A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story
For 2006 Halloween Challenge
By Chris Bishop
Prologue - Ruins of the Future
September 3, 2087
At first they thought they were under attack.
Everyone knew there was a possibility that their hide-out might one day be discovered, despite all their precautions – the wide detours taken by aircraft and ships to avoid detection, the ruses and subterfuges everyone adopted, to the point that it now had the force of habit – just to make sure that nobody would even suspect their presence. Despite all this, they knew the enemy – enemies? – were cunning, and might, in the long run, deduce that they had set up base here, many feet below what once was the capital city of the world, the greatest realisation of the World Government – Futura City, the gem of the Bermudas.
Futura City, which was now nothing more than radioactive ruins, a dead city, completely lifeless ground where no-one dared ever set foot anymore. Nobody alive today even imagined that it hid, far below its destroyed buildings, a massive underground maze of caves, which had been transformed many years ago, in a World Government project, into a hidden military complex. This had eventually had been abandoned in favor of the then Marineville Project, which at the time was judged to have been established in a more strategic position.
But the old complex, although forgotten, had not been destroyed, and still existed, and Captain Grey had mentioned it, so many years ago, when, as everything came crashing down, they were looking for a new base of operations. What was more, upon discovering entrance to the caves after weeks of research, and inspecting the complex, it appeared that it had not only withstood the destructive blast from the ground above, and was free of any of the radioactive fallout, but that most of the facilities were still mostly intact and in perfect working order. It was simply untouched, and forgotten with time, and needed but the minimum of work to make it into the operational base they needed so desperately. It seemed like the ideal place, certainly beating the prospect of operating the organization from an elderly submarine. And it was – definitely - much more secure.
But now, after nearly twelve years, they all thought they might have been wrong in thinking that they were safe when the radar picked up the signal some minutes ago.
Something was overflying the ruins of Futura. Aircraft or missile, the radar couldn’t tell exactly. Ground cameras had been able to pick up images, but still, it was difficult to see. The radioactive winds were strong that day, which was causing the equipment to be less reliable than usual. All the cameras were able to show were trails of fire, falling from the sky. Many of them – two or three large ones, and several smaller trails, all of them following approximately the same trajectory. And the point of impact was estimated as five miles overland, from the Control Center.
When they failed to feel or hear any detonation when the objects hit the ground, they breathed a combined sigh of relief. Only then did they realise they had not been targeted by missiles after all. They were still safe.
But the mystery remained. Perhaps what the radar and cameras detected was an aircraft after all – although no plane ever flew over Futura anymore. Not for the last fifteen years. The place was considered contaminated; radioactivity played tricks with the onboard instruments, so nobody wanted to come here, preferring to take a long detour to avoid it. It was a dead place, after all.
If it was a plane, then it was probably lost. Or the pilot had been reckless – or was inexperienced, or had difficulties with his controls – whether or not it was due to the radioactivity. That would explain why there were so many objects – they were fragments of the same craft, falling from the sky.
But what if it wasn’t a lost plane – what if its course was really meant to bring it to Futura City – or over it? What if it was a spy plane, whose mission was to find them? Then there was still the possibility that they might have been discovered.
This required an investigation. And the colonel ordered a surface patrol immediately. His second-in-command volunteered, and eager younger men stepped forward to follow him, without any hesitation. Five were chosen to join the colonel's second-in-command.
They each donned the protective suit required to go up to the ground. Lighting apparatus had been built into the helmet, so they would be able to see where they were going. It was night – but since its destruction fifteen years ago, Futura had been covered with a semi-permanent cloud of dust and ashes, that kept regenerating itself. Sunlight could barely shine through it – let alone any light shed by a starry or full-mooned night. The air was also almost unbreathable, so it was necessary to use respirators whenever someone had to go outside. The men armed themselves – just in case – and geared up with all the necessary equipment, took the lift that would take them up to the ruins of the city.
When they stepped out of the half-destroyed building that in a previous life had been the Senate Building of the World Government, now half-buried under tons of debris, they looked around in grim sadness at the surrounding devastation. No matter how long they lived there, safe in their underground base, knowing full well how ravaged it looked above, it was always a shock to actually see it with their own eyes and to walk through the ruins. Ashes fell like snow, depositing a thick layer on the ground. The once beautiful Futura City, with its proud architecture and tall buildings, was now no more than as many heaps of debris, piled next to each other, reduced to a vast series of hills as far as the eye could see. One of the younger men stifled a sob, remembering that this place was once his home, before The Bomb went up.
“You okay, Stanley?” He heard the voice of his leader through the communicator in his ear. The older man was standing in front, and now was looking straight at him; Stanley could barely see his eyes behind the yellow tinted visor of his helmet.
“Yeah, Captain, I’m okay,” he answered, clearing his throat. “Just… it still gets to me, whenever I come up here.”
“It still gets to me too,” another, younger voice said in a sad and bitter tone. “My mom died in here, Stanley… I know how you feel. And the years I passed, living on my own in these ruins… when it was still possible to live here…” His voice broke off; it was obvious those were memories he didn’t like to dwell upon.
The captain gave a brief nod of understanding, and then turned to look around. He pointed to a position in front of him. “Okay, men. Whatever it was that fell from the sky landed somewhere around there, according to the surveillance cameras. Let’s split up. Stanley, Morgan, you take the left. Allen, McCormick, you go to the right. Brown, you stay with me. We’re going centre.”
“How is it that I always find myself stuck with you, Captain?” asked the young voice who had spoken earlier.
“Because you’re the youngest, and I’m the oldest and we need to keep a balance with the two other groups.”
“Am I supposed to be amused by that joke?”
“You are supposed to follow my orders,” the captain replied, quickly suppressing the smile on his face before the young man noticed it. “And without discussion.”
“S.I.G., Captain,” Brown sighed deeply.
“And remember, men: we can radio each other, but we can’t contact underground – not until we return to the building. Radio me with your status every five minutes, no matter if you find something or not. If you do find something, don’t touch it – and call me immediately.”
“S.I.G., Captain,” was the combined answer.
They split according to orders, and started walking the grounds, fanning out, lighting the way in front of and around them with the strong torches attached to their helmets. None of them knew what they would find – they could expect anything.
The captain and his young companion went straight forward, not exchanging a word, as they looked around, searching for clues. The silence was only disturbed when each of the two other teams reported once, five minutes after the start of the search, the voices resonating through the radios in their helmets, and the captain acknowledged the call. Then, everything grew quiet once more. They could barely see the other torches now, as each team moved further away from the others.
Then, straight ahead, a light appeared, dancing through the surrounding fog. The captain stopped in his tracks; he reached for his companion, making him stop too, and pointed to the light. “See that?”
Brown looked for a moment, pondering. “Fire?” he suggested.
The captain agreed with a nod. They resumed their walk, carefully, towards the light.
It was indeed a fire – coming from a long trail of debris, which had hit the ground with great force, scarring it over many metres into a trench one metre deep. “Alpha Leader to Team Two and Three,” the captain said, using the helmet communicator. “Brown and I have found the point of impact of one of the larger pieces of debris, about two hundred metres north of the Senate Building. Will take a closer look. Continue with your own investigation.”
He barely waited for the answer to his orders and continued his advance, followed by Brown. Both men walked alongside the path drawn by the trench, checking on the debris. They could see what was left of a half-burnt tail lying at an odd angle on one side.
“No doubt now, it was a plane…” commented Brown.
“Team Three to Alpha Leader,” the voice of Allen then said through the speaker. Both men stopped immediately.
“What is it, Allen?” the captain demanded.
“We found a new point of impact… Looks like a HUGE craft hit the ground here, sir.”
The captain didn’t look particularly surprised, as he exchanged glances with his companion. “What kind of craft? Plane? Chopper?”
“Definitely a plane, sir. A BIG one, judging by the debris Morgan and I found. A transport, or something… Maybe a bomber? As far as we can see, there is not much left of it, mind. It hit the ground pretty hard. There’s what’s left of a cockpit…”
“Investigate, Team Three,” the captain instructed. “See if you can find any markings on the debris.” He turned to his companion.
“TWO planes, Captain?” Brown said with a perplexed frown.
“Apparently.” The captain resumed his walk alongside the trench and Brown followed suit. “If we are to believe Allen, he and Morgan found something bigger than what we found. Look at that…” The captain stopped and indicated a large piece of flaming wreckage, burning in the middle of the trench. “That doesn’t come from a transatlantic airliner… More like a supersonic jet…”
The captain shook his head. “Unlikely… It’s too big. The piece we found earlier would be wrong. Passenger transport, maybe, ten – twenty people at the most.”
“I bow to your greater experience, Captain.”
They resumed their walk once more, but didn’t get far. Again, after a few steps, they stopped, Brown having spotted another, larger piece of debris, straight ahead. He pointed at it. “sir, looks like part of a wing and tail. You were right, it doesn’t look like it came from an interceptor. What could be…” As he turned to face his superior, Brown stopped in the middle of his sentence, noticing the strange expression with which the man was now staring at their new find. He seemed transfixed by it. “Captain?” Brown asked with a concerned frown. “Is there something wrong?”
“That shape…” the captain murmured. “I know that shape…”
Without any warning, he climbed down into the trench and quickly walked towards the wreckage. A little dumbfounded by his reaction, Brown followed, wondering what could be the problem with his superior officer. Reaching the wreckage, the captain slowly walked around it, looking up at the shape of the nearly intact wing, which rose defiantly towards the sky. The tail was lying at his feet, embedded into what was left of turbo reactors.
Brown saw his superior briefly disappear behind the wreckage, so he hastened his pace himself. When he rounded the debris, and finally caught up with the captain, it was to find him standing rigidly, his head raised and staring intensely at this side of the wing.
“Captain?” Upon reaching his superior, the concerned Brown put a hand on his shoulder, to attract his attention. The captain barely reacted, still looking up, with almost a shocked expression, on what Brown could see of his face through the tinted visor. With curiosity, Brown looked up in turn, wondering what could be so interesting that it put his superior in such a state. His heart missed a beat, when he saw.
There was an emblem printed on the top of the silver wing – although half-burned by the fire, it was still very clear for them to see.
A golden, stylized ‘S’ encompassed inside a multicoloured roundel…
“A Spectrum emblem?” Brown lowered his gaze to look at his superior once again. “What does it mean? What is this?”
“An SPJ,” the captain explained. “A Spectrum Passenger Jet… I don’t understand… they were all decommissioned years ago. Only Spectrum used them. The World Government had them taken apart…”
“There shouldn’t be any in existence, then,” Brown remarked. “What is it doing here?”
Brown was looking around, pensively, and his eyes suddenly found something else, a little further down the path they were following; they had not seen it before, as it was hidden by the raised wing. His hand flew up to point at it. “There, sir! It looks like what’s left of the cockpit!”
The captain turned on his heel and saw it too; blue and silver, its shape almost intact, but burning bright against the dark sky, resting on its belly like a dead whale. He didn’t hesitate one instant to walk towards it, at a quickened pace, with his young companion following a few steps behind. As they reached it, the voice of Allen made itself heard through the speakers in their helmets once again:
“Team Three to Alpha Leader…”
“Go ahead, Allen,” the captain acknowledged.
“Captain, we found a huge part of the fuselage, still burning from the crash. And markings on it… But sir, it’s probably a mistake… I’m sure it can’t be right.”
“Go ahead and tell me what those markings are, Allen.”
“It says ‘Goliath, Mark II’, sir…” The captain stopped in his tracks, as they reached the cockpit. Again, he and his young companion exchanged puzzled glances. “It can’t be possible, sir,” the voice of Allen continued. “Surely, whatever it was that fell from the sky must have hit other wreckage that was already there?”
“I don’t know, Allen,” the captain murmured. He looked up at the wreck in front of which he had Brown were now standing. “I don’t know at all…” His eyes rested on the markings, next to the shattered windshield.
“Some old wreck,” he heard the voice of Brown say, as if from afar. The young man had also read the markings. “Probably, Allen is right…”
The captain shook his head. “Nobody has found the Goliath wreckage for years, Lieutenant…”
“Nobody really looked for it.”
“WE did… we didn’t find it. And does THIS cockpit look like it’s old? There’s no pitting on it, the paint’s not faded… It’s like brand new… It’s been in service recently. THAT IS what fell from the sky.”
“Wait a sec… If you are right, then it’s impossible!”
“It must be a Mysteron trick then.”
“Mysteron?” The captain seemed pensive for an instant. “After all these years, I should think I’ve seen everything the Mysterons can throw at us… But they always manage to surprise even me.” He shook his head. “I am pretty sure it’s no Mysteron trick… No, there’s something else…”
Brown looked at the cockpit, silent for a moment. “We can wait for the flames to die down,” he suggested, “and come back later to check inside.”
“I know what we will find inside.” The captain turned around and started walking away; knowing him well, Brown could easily detect the faint catch in his voice when he spoke again. “No sense in disturbing those who are already dead…”
Brown didn’t have time to go further, as suddenly, a new voice made itself heard through his speakers, vibrating with such agitation that it was almost shattering his eardrums. “Team Two to Alpha Leader! Captain! We found something… It’s incredible!”
“Alpha Leader here.” The captain’s tone sounded slightly exasperated as he answered the call. “Calm down, Stanley, and tell us what you found.”
“We have… a survivor, sir.”
There was a stunned silence, following that announcement. In three quick steps, Brown was standing next to his superior. He could see the doubt on his face, through the visor.
“A survivor, Captain?” Brown muttered. “How can it be possible?”
“What is your position?” the captain asked swiftly into his communicator.
Moments later, after taking note of the SPJ’s position for further investigation later on, the captain and Brown, following Stanley’s directions, were making their way towards Team Two’s location. After a fifteen minute trek through the ruins, walking around destroyed buildings and heaps of ashes, they found both Stanley and Morgan, standing guard on the side of yet another impact site. The hole was not deep, and was surrounded by other burning debris. Stanley went towards the captain, as the latter walked quickly towards them, while his companion stayed near the hole.
“We thought he was dead when we found him,” Stanley explained excitedly, matching his pace to that of his commander as they strode towards the impact site. “But as we leaned down to examine the body closely, we noticed his chest rising. He’s alive… but barely.”
“Badly… there are pieces of a broken and burnt hoverpack next to him… I think he tried to escape the plane, but was hit by debris before he could get far. His back looks broken, as far as we can see, and he’s badly burned. Captain, it’s a miracle he survived!”
“Did you think to check him with the Mysteron detector?” Brown asked in a suspicious tone.
Stanley grunted. “Our instruments don’t work well under these conditions, Lieutenant,” he explained. The three of them stopped near the fourth man, who, still standing next to the hole, was presently pressing buttons on the large electronic bracelet he wore on his left wrist. “Morgan is trying to make some adjustments, taking the radioactivity into account. He hopes to compensate enough to make the detector work shortly…”
The captain was barely listening, as he was peering down, in shock, into the hole, in which the body of a man was lying. By the way his body was bent, in an unnatural angle, the captain had to agree with Stanley’s assertion that the man’s back was broken. He was indeed badly burned, most of his skin blackened, almost merging with what was left of his clothes in some places. The hair was gone on one half of his head, but the face, surprisingly enough, although darkened by the flame and smoke, was still recognizable. It was that face that made the captain suddenly jump into the hole to crouch down next to the injured man, while behind him, both Morgan and Brown were still working to adjust their instruments. He could see, as Stanley had reported, that the man was breathing – very laboriously. He was definitely alive.
“Well, I’ll be…” the captain muttered. “After all these years…”
“You KNOW him, Captain?”
Before he could reply to Stanley’s surprised question, the captain heard a beeping sound coming from behind him – quickly followed by a muffled curse that came from Brown. Obviously, the Mysteron detector built into the lieutenant’s bracelet had suddenly come online, and the young man didn’t like what it was telling him.
“He’s a Mysteron all right!” Brown spat, with barely contained anger and disgust in his tone, as he took the special handgun hanging from the left side of his belt and took aim at the injured man. “Sir, get away from there, and we will take care of…”
“Hold your fire!” To Brown’s surprise, his commander swiftly twisted in his direction, almost aggressively, raising his hand and barking the order in a tone that would not accept any compromise.
“Captain?” Brown asked with puzzlement.
“He is not a Mysteron,” the captain explained, his voice calming down, and turning back to look at their discovery. “No more than I am myself…”
“But the detector says…”
“I know what it says,” the captain cut in abruptly. “But we will not shoot him with the electron gun. Not right away. Just in case…”
“In case of what, Captain?”
The captain shook his head. “Don’t argue with me. I have a feeling we might regret killing him too quickly.”
“You have… a feeling,” Brown repeated doubtfully.
“You know my feelings are normally right on the money, especially when it comes to the Mysterons. You will have to TRUST me on this, Chip… You do trust me, don’t you?”
