This story takes place approximately a year after the War of Nerves started, and shortly before Captain Scarlet and Rhapsody Angel became a couple.
A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop
The early light of the morning found Jasper Holland already up and getting ready to leave. He had barely slept at all during the night and could only think of finally getting his hands on the treasure he had dreamed of for so long and of getting rid of the two unwanted witnesses that posed the threat hanging over his head.
He had reloaded the weapons,
making sure they would work perfectly when the time was right, and then
proceeded to wake his two accomplices.
Scarecrow proved a little too slow to rise, so he roughly kicked him in
the shoulder. Abruptly jerked out of his
slumber, the young man, yelping in pain, sat up quickly. He addressed a
reproachful glare at his companion, while behind him, seated on the trunk of a
fallen dead tree and checking on his rifle,
“Why d’you do that for?” Scarecrow protested. “That hurts!”
“You should have gotten up the first time I woke you, you lousy bum!” Jasper snapped at him. “It’s time to go! We’ve gotta move, before our two birds leave the nest. We know where they are, it’ll be easy to get ‘em.” As Scarecrow reluctantly got to his feet, Jasper pushed a gun into his hands. “Here, you might need this later!”
Scarecrow looked down at the weapon with uncertainty, moaning: “Man, you really want to go through with it?”
“And exactly what do ya mean by that?” Jasper asked, glaring warningly at him. “You got cold feet now?”
Scarecrow was at first hesitant to answer. “I’ve been thinking, Jasper –”
Jasper scoffed, interrupting him. “You’ve been thinking? You?”
“Well, yeah – it happens sometimes,” Scarecrow retorted, looking offended by the implication. “You see, Jamie’s dead already. Which one of us’ll be next, d’you think? Do we want to take the risk?”
“And do you want to take the risk of letting those guys live?” Jasper snapped angrily. “O’Hara knows too much already! And the girl knows too much too! Beside, you told us last night, they’re also after our treasure! You wanna tell me you don’t wanna get any of it anymore?”
“It’s too late already,
“No, you did it,” Scarecrow protested, swiftly turning to him. “You did it, the two of you. The rest of us did nothing. I did nothing!”
Scarecrow stood there, unable to answer this harangue; unfortunately for him, it wasn’t finished yet, as Jasper walked to him and poked his chest with his finger, looking straight into his eyes and hissing through his teeth: “You’re implicated as much as we are, you coward.”
“You was willing to kill
“I’ll see those two dead,” Jasper added ominously. “And I’ll see you dead too, if you don’t do as I say, ‘Crow.”
Scarecrow paled in terror, and seeing the genuine threat to his life in Jasper’s eyes, he backed away a step, only to bump into Dallas, who was standing right behind him. He felt exactly like a trapped animal, with no options left to escape.
“Hey,” he protested weakly, “I’m not going anywhere, guys… I was just sayin’ that… it might be a good idea to consider being careful. The freak’s dangerous and we know he’s hard to kill…”
“That’s putting it mildly.”
The cold voice coming
from behind the trees bordering the clearing startled the three boys and they
turned around, just in time to see a tall, thin man, dressed in camouflage
gear, stepping out into the open. Out of
instinct, both Jasper and
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, boys. I’ve got my men covering you.”
The three boys heard the menacing clicks of weapons being armed, and nervously they looked around. Showing from behind the bushes, they saw two other men, dressed in similar fashion to the one standing in front of them, who were taking careful aim at them with automatic weapons. The three of them had all the look of professional soldiers and didn’t seem to be in any kind of joking mood.
“You heard the major!” one of them barked. “Drop the guns!”
The three boys looked at each other and, after a short hesitation, they obeyed reluctantly. Casually, the one the other man had called ‘the major’ put his handgun back into its holster and approached them.
“That’s more like it, boys. There’s no reason to act like wild animals, is there?” He stood straight in front of Jasper. “After all, we’re on the same team, aren’t we?”
Intrigued by the man’s comment, Jasper narrowed his eyes at him. He glanced suspiciously at the other men, as they stepped into the clearing, their weapons lowered, and then turned his attention back to the tall man.
“Who the hell’re you?” he asked abruptly.
Major Philip Montgomery considered the young man with a critical eye. Instantly, he recognised that this one, the leader of the group, was dangerous and that he was to be approached cautiously. Even if the commandos currently had the advantage, this Jasper Holland could prove unpredictable, and difficult to manage.
But with his effectiveness
“I told you, lad. We’re on the same team,”
Jasper eyed him suspiciously. “And that would be?” he inquired without committing himself, and keeping his voice harsh. “I sure don’t know what you mean, man.”
“Oh, please. Don’t play games with me, Mister Holland.”
The fact that this man knew of his name made Jasper twitch. He didn’t like it one bit. Something was going on here…
“How d’you know my name?” he asked carefully.
Recognising Johnny Monroe, standing there, looking blankly at him, Jasper became absolutely livid. He realised then that someone he had trusted had deceived him. Twice in as many days. However, if Jamie Lewis’ attempt to double-cross him had not come as much of a surprise, he frankly didn’t expect that Johnny Monroe – cowardly Johnny Monroe – would even think of betraying his confidence.
He didn’t have any idea who these soldiers were, nor where they came from, but it seemed obvious to him that Johnny had told them things he shouldn’t have. That explained his prolonged silence, and why he didn’t see fit to answer any of Jasper’s calls. The creep had hooked up with these strangers for his own reasons.
That made Jasper furious.
“Johnny, you bastard, exactly what did you tell these guys? Who are they and what –”
“Shut it, Jasper!” Johnny sharply interrupted him, his voice harsh and scowling with irritation.
That instantly caused
Jasper to stare at him, open-mouthed in complete surprise. Never before had Johnny dared talk back to
him the way he just had. Even Scarecrow
As for Johnny, the reaction he had caused seemed to fully satisfy him. He continued, in a voice that wouldn’t admit any reply: “You’d better listen to what the major has to tell you. You might consider it interestin’.”
“Indeed, you would,”
“He’s no friend of mine anymore,” Jasper growled, glaring murderously at Johnny. “And you, I don’t know who you are. Why should I listen to you?”
The gesture didn’t escape Jasper – nor the meaning of it.
“All right,” the young man said grudgingly. “What do you have to say?”
“I told ya I don’t know what you’re talking about, man,” Jasper replied defensively.
“And I told you…”
Jasper lowered his eyes under the intensity of the man’s eyes, and noticed his knuckles were white, so tightly was he holding the handle of his gun. He meant business.
Jasper swallowed hard. “What do ya want, exactly?”
