A 'Captain Scarlet' story for Halloween
By Chris Bishop
“Why has the MIGHTEC taken that other girl instead of the one he was supposed to?”
Musingly, Doctor Gordon was looking at his screen, where he could see Symphony Angel held tightly in the hand of the giant ape, hitting it with her fists in a desperate – and futile – attempt to get free. According to the robot’s programming, he was supposed to go for the actress who was to play the Ann Darrow character in that stupid movie the Earthmen were producing. But at the last minute, he had reached out and grabbed someone who was a complete stranger to him… and who, he had noticed, was wearing what looked like a white uniform and standing next to two Spectrum colour-coded officers.
He shrugged the question off. Possibly, the woman had got in the way of the ape’s prey and had taken its place. It didn’t matter much, as long as the plan continued to follow its course.
Which seemed to currently be the case.
“Too bad for her, I suppose. The MIGHTEC has reached the M.A.T. complex,” Gordon said with satisfaction, following the progress of the ape on his screen. “Very well… Now the fun can truly begin. All is working smoothly.”
“There is an increase of dopamine and serotonin in the subject, Doctor,” George reported. “And a slight spike with the oxytocin.”
Gordon left the consultation of his screen to turn to his accomplice, with a frown and an inquiring look. A rise of that specific hormone – oxytocin – wasn’t something he had anticipated. It was generally associated with empathic and amorous emotion, or sexual arousal.
“That would be caused by the disinhibitors?” he asked.
George shrugged dismissively. “No doubt about it, Doctor.”
“Could that obstruct our plan?”
“No, it doesn’t appear so. To the contrary, I might say. And I have to add, although I can’t figure out exactly what could be causing such a response from him, I don’t think it’s so unexpected, especially coming from an already deeply emotional subject.” He turned and offered his accomplice a crooked grin. “I suspect our Captain Blue is already a man in love.”
“You don’t say,” Gordon coldly commented, shrugging dismissively. He didn’t care at all, if it didn’t jeopardise his plan. He gave a glance at the still unconscious and now gagged Captain Scarlet, slouched in the chair he was bound to, just a few feet behind them, and returned to his screen. “These Earthmen really give too much value to their insignificant feelings of attraction for one another… After all, they are nothing more than chemical and biological responses, designed to stimulate the procreation process… They should really see nothing more to it.”
In all of her adult life, Karen Wainwright couldn’t remember having done anything so stupid.
Putting herself in front of a famous movie star about to be abducted by a giant mechanical gorilla had to top every last one of her most foolhardy moves. She couldn’t even explain to herself why she had done something like that… She simply acted out of instinct, trying to protect an innocent from harm. Like she had been taught to do as a kid; like she had been trained to do throughout her career.
Blondie O’Day might be safe now, but she was in trouble. In very deep trouble.
Kong was holding her tight in his grip; so painfully tight, he was almost squeezing the breath out of her. He wasn’t exactly being delicate either, roughly tossing his arm around as he galloped through the M.A.T. complex lot. Ground and sky were spinning rapidly in front of her eyes in a blur of movements and colours that were making her dizzy. She felt like throwing up and was doing her very best not to lose consciousness. Her arms and legs were free of the gorilla’s hold, and were flailing wildly. She was desperately trying to keep her head down and her arms and legs close, in order to protect herself the best she could. But her ride was so vertiginous she had trouble to concentrate.
I swear if ever I get out of this mess, I’m not going to let Ochre coerce me into seeing that damn movie…
And if I do, I certainly won’t be rooting for the ape…
Colonel White was at his desk, waiting impatiently for some development he knew would undoubtedly happen sooner or later, when a call came directly through his console comm.link.
Finally, the colonel thought. The Mysterons are making their move. All this waiting was starting to get on my nerves. He swiftly answered the call, eager for some action, and to see an end to the ongoing threat.
“Yes, Captain Ochre. What do you have to report?”
The answer he received was not what he was expecting. At all.
The first thing he heard was a deafening noise, that sounded like a roar, which, almost despite himself, made him back away from the speakers and caused Lieutenant Green to spin round on his seat to stare with disbelief. It was quickly followed by an apprehensive exclamation which rang over the console’s speakers:
“S.I.R.! King Kong is on the loose!”
White scowled, his irritation immediately rising at these words. “Captain Ochre, if this is your idea of some absurd joke –”
“It’s not a joke, sir!” Ochre swiftly replied, cutting his commander off in midsentence. That he had dared to do so was enough for White to realise his officer indeed wasn’t joking. “It’s the MIGHTEC – the cybernetic ape built by M.A.T. for the King Kong movie from Prestige Pictures, which studio is right next door to the M.A.T. facility. Somehow, it’s gone rogue... and has destroyed many buildings on the studio grounds, while making its way towards the complex.”
White was quick to realise it was indeed very serious. A giant robot on the rampage was right up the Mysterons’ alley, however absurd the whole idea may sound. “Lieutenant Green,” he ordered swiftly, “Launch all Angels and give them the coordinates for the M.A.T. complex in Los Angeles!”
“S.I.G., sir!” Green answered, promptly following his commander’s orders. “Angels One, Two and Three – immediate launch!”
In Los Angeles, onboard the electric cart they had requisitioned, Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta were closely following the giant cyborg. The MIGHTEC was on a rampage, punching through everything in his path, destroying walls and piercing roofs, stepping on vehicles, breaking and throwing electric posts to the ground, and pulling on electric wires. There were people running all around in every direction, screaming in fear, panicking, attempting to escape the berserk ape. Their screams seemed to infuriate him even more as he often turned to them, roaring in fury. The sound was deafening.
The giant ape looked thoroughly angry, displeased and maddened, just like a real wild animal would be when torn from its natural habitat and thrown into an unfamiliar environment.
Except… it’s not a real wild animal. It’s a robot, Magenta told himself, as he drove the cart after Kong, while Ochre was talking to Colonel White. A very sophisticated robot, but a robot nonetheless. In all logic, it shouldn’t be acting like this. It shouldn’t ‘feel’ anything.
Most Advanced Technologies meeting most primitive instincts and brute force, indeed, Magenta thought grimly. The Mysterons were certainly true to their word. Again.
He wondered how they could have succeeded in turning a piece of equipment into a rampaging wild beast. Next, I’ll be wary to climb aboard an SPJ, in fear it’ll crash on purpose…
He spotted Symphony Angel, imprisoned in Kong’s left hand, tossed and shaken by his sudden, careless movements as he swiftly ran across the facility grounds. The robot ape wasn’t paying her much attention; it was as if he had either forgotten about her or didn’t care about what might happen to her. She was still alive, but very pale and dishevelled; her face was contorted, as if she was either sick or in pain – which could be the case, either way. Kong was probably holding her too tight and the way he was handling her, she probably felt worse than if she was in the world’s wildest rollercoaster ride.
She wasn’t screaming, but perhaps she was too much in shock to even think about it.
Magenta leaned slightly towards Ochre. “We have to get her free,” he told him. “Before that beast knocks her against the side of a wall!” He took a swift decision. “I’ll try to get closer.”
Ochre nodded at his comment, as he continued to make his report to Cloudbase:
“Yes, sir… Captain Magenta and I are chasing the… er… ape through the grounds of the M.A.T. facility as we speak.”
“So the robot has reached the complex, Captain?” Ochre heard the colonel ask in his speakers.
“Yes, sir. And, Colonel, that’s not all. There’s –” At that very moment, a group of people emerging from a nearby building, raced through the grounds right in from of them, screaming at the sight of Kong and not even noticing the upcoming cart. “Look out, Magenta!”
Magenta turned the wheel brusquely, avoiding the collision at the last possible second. The front of the cart came into contact with Kong’s right heel. He turned to them and howled in anger, raising his empty right fist up. Magenta just had time to manoeuvre his vehicle towards the right, avoiding the fist which smashed into the asphalt, right next to them.
“That was close,” Ochre said, blowing a deep sight of relief. Magenta took the cart a little further from Kong, thinking that it might be better to keep some distance between them.
“Captain Ochre, what happened?”
On Cloudbase, Colonel White and Lieutenant Green had heard the commotion at the other end of the communication. They were relieved when Ochre answered the Spectrum commander’s call:
“The MIGHTEC is running amok, sir. We just avoided being crushed to bits when he turned against us.”
“It attacked you?” White asked.
“Yes, sir… He’s lashing out at everything in his path… and well, we were in his path. Sort of.”
“Angels airborne, sir,” Lieutenant Green then announced. “E.T.A. to Los Angeles, forty-five minutes.”
White waved his acknowledgement to his aide. “How much destruction has the robot caused so far?” he asked into his microphone.
“Enough to create a panic,” Ochre answered. “But so far, no deaths that we know of. The destruction is mostly material. People are being evacuated as we speak now… The beast is so loud, they can hear him approaching well before he gets there. So everyone’s running away.”
“So we may be able to avoid any deaths,” White commented.
“On the M.A.T. complex at least, sir. I don’t know about people at Prestige Pictures, though. The robot was chasing actress Blondie O’Day when we came face to face with it. And sir, there’s something else… I was trying to tell you before.” Ochre seemed to hesitate before continuing. “The MIGHTEC, Colonel… it has Symphony.”
White’s jaw nearly hit the side of his console. Green’s chair swirled around and the young man stared at his commander with eyes wide open.
“It… what?!” a stunned White almost yelled into the mic.
“We were at the guardhouse, just at the entrance of the complex,” Ochre explained. “The MIGHTEC surprised us – he grabbed Symphony and then, he ran away with her before we understood what was happening, Magenta and I.”
“The size it is, how the blasted hell was it able to surprise you?” White shook himself. “Never mind that. How is Symphony Angel? Do you know?”
Ochre looked over Magenta’s shoulder; the Irish captain, who was still driving the cart, was now keeping a safe distance from the running Kong. “The colonel wants to know if Symphony’s okay.”
Magenta grunted and shook his head. “From what I was able to see earlier she appeared unhurt…”
Ochre glanced in direction of Kong; the latter was running, using only three limbs. He was now keeping his left hand against his chest. As if he was keeping Symphony safe, the American captain reflected. All that he could see of the young woman was her messed up blonde hair and her flailing legs.
“I can’t see if she’s all right now,” he muttered.
“Hang on,” Magenta told him. “I’ll try to get closer…”
Ochre couldn’t say it was a reassuring statement, considering that the last time they had approached him, Kong had nearly flattened them. But he didn’t have time to protest; already, Magenta was veering the cart towards Kong. The latter spotted them and grunted a warning at them, baring menacing and impressive fangs.
