The Hood had been patient. He laid his plans carefully. He had purchased a small submarine, and had stocked it with all the things he needed. His primary goal: to capture the Barnes woman. I will make her pay for what she did to me in Singapore. His eyes still smarted at the memory. Then he would obtain the secrets of International Rescue from her. He smiled tightly. I will enjoy this "interrogation".
But first, he thought, a little diversion...
He planted the explosives around the oceanographic station. Three hundred meters beneath the sea, this station was interested in the geological make up of the ocean floor. Especially the seismological aspects of it. There were 20 oceanologists and seismologists working there. Blow up parts of the station, and International Rescue would be out to pull those scientists from the wreckage and out of his way for a time. Leaving Tracy Island virtually unguarded. He returned to his sub and pulled a safe distance away. By remote control, he detonated the charges. Then he set a course for Tracy Island, leaving death and destruction in his wake.
The emergency signal sounded through the house. Jeff opened communications with Alan in Thunderbird Five.
"What do you have for us, Alan?" Jeff got right to the point.
"The oceanographic station off the northern coast of New Zealand has been sabotaged. At least two of the scientists are dead, and the rest are running out of oxygen. The Navy at Auckland doesn't have the deep water equipment to get to them. We do. If Thunderbird Four can go that deep in its current condition," Alan added as he saw Bekkah rush into the lounge.
"What about it, Bekkah?" Jeff asked her.
"Thunderbird Four hasn't been used much lately, and the sealant is holding very well," she said thoughtfully. "I think she can handle it."
"Okay. Scott, off you go. Alan, give Scott the coordinates en route." Jeff turned to Virgil and Gordon. "Take pod four, Virgil. Gordon, I'd feel better about this if you had an extra pair of hands in Thunderbird Four, so John, you go with Gordon." John sat up, surprised.
"Thunderbirds are go! And Gordon," Gordon paused to listen to his father's instructions. "Keep in touch at all times."
"Yes, sir!" he replied.
"Be careful, guys," Bekkah cautioned. Gordon gave her a cheeky grin.
"F-A-B, Bekkah." Then he was gone.
Thunderbird One roared out of its launch bay under the pool. Bekkah grinned and chuckled. When she had first seen the pool retract for Thunderbird One's launch, she just about fell on the ground laughing. "It's so...so...James Bond!" she had managed to squeeze out between peals of laughter. Jeff just looked at her and shook his head. He just didn't see what was so funny.
Thunderbird Two trundled out to the end of the runway, the palm trees falling away to make room for the green machine's bulk. It stopped, and was smoothly tilted to an angle. The blast door opened behind the rockets, and they fired, lifting the aircraft into the sky.
Jeff turned to Bekkah, and to Tin-Tin, who had come into the lounge with everyone else. "There won't be any action for about a half-hour, which is how long it will take Scott to get there. Why don't the two of you get something to eat, and Bekkah, take some time with your kids. I'll let you know if you're needed."
"Sounds like a plan." Bekkah didn't need any more urging. She had been working so hard lately that she'd barely seen her kids. She and Tin-Tin went to the kitchen, where they found lunch preparations in full swing.
"Mom!" the three Barnes children converged on their mother, giving her a group hug. She kissed each of them, ruffling hair as she looked at each of them.
"Are the boys off on a rescue again?" Grandma Tracy asked.
"Yes, Grandma," Tin-Tin replied. "An oceanographic station has been sabotaged." She picked up a banana from the bowl on the counter.
Bekkah looked around for something to eat. Her eyes lighted on what looked like some candy in a jar. The candy was fruit-shaped. She pulled one out, and popped it in her mouth. Yum! Raspberry! she thought.
"Oh no!" Grandma rounded on her, seeing the jar in her hand. "You didn't eat one of those did you?"
Bekkah looked at the jar. "Yes, ma'am. I did." she told the older woman.
"Ohhh! Not again!" groaned Tin-Tin.
"What? What did I do?" Bekkah wanted to know.
"That's not really candy, Bekkah," Tin-Tin explained. "Those are edible transmitters."
"What? Edible transmitters?" Bekkah was getting more and more confused.
"Yes. Brains developed them. They are for use in tracking our operatives if they are hurt or captured or in a dense jungle, that kind of thing."
"What a weird idea," Bekkah stated. She licked her lips. "At least they taste good."
"Well, I'll have to make up some transmitter solvent again," Grandma said. "But not just now. Now we have to finish up with lunch."
Bekkah sat down with her kids for lunch, and invited Tin-Tin to join them. Grandma Tracy took a tray to Jeff as he waited for news from his sons.
"How is the computer coming?" Tin-Tin asked.
"It's nearly done. I might have finished last night, but I was...um...interrupted," Bekkah blushed.
"Really? Do tell." Tin-Tin's voice was sly.
"Maybe later. Little pitchers have big ears."
The Barnes kids knew what that meant. "Mom! You've got to tell us what happened!" Chell objected.
"Yeah! We want to know!" Joey added. Terry, mouth full of sandwich, vigorously nodded his head.
"No. It's nothing you need to know about." Bekkah's face grew pinker.
Tin- Tin noticed it and laughed. "Well, tell me later when we don't have an audience." She turned to her lunch.
"How about we take your bikes out today and ride along the jogging path?" Bekkah suggested to her children. This idea was greeted with enthusiasm.
After lunch, the Barnes children raced over to a storage shed to get their bicycles. Chell was the best rider, but Terry was catching up to her in skill. Joey was still having trouble with balance, and his legs weren't strong enough to carry him up the hills they would have to contend with. He still had the training wheels on his back tire. Bekkah walked along behind the children, giving Joey a push with one foot to keep him going on the uphill slope.
The Hood's sub came as close to Tracy Island as he dared take it. He did not surface; he would take no chances on being discovered. He put the controls on station-keeping, and opened the airlock. Wearing his blue wetsuit and scuba gear, he swam out, taking with him an inflatable raft and an extra scuba mask with tank. Once at the surface, the Hood inflated the raft, brought out an oar, and began to paddle towards the nearest beach. He pulled the raft up after him as he reached the shore, hid the raft as best he could, and set off to find the villa, and hopefully, his intended victim.
