For a third time, Bekkah woke up in the sick room. This time she was alone, and there were machines beeping around her. She recognized the EEG and EKG machines and wondered why she was hooked up to them. Her head felt fuzzy, and she felt sand between her toes. It was still night.
She tried to recall what happened but the past few hours were an entire blank. She vaguely remembered having a conversation with Chell, but nothing else. She turned her head as someone entered the room.
"Brains, she's awake," Tin-Tin called back over her shoulder as she came over to Bekkah. Brains followed quickly, his limp nearly gone.
"How do you feel?" he asked gently.
"Fuzzy and sandy. Why am I here?"
"A two-dog morning, huh?" He waited until she got the joke and gave him a weak laugh. "You were found out on the beach, clutching your head and telling someone 'Get Out of My Head'. Then you screamed and, ta da! passed out."
"I don't remember any of it." She closed her eyes against another headache. Brains saw her grimace.
"What's the matter, Bekkah? Another headache?" She nodded.
"Tin-Tin, monitor that EEG. Bekkah, do you hear anyone trying to talk to you?"
Bekkah listened with all her might. At first there was silence, but as the pain escalated, she heard a whisper, then a voice, then a shout.
"Rebekkah Barnes! Speak to me! SPEAK TO ME!" The words in her mind came out through her mouth, startling Tin-Tin and Brains.
Get out of my head. Go away. Get out of my head. Bekkah began to mouth the words again.
"Give me a hypo of 1000 mg ASA, Tin-Tin." Brains took the hypospray and tucked it up near Bekkah's carotid artery, then administered the medicine. The pain faded back and so did the voice.
"Bekkah. Who is talking to you?" Brains pressed her for an answer.
Tears began to swell from Bekkah's eyes and course down her cheeks. "That scum. That filth. The Hood."
Jeff Tracy returned from the mainland to a chaotic household. There had been an emergency call that sent Scott, Virgil, and Gordon to an island in the Caribbean where a volcano had erupted, trapping the staff and patients of a hospital between two rivers of lava. John was sitting behind Jeff's desk, looking like he hadn't slept a wink all night. Brains, Tin-Tin, and Bekkah were nowhere to be found. And the Barnes children were in the kitchen making their own lunch, and, it seemed, everyone else's.
"John, what's going on?" Jeff sat down on a chair by the desk. A call from Alan interrupted.
"John, the guys have taken the Mole down and under one of the lava flows. They can't take Thunderbird Two over there; there's just not enough room to land her. And the heat is causing some fierce thermals that keep Thunderbird Two from hovering for long. They've come up by the hospital. Gordon is organizing the evacuation while Virgil has taken the critical care patients out. This is going to be a long one. Oh, hello, Father!" Alan looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, unlike his older brother.
"Father, we have another problem." John sounded weary beyond his years. "It seems that while Bekkah was under the Hood's control, he managed to plant a post-hypnotic suggestion. She's been having bad headaches for the past month or more and losing time. Just like Kyrano did. Last night was the worst."
"Is that why the Barnes children are spreading peanut butter and jelly on every piece of bread in the kitchen?" Jeff asked wryly. As if on cue, Terry walked gingerly in with a tray of the sandwiches, a handful of chips, and a glass of milk. He put it down carefully in front of John, and said, "Here is your lunch, Uncle John." He turned to Jeff. "Would you like some PBJ sandwiches, Mr. Tracy?" he asked politely. "We made lots."
"So I saw, Terry. No, thank you. I'm not fond of peanut butter."
John absently picked up a sandwich and began to munch on it. "Brains and Tin-Tin have been working with Bekkah all night. They think she managed to shake him off for a while. But now the headaches are coming more frequently and are stronger. The Hood is trying to re-establish control over her."
It was the truth. When Bekkah had screamed that night, she had cut off the connection the Hood had made with her. He was thrown to the floor by the force of her rejection. And he had tried harder and harder to reconnect with his perfect tool. But between her own strength, and the drugs Brains kept pumping into her, he was unable to do it. Finally, his mighty endurance spent, he left Bekkah alone and sought his own repose. He would try again once he regained his own equilibrium. I will have her back. She will not defy me!
Bekkah was sleeping peacefully. Brains and Tin-Tin, both looking ragged, ate their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mechanically. It had been a hard fight, but it looked like Bekkah had won temporarily.
"He will try again, you know," Tin-Tin told Brains.
"Yes, I know. But the longer his connection is broken, the harder it will be for him to re-establish it. You've seen that with your own father."
Tin-Tin nodded; it had taken three years before they realized that the Hood had gained access to International Rescue through Kyrano. But once they knew the facts, her father had marshalled the considerable quiet power he possessed and broke the connection once and for all. The Hood had tried more than once to reconnect with his half-brother, but Kyrano had fought him off every time.
Can Bekkah do this? She has won one battle, but can she win the war for her mind and will? Tin-Tin sincerely hoped so.