“He doesn’t like that, Magenta,” Ochre advised, his hand instinctively gripping the Irishman’s shoulder. “Be careful…”
Magenta nodded and slowed his approach, keeping their vehicle slightly behind the cybernetic ape, just enough to be out of his line of vision. Gradually, the cart gained on the robot – enough for them to get a good view of Symphony’s face; she was white as a sheet, but definitely alive. She spotted them, and she contorted in Kong’s grip to call them desperately:
“Captain Ochre! Captain Magenta!”
Her cry for help was enough to attract Kong’s attention and, seemingly annoyed, he raised his hand to glare at her levelly and growled angrily in her face. She shrieked, probably at the sight of his fangs, and covered her eyes with her forearm, as if hoping to protect herself from having her head bitten off. Both Ochre and Magenta gasped in horror at the sight.
“Don’t hurt her, you monster!” Ochre yelled in anger.
Kong turned to the cart, and roaring even more furiously, swung his arm at it; Magenta did the same manoeuvre as before to avoid the impact, and the cart veered far away from harm. Kong’s forearm impacted against the side of a parked Jeep, sending it flying into the air, nearly into the path of the cart. Magenta was forced to slow down and make a large detour to circumnavigate it.
“What were you thinking, yelling at it like that?” he angrily demanded from Ochre. “That wasn’t a good idea!”
“And you think it was brilliant to try and approach him again?”
From the fleeing Kong, they heard the scream coming from Symphony: “Let me go, you stinking beast! Please, someone, help! You’ve got to help me!”
Ochre scowled. “Well… by the sound of it, she seems well...” He returned to his microphone to inform Cloudbase of what was going on. “Colonel, Symphony appears relatively unhurt. But we don’t know for how long.”
“S.I.G., Captain Ochre,” White replied. “The Angels will be with you shortly. Do you think M.A.T. might be able to help you stop the robot?”
“Unsure, sir… The MIGHTEC is a prototype, and was actually created at the London complex. Not here in L.A. Maybe the way to stop it could be found there instead of here.”
“We’ll contact Captain Scarlet’s team in London then,” White decided. “And we’ll ask them to find out whatever they can about this prototype. In the meantime, you and Captain Magenta will keep following that ape. Try to contain the damage it might be causing and see if you can work out a way to free Symphony Angel.”
Ochre’s jaw dropped. Is the old man insane? How does he think we would be able to contain what a twenty-five foot cybernetic gorilla might do? Hercules himself wouldn’t be able to achieve such an impossible task!
“S.I.G., sir,” he nevertheless replied with a less than assured voice.
“Don’t worry, Captain. Help is on the way. Cloudbase out.”
As soon as contact was cut with Ochre, White turned to Lieutenant Green who was waiting for his orders; the young man looked unsure, as if he had trouble believing what was happening. Truth to tell, the colonel himself could barely accept the truth.
It was all too ludicrous.
“You heard me, Lieutenant,” White told his aide. “Put me through immediately to Captain Scarlet in London. He’ll have to find any information possible about the MIGHTEC prototype. Captain Ochre might be right: if there’s a way to stop this infernal machine, it might be in London.”
“S.I.G., sir,” Green replied. “And… what about Symphony?”
White settled back in his chair. “Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta will keep their eyes on her, while we try to figure a way to get her out of this mechanical ape’s paws before it hurts her,” he said gloomily. “And before we’re forced to make use of lethal force to stop its rampage.”
Lieutenant Green gaped at him, unsure if he understood what he meant – and at the same time, afraid that he had understood all too well. “You mean, sir –”
“I mean I wouldn’t want her to get caught in the crossfire if we have to take this robot down,” White almost snapped at him. “If we can, we’ll save her. But should it come down to the alternative… I’m just hoping I won’t have to take that decision.”
* * *
When the lift left Rhapsody Angel at the twelfth floor of the M.A.T. building in London, she had not yet been able to reach either Captain Scarlet or Captain Blue over the radio. That was rather peculiar, but she didn’t dismiss the fact that it could be the lift itself that was stopping her communicator from working properly. However, the call she received from Cloudbase as she was making her way towards the door where she knew she would find her colleagues made her rethink her opinion on the matter. Until she saw it was Cloudbase calling, she thought it was Scarlet trying to reach her.
“Rhapsody Angel,” the voice of Colonel White asked her as she answered the call, “have you rejoined with Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue yet?”
“No, sir. I’m on my way. But I can’t seem to be able to contact them through the radio.”
“The same from here. Lieutenant Green keeps trying, but neither Captain Scarlet nor Captain Blue answers.”
Rhapsody slowed down, and frowned at her commander’s comment. “Do you think they ran into some kind of trouble, sir?”
“I don’t know. There might be a number of logical explanations why we can’t reach them. The place where they currently are might be filled with electronic devices causing interference, for example. That shouldn’t happen with our advanced equipment, but we know that M.A.T. is dealing with advanced technology as well.”
She shook her head thoughtfully. “I thought it could have been the fact that I was in the lift,” she said.
“However,” White continued, “under the circumstances, it might be possible they ran into some trouble.”
“Sir?” Rhapsody asked with a renewed frown.
“It seems the Mysterons have made their move in Los Angeles,” White announced. “They have taken control of the cybernetic ape Prestige Pictures were to use for their King Kong movie and it’s currently wreaking havoc on the M.A.T. complex.”
That made Rhapsody stop completely in her tracks. Was the colonel making a joke? What he had just said sounded too ridiculous to be real. However, the colonel was not one to joke during an assignment. “Say that again, sir?”
“You heard me the first time, Rhapsody.” Colonel White’s voice sounded annoyed; Rhapsody imagined that he had probably deduced what she had been thinking. “Furthermore,” he added, “in his rampage, the robot has somehow managed to abduct Symphony Angel and is now keeping her captive.”
Now that statement was even more bizarre than the first one. If not for the obvious precariousness of Symphony’s situation, Rhapsody would have burst out laughing, so little did she believe it. Her friend was clearly in mortal danger.
“Forgive me, sir, but it all sounds –”
“I know how it sounds. Believe me, if I thought it was all a gigantic prank on Captain Ochre’s part, I would have him exiled to the dark side of the moon no later than tomorrow. However, we do have a situation, and we have to take it seriously.”
“Of course, sir – is Symphony all right?”
“As far as Captains Ochre and Magenta were able to assess, yes. So far. They told me the robot ape was created at the London facility of M.A.T. – it’s a prototype they call the MIGHTEC. It’s quite possible that we’ll find in London information that might be useful to stop the robot.”
Rhapsody nodded her understanding. “Which is why you were trying to contact Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue,” she said thoughtfully. “In view of the circumstances, sir, I would be inclined to think that their radio silence is not due to some outside electronic interference.”
“Which means it’s down to you now to find them, Rhapsody,” White announced. “We’ll be alerting Spectrum London to provide you with assistance. Should you need to have the building searched from top to bottom…”
“Sir, if I may – it might not be a good idea to have Spectrum agents charge into the M.A.T. building,” Rhapsody retorted. “If Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue are indeed in trouble, that might put them in even more danger. Now Captain Scarlet might be indestructible…”
“… But Captain Blue isn’t,” White finished.
“Furthermore,” Rhapsody continued, “if there are Mysterons inside the building, and they’re withholding technologies or information that might help us, they’re liable to destroy it before we can get our hands on it.”
White seemed to give that some consideration. “I’ll ask Spectrum London to send Captain Forrest and his men, but they’ll stay outside, out of view, and wait for your call. But, Rhapsody: you’ll have little time to find Captains Scarlet and Blue and provide us with information that might stop the MIGHTEC. The Angel flight is on its way to Los Angeles as we speak, and will arrive there in about forty minutes. We’ll keep a close eye on the robot, but its rampage might claim victims if we wait too long. If it looks like we don’t have any choice, I’ll be ordering an aerial attack on the MIGHTEC.”
“I understand, sir,” Rhapsody said morosely, fully understanding all the implications.
“Anything you might find in London could help not only to stop the robot without an Angel strike, but might also help save Symphony. Because if she’s still with that ‘King Kong’ robot when the Angels attack…”
“She might get hurt or killed,” Rhapsody added, swallowing hard.
“Don’t be depressed,” Colonel White said in a softer tone. “Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta are currently trying to find a way to free her. There might still be hope with that alternative.”
“I’ll be calling you back as soon as I have made contact with Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue and we have found something to use against the robot.”
“Now be swift, but careful about it, Rhapsody,” White advised. “If indeed Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue’s silence is not accidental and they are in the clutches of the Mysterons – then our enemies may know you’re there, and you may be in danger as well. Don’t hesitate to call for Captain Forrest’s help if you feel you should need it.”
“I’ll be very careful, sir,” Rhapsody reassured him. “Rhapsody out.”
She cut contact and heaved a deep sigh. Forty minutes before the Angels would be in Los Angeles… actually, thirty-five now, she told herself as she checked her watch. She hoped she would be able to find Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue in time… and at the same time, discover a means to stop the MIGHTEC robot, before an aerial attack became necessary.
Her eyes found the door towards which she had been walking before Colonel White’s call. It was just there, at the end of the corridor. Room 5. It was behind that door that Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue were last reported to be going. They might still be there. They might also be elsewhere.
Certainly have to start somewhere, Rhapsody thought grimly.
She was about to resume her walk, when she became aware of a presence behind her. Swiftly, she turned around, taking a defensive pose, her left hand tight into a fist, ready to strike against whoever was attempting to surprise her.
But when she saw the face of the man who had approached her so carelessly and who now was cowering away from her, she stopped herself a mere second before landing her blow. He seemed as surprised at her reaction as she was at seeing him there. The small monkey perched on his left shoulder shrieked at her threatening gesture, as if protesting as loud as the man he accompanied:
“Hey, don’t hit me! I don’t want to hurt you!”
Rhapsody frowned in disbelief. “Doctor James?”
In Los Angeles, while still following the progress of the Kong robot on the M.A.T. grounds, Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta were frantically thinking of a way to rescue Symphony from the giant gorilla’s paws. They were keeping slightly behind the robot, trying to figure out what it would do next. The robot’s behaviour seemed erratic, and it didn’t appear to follow any designed patterns. Kong was still punching through everything standing in his path, causing destruction and panic all around. Fortunately, there were now fewer civilians in the vicinity; obviously, the security team had managed to evacuate most people very quickly.