Gordon managed to maneuver Thunderbird Four into a docking position with the oceanographic station. Boy, was this place ever wasted, he thought as he struggled with the hatch. It finally popped open. Gordon could smell the stale, smoky air inside. Two of the scientists peered out at him.
"Thank God you've come!" one of them said.
"We aim to please," Gordon quipped. Then his voice got serious. "How many wounded have you got?"
"Four with major injuries, three with minor ones. Two dead." The scientists were all business.
"We'll take the major injuries first. John, I'll need you to help me with the stretchers."
"F-A-B." John left his position in the pilot's chair and joined his brother.
"We can put two in the sick bay, and one up in the cockpit with us." Gordon announced. He and John checked over the injured to see who needed medical attention first. Then they took the first stretcher into Thunderbird Four.
This is going to be a long day, John thought as they began to work.
Virgil waited above, hovering, trying to see Thunderbird Four as it surfaced. He sent down the rescue capsule on the winch.
"Thunderbird Four to Thunderbirds One and Two. This is going to take some time, fellas. I've only got room for three or four at a time. We're bringing up those with the worst injuries first." The top hatch popped open, and Gordon climbed out. He pulled a stretcher out, a badly wounded man held securely in its confines. John climbed out after him, and got into the rescue capsule with the stretcher.
Virgil said, "Thunderbird Two to Thunderbirds One and Four. Raising rescue capsule now." He left his place at the controls, and went to help John with the stretcher. Then he sent John back down for another victim.
"Thunderbird One to Thunderbirds Two and Four. It was a good idea of Dad's to send John along, wasn't it?" Scott said.
"Yes, it was, Scott," answered Virgil. "This is definitely a multi-person job. And since we're in the middle of the ocean, there's no place for Thunderbird One to land."
"I suppose I could have landed on the coast of New Zealand somewhere," Scott mused. "But I think I'm better off hovering around here and coordinating things first hand." His radio link with base beeped. He turned on that link to see his father anxiously waiting.
"How's it going, Scott?" Jeff asked.
"It's going well, Father. But this is going to take some time. Gordon can only carry so many in Thunderbird Four. He's bringing up the most injured ones first. And thanks for sending John along, Dad. We really needed him."
"You're welcome, son. Keep me posted on the rescue." The screen went blank.
The Hood had made his way inland following a path from the beach. They must come here often, he thought. Perhaps I should lie in wait here. He shook his head slightly. No, there is no reason she would come down here. I will scout ahead and see what there is to see.
He crept silently along the path. It joined another path, this one of concrete, which stretched up and down the edge of a hill side. A sharp turn in the path to his left hid the path behind the hillside, to his right the path went straight down a modest grade. He heard voices to his left, and backed down the path to the beach slightly to take cover in some dense shrubbery there.
Bekkah had been toiling uphill with her children for some time now. The steep hill went up and up, affording a clear view of the beaches and the ocean. The kids kept stopping to ooh and aahh at the views. Finally, after giving Joey a booster push for the umpteenth time, they neared the apex of the hill. The path rounded a corner, and it would be downhill all the way back to the villa. She could stop pushing Joey along; gravity would take over and he'd be sailing down the hill, enjoying every moment.
Chell rounded the corner, and flew down the hill. Her shout of delight echoed back to the stragglers, who redoubled their efforts to reach the top. Joey and Terry were both walking their bikes by now. Once the downhill stretch came into view, both boys jumped on their bikes to begin the downhill race.
Joey started pedaling slowly, gaining speed as he went. He heard a crash behind him, then something falling. He put on his brakes and turned around.
"MOMMY!" he cried. A man had knocked her down and was punching her! He started to go back to help when she looked up at him. Terry heard his scream and stopped to look back.
"JOEY! GO GET HELP! TERRY! GO, GO!" she hollered at him.
Her words broke the spell over Terry, who had been standing, watching, horrified at what was happening to his mother. He got on his bike and flew down the hill. Joey hesitated.
"JOEY! OBEY!" The man had his arm around his mother's neck and was squeezing her! With tears in his eyes, Joey obeyed and pedaled, helter skelter, down the hill to the villa.
The Hood kept quiet as the voices approached. Suddenly, one of the Barnes children, the girl, flashed by with a yell of delight. He could hear three more people coming. The Barnes witch and her two sons. He grinned ferally. This will be easy. Once they passed, I can overtake the woman and would have her at my mercy. And perhaps I can catch one of her children, too. That would ensure her cooperation. He watched as the older boy got on his bicycle and began to glide down the hill. The younger one did the same, but with less speed. The woman came next, on foot. The Hood tensed, ready to spring. He crashed out of the bushes, racing up the path and throwing himself on the Barnes woman. She fell under his weight, using her arms to keep her face from scraping the pavement. He sat on her back, striking her to immobilize her. She called to her children, and told them to go for help.
"Help won't come soon enough for you, witch!" he hissed. He put his elbow around her throat and began to squeeze. He didn't want to kill her, not now, but he could cut off her air supply to make her pass out. Her struggles grew less and less and then she went limp. The Hood could see that the children had not yet reached the bottom of the hill. Very good, he thought. He picked the woman up and slung her over his shoulder, then hurried to his waiting raft.
Terry reached the bottom of the hill before his brother. He threw his bike to the ground and, passing his sister as she slowly moved up the stairs, he ran into the lounge. Jeff was talking about the rescue with Alan, but he looked up at the winded boy.
"Terry! Aren't you supposed to knock when you come in?" Jeff's reprimand was a mixture of surprise and stern voice.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mom's in trouble! A man is attacking her! Up on the bike path!"
Joey followed his brother in, face covered in tears. "Help her! Go help her!" he pleaded. Chell came in, a puzzled expression on her face.
