Part II (Part I)
Carl opened the door to the room at the rear of the basement, ushered Amelia in, nodded to his chief, then returned upstairs. "Litovinski, this young lady is the brilliant Dr Amelia Steiner, she was, how would you say, diverted from unveiling her latest research project at the Bradley conference this morning, in favour of selling it to you. I am certain you will be most happy with what you are getting, Colonel," Peters introduced the newcomer. "Doctor, my client is the retired Lieutenant Colonel Miroslav Litovinski. He has agreed to pay two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for your new Twelve Twenty-three. I assume you realise of course that you shall not be getting any money from this transaction," he continued. His last sentence came out almost mockingly.
Amelia stepped forward timidly, and nodded to the Colonel, "What do you want Twelve Twenty-three for, sir?"
"We shall use it for whatever it is useful for," Litovinski sounded sarcastic, "And now if you will, let us see how this thing works."
Amelia's primary concern was currently keeping herself and her brother alive, she knew that to do this she must ensure they both remained useful. "Will you promise me you will not hurt my brother or I if we cooperate?" She was stalling for time, she knew the promise of a man like this meant nothing. "How do you expect me to demonstrate Twelve Twenty-three? I was to demonstrate on rats today for the unveiling at the conference. Do you have any rats?"
"Ah, this is where things get interesting," Peters' sardonic smile returned, "Today you shall instead have the privilege of demonstrating your experiments on a human." He turned to Boris, "Bring the lawman down from the roof." Boris clicked his heels, turned, and departed.
Steiner walked over to her case, and slipped a lanyard from around her neck, on the end of which was a key, which she inserted into the padlock. The padlock clicked undone with a soft ratchet-like sound. That plastic clack peculiar to the latches of a Pelican Case followed a moment later, first one side then the other. The lid swung open to reveal an A4 manilla folder secured to its underside. The folder was marked:
Dr A Steiner
"Might I have some power then?" she removed a plugpack
from the sea of foam
contained in the case proper, and holding it out, looked around the room questioningly. "My equipment is specifically designed to operate without the need for mains power, but I was unable to bring a battery pack on the plane with me
," she then explained.
Boris re-entered the room, dragging behind him a rather worse for the experience looking Interpol Agent Seacord. It was evident the latter had not come very willingly. After strapping his prize into the chair in the centre of the room, Boris reached for the switch for the light above him.
"We shan't be needing that, Boris," Peters stopped him, "Just watch what our little lady friend here has done, it's really quite remarkable."
Steiner removed a textured black plastic wallet from her case. Judging by its appearance it could have held pens or maybe cigarettes. She flipped it open to reveal instead four glass vials, each filled with what looked to the observers in the room like urine. The Russian looked on intently. So this was doctor's secret. Bullets of sweat were forming all over Seacord's body, and although he was weak every muscle was tensed. Litovinski continued to watch preparations for this man to become the first human test subject of the very drug he had presumably been sent from London to prevent falling into the wrong hands. Steiner was not at all what the colonel had envisaged, for he was expecting someone older, quite older.
The woman selected a hypodermic syringe from among a collection, each individually enclosed in a click-seal bag, "This could kill him, you know. I haven't done any testing on humans before." From where he was sitting, her patient could see nothing. She filled her syringe, dipped a swab in alcohol, and came over to him. "I'm sorry," her voice was shaking but her hand was not, she sounded sympathetic. He flinched as the pale greenish-yellow fluid was transferred to his arm and entered his bloodstream. Steiner looked concerned, but her face revealed very little of the extent to which she was worried as to what the drug might do to him. He looked up, trying to see this woman was, but his vision was becoming blurred. Slowly he relaxed into a sleep-like state.
Reaching the end of the passage without incident
, Walter descended the stairs to the house's main foyer. Somewhere in this unfamiliar building Carl must be wandering about. Somewhere also was his sister, what might be being done to her he did not wish to consider
for the time being. Right now all that mattered to him was getting to the radio in that helicopter. Footsteps approached from a passage leading to the back of the house. Instinctively he ducked
for cover behind a small cabinet. He couldn't risk taking on whoever it was for fear of making too much noise or being spotted by anyone who might be following them. In any case, if whoever it was failed to arrive at wherever they were going, people might notice, come investigating, and find he had escaped. No, he decided, it would be better to avoid a confrontation. Carl appeared a few seconds later, as Walter was still considering this. He ascended the main stairs, and disappeared out of sight
How many other people were in the building, Walter was not sure, but there were at least three that he knew of: Carl, probably a butler of sorts, Boris, the one who did the dirty work, and Mack, who must be the head of the outfit. Who was in the helicopter, he had no idea, perhaps a buyer, for he was sure Mack was going to sell his sister's research work. Walter wasn't even sure exactly what that was either, some sort of "brain-washing" technique for psychological treatment he thought. With these thoughts going through his mind, he set off through a small door and down a corridor that appeared to lead in the direction he wished to go. It tee-ed right just before the end, where Walter was halted by another door. Gently he turned the handle, but to his dismay found it locked. Backtracking, he decided to try the door at the end, one which appeared to only lead into what was probably a study or some such. But the room should at least have a window, he figured. This time the handle turned easily, and he pushed it open a crack. Still hearing no sounds coming from inside, he pushed it open farther and poked his head in. A quick sweep of his eyes was enough to confirm that the room was deserted, so in he slipped, silently closing the door again after him.
