Belah Gaat sighed with pleasure. His latest foray into industrial espionage had been quite profitable. The computer program that he had heisted from an unsuspecting software designer had taken relatively little effort and his hidden bank accounts had been suitably enriched.
What now? Who shall be my next victim? What will be my next target? he asked himself. He turned the questions over in his mind as he sat before his mirror in the mask room. I have had several requests lately for new aerospace designs. He smiled mirthlessly. His reputation as an industrial spy was such now that people came to him, asking for particular items. No longer did he have to steal first, then beg for a buyer. Perhaps I should see what my dear half-brother has been up to. His employer, Tracy, is a wily one; his security has been very tight around some special project. Perhaps my brother would know what it is. Then I could decide whether or not to pursue it. He rubbed his wide, powerful hands together in anticipation. Yes. I shall pay a little visit to Kyrano.
With that thought, he strode into the main chamber of his lair, his soft shoes making little or no noise on the polished slabs of the floor. His servants scurried out of his way, bowing their obeisance as they did. A complex as large as his jungle temple required workers to maintain it, and Gaat's slaves had been well trained to be unobtrusive, silent, and obedient. The formidable powers of his extraordinary mind saw to that.
He pushed a small, concealed button in the wall of an alcove and a curtain of shimmering beads pulled back with an audible swish to reveal the greater-than-life sized statue of Gaat's gentle older half-brother. Once again, he sneered at the man's expression; it was one of peaceful contemplation, a state that Gaat found ironic considering the amount of pain he put his brother through on his excursions into the other's mind. A twist of a knob, and jets of flame, fueled by hidden gas reserves, shot up, bathing the statue in a hot, flickering, red and yellow light, creating shadows that wavered as the flames did. The effect was mesmerizing, and helped Gaat to focus his power on his subject. He closed his eyes, drawing purpose from his inner anger and resentment, then opened his eyes wide, the orbs shining brightly with a sickly yellow light. He called, his voice guttural, "Kyrano! Kyrano! Hear me, Kyrano!"
The volume rose to a shout as thousands of miles away, a hot knife pierced through the head of Jeff Tracy's retainer. "No!" he whispered as he clutched his temples, shaking his head violently. "Not now! Go away!"
The pain brought him first to his knees on the kitchen floor, his limbs shaking, his eyes shut tightly, his head whipping back and forth as he tried in vain to block the intruder. He fell on his side, moaning, the heated wok full of stir-fried vegetables forgotten. Gaat laughed inside his mind, and pressed hard. "What is Tracy's new project? What is he working on that he is holding secret?"
The hated voice shouted at him, pounding through Kyrano's head, the pain a stabbing, throbbing, twisting spear. He tried to close his memory, but pictures came unbidden to his mind's eye, and words spilled involuntarily from his lips. "H-He is building ships. Aircraft. Faster than any the world has known."
Gaat smiled slightly. Here was something unexpected! "What kind of aircraft? And to what purpose?" He increased the pressure on the older man's mind. "Tell me, Kyrano! You cannot resist!"
"Aircraft. Spaceship. To rescue." Kyrano's body thrashed about on the floor as images of the plans he had glimpsed, bits of conversation he had had with Jeff Tracy flitted through his memory to be pounced on by the dream tiger who held him down, savaging him.
"When, Kyrano! When? When will these aircraft be complete? When will he unveil them to the public?" Gaat pressed only a touch harder; he knew he could kill the old man with too much pressure, and then he would have lost a valuable tool.
"Not public. Secret. Secret organization." Kyrano was wheezing now, breathing heavily, the strain of the fight in his mind taking a toll on his body. He no longer thrashed, but lay curled up, his hands pulling at the silver hair over his temples. Above him, the still-cooking vegetation began to smoke.
"What organization? To what purpose?" Gaat asked. The strain was telling on him, too. His heart pounded hard within his chest and he was bathed in sweat. His hands, tightly clenched into fists with his effort, bled, cut by his own sharp fingernails.
"Rescue. International Rescue!" The last words were muttered in the kitchen, but shouted through the link as Kyrano's agony reached a peak. Gaat smiled, and suddenly broke the connection.
The smoke detector went off in the kitchen, and Scott rushed to the door. "Kyrano, what's... damn!" he cried as he saw the retainer passed out on the floor and the fire in the wok. He coughed, choking on the smoke, then grabbed an extinguisher from the kitchen counter to put out the fire, croaking, "Hey! I need a hand in here!"
Jeff came running into the kitchen, frantically waving the smoke away, his eyes beginning water. "Kyrano!" Seeing that Scott had the fire under control, he knelt down by his friend's side, fearing the worst. A quick examination indicated a pulse, weak but regular, and shallow breathing, and Jeff felt the clutch of fear loosen from around his chest. He looked up at Scott, who had turned off the stove and stood over Kyrano, his eyes streaming. "Let's get him out of here!"
In his Malaysian temple, Gaat dropped to his knees, breathing heavily. The exertion was more than he'd bargained for this time, but it had been worth it. The vision of a rocket plane, silvery skinned with a sharp nose and a sleek profile, rose before his mind's eye, and he laughed hoarsely. A plane that can go faster than any other on the planet! And a secret organization that will use it! Kyrano, my brother, you have done well for me today. I must have it! I must have this plane and all the other secrets of International Rescue!