Jeff swore. He opened a drawer in his desk, and took out a gun. "Boys! Go tell Mrs. Tracy and Tin-Tin what is happening. I'm going after your mom!" He left the room running.
"What's the matter, boys? What's all the commotion about?" Mrs. Tracy and Tin-Tin came out of the kitchen.
"I don't know," Chell said. "The boys say someone is attacking Mom up on the bike path."
Tin-Tin's face paled. She ran from the room and down the stairs. Making for the equipment shed, which had been left open, she hauled out a hoverbike, started it up, and headed for the scene of the attack. On the way, she overtook Jeff and stopped long enough for him to climb on board. She opened the throttle all the way and they soon reached the top of the path. Smears of blood on the concrete told them that something bad had happened. Jeff got off to look at the site. But there was no sign of Bekkah or her attacker. Tin-Tin moved up further on the path, so she could see the other side. No one was there. She turned around and caught a gleam of yellow down in the ocean below. A raft! There were two people in it, one paddling, and one lying oh-so-still.
"They've gone down the beach path!" she called to Jeff, who took off like a shot in that direction. She followed him down the lane to the beach and flew across the sand, and out into the surf. She knew how dangerous it was to take the hoverbike out in the waves; its air jets wouldn't stay stable and she could sink. Still she tried. One wave washed over the bike, and then another, and then she felt the jets give out and the bike sank. She fell off it into waist deep water, then began hauling it back to the beach. Jeff had taken off his shoes and was trying to swim after them, but he realized how futile it was and came back to the sand. His last view of Bekkah and her abductor was when her captor dove into the water and pulled Bekkah in after him. They did not come up again.
"He must have a sub out there," Jeff indicated the spot where the raft still bobbed.
"Yes. You're right, Mr. Tracy," Tin-Tin tried to start the hoverbike. After a few attempts, the jets finally kicked in, and she and Jeff rode tandem back to the villa.
Jeff saw the two Barnes boys sitting on the couch with his mother, one on each side. She was trying to comfort them.
Chell sat beside Terry, tears streaming down her face. She jumped up when she saw Jeff. "Did you find her, Mr. Tracy?" she asked shakily. Jeff shook his head. She dropped to the couch, her face in her hands, sobbing. Tin-Tin moved to comfort her.
Alan, seeing his father's return, asked, "What happened, Dad? The kids say someone was attacking Bekkah."
Jeff sat down wearily. "Yes. And abducted her. Took her to a sub off the coast of the island. We were too late to stop it." He got up and went over to Joey. Getting down to eye level with the boy, he began to ask questions. "Joey, what did the man look like? The one who attacked your mother?"
Joey sniffed. "He didn't have any hair and he had a real mean face."
"What was he wearing?"
"Some kind of blue suit."
Terry piped up, "A blue wet suit."
"Thank you, Terry. Tell me exactly what happened."
Joey, assisted by Terry, told Jeff that the man had jumped on his mother and was punching her, and that after she yelled for them to get help, he started squeezing his mom's neck with his arm. Jeff nodded.
"Mother, Tin-Tin, could you take the children into the kitchen and get them something to drink. It might help calm them down." By this he meant they should give the children a mild sleeping aid. "Then take them back to their rooms, and let them rest."
Grandma Tracy and Tin-Tin stood, Grandma taking the hands of the two boys. Chell took Tin-Tin's hand, but before she left the lounge, she turned and looked at Jeff. "Are you going to be able to get her back, Mr. Tracy?"
Jeff looked at her devastated face. "We are sure going to try, Chell. We're going to try."
"Thunderbird One to base." Scott's portrait was replaced by his live picture.
Jeff turned to him. "Go ahead, Thunderbird One."
"Father, Alan tells me that Bekkah has been abducted. Is it true?"
"Yes, Scott. We were too late to stop it. The Hood has her." Jeff sat wearily behind his desk.
"What can we do about it?" Scott was alarmed. "Every minute he has her there is more danger of him learning our secrets. Not to mention what he will probably do to her."
"I know, Scott, I know." Jeff shook his head to clear it. His voice became more commanding as he considered his options. "We think he has her aboard a sub, and may be heading toward his home base. It will take him some time to get there, and he might even cross your path. So, when this rescue is over, have Virgil pick up pod four before he takes those scientists to New Zealand. Hopefully we'll be able to track Bekkah by her watch. Alan can give you coordinates, and with you in the air, and Gordon in the sea, we'll get him." Jeff looked at his watch. "How is the rescue going?"
"We're almost complete, Father. Gordon has just gone down for the last two scientists and the bodies. I'll let you know when we're ready to go."
"F-A-B, Scott. Tell Virgil and Gordon what has happened, and what we're going to do."
"F-A-B, Father. Thunderbird One out." Scott contacted Virgil. "Thunderbird One to Thunderbird Two. Rescue status?"
"Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird One. Gordon has just gone down again. I estimate another 20 minutes."
"Good. Now here this; the Hood has kidnapped Bekkah from the Island."
"What!" Virgil shouted. John, who had come up to settle the last batch of rescuees, came over to listen.
"I don't know the details, but Dad seems to think he has her in a sub and is heading for his secret base. You are to pick up pod four and take the scientists to New Zealand. Gordon and I will be tracking Bekkah's signal with help from Thunderbird Five and will try and intercept him before he gets too far away."
"F-A-B, Scott. We'd better let Gordon know."
"No, Virgil, Scott," John said quietly. "Don't tell him. I'll tell him. I'll go with him."
"Why, John?" Scott was puzzled.
"Because he needs to stay focused on this mission. Knowing about Bekkah's kidnapping might cause him to lose that focus." John smiled slightly. "He's become quite...fond...of her."
Virgil looked dubious. "Okay, John. We'll play it your way."
The radio crackled. "Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two. I've reached the station and am loading up my last passengers. ETA to surface: 10 minutes."
"F-A-B, Thunderbird Four. See you in a bit." Virgil began to manipulate his controls. "I'd better pick up the pod now."
"F-A-B, Virgil." replied Scott.
