Flight plans

This is foolishness! the Asian woman thought. Martin has part of the third piece but not all of it. She sat back. Who would have the whole third part?

She looked at the machine before her. Unbidden, a picture came to her mind. A handsome blond, laughing and joking at the pub where she met him. His skilled hands later on in his hotel room, and the pleasure they brought her in the dark that night. His head held high as the Abidjan police handcuffed him and put him in a car.

Yes. Martin was his replacement. He wouldn't have had time to delve into the specifications of that third component. But Sir James Masters had.

She shook her head, clearing her mind of her reverie. Obviously, the next step was to get Sir James there. To the machine. Time to break him out of the Abidjan jail.

She went in search of her mercenary captain. He would do the job. Masters was as good as free.

Bekkah was awakened by the sound of her daughter pounding on the door.

"Mom! Mr. Tracy on the videophone for you!" Chell hollered.

"Coming!" Bekkah mumbled. She pulled on her bathrobe and padded downstairs. "Hello, Jeff," she said.

"I was told how you handled that gunman last night. Good work!" Jeff praised.

"Those little grenades worked perfectly," she grinned. "Got to get them into production, Jeff."

"One thing at a time, Bekkah. I heard that the man came from the Hood?" Jeff queried.

"Seems so. He mentioned his 'master' in jail. Only two males that we've put in jail lately have been the Hood, and Sir James."

"Well, we can't worry about him right now. John and Alan have swapped places, and Alan will be out to pick you and the kids up later today. Scott will go along for the ride."

"How's Gordon?" Bekkah wanted to know.

"Sleeping off the anesthesia and the painkillers." Jeff grimaced. "The doctor told Virgil that the surgery went well, and that he'll make a full recovery. Now we just have to tie him down to the bed and put a lock on that c-collar he needs to wear."

Bekkah chuckled. She had heard what a bad patient Gordon could be.

"We also have news on that brain scanner. Penny says that several engineers have been kidnapped or killed lately. One of the kidnapped ones who escaped death was your friend, Gregory Martin. He told Penny about his run-in with a machine just like it."

"Gregory? Is he okay? What about Janet? I only got to know them for a little bit, but they seemed like nice people."

"Yes. They are fine. Penny has hidden them for the time being. It was a good bit of luck that they ended up at her place."

"Well, we can go over all that when I get back to the Island." Bekkah looked at the time. "I've got to get some lunch in these kids and pack up everything. See you sometime tonight."

"Okay, Bekkah. See you soon." Jeff shut down the call.

It felt good to be in the air again. To be winging her way to the tropical isle that had become home in just six months time. Her children played with their video games or snoozed on the trip, making just enough background noise that Bekkah couldn't nap herself.

Unexpectedly, Scott left the cockpit and came to sit by her. "Hey, Bekkah. Sounds like you had an exciting night last night," he began.

"Yeah. Nothing like taking out a gunman to make your day," she quipped.

"Which grenade did you use? I couldn't get a straight answer out of Gordon, he was that doped up."

"I used Salt. Worked beautifully! Blinded him, and just about everyone else around him."

"I'd like to see that in action sometime."

"You wouldn't be able to see it. It would blind you, too!"

Scott sobered and looked down at his hands. "Bekkah. I...I'd like to go over Ivan's attack on you. In the gym. Try and see what you could do to defend yourself should such a need arise again."

He noticed Bekkah stiffen. Her expression became guarded and fearful. She closed her eyes and shuddered, once. When her eyes opened again, she would not meet his gaze.

Man, I didn't know this hit so hard, he thought.

"No, Scott. I won't... I can't do that. It wouldn't do any good. Suffice it to say he slammed me up against the wall and stunned me pretty well. You can't use strategy when you're only half-conscious. If you want to know what happened, your father might have copies of my statement and maybe even copies of the photographs. I think he pulled some strings there in Abidjan to get them."