But time was running out; soon, the Angels would be there and if Ochre and Magenta had not managed to stop the rampaging robot and free Symphony shortly, they knew full well that the colonel might be forced to order an air strike against it.
“Can we get closer?” Ochre asked his colleague as they were driving by the still running Kong.
Magenta scowled. “I thought it wasn’t a good idea to get closer?”
“I can’t see Symphony anymore… I just want to make sure she’s still all right.”
Magenta hesitated; twice already they had approached the ape, and twice the robot had turned against them. He nodded nonetheless and accelerated slightly, levelling their vehicle with the running gorilla. He saw Kong giving them but a glance, but the only threatening gesture he did was to disdainfully grunt at them.
“Steady now,” Ochre said in a soft voice. “Don’t scare him off…”
“Me scare him off?” Magenta muttered darkly.
“You know what I mean,” Ochre replied. “Let’s avoid having him swing another blow at us. Approach him quietly… Drive… casually.”
“Very funny.” Even if he wasn’t a movie buff like Ochre, that was at least one reference Magenta understood.
He drove the cart carefully to come level with Kong. So far so good… perhaps the robot had grown accustomed to their presence, hearing them following so closely.
Ochre stood up, trying to get a peek at Symphony.
“Do you see her?” Magenta asked. He couldn’t spot the young woman at all. The ape was now keeping her too close to his chest for him to get a good look.
Ochre leaned over, and craned his head as far as he could in the direction of the ape. He saw Symphony, held in the giant’s big hand, almost squeezed against his hairy chest. She spotted the cart, moving by the gorilla’s side, and she rolled fearful eyes in Ochre’s direction; she didn’t dare to call this time, probably remembering Kong’s reaction when she had tried earlier. She appeared to be in a rather uncomfortable position, but other than that she looked fine. Oddly enough, Kong was carrying her in a more careful fashion, and didn’t seem to want to hurt her.
This is really peculiar, Ochre mused. That machine really seems to be protective of her.
Ochre gave the young woman an encouraging wave, and she waved back, timidly.
“She looks okay,” he announced to Magenta.
“Hoping that’ll last,” muttered the Irish captain.
At that moment, Kong, who had mostly been tolerant of the cart’s presence by his side, seemingly decided he had had enough of it. He turned angrily at it, and growled with anger, causing Magenta to, once again, slow down and put some distance between them and the giant ape. But this time around, it wasn’t enough for Kong who reached for an empty bus parked alongside a building; he got a hold of it with his massive free hand, breaking the windshield. With tremendous strength, he pulled the bus and tossed it at arm’s length, pushing it between himself and the annoying pursuing cart. Magenta was forced to apply the brake swiftly, and the cart stopped mere inches from impact.
Kong leapt over the bus, got hold of the side of a wall with his free hand and swiftly dove into the narrow space between two buildings, which the bus was now so efficiently blocking.
“DAMN!” Magenta exclaimed in frustration, punching his steering wheel. “We’ll lose him!”
“Fat chance of that, he’s big as a house,” Ochre reasoned. “We just have to go round these buildings.”
Magenta was already manoeuvring their vehicle, and Ochre looked for a possible way to get around and resume their pursuit when he noticed another cart, following a few meters behind them; three men were onboard, with one of them standing in the back seat, aiming a handheld device in their direction. It didn’t look like a weapon from what Ochre could actually see, but these men’s actions were questionable enough to raise his suspicions. As Magenta put their vehicle in motion, Ochre tapped on his shoulder.
“Don’t look now, but we’re being followed.”
Magenta glanced at him and Ochre shook his head.
“Three men in a cart. One of them seems to be aiming some kind of electronic device at Kong.”
“A remote control of some sort, you think?” Magenta asked.
“Could be. I wouldn’t know for sure. But maybe these guys know something we don’t.”
“Mmm…” Magenta shook his head before suggesting: “Why don’t we ask them?”
Ochre was already unholstering his handgun, very discreetly. “Thought you’d never ask. This chase is leading us nowhere at the moment, so we might as well change strategy.”
“Hang on, then!”
“Beautiful! Wonderful! Extraordinary! Absolutely brilliant!”
Peer Abramson was ecstatic. After the debacle at the hangar, things were certainly looking up; the action unfolding before his eyes was certainly more than he could ever have hoped for. A giant gorilla rampaging through the grounds of a research centre, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property, causing a general panic in his path, and keeping a young woman captive in one of his hands; two Spectrum officers giving chase in a small electric cart, going full speed after the furious monster, attempting to save the damsel in distress, while avoiding debris and wreckage in their way or raining on them, and escaping being squashed to death by the massive fists…
This was, indeed, too good to be true. Better than any script he could have written himself.
“We’re going to make millions with this movie, boys!” he told Harold and Arnie as he drove their own cart after the Spectrum officers’. “I’m going to share with you – stick with me and you won’t regret it!”
Arnie, seated by his side, shook his head as he was still trying to work the controls displayed on the tablet in his hands. He was barely noticing what was going on in front of them. In fact, he preferred not to look too much. The destruction caused by the robot was enormous, and it was a miracle that, so far, no-one seemed to have been seriously hurt by it. Of course, there was that unknown young woman’s in Kong’s clutches… He dared not think what could happen to her if the robot should knock her against a solid object, even inadvertently.
Arnie was praying that Asimov’s laws of robotics would actually be able to contain the cyborg’s seeming rage before he would actually harm her – or someone else.
“I’m still unable to get a link,” he mumbled in frustration, his eyes set on the tablet’s screen. “It’s really like something’s blocking me out… Wish I knew exactly what’s going on.”
“Never mind, Arnie,” Abramson retorted flippantly. “In the meantime, we’re getting wonderful pictures for the most fantastic and unique documentary of all time! I hope you’re still getting all this, Harold?” he called to the young man standing behind, filming with the handheld camera.
“Every second of it, sir,” Harold answered excitedly. Once the initial concern and fear had passed, he could only sense an indescribable feeling of thrill within himself. This was certainly the chance of a lifetime. He was with Peer Abramson, and he was filming history in the making. Not only that, but it also was one of the most unique experiences ever lived by anyone in the film-making industry. Plus, to his knowledge, no-one had ever been able to film Spectrum officers so close in action.
“These images will be the talk of the world, Harold,” Abramson said with elation. “Those are the most thrilling scenes since the setting up of the first settlement on the Moon!”
Harold blinked – but not because of Abramson’s words. On the small screen of his camera, he could see the cart in front of them, with its way blocked by a bus Kong had thrown in front of it, suddenly veering in an abrupt U-turn. He could even hear the tyres screeching loudly from where he was. He raised his eyes from his screen and saw the Spectrum cart coming their way.
… At full speed.
“Erm… Mr. Abramson?” he said, lowering his camera. “I think we have trouble, sir…”
It took but a few seconds for the other cart to be almost on top of them; the three men cried out in fear of a collision. Abramson hit the brakes suddenly and the tyres squealed as the vehicle came into a halt – at the same instant as the Spectrum cart swerved in front of them and stopped. The sudden stop made Harold fall on his rear, and Arnie was almost thrown into the windshield. The next second, they saw the business end of a gun aimed in their direction, held by a Spectrum officer in a golden tunic, who didn’t seem to be in any joking state-of-mind.
“FREEZE!” he barked angrily at them. “One move, and I’ll blow your brains out!”
* * *
“Doctor James, what are you doing here?”
Upon recognising the man facing her, Rhapsody slightly relaxed, but kept on her guard. For all she knew, Arthur James could be an enemy to be wary of. He could be a Mysteron. However, he seemed so genuinely scared by her reaction that she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“You were lucky I recognised you. I could have hurt you.”
“I sure am glad you did recognise me,” James said, straightening up. He offered a weak smile, which contrasted with his ashen, still concerned face. “You seemed poised to do me some damage. As for why I’m here…” He reached for the still screeching monkey on his shoulder, and patted him comfortingly. “Well, soon after our discussion, I decided it was more than time enough for me to come and see Doctor Gordon about Doctor George’s experiments.”
“And you brought Binx along?” Rhapsody asked suspiciously.
“Doctor Gordon loves our monkeys, and is especially fond of Binx. I was betting that he wouldn’t like to know what his assistant had been doing with him.” James looked at her intently. “And what are you doing here, Ms. Wallis?” he asked her.
“I have… some business to attend to with Doctor Gordon as well,” Rhapsody replied tentatively.
“Have you?” James narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms on his chest. “Look, Ms. Wallis – if that is truly your name – I may be absent-minded at times, but I’m neither stupid – nor blind.” He nodded towards her badge. “It took me some time to realise that the colour of your badge wasn’t right for a security person. That’s a maintenance badge you’re wearing. But I’m betting you’re no more maintenance personnel than you are security. Who are you exactly?”
“No-one you should be concerned about.”
“Oh, I don’t know… I heard you talking to someone as I stepped out the lift earlier. I saw you talking into some kind of… communication device? I don’t know what this was all about, but it sounded mightily suspicious. Maybe I should warn Doctor Gordon about you as well? Earlier, I didn’t think I should, because you’ve been so kind with Binx and all, and he’s a very good judge of character. But for all I know, you might be an industrial spy, trying to steal some of M.A.T.’s secrets.”
Rhapsody looked at him for a moment, wondering how she should handle the situation; truth to tell, she didn’t have many options. James could at any moment walk to that door and denounce her; if Scarlet and Blue were in there, and if they should be captive of Mysteron agents, then not only would their lives be forfeited, but hers and James’ might as well.
“It wouldn’t be a good idea to do that, Doctor James,” she said softly.
“What, you mean it wouldn’t be a good idea to warn Doctor Gordon?” James scowled. “Is that a threat?”
“No. Just friendly advice.” Purposefully, Rhapsody searched in her bag and fished her Spectrum identity card out of it. She showed it to James. “I’m taking a huge risk revealing myself to you, Doctor James, but you seem on the level. I’m neither a spy, nor maintenance, as you guessed, but I do have something to do with security,” she explained. “I’m Rhapsody Angel…”
“Spectrum?” Disbelief was obvious on James’ face, but he could see the card the young woman was showing him was genuine. “I… I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”
“Let’s not stay here,” Rhapsody replied. “It’s not safe.”
She looked around, and spotted a small maintenance door on her left. She took James by the arm and pulled him to the door, which her borrowed pass opened for them. They entered; it was but a small storage room, with brooms, towels and a variety of cleaning products lining various shelves. Rhapsody found a switch and turned the light on, before closing the door behind them; she then turned to James, who was looking at her with confusion.
