Melody Angel had not yet bought a gift for Captain Ochre.
This late at this time of year, it was a catastrophe.
It wasn’t really anybody’s fault, though Captain Scarlet insisted on taking the blame. It was he, after all, who suggested using his own credit card, when Melody, finding the perfect present for Ochre online, discovered the store wouldn’t deliver outside the United Kingdom; Scarlet would simply pay for it, and pick it up at the store on his next trip to London. However was he supposed to know that his card had been cancelled since his first encounter with the Mysterons… during the short time he was believed to be dead by Spectrum? Out of the two cards he owned, he barely used that one and - while he had made sure the card he regularly used had been reactivated and the company told that the report of his death was only due to a ‘technical error on the part of a computer’ – the second card had stayed in his wallet gathering dust and he had totally forgotten about it.
Not that it had caused him any trouble since. Except, of course, this time, when he’d used it for the first time in ages, to help a friend get a very special Christmas gift.
He did try, bless him, to call the store when he realised what had happened, and make sure that his order would be waiting for him when he came to take delivery of it. Unfortunately, it was already too late: the item had been released for resale six days before. The person Scarlet had spoken to had claimed they had tried to contact him, which was probably true. But considering he was resting in sickbay at the time, after he had been injured during his latest assignment against the Mysterons, there was little chance they could have reached him. So they had simply cancelled his order.
And the item, as luck would have it, was already sold out at their store.
Melody really had her heart set on her chosen present. It was a limited re-release edition of a very detailed old model kit that had been unavailable for years, a perfect replica of the famed and ill-fated WAF 2026 Red Arrow.
The Red Arrow had been done in model kit only once, forty years ago, shortly after it was phased out of use after only one year of service. Apparently, the double twin rocket powered jet was very expensive to build and its maintenance was even more expensive. Plus, it had a bad history of being prone to mechanical failures, which ran back to the crashing of the first two prototypes, under mysterious circumstances. Nevertheless, the Red Arrow remained legendary – the fastest fighter jet ever built – not counting experimental aircraft and just managing to top the speed of the Spectrum Angel Fighter jet itself.
Captain Ochre didn’t have that model amongst his extensive collection and as far as Melody knew, he wasn’t even aware of this re-release, so busy had he been recently, which made this gift absolutely perfect for him.
The model was a very limited, numbered edition – only 5000 copies were made, and it looked like it was nowhere to be found on the planet. Melody made various online searches to find it, but, apparently, it was sold out everywhere. As time passed, her frustration grew. Christmas was approaching fast – fifteen days left – and it looked like she wouldn’t get the chance to get her hand on the special gift for her boyfriend.
That was until Captain Scarlet came to the rescue once again.
Accompanied by Captain Magenta, he came in the Amber Room that morning, just after Melody had finished her stint in Angel One and started her four hours of stand-by duty in Rhapsody’s company. At first, Melody had thought the English captain had come to see his fiancée, considering how excited he looked, but it turned out he had some good news for her: he had successfully located a copy of a Red Arrow model.
“I just remembered an old shop in Winchester,” he explained to her. “It’s not that far from the High Street, and I used to go there as a child with my father. It’s like Ali Baba’s cave, you never know what you will find in there. I took Patrick once, a couple of years back,” he added, waving at Magenta who had just sat next to the American pilot.
“Yeah,” Magenta confirmed. “I remember that old place. I bought something there that I gave Ochre for his birthday. It’s very old, dusty and doesn’t look like much from the exterior, but inside…” He whistled to show how much he had been impressed at the time. “Paul’s got that right: a real Ali Baba’s cave.”
“And you think it might have the Red Arrow model?” Melody asked. She was dubious. If the shop was as old as Scarlet and Magenta seemed to imply, then there was little chance they would have the recent model she was looking for.
“They have a website and I checked it out,” Scarlet said, with a big encouraging smile. “They have better than that replica I tried to buy for you: they have a copy of the vintage, original model, which was released in 2028. Undone of course – in a good condition and in a mint box.”
Melody’s eyes widened and she began to share Scarlet’s excitement. “No kidding! You’re right, a vintage model would be even better. How much is it?”
“Ah, that’s the only information I didn’t get from the website,” Scarlet answered. “It only said ‘vintage, rare copy for collectors, affordable price.’ I tried to contact the shop through an email, but no answer as of yet. And they have no phone number listed on the website.”
“I’m guessing that means they want people to come visit their shop,” Rhapsody commented.
“Which also means that the model is probably somewhat overpriced,” Magenta added.
“If they want to make a few additional bucks with it, I don’t mind,” Melody said, with a dismissive shrug. “What’s bothering me is, if they don’t have a phone number readily available on the website, they probably don’t do deliveries either.”
“Well, why don’t we go get it for you, then?” Rhapsody suggested generously. “Paul, you and I are supposed to leave the day after tomorrow for London for some last-minute Christmas shopping. What do you say if we make a detour to Winchester and get that model for Melody? That’ll also give us an opportunity to say ‘hi’ to your parents. And… why not do some of our shopping in your hometown, while we’re at it? I’d love to see that Christmas Market you’ve told me about so often.”
“I was about to suggest it,” Scarlet agreed.
“Actually, I was thinking I might as well go there and get it myself,” Melody said. “I have a couple of days off coming too. I didn’t know where to go exactly. My initial plans were to visit my parents in Moffat, but they’re on a trip at the moment. I might ask the colonel’s permission to take my furlough a few days earlier, and take the London shuttle. As long as I make arrangements to reschedule duties with the other pilots, I’m sure he’ll agree.”
“You’ve never been to Winchester,” Scarlet commented. “You might not find the shop. It’s not exactly well advertised.”
“I know the place,” Magenta said quickly. “I can get you there, if you want. I’ve got a furlough coming too,” he added, as his colleagues turned to him. “Instead of New York, I’ll take the London shuttle with you. Besides, I have to think of a gift for Ochre as well. Going to that shop might provide a little inspiration.”
“Then why don’t we all go?” Scarlet suggested. “We’ll take the shuttle to London, rent a car, and hit the road for Winchester all together. And while Rhapsody and I do some shopping around, and go to the Christmas Market, the two of you could go to the collectors’ shop.”
“That’s very generous of you, Paul,” Melody said. “But, I wouldn’t want to intrude…”
“Yes, you might have plans of your own,” Magenta commented, looking sideways at Rhapsody.
“Whatever do you mean?” the young woman said, feigning ignorance.
“You’re not intruding on anything,” Scarlet assured them. “I’ll be thrilled to give you a tour of my hometown at the same time. Just let me check with Mum first. Mind you, I’m sure she will be delighted to have you at home for the day. We might even get the chance to stay the night and leave for London the next morning.”
