Original series Suitable for all readersMedium level of violence

 

This story takes place approximately a year after the War of Nerves started, and shortly before Captain Scarlet and Rhapsody Angel became a couple.

 

 

Murky Waters

 

A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story

By Chris Bishop

 

 

CHAPTER 7

 

 

The last words that Rhapsody heard from the boys proved prophetic. Barely twenty minutes after the boat had left dock, she heard distressing spitting sounds coming from the engine. She steered the boat towards the embankment; wisely, she chose the other side of the river, to make sure neither the Mysteronised commando nor the murdering band of young creeps they had just escaped from would catch them unaware. She piloted the boat behind thick bushes, making sure they were invisible from either banks or water.

After killing the engine, Rhapsody scrutinised the area and listened carefully; all she was hearing were sounds of nature: the wild current of the river, birds chirping, wind blowing between trees. No engine noises could be heard, either from boat or land vehicle, nor voices – or even crackling from firing weapons. Ten minutes earlier, they had passed under a wooden bridge, which seemed to mark the limit of human civilisation. Now only the wild surrounded them, as they had returned nearly as deep into the woods as they had been at the start of their mission. 

Although they were a long way from being able to contact base and ask for help, Rhapsody reflected that being away from any living soul was, for the moment, the best way for them to keep safe. She decided it should stay that way until she knew from her compatriot exactly what their situation was with the inhabitants of this area.

Rhapsody carefully moored the boat to a thick root emerging from the surface of the water. She then checked for the problem with the engine. She quickly discovered that the tank was almost empty; the boys probably knew that fact for some reason – perhaps they used this boat on a regular basis. They certainly had been right in saying it wouldn’t go far. She estimated there was about five minutes of fuel left in the tank; ten, if she was optimistic.

She searched the various compartments of the small boat; there was little of much use.  A small toolbox, half-empty, offered very little help.  Another small box was stacked under her bench and she opened it to examine the contents. She found a razor-sharp knife in its leather sheath, probably used to gut fish. The sheath was attached to a crude piece of rope, long and sturdy enough so that it could serve as a shoulder strap, so she slung it across her shoulder. There also was a paper map of the area, well protected in a plastic bag. She partially unfolded the map and glanced at it quickly, before deciding that it was also worth keeping, and put it back into its pouch and then into the large pocket of her trouser. Also underneath the same bench, she found a flask full of water, and she took a large gulp of it, before choking in disgust; the water was warm and bland.  She put it aside and, searching further, found a single fuel can. Hope flared up in her heart, but quickly died out when she opened it: it was dry empty. In frustration, she almost threw it overboard, but stopped herself just in time. 

The last thing she examined was the shotgun that had served her so well up until now; unfortunately, there was only one projectile left in it.  She put it back in the bottom of the boat, chewing on her bottom lip.

Why couldn’t we have it easy for a change? she asked herself. There was no oar in the boat – and even if there had been any, she knew they would not have done her any good; she wasn’t enough of an expert to be able to row into the wild currents of this river.  And she doubted that Captain Scarlet would be that much good at it either.

She gave one glance at her companion, who lay on his back at the other end of the boat, his head at a crooked, apparently uncomfortable, angle. He had not regained consciousness since he had fallen there, and that was starting to worry her.  She carefully moved towards him and crouched by his side. His eyes were closed and he was breathing regularly; he seemed so peaceful, more like he was sleeping rather than being unconscious. Rhapsody noticed the handcuff hanging loosely from his right wrist, as well as the length of chain hanging loosely around his waist. She frowned, wondering what exactly could have happened to him since the moment they had parted. He was wearing civilian clothing, instead of his camouflage uniform, except for his boots – which, she noticed straight away, were not Spectrum issue. The jeans were worn and faded, and that hideous black and red chequered shirt he wore was dirty and torn in places.

 At first glance, he didn’t look like he was injured; the collar of his shirt was currently hiding his neck, where Rhapsody had seen an ugly reddish bruise earlier on. She reached with her hand, with the intention of pushing the collar aside to get a peek.