“Yeah… of course I do. But…” Brown sighed. “So what should we do with him, Captain?”
“Call the others – tell them to take samples from the crash. We’ll send another team to help them out. As for the four of us, we’re returning underground.”
“Of course… We can’t leave him up here, can we? We’ll have to call Control once we’ll be back at the Senate Building. To tell the colonel that we’re bringing… an old friend with us.”
“You DO know him, then,” Brown remarked. It was almost an accusation. “Who is this guy? And why is he so important to you, Captain?”
“Who he is?” the captain said pensively, still looking down at the unconscious and injured man. “As I said… an old friend. But once upon a time, he was Spectrum’s greatest asset against the Mysterons… and the most bitter of my enemies…” He was watching the blackened face of the man, a faint smile drawing on his thin lips as he did so; he could see the nostrils were moving ever so slightly as the man drew painful breath after painful breath. He was growing stronger; the captain knew the signs. A few hours, maybe a day, and there was a good chance the injured man would be back on his feet.
As good as new.
“Welcome back, Captain Scarlet,” Captain Black said with genuine sincerity and even warmth to his tone. “It’s been a long time since we last saw you…” He got to his feet. “A long time indeed…”
Chapter 1 – Blast from the Past
October 28, 2072
“We will be flying over Futura City in fifteen minutes, thirty seconds, Captain Scarlet. I hope there’s still enough time…”
Captain Scarlet cast a glance at the pilot of the Spectrum Passenger Jet seated by his side. Right now, the last thing he wanted to hear was any pessimistic remark, but he had to admit he was having a hard time blaming the young woman right now. She was probably feeling the stress of the mission, as he was himself.
They would be cutting it very close.
“We’ll make it, Destiny,” he stated, seeking to reassure her – and himself at the same time. “Like we always do.”
“Always? Aren’t we a bit overconfident?”
“I like to think positive,” Scarlet said. “As you well know. I’m not about to roll over and play dead.”
“Yes, well… THAT you never do.” Destiny permitted herself a faint smile. “And don’t worry – I do not intend to let the Mysterons win this time, either.”
“Neither of us do.” From the cabin behind, Melody Angel entered the cockpit and came to crouch between their two seats. She nodded to Scarlet. “Everything is ready back there,” she informed him. “What’s our situation?”
“We’re gaining on her,” Destiny answered.
The three of them looked ahead, beyond the windshield. The weather was pretty bad, rain splattering hard on the window, and winds blowing savagely, as if attempting to blow the SPJ out of the sky; visibility was practically zero, and they couldn’t see a thing. Scarlet gave a glance at the radar. The blip they had followed since the start of this chase had grown increasingly closer.
“I see it now. There it is!”
Scarlet raised his head at the sound of Melody’s announcement. Through the winds and rain, he finally saw the dark, ominous form of the other plane straight ahead. Seemingly so close, and yet still out of reach. He blew a sigh, and flicked on the onboard radio.
“SPJ C-405 to Cloudbase Control,” he called. “Goliath II is in view now. We’re gaining altitude to get into position for our final approach, according to plan.” He nodded in Destiny’s direction and saw her pulling on the yoke. He could feel the craft moving, gaining height and increasing its speed to catch up with their prey.
The voice of their commander-in-chief, Colonel White, resonated through the cockpit speakers – calm as always, but with a tone of obvious relief that they all noticed.
“What is your exact situation, Scarlet?”
This chase was getting on everyone’s nerves, Scarlet realised. What, the odds were so high… and the price would be terrible, if they were to fail…
“We’re at a height of thirty-five thousand feet, about ten minutes east of Futura City, sir.
And we’re closing fast. We’ll have to act quickly if we want to avert a tragedy.”
“We are now within range,” Destiny announced. “We’re passing Goliath II and will be in position in…” She checked her instruments with a quick look, “… two minutes now.”
“We’ll be proceeding with the operation right now, Colonel,” Scarlet reported. “We cannot wait any longer.”
“S.I.G. Angels One and Two have pulled back to safe positions,” White announced. “They will be in attendance, until you have completed your part of the mission, and will then come back to the danger zone to finish Goliath. But until then, it’s up to you, SPJ C-405. Good luck to all – and especially to you, Scarlet.”
“Thank you, sir. We’re going to need it.”
“YOU are going to need it,” Destiny corrected Scarlet as he removed his harness and stood up. “You’ll be doing the worst of the job.”
“Yes, but if I fail, we’ll be all in trouble.” He gave her an encouraging pat. “Continue the approach, and keep the SPJ as steady as you can.”
“It’ll be so steady you’ll be able to walk on the fuselage,” Destiny replied. Scarlet smiled his thanks, and with Melody, walked into the cabin. Quickly, she helped him strap on the thruster pack she had prepared earlier.
“I’d wish we could actually shoot that thing down,” Melody muttered. “What we’ll be attempting is damned risky.”
“It’d be riskier to shoot it down,” Scarlet remarked. “With what’s onboard that plane…”
Melody sombrely agreed with a silent nod, and double-checked his equipment, as Scarlet mentally prepared himself for the operation ahead. The last cryptic threat from the Mysterons had been directed toward Futura City, but with a series of false trails and red herrings thrown in their way, it had taken far too long for Spectrum to finally discover what the target actually was. By the time they had figured it out, the WAAF’s Goliath II, fully automated and nuclear powered, had been destroyed and Mysteronised. The giant plane was already en route to Futura City, with, attached to its generator, a very unusual electronic prototype called the ‘Quantum Transmitter’ that had been stolen from an R&D Space Center in Florida. Although initially developed for the control of Quantum energy-driven engines for eventual long-range space travel, the Q Transmitter, in the wrong hands, could be used as a massive weapon of destruction; the energy released from a violent Quantum blast, generated by nuclear power – dubbed the ‘Quantum Effect’ by the experts – would be so horribly devastating that it would vaporize a large city – or an entire small country – and most of its inhabitants.
And such a massive instrument of destruction was presently heading straight to Futura City, Capital City of the World - which, now the authorities being aware of the danger, was being evacuated, as Spectrum pursued this operation. But emptying an entire city the size of Futura was next to impossible, and there was bound to be an untold number of victims and widespread damage. Spectrum was doing its best to control the situation. At the very least, the World Government Council, and most of the members of the Parliament, were now gone – the first to be taken to safety. As far as Scarlet knew, only the World President, T.J. Younger, had stayed on, trying to set an example for the population to stay calm during the evacuation.
But even he had to leave eventually, and Captain Blue, who had stayed with him, had seen to that. They had just left Futura City in the Presidential jet, and were presently heading directly for Cloudbase.
Good Old Blue… Not counting Colonel White, he was probably the one the World President trusted the most, ever since Blue had saved his life four years ago. It was therefore only natural to assign Blue to Younger’s personal protection.
As he walked toward the hatch, Melody handed Scarlet his colour-coded helmet and he put it on grimly. Once he had strapped it securely, he activated the built-in comm.link, making sure it was working perfectly.
“Scarlet to Destiny – do you copy?”
“S.I.G., Captain. Loud and clear. We are in position. Am matching speed with Goliath II now.”
“S.I.G., Destiny. Time for me to go then, I guess.”
“I just received a last message from Cloudbase. It would seem the evacuation has not been completed.”
“As we feared,” Scarlet said grimly.
“The Presidential plane just left the danger zone. It should be at a safe distance when – IF the bomb detonates.”
“I’m ready to go out,” Scarlet continued. “Entering the hatch now…”
“Good luck,” Destiny told him. “And be careful.”
“Aren’t I always?”
“Do you really want me to answer that question?”
Scarlet smiled thinly and pushed the button to open the first door to the airlock, previously installed inside of the SPJ by the Cloudbase hangar crew, who had specially modified the craft for this operation. He stepped in, and Melody, after giving him the thumbs up, closed the door for him and made sure it was sealed tight. Scarlet put on the respirator mask, and then the protective goggles, and stood in front of the second door, waiting for the pressure inside the airlock to equalize with the exterior. It took barely ten seconds.
“Pressure equalized,” the voice of Destiny announced to him in his earphone. “Opening exterior door…”
In front of Scarlet, the door slowly slid open; he held on tightly, as the cold wind entered the hermetic airlock, threatening to blow him out. He carefully approached the open door, and hooked himself onto the line waiting for him by the side of the door, before looking down, into the empty space beneath his feet. Far below, there was the ocean – and the shores of Futura City – the target the Mysterons intended to destroy. A little behind the SPJ, a thousand feet below, Goliath II was coming, its speed matched by that of the SPJ.
Scarlet exhaled loudly. What he would be attempting was risky, but right now, it was the only chance they had; they couldn’t blow Goliath II out of the sky, in fear that it would trigger the Quantum Effect prematurely – with deadly results. The only solution was to first disconnect the Q Transmitter from the plane’s nuclear generator – and then to take the generator offline. And the only way to do that was to board Goliath.
It wasn’t as if it had never had been attempted before – Scarlet had done it himself once before, as an exercise during his time in the WAAF. He had to admit that by today’s standards, the operation was easier than it was when it had been first attempted some hundred years ago, but it still represented a certain amount of risk, and he could certainly die, if he missed his target. Plus the weather conditions were not at their very best at the moment. However, the consequences today would be catastrophic if he were to fail. He didn’t want to think about it.
And he couldn’t wait much longer. He started up the thruster pack.
“Scarlet to Destiny and Melody – I’m ready to go.”
“S.I.G., Captain Scarlet,” the voice of Destiny answered.
“Releasing the line,” Melody said in turn. “Go, Captain! Go!”
Scarlet jumped from his position, aiming in Goliath’s direction, head first and legs together; activating the thruster pack, he stabilised his descent, the line attached to his belt following behind him, Destiny keeping it as tight as possible under the circumstances. The winds were strong and icy, freezing Scarlet to the bone, and threatening to blow him off-course, but the safety line and thruster pack held him in position – just. He could see Goliath grow larger as he fell toward it. A little too fast, he realised. He spread his legs to slow his descent, and controlled his direction with the thruster pack, while Destiny expertly manoeuvered the SPJ above, to position him in line with Goliath.
“I can see the hatch on the left side,” Scarlet said into his speaker. “Destiny, veer a little to the left to help me out… down a bit… Right, a hundred metres down… Slowly… slowly…”
He pulled the handles of the thruster pack, as he still was descending far too quickly for his taste. At this moment, Goliath either hit a pocket of air or the wind pushed it to the side because it suddenly jumped upward – and nearly hit Scarlet as he was making his final approach. He just had the time to move to the side to avoid the collision. Not completely.
He felt the surface of the fuselage brush roughly against his left arm, and he quickly moved toward the hatch he was aiming at. At that point, the handle of the thruster pack bumped against the surface of the plane, and he nearly lost control – just as his right hand closed onto the security handle set over the hatch, and he was able to catch himself before being propelled too far. The sudden move thrust him against the side of the plane, his thruster pack banging loudly. He held on tight, not wanting to be blown off his position and possibly into one of the giant reactors he could see burning, not that far below his feet. He wasn’t sure that even HE would survive if he was to be sucked into one of those.
“Scarlet to Destiny,” he called into his speaker, trying to catch his breath. “Stabilise the SPJ and tighten the line. I’m nearly there.”
He positioned himself in front of the door, and then attached a magnetic security line to steady himself in position.
“I’ve reached the hatch,” he announced, unhooking the cable attaching him to the SPJ above. “Cutting lifeline now…”
“S.I.G.” Destiny acknowledged. “Let’s hope the entry code the WAAF gave us for the door will work now…”
Scarlet was making the same prayer, as his fingers were opening the control panel by the side of the door, and keying the code that he had memorised into the numeric pad. Long seconds seemed to pass by, so very slowly, before he saw the indicator turning from red to green and felt the door vibrating underneath his hand.
Fortunately, it didn’t seem that the Mysterons had tampered with door controls; almost not believing it, he watched as it started sliding open in front of him.
“It worked!” he announced victoriously. “The door is opening.”
Wind drafted from inside the plane, hitting him in the face. Of course, the pressure in the plane would not be the same as outside; he braced himself, fully expecting a jolt from Goliath as the change of pressure made it lose altitude.
it didn’t happen quite that way.
Goliath did lose height, a few hundred
“Scarlet to Control and Destiny Angel,” Scarlet announced into his helmet mic. “I’m ready to enter Goliath.”
“S.I.G., Captain Scarlet,” the voice of Colonel White answered. “You are presently approaching the coast of Futura City… In less than two minutes, you’ll be flying over the heart of the city. Be quick about it, man.”
“Entering Goliath… Now.”
With the door now fully open, Scarlet unhooked his security line and stepped into the plane, to find himself in the cabin. He flattened himself against the wall, and looked around. It was a mess in there, with the wind blowing violently inside the confined compartment, sending everything that was both light enough and not bolted down flying all over the place. There were pieces of paper everywhere. Security belts from the empty passenger seats were dangling freely, their metallic buckles ringing against one another. The emergency respirator masks had dropped from the ceiling and entangled themselves together. There was not a soul in view, although before its destruction by the Mysterons, the plane was occupied by a crew of twelve people.
Obviously the Mysterons only needed the plane – and didn’t care to recreate any of the crew.
Murdering bastards, Scarlet reflected, with a bitter taste in his mouth.
There was no time to waste on such thoughts, he told himself immediately. He had a job to do, and he had to do it quickly, or the Mysterons would shortly claim millions more victims.
He walked purposefully into the cabin, removing his thruster pack as he went, as it was hampering his advance, and let it fall to the floor. The plane had become less steady than before, and he steadied himself against the seats, as he headed towards the rear. According to his earlier briefing over the comm.link, while the SPJ was giving chase to Goliath, that was where he would find the generator – in a compartment especially built for it. He had to remove the Q Transmitter from it, or at least disable the connection – and, if possible, turn Goliath around to take it away from its fatal destination. If that was not possible, he had to turn off the nuclear generator, and then the plane could safely be destroyed in flight by the Angels. At least, without the Q Transmitter, and the nuclear reaction, the devastation would be averted.
He had nearly reached the compartment he sought – it was the door just in front of him, only four feet away, and Scarlet increased his pace. Suddenly, he saw the door open and a silhouette appeared in the frame; Scarlet stopped in his tracks, not expecting to find ANYONE inside Goliath; when he saw the gun aimed directly at him, he tried to reach for his own, but it was already too late.
Three shots rang through the cabin and Scarlet felt the bullets ramming into his chest, throwing him back. He fell on his knees between the seats, his jaws clenching against the terrible pain. He instinctively reached for his bleeding belly, his eyes misting, and raised his head to the man who was now approaching him with a rapid step. He was wearing a WAAF uniform, and there was the insignia of captain on his sleeves. Obviously, a member of Goliath’s original crew. The pilot, maybe…
The Mysterons hadn’t Mysteronised only the plane, after all… Scarlet damned his not-so-reliable sixth sense, which had obviously failed again, this time, to warn him of the danger.
“You really thought you could stop us from carrying out our plans this time, Earthman?” the Mysteronised man said to Scarlet implacably, as he came to stand before him.
Scarlet tried to reach for him, but the man kicked him in the belly, sending a new and violent wave of pain through his body. He sprawled on the floor, on his back, moaning dejectedly, and barely able to move. The Mysteron stood over him, victorious, his gun trained on Scarlet’s head. In his other hand, the Mysteron was holding a small object, with which he taunted the downed Spectrum officer.
“Today, the Mysterons claim victory,” the Mysteron agent intoned. “We will destroy Futura City – and in the same blow, Captain Scarlet will die!”
Scarlet opened his eyes wide with horror, upon realising what the Mysteron was holding.
He saw the Mysteron’s thumb press it down savagely, before he could even react.
I’ve failed, was Scarlet’s thought at that precise second.
From the rear of Goliath, there was a loud blast, that made the plane shake violently.
The last thing Scarlet saw was the blinding fire coming towards him, as Goliath literally broke into pieces.
The last thing he felt was the searing heat, and the atrocious pain throughout his body –
– And the sensation of falling, as mercifully, oblivion closed around him.
September 6, 2087
Captain Scarlet woke up with a start, his eyes opening suddenly, to stare at the high ceiling above him. He groaned in annoyance at the bright light suddenly assaulting him and shut his eyes again to escape from it. He reached for his forehead with his right hand, feeling a violent headache. That was strange in itself… He never had headaches upon waking up. Especially after a regeneration; he normally felt perfectly all right.
Not only his head was hurting him, but he was feeling nauseous; he fought the need to throw up as he sat up on the bunk on which he was resting. He rubbed his closed eyes with one hand and reached for his aching belly with the other. His fingers felt the unscathed, intact skin.
And suddenly he remembered, and raised his head in alarm, and stared into empty space, anguish filling his eyes.