"These are the last patients, Scott!" Gordon herded the ambulatory patients and several of their caregivers together a distance away from the hole that the Mole had been using to ferry patients out.
"F-A-B, Gordon," replied Scott. He was on the other end of the tunnel, organizing the local transportation efforts to get the evacuees to safer ground. The rivers of lava had not let up, in fact, they had widened. Virgil's tunnel still spanned one river but wouldn't for much longer.
"I'm going back under, Scott. Be with you in a few, Gordon." Virgil cranked up the Mole once more and sent the auger spinning. The huge machine disappeared from view with a loud rumble.
Scott was looking across the river of hot gravel, when he heard another rumble. A huge dimple appeared in the middle of the river, widening, and lava began to back up into the channel made by the Mole just moments before.
"Virgil!" Fear clutched at Scott's heart. The tunnel had collapsed! Where was the Mole?
"Scott! The tunnel collapsed!" Gordon's fear was evident in his tone and in his face, which appeared on Scott's telecomm. "Where is Virgil?"
"I don't know, Gordo. He hasn't checked in." Scott tried reaching his next-youngest brother again. No answer. He kept peering over the river, looking for the Mole's auger to come up.
"I hear him, Scott. He's coming up now!" Gordon was so relieved that his knees turned to rubber and he nearly fell down. Scott noticed it from across the river. His relief over Virgil was colored by his worry over Gordon. His aquanaut brother and his astronaut brother both stayed by Bekkah's side through much of the previous night. Scott had gone back to bed for a few hours, while Virgil sacked out on the Barnes family's couch, in case one of the children woke. None did, so he got some sleep as well. Gordon and John had not.
The Mole's drill came quickly up. Scott's telecomm beeped for his attention.
"Scott, the tunnel collapsed." Virgil looked hot and harried. "It was all I could do to get the Mole out of there. But I couldn't back up, the tunnel fell apart behind me. So now we have another problem. How do we get the Mole and these patients back across the lava?"
Scott thought silently for a while. Then he came up with the solution.
"Good thinking, Scott!" Jeff praised his eldest son for what was an ingenious solution. Scott had loaded the Mole's platform back in the pod, fastening it down tightly. Then he took control of Thunderbird Two, and fitted it down over the pod. He warned Gordon to take the patients back into the hospital. Then he flew Thunderbird Two across the river of lava. There wasn't enough room for Thunderbird Two to actually land, but there was just enough room for the pod. He hovered as close to the ground as he could, then dropped the pod. It clanked horribly, and probably got dented, but he didn't care. He took Thunderbird Two back across the river of lava.
Virgil got the Mole back on its perch, and then moved it over to make another tunnel. Gordon brought all of the patients and their caregivers out and hustled them into the Mole. Virgil started the digging machine up and away he went. Gordon stayed behind to help load the Mole up when Virgil returned with it. The back end of the pod was beginning to heat up by the time Virgil returned, but between the two of them, they got the Mole stowed, and Scott came over with Thunderbird Two and got the pod, a corner of which had begun to warp.
Gordon checked on Bekkah before he went to shower and get some sleep. She was sleeping, her face still. He ran a finger gently over one cheek, then put a delicate kiss on her forehead. She didn't stir. He left, feeling comforted that she was at peace for a change.
Jeff also sent John off to bed. He, too, checked on Bekkah before following his father's instructions. He held her hand for a moment, then kissed it gently. "Sleep well, big sister." he whispered.
Down to the wire
Bekkah had The Scarlet Pimpernel blasting in both of her ear speakers. The headache that had threatened to bring her to her knees gradually subsided. She smiled to herself. The Hood must not like my taste in music, she thought. It had been a week since she had first broken the connection between the two of them, and she could feel it when he was trying to reconnect. The headaches could be blinding, but the discovery that loud music made him back down kept her off of the drugs that Brains had to give her at first.
She finally got down to the simulator to iron out the bugs in the software. There weren't as many as she thought there would be. Using her already-tested microcomp software as a base helped. She stretched and headed down to the repair bay.
Brains and Tin-Tin were preparing to transfer the nuclear plant from the original Thunderbird Four to the new vessel. It would take a day for the actual transfer and the rest of the week to make all the connections and put in the extra shielding. Almost everyone would be involved at one time or another, working around the clock to get it done. She climbed into the Mark Two.
Gordon was finishing up with the cockpit controls. The new steering column had been installed and he was testing it out.
"How does it feel?" she asked.
"I'll have to get used to it," he replied with a rueful grin. "I like the joystick controls for the grapples and the other auxilliaries. Feels like a video game."
"The simulator is set up if you'd like to... play." She grinned at him.
He got to his feet. "Really?" She nodded.
He made a bee-line for the hatch, then looked back at Bekkah. "Wanna play with me?" he asked cheekily.
"I'll be up in a few minutes. Gotta make sure you don't blow up too many luxury liners." He waved at her and left.
