Vladimir Petrov took the service elevator to the third floor. For once, his badly scarred face was wearing a large smile as he thought of the favor he would gain and the rewards he would acquire by having carried out Yuri’s plan to the letter. The incident had gone down without a hitch as Yuri said it would and Vladimir was anxious to tell his employer of his success. Since losing favor with the KGB, Vladimir had gone underground in Russia and had been pleased to learn that Yuri Zornikov, one of Russia’s top former agents, had requested his services in the United States. He had jumped at the chance to leave Russia and illegally defect to the U.S. in order to work for one of Russia’s most notorious criminal master-minds.
Yuri himself had defected two years earlier but had kept such a low profile that no one knew where he really was. There were rumors that he was hiding out in The Orient, in Rome and even in Iceland. Yuri had chuckled at hearing these outlandish rumors and had prided himself on being able to “disappear” so completely. He knew that not only his peers in the KGB were looking for him to return him to their employ, but his enemies in the United States and particularly in the OSI were searching desperately for him as well. Yuri Zornikov was a dangerous man to have as an enemy and if the KGB could no longer retain his services, they intended to have him assassinated. The OSI was also interested in retaining his services but for different reasons. Zornikov had been one of the KGB’s top agents and he knew every secret they had. That kind of information could bring the KGB to it’s knees and the OSI was willing to do whatever they could to acquire it legally. If however, Zornikov refused to cooperate with OSI, they intended to jail him for crimes against the U.S.
Unbeknownst to both OSI and KGB, Yuri had set up headquarters near Van Buren, Maine in a very isolated area close to the Canadian border. He had purchased 20 acres of land under an assumed name where he lived and worked. There was a large warehouse on the property he’d purchased and he’d had it renovated with offices, living quarters, computer rooms, medical facilities and prison cells. The warehouse contained state of the art equipment with security cameras and alarm systems throughout. He had hired other agents from Russia who had also fallen out of favor with the KGB to help maintain his criminal activities in the U.S.
Three years ago while still working for the KGB, he had come across some information which was catalytic in him leaving their employ and going out on his own. That information involved a project called “Bionics.” Yuri had been fascinated by this and had spent close to a year stealing, buying and killing for any information he could find out about it. He had continued working out the details of his plan before he’d defected and once arriving in the U.S., he put the finishing touches on his plan and sent his top henchman, Vladimir Petrov to take care of one of the most important details of all.
"Did you get her?" Yuri asked coldly as Petrov strided confidently into his office.
Nodding, Petrov said, "Yes, she is resting in a cell downstairs."
"Excellent,” Yuri said, standing and walking around his desk and over to the large window in his office. Clasping his hands behind his back, he said, "Have Anton make the phone call. Tell him to make sure it's on an unsecured line."
"I will,” Petrov said. He stood there for a few seconds waiting to see if there would be anything more. When Yuri said nothing else and didn’t turn away from the window, the wide smile finally slipped from Petrov’s mutilated face and he suddenly began to feel uneasy being alone in the room with Yuri.
Petrov knew of Yuri’s reputation as an assassin. While other assassins killed for money, Yuri Zornikov killed because he enjoyed it. And though Petrov was a man to be feared at six feet four inches and three hundred fifty pounds of muscle which was slowly beginning to turn to fat as he entered his late forties, Yuri was only six feet and two hundred pounds but he still terrified Petrov. Though he was on the slim side, Yuri was well muscled and an expert in the martial arts and other fighting techniques. His advantage in size over Yuri did not boost Petrov’s confidence. He knew that Yuri could find a dozen different ways to kill him with his bare hands and wear a smile on his face as he did so.
Squirming and turning quietly, Petrov walked over to the door to leave.
"You have served me well Vladimir," Yuri said, still staring out the window. "You will be well compensated for your services and for your loyalty."
The huge smile returned to Petrov’s face. "Thank you my friend,” he said obsequiously. "It is my honor to serve you."
Petrov left the office and closed the door softly behind him. He pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped away the perspiration that had beaded on his brow in Yuri’s presence. Walking over to the elevator, he pushed the basement button and the doors slid open immediately. It was time to see Anton and have him make the phone call to Colonel Steve Austin.
Steve parked his car and got out, locking the door behind him. He was whistling the tune he’d been listening to on the car radio as he bounded effortlessly up the stairs. Unlocking his front door, he stepped in and picked up the mail, dropping it on the hall table as he headed for the kitchen. It was just after 4:00 pm, Friday afternoon and he was in a good mood because he’d gotten off early and hopefully wouldn’t have to go out on assignment for the next fifty-six hours. He had asked Oscar for the weekend off but the best Oscar could do was to not schedule him for anything definite and just put him on call for the weekend. Taking a cold beer out of the refrigerator, Steve opened the can and took a long, satisfying drink from it before heading back to the living room. Turning on the television set, he flopped down on the sofa and propped his feet up on the coffee table, crossing his legs at the ankles. He was trying to make up his mind if he wanted to stay in and watch the game tonight or call that pretty brunette he’d met two days ago and ask her out when the phone suddenly rang.
Steve reached over and picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Is this Colonel Steve Austin?” a man’s voice asked.
“Yes it is,” Steve said. “Who is this?”
“We have your girlfriend Colonel. If you want her to live, you’ll do as we say. And NO police.”
“What?” Steve asked, trying not to panic. “Who is this? Hello?”
The line went dead and Steve sat there staring at the phone, unable to make heads or tails out of what had just happened.
The voice wasn’t one that he remembered hearing before and there was nothing extraordinary or distinctive about it.
Clicking off and waiting for a new dial tone, he dialed the OSI and Russ immediately answered the phone. “Hello Colonel. I thought you were staying away from this place the rest of the weekend,” Russ chuckled.
“Yeah, I thought so too,” Steve said. “Listen Russ, do you guys still have a trace on my incoming calls?”
“Sure do Colonel. Oscar’s orders,” Russ joked.
“Good,” Steve said. “Can you trace the last call that came in just a few seconds ago?”
“No problem, Colonel. Give me a few minutes and I’ll call you back.”
“Thanks Russ,” Steve said hanging up the phone. He was sure it was all a practical joke but he didn’t want to take any chances. And that remark about having his “girlfriend”? ‘What was that all about?’ he wondered. He was single and hadn’t done any serious dating for the last five months. Oh, he’d had dinner and gone out to a movie or a show a few times with different lady friends, but he hadn’t seen any of them steadily enough that anyone could mistake any of them for his “girlfriend”. And that crack about “No Police.” Steve smirked as he thought that one over. “That’s about the oldest line in the world,” he said as he stood and walked over to the window and looked out. He was trying to convince himself that it was somebody’s idea of a sick joke but suddenly, he felt as if he were being watched.
He jumped as the phone rang and startled him. Becoming annoyed with himself for getting paranoid, he walked over to the phone and picked it up, "Hello?"
“Steve, it’s Russ.”
