Trap sprung

Bekkah opened her eyes with difficulty. They felt gummy, like they were glued shut. She pulled her head up and tried to take in her surroundings. It was difficult, the room was dark with the exception of the spotlight that shone down on her. Finally, the cobwebs in her brain cleared and she realized she was fastened securely to a chair. Ropes were wound about her shoulders and waist. Her hands were tried behind her back, and each ankle was roped separately to the legs of the chair. She heard a slight noise behind her. A shadow fell across her own under the direct light.

"Ah! So Hiram's sleeping beauty wakens," the voice of the shadow intoned.

Bekkah knew that voice. Seven or eight years of friendship had once made that voice a welcome sound. But not now. Never again. Now it was cold and filled with anger.

"Jimmy," she said, knowing with just that one word she was taking her safety in her own hands.

"I hate being called Jimmy. You know that, Rebekkah," the voice hissed in fury.

"I only do it to annoy. I always have," said Bekkah. She looked around again. The shadow moved closer and resolved itself into the dapper form of Sir James Masters.

"I have a score to settle with you and your fiance, Rebekkah. A settlement that begins here and now. Are you ready with the machine, Heimana?" Bekkah could not turn to see behind her, but she heard a soft rustling of cloth.

"Yes, James. It is ready." The voice was sultry and exotic. A figure crossed to Masters. Out of the corner of her eye, Bekkah could see the womanly form that Greg Martin had reported. Asian-looking, black braid, she was as clear as she could be in peripheral vision.

"Good! First order of business, Rebekkah dear, is that you must make a phone call to your lover. God! I never thought of Hiram as being anyone's lover!" Masters was nearly consumed with mirth. "That mousy, unromantic, intellectual...prude! When did he get the stuff to bed a woman? Especially an experienced woman like yourself. But then, maybe he's the same type as your old Terrence." Masters calmed down and composed himself. "Here is a cell phone. Quite untraceable. And here is your script. Don't deviate from it, or Hiram will suffer when he gets here. Do you understand?"

Bekkah nodded. Masters put the phone up to her mouth. She could hear it ring three times before Hiram picked it up. She said softly, "Hiram?" She could hear his voice calling her and asking if she were all right. She responded by reading from the cue card. "I-I've been taken hostage. I don't know by whom. They want you to come here to me. Leave the apartment and go down the block to your right. At the corner will be a cab waiting for you there. Please come soon, darling." That last word was cut off by Masters.

"Ooh! You called him 'darling'! That's so rich!" Sir James began to laugh again as he put away his phone. Then he became deadly serious once more. "As I said before, I have a score to settle with you. Heimana, I have to go fetch Hiram. Then we'll have some real fun." Masters moved out of Bekkah's range of sight. So did Heimana. Bekkah was left alone in the chair.

"Now be a good boy, Hiram, and you'll see your 'darling' Rebekkah in just a few minutes," Masters practically cooed. Brains noticed that Sir James was using Bekkah's full first name. Well, she did say that her friends call her Bekkah, Brains realized. And Masters obviously no longer considers himself a friend.

Brains was frog-marched into a large building. He could smell water nearby and hear the noises associated with boats on the Thames. After being hauled through several winding passages, he was taken into a large room filled with the familiar smell of ozone and antiseptic. Then the blindfold was removed, and his glasses replaced.

Masters was standing just behind the seat in which Bekkah was bound. A slight woman with a long plait of shiny black hair stood with her back to him. Just beyond her was the Chair. The woman was working the console of the brain scanner.

"Now, Hiram. This is how it usually works. We put the bait in this seat and the person to be scanned is given the choice: climb up into the brain scanner chair or see his loved one killed. The person whose brain we want to scan almost always climbs up in the chair of his own accord. I understand that a willing participant makes for a clearer image. Thus the baited trap."

Masters put his hands on Bekkah's shoulders. "But I have unfinished business with both of you. You'll go first, Hiram, or I will hurt Rebekkah. Then it will be your turn, dearie." He put a finger under her chin and tilted her head up so she could see him. The spotlight made her squint. "Hiram will then take your place in this seat, but will be facing you. I plan on enjoying myself at your expense while my asssociate, Heimana, scans your brain. Enjoyment for me to see your reactions to what I am going to do, and enjoyment for me knowing that Hiram will be watching and can do nothing to help you. But that's for later. First, we scan Hiram." Sir James turned to Brains. "Will you climb up yourself, or perhaps Rebekkah should go first and I'll have my fun now, hmm?"