She looked up at him briefly, a flash of courage shining through. "Before he slammed me against the wall, I did use that 'heel of the hand to the throat' maneuver you taught me. It let me escape for a moment. But before I could get to the door, he had hold of my hair." Scott had noticed that the curly locks that had just about reached her shoulders were gone. She now wore her hair very short again, as short as it was when they first met.

"I did wonder what happened to your hair," he said, trying to break the tension.

"I left it behind in South Carolina," was her retort. She took a deep breath and smiled faintly. "Thanks for being concerned. I'll keep working on the self-defense classes. Brains needs them, too. You heard that he went up against someone over twice his size?"

"Yeah. I told him he should have just shot the creep."

"That's what he said you'd say."

The tropical night was dark and heavy when they arrived at Tracy Island. A brewing storm occluded the stars and half-moon, and the air was thick with moisture. By the time they had unloaded the luggage, fat, wet drops were beginning to fall. Lightning whip-cracked through the sky and drove them quickly into the house. Bekkah and the children greeted the other denizens of the villa, then Bekkah made a bee-line for the sick room. Gordon was awake, and his face broke into a huge grin when he saw her.

"Hello, love." She leaned over and gave him the one thing she could not the night before, a passionate kiss. That was followed by another. And another. Coming up for air, she sat down beside him on the bed.

"Now tell me all about the rescue. All I heard on the 11 o'clock news last night was that International Rescue was there and working. Then they reported that someone from IR was hurt, and next minute I was on the phone to your dad trying to find out who it was."

So Gordon told her how they used the mobile winch to first look for survivors in the crashed cars and pull the living to safety. "The first live person I found was a baby girl in a car seat."

"Aww! I bet that just made your day."

"Yeah. She was a cutie."

Then he told her how they used the recovery vehicle to pull out the cars with the dead in them.

"That must have been the harder job."

"I don't know. Brains and Virgil did most of that. John and I looked for the living and confirmed the dead. I guess the hardest part was realizing that the baby girl's parents had both died."

"How many did you find living?"

"Last count was 10 living and another 25 dead. Out of 13 cars. If there were any more after I was taken out, I don't know about them."

"That's a good percentage. Most of them were probably coming home from the Thanksgiving Day holiday."

Gordon yawned. Bekkah noticed. "You need some more rest, and I think I remember your grandma saying something about a light meal. I'll talk to you later." She kissed him on the forehead, and then on the lips. He lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. She headed out of the room, just stopping at the door long enough to turn out the light.

"Goodnight, Gordon." She closed the door behind her.

Virgil joined his family at the table. The far end was finally full again, as Bekkah and her children settled down for a meal. He was surprised at how empty the dining room had felt when they were gone. And now that they were back, it was louder and felt more crowded than before.

"Hey, Virgil!" Bekkah greeted him from the other end of the table.

"Welcome back, Barnes family!" he said warmly. "How was your vacation? Your Thanksgiving?"

"We had a good time with our grandparents, Uncle Virgil," Chell told him. "Grammy Talmadge made a huge meal for us on Thanksgiving day. We even had two kinds of cheesecake for dessert!"

"Two? How many kinds of cheesecake are there, anyway?" he asked, winking at his own grandmother.

"Well, Grammy Talmadge made regular cheesecake with fruit topping. But Aunt Paula made pumpkin cheesecake! It was sooooo yummy!" Chell gushed.

"Sounds like it was a good meal!" Virgil answered, tucking into his own portion of food.

Grandma Tracy leaned over to speak quietly with Bekkah. "Any more nightmares?" she asked softly.

Bekkah hesitated, then nodded.

"We can talk about it after the meal. We'll have a quiet conversation over the sink."

Bekkah gave her a small smile. She wouldn't mind helping with the dishes tonight.

Scott took a peek in the kitchen on his way to the gym. He noticed that Bekkah had gone there directly after eating and had not come out. But since he heard no music, he figured she wasn't doing dishes.