“Yeah Russ. Whatdya have?”
“Not a thing,” Russ said. “The call must have come in from one of those private, unsecured lines. We even called the local operator and they couldn’t help us either. What’s going on anyway?”
“Nothing,” Steve said. “Thanks Russ. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Sure thing Colonel. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
“You too,” Steve said, hanging up the phone slowly. The more he told himself it was a practical joke, the less convinced he was. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he walked around the living room trying to figure out what was going on. Walking over to the end table, he quickly leafed through his day planner until he came across the phone number of the brunette he’d met a couple of days ago. He wondered if someone had seen them talking and had assumed she was his girlfriend. Maybe someone had done something to her in order to get back at him.
Dialing her number, he breathed a heavy sigh of relief when she finally picked up the phone on the fifth ring.
“Hello?” she said breathlessly into the phone.
“Hello, is this Pamela?” Steve asked.
“Yes it is…who’s calling?” she asked.
“Boy am I glad to hear your voice,” Steve said relieved. “This is Steve Austin. We met the other day at….”
“Oh Steve!” she said excitedly, cutting him off. “I was hoping to hear from you! How are you?”
“I’m fine pretty lady,” Steve said with a chuckle. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m just great!” she said. “I’m really glad you called.”
“I was hoping maybe we could get together,” Steve said hopefully.
“That sounds wonderful,” Pamela said, “but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m leaving town in about an hour and I won’t be back for two weeks. I told you I was a stewardess didn’t I?” she asked.
“Yes you did,” Steve said. “Where are you off to?”
“Hawaii,” she said happily. “For a convention. All expenses paid by the airline.”
“Sounds great,” Steve said.
“Maybe you could join me down there?” Pamela asked hopefully.
“I wish I could,” Steve said regretfully, “but I’m on call this weekend and I’ll be out on assignment next week.”
“That’s too bad,” Pamela said. “Maybe when I get back then?”
“You bet,” Steve said. “I’ll give you a call.”
“Great!” Pamela said. “It’s really nice hearing from you Steve. I’ll be looking forward to getting together with you in two weeks.”
“Me too,” Steve said with a smile. “Have a safe flight.”
“I will,” she said. “Good bye Steve.”
“Good bye Pam,” Steve said, hanging up the phone.
Relief flooded through him knowing that she was all right. Other than Pamela, Steve hadn’t come close to hooking up with anyone these last few weeks, which led him to believe that the caller must be talking about someone from his past.
“But who?” he asked himself as he begin to pace again. “And that’s considering that you are taking them seriously,” he said to himself.
Sitting down on the sofa, he decided that all he could do was wait. “Whoever it was who called said, I’d better do what they wanted which means they’ll have to contact me again to let me know exactly what that is. I can’t believe you’re taking this seriously!” he chided himself. “Well what else can I do?” he said as he stood and started pacing again. “One thing’s for sure, I’ll be sitting by that phone until I hear something else from that guy,” he said. “Or, until one of my ex girlfriends turns up missing.”
“The keys,” Vladimir said as he approached Sergei, the guard watching the cells.
“Yes comrade,” Sergei said, jumping up and taking down a ring with two keys dangling on it from the rack on the board behind him. Vladimir Petrov terrified him and he was always sure to carry out an order or request from Petrov without hesitation.
Taking the key ring from the guard, Petrov opened the first door and walked down the hall where he came to a second, thicker door which was made like the vault doors used in banks. For this door, Petrov used the second key on the ring and then he punched in a code on the keypad in the wall next to the door. The tiny red light above the numbers on the keypad turned green and a computerized, female voice on the intercom said, “Access Granted.” Petrov pulled hard on the steel handle and the heavy door slid open smoothly as he walked in. Walking down another short corridor, he turned to his left and walked over to one of the cell doors. There were ten cells, five on each side of the corridor but only one cell had an occupant. Walking over to cell number five, Petrov slid open a small, steel piece in the door and looked inside the cell. The hostage was sitting on the cot with a blindfold over her eyes and her hands were tied behind her back.
Punching in another access code on the keypad beside the cell door, Petrov was again granted access and he went inside and stood in front of the hostage, looking down disapprovingly at her.
“So, you are Colonel Austin’s girl, yes?” he asked, his heavy Russian accent doing no justice to the foreign words on his tongue.
“Who are you?” she asked, cocking her head to one side, trying to recognize his voice. The blindfold made her feel vulnerable and she tried not to show how frightened she was.
“Never mind who I am,” Petrov said. “The important thing is who you are and what Colonel Austin will do to keep you safe.”
“I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake,” she said, trying to buy herself some time. “I don’t know anyone named Colonel Austin and….”
“Silence!” he yelled, startling her. “Your lies will not save you or him! We know who you are and we know Colonel Austin will do anything to keep you safe.”
“I told you, I don’t know any Colonel Austin….”
Her next words were cut off as he quickly backhand slapped her across the mouth, splitting her bottom lip and sending her reeling back on the cot. She tasted her own blood as her lip bled profusely and started to swell. Reaching down, Petrov grabbed her by the arm and yanked her up to her feet, causing her to cry out. Pulling her roughly across the room, he pushed her out of the cell and pulled her down the hall.
“Where are you taking me!” she screamed.
Petrov chuckled, relishing her obvious fear. “It is time for you to meet the man who decides whether you will live or die.”
Steve turned his head and looked over at the clock. 3:00am. He had been tossing and turning ever since he’d gone to bed two hours ago and his eyes hadn’t closed once. He hadn’t received any more phone calls and that was as good a reason as any to believe that there was nothing more to that prank earlier. And yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more than just a prank. Knowing he’d never get to sleep, he threw the covers back and got out of bed. Pulling on a pair of old, faded jeans, he walked barefoot and shirtless out to the living room and his eyes were automatically drawn to the telephone. He walked over to it and started to pick it up and then thought better of it. “I’d better leave the line open in case…..” Not wanting to give credence to his suspicions, he turned and walked over to the cabinet and took down a bottle of red wine and a glass and walked over to the sofa and sat down. Opening the bottle, he poured himself a hefty drink but left it untouched on the table as he leaned his head back on the sofa cushion.
“Who could it be?” he asked himself quietly. “Who could they have taken and why? And who are they anyway?”
He thought about the man’s voice again, trying desperately to find some familiarity in it but came up blank. “If they really do have someone, why haven’t they contacted me again?”
The phone rang suddenly and Steve’s head snapped up in surprise as his blue eyes widened in shock. His heart pounded as he quickly reached for the phone.
“Steve,” Oscar said. “Did I wake you?”
“No, I was up. What is it Oscar?”
“I just ran across this message on my desk from Russ about an anonymous phone call you received earlier.”
“At three o’clock in the morning?” Steve asked.
“I’ve been away from my desk,” Oscar said wryly. “What is this all about?”
“I wish I knew Oscar,” Steve said, as he began explaining in detail everything that happened.
“And you have no idea at all who it might have been?” Oscar asked.