Montgomery grunted with satisfaction. “You’re being reasonable, that’s good. I think we can help each other, lad. You want to get Scarlet, and we want to get him too. So if we join forces, we’ll have a better chance of getting results.” He glanced over in Scarecrow’s direction. “Your friend spoke the truth, earlier: Scarlet’s a dangerous man. As dangerous as anyone can be. And you boys can’t hope to get him all by yourselves. You’ll be killed trying.”
“We already lost a guy because of him,” Scarecrow added quickly.
“Shut up!” Jasper snapped at him. But it was too late, of course, and Montgomery was now looking at him with an expression that clearly meant his point had been proven.
“Jamie is dead?” Johnny then said casually enough. “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy…”
“Whose side are you on, exactly?” Dallas said, turning angrily at him.
“Obviously, he’s not with us anymore,” Jasper added bitterly. “He found a new team to play on.”
“We’re all on the same side, kid,” Montgomery then said. “As long as we work together… and trust each other.”
Jasper snorted. “And why should we be trustin’ you, man? I have no idea who the hell you could be. I just notice you talk the same as the freak does. And like the girl too.” He glared at Johnny. “I would very much like to know exactly what that jerk’s been telling you.”
“Listen, boy – I don’t give a damn what you and your chums are after. All I want is to get my hands on Scarlet.”
Jasper looked back at him with curiosity. “Scarlet… You mean that’s really O’Hara’s name? Who is this freak, anyway?”
“His name never was O’Hara,” retorted Montgomery. “And you shouldn’t care who he really is to begin with. That’s not important to you. What’s important is this: from what I’ve just heard while hiding in the bushes, I’m guessing you know where we can find him. So you’ll be taking us to him.”
“So that’s what you want from us,” Jasper said with an understanding nod. “You need us. To find him.”
“Yes, and I also need you to follow my orders when we do find him. I know you want him dead, but me, I want him alive. At least, for a short time. So I want to make sure you won’t kill him on sight.”
“Now I know what you want from us. But what is it you want from him, exactly?” Jasper asked, furrowing his brow.
“That’s none of your business, boy,” Montgomery replied sharply. “Don’t ask me any questions, and I won’t ask what your reasons for wanting him dead are.”
“What d’you mean?” Jasper protested innocently. “We’re just good citizens, trying to capture a criminal who killed our sheriff. There’s nothin’ more to it.”
Montgomery chuckled. “Kid, do you really expect me to believe that?”
“I don’t know what Johnny’s been telling you exactly… But you might consider he’s been lying to ya.”
“Oh, he told me plenty. But even if he had not, or if he had lied to us… Remember – I heard the three of you talk. I heard everything.”
At this revelation, Jasper kept quiet for a moment; he wondered if it was a trap, if Montgomery was lying by saying he had heard them. One look into the major’s expressionless face told him he wasn’t lying. The young man swallowed hard again. “Everything?” he asked, as if needing to make sure.
“Every single word.” A thin, cruel smile appeared on Montgomery’s lips. Jasper thought he looked like a cat who was about to swallow a defenceless mouse, and seemed to enjoy every moment of it. “But I’m liable to forget what I heard – if you agree to give us a hand. Maybe I misunderstood what you meant, after all… It might be you are indeed good citizens, trying to catch a dangerous criminal.” He glared meaningfully at Jasper. “Let us be clear: I’m not interested in what you might have done, or that ‘treasure’ you mentioned. I don’t care about any of it. All I’m interested in is to get Scarlet – alive, as I said earlier. At least, to begin with, for long enough for him to tell us where we can find the thing he stole from us. And then, you’ll be allowed to kill him. I’ll even help you, for that matter.” He shrugged indifferently. “With him dead, that ought to make you happy. And me as well.”
Jasper nodded at this proposition, giving it some thought. There was certainly something attractive in it.
“There might be a little something that little nitwit Johnny didn’t tell you about,” he then said suddenly. “Your guy? He’s got amnesia. He doesn’t remember a thing about himself. So if you expect him to tell you anything about whatever you’re looking for, you might be in for a big surprise.”
“We can be very convincing,” Baxter then said ominously. He was casually leaning against the dead tree Dallas had been seated on earlier, and his interjection made the boys turn towards him. There was a cold expression in his eyes, as he continued, in a stoic voice: “We have ways to make even amnesiacs talk. And he might not realise it, but Scarlet has with him just the bargaining chip we need to insure he regains his memory.”
“You’re talking about the girl,” Jasper realised. “You’ll kill her too?”
“I’m not mistaken in saying she’s as much a liability to you as she is to us, am I?” Montgomery said, more a statement than a question.
Jasper nodded slowly; he would have been stupid not to understand the subtext behind the major’s cold comment. A thought came to his mind:
“And what about us? You won’t tell us what you’re after… So what’s to tell us that you won’t turn against us once you have your guys? I’m guessing you don’t want to leave witnesses around.”
Montgomery shook his head. “You’re getting this wrong, kid. You’ve obviously mistaken us for criminals. We’re not; we’re soldiers, carrying out the mission we’ve been assigned.”
Dallas scoffed. “Ain’t that a load of bullshit,” he muttered.
“Hey, kid!” Petroski warned him in a loud voice that made the young man jump nearly out of his skin. “Are you calling the major a liar? ‘Cause if that’s the case, you’d better keep your reflections to yourself!”
“Take it easy, Petroski,” Montgomery advised his man. “It’s understandable that these young men don’t trust us.”
“That’s right, we don’t,” Jasper said quickly. “If you’re soldiers, you might want to turn us in.”
“Then you’re mistaking us for policemen as well, boys,” Montgomery retorted. “It’s not our business to have people arrested by the law. And why would I do that to comrades-in-arms, who helped us? You’ve got my word of honour: we only need your help getting Scarlet. If you go out there, trying to catch him on your own, you won’t stand a chance.”
“One of your friends has been killed already,” Baxter then continued. “So why would you want to add someone else to that list? You, perhaps, boy?”
Jasper shuddered at the implication. He saw Montgomery approving of his man’s involvement with a slow nod. “So you need us as much as we need you, Mr Holland. Guide us to this criminal, help us get him… we do our little business and we go our separate ways. No question asked, and no looking back.”
Jasper was still eyeing him suspiciously. “I guess we don’t have any choice, do we?”
As he saw the imperturbable way Montgomery was looking back at him in silence, his eyes bright with that unfathomable coldness that was a sure indication that this man was as dangerous as hell, Jasper understood that indeed, all he could actually do was accept his offer. It was, as they say, ‘an offer that couldn’t be refused’. However, he wasn’t very reassured about the outcome of this hunt. Things weren’t that clear, and no matter what they wanted with Scarlet – which they didn’t want to explain – Jasper was sure it wasn’t something legitimate. And if it was the case, then he, Scarecrow and Dallas could very well be in danger once they had helped the soldiers capture the fugitive.
