A Time for Action

One of the first things Jeff Tracy did when we moved out to the Island was to teach me how to fly a plane. I progressed to the point that I could fly any of the Tracys' private aircraft, including the helijet. This is what I chose to take me to my destination. A regular plane would require a runway, and I knew the closest town, tiny Ipoh, did not have such a facility. The helijet could be set down almost anywhere there was a clearing.

Knowing my usual garb of bright silk robe and pants would be neither practical nor concealing in the jungle to which I was headed, I changed over to a pair of camoflage trousers and a camouflage tee shirt that I found in Alan's drawer. In Dr. Barnes' room in the Round House, I found one of the belts she wore with her coverall. It had a leather pouch roomy enough to carry all of the smaller weapons I had, and a holster for the stun gun. It was almost too long for me, but I managed to secure it around my waist. My slippers would be no good in the jungle either, instead, I put on cotton socks and my waterproof boots. My feet would sweat, but that was inevitable anyway. I found a dark tennis sweat band in Virgil's room. I could not risk being blinded by my own perspiration. I also prepared for a possible nighttime foray by packing a pair of infrared glasses and an infrared torch. Looking at myself in the mirror, I saw a new person, one ready to go into battle for those he held dear. I only hoped that person would be enough to do the job.

I slept a little, for the night was well advanced when I had finished with my preparations, and I desired to race the sun to my destination. Before dawn, I brought out the helijet. Preflight checks went quickly. I packed myself a generous lunch and a thermos of coffee, plus a canteen of fresh water. The coffee was to be stimulant for when I tired, the flight to Malaysia was a long one. I might have to stop for a few hours to sleep and refuel in Borneo, but if I could make the trip in one go, I would. I left a message to be played to Mrs. Tracy, telling her to get in contact with Dr. Barnes. Then there was nothing left but to lift off.

The skies were clear and the sun was beginning to rise behind me as I flew northwest. There were no major weather systems predicted between me and my target, just clear sky and open water. I did stop in Borneo to refuel and to nap for an hour or two; my advancing age meant I required more sleep than I had gotten during the early morning hours. So it was early afternoon, Malaysian time, before I reached my destination. I silenced the motors using a device invented by Brains, and flew over the plantation I had once called my home. The buildings were sadly run down and jungle growth encroached from every side. Where would I find my friends? Where in all this acreage did Belah Gaat live and plan his evil schemes? I was about to despair of finding his lair when I remembered the old temple.

The temple had been built by demon worshippers almost two centuries before my birth. It was an evil place, considered haunted by the villagers, built of stone and brick that did not crumble as the years went by, but stayed strong and unmoveable, as if there were a force holding it together. 'Yes,' I thought. 'That is where Belah Gaat would take up residence. And in that evil place I will most likely find my daughter and my friends.'

I turned the helijet in the general direction of the temple. I did not want to fly over it directly; that would invite disaster should I be seen. Instead, I approached it from an low angle, getting down almost to the tree tops and skimming along over them. I saw something come up on my right, a large hill decorated with small shrubs, a perfectly rounded hill, long from one end to the other, and much shorter from side to side. I smiled. There was no doubt that the "hill" was actually Thunderbird 2, camouflaged to look like a hill from the air. And, as I turned and flew past the cargo carrier, I saw light glint off of something hidden in the forest. It was the silver skin of Thunderbird 1, reflecting the sunlight despite the overhanging trees. My friends were here. Now I just had to find a place to land so I could rescue them.

I decided to land by my old home. The house and outbuildings were arranged around a central courtyard, and by landing there I could conceal the helijet, if imperfectly. There was also the advantage of knowing the way to the temple from the house itself. I had travelled that route before, whereas if I landed the helijet in the surrounding jungle, I was more than likely to lose my way.

The afternoon was getting late as I made my preparations to find my friends. I knew that traveling by night in these parts was dangerous, but I could see no other option. In the dark I would be more difficult to find. And with the help of the infrared equipment I brought, I should be able to find the temple without much trouble. So I sealed up the helijet and slept until it was night.

The moon was at half phase and very bright when the light clouds did not cover it. The landscape around me took on sharp shadows by its light. I put on the infrared glasses, took out the torch, made sure I had all of my weaponry upon me, and started out.