“And if we need to,” Rhapsody concluded, “we’ll be able to complete our Christmas shopping in London before coming back to base.”
They all agreed to the plan, and two days later, after the proper authorisations had been given by Colonel White, the four of them met in the hangar and boarded the shuttle scheduled to leave from London. They were travelling light, as they were only to be gone for a grand total of sixty hours. As expected, Scarlet’s parents, who had more than enough space at their home, had extended the invitation to sleep over. Melody was delighted, as she was looking forward to meeting them again – the last time she had, it was during their commissioning ceremony, some years back – and visiting Winchester for the first time, as much as finally getting her hands on the much sought-after gift she wanted for Ochre.
As usual, the shuttle left the four of them at the London International Airport. Captain Scarlet had rented a car through Spectrum London the day before, and it was waiting for them in the car park. They put their luggage in the boot and, with Scarlet at the wheel, drove straight to Winchester.
It was about an hour’s drive before they reached their destination. Melody marvelled at Scarlet’s ancestral home as the car parked in front of the door and they were welcomed by both his parents.
They were just as Melody remembered them. General Metcalfe was an imposing man, nearly as tall as his son, but somewhat burlier. As a former WAAF pilot, Melody had often heard of General Metcalfe and his formidable reputation, commanding instant respect from anyone meeting him. He was much like Colonel White in that respect, and Melody approached him with a certain reserve. Although it was obvious to those who knew them that both men were related, Scarlet took after his mother a lot more; she was a charming and sophisticated woman with dark hair and bright blue eyes, who was about the same height as Rhapsody. Mary Metcalfe had an innate warmth, charm and an infectious smile that made her easier to relate to than her husband; Melody instantly liked her.
The four Spectrum officers transferred their luggage from the boot of the car to the house and, after a quick meal with Scarlet’s family, they left for the High Street and the many shops in that area, where they intended to do their Christmas shopping – and around where the collectors’ shop was located.
Melody was anxious to get the Red Arrow kit before someone else could buy it. Scarlet took them close to the shop and gave them accurate directions on how to get there by themselves, before Magenta, always the technical-savvy guy, revealed he had already entered the address into the GPS locator on his phone. After agreeing to meet in two hours time in a local pub that Scarlet knew very well, the two couples went their separate ways, and Magenta, following the information from his phone, guided his companion towards the little collectors’ shop.
It was a good thing that Magenta was there with her, because Melody was sure she would have missed it. The front door was as common as could be, the window, narrow and badly lit, and the small commercial sign – ‘Kemp’s Olde Collector’s Shoppe’ – wasn’t really that obvious. At first sight, Melody didn’t think much of the place.
When Magenta pushed the door open, they hesitated to enter, because the place seemed dark and still didn’t look very engaging. However, Melody’s eyes quickly adapted to the poor light and soon, she discovered that the shop, which looked so small from the outside, was far larger inside. The reason why it appeared so dark, it was because it was packed from floor to high ceiling with so many multicoloured boxes that it was literally casting shadows into the narrow aisles between the shelves. As Magenta had described it, the old place was dusty and that made Melody’s nose prickle; however, it was of little consequence. One look around was enough to make her realise that this place held so much hidden treasures that it literally was a dream come true to any collector or geek.
This was now looking very promising.
The central aisle led to a wooden counter, at the other end of the shop, about twenty feet in front of them. Aside from Melody and Magenta, there was a lonely old man seated on the edge of a stool, behind that counter. Slowly stirring a cup of coffee – it was definitely coffee, by the smell of it – he was reading a newspaper under the feeble light of a lamp. He had barely raised his eyes when his customers entered; however, he became fully attentive when they walked towards him, their steps echoing in the narrowness of the shop.
Melody was looking around with curiosity and awe. If Ochre was to walk in here, she felt for sure that she would not be able to tear him away from the wall of model kits boxes that was piled up on one side of the door.
“Good morning, madam, sir…” The old man’s voice was deep, slightly quivering. His accent was very clipped – much more so than the colonel’s, Scarlet’s or even Rhapsody’s. He folded his paper and put it aside, as both Magenta and Melody stopped in front of him.
The counter had a cut-out front and was closed with a glass window, much like a display case. Through the window, they could see an assortment of very neatly dusted boxes. Apparently, those were the shop’s prized articles. Melody’s eyes fell instantly on one of those boxes; on the cover, flying in a clear blue sky over a peaceful countryside, there was the beautiful drawing of a red aircraft, with a black and gold trim and two sets of double engine jets – one attached to the tail and one fixed under the wings.
She instantly recognised the unique features of the Red Arrow.
The old man was smiling sweetly at his two visitors. “What can I do for you?” he asked in a slow drawl.
Magenta cleared his throat. “Good day to you, sir… Er… Mr Kemp, I think?”
“That’s me, sir. Nigel Kemp, at your service.” The old man looked very closely at Magenta. “Do we know each other?”
“Not exactly. I bought something from you nearly two years ago, when I came with a friend. You probably won’t remember me.”
“Oh, on the contrary. You do look familiar,” the old man replied, nodding thoughtfully. “I think I do remember… You bought…” Kemp gave it some thought. “… An LZ129 Hindenburg Zeppelin model kit, was it not?”
“You have a good memory,” Magenta marvelled.
“Well, that was an easy one… I don’t often own Zeppelin models, let alone the Hindenburg. I would remember the last time I sold one of those… and that the customer was an American-Irish chap who told me he came from New York City.” Kemp grinned. “Your accent betrays you, sir.”
“Yes, I’m afraid it’ll follow me everywhere.”
“Did the young man for whom you bought the model like it?”
Magenta chuckled. “The young man in question is about my age, actually,” he revealed. “A working colleague and a good friend of mine. It’s for him that my friend and I have come back today.”
“What are you looking for this time?”
“We’re interested in a model kit that you advertised on your website.”
Melody pointed at the box through the display. “That model kit,” she said, trying to hide her excitement behind a casual tone. “Is it possible to see it?”
The old man lowered his eyes, glanced at the box through his thick glasses and nodded. He bent down behind the counter and carefully took the box from its shelf. “Yes, that’s a very interesting piece,” he commented, straightening up and slowly putting the box on the countertop. “Look at that packaging, it’s in perfect, mint condition. And the artwork on the box… It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He gestured at the drawing. “It was drawn and painted by one of the most famous illustrators in the field at the time. The Red Arrow was the last of a series of ten models that Kuyama and Benson – the model kit manufacturer – made forty years ago. Sadly, the company folded not long after the release of this model. The Militarist Government had just came into power, you know… The company was held by both British and Japanese interests and, well… they parted ways then. Which is why all the models from this particular series are so sought-after and rare… with the Red Arrow as the rarest of all.”