Jasper could see their game clearly; he wasn’t going to be fooled and let these three men – these three soldiers, as they called themselves – get the better of him and surprise him when he least expected it. He would keep his eyes on them, and never turn his back.
“All right, it’s a deal, then,” he said. You’ve got us enrolled into your army – Major.”
“Talking like a man, my boy.” Montgomery gave a vigorous thump on Jasper’s back, nearly sending him sprawling to the ground. “Now, where can we find Scarlet?”
“At Joe’s cabin,” Scarecrow then said, speaking for the first time since the soldiers’ arrival. “From here, it’s about an hour and a half walk deeper into Devil’s Bayou.” He pointed in a northerly direction. “That way.”
“You know where it is?” Montgomery asked, turning to Johnny.
The latter shrugged. “Everyone living in this area knows where it is. There’s two paths leading there: one cuts through Devil’s Bayou and is more direct. That’s the hour and a half walk Dallas is talking about. The other way is to follow the path by the river and go upstream.”
“How much time to get there following the river?”
“For them,” Johnny said nodding towards Jasper and his two companions, “ ‘bout two hours. For you…” He grinned wickedly. “Maybe an hour and a half, with the right guide.”
“And I suppose you’re that right guide, Johnny?” Jasper cynically asked him. “What makes you more qualified than any of us, exactly?”
“For starters, I can keep up with them,” Johnny retorted coldly. “Something none of you would be able to do.” He took a malevolent pleasure in watching his former friends’ confusion at his words, and wondering exactly what he meant by them.
Jasper glowered at him. “That’s certainly fresh coming from you, jerk. So you finally decide to grow some backbone?”
“Enough,” Montgomery interrupted before Johnny could reply. “Monroe, you’ll follow the river. Take Petroski with you. Baxter and I, we’ll go with your friends and follow the path through the bayou. That way, if Scarlet and the Angel try to escape, we’ll be able to intercept them. If one of our teams meets them, call the other team. Is that clear, Baxter?” he added, turning to his irrepressible soldier.
The latter grinned. “As crystal, Major.”
“Right, let’s get on our way, then. We don’t want our prey to escape us. We’ll meet at the cabin in an hour and a half and we’ll set up a trap to surprise them.”
“If they’re still there,” Dallas commented, almost exclusively to himself.
“Which is why we have to go right away,” Montgomery added. “And if they are not there, we will be able to find them easier if we follow fresh prints. Now let’s move it, men!”
“Johnny,” Jasper then called as the two groups separated as instructed.
Johnny turned on his heels and the two boys glared at each other. Jasper’s eyes were burning with uncontained resentment and irritation. If he thought that it would make any kind of impression on Johnny, he was mistaken – the other boy’s face remained totally unreadable.
“You and I are not done yet,” Jasper promised. “We’ll have a little talk later in private, about loyalty… and how bad it could be for your health to betray the trust your friends put in you.”
Johnny answered with a smile that could have frozen a campfire. “Trust? Loyalty?” he repeated cynically. “Those words have a strange ring when they come out of your mouth, Jasper.”
“Why you jerk…”
Johnny casually turned his back on his former friend. “I’m sure that talk of your will be very interesting,” he added evenly. “I sure can’t wait for it.”
He left Jasper standing there, and led Baxter towards the river.
* * *
When Captain Scarlet awakened this time around, it was from a dreamless sleep. He didn’t feel as refreshed as he would have liked; his head was buzzing, but it was far from the overwhelming pain he knew all too well and that often caused him to lose consciousness. He felt terribly hot, almost feverish; the heat in this room was very uncomfortable, and the air was dank, with a tinge of dampness that made it unpleasant to breath. A few seconds after opening his eyes, he was disoriented by his dark surroundings, as his mind struggled to recall his latest memories.
Then it all came to him: the events of the night before; the discoveries he and his companion had made together. The closeness they had felt for each other, just before pain and oblivion.
“Dianne?” he called hoarsely.
Almost immediately, a hand came to cover his lips and he heard a soft voice, shushing him.
Confused, he searched the darkness with his eyes; there was but one ray of sunlight piercing it, coming through the window near which he was lying. Barely lighted, he could see the hard features of Rhapsody Angel, crouched by the window, with Jamie Lewis’ crossbow resting on the windowsill.
It was her hand that rested on his mouth; seeing his opened eyes fixed on her, she removed it, and brought a finger to her own lips.
“Shhh,” she whispered. “We have visitors.”
Scarlet nodded his understanding and slowly, silently, rose to his knees; keeping low, he came next to Rhapsody. He noticed she had dragged the heavy bags of money against the wall beneath the window, and that she was resting on them while looking outside, through the small gap she had opened in the blanket which served as a curtain.
Scarlet stretched his neck to check outside as well. All he could see was the empty clearing of dry mud in front of the house, leading down to the river, and the edge of the wood, with its trees and bushes. There in the middle, there was the cord of wood that Joe Benson had been cutting the previous day. Scarlet could even see, leaning against it, the axe the old man was using before being murdered.
A righteous anger mounted in Scarlet’s heart and he clenched his teeth. He couldn’t see anybody. “Where?” he asked in a voice as low as Rhapsody.
The Angel pilot pointed to the bushes bordering the clearing, about twenty meters in front of the house. Scarlet turned his eyes in that direction, in time to see two silhouettes leaving the bushes and running in a half-crouched position in the direction of the cord of wood, before leaping behind it to take cover.
“I see them,” he said between his teeth. He realised then what he had actually seen: a tall man, dressed in a camouflage uniform, and armed with an automatic weapon – and Jasper Holland, armed with a shotgun.
“There are more of them,” Rhapsody whispered.
She pointed towards the other side of the clearing; Scarlet narrowed his eyes and saw a flash of sunlight reflecting off something metallic. He then noticed the top of a blond head just over the barrel of a gun aimed directly at the door of Joe’s cabin.
There was another movement in that same direction, and Scarlet saw another man in uniform cross the clearing to take cover behind a tree, close to his companions hiding behind the cord of wood.
“I counted seven,” Rhapsody explained, not taking her eyes off the clearing. “Four of the boys who tried to kill you yesterday, and Montgomery and two of his men.”
“They’ve joined forces,” Scarlet realised.
Rhapsody nodded slowly. “Looks like it. I don’t know if the boys have been Mysteronised, or if they’re acting on their own accord, for whatever reason.”