“I’ve failed,” he murmured.
“You don’t look too good.”
The voice addressing him seemed to be coming through a speaker. Scarlet looked around the room. Already he had realised he wasn’t in the room usually assigned to him in Cloudbase sickbay. This room in which he presently found himself was smaller, and virtually unfurnished, except for the bunk in which he had awakened. The only light in it was the too-bright one coming from the ceiling right above him. Beyond that, the room was very dark; three of the walls appeared to be built of thick, obviously solid, concrete. The fourth wall seemed to be made of a tinted glass, on which the light was reflecting; narrowing his eyes against the glare, Scarlet was able to see the tall, dark silhouette of a man beyond the glass, standing with his legs apart, and his hands obviously clasped behind his back. Scarlet couldn’t see the face, submerged in the darkness, but he had certainly recognised the voice.
“Adam… is that you?”
He saw the man tilt his head to the side without answering. Scarlet threw away the blanket covering him and slid off his bed. He swayed as he stood on weak legs and supported himself against the side of the bed, holding his aching head. Just then, his fingers grazed his cheek – and he noticed how rough it was, as if he had not shaved in days.
“I would advise you to take it easy,” the voice of Blue said again through the speaker. “You’re obviously not completely healed…”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Scarlet moaned, sighing. “I think I will need a little more time…” He blinked his eyes and looked at himself. He was barely wearing anything – just a pair of grey shorts that came halfway down his thighs. Not the standard pyjamas of sickbay. He then looked around, with a questioning expression on his face. “What is this place? This is not a room in sickbay… Where am I?”
“This is a… decontamination chamber,” Blue explained briefly.
Scarlet nodded. So that explains him speaking to me through that glass…As for the rest…
“We’re not on Cloudbase?”
Again, Blue tilted his head to the side.
“No,” he said, and his tone had a slightly harsh edge to it.
Scarlet simply nodded again, and lowered his gaze, thinking he understood why Blue sounded so distant at the moment.
“The mission went wrong, Adam.”
“The Goliath boarding… there was a Mysteron onboard… One of the crew members, I believe. I… I didn’t know, my sixth sense failed to warn me. You know, it isn’t really reliable… A fat lot of good it does me sometimes!” He scoffed. “He was waiting for me and shot me. He had a hand detonator. He… blew the plane up.” Scarlet swallowed hard. “Futura City… how much damage?”
“Don’t you know?” Blue’s voice was still harsh with that simple question, and that made Scarlet frown. There was a short moment of silence, before Blue spoke again, his voice a little less harsh, but still less than friendly. “The entire city was destroyed. There were millions of deaths… Very few survivors.”
Scarlet’s heart started beating faster upon hearing the news and he closed his eyes; the pain and sorrow he felt were of such a violent scale that it surprised even himself. In his line of work, and especially since Spectrum had started dealing with the Mysterons, he thought that he would be prepared for such devastating results if he were to fail during a mission.
He wasn’t as ready as he had thought.
He opened his eyes and addressed Blue again: “Destiny? Melody?”
Blue shook his head. “They didn’t make it,” he announced in a low voice. “The SPJ was caught in the blast that destroyed Futura City.”
That was the answer Scarlet was dreading to hear. He felt a lump form in his throat. “My God…” he whispered. “And I survived?” Destiny… so beautiful and so alive… The woman he had loved and to whom he had been briefly engaged when they were both serving in the WAAF. His friend, and his confidante… And now she was gone. And with her, Melody....
He wondered what the impact had been on the other girls; all of them were as close as sisters – they had to be, to maintain the efficiency with which they worked together – had worked – all together – as such a perfect team. He wondered what the impact had been on Spectrum. To lose one Angel pilot– it was a terrible blow… To lose two of them, at once…
Damn those Mysterons…
Scarlet looked at his hand, his arm, his body – unmarked, with not a single trace of any injury. “I should have died too,” he said bitterly. “I should have died with all of them.”
“We thought you did,” Blue answered. “We didn’t find any trace of you after the destruction of the city.”
Scarlet turned his attention back to his friend, as the latter started pacing along the glass. Scarlet noticed the limp, each time Blue was putting his right foot down; he frowned deeply.
“Adam… were you hurt during the blast too? The last I heard of you was that you were in the Presidential plane and that it had cleared the area – far from the danger zone.”
“Not nearly far enough.” Blue had reverted to an abrupt tone again and he stopped his pacing, to turn once more to face the man beyond the glass. Scarlet still couldn’t see his face. “Let’s stop playing games, shall we? We thought you had been vaporised by the explosion. You. The Goliath. The SPJ. Destiny and Melody. There was no trace left of any of you. And we searched, believe me. We searched thoroughly for years.”
Scarlet frowned in disbelief, not sure if he understood any of Blue’s words. “Years?” he repeated.
“Years,” Blue repeated implacably. “Fifteen years, to be precise.”
“Fifteen…” Scarlet felt his already weak knees suddenly shaking, this latest news hitting him with the force of a jackhammer. “That’s impossible…”
“Where were you, during those fifteen years?” Blue asked again, even more sternly than before. “Were you taken over again by the Mysterons?”
The shock was even greater now. Scarlet found the need to lean against the bed. “No…” he whispered, looking down, his mind numb, and failing to understand what was going on.
“Have you been travelling around, carrying out the Mysterons’ orders – like you did, before the Car-Vu?”
“Killing and destroying… trying to bring about the end of all life on Earth, just like the Mysterons vowed?”
“No!” Scarlet shouted fiercely. He raised his head in defiance and straightened up. “Adam, how can you believe I would…”
“Isn’t it the logical explanation for your disappearance?”
“I don’t remember anything more than that last mission onboard the Goliath,” Scarlet defended himself. “It’s the last thing I can recall. I swear! The next thing I knew… I woke up here…” He gestured around, in dismay, and faced Blue again. “…with you hurling wild accusations at me!”
“That you don’t remember isn’t a proof in itself,” Blue remarked. “It could be like the first time… You couldn’t remember then what you’d done under the Mysterons’ control.”
“I don’t believe any of this,” Scarlet murmured. “I wake up after a failed mission and I’m told I’ve been away fifteen years…”
“Give or take a month or two…”
“I DON’T believe it!” Scarlet said with force, taking a step forward towards the glass. Blue stepped back into the darkness, as if seeking to keep out of view. Scarlet stopped in front of the tinted glass, trying to see beyond it, a suspicion forming in his mind at the man’s reaction. He didn’t like what was happening, and his temper was getting the better of him now.
“I don’t feel that much older – my last memories of what I did before I lost consciousness are still very vivid. I can’t have been away fifteen years! You can’t expect me to accept what you’re telling me without proof? What kind of sick game are you playing? You can’t be Captain Blue if you’re trying to trick me with those wild allegations…”
“You want proof?” There was a short silent and time seemed to freeze at that moment. Almost dramatically, Blue stepped forward toward the glass, still limping slightly, and he entered into Scarlet’s direct line of view. The latter opened his eyes wide with disbelief when he saw the face of the tall man now standing in front of him, only separated from him by the thick glass. He took a step back.
It was really Adam – but a much older Adam. The face was more mature, lined with wrinkles that were not there in Scarlet’s memory. A short goatee beard covered his chin, and surrounded a straight-lined mouth with tightly pursed lips. Blue’s fair hair was even lighter that it used to be, almost white in some places. But the eyes, blue and bright, although surrounded by lines of age, were the same piercing eyes, and they were staring straight at Scarlet, with a stern expression that the English captain had rarely seen in them.
He wasn’t wearing the blue Spectrum tunic and boots that Scarlet knew so well. Just a dark grey jumpsuit, and black boots, with pale blue piping around the collar and along his sleeves and trousers; there was still the Spectrum emblem on his right forearm.
“Adam…” Scarlet was at a loss for what to say. “What happened to you?”
Blue scoffed dryly. “Age happened, what do you think? I told you it has been fifteen years… You were right earlier,” he added severely. “I am not Captain Blue anymore. You can address me as Colonel Blue.” He paused a second for Scarlet to register the news, before continuing, “And if you don’t feel a day older, I can assure you, it is not the same for me. For any of us…”
“I… I don’t know what to say… You… you obviously told the truth about that…”
“Of course I did. Why would have I lied?”
“I don’t know… I…”
“Isn’t it obvious to you now? Do you need further proof?”
“Adam…” Scarlet shook his head, obviously deeply shocked by what was happening. He approached the glass again, offering a pleading hand. “I honestly can’t remember more than what I told you…”
Blue’s lips pursed even tighter. “You don’t know what happened to you those fifteen years – and why you appeared suddenly on the site of the remains of Futura City three days ago?”
“Three days…?” Scarlet shook his head in disbelief, rubbing his rough chin. So… that explains this growth, then. He put his hand against the surface of the glass. “No… I can’t tell you. The Goliath mission is all I can remember, I swear to you. You have to believe me.”
Blue slowly nodded his head, but his face didn’t lose any of its stern expression. “Maybe I believe you…”
“Adam, I don’t know what happened to me after that. If the Mysterons took me over again…” Scarlet’s voice choked, despair filling his heart. If that had happened again, then it would have been his worst nightmare coming to pass. He leaned against the glass and thumped against it with his clenched fist. “God, I hope they didn’t… I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if they used me again… whatever they might’ve made me do… Fifteen years? That can’t be possible…” He looked up to Blue again, with bleak eyes. He swallowed hard. “You said… you found me three days ago? At the site of the explosion?”
Blue nodded, his face unchanged. “Pretty much at ground zero. My… second-in-command found you there. And brought you here.”
“Spectrum’s secret base. Considering the circumstances, you don’t expect me to tell you any more at this moment, do you?”
“Secret base…” Scarlet frowned. “What about Cloudbase?”
“There is no Cloudbase anymore. She was destroyed – nearly fourteen years ago.”
Once again, the shock registered on Scarlet’s face. This was yet more news he didn’t expect to hear. “Wh… what… Cloudbase destroyed? H-how…?”
“Don’t you know?”
The constant doubt – and underlying accusation – that he kept hearing in Blue’s aloof tone was starting to get on Scarlet’s nerves – and to irritate him. He now had tremendous difficulty keeping what little cool he might have left.
“I keep telling you I don’t remember anything… What about Colonel White?”
Blue shook his head. “He’s dead. He went down with his base, all those years ago.”
“My God…” Scarlet murmured, closing his eyes. It was going from bad to worse, minute by minute.
“I’m head of Spectrum now.”
“Colonel Blue… You said. You mentioned a second-in-command?”
Blue stared at Scarlet for a moment, obviously pondering something; Scarlet was unable to read what could be on his mind.
How… similar to Colonel White he had become…
“Yes – someone I fully trust,” Blue finally said, in a measured, but still stern voice. “And who has been with us for years, after the destruction of Cloudbase.” He paused, scrutinizing Scarlet with attention. “Would you like to meet him?”
Scarlet wasn’t sure if there wasn’t a trick behind that suggestion and inexplicably, he suddenly felt awkward. He didn’t even have time to answer, as Blue was turning around and was gesturing in the direction of the darkest part of the room in which he was standing, to someone obviously waiting in the back, out of Scarlet’s view.
“Come closer, Captain… Our guest wants to meet you.”
After what seemed like a second’s hesitation on the other person’s part, Scarlet heard footsteps through the speakers, echoing through the other room. Squinting his eyes, he intently watched the darkness where Blue had beckoned; he saw a silhouette detach itself from that darkness and approach slowly. Blue had turned back to face him again, watching him.
As the silent newcomer appeared into full view and came to stand next to Blue, Scarlet’s eyes filled with horror. He snatched his hand off the glass, as if it had been burning him, and moved back, unsteadily, his eyes riveted on the man.
“No…” he whispered, shaking his head from side to side, in complete denial.
The newcomer kept silent, as he stopped in front of the glass, the same expression as Blue’s on his face, as both of them watched Scarlet’s reactions with intense attention. Scarlet backed away, his heart beating wildly, horrified by what he was seeing; he reached the bed, and stumbled against it.
“Captain Black…” he croaked.
He couldn’t believe his eyes; there he was, Spectrum’s worst enemy – the ultimate pawn of the Mysterons, their main agent on Earth, staring at him with bright eyes, as coldly as if he had been but a piece of meat. He looked older, certainly, just like Blue did, with grey hair covering his temples – but it was the same look that Scarlet would always recognise.
And Scarlet suddenly understood that the nightmare was even worse than he had first imagined.
He had been right earlier. It was all a trick.
He turned a fierce expression to Blue. “And YOU were accusing me of being a Mysteron?!” he yelled angrily. “You dirty bastard… You’re standing there, siding with him, because your masters killed my friend…”
Blue’s eyebrow rose in quiet acknowledgement of the accusation. “Calm down, Scarlet…”
“Calm down, you say?” Scarlet shouted again. “This is all a Mysteron plot – now I know it. And you expect me to simply accept it, do you?” With rage, Scarlet turned to the bed, and lift the mattress off it, tossing it aside without a backward glance, before grabbing the frame underneath and turning it upside down. “I’ll get out of here, you bastards,” he promised. “I don’t know what you want from me, but you can’t expect to keep me in here forever! And when I’m out, whatever you did to Spectrum, I’ll make you pay for it… I swear I’ll get you…”
He was already lifting the side of the bed, with the obvious intention of hurling it against the glass when Blue’s voice rang out again through the speakers, this time in a tone of command that was not addressed to Scarlet:
“Security! The prisoner is trying to escape! Gas the containment chamber – now!”
Almost immediately, Scarlet heard a hissing sound coming from the vents above his head. He held his breath, as a thick, white cloud quickly engulfed the small cell. Scarlet threw his improvised ram into the glass behind which Blue and Black were standing. Under the effort, he was forced the take a mouthful of gas…
The glass held under the impact, and Scarlet roared his frustration. He launched himself at the glass and slammed into it with all of his weight; with no further results.
He then started to feel the effects of the gas and slid down the surface of the glass, coughing, unable to fight back; his mind was clouding, and his eyes were feeling so very heavy.
No… I have to stay awake…
“I’m sorry, Scarlet.” He heard Blue’s voice through the speakers. “But you were getting too agitated…” Scarlet tiredly raised his head to stare in distrust at the still stern, but somehow apologetic, face of Blue, who was looking at him through the glass.
“We’ll continue this conversation later – when you’ll be calmer.”
That was the last thing Scarlet heard before losing his battle against the drowsiness filling his mind and giving up to unconsciousness.
Chapter 2 – Theoretically Speaking
“That was a mean thing you did,” Captain Black said to Colonel Blue as they strode out of the detention centre and walked into the concrete corridor, towards the elevator. Both were walking quickly, with Blue limping on his right leg, and they barely gave any attention to the two guards who entered the room they had left, closing the door behind them. The two officers knew that they would take care of the unconscious prisoner.
“He was growing increasingly frantic,” Blue replied neutrally. “We had to gas him, before he hurt himself.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” They entered the elevator and the door slid closed on them. Blue punched the numeric panel to Level 4 and watched as the numbers on the indicator above the door changed. “I meant… asking me to show myself to him? Just like that?! You knew how he would react if he was the real Scarlet.”
“I knew, yes.” The quiet answer from Blue made Black turn an inquiring look at him. “That’s why I did it…”
The lift reached the fourth floor at that moment and the door slid open. Both men got out and started purposefully walking down the corridor in front of them.
“So – you wanted to see what his reaction would be,” Black said with an understanding nod. “Mmm… you’re becoming more and more like Charles used to be.”
“Thank you. I take that as a compliment,” Blue said quietly. He paused a second. “Not that it proved beyond a doubt that Scarlet is really… himself.”
“But you’re giving him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Of course. If there is a chance he’s on the level…” The two men stopped in front of a very large door, and Blue pushed the ‘open’ button, before turning to Black. “But it still doesn’t explain how he came to suddenly appear in Futura City like he did.”
“Amongst other mysteries,” Black agreed.
Both entered; they were in the Control Room, with all its walls covered with huge banks of computers and a large plasma screen, reminiscent of the one that existed fifteen years ago in Cloudbase Control Room, set in the middle of it. It was manned by three junior officers, whose functions were to check data and information coming from all around the world. Absorbed in their work, they didn’t even turn to acknowledge their commander’s or his second-in-command’s presence in the room – not that either of the two men expected them to take any notice.
A tall blonde woman, however, dressed in a cream uniform in the same style as the grey one worn by everyone else in the room, and wearing her hair in an austere bun, left her place in front of the radio station, and walked straight to Blue. She stopped before him, and handed him the pad she was carrying.
“That was a very mean thing you did, Adam,” she said reproachfully, the exact echo of what Black had said earlier.
“Of course, you were watching everything from your station,” Blue mused, opening the pad.