“None,” Steve said, wiping a hand wearily over his eyes.
“This doesn’t give us much to go on,” Oscar said.
“Then you believe it’s legitimate?” Steve asked.
“I don’t know pal, but I don’t want to take any chances,” Oscar said. “I’d hate to think there was really someone out there being held against her will and we didn’t look into it. I’ll make some phone calls, see what I can dig up.”
“Thanks Oscar,” Steve said, grateful that his friend was now involved.
“Meanwhile, you get some sleep pal. You sound exhausted.”
“I’ll try,” Steve said. “Call me if you come up with anything.”
“I’ll do that,” Oscar promised.
“Have a seat,” Yuri said to the blindfolded and bound woman that Petrov had just brought into his office.
When she made no attempt to move, he nodded to Petrov who forcefully pushed her down in the chair across from Yuri’s desk.
“Forgive me for not having your blindfold removed,” he said, “but your life depends on my anonymity. If you were to see my face, well, let’s just say that Colonel Austin would be a very lonely man.”
“Look, I told you before. I don’t know any Colonel Austin!” she yelled.
Petrov raised his hand to strike her again and was stopped by a fierce look from Yuri.
“Your commitment to the Colonel is admirable,” Yuri said. “Just as I hope his commitment is to you.”
“What do you want from me?” she asked.
“From you? Nothing,” Yuri said standing and walking around the desk. He stood in front of her and leaned back on his desk as he crossed his arms over his chest. “It is the Colonel we want. You are here to assure us that he will do whatever we say.”
“And what’s that?” she asked.
“Do not concern yourself with these matters,” Yuri said. “When the time comes, we will get in touch with Colonel Austin and let him know what is expected of him.”
“And what happens to me in the meantime?” she asked.
“You will be well cared for,” Yuri said, “as long as you cause us no trouble or make no attempt to escape. When we are ready to contact Colonel Austin, we will let you speak briefly to him, just to assure him that we have you and that you are still alive. I think hearing your voice will be very persuasive in getting him to, “play ball with us” as you Americans are so fond of saying.”
Petrov chuckled and was immediately silenced by a glance from Yuri.
“Take her back to her cell and see that she is well cared for. And Comrade……” he said, walking back around his desk.
“Yes?” Petrov asked as he pulled her up from the chair.
“Strike her again, and you will answer to me. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” Petrov said meekly, his face draining of blood. He took the hostage from the room and escorted her back to the cell, careful not to bruise or injure her in any way.
“You look rested,” Oscar smiled as Steve walked into his office early Monday morning.
“I finally got a good night’s sleep,” Steve said, perching on the edge of Oscar’s desk.
“Then I take it you received no more phone calls?” Oscar asked.
“None,” Steve said happily, “which means there was no kidnapping and the entire thing was a prank.”
“Thank God for that,” Oscar said as he searched the top of his desk.
“What are you looking for?” Steve asked with a smile.
“Your next assignment,” Oscar said. “I specifically told Callahan to have it on my desk when I arrived this morning.”
“Hey where is she anyway?” Steve asked. “She wasn’t at her desk when I came in just now.”
They looked at each other and their eyes widened as the blood drained from both of their faces. “OH NO!” they said in unison.
“No answer,” Oscar said agitatedly as he slammed the phone down. He had called Callahan’s apartment and the phone had rang repeatedly with no answer.
“You don’t really think it’s her do you?” Steve asked worriedly as he looked over at Oscar. “Besides, I thought we agreed that this was all a practical joke.”
“Well who else could it be?” Oscar demanded. “Callahan hasn’t missed a day of work since she started working here and the few times she was late, she always called in advance to let me know about it.”
He picked up the phone again and punched in a few numbers. After waiting a couple of seconds, he said, “Russ, it’s Oscar. Listen, take a ride over to Callahan’s and see if she’s alright would you?”
“Callahan’s?” Russ asked. “What’s going on Oscar?”
“Hopefully nothing,” Oscar said. “But she didn’t show up for work this morning and I just want to make sure everything’s alright.”
“I’m on it,” Russ said.
“Thanks Russ,” Oscar said.
“No problem boss,” Russ said with a smile as he hung up the phone. He thought it was a strange request to carry out just because someone hadn’t shown up for work, but he figured if Oscar had made such a request in the first place that there must be more to it than Oscar was letting on. Picking up his car keys, he headed out the door and over to Callahan’s apartment.
“I don’t get it,” Steve said, pacing slowly back and forth in Oscar’s office. “If it is Callahan, why would someone think she was my girlfriend?”
“I don’t get it either,” Oscar said, leaning back in his chair. “Unless……”
“Yeah?” Steve asked, halting his pacing and turning to face Oscar.
“Unless there’s more between you and Callahan than you’re letting on,” Oscar said with a smile.
“Come on Oscar,” Steve said in exasperation. “Callahan and I are just good friends. You know that.”
“Mmm….” Oscar sighed. “Then what could be their motives?” he asked.
“We’re not even sure there’s even been a kidnapping, or if there has, that Callahan is the one they’re talking about,” Steve said as he continued with his pacing. “I mean, there could be a perfectly good reason for her not being here. Maybe her car broke down on the way to work or maybe she got a flat tire or…..”
“That’s it!” Oscar yelled, snapping his fingers.
“What’s it?” Steve asked in confusion.
“You remember a few weeks ago when Callahan’s car broke down and you were driving her home every night?”
“It wasn’t every night Oscar,” Steve said in annoyance. “Just a few nights until she got her wheels back.”
“But that has to be it,” Oscar said, standing and leaning his hands down on his desk. “Now if someone had been watching you, they would have seen you dropping her off on those nights and figured that there was something going on between the two of you.”
“That’s quite a leap you’re making,” Steve said.
“Steve, when you dropped Callahan off those nights, did you ever have occasion to, uh…..”
“To what!” Steve demanded, indignant at Oscar’s implications.
“I’m sorry to have to ask you this pal, but did you ever, go upstairs with Callahan on those nights?”
“Of course I did,” Steve said. “I wanted to make sure she got to her apartment all right and…..” his eyes widened as he remembered the circumstances of those evenings more clearly.
“And what?” Oscar prodded.
“And she always asked me in for coffee or a beer,” Steve said resignedly.
“And you always accepted,” Oscar said, sitting heavily down in his chair.
“Well it was no big deal Oscar…..” Steve said in his own defense, but he realized now how it must have looked to any one who may have been watching them.
“How long did you stay in her apartment?” Oscar asked, not liking what he had to do but knowing it was necessary.
“I don’t know,” Steve said in irritation. “Just long enough to have a drink I guess.”
Oscar sat back in his chair and looked up at his friend. “To some, that could seem long enough for you two to uh……..”
A blush rose to Steve’s cheeks and he became angry at Oscar for what he was suggesting. “Now look!” he said, walking over to Oscar’s desk, “I told you before that Callahan and I are just good friends! Nothing happened between us!”