The room was as Walter expected, a study or thereabouts. It was furnished with shelves full of books along one wall, and a desk along another. There was a window in the far wall, adjacent to the desk. It took only a handful of paces to reach it. Gazing out, he could see the orange tail boom of a helicopter about twenty-five metres away behind some bushes. A flick of his fingers was all that was required to unlatch the window, after which he threw it upwards. He squeezed through the opening, dropped lightly to the ground, and surveyed his new surroundings for a few moments. As he darted to the cover of the bushes almost directly in front of him, Walter half wondered if the aircraft's pilot or perhaps mechanic might still be with it, but he could see no one. He approached carefully, working towards the rear, then made his way around to the front. Reaching the cockpit door, slowly he raised himself up until he could just see inside. The machine was as he had hoped, unoccupied. After a last scan of the area to ensure he was still unobserved, Walter tried the handle. It slid upwards immediately, and he swung the door open. Why a helicopter would be left unlocked and unattended he did not stop to consider. Before him lay a jumble of gauges, dials, switches, levers and knobs. It was at this juncture that Walter realised something he had not thought to take into account up until this moment, for as his eyes fell on the panel's key-switch it occurred to him that without a suitable key, every piece of that aircraft was rendered inoperable. Standing up to his full height, he scratched his head for a few seconds while pondering his dilemma.
"Oi, what are you doing there?" Walter's plight very quickly became somewhat more complicated when a voice called out to him from the direction of the house. His mind raced, should he attempt to silence the intruder, or would his time be better spent making a bolt for the front gates? How many other people had heard the shout and would come to investigate? As the figure sprinted towards him, Walter realised they were clad in a leather flying jacket. This offered solutions to two questions, an explanation for the state of the aircraft being given by the fact that the pilot had apparently actually still been maintaining visual contact with it, and that more importantly the pilot must have a key for it to power up the radio. Walter wasn't overly strong or solidly built, but he knew how to move very quickly. His brain was currently in overdrive. He slipped under the door, past the front of the machine, and began moving to meet the oncoming pilot. The pilot did not seem concerned about the fact that he was about to collide with another human, he just kept travelling towards Walter. Walter didn't seem to care either, his intention was to ram the other. And this is precisely what he did as the pair met with a thud. Both sprawled on the ground as one.
Walter was the first to get up, but he voluntarily immediately went down again. His knee caught the other man's stomach, winding him. His left hand shot to his victim's throat. "Now you shut up, you hear," he whispered tersely. His right hand pinned down the other's flailing arm. "This your bird?" Walter jerked his head behind him in the direction of the Robinson. The other man nodded confirmation. It seemed obvious, but he had to be sure, he nodded back. "Keys?" he demanded. The pilot did not answer, but continued to struggle. Walter moved his weight slightly to allow him to roll the man over. He looked around for some means of securing his now-prisoner. Removing his hand from around his opponent's throat, he attempted to remove his own belt. As soon as he did this, the other man wrenched himself free from Walter's now relaxed grip, and rolled aside. Stumbling to his feet, he made a bolt back to the house. Walter was too quick for him though, and lunged at his feet. He watched what seemed like slow motion as the man faceplanted into the damp, freshly-cut grass. A splintering crack reached his ears a fraction of a second after the impact, and Walter flinched. He got up and stood over the man, now laying motionless before him. He quickly looked around to see if anyone else was coming, but could see no one. Sliding his belt from around his waist, Walter secured his prisoner's wrists with it. "I hope I haven't killed him," Walter's lips said the words, but no sound came out. Slowly he dragged the body to the helicopter. Once inside, he began searching the pilot's pockets for the keys he must find to save his sister, applying a handkerchief he found in one of them to the stream of blood coming from the man's nose. His fingers slipped around a metal ring, he smiled as a metallic jangle quietly resounded as he withdrew the object. Walter fumbled through the dozen or so keys he now held in his hand, trying to find one that fitted the switch.