“Everything. Like the colonel instructed. It’s all recorded for posterity and will probably be held against you in a court of law…”
“Mmm-mmm… whenever a court of law is able to get its hands on me.” Blue checked the first page of the document he discovered in the pad, narrowing his eyes. “What is this?”
“The order for the microchips you wanted. Just waiting for your signature.”
“I will definitely need glasses,” Blue commented. “A pen if you please, Karen…?” She already was handing him one, flashing a wide smile at him. He sighed, taking the pen, realising that fifteen years of marriage had been more than enough for her to learn to pre-empt his every move or thought. In fact, she had been able to do just that to perfection six months after their honeymoon. “I trust everything is in order?” he said matter-of-factly, putting his signature on the last page of the form, with Black looking over his shoulder.
“Aside from the fact that our friend is becoming greedier each time,” the dark-haired man observed, frowning at the numbers he was reading. “That’s a lot more than he asked the last time, Symphony.”
“I know,” she said, rolling her eyes. “He pretends that with the world in the state it’s in right now, it’s becoming next to impossible to find proper suppliers for the kind of equipment we require.”
“Hence raising his prices,” Blue said closing the pad. “He drove a hard bargain?”
“Certainly did – but I drove a harder one.” Symphony’s smiled widened, as she took the pad back. “I succeeded in fixing a price fifteen percent lower than you were willing to pay.”
“Well done,” Blue said, descending the three steps leading into the centre of the room.
“And your sister called,” Symphony continued, following behind with Black in tow. “She said the Chinese deal is done and that the company will be making a hefty profit out of it.”
“How big a profit?”
“Fifty, give or take a million…”
“Remind me to send her flowers when the meeting’s over.”
“Already done that…” Symphony answered. “Excuse me while I dispose of this…”
She left their company, while they were making their way toward the green door at the other end of the room. Black grunted, shaking his head as he came to walk next to his commander.
“You’re really incredible, you know that, Colonel?”
“And why so, Captain?”
“Spectrum commander, strategist, administrator, financier, entrepreneur… Isn’t there anything you can’t do ?”
“Karen is the entrepreneur in the family,” Blue replied. “And a very devious one. She does drive a hard bargain. She would have made my father proud.”
“The pre-marital agreement must be very interesting, then…”
They had just reached the door, when it opened in front of them. A man was standing in the doorway, apparently waiting for them, his arms crossed on his chest, and looking angrily at Blue.
“It was a very mean thing you did, Colonel.” Although he used the same words as Black and Symphony earlier, his tone was certainly more incisive. Blue suppressed a sigh, and passed by him, entering.
“What is this, did everyone on base watch it as if it was a reality show?” He walked towards the large table set in the middle of the Conference Room. A young brown-haired man, and an older black man, who were talking to each other, stood up upon his arrival, but Blue invited them to sit back down.
“You did tell me to keep a close eye on him,” said the man who had welcomed him so abruptly, following inside, while Black stood waiting by the open door. “After all, as the base’s resident doctor, I am responsible for his well-being. What were you trying to do, give him a heart attack?”
“He would have recovered… eventually.”
“You’ve grown cynical in your old age, Adam. Or perhaps it’s the company you’ve been keeping these last years…”
Black rolled his eyes in turn, when the doctor turned near-murderous eyes on him. “Lay off me, Edward. I am not responsible for Colonel Blue’s behaviour of late.”
“Doctor Fawn to you, Captain Black,” came the acerbic reply, as Fawn’s brow puckered in irritation.
“I love you too, Doctor.”
“Quiet, you two,” Blue called them to order. “Now is not the time.”
“I want Scarlet transferred to sickbay,” Fawn demanded. “As soon as possible. He took three days to recover – which is much longer than he usually did in the past – I want to know why. And yes, I know it was fifteen years ago – which makes it all the more urgent for me to examine him. I want to know what changed in his powers during that time.”
“We’ll see about that later, Doctor. Just wait ’til this meeting’s over.” Blue sat down at his usual place and addressed the black man seated opposite him. “Captain Green, Symphony Angel just informed me that you will have your much-needed microchips. Expect them to arrive in two weeks’ time.”
“Splendid!” Green said with a large smile. “We’ll now be able to correct that problem the old chips couldn’t take care of lately, with the computers on Level 5. We’ll be getting on with that as soon as we receive the chips, Colonel.”
“I knew you would appreciate the present, Seymour.” Blue looked around the table. “Right, we’re just waiting for…” He stopped as he saw Symphony enter the room, closely followed by Captain Grey. “Good. You’re just in time, both of you. Please, everyone, take a seat. We’ll begin.”
Black left his position at the door, after closing it, and came to sit to the left of Blue, while Symphony sat down to his right and everybody else who was not already seated took a seat around the table.
“Lieutenant Brown,” Colonel Blue said to the young man next to Green, “make sure this meeting is recorded and put on file. Everyone, you all know why we’re here today and what we have to discuss.”
“Captain Scarlet has returned,” Captain Grey said with a slow nod of his head. He was sporting a beard, now, and had turned nearly completely grey over the years, with his temples heavily marked with a white streak. The others considered that he really looked the part of a sea wolf now, far more than he did years ago. And he had to admit, he took a certain pride in his new look.
“But has he, really?” Symphony asked, looking at her husband for confirmation.
“The jury’s still out on that,” Colonel Blue answered.
“I don’t trust him,” the voice of the youngest member present at the meeting said. Every eye turned to him. He felt himself reddening violently. He gave a dismissive shrug. “Well, he’s a Mysteron, isn’t he?”
“He was Mysteronised in the past, Lieutenant Brown,” Doctor Fawn answered. “But he broke free of their control.”
“And what if they’ve taken control of him again?” Brown insisted.
“I doubt it,” Captain Black retorted.
“And why so?” Blue asked, turning to him.
“Aside from his obvious state… I can’t sense anything of the Mysterons in him. They don’t seem to have any contact with him.”
“Yes,” Grey said, pondering, “but as with Captain Scarlet in the past, your own ‘sixth sense’ isn’t totally reliable, Conrad. You don’t always sense a Mysteron presence.”
Black shrugged. “Well, that’s true if I don’t concentrate, but in the case of Scarlet… I’m sure I’m not mistaken.”
“I still don’t trust him,” Brown said in an undertone. “We don’t know how he came to be on the surface. I’m sure he has been sent here by his masters to find our secret base – and we brought him straight to it.”
“Lieutenant Brown,” Colonel Blue said sternly, “Captain Black did exactly what needed to be done. He is your superior officer. I will thank you not to dispute his decisions.”
“Sorry, sir. But…”
“You are only attending this meeting because you are my aide,” Blue continued in the same tone. “I would appreciate it if you would ask permission to speak next time – and only if you have something constructive to say. I won’t accept flippant or irrelevant remarks.”
Brown lowered his eyes. “S.I.G., Colonel,” he murmured in a compliant tone.
“The lieutenant does have a point, Colonel,” Captain Black then offered. “We don’t know how Captain Scarlet came to appear in Futura City. Nor why he was surrounded by all that debris which seemed to be from SPJ C-405 – and the Goliath II.”
“… Which disappeared at the same time he did himself, fifteen years ago,” Blue said, stroking his beard pensively.
“And which was still burning, as if they just had fallen from the sky,” Black added. “Captain Grey and Lieutenant Brown returned to the surface to examine the wreckage more closely. And to take samples.”
Blue turned to Grey who nodded in assessment of Black’s words. “I read your report, Captain,” Blue said. “Tell the others what you found – on the crash site of the SPJ.”
Grey lowered his gaze, and gave a deep sigh, before speaking, in a voice devoid of almost all emotion: “There were two bodies in the cockpit of the SPJ. Burned beyond recognition. Almost reduced to ashes.”
“Oh no…” Symphony gasped.
“We brought the remains to Doctor Fawn, who conducted a post-mortem on them.”
“Two women,” Fawn, who was seated next to the commander’s wife, announced gloomily. “Mid-twenties to early thirties… Mercifully, they died instantly, following a sudden blast. They didn’t have time to suffer.” He paused a second, hesitating. “We… found pieces of fabric, fused into the remains. Tests confirmed that it was the same fabric used for the old Angel pilot uniform.”
Blue straightened on his seat. “Destiny… and Melody?”
Fawn shook his head. “I would say it seems impossible… but yes, it’s them.”
“Are you sure?” Blue asked suspiciously.
“Quite sure, yes. Dental records helped establish their identities without a doubt.” Fawn looked at Symphony and watched as she lowered her eyes with extreme sadness upon hearing his report. He put a soothing hand on top of hers. “I’m sorry… I know you Angels were all good friends…”
She shook her head, very slowly. “Even though it’s been fifteen years,” she murmured, “and even though there was no possible doubt about their fate when they disappeared during that blast… it still hurts to finally learn that they’re both…really gone…”
“Melody and Destiny,” Blue then said, heavily. “Yes, now I suppose we have confirmation of their deaths during the destruction of Futura City.”
All around the table, there was a moment of shocked silence, in respect for the departed. Then Blue broke the silence, by clearing his throat.
“Doctor… why did you say it would seem impossible these remains are those of Melody and Destiny?”
Fawn kept himself from frowning, hearing Blue’s detached tone. He couldn’t help noticing how the man had changed with the passing of time. Since he had taken over the duty of Spectrum commander years ago, he had grown increasingly aloof – more so than Colonel White himself had been on occasion. It was true their situation had changed considerably from what it was under the previous colonel’s command… It probably was for Blue the only way to actually cope with some aspects of his duty. If he were to let himself become too emotional when confronted with the worst his command had to offer, he wouldn’t be able to lead them efficiently. Blue knew it. As did his wife, Karen – who still went by the name Symphony Angel to this day, even though she wasn’t flying an interceptor anymore – her duty having considerably changed now that she was busy with the more administrative aspects of Spectrum. Blue had been very lucky to have her by his side, throughout all those difficult years, whatever Fate could have dealt them. She always supported him, at whatever cost – and whatever the decisions he made – although, Fawn reflected, he was sure that in private, she probably wouldn’t hesitate to voice her opinion a little more freely. She knew it didn’t look good for a commander to have his decisions disputed in public - especially by his wife.
“Because those remains are not fifteen years old, Colonel,” Fawn explained in answer to Blue’s question. “On examination – I would say that, apparently, those two women died about five days ago.”
“At the most. Could be three – could be four. Considering their state, it’s difficult to make a more exact estimation.”
“That is impossible,” Grey remarked. “Destiny and Melody disappeared in the blast that destroyed Futura City….”
“… Fifteen years ago, yes,” Symphony finished.
“Mysterons?” Blue suggested, frowning as he thought hard.
Fawn shook his head. “We checked the remains. You know that dead bodies – even as damaged as those two are – still retain the ‘Mysteron aura’ within them. There was no such aura in them.”
“Then – they didn’t die with the destruction of Futura City?” Symphony remarked.
“That wouldn’t explain the apparent age of the bodies at the time of their death,” Fawn remarked.
“Of course - but then what? That doesn’t make sense.”
Everyone around the table were puzzled by the revelation; there were murmurs all around as they tried to extrapolate what it could all mean; only Captain Green stayed quiet and didn’t join in the chatter; his lips pursed, he was looking down, brooding, either listening with attention or completely lost in his thoughts. Colonel Blue, seated across from him, noted it, and fixed the younger man intently.
“It seems it’s yet another mystery to be added to the problem at hand, which seems unexplainable,” Blue said. “Along with Captain Scarlet, seemingly coming back from the dead. What do you think, Captain Green?”
Green raised his eyes and stared directly at his commander. “I think it’s all part of the same, unique mystery, Colonel,” he said in a quiet tone. “And that the answer lies in an equally same, unique explanation.”
Silence followed, as all eyes turned to Green at once.
“You have that explanation?”
Green kept quiet for a few more seconds, still thoughtful, as if carefully weighing his answer.
“I have – and it may look like a crazy theory to you. But as far as I can see, it’s the only logical explanation possible. And it would explain everything that might seem otherwise odd about this whole situation.”
“Please, Seymour, stop being so melodramatic,” Captain Black demanded, sighing. “Now what the bloody hell is this ‘crazy theory’ of yours?”
“First the facts, Captain Black, if you’ll permit me. Fifteen years ago, a bomb exploded over Futura, destroying the whole city and killing millions of people. In that explosion, the Goliath plane that transported the bomb disappeared without a trace. The same happened to Captain Scarlet – whom we know boarded the Goliath seconds before the explosion. And to the SPJ that was piloted by Destiny and Melody, which was flying nearby. We all thought they were vaporised – because for years, we never found a single piece of wreckage, nor a single trace of them.”
“And we looked for them,” Grey confirmed with an affirmative nod. “Because the subsequent investigation wanted to establish what exactly went wrong with the mission.”
“No complicated explanation for that,” Symphony muttered. “We ran out of time…”
“Symphony,” Blue said, in a tone that demanded that she didn’t start an argument. It was an old one, as for years after the event, Spectrum had been blamed for its ‘carelessness’ in handling the situation. Accusations that didn’t please anyone seated around the table at this moment. Even today, they all still felt the results of these charges, and what they did to their lives afterwards. “Please, continue, Seymour.”
Green cleared his throat and got to his feet. He started pacing around the table. He had found that walking helped him think more clearly, and that he could convey his thoughts in words much better that way.
“Three days ago – nearly fifteen years to the day after the destruction of Futura, suddenly, our radar picked up something falling from the sky. While looking for that something, we finally find the still burning remains of the missing Goliath and SPJ… along with the remains of Melody and Destiny – and a very much alive Captain Scarlet.”
“Not very much alive, no,” Black said. “But… he made quite a remarkable recovery, all things considered.”
“Three days, a lot longer than he used to,” Fawn retorted.
“He’s fifteen years older, Doctor, even if he doesn’t show it.”
Fawn was about to reply, when the voice of Green, who was continuing his explanation, cut in: “And what if he’s not?”
“Sorry?” Blue asked with a frown.
“What if he’s not really fifteen years older?” Green said carefully.
“Make sense, Captain,” Blue demanded abruptly. “So far, I can’t quite follow you.”
“None of us can,” Grey added.
“Why were the remains of the Goliath and the SPJ… still burning?”
“Hell, if I could answer that one, there would be no mystery,” Grey muttered.
“When we first found them – we thought they were the wreckage of what our radar saw falling from the sky,” Lieutenant Brown said at that moment.
“Yes, and afterwards, we dismissed that possibility rather quickly, didn’t we? Perhaps too quickly.”
“You are saying that they exactly were what our radars picked up?” Blue asked with a renewed frown.
“I believe so, yes.”
“Impossible,” Symphony murmured.
“Not as impossible as finding that burning wreckage – or the bodies of women whose deaths appeared to have happened three to five days ago, when we all know they died and disappeared fifteen years ago. Along with Captain Scarlet.”
“I’m growing impatient, Captain,” Blue said with a sigh. “To the point, please.”
“I’m coming to it, sir. Just a last detail to add before making that point. You do know – all of you – that the Mysterons used a Quantum Transmitter as the detonator to trigger that bomb over Futura, fifteen years ago.”
“Yes…” Blue said carefully. He was starting to see what Green was driving at, and wasn’t so sure the younger man wasn’t giving in to a personal obsession.
“What does it have to do with anything?” Grey asked.
“The Quantum Transmitter was supposed to have been developed for long-range space travel,” Captain Black answered. “The theory was that it supposedly would ‘bend’ the quantum field in the space/time continuum in order to ease and shorten, say, outer-solar system trips.” All eyes turned to him. Green offered a bright smile to Black.
“Very good and succinct explanation, Captain.”
“Hey, you know I take a special interest in space technology,” Black said with a shrug. “I still have fond memories of my time with the space program – notwithstanding my encounter with the Mysterons on Mars… So I like to keep myself informed. The Quantum Transmitter seemed like an interesting solution to long-range space travel. Unfortunately, following the… ‘Futura incident’ – it was advised by presidential order not to continue work on Quantum energy anymore.”
“True,” Green admitted. “Although before the presidential order was given, the last remaining prototype of the Q Transmitter was transported to Cloudbase.”
“I remember that. And it was destroyed with the base,” Blue reminded him.
“Yes well… that’s another story. Here’s my point, sir: when the Quantum bomb exploded over Futura years ago, it generated what is called a ‘Quantum Effect’ all over the city.”
“Which destroyed it almost entirely and contaminated it, with nuclear fallout,” Fawn remarked.
“Well, the fallout was the combined effect of the nuclear generator from Goliath and the Quantum energy discharged by the Q Transmitter. But the fallout wasn’t the only after-effect…”
“What else?” Blue asked.
“It’s all been explained by Professor Anton Barnard…”
“I know all about Professor Barnard’s Quantum Theory,” Blue cut in. “I remember you mentioning it to me a few times in the past.”