“Okay, okay pal,” Oscar said, holding up his hands to fend off Steve’s verbal attack. “I just needed to be sure.”
Steve looked at him coldly and then walked away. “So now what?” he asked with his back to Oscar.
“Now we wait,” Oscar said wearily. “I’m hoping you’re right and that it’s nothing more than car trouble. But if it’s not…..” He didn’t have to finish his sentence to get his message across. If someone had really snatched his secretary, thinking that she was Steve’s girlfriend, then there was no telling what kind of trouble she was in right now.
Vladimir entered the hostage’s cell. “I see you have not eaten,” he said looking down at the untouched breakfast tray they’d brought into her cell that morning. She had been re-tied and blindfolded again after refusing her meal.
“This place doesn’t inspire much of an appetite in me,” she deadpanned.
Vladimir chuckled and reached out and took her arm, gently pulling her up to her feet.
“Where are you taking me!” she demanded.
“It is time for us to contact the Colonel,” he said, pushing her out the door. “Today is your day of reckoning.”
“Hello,” Oscar said, picking up his phone on the second ring.
“Colonel Austin please,” the voice on the other end said.
Pulling the phone away from his ear and looking at the receiver suspiciously, Oscar said, “It’s for you Steve,” as he handed the phone over to Steve.
“Thanks,” Steve said, walking over and taking the phone.
“Hello,” Steve said.
“Yes,” Steve said. “Who is this?”
“We have your girlfriend,” the voice on the other end said as Steve’s blue eyes widened and the blood drained from his face.
Oscar immediately picked up one of the other phones on his desk and whispered into it: “Beaumont? It’s Oscar Goldman. Get me a trace and a recording on my main line. Now!” he hissed.
“What do you want?” Steve asked tightly.
“Return to your home,” the voice said calmly. “You will find an envelope there with instructions inside. Follow them to the letter or your girlfriend dies.”
“My girlfriend?” Steve asked, casually stalling for time. “I‘m afraid you’ve made a mistake.”
Suddenly he heard a woman scream in the background and the phone was put to her ear.
“Don’t listen to them Steve!” she cried into the phone. “Don’t do anything they say!”
The line suddenly went dead and Steve’s legs went weak as he leaned heavily against Oscar’s desk.
“Oh my God,” Steve moaned as he looked over at Oscar. “I don’t believe it!”
“What is it?” Oscar asked, staring intently at Steve as he hung up the phone. “What’s happened?”
“They have her!” Steve said, the color draining from his face.
“Callahan?” Oscar shouted, his heart pounding in his chest.
Steve looked over at him, “No, they didn’t take Callahan, Oscar,” Steve said solemnly. “That was Jean’s voice I heard.”
“Jean?” Oscar asked, raising a questioning eyebrow at him.
“Jean Manners,” Steve explained. “She was my private nurse right after my accident. After that, she was more than just my nurse, Oscar. She and I, well, we became involved. There was even talk of marriage at one time.”
“Yes, I think I remember seeing her name in some of the earlier files,” Oscar said, sitting down in his chair. “But I don’t remember seeing anything about her recently, Steve. Certainly not since I’ve been here.”
“She left the “Bionics Project” shortly after that,” Steve said sadly. “She wanted a husband, a family…….I couldn’t give her those things then…….”
“I’m sorry Steve,” Oscar said sincerely. “But why would someone assume she was still your girlfriend now?” he asked. “Especially after all this time?”
“It has to be because of my Bionics," Steve said thoughtfully. "She was there from the beginning and they must know that she knows all about me and that I would do anything for her. She’s one of the few people who knows about “bionics” and therefore, it wouldn’t cost them anything if she were to overhear something about it while they’re holding her.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Oscar said thoughtfully. “But when did you last hear from her?” he asked.
“It’s been a while,” Steve said sadly as he turned and walked away. “But my feelings for her never changed Oscar. I guess they figured hers never changed for me.”
“Either way, they know you’ll never let anything happen to her,” Oscar consoled, “and that’s the leverage they’re intending to use over you.”
Steve nodded his head in agreement but didn’t say anything else.
Oscar rubbed his hands over his face. “Then where is Callahan?” he asked worriedly. “That still doesn’t explain what happened to her.”
As if on cue, Callahan and Russ walked into Oscar’s office.
“Callahan!” Oscar yelled, jumping to his feet.
“I’m sorry Mr. Goldman,” Callahan said hurriedly. “My, my car broke down again and I couldn’t get to a phone. I was lucky enough to spot Russ as he was driving by.”
“She was out on the highway,” Russ explained. “I was heading over to her apartment when she flagged me down.”
“Thanks Russ,” Oscar said, as he and Steve sighed with relief. “Well at least we’ve gotten that settled,” Oscar said. “Callahan, get me the Secretary on the phone as soon as possible.”
“Yes Mr. Goldman,” Callahan said, nervously looking over her shoulder as she and Russ left the office.
“What’s going on?” she whispered to Russ as they closed Oscar’s door behind them.
“I’ve learned not to ask too many questions around here,” Russ said. “When they want you to know something, they’ll tell you.”
He walked over to the door to leave the office.
“Thanks for the ride,” Callahan said as she began to dial the Secretary.
“Any time,” Russ said, as he closed the door behind him.
“The Secretary?” Steve asked, as Russ and Callahan left the office.
“To cancel your mission,” Oscar said.
Steve looked at him questioningly as Oscar smiled and said, “I think I know you well enough by now pal to know that you won’t be taking any assignments until your friend is safe. We’ll work on getting her away from the kidnappers first and then we’ll worry about your next assignment.”
“Thanks Oscar,” Steve said sincerely. “But how are you going to square it with the Secretary.”
“That’s my problem pal,” Oscar said. “You figure out what you’re going to need and let me know. I’ll do whatever I can to help you on this Steve.”
“I know that Oscar,” Steve said gratefully as he walked over to the door and opened it, “and thanks,” he said, “for everything.” He walked out the door and closed it behind him.
Oscar’s buzzer rang. “Mr. Goldman, I have the Secretary on the line,” Callahan said on the loud speaker.
“Put him through,” Oscar said with a sigh. The phone rang and he picked it up.
“Hello Mr. Secretary,” he said. “I’m afraid we have a bit of a problem……..”
Steve rushed home to retrieve the envelope from the Russians that contained the instructions he was to follow.
Parking his car, he got out and looked up and down the street to see if he were being watched. Using the zoom lens in his bionic eye, he zeroed in on certain areas and cars but could not detect anything amiss. That didn’t dispel the feeling he had that he was being watched. Walking up to his front door, he unlocked it and pushed it open to reveal a large, manila envelope lying on the floor. Steve stepped into the house and closed the door behind him. Picking up the envelope, he slowly walked through his home, searching every room before he could assure himself that no one was there. Walking back to the living room, he tore open the envelope and pulled out the papers inside.