Melody wasn’t really interested by the history lesson – nor by the drawing on the lid, as a matter of fact. It was the contents of the box she was getting impatient to see. The model was forty years old; she had no doubt it was a rare item, and that it would please Rick even more than the re-release she had tried to buy before. However, she had some doubts it would be in such good condition.
Fortunately, Kemp seemed to have finished talking about the kit’s origins, and was carefully, at last, lifting the lid.
“So it’s really the original, then,” Melody said, in an attempt to make conversation. “Not the same as that limited replica they released recently?”
Kemp snorted. “Oh, this one is certainly an original,” he confirmed with a slow nod. “It’s definitely not the same as that cheap replica you just mentioned. For starters, the artwork on the box isn’t the same – and it isn’t from the same manufacturer either. The company which made the replica probably made them from the same moulds, possibly bought from whoever inherited them from Kuyama and Benson. But the similarities stop there.”
He put the lid aside so that Melody could peer into the box. The plastic parts were still all attached together, and neatly sealed in various bags; the majority of the parts were red, with some black and transparent plastic parts, and some metallic, golden rods. The plans were at the bottom of the box, written in English and Japanese, along with the decals. There were even a couple of paint containers, a tube of glue and a brush.
Kemp carefully took the rods between his fingers. “The new model doesn’t have these trimmings… Well, not in metal, that is, they’re in plain plastic you need to paint. Speaking of paint, I can replace those with the exact same colours… I’m afraid those original containers would be all dried out after forty years. The same for the glue, as you can imagine.”
“Well, that all seems good to me,” Melody said, examining the contents of the box. She took two larger parts, which were obviously meant to build the main frame of the craft, and turned them in her hands. She had to admit, it was very detailed, with tiny make-believe rivets and panels engraved into the surface of the plastic.
“If you put the parts of the fuselage together, you will see they fit perfectly,” Kemp continued. “Sometimes, the plastic of these old models will warp over time, and it’s hard work to make them fit. But not this model; that’s good quality plastic. Not cheap at all.”
“I can see that indeed.” Melody put the two parts back into the box. The model was better than she imagined – indeed, it was the perfect gift for Rick.
She certainly owed him something this fabulous. Especially considering that, the Christmas before, with the complicity of Magenta, she had given one of his prized models to Captain Scarlet, when he had been rejuvenated into a ten year old boy by the Mysterons – fortunately for Scarlet that had been a temporary condition. She remembered how annoyed Ochre had been with her at the time; unbeknown to her, the specific model she and Magenta had given away was a very rare item that Ochre had spent years looking for.
Melody smiled, thinking that the Red Arrow she had just found would certainly more than make up for that lost model. Not that Ochre held a grudge against her that was…
Well, it had taken him some time to forgive her…
Her hand went into her handbag and closed around her wallet; the Red Arrow wouldn’t come cheap, she already knew that. Kemp would not have taken so much time and care telling them of its history if he didn’t plan to ask a lot of money for it. But she didn’t care; she was prepared to pay his price.
She had a thankful smile on her face when she asked: “How much is it?”
Kemp was putting the lid back onto the box. “Twelve hundred,” he answered in a casual voice.
Melody’s smile fell instantly; by her side, she heard Captain Magenta’s sharp intake of breath.
“Dollars?” she blurted, fully aware that she sounded just like she felt – totally dim-witted and disbelieving.
Kemp had the bad taste to chuckle. He carefully pushed the lid into place, stroking the artwork as he did and shook his head, very slowly. “No, pounds, of course.” He raised his eyes to Melody who was gaping back at him. After a brief second of reflection, the old man shrugged, slightly dismissive: “Or perhaps, for you, I can make a special price. Considering you have come so far…”
“You have no idea how far,” Magenta retorted, tongue firmly planted into cheek. “What kind of special price are you thinking?”
“Oh… I can make it an even thousand.”
Melody didn’t need to know the exact current exchange rate between American dollars and British pounds; the last time she looked, it was about one to one and a half. Even without that, she already knew that the price Kemp was demanding for the kit was excessive. At least, it definitely looked like it to her. She was ready to pay a high price but this… It was simply ridiculously high.
That old guy was obviously trying to defraud her of valuable money; he must have realised that she was near to desperate to get the model. But she wasn’t that desperate that she couldn’t recognise a swindle when she saw one.
“A grand and a half for a lousy plastic toy?”
The words were out before she could stop them. She wasn’t the kind of person who could easily hide her emotions… Or mince her words. One of her more endearing qualities – or flaws, some people would say – was that she was very straightforward.
Well, perhaps not when it came to admitting her feelings towards a certain golden-clad Spectrum captain, but for the rest…
Kemp tutted disapprovingly, hearing Melody’s disbelief and all too obvious irritation. He looked directly at the young woman; through the thick glass of his spectacles, his eyes appeared much larger than they really were.
“This is not a toy, my dear young lady,” he said in a patient and yet condescending voice. “It’s an accurate reproduction of an historical military aircraft and a valuable collectors’ piece.”
If it wasn’t for the way he was saying it, Melody could have sworn she was hearing Ochre. She gave him the same answer she so often gave her boyfriend, adding a heartfelt scoff to it: “It’s still only a toy. An assembly of coloured plastic parts, created from a mould. It can’t possibly be worth the amount of money you’re asking for it.”
Kemp took a deep breath. He was suddenly red around the ears, and looked offended at the accusation. “I can assure you, madam, that my price is an honest one! And how much, pray tell, were you expecting to pay for this, exactly?”
“Well, I knew it would be expensive,” Melody defended herself. “Possibly more expensive than the replica they made recently. But certainly not that expensive. Are there really people willing to pay that much for a lousy piece of plastic?” She looked at Magenta for support. “Does Rick really do that?”
Magenta was a bit embarrassed by the question. “Well, I… suppose he looks for bargains –”
A bargain. Yes, that was a good idea. Melody made a quick evaluation of what she considered a more than reasonable price for the model, even considering it was a collector’s piece, then multiplied that amount by two. She faced Kemp again.
“Five hundred,” she offered.
Obviously concerned that she was going to put her foot in her mouth, Magenta attempted to stop her. “Mags –”
“Surely, you’re joking,” Kemp answered, scoffing at her proposal.
“I’m very serious, and that’s my final offer. And that’s far more than what I’m really willing to pay for that model.”
“The friend you want to buy it for… he’s a collector, right?”
Melody frowned. “And what if he is, what does it have to do with anything? Maybe I am one too, for all you know.”