“What is Spectrum doing here?” he asked, lowering his voice as if he was afraid he would be heard. “Why all the secrecy? I don’t understand…” Binx was screeching nervously on his shoulder. He reached for the small monkey and scratched him under the chin, trying to calm him down. “Shhh, Binx. Be quiet, boy...”
“I don’t have much time to explain, Doctor,” Rhapsody told him. “Just so you know… there’s been a terrorist threat against the M.A.T. Corporation. I suppose you’ve heard of the Mysterons?”
James appeared stunned. “Yeah… Yeah, I’ve heard of them,” he said, still very confused. “They threatened M.A.T.? Because of the many contracts we have with the World Government, I suppose. But shouldn’t we be evacuating, or something…”
“The attack is directed at the Los Angeles complex,” Rhapsody interrupted him. “The Mysterons have taken control of the King Kong robot M.A.T. has built for Prestige Pictures and they’re using it to wreak destruction on the complex over there.”
“The MIGHTEC prototype?” James cut in. “But that was designed and built here.”
“You know about it, then?” Rhapsody asked hopefully. “You worked on that project?”
“Well, no… I don’t know it intimately. And it’s not a project I worked on, no. My job consists more of research for the medical use of DNI technologies… and the MIGHTEC is not a medical project, far from it. But what I know is this… I was there when Doctor Gordon studied Kerchak, our gorilla, to learn about the natural behaviours of a normal gorilla. He wanted to put that into some kind of a behavioural patterns programming that would have been entered into the MIGHTEC.”
“So Doctor Gordon was involved with the project?”
“Doctor Gordon is head of the DNI technologies department, Miss Rhapsody. The MIGHTEC prototype was his pet project in that field. The MIGHTEC was specifically conceived so it could be used with a DNI-based interface.”
“You mean controlled with the mind of a human,” Rhapsody summarised.
“Mostly. However, the prototype was delivered without the circuit board that would permit that type of control. From what I heard, Prestige wasn’t too keen on the idea of plugging the brain of a very precious movie star into the advanced interface M.A.T. had come up with. I don’t know, they seemed concerned that it would fry someone’s brain, if anything went wrong.”
“That wasn’t likely to happen, I imagine,” Rhapsody commented.
“Oh, that could indeed happen, with a short-circuit or any malfunction of the technology,” James retorted. “But the risk of that happening is practically nil and –”
“Doctor James, please… You said the prototype wasn’t delivered with the technology to permit DNI control?”
“From what I understand, the technology is still in place within the MIGHTEC, but the circuit board for DNI control isn’t. It’s been replaced by another circuit board, so that the MIGHTEC would be controlled with the use of a F.R.E.D harness instead.”
In the face of these revelations, Rhapsody’s mind was working very quickly. “Doctor James, would it be possible that this circuit board could have been inserted back into the MIGHTEC?”
“Er… Well, I suppose it’s quite possible. Doctor Gordon’s a practical man. He would have left the entire technology functional, should the bonzos at Prestige change their mind. I don’t know if the circuit board was shipped with the robot, though…” He snapped his fingers, as something came to his mind. “… However, I’m pretty sure the operating helmet for DNI controls has not been delivered to Prestige. That piece of equipment alone is worth millions, and that wouldn’t be something M.A.T. would relinquish easily to a client who would have no use for it.”
“Where would it be?” Rhapsody asked.
“Here, in this facility, of course. The helmets are Doctor Gordon’s responsibility. He’s the one who would authorise their use... and their eventual production for a would-be client. You see, to control a M.A.T. product, it’s mandatory to use a DNI helmet designed and built by M.A.T. They’re far more advanced than any our closest competitors could build.”
“So if a DNI control helmet had not been shipped with the MIGHTEC,” Rhapsody said thoughtfully, “than maybe it’s not what’s been used to control the robot.” She shook her head. She knew too well that if the Mysterons wanted to take control of an object, they didn’t need any fancy piece of human technology to do it. They only needed to destroy the thing first and recreate it.
However, she had a feeling that it wasn’t quite in their plans this time around. They had something more perverse in mind, and she was certain that it involved all that DNI business.
A thought came to the young woman. “Would it be possible to, say, control this robot in Los Angeles from over here, in London?” she asked James.
“I supposed it would be,” the physician replied. “I mean, with the proper equipment…”
“That M.A.T. surely has here?”
“Why, yes… possibly.”
“And a satellite to make the link over there, no doubt,” Rhapsody added thoughtfully. “And that equipment would be where in this building, exactly?”
“Well, in Room 5, of course… And M.A.T. owns a personal communication satellite that permits safe contact between our various offices round the world, without risk of industrial espionage…” By the look on her face, James was able to deduce what was going through the Spectrum agent’s mind. “But only Doctor Gordon would have access to that equipment. That would imply that he would be implicated with the Mysterons. Surely, that couldn’t be the case. He’s director of M.A.T. – which means he’s got as much interest in protecting the corporation as anyone – more, even!”
“How about Doctor George?” Rhapsody suggested. “As Doctor Gordon’s assistant, he would have access to the same equipment, no?”
“Yes, I imagine… But even if I don’t like Doctor George much, I can hardly believe he might league himself with terrorists against the company he’s working for. I mean, that man has a certain reputation.” James shook his head. “No, I can’t see either of those two men doing something like that. It doesn’t seem logical.”
Rhapsody hesitated. “Doctor James, I didn’t come alone. I had two colleagues who were supposed to meet Doctor Gordon. In Room 5, specifically. I haven’t heard from them since we separated, and our base hasn’t either. That’s not normal. They might have discovered something. They might have fallen into some kind of a trap.”
“I see… So you’re thinking that Doctor Gordon might have something to do with their silence. But maybe Doctor Gordon also fell into the same trap, no?”
Rhapsody didn’t want to commit herself. “As I already told you, I have little time to spare to explain everything,” she said. “I have two, maybe three colleagues in mortal danger, and that’s without counting other possible victims, and the destruction the MIGHTEC might cause in Los Angeles. I need to find my colleagues quickly – and that equipment which is possibly controlling the robot. Or at the very least, I need to find information on how to stop its rampage. If what I’m looking for is in Room 5, I have to get in there.”
“If you need help, I can assist you,” the vet offered quickly.
Rhapsody looked at him dubiously. “This is against normal procedure, Doctor James. You’re a civilian… I could put you at risk.”
“Hey, you did say you had little time to spare. I’m certain you can do with some help then. I mean, you probably can’t afford to refuse.”
Rhapsody sighed. She had to admit to herself, she didn’t have any choice in the matter. She already had lost too much time explaining to James what was going on.
Although that conversation had served to shed some light on exactly what might be going on.
“If you’re willing, then yes, I might use some of your help. For starters… Do you know another way to get into Room 5 without going through that main door over there? I’m sure it’s under surveillance, and I would like to avoid a possible trap.”
“Doctor Gordon’s office,” James informed her. “Right down the corridor and the first door after the corner. It has a communicating door to Room 5. But the door to his office might be locked.”
“Leave that to me. I know how to open locked doors.”
Captain Ochre was glaring at the three pale-faced men seated in the other electric cart; none of them dared to move, as if they were afraid he would shoot them. He pointed a finger to the man seated in the back – a young man, barely an adult - and addressed him severely:
“You! Show me what you have in your hands… slowly!”
“H-hey, cool it, man…” Harold Biggs raised his hands; they were shaking uncontrollably. It was the first time he had ever been threatened with a gun. The handheld device in the palm of his left hand almost slipped off. “It’s not a weapon, man… honest. Just a camera.”
Ochre realised immediately he was telling the truth; however, the other man sitting next to the driver’s seat was holding something other than a camera. He turned to him. “And you? What do you have?”
“A-a-a… A remote control, sir.” Arnie showed his tablet; his hands were shaking even more than Harold’s.
“What kind of remote?” Magenta asked brusquely. “Does it have anything to do with that robot?”
“Y-y-yes, sir. But really, it’s not what you’re thinking…”
Arnie swallowed hard. He wasn’t speaking as fast as he would hope to, in order to explain himself. He could see the two Spectrum officers had tensed at his words, and they were now glaring dangerously at him.
“Really, I’m trying to regain control of the robot,” he quickly tried to clarify. “It escaped from our control at the studio and –”
“Who the devil are you?” Magenta interrupted swiftly.
“Hang on.” Ochre was looking intently at the man behind the driving wheel. “You’re Peer Abramson, the famous producer/director.”
“Yes… Yes, I am, officer.” Relieved to have been recognised – finally – Abramson relaxed; his fingers had been gripping the wheel so hard that he was sure they had left marks on the surface. “These men... these men are my crew. We’re simply following the action and getting as much footage as we can. I’m sure you understand… This is an un-hoped-for opportunity that no film-maker would let slip from his grasp.”
Ochre grinned, lowering his gun. “Magenta,” he told his colleague, “that’s Peer Abramson. That’s the man in charge of making the King Kong movie.”
“Charmed, I’m sure,” Magenta said, his voice dripping with cold irony. His face was showing none of the sympathy or admiration his friend obviously had for Abramson. “Care to explain how this fiasco came to be, Mr. Abramson?”
“I hope you’re not implying we are responsible, officer!” Abramson protested.
“Captain,” Magenta corrected him. “And it depends on what you’ll be telling us.”
“We don’t know, Captain,” Arnie then said swiftly. “Honestly, we have no idea what happened. The MIGHTEC wasn’t even plugged in when it started moving, unexpectedly.”
“My star, Sam Simmons, ended up with a broken leg,” Abramson added quickly. He wasn’t sure if Sam’s leg was indeed broken. It did look broken. And anyway, New Hollywood wasn’t averse to embellishing a story… It could only be good publicity. “And then the robot chased after Blondie O’Day,” he continued, “destroying everything in his path.”
“We saw,” Magenta said, still very coldly. “So the robot wasn’t plugged in when it started moving?”
“Scared the living daylights out of everyone at the studio,” Harold said in turn. He felt left out and thought he should contribute his two cents’ worth.
“And you were trying to regain control of it, with that remote,” Magenta continued, ignoring the young man’s interjection.
“Yes, sir… I’m Arnie Doyle, cybernetic operator at the Prestige Pictures Studio.” He failed to see the exchange of glances between the two Spectrum officers at the sound of his name, and continued to explain: “I’m one of the MIGHTEC’s operators and programmers. I thought I would be able to stop the robot, but –”
“You’re coming with us,” Magenta said suddenly, interrupting him.
