Scott, Virgil and Brains were led by a squad of guards from the icy throne chamber along one of the many corridors in the submerged structure. The leader, who introduced himself as Lord Ireglac, preceeded them and entered a chamber filled with screens and maps covering every wall.
Despite his apprehension, Brains couldn’t help being impressed by the engineering capabilities of their captors. The technology was certainly impressive, even by his own high standards. Ireglac motioned for them to sit in front of a large screen occupying the majority of one wall. The three companions took their seats, Scott and Virgil eyeing the guards warily as they moved back a few paces and held their weapons ready.
Ireglac spoke, his voice commanding attention.
“Members of International Rescue, no doubt you are wondering why you have been brought here and have many other questions. I will answer some of them, not to satisfy your curiosity, but because it suits my purpose to do so.”
He paused, looking at each of them as if daring one of them to interrupt, but three pairs of eyes met his own, each with a look of ill-concealed defiance.
“The reason you have been brought here is simple, I require your services. Not as a rescue organisation, you understand, but that will certainly factor in my plan.” He tapped a control and the wall map flickered into life. An image of a continent appeared and slowly the image zoomed in to reveal a sprawling mass of buildings.
“This, as you are no doubt aware, is Unity City. It is one of the most important centers of commerce in your Terrainean economy. It is also the site of a military complex that is home to the most destructive arsenal of missiles ever assembled on your planet – an arsenal that even now is being prepared to be deployed against the peoples of the sea.”
Scott couldn’t believe it, “Unity City is peaceful, it has no major military presence and there is no missile base located within several hundred miles!”
“You lie, Terrainean! We have heard radio broadcasts from your own people confirming the existence of these weapons, they are real and they are a threat to us! We will not be destroyed by your warlike people, we will strike first and YOU will help us!”
“That’s crazy!” Virgil argued, “Scott’s right, there are no missiles and you’re not in any danger!”
Brains piped up, “What exactly did you mean when you said that we will help you?”
“Even now your Thunderbird craft are being fitted with a weapon known as the Frost Cannon. When it is deployed, it will freeze the atmosphere in a one hundred mile radius to minus 150 degrees Centigrade in a matter of minutes. Unity City will freeze to death, the first strike in our campaign against the warlike people of the land!”
Scott got to his feet in alarm, “You’re out of your mind, you’ll kill hundreds of thousands of people!” A sharp crack in the back from one of the guards sent him back to his seat.
“Those same people would see us dead just the same!” retorted Ireglac, his frosty breath visible as he spoke. “You WILL help us. That is why you were brought here, why your craft was drawn to land at the entrance to our city. We need International Rescue because International Rescue have the freedom to operate wherever they wish. They are not viewed with suspicion when they enter another airspace. The Thunderbird craft are the perfect platforms from which to launch our attack and you will pilot them for us.”
The three men stared at Ireglac incredulously. Ireglac raised his voice impatiently, “Well, what do you say, Terraineans?”
Scott looked at his brother and at Brains, reading the same looks on both their faces. He took a deep breath.
“Sorry, Ireglac, you can forget it. We won’t help you and nothing you or your cold friends can do to us is going to change that.”
Ireglac looked at Scott for a moment. Then he laughed. It was an ugly, falsetto gurgle that sent shivers down Scott’s spine.
“I had a feeling you might answer in that way, that is why I have prepared a little… incentive.” He pressed a control and the image on the screen changed.
Hard knots of fear tangled together in their stomachs as Scott, Virgil and Brains saw the new image. Ireglac spoke again, his voice edged with triumph.
“We found its location in the computer banks of your aircraft. I believe it is your island base, your home. If you do not help us attack Unity City, it will be destroyed!”