“Oh, I don’t think so, my dear young lady. Your friend would not argue the price. He would recognise a collector’s item, and would know that my price for it is a very reasonable one.” Kemp shook his head despondently. “Anyone can see that you’re obviously not a collector. And you’re a woman – which doesn’t help in the matter.”
Melody bristled instantly. She felt Magenta’s hand resting on her arm, as if he was anticipating what would come next and was getting ready to intervene. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked between clenched teeth.
“I wouldn’t go there if I were you, Mister,” Magenta warned Kemp.
“It’s not your fault, really,” the old man said, without hearing the Irish officer. “One can’t expect a mere woman to understand anything about collectable model kits.” He scoffed derisively, failing to see the indignation and anger in Melody’s whole demeanour. “And it doesn’t come as any surprise that you wouldn’t know the first thing about aircraft, either… and even less about a military aircraft as famous as the Red Arrow.”
That wasn’t something to say to Melody’s face without expecting an immediate comeback. She saw red at these words, and gasping with outrage, she stepped forward; Magenta’s hold on her arm immediately tightened.
“Now listen to me, you misogynistic old duffer –”
“I think we’d better be on our way,” Magenta interrupted her, pulling her back. He addressed an apologetic if somewhat awkward smile to Kemp, and, keeping a solid hold on Melody’s arm, steered her towards the door. “Thank you, but the price you’re asking is just a little too high for our budget.”
The old man was standing still, straight as a pole, and, unflustered, looked on as they briskly walked away. “You don’t want the model, then?” He asked. He didn’t seem to have realised how rude he had been towards Melody. Or simply, the young woman realised, he didn’t care.
“We’ll go elsewhere,” Magenta replied over his shoulder.
“If it’s this model you absolutely want, you won’t find it elsewhere. It’s too rare an item.” There was a second of silence, before Kemp added: “You’ll be back for it. I’m sure of that.”
There were such certainty in the old man’s voice that Magenta preferred not to answer back; and he didn’t want to hear what Melody would reply either. Fortunately, they had reached the exit; he urged his companion out and walked behind her, leaving the door to close behind them.
They were now on the sidewalk, and he let out a sigh of relief.
“When Hell freezes over,” Melody muttered, in answer to Kemp’s departing words.
Despite himself, Magenta smiled thinly, as he carefully looked at the young woman standing rigidly by him with her arms crossed. She was fuming.
“You’re okay?” he asked. “You looked ready to pop a nerve.”
“I’m okay,” Melody replied dryly. “Just trying to cool down, really. Can’t believe there’s still that amount of chauvinism in the world these days… I thought we were way past that in this day and age.” She glared at him. “And I can’t believe you stood there, saying nothing, while this old geezer spouted all that rubbish!”
“He’s just an old man,” Magenta defended himself. “He’s what, eighty, or close to that? Really, Mags, he’s more than possibly used to speaking his mind the way he wants, whenever he wants to. Do you really believe anything I could have said would’ve made a difference to him, anyway?”
“No…” Melody admitted reluctantly.
“Beside, you don’t need any man to defend your honour for you, when you’re quite able to do it yourself,” Magenta continued good-naturedly. “But next time, if you insist…”
Melody sighed. “Well, I wouldn’t want for you to end up in any trouble, if you were to beat up on an eighty year old man, however disagreeable he might be.”
“Take comfort in the fact that, with such an unpleasant attitude, Old Man Kemp probably doesn’t keep that many customers.”
“Somehow, I doubt he even cares that much,” Melody muttered in a low voice. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the cold winter air, and then released it slowly, while her head cleared and she calmed down. “I’m sorry. I know I’ve got a short fuse, and I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that, when Kemp told us how much he wanted for that Red Arrow model. Do you really believe that old junk is worth the price he was asking for?”
Magenta shook his head. “No. Like you, I think it was highly overpriced. But… I guess that any object in the world is worth exactly what people are willing to pay for it. It just happens that guys like Kemp know that all too well and take advantage of that fact to raise their prices accordingly.”
Melody clicked her tongue, annoyed with herself. “It’s just that… when I realised I wouldn’t get the model after all – I guess I felt totally frustrated.”
“I think you had every right to feel frustrated. And to become angry. That old man acted very un-gentlemanly.”
Melody smiled thinly. “For an Englishman, that’s surprising, isn’t it?”
“Paul keeps telling us not to believe everything they say about all Englishmen being gentlemen and keeping a stiff upper lip.”
“Well, Old Kemp certainly kept his upper lip stiff!” Melody chuckled, making her companion smile with amusement. “And you did well to take me outside when you did. I could have done him some damage.”
Magenta laughed and shook his head. “Oh no… I don’t believe you would have done that old guy any harm,” he remarked.
“I don’t know… He would certainly have deserved a good bashing to teach him not to be that rude. But you’re right. Despite him being an old unpleasant coot, he didn’t deserve that harsh a punishment.” Melody sniggered again, almost despite herself. “Can you believe what he said? Telling me I don’t know anything about military aircraft?”
“Yeah, kind of funny when you think about it, isn’t it? He couldn’t know who you are… and actually how famous you are.”
Melody snorted. She knew exactly what he was talking about. “Yeah, right. My one claim to worldwide fame… crashing an experimental airplane into a desert island in the Pacific, where I was stranded for a whole year… ”
“Are you kidding?” Magenta protested. “You’re the pilot of the XKF 115 craft… You rebuilt that plane all by yourself from scratch to get back to civilisation… That’s certainly a big step above building model kits!”
Melody’s eyes brightened under the compliment. “Awww… You think so?”
“Certainly! By the way, what did those letters stand for? It’s not a regimental number, by the sound of it.”
“Experimental Kingsnake Fighter 115,” Melody explained. “It was a prototype fighter. Hence the ‘X’ in its name.” She shook her head. “It was a good craft, the crash wasn’t its fault. Actually, it was so well-built, it actually saved my life. If it hadn’t been as solid as it was, I would never have been able to gather enough parts to rebuild it. But by the time I returned to civilisation one year later, the WAAF engineers had abandoned tests on the Kingsnake and had turned to building another series of fighter jet. A shame, really. There are some classified details about the incident and the WAAF didn’t want too much information to leak out, so whatever they could keep from the public, they made damn sure it stayed that way. Consequently, even the real name of the plane faded from memory. And my name as well, more than likely. That suits me fine, though. I kind of like my privacy.
“Well, your name and that of the plane might not be well known, but the story of what happened travelled around the world. Yours is still an amazing story. Everybody heard about it!” A thought came to Magenta’s mind and he thumbed towards the close door behind him. “Hey, I’m sure Old Man Kemp knows about it too, if he’s half the expert he made himself out to be. Maybe we should get back inside and tell him who you are. That might change his attitude towards you.”