Arnie opened wide eyes. “M-me, sir?”
“Yeah, you. We might need your help.”
“And you,” Ochre told Harold, pointing at him and causing him to shiver, “give him your camera. We’re confiscating it.”
“You can’t do that, officer!” Abramson protested vehemently, watching with dread as Harold reluctantly handed over his camera to Arnie, before the latter left his seat. “There’s millions of dollars worth of film in that camera – literally!”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Abramson, but this is confidential Spectrum business,” Magenta retorted coldly. “We’ll make sure you personally receive the full official account of the events after we have put an end to the threat caused by this… monster of yours.”
“‘Full official account’?” Abramson repeated heatedly. “You’re kidding, right, officer?”
“Captain,” Magenta reminded him with a warning glare.
“You mean you’ll be giving us the same crap as you’ll be telling the newspeople?” Abramson was sure the Spectrum officer was riling him on purpose – and was taking tremendous pleasure in doing so. He could see the thin, satisfied smirk on his lips. He turned expectantly towards Ochre, to whom Arnie was now delivering the precious camera. This man, he imagined might be more sympathetic to his plea, unlike his cold-hearted colleague. “Please, Captain… You’re a captain too, are you?” He barely waited for Ochre’s nod, before pursuing: “You’ve got to give that camera back to me. For all I know, the King Kong production might be postponed indefinitely, after this fiasco. The footage in that device could be the only way for me to salvage something from it.”
He felt distraught when he saw Ochre shaking his head.
“I’m really, really sorry, Mr. Abramson,” the Spectrum captain answered. “Believe me. It’s really a question of security.” He showed the camera in his hand. “We cannot afford to put Spectrum officers at risk. And the publication of this film might be doing just that.”
“Speaking of people at risk, we have a damsel-in-distress to save,” Magenta then said, before a very pale and incensed Abramson could reply. Arnie Doyle had taken a place in the cart behind him, his tablet still in his hands, and was waiting docilely for the Spectrum officers to tell him what they expected of him. “Come on over, Captain Ochre, we have wasted enough time as it is.”
“Sure, Captain Magenta.” Ochre nodded to Abramson. “No hard feelings, sir? Really, I wish there was something I could do.”
He offered a smile in apology; the film-maker said nothing and simply glared at him murderously. Turning his back on him, Ochre jumped into the cart and Magenta turned it around.
Once again, they were on their way, leaving a discontent Abramson to grip his wheel in frustration.
“No hard feelings, he said,” the movie director muttered, with barely contained anger. “Of all the unfeeling –”
“Mr. Abramson?” The timid voice of Harold attracted Abramson’s attention, as well as the light pat he felt on his shoulder; he turned around and looked despondently at the young man. The latter, with a set face, shook his head.
“All might not be lost, sir.” Harold raised his other hand, showing what he was holding; it was a small handheld portable. He grinned widely. “My portable can record up to two hours in high definition.”
The expression on Abramson’s face lightened and became one of gratitude. Out of impulse, he reached for the young man’s head and squeezed it with enthusiasm. That took Harold by surprise; he felt for sure the producer was about to give him a stiff neck.
“You’re great, lad!” Abramson said, patting Harold’s cheek in a fashion that reminded the young man of his old aunt Edna. “When this is all over, there’ll be a contract for you to work as my personal assistant! Now come on, we have not a moment to lose!”
Soon after escaping from the pursuing Spectrum officers, Kong headed directly to the M.A.T. tower, which was now only a few hundred meters away. Surprisingly enough, he had calmed down considerably, to the point of stopping his destructive rampage. He now seemed intent on avoiding detection, as he progressed toward the main building, walking cautiously between the M.A.T. complex’s constructions, on three limbs, while keeping close to his chest the precious load he held in his left hand.
The robot wasn’t shaking her as much as he had at the start of his run, and Symphony was beginning to feel much better – less dazed, at any rate, and she was able to assess her situation. Kong was still holding her very tight and she hurt when she breathed too deeply; it was highly likely, she thought, he had broken a rib or two. Or three.
As Kong reached his destination, he stopped and grunting noisily, looked up; Symphony did the same. Of course, she recognised where she was: she was just at the foot of the same building where she and her colleagues had met Greenwood that same day, before they had left for their tour of the complex – before she found herself in this more than ridiculous situation. She noticed how Kong seemed to contemplate the top of the building and suddenly, she realised what he was up to.
“You’re not planning to climb up there, are you?” she asked, without daring to think she might be wrong.
As if to answer her, Kong jumped up and with his massive free hand, caught the edge of a concrete ledge. It gave way under his weight and crumbled down, pouring debris over the robot ape who fell down on his feet with a huff of disgruntlement. Symphony yelped and instinctively covered her head as fragments rained onto her; fortunately, the largest rubble fell clear of her, and she only received dust and tiny specks, which covered her blonde hair and made her sneeze. That sent a wave of pain through her chest.
“Be careful, you dumb ape,” she said between her teeth. “I’m not sure what you want with me, but if you don’t take care, you’ll end up with a dead body before you know it.”
He heard her voice and lowered his eyes; she could have sworn there was something alive in those robotic eyes that focussed straight at her.
“I don’t know who you are who’s controlling this thing,” she continued. “But whatever you’re planning, it won’t work. Spectrum will stop you.”
Kong tilted his head to one side, emitting a low rumble of curiosity – just like a beast that didn’t quite understand what he was being told. Symphony wasn’t so sure she liked all that attention. Who knew what could be in the mind of those controlling the ape and what could their intentions be towards her?
Kong turned his attention back to the top of the building and jumped up once more. His free hand punched through a set of windows and he got a better grip of the building side. Symphony gasped when she saw the gorilla’s feet leaving the ground to take their hold against the side of the building.
Kong pulled himself up and using his feet and free hand, started to climb, literally creating footholds in the wall, which gave him enough leverage to scale along it.
* * *
“Goddammit… Where’s that damn ape?”
Hoping to catch up with Kong, Magenta had driven the cart around the buildings between which the robot had disappeared. But as far as he could see, there was no trace of it. This was frustrating, as the two Spectrum officers were very much aware that the intervention to intercept the other cart, however short it was, had been long enough to give the ape a good start on them.
They started patrolling the ground with the cart, in search of their quarry. Surprisingly, it remained elusive. Despite Ochre’s assumption that his size would be enough for them to spot him, the ape had somehow found a way to disappear.
“At least, he doesn’t appear to be destroying anything at the moment,” Ochre commented from the back seat where he sat with Arnie Doyle. “Or we would be hearing something.”
“How about Symphony?” Magenta almost lashed at his colleague. “Who knows what he’s doing to her, uh? He could crush her under his thumb without thinking about it!”
“Actually, Captain,” Arnie then said, “I don’t think your friend is at any risk at all.” Magenta briefly glared at him over his shoulder and Arnie recoiled. “I mean, the three laws of robotics have been programmed into the robot,” he explained. “He shouldn’t be hurting any human being.”
“You mean the Asimov laws?” Magenta said. “You’re saying you’re using those laws, written by a science-fiction writer more than a hundred years ago, and implemented them into a robot, hoping that they’ll actually work?”
“Well, so far they have,” Arnie retorted. “Most of the robots in the world are now programmed with that set of laws.”
“And you think that stopped this one from causing any destruction?” snorted Magenta.
“I don’t think that the three laws include property damage…”
“It damn well should, as a collapsing building might likely kill someone!” Magenta retorted heatedly.
Ochre raised his hand. “Calm down, Magenta. Mr Doyle is not responsible for the robot’s… erm… behaviour. Now, Mr Doyle, let’s suppose, for the sake of our friend, that she is relatively safe. Do you have any idea why that ape took her?”
“Erm… I’m unsure, Captain. I might… have a theory…”
“Well, last evening, my colleague Dirk Manson and I entered the synthesized behavioural patterns into the MIGHTEC. One of these patterns we programmed is called the ‘Fay Wray behavioural sequence’.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask what that means,” Magenta grumbled.
“I think it’s the reason why Kong went after Blondie O’Day when we lost control of him at the studio,” Arnie explained. “And for some reason, that’s also what compelled him to take your friend… She’s blonde too, isn’t she?”
“Kong thinks that Symphony is Fay Wray?” Ochre said in puzzlement.
“Well, let’s just say that the robot is acting with her like Kong would with the character originally played by Fay Wray, about a hundred and forty years ago,” Arnie corrected. “That’s also one of the reasons why I’m certain your friend isn’t in danger with him.”
Ochre nodded knowingly. “That explains some of it…”
“That explains what?” Magenta asked grumpily.
“Well, I kind of noticed that Kong was acting protective-like with Symphony,” Ochre explained. “Didn’t you see how he was holding her?”
“Shaking her like a leaf, you mean?”
“I mean after that… The way he was keeping her close to his chest. Seemingly out of harm’s way?”
Magenta sighed deeply. “You’re reading too much into this, Ochre. This is a robot we’re talking about.”
“A robot maybe,” Arnie retorted. “But programmed to act like Kong. And Kong would never have hurt his precious Ann Darrow.”
“Not willingly, anyway,” Magenta snorted.
“The MIGHTEC would not go against his programming, Captain Magenta,” Arnie insisted.
“Of all the ludicrous –”
“Hang on,” Ochre suddenly interrupted. “Mr Doyle, you say that Kong would never go against his programming? So all this going amok and destruction… Is this part of his programming as well?”
Arnie hesitated slightly. “Sort of,” he confessed, a little reluctantly. “You know how the story goes, do you? But let me assure you – it was supposed to be controlled destruction. We would not have used that specific behavioural sequence outside of the set we have constructed for the occasion.”
“Still, the robot seems to have somehow accessed that programmed sequence,” Magenta said thoughtfully. “As he had accessed that… ‘Fay Wray sequence’ you mentioned.”
“It seems so, Captain,” Arnie conceded. “But I swear to you, I have no idea how this happened.” He leaned forward and showed the data displayed on his tablet. Ochre had no idea what they were supposed to look for. “I’ve been trying to regain control, to stop Kong in his rampage,” Arnie explained. “But so far…”
“No luck, then?” Ochre asked.
“No, unfortunately,” Arnie admitted. “I was saying to Mr. Abramson earlier… it’s like an outside signal is blocking mine… Keeping control of the MIGHTEC and preventing me from linking with it. I don’t know what it is exactly, but obviously, that signal’s stronger than mine.”