On top was a white sheet of paper with words typed on it:
We would appreciate your assistance in helping us to achieve our goals. Because of your “special abilities” we know that we cannot force you to comply. Therefore, we have taken the liberty of securing some leverage for ourselves to help you decide in our favor. The photographs of your girlfriend have been taken over the last few days.....
Steve quickly put the note aside and went to the photographs. There were three 8x10 black and white glossy photos of Jean. She was blindfolded and tied up in each photo and there was a newspaper being held by someone in each photo with that day’s date clearly displayed on it. Steve became enraged when he saw the bruise to her mouth and her split lip. Tears came to his eyes as he unconsciously caressed her lip in the photo, trying to comfort her and ease her pain. Returning to the note, he continued to read:
"We will hold her until our mission is complete and then she will be released, unharmed. If however, you decide not to cooperate with us, we will send you information as to where you can find her body.
A car will come for you tonight at 8:00pm. Make sure you are alone. Interference from the police or the OSI will not be tolerated. You are being watched at all times and your phone calls are being monitored. If we suspect anything, or that anyone else is involved, your girlfriend will pay the price of your indiscretion, with her life."
Before he could stop himself, Steve balled the note up in his fist and threw it across the room. The note said they would release Jean unharmed but the pictures proved that they had already harmed her.
“It’s all my fault,” Steve said miserably as he walked over and sat down in the chair. “If I hadn’t walked away from her and gave her the kind of life that she wanted when she’d asked me to, she wouldn’t be suffering like this right now. I could have stopped this in the beginning if I had listened to her but I was too stubborn and too selfish to realize that.”
Leaning his head back on the chair as tears rolled down the side of his face, he vowed, “I’ll get you out of this Jean. Somehow, I’ll get you out of this. And I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.” Standing up, he picked up the photographs and took them upstairs with him as he prepared for his eight o’clock rendezvous.
Steve was standing on the sidewalk at 8:00pm when a black van pulled up in front of him. The side door slid open and a man holding an AK-47 said, “Get in Colonel Austin.”
Stepping up into the van, Steve was immediately pushed down on the seat and blindfolded and tied up.
“What’s with the binds?” Steve asked. “You know I can snap these ropes anytime I want to and I’m not gonna try anything as long as you have Jean.”
“It’s more for our protection as it is yours,” a man with a heavy Russian accent said. “We are very thorough people, Colonel Austin. If you want your girlfriend to live, you should remember that.”
“I’ll do that,” Steve said as he settled back in his seat and prepared himself for the ride.
Just by listening to their conversation, he realized that there were four men in the back of the van with him, plus the two sitting up front. All of them had Russian accents, so Steve knew right away who he was dealing with.
‘Ok, so it’s the KGB,’ Steve thought to himself. ‘And if they have Jean, that means they do know about my Bionics. The question now is, how do I get out of this without getting Jean hurt any more than she already has been?’
Four hours later, Steve was pulled from the van and lead blindfolded into Yuri Zornikov’s headquarters. He wasn’t sure if the ride had actually taken four hours or if the Russians had driven around randomly to make it seem that he was four hours away from his home.
Once inside, he was lead into a small room and pushed down into a chair. The first thing Steve noticed about the room was how cold it was. The blindfold and rope binding his wrists behind his back were removed and Steve squinted into the harsh light as he tried to get his bearings. Hearing the door sliding closed and bolted by his captors, he realized that he was alone as he took stock of his surroundings. The room was small, and standing up and knocking on the walls, he was able to determine that they were made of re-inforced lead. Rubbing his hands up and down his arms to try and generate some heat, he looked around the room. There was a table and two chairs inside but no other furniture. One wall contained a large mirror, and Steve quickly deduced that it was a two-way mirror.
To confirm this, a light was suddenly turned on and instead of looking at his own reflection, Steve was now looking into the eyes of Russia’s most notorious criminal, Yuri Zornikov. Steve recognized him immediately and realized the powerful force they were up against.
“Hello Colonel Austin,” Yuri said in fluent English. “It is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”
“I wish I could say the same about you,” Steve said, still rubbing his arms to keep up the circulation.
“You must forgive the temperature of the room,” Yuri said. “But as we both know, the freezing temperature is the only way to neutralize your Bionics.”
“Where’s Jean?” Steve asked, cutting to the chase.
“She’s here, Colonel. You will see her soon. But first, we have business to discuss.”
“No,” Steve said. “I want to see Jean first. I want to see with my own eyes that she’s alright. After that, I’ll do whatever you want.”
Yuri thought about it for a second and then he nodded and said, “Very well Colonel. After all, the success of my plan depends upon your compliance.” Turning to one of the guards standing beside him, he spoke to him in Russian and the man immediately left the room.
Turning back to Steve, he said, “My comrade will bring your girlfriend here shortly. In the meantime, is there anything else we can do to make you comfortable?”
“Yeah,” Steve said, “how about turning up the heat in here.”
Smiling, Yuri said, “I am afraid we cannot do that Colonel. Not at this particular time anyway. But once you have assured yourself that your girlfriend is well and you are ready to cooperate with us, we will do everything we can to make your stay with us a pleasant one.”
“I doubt that,” Steve mumbled.
The door on the other side of the mirror opened and Jean was roughly pushed into the room. She stepped back when she saw the Russians standing there, and then, turning to her left, she saw Steve standing in the other room through the two-way mirror.
“Steve!” she cried as she ran over to the mirror.
Steve ran over to the mirror on his side and they placed their hands on the glass, trying to touch each other through it’s thickness.
“I’m sorry Jean,” Steve said, his emotions getting the best of him. “I’m so sorry. But I’m gonna get you out of this. I promise you I will.”
“Oh Steve,” Jean cried, tears running down her face. “Please don’t worry about me. I don’t want you to do anything to compromise yourself or the OSI. I could never forgive myself if you did that.”
“Don’t worry about that Jean,” Steve pleaded. “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get you out of here. Please believe me.”
“No Steve!” she begged. “Don’t listen to them! Don’t do anything they say! I’m not worth it!”
Yuri nodded to one of the guards and he immediately ran over and grabbed Jean by the waist, dragging her away from the mirror.
“Take your hands off of her!” Steve yelled, pounding on the mirror.
“Don’t listen to them Steve!” Jean cried in tears, reaching out to him as the Russian bodyguard pulled her out of the room and slammed the door behind them.
“How very touching,” Yuri said with a smirk.
Snapping his head around and glaring at the Russian, Steve said, “You hurt her and I’ll kill you! I swear it Zornikov! I’ll kill you with my bare hands!”
Bowing his head slightly in acknowledgement of Steve’s threat, Yuri said, “That should not be necessary Colonel, as long as you do as we say.”
Sighing in defeat, Steve said, “Alright Zornikov, I’ll work with you. I’ll do whatever you want.”
Yuri Zornikov smiled broadly. He had played his hand masterfully and now it was going to pay off for him. Colonel Steve Austin would be working for him from now on and as long as he had Jean as a hostage, he knew Steve would do whatever he wanted.