Bekkah looked around the cockpit. It would be done very soon, and then International Rescue would have the fastest, safest, deepest diving submarine in the world. She felt another headache coming on and signalled her microcomp to play some of The Pirates of Penzance. The Hood seemed to particularly hate Gilbert and Sullivan.
As she looked around the cockpit, her eyes were drawn to the ventilation grill. Something about it nagged at her. She picked up a screwdriver and popped the grill from its housing. Inside was a device of some sort. She got a flashlight to look it over carefully. It had two cylinders, one on each side of the vent and a sprayer of some sort.
A gas delivery device, she realized. But it wasn't in the specs. I wonder if there are any others?
Bekkah checked each ventilation duct. At least one duct in each sector of the ship had the same device. She teased out one of the cylinders. Her eyes widened when she read the gas stored inside.
How did this get in here? If it was activated, Gordon would be killed! A smear of brown caught her eye. Blood?
It finally hit her. She had installed these devices. That was how her nail got caught. She closed her eyes in pain. I don't believe it. Then her eyes opened and hardened. The Hood did this, not me. I was under his control.
Control. An idea occurred to her. I could turn this to our advantage. Maybe hoist the Hood on his own petard. With a grim smile, she set out to make it happen.
Tin-Tin and Brains had donned their protective suits. A piece of hull on the old Thunderbird Four had been removed to give the easiest access to the nuclear plant. A similar opening had been maintained in the Mark Two for the transfer.
"O-okay now. We've disconnected the, uh, power couplings, and have taken the core offline. It goes last. First, w-we move the engine casing to from one to the other. Then we a-add the extra shielding, and m-move the, uh, core itself," Brains explained the sequence of events.
Jeff and John nodded. They were also clad in protective suits, ready to help. Bekkah and Virgil stood together in the repair bay's observation deck. Bekkah had her hands around a cup of strong coffee.
"This is the tough part." Virgil turned to Bekkah. When he got no response, he tapped her shoulder. She turned to him.
"Headache?" he asked. Bekkah nodded. He repeated his comment, louder this time.
"Yes. It's a touchy procedure." Her music was so loud it was hard to hear anyone else. The Hood wasn't backing down either. She fished around in her pocket and pulled out a hypospray of ASA, which she administered to herself. The pain level dropped. Get out of my head! she thought. Go away!
Gordon lifted his welding mask. He had put the final weld in the opening used to put the nuclear engine into the Mark Two. Scott and Virgil were beginning to hook up the engine to the sub's various systems. He put away the welding equipment and joined his brothers inside. He poked his head in the engine room. "Where do you want me to start?"
"Come give us a hand here. We've got a connection fault that we can't track down." Scott frowned at his data pad.
Their work was interrupted by the emergency signal. Scott groaned, but the three of them put down their work and headed to the lounge. In a few minutes, Brains, Tin-Tin, and Bekkah arrived to pick up where the three Tracys had left off.
The Hood howled with rage. This Barnes woman had deflected him at every turn. She played loud music, filling the connection between them with noise. She drugged herself to cope with the pain he was inflicting on her. And she had done all she could to stay awake for the past two weeks. She cannot stay awake forever. She will let down her guard. Then I will catch her then and turn her mind inside out.
"Are we going to make it?" Jeff asked Brains. The two were poring over the list of things left to do to the Mark Two.
"I-it's going to be, uh, close, Mr. Tracy." Brains pushed his glasses back up on his nose. "Most of the interior work has been finished. W-we have to hook up the auxilliary e-equipment, the computer, and put the, uh, cabinets and other storage lockers up, and fill them with the n-necessities. Wh- while we're doing that, we can p-put the paint on. Then a coat of sealant. And the light bar." Brains nodded. "I think we'll be r-ready."
"How is Gordon doing in the simulator?" Jeff addressed his question to Bekkah.
"Very well." she told him. She grinned. "He does have a tendency to use the virtual mini-missiles a lot."
Jeff snorted. "Sounds like Gordon. Always blowing things up." He handed the list to Brains. "Looks like we are good to go for the 30th."
Bekkah closed her eyes against another twinge of pain. She had to shake this scum. Get out of my mind! she thought. GO AWAY!
Bekkah was getting very weary. She had tried to vary her sleep schedule so she was never asleep at the same time two days in a row. She drank lots of caffeine. She slept in the sick room, the EEG monitoring her brain, with a loud alarm to wake her when an attack was indicated. But she found herself falling asleep at the table, in the lab, anywhere she happened to sit down and rest. Someone almost always came by to wake her, and when she woke, the headache was already there. Kyrano was the one who was her main support during this time. He told her about his own mental battles with the Hood, and tried to keep tabs on her during the day.
"I am worried about Dr. Barnes," he confided to Jeff. "My half-brother has fought for control of her mind long and hard. She is physically weakening, I fear."
"I know, Kyrano. I've seen it, too." Jeff shook his head. "I wish I knew how to help."