Brains looked down at Bekkah. She shook her head slightly.

She's willing to take the heat for me, Brains thought. But what does Masters mean by "enjoying himself at Bekkah's expense"? The answer came suddenly to Brains. He closed his eyes for a moment. He couldn't let her go through that again. Not if he could stop it. Penelope! Where are you when we need you?

"I'll do it." Brains said, a tone of resolve in his voice. Have to buy time for Penelope to come through, was his thought.

"No, Hiram! Don't! It's what he wants!" Bekkah pleaded with him. He walked over to the brain scanning chair without looking at her and climbed up into it. Masters himself put the restraints in place, tightening them mercilessly. Then he motioned to Heimana to put the scanner in position. She did so and put a fresh high density mini-CD in the machine. Brains tried to look over to where Bekkah sat, but couldn't see her with his head held fast. The purple light began to glow and Brains felt the painful tingle as the scanner began its work.

It took quite a while to scan Brains' memory. His immense knowledge had created dense engrams and the machine had trouble getting them all. Brains knew that it was only a matter of time before Masters and Heimana learned the truth about International Rescue. And he knew that Sir James in particular would be happy to sell his discovery to the highest bidder.

Lady Penelope, Parker, and Lovitt were conferring outside about the best way to storm the warehouse where Brains and Bekkah were being held. All three were dressed in black, and Lady Penelope's bright blonde hair was eclipsed by a dark scarf.

"Thunderbird 5 to Lady Penelope." John Tracy's voice carried softly in the night air. Penelope opened her compact to see his serious face. "My scans indicate that there are four exits from the building. One is the door you are facing. The other is the loading dock around the other side of the building. There are also two fire doors, a double door to your right and a single door to your left. Bekkah and Brains are both in the back left corner of the building." He paused. "I have a message from Base that Scott is bringing Father out in Thunderbird 1. He couldn't wait for anything slower. Their ETA is 30 minutes."

"Thank you, John." Penelope turned to her fellow agent and her butler. "I think that perhaps we need a diversion out here, while two of us make our way to the loading dock. It would be the place least likely to be guarded, I think." Penelope regarded her two companions critically. "Parker?"

"Yes, milady?"

"On my signal, you will create a diversion using FAB-1's machine gun, while Lovitt and I storm the back of the building."

"Yes, milady." Parker handed his gun to Lovitt and walked back to FAB-1.

"Come, Lovitt. Let's reconnoiter the back of the building."

"The scan is complete," Heimana announced. Sir James broke out in a sly, unsettling smile.

"Very good! Now it's Rebekkah's turn." He unfastened the restraints, grabbed Brains by the front of his shirt, and pulled him out of the chair bodily. He laughed as Brains walked about like a drunk, the vertigo from the machine fresh and disconcerting. Brains finally sat down on the floor and lay back, his arm over his eyes. Bekkah wished she could see what was happening as she heard Brains moaning on the floor.

One of Masters' henchmen now moved to untie her from the chair. Masters moved over and grabbed her by her short hair to drag her over to the brain scanner.

"I must admit, Rebekkah, that this would have been more fun if your hair was still long. This short hair is difficult to grab. But not impossible." He virtually threw her in the chair, while one of his goons picked Brains up by the shirt front and put him in the seat Bekkah had just vacated, turning it around first so he could see the proceedings, and binding him to it as Bekkah had been bound. Again, Masters tightened the brain scanner's restraints without mercy. A soft whimper involuntarily escaped Bekkah's lips. She hated this device so much; hated how helpless it made her feel.