“Get some rest Colonel,” he said as he turned to leave the room. “You will need it for your next mission.”
Steve sighed heavily and walked over and sat in one of the chairs at the table. The room was getting colder by the minute and his bionics were becoming useless to him as the temperature dropped. ‘Even if I could get out of here,’ Steve thought to himself, ‘I can’t do anything to jeopardize Jean’s safety. Shivering, he rubbed his hands up and down his arms as he waited for the Russians to come back and give him his orders. He would play ball with them as long as Jean was their hostage, but once she was free, Steve thought to himself, all bets were off!
“I have to get him out of there,” Jean said as she paced back and forth in her cell. “My life is forfeit now that they’ve let me see their faces, but I can’t let them harm Steve.” Tears came to her eyes as she remembered what she and Steve had together in the past and what their future might have been like had they stayed together. “I pressured him,” she said, guiltily, “and I should never have done that. I shouldn’t have walked away from him because he wasn’t ready to start a family at that time. He had his own life to live and I had mine. I hurt him deeply when I left him and now is the time for me to make it all up to him. I’ll get him out of there if it’s the last thing I do.”
Steve came awake groggily as the armed guard nudged him with the toe of his boot. “Wake up Colonel Austin,” he said, with a sinister smile. Steve was shivering uncontrollably and his heavy eyelids, the lashes covered in frost, didn’t want to obey him. He just wanted to sleep. His mind was foggy and it took too much of an effort to try to get his bearings, so the easiest thing to do was to lay there and go back to sleep.
“He’s freezing to death!” Yuri yelled at the guard. “Get him out of there! Now!”
The guards quickly laid down their AK-47's and lifted the lethargic man from the floor.
“Take him to the lab!” Yuri shouted. “Quickly!”
In and out of consciousness, Steve felt himself floating but he was powerless to stop it. He had no control over his limbs and his breathing had slowed considerably.
“You almost waited too late,” Dr. Ambrose said as he checked Steve’s vitals. They had moved him to a warm, secured room in the lab and strapped him down tightly. Dr. Ambrose was trying desperately to bring up Steve’s plummeting body temperature and even though the beating of his heart had slowed dangerously, Yuri insisted the doctor give Steve a heavy sedative.
“But that might kill him!” the doctor shouted. “It’ll be too much on his heart!”
“Do it!” Yuri yelled back. “If he awakens with his bionics fully restored, we won’t have any control over him and that, Dr. Ambrose, is a chance I am ill prepared to take. I have invested too much time and money in this operation and I will not see it ruined on a miscalculation of judgment!”
Sighing in defeat, the doctor plunged the needle containing the sedative in Steve’s arm. Picking up his stethoscope, he listened to his heart and shook his head.
“Well?” Yuri asked peering over his shoulder.
“It doesn’t look good,” Dr. Ambrose said somberly as he watched the monitors. “You never should have left him in there that long.”
“I will leave him in your hands doctor,” Yuri said as he turned and walked over to the door. “I expect him to be able to go to work for me in twelve hours.” Turning and looking menacingly back at Dr. Ambrose, he added, “Or else.”
He left the lab and went up to his office. In twelve hours he expected to have the “Envision Microchip” in his possession, thanks to Colonel Austin. There were five microchips altogether which were needed to control "The Desert Eagle", a powerful nuclear arm in space, and once he had all five chips, he could arm and fire "The Desert Eagle" at any target in the world. With one blast, he could wipe out an entire country with a weapon that powerful and no one would refuse him anything once he got his hands on all five chips. The five microchips were scattered around the world in different countries, under heavy security. No one country was allowed to hold all five chips for fear of the damage that country could do if another world war broke out. Yuri intended to send Steve around the world to collect the remaining chips for him. The first one was in Washington under armed guard, but Yuri knew that if there was one man who could get the five microchips for him, it was Colonel Steve Austin.
“World domination,” he said to himself with a smile as he sat back in his leather chair. “It is what I have always dreamed of. And now, thanks to Colonel Steve Austin, that dream will finally come to fruition.”
“What is this?” Yuri demanded as Vladimir pushed Jean through the door of his office.
“I beg your pardon,” Vladimir said, apologizing, “but she insisted upon seeing you. She says she has some important information for you.”
“Is that so,” Yuri asked skeptically as he frowned at Jean. “What is this information that you have?”
“It’s about Steve, Colonel Austin,” Jean began. “I know how to make him obey you, how to make him do whatever you want.”
Looking her up and down appreciatively, Yuri said, “I can already make him do whatever I want. That is why you are here my dear.”
Staring boldly back at him, Jean said, “But that’s just for now. What happens later when he gets tired of following your orders?”
“You die,” Yuri said without emotion.
“And so will you,” Jean said. “The first chance he gets.”
Thinking that last part over, Yuri asked, “And what is your price for this information?”
“My freedom,” Jean said.
“Ahhh…..” Yuri said with smile. “You would throw your lover to the wolves to save your own life?”
“Colonel Austin and I haven’t been involved in quite some time,” she said. “I won’t risk my life to save his, especially now that I know you won’t kill him.”
“And what makes you think that?” Yuri snapped.
“He’s too valuable to you,” Jean reasoned. “You can’t kill him. You need him too badly for that. But if you’ll let me go, I’ll tell you how you can control him.”
“I’m listening,” Yuri said, sitting back in his chair.
“There’s a device,” Jean said. “An implant. It was surgically placed in Colonel Austin’s head after his accident.”
“What kind of implant?” Yuri asked, fascinated.
“For mind control,” Jean said. “Oliver Spencer, the head of the Bionics Program at that time, had the surgery performed while Steve was still unconscious. Even Colonel Austin doesn’t know about it. It was for Oliver’s own protection. He wanted total control over his, “creation.” After all, you can’t have a 200lb muscle-bound half man/half machine running around on his own without some sort of guidance can you?”
“And how is it that you know about this implant?” Yuri asked skeptically.
“Only a hand full of us knew about it,” Jean said. “As you already know, I was Colonel Austin’s private nurse during that time. I had to know about it in order to treat him.”
Yuri threw his head back and laughed. “I have always admired this Mr. Spencer,” he said, coming to his feet. “He was a man of vision, a man before his time. It would stand to reason that he would have thought of something like this. How is the implant operated?” he asked.
“First,” Jean said, starring at him coldly, “I want your guarantee that I’ll be set free, unharmed if I give you this information.”
“You have it my dear. I will see to it personally that you are well compensated.”
“Very well,” Jean said “The device…..”
Suddenly Yuri’s door flew opened as one of the guards stuck his head in the room. “Forgive me for interrupting Sir,” the guard said to Yuri, “but Dr. Ambrose wishes to see you in his lab.”
“What is it now?” Yuri snapped, angry at being interrupted.
“It’s Colonel Austin, Sir! His heart has stopped beating!”
