Turnabout Is Fair Play
Tin-Tin's fingers flexed as he tried to fight the urge to reach out and strangle the woman who stood before him. Everything within him rose up in horror at the thought, but Bella laughed at his revulsion of the deed and drove him forward, one hesitant, faltering step at a time.
Ruby, for her part, kept a hand hidden behind the fold of her skirt, hypospray armed and ready should she need it. She watched Tin-Tin's progress, noting the twitching fingers and the way that the boy's step looked slow and labored. His face was impassive for the most part, but every now and again a split second of agony passed over it. His eyes glowed a strange yellow color.
I hope that this sedative takes effect quickly, she thought. Or I might not get out of this alive.
Tin-Tin's consciousness pushed upward against weight that held it down, straining with all his heart and soul to be free of Bella's noxious presence. Suddenly, without warning, the pressure lifted entirely. He stumbled a step or two, right into Ruby's arms. She instinctively brought her hands up to catch him, and in doing so, used the hypospray to power the sedative into his neck.
He dropped to his knees and gazed up at her, his eyes clear and dark brown. "M-Mrs. Griffith!" he cried.
Concerned for her own safety, Ruby took a step back. Tin-Tin dropped onto his hands before her and looked up, turning his head to see her face.
"Sh-She's.... gone," he said, his voice trailing off as the sedative overwhelmed him.
Ruby leaned down to catch him beneath the shoulders and lowered him so he lay face down on the lab floor.
" 'She's gone'?" the woman asked out loud. "I wonder what that's supposed to mean?"
Sitting on her bed, the Hood's attention was suddenly diverted to the alarms that were ringing throughout her temple hideaway. She left her nephew's mind and raced back to her own body, startled into the move by the knowledge of intruders in her sanctuary.
Who? she asked herself as she shook her head, trying to regain her equilibrium and wake fully from her deep trance. Tracy's little bitches? Come to rescue their sister? It can be no other. She smiled as she climbed off the bed, her limbs stiff. You have come into the spider's web, little flies. Soon enough you will join your sister as my prisoners!
"Damn!" JC swore aloud, trying to be heard over the ear-splitting noise of the intruder alarms. "I should have known she'd have this place full of sensor devices!" She turned and beckoned to Christa, who had her hands over her ears. Christa came over close to her and JC pulled one of the hands away and shouted, "You and Mae go that way!" She indicated the area to the right of them. "See if you can find a way to get to Sally. I'll go this way!"
"F-A-B!" Christa shouted back. She stood carefully, not wanting to trigger any possible booby traps, and went to Mae, who also was shielding her ears against the noise. Grabbing her taller sister by the wrist, she shouted JC's instructions at her. Mae nodded, and the two set off in the direction their field leader had indicated.
JC watched them for a moment, then crouching, ran along the wall to the left, where the heat signature had been found. The first door she came to was not locked; she pushed it open to see a pitch-dark room. The light from the hallway barely penetrated the gloom but what JC could see perplexed and worried her. What the hell? This is a cell... she realized. Leaving that door open, she scooted down to the next, thick wooden door. This one was shut tight, and sealed with a lock not unlike the one at the communications center. She pulled out her little electronic lockpick and fastened it to the outside of the door. Then she activated her telecomm.
"JC to Christa. Something's wrong. I think I may have found Sally. Be on your toes, you two. The one you're looking for is most likely our enemy."
Mae's voice came over the link. "But what about the locator?"
"The bitch may have taken Sally's watch from her," JC explained. "Just... be careful, huh?"
"F-A-B," Christa's voice acknowledged. "We'll be careful!"
JC turned her attention back to the task at hand. "C'mon, c'mon! Faster, baby, faster!" she muttered as Parker's gift did its work. "Gotta get to Sal and then follow the trouble twins. Neither of them are equipped to deal with that conniving witch!"
Sally had been trying to slide her bound hands under her buttocks so she could untie them when the klaxons went off. Even in her quiet cell she could hear the alarms buzzing outside.
I bet Daddy's here, she thought, her courage renewed. He sure knows how to make an entrance! I just hope he can take out the bastard and his minions!