Scarlet suddenly opened his eyes; with lightning reflexes, his hand caught her wrist, as he recoiled from her; he was visibly startled, and was watching her with widened, wary eyes. Rhapsody blinked at his uncharacteristic reaction; he was holding her so tight, he was hurting her. She presented her free hand in a calming gesture.

“Hey, take it easy. It’s only me. You know I’m not going to hurt you.” She saw the expression in his eyes change, as he apparently recognised her. She offered a reassuring smile. “I only meant to check you out.”

 

Scarlet had recognised in the shadow leaning over him the beautiful young woman who had saved him from Jasper and his gang. Certainly, he imagined, after such a feat, she couldn’t be a threat to him; beside, that smile of hers was as reassuring as can be. He let go of her wrist, and she grimaced a thankful smile, while reaching for it with her other hand to rub it.

“You’ve got quite a grip,” she said with just a note of reproach in her voice. He felt contrite, but didn’t have time to apologise, as she approached him, and her hand reached once more to his neck. “Now, hold still, please.” He let her examine him, watching her closely, as her fingers gently stroked his skin. He first noticed the concern on her face, which then gradually morphed into an expression of wonder.

“It’s already gone,” she commented. Scarlet gave her an enquiring look and she explained: “That rope burn you had, only a couple of minutes ago.  It’s completely faded – without a single trace.”

His hand reached up and rubbed his neck; he didn’t feel any bruises under his fingers; she was right.

And more… His two broken fingers seemed to be healing as well; they were still red and swollen, but he could move them.

He couldn’t help a shiver going through him, concerned that witnessing this strange phenomenon might distress her in some way.  However, he saw neither apprehension nor distrust in her beautiful features. That gave him some assurance, and he slowly pushed himself into a seated position.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Better,” Scarlet answered. He was surprised that his voice sounded this good, after his throat had nearly been crushed so brutally. However, it was dry as sandpaper. “Thirsty, though…”

He saw the young woman take an old leather flask from the floor of the boat; she presented it to him, removing the plug. “I found this. We’re in luck; it’s full of more-or-less fresh water. Well, it’s drinkable, anyway.”

Scarlet nodded his thanks, took the flask with both hands and drank greedily. The water was stale, and not very cold, but as she had said, it was drinkable, and it did his sore throat a lot of good.

“Take it easy,” the young woman advised.  “Between the two of us, we have to make it last. We don’t know how long we’ll be stuck in this swamp, and I’m not quite sure we’ll find water we’ll be able to drink in this area.”

Scarlet lowered the flask and handed it back to her. 

“Thanks,” he said, “for saving me from those vultures.”

She shook her head, while pushing the plug into the flask, before putting it down against one of her feet. “What else could I have done? I couldn’t very well leave you with that rope around your neck, could I? That didn’t look very comfortable.”

Scarlet smiled weakly, and passed his finger round inside his collar, making the handcuff attached to his wrist jingle. “No, it certainly wasn’t.”

“Here,” she offered, pointing to the shackle.  “Let me get this off you.”

Scarlet glanced at the handcuff, then back at the young woman; he marked a second’s hesitation, before presenting his hand to her, a little uncertainly, wondering why it didn’t seem to alarm her.  He watched as she took a pin from her hair, untwisted it and inserted one end of it into the lock.  He looked, mystified, as she expertly moved it around, and then he heard a faint but very distinct click.  The metal band opened around his wrist and she delicately removed it.

She had done it even faster than he had done it himself with the other wrist.

“That’s quite a skill you have there,” he said matter-of-factly.

 

Rhapsody stared at him, wondering if by any chance it was the first time he had witnessed her pick a lock; she couldn’t recall having done it in front of him before, so she shrugged dismissively.

“How did you come to wearing these?” she asked, showing him the handcuffs.  “They are obviously police-issue.”

She saw Scarlet hesitate. “The sheriff of Les Arbrisseaux… he arrested me,” he confided.