Green, who had completed a full round of the table, sat back in his seat.
“What is this… ‘Quantum Theory’?” Lieutenant Brown asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it…”
“Count yourself lucky,” Symphony said, rolling her eyes. “My ears are still aching from Seymour’s last lecture on the subject…”
“It’s quite simple,” Green explained, ignoring her interruption. “As Captain Black said earlier, the Q Transmitter was to be used to bend the space/time continuum to cut down length in space travels. Professor Barnard’s theory was that the Quantum Effect, if harnessed properly, could also be used – for travelling in time.”
“Time travel?” Fawn repeated with a doubtful frown. “Isn’t that like… pure fantasy?”
“Not at all,” Green answered. “According to Professor Barnard, we were this short of actually finding it.” He held his thumb and index finger a little way apart. “But however, still according to Professor Barnard, there were two major difficulties to overcome in order to perform time travel. First of all – it would seem that the Quantum Effect might only send a subject forward in time. Not backward.”
“There goes my chance of going back in time to stop myself from destroying the Mysterons’ city,” Black said with grim humour.
“Professor Barnard had started work to counter that problem. According to him, other searchers were close to finding a solution too. That was before work on that particular technology was banned under presidential order.”
“What was the other major problem?” Grey asked with curiosity.
“Well that might be the insurmountable one. Apparently – the Quantum Effect would place too much stress on a human body. If not properly protected, no-one would be able to survive a jump in time. And there’s nothing known so far that can present an effective protection against Quantum energy. It gets through everything.”
“But it’s still just a theory,” Blue retorted. “A theory that could not even be verified – the reasons mainly being that tests have stopped. That, and the fact that the last remaining Q Transmitter, which was given to Spectrum for safe-keeping just weeks before Cloudbase’s destruction – was also destroyed with the base.”
“There are many ways to verify a theory, Colonel,” Green said with a faint grin. “And I think that Captain Scarlet’s presence here – is a proof in itself that Professor Barnard’s theory is right.”
“You’re saying that he has been sent forward in time?” Brown asked in surprise.
“Geez, what a surprise,” murmured Symphony. “I had already figured out the conclusion of Seymour’s little speech about halfway through it…”
“And me,” Fawn said grumpily.
“Not only Scarlet,” Green said quickly. “But the Goliath, and the SPJ as well – that’s why we found those remains three days ago, and never before that. They were destroyed fifteen years ago by the blast. But they made a jump in time – and finished crashing here, in this era.”
“That sounds ludicrous… then why wasn’t the whole city transported too, then?”
“I don’t fully know how the Quantum Effect is supposed to work exactly, Captain Grey. But what I know is that Scarlet was inside the Goliath, very near to the source of the Quantum Effect emission when that nuclear generator exploded.”
“And the SPJ was flying close by,” Blue said thoughtfully.
“According to you – the stress is too much on a human body,” Blue continued. “Destiny and Harmony were probably killed by the blast anyway – but what about Scarlet?”
“Well – Scarlet is not… exactly… or at least not entirely… human. His unique, Mysteronised body might have permitted him to survive the ordeal. In theory.”
“Point taken,” Blue said. “If we accept this theory of yours, Captain Green, how can we make sure it is exactly what happened?”
“Captain Scarlet looks exactly the same way he did, fifteen years ago,” Black noted.
“Hardly evidence,” Blue shot back. “According to Doctor Fawn’s prognosis years ago, due to his Mysteronisation, Scarlet might not even age anymore, unlike any of us.”
“Lucky dog,” Grey murmured, stroking his grey hair.
“That was another theory,” Fawn corrected. “As far as I know today, I might have been wrong on that account. He might be able to age – if not normally, at least at a reduced rate – slower than us.”
“That still doesn’t give us any substantial confirmation that Captain Green’s explanation is right. For all we know, for the last fifteen years, Captain Scarlet might have been back under the Mysterons’ control.”
“What about Captain Black’s earlier statement?” Grey suggested.
“What about the wreckage we found – and the two bodies?” Symphony continued.
Blue scowled. If some of his staff seemed ready to accept Green’s ‘theory’ as hard facts, he wasn’t. “I will need more than that to be convinced.”
“Then how about this, Colonel?” Green fished something out of his pocket and put it on the table, sliding it towards the Spectrum commander. It bumped into Blue’s hand and he picked it up, slowly, to examine it carefully.
“An old Spectrum-issue watch?” he said, looking over to Green, who was waiting. “Red hands… Scarlet’s.”
Green nodded in confirmation. “It was on his wrist when we found him. It’s very sturdy. It took some beating but – it’s still working.”
“So I see.”
“Takes a leaping, keeps on ticking…” Symphony commented with humour, leaning over to look at the watch too.
“Check the date displayed on the face, sir,” Green advised. “Don’t you notice anything?”
“I will need glasses,” Blue muttered, narrowing his eyes. “Wait, I see… October… thirty-one… Two thousand…” He stopped, then looked up again to meet Green’s eyes, set on him.
“October 31, 2072,” Green said quietly. “The destruction of Futura occurred on October 28… Three days before.”
“And we found Scarlet three days ago,” Black finished, opening wide eyes of surprise.
“Impossible,” Grey repeated for the nth time.
“Oh God…” Symphony murmured. “Could it be…?”
The murmurs continued around the table, as everyone now argued and discussed Green’s theory. It was Blue’s turn to keep quiet now, as he contemplated the watch he was holding in his right hand, his brow furrowed, thinking fast and hard about it all – refusing – accepting – denying – admitting – doubting – that it could be true.
After a few seconds, Blue lifted his hand to request silence – which he obtained only when he raised his voice firmly.
“Captain Grey, Doctor Fawn will need the remains of Destiny and Melody Angels for a time, to pursue his examination. But when it’s done, I want them to be buried with all the honours they both deserve.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Grey answered.
“We shall all attend the ceremony,” Blue continued, looking down thoughtfully at the watch still in his hand. “Captain Green. Your… theory… is taken into consideration.”
“Doctor Fawn, your request to have Scarlet transferred to sickbay is approved. But keep him in the security room. For the time being, Captain Scarlet will remain in your custody. Make him comfortable, but he should remain under surveillance, with a guard at his door. I want you to conduct as many tests as you see fit. To verify that he’s… himself… and not a Mysteron pawn. And if possible, to see if you can check Captain Green’s theory. Captain Green… and Captain Black might be of help for you. Each of them with his own expertise.”
Blue stood up, and everyone did the same. The meeting was coming to an end.
“I’ll be waiting for your report as soon as you can give it to me. I’ll make my decision regarding Captain Scarlet following this. As you can imagine, I can’t permit myself to take any chances – there are too many things at stake for us to rush in without proper care. Dismissed. That’ll be all for now.”
Chapter 3 – You can’t go home anymore
“A jump in time? Who the bloody hell do you think you’re kidding?”
In the bare sickbay room in which he was kept, a much calmer Captain Scarlet, now dressed in plain grey coveralls, was seated on the side of his bed, and was looking intently at his three visitors, narrowing his eyes at them with suspicion. Doctor Fawn – an obviously older Doctor Fawn, with large streaks of grey in his hair – was seated on a low stool by his side, making a routine examination of his health. Colonel Blue was standing rigidly in front of him, his arms crossed on his chest, with Green – Captain Green now, as Blue had presented him – who also looked different from the man Scarlet remembered; he had put on a little weight, and there were a few lines marking his once very youthful face.
The three men had come that day, and together entered Scarlet’s room – his cell, Scarlet called it, considering he was never to leave it, and that it was almost always locked, with an armed guard standing in front of the door. They explained the situation to him with their… rather wild story. Still weary since his previous encounter with Blue – and Black – two days earlier, Scarlet nevertheless listened to what they had to say. He was very sceptical at first, and that scepticism kept growing as the explanation – mostly given by Green – unfolded. There was nothing there to really reassure Scarlet.
And yet… the Englishman had to admit that he couldn’t find a hole in these men’s suspicious story. Actually, their very presence in front of him, looking so different, so much older than he recalled, was in itself a proof that Green’s explanation – or rather, theory – was indeed the truth.
To say that Scarlet was shaken by the revelation was an understatement; so it would really appear he had indeed disappeared for fifteen years - following the Futura City debacle, during which Spectrum had thought he had been blown to smithereens. Not only that, but the incident had sent him straight into this time – this… Future. He had not aged, he had not seen time pass – unlike his Spectrum colleagues, now standing before him.
What other explanation could there be – if this is not true? It explained too much for it not to be real.
And yet, it still seemed so far-fetched that Scarlet kept a certain amount of doubt after Green finished his speech.
Scarlet’s eyes moved from Green to meet those of Colonel Blue, who was staring at him with deep attention. There didn’t seem to be any accusation in Blue’s eyes anymore, and yet, Scarlet could still notice some reservation in them – or even underlying suspicion. Even though Blue’s expression was definitely less severe than it had previously been, there still was an air of strictness surrounding him, that reminded Scarlet a lot of how he often felt in Colonel White’s presence. This was probably due to Blue’s present duties as Spectrum’s high commander.
“Would we make up a story like this?” Blue asked, not lowering his gaze under Scarlet’s probing eyes.
“As far as we can tell, this is what happened to you,” Green concluded.
“But you can’t expect me to swallow an explanation like this… without doubting you one bit?”
“As you can’t expect us to not suspect you at all – that you might be a Mysteron agent,” Blue retorted.
Scarlet bristled at the remark. “I am not.”
“So you keep saying.” Blue turned to Fawn. “Doctor, how is your patient?”
“As ever, as healthy as a pig,” Fawn commented in a falsely grumpy tone. “The gas didn’t have any lasting effect on him. That shouldn’t surprise me either, mind you.” He addressed a sheepish smile to a grim-looking Scarlet. “I somehow lost the habit of treating indestructible agents…”
“Thank you, Doctor – I think,” Scarlet said, lifting a brow. “Can you confirm to your commander now that I am the real thing, and not some kind of… alien doppelganger?”
“I already did that. Or we wouldn’t be here to speak to you to begin with.” Fawn rose to his feet, huffing as he did so, and turned to address Blue. “But if you need a further confirmation, Colonel… as far as I can see, this Captain Scarlet is the same one who disappeared fifteen years ago.”
Blue stroked his short beard pensively, looking down at Scarlet, who was also chewing over the information that had just been revealed to him. “Scarlet, I know you don’t yet trust us completely yet…”
“How can I trust you – after I saw Captain Black by your side and you presented him to me as your… second-in-command? As far as I knew, prior to my… ‘disappearance’, Black was still under Mysteron control. Now you tell me he’s not anymore?”
“He was freed years ago,” Fawn confirmed.
“A likely story.”
“A true story,” Blue replied. “He’s been fighting by Spectrum’s side for too long now. We have no reason to doubt his loyalty to the cause.”
“Not like me, these days, is it?”
There was some bitterness in Scarlet’s tone, that Blue noticed quite easily. “You can’t blame us for being cautious. You, more than anyone else, know that, with the Mysterons, we can’t allow ourselves to take any risk.”
Scarlet didn’t deign to answer.
“We are on the level with you, Captain,” Green said in turn, in a tone of great sincerity. “We are speaking the truth. We are not your enemies.”
“But you keep me in this… cell… with a guard at my door… You’ll have to do better than that.”
“We will,” Blue then said. “I will allow you to leave this room, Captain, and you’ll receive proper quarters in the officers’ block.”
“That’s too generous of you.”
“However, I will have to give orders for you to be kept under surveillance for a while. I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course,” Scarlet murmured. “You could say I’m used to it… Colonel.”
“It should be a temporary measure,” Blue assured him. “Until we are sure you are… who you really say you are.”
Scarlet slowly nodded his understanding; if Blue still appeared doubtful about him, he was himself wary of Blue.
“As long as you don’t plant a gas bomb in my quarters… I’m sure we’ll get along perfectly fine.”
Green chuckled at those words and Fawn guffawed. He gave Scarlet’s shoulder an encouraging thump, before turning to Blue.
“Told you it was a mean thing you did to him… It’s likely he won’t forget it anytime soon. Nor forgive it. That is so like Scarlet, that you can’t doubt it’s really him, Colonel.”
“We’ll see,” Blue murmured. But a thin smile had appeared on his lips, as he pronounced the words.
Blue turned to the door and gave a brief order to the guard standing outside; the man stepped into the room. On one arm hung folded dark clothes, that looked like the uniform worn by both Blue and Green, and a pair of dark boots in the other hand. Still a little suspicious, Scarlet stayed where he was, looking without moving as Green went to the guard and took both uniform and boots. He came back to stand in front of Scarlet.
“I took the liberty of having this made for you,” Blue explained, as Green presented the boots first. “This is standard uniform for officers now.”
Green handed the clothes to Scarlet who took them, a little awkwardly. “It’s less colourful, that’s true,” the black man said with a smile. “But – a little more comfortable.”
“At least you lost the shoulder pads,” Scarlet muttered.
“Captain Green and Doctor Fawn will be returning to their duties. But I’ll be waiting outside until you have changed,” Colonel Blue then said. “Don’t take too long.” Without even waiting for Scarlet’s acknowledgement, he walked out with the guard, and Green and Fawn followed behind, addressing their salutations to Scarlet. The door closed behind them.
Now alone in the room, Scarlet stared a moment at the red piping of the uniform, running along the dark grey cloth. He still had trouble absorbing all that had been revealed to him.
Fifteen years in the future? Jump in time? Captain Black being free of Mysteron control?
Cloudbase destroyed and Colonel White dead… and Blue, his partner, his old friend, was Spectrum commander now…
He doesn’t trust me. Not entirely.
But obviously, he’s giving me the benefit of the doubt. Or he wouldn’t have given me this.
Sighing, Scarlet put the uniform down onto the bed next to him and stood up, starting to remove his coveralls. The new Spectrum commander was waiting for him, beyond that door.
Better not make him wait too long…
As the door slid open minutes later, and Scarlet walked out of the room, it was to find Colonel Blue all alone, leaning against the wall, waiting patiently. Blue straightened up when he saw Scarlet appear; he looked approvingly at the uniform the Englishman was now wearing.
“Well, I say it suits you fine,” he said quietly, as the door closed behind Scarlet.
“No guard?” Scarlet said, looking around to discover the corridor in which they were standing was empty. Must be under camera surveillance, though.
Blue smiled faintly. “I might be older than you now, but I’m still quite able to take care of myself if you turn out to be a danger to me.”
“Never doubted it for a minute.”
The two men looked at each other, eye to eye. “I suppose you have a lot of questions to ask,” Blue continued carefully. “A lot has happened in these last fifteen years, since your disappearance. I guess the best thing would be to bring you up to date.” He motioned with his hand toward the nearby elevator, down the corridor. “And to give you the grand tour of the base, while doing so.”
Scarlet nodded his head. “It would be one way of proving to me that you’re telling the truth.”
Scarlet accepting the invitation, both men headed toward the elevator. As they were walking, Scarlet noticed, not for the first time, Blue’s slight limp. There also was a faint hydraulic sound coming from his right leg whenever he put it to the ground. Despite his best efforts to appear inconspicuous as he was glancing down at Blue’s leg, the latter did notice. But he said nothing, until they found themselves in the elevator and he pressed the button up to the fourth level.
“I always wondered what would happen, if the Mysterons Mysteronised someone with a missing limb,” Blue said matter-of-factly. “Would they be able to replace it, or would it still be missing? What do you think?”
Scarlet felt himself reddening violently. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare…”
Blue shrugged. “No harm done.”
“What do you mean, ‘missing limb’? What happened to your leg?”
“You certainly can be thick when you want. I lost it during my last mission as a ground agent.”
“Lost…? You mean, it’s completely gone?” Scarlet sounded shocked.
“Mmm-mmm. From the knee down.”
“Adam… I’m sorry. Did you lose it during the destruction of Futura? You said you were not far enough when…”
“No… and yes. The Presidential plane did make a narrow escape, and we had to make an emergency landing at sea, during which I was injured. Rather badly. But it was less than two months after that, the ‘other incident’ occurred. I wasn’t quite… ready to go back on duty, still recovering from the crash, actually. And my partner wasn’t there to cover my back anymore…” Blue hesitated. “I got careless. Doctor Fawn did whatever he could to save my leg, but… that wasn’t enough. So he had to… replace it.” Leaning against the side of the lift, Blue bent down and raised his right leg, to pull the end of his pant leg up slightly. Scarlet found himself staring down, with morbid fascination, at the plastic-like surface of an artificial leg; the ankle was metallic, and looked like a huge hydraulic bolt. “It’s a bionic smart leg,” Blue explained, tapping with his knuckles on the surface of the leg. “The knee and ankle are motor-driven. There’s a computer microchip inside the leg, which is electronically linked through electronic sensors attached to my other ankle. That gives information to the leg, so it follows my walking patterns, giving me complete mobility. And barely a limp.” He pulled the pant leg down and stood on his two feet. “State of the art, at the time I received it. Unfortunately, there’s that faint hydraulic sound… Which makes people who don’t know – like you – wonder about it.”