A strange noise near the door caught her attention. Rising to her knees, she crept over to the entrance and put her ear against the wood. Hmm. That sounds like... JC's lockpick! "JC! JC! I'm in here!" she called out, her voice rusty from disuse.
She heard a faint, but familiar, "Coming, Sal!" from outside and she sat back, relieved beyond words. They're here. My family is here.
Christa and Mae found the double doors that led into the Hood's kitchen. Stun guns in hand, they pushed open the doors while flattened to the wall outside the room. Peering in, Christa motioned that Mae should go first, while Mae shook her head emphatically and indicated that Christa should go first. Rolling her eyes, Christa stepped inside the unoccupied room, Mae close on her heels. Christa turned on her flashlight and swept around the room with it. Mae opened a cupboard at random. She wrinkled her nose in distaste.
"Canned eel. This woman eats canned eel."
"Never mind that," Christa said, irritated. "We need to find her. According to JC's readings, she should be somewhere through this door."
They glanced at each other, and Christa pressed herself up against the wall next to the door. "I went first last time," she said. "Your turn now. I'll cover you."
Mae glared at Christa, who motioned with her stun gun. Sighing, the taller girl swung open the door with one arm, taking care to keep her body parallel with the door. She turned on her flashlight and looked around, then entered the room. Finding a light switch, she flicked it, and then gasped as she came face to face with a... face.
"Wow!" Christa whispered. "Look at all the masks! No wonder why we thought she was a whole bunch of people."
"Yeah," Mae said softly. "And look at the padding she used to make her body look like a man!"
"She's a genius in the art of disguise, I'll give her that," Christa said. "Hey, look at this!" She picked up a cricket bat, painted with the colors of some school or other. "A souvenir for JC?"
Within the bedroom, Bella was stretching, limbering her stiff muscles in preparation for the battle to come. She was aware of the presence of two people in her disguise room, but she was going to face them when she was ready, and on her terms. "The spider awaits you, little flies," she murmured. "A few more moments, and I will control you both!"
Val boldly set the helijet down in front of the temple. Jeff had been glad to see both Thunderbird One and Thunderbird Two parked together and seemingly unharmed. Now he strapped a holster with an automatic pistol to his shoulders. He handed armaments to Val and Brains, and offered a gun to Kyrano, who refused it.
"I have my own weapon," the retainer said simply. Jeff scrutinized his serene face for a moment, then nodded.
Val was the first one out, crouching on the far side of the helijet, peering out from behind its snub nose. The temple sat there in the morning sun, looking ancient and innocuous.
"If I know my sister, we will not get in without resistance," Kyrano said quietly. "She has very likely put sensors and various traps within the front entrance."
"What should we do?" Val asked.
"Th-Thunderbird Two's, uh, mini-missiles might c-come in handy," Brains suggested. "Blowing open the, uh, front d-door would probably d-deactivate any traps."
"Good thinking, Brains," Jeff said. He began to move toward the two grounded Thunderbirds. "Let's go!"
"C'mon!" JC said through gritted teeth. She bounced up and down a bit as she waited for the blinking red lights that indicated the lockpick was working to stop blinking and turn green. Finally, they did. "Hallelujah!" she muttered as she reached for the handle.
Inside, Sally waited with growing impatience for the door to open. At last, she heard the snick of the lock as it let go. Then the door swung open, and there was JC.
"Am I ever glad to see you!" she cried as her sister moved behind her to untie her wrists.
"You're a sight for sore eyes yourself," JC replied, her fingers working on the knots. They gave way beneath her skillful fingers, and Sally began to chafe one wrist with the opposite hand. JC tugged on her elbow, helping her sister to rise from the floor. Sally sagged against the wall of the cell.
"We'd better get after Christa and Mae," JC said. "Your kidnapper took your watch, it seems, so they ended up going after that bitch."
Sally reached out to grab her sister's arm. "What did you just call him?"
JC grinned. "A bitch. Daddy told us that our 'guy with the glowing eyes' is a woman!"