Rhapsody nodded, recalling: “Those boys said you killed him – the sheriff.  Is it true?”

 

Scarlet frowned. “No, I did not.” She had asked that question, in such an oddly natural voice; again, she didn’t seem concerned. For all she knew, he could be a very dangerous murderer.  He found it curious – and even a little disturbing.

“Why did he arrest you?” she persisted.

Scarlet hesitated again. “It’s rather a complicated story.”

She sat on her heels. “I’m listening.”

“Well… It’s more than likely that I did look guilty in the sheriff’s eyes,” he confessed clumsily, “considering the events, and the boys’ accusations…”  Seeing his companion’s inquiring look, he explained awkwardly: “they told him I had killed Old Joe Benson.”

 

Rhapsody, of course, had no idea of whom he was talking. “Who is – or rather was – this Joe Benson?”

“An old man… who lived alone in the swamp. I don’t know that much about him, frankly. Except that he found me, when I was injured – and that he took me to his cabin, and took care of me. He told me he saw me falling from a helicopter.”

Rhapsody nodded once more, thoughtfully. So this was the reason why neither Montgomery’s commandos nor herself had found Scarlet where they knew he was supposed to be after that terrible fall. This Joe Benson had beaten them to him and had taken him away.  That explained the traces they had seen. “And did you kill him?” she asked.

“No, of course I didn’t!” he vehemently protested. Rhapsody noted that he sounded irritated by such an assumption – which, from her point of view, was a natural one – and she wondered why exactly. He gave a low snort.  They did – the boys.  Jasper – the leader – he shot Joe with his own shotgun. I saw the whole thing.”

“They shot him in front of you?”

“They didn’t know I was there at the time. But when they realised it… they decided to pin the murder on me.”

 

Scarlet noticed the strange way the young woman was now looking at him. He thought he saw scepticism in her eyes, as she thoughtfully stroked her chin. He frowned with exasperation. “You don’t believe me.”

 

“It’s not that.”  Rhapsody wondered why Scarlet seemed so on edge.  He was on the defensive, appeared wary of her.  That wasn’t like him at all.

“I can see you’re unsure,” he moved on. “Why would have I killed Joe, to begin with? I couldn’t do such a thing!  The man took care of my injuries.”

Rhapsody sighed. “Look, it’s not that I don’t believe you… Excuse me, but you have to admit it could be possible. This Joe could have been a Mysteron, for all I know.  You would then have had cause to kill him.”

 

The word ‘Mysteron’ piqued Scarlet’s curiosity. He had no idea who or what a ‘Mysteron’ could be, but he had heard the word before. It was MacGibbons who had pronounced it, just a few minutes before those strangers, who claimed to be Spectrum, had killed him.

He didn’t know why, but hearing that word again was making him feel very uneasy.

“Mysteron?” he repeated, watching the woman closely – and even a little suspiciously – watching for any reaction she might have.

“Yes… And the same goes for the sheriff, as a matter of fact. That would explain why he arrested you in the first place... and chose not to believe you.  He could have been a Mysteron as well.”

 

Rhapsody noticed the odd way Scarlet was now looking at her. It was beyond being wary; she could read distrust in his eyes, and she couldn’t understand why. Maybe he was thinking she might be a Mysteron?

She sighed again. “Look, this is all so confusing. I feel like I’ve stumbled right into the middle of a film. I’m really having trouble following your story. And I really can’t work out why the sheriff would believe those boys over you.”

“Is it so surprising?” he replied. “I’m a stranger in these parts, with no identification…  Those boys are from around here.  That said, the sheriff did say they were usually bad news.”

Rhapsody shook her head. “Maybe you didn’t have your I.D., but still, didn’t you try to explain to the sheriff who you were?”

 

Scarlet quivered at her words. “Who I am?”

“Why, yes. Once he had realised who you were, the sheriff would probably have acted differently towards you. All he needed to do was to check you out with a Spectrum office –”

This time, Scarlet tensed, staring intensely at his companion, and interrupted her in mid-sentence: “Spectrum?”