To his surprise, she was. She had her navy blue butcher apron on, and the long blue rubber gloves that the children called her "mad scientist gloves". She was washing the dishes, while Grandma Tracy dried and put them away. They spoke in low tones; Scott could hear nothing of their conversation. At one point, Bekkah closed her eyes and sniffled, while Grandma put an arm around her. Suddenly the reason for their tete-a-tete dawned on him. He turned around and went into the lounge.

"Father, could I please see the file on what happened to Bekkah in Abidjan?" he asked boldly. "She said you had gotten copies of the statements and of the photos taken."

Jeff hesitated. He didn't know if Bekkah wanted Scott to see the materials. He didn't know if Scott should see the materials even if she gave her permission. It would be a brutal example of what a man could do to a woman.

"Let me talk to Bekkah first, son." Jeff got up and walked to the kitchen. Scott stayed in the lounge, pacing around impatiently. A moment later, Jeff returned. He opened his safe, and pulled out a manila envelope. This he opened and dumped on his desk, spreading the contents around. He selected a piece of typewritten paper, and handed it to Scott. "This is Bekkah's statement."

Scott sat down to read the bare narrative, put down in black and white, of what happened in Bekkah's hotel room that night. His eyes hooded in anger as he handed the paper back to his father.

Jeff handed him another sheet. "This is what Brains had to say."

Scott nodded as he read Brains' narrative, approving of the engineer's courage and tenacity. He handed that paper back, as Jeff gave him the final sheet. "This is what Virenov testified."

Scott barely got through a paragraph before he exploded from his seat. "The filthy, lying, conniving bastard! How dare he! How dare he blame this on Bekkah!" He paced around, furious, wishing he had Virenov there to throttle.

"I know, Scott. I know." Jeff held out his hand for the paper. Scott took a moment to scan it before handing it back to Jeff.

"That's what he testified before Dr. Mohenu came up with a physical reason for his aggression. Then he magnaminously blamed it on his heightened testosterone levels," Jeff explained in a disgusted tone. "He blamed everyone and everything but himself."

Scott calmed himself, at least on the outside. He held himself very still as he put out his hand. "May I please see the pictures, Father?"

Jeff sighed and handed them over. Scott sat and began to page through them. He groaned in sympathy as he saw the bruises that had been left on Bekkah's body. Then he drew his breath in sharply at one particular picture. He looked at Jeff for confirmation.

"She got... these....bruises when he slammed her up against the wall?" he asked increduously. Jeff nodded.

"Wow. No wonder she was stunned. He was really brutal!" Scott finished with the pictures and handed them to his father, who slipped them back into the envelope and put the envelope in the safe.

"I asked her on the way to the Island if she would go through the... attack with me in the gym. To see if there was a way she could defend herself if anything like that ever happened again." Scott sat with his hands folded, elbows on his knees, looking sideways at his father. "She said she couldn't. Now I understand why." He sat up again, a thought occuring to him. "Has Gordon seen this?" he asked.

Jeff nodded. "He saw them as soon as I got them. Before I even had a chance to look at them myself." Jeff remembered the quiet rage that developed in his easy- going ginger-haired son. A shaking rage that sealed itself over into an unemotional mask, so unlike the one son who wore his heart on his sleeve. Jeff feared for Ivan Virenov should his and Gordon's paths ever cross again.

"Has John seen them? Virgil? Alan? Brains?" Scott wondered.

"Brains was there, but he hasn't seen the pictures. Your other brothers have not seen them. And will not without express permission from Bekkah. I think she wanted you to know exactly why she refused your offer."

"Yes. I think so, too." Scott turned to his dad. "What can we do to help her?"

"I think your grandmother has that under control. She's been counseling with Bekkah ever since it happened." Jeff picked up a cold cup of coffee from the desk and sipped it. "Other than that, give her time. Treat her normally. And realize that the wounds and scars from such an act go deep."

Scott nodded. More than ever he wanted to make sure Tin-Tin, Bekkah, and Brains could defend themselves.