Melody scoffed. “Pat, I doubt that even the ghost of Amelia Earhart waltzing in there would be enough to change his attitude towards women in general. He’s just an old chauvinistic pig, and he can’t help himself. Besides, I wouldn’t set foot in that place again, even if you paid me.”
Magenta shook his head. “Okay. And I don’t blame you. So that means you won’t get that gift for Rick after all?”
“Well, not this copy, anyway. But I haven’t said my last word yet. I’ll continue to look for it; maybe I’ll find it somewhere else… Despite what Kemp said, there’s bound to be a copy out there that I’ll be able to buy. And you know me, I can be quite obstinate when I want to be.”
“You really do have your heart set on that model, don’t you?” Magenta said, with a warm smile.
Melody rolled her eyes. “You can say that again, brother.” She took him by the arm and steered him in the direction they had come. “Now come. Let’s get to that pub, where we’re supposed to meet Paul and Dianne. I’m buying you a stiff one.”
“Nope. I’ll be buying it for you.”
“Whatever.” As they started to walk, a thought came to Melody’s mind. “It would be pretty cool if they had made a model kit out of the Kingsnake, don’t you think?”
“Did they make one?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“If you don’t know, who would? We can go to Kemp’s and ask him…” Magenta replied casually.
“Not on your life. We’ll ask Rick instead…”
* * *
While Melody was enchanted by her visit to Winchester, and found most of her remaining Christmas presents there and the next day in London, it wasn’t quite sufficient to make up for the letdown she felt for not having been able to get the Red Arrow model for Captain Ochre. The return to Cloudbase and to her duties did nothing to remedy to the situation; this furlough was her last before Christmas, which meant that she would have to rely on online searches to find the much sought-after model.
Unfortunately, the next days proved quite busy, with situations happening around the globe that called for Spectrum’s intervention. As if it wasn’t enough, the Mysterons had to make one last appearance before Christmas, which kept them on their toes for the better part of a week. Consequently, Melody found herself with less time than she expected for her research. Once things had finally settled down, and she at last had the opportunity to scour Worldnet high and low, she had to face the fact that she wouldn’t be able to find the accursed elusive toy anywhere on the planet.
Oh, she did find one copy of the recent replica… but it wasn’t exactly available on Earth: it was offered by a store located in Lunarville Two – on the Moon. And unsurprisingly, they were not delivering to Earth. Even less to a military base hovering 40,000 feet above Earth’s surface.
And yes, the forty-year old Kuyama and Benson original model from Winchester was still available on Kemp’s Olde Collector’s Shoppe website... The picture was there each time Melody went to check, taunting her, as if reminding her of a missed opportunity. Often, she would spend many minutes contemplating it. There was still with no price affixed to the picture; but it would not have surprised Melody if Old Man Kemp had increased it since she had visited his shop.
The fact that it still seemed to be available comforted Melody in her initial perception that the price asked for it for it was way too excessive. Still… it seemed to be the only model available on the whole surface of the Earth. And furthermore, it was an original.
She was about to make a folly just in the name of love.
She found Captain Scarlet in the Officers’ Lounge, busy trimming the Christmas tree with Captain Blue, Captain Grey and Destiny Angel. She requested a word with him in private – at the other end of the room – and then asked him for a favour that made him frown in perplexity.
“From what you and Pat told me of the incident,” he remarked, “and how rude that old man had been to you, I’m rather surprised you still want to do business with him, Mags. I thought you would never have set foot in his shop again.”
“I did promise myself that, but don’t worry, I don’t intend to give that old coot the satisfaction of seeing me coming back, grovelling at his feet,” Melody retorted somewhat heatedly. That made Captain Scarlet grin with amusement; this was more like the woman he knew. Seeing his smile, she felt the heat coming to her ears and, clearing her throat, she continued: “I was thinking… Well, considering your parents live nearby, maybe they could…” She let the rest of the sentence hang and looked at Scarlet with a near-pleading expression.
He understood what she meant exactly.
“Of course they could get the toy for you,” he said in a soft voice.
“If it’s not a bother, of course?” Melody added, still unsure if it was okay for her to ask that much of Scarlet’s parents.
“Absolutely not. You know it’s not far from home. I’ll go call my Mum this instant.”
“You’re a gem, Paul,” Melody said with relief. “And your mother is too. Oh, and I know it’s a big amount – I’ll transfer the money directly into her account right away.”
“Let’s just wait until the model is safely bought first,” Scarlet advised. “Mags, you know Christmas Eve is tomorrow. You do realise you will not have this model here in time to give it to Rick then?”
She shrugged. “That doesn’t matter. I’ve already bought some cologne for him, as a replacement gift for Christmas. I can always give him the model for his birthday, in late February.”
Scarlet smiled teasingly. “Are you sure you’ll be able to survive the suspense until then?”
Scarlet left the Officers’ Lounge to go to his quarters and make the call home. While waiting for him, Melody joined the others in the trimming of the tree. Now that she had made the decision to acquire the model from Winchester, her heart felt lighter – of course, her wallet would be as well. Still, she could afford it, she thought, and that would certainly make Ochre very happy.
She was to face a new setback.
Scarlet came back, about a half-hour later, and took her to the other side of the room again to deliver some bad news. His mother had managed to find a phone number from a neighbour to reach Kemp’s shop and ask him to put the model aside for her.
Unfortunately, it was not available anymore.
“It seems it was sold two weeks ago,” Scarlet explained to a crestfallen Melody. “Not long after you went to check it out, apparently. It just happens that the site has not been updated, because the person doing that for Kemp is on holiday.”
Melody was deeply disappointed, but she didn’t want to make it too obvious. She shrugged, trying to be dismissive. “Oh well, I did try. My loss for not having bought that model in the first place, I guess. Rick will have to be content with that bottle of cologne, then.”
“I know you had your heart set on that model, Mags. You must have, considering you were willing to give that rude old man good money for it. I’m sorry we couldn’t get it for you.”
“Not your fault, Paul,” Melody said, with a grateful smile. “And certainly not your mom’s. I thank you both for trying to help me.” She shrugged again and heaved a deep sigh. “Anyway, seems the decision’s been taken out of my hands, now. Well, at least I saved a lot of money, not buying that plastic toy. Perhaps it’s God’s way of telling me I should not spend it on trivial things and invest it more wisely somewhere else.”
Spectrum was fortunate that the remaining hours leading to Christmas were to stay quiet; there were no tragedy requiring their intervention anywhere on the globe, and the Mysterons seemed to have decided to give them a break – for a change.