Before Steve climbed into the van with the kidnappers, he had activated the tracking device in his bionic arm. When he hadn’t gotten back in touch with Oscar to let him know of his plans, Oscar had grown worried and called Steve’s home. When Steve hadn’t answered his telephone after several calls, Oscar and Rudy decided to take a drive over to Steve’s home. They had Russ and five other agents get into a van and follow them at a distance. After searching Steve’s home and finding it empty, Rudy ran back out to the car, opened the trunk, and took out the tracking monitor that he always kept with him. Oscar came over as he turned it on and they both watched as the tracking signal pointed Northwest. Looking at each other, they both ran to the car and jumped in. They drove Northwest for several hours with the van following behind them until suddenly the screen on the tracking monitor went blank.
“Oh no,” Rudy groaned.
“What is it?” Oscar asked, still driving.
“The screen’s gone blank,” Rudy said.
“Maybe it’s the signal,” Oscar stated hopefully.
“Steve’s tracking range is unlimited Oscar, you know that,” Rudy said, running his hand over his face.
Pulling over but not shutting the car off, Oscar turned to Rudy and said, “Let me see it.”
Rudy handed him the monitor and Oscar began to work the controls. He turned it on and off several times with no luck. “What’s the matter with this thing?” Oscar asked in frustration as he tapped his fingers on the side of the device.
“There’s nothing the matter with it,” Rudy said gravely. “There’s only one way that that monitor would ever stop working.”
The two men looked at each other, each thinking the same thing and each afraid to say it out loud.
“I won’t believe that,” Oscar said, removing his glasses. He stared down at the monitor, willing it to come back on.
“There’s no other explanation,” Rudy said solemnly.
They sat there hoping, praying that they were wrong, that what they feared most in the world wasn’t true. The car continued to run as they each began thinking similar thoughts, that they had let their friend down when he needed them most.
“Take her back to the cell,” Yuri said, as he rushed from behind his desk and headed for the door. Taking Jean by the arm, Vladimir pushed her out the door and over to the elevator. Yuri and the guards took the service elevator down to the basement. Rushing over to the lab where Dr. Ambrose was working on Steve, Yuri punched in the code to grant himself access to the room.
“Wait out here,” he said to the guards as the door slid open.
The guards took up posts on each side of the door as Yuri walked in. Suddenly, an arm reached out and grabbed him from behind around the neck just as the door slid closed.
Yuri gasped in surprise as the arm around his neck choked off his air. His eyes popped as he spotted the doctor over in the corner tied up.
“I had no choice!” Dr. Ambrose cried. “When he came to, he threatened to kill me if I didn’t get you down here!”
“Where is she?” Steve demanded, putting more pressure on Yuri’s neck.
Yuri groped at Steve’s arm, trying to pull it from his collapsing windpipe.
Steve eased the pressure off slightly so that the man could talk.
“I asked you a question!” Steve yelled into his ear.
“She’s in….in the cell. Cell number....five,” Yuri groaned through damaged vocal cords.
"Which floor?" Steve yelled.
"The...the holding cells....are on the.....second floor..." Yuri groaned again.
“Get rid of those guards out there!” Steve demanded. “Or I’ll break your neck!”
Yuri nodded. Tears sprang to his eyes as he saw all of his well-laid plans going down the drain.
“I….I need to… get to…..the intercom….” Yuri coughed.
Turning him around so that he could speak into the intercom next to the door, Steve applied pressure to his neck again. “Remember, no tricks,” Steve said, menacingly.
Nodding his compliance, Yuri coughed and cleared his sore throat as he hit the intercom button and said, “Dimitri, Anton, you are not needed down here. Wait for me in my office.”
Watching the closed circuit tv screen, Steve saw the guards look at each other and then leave their posts.
“How?” Yuri cried as he too, saw the guards walking away. “How did this happen?”
“I, I gave him a shot of adrenaline to the heart,” Dr. Ambrose said. “He would have died if I hadn’t!”
“You…” Yuri said accusingly, staring daggers at the doctor. “You’re the cause of this?”
“I had to do it!” Dr. Ambrose pleaded. “All the plans we made, all the money and power we stood to gain! We would have lost it all if he had died! I had to give him that shot!”
“And now we will lose it all anyway!” Yuri shouted, enraged. “I’ll kill you!” he screamed, trying to free himself from Steve’s immovable hold.
“Not so fast there buddy,” Steve said, holding him back. “You won’t be killing anybody else once I turn you over to OSI.”
“NO!” Yuri cried as Steve dragged him over to the corner and quickly tied him up. He gagged and blindfolded both men and then turned out the lights in the lab. Using the access code that he had coerced from the doctor earlier, he quietly left the room and went in search of Jean.
“It’s back on!” Rudy shouted excitedly, as the tracking monitor lit up again.
“Which way?” Oscar asked, as he put the car in “drive” and begin to pull off.
“Straight ahead!” Rudy said, watching the screen. “The signal’s a lot stronger now. We’re close!”
“Thank God,” Oscar sighed as he pressed down on the gas pedal.
“Hang on pal,” he said quietly. “We’ll be there soon.”
With his back pressed against the wall, Steve quickly made his way down the long corridor, constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was following him. Moving silently over to the service elevator, he started to push the “up” button and thinking better of it, walked over to the staircase and quickly ran up the stairs. Coming to the second floor, he peered through the rectangular glass window in the door and satisfying himself that none of the guards were around, he quietly pulled the door open and stepped into the second floor corridor.
“That’s far enough Colonel Austin,” Vladimir said, as he placed the nozzle of his AK-47 against Steve’s head. Raising his hands slowly, Steve turned slightly and asked, “Now where did you come from?”
“Comrade Zornikov spent a lot of money on security Colonel. The moment you entered the stairwell, the alarms were activated.”
Smiling sardonically, Steve said, “Next time I’ll use the service elevator.”
“Ahhh, but there will be no next time Colonel Austin,” Vladimir said as he pressed the assault rifle against Steve’s head. “Now kindly move down the corridor.”
“Well, if you insist,” Steve said as he walked down the corridor with Vladimir right behind him. Turning the corner, Vladimir called out to the guard Sergei, who was sitting behind his desk, guarding the cells. Sergei immediately jumped to his feet. “Yes, Comrade Petrov,” he said standing at attention. He watched in confusion as Steve preceded Vladimir down the hall.
“Open the gate,” Vladimir said. “And turn on the engines in the refrigerated cell.”
Steve’s breath caught in his throat at the prospect of being refrigerated once again.
“Yes Comrade Petrov,” Sergei said as he sat down and pulled open one of the cabinets revealing a panel with buttons on it. He typed in a sequence of numbers and the red light in the wall beside the gate turned green.
“Access Granted,” the computer generated voice said as the gate slid open.
Vladimir nudged Steve in the back with the AK-47.
“Maybe we could talk this over?” Steve said, stalling for time.
Smiling, Vladimir said, “The time for talking is over Colonel Austin. You will be placed in a refrigerated cell room until it is time for you to go out on your mission.”
