Into The Fray

Mae squinted at the various dials and switches that covered the round console dominating the room she was in. I wonder what else I can shut down from here, she mused. The console's not exactly user-friendly. Hmm. Are the monitor screens touch sensitive? She reached up and hesitantly touched a square at the bottom of the screen where Sally's efforts to free herself were displayed.

Sally was suddenly blinded by the lights coming on inside the room. "Aagh!" she cried, turning her face to the wall.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Sally!" Mae exclaimed aloud, upset that her actions had caused her sister pain. A sudden noise turned her attention to the tiny access door she had come through. She ducked down behind the console.

"This guy must be a contortionist to fit through this opening," came JC's voice.

"For once, being small is good!" Christa said, sticking her head through the doorway. "I'm sure Mae had no trouble... oh, JC! Quit bitching! Just let me through."

Christa crawled out on her hands and knees and then stood, brushing off her pants. "Mae? Mae-Bee, where are you?" She turned to pull an equipment duffel through the door, and then JC struggled to get her wider shoulders through the door.

Mae popped up from behind the console. "Here I am!" she said, coming around to embrace Christa. "I'm so glad to see you!"

"Can you give me a hand here?" JC moaned.

"Turn on your side, the side without the gun holster," Christa ordered. "Mae, take one of her arms... there, we'll just slide her in."

Between the two of them, Christa and Mae dragged JC into the room. She stood and dusted her uniform off as best she could, then surveyed the communications center. "Wow! Pretty impressive."

Mae grabbed her arm. "Look, look! I've found Sally!" She pulled JC over to the screen on the other side of the console. JC drew in a hissing breath when she saw the picture of her older sister.

Christa joined them, and moaned softly in commiseration. "That's our Sal," she said, shaking her head. "Just can't wait for a rescue. She has to be doing something pro-active." She turned to Mae. "Any idea of where she is?"

"No, none. Just that she's in 'Prisoner Cell One', wherever that is," Mae complained.

"Well, the thermal imager will tell us where Sally is from this position," JC said. "We'll split up.You two can rescue Sally. I'll deal with her kidnapper."

"But first we have to get out of here," Mae said. "The door is locked from the outside."

JC grinned. "No problem. I brought along my handy-dandy electronic lock picker." She pulled out a small box, about the size of a pack of cards.

"Where'd you get that?" Christa asked, frowning.

JC's grin turned mischievous. "Parker, who else? I asked him to teach me how to pick locks. He gave me this to help with the electronic ones. 'H'in case yew don' 'appen t' 'ave h'an 'airpin on yeh, Miss Jerrie,' he said. Like I would ever have a hairpin...." JC moved over to the door. "Let me at this thing. I'll have it open in no time."

"What's our ETA to Ipoh?" Val asked.

"F-Fifty-five minutes," Brains, her co-pilot answered.

Val looked back to see her father, asleep in one of the helijet's passenger seats. But Kyrano was not asleep. Instead, he seemed to be in deep meditation.

Wonder what he's doing? Val mused. She turned back to her piloting. I hope that whatever it is, our enemy doesn't get warning of our coming.

"Where is he?" Ruby fretted to herself. She had searched the pool area and the remainder of the Villa and had found no sign of the missing Tin-Tin. "I don't suppose he's gone down into the hangars. If he has, I'll never find him!" A sudden idea came to her. "Maybe the lab. Yes, I'll try the lab first and if he's not there, then the hangars." She bustled off to the elevators that would take her to the underground complex and the monorail.

Meanwhile, Bella was using her nephew's eyes and ears to her advantage. She had forced him to board one of the monorail cars and take her on a guided tour of the International Rescue complex.

This is most impressive! The size of the chambers! The fleet of vessels in the natural cave! Ah, Thunderbird Three! How tall it is! And to think I nearly destroyed it with my missiles.

The monorail completed its circuit of Thunderbird Three's silo and headed into the pod bay. Ah! The many smaller vehicles of International Rescue. I do not covet them as much as the mighty Thunderbirds themselves but they will come in handy. Especially the Mole. She picked over Tin-Tin's brain and retrieved the names for each vehicle and their functions. Such an embarrassment of riches!

The railway took them briefly into Thunderbird Two's empty hangar. The Hood smiled, knowing that the mighty machine that usually occupied that berth was sitting in her own backyard, ripe for the picking. Then the walls closed around the car as it entered a tunnel.

Where does this take us, my nephew?

A strangled sounding thought came from Tin-Tin's tortured mind. The lab.


The monorail turned a smooth corner and climbed a bit of an incline. Bella, seeing through Tin-Tin's eyes, frowned. Another monorail car was stopped on the route, right in front of the laboratory complex.

What is this, my nephew?

Tin-Tin struggled mightily under the thumb of his father's half-sister. He did not want to betray anyone who might be in the lab. Finally, he ground out, I do not know.

Bella considered his answer carefully. Most likely it is the engineer, Brains. But again, we saw no one else in the house, not even my thrice-cursed brother. Perhaps they are all hidden here, hoping to escape. We will surprise them together, my nephew, for they will not suspect you of duplicity. Enter the lab, Tin-Tin. Enter, and destroy those within!