“I’m guessing you don’t get through airports easily with that.”
Blue scoffed, and smiled, almost despite of himself. “I’m not getting through airports easily even without, so…”
“What do you mean?”
Blue kept silent; the elevator had reached their floor and stopped. The door slid open in front of them and they walked out. Scarlet took a mental note to ask his question again later as he looked around in wonder at the large room in which he found himself, while following just one step behind Blue. There were a lot of people working around, moving from one station to the other, and exchanging files and information. The room was a beehive of activity.
That multicoloured screen in the middle – with all those working stations… It looks like the computer centre Green used to man on Cloudbase…
“This is the nerve centre of Spectrum, these days,” Blue explained, his voice echoing through the room. “As you can see for yourself, it’s like a mix of the old Control Room and the Information Centre on Cloudbase.” He pointed to the round, computerised desk, set at the far end of the room. “I even had my desk based on the one on Cloudbase,” he explained.
“So I see,” Scarlet said, looking with interest. “Lots of people here. Don’t you find it a little overwhelming if you want to work in peace and quiet?”
“There’s a wall that can be lowered by remote control between my desk and the rest of the room, if ever I need privacy,” Blue explained. “Quite similar to the one there was on Cloudbase, except it’s not transparent, and has a door – which I can use without removing the wall.”
Scarlet had raised his head to the many screens suspended over the long wall of computerised stations. He could see many images, displayed from cities all around the world. Here there was Washington D.C… There, London… And there Hong Kong… And there…
Scarlet narrowed his eyes, as he came to stand in front of one of the screens; it displayed only desolation – the image of a dark city, with half-destroyed buildings barely standing, and a dark cloud hovering as far as the eye could see. Blue came to stand beside him.
“Futura City,” he explained – but Scarlet had already guessed that. “Or what is left of it, to be precise. A dead city now. You won’t find much there.”
“This is terrible,” Scarlet said in a murmur. “No… horrible is the word. I can’t believe… millions died in that explosion.”
“A few years ago, it was still inhabited by a few scavengers, living like wild animals, who’d fight each other for whatever scrap of contaminated meal they could find. It’s been a couple of years since we saw any of them. I’m guessing they all died out from the contamination.”
“Couldn’t you help them?” Scarlet asked, shocked.
“No… not without risking our lives trying, anyway.”
Scarlet looked troubled. “And I… landed there and you found me? That couldn’t have been by pure luck.”
“Futura City is under constant surveillance by our radar and cameras,” Blue answered. He didn’t say more on the subject, unsure if he should reveal everything to Scarlet. He saw the latter suddenly going rigid as his eyes lit on a specific point behind Blue. The Spectrum commander heard footsteps and turned – in time to greet the two men who were approaching them.
“Ah yes… Captain Scarlet – I believe you know my second-in-command? Captain Black?”
Black, who was accompanied by Lieutenant Brown, stopped in front of Scarlet and, offering a broad smile, held out his hand in a welcoming gesture. “I believe we met … but not really properly.”
The voice was certainly nothing like Scarlet remembered it, from the time Black was under Mysteron control; no gloomy tone, no alien coldness. No, it was warm, and certainly sounded human – like it was before the Mars incident. Black’s features were not gaunt anymore either – his face had normal colour, and his eyes were alive and gleaming with intelligence and confidence.
Not dark, cold and unemotional…
“You are considerably calmer than yesterday, Captain Scarlet.”
“I am… Captain Black.” Still a little wary, Scarlet nonetheless agreed to shake hands with Black. He noticed the hand was warm – and the shake was friendly.
“Don’t be apprehensive of me, Paul,” Black said with a larger smile. “I’m not the… ‘creature’ you once knew.”
“Colonel Blue told me you’re free of the Mysterons’ influence.”
“For twelve years now. And I relish each day of freedom like a man who has been in prison for twenty years.” He fell silent for a moment, and then looked contrite. “But I regret every action the Mysterons made me take. Including what I did against you.”
Scarlet simply nodded, unsure what
to answer; he felt awkward, facing Black – the man who had been his worst enemy
for years. True, Black now looked human
enough – but Scarlet couldn’t help this uncomfortable feeling inside of
him. It would obviously take him time
to get accustomed to the fact that he and Black were fighting on the same side
– as they had before the Mysterons appeared in their lives.
“Captain, this is someone I would like to introduce to you – and that I am sure you would like to meet.” Scarlet turned to Colonel Blue, as the latter was putting a hand on the shoulder of the young man standing next to Black, inviting him to step forward. He had brown hair and hazel eyes, which were fixed sharply on Scarlet. He was wearing the same uniform as his elders, with brown piping. He was considerably younger than either Blue or Black; Scarlet wondered if he even was twenty years old.
“This is the younger member of our senior staff – Lieutenant Brown.”
“Lieutenant…” Scarlet said as the younger man went rigid in front of him, standing almost to attention. “…Brown?” He frowned, looking intensely at the young man’s stern face, now that he had heard the name. And then something clicked. “Oh my… Are you related to…”
“So you do recognise him, do you?” Blue said with a faint smile.
“You are… Steve Blackburn’s son?” Scarlet asked with disbelief.
“Steve Blackburn Jr… sir,” Lieutenant Brown presented himself. Scarlet noticed how the young man seemed distant toward him, almost on his guard. And there was that strict expression on his face that didn’t look quite natural with his youthful features. Too young to look that severe, Scarlet told himself.
“Most of us call him ‘Chip’,” Black said, thumping Brown’s back. The latter addressed him a warning glare that didn’t seem to deter Black at all. Scarlet automatically understood that these two were very close. “He doesn’t like it,” Black said with a teasing smile.
“Any reason why they call you that?” Scarlet asked, raising a brow.
Brown considered his answer for a short moment. “People say I have a chip on my shoulder,” he finally said. “The name kind of stuck… sir.”
“Your father was a good friend of mine.”
“Was he?” There was a warning frown from Blue and Brown caught himself. “I heard you were his last partner – before he died, Captain,” he said instead.
“I was,” Scarlet conceded, regretfully. “You father was a wonderful man… a good officer, and a great pilot.”
“So I heard,” Brown said, looking down and refusing to look Scarlet in the eyes. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to meet him.” He seemed hesitant for a second, before turning to Blue. “With your permission, Colonel… I have some duties to attend to.”
Blue nodded briefly, eyeing the young man closely. “Dismissed, Lieutenant.”
Brown thanked him and turned his back on them, without a last look at Scarlet, and went to one of the computer stations. Scarlet followed him intently with his eyes. The awkward silence that fell on the group for a short moment was broken by Captain Black, who cleared his throat.
“I too have things to attend to, Colonel,” he told Blue. “So if you will excuse me… Captain Scarlet, I hope we will meet again later… and chat.”
“Nice… er, seeing you again, Captain Black.” But even as Black left, Scarlet’s eyes didn’t leave Brown, as the young man was leaning over an operator to check with him some information displayed on a screen. Brown looked just once over his shoulder in his direction, very briefly – and quickly averted his eyes when he noticed the captain was looking at him.
“He doesn’t like me much, does he?” Scarlet noted to Blue.
“He doesn’t trust you as far as he could throw you,” Blue answered truthfully. “Don’t mind him. Chip is distrustful of strangers by nature. I should say it’s even more true with you, considering your connection – pardon me, past connection – with the Mysterons.”
“He doesn’t seem to mind Black at all. Quite the contrary.”
“It’s different with Black – he practically raised him.” Scarlet addressed an inquiring look to Blue who shook his head. “Don’t worry. He’ll come around – when he gets to know you.”
“He must be – what – no older than eighteen?”
“Nineteen in two months, actually.”
“Very young to be in such a position within Spectrum, isn’t it?”
Blue shrugged. “We need every available hand, Scarlet. We really can’t afford to be choosy.” Without saying more – although he could feel that Scarlet was ready to ask more questions – Blue gestured toward another nearby lift. “Come on. There’s a lot more for you to see.”
In the following hour, during which Colonel Blue led Captain Scarlet on the grand tour of the base, the latter discovered that the complex, set on twelve levels, according to the readings on the various lifts they used and the markings on the walls, was as huge – if not larger – than Cloudbase used to be, with nearly all the same facilities and utilities for the organisation to pursue its work: state of the art equipment, computers, radio-communications, means of transportation… living accommodations. There were even greenhouses, using artificial sunlight on the lower levels, where base personnel grew vegetables and fruit for the whole community. At this point, Scarlet realised that what he suspected already about the base, was a reality.
“This whole complex is underground.”
They had boarded one last elevator to return to the highest levels, when he made that comment, and Blue turned to him. “Rather easy to figure that out, isn’t it?”
“Well, the hydroponic systems in a cave did give it away,” Scarlet said with a shake of his head. “And I noticed this base is arranged in ‘levels’. If it had been a building, you would have used the term ‘floors’. No?”
“We had ‘levels’ on Cloudbase…” Blue pointed out.
“Cloudbase was a hovering carrier – a far cry from a building.”
Blue smiled thinly. “You are right, of course.”
“And am I also right to assume this whole complex is directly underneath Futura City?”
This time, Blue shot him a suspicious glance. “And how did you find that one out?”
“Easy. I can’t see any reason for your people to maintain constant observation of a dead city with state-of-the-art cameras equipped with infra-red vision and able to see through deep radioactive clouds. No reason, that is, except one.”
“It’s part of our security surveillance,” Blue admitted. He waved around. “You’re right again. This complex is directly beneath the dead city. The whole twelve levels go down many metres under the surface.”
“I would say it’s rather a strange place to have your headquarters,” Scarlet noted. “But I’m sure you have your reasons.”
“It’s not as if we had any choice, Paul. Our enemies keep looking for us. So we have to hide somewhere safe. And this is as safe as it can ever be.”
Scarlet smiled. “Thank you, Adam.”
“For what?” a surprised Blue asked.
“For calling me ‘Paul’. For a moment there… I felt like you thought Paul Metcalfe didn’t exist anymore. If nothing else – it might be proof that you’re giving me the benefit of the doubt – and maybe…you’re starting to trust me?”
Blue pondered about that, then smiled slightly. “What makes you think I trust you?” he asked pointedly.
“You wouldn’t give me the grand tour if you didn’t.”
Blue chuckled. “Believe me… there’s not much harm done in showing you around. Except for the Control Room, I pretty much avoided the most crucial parts of the complex. Beside, you can’t leave to inform anyone of your discoveries – and if I had the slightest suspicion that you would use that against us…”
“I would be dead in the water?” Scarlet said matter-of-factly.
“Once and for all,” Blue answered, a little icily. “Believe me, we still can deal with virtual indestructibility even today.”
Scarlet shrugged, rather dismissively, despite the seriousness of the threat. “Adam, I can’t help noticing how… wary you are. Not only you, but nearly everyone I’ve met. And not only towards me – which in retrospect, I would find natural, considering the situation. No… there’s something else.” He glanced sideways at the silent man standing by his side. “You’ve kept dropping hints, without going into further detail. You said you needed a safe place to hide…”
“Yes… so I did.”
“Hiding from whom? The Mysterons?”
Blue shook his head. “The Mysterons are not our only concern these days.”
“Okay… that much I guessed. Adam, I’ve been patient enough – more patient than I usually am. Now I want to know the full story. What happened to Spectrum, to everyone else…” He hesitated slightly, fighting himself not to drop any names. Already, he was concerned about Rhapsody – Dianne – his fiancée. Blue had made no mention of her so far. And surely, he must KNOW I’m dying to know if she’s all right…
Blue glanced at Scarlet, pursing his lips. Then he spoke, very quietly: “Yes, I did promise you an explanation, didn’t I?”
“Why are you hiding in this complex?” Scarlet asked. “And who is it you’re hiding from, beside the Mysterons?”
Blue grunted. “Would you believe… the World Government?”
To that answer, Scarlet could only frown in disbelief.
Chapter 4 – Edge of Reality
“Officially, Spectrum is disbanded, Captain Scarlet. And if you didn’t know that fact, then I guess Green’s theory about you having jumped in time and missed the last fifteen years must be true.”
Colonel Blue had taken Scarlet to the officers’ lounge, on the level where the living accommodations for officers were located. They were alone in the large room, sitting on one of the two large sofas, each with a cup of coffee. There was a beautiful rock fountain in the middle of the room, just next to them, and aside from Blue’s voice, the sound of softly running water was all that could be heard throughout the place.
“I guess you could say it all started with the Futura City debacle,” Blue explained, turning his cup in his hands. “Putting aside the failed mission to Mars, which started it all, it was, in all probability, Spectrum’s greatest failure. Millions of people dead, others left without a place to live in a radioactive city… The months that followed were a nightmare, trying to save as many lives as possible. Rebuilding Futura was out of the question… not with it being contaminated as it was. And according to the experts – it’ll take the better part of a century before it’s safe to set foot there.”
Blue took a sip of his coffee, before moving on. “With Futura City gone, the World Government was then forced to relocate their headquarters elsewhere – they elected to settle in London, and have been there ever since. Three days after the destruction of the World Capital, there was a very important conference in Geneva – where political leaders and heads of State from all around the world came to discuss international security – it was a conference that the Mysterons threatened to sabotage, and indeed, we were able to counter the threat that time around – rather discreetly, and almost too easily. But… it was already too late to make a difference.”
“Pressed by demands, the World Government Council had already decided that there should be an investigation of Spectrum’s actions – not only during these events, which ended in such tragedy, but also ever since the beginning of the War of Nerves. After all, it was a mission led by a Spectrum officer that started it all… Lots of people within the World Government felt that Spectrum was largely responsible for the war and that it was time for the organisation to be held accountable. They thought that, perhaps, that much power was too much to leave in the hands of one sole organisation, answerable only to the World President himself. Despite all of President Younger’s efforts in arguing against all of Spectrum’s denigrators, and attempts to counter their devastating effects, he was unable to stop the machine that was set in motion.”
“That must have been Hell for Colonel White,” Scarlet mused.
Blue nodded. “Colonel White was called in front of a Government committee to answer questions – we were all called upon to testify. At this point, the whole affair became some kind of high-stakes political game. The debate heated up, as the World Presidential elections were approaching. The fiercest rival against Younger for the elections also became Spectrum’s most ferocious opponent: former United States President, John A. Roberts.”
“Roberts!?” Scarlet said in surprise. “But… Spectrum saved his life in the past. He was our ally! How…?”
“It didn’t seem to matter to him,” Blue retorted. “Our many successes didn’t count anymore. Roberts was determined to ruthlessly demonstrate how ineffective – and even dangerous – the Spectrum organisation had proved to be. And quite frankly, there was nothing much we could do against all that whole hate campaign. The campaign had been carefully orchestrated against both Younger and Spectrum. During the months that followed, the resentment and opposition against Spectrum grew amongst the world’s political communities, fuelled by arguments and debates by Spectrum’s strongest challengers who came to join Roberts in his crusade.”
“You said ‘former United States President’,” Scarlet suddenly noted.
“Shortly after the Geneva conference, where he had already spoken out strongly against Spectrum activities, Roberts had left his office in Washington, to become a senator of the World Government. But his campaign against us really started then – with no holds barred, and with the obvious intention of winning. He went as far as accusing Spectrum of being Younger’s own elitist police; he… ‘suggested’ to the members of Parliament, that the whole ‘Mysterons’ War of Nerves’ was nothing but a meticulously crafted scam, put in place solely to extort millions of dollars of Government money, that was originally credited to Spectrum’s extensive budget for worldwide security.”
“That’s ludicrous!” Scarlet exclaimed. “How can he believe something like that himself, when he barely escaped with his life from Mysteron attacks… twice?”
“Oh, the question was asked… He said that he never actually saw a Mysteron agent making an attempt on his life. As far as he could tell, those so-called Mysteron agents were either terrorists from a lesser group that Spectrum passed off as Mysterons – or worse, hired guns following orders from Spectrum itself. Colonel White was livid.”
“I bet! Surely, no-one in their right mind in the Government believed those accusations? And the population around the world…”
“Yeah, well, considering the recent events with Futura City, Roberts’s cause had a lot of supporters. As for the population – Roberts was a very popular U.S. President, with a reputation of being tough, but also fair. The major consensus was that, if Roberts, who in the past was such a strong supporter of Younger – and Spectrum – had so drastically changed his position… he must have had a good reason.”
“Right,” Scarlet mumbled. “What happened next?”