She frowned, surprised by his reaction. “Captain…  Are you sure you’re feeling better?”

“I am wondering that,” he answered truthfully. He ruffled his hair, trying to make sense of her words, and then, suddenly realising something, he stared straight at her.  “You called me ‘Captain’.”

“Yes…” she answered, visibly uncertain what he was driving at.

“And I think… you called me that, when you came to my rescue earlier.”

 

That was more a statement than a question. Rhapsody was now totally perplexed. “Well, what should I call you?” she asked. “We’re on assignment. I think I should address you formally. I can’t very well call you by your name and –”

 

“You know me.” Realisation had suddenly dawned on Scarlet.

The young woman facing him frowned deeply. “What?”

“You know me!” Scarlet repeated, excitedly, shifting his position on the boat so quickly that he made it rock dangerously. He leaned towards her and she almost drew back in surprise. “The way you speak to me… the way you’re acting… It’s not how someone would behave with a complete stranger! Thank you, God – you really know me!”

 “What is this nonsense?” she asked, a little irritably. “Of course I know you! We’ve been working together for years!”

“Really?” Scarlet was ecstatic. He chuckled. “Oh, this is too good to be true! Am I glad I found you!

 “It would rather seem to me that it’s me who found you, and not the other way round. Come on, Paul… Will you tell me what you’re on about?”

“Paul?’ Scarlet repeated with even more excitement. “Is that my name, then?” 

 

Rhapsody opened her eyes wide. There was something really wrong going on. She couldn’t explain the reason behind Scarlet’s uncharacteristic behaviour. “What is it with you?” she finally asked.

Scarlet became hesitant; he slowly shook his head, trying to avoid her eyes, almost embarrassed to speak out. “I’ve… er… I’ve kind of lost my memory.”

“Kind of –” Everything seemed to freeze in the short seconds that followed. Rhapsody stared at her companion with uncertainty, as her mind was trying to process what he had just revealed her.  She found it difficult to swallow. She gave a nervous chuckle. “You are kidding, right?”

He looked hurt that she doubted him. He sat back in frustration. “Nobody seems to believe me, each time I tell them I don’t remember anything,” he grumbled.  “I was hoping it would be different with you.”

“You are not kidding?” Rhapsody repeated, in shock. When he shook his head, she insisted: “You’re amnesiac? Really?  I mean… You don’t remember… me?”

“No…  I can’t even remember who I am – let alone who you might be.”  Scarlet smiled thinly, looking her up and down, and finally giving her an appreciative nod. “To my regret, I have to say.”

Rhapsody rolled her eyes. “Oh, please, don’t be like that… It’s not really the time.” She glared at him suspiciously. “Are you sure you’re not pulling my leg?”

“Now this is something I can’t remember, but am I really the kind of person who would joke about as thing like this?”

“For such a serious subject, no… At least I don’t think so. And you certainly wouldn’t fool around in the middle of an assignment.  You’re too professional for that.”

“Thank you – I think.” Scarlet paused a second, pondering. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned an… ‘assignment’? What does it mean?”

“You really don’t remember then,” Rhapsody said with a frustrated sigh.  “Oh that’s great…  Really, really great.”

 She noticed the way he was looking back at her, with that confused expression on his handsome face.  He was dying to have answers from her. She hesitated, wondering how she should enlighten him.

“It’s rather complicated to explain,” she finally said. “I don’t know exactly where to start.”

“How about by explaining to me who we are?” Scarlet suggested. “What is your name?”

“I’m Rhapsody Angel.”

He scowled. “That’s not your real name,” he reflected. “It’s pretty, but doesn’t sound very serious.”

She rolled her eyes again. She had the definite impression he was sweet-talking her. “That’s my codename,” she clarified.  “I’m a pilot in the Spectrum Angels fighter squad. My real name is Dianne… Dianne Simms.”

Scarlet smiled lightly. “That’s more like it.” He frowned anew. “Spectrum? We are Spectrum?”