Kyrano was in a deep trance, gathering his strength for what he knew would be a final showdown with his evil sibling. He was surprised that she had not attacked him already; his mind had brushed hers briefly when they had located Sally, and he was sure that she would search for him. But he didn't sense her attention coming his way at all.

It may work in my favor, he thought. I may be able to take her unawares and have an advantage. I hope it is so.

His outer senses were shut down, so he didn't hear when a sudden radio message blared out over the air in the passsenger cabin. But Jeff heard it. He was startled from a restful slumber by the voice of his middle child.

"Mae to base. Mae to base. Come in, base." The speaker in his watch vibrated with the loud call. Jeff activated his telecomm to see the beautiful face of Mae, his Mae, looking back at him.

"Daddy!" she cried.

"Mobile base to Mae," Jeff said, grinning. "What's your status?"

"Well, Christa and JC and I are all inside the guy's temple place," Mae began. The picture shifted as someone grabbed Mae's telecomm away from her. A indignant "Hey!" was heard in the background as Christa's face appeared where Mae's had just been.

"Christa here. We're in the communications room of the enemy's hideout. We've done a thermal imager sweep of the place and there are only two other heat signatures outside of our own. We've pinpointed which one is Sally. JC is picking the lock of the room we're in, then we're going to split up. Mae and I will take care of Sally, while JC takes out the enemy. We do have a video visual on Sally and she's managed to untie her feet. But we don't know how to communicate with her any other way."

"F-A-B, Christa. Excellent work, girls! We are on the way to your position. ETA is... Val?" Jeff asked.

Val called back, "Thirty-five minutes."

"ETA thirty-five minutes," Jeff repeated. "There's something you should know about our foe, girls..."

Christa looked away. "JC's got the door unlocked, Dad. We're ready to proceed."

"Christa, you should know that he is a she," Jeff told her.

Christa blinked. "What did you say, Dad?"

"Our enemy is a woman. Her name is Bella Ghant."

"How do you know?" JC had come up and asked the question off-screen.

Jeff huffed, and said in exasperation, "It would take too long for me to tell you. Suffice it to say, I know."

There was no mistaking the sly and calculating smile that spread over Christa's face. "Thanks for the intel, Dad. Now the odds really are more than even." She looked away. "Hopefully we'll have this all wrapped up by the time you get here."

"Leave something for us to do!" Val yelled from the cockpit.

"No guarantees, Val. We've been chasing this shadow all night, and it's time for a little payback. See you when you get here. Christa out." The screen went dark.

Jeff looked over at Kyrano, who was slowly coming out of his trance. "The girls have found Sally," he informed his friend.

"Very good. I was preparing myself for a final showdown with my sister." Kyrano turned to Jeff, his mien serious. "Jefferson, if something should happen to me, there are legal papers in a box in my closet. I will trust that you will care for my Tin-Tin as a father to a son."

Jeff frowned. "Kyrano, you sound as if you're going into this with no hope of coming out of it."

Kyrano bowed his head. "That may very well be the case, my friend. My sister is very powerful. I only hope I am strong enough to counter her. She cannot be allowed to keep the secrets she has obtained."

Jeff reached out and put a hand on the retainer's shoulder. "I think I understand. If worst comes to worst, you can count on me to take good care of Tin-Tin."

"I thank you, Jefferson," Kyrano said simply. Then the two of them turned their attention to the view of jungle in the helijet's side ports.

Tin-Tin wished he could stop his body from entering the lab. He was sure that Brains, Jeff, or perhaps even Valentina were inside. He tried to fight against the Hood's mental control, but he just wasn't strong enough. His hand trembled as his mental captor forced him to put his palm up to the security scanner. The machine did its work, and the doors to the lab parted. He stepped inside quietly.

To his surprise, no one seemed to be there. But there was a movement to his right, and the Hood forced him to turn that way. A gray haired woman was coming back from the depths of the lab, shaking her head and muttering. She looked up and saw Tin-Tin, and her face cleared. She smiled pleasantly.

"Tin-Tin! There you are! I was worried sick!"

Who is this woman? the Hood pressed.

Tin-Tin squirmed under the pressure but finally informed her, Mrs Griffith. Mrs. Tracy's mother.

Ah. Now it is time for you to show me how loyal a tool you will be, my nephew. Kill the woman!

JC did one more sweep of the temple from just inside the communications room door. "Okay, one signature is about forty feet that way, down the corridor to our left and on the same side. Sally," she checked her readings, "is across the hall and about twenty feet to the left. I don't see any ready access from here but there's got to be an access somewhere." She looked back at her sisters. Both of them had faces full of purpose, and their stun guns in their hands. "You two ready?"

"F-A-B," Christa said. She grinned wickedly. "Let's go hunt some bitch."

JC returned the grin and, pocketing her lockpicking device, stepped out into the hall. Mae followed on her heels, then Christa.

That's when all hell broke loose.