“Mysteronised or not, they’re still dangerous.” Scarlet sighed and shook his head, looking down at the crossbow she was holding tightly in her hands. “That makes a lot of them to face, with the little we have to defend ourselves,” he commented. “Their firepower is vastly greater than ours.”
“Someone told me once that it isn’t the firepower you have that counts, but the use you make of it,” Rhapsody replied quietly.
“And who’s the idiot who said that?”
“You.” She turned to him with a fond smile. He was scowling deeply. “And I would contest that you’re an idiot. You’re the experienced soldier of the two of us.”
“If you say so,” he grumbled.
“How are you feeling?”
Scarlet shook his head slowly. The buzz in his head wasn’t going away, but it was more annoying than really painful. He decided it wasn’t worth telling her about it. “I’m fine. Better than I was last night, at least. Dianne… About what happened –”
“Now’s not the time to talk about it,” she interrupted him suddenly, returning her full attention to what was going on outside. “We have more pressing business to attend to for the moment.” She seemed to give it a second thought. “We can talk about it later.”
Scarlet looked at her determined face and realised she was right. If there is a later, he added inwardly, without daring to speak it out loud.
He reached for the handgun, resting on the ground by her feet, and removed the safety catch, as silently as he could. It barely clicked. He presented the weapon to Rhapsody.
“Here,” he said. “Use this. I’ll take the crossbow.”
She addressed him an inquiring look, hesitating slightly. “Do you know how to handle it?”
He looked at her, as if she had said something immensely ludicrous. “I think I will manage,” he said with a faint smile. He took the crossbow from her hands and gently pushed her aside, to take her place at the window. Rhapsody looked at him for a moment, and nodded her appreciation, as he placed the weapon against the windowsill and rested himself against the heavy bags filled with money.
Of course, she realised. Captain Scarlet was Cloudbase’s resident weapons expert. He knew how to use hundreds of weapons, no matter how sophisticated – or ancient. It was probably instinctive in him; even if he didn’t realise it fully, he would remember the skills he had honed during his military training – and beyond. It was best to trust him to use this crossbow much better than she would herself.
She positioned herself on the other side of the window and together, they watched in silence, waiting for the enemy’s next move.
* * *
From their hiding place behind the cord of wood, Major Philip Montgomery and Jasper Holland had an excellent view of the front door of the cabin. They were soon joined by Sergeant Baxter who ducked down by their side, after completing a survey around the location. He nodded at the major’s questioning gaze and pointed towards the front door.
“No doubt they’re in there, sir,” he reported. “Look at all those traces leading up to the door. They must have stayed in for the night.” He looked directly at his leader. “I tried to check through the windows but I couldn’t see a thing. They blocked the windows and covered them. I couldn’t hear a sound either.”
“They could be asleep and not suspecting we’re here,” Montgomery commented thoughtfully. “After yesterday, Scarlet and the Angel must be exhausted.” He shook his head, sceptically. “It seems too easy…”
“We will surprise them if we barge in,” Baxter added. “They won’t know what hit them. We have the advantage of numbers, too.”
“I kind of like how your man’s thinking, Major,” Jasper said with an evil smile. “Sounds like a good plan to me.”
Montgomery nodded very slowly. “I’m glad you agree, Mr Holland. Because you’ll be Sergeant Baxter’s back up in this assault.”
Jasper’s smile fell. “Me? You mean… I’ll be going with him?”
“You’ll follow him and cover him,” Montgomery explained. “That’s what back up means. As for the rest of us, we’ll be covering the house from our stations – in case someone takes aim at the two of you from the windows.”
“That’s very reassuring,” Jasper groused.
“You have something to say about it?” Montgomery said, glaring warningly at him. Casually, he was holding his gun half-aimed in the direction of the boy, who recognised the threat instantly.
“I’m just thinking your plan is mighty dangerous, Major,” Jasper replied. “I ain’t no soldier, like your man. Me and the others, we didn’t sign up for this.”
“You signed up to do what I tell you to do,” Montgomery coldly retorted.
“Come on, don’t be a girl,” Baxter snapped at him. “I’ll be doing all the work, so you won’t have nothing to worry about.”
“And remember,” Montgomery reminded them, “I want both of them alive. Don’t hurt the girl; we can use her to make Scarlet talk. Feel free to maim Scarlet if you need to. He can take it.”
“That’s certainly something I’ll be considering, Major,” Baxter replied with a satisfied grin. He thumped Jasper’s shoulder. “Come on, kid. Follow my lead and keep your head down. And don’t get in the way.”
Thinking it was a useless recommendation and that he really had no choice but to get himself involved, Jasper reluctantly got to his feet and left his position to follow Baxter towards the cabin.
* * *
Scarlet and Rhapsody saw two of their adversaries moving fast towards the cabin, keeping their bodies as low to the ground as was humanly possible so they would make less of a target. The young woman slowly nodded, carefully following them with her eyes.
“They’re probably thinking we’re asleep in there,” she whispered to her companion, “and that they will be surprising us.”
“Last night, you told me the surprise will be on them,” Scarlet recalled.
She nodded. “And how…”
“What did you do exactly?” Scarlet asked, suspiciously.
“You’ll see. But after that, we’ll have to be ready for anything. So keep your finger on that trigger, Captain.” She raised her handgun. “We might be in for the fight of our lives.”
* * *
Baxter and Jasper sneaked under a wooden fence and headed for the door; Baxter swiftly reached the wall on the right side, and leaned close to it, while Jasper took position on the left side. Keeping their weapons close against them, they exchanged glances. Baxter motioned with a brief gesture of the hand that he was ready; heart beating wildly, Jasper nodded that he was too, swallowing hard as he did.
Baxter leapt in front of the door and broke it down with a powerful kick. It creaked on its hinges and opened wide in front of him, and he stood, ready to fire.
There was a thunderous detonation that nearly deafened Jasper. He watched with horror as Baxter’s chest seemed to explode under a massive blast, blood splattering all around him, as he was swept off his feet and repelled several meters back. His body hit the ground with force and stayed there motionless.
Frozen in place and slack-jawed, Jasper couldn’t detach his eyes from the body lying in the dirt, with the massive wound bleeding profusely in the middle of his chest. It didn’t take a genius to realise the man was dead; the young man had no idea exactly what could have killed him, except that it seemed to be a very powerful weapon – that he expected would be turned against him any time now.
Breathing hard, his heartbeat so loud he thought anyone could hear it, he closed his eyes, waiting for death. In the seconds that followed, nothing happened, and at the sound of a voice that reached his mind through the thumping of his heart, he opened his eyes.