Jeff used his wrist telecomm to override the security measures of Thunderbird Two. Raising it off the ground so the little group had access to the pod, he led them inside, then used the remote controls to bring the chassis down over the pod once more. They scurried up to the flight deck, where Jeff took the pilot's chair.
"Damn, but Christa has this thing adjusted high!" he complained as he readjusted the chair's settings to accommodate his larger frame and longer legs. Val hid a smile behind her hand.
Firing up the mighty cargo carrier's engines, Jeff took her into the air, his hands flicking switches with precision. Val looked on with admiration. He sure knows what he's doing, she thought. I forget sometimes that he flew all these craft before he trained us how to fly them ourselves.
He maneuvered Thunderbird Two so that it faced the facade of the Hood's temple hideout. Turning to Val, he said, "Activate mini-missiles."
Valentina reached over to flick a switch. "Mini-missiles loaded and primed."
"Target that front door."
"My pleasure!" Val pounced on the button that launched the first of the mini-missiles. It sped from the launcher, and hit the huge double doors, exploding on impact and blasting them off their hinges. Inside the temple, Sally heard the tell-tale whine of the airborne torpedo above the still ringing alarms and pulled JC bodily into her prison cell, knocking them both over. The force of the missile's blast rocked the building and shards of wood, metal, and stone flew past them and into the long hallway. The alarms suddenly stopped.
JC looked at Sally, over whose body she was draped. "What the hell was that?" she asked, her eyes wide.
Sally grinned. "Off hand, I'd say it was Daddy."
The explosion that rocked the temple shocked Bella. "What... who? Who dares to attack me! I must get to my control center and open fire with my missiles!" She slowed down, remembering that there were two people, very likely Tracy daughters, standing in her disguise room. They do not matter. I will escape through my secret door. Striding over to the other side of her room, she tapped a decoration on her wall three times. Nothing happened. Irritated, she did it again, hitting the decoration harder this time. Still nothing. She swore under her breath, a long, inventive curse in Malay. The blast must have damaged or blocked the door. Looking over her shoulder, she regarded the door to the disguise room. It seems that I must confront the two who wait for me.
Reaching out with her mind, she touched the minds outside her bedroom. As I thought, two of Tracy's bitches. But they are the weak one and the stupid one. I should be able to either control or neutralize them easily. Squaring her shoulders, Bella summoned up her power. She was surprised at how much effort it took. My possession of my nephew drained me more than I realized. I must do this quickly and retaliate.
Eyes glowing, she stepped quietly up to the door and, flinging it open, strode confidently through... only to be doubled over by a cricket bat to the abdomen. Christa had been lying in wait for just such an opportunity. Mae followed it up with a shot from her stun gun, and in seconds, their enemy lay at their feet.
"Well, what do you know!" Christa said, grinning. "Daddy was right!"
"Silly! Daddy is always right!" Mae said, rolling her eyes. Then she stopped for a moment and amended her statement. "Well, almost always."
Jeff, Kyrano, Val, and Brains cautiously picked their way through the rubble of the entrance hall. A good portion of the ceiling had collapsed on the left, and the statuary in the room were knocked over or shattered. Jeff raised his eyes to the hallway before him and he broke into a smile. Standing before him was Sally, her arm draped over JC's shoulders, and the younger girl's arm around her waist.
"Hi, Daddy," she said with a little wiggle of her fingers.
Jeff strode forward and pulled his eldest into his embrace, lacing his fingers through her hair.
"Oh, thank God you're okay," he whispered. He kissed her head, and let go of her. Reaching out, he pulled JC into a one-armed hug. "You've done great work, Jerrie." Val moved in to give Sally her own greetings.
"I h-hate to, uh, break this up, b-but we still have to find Bella G-Ghant," Brains reminded them.
"I do not think my sister will be a threat for a while," Kyrano said quietly. "Come with me."
He led the way deeper into the temple, past the prisoner cells and the communications room. But before he could lead them the rest of the way to where his sister was, he saw the alcove at the end of the great hall and stopped stock still. The curtains were drawn back and the larger-than-life-sized statue of Tin-Tin was revealed. Jeff came up behind him, his eyes drawn to the image with the firelight flickering across its surface. Kyrano's usually serene face became impassive, and his hands clenched into fists. Jeff shot a look at him. He had never seen his friend so angry.