Masters stepped back and looked at Bekkah speculatively. "Now, what did Ivan start with? Oh, yes. The mouth." Sir James leaned over and kissed Bekkah on the mouth, forcing her tightly closed lips open with a nip to the lower lip, and inserting his tongue. Bekkah's eyes shut tightly and her body began to stiffen in revulsion. The taste of her own blood filled her mouth. She didn't even feel the painful tingle of the brain scanner as Heimana started it. Masters slid his fingers delicately down her neck and under the shoulders of her blouse, slipping his hand under the bra strap and continuing down.

"Get your hands off me!" Bekkah hissed through clenched teeth. Brains put his head down and tried to get loose from the chair. When that proved impossible, he shouted at Masters, "Take your filthy hands off of her, you bastard!" If looks could kill, Sir James would have been dead twice over.

"Ah, ah! I guess we'll need to correct Hiram's language. Gag him!" The goons, fascinated by what Masters was doing, started and jumped at his command. They taped Brains' mouth shut.

Masters unbuttoned the blouse slowly. Bekkah whimpered with each exposure to the cold air. She had her eyes screwed up tightly, banishing her mind from what was happening to her body. Masters was about to continue his exploration when a voice said, "Stop."

Sir James turned to his partner. "What do you mean, stop? This is business between Rebekkah, Hiram and myself. Your only job is to work the machine."

Heimana regarded him with a cool and dangerous look. He was taken aback by her visage and schooled his voice to a more ingratiating tone. "I'm having a little fun here, that's all. Why should I stop?"

"Because her reactions to your... fun... are causing the images from her brain to cloud up. I can't get a clear picture at all," came the cold reply. "You are the one who wanted a scan of her mind. Now stop your 'play' so I can work."

Bekkah was quickly losing control of her thoughts. The memory of her violation rose unbidden to the surface of her consciousness. Each little thing that happened went by in slow motion before the viewscreen in her mind. Then, the nightmares followed. Every imagined scene played out before her. She shuddered, tears streaming down from under closed lids, muscles taut with stress. Hands made into fists, mouth tightly closed, she sat rigid, helplessly focused solely on those scenes and that fear. Brains watched at first with growing horror, eyes stinging with tears. Then he could bear the sight no more and turned his head away.

"You idiot! You've triggered a flashback!" Heimana shouted at Sir James. "You will never be able to get a good scan of her engrams now! Her fear has occluded even the most recent of memories!"

Sir James said nothing. He watched, fascinated by what so little stimulus had created. He looked over to Brains and smiled. His revenge was nearly complete.

Lady Penelope and Lovitt walked slowly back to the loading dock, hugging the walls, guns out. One would not think that such a delicate looking lady had such steel in her, but she acted as any good agent would, covering her partner and moving silently along, even in high heels. She peered around the corner at the high set doorway with the steel shutter covering it. Beside the dock was a set of steps and another, regular door. Penelope climbed the steps nimbly and tried the doorknob. It was locked.

She reached into her purse and pulled out what looked like a tub of lip gloss. She used her fingers to carefully smear the substance on the door around the knob's base. Then she took out her lighter, and passed the flame around the gooey circle. It began to smoke, and within minutes, the door knob could be pulled away from its resting place. She reached into the hole left there and unlatched the door's mechanism. She opened the portal silently, and nodded to Lovitt. He covered her as she entered, and then he followed quietly.

The door led them into a large garage-like room. There was the smell of ozone in the air, and a faint humming. Penelope and Lovitt followed the noise and the smell. It was loudest on the other side of the storage room they had entered. A door was set in that wall. Lovitt carefully and quietly tried the knob. It turned silently. He opened the door, crouched down, and peered into the room beyond. Then he stepped back to report.

"Dr. Barnes is strapped into a chair, like a dentist's chair. There is some kind of device shining a purple light on the crown of her head. She looks like she is having some sort of seizure. There is a blond man standing between her and the door, just looking at her with his arms crossed. A woman is on the other side of the chaise where there seems to be a control console. Beyond the woman is Mr. Hackenbaker, tied to a chair. There are two men guarding him, one on either side."

"Very good, Lovitt. Now for that diversion." Penelope opened her compact again and spoke into it softly. "Parker, the diversion. Now."

Gunfire abruptly rang out at the front of the building. It caught the attention of the two muscle men guarding Bekkah.