John went down with the rescue capsule to load up the last scientists. Gordon helped them climb out of the hatch. Then they pulled two body bags out of Thunderbird Four and put them in the rescue capsule when it was winched down again.
"Hey, how come Virgil has the pod up in Thunderbird Two? How am I supposed to get back to base?" Gordon asked, irritated.
"We're not going back to base," John answered. "C'mon, get back inside. There's no time to lose."
Gordon climbed back down into Thunderbird Four and headed for the cockpit. "What's this all about, Johnny?"
John took a deep breath. "Bekkah's been abducted."
"What?" Gordon sat down suddenly in the pilot's seat. "What are you talking about?"
"A little while ago, the Hood gained access to the Island and took Bekkah forcibly while she was out with her kids. Dad thinks he took her out to a sub and is heading for his secret base. Scott is going to fly over, tracking her, while we go by sea. She ate a transmitter today so Alan is getting a good fix on her location. Her watch is non-functional." John rapidly filled his brother in on the latest news from base.
Gordon closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them, their amber color was dark with rage. "When did this happen?" he growled.
"About 50 minutes ago."
Gordon turned on his blond brother and gave him a hard look. "Why didn't you tell me?"
John looked him in the eye. "I know how fond you've gotten of Bekkah over the past weeks. I wanted you to keep your focus on the rescue."
Gordon closed his eyes again, then his face cleared. "Okay. I understand. Let's get going." He toggled the radio link open. "Thunderbird Four to Thunderbirds One and Five. Give me some coordinates, guys, and let's hunt some pond scum."
In his sub, the Hood was making good time back to his base. He had thrown the Barnes witch to the floor, making sure her hands were manacled behind her back and that her ankles were bound together. She was still unconscious. He wanted her to wake so he could begin interrogating her. There was no telling what resources International Rescue would use to get her back, and they were probably finishing up with that little diversion he had created. At least he had made sure her watch telecomm was not working. He had removed it from her arm and smashed it beneath his heel. Without it, he hoped International Rescue would have no way of tracking her.
He slowed his sub down, and put it on autopilot. He pulled Bekkah up by her shirt and slapped her face, once, twice, thrice. "Come on. Wake up, you stupid cow." He shook her. She began to stir. She opened her eyes a crack, then shut them tightly.
"Open your eyes, witch! I know you are awake!" he hissed.
"I know better than to open my eyes for you," Bekkah slurred. She was half-conscious now, but she knew who she was dealing with. He shook her again. She gasped in pain. My ribs must be cracked, she thought, and probably one arm. Her arms stung and were covered in dried blood from using them to cushion her fall. He dropped her back to the floor. She cried out and then moaned at the pain from the impact.
He considered his options. I could wait until I get to my base and interrogate her at my leisure. But if International Rescue intervenes? No, I will question her now. But first he had to put her under his hypnotic spell. How to open her eyes? He smiled wickedly. Of course! Let her think I have one of her children.
The Hood was the master of both mimicry and ventriloquism. He kneeled close to Bekkah's head. "If you do not open your eyes, you will never see your youngest son again."
Fear gripped Bekkah's heart and stole her breath. Joey? Did he have Joey? She heard, as if from across the room from her, a plaintive voice.
She couldn't help herself. She had to see for herself if her son was also a prisoner. She opened her eyes.
The Hood took advantage of the opportunity. He grabbed Bekkah by the hair and forced her to look at him. She saw the glowing orbs and knew, too late, that she had been deceived. She felt herself spiralling down, down, losing herself as all conscious thought came under his control.
The Hood smiled again. Very good, he thought.
"Now, my dear Doctor Barnes. What are you working on for International Rescue?"
Her voice dreamily answered, "A new Thunderbird Four..."
Gordon was tense as he piloted Thunderbird Four toward a intercept point with the Hood. Scott, flying above in Thunderbird One, kept him apprised of the Hood's every move, but could do nothing to stop him. That was Gordon's job.
"Scott, how far now?" he asked.
"You're about 30 minutes out, Gordon. Keep to this heading and you'll catch him soon." Scott's voice was cool and collected, hoping to be a calming influence on his angry younger brother.
"F-A-B, Thunderbird One." Gordon did everything he could to get just a little bit more speed out of his craft.
John sat in a fold-down seat at the back of the cockpit. He saw the outrage building in his normally easy-going brother, and wondered if he should speak. He was curious about what had transpired between Gordon and Bekkah the night before. And he wanted to convey how much he, too, was angry about what had happened.
"I want to ask you something. Something personal."
"Can it wait? I'm trying to stay focused here." Gordon was irritated.
John thought it over. "Yeah, I guess it can wait. Don't want to break your concentration."
Now Gordon was irritated and curious. "Okay. Ask," he huffed.
"What do you feel for Bekkah?" John asked, the words coming all in a rush.
"What? What do you mean?" Now Gordon was getting irritated and annoyed.
"Well, I kinda overheard your... offer... to Bekkah last night, and I wondered what brought it on," John continued. "I didn't mean to overhear. I heard the two of you talking in the hall and thought I'd give you a hard time. But once I got closer, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, so to speak."
"Oh, geeze, John. How much did you hear?" Gordon almost sounded embarassed.
"Um...from the part about 'you've gone too long without the touch of a man'. Or something along those lines."
Gordon sighed and his shoulders slumped. "I was massaging her shoulders last night in the lab. She was really tense and looked like she could use some loosening up. Just for fun, I started kissing her neck." He rubbed his own neck as if in memory. "It seems I struck a hot spot. Her husband used to do that to her when he wanted to make love. Got her all aroused. We talked about it. Do you know it's been five or six years since she's had sex? Seems she made herself a promise not to get physically involved with a man she wasn't married to. Well, I didn't want to leave her in that state, so I offered to, um, finish what I'd started. She said she wasn't ready, and she left."
"Why did you start kissing her? Just for your own fun?" John was getting angry at Gordon.
"Well, no, not really. I thought she'd enjoy it. Just didn't know how much," Gordon answered sheepishly.