JC came over and tugged at Jeff's arm. "Christa and Mae have her sewn up over here."
"I'm coming," Jeff said. He put a hand on Kyrano's shoulder. The tensed muscles did not relax beneath his touch. Jeff sighed, and turned to follow JC.
They entered the disguise room through the kitchen to find Christa and Mae standing over the unconscious form of Bella Ghant. Sally sat in the one chair in the room, Val standing beside her, while Brains examined the sophisticated mask-making equipment.
Christa offered the cricket bat to JC.
"This looks familiar," JC quipped. "I take it you used it on her?"
"Sure did," Christa replied with a grin. "Turnabout is fair play, you know."
"Daddy?" Mae asked, noticing that her father hadn't said a word but was just staring at the woman on the floor.
"Yes, Mae?" Jeff replied, glancing up at her.
"What do you want us to do?"
Jeff waved a hand in the direction in the prone form. "Tie her up and make sure you blindfold her. Then bring her out to the main hall." Then he turned on his heel and left the room.
Bella groaned as consciousness returned. She opened her eyes, or at least tried to, but found herself blindfolded. Her hands were tied behind her back and she was seated on a chair.
Jeff contemplated his enemy. She was beautiful; she had the café au lait skin and the dark, straight hair of the Polynesian, cut short to fit under the masks. Her face, even in her fifties, was smooth and free of wrinkles. She was taller than normal for her people, and she had a slim figure with a small bust. He could see how, with the proper padding and mask, she could be mistaken for a man. He had not seen her eyes open; he knew that to leave them uncovered would invite disaster. But her beauty had a cruel edge to it, and he found it difficult to believe that she and Kyrano were related.
"Who is there?" she asked, her voice pitched low and sounding masculine.
"I am, sister," Kyrano said quietly.
Bella laughed. "I am sure that Tracy is here as well. Well, you may think you have the upper hand, brother, but I am in control of this situation. I know who is behind International Rescue. I know where its base is, and where the secret satellite is in orbit. I have many of its secrets. I have control of your son. You would do well to parlay with me while I am in a generous mood."
"There will be no parlay," Kyrano replied. "As for what you know and what you can do to my son, I will deal with that myself."
"How, brother?" she sneered. "You are not strong enough. You are soft-hearted, compassionate. You cannot hurt me."
Kyrano said nothing, just stood there looking at her. Jeff took stock of the situation and turned to his children.
"Girls, take Sally out to Thunderbird Two's sick bay. Val, you take Thunderbird One and head for home. Christa, follow her in Thunderbird Two. Brains, go with them."
The girls saw the resolute expression on their father's face, and each stood quietly to kiss him and left, with many backward glances. Within moments, those within the temple could hear the roar of the Thunderbirds' engines as they lifted off.
Jeff turned to Kyrano, who stood silently by his half-sister.
"You should go, too, Jefferson," the retainer said quietly, not looking at his friend.
"I am here in case you need my strength," Jeff replied.
"I will not need it. My sister is weakened. Her possession of Tin-Tin has cost her much of her strength. I will be able to do what I need to."
"You cannot match my power, brother," Bella said. "Even weakened, I am too much for you."
"We shall see." Kyrano looked over at Jeff. "Go. Please. If I need you, I will call."
The two men matched gazes for a long moment, then Jeff nodded and turned away. He left the temple, and went out to the helijet.
I'd better call home and see how Ruby is doing. Let her know that the girls are on their way home.
An hour later, Jeff was dozing in the pilot's seat when a quiet voice within his head awakened him.
"Jefferson. Please come."
Jeff climbed out of the pilot's seat and made his way back to the great hall. Kyrano sat on a bench, looking pale and wan. Bella sat motionless in the chair, her eyes staring ahead blankly.
"What...?" Jeff started to ask.
Kyrano held up a hand. "She is no longer a threat," he said wearily.
"How did you...?"
"We fought. I won." Kyrano's gaze turned to the statue of Tin-Tin. "We must destroy it."
Jeff smiled softly. "My pleasure, Kyrano."