Bekkah keyed in some more programming code. The screen blurred before her dry and tired eyes. This attack had lasted a half-hour, and although it hadn't escalated, it wasn't going away. A war of attrition, she thought. He wants me to say "uncle" first. Her eyes closed of their own volition, then she jerked awake. No, she thought, you will not have me. I am no longer your tool. She turned the volume up to maximum on the Andrews Sisters boogie-woogie. Gotta get this code done. Hoist the Hood on his own petard. Get out of my head!
The final details were done. Thunderbird Four Mark Two stood in pod 4, painted a fresh, bright yellow with red accents. The sealant had dried. The computer was hooked up. All of the gear was aboard. Gordon looked on his Thunderbird with pride and anticipation. Tomorrow would be the shakedown, one day ahead of schedule. He could hardly wait.
"She looks great." Gordon turned to see Bekkah coming towards him, several devices in her arms. He went to relieve her of some of them. He recognized one. "Telemetry transponder?"
"Yup. Four of them. One for the control panel, one for the engine, one for the hull, and one to cover all the other systems. We want details on how this baby performs." Bekkah climbed into the vehicle, Gordon following. Together they installed the telemetry transponders in the cockpit, the engine room, on the inner hull, and in the electric junction that served all the other systems. When they were done, they sat in the pilot and copilot chairs, just enjoying the quiet. Gordon noticed that Bekkah didn't have her speakers in.
"Has he let up?"
"For the moment. I think I've worn him out today."
"You should get some sleep. You look all in."
"Don't think I could get any. I'm much too excited." She turned to him with a grin. "I'm riding with Virgil tomorrow, so my microcomp will be closer to the action."
"Well, then. I'll just have to behave myself. No pyrotechnics."
"Definitely no pyrotechnics." She looked thoughtful. "Now that this project is nearly over, I have to make a big decision."
"Do I stay or do I go?"
Gordon sat up straight, a frown on his handsome face. "What do you mean, do you go?"
Bekkah looked at him frankly. "You know that when I came on board here it was supposed to be temporary. Just until Hiram got better. Then I stayed to see the Thunderbird Four project to the end. But now Hiram is back and the project is nearly done. And since the Hood got his claws into me, I've become more of a liability than a help to International Rescue. So I have to choose: stay here and be a liability, or go home and be a target." She looked out the viewport. "Your father has asked me to stay on, despite the problems I've had with the Hood. But I'm not sure it's the best thing for International Rescue."
Gordon slumped back as if pole-axed. "What about...us? I'd miss you. So would John. We've become such good friends." He looked her in the eye. "I care about you. And about those kids of yours. Have you thought about them? Leaving will make them very vulnerable." He was getting angry at her.
"Yes, I've thought about them. They are going to be vulnerable no matter where I go or what I do. Even if I stay here." She looked down at her hands. "And as far as 'we' are concerned, I care about both you and John. I don't want to hurt either of you. And I don't want to come between you." Tears fell onto her hands. "Especially since you've both become my best friends."
Gordon could not stay angry. Tenderly, he reached out to Bekkah's face and stroked away a tear. "Please don't cry, Bekkah. I want you to stay. Please say you'll stay." He got up and began to massage her shoulders and neck. Then, as she relaxed under his ministrations, he began to gently kiss the back of her neck. This time, there was no surprise in her reaction. She gave a soft moan as he continued. Then she turned and he kissed her, tenderly, passionately. She rose from her seat and put her arms around his neck, her mouth finding his. He put one arm around her waist and began to explore her back under her shirt with the other.
Without warning, she threw her head back with a shrill scream, and collapsed into his arms, a deadweight. He hurried to catch her before she fell to the floor. He consulted his telecomm. "Brains! Bekkah just gave a scream and collapsed! I need some help down here!"
"F-A-B, Gordon. Where are you?"
"In Thunderbird Four! Hurry, her breathing is getting worse! Her pulse is slowing!" He slid to the floor of the cockpit, cradling Bekkah on his lap. He whispered in her ear. "Fight him! C'mon Bekkah! You've got to fight him!"
He held her as John had held him when he heard of his mother's death. He rocked her as his father had done whenever he had wakened with childhood nightmares. And he told her to live, as his mother had when her spirit came to him after his hydrofoil accident.
He heard the pounding of feet coming down the rungs of the airlock, then a loud thump as someone ignored the last few and jumped to the deck. John slid into the room, hair mussed, frantic worry on his face.
"What happened? How is she?" John joined him on the floor. Brains also came into the cockpit, carrying a medikit. He motioned John aside to check Bekkah's pulse, her eyes, her breathing.
"Shock," was the one word he uttered. He loaded up a hypospray of stimulant and administered it. Then he checked her vitals again. "She's stabilizing. Let's get her to the sick room." John went to Thunderbird Four's tiny sickbay and came back with a backboard. Together, he and Gordon strapped Bekkah down for transport out of the water craft.
Bekkah looked around. She was in an ancient Asian temple. Lit by torches which cast eerie shadows on the stone walls and floors. She moved cautiously along, watching for danger.