He saw Major Montgomery’s head over the cord of wood, could hear him shouting something at him, but couldn’t figure out the words. A little further away, scattered around the clearing, there were Dallas and Scarecrow, looking straight at him with horror, and Johnny, and the major’s last man. All of them had their weapons aimed at the cabin – in his direction. But no-one was firing. Not them, and not even those who had shot Baxter from inside the cabin.
That got Jasper curious, and despite his fears, he risked a peek inside, through the opened door.
He saw a huge shotgun, with its barrel smoking from its recent use, solidly fixed to a chair, and aimed directly at the door; he saw the line, with one end attached to the trigger, and the other end, tied to the handle of the door.
At the sight of this discovery, Jasper stood in the entrance, almost without thinking; he looked at the shotgun with mystification. He realised instantly what had happened: when Baxter had kicked the door down, the sudden motion had pulled on the line, and triggered the discharge from the shotgun. At point-blank range, the shot had killed Baxter instantly.
Jasper could see no-one in the cabin; it was empty.
He didn’t know if he should feel relieved or angry; at least, he considered, there was no-one here to shoot him down like a dog. But their prey seemed to have escaped them.
He turned around towards his companions:
“It was a trap!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “They played us for fools! There’s no-one in there! They’re gone!”
* * *
Scarlet was watching with fascination the result of Rhapsody’s ‘surprise’, with Baxter’s body now lying dead in front of the cabin, swept away by the devastating blast, and the rest of their opponents left in confusion as to where their prey could have gone to. From their position, he and his companion had a good view of Jasper standing in front of the door, looking completely dejected; Montgomery and the others were still keeping cover, but were nevertheless visible to both Spectrum officers.
“I really taught you a trick like that?” Scarlet whispered to the grim-looking Rhapsody.
“You taught us to be prepared for every situation,” she said quietly, “and to take any opportunity to take out an enemy.”
“There’s nothing to it, really. And I was lucky. When I visited the cabin yesterday, I found ammunition that could be used for the shotgun. But unfortunately, there were only two cartridges. So I rigged the shotgun to discharge completely at the opening of the door. I left traces leading to the cabin, but erased all those leading out. The rest…” She shrugged. “Well, you saw what happened.”
“That guy was literally blown away by that shot.”
“And that makes one less Mysteron to worry about. I sincerely hope he won’t rise from the dead after that.”
“What about the others?” Scarlet was sorely tempted to use the crossbow and send an arrow straight at Jasper who was carelessly standing there, looking about in confusion. However, he wasn’t sure that at this distance, he would be able to make a killing shot, or even hit his target. Beside, he still had in his mind the vivid memory of the nightmarish flashback he had had the night before; despite fully deserving of his fate, from Scarlet’s point of view, Jasper Holland was still a boy, barely old enough to be considered an adult. That made him hesitant to shoot.
Rhapsody, however, didn’t seem to share his opinion, and had her handgun squarely aimed at the young man. But she didn’t use it, and turned to her colleague.
“We should wait before opening fire,” she said. “As soon as we start shooting, they’ll know our position. We should see what they’re going to do first.”
Scarlet nodded his agreement, and leaned against the crossbow, getting ready to use it as soon as it would become necessary.
* * *
“Damn it, I should have realised!”
Montgomery was staring with irritation at the body lying on the ground and covered with blood, only a few meters away from his position. Another man wasted, he groused inwardly. Baxter, of course, even as a Mysteron agent, was a pain in the arse, but he certainly knew his job and could always be counted on. Now he lay there, dead, victim of his own rashness. He probably should have approached the cabin more carefully and expect that Scarlet would have been waiting for him, one way or the other. The apparent calmness within the cabin was only a deceptive illusion that had served the Spectrum officers well.
And Montgomery realised that he wasn’t totally blameless himself in his assessment of the situation; it wasn’t just any mercenary he was facing right now, like those he used to fight in hot spots in Africa, Asia or the Middle-East. These were two desperate Spectrum officers, cut off from any contact with their base, trying not only to counter an attack from the Mysterons, but to survive. Even amnesiac, Captain Scarlet was an enemy to reckon with – and the Angel pilot had also shown her worth since the previous morning.
Now, Montgomery only had one soldier at his disposal; he didn’t really count on the boys he had recruited to follow his orders blindly – perhaps with the exception of the Mysteronised Johnny. At best, Holland and his gang could provide a distraction to his enemies.
He slowly rose from his position, unafraid that he might be taken as a target. If Scarlet and the Angel were still around and watching them, they wouldn’t fire right away, for fear of giving their position too quickly. Firing would be poor strategy, and he knew his prey: they were efficient soldiers, and they wouldn’t make that kind of mistake.
“Check around!” he called in a loud voice. “They can’t be very far and they probably left traces behind them. We must find where they might have gone to!”
He watched as Petroski left his cover, and the other boys did the same, to spread out and search their surroundings; then he turned sharply towards Jasper who was coming down the one step leading to the door of the cabin. The boy was shaking, shocked by what he had witnessed – and perhaps realising that he had just narrowly escaped death. Briskly, Montgomery walked to him and stood over him; the boy looked up at him with fear in his eyes; he was obviously feeling threatened.
Good, thought Montgomery. That’ll make him more docile.
“Is there another way to leave this place beside the two paths we took to get here?” he asked sharply.
“What? No, man, just like Johnny told you, those are the only ways,” Jasper replied, almost stuttering. “We used either one of those to come here with our bikes. Any other path is either too dangerous, or impossible to trek through.”
Montgomery grunted with frustration. “How about the river?” he asked, glancing back to the rapidly flowing waters a few meters behind him. “They could have gone that way, couldn’t they?”
Jasper shrugged dismissively. “The rowboat’s still there,” he replied, pointing to the small piers erected by the water.
“Any other boat they could have taken?”
For a second or two, Jasper paused, thinking. “Maybe. The guy living here had an old motorboat.” He pointed to the small shed, not that far from the river, with its door closed. “Last time I saw it, it was in there. Ol’ Joe had burned the engine and he was trying to repair it.”
He smiled inwardly. In reality, it was he who had destroyed the engine, by pouring sugar into it. It was part of his pressure strategy, to force the old man into selling him his land. He and his friends had a good laugh when they watched Joe from a distance, as he cursed and hollered while trying to get the motor starting, and afterwards, when he exhausted himself hauling it to his shed for repair.
“It might still be in there, for all I know,” Jasper concluded.
Montgomery considered the shed thoughtfully. “Petroski!” he called in a loud voice. He saw his man turn to him and he pointed to the shed. “Check in there. See if there’s a boat of any kind. Take one of the boys with you!”
