Stay professional. Written from Gordon's POV. 

Author's Notes
Spoilers and setting: Pretty considerable for ĎTerror in New York Cityí; itís actually set during this particular episode.

This is my first Thunderbirds fanfiction for nearly two years. Life had a few things in mind for me Ė good and bad Ė and so my ability to write fanfiction in general was somewhat put on holdÖ until now. I got the idea for this one at University (in a lecture, I think) and wrote it before Christmas; however, it is unbetaíd and I will gladly welcome honest feedback because I like to know my strengths and weaknesses in the world of writing. I am considering a sequel, but that's up to the readers.

I canít believe I actually agreed to this.

Standing inside the cabin of a vessel that my brothers and I once admired greatly, I nearly laugh at the irony Ė the sick, twisting irony of it all Ė that the only way to get on here was because of a casualty that this thing itself caused. But I then glance at the man who nearly damaged my family Ė our family Ė and the bitter laugh dies in my throat.

A week ago, my brothers and I would have given anything to ride in the USN Sentinel; the Ďship of greased lighteningí as Alan quipped recently. Everything we heard about it Ė via the tabloids, the news and various radio transmissions that John played over the intercom from Thunderbird 5 for our personal listening-pleasure Ė made us drool with delight, to discuss it as the hot topic and I swear we were all two minutes away from pleading with Dad to ring the Navy and bribe them into letting us ride on the vessel during its next fleet-exercise.

But since then, the high opinion of this vessel has very much sobered in our household; none of us are really that impressed by it anymore. And Iíve got to say, it feels rather unfair that Iíve been pushed into this because this is the very last place Ė on earth, sky and sea Ė that I want to be. To me, this ship is now a danger to anyone and anything with a pulse and a memory Ė or maybe itís the man in charge I have to be afraid of, the Commander of the Sentinel.

After all, this is the man who, just a few days ago, nearly killed my brother.

Of course, itís not supposed to sound like that if you apply it to the terms of the Navy Ė and I should know this, having been a member of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol myself Ė but when you break it down, tear away the layers of security, of necessary sacrifice, of professionalism, that is exactly what this precise situation is.

Of course, I guess the Commander doesnít see it like that Ė or maybe he does, itís kind of hard to tell. The brisk handshake and brief conversation he offered when I came aboard on Thunderbird Four an hour or so ago didnít offer much personal information about the guy himself, just the outward necessities of being a Commander. I never took much time to dedicate myself to character code reading but I canít help but wonderÖ is there any sense of guilt beneath that obviously toffee-hard-have-to-use-a-hammer-to-break-it exterior? (Great, now on top of everything else, I have a craving for some of Grandmaís toffee).

It drives me crazy, ruminating like this but at the same time, I canít help myself, you know? Especially when thereís not much else to do except sit and twiddle my thumbs while waiting to get to New York. A bad excuse, I know Ė but I honestly donít think I can stop thinking; thatís a paradox if ever I heard one.

ÖAnd to think I used to tease Virgil and John for being such pensive fellows.

Itís justÖ from where Iím standing, this Commander fellow seems to think that the terror he put Virgil through was just an error of judgement, a simple mistake in attempting to protect civilisation as of course he is supposed to do. I guess I should know, because thatís my job as well.

And I know if Dad found out what I was thinking right now, Iíd get a lecture on the very meaning of professionalism: ĎYou have two lives to save, Gordon! What matters now is getting to New York with your body and mind focused on the job in hand! You canít think about anything else at such a critical time, not when youíre a member of International Rescue who is on duty!

And I know that. But the problem is that I never even realised how hard this would be until I met the Commander face-to-face. Then things became a little bit more complicated than they already were and still are. After all, has Dad ever been in such close quarters with the would-be murderer of a family-member?

Thing is, when I change into my uniform, I change in myself. Suddenly, Iím not the fourth Tracy brother, the second-youngest, the troublemaker, the boy who splashed in the bath with a vengeance, the man who puts a private message in a bottle and throws it into the sea once a year on the anniversary of my Mumís death. Iím flipping over, Iím turning 180 degrees, Iím taking off the glasses to transform into the red and blue tights and capeÖ and yeah, I guess you get the idea. Basically, I transform into another part of me.

Itís the same with my brothers; theyíre still the same people, obviously and so am I but when weíre on a mission, we become colleagues, not brothers. We become caught in a bubble of the most peculiar nature, where potential danger lurks around every corner, where particular strengths must be used and certain weaknesses must be conquered. The closest we can come to being brothers again is to tell each other to be careful; you canít relax, you canít reminisce about childhood, you canít laugh when faced with a dangerous situation. You can only mask your personal feelings in order to save families just like ours and thatís alright, because we have a job to do after all and hey, weíre proud to do it. It feels a little weird sometimes but itís okay.