"Welcome, Dr. Barnes." The hated voice came from behind her. She turned, but kept her eyes averted, looking out through peripheral vision only. She could see the Hood, dressed in golden, bejeweled armor, a scimitar at his waist.
"Where am I?" she demanded.
"In my domain. My mind. You will not resist me this time. I will repay you for your defiance."
"In your dreams." she spat.
He laughed, chilling her to the core. "You are quite right. We are in my dreams. And here, I am master."
Bekkah's body lay still on the bed. She was once again hooked up to EKG and EEG leads. The EEG alarm went off the moment she was hooked up.
"It's another attack. The worst ever." Brains shut off the piercing alarm and kept his eyes on the EEG readouts. The EKG began to beep for attention.
"Her heartbeat is erratic. She's going back into shock." He grabbed another hypo and used it on Bekkah. The heart monitor stabilized to a steady rhythm again.
Gordon leaned over her, holding her hand and whispering in her ear. "Fight him, Bekkah. Don't give in. Don't let him have you."
John brushed her hair away from her sweaty forehead. He whispered in her other ear. "We're here, Bekkah. We're here. Don't give up."
Jeff and Scott hurried into the room, followed by Virgil. "What happened?" Jeff asked.
"She screamed and just collapsed." Gordon turned his worried eyes to his father.
"We think the Hood attacked again," Brains told him as he multi-tasked his way through the diagnostic equipment. Jeff nodded.
The emergency signal decided that was the moment to go off.
"Take good care of her," Scott told his brothers, as he, Jeff, and Virgil headed to the lounge.
A moment later, John's telecomm went off. "John, we need you in Thunderbird Three," Jeff told his son. John looked at Gordon, tears forming in his eyes.
Gordon gave him a nod. "I'll be right here. I won't leave her."
John wiped his eyes, and rushed from the room.
Gordon kept up his whispered pep talk, oblivious to the beeping machines. He slowly became aware that Kyrano had taken John's place on the other side of the bed. The Asian leaned close to Bekkah's ear and began to whisper.
Bekkah found that she had a weapon in her hand, her weighted walking stick. Not much of a defense against a sword, she thought. She saw the Hood begin to circle around her, looking for an opportunity.
"I will beat you into submission as I did aboard the sub. I will enslave your mind to do my bidding and destroy the cursed International Rescue." He kept taunting her. She made no reply. She watched his every move from the corner of her eye.
Bekkah! Bekkah! A voice cried in her ear. He cannot use his eyes on you. Not in his dreams. She recognized the voice as that of Kyrano. She looked the Hood full in the face.
"Oh, now the witch shows a bit of spirit!" He grinned evilly, and swung his sword from side to side. She fell back, the sword's tip barely missing her.
The sword cannot hurt you, Kyrano told her. It is a dream. Break the sword. Be strong and unafraid.
Yes. I am strong. I am not afraid. I am strong. I am not afraid. I am strong. I am not afraid.
She put both hands on her walking stick and swung it down, catching the flat edge of the sword. The blade shattered. The Hood tossed away the hilt.
"No matter. I will finish you with my bare hands. You will be mine forever."
Fight him, Bekkah. Fight him. Gordon's voice rang through her head.
The Hood leapt at her. She turned around so her back got the brunt of the attack. He wrapped both arms around her.
She used the pointed end of the walking stick and jabbed with all her might into his right foot. Then she stomped on the other foot with all her weight. His grip loosened.
She held her right fist with her left hand and used the muscles of both to drive her right elbow into the Hood's midsection, just below the gleaming breastplate. He grunted and let her go.
Then she held her walking stick almost like a baseball bat, swung around, and let the weighted end come around, aiming for his head.
It connected. The Hood spun away from the force of the blow. He fell onto his belly.
She pulled back, watching him carefully. He tried to get up. She raised her walking stick with both hands above her head, and brought it down forcefully on his skull. There was a loud crack, and he lay still.
The room began to blur and swim and swirl, and she fell through a whirlpool of color and light...
then she opened her eyes.
"I won," she whispered.
Gordon insisted on carrying a weak Bekkah to her quarters. He put her under the covers, and lay beside her, watching her sleep. He dropped off himself during the night, and woke to find Terry between them, Joey cradled in his mother's arms, and Chell on the floor beside her mother. He got up, moved Chell onto the bed, and went out to finish his sleep in his own room.
John and Scott arrived back in the early hours of the morning. They had to stop a satellite that had broken orbit after its booster rockets misfired. If not stopped, its trajectory would have smashed it into one of the habitat domes on the Moon. Scott maneuvered Thunderbird Three close to the satellite so John could spacewalk over to it and override the command codes, then fire the thrusters to take the satellite back to its correct orbit.
After debriefing, John went to the sick room to look for Bekkah. No one was there. He looked in to Gordon's room, and saw his brother sound asleep. He sighed in relief. Surely Gordon would not have left Bekkah's side if things were not all right.