It was with a shaking hand that Dr Steiner reached again into her case, this time extracting from it a neatly-coiled cable breaking out
into a handful of flat electrode
pads at one end. Snatching up a roll of duct tape
, she proceeded to place the sensors at intervals around her patient's head at forehead level. Next she produced a grey jiffy box
roughly the size of a 3.5" floppy disk
drive, noting to Peters as she connected it to her array of sensors, "This really is extremely dangerous," referring to the fact that although she had done significant testing already to prove her drug was safe on animals, she had not yet tested it on a human. An orange LED
on her box came on
as she plugged in the power supply. Amelia wanted to be careful, but she was anxious to set up her equipment to be able to monitor how her patient was doing. She placed a microphone on the table, and roughly jammed its connector into her strange device. The microphone rolled off the table, and she rolled her eyes as it landed on her toes. A dark grey electronic instrument
with a yellow rubber boot
and light blue screen
came from her case, too bulky to fit easily in the palm of her hand but obviously designed to be used as such, and easily mistaken for perhaps a small TV by those unfamiliar with such devices. The doctor attached her ominous jiffy box to the oscilloscope
now in her hand. A tiny blip
sounded from the unit in coincidence with her pressing a button. Half a second later, a trace
was madly modulating across the screen. She looked puzzled for a few moments while she adjusted the pads taped to Seacord's head until the waveform began behaving as she expected. She turned to Peters, "Wait a few more minutes please, and watch what happens." Nothing more was said for the next five minutes or so.
Agent Seacord blinked his eyes open, and surveyed his surroundings curiously and as if in wonderment. Peters eyed the doctor questioningly, she nodded back. "Ask him who he is working for," he requested.
"Who do you work for?" Steiner spoke into her microphone with a voice like liquid metal.
"Work?" Seacord stammered.
"I work for the Department," the man smiled casually, he was currently feeling effects strongly resembling that of inhaling nitrous oxide, but little else.
"What were you doing here in Paris?" Peters interrupted.
"There is a young doctor by the name of Steiner," Seacord sounded far away. "Steiner," he repeated, "Steiner..."
Peters went to slap the man, but Steiner stopped him, "Please, let me try and question him. We can do this without violence." She turned back to her patient as he groaned, "Mr Seacord, you are in Paris. Why did you come to Paris? Who sent you?" The words floated towards him dreamily, "Whoo seent yoou?..."
Seacord stared with glazed eyes at Amelia. Suddenly it was as if the play button had been pressed on a tape deck, and he began reciting what must have been a conversation with his boss a few days prior. "Good morning, sir. I believe you wish me to go to France?" he began. "Seacord, there is a young doctor by the name of Steiner. She has been working on something revolutionary over the past few years, but we don't know what. It's your job to find out what that something is, and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Is that clear?" He paused before changing speaker again, "Yes sir, perfectly sir."
Peters nudged the doctor, and whispered to her, "What information did he get back to his people already?"
"Did you find out what she developed?" she continued.
Seacord stared blankly back. "A Russian," he murmured, "Going to sell it. Must get it back. But we don't know what it is yet."
The questioning continued for another ten minutes or more, Peters' frustration growing by the minute.
"Stop!" The doctor pleaded, pointing at her oscilloscope. The amplitude of the waveform had dropped sharply, and an erratic peak flashed across the screen every half a second or so.
Seeing the agent was probably about to pass out, Peters grabbed him by the collar and shook him furiously, "How much did you find out? How much did you tell them?" Seacord's body went limp, and his head lolled forward. "Get him back," Peters raged at Doctor Steiner, but she stood shaking with fear and said nothing. He dropped the man in disgust.
Carl burst in to the room, "Sir, the girl's kid brother, he's not in his room, and I can't find him anywhere in he house."
Peters whirled round to face the intruder. "Well, where is he?" he demanded. "Doctor, Boris, get him out of here," he pointed at the collapsed Seacord, "The three of you, find somewhere to disappear to for the night." "Miroslav, I'm afraid we shall have to temporarily postpone this transaction for security purposes." The colonel raised his hands to protest, but dropped them again realising he could do nothing. A bustle of activity ensued as the orders were carried out with haste. "Colonel, to your helicopter," Peters snatched up the doctor's now re-packed Peli, and led the way to the door.
Walter stared once again at the lower portion of the instrument panel, wherein were situated three pieces of electronic equipment that each could have been the radio he sought. After dismissing the topmost unit as a GPS receiver
, he spotted a connector on the front of the next unit that he recognised as a NATO microphone jack
. He breathed a small sigh of relief as he reached up to grab a headset hanging just behind the pilot's seat. He donned
the headset, and twisted its plug into place on the radio's panel. There was a soft click from the radio's volume knob, and a number of red digits
illuminated. Walter's ears were immediately filled with aviation chatter occasionally broken by static
. He listened for a minute or so to see who he was picking up, for this was presumably Charles de Gaulle
. "...e Gaulle Tower, roger that, thanks. Out, *ksht*
" Walter picked out the nasally voice of a pilot who must have been in nearby airspace, and waited no longer.
