Brains deflated as he looked at the readings on his monitor. He loved the Tracy boys and maintaining the machines he’d designed was still one of his favourite things to do, but he was only one man. There was some serious electrical damage to Thunderbird Two, Thunderbird One’s engine needed to be checked over just in case the sprites or low oxygen levels had damaged the metal, and then there was the inevitable damage Thunderbird Five had taken. Thunderbird Two would have to be done first as it required most frequently. Brains was always a little on edge when Thunderbird Two was out of action, jumping at every emergency call and hoping the specialised equipment only Two could carry wasn’t needed. Thunderbird One wasn’t the highest priority as he knew there was likely to be very little, if any, damage, but Scott seemed to push her limits more often than Brains liked. A quick check, hopefully before the next rescue, would just settle Brains’ nerves and let him sleep peacefully. Thunderbird Five was the one that worried Brains the most. Although not required directly for rescues, it contained and sustained John Tracy. Space was a dangerous place and John had just pushed the space station beyond her intended purpose. There could be so much unseen and subtle damage that only a good inspection would pick up. He would send a request to Scott to call John down for safety reasons, though they might have to send Alan up to retrieve him. Brains’ didn’t want to risk the space elevator until he had thoroughly checked it. Today it had been tested beyond its design and unlike Langstom Fischler, he cared for safety.
Pulling up the Thunderbirds flight plans and locations, Brains noted both were on their way home. Scott had managed to catch up and overtake Virgil and was due to get home much sooner. With Thunderbird Two’s front landing struts down and all controls being directed through the helipod, there was no way to get the rear two down. Thunderbird Two couldn’t land without snapping the struts. Brains could tell that Gordon was struggling to fly Two with the Pods controls, the erratic path the craft was taking being all the evidence Brains needed, but that also meant it would be even harder for him to land. Wracking his brain, a solution came to mind. Pulling up the island's controls, he set the automated trolley to pull the modules out of storage so that Module Two was in the centre of the vast cavern. A tap on his comm and Scott was floating before him.
“I’m almost home, Brains.”
“I know. I need you to meet Alan at Module Two when you land. Gordon is in need of s-some assistance.”
A quick motion with his hand, as the low rumble of the swimming pool retracting filled the room, and Scott was replaced with Alan.
“Alan. I need you to head down to Module Two and prepare two elevator cars.”
Alan vanished in a flurry of movement and Brains moved to focus on some calculations before relaying the plans to Gordon, and subsequently Virgil, who was currently trapped in the cockpit.
Scott jogged up to Module Two and headed inside. Alan waved happily from the seat of an elevator car and it didn’t take much thought to know the second one was for him. Alan’s grin contained a hint of mischief, setting off some brotherly alarm bells. Looking up at his car, he shook his head before climbing in. Of course Alan would be in the Master car! Once settled, a glance at his still grinning brother caused a smile to cross his own face. He wouldn’t begrudge Alan his moment today. Scott revved the engine, letting Alan take the lead as they headed out to the runway. It appeared that Alan was following the same instructions as he was, and drove the pod to the coordinates displayed on the dashboard. Here they waited, though Scott made a quick call to the GDF to give them a heads up about the report he was going to be submitting, including a complaint against Fischler Industries. He’d been happy to hear that they were already in the process of revoking his space operations permit. The sound of Thunderbird Two approaching caused Scott to end the call and turn his eyes to the sky.
Thunderbird Two came into view, her movements looking more like that of a pod that a thunderbird. Sudden worry for his brothers rose from his stomach. He hadn’t realised how badly affected Two had been. He knew that Gordon was flying her from the helipod, making her virtually useless in a rescue setting, but he hadn’t realised how hard it would be to keep her straight. The fact that they had made it home was a relief. It also explained Brains’ plan. The elevator cars were going to become her new landing struts, just as they had tried to do for the Fireflash. At least this time Gordon could come in slowly, though it would still take some teamwork to land Thunderbird Two. Brians and Gordon both popped up before him, though surprisingly it was Brains who spoke first.
"Okay, I'm going to instruct Gordon down. Scott, Alan, you two need to be ready to move, but keep the cars in a low gear."
"FAB." Scott replied, noting Alan had spoken the same phrase a second behind him.
"Okay, guys, this is not going to be the most graceful landing. You better do your best to not scratch her though, Virgil with a broken Two is bad enough."
"Let me worry about Virgil, you just concentrate on not snapping those struts."
Gordon gave Scott a grateful nod, before Brains took over, directing everyone. Gordon got a little frustrated towards the end but he visually deflated once Thunderbird Two was safely down. Scott had been required to move forward a little along with Alan, and the bounce and whump of Thunderbird Two hitting them had been a little unnerving, but the cars held and all was okay. Putting his car into park, he climbed out and waited for Virgil to manually override the underside hatch. A rather relieved Virgil stood on the runway before turning to look at the green behemoth above them with a sigh.
"It's not that bad, Virgil." Gordon cheered, obviously not worried about retaliation. "It's nothing you and Brains can't fix. At least you don't have Fischler on board!"