But then a terrible thought occurred to him: Brains could have sedated Gordon because things had gone horribly wrong. John thought he'd better check in Bekkah's quarters to see if the children were okay. He quietly opened the door and padded into the Round House. The children's rooms were empty. His alarm grew. Then he quietly turned the doorknob to Bekkah's room. When he saw her sleeping there, surrounded by her children, he smiled, and went off to his own bed.
Because of all the excitement and worry of the night before, Jeff decided to postpone the shakedown cruise for a day to let everyone get some rest. Bekkah slept in until very late, her weary body beginning to make up for the lost sleep of the past weeks. Gordon and John brought her breakfast in bed, both wanting to know what she meant when she had whispered, "I won." She told them the story, giving credit to Kyrano for helping her stay unafraid and focused.
"I think I need some more lessons from Scott. So I can defend myself better in real life," she admitted.
"As soon as the shakedown is over, I want to take you down to the firing range and show you how to use a gun." Gordon was very serious.
John nodded. "Gordon's the best shot of all of us. He'll teach you everything you need to know."
Later that day, Bekkah went down to Thunderbird Four. She popped off the ventilation covers. She had already removed the cyanide capsules, and now she filled the empty spaces with a different capsule. Once all of the gas delivery devices had been filled and the grilles replaced, she sat down in the pilot's chair and opened the mini-CD drive on the main CPU. She inserted a disk and downloaded the software from it to the main hard drive. Once downloaded, a new display tell-tale lit up. It was labled, "ICU". She smiled, removed the mini disk, and left Thunderbird Four.
The Hood lay on the floor of his temple all night, unconscious. When he finally came to, he had a tremendous headache, and dried blood on the back of his scalp. He tried to reach out to Bekkah Barnes, but got no response. She had broken his connection for good. He swore and cursed her to perdition. Then he remembered a piece of information he had gleaned from her earlier. He smiled ferally. If he could not use the engineer to gain the secrets of International Rescue, he knew where he could find someone else almost as good. And a brand new piece of technology to go with him. He gathered his wits about him and prepared for another assault on International Rescue.
Everyone was up early on September 30. Excitement was high in the lounge as Jeff gave last minute instructions to Gordon, Virgil, John, and Bekkah. It was John's last day before trading with Alan in Thunderbird Five, and he wanted to be there for the shakedown. Bekkah was bringing her microcomp along to record the telemetry data. She was excited because this was her first time out on any mission.
"Keep in touch with Virgil and with base, Gordon. We're as anxious to hear how she does as you are to try her out," Jeff reminded his son.
"F-A-B, Father!" Gordon was grinning from ear to ear.
"Thunderbirds are go!" Jeff said, and the foursome headed for their respective rides into Thunderbird Two. John, Virgil, and Gordon were all in uniform, while Bekkah wore her work overall. Grandma Tracy had sewn an IR logo just below the left shoulder, and Bekkah wore it proudly. She strapped herself in, microcomp in her lap, as the giant transport was lifted up on the runway. The engines fired, and she was pushed back into her seat, hollering a loud "Whoa!" at the g-force that she felt. Gordon, sitting next to her, grinned as he remembered his first trip in the green Thunderbird.
Once they leveled off, Gordon went back to the pod to prep Thunderbird Four for her maiden voyage. He put a wireless interface like Bekkah's into his ear.
"Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two and base. Pre-launch check completed. You may drop the pod when ready, Virgil."
Virgil had decreased altitude until he was hovering about 8 meters over the water. "Dropping pod now!" He toggled a lever, and Bekkah felt a sudden jerk as the pod left its magnetic clamps and fell into the sea. She quickly set up her microcomp on a flat work surface, and put her interface in her ear. She opened a window for each of the telemetry transponders aboard Thunderbird Four.
"Opening flap," Virgil told Gordon.
"Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two and base. Initiating launch sequence." Bekkah looked out the front viewport of Thunderbird Two, which had climbed up to hover at about 30 meters. She saw the flap door of the pod open, and the rails telescope out. Then Thunderbird Four's jets fired, and she slid down the rails and into the sea.
"Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two and base. I have submerged!" A cheer could be heard from base. Virgil, John, and Bekkah cheered, too, and Bekkah gave hugs to both of the Tracy brothers. She went back to her station to watch the telemetry.
"Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two and base. I am diving to the depth of 0.5 km. Speed: 20 knots." Gordon felt elated to be back under the sea again. The new controls were handling well and the cockpit already felt comfortable. "Thunderbird Four to Thunderbird Two. Hey, Bekkah. You sure you didn't want to come down? The water's fine!"
"Bekkah to Thunderbird Four. No, Gordon. This is your moment of glory. Enjoy it!"
Thunderbird Four cut through the water like a torpedo. Gordon put her through her maneuvers, diving, turning, banking. The telemetry that Bekkah was looking at showed no stress at all on the hull, even at the deepest point. Gordon brought the vessel up to a depth of 30 meters and skimmed along under the ocean's surface. He surprised a pod of dolphins that were feeding nearby.
