The lobby seemed quiet when Bekkah left her friends, heading back to her room. She was tired, but her spirits had lifted somewhat. As she rounded a corner, she came upon a loud shouting match.

Brains was standing steadfast under the verbal barrage of a man almost twice his size. Bekkah recognized him as Rashid Allabadah, a structural designer from the Middle East. She knew there was no love lost between the two. Tin-Tin had shown her some letters Rashid had written to Brains. They were nasty and attacked Brains at every level. Bekkah knew that Rashid was jealous of Brains, but was a coward and would only tell Brains off through the mail, never in person. So why was he doing it now?

"You! You and your smug superiority! You and your stutter! You and your limp! You and your thick glasses. Blind as a bat you are! It is a wonder anyone ever listens to you! You hide behind titles and pseudonyms. Oh yes! I know that Hiram K. Hackenbacker isn't your real name! I know that you are the Mr. X who designed the skyship! What are you so afraid of, Hackenbacker? Afraid that someone will find out that you are a phony? Or worse? What secrets do you hold in that dirty little mind of yours? What hides behind those thick glasses? I hate you, you despicable worm!"

By this time, Rashid was flinging his hands around, spittle spraying Brains in the face as his tirade increased. Bekkah instinctively ran to the aid of her friend, moving between him and Rashid.

"Look! You even hide behind a woman's skirts! You freak! You can't settle your differences without a gun!" Rashid now turned his attention to Bekkah. "And you! Almighty Bekkah Barnes! You can't even realize when a good man gives you what you don't deserve. Ivan wanted you and you turned him down like he was a piece of trash! Well, you are the piece of trash, you dirty little slut! You and this obscenity deserve one another."

Without warning, Brains stepped out from behind Bekkah. He put up his fists in a fighting stance, and glared at the larger man. His voice was soft and dangerous.

"You will apologize to Dr. Barnes. Now."

Rashid laughed. "And who will make me? You?"



"B-by physical force, if necessary!"

Rashid laughed, a deep menacing laugh. Brains hit him with a right to the gut. It doubled Rashid's over, but only for a moment. Then Rashid backhanded Brains in the face. He went flying back, knocking Bekkah down beneath him. His glasses skittered across the floor.

Where is security when you need them? Bekkah thought as she tried to untangle her limbs from those of Brains. As if on cue, security guards ran towards them from all directions. Three of them grabbed Rashid and pushed him down, handcuffing his hands behind his back. Two grabbed Brains and did the same thing to him. A female security guard, a tiny black woman, tried to do the same to Bekkah, but was shaken off as Bekkah rose to her feet.

"No. She had nothing to do with this," Brains told the guard, who looked unbelieving for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. Bekkah went over to retrieve Brains's glasses and put them on his face for him.

The police arrived within minutes. They took both Rashid and Brains into custody, intent on figuring out what happened when they arrived at the station.

"I will need a statement from you, Miss..." said an officer.

"Actually, it's Doctor. Doctor Rebekkah Barnes," she corrected. She gave her account of the proceedings, the officer taking down every word in shorthand.

"Since they have both been violent, we must take them both down to the station. You might want to arrange for legal counsel for your friend," the officer advised. The police cars left the scene, Rashid still bellowing imprecations on Brains.

Shaken, Bekkah went over to a lobby phone. "Hello, operator? Please connect me with Mr. Jeff Tracy...."

The "security guard" made a call of her own. "We have a potential bonus."