Blue sighed. “You are right on one account: despite Roberts’ hate campaign, both Younger and Spectrum still had strong support within the World Government – and the population at large. Note that during that time, Spectrum still had to counter various Mysteron attacks – with different degrees of success. You could say that our hearts weren’t really in it. It was during one of those mission that I… lost my leg.” Blue was silent for a moment, during which he took the opportunity to sip at his coffee. “Two events happened after that,” he said gloomily. “The first one: the Mysterons made an attack on Roberts.”
“They did?” a surprised Scarlet asked. “But… he was doing their job.”
“Well, whatever their real intentions, it actually gave ammunition to Roberts’ cause. And that might actually have been the strategy behind their plan. You see – they used one of Spectrum to attack him. They killed and Mysteronised Harmony.”
“Oh no…” Scarlet murmured.
“She made an aerial attack – using a Spectrum Angel – at a gathering, during which Roberts was to make a speech. We actually succeeded in stopping her – Symphony and Rhapsody… blew her out of the sky. The hardest thing they had ever done, they told me later on. You would think Roberts would have stopped his attack against us after that?”
“No,” Scarlet said in a dark tone.
“He used this attempted assassination against him as further evidence that Spectrum had got out of control – and was actually trying to shut him off, using, yet again, according to him, the false pretext of a ‘Mysteron’ attack.’ His arguments weighed heavily in the balance and Roberts’ attacks intensified as the election date approached. And then… two weeks before the vote, something terrible happened.”
“The second event you were referring to, earlier.”
“Younger was found dead in a hotel room in London.”
Scarlet, who was about to take a mouthful of coffee, stopped his cup an inch from his mouth. Blue shook his head, reading the mute question in his friend’s surprised eyes.
“The official version is that he committed suicide. Unable to face the accusations from Roberts and his followers, supposedly out of guilt, he killed himself, by putting a bullet in his head.”
“I don’t believe that crap!” Scarlet retorted forcefully. “Younger wasn’t the kind to contemplate suicide!”
“In any case, his death changed the political picture around the world overnight. His party was unable to find anyone to replace him against Roberts, in the subsequent elections.”
“So Roberts won easily,” Scarlet concluded.
“Too easily. And the fact that he had won didn’t mean he would stop what seemed to have become his personal war against Spectrum. Quite the contrary. Once he had become World President, he had the full powers to do whatever he wanted. The attacks became more aggressive, and he presented more evidence in his case, tarnishing Spectrum’s reputation a little more each time.”
“So that’s how it happened,” Scarlet murmured.
“Eventually, he ordered the organisation to cease and desist all operations and to disband,” Blue said with a nod. “Some of us had to report at once to the nearest military base, to be questioned on Spectrum’s activities – supposedly illegal activities, with the assurance that if we… ‘had nothing to hide and were innocent, an in-depth investigation will clear us and we will be free to go.’ Considering how things had gone until then, most of us regarded this offer with considerable doubt and scepticism.”
“As well you should,” Scarlet commented.
“Colonel White… refused to stand down. And so he was targeted with accusations of embezzlement, conspiracy, terrorist acts, and high treason. He was offered a reduced sentence, if he were to testify against the late Word President Younger, confess to the lesser charges – mind you, I don’t know what exactly could be considered a lesser charge in that terrible list of accusations – and release Spectrum’s files to the World Government. The files that listed all our names, location of equipment, financial accounts – all the information that only he – and possibly Younger – had access to. He also refused to hand Cloudbase over to the WAAF. Bearing in mind how easily he had lied, cheated and framed Spectrum and Younger with false evidence, the colonel didn’t trust Roberts not to use it for his own purposes. He said that he would be damned if he was going to surrender his ship to a buggering weasel like Roberts.”
“I do recognise the old man there,” Scarlet said with a faint smile.
“On the day he was to surrender Cloudbase, he took her over the Himalayas, while ordering the evacuation of her remaining crew – there were still more than a hundred personnel onboard at the time. With all these people gone, we had a last meeting with the colonel, that day, as the last officers to leave. He held something of a short ceremony, first in memory of our honoured fallen comrades…” Blue addressed an acknowledging nod to Scarlet himself, “…then he told us how proud he had been to serve by our side, and, after giving Green a memory stick, on which he had saved information that might eventually be useful to us, he ordered us off base. WAAF fighters were hot on our tails, so we took various airplanes – SPJ, helicopters, Angel jets – to evacuate. The old man… stayed onboard. There was nothing we could say to make him change his mind.”
Scarlet straightened up in his seat. “He stayed onboard ‘til the end?”
Blue nodded his head. “He took Cloudbase down himself…” he murmured, looking into empty space. “I still remember the sight of her, as she dove toward the mountains… WAAF fighters were flying over her, shooting at her, as the colonel drew their attention to Cloudbase, to cover our escape. Explosions ripped her apart, from one end to the other. In a matter of seconds, we saw her disappear beyond the mountains – and then, we saw balls of fire erupting into the sky. We… didn’t stay around much longer after that. We quickly took off out of there, not waiting for the WAAF to turn their attention back on us.”
“My God,” Scarlet muttered.
“Colonel White was not only determined to keep Cloudbase from falling into the wrong hands,” Blue said, “he also protected us with that last gesture. All of Spectrum’s files onboard were destroyed as well. All the information about our identities. It was… his last gift, to his crew.”
Scarlet remained silent for a time, in deference to the man who had been his commander all those years ago – a man who had been a hero all his life, and who had died in a way befitting how he lived his life. It wasn’t so surprising that so many people respected Charles Grey so deeply – and to think that he had died with a tarnished reputation in the eyes of the world… It was simply unacceptable.
“Adam,” Scarlet said quietly, “I have to ask you this… You mentioned Dianne earlier…”
“You want to know if she’s all right,” Blue said with an understanding nod of his head. “Yes, she is. As far as I know, that is. She actually left Spectrum some time before everything started really falling apart. It was just after Harmony’s death. That was the last straw for her. The colonel accepted her resignation without asking questions. I think… he had noticed how your death – well… disappearance… had already affected her. The last I heard of her… she was living near London. In an old mansion her mentor had left her as an inheritance.”
“Creighton-Ward Mansion?” Scarlet asked, lifting a brow.
“I think that’s the name, yes.”
Scarlet nodded his thanks for the news, feeling relieved that Rhapsody had actually been spared all the grief of experiencing Spectrum’s ultimate downfall. However, he couldn’t help but feel guilty that she had had to suffer from his disappearance. He wondered what would be the best course of action, in regard to her. Should he find her, and see her again? His heart was yearning to go to her… but at the same time, he realised that for her, it had been fifteen years since she had thought him to be dead. He didn’t know how she would react upon seeing him again. He didn’t know if he really wanted to put her again all through that grief.
Better leave that for later, he told himself. It’s not like Blue would actually let me leave this place, anyway…
He cleared his throat. “How about the others?”
Blue drained the last of his coffee. “Well, Ochre had already left Spectrum at about the same time as Dianne… Not that he believed any of Roberts’s accusations against Spectrum, mind you – but he didn’t feel right to stay in the organisation with all those scandals popping around us. He received an offer to return to the World Government Police Corps. His… ‘story’ of how he had staged his own death in order to join Spectrum was all over the gossip magazines. Today, he’s WGPC supreme commander – following in the footsteps of Ian Stewart, who was assassinated by the Mysterons. Apparently, it was a post that Roberts himself offered to Rick – and that our old friend gladly accepted.”
“Rick – working for that no-good creep?” Scarlet said with a frown. “That doesn’t sound like him…”
“I think Rick’s point of view was that, despite all of his aversion to the man, his first duty was to the world population. Actually, I can’t argue with that. He’s doing wonders at his new post.”
“I bet. What about Patrick? He and Rick are – were good friends. How did he take it when Rick accepted that offer from Roberts?”
“Rather badly, I think. Magenta went his own way, after the Spectrum debacle. Apparently his… pardon was rescinded, considering all that Spectrum was suspected and accused of. It didn’t matter all the good he had done while serving in the organisation – all they could see was that he… might have had a hand in all the alleged corruption within Spectrum.”
“That’s not fair,” Scarlet said with a frown.
“He even was thrown into prison for a time, but he eventually got out – on his own.”
“You mean he escaped?”
“That’s what the rumours say. And as far as I know, he’s been rather bitter since then.”
“No surprise there…”
“The rest of us stuck together. Green, Grey, Fawn… Karen and myself. And a bunch of other members of the Cloudbase crew. We decided to defy the disbanding order from Roberts and to keep Spectrum going. Others joined us with time. You see, even though the World Government denied that there were any Mysteron activities, the fact remained that they knew they exist.”
“How did they finally come to that conclusion?” Scarlet asked, almost sarcastically.
Blue shrugged. “I think… many politicians were incensed by Roberts’s accusations at the time. There were some who were already convinced of the Mysterons’ existence… but held Spectrum responsible for the War of Nerves. And then there were those who thought that Spectrum was simply too powerful to be permitted to continue its activities. So… Roberts’s campaign must have provided the opportunity for these people to get rid of the organisation. Whether they believed most of the accusations against us or not.”
“That’s politicians for you…”
“Those who still had doubts about the Mysterons’ existence must have had an epiphany at some point. The fact remains… that the Mysterons were still there, and still waging their War of Nerves against Earth. They didn’t care about ‘petty fights’ between human factions; they didn’t care about politics, and the idiots behind the scenes. They still wanted to exterminate all life on the planet. And because of that… Spectrum had to continue the fight.”
“Albeit… unofficially,” Scarlet said with an understanding nod. “And going against any presidential order to cease and desist any activities.”
“We are considered outlaws,” Blue added. “Vigilantes taking the law into our own hands – we’ve even been called terrorists, as bad as those we were claiming to fight for the sake of Humanity’s survival. Can you believe that? We are chased around the planet like dangerous criminals.”
“But you continue the fight,” Scarlet noted.
“Why, then? Why not stop and let the Government deal with its own problem?”
Blue shrugged. “The Government doesn’t seem to be either inclined, or capable, of doing what Spectrum had set itself to do. I know there’s the W.A.A.F, the W.G.P.C., the Secret Service… and all the other security organisations. But they’re doing little more than damage control. Spectrum, despite being scorned by all those services – who want nothing except to put an end to our activities – is still the organisation with the best efficiency rate against the Mysterons. I don’t think the others don’t care – I just think they’re following the World Government’s official position regarding the Mysterons.”
“That they don’t exist.”
“Therefore, their effectiveness in countering the Mysterons’ attacks suffers.”
“How about Rick? He knows the Mysterons exist. He knows something must be done against them.”
“He does… but he’s being the good World Government soldier about it – by keeping his mouth shut.”
“That’s not the Rick Fraser I used to know.”
“We’ve all changed, Paul. Some of us in ways you would never believe.”
“Oh, I believe it,” Scarlet replied, nodding slowly. “ Black, for example… He does seem to have changed a lot…”
“You’re still suspicious of him,” Blue realised. “There’s no need, I can assure you, Paul.”
“Tell me about him. How did he come to get hooked up with Spectrum again?”
Blue blew a deep sigh. “About twelve years ago – the Mysterons launched yet another attack – this time in Australia, where Doctor Fawn had been visiting some family members. Black was to assassinate some bio-genetic engineer - who Fawn knew very well – who, once becoming an agent of the Mysterons, would have stolen a culture of a particularly hazardous bacteria that the Mysterons planned to use to wipe out half the population of Sydney. We stopped Black in time, before he was actually able to kill the man. Somehow, while trying to escape, he fell into a high voltage grid. It didn’t kill him, miraculously, and we were able to capture him. We took him to a secure Spectrum facility in Australia, and he stayed there in a coma for two full weeks, under Fawn’s care. When he woke up…”
“He was himself?” Scarlet suggested with a raised brow.
Blue nodded. “Fawn conducted various tests over a long period of time – and finally concluded that Black was indeed free of the Mysterons’ control. But it wasn’t like you, Paul. He retained much of the memory of what he did under their influence. And for a long time, his guilty conscience gave him such horrible nightmares at night that we thought he would eventually go insane. But Conrad is made of sterner stuff than most men… And then, there was Chip…”
“What does the young Mr. Blackburn have to do with Conrad? And how did he find himself with all of you?”
“You know that his mom had moved from London to Futura about a year before the blast. Becky was one of the numerous victims of the bomb. As for Chip… Conrad found him. Living like a wild animal amongst the ruins of Futura above.”
“He survived in that Hell?!”
“I admit – it does sound like a miracle. Like a few others, he had survived the destruction of the city – he was still so very young. He doesn’t remember much, or maybe he doesn’t want to remember - but he kind of recalls a woman who took care of him at the start. When he found himself alone, not long after that, he had to subsist on any scrap of food he could find, avoiding the other survivors who would not have hesitated to kill him to remove a competitor… and even, I’m horrified to even think of this, to get a little extra something to eat.”
Scarlet grimaced with disgust.
“That’s how it was up there, Paul. With time, the abandoned survivors became mad and sick, because of the radiation, and regressed to their most basic instincts. We did try a few times to help them, but without success. We even lost a couple of our men while trying.”
“You said something to that effect, earlier, yes.”
“Fortunately for Chip, the radiation had not done much damage to him – nothing permanent, that is – as he stayed in the less contaminated part of the city. But I can easily imagine how horrible it must have been for him… a kid alone in that dead city. Trying to survive all by himself… When he found him, and figured out who he was, Conrad took him under his wing. Maybe it was still the guilt driving him – because of what happened to the kid’s father – and then to his mother. All things considered, he turned out pretty well.”
“No wonder he has such a chip on his shoulder,” Scarlet noted. “After what he experienced… anyone would have gone mad.”
“Chip had… a lot of anger in him when he was found. He still has some to this day, but to a lesser degree. Well, at least, he learned to control it. He despises what the World Government has done to us – and more than anything, he hates anything Mysteron. He might not really appreciate you at the moment… But he’s a good kid. He’ll come around when he gets to know you.”
“He doesn’t feel any resentment toward Black?”
“At the beginning he did – towards us, and toward Conrad in particular. But that changed quickly. He came to regard all of us like… well… you could say we became his family, of some sort. As for Conrad – he became for him the father he never knew.”
“Are there… any more survivors up in the city today?”
Blue shook his head. “I told you earlier. We haven’t seen any for years. They eventually all died – killed by the radioactivity.”
Scarlet indicated the huge room. “So you were already in this set-up at the time, by what you say. How did you find this place?”
Blue got to his feet and walked a few steps forward, gesturing around. “It was almost from the beginning. Grey remembered this place from his time in the WASP. It was an old abandoned complex… not even in the records anymore. We restored it, put it back in shape… and made it our Headquarters – and new home. Remember the memory stick that White gave to Green and that I mentioned earlier? It actually helped us find equipment, stored in hidden places, and to make useful contacts around the world, so we could get Spectrum back in business once more. All the organisation’s actions around the world are controlled and supervised from here… but we have undercover agents in every country – and access to information in every World Government offices – and military and security services of every country.”
“Roberts is still World President, I take it.”
“He won his second election, seven years ago. And now he is getting ready for his next mandate. Unfortunately, there’s no-one of quality willing to go against him. So he’ll probably win again, almost by default, and it’ll be another seven years of Hell.”
“Is he such a bad leader?”
Blue grunted. “He’s terrible. The world’s never been so divided as it is right now. The Director General of the Asian Republic despises him – with reason – and their relationship is as tense as it’s possible to be. That’s not to mention Bereznik… and the Lunarville Complexes, which really started making demands for complete autonomy… This time, legitimately. They have obviously had enough of Roberts’s politics. Apparently, the only thing he successfully accomplished was to take Spectrum out of the equation. So with no-one to face him at the next elections…”
“How about yourself?” Scarlet suggested.
Blue stared at his friend for a long moment, seemingly shocked by the suggestion. Suddenly, he laughed out loud; under Scarlet’s scrutinising eyes, he sat back in his chair.
“I haven’t heard anything that funny in years!” he said, chuckling. “No, Paul, that’s impossible… I told you, we are chased like dangerous criminals. And at the moment I probably am the most wanted man on the surface of the planet. The world at large knows that Adam Svenson is Colonel Blue – which makes it difficult for me to actually entertain any political career – or other kind of career, for that matter.”
“I thought you said all your identities had been hidden when those files were destroyed with Cloudbase,” Scarlet mused. “Of course, there’s Rick, now Supreme Commander of the WGPC… and his former identity as Captain Ochre is obviously widely known. Surely he didn’t spill the beans on you…”
“No,” Blue confirmed quickly, stopping Scarlet’s line of thought. “No, Rick is not responsible for this, don’t worry. Despite his new job, our ‘old friend’ didn’t stoop so low as to reveal us. He can still claim he ignored who we really were and though it might appear unlikely, nobody could very well accuse him of lying. No, those responsible were, yet again, the Mysterons. You see, on the day Karen and I got married, they made an attempt on our lives. Right in the middle of the ceremony, in Boston, where all our families were gathered.”