While still retaining their vigilance in case of any sudden emergency, the personnel of Cloudbase were therefore able to spend Christmas Eve in undisrupted peace and quiet. The core of the senior staff – including the Angel pilots, whose duties were exceptionally taken over by standby pilots for the occasion – met in the Officers’ Lounge for the Christmas buffet and annual party.
In the middle of the evening, they were joined by Colonel White and Lieutenant Green, freshly off-duty from the Control Room. The ever efficient commander-in-chief of Spectrum had decided that his aide and himself needed to take a well-deserved break, and had left instructions with the standby communication officer who had replaced them to keep in contact with him should anything require his immediate or urgent attention.
It was traditional on Cloudbase to exchange gifts right after midnight; this year, it went as smoothly as ever. Colonel White even managed to surprise everyone with a small token gift for each of his senior staff officers. Some might have regarded the presents as inconsequential, but the fact that he had taken the time to choose a present with a specific significance for each and every one was significant enough to show how highly he thought of them all.
“Now, isn’t that like showing favouritism, sir?” Captain Ochre asked teasingly, after unwrapping his own gift. He had been given a small box containing a set of new model brushes and a bottle of fast-acting, super-strong and more importantly odourless glue, the unwrapping of which made everyone around him laugh. The symbolism behind such a gift wasn’t lost on anyone. “I thought a military commander ought not to do a thing like that for the people under his command.”
“Are you complaining about the gift, Captain?” the colonel replied, raising a questioning eyebrow.
“No… I’m rather perplexed with the choice you made of the glue… I was wondering if it was to oblige others who might have… complained… about a certain… smell?” He grinned and then winked around, at the sound of people’s groaning. “That’s what I call favouritism.”
“Nonsense, Captain,” Colonel White replied, not without a certain degree of amusement. “Don’t forget that I too find myself indisposed each time I walk in the Officers’ Lounge and find you have been using it, yet again, as your personal work shop. I know you will argue that it’s the only place large enough for the fumes to safely dissipate with the minimum of discomfort,” he quickly added as, surrounded by his sniggering companions, Ochre was opening his mouth to protest. “So since I don’t want you to die of intoxication in your oh-so-narrow quarters, or by strangulation through one of your colleagues – as either of these hypothetical situations are sure to prove a headache for me – I thought it best to be on the safe side and… take pre-emptive measures.”
Ochre joined in the general hilarity and thanked the colonel for his thoughtful gesture.
The exchange of presents carried on for a good hour afterwards and soon after, the party broke up. Slowly, people started to leave; at this unearthly hour, most of them went to bed, while others, as per their schedules, were due back on duty.
Of course, for a few, the party wasn’t quite over, as some special gifts still needed to be privately exchanged, away from prying eyes. Not surprisingly, Captain Scarlet and Rhapsody Angel discretely slipped away, before anyone could notice they were not there anymore. Soon, Captain Blue and Symphony Angel followed, saying good night to everyone who was left behind. Captain Magenta was next to leave, shortly followed by Harmony and Destiny, the latter waving gaily around as she walked through the door behind her Chinese colleague. Both women were scheduled to relieve two of the standby pilots in the Amber Room.
Melody was due to resume duty and join them two hours later. In the meantime, she had elected to stay in the Officers’ Lounge to while away the time. She was seated on her own on the sofa, relaxing after indulging herself with too many good things from the buffet. She didn’t feel tired at all, and didn’t feel like going back to her quarters, where she would be all alone. She glanced over her shoulder. Seated by the buffet table, Ochre was paying little attention to her at the moment, too involved in an animated chat with Grey and Green, concerning the latest World Government politics – a subject that bored Melody to death. She shrugged with some annoyance. She didn’t have any desire to interrupt him, or ask him if he would care to join her. At the moment, her heart simply wasn’t in it.
Oh, the party had certainly been fun, and she had had a good time with all of her colleagues. That wasn’t the question at all. In reality, all evening long, she had tried not to think about the gift she had wanted for Ochre and had succeeded, as long as there was someone keeping her company. But now, she felt somewhat down.
She couldn’t keep the Red Arrow out of her mind. Despite the brave façade she had presented to Scarlet the day before, when she had learned the model was no longer available, she couldn’t help feeling disappointed.
“You okay, Mags?”
Lost in her thoughts, Melody raised her head to see Ochre had just seemingly materialised in front of her. She looked towards the buffet, to realise she was alone with him. She had not noticed that Lieutenant Green and Captain Grey had gone.
She moved over to give Ochre some space next to her as he sat down. “You seemed far away, sweetheart,” he commented. “Something bothering you?”
“What makes you think something’s bothering me?” she asked, almost defensively.
“I don’t know… Maybe you’re not happy with your gift?”
She smiled at him. During the gift exchange earlier, he had given her a rather exclusive box of French bonbons that, he revealed, Destiny had helped him choose.
“You know I’d be quite happy with whatever you give me as a present, Rick,” she answered. “Why would I not be? It’s the thought that counts.”
“I was afraid the sweets would appear a little cheap,” Ochre confessed. “Maybe you expected something else from me?”
“Don’t worry about a thing, Rick. The gift was perfect.”
Inwardly, Melody called herself a liar; he thought the box of sweets cheap, but she considered the cologne she had given him no less cheap. Not that it was that bad, but it certainly wasn’t up to the standard she had hoped for. Ochre had amiably accepted the gift, and had thanked her with a kiss, for good measure. He seemed contented with it.
As for his gift to her… Well, no matter how expensive it might be, she wasn’t that fond of sweets. But she didn’t feel like she could blame Rick for being unaware of that.
Or could she? Considering they had known each other for the last three years, he certainly should have had an inkling of it.
She didn’t really want to start an argument.
“Then you’re not angry with me?” he asked her with insistence.
She frowned. “What makes you think I could be angry with you?”
“You’ve seemed distracted all evening, even distant with me. And more so when the gifts were exchanged. So I thought, maybe… you were unhappy with me. Did I do something that bothered you in any way?”
She patted his lap, and smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with you. I just… had my mind on other things. That’s all.” She shrugged, dismissively. “I told you, don’t worry about it.”
“Well, whatever it is you don’t want to tell me about, it’s obviously bothering you,” Ochre said, still insistent. “So maybe I can take your mind off these awful things – if only momentarily?”
She looked at him with curiosity. With a lopsided smile, he reached into his trouser pocket and brought out a small, neatly wrapped box, which he presented to her. “With luck, this is something to raise your spirits a bit.”
Her heart missed a beat. “What is this?” she asked a little awkwardly, her hand taking the box.
“Ah… something special I’ve got for you,” he said, grinning. “When I saw it, I thought you might like it. At least, I’m hoping you will.”
