Jeff looked up from his desk when he heard Penny's portrait beep and saw her trademark pink pearls flash. Tearing his attention from the rescue unfolding in North Carolina, he switched channels on the desktop microphone. "Go ahead, Penny," he said bluntly.
"Oh, Jeff. I think I might have some news on that machine you were looking for."
The first car Gordon came to was a station wagon. It was standing almost straight up and down against the side of the sinkhole. He reported the license plate number to Tin-Tin as he passed the tailgate. Then he peered through windows on the passenger side as he was slowly lowered down.
"Slower, Scott. I need to see in this car," he told his brother. John was already winched down to the driver's side of the car.
Gordon could barely see through the mud-encrusted windows. He swiped the glass on the middle door with his jacket sleeve. Looking in carefully, he saw the backs of the two people in the front seat silhouetted against the windshield. They were slumped over and unmoving. John had a view of them from the front. The brothers' eyes met, and John shook his head. They would check pulses in just a moment, but first, Gordon wanted to see this back seat clearly
He peeked in, putting his face close to the glass. Then he sighed. He still couldn't see clearly, but there didn't seem to be anyone in the back seat. He was about to tell Scott to move him down a little when he saw a slight movement behind the muddy window. A shrill cry sounded. A baby! Gordon grinned.
"Scott, I think I have a live one here! Send down a stretcher!"
He took a hammer from his belt, and smashed the long back window on that side. Then he reached inside and shattered the door's glass from the inside out. He reached for the door and pulled himself closer. Sure enough, inside the car, held fast in a safety car seat was a baby girl. Carefully, he opened the door, lowering it gently until it was fully extended.
"Well, hello there, little one!" he cooed, as he cut through the seat belt holding the car seat in place. With one hand firmly on the car seat's handle, he pulled it out of the car. The stretcher arrived and he pulled it over to him. The car seat was the safest place for the child, and Gordon didn't hesitate to put it in the middle of the stretcher, threading the straps through the seat and fastening it securely. John looked up from his examination of the driver just in time to see Gordon gently tweak a baby toe. John grinned for a moment, then went back to his grim work.
"Scott, I have a baby girl coming up, car safety seat and all," Gordon reported, joyously.
Up above, Scott began to slowly reverse the center winch. As the stretcher came up, and the onlookers saw its passenger, they began to cheer. Scott just grinned and grinned. It was a good way to start a rescue.
"What intel do you have, Penny?" Jeff asked, interested.
"Well, a young couple showed up unexpectedly at my doorstep last night, a Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Martin. He is an engineer at British Space and Technology, Limited."
"I remember him. He was at the conference in Abidjan last week. He worked with Masters and Rudd, the two who tried using the machine on our technical team."
"An interesting coincidence. It seems that Mrs. Martin was kidnapped earlier in the day as an incentive for Mr. Martin to cooperate with someone. Someone who used a machine to scan Mr. Martin's brain. Neither of them could tell me who it was, but they both said the leader was female, foreign, possibly Asian. They also could not tell me where they had been taken. Once Mr. Martin did as the kidnappers wanted, he and his wife were dropped off about a half kilometer from my estate."
"So they weren't injured?"
"No, just shaken up. But Parker and I went down to check on their flat and see if anything had been planted to... remove the witnesses, as it were."
Jeff looked thoughtful. "Was there anything?"
Penny's voice became somber. "Yes, there was. A bomb in the stove. One that would activate when the stove was next used. An arson investigator would probably rule it to be an accident. Parker deactivated and removed it."
Penny continued. "Sir Jeremy Hodges came to tea today, and I asked him if any scientists had died recently under mysterious circumstances. He confirmed that two other engineers had died in the past week. One from Heathrow Aerospace, and one from McGill and Sons, Limited." Penelope hesitated for a moment. "I know you will say that this is not a job for International Rescue. But we have had dealings with this machine before, and I at least would like to continue to look into the problem. Discreetly, of course."
"What have you done with the Martins?" Jeff asked.
"I sent them off to my ranch in Bongo-Bongo for a brief rest. They will be safe there for the time being."
"You're right about this not being a job for International Rescue. But I think we'll put our agents on it. I want to consult with our technical team and see what they think. Unfortunately, Brains and Tin-Tin are both on a rescue right now, and Bekkah is with her parents. So we can't act on this intelligence right away." Jeff smiled at his top agent. "Thanks for getting the information to me so quickly. I'll get back to you on what we decide to do, and who we are assigning to this problem."
"You're quite welcome, Jeff. Goodbye for now." Penelope signed off.
Jeff sighed, partially with relief. At least we know the machine is in England, he thought. Now what will we do about it?
The eyes on Scott's portrait blinked. Jeff turned his attention back to his oldest son, and the ongoing rescue.