"Not again! This happened in Abidjan!" Sir James cried. The gunfire continued. Sir James pointed to one of his goons. "Go! See what it's all about!" he ordered irritably. The man exited by the door he came in. The other guard moved closer to Brains. Penny warned, "Parker, a single gunman coming up out the front. Take care of him. Then make the diversion...a bit stronger."

"Very good, milady."

The gunfire sounded a loud burst, then stopped. Sir James relaxed. "I guess that is that," he said, smirking. No sooner had he said it than there was a horrible crashing sound coming from the front of the building. The remaining gunman ran out without waiting for an order. Another burst of staccato gunfire and then silence.

Penelope nudged Lovitt. "Let's go," she said. Lovitt opened the door silently, and approached Sir James. Sticking his gun at the back of Masters' skull, he said, "Don't move!"

Penny moved past him to point her gun at Heimana. "Shut the machine down. Then step away from the console." Penny said sternly. Heimana did as she was told. Her fingers danced over the console,. The purple light faded, then she put her hands up and moved away. Penny stepped over to Brains and in one fluid motion, ripped the tape from his mouth.

"Yowtch!" he exclaimed. Penny made a move to untie him. As she did, Masters slowly moved one of his crossed arms toward his armpit. Unseen by Lovitt, he pulled a small gun from a hidden holster. Then he moved forward quickly and pointed it at the head of a still straining Bekkah. "Drop your weapons or I'll shoot her!" he cried.

In a split second, Lovitt was in motion. He grabbed Masters from behind, and holding on to his opponent's wrist, wrestled him for the gun. The gun's muzzle swung wildly around, aiming at Penny, then Heimana, then back at Bekkah, went off.

Brains grunted as the bullet blasted into his shoulder. As if in slow motion, he felt sharp tiny slivers hit his face as the bullet sliced through the rope that held him. A warm stickiness spread throughout his shoulder, followed by a sharp pain. He felt himself falling as the force of the shot knocked over the chair to which he was bound. He pulled his head forward to keep it from cracking on the floor behind him. One skull fracture is enough in any lifetime, thank you very much, he thought. Then his vision began to cloud as the rest of his body cried out in pain at the wound. He saw Penny instinctively fire back, though her quarry was too far away for him to see the results of her shot. A few minutes crawled by and then Lovitt was helping Penny untie him. No! he tried to say, his mouth moving but no sound coming out. No! Forget about me! Help Bekkah! Then the world spiralled in upon itself and he was cast into a welcome darkness.

Penny's shot plowed through Masters' right arm and nearly hit Lovitt behind him. Masters fell to the floor and lay there, cradling his arm. Lovitt took his gun away and put it in his own waistband. Then he joined Penny by Brains. He gently untied the younger man. The IR agents looked up as the door behind them opened and Heimana, seeing her chance, ran out through the open door on the far side of the brain scanner, not even glancing down as she passed a bleeding James Masters.

Lovitt started to chase her, but Penny stopped him. "Let her go. We've more important things to think about here."

The person entering the room was Parker. He brought with him a young lady with curly brown hair. "Milady, may h'I h'introduce Miss Jenis Cempbell?" Parker intoned. He would have gone on with the formal introduction but a sign from his employer stopped him.

"Parker, summon an ambulance. Miss Campbell, I am so dreadfully sorry for the way you have been treated. But we could use your assistance right now. Please help me unfasten Dr. Barnes from this....bloody machine!" Penny did not apologize for her language.

Janis nodded and the two women began to undo the restraints. Bekkah's eyes were still closed, and her body was still rigid, though no longer straining against her bonds. Meanwhile, Parker began to search the cupboards for something, anything to staunch the bleeding in Brains' shoulder. He came up with a medikit, and pulled the gauze pads from it. Lovitt had finished removing the rope from Brains, and gently slid the chair out from under him, easing him down to the floor to tend to him.

Lady Penelope searched through the medikit and came up with the hypospray and an ampule of sedative. These she used on Bekkah, pressing the hypospray against her neck. Bekkah immediately began to relax as she slipped into a drugged sleep.

