The light of the full moon bathed the overgrown valley in a sea of stark light and harsh shadows.
Atop the edge of a steep cliff on one side sat an imposing fortress. The gleaming 21st century structure was incongruous to the rest of the landscape, which had lain unchanged for over 100 years.
In the stillness of the night there was something sinister about the huge angular construction. If a human had been venturing through the undergrowth further along the valley and paused to stare up at the fortress, their curiosity would no doubt have turned to dread at the sight of its monstrous form.
But no human trod those parts of the jungle by night. Few dared venture so far by day either.
All that could be heard for miles around were the small insect noises and the strange cries of night creatures.
Then with eerie swiftness the night noises fell silent. It was as if a great blanket of absolute silence had been draped from one end of the valley to the other. As if the jungle itself was holding its breath.
And then… KABOOOOOOM!
The reinforced steel gates of the fortress’s outer wall were torn from their hinges by a thunderous explosion. The blinding flash of crimson lit up the shadows of the jungle for a brief moment as the smoke billowed into the cloudless night sky.
There was the roar of a powerful engine and a blur of bright pink as the big six-wheeled Rolls Royce burst out of the flaming debris and hurtled down the cliff track towards the jungle.
Parker was at the wheel, his powerful hands guiding it with absolute precision.
“That’s torn it, M’Lady. They’re ‘opping mad now!” he said with a quick glance at the rear-view video screen.
“Never mind, Parker,” Lady Penelope replied coolly, “I’ve always prided myself on knowing when to make a strategic retreat.”
“I h’aint going to argue with you, M’Lady, we got wot we was after h’anyway!” Parker answered with a tight grin as FAB 1 tore along the rough surface. A light flashed beside the video screen. “It h’appears they’re gaining on us. A pair of souped-up ‘overbikes and wot looks to me like an all-terrain armoured truck.”
Lady Penelope turned her head and looked out the rear window. She could see the pilot lights on the hoverbikes making rapid progress along the winding track.
“Dear me, they seem determined to make a fight of it. You know what to do.”
“Yes M’Lady!” Parker said as he reached for the panel that operated the fantastic hidden defences that Brains had built into the car.
The hoverbikes had closed to thirty feet. Their repulsor jets whined with the effort of keeping up the rapid pursuit. One of the riders drew a machine pistol from the holster at his thigh and loosed off a few shots at FAB 1’s transparent canopy. They bounced harmlessly off the armoured glass and zinged off into the jungle.
With a loud hiss, almost like that of an angered snake, a plume of dense black smoke erupted from below FAB 1’s rear bumper, totally obscuring the vision of the two hoverbike assassins.
One rider had the presence of mind to apply his retro-brakes and wait for the worst of the smoke to clear. The other was less cautious and ploughed through at full speed – straight into a tree. There was the dull CRUMP of a small explosion.
“One down, M’Lady!” said Parker with satisfaction.
“His friends don’t seem to have taken your little hint. Perhaps we ought to send them another.”
At Lady Penelope’s words, Parker threw the car around a hairpin bend and flicked another switch. A concealed panel opened below the rear left light cluster and the moonlight glinted on the shiny pointed tips of twin steel harpoons.
Parker lined up his shot and timed it just right. One harpoon blasted left, the other blasted right, drawing a steel cable between them across the road.
The harpoons embedded themselves firmly in a rock face and a tree, leaving the steel cable stretched taught a few feet off the ground.
The second hoverbike rider didn’t see the cable until it was all too late. His machine hit the cable at full speed, buckled under him and both the machine and the unfortunate rider somersaulted into the air and landed with two jarring crashes further along the track.
“Two down!” Parker called out.
Lady Penelope turned and looked back once again. The armoured truck bulldozed its way through the booby-trap, snapping the sturdy steel cable like it was made of cotton.
“I fear our third pursuer may not be so easy to shake off.” Lady Penelope said with a small sigh.
“Leave it to me, M’Lady!” Parker said as he navigated another tricky corner.
They were in the thick of the jungle now. The road was little more than a dirt track which the undergrowth had started to reclaim.
There came a loud double-crack as two high-velocity rounds bounced off FAB 1’s canopy.
Parker swore under his breath, “‘You’d better watch yourself with that gun, mate. A bloke could ‘ave a nasty h’accident if he carries on like that…” he muttered to himself.
Lady Penelope leaned forward, raising her voice above the racket, “I think we’d better lose him sooner rather than later, Parker. That vehicle is probably carrying something more impressive than that machine pistol.”
“I’ve got an idea, M’Lady, ‘Old tight!”
Parker swung the car around a 90 degree turn. There ahead was a concrete bridge crossing the river in the centre of the valley.
Parker floored the accelerator and the car leapt forward. As FAB 1 neared the centre of the bridge, Parker pressed another control button.
A thick jet of black liquid sprayed out from a nozzle on the underside of the car, leaving a slick across the smooth concrete surface of the bridge.
The truck rounded the bend and began to tear along towards the bridge.
At the same moment, Parker opened fire with the rear cannons, peppering the front of the truck with high-impact shells.
The truck’s heavily-armoured front end protected it from any serious damage, but then Parker hadn’t intended to damage it. The hail of fire was a distraction and one that worked perfectly.
There was a squeal of tortured rubber as the driver of the truck saw the oil slick and tried to stop in time.
The heavy vehicle slewed sideways, struck a low crumbling wall and plunged through the gap.
Seconds later there was a loud crash as it hit the side of the valley and toppled over into the river.
“Corr,” remarked Parker, “Always h’astounds me, M’Lady.”
“What does, Parker?”
“All them crooked blokes and villains and ne’er do wells and the like wot thinks they can get the better of H’International Rescue. They never does though, does they?”
“And that, my dear Parker, is because they do not have the ‘FAB factor’ as it were.”
“Right you are, M’Lady!” Parker replied with a broad grin.
With hardly a whisper from its powerful engine, FAB 1 began the long drive back to civilization, leaving the valley as quiet as it had found it.