"None of this gives me the answer to my question, Gordo."
Gordon turned around to face his brother. "Are you asking if I'm in love with her?"
John went pink, but didn't back off. "Yeah. That's what I'm asking."
Gordon looked thoughtful. He paused for a long moment before he answered. "I don't know. I do care about her, but I don't know if that's love or not." He paused again. "I do know that she is more than just a friend. Beyond that, I'm not sure."
"Thanks, Gordo. I'm glad to know where you stand."
Gordon turned back to his piloting. "Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird One. How're we doing now, Scott?"
"Thunderbird Four from Thunderbird One. He's slowed down. You're ten minutes out. And Virgil has finished up in New Zealand and is on his way to rendezvous with us."
"Nice to know we'll have a ride back home. Thunderbird Four out." Gordon turned to look at John. "Now you've got me wondering just why you asked that 'personal question'."
"Maybe it's because I care about her, too. Just like you do."
Bekkah felt like she was looking at herself from a faraway place. The Hood had propped her up against the bulkhead. He kept asking her about the Thunderbird craft. She didn't want to answer the Hood's questions, but she saw and heard herself doing so. Don't! she thought, Don't! Don't give him what he wants! But her body didn't respond and kept answering the Hood. He wasn't satisfied with her answers, though. What she knew she knew in engineering terms. He couldn't use it himself. He began to kick her in fury. She instinctively curled up into a fetal position to protect herself as the Hood rained blows and curses on her unresponsive form. Suddenly he stopped, and pulling her face close to his, he spoke to her, low and with power. Then darkness came and she gave herself to it willingly.
The Hood was furious. Besides the work she was doing on a new Thunderbird Four, the witch didn't seem to have any useful information. True, she had seen technical specifications on all of the crafts, but he could not use it. It didn't translate well into words. Perhaps if she could draw it, he would gain the information he needed. But he had no time for that. He discovered that she had participated in rescues from the base, and had not been a passenger in any of the Thunderbird craft. His rage grew, until he began to abuse her body with kicks, as if he could beat the information out of her. She curled up in response to his tirade and he cursed her and kicked her again and again. Then he stopped. This is getting me nowhere. I can use her another way, if she survives. He pulled her face close, looking deeply into the stupified eyes, and began to plant the seed of a deadly plan in her mind. Suddenly, he heard a pinging sound. His sonar was registering another vessel! He left Bekkah and hurried over to the control panels. Yes, there was another craft, of similar size to his own, just behind him. And what was more, it had fired a missile!
"There he is!" Gordon shouted as his sonar registered the presence of the Hood's sub. He was all business now, focused on the job at hand. He prepped two of Thunderbird Four's mini-missiles. "Now, to get directly behind him. John, scan the ship for Bekkah's transmitter."
John jumped to his feet and moved over to scanner's screens. "She's almost all the way to the bow, Gordo."
Gordon allowed himself a tight grin. "Good. Let's make sure our playmate doesn't go anywhere first." He targeted the stern of the sub. "Fire one!"
The mini-missile shot out, going straight for the tail of the villain's sub. Just as it was about to hit, the sub sped up, and the missile just barely touched the sub's rudder. It exploded, but did little damage. Both of the Tracy brothers swore. Gordon took aim again, this time correcting for the speed of the sub.
"Fire two!" The missile left a trail of bubbles as it was hurled at the retreating sub. This time, however, the sub wasn't fast enough. The missile hit the vessel's stern, with enough explosive force to rip a hole in the hull, but not enough to explode the whole ship.
"That's stopped him! I got his engines, and he's taking on water." Gordon got up. "Johnny. You're going to have to pilot us over there. I'm going to get ready to board the sub."
"Are you out of your mind? He'll kill you!" John gripped his brother's shoulders.
"He'll kill Bekkah if I don't." Gordon said softly. John dropped his arms and nodded, then took over the pilot's chair. He peered out the front port. "Look!"
The Hood was escaping! He had put on his scuba gear and was rising from the sub, heading for the surface. All of a sudden, a cloud of bubbles escaped from the sub and it began to sink slowly downward.
"No! He's opened the ballast tanks! The sub will sink to the bottom!" Gordon shouted, horrified. "Johnny, we have to stop it from sinking!"
John pushed the little craft down as quickly as possible. Gordon reached over and activated the magnetic clamps.
"Okay, Johnny. Get underneath it as much as you can and let the magnets take hold. Then push up for all you're worth. Once you have it caught with the grapples, I'm going in and get Bekkah. Oh, and while you're at it, let Scott know that the scum is rising to the surface." Gordon grabbed his tank and mask, as well as a spare tank, a small harpoon gun, and a waterproof flashlight. He ran to the air lock and closed the hatch behind him.
"You don't ask for much, do you, Gordy?" John complained softly as he turned all his attention on the task at hand. He toggled the radio link open. "Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird One. Scott, we clipped the Hood's sub. He's opened all the ballast tanks and it's sinking. I'm going to try and stop it with the magnetic grapples while Gordon swims over to find Bekkah. By the way, the Hood should be breaking the surface any minute. He abandoned ship."
"F-A-B, John. Virgil is almost here. I don't see the Hood anywhere, though. I'll keep looking. I want that scumbag as much as you do."
The Hood cursed as the first missile clipped his rudder. He hung on as the explosion shook his vessel. He had hoped his burst of speed would cause the missile to pass by entirely. The sonar pinged for his attention. Another missile! And this one would strike his engines! He went flying as the explosion rocked his sub back and forth. He heard the unmistakable sound of water seeping in. His craft was ruined! He knew he had better get out while he could. But he would leave a present or two behind for Dr. Barnes's rescuers. He released the air in the ballast tanks first. That should keep them from following me, he thought. He sent a message out to his helijet. They would find him with the homing beacon he wore. And then he rigged the engines to overload and explode. That will take about 15 minutes, he thought, as he rushed out the air lock to make his way to the surface. Goodbye, Doctor Barnes. We will meet again. If you survive.