Petroski nodded his approval and turned to Dallas who was standing the closest to him, holding his gun negligently and looking around aimlessly, obviously unsure of what he should do. Petroski narrowed his eyes when he noticed the boy glancing not so surreptitiously in the direction of the trees bordering the clearing. He was obviously tempted to make a run for it.
Startled, Dallas turned around at the sound of the voice calling from behind him; he saw Petroski coming his way. “You talkin’ to me, man?”
“Yes, I’m talking to you. You seem to be at a loose end right now.”
Dallas refrained from swallowing hard. Up until recently, as long as there wasn’t any risk to himself, he didn’t mind doing what Jasper told him to do; in fact, he rather enjoyed living on the wild side. But since the previous day, things were starting to get a little too heavy for his taste, now that Jamie was dead, and that soldier had been killed by falling into a trap obviously laid by their prey. With this Major Montgomery ‘recruiting’ them to his service in a way they couldn’t refuse, the situation had rapidly deteriorated, and was becoming very unhealthy. Even Johnny – that gutless, useless waste of space – was worrying him. He was so willing to follow Montgomery’s lead, without question, and the expression of coldness and callousness that could now be seen in his eyes was creepy. It wasn’t only as if Johnny had suddenly found some nerve just by his association with these soldiers – it was as if he didn’t have any remorse and conscience anymore.
It was scary; and Dallas even started considering that maybe it would be a good idea to get out of this at the next opportunity.
However, with Petroski now standing in front of him, it looked like he wouldn’t have that chance for now.
“I’m not,” he defended himself at the soldier’s accusation. “I’m looking, just like you are.”
Petroski offered a crooked smile that showed the depth of his doubt. “Yeah, right. You heard the major’s orders? You’ll be coming with me to check that shed.”
Dallas gave a glance at the small building; it looked pretty much inoffensive. He shrugged dismissively. “Sure, why not?”
“Follow my lead, then. And keep your eyes open and that gun ready, just in case.”
Almost casually, Petroski started to make his way towards the small wooden shed, with Dallas walking at some distance behind him.
* * *
“Uh-oh. Looks like we won’t be able to stay hidden for long.”
Rhapsody and Scarlet were closely watching their opponents’ search operation. With a sense of increased foreboding, they looked as Petroski and Dallas slowly approached the shed.
“You think they’ve already found where we are?” Scarlet asked his colleague.
Rhapsody shook her head unhappily. “I don’t know. I made very sure that there were no traces leading to this shed. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart and have not worked out our position.”
“They don’t look as if they suspect we’re here, though.”
“Perhaps. But that’s little consolation.” Rhapsody looked gloomily through the small gap, not letting Petroski and Dallas out of her sight. “I had hoped we would have some time in front of us. But it doesn’t look like we’ll be that lucky. As soon as they try to open the door and find it jammed, they will know we’re in here and will raise the alarm.”
Scarlet watched them both approach; he had no trouble recognising the young man as the one who had shot Sheriff Masters before the latter’s body fell into the raging waters of the river the day before. He gritted his teeth; this boy was nothing like the child he had seen himself shoot in his flashback. That boy was about fourteen or fifteen; this one was older – nineteen, maybe. He was a murderer, fully aware of the consequences of his acts and revelling in them; nobody forced him, he wasn’t brainwashed. Unless he was a Mysteron of course, but if that was the case, there was nothing to be done about it.
“Then we have no choice but to defend ourselves.” He handed back the crossbow to Rhapsody. “Mind that sight. It leans slightly to the left.”
She looked at him with curiosity. That he knew with such precision that the sight was faulty didn’t surprise her that much. “I thought you wanted to use it?” she asked with a raised brow.
“I changed my
mind.” Scarlet reached for the knife she
had at her belt and showed the blade to her.
There was a cold determination in his eyes as he gave a curt jerk of the
chin in the direction of the approaching enemy. “I’ve decided to go with a more
* * *
Montgomery was searching through the ground in the hope of finding any trace of his quarry; he was growing increasingly frustrated. There wasn’t anything to be found, not a single indication of where Captain Scarlet or Rhapsody Angel could have gone to. He would admit freely that he wasn’t as good a tracker as Palmer had been, or even Baxter for that matter. But to him, it was obviously impossible for two people to have gone through this spot without leaving any trace behind them. It was as if they had disappeared into thin air.
The evidence was clear to him: they had more than certainly erased all traces of their passage. If they were efficient enough to have tricked Baxter with false prints leading to the cabin, then they were certainly able to cleverly hide their real traces.
And that meant that they could be either very far away from this location – or very, very close by.
Montgomery was betting on the second option. The Spectrum officers were close, indeed, and possibly watching their every move. They hadn’t taken the boat Jasper Holland claimed was in that shed.
Suddenly, Montgomery realised how careless he had been. If he were right, then the fact that there was no traces leading to that shed wouldn’t mean there was no-one hiding in it.
He turned on his heel and saw that Petroski had reached the door; he was approaching it cautiously, his gun at the ready. And yet, he was dangerously out in the open. The boy, Dallas, walking a few feet behind, wasn’t even keeping his rifle aimed at the door.
“Petroski!” Montgomery shouted forcefully, a sense of impending doom falling on him. “Watch out for yourself!”
His call only had the result of startling Petroski and the man turned to his commander, forgetful of all caution.
It was a fatal mistake.
* * *
Montgomery’s call for prudence had rung exactly at the same time Captain Scarlet opened the previously un-jammed door. It was too late now to have second thoughts; in any case, he and Rhapsody had no choice anymore. He stood in the frame, facing the commando who had his back half-turned to him, distracted by his commander’s shout. As soon as he realised there was a danger threatening him, the commando turned back to face it; but he wasn’t fast enough.
Scarlet seized Petroski by the throat with one hand, squeezing so hard that he nearly crushed his windpipe, and forcefully pushed him against the wall with all of the weight of his body, making him lose his footing. At the same time, with the other hand, he pushed the knife to the hilt into the soldier’s side; he wasn’t even surprised to realise he knew precisely between which ribs he needed to plunge it to reach the heart directly. Petroski emitted just a grunting moan and Scarlet saw his eyes opening wide. Mercilessly, the Spectrum officer twisted the knife and pulled it out; he had not a single hint of regret, as the soldier’s knees buckled underneath him and Scarlet, seeing he was dead, roughly pushed his body away from him, in the direction of the boy standing a few feet away.
Dallas Fenmore had frozen into place at the sight. Everything had happened so quickly that when Petroski fell nearly at his feet, only three to five seconds had passed. It was only then the young man finally found his voice and reacted.