“Another signal?” Magenta said thoughtfully.
“Yes. I have no idea where it’s coming from.”
Magenta briefly glanced at Ochre over his shoulder. He didn’t have to voice who he suspected could be at the origin of that unknown signal. He could see that his colleague was having the same thought.
Magenta put on the brakes and the cart came into an abrupt halt, almost throwing Ochre and Arnie onto the front seat. “Ochre, take the wheel,” he said, jumping out of his seat. “Mr Doyle, I’ll sit with you and will try to help you with that remote.”
“You’ll be working your magic on it?” Ochre asked, standing up and stepping over the backrest to take the place Magenta had just vacated.
“I might try, at least,” Magenta retorted, taking the tablet Arnie was handing to him. “And maybe Lieutenant Green will be able to help us locate where that signal come from, once I give him the coordinates.”
“Mars, maybe?” Ochre suggested almost flippantly.
“He’s joking,” Magenta said to Arnie as the latter was opening his mouth to ask a question. “Captain Ochre is Spectrum’s notorious joker.”
“Geez, thanks,” muttered Ochre. “You don’t have to reveal that bit of information to someone who’s working in the movie business. Now if we could only find that ape… Maybe that remote might help locate him?”
“If I may hazard a guess…?” Arnie said at this moment.
Both Ochre and Magenta turned to him, and the man pointed toward at tall building, which stood nearly at the other end of the M.A.T. complex – the fifty storey high tower that the two Spectrum officers had visited earlier with Symphony Angel.
“We also entered the ‘Empire State Building’ sequence into the MIGHTEC last night,” Arnie explained. “And it may be that now that he has his Ann Darrow with him –”
“– He’ll be heading towards the highest building around,” Ochre said in understanding.
“That construction houses the M.A.T. main offices,” Magenta realised. “Of course, that’s logical… The Mysterons want to cause as much destruction to M.A.T. as possible!” He looked attentively at the tower, narrowing his eyes. He thought he saw something, a strange shape protruding from the side of it, about a third of a way up. “Hang on a sec… Is there a camera and zooming feature on this thing of yours?” he asked Arnie, pointing to the tablet.
“Sure,” Arnie answered in confusion as Magenta took the object from his hands and aligned it with the tower. He pointed to a small icon on the right side of the screen. “You press here and –”
He didn’t get to finish his explanation. Magenta had found the feature all by himself and the image of the tower appeared on the screen; he zoomed in on the specific part he had spotted earlier and the shadow appeared more clearly.
It was King Kong slowly climbing the side of the tower.
“Oh, you gotta be kidding me…” Magenta muttered, almost not believing it.
Ochre leaned back from the front seat and pulled the tablet to him, to check what his colleague had discovered. He clicked his tongue in annoyance. “Well, now we found that damn ape,” he said grimly. He put the cart into gear and headed it towards the M.A.T. tower. “I hope the building has been evacuated?”
“We’ll have to ask Cloudbase to make sure of that. How much time before the Angels’ arrival?” Magenta asked.
Ochre checked his watch. “Twenty-five, thirty minutes at the most,” he responded morosely.
“Time is against us. We must reach that robot before the Angels arrive, and try to get Symphony out of its clutches. If it reaches the top and the Angels come in to attack –”
“Wow,” murmured Ochre. “Reality surpassing fiction.”
“I don’t find it funny, Ochre.”
“I don’t feel like being funny. I’m just thinking about Symphony. Like you, I know she’ll be dead in the water, if the Angels come in to attack Kong at the top of that tower. If only we could make contact with her…”
“Damn it… Why didn’t we think of it before?” Magenta snapped his fingers as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “Her personal communicator… Maybe she can use it? If she still has it, that is.”
Ochre gave it a very brief thought. “Worth a try,” he conceded with a nod, lowering his cap microphone. “I’ll try to raise her.”
“Maybe she can get Kong to behave!” Arnie then suddenly declared excitedly. Ochre and Magenta turned to him again, and the man, intimidated by their intense stare, sat back onto his seat. “Ann Darrow was somehow able to calm him down,” he explained in a shy voice.
“That’s in the other movie,” Ochre commented. “Not the original.”
“Still, we put it in the Fay Wray behavioural sequence as well. Apparently, it’ll be in the new movie.”
Ochre and Magenta glanced at each other. “What do you think?” asked Ochre.
Magenta shrugged. “It’s preposterous enough to actually work,” he admitted. “I’ll contact Cloudbase. Now drive to that tower and try to raise Symphony.”
“S.I.G.,” Ochre answered, pressing down on the accelerator.
The cart jumped forward.
* * *
“Beta waves are dropping. Alpha waves are on the rise.”
At his assistant’s words, Calvin Gordon turned an inquiring look onto him; the images relayed from the satellite were already telling him that the destruction caused by the MIGHTEC in Los Angeles had subsided gradually. Nevertheless, he wasn’t really unhappy: on the plus side, the robot had reached the M.A.T. complex main building and, following its programming, had started to climb up its side, tearing out huge chunks of the construction on the way up. No doubt this was creating enough havoc and damage for the corporation to take a very long time to recover and fully heal from it. With any luck, the robot would build enough rage to fully vent against the tower and destroy the technology it contained beyond any hope of recovery. That would certainly prevent M.A.T. from creating new tools for the World Government and especially Spectrum to use against the Mysterons. At least for a certain amount of time.
However, George’s report was leaving him perplexed; this was a new development he wasn’t counting on at all, and which might actually jeopardize his plans.
“The subject is calming down,” Gordon said with a knowing nod. “That explains why the MIGHTEC’s anger is subsiding.”
“I don’t get it,” George said, shaking his head. “The disinhibitors’ flow is steady. Captain Blue’s still distressed and confused, but his level of anger and aggressiveness has decreased. His pulse and his heart rate are now slowing down… That shouldn’t be happening.” He made a second read-through of the data displayed on his screen. “That doesn’t make sense. The amount of dopamine has increased significantly. And oxytocin is nearly over the top.” He looked back at Gordon. “That does indicate that the disinhibitors are still effective and he should be aggressive. And yet –”
“You are thinking he’s fighting the effects of the drug?” Gordon asked.
“Possibly… But as such, it shouldn’t be a problem. The more a subject fights the disinhibiting drugs, the more they should affect him.” George grunted in frustration. “It’s impossible that this Earthman can have that kind of will,” he declared. “Maybe Captain Scarlet might have been able to resist, but this one… he’s only human.”
“Relax,” Gordon told him in a calming voice. “I’m sure there is a solution, yes? We can increase the flow of the drug in him, for example?”
“We certainly can,” George answered. He gestured to a stand-alone computerised console, a few feet behind him. “I can use the automated laboratory to create more of the drug and inject it to him… at whatever the rate would be preferable. But we’ll have to be careful. This will increase his heart rate significantly, to the point of endangering his life if we give him too much too fast.”
Gordon mused about it for a quick second. “Just make sure he’ll last until the end of the mission,” he said stoically. “The MIGHTEC has yet to destroy the M.A.T. tower… The blow to the corporation must be a crippling one, if we want this mission to succeed.”
“Of course, Doctor. I’ll get on it right away.”
A groan coming from behind Gordon made the latter look over his shoulder, to discover that Captain Scarlet, still bound to his chair, was slowly starting to regain his sense.
His resilience is quite impressive. That last shot George gave him would have killed any other normal man.
Oh well… Not that it will serve him at all, the Mysteronised scientist reflected, returning to his screens. He’s just waking up in time to witness the Mysterons’ victory.
* * *
The door leading to Doctor Gordon’s office was made of thick frosted glass, but it was translucent enough to see through it and to realise that the room was empty. Rhapsody had no trouble to circumvent the security code locking the door; Lady Penelope had been a good teacher in that art, though where exactly she had learned it herself was a mystery to the young woman. Both she and Doctor James, with Binx still perched on the vet’s shoulder, entered carefully.
A quick scan around the room confirmed that there was indeed nobody in.
“Right,” Rhapsody said as James cautiously closed the door behind them. “Which way now?”
The veterinarian pointed to a closed door on their left. “That way. It leads straight into Room 5. Doctor Gordon likes to keep a close watch on his projects. That’s why he had his office set right next to the DNI Development and Applications Department.”
Rhapsody nodded her understanding and took a first step towards the designated door when she heard a buzzing coming from her communicator in her vest pocket. She reached for it; the white light at the top of the pen-like device informed her that it was Colonel White himself who was contacting her.
She answered swiftly, in a low voice: “Yes, sir?”
“We have developments in Los Angeles, Rhapsody,” the Spectrum commander told her quickly. “Have you made contact with Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue yet?”
“I believe I’m about to find out what happened to them, sir. What’s going on in Los Angeles?”
“Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta just reported in,” White explained. “They are currently working with one of the cybernetic operators in charge of the rogue MIGHTEC, in trying to regain control of it. But it seems that their attempts are blocked by a signal coming from an unknown origin.”
Rhapsody stopped on her tracks, just as she reached the door. She stepped away from it and motioned James to do like her as she moved to lean against the wall next to the door. “A signal that might be controlling the robot’s current behaviour, sir?”
“We don’t know how much control that signal might actually have on it,” White replied. “It certainly must be what caused the robot to go rogue in the first place, and sent it on a rampage. According to Captain Magenta, the robot caused random destruction at the movie studio, and then at the complex, which doesn’t seem to indicate that it’s following any kind of cohesive plan of action… other than some absurd programming that’s supposed to make it ‘act’ like King Kong. Believe it or not, it’s currently climbing the side of M.A.T.’s main building… which just happened to be the tallest building on the complex, a tower of fifty storeys high.”
Rhapsody frowned. She exchanged glances with James. “You mean, it’s acting like a real gorilla?” she suggested.
“Like a crazed bull ape would be a better description; destroying everything in his path. Why someone would enter such programming into a robot, even for the sake of authenticity for a movie is beyond me.”
“Sir,” Rhapsody said quickly, “I believe Doctor Gordon is involved in this. I just learned that the MIGHTEC prototype was his pet project here in London. He studied the natural behaviours of a gorilla to create…”
“Behavioural patterns,” James provided, seeing as she was struggling to find the term.
“Behavioural patterns,” Rhapsody repeated. “Patterns that were programmed into the MIGHTEC so he would act ‘more naturally’. Furthermore, the prototype was specifically designed for DNI control. It supposedly lacked the circuit board permitting that control when delivered to the movie studio, but let’s assume that this circuit board was put back afterwards… so that an outside source might obtain control of the MIGHTEC...”