“I thought you’d already given me your gift.”
“Well, this is another one.”
“But… what is it?”
“Well, open it, silly girl, and you’ll see.”
She did, pulling first on the tiny golden ribbon, and then tearing through the paper that she crumpled into a small ball. She wasn’t surprised to find a jewellery box – the size and the shape were a good indication, anyway – but she was a bit hesitant to open it.
With trembling fingers, she pushed the velvety lid open – and then gasped.
Nested in the silky fabric of the lining was a tiny and delicate pendant; it was an angel, carved in pink nacre and attached to a slim golden chain.
“Rick,” she breathed out. “That’s… that’s fabulous.” She raised her head to look into his face; he was watching her with that mischievous glitter in his eyes that she had come to be so fond of. “I didn’t know you had such exquisite taste.”
“Hey, you know me, Mel,” he said with a grin. “A diamond in the rough. Just like you.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Merry Christmas, honey.”
“You shouldn’t have,” she said. “Really, Rick, it must have cost –”
“Not as much as you seem to imagine,” he cut in suddenly. “Ah, okay, it’s not exactly cheap,” he added, seeing her doubtful expression. “But seriously, you shouldn’t concern yourself about it. It really wasn’t that bad either.” He chuckled. “Would you believe the chain is more expensive than the pendant? And yet… when I saw it, I just could not not get it for you. If was just –”
“… Perfect,” she finished for him.
“Exactly,” he confirmed.
Melody looked at him despondently. Suddenly, she felt even cheaper than before. It wasn’t the price he might have paid for this pendant; she believed him when he said his gift wasn’t as expensive as she might imagine. It was the quality of the gift. It definitely came from the heart. It certainly more than made up for that box of sweets he had given her earlier, which obviously was only meant to divert the attention of everyone from the real gift he intended to give her later on, in private.
And she didn’t have anything to offer him that might even come close to this magnificent gift of his.
She carefully closed the lid. “I don’t know how to thank you,” she stated.
“I’ve got a good idea how,” he replied, smiling impishly.
That made her smile as well. And then she lowered her eyes to the box resting in her hand. She gestured powerlessly. “Rick, I don’t –”
“Hey, looks like I’m back just in time.”
The sound of that voice coming from the opening door made the both of them instinctively draw apart. Captain Magenta was walking in, carrying a Christmas shopping bag.
Ochre sighed in annoyance. “Don’t you have another place you ought to be?” he asked his friend with some irritation, as the latter came to sit on the sofa in front of them, on the other side of the table, while putting his bag between his feet. “Can’t you see Melody and I are kind of busy?”
“Well, I would be elsewhere, but I almost forgot I had to come back and make a special delivery,” Magenta replied with a joyful voice.
“A special delivery?” Ochre asked. “What are you on about?”
Magenta fished into his bag and got a relatively big box, wrapped in Christmas paper, which he put on the table in front of them. “Merry Christmas, Rick.”
Melody froze at the sight of that box. It was neatly wrapped, with a very nice paper, and decorated with red ribbons, and a beautiful rosette on top – which definitely seemed to have been done by Harmony’s expert hands.
But it wasn’t the wrapping that got her interest.
She recognised the size of that box. She had a very good suspicion what might be underneath that paper.
She looked up at Magenta with suspicious and interrogative eyes; he was smiling from one ear to the other.
No, he hadn’t…
“What’s this?” Ochre asked, looking at the box with perplexity.
“What do you think? It’s Melody’s last minute and very special gift to you,” Magenta explained, gesturing. “I had it in my quarters for safe keeping.” He winked at Melody, who was now sitting very straight. He could see from the way she was staring at him that she had guessed what was in the box – but at the same time, she was slowly shaking her head in disbelief. “We didn’t want you to find it at her place when you came… ah… visiting.”
“Very funny,” Ochre said, glaring at him. “I would have thought you were gentleman enough not to mention that sort of thing in front of a lady, Patrick… Oh well… I suppose your heart is in the right place. Now let’s see what’s in there, then…”
As he leant down over the box and started tearing through the paper, Melody caught sight of part of the brightly coloured artwork beneath…
…and then part of the Red Arrow’s drawn fuselage.
Over Ochre’s head, she smiled warmly at Magenta and mouthed a heartfelt, ‘Thank you’.
He simply smiled and sat back, enjoying the show as Ochre whooped with delight at the discovery of his special gift.
“I just knew you would regret not buying that old model for Rick at Kemp’s shop, so I took it upon myself to go and get it for you.”
It was later on, in the Amber Room, when Captain Magenta found himself alone with Melody. With Ochre due for duty in the Control Room, the Irish captain had offered to escort the young woman back to her station. Shortly after their arrival, Destiny and Harmony had gone on patrol, so Magenta had offered to keep Melody company for a while and share a coffee.
“I think I know when you did that,” Melody said thoughtfully. “It was when Paul took us to the Christmas Market. You said you wanted to take some pictures inside the Cathedral, before the end of visiting time… which was very close. You went to the store instead?”
“Yeah. I’m hoping God will forgive me for using one of the greatest monuments built for His glory as an excuse to play hooky and go somewhere else.” Magenta’s smile widened. “Although considering my other numerous and more serious sins, He would probably be lenient towards me with that one.”
“I’m sure He’ll realise it was for a good cause,” Melody replied fondly. “Why didn’t you tell me, Pat?”
“I nearly did, a number of times. Especially yesterday, when Scarlet told me his mother had tried to get the model for you, but found out it was already sold. But I thought… I might as well wait until tonight.” Magenta looked at the young woman with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry, Mags... All that time, I knew you were still looking for another kit, and I felt like a jerk not telling you… But I wanted to make it a surprise for you, as well as for Rick. I hope you’re not angry?”
She smiled. “How can I be angry with you? What you did is so sweet… But what if I had found another model?”
“That was a risk I was willing to take. And quite frankly, there was no way you would have been able to find a mint, original copy, like the one at Kemp’s. You wanted that specific model, but I realised you would not go back to that store to get it, and I’m not blaming you. Me, I didn’t mind stepping on my pride to get it for you… True, it wasn’t exactly me who had been the target of Kemp’s chauvinistic remarks, although I admit, if he had been half the age he was, I would’ve gladly punched him in the mouth.”
“And you would have doubly become my hero,” Melody said, chuckling. “Oh, I’m sure he was so full of himself to see you come back, like he predicted… I bet he asked even more for the model. By the way, I’ll have to pay you back for it.”
Magenta waved his hand dismissively. “That’s not necessary, Mags.”