He could only fiddle with his rifle, attempting to aim it at Scarlet who was still standing there. He didn’t have time to make use of it, as, right at that instant, he heard a whistling sound, and felt the impact of a bolt penetrating his right thigh at great speed. The pain made him holler and, suddenly unable to stand on his right leg, he collapsed on his side.
* * *
The pained cry coming from the boy was nearly covered by the sudden sound of multiple gunshots; Montgomery and the remaining boys, regaining their wits, had opened fire in the direction of the shed. Scarlet felt a bullet whizz past him, while two others hit the side of the shed. He quickly retreated inside and closed the door behind him.
He was busy jamming it back to ensure it would stay closed when Rhapsody, stationed at the window and putting another bolt into the crossbow, offered him a reserved apology. “You were right, the sight is crooked.” She took aim again outside. “I’m sorry I missed him.”
“You just missed killing him,” Scarlet replied, returning to her side. “I think he’s well incapacitated now.”
“Wounded beasts are the most dangerous.” Rhapsody didn’t have time to release the new bolt. A bullet came ricocheting on the window frame, sending splinters nearly into her eyes. Scarlet pulled her down quickly, fired three shots blindly with the pistol and ducked down by her side when a volley of bullets broke panes and frame into dangerous which flew wildly over their heads. The wall, however, seemed to hold, and continued to protect them from the shots. The shed might have been old, but it was obviously made with solid pieces of wood.
However, neither of the Spectrum agents would have bet on their chances on holding this position for long. Scarlet glanced at Rhapsody. For himself, he wasn’t afraid. Whatever might happen, in view of what he had learned about himself, he suspected there was a high possibility that he would survive. But for her, it was totally different.
He stared murderously at the door. “The first of these bastards who attempts to burst in here will suffer the same fate as that soldier at the cabin,” he promised.
Rhapsody shook her head. “I doubt they’ll try to physically come in here to get us out,” she commented in a grim voice.
He looked at her, inquiringly. She swallowed hard.
“More likely… they’ll attempt to force us out.”
At that moment, just as if her words had been prophetic, the shots died suddenly, and after a few brief seconds, amongst the cries of pain of Dallas Fenmore, the voice of Philip Montgomery rang out.
* * *
Getting the boys, who now were all that was left of his makeshift crew, to stop firing blindly at the shed and to work as an organised unit in order to keep their shots concentrated at the front door and window had proven for Montgomery much more difficult than handling his own men. Only Johnny was obeying his orders instantly. For the two others still in a state of holding a gun, the only thought present in their mind was to get themselves rid of their adversaries, now that another member of their group had fallen prey to them. They were wild and undisciplined, and knew nothing about strategy. They couldn’t see that this old shed, even though looking rickety and obviously aged, could hold a long time.
And time wasn’t something of which Montgomery had the luxury.
He glared at Jasper who was lying by his side, hiding behind a fence. “Keep your gun on this shed and cover me,” he instructed. “When I give you the order, hold fire.” Then pointing to Scarecrow not that far from them, he added: “And get your friend to do the same.”
“What’re you gonna do, Major?” Jasper asked.
“Just follow my orders,” Montgomery replied. “I’ll be trying to talk to them. If they start firing, then you fire back.”
Jasper answered with an evil, satisfied grin. “With pleasure, Major.”
“Johnny,” Montgomery then called out. “Come with me.”
Johnny was on his feet and out of his hiding place without any hesitation, standing out in the open; that made Jasper wonder what kind of influence the major had on him to have transformed him so. It was like he didn’t have any fear anymore. He watched with mystification as Johnny, holding his gun aimed at the shed, followed Montgomery to the middle of the clearing, nearly to the place where Petroski’s body lay, with the wounded Dallas sprawled on the ground nearby, holding his thigh and crying out.
Montgomery gestured to stop firing; he was relieved to see that both Jasper and Scarecrow consented to obey.
Dallas Fenmore’s cries suddenly became clearer; he was wailing like a woman about to give birth.
“I’m hit! I’m hit, guys! I’m bleeding all over the place. I’m dying!”
Montgomery glared at him with disgust, but ignored his laments, to turn to the shed and call loudly: “SCARLET! Do you hear me?”
He received no answer; nor did he expect he would at first.
“I just want to talk to you! My men are covering the house! Try to shoot and they’ll shoot back!”
This time, he heard an answer coming from inside the shed: “Your men?” the voice of Scarlet called with obvious derision. “What did you promise these murderous scumbags for them to enlist in your outfit?”
Montgomery couldn’t stop a grin from briefly appearing on his lips; he couldn’t deny Scarlet’s judgement of the company he was keeping.
“They have their own reasons to come after you, and they are more than willing to see you dead, you and the Angel. She’s there with you, isn’t she?” There was no answer to that question. “I can stop them, you know.”
* * *
In the shed, lying on the floor right under the window, Scarlet exchanged glances with Rhapsody Angel. The same doubts were in both their minds.
“And why would you do us that favour?” Scarlet asked in a loud voice.
“Do you remember me, Captain?” Montgomery replied. “I was told you had lost your memory, but surely, you do remember that I’m an officer, just like you, and that my word is my bond. If I promise your lives will be spared –”
“That’s enough, Montgomery,” Scarlet cut in suddenly. “Your word means zilch now that you’ve become an agent of the Mysterons. You know that as well as I do.”
“You know that even the Mysterons have only one word.”
“I would dispute that,” Rhapsody whispered to Scarlet. “They have shown already they cannot be trusted.”
“I had the impression it was the case,” Scarlet answered back in the same tone.
He silently rose to his knees and leaned by the side of the window. Making sure his shadow wouldn’t be seen, he risked a peek outside. Montgomery was standing in the clearing with Johnny, a few meters away from the door, right next to the dead Petroski and the wounded Dallas. They were armed but at the moment, they didn’t seem inclined to use their weapons.
Scarlet could just make out Jasper and Scarecrow, keeping under cover further away behind Montgomery and Johnny, with their weapons aimed directly at the shed.
“Scarlet, you hear me?” the voice of Montgomery rang out again.
“What do you want, Montgomery?”
“Even with your faulty memory, you must know the answer to that question. The Angel surely told you. I want the microchip.”
“And if I were to tell you I don’t have it?”
“That would be a bad answer, Captain. And very unfortunate for you.”
“What can we do?” Rhapsody whispered to her colleague. “We can’t give him what he wants. Whether we tell him we do have it or not, we are condemned nevertheless.”
“I realise that fully, yes,” Scarlet said. “At this point, I have no idea what we should do.”
“Scarlet,” Montgomery called once more, “I think you’re lying to me right now. If you and the Angel came to this place, it’s because you expected to find the microchip here and to recover it. If it wasn’t the case, you would both have returned to Spectrum a long time ago.”