“You’re thinking that might be the technology used to control the robot, Rhapsody?”
“Possibly, sir. And more than that, I believe that this control is operated from here, in London. M.A.T. is the sole designer of the operating helmet that permits DNI control over the prototype, and that helmet is within these premises. Added to that, M.A.T. has a satellite for communications between their international offices. It might be currently used to convey that signal you mentioned from here to L.A.”
There was a short pause as Colonel White digested this new information. Like the fine strategist he was, he was fast to come up with a plan: “I’ll have Lieutenant Green check on that satellite, and discover if indeed the signal controlling the MIGHTEC can be traced back to it and then to London. If you’re right, Rhapsody, we can disable that signal and stop the robot, either by destroying the satellite or –”
“… Cutting off the source.” Rhapsody glanced at the door. “I might be right next to it, sir. I think it’s in the same room where Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue were to meet Doctor Gordon.”
“It all comes together, Rhapsody. You were right earlier. Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue have indeed run into trouble. Captain Forrest and his team are already outside, waiting for a signal to enter and provide you with assistance. I won’t give that signal right now, as I fear that their arrival would alert the Mysterons that we’re on to them. Better to keep the element of surprise. It’s up to you now. If the source of that signal is indeed there, find it. And put an end to it.”
“I’ll do whatever I can, sir.”
“I’m giving you thirty minutes, and then report back to me. If you have not given us any news by then, I will have to presume you failed, and will be sending Captain Forrest in. Good luck, Rhapsody. Cloudbase out.”
The signal was cut and Rhapsody put the communicator back into her pocket, before turning to Doctor James; the latter was regarding her with some confusion. He had heard everything, and it was obvious he found himself in over his head in this affair.
“Are you still willing to help me?” Rhapsody asked him gravely.
“O-of course, I am. But I still can’t see how Doctor Gordon could have done something against M.A.T. God, working with the corporation is his life… He’s been there since the very beginning.”
“I have no time to explain to you, Doctor James. I just need to know if I can count on you. I will understand fully if you would prefer to step aside, but really, I can use all the help I can get.”
James shook himself. “Yes, you can count on me,” he confirmed. “I can’t very likely abandon you in your time of need.” He smiled sadly, caressing the tail of the small monkey on his shoulder. “Binx would never forgive me if I did.”
“Then Binx is a lifesaver,” Rhapsody said with a thin smile of her own. “Now stay behind me while we check what’s going on beyond this door. And be sure to follow my instructions to the letter.”
* * *
The climb wasn’t steady, not by a long way, and the structure of the building was barely enough to support the Kong robot’s massive weight – which, considering the size, Symphony estimated around 20 to 30 tons. Concrete and floors were loudly crumbling at each step Kong took, with more debris falling to the ground; the ape ignored the difficulties of his progression and continued to climb, higher and higher, his eyes fixed directly at the top.
Symphony was looking down, holding her breath; she was afraid that the robot would never reach its destination and that the climb alone would be enough to destroy the building; it would then most definitely fall to the ground, taking her with it, and it would be the end for both of them.
“What do you want with me?” Symphony asked, almost in a whisper. “Why have you taken me? Am I to be held as a hostage?”
Her voice reaching him once again, Kong momentarily stopped his progression and, holding himself against the side of the wall, raised his left hand to look closely at her, huffing as he did. Fearful that he might bite her head off, Symphony tried to move back, and that made her grimace in pain with the effort. But she soon realised she didn’t need to fear anything; he was simply staring at her with curiosity. Delicately, using his left index finger, he brushed some of the debris from her hair. She winced again, his movement causing her pain. Her hands caught the huge finger as it rested against the side of her head. Again, her eyes caught those of the giant ape.
“Can’t you see you’re hurting me?” she asked pleadingly. “Why don’t you let me go?”
She almost regretted her question because if he was to accede to her appeal, Kong might very well drop her to her death. But he simply huffed, almost disdainfully. Ignoring her request, he started moving up again.
The young woman was still wondering about the reason behind her abduction when a muffled beeping sound attracted her attention. She wasn’t sure she had heard well, until she heard it again. She knew that sound well.
It was her personal communicator, stashed in the inside breast pocket of her uniform, indicating that someone was trying to contact her.
She could have kicked herself; how could she had been so stupid as to not think about using it before?
Of course, she had been too preoccupied to think about anything but keeping her head down so not to accidentally be knocked against the side of a wall…
Carefully, not wanting to upset the ape keeping a tight hold on her, Symphony attempted to reach for her communicator. It was stuck between her breast and Kong’s huge finger; it would have been easier if each move didn’t prove to be a torture… but she managed somehow to get it out. The beeping sound became clearer and she quickly opened the channel, hoping that if the gorilla heard it, it wouldn’t infuriate him. But Kong was too busy climbing, and the crumbling of the wall as he progressed was enough to cover the sound.
The light at the top of her communicator was yellow. She knew who was contacting her.
“About time you called,” Symphony rasped, catching her breath as she pronounced these words. Really, she imagined Ochre and Magenta should have thought about contacting her before that moment… after all, they didn’t have quite the same concerns of being killed as her.
Well, that wasn’t really true. Kong did take a few swipes at them and had thrown that bus in their path earlier…
“Are you okay, Symphony?” the voice of Ochre asked with obvious worry.
“What do you think?” she said between her teeth. “This brute is holding me too tight. I think he broke some of my ribs… I hurt like hell each time I take a breath.” She paused for a second before adding, a little more calmly: “Otherwise I’m fine.”
“Thank God for that,” Ochre said with a relieved sigh. “Hang on tight. We’re trying to find a way to get you out of this mess.”
“And how do you propose to do that, exactly?” she snapped at him.
There was a silence at the other end, before Ochre finally said: “We’re working on it.”
“Very encouraging,” Symphony replied coldly. “Where are you?”
“We’re heading towards the M.A.T. main building. We should be there shortly. We can see Kong climbing on the side of it – apparently trying to reach the top.”
Symphony rolled her eyes. “I can confirm that it’s exactly what’s he’s trying to do. That is… if the building doesn’t fall down first. I hope the place is completely evacuated?”
Kong seemed to realise something was going on at that moment and he stopped his climbing. He raised his hand again, to look closely at her, and he barked angrily.
It was meant as a warning, obviously. Symphony recoiled. “He doesn’t seem to like the sound of my voice, I think,” she said in a near-whisper into her mic, as after a last glare at her, Kong resumed his climb.
“Actually, Symphony… it might be quite the contrary,” Ochre retorted. “Arnie here thinks that maybe you might be able to soothe him down. Maybe even enough for him to release you.”
Symphony frowned. “Arnie? Who the hell is Arnie?”
“Arnie Doyle – one of Kong’s controllers at Prestige Pictures. Remember? He called Greenwood when we were with him.”
“How can you expect me to remember a thing like that, while being held captive in the hand of a giant gorilla?” Symphony protested with irritation. Sometimes, Ochre could be so infuriating; his suggestion was nothing less than ridiculous. “Tell your Mr. Doyle that he’s doing an awful job in controlling this monster of his… or maybe it’s his idea to have Kong destroy half of Prestige Studios as well as the M.A.T. complex?”
“Symphony, bear with me,” Ochre said patiently. “This Kong robot is currently following the Fay Wray behavioural sequence...”
“The… what?” Symphony asked in confusion. “What’s that?”
“In short, he thinks you’re his sweetheart and he’s obviously aiming to take you at the top of the Empire State Building.”
Symphony almost exploded. “What?! This is no Empire State –”
Kong raised her up again to eye level, and huffed a new warning, interrupting her. He definitely doesn’t seem to like it when I get upset like that, the young woman realised. Almost instinctively, she raised her hand in a soothing gesture. “Easy… easy, big fella,” she said, forcing her voice to stay even and soft. “It’s not you who’s making me angry. You see, there’s that golden-clad Spectrum officer who keeps making dim-witted suggestions…”
“I heard that,” she heard Ochre say through the speaker of her communication device.
She ignored him and kept on talking quietly to Kong: “You have no reason to be angry with me… or to eat me… I like you, you know…” She saw Kong’s eyelids bat as he contemplated her; he was obviously calming down; his angry huffing subsided.
What do you know… That idiot Ochre might be right on one account after all…
Kong averted his eyes suddenly, to look up anew. Suddenly, he climbed faster, at an almost vertiginous speed. Symphony gasped and hung on for dear life to the furry hand holding her. She almost felt her heart miss a beat when Kong made a leap upwards...
…To finally reach the top of the tower.
Leaning his massive back against a huge radio antenna erected at the center of the roof, the ape sat down heavily, causing the surface to crack noisily and cave in for at least a foot under his weight. He then raised his hand, to seemingly examine the young woman he held with deep interest.
Symphony looked down with fear, towards the ground far below her feet. She could see tiny dots; some people, either brave or simply ignorant of the danger they might be in, were gathering around at the foot of the tower to look up with curiosity. Then cars arrived – police cars, with light bars flashing, and even from way up here, with the wind blowing in her ears, she could perceive their sirens.
Symphony took a deep breath in and averted her eyes. They were at least at a thousand feet up in the air, and she was very close to the edge. In normal situations, she wasn’t one to suffer from vertigo; but being at the helm of a plane, or living on Cloudbase tens of thousands of feet from the ground, wasn’t exactly the same thing as being held prisoner in the paw of a giant ape. If Kong were to decide to drop her, she knew it would be her end. And she wasn’t exactly looking forwards to falling to her death in such a stupid way.
She looked back to Kong; he was still looking at her, very closely. He had calmed down very considerably.
“That’s a nice boy,” she said, still soothingly, her hand reaching tentatively for Kong’s lower jaw to stroke it. The synthetic hair was thick and felt very life-like; she couldn’t even feel the metal she knew was underneath it. Kong made a noise that sounded like a low, pleased purring. The sound left Symphony perplexed. She smiled awkwardly. “That’s a nice boy,” she repeated. “That’s a nice monkey…”
“Actually, Symphony,” she heard the voice of Ochre reply, “technically, he’s an ape.”
That irritated her. She lowered her head slightly and brought her small pen-like radio close to her mouth; she hoped that Kong wouldn’t notice – or at least wouldn’t mind – that she would use it to exchange information with Ochre.
