And, although Alan appreciated the fact that his brothers cared about him deeply and were merely concerned for his welfare, it was becoming slightly annoying.

The problem was that, physically, he felt perfectly fine. In fact, if it weren't for the daily doses of antibiotics, Alan wouldn't have known that he had ever been sick. He had gained back all the weight that he had lost during the first week of his illness, and all of his symptoms had vanished, other than the occasional headache. But still Virgil and Scott refused to leave him alone. Even worse, he still wasn't officially 'on-duty' as a member of International Rescue. Although there hadn't actually been a rescue call since before his illness, it still annoyed Alan that he wasn't part of the team. A call could come in a at any time, and he wouldn't be allowed to join his brothers on the mission.

Sometimes, he mused, life really sucked.

Sighing, Alan picked up his book and tried to forget about the injustice of the situation. His continuous complaints and desperate attempts to persuade his older brothers into leaving him alone had failed, so there was really nothing else he could do at present. The only option he had left was to wait. And to hope that Thomas Palmar would be able to persuade his family that he was well enough to take part in rescue missions once more.

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Jeff stepped out of the elevator and into the aircraft hanger, smiling as the small private jet slowed to a halt on the other side of the room. After a few moments, the jet engines shut down and a short silence fell over the hanger, before there was a loud 'clang'as the hatch door was pushed open. Jeff's face split into a huge grin as he saw his old friend swiftly descend the steps, his feet 'thunking' on the hard metal slabs.

"Hey, Jeff! Long time, no see, huh?" Thomas Palmar called, walking quickly towards where the Tracy patriarch was standing beside the elevator doors.

"Tom! Good to see you!" Jeff smiled, pulling his friend into a firm embrace and clapping him on the back. "For a while, I thought you weren't gonna make it."

Thomas snorted in amusement as he and Jeff headed back over to the jet to collect Thomas' luggage. "Jeff, you make it sound like I was dying," he chuckled, opening the luggage hold and climbing up inside. "And, however much I despise paperwork, the effect it has on me isn't that dire."

"Really?" Jeff asked mildly. "You do surprise me."

Thomas frowned and threw a duffel bag at him. "I don't know why I put up with you," he grumbled. "All I ever do is help you, and what do I get? That darn sarcastic Tracy voice, that's what."

Jeff dropped the bag at his feet and reached up to take the case from Thomas' hands. "What 'sarcastic Tracy voice'?" he inquired, feigning innocence. "I'm never sarcastic."

"Oh no," the doctor replied, adopting as much of a sarcastic tone as was possible. "Not at all, Jeff. Why, you probably wouldn't know sarcasm even if it hit you in the face."

"Glad we agree on something," Jeff stated calmly. Then his lip twitched and he looked up, catching Thomas' eye, and both men chuckled together. Thomas jumped down from the hatch, a large med-kit slung over his shoulder, and shook his head.

"Oh, it's good to be back, Jeff," he sighed.

"Well, feel free to stay as long as you like. A week, a month, a couple of years," Jeff offered breezily, adjusting the strap of the bag over his shoulder as they walked back across the hanger. "I think Scott's managed to persuade Andy into taking some time off work so that he can spend a few days over here. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to see you again."

Thomas nodded in agreement as he and Jeff stepped into the elevator. "I haven't seen him since - well - not since Spring break, I guess," he admitted. "He had to go back to the airbase, and I was yanked off to plan the frontier programme in Peru. Speaking of which, did you get a chance to see those reports I sent you? Their industrial lines are really booming, Jeff, you should try and branch out over there. I think Sharpey's already planning on building a complex on the east coast. I saw a construction sign with the company logo on my way to the airport."

The Tracy patriarch shrugged. "I'll think about it. Business expansions haven't really been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks."

Jeff pressed a sequence of buttons on the panel beside the door, and the elevator doors slid closed with a loud 'hiss'. He set Thomas' duffel bag back down on the floor and stretched his stiff shoulder muscles.

"Tom, what on earth have you got in there?" he asked incredulously. "It weighs a ton!"

"Oh, you know, the usual," the other man replied. "Books, clothes, a couple of new scanner designs I want Brains to take a look at-"

"What? C'mon, Tom," Jeff whined, sounding far younger than his actual age. "This is supposed to be a holiday. You need to relax. Can't you even refrain from working for a few days?"

Thomas raised an eyebrow at Jeff's complaining tone, picking up his case as the elevator doors slid open, revealing Jeff's spacious office. "And what are you going to do if I refuse?" he grinned. "Throw a temper tantrum? Go and sulk in one of the Thunderbird silos?"

Jeff pushed him out of the elevator, smiling, and bent down to heave the duffel bag over his shoulder once more. "You're even worse than the boys."