“Oh yes it is,” Melody firmly replied, as Magenta took a sip of his coffee. “You’re very generous, Pat, and I know you’re of – shall we say – independent means –”
He almost choked himself with his coffee. “Independent means?” he repeated. “Boy, Mags, you’ve been keeping company with Blue for too long.” He shook his head, thoughtfully. “Okay, granted, my past life has been rather prosperous… and I was able to amass a certain amount of money… Not as much as Blue seems to have, obviously…”
“Pat,” Melody said warningly, seeing that he was going off on a tangent. “I insist.”
“Okay, okay… half of it, then? I wanted to give Rick a present which was worthwhile too; so, take it as my contribution, okay?”
“That’s very generous of you. Okay, then. But only if you let me tell him. He has to know the gift comes from both of us.”
Magenta sighed and put his cup on the table in front of them. “Oh well, doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to stop you, will I?” he commented, spying her impish smile. “Oh, and maybe you won’t believe it, but I was actually able to strike a bargain with Mr. Kemp. So the price I paid for the model wasn’t as high as you might imagine.”
“Really?” Melody said doubtfully.
“Yep. I got a special bargain by buying something else. Wait…”
Magenta had brought his Christmas shopping bag with him from the Officers Lounge and had put it underneath the glass table earlier. He reached for it and pulled it out, before lifting out the box it contained. He handed it to Melody. “Here. That’s for you.”
Melody frowned. Up until now, she had thought the gift in the bag was for Destiny – she had long suspected that Magenta and the French pilot had a thing going on – and that the Irish captain was only waiting for her to return to give it to her. She put her feet down from the sofa and sat up straight, as she took the box, wondering what it could be. She noticed it was wrapped in the same paper as Ochre’s gift, and decorated with a similar bow.
“For me? You shouldn’t have, Pat…”
“It’s my turn to insist,” Magenta replied, with a grin.
She tore into the paper, throwing it down on the floor as she did so. At first, she couldn’t see what the box was about, as she was holding it with the lid facing down. She turned it the right way up…
… To discover on the top the drawing of a plane she knew all too well.
“Remember you wondered if your XKF had been turned into a model at some point?” Magenta asked her. “And mentioning that it might have faded from memory?” He smiled. “Well, it seemed it didn’t completely fade from the collective mind. Someone did indeed make a model kit of it.”
The cover of the box was a beautiful illustration of the Kingsnake Fighter 115, flying in the sky, over a wide ocean, with just a tiny island far below. In the cockpit, she just could make out the pilot, with long flowing blonde hair.
She just had to chuckle.
“They didn’t exactly get the pilot right,” she commented. “How it is when they think of women pilots these days, they all envisage someone who looks like Destiny?”
“You’ve never dyed your hair blonde?” Magenta asked teasingly.
She laughed. “Not on your life! Straightening my hair, yes… but dyeing it?” She gave it some thought. “Mmm… That might give Rick a shock.”
She heard Magenta’s chuckle of amusement as she lowered her eyes to admire the drawing on the box on her lap. It was bringing back a lot of memories. Not all of them good, but not all of them bad either. She had loved the short period she’d served in the WAAF, something she would never have experienced if her brother, Mitchell, a pilot in the Air Force who shared her love of flying, had not suggested she enlist as well. She remembered with fondness the challenges and the thrills of her life then, and the camaraderie shared with her fellow test pilots. There were some rough times, of course, and more conflicts and problems than she cared to remember, but still, it was all worth it.
If it hadn’t been for the whole Kingsnake incident, she might never have left the WAAF at all.
But then again, she wondered, without that incident maybe the World Government committee forming Spectrum would not have heard of her and approached her. Maybe she would have missed the chance find be a part of the Angel squadron.
She glanced at Magenta; he was part of the reason she felt like she was in the right place here, on Cloudbase, where she was appreciated and respected. She had found more satisfaction than she had in the WAAF amongst the members of the Angel squadron, with the colour-coded officers, with Colonel White, and everyone on board. They were more than comrades-in-arms. They were close to being a family.
And then, there was Richard Fraser. Even if she found him infuriating at time, she had to admit, her life was much fuller with him around than it had been before.
She stroked the image of the Kingsnake with some fondness. “I will have to ask Rick to make it for me,” she said in a dreamy voice.
She turned to Magenta and leaned to him, to plant a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Pat. You are a wonderful friend. We’re so lucky to have you.”
“No,” Magenta replied fondly, leaning to kiss her cheek in turn. “It’s Ochre who’s the lucky one for having you. And I hope the big oaf is smart enough to realise that.”
Those who are collectors know very well the pleasure and frustration of looking for that elusive piece you so desire. They also know that the rarer the item you are looking for, the more likely that item’s value will increase. And only you can decide if the item is indeed worth it’s been asked for and if that price is honest.
In this story, Melody Angel has a taste of this little piece of every collectors’ reality. Don’t go looking out there for that valuable Red Arrow model kit; it doesn’t really exist, and the box in the title art is but a montage. But you can certainly built your own model, if you have the skills and patience. See this page on the Tobor2.com website, where a fan shares info on how he did it.
The Red Arrow, of course, is that famous aircraft from the episode “Edge of Impact” from the original Thunderbirds TV series, and that the evil Hood sabotaged the tests of. There is a debate concerning the date the adventures of the Tracy brothers is set, either in 2026 and 2065. Each option has its supporters and can be substantiated by various proofs. Currently, I chose 2026 when I write Captain Scarlet fan fiction, because it opens more possibilities, plot wise. Beside, it is said in Rhapsody Angel’s biography that Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was kind of a mentor for Dianne Simms who succeeded her as the head of the Federal Agents Bureau (FAB) as some point, before FAB closed down. With that in mind, it seems easier and perhaps more logical to imagine that Lady Penelope is a lot older than Rhapsody… Whereas, they would be approximately of the same age if we consider the 2065 date.
The characters of General Metcalfe and his wife Mary, who had a small mentioned in this story, were created by Mary J. Rudy. You can read about Captain Scarlet turning into a 10 year old in my story "Tin Soldier".
The character of Nigel Kemp is not based on anyone, and was borne out of my twisted mind. Most owners of collectors shops I know are courteous, pleasant et dedicated to their chosen profession. They are fans themselves, and it shows. But I don’t doubt that, somewhere out there, there are a Nigel Kemp or two.
I thank Marion Woods for the wonderful work of beta-reading on this story. I also thank her and Isabelle Saucier for their advices and support.
But most of all, I thank Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Derek Meddings, and all those others with them who worked untiringly, 50 years ago, to give us shows like “Thunderbirds” and “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” for fans to still enjoy today, again and again.
The rights of both shows are not mine to own, and I’m not making any money out of writing these stories. I write them only in the name of love and affection.
2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Have a good one, Captain!