“Technically, he’s a giant robot ape,” she retorted nearly under her breath. “Not a real ape at all.” She continued to stroke Kong’s jaw, nevertheless, as if he was a real animal for whom this simple gesture of affection was enough to keep contented. He was now looking at her intently…
That had to be the single, most bizarre experience Symphony had ever experienced.
“You won’t believe it,” she said in a low voice into her radio, “but it’s actually working. The robot is much calmer now.”
“Good,” Ochre replied. “Let’s hope he stays that way. The Angels are coming, Symphony. But if Kong stays calm and doesn’t run amok again, then the colonel won’t have to order the Angels to come in to attack in order to stop him.”
“No kidding,” Symphony muttered. What other choices would the old man have anyway? she asked herself.
“The best way for us to make sure that he’ll stay that way would be for us to regain control over the robot,” Ochre continued. “Magenta is working on it, but it could take a few more minutes… If you could manage to keep him quiet while we’re doing that…”
“He’s pretty calm right now,” Symphony remarked, her eyes riveted on those of the robot ape. “But I don’t understand… Since he’s a robot, surely his destructive behaviour is ordered by whoever is controlling him?”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Ochre explained. “It seems he’s actually following his original programming... the protocols they put into him to make him ‘act’ like King Kong. Somehow, the Mysterons must have accessed that and are tampering with it for their own nefarious plans…”
“… Wrecking havoc and destroying the M.A.T. corporation,” Symphony finished for him. “I think I get it.”
“We’re getting close to your location. Hang on, Symphony. We’ll find a way to get you out of this monster’s paws. In the meantime, I don’t think you’re in any danger. From the looks of things, Kong will not lay a finger on you.”
At these words, Symphony blew a sigh of relief – and immediately regretted it, doubling over in Kong’s grip over the smarting pain coming from her sides. Kong grunted with discontent, giving a deep scowl as if he wondered what was going on with his precious load.
“Yeah, big guy, I’m in pain,” the young woman moaned, looking up to him with a pleading expression. “I don’t think you understand you’re holding me too tight… You know, you have hydraulics joints, instead of muscles…”
“Keep trying, Symphony,” the voice of Ochre told her. “Act naturally… as if he was real.”
“Would you care to put me down?” she continued, addressing Kong with a hopeful smile. “Please… I’d really appreciate that. That would be less painful for me, if you’d let go of me.” She stroked the giant hand holding her, exactly as she would stroke the back of a big dog. “You’re a nice monkey… I mean, ape. I’m sure you don’t want to hurt me… anymore than I want to hurt you, right?”
She saw the massive eyebrow pricked, as if the giant gorilla was now giving some thought about what she was telling him. Then, slowly, his hand lowered towards the roof, and his fingers started to open, releasing their hold on Symphony. The young woman looked down with expectation. The robot was letting her go; she just knew it. He was going to put her down gently and –
A deafening roar that she knew all too well suddenly made itself heard from above, causing Kong to clutch his hand tight around his precious treasure. Once again, Symphony felt the giant fingers closing on her, and she gasped in pain, feeling the sudden pressure against her damaged ribs. Kong leapt to his feet, and the sudden, rapid ascent almost made Symphony feel nauseous. Her head reeling, she just had the time to see two sleek bronze fighter jets whizzing overhead.
Not the Angels, she realised instantly. And she had recognised those planes by their unique colour and the distinctive shape of their wings and tail.
They were a pair of Copperhead interceptors, part of one of the most elite flight of the W.A.A.F fighter jets.
Kong snarled angrily. The hydraulic fingers of the robot’s right hand curled around the massive feet of the metallic antenna he had been leaning against earlier, slightly bending it backward.
And then he turned around and roared in defiance, thumping his chest with his free fist. The metallic sound resonated like a drum and that made Symphony wince. She swiftly brought her communicator to her mouth.
“Captain Ochre, the planes,” she gasped. “They’re making him angrier!”
“Hang on, Symphony! We’ll save you! I promise you!”
Yeah, right… Symphony thought as she held on for her life to Kong’s hand. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Rick…
God, how do I miss Adam, right now…
* * *
“Bloody hell!” Magenta said with anger. “What the devils were those planes about?”
Ochre pressed the brake and the cart slid to a stop next to one of the police cars parked a few meters away from the tower. He could see a security cordon being drawn, and L.A. policemen trying to move curious bystanders along. The American officer stepped out the small vehicle, followed by Magenta and Arnie Doyle, who, still working on his tablet, didn’t seem to want to be left alone.
“Aren’t we supposed to have an exclusion zone over this area?” Magenta continued as the three of them moved on foot towards the tower.
“Those are W.A.A.F. hunter jets,” Ochre informed him. “They’ve probably been sent to investigate what’s going on over here.”
“Well, I’ll send them back, take my word on it!”
Magenta lowered his cap microphone to make a new urgent call to Cloudbase. As for Ochre, he had just reached the perimeter of the security zone, to suddenly be stopped by a bulky police sergeant who stood in front of him.
“Hold it right there, fellow…” the man drawled at him, putting a halting hand on Ochre’s shoulder. “Where do you think you’re going? Can’t you see there’s danger that way?”
Ochre glared ominously at him. Behind him, he could hear Magenta busy reporting the situation to Colonel White. “Let us through,” he demanded. “We’re Spectrum officers in charge of this affair.”
“Right, bozo… And I’m the Pope,” the sergeant replied. “I’ve been a cop in New Hollywood long enough to know when someone is trying to pull a fast one on me. You two are actors dressed as Spectrum officers, that’s obvious.” He pointed to the badge pinned on Arnie’s vest, which had the Prestige Pictures logo on it. “Next time, try not to be too obvious.”
“Oh, for Heavens’ sake…”
With irritation, Ochre was rummaging in his vest pocket for his credentials when a voice suddenly called beyond the cordon: “Captain Ochre! Captain Magenta!”
Curtis Greenwood appeared by the police car and, oblivious to the sergeant’s attempt to block the Spectrum officers’ way, leaned over the cordon. “Let these men pass,” he demanded. “They’re with me.” Then, turning to address Ochre: “I’ve been worried something might have happened to you! Where have you been?”
“We were busy,” Ochre almost snapped. He flipped his cardholder open right under the policeman’s nose. “Is that obvious enough for you?” he asked sharply.
With a scowling face, the police sergeant didn’t reply and, almost reluctantly, made way for them. Ochre passed the cordon to join Greenwood, followed by Magenta who was still conversing with Cloudbase; he heard Arnie timidly stating that ‘he was with them’ as he walked in front of the sergeant who was giving him a suspicious look.
“Has the building been evacuated?” Ochre asked Greenwood.
“Yes, it has. It’s now completely empty.” Greenwood shook his head in dismay. “Aside from very advanced technological material, that is. If that robot destroys the tower, M.A.T. will lose millions.”
Ochre frowned at him in annoyance. “Well, it’s sad, but it’s better than losing lives.”
“I know, Captain… And most of our works, well, the plans for it, are already saved in many copies to external servers, in various parts of the world. But still…”
Greenwood’s plea was suddenly interrupted by a deafening sound coming from overhead, which made him and everybody else look up.
The two bronze fighter jets were coming back, and were heading directly towards Kong.
* * *
“I’ve got it, sir!”
Colonel White turned his desk around at the sound of Lieutenant Green’s overexcited voice; he could have sworn he had just heard Captain Magenta’s just there. Seeing his commander’s frown, Green swiftly apologised and cleared his throat.
“I found the M.A.T. satellite,” he explained. “Rhapsody was right: there is a signal coming directly from the London complex towards that satellite, and bouncing off it to be relayed to L.A.”
“Towards the King Kong robot?” White simply couldn’t believe he had just said this. It sounded just too childish.
“Can we destroy that satellite?”
“I’ve got the coordinates right here, and we are in line with one of the W.S.P. counter-space defence stations in Nevada. But sir…” Green shook his head despondently as he read the information out of his computer screen. “I’m afraid destroying the satellite is inadvisable, Colonel.”
That made White frown again. “Explain, Lieutenant.”
“Well, the satellite is indeed M.A.T. owned, but apparently, its use for the signal controlling the MIGHTEC is only an accessory. The satellite also serves other important functions, for other technologies originating from M.A.T. For instance, it’s the main tool for control and security over the entire network of the Los Angeles Metro Rail.”
“The Los Angeles Underground,” White said, nodding. “And if we destroy the satellite, it will become nonoperational?”
“At the least, sir, but there’s a worst-case scenario suggesting that some of the trains might become unstoppable, if the control feed is cut. The satellite link is relatively new, you see, and not all of the trains’ computers have been upgraded yet for emergency control.”
“Wonderful,” White muttered.
“Added to that, it seemed the satellite is also used by all of the American West Coast W.G.P.C. as part of their security network…”
“Yes, all right, I get the picture, Lieutenant,” White said with some annoyance, interrupting his aide. “We cannot destroy that satellite… It would seem like the Mysterons thought of everything with this new threat of theirs, which at first looked like a giant farce. We should have known better.” He took a deep sigh, to regain his composure. “So now it seems it’ll be up to Rhapsody Angel to find the source of that signal at the complex in London.”
“I can try from here to intercept that signal, sir,” Green suggested.
White nodded distractedly, but his attention was then attracted to a beeping sound coming from the top of his console. He saw the dark pink light blinking steadily. “… Or maybe Captain Magenta will have found a way to crack that signal from his end and regain control of the robot,” he added hopefully. He pressed the button to answer the call: “I hope you have good news for me, Captain Magenta.”
“Unfortunately no, Colonel,” was the reply he received. “I’m afraid things have become worse. The MIGHTEC has climbed to the top of the M.A.T. main building… and there’re now W.A.A.F fighter jets on the scene, which I believe are about to attack the robot.”
That report was enough to wear down what little was left of Colonel White’s already eroded patience. “What the devil are those jets doing there?!” he exploded. “This is a Spectrum operation, they shouldn’t be involved!” He swiftly turned his console towards Green. “Lieutenant, contact the Angels immediately and order them to get these jets out of the area, whatever way they see fit and to establish an exclusion zone!”
“Right away, sir!”
“Then contact the commander of Edward W.A.A.F Command Base in Los Angeles and demand that these planes be recalled immediately!”
“We’ll be taking care of those planes, Captain Magenta,” White then continued, using his microphone to address the Irish captain.
“Thank you, sir. Any updates from London? Can they find something there that might help us to stop the robot?”
White had just a moment’s hesitation. “On that note, Captain, I may have news as well, but it might not be exactly what you expect… There might still be hope… even if it’s only a flicker.”