News at 11

The Asian woman played back the CD she had recorded of Gregory Martin's brain. The translation program of the machine made the wavy engrams into viable pictures. Of course, there was a lot to sift through. It wasn't just the man's engineering knowledge and company-related data that were on the CD, but also the memories and thoughts of a lifetime. She liked to sort through those, too. Possibly an opportunity for blackmailing someone else would come up.

And there was a little of the voyeur in her; sexual fantasies or memories of sexual encounters were often exciting to look at. In Gregory Martin's case, those scenes were mundane and pedestrian. It seemed his little Janet was his one and only lover. She kept looking for the piece of the puzzle that she knew must have been in Martin's mind.

A man came into the room where she was working. He waited patiently for her to acknowledge his presence.

"Report." she said simply, not taking her eyes off the screen.

"The Martins have disappeared."

That news roused her. She turned to the man behind her, fury in her face. "Disappeared? How? Where?"

"We don't know. But they have not been back to their flat since the abduction."

"Scour the area where you left them off. Someone must be hiding them. Possibly the police." She turned back to the screen. "Status on the bomb?"

"Deactivated. And removed."

She lifted her head and stared off into space, barely holding her anger at her hirelings' incompetence in check. "Plant another. And find out where they are! They cannot remain alive to tell of their experience!"

"Yes, my lady," the messenger bowed low and left.

She turned her attention back to the screen. That third piece must be here!

Bekkah didn't usually watch the 11 o'clock news, but the blurb about the "International Rescue involvement" in the I-26 rescue caught her ear. She knew there would be no pictures allowed of the Thunderbird craft, but there would probably be eyewitness accounts of the proceedings and she wanted to know how the rescue went. So after putting the children to bed and making sure her parents were also asleep, she sat down on the couch in the living room to watch the live report.

"International Rescue was called out today to help find survivors in the worst sinkhole ever seen on I-26 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. To update you on that situation, we go now to Jean Sanders, live on I-26."

The picture of the anchorman in his warm and trendy newsroom set switched to a woman out in the cold mist, wearing a rain jacket.

"Thanks, Fred. International Rescue has been working all day today to find survivors of one the worst multi-car pile-ups in the history of I-26. Their men and equipment have been going down into the sinkhole to pull out the injured drivers and passengers from the cars that fell into the pit and they have also been bringing up the cars that are down there so that the bodies in them can be reclaimed."

Someone handed her a piece of paper. "I have just learned that one of the International Rescue operatives has been injured. The extent of his injuries is not yet known, but he is being transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital."

Bekkah heard nothing more, even though the reporter kept chattering. She went over to the videophone and called Tracy Island.

Jeff's harried face appeared. "Bekkah, I don't have time...."

"Jeff, just tell me who it was and what hospital. Then I'll sign off," Bekkah told him.

"It's Gordon and he's at Waynesboro General. They're talking about airlifting him to Asheville, as the hospitals are packed out around the rescue site."

"Okay, I'll...."

"Wait! What's that, Virgil? They are airlifting him to Greenville?"

"Jeff, ask if it's North or South Carolina." Bekkah began to hope.

"South Carolina, Bekkah. He's coming to your neck of the woods." Jeff smiled for the first time in hours.

"Great! Does Virgil know which hospital?"

Her watch suddenly vibrated, and Virgil's face appeared on it. "We're coming in to Greenville Memorial, Bekkah. Meet us there." Virgil said softly.

"FAB, Virgil. I'll talk to you later, Jeff. When the rescue is over," Bekkah said. Jeff nodded.

"I'll call back in the morning. Good night." Jeff cut off the call.

Bekkah went up to her bedroom and pulled out a piece of clothing that she had hidden in her suitcase. It was a blue coverall with an International Rescue logo on it. She slipped off her nightshirt and dressed quickly, first in a red turtleneck shirt, and then in the coverall. She grabbed a red baseball cap with one of the "IR" pins that the boys had on their hats centered over the brim. This she stuffed in a pocket. She put her socks and workboots on. There was a leather belt to go with the coverall. It had a flashlight and a canister of various ampules attached to it. It also had a pouch with a flap and a holster. She left the holster empty, but checked the pouch. She smiled at the contents. Then she put her own denim barn coat on to hide the coverall.

As she wrote a quick note to her mother, explaining that she had gotten a call from a good friend and was going to the hospital to be with her, she realized that she was in danger of blowing her cover. She knew people who worked at the hospital and she had been there more than once herself. Going to her purse, she dug out a pair of chameleon lens glasses. She packed some extra clothes for herself so she wouldn't come home in the coverall. Finally, she climbed into her white minivan, and went to the hospital.

Once in the visitor's parking lot, she put on the glasses, which would disguise her eyes. An invention of Tin-Tin's, the lenses would darken or lighten or even change color on the outside so people would not be able to properly see her eyes. She also put on the hat, which covered most of her newly cut salt-and-pepper waves. She left the coat in the car. Then, using her most business-like stride, Bekkah entered the emergency room.

It was a busy place that night and she wasn't noticed at first. She walked up to the information desk. The older lady behind the desk looked frazzled, and didn't even glance up from her computer at Bekkah, but was still polite as she asked, "How can I help you?"

"Has the helijet airlift from Waynesboro arrived yet?" Bekkah asked quietly.

The woman looked up briefly, then back at her computer screen. "What airlift flight?" she stammered.

"Of the International Rescue operative." Bekkah wished the woman would actually look at her.

"How do you know about that? No one is" The woman's angry whisper trailed off as she finally got a good look at the insignia sewn on Bekkah's coverall.

"You are with them?" she asked quietly.

Bekkah answered simply, "Yes."

The woman tugged on the sleeve of a dark man wearing a navy blue blazer. His name tag read, Henry Staton, Head of Security. "Mr. Staton, this woman...." The receptionist couldn't finish her statement.

Mr. Staton turned to look at Bekkah. "I was told that another operative would show up. Are you the operative?" he asked. Bekkah nodded.

Staton scrutinized her carefully. "You don't wear the same uniform," he mentioned, ready to dismiss her claims.

"Two reasons, Mr. Staton. One, I'm part of the technical crew, not a pilot. And two, I'm female." She smiled slightly at him. He stood a moment, looking at her intently. Her explanation must have satisfed him because he beckoned to her.

"They are bringing your colleague down to Trauma triage right now. Come with me." He turned and walked back behind the desk. Bekkah followed, amidst whispers and pointing fingers that now noticed her a little too much.