Hesitating for just a second, his arms still raised as the AK-47 was still trained on him, Steve sighed and walked through the gate.
“Zornikov will be happy with you,” Steve said walking down the corridor.
“This no longer concerns Comrade Zornikov,” Vladimir said happily. “You have incapacitated him no? With him out of the picture, I am now in charge of this operation.”
“So much for honor amongst thieves,” Steve said dryly, looking closely at each cell door as he walked by them. He was trying to locate cell five where Zornikov said Jean was being held.
“A thief Colonel?” Vladimir said. “No, no, no, I am what you call….how do you say? An opportunist.” Steve raised an eyebrow at him as they walked down to the last cell door and Petrov punched a code into the last panel. “Now, kindly enter the cell Colonel. I will see to it that the temperature is low enough only to incapacitate you this time and that it will not do any permanent damage.”
“That’s right nice of you,” Steve said as he started to enter the cell. Suddenly, he turned and grabbed the barrel of the assault rifle in his right hand and twisted it, bending it down so that it pointed to the floor. Vladimir gasped in surprise as he looked at his now ineffective weapon. Looking up wide eyed, he was just in time to see Steve’s large fist coming at him as it connected with his jaw, knocking him unconscious. Steve reached out quickly and grabbed the big man before his massive bulk could hit the floor and alert Sergei. Looking down the hall to make sure no one was watching, he quickly dragged Vladimir inside the cell and ripped the man’s jacket into strips, which he used to tie him up and gag him. Hurrying over to the cell door, Steve peeked down the corridor. Sergei was still sitting at his desk but he wasn’t paying attention to the corridor Steve and Vladimir had just entered. Steve knew he had to get back to cell five and rescue Jean, but he couldn’t do that with Sergei sitting there. Turning, he grabbed the assault rifle, removed the magazine and took out one of the cartridges. Walking back over to the cell door, Steve rolled the cartridge down the hall, drawing Sergei’s attention. The guard looked at the cartridge in confusion as it rolled towards him. Cocking his head to one side, he called out, “Comrade Petrov?” When he received no answer, he stood slowly and removed his sidearm from its holster. Stepping from behind his desk, he slowly walked over to the gate and looked down the hall. “Comrade Petrov?” he called louder. Still, no answer. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he cautiously stepped through the gate and started moving carefully down the hall, holding his gun in his hand. The lights flickered on and off and a surge of electricity could be heard moving through the lines. He stopped and looked up at the florescent ceiling lights and waited for them to stop flickering. Sweat stood out on his face and he found it difficult to swallow and to breathe as he once again started down the hall. His heart pounded in his chest and his knees buckled as he got closer and closer to the refrigerated cell. “Comrade?” he called, his voice cracking with fear. The urge to turn and run back down the hall was overpowering but he fought it off and continued, shaking in his boots the entire time. Standing just outside the cell, he inched forward, gun in hand when suddenly, a large hand reached out and grabbed his and pulled him inside the cell. He screamed in terror and fired off two rounds before he was punched in the face and knocked unconscious. Steve quickly bound and gagged him and exited the cell, sliding the door shut behind him. Running down the hall, he stopped in front of cell five and pulled back the sliding plate. His heart soared when he saw Jean sitting on the cot to one side of the room. Stepping back, he raised his right leg and gave the cell door a powerful kick, knocking it completely off its hinges. Jean’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped in surprise and jumped out of the way as the cell door went flying by her.
“How you doin’ pretty lady?” Steve asked, sticking his head in the door.
Jean’s head snapped around at the sound of his voice. “Oh Steve!” she cried, and suddenly, she was in his arms, holding on to him for dear life. Steve held her tight, his body trembling against hers as relief flooded through him. “Thank God you’re alright!” she sobbed. “They said your heart stopped. I, I thought I’d lost you.”
“Never,” Steve said, tears running down his face. “You’ll never lose me again Jean. I promise you that.” He cupped her face in his hands and leaned down, kissing her gently on the lips. “Don’t cry,” he whispered as he used his thumbs to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Moving in closer, he captured her mouth once again in a chaste kiss that quickly turned passionate in their desperation. She moaned as her legs went weak and her body sagged in relief against his, reminding them both of the time they’d spent together in the past. Suddenly, the alarms went off and the lights flickered on and off all over the warehouse.
“Let’s get out of here,” Steve said breathlessly as he took her by the hand and led her down the hall.
“What’s happening?” she asked, terrified.
“Must be more guards coming,” Steve reasoned. Running over to the elevator, he looked up and saw the arrow under the numbers approaching the second floor. He quickly pushed Jean in a dark alcove next to the elevator as the doors opened and they heard men exit the elevator and run down the hall.
“Steve!” Oscar yelled as he ran down the hall with the other agents.
Hearing the familiar voice calling his name, Steve quickly exited the alcove. “Right here Oscar,” he said, relieved that his friends were able to track him down.
Turning, Oscar breathed a heavy sigh of relief as Steve approached him, holding the hand of a beautiful woman whom Oscar assumed was Jean.
After making the introductions, Steve asked, “You have Zornikov?”
“We found him in the lab where you left him,” Oscar chuckled. “Dr. Ambrose says he’ll turn state’s evidence for a lighter sentence.”
“Then it’s over,” Steve said, breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
Oscar nodded his head in agreement. “With everything we have on them, they won’t be getting out of prison for a long time, if ever.”
“Thank God,” Jean said quietly, as Steve put his arm around her trembling body.
“Rudy’s down stairs in the lab,” Oscar told him. “Russ and the boys are going to stand guard over these fellas until the Federal boys get here and close this place down.”
“That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Steve said with a smile.
Reaching out and squeezing his shoulder, Oscar said, “Let’s go home pal.”
The three of them walked over to the elevator and rode it down to the basement where they met Rudy in the lab. After giving both, Steve and Jean a big hug, Rudy escorted them all out to the car and got behind the wheel as Oscar sat in the passenger seat. Steve and Jean sat in the back and Steve took her in his arms, holding her close as she rested her head wearily on his chest and fell asleep as they headed back home.
A fire blazed in the fireplace and music played softly in the background as Steve and Jean sat on a bearskin rug sipping wine and watching the beautiful flames.
“Now what did you tell them again?” Steve asked mischievously.
Blushing under his intense gaze, Jean looked down into her glass and said, “I told them that you had a device in your head for mind control. I told them that it was implanted while you were still unconscious.”
A lopsided smile slowly appeared on Steve’s lips as he asked, “Is there any truth to that?”
“Colonel Austin,” she said seductively, as she looked up into his desire filled blue eyes, “if there were any truth to that, you would have been mine a long time ago.”
Taking her glass from her hand and sitting it down on the floor, Steve said huskily, “Well, I’m yours now pretty lady”, as his lips captured hers in a sensuous kiss and he gently pushed her down on the rug. “For as long as you want.”