The blaster parts were beginning to arrive, well ahead of schedule. As Bekkah and Brains opened the crates and boxes, they saw first hand the power of money.

"When Jeff Tracy talks, people listen, eh, Hiram?" Bekkah remarked.

"They certainly do, Bekkah."

"We'll probably get this done ahead of schedule, the way things are coming in. I would like to get it all done well before the conference. I think we engineers need some downtime."

"You definitely do. What have you been working on after hours? I know you've been down here, and not just to listen to your music as loud as you like, either."

"A surprise."

"Oh no. Not one of those! The last time you worked on a 'surprise' you almost got us kicked out of the hotel in Vienna!"

"This is not a prank. And there will be one person in particular who will find this to be deadly serious."

Brains could not think of what she could be working on. He only hoped that it wasn't a new joke for Gordon to use. The two of them teamed up was terrible to contemplate.

Scott poked his dark head into the lab. Tin-Tin was dictating some notes into Bekkah's microcomp. It had become the repository of all of the lab's correspondence and paperwork.

"Seen Bekkah anywhere?" he asked.

"I think she's down by the pool with her kids."she replied.

"Thanks." Scott strode down to the pool. Bekkah was reclining in a chair with a fat mystery novel. She was about halfway through with it, but had a good idea of the identity of the murderer.

"The butler did h'it." Scott intoned, using his best imitation of Lady Penelope's butler, Parker.

"That's what Terrence would say. No matter what I was reading. Or watching. Or listening to. It was a standard joke line." She looked up at him. "Do you need something?"

"Yes. Your presence at your self-defense class. Or had you forgotten?" Scott sounded a little put out.

"I'm sorry, I had forgotten." She looked around at the pool. John was sitting on the sidelines, listening to the radio and getting sunburned. Virgil was playing Marco Polo with the kids.

"John, Virgil? Scott wants to beat me up again. Will you watch the munchkins for me?" she asked sweetly.

"Sure, Bekkah. No problem." John said. Virgil merely nodded as he called out "Polo!" and moved away from Joey.

"Okay, I'm all yours." she told Scott. "Do I need my favorite weapon?" She was talking about the weighted walking stick that he had given her.

"No. We'll be working on some hand-to-hand today." he answered as he guided her from the pool to the gym.

"No! NO! Not like that! Curve your fingers. Don't make a fist. The heel of your hand. In the throat!" Scott was getting frustrated with Bekkah's lack of both coordination and cooperation. He took her hand and curved her fingers around, then grabbed her wrist and thrust her hand into the air, with force.

"Hey! That hurt! You did not have to be so rough!" Bekkah rubbed her wrist.

"You are never going to get the hang of this." he said disgustedly. "What are you still doing here, anyway?"

"Helping International Rescue be the best it can be," she retorted angrily, the color rising in her face.

"Yeah, with those 'cool firefighting guns' of yours. Like we need new machinery. What we've had has served us well enough up to now."

"You have been against any, any of MY innovations ever since I came here. What is with you, anyway?"

"Brains has been good enough for us up to now. I don't see why you are still here. You can't even go out on a rescue without having to be rescued yourself. Not to mention putting John in danger."

"Excuse me, Mr. High-and-Mighty Scott Tracy. I am here because you needed someone to fill in for Brains. If you haven't noticed, he still isn't up to one hundred percent yet. And it was your father who asked me to stay on. Even though I was having problems with the Hood. He thinks I am of use to International Rescue, and he is right!"

"As far as that earthquake went, I was perfectly content to stay in Thunderbird 2 and wait out the rescue, like your father told me to. You were the one who asked permission for me to help you at the Danger Zone. And as far as John and I being buried alive was concerned, that was an accident. I didn't conjure up that aftershock. And it was only John's concern for me that kept me from being buried alive alone. Do you know what? He has never complained. Never accused me of putting him in danger. He knows the truth. Obviously you don't care about truth."

She turned from him, arms crossed, tears beginning to form. She hated getting angry like this; she always felt ashamed when she let her anger get the better of her.

Scott grabbed her shoulder and spun her around, his face red.

"I am trying to teach you what to do if you are confronted by the Hood ever again. The training helped you before, but now you don't care if he comes after you again or not." He turned from her now. "I don't know why I even bother."

"Scott, I'm not afraid of him anymore. I stared him down and won. I can do it again." she told him. "Plus, I've been preparing a little surprise for him of my own. I wasn't going to show anyone what it was until I could tell everyone, but you're going to see it right now." She grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the lab.

From a locked drawer she pulled two small round globes, each about the size of a golf ball. One was black and the other was white.

She held up the white one. "This is Salt. Magnesium salt. A magnesium salt flare grenade. You throw this at him, on the floor in front of him, between the eyes, it doesn't matter. It emits a hyper bright blue-white flash. The afterimage will keep him blind for several minutes and most importantly, make him close his eyes."

She held up the black one. "This is Pepper. A bomb containing a spray made up of a mixture of hot peppers. The same pepper spray the U.S. Postal Service used to use for dog control. Nasty stuff. Gets in your eyes and stings and burns. Makes your eyes tear up for an hour or more. And keeps your eyes closed. If the Hood's eyes are closed, he can't hypnotize you. And you can take him out."

"I've been practicing for the past couple of days with a sling shot and by throwing the prototypes at a target in the target range. I'm getting better at throwing them, and doing well with the sling shot, too. I'm going to ask your father to make these standard issue for all IR operatives. Especially you boys."

Scott began to cool down. He took the little grenades from Bekkah's hand, weighing them in his own.

"They are...intriguing," he grudgingly admitted. Then he snorted in disgust at himself.

"I'm sorry, Bekkah. I think I see in you someone much like me. Someone who has to be the best, the top of the heap, in control. And that makes you a rival, I guess. Especially when it comes to my father. You're all he talks about lately. It's driving me a little crazy."

Bekkah's anger was subsiding, too. She shook her head. "Well, we are both first-born children. And that shapes us. We learn to be caregivers and we identify more with our elders than with our peers. Then there's that pesky gender thing. Not that your dad looks on me as a daughter or anything. But then, I'm older than you are. Maybe you see me usurping your position? I don't know."

"What I do know is that we have to get along, even if we don't see eye-to- eye. Because our goal is the same. To make International Rescue the best damn rescue organization in the world."

"A worthy goal." he agreed. Scott turned to go.

"Scott, I'm willing to try again in the gym if you still want to teach me." Bekkah offered.

"Okay. But later. I think I hear supper calling."

They walked upstairs together.

"Tell me, Bekkah. Why do you dance in the kitchen when you do the dishes?"

Bekkah laughed. "Why, Scott, you've seen me dancing in the kitchen and you haven't come in to dance with me? You should try it. Your shoes just glide over the floor's surface. Almost like skating. It makes doing dishes a lot of fun."

"I might take you up on that sometime, Bekkah. You never know."