“You understand we were not there as Colonel Blue and Symphony Angel – formerly of Spectrum, but as Adam Svenson and Karen Wainwright. Only Karen’s mom, and my parents and siblings knew of our past affiliation with Spectrum… No-one else knew anything about it.”
“So the Mysterons blew your cover for you.”
“In the worst possible way,” Blue said icily. “You see, they Mysteronised my brother Peter.”
Scarlet sat straight up, shocked by the revelation. “Adam…” he said, horrified.
“Peter was the victim of a car accident on his way over to the ceremony. Well, accident… I’m still not quite that sure today. It could have been the same kind of accident you had, when the Mysterons took you over, I don’t know. Anyway… for them, it was the perfect opportunity to get rid of me. Peter was acting as my best man. As the ceremony ended, he drew a gun on me and Karen. It was just an instinctive reaction from my father, who jumped in front of the gun, which saved our lives. Dad was okay, he only received a flesh wound, but… after I was forced to shoot the Mysteron...” Blue’s voice broke, as he looked into empty space in front of him. Scarlet thought he saw him shiver, but he realised that his friend was probably just shaking himself, to escape the horrible images that he was seeing in his mind at that moment. “I refuse to consider that… ‘creature’ as my brother. But you see, to everyone else witnessing what happened, society newspeople included, I had not shot down an alien creature with the face of Peter – but my own brother – who, before I killed him with that fatal shot, blew the lid off my identity as Colonel Blue.”
“Adam… I’m so sorry,” Scarlet offered, genuinely saddened by the story. “I know you and your brother didn’t always see eye to eye… but he was still your brother.”
“And I loved him nevertheless,” Blue said in little more than a murmur, lowering his gaze. “You can imagine that that… event, didn’t improve my relationship with my father. The scene that followed was horrible, and Karen and I left without waiting for the police to arrive. Mind you, it didn’t take long afterward for my father to realise what had really happened to Peter – when his real body was discovered. Still, there were some hurt feelings between us, for a long time.”
“My father died five years ago, Paul. Heart attack. He always had worked too hard, but I guess that what happened to Peter didn’t help in the matter. However, he and I had successfully put our problems aside over time – in private. Nobody knows today that I own large assets of Svenson Enterprises. My sister officially runs the company, but we’re both in charge.”
“Which gives you a position of power in the world.”
“Well, the money is certainly useful for Spectrum’s operations…”
“But could also be useful to put up a good defence to clear your reputation – and Spectrum’s,” Scarlet insisted. “Adam, you would be able to come out of hiding, and denounce Roberts for the manipulative sleazeball and liar he is. Surely, with a good defence – and evidence to back you up…”
“Forget it.” Blue’s answer was incisive. “Roberts has all the courts, all the judges in his pocket. I wouldn’t stand a chance. That, presuming I would even make it to court in the first place. I have quite a feeling that I would never be taken alive – or that I would ‘die unexpectedly’ during incarceration. Roberts’ detractors have been known to have… ‘disappeared’, through the years. One way or another.”
“I still can’t believe he’s able to go that far.”
“Believe it, Paul. The most likely candidate against him during the last elections learned the hard way. His car was booby-trapped, and he died when it exploded under him.”
“Roberts had him killed?”
Blue hesitated. “I don’t know for sure… What I do know is that he blamed Spectrum for it.”
“Because of the man’s obvious ties with us.” There was a noticeable hesitation from Blue at this point and Scarlet could see he was reluctant to say more on the subject. He wondered what could be bothering him exactly.
Scarlet was about to ask the question when he heard the echo of agitation coming from the other side of the door; he tensed, suddenly expecting trouble. But then, muffled sounds of laughing mixed themselves with the noises – young voices, as far as Scarlet could tell. He glanced toward Blue and saw that the latter, having considerably relaxed in his seat, didn’t seem to be worried in the least; he was smiling from ear to ear. Considering the seriousness of the discussion they had been having up until now, it looked a little strange. Blue caught sight of the inquiring look Scarlet was now giving him.
“Ah yes… you haven’t met the ‘Wild Bunch’ yet,” Blue said.
“The Wild Bunch?” Before Scarlet could ask more, the door slid open and he saw two children darting inside the room and coming straight at Blue. Two boys, of about nine and seven years old – both with blond hair and blue eyes, who were still laughing gaily when they literally collided with the Spectrum commander, under Scarlet’s astonished eyes.
“Hey, vandals! Come to see your old man?” Blue encircled both children with his long arms and brought him close to his heart, the smile on his face enlarging even more, almost to the point of breaking it in two. The younger of the boys jumped onto the sofa and embraced him energetically. Blue gave a muffled chuckle. “Boy, Charlie… you are becoming stronger than me. You will have to stop that pretty soon.”
“Charlie?” Scarlet repeated with a faint smile, looking at the effusion with a certain amount of amusement.
“And quite the authoritarian at that,” Blue said with a wink. He put the younger boy down on the floor, and took both children by the shoulder, to turn them towards Scarlet. “Boys, this is someone I would like you to meet. This is an old friend of mine… Captain Scarlet.” He ruffled the hair of the youngest boy. “This is Charles – or Charlie, as we call him. He’s six. And this tall fellow here is Paul. He’s nine.”
“Pleased to meet you, boys,” Scarlet said. He extended his hand. There was a small hesitation from the boys, but Charlie was the first to shake it. Young Paul seemed a little more solemn when he did the same.
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” he answered in a composed tone.
“You can call him ‘Uncle Paul’,” Blue said to the boy. “You were named after him.”
“Your name is Paul, too?” the boy asked, examining Scarlet with curiosity.
Scarlet answered with a nod.
“Shouldn’t you be at school, boys?” Blue then asked.
“Mrs. Oppenheimer finished the lessons early today.” The voice was coming from the door again, and Scarlet, thinking he had recognised it, rose to his feet. He saw a tall woman enter with poise. Her hair was still blonde, as he remembered it, and her eyes always as cheerful, but with a more mature expression to them. She addressed a genuine smile at Scarlet.
“It’s been a long time, Paul.”
Behind her, there was Captain Black, standing in the doorway; he had obviously come along with her and the children, but Scarlet chose to ignore his presence for the time being. All his attention was concentrated on the woman who stood a short distance away.
“Karen…” He came to her, in long strides and took her into his arms. “Little sister, you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Oh, aren’t we the gentleman!” Symphony Angel said, chuckling. “As I understand it, considering the events, I am not your ‘little sister’ anymore…” She looked in his face, mockingly. “I’m older than you, now.”
“For me, you will always be my little sister,” Scarlet insisted with a grin, taking one step back to look at her from head to toe and back again.
“You haven’t changed a bit. But then again… you’re literally a blast from the past, aren’t you? There’s no reason for you to have changed.”
“Yeah, well… I’m still coming to terms with that…” Scarlet looked up, as Captain Black had quietly entered to come standing behind Symphony. Only then did Scarlet acknowledge his presence. “Captain Black…”
“Captain Scarlet. I trust Colonel Blue has brought you up to date with our situation in this day and age?”
“Yes… He told me a lot,” Scarlet answered. “The circumstances of your… liberation as well.”
Black nodded in understanding, before turning to Blue, and taking a more official attitude towards him. “Colonel, I’m sorry to bother you, but your presence is required in the Control Centre. Captain Green needs to talk to you about something of importance.”
“Of course. I’m on my way.”
“Not right away!” moaned young Charlie Svenson, grabbing his father by the leg, as if not wanting to let him go. “Can’t it wait a little while, Daddy?”
“You heard Captain Black, Charles. It’s important I go right now.” Blue crouched in front of his boys; both were displaying the same air of resigned dissatisfaction. He sighed deeply. “I’ll try to come back to you as soon as I can, boys, I promise. In the meantime, be good, understood?” He playfully stroked the youngest boy’s nose. “And don’t drive the nanny crazy.”
They nodded in answer and Blue stood up. “I’m sorry, Captain Scarlet. Duty calls.”
“I’ll keep him company, Colonel,” Captain Black offered. “That’ll keep him from getting bored.”
“S.I.G., Captain. See you later, Scarlet.”
And with that, he strode out of the room, the door sliding shut behind him.
“The nanny?” Scarlet asked Symphony, with a raised brow. “Your boys have a nanny – and they obviously live here?”
“Where else would they live?” Symphony asked with a shrug. “Adam and I can’t leave them with any of our respective families.” She lowered her voice. “They would become too easy a target to get to us…”
“Of course. How thoughtless of me.”
“Besides, they have all the facilities they need here. We even have a school – where all the children of the base go – so they have friends their own age to play with.”
“There are other children here?”
“Many families live here, Paul,” Black confirmed. “This is a whole community. Don’t forget – most of us are on the run.”
“So I learned.”
“Which reminds me,” Symphony continued, “I should really take them down to the daycare centre right now.” She took the boys by their shoulders. “Say bye to the captains, kids. Time to go. I hope to see you later, Paul.”
“Hope so too, Karen,” Scarlet answered with a smile. “Bye, kids!”
He watched as the family left, and the door closed on them. Then, he found himself alone with Black.
An awkward silence followed.
Realising he had been staring rather rudely at Black for ages, Scarlet cleared his throat. “So… are you… like… me?” He gestured with his hand, not really sure how to put it. Black raised a brow. He obviously understood.
“You mean… ‘indestructible’? No, I’m not… for whatever reason. But I do have some interesting abilities – that do come in useful from time to time.”
“Mmm… I supposed there is no harm in telling you. I am rather… efficient, at detecting Mysteron presence. Not unlike you, to some extent, but a little more accurately. I can… feel them, when they’re around, and in contact with someone. I can even… feel their intentions. I know what they’ll be doing, almost as they decide to do it. I can even take back from them things they take control of… when I concentrate hard enough. But that… it’s rather tough to do. And it leaves me weak for hours.” Black turned to the coffee table nearby. “My mind was closely linked to the Mysterons’… collective thoughts, when they had me under their control,” he explained, pouring coffee into a cup. “Apparently, when that link was severed, it left me with these powers - my ‘sixth sense’, if you will.”
“And what did your ‘abilities’ say about me?”
“That you’re clean of any Mysteron influence, of course,” Black said with a grin. “In fact… as far as I can tell, the Mysterons don’t even seem to be aware of your presence in this time right now. But on that last detail, I can only be fifty percent sure. And knowing them, they might still learn of your presence soon.” He turned back, presenting the now-filled cup to Scarlet. “Want some? I can assure you, the colonel didn’t make it…”
“So he still hasn’t learned to make coffee properly?” Scarlet grinned, stepping forward. “Yes, I would very much like a cup…”
“Are you sure?”
Colonel Blue, standing over the station that Captain Green normally manned when he was working on his extensive research, looked down in apprehension at the information his junior officer had just discovered. It wasn’t something he had expected to learn, and to say the least, it was rather worrying.
“As sure as one can be, Colonel,” Green confirmed gloomily, while Lieutenant Brown, standing next to them, was watching and waiting. “There is no doubt in my mind. I found that out, while I was doing more in-depth investigation on Quantum energy – to better understand what happened to Captain Scarlet.” He turned from his screen. “Contrary to what we believed, all these past years, the World Government never stopped work on Quantum energy. They are still researching it… Advanced research, even. They’ve been studying everything that’s been done on it in the past, including Professor Barnard’s extensive works. There are even records that they sent teams into the Himalayan mountains – to find Cloudbase’s crash site. I guess to search for the remains of the Quantum Transmitter we had onboard.”
“Have they found anything?”
“No… Well, I didn’t find anything yet indicating they even found Cloudbase in the first place. Many of the teams didn’t even come back from those expeditions. As I believe, Cloudbase did crash in a rather remote – and dangerous – area.”
“They kept all this a secret,” Blue muttered. “Their research… their work… Damned hypocrites and liars – after saying how dangerous it was to work on Quantum energy. What are they doing it for? Somehow, I have my doubts that they might want to use it for space travel this time around…”
“I can’t find anything so far about what they want to use the Q energy for, sir. However - they seem to have dismissed the concept of a Q Transmitter as it was. Which would be essential to control the Q Effect for any space travel project. They might be working on a new way to harness the energy, mind you.”
“Well, we know of one effective application,” Blue continued gloomily. “We have the results of that application displayed all over the place on the ground above our heads.”
“They might use it as a weapon,” Brown said with a nod.
“A formidable weapon of mass destruction,” Blue agreed. “The worst we can imagine. Able to wipe out a whole city… A continent, even.”
“But against whom would they use it?” Green asked.
“I wish we could tell exactly. The World Government has an increasing number of detractors. Bereznik always has been a thorn in its side. The Asian Republic has also become a wary partner… for years now.”
“What about us?” Brown suggested.
“Of course. Spectrum is also an irritant.” Blue pensively stroked his chin. “In any case, if the Mysterons should learn about this – we might be in trouble. They might be tempted to use it against us.”
“It might be indeed tempting, sir,” Green agreed.
“What can counter the Q Energy, Captain?”
“Nothing, as far as I know. Nothing’s known to stop it once in motion. It can be controlled, though… Using a Q Transmitter. But as I said, there doesn’t seem to be any work on one.”
“And there aren’t any in existence,” Brown said gloomily.
“What if there was?” Blue said thoughtfully.
“Sir?” Brown queried.
“Continue your research, Captain,” Blue said addressing Green. “See if you can find exactly what they’re working on – and how they intend to use it. Call upon our head of Intelligence, and have every undercover agent search for any information that might be useful to us. Use all our computer resources and our most capable scientists. I want to know everything about Quantum energy… the Q Effects, the Q Transmitter… every application that can be made out of it.”
“Can I suggest we call upon the best specialist in the field, sir?” Green asked.
“Who do you have in mind, exactly?”
“Professor Barnard, sir. I know where I can find him.”
Blue nodded his approval. “Have him brought over here, Captain. We need to know everything about Quantum energy and he might help us shed some light on what we don’t know.”
“S.I.G., colonel. On it right away.”
“And Captain? Find me all those records about the apparently unsuccessful searches in the Himalayas for Cloudbase and the Quantum Transmitter. Those I want on my desk in one hour.”
“S.I.G., sir.” There was no surprise in Green’s voice at his commander’s last request. He turned back to his console to carry out his orders, and Blue motioned to Lieutenant Brown to follow him.
“Lieutenant, call a staff meeting to be held in two hours. I want everyone to be there. We have to inform the staff about this new development.”
“S.I.G., sir. Will Captain Scarlet attend the meeting too?”
“By the tone of your voice, I can feel that you would prefer him not to be there, Chip.”
“I can’t help it, sir. I don’t trust him. He might be in league with the Mysterons. Or even with the World Government, who knows? They might have sent him to Futura City, because they suspected we would be here, and wanted him to find us. And in view of what we just learned…”
“… In view of what we just learned, I don’t think that his presence here has anything to do with it, Lieutenant. Consider your theory: if he was in league with the World Government, do you think they would really have devised such a plot that we might think he had ended up here, after making a fifteen year jump in time – because of the Quantum Effect? They would know we would research Quantum energy. Considering what we just learned, I don’t think they would risk attracting our attention to their work in that field.”
“Granted, sir. What about the Mysterons, then?”
“I doubt he’s a Mysteron agent. And I don’t say that because of Captain Black’s impression of him.”
“Because he’s your friend?”
There was a note of impatience – and doubt – in Brown’s voice that Blue didn’t like; he glared at the young man. “It goes beyond that, Lieutenant. Trust my instinct on this.”
Brown lowered his gaze under the remonstrance. “I’m… sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to challenge your decision. I know he seems on the level and all, and I’d like him to be, too…”
“You would, Lieutenant?”
“I would, sir. Hey, if we could really have an indestructible agent on our side… maybe that would even things up with both the World Government and the Mysterons. We wouldn’t lose so many agents…”
“Just like old times,” Blue said, musingly.
“I know it might sound terrible…”
“No… He is my friend… but I can recognise that having him on our side would be a strategic move. If you feel terrible thinking that, how do you suppose I feel?”
“My apologies, sir. He does seem like a nice guy too.”
“Apologies accepted, Lieutenant.” Blue paused. “But in any case, neither Captain Scarlet – nor yourself - will attend this meeting.”
“Sir?” There was surprise in Brown’s voice.
“I have a mission for both of you. Something I want you to check out. So I’m assigning you temporarily as Scarlet’s partner for the duration of this mission.” Blue nodded at Brown. “I don’t expect any trouble from him, Chip, but I want you to keep an eye on him. If he really should prove not to be on the level...”
“I’ll do what I have to do, sir,” the young man promised.
“I trust you not to mess things up, Chip,” Blue said, putting his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “And to use your best judgement during this mission.”
END OF PART 1