"Thanks," the doctor said lightly. "I do try."

"Tom!"

Both men turned towards the cry, and spotted Scott standing in the doorway to Jeff's office. The pilot grinned, striding towards the older man and allowing himself to be pulled into a crushing embrace.

"Hey, kiddo," Thomas beamed. "Good to see you."

Scott grunted. "You too, Tom," he gasped. "But - um - I kinda need to breathe here."

Thomas tightened his hold. "Breathe? Nah. Believe me, breathing is so overrated."

Jeff laughed as Scott managed to break free from the older man's strong hold, smiling and massaging his ribs. Thomas grasped his arms and looked him up and down for a long moment.

"Well," he began. "I see you've managed to keep yourself in one piece. Congratulations. And - aw, darn it...you haven't grown again, have you? That's just impossible!"

Laughing, Scott shook his head. "Nope, I stopped growing years ago," he replied. "You're just shrinking, that's all."

Before Thomas could protest this statement, Scott turned to look at his father. "Dad, John just sent us a signal from the station," he reported, all business. "I was about to answer the call when you guys stepped out of the elevator. You wanna get it?"

Jeff nodded, setting the duffel bag down on the floor of the office and stepping up to his desk. Sitting down in the chair, he pressed the button on the bottom of his vid-comm to receive the call.

"Hey, John," he called, looking over at Thomas and motioning for him to move up to the desk. As the other man came over to join him, he turned back towards the screen "Sorry about that, I was-"

He paused, frowning. The screen showed the usual view of Thunderbird 5's control room, with the numerous panels and screens in the background. However the metal chair - the one in which his second-eldest son usually sat - was empty.

"John?" he called again, wondering if perhaps the astronaut had simply left the room to fetch something whilst he was waiting for someone to answer the call. There was a slight pause, before John's voice filtered through the speakers.

"Um - hold on, Dad!" His voice sounded slightly muffled, but was clearly coming from somewhere within the control room. There was a soft 'thunk', and then an audible grunt. "M'down here. Just - just hold on a sec."

Jeff exchanged confused glances with Tom and Scott, who were standing on either side of him. They watched mutely as a hand emerged from beneath the camera on Thunderbird 5, gripping at the edge of the console. Jeff raised an eyebrow as John's other hand slammed down heavily beside it, the knuckles turning white as they clung to the plastic lip of the control-panel.

"John?" Scott called, confusion lining his voice. "What are you doing, exactly?"

One of the hands detached itself from the control panel long enough for John to hold up an index finger as a clear indication of the silent message 'one moment'. There was another grunt, followed by a series of shuffling noises, before John's blond-haired head emerged from beneath the control panel. Jeff's heart began to beat quickly within his chest.

"John, what's wrong?" he demanded worriedly. John's skin was pale, and there were visible beads of sweat upon his brow. Two spots of pink shone out on his cheekbones as he supported his upper-body against the console, utterly exhausted.

"Dad, we - we have a problem," he panted, his voice sounding weak and fatigued.

"What sort of problem?" Jeff asked, leaning forwards in concern. "What's wrong?"

John didn't reply as his face paled considerably. His lips formed a thin line as he clamped his mouth shut, taking deep steadying breaths in through his nose. Jeff felt Scott inch closer to his side.

"John, you're sick," his eldest son stated. "We'll send Gordon up to relieve you."

John shook his head firmly, his face strained as he struggled to his feet. "Nope. Not sick," he managed, staggering as if carrying a heavy weight, and nearly toppling over again. Jeff's heartbeat increased it's tempo, and his chest tightened in parental concern for his second-eldest.

"John, take it easy," he instructed gently. "You're obviously unwell. Don't worry, Son, we'll have Three docked with you in just over an hour."

John shook his head again, regaining some of his colour. "You guys aren't listening to me!" he exclaimed in frustration. "I'm not sick, darn it! It's just that-"

Suddenly, the lights behind John dimmed, and the gentle thrum of engines seemed to drop down a tone. Before Jeff could work out what was going on, John's eyes widened in disbelief and horror.

"No! No, no, no, no!" he groaned, grabbing onto the back of his chair as his legs began to rise off the ground.

"What's happening?" Jeff asked worriedly, watching as John struggled to keep himself in view of the camera.

"What's happening?!" John repeated sarcastically. "I would've thought that was rather obvious, Dad! The darn gravity's fluctuating! It's been doing this for nearly ten minutes now!"

"But - why?" Scott asked, a frown tugging at his brow. John's eyes flashed angrily.

"How am I supposed to know?" he cried. "Would you care to enlighten me, oh mighty one?! Or perhaps you could do something useful for once, and go find somebody who knows how to fix it, before I puke my guts up all over the console!"