They had all heard John's request for rescue, and now Thunderbird Two was safely grounded, they could spare Alan for a quick pick up.
"Alan, think you could go retrieve Fischler and his crew from Thunderbird 5?"
"Sure Scott!" The excited teenager chimed before running towards Thunderbird There's silo. His younger brother's enthusiasm brought a much needed smile to his face.
"Come on, Virgil." Scott placed a hand on the man's shoulder, "Let's get changes and grab some food before you tackle her. Let Brains do a diagnostic first."
"Fine." Virgil nodded, allowing Scott to drag him away, though Scott knew he'd be back as soon as he could. Virgil hated it when International Rescue wasn't ready to launch. It made them all edgy, more so when their Thunderbird was the reason for it.
Brains had packed all the supplies needed into Thunderbird Three. There were a few things that needed replacing, including some of the toughened outer glass. EOS's scans had confirmed Thunderbird Five required a few large repairs alongside some smaller ones John could do. Unfortunately, she found that the satellite's operations were unaffected and thus John stayed in orbit. Brains would have preferred to take Thunderbird Five out of operation temporarily but had to suffice with a later maintenance trip. It'd taken a few days to source the required parts, but Thunderbird Two and One kept him busy. Thunderbird Two had taken just thirty two hours to get ready for launch. There had been so many different aspects to check but with Virgil's constant help they had powered through it. Thunderbird One had taken under a day, and Brains only changed a few components which were due to be replaced in the coming months, saving him a future job.
Now he was to take Thunderbird Five out of action for at least a day, and John was reluctant. Scott had put his foot down on the matter, but that wouldn't stop John from getting annoyed and grumpy if the work overran. Brains' seat clicked into place in Thunderbird Three and Alan started going through the launch sequence. It'd been a while since Brains' had been in space, much preferring to stay on the ground, particularly the island he now called home. Unfortunately, needs must and no one knew Thunderbird Five quite like its designer. He swallowed as the rumble beneath them began and soon he was in orbit. It had definitely been a while since he'd been in space, gagging and swallowing as space sickness took hold of his stomach. Every time. Every time he had to readjust. Alan continued on as if nothing had changed, guiding the ship towards International Rescue's satellite. Once docked, John welcomed them in, EOS following and watching his every move. EOS was incredible, but there was still something about her that set Brains on edge. He'd spoken to her before and knew she was using the camera to view the world, but in person it was unnerving.
"Right, one of the outer screens needs replacing. Let's get in with that first as Grandma is available and it means we can be operational again sooner. EOS, I've backed you up, but you'll be offline when Thunderbird Five is powered down."
"Thank you, John. I shall see you once the repairs are complete. I will start the shutdown protocol once you are aboard Thunderbird Three."
"Thank you, EOS. Sleep tight."
"I do not require sleep, John. I shall simply be powered down."
"It's a turn of phrase, EOS."
Brains watched as John shook his head before pulling on his helmet. The interaction between man and AI was not like anything he had been expecting. Pushing himself back through the airlock, Brains couldn't help but feel a little apprehensive about leaving the shutdown to the AI.
Brains' collapsed onto the sofa in his apartment with MAX watching his movements eagerly. He was tired, and the four days in space had been enough. They'd managed to get Thunderbird Five fully operational, apart from the space elevator, in a day and a half. Alan's help in passing tools and his ease of movement in zero-G helped immensely, allowing for a shorter down time. Living with EOS for the next two days had been an eye opener. Brains had been glad that she didn't end up following him around as he'd feared she would. She settled down and even helped him out a few times as he set about dismantling and repairing the elevator. Its bearings had taken a beating and although functional, Brains could not guarantee their reliability or function anymore. Fresh parts were given to the mechanism, a good layer of grease was applied and every inch of the cable was inspected and scanned for tears or breaks. To Brains' delight the cable was in perfect condition as the moving parts had taken the brunt on the force when retrieving the weather station. After a few test deployments, including sending down the broken and spare parts he hadn't needed, Brains was the first test subject. As expected, the ride was smooth and uneventful, just the way he liked it. Pleased with his work and happy all the Thunderbirds were in working order, he'd headed to his apartment for some much needed rest. His body was still adjusting to gravity, even a few days in space messed him up, but he was glad to be back Earthside with MAX again.
"We'll get started on that new project tomorrow, MAX."
Brains got familiar bleeps back as a response and a smile crossed his face. A glass of water floated before him and he took it.
"Thank you, MAX."
Taking a sip his comm bleeped and Gordon floated before him. The man was in his uniform and was scratching his head in a manner that sent worry through Brains.
"Uurgh...Brains. I think something has gone wrong with Thunderbird Four. You would mind having a look when I get back?"
"Of course, Gordon. W-what's your ETA?"
"Ten minutes, and thanks Brains, you're a lifesaver."
Brains turned to MAX, then back to the glass in his hand. So much for an early night. He drained the glass and headed to his lab, MAX on his heels. He might as well check the readings and get a head start on trying to fix whatever problem Gordon had found.