Scott had started it. Scott always does.
Somewhere around third grade, at just about the point that people had begun to notice Gordon for good or for ill, Scott had dragged him off to some flooded old mine basin somewhere, chucked his spindley little body straight in and said,
“C’mon then, fish kid. Show me what you got.”
It’s a weird memory. Most of Gordon’s are, really, when you think about it. He recalls the instant of terror as he’d hung in midair, the delighted howls of the gang of teenagers smoking at the water’s edge, the immediate, glorious peace of entry and the icy, violent cold.
He remembers the scrapes left on his knees after a pale-faced Scott had dragged him out over the sharp rocks, and how he’d held him, all dripping and shivery, by the wrist as their mother’s car had screeched to a dusty halt, the teenagers bolting into hiding as an actual adult had thrown open the car door and screamed at Scott.
He remembers her face, puce with fury, little Alan tucked tight to her hip with his thumb in his mouth and --
Mainly, he remembers how much he’d liked that. Something for himself, something all his own, and bestowed on him from on high by the biggest of big brothers -- wow. It’d had been seriously -- wow.
He just -- he’d kinda hoped he might grow up to be something a bit cooler than a minnow , that’s all.
Four creaks and shudders around him, the pressure out here far, far more intense than anywhere but the very deepest depths she’s designed to take, and his fingers twitch to seize back control of her, to swim , but he can’t, and she can’t, and he reckons --
“Gordon? Are you listening?”
It doesn’t matter what he reckons.
“Yeah, yeah I’m here,” he says, as though he could be anywhere else, “what’s the ETA on the big ol’ tuna fish anyway?”
Virgil scoffs, loud enough that Gordon can only imagine he’s got his face practically pressed up against the comm. “Tuna fish? We’re working with sharks here, Gordon.”
Four sways, swinging like a pendulum as Alan struggles to hold steady against a planet that wants to drag them both down. Whirlpools of thick, gaseous clouds swirl beneath Gordon’s feet, above his head.
“Sharks are our friends,” he grumbles, stomach protesting his last meal as Alan swears violently over the secondary comm. “Sharks do not undertake dangerous and illegal space mining operations. Did you learn nothing from all those Shark Week rewatches?”
“I learned you’d never get me in one of those cages,” Virgil says, then, with a pause that sounds just like a wince. “I didn’t mean --”
“Six minutes.” Scott’s voice is harsh, sharp. A commander's voice, but Gordon wonders if perhaps there’s something of the memory of that day at the mine lingering behind the snappishness.
Scott’s thrown him in, again, although it’s Alan who’s cast the line, and this time it’s Alan who’ll have to reel him in.
No pressure, then.
“FAB, control,” Gordon says, voice as bright as he can manage through the whining of metal and the thudding pain that’s developing behind his eyes.
“FAB, control ,” Alan copies, and it’s almost mocking. Almost unkind. “I’ll be lucky if I can keep you up for six seconds!”
There’s a very good reason the comm line between the two of them is private.
“Good job I’m lucky then,” he grumbles, releasing the clasp on his helmet and pulling it off just to scrub at his aching eyes. “Not that I particularly feel it right now. I thought that rocket of yours had stabilizing thrusters?”
Alan’s voice is barely more than a hiss. “It does .”
Gordon doesn’t even bother acknowledging, instead grabbing hold of the controls for Four’s grappling arms and squinting out into the morass. The great red eye of Jupiter’s monstrous eternal storm is seething somewhere beneath him, and between him and it is a ship that absolutely should not, cannot be there. Except apparently there’s profit in the minerals thrown up by the planet’s constant temper tantrum, and absolutely nothing gets between Langstrom Fischler and profit.
Except, apparently, Gordon Tracy.
Hanging from the end of a very long high tensile fishing line.
Everybody’s gotta have a hobby. Shame this isn't his.
“Three, Two, One,” Gordon intones. “Have I mentioned I hate this yet?”
“Only fifty times.” Gordon can hear the strain in Alan’s voice as another current sends Four hurtling to port, the world outside twisting and blurring until Gordon’s forced to bite his own lip to keep from meeting last night’s travel rations in reverse.
“ orry, sorry!”
Gordon doesn’t really understand what happens next, only that there’s a huge, terrible clang of metal on metal as he’s thrown from the seat, his shoulders wrenching as he struggles to keep his grip on the controls.
“Gordon, you should have visual! ”
“Yeah, you think?!”
Four’s windows are filled with a huge, pockmarked sheet of red metal, the other ship so large and so close, so close , that Gordon can’t do much other than frantically twist his wrists and pray that the grasping arms manage to grab hold of something .
“Alan!” There’s the thud of Four attaching and a brief flicker of relief before -- Jesus, is someone screaming?
“Let go! Gordon! Thunderbird Four! Let it go!”
“Now? No way! Alan pull us up!”
He grits his teeth, feet slipping against the plexiglass as he heaves back on the controls with all his might and how big is this thing anyway?
The screaming grows louder, a horrible high pitched shriek that echoes through his pounding skull, makes his eyes water. Something else red, something viscous, drip drip drips onto the ground, brighter than the background, blurring in and out of focus as he squints at it. Important , he thinks. That’s important .
Something’s screaming, and something’s… bleeding?
“Gordon, I swear to Dad if you don’t let go this instant I’ll -- ”
And Scott, Scott’s almost screaming, but all his words are blurring into that terrible overwhelming roar. Important . Something’s important .
But Gordon -- Gordon never finds out what.