Jeff couldn't help bit smile slightly upon seeing his second-eldest's rare but fiery temper. He could understand why John was so frustrated. Space sickness on top of gravity fluctuations was never a pleasant experience. Raising his watch to his face, Jeff dialed in Brains' code.

"Brains?"

"Y-y-yes, Mr. Tracy?"

"There's a problem on-board the station," Jeff stated. "Could you come up to the office, please?"

"On my way," Brains replied, before the line was cut. Jeff lowered his arm and turned his attention back to the screen in front of him.

"Are you sure you're not sick?" he asked gently. "You look like you have a fever."

John shook his head, detaching one hand from the back of the chair so that he could wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead. "No, the temperature controls are on the fritz," he explained, his voice slightly constricted as he fount to keep the bile down. "It's like an oven in here!"

Jeff grimaced sympathetically. "Don't worry, Son. We'll work out what's causing the malfunctions. Just sit tight."

"Sit?" John said incredulously. "And how exactly am I supposed to sit in zero-G?"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll think of something," Thomas stated, smiling slightly. John's head darted towards the doctor, who - up until now - had remained silent.

"Tom!" the blond-haired astronaut exclaimed, cheering up slightly. "Hey, Doc. When did you arrive?"

Thomas looked down at his watch. "About seven minutes ago," he replied. "It was all a conspiracy, you see. I just wanted to get your Dad away from the office so that nobody would receive your call."

"Thank you. I feel so loved," John said sarcastically. He smiled at Thomas, who grinned back as though he had just won the lottery. John shook his head. "You know, from this angle you really do look like an excited five-year-old."

Thomas pretended to look shocked. "I do not!"

He turned to Scott and Jeff for support, but they both nodded their heads in agreement, smirking. Thomas punched Jeff on the arm and pouted moodily. "Why do I even bother coming here? Nobody likes me."

Jeff snorted in amusement and shook his head. "Glad to see that a month in Peru hasn't changed you at all, Tommy-boy."

"Don't call me 'Tommy-boy'!" Thomas growled. "Unless you want us to start up that nickname phase we went through during the second rotation back in thirty-two? Because you know what sort of names I've got stored up in here just for you."

He tapped the side of his head with one finger, and Jeff blushed slightly. John's smile brightened even further.

"What sorta names?" he asked. "C'mon, Tom, tell us. You know you want to- Whoa!"

As the lights flared to full intensity, John's leg dropped to the floor with a loud 'flump', his upper body landing over the back of the metal chair. Scott, Thomas and Jeff all winced sympathetically as John grunted in pain.

"John? You okay?" Jeff ventured, after a few moments of silence.

"Mmm-hmm," came the muffled reply, as John struggled to his feet. He seemed to be having great difficulty in standing, and Jeff cocked his head to the side questioningly. Scott and Thomas also frowned at the way that John gripped onto the chair as he fought to keep his shaky legs from buckling. Looking up at the screen, John noticed their expressions and sighed.

"The gravity isn't only fluctuating in one direction," he explained. "It keeps going from one extreme to the other. According to the diagnostic I ran earlier, the gravitational force within the station is now almost double what it should be."

Thomas suddenly chuckled in amusement, and both Scott and John turned to look at him incredulously. The older man composed himself and pointed a finger to Jeff. "Your father and I once experienced something just like this. During our first six-month rotation, a random energy surge fried the secondary generator on-board the NASA space station. It took over three hours to fix, and we all had to practically crawl around until normal gravity was restored." He sighed, grinning. "That was the most fun I'd had in years."

John raised an eyebrow. "You found this fun?" he demanded. Thomas shrugged.

"Well, it was more amusing to watch your Daddy trying to climb a ladder up one of the conduits," he chuckled. "He was exhausted by the time he reached the top." Thomas began to laugh again. "And then - and then he realised that he'd forgotten to take his toolbox up with him, and he had to climb all the way back down again! Man, those were the days."

Scott tried to keep a straight face as Thomas roared with laughter, whilst Jeff turned a deep shade of pink and shot a moody glare towards his old friend. On the monitor, John sighed and shook his head, before paling significantly, his eyes going wide as he pressed a hand over his mouth. After a few deep breaths, he let his hand drop back down again, shaking his head sadly. Glancing back up towards the three men - who were watching him with great concern - he grimaced slightly and stated:

"I should never have eaten all that chocolate for breakfast."


Will Brains be able to determine what is causing these fluctuations? Will John last until help arrives? Will the problem be fixed? And how will this slight setback affect the rest of the Tracy family? Find out in the next chapter!

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