Masters was still conscious and was watching the rescuers work on Brains. This was unbelievable! These two must be much more than just engineers working for Tracy Industries. Twice he had kidnapped them, and twice they were rescued by black-clad commandos. He fervently hoped Hiram bled to death. Even if he didn't, he was hurt and that pleased Masters no end. And there would be deeper hurt to come, if he had his way. He grinned slightly. One more thing, and his vengeance was complete. He began to gather his strength for that last stand.

"Parker, where's that ambulance?" Penny asked sharply.

"Wit' h'all due respect, milady, there h'are two dead blokes h'outside. What yew mayht call h'a slaiht problim." he told his employer. "H'if we 'ave h'an h'ambulance 'ere, the coppers will follow an' h'ask questions, h'if you know what h'I mean?"

Penny sighed. "You are quite right, Parker, as usual. We will just have to transport these two to my estate, where I can call a doctor for them."

"Milady, perhaps we can take them back to their flat? It's closer and there would be no questions asked," Lovitt suggested.

"Of course! A much better solution. If you and Parker would be so kind as to take Mr. Hackenbacker out to FAB-1, I will get on the phone to Dr. Longfeld. He is the physician whom Jeff Tracy called for Hiram before." Penny turned to Janis. "Would you please stay here with Dr. Barnes for a moment until we can return for her? We will be able to take you home as soon as these two are settled properly."

Again, Janis nodded. She was game to help. After all, that man Parker had liberated her from a closet where she had been bound and gagged. She went over to stand by the woman in the Chair. She shuddered as she remembered her own time in it. She noticed that the woman's blouse was unbuttoned. I'll button it up for her, she thought as she did just that. A low moan sounded from the floor on the other side of the chair. Janis did not move. She wanted nothing to do with the man who put her in that awful machine.

Penny was not surprised to see the bonnet of FAB-1 sticking about 2 meters through the front doors of the building. That was the stronger diversion that Parker had used to get the second gunman out of the room. The body of the second guard was on the floor before the car. The two men gently loaded Brains onto the back seat of the Rolls. Parker fetched a blanket and tucked it in around Brains's still form. Lady Penelope put his head on her lap.

"Now, Parker, Lovitt. Fetch Dr. Barnes while I make a phone call."

Behind them, the silver form of Thunderbird 1 appeared and its engines fired to land in the parking lot of the warehouse. Lovitt gaped. This was the first time he had seen the advance craft of the organization for which he labored. The lower hatch opened, and Jeff Tracy's powerful form exited. He ran over to FAB-1.

"What's happened?" he shouted to Parker. He looked inside the car to see his head engineer lying still and white, his shoulder all bloody. He paled for a moment, but at Penny's signal that Brains lived, he nodded brusquely, and made his way to Lovitt and Parker. He shook hands with Lovitt, just as Scott came up behind them.

"We h'are h'on h'our wey h'insayde to fetch Doctor Barnes." Parker explained in his thick Cockney tones.

"Scott, you stay out of sight. We don't need to advertise International Rescue's involvement in this. Take Thunderbird 1 back to Penny's."

"FAB, Father." Scott jogged back to Thunderbird 1.

The three men went into the building, picking their way around FAB-1. They went from walking to running when they heard a blood-curdling scream!

Sir James had managed to roll over and get on his knees. He was sure that Janis could not see him, blocked as he was by the chair. He slowly pulled himself up, clutching his right arm tightly to his side. As his head appeared over the edge of the chair, Janis screamed with all her might, backing away from the grinning apparition. He leaned over Bekkah, seeing her peacefully sleeping, and his smouldering anger ignited. He reached his bloodied hands around her throat and began to squeeze. He heard hurrying footfalls and the sound of panting breath but he didn't look up. His hands kept squeezing, trying to cut of Bekkah's air, trying to crush her throat.

"Masters!" A vaguely familiar voice shouted at him, but he didn't look up. He kept squeezing. A blur of silver and black launched itself at him, breaking his hold on Bekkah's throat and bringing him up against the wall behind him. Then he was swarmed by three men who turned him around, slammed him up against the wall again, and pinned his arms behind his back. He strained to look back at Bekkah, but he couldn't see her face. It didn't matter. He was sure he'd strangled her. Masters smiled as the other men hauled him away. His revenge was now complete.