But when it comes down to it, itís hard Ė for someone like me, anyway Ė to shut off every single emotion because despite everything we do, arenít we just five normal guys?

What happens if one of our own ends up dying on duty? How are we supposed to react then? Virgilís ordeal earlier this week has shown me that itís not just the danger of the rescues themselves that we have to fear; itís also the unique nature of our organisation that attracts curiosity and attention, attention we donít want but canít escape. Virgilís craft was shot down because Ďit was unrecognisable as either a friend or foeí Ė or so the Commander said when we conversed before Ė and I immediately spotted the key problem with that sentence and it stayed with me and I couldnít shake it off. I still canít. It stood out in my mind like a full-beam headlight in the dark night, like a green rabbit in a colony of brown, like a giant turtle among a family of small tortoises.

After all, I might not be the smartest guy around, but the last time I checked, Virgil was a ďheĒ and most definitely not an ďit.Ē I wonder if the Commander would still stand by what he said if he could see for himself the state of Thunderbird Two Ė and see Dadís horrified face Ė as it crash-landed on the island, narrowly missing the sea.

I wonder now if the Commander was taking a moment to subtly apologise and justify his actions at the same time Ė actually, I know he was because Iíve seen his type before in WASP. But I never really let the senior members with the firm tones and lack of emotion get to me before. Iím curious as to whether this guy even has a brother, or maybe even a sister, a family to call his own.

Of course, maybe Iím just being dramatic. In fact, itís obvious that thatís all Iím really being and I know that Virgil would be furious with me for letting such an attitude get in the way of where my attention should really be focused: saving a life. This was, after all, his idea and I cringe as I consider the look on his face if he knew what I was thinking. He hasnít spoken much to me about his brush with death, but I saw it with my own eyes. I saw Thunderbird Two burning. Tin-Tin, Dad, Alan, Scott and I Ė we all experienced one feeling, that question in our minds whether or not Virgil was going to be okay.

And it feels terrible that Iím letting something like this affect me when he was the one in the hot-seat. It makes me feelÖ different. Separate. Unique, in a bad way.

Claustrophobia creeps into my system and it feels strange, unnatural and very, very alarming. Iíve gone underwater in Thunderbird 4 numerous times and I know how to handle small spaces so now this feeling of panic is scaring me.

I canít deal with it and I know I shouldnít have to in the first place. Itís my own fault I feel like this because I shouldnít have been thinking so deeply. Bearing this in mind, I turn away and look out of the cabin window, out towards the sea, watching the sun shine on the waters, taking quiet, calming breaths. I stare longingly at the shimmering surface, wishing it could be physically possible to either swim all the way to New York in the cleansing water or else to get there alone in Thunderbird Four Ė small, reliable, safe Ė rather than have to stay in here.

Thereís too many reminders of what happened to Virgil on this vessel: not just the Commander who himself gave the order to fire, but his own colleagues who stood beside him and helped him decide on elimination, the radar they used to track Virgilís innocent progress and the missiles that protrude so threateningly from their launchers, ready to shoot down the next unsuspecting victim.

I feel like Iíve wandered straight into the lionís den even before Iíve reached the danger-zone. Thatís crazy.

Suddenly itís all too much. My hands feel clammy, my legs ready to give way, my unnaturally heavy mind ready to shut down as a response to this mental anguish and in an attempt to keep calm, I keep my eyes trained on the ocean.

Relax, itíll be alright, I tell myself. Iíll be out of here before I know it. Soon Iíll back under the surface, in a place I know well and Iíll get the job done and then Iíll be able to go home to my family. And hey, I wonít be on my own; Scott will be on the radio to help me out. Itíll be okay.

The thought of being back in my good old reliable submarine comforts me for a few seconds. But then I can hear words inside my head Ė a language of rage that is silently loud Ė and with a sinking heart (pun right there, look) I realise that right now, Gordon Tracy, the International Rescue Operative and Pilot of Thunderbird FourÖ heís not all there. Something else thatís also me Ė Gordon, the brother Ė is screaming inside, crying out with words I donít think I can ignore, that Iím ashamed to admit I want to say.

Heís not just something you can shoot missiles at on the fifty-fifty chance that he might be an enemy! Heís a living, breathing human-being, full of life! Heís my BROTHER.

I have to stop this.