John carefully attached the magnetic clamps to the sinking submarine, stopping its downward fall. He watched through the port as Gordon swam strongly over to the crippled sub and disappeared down into it. "Gordon!" John used his wrist telecomm to reach his brother. "Have you found Bekkah?"
Gordon didn't answer his brother. He opened the hatch from the air lock to the main part of the submarine. It was dark and sounded as if it were already flooded to three or four inches. He looked around carefully, using the flashlight he had attached to his belt. He looked toward the bow, running the light along the walls. That's when he saw her curled up and leaning against the bulkhead. His heart leapt into his throat as he splashed over to her. She had some serious contusions, he noticed, and she was handcuffed and bound around the ankles. He checked for a pulse and found one. Sighing in relief, he signaled to John.
"I found her. She's alive but in a bad way. I'm going to untie her and try to bring her around."
"Gordo. There isn't time for that. I'm reading a rise in the temperature of the engines. I think they are going to blow!"
"Okay! I'm getting us both out of here, now! Warn Scott! If this thing blows, it's gonna be a big one!" Gordon gently fitted the spare mask over Bekkah's face. "Sorry I can't free you right now, Bekkah. But we haven't any time." He picked her up in a fireman's carry and headed for the air lock.
"F-A-B, Gordon!" John still had the comm line open to his big brother. "Did you hear that, Scott! Clear out!"
"F-A-B, John," Scott's calm voice belied his worry. "Get out of there as quick as you can."
John watched as Gordon emerged from the sub, dragging Bekkah, still bound, scuba mask in place, along after him. He heard the hatch open to the air lock, then close again.
"John!" Gordon's face appeared on John's wrist watch. "Drop that hot potato and get us outta here!"
John released the magnetic clamps and let the sub resume its downward journey. Then he turned Thunderbird Four around and tried to get as much speed out of her as he could. Behind him, he could hear the loud "BOOM!" made by the sub as it exploded. Then a compression wave hit and he lost control!
Scott moved Thunderbird One a safe distance from the site of the impending disaster. Virgil had arrived in Thunderbird Two and hovered alongside the sleek, silver craft. They both watched as the sea erupted in a great plume of water, fire, and smoke. The spout rose 30 meters in the air before settling slowly back down.
"Thunderbird Four from Thunderbird One. John, do you read me?" Silence answered him. "Thunderbird Four, do you read me? John? Gordon? Anyone? Please answer!" Scott was getting worried now. If Thunderbird Four was caught in the explosion...
He shook his head. He couldn't think that way. His brothers were well-trained and had gone through this type of situation many times before. They were okay. They had to be.
"Scott? Any answer?" Virgil asked quietly.
"No. Not yet." Scott tried hailing the undersea craft again. The crackle of static was all the response he got. He tried once more. "Thunderbird Four from Thunderbird One. Do you read me? Please respond."
A groan sounded from the speakers. "Hey, Scott. That was some ride." It was John's voice.
Scott sighed deeply in relief. "What's your status, Thunderbird Four?"
"Status? I...ow!...have the mother of all lumps on my head. We seem to be sitting on a ledge about...let's see...wow!...a kilometer from our former position."
"Do you have Bekkah, John?"
"Yeah. Gordon got her in the air lock before the sub blew. He probably needs some help back there."
"Thunderbird Five from Thunderbird One. Are you still tracking Bekkah, Alan?" Scott wanted to know.
"Sure am. Have her at 195.2 magnetic." Scott heard the relief in Alan's voice as he gave out the coordinates.
"Thunderbird Four from Thunderbird One. Are you damaged?"
Gordon's voice replied. "No, Scott. We are functional and rising toward the surface. If you could get Virgil over here to drop the pod, I'd appreciate it. Bekkah needs medical care fast."
"F-A-B, Gordon." Scott sent Virgil the coordinates and they both streaked through the sky towards the spot where the submarine would surface.
"This is the last time I let one of you air jockeys pilot my Thunderbird," Gordon complained good-naturedly over the comm. "A little compression surge and we're a kilometer off course. Ow! Johnny! You didn't have to hit me! I'm gonna have a big enough bruise there anyway!"
Scott shook his head. Some things never changed. And he was glad of it.
Bekkah opened her eyes slowly, expecting to see the cruel face of her captor. Instead, two pairs of worried eyes looked back at her, one blue, one amber.
"Gordon? John?" she whispered.
Both of them broke into huge smiles.
"What happened? Where am I?" she asked dazedly. Then she remembered the sub and tried to sit up. "Joey! Is Joey okay?"
"He's fine, Bekkah. He's on the island," Gordon tried to reassure her. John pushed her gently back onto the pillows.
"I thought the Hood had him. I heard his voice."
"No, Bekkah. He's been safe and sound the entire time."
Bekkah relaxed at Gordon's words. "Where am I?" she asked again.
"In the hospital in Singapore. Your injuries looked so nasty that we brought you here." John filled her in. "Fortunately you had no internal injuries. Just a couple of cracked ribs, a broken arm, and lots and lots of scrapes and bruises. You were in shock, too, but that has passed."
"Yeah, you had us worried there," Gordon admitted.
Bekkah looked down at herself. Her left arm was in a cast, and her ribs were tightly bound, making deep breathing hard. Her right arm was swathed in bandages. She closed her eyes and tried to absorb all that she had been told. Then she asked a question in a trembly and fearful voice. "The Hood? Did you get him?"
Neither Gordon nor John could meet her eyes.
John spoke. "No, not exactly. His ship blew up as he was heading for the surface, but we never saw him come up and there was no body. Scott looked and looked, but couldn't find him. We think he might have swum some distance and been picked up by a helijet or something. If he wasn't blown up, that is."
Bekkah began to shake. Tears welled up in her eyes. Alarmed, John took her good hand in both of his and squeezed it slightly, while Gordon stroked her hair away from her face.