"Whoa! Sorry about that guys!" he apologized to the creatures, then radioed in to let those listening know what had happened. Suddenly he heard a clank on the starboard side of his vessel.
"Either I just hit something, or something hit me," he radioed to his listeners. "I'm going to look out and see if I can tell what it was." He slowed the vessel down, put the helm on stationkeeping, and walked over to the starboard section of the port to look out.
Up in Thunderbird Two, Bekkah noticed the activity through the helm telemetry. She waited for Gordon to report and speed up again. But then she looked at the whole system telemetry, and was puzzled.
"John, come look at this." John came and leaned over her shoulder. "He's opened the outer hatch to the airlock. It has flooded. Now it's draining. And the inner hatch is opening." She sat back abruptly as she realized what the telemetry meant.
"Someone has boarded Thunderbird Four!"
Virgil immediately tried to radio his brother under the sea. "Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird Four. Do you read me?" Silence. "Gordon, what's going on?" He was greeted by silence again.
Bekkah spoke up. "He's moving away. Diving down to 0.5 km." She looked at Virgil with a stricken face. "Something is wrong." The two Tracys and Bekkah looked at each other uncertainly.
"Base to Thunderbird Two. What's going on with Thunderbird Four?" Jeff couldn't hide the worry in his voice.
"We don't know, base. Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird Five. Alan, is his telecomm working?"
Alan's voice filtered through the speaker. "Yes, Virgil. But he's not answering."
"I wish we knew what was happening," John said softly. Bekkah moved to join him by the pilot's chair.
"Yeah." Virgil agreed. "Too bad we don't have that remote access online yet. We could use the internal cameras to see what was going on!"
At Virgil's words, Bekkah's eyes opened wide, a look of hope in them. "Virgil, you're a genius!" She grabbed Virgil's face and planted a kiss right on his lips.
"I am?" he asked, confused.
"Yes! We do have remote access online. In my microcomp!" Bekkah hurried back to her workstation. "Computer, minimize telemetry windows." She took a moment to marshal her thoughts, ran her hand through her hair, and took a deep breath.
"Computer, establish remote access voice-only control link with computer on Thunderbird Four. Security code RTBAlpha9." A window opened with the word "ACCESSING" in it.
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," Bekkah encouraged under her breath. The word "ACCESSING" was replaced by the words "LINK ESTABLISHED".
"Yes!" Bekkah whispered. John came over to watch over her shoulder.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four. Activate cockpit camera and pan cockpit slowly." Another box came up with a picture of Thunderbird Four's cockpit taken from in front of the control panel. Bekkah made this box bigger so she could see clearly. The camera moved from left to right slowly. Her heart leapt into her throat as she saw Gordon in the copilot's seat, slumped over the control panel.
"There he is! I can't tell if he's injured or not." The camera continued to move. Sitting in the pilot's seat was...
"The Hood!" Bekkah's voice took on a hard and dangerous tone. She took in a big breath and let it out quickly.
"Okay. We can deal with him." She thought for a minute. "Let's make sure our playmate can't go anywhere, first." She spoke into the link.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four, seal all hatches." The Hood jumped when he heard the sound of the hatches sealing. He looked around, then picked Gordon's head up by the hair to see if he was still out cold. Bekkah then saw the gash from Gordon's forehead down to his temple. She growled in her throat. John looked at her with consternation. He had never seen this side of Bekkah before.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four. Switch to infrared camera lens." The picture was now bathed in red light. Virgil put Thunderbird Two on stationkeeping and joined them to watch.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four. Kill lights." The cockpit went dark. "Kill displays." The control panel went dark, too. But the infrared picture was still available on the microcomp's screen.
"Now for the best part," Bekkah said under her breath. "Computer, Thunderbird Four. Activate cockpit intruder control unit." A hissing sound became evident in the cockpit. The Hood's face drained of color. He got up to go to the ventilation shaft where he had instructed Bekkah to put the cyanide gas delivery system.
"Let's have a little fun." Bekkah smiled grimly. "Computer, Thunderbird Four, bank port 45 degrees." The camera angle didn't seem to change, but the Hood went flying backwards at the sharp banking of the craft.
"Bank starboard 60 degrees." The Hood went flying in the opposite direction. Before he could reach the bulkhead, Bekkah changed direction again.
"Bank port 60 degrees. Bank starboard 45 degrees. Bank port 75 degrees. Bank starboard 60 degrees." The Hood went flying from side to side, unable to keep his balance. She kept Thunderbird Four going back and forth until finally, the knockout gas that Bekkah had substituted for the cyanide took effect and the Hood sank to the floor, crumpled up in one corner.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four, trim the keel." The banking stopped. Bekkah looked up at John, triumph in her brown eyes. He raised an eyebrow and grinned.
"Computer, Thunderbird Four. On my mark, initiate controlled decompression ascent. Heading?" This last question was directed to Virgil, who went back to his chair and said over his shoulder, "129.7 magnetic."