You absoluteÖ no matter how you try to explain with that stupid know-it-all voice of yours, that raised head like youíve done nothing wrong Ė

I have got to stop this right now.

The Commander is trying to help, I reason firmly with my inner-child. Heís trying to make up for what he did. He welcomed me aboard, brought me to the cabin, acted like he was supposed to (which is more than I can say for myself right now), told me to be so kind as to abide by the rules of the Sentinel for as long as Iím on it -

- and you have the GALL to try to tell me what to do on the very vessel that you used to try to murder my older brother! If you only knew Ė

Stop. Please. Now.

- how many tears heíd wiped away, how many reassuring smiles heíd given, how many pictures heíd painted, how many tunes he played Ė

No more.

- then would you have attacked him when heíd done nothing to you, you Ė

I rest my forehead against the window in mental agony, trying to resist the urge to keel over and throw up as a response to the pressure Iím under. But it makes me feel so weak at the same time because Iíve never been like this before, never. I want to save Ned Cook and his cameraman, sure, but I just donít want to be here. I want to get to New York now, solve the problem and then just go home. I want to go back and sit by Virgilís bedside with Scott and Alan and John and confess, to apologise for being like this and to have one of those big deep conversations that all siblings have got to have at some point or another.

Does that make me a coward?

The claustrophobia hits in fresh waves and I try my hardest not to slide down the wall. My head is just aching from all this thinking and I canít help but feel that the weight of a hundred-and-one hard, stone-cold apple-pies have settled on my shoulders. Being on this vessel really isnít ideal for a variety of reasons: I feel tense from all the waiting, wishing I could just be in New York right this minute, if not sooner. Thereís also a certain chill in the air and it brings a cold ache to my stomach thatís worsened by short bouts of sleep.

ĎExcuse me, sir?í the Commanderís voice, brisk as ever, cuts into my thoughts and I turn, slightly startled, to stare into his cold eyes (Am I scowling at him? His pupils shift away for a second before coming back to rest on mine).

ĎAre you still with us?í

I stare at him, at his impassive, stony face and allow myself a few seconds to think.

Ė Killer.

I could run at him, screaming all these things Ė all the things that my inner-self is imploring me to say. I could beat him with my fists, just to hurt, just to inflict as much physical pain as possible, like when I was ten and facing up to school-bullies, hat falling down, my hair ruffling, revealing myself as the angry young boy whom even now I canít fully suppress.

And then Iíll promptly get myself chucked Ė perhaps quite literally Ė off this vessel of doom and so Ned and Joe will be left to their watery fate with no-one to save them because this is the only way I can help, the only way that they can be helped. Itís a cruel twist of fate but it all comes back to the same thing and I just canít keep thinking like this over and over again.

So I nod back in response to the Commanderís question.

ĎYeah. Yeah, I am.í

The Commander gives a quick nod and turns away, seemingly unaware of my inner-anguish. I close my eyes briefly, feeling an odd combination of emotions Ė relief and triumph that I didnít give in and just do it and yet a sense of disappointment. After all, canít the Commander ask a few more questions other than a brief enquiry about Virgil's welfare?

But I know he canít because he has a job to do and I canít either because at the end of the day, so do I.

So I ignore the hurt face of the boy in my mind and focus on the controlled face of the man, me, whom now on which everyone and everything is depending. And if I let myself goÖ I donít know how much damage Iíll do: to myself, to the Commander and most significantly, to Ned and Joe. Theyíre the important ones in this equation and I canít let them down. After all, worrying never got anyone anywhere and it certainly wonít help me, let alone those Iím doing this for. Iíve got to get myself back together, to be emotionally fit for my role in this rescue and not waste my time sitting in corners plotting idiotic, pointless attacks on senior members of the Navy Ė even if they have hurt my brother.

I shrug my shoulders and swallow hard in a physical attempt to pull myself together. I wonít fail, I wonít let them down Ė I swear. As if to confirm this to myself I glance up and offer a tight smile to match that of the Commanderís as he takes another look at me and then orders a colleague to bring me a cup of coffee.

ĎNow youíre talking my language,í I accept the offer of what could just be the necessary olive-branch for the sake of everyone involved because really, thereís nothing else I can do now except to save the people who need to be saved. And if I let these personal feelings overwhelm me, then thatís it for Ned and Joe.

After all, what else can I do now, except wait to commit to my own, crucial role in the rescue-plan? Itís like Dad says and has always said, to me, to Scott, to Virgil, to Alan and to John:

Stay professional.

And right now, thatís all I need to save a life.

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