"I wish I knew whether or not he was dead. I am so scared," Bekkah admitted through her tears. Then she thought about the Hood's interrogation, and she hung her head. "I gave him information about International Rescue," she whispered, distraught. "I've failed everyone."
"Bekkah, try not to think about that right now," John told her. "You get some rest and we'll talk about it when your head is clearer."
"Yeah. By that time Dad will be here and we can make plans on how to deal with the Hood. So you lay back and go to sleep, okay?" Gordon soothed.
Bekkah let out a sigh and closed her eyes. Her breathing became regular and deep. John let go of her hand, while Gordon fussed with the blankets. Then they left the hospital room to converse in the corridor.
"One of us should stay here and guard her while the other calls Dad on the videophone," John stated.
"I'll stay. You go and make the call." Gordon leaned up against the wall, while John went in search of the videophone booths.
Scott and Virgil were sitting in the lounge, debriefing their parts in the back-to-back rescues.
"I have a hunch, Dad. I think that the Hood planned the first disaster, at the oceanographic station, to keep us busy while he came here to snatch Bekkah," Scott told his father.
"You're probably right, Scott. I wouldn't put it past him. Too bad Bekkah's not with the ISO right now. She'd probably be investigating the disaster as we speak." Jeff gave his sons a smile. "I haven't been able to tell the Barnes children that their mother is safe. I wonder if they are stirring yet. I had Mother and Tin-Tin give them a sedative so that they'd sleep and not worry."
"I'll go check on them, Dad," Virgil offered.
"Good idea, son." The videophone rang, and Jeff answered it.
"Why, hello, Brains. How are you doing today?"
"V-very well, uh, M-Mr. Tracy. C-can I, um, speak to B-Bekkah?"
"I'm afraid not, Brains. You see, there's been an...incident..."
Virgil softly entered the Barnes family's quarters. He turned on a light, and made his way to the children's bedrooms. Joey was sound asleep, his covers kicked off. Virgil tucked him back in securely. Terry was curled up around a stuffed dolphin, breathing gently. Virgil smiled at the innocent scene.
He made his way to Chell's room. She seemed to be asleep, too, with a big stuffed bear to comfort her. But as he started to close the door, she stirred.
"Uncle Virgil? 'S that you?" she asked sleepily.
"Yes, Chell." Virgil entered the room again and sat down on the edge of the girl's bed.
"Did you find Mom?"
"Yes, Chell. We did."
"Is she okay?"
Virgil thought how much to tell the girl. He decided that the truth was the best. "She's alive, but pretty banged up. We took her to a hospital in Singapore. Uncle Gordon and Uncle John are with her."
"That's good." She lay back down to go back to sleep, but then had a thought.
"Did you get that guy?"
Virgil sighed. "No, Chell. We didn't. He might be dead, but we've thought that before and he has still come back."
Chell whimpered. "I'm scared, Uncle Virgil. I'm scared he'll try to take Mom again."
Virgil gathered the girl in a hug. "We're going to do everything in our power to keep that from happening. You have to believe that." He pulled down the covers, and helped Chell back into bed. "Get some more sleep. Your mom will be home before you know it."
Chell squeezed her bear tight. Virgil pushed her hair back from her forehead and planted a kiss there. "Sweet dreams, Chell."
As he left the Round House, he thought, I hope we can keep them safe. Keep them all safe.
Bekkah woke the next morning feeling stiff and sore. She heard a soft snore, and smiled softly when she saw John snoozing in the chair next to the bed. A nurse came in with a breakfast tray and a pain pill for Bekkah to take. John didn't stir. Bekkah applied herself to her meal as quietly as possible. She heard a soft knock, and Gordon peeked around the door. She put a finger to her lips and indicated the sleeper. Gordon gave her an OK sign and disappeared. He reappeared, grinning mischeviously, with a handful of ice cubes. He tiptoed over to John, gently pulled back his brother's collar, and quickly dumped the ice down his back.
The results were instant and gratifying. John jumped up with a yell, shimmying to get the ice down his back and out from under his shirt. But his shirt was tucked into his jeans, and some of the smaller ice cubes managed to get past the waistband. That garnered another yell and some more contortions to get the ice out of his pants. Gordon was rolling on the floor with laughter, and Bekkah laughed as hard as her damaged ribs would let her, tears running down her cheeks. Finally, John managed to pull his shirt out of his jeans and get rid of all the ice. He picked some up, and with a feral grin, began to stalk his brother. Gordon, still weak with laughter, put up a token resistance before John stuffed a goodly amount of ice down the front of Gordon's shirt. Then he joined in the laughter.
"Oh! Ow! Please! It hurts to laugh!" Bekkah pleaded with the brothers. They immediately got themselves under control, still grinning widely.
"Just for that, Gordo, you get night watch tonight," John warned. He turned to Bekkah. "How are you feeling today, Bekkah?"
"Well, they say laughter is the best medicine. As long as you don't have any cracked ribs, that is." She held her side with her good arm and winced, breathing as deeply as the tight bandages would allow.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Bekkah." Gordon sounded contrite. John returned to the chair while Gordon perched on the end of the bed.
"Has anyone heard anything from the island?" she asked, "I'm anxious that my kids know that you rescued me."
"They are okay. Grandma gave them a sedative to help them sleep, and when they got up this morning, Dad told them that you'd been rescued," John explained. "They are still a bit shaken though. Your homecoming will be the best thing for them."
"I should probably call them so they can at least see my face and hear my voice. Maybe later, though. Have to recover from all that exertion you two just put me through."
"Well, then, get some more rest. One of us will be here all the time. Now that we've got you back, we're not going to lose you again," Gordon said fiercely.
Bekkah lay back down on the pillows. She looked at the two brothers. "What happened yesterday? I wasn't exactly conscious when you rescued me."
Gordon and John looked at each other. They weren't sure if Bekkah was up to telling her story and hearing the whole tale.
"Tell you what, Bekkah." John told her. "You tell us your story, and we'll fill in the gaps for you."