"Heading 129.7 magnetic. Mark. Display ETA to surface and coordinates." Bekkah sat back in her seat and sighed. "We've got 20 minutes until they break the surface. Better pick up the pod and meet them."
Virgil nodded and put Thunderbird Two into action.
"Base, did you get all of that?" John asked. He had put his telecomm on as soon as Bekkah began using her microcomp.
"We certainly did, John. Good work, Bekkah. Bring Gordon home. Base out." Jeff cut the connection on his end.
"Whew! That was a nail-biter!" Virgil wiped the sweat from his brow. "I'm glad you kept your cool, Bekkah."
"Kept my cool? I was madder than a hornet! Just couldn't let myself go, though. Gordon was depending on me." She turned to the microcomp's screen. "Ten minutes to surface. Better activate the remote retrieval, Virgil. I'll deactivate Intruder Control. I won't release the hatches or vent the gas until you are ready to go in and pull Gordon out." She got up and rummaged around in the supply lockers. She came out with two plastic strip handcuffs and a long strip of gauze. She folded the gauze four times to make it thick, then handed the items to John.
"Hogtie and blindfold that Hood bugger for me."
Gordon woke up in the sick room, a bandage on his head.
Bekkah noticed him stirring and moved to sit on the side of the bed. "Good evening," she said, smiling. "Welcome back."
Gordon closed his eyes and sighed, then opened them again. "My head hurts."
"Well, you did get clobbered today. Can you remember what happened?"
"I remember a clunk and going to see what had made it. Then there were these eyes..." He sat bolt upright. "The Hood!" The sudden movement made him dizzy and he lay back with a groan. "Thunderbird Four?" he asked, fearfully.
"Safe and sound in Pod 4 without a scratch on her," Bekkah reassured him. He sighed with relief. "And you have your brother Virgil to thank for it. He remembered the remote access software."
Gordon looked at her, scrunching up his eyes. "Thunderbird Two doesn't have that software loaded yet."
"True." Bekkah admitted. "But he reminded me that my microcomp had it. We were able to use it against the Hood."
"There was no 'we' about it." John came walking into the sick room. "Bekkah did it all. You should have seen her, Gordo. 'Seal all hatches. Activate intruder contol.' Ooh, was she scary."
Bekkah chuckled. "I was not going to let him get away with all our hard work." Her voice softened. "Or with you, for that matter."
"What happened to the Hood?" Gordon asked.
"John hogtied and blindfolded him and he and Scott took him to Auckland in Thunderbird One. Called Interpol to take him away. Seems he's wanted in two or three dozen countries for terrorism and industrial espionage. Hopefully he'll be put away and kept that way for a long time." Bekkah took Gordon's hand and began to rub the scars on it.
Gordon looked over at his brother, a question in his eyes. John nodded slightly and winked at him. Gordon was relieved. That little exchange told him that John was giving him the chance to be with Bekkah. She wouldn't have to worry about coming between them.
Tin-Tin came in with a supper tray for Gordon. "You two will miss supper if you don't hurry. And Bekkah, your children are refusing to eat until you make an appearance, so I suggest you two get out of here and let Gordon eat and rest." She shooed them out of the sick room.
"All right, all right, little sister. We're going." Bekkah found it hard to pull away from Gordon. John took her hand.
"C'mon, big sister. Gotta get those young'uns to eat." He drew her from the room.
"What did you call me, John?"
"Big sister. I mean if I'm the kids' adopted uncle, then you must be my adopted sister. Right? And since you're older than me, you're my big sister."
She smiled up at the tall, blond Tracy. "You've been talking to Tin- Tin..."
Epilogue: Decision made
Bekkah stood on the villa's balcony, looking at the moon-dappled sea and enjoying the light, tropic breeze that blew across the Island, ruffling her hair. She closed her eyes, reveling in painless peace. She heard a soft footfall behind her, then another. Two men moved up on either side of her. She opened her eyes, but didn't look at her companions.
Gordon stood to her left, leaning his back up against the balcony so he could see her face. John stood on her right, putting his elbows on the rail and leaning on them.
"Penny for your thoughts," John said.
"No thoughts at all. I'm enjoying having an empty head for once," Bekkah answered. She turned to Gordon. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?"
"I'll get there. Eventually." The three stood in a friendly silence for a few moments.
"Have you made a decision?" Gordon asked.
"Yes. I have." Bekkah sighed.
"Stay or go?" John took his turn.
She looked at each of them. John, tall, blond, modestly unconscious of his classic good looks. Gentle, quiet, spirit full of strength and blue eyes filled with starlust. Gordon, red-haired, boyishly handsome. Boisterous, bubbling over with humor and joy. Fierce when riled, his heart belonging to the sea. She remembered what Terrence had told her. Gordon had needed her. John eventually would, too. She saw in her mind every line of the sketch of Gordon that lay on the floor in that dream world.