“How right he is,” Rhapsody growled between her teeth.
* * *
Montgomery glanced at his watch; his frustration was growing. Time was running out for the assignment, and he now had little hope of seeing it through as the Mysterons had ordered.
If he couldn’t get the microchip, at least he would see his opponents dead, and two less Spectrum agents to bother his masters. And if one of these Spectrum agents was Captain Scarlet, then this mission wouldn’t be a total failure.
He looked down at Petroski’s corpse lying in the dust nearly at his feet. He saw three grenades hooked to the dead man’s belt and suddenly, the solution of how to draw Scarlet and the Angel out came to him. And if they did not come out of their hiding place, then they would surely die.
Dallas Fenmore, in the meantime, couldn’t stop wailing. It irritated Montgomery greatly, but he thought this could be used to his advantage.
“Johnny,” Montgomery muttered to the impassive young man standing by his side, “check on your mate, please.” He didn’t turn around, but he could easily guess the questioning look Johnny was casting at him, as if not understanding the request. “At the same time,” the major added in a voice even lower, “get those grenades off Petroski.”
Johnny gave a brief nod, realising what his leader had in mind. “The Mysterons’ orders will be carried out,” he muttered under his breath.
Johnny took a careful step forward. Nothing came from the shed; not a shout from the trapped Spectrum officers, nor a shot to stop his advance. They didn’t know he was an agent of the Mysterons, so they probably didn’t consider him a dangerous liability; for them, he was just a young man checking on a fallen comrade. Their misplaced sense of honour would not permit them to fire on him.
“Johnny,” Dallas wept, seeing his friend crouching next to him. “Johnny, thank you. I’m hit, man. Those bastards shot me with an arrow. It hurts, man. It hurts like hell…”
To Johnny’s ears, the rapid flow of Dallas’s babbling was most exasperating. He frowned deeply. “Quiet, you fool.” He deliberately grazed the arrow imbedded in the young man’s thigh, making it shift ever so slightly. Dallas let out a cry at the suddenly increased pain, and his body flinched. “Don’t move and you’ll be all right.”
“Will I?” Dallas stuttered, his face now white as a sheet.
But Johnny wasn’t even listening to him. All of his attention was drawn to the grenades hooked to Petroski’s belt; they were there, just within his reach. He glanced up to Montgomery.
The major addressed him an almost imperceptible nod. “At my signal,” he said under his breath.
He turned his attention back to the shed, eyes flashing with a cold determination. The Spectrum officers were at his mercy. They were as good as dead.
“Captain Scarlet,” he called again, “I’ve been as patient as I can allow myself to be. I require that microchip. But I can’t afford to give you too much time to decide if you should give it to me. I will have to force you to make up your mind.”
* * *
Inside the shed, Rhapsody detected a definite hint of threat in Montgomery’s last words. “What does he have in mind?” she whispered.
She glanced at Scarlet; he was like a statue, kneeling rigidly in front of the window, keeping a watchful eye on what was going on outside. He too seemed ill-at-ease, sweat pearling at his brow. Rhapsody wondered if his sixth sense had not kicked in, warning him of an impending danger. In his present state, he might not recognise the signs.
She rose to her knees and came by his side. “How are you feeling?” she inquired.
“Fine. I’m feeling fine.” Scarlet’s answer had been too swift, and Rhapsody knew instantly that he wasn’t fine at all. Just by the way he looked, so pale and drawn, it was obvious he was lying. He noticed the way she was staring at him and he shook his head. “There’s been a buzzing in my head since I woke up,” he said in a gruff voice. “But it’s nothing I can’t manage. It’s not nearly as bad as those other times.”
Rhapsody answered with a silent nod, not wanting to question him deeper; at this point it was unclear if it was indeed Scarlet’s sixth sense – or a malaise related to his current condition. Considering the situation, for now it wasn’t important; especially if he was able to function properly.
For now, they had other, more pressing considerations to attend to.
She turned to the window, and squinted her eye through a hole made by a bullet in the makeshift curtain. Seeing Montgomery arrogantly standing there, in the open, wasn’t that much of a surprise to her; Mysteron agents weren’t much concerned about their own safety to begin with – and if it meant getting results, they wouldn’t mind dying for their cause. However, the presence of Johnny, crouched down by his wounded friend’s side was something unexpected. Despite the fact she had met the young man only once before, she had quickly assessed him as nothing more than a coward who needed the presence of others to find a certain level of courage. He would certainly not risk his life to help a fallen comrade, by giving himself up as a potential target.
Rhapsody frowned, suspecting there was something afoot.
“Captain,” she started, “I think we must be careful with –”
She was abruptly interrupted when the voice of Montgomery rose again:
“Your time is up now, Scarlet. If you can’t provide the microchip to me, then I will take your life and that of the Angel in its place!”
When she saw Johnny’s next move, fast as lightning, Rhapsody knew her instincts were right; but just as she started putting the young man into the line of her fire, she knew it was already too late.
* * *
At the swift order of “Now!” Johnny promptly acted; each of his hands closed on a grenade and snatched them from Petroski’s belt. Johnny Monroe had always been good at playing base-ball – if nothing else, he was a mean pitcher. Today, this skill would serve his Mysteron reconstruct. While waiting for the major’s signal, he had time to assess his distance, and to determine the force needed to throw his first projectile exactly where he wanted it.
The grenade pierced one pane of the window at such velocity that it only left a hole of the same size in the glass.
* * *
Scarlet and Rhapsody just had time to hit the deck on each side of the window to avoid the large projectile that came through it. It didn’t even slow down upon its entry, and hit the far wall; there was a dull explosion, and it spat smoke and fire, which immediately started spreading along the wall, in front of the Spectrum agents’ horrified eyes.
The second grenade flew through the window and passed between them before bouncing on the ground, with the same results as the first one.
“Incendiary devices!” Rhapsody shouted.
Scarlet fought not to roll his eyes. At times, that woman certainly knew how to state the obvious.
They took one step to try and stop the fire from spreading but a series of shots through the windows zipped past them and forced them to throw themselves to the ground and to keep their heads down. They heard thuds coming from the roof, and new explosions, and they knew that other grenades had landed there and had detonated. They saw smoke starting to penetrate through the gaps between the wooden boards.
Then they heard the voice of Montgomery again:
“This is your last chance, Spectrum! Either you get out and hand me the microchip, or you stay in there and burn with it! The choice is all yours now, but decide quickly – you don’t have much time!”
Rhapsody didn’t know if she should feel desperate or totally outraged.
“Oh yeah… like they wouldn’t shoot us like dogs the minute we show our faces through the door!”