"Okay." Bekkah told them about the abduction, how the Hood had jumped her and rendered her unconcious. Trembling, she slowly and haltingly told them about her time in the sub, how the Hood had tricked her into opening her eyes, and how she couldn't stop herself when he questioned her. Then about how he kept kicking her in his fury. She closed her eyes, and breathed deeply to regain her composure.
John and Gordon were silent for a moment. Then Gordon took up the tale, telling her how Alan had tracked her with the edible transmitter and they had intercepted the Hood. Gordon looked at John with a question in his eyes, Do we tell her about his attempt to kill her? John nodded and picked up the story, telling her about the ballast tanks and the Hood's escape. He described how they stopped the sub from sinking and how Gordon swam over to the sub. Gordon told her about the overloaded engines and his hurried departure from the sub with her. John gave her the account of the explosion, the compression wave and how he had lost control of Thunderbird Four.
"When he got you aboard Thunderbird Four, Gordon held on to you in the airlock while the compression surge took us a kilometer off course. I was knocked for a loop; you can see my goose egg here." John pointed to a bruise on his forehead. "Then I went back to help him dry you off and get you on a stretcher. It was kinda hard removing your...um...oh." John turned several interesting shades of red, much to the amusement of his brother.
"Bekkah, one of the first rules of dealing with shock is to get a person warm. You were soaking wet and cold," Gordon explained, trying to keep from laughing. "We had to take off your clothing to dry you off properly." He also had the grace to blush.
Bekkah covered her eyes with her good hand and shook her head, blushing furiously herself. "I'll never live this down, will I?"
"We'll never tell, will we, John?" Gordon's tone was less than reassuring.
"Kyrano has your clothes and is getting them cleaned," John said hurriedly.
"Thanks, you two. For everything. Especially for telling me what happened." Bekkah dropped her eyes. "I wish I could have stood out against him. I'm trying to remember what he asked me. It's so hard."
The room was quiet for a moment. The door opened and a nurse came in.
"You gentlemen will have to leave. We need to change the dressings on Dr. Barnes' wounds and get some more of that salt water off her skin." The nurse whipped the covers off of Bekkah, uncovering her legs. Gordon flinched when he saw the bruising around Bekkah's ankles and the contusions on her calves from the Hood's fury.
"We'll be right outside, Bekkah." He and John left, closing the door behind them.
Bekkah gave the nurse a careful look. Somehow, when the Tracy boys left, she felt unprotected. But the nurse was legitimate, and helped her into the shower to clean her up.
Bekkah finished her lunch and moved the tray out of the way. She lay back on the pillows again, closing her eyes. Gordon had gone to get himself some lunch and would be back momentarily, while John had left for the hotel room they were sharing to catch up on his sleep. She heard a cough from the doorway and opened her eyes.
Standing in the doorway, leaning with one hand on a cane, one hand behind his back, with a sour look on his bespectacled face was...
He gave her a long look. "You shirking here, Bekkah?"
" 'Fraid so, Hiram."
He looked at her with a smile and came in, limping.
"You're walking!" Bekkah reached for him with her good arm. He took her hand and kissed it, and brought out a bouquet of flowers from behind his back.
"Wow! You really are walking! You old fox!"
He sat down in the chair. "I heard about your encounter with an old enemy. I had to come and see for myself that you were all right."
Bekkah suddenly sobered. "You've had a run-in with the Hood, too?"
"Yes. At Lake Anasta. He buried me in the sand up to my neck in the desert sun to get me to talk. Then he hypnotized me and blew up an underwater temple around me, burying me in rubble. Scott and Gordon rescued me."
Bekkah was surprised by her friend's matter-of-fact recitation of his ordeal. "That's horrible! But you are so calm about it."
"It was several years ago. But I've never forgotten the terror of his eyes." Bekkah shuddered in sympathy.
Another noise from the door alerted the two to Kyrano's appearance. He carried a package. "Hello, Dr. Barnes. I have brought your clothes." He looked Bekkah up and down with a discerning eye, noticing the bruises from the handcuffs and the stiff way Bekkah sat up. He came in the room quietly, his very presence soothing.
"Kyrano drove me over from the rehab unit. I'm to be discharged tomorrow. We're hoping you'll be discharged, too, and can come home with us."
Kyrano spoke. "If you are not well enough, I will remain in Singapore to help your recovery."
"Oh, Kyrano! That's so generous of you! But I hope to be out of here soon and back home with my kids." She accepted the package from Kyrano. "Thank you so much for getting my clothes cleaned for me." She blushed at the memory of how he got them.
"Looks like you took my challenge seriously, Hiram," Bekkah joshed. Then she sat up straight as if stung, her face paling.
"What's the matter, Bekkah?" Brains asked his friend in a concerned voice.
"I just remembered something I told the Hood." She closed her eyes against the memory. "I told him the scheduled date for the shakedown mission of Thunderbird Four Mark Two."
Bekkah spent that night in the hospital, with Gordon on guard, and was discharged the next day. Jeff flew over with Tin-Tin, bringing Bekkah a fresh pair of shoes, as the ones she had been wearing were ruined. The group flew back as quickly as possible. Tin-Tin made Bekkah as comfortable as she could, and Bekkah dozed most of the way back to the island. At the airstrip, they were greeted by Scott, who insisted on helping Bekkah up the stairs to the villa. At the top of the stairs were Grandma Tracy and Bekkah's kids. The kids were happy to see their mom, but were subdued, and treated their mother as if she were made of glass. They all sat down to a big welcome back dinner for Brains, but once the dinner was over, Grandma Tracy insisted on putting Bekkah to bed.
She lay on her bed, with her kids all sitting on the bed beside her. They brought the current book they were reading, J.R.R. Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, and each of the children read a portion of the current chapter to their mom. Then Chell took over shepherding her brothers to bed. Never before were the kisses of her children as sweet to Bekkah as they were then. She took a pain pill, and it helped her drop off to sleep.
During the night, one by one, her children left their beds to join their mother in hers. They had thought they'd lost her, and wanted the comfort of knowing that she was indeed back with them again.