There was a switch under the display with a small "Tx" next to it, his fingers reached for it and flicked it up, "Calling Charles de Gaulle Tower, this is an emergency. Charles de Gaulle Tower, do you read me? Over. *ksht*"
"Aircraft in distress, this is Charles de Gaulle Tower, please identify. Over, *ksht*" the French controller responded a few seconds later.
"Charles de Gaulle Tower, this is Walter Steiner, I don't have much time to talk, but I want you to get the Police. My sister is Dr Amelia Steiner, she and I have been taken prisoner by an American named Peters, and are being held in an estate somewhere in Eastern Paris. There's some sort of foreign colonel here as well, this is his helicopter I'm calling from. Did you copy that, Tower? Over. *ksht*" Walter breathlessly let his push-to-talk switch fall back down, and checked to see that there was still no one else coming.
"Aircraft in distress, copy that. Would you repeat your name please? *ksht*"
"Tower, my name is Walter Steiner, that's Sierra Tango Echo India November Echo Romeo. *ksht*"
"Mr Steiner, what is the registration of the aircraft you are calling from? Over. *ksht*"
Walter shrugged, he hadn't noticed. As he turned to poke his head out the door, he noticed a Dymo label containing the detail he sought on the right-hand side of the instrument panel. He read it off over the radio.
"Mr Steiner, would you wait a few minutes please? Stand by, out. *ksht*" The radio fell strangely silent, and Walter wondered what the CDG controller must be thinking, and if he'd even take anything that had just been said seriously.
Roughly twenty kilometres away, a blonde-haired man in white pressed shirt finished scribbling something down, laid down his pencil, slipped off a pair of headphones, and rolled his chair back from his desk. He placed the pad he had been writing on in front of another man dressed in like manner. Straightening, the air traffic controller addressed his superior, "Sir, I just received this call," he pointed to a verbatim transcription of the transmission. "That aircraft's last known position was about twenty-two kilometres South-East of us," he continued, looking expectantly for some indication as to how he should handle the situation.
A car engine started, and Walter's attention turned towards the house in time to see Boris' black Porsche reveal itself from behind some bushes near the front of the house. As the vehicle sped towards the front gate, Walter yanked off his headset and flattened himself against the base of the seat for fear of being seen by the driver. As he raised himself back up, his eyes fell on something far worse, for Peters and the colonel were standing talking in the doorway adjacent to the window by which he had recently exited the house. The pair seemed to be arguing about something. Walter's heart raced, and without another glance in the direction of the house, he rolled backwards out of the aircraft and onto the grass. Opening the rear door of the machine, he dragged the limp body of the pilot from the floor in the front, and transferred him to the floor in the back. Returning to the house would mean capture, and attempting to escape would mean being torn to pieces by dogs, so he closed both doors of the helicopter, and hung anxiously from its side, waiting for the colonel to come back, and then he would just have to take things as they came, he decided. Peters disappeared back inside, and Walter held his breath as the footsteps of Litovinski drew closer.
"Come on, Carl, let's get out of here," Peters growled at his subordinate who stood in front of him in the corridor, "We'll meet Boris later. That kid might already have the law on their way here." They filed up to the speaker's office to clean out the safe.
"Paul, where the blazes are you?" Litovinski called in annoyance when there was no sign of his pilot, "Ze Police are probably already on zeir vay, Paul, let's get out of here." But there was no reply from the unconscious man.
Litovinski was almost at the helicopter now, on the side opposite Walter. In his head Walter counted the steps Litovinski would have left before reaching the machine. "Mr Steiner, can you hear me? This is Marcus Bradley, operations manager of Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris. Please respond, over. *ksht*" A voice came over the radio, but Walter heard nothing. Every muscle in his body was tensed, awaiting his discovery. The Russian stood just a few metres away now, directly opposite Walter but still unable to see him. The element of surprise was currently on Walter's side, and now was his chance to use it. Releasing his grip on the side of the Robinson, he landed silently on the turf. He stooped and charged headlong at the feet of the Colonel. It was a perfectly executed tackle, catching the other man completely off guard. He reeled backwards, clutching wildly, but the recessed door handles of the aircraft denied him any grasp.
Owing to the fuselage directly above him, this time Walter was not so lucky in being the first to get back up. The Russian brought his boot up squarely in his assailant's face. Walter grunted as his head was thrown back against the bottom of the fuselage, leaving a dent in the orange panel where it hit. Blood began to ooze from his lower lip now, and trickled slowly down his face. Litovinski pulled himself away using his arms, his legs escaping Walter's grip. He raised himself to his feet once again, and towered over the teenager with his jaw set in a grim line. Walter froze, his body ached, he didn't even know where his sister was any longer, and his brain wasn't lending itself well to thinking right now. Vaguely he wondered why everything was suddenly going dark. His vision slowly faded to blackness, and he fell back down to the ground.