The old stone block road was still as straight as ever, homing like an arrow towards the haunted temple. But the stones at this end had been split and cracked by the growth of tree roots and were covered with vines that crossed and criss-crossed the way. I had to be very careful of my footing; more than once I almost fell due to a misplaced step. My footfalls sounded very loud to me, when in reality I was probably being very quiet. Animal and bird sound surrounded me, which told me I was not disturbing the wildlife in the vicinity. The tree roots lessened and the vines all but disappeared the closer I got to the temple. Either someone had been taking better care of the area around the shrine, or something, perhaps the same force that seemed to hold the temple itself together, was making sure the surrounding verge was clear of impediments. I was getting close. I could feel it in my bones. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I seemed to hear voices, soft and confused, in my mind. None of them were Belah Gaat's. I had grown to know that one well.

Now I could see the temple, gleaming in the light of the half moon. There were two large metal doors before me, a grand entrance for those who had once worshiped here. But I knew that to go in through those doors would be a great tactical error. I would have to reconnoiter the area to see if there were any other entrances, perhaps less used and therefore unguarded. So I began my slow exploration of the outside of the temple.

My first turn around the structure was made from the concealing shadows of the forest surrounding it. I could see no obvious doors save the ones that faced in the direction of my old homestead, and one that faced the opposite direction. Yet I knew there had to be hidden doors, for there were recorded times when the villagers swallowed their fears and attacked the temple, determined to drive out the devil worshipping priests who inhabited the shrine. The accounts, once found in my father's library, told of the priests' escape from the building by 'magic'. Since I did not believe the escapes to be magical, I looked for the more mundane and rational explanation of secret doors and passages. From my vantage point, I could see none.

By the time I finished that first examination of the temple, the moon had finished crossing the sky, and was disappearing behind the trees. I had to rely more and more on the infrared glasses and torch I had brought. The temple now lay deep in shadow, no light reaching it other than starlight, and I felt safe enough to dash across the clearing around it and begin a more minute examination of the walls.

I flattened myself up against the stone, feeling an deep cold seep through the light tee shirt I wore. I shivered, knowing that this was not natural. Even though it was night, the stones should still have been giving off the last vestiges of the warmth they had collected during the day. Not this bone-rattling cold. I kept close to the walls, examining them carefully for anything that would betray a secret entrance. It was on the west facing wall that I found what I was looking for; two parallel cracks, barely noticible to the naked eye, but clearly visible in the infrared glasses. I only hoped that the door could be opened from without.

As I spread my hands to search the area around the doorway for any hidden catch, I became aware that the nighttime noises around me had ceased. Someone or something was disturbing the fauna around the temple. I turned slowly, using the infrared goggles to help my eyes pierce the darkness around me. I saw no one. Then a small sound reached my ears and I looked up. The crouching figure of a man was there, ready to pounce on me. A figure I knew well. It was Scott.

He leapt down close to the wall, bearing me down under his weight, and then rolling away as the impact jarred his body. He somersaulted to his feet in a lithe and quick movement, and faced me as I struggled to stand. I knew he would rush me if he had the chance. So I decided I could not give him that chance. I pulled the stun gun from its holster, aimed, and fired in one motion. He fell, but he was not unconscious. Something had toughened him, given him strength to take the stunner's charge without much harm. So I put my hand in the pouch at my waist and removed the hypospray with an ampule of sedative already loaded in it. I stepped cautiously over to him, walking carefully around just out of his reach. He watched me, then lunged for me from the dirt. I grabbed an arm, pressed the hypospray to it, and shot the sedative into him. Within seconds, he was truly senseless.

My blood pounded in my ears and I gasped for breath. Adreneline coursed through my veins, making me feel strong and invincible. I knew it would soon be gone, leaving behind an old man more tired than ever before. But while it still raced through my body, I would take advantage of it. I moved Scott close to the wall and resumed my search for the hidden doorway's catch. It was at the top, hidden by the corner of the wall as it became a terrace around the shrine. I stood as high as I could on my toes, and pressed it. A portion of the wall swung back, and a black place was revealed, a bitter cold emanating from it.

I looked back at Scott. Right now, I wished for some stout rope to tie him up so he wouldn't follow me. There was no time to take him back to the helijet, nor to find Thunderbird 2 and deposit him there. I could only leave him where he was and hope that when he awakened, his link to Belah Gaat was gone. I also knew two other things; one, Belah Gaat would use my friends and my daughter against me as I sought to stop him, and, two, Belah knew I was here.

I stopped to reload the hypospray with another ampule, and with my infrared torch held firmly in my hand, I entered the chill and darkness of Belah Gaat's domain.