“We’re agents of Spectrum,” Rhapsody explained. “You’re Captain Scarlet. You’re a colour – ”

“… A colour-coded officer of Spectrum,” Scarlet completed for her, nodding thoughtfully. 

“You remember that?” Rhapsody asked hopefully.

Scarlet hesitated. “Not exactly, no… I heard it being said by someone.”

“Did you?  And in what circumstances?”

“I…” Scarlet stopped, hesitating again.  He looked straight at Rhapsody. “Maybe I can explain that later?” he suggested. “First, I would like to know about myself.  Please. I’m desperate to know exactly who I am. Scarlet… That’s my name, then?”

Rhapsody stared pensively at him. She had to admit, she was eager to know exactly what had happened to him, since the moment they had lost contact; but he looked so helpless and his expression was so pleading right now that she felt she couldn’t deny him his request. He was right, anyway.  He deserved to know about himself, and that was certainly where she needed to start.

She sighed and nodded her agreement. 

“Your real name is Paul Metcalfe,” she started softly. “Captain Scarlet is your Spectrum codename.” Rhapsody waited, hoping that this revelation would jog his memory.  He was scowling deeply, making an obvious effort to remember. “That doesn’t remind you of anything?” she finally asked.

“I wish it would,” Scarlet replied, scratching his head, feeling a slight discomforting headache coming, as he was trying to recall something from his memory. “Paul… Well, that sounds common enough. I did remember the name Scarlet.”

“Did you?”

“No.” He shook his head. “No, that’s not quite true. I didn’t actually remember it. I saw that name… on small metallic tags that were hanging from my neck.”

“Your Spectrum dog tags,” Rhapsody realised. Her hand went to her neck, and tugged on a small chain, pulling out her own tags hidden under her sweater.  She showed them to Scarlet. “Like these?”

 

He nodded. “Exactly, yes.  I don’t have mine anymore. The sheriff kept them. I don’t know where he might have put them.” He scratched his head again. The slight discomfort transformed into a swift and sudden twang of pain. He grunted, screwing his eyes shut, clenching his teeth.

“What is it?” Rhapsody asked, witnessing this. “Are you all right?”

“I have headaches whenever I try to remember,” he explained.

“Headaches?” she repeated, frowning in perplexity. 

Scarlet wasn’t a man to get headaches.  Except, possibly, when he felt some danger coming or there were Mysterons in the vicinity. She found herself looking around, surreptitiously, but she couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary; her companion didn’t notice anything.

“Yeah… They’re a nuisance sometimes. It’s not too bad, at the moment. It’s dissipating, anyway.” Scarlet opened his eyes to face a concerned-looking Rhapsody. “I do have a vague recollection of being a soldier,” he said. “I saw myself following some kind of… training, I believe.”

Rhapsody nodded thoughtfully. “You are a soldier,” she confirmed. “Or rather, you were. You were an officer in the World Army Air Force, before you were recruited by Spectrum. What you recalled might have been your training in the army. Or the further training you were given, when you joined Spectrum.”

“Spectrum is a military outfit?”

“Para-military. We’re an international anti-terrorist organisation, answerable only to the World President.”

“Sounds very serious... and important. And these Mysterons you mentioned – they’re terrorists?”

Rhapsody hesitated once more. “Of a sort. But please, continue… what do you remember, exactly?”

“Not much…”  He looked down at the handcuffs lying at the bottom of the boat. “Just enough to know how to unlock these.  But that was purely instinctive.”

“Military training would do that to you,” she reflected with a faint smile. “You would do things out of instinct.”

“Is that where you learned it, too?”

“No, my training was different.  I was a kind of detective… a few years back.”

“A police detective?”

“No… more like the private sort.”

“And you’re a pilot now? You certainly get around.”

She frowned. “Please, don’t digress. Tell me what else you remember.”

“As I said – not that much. Only flashbacks like this one… Unfortunately not enough to help me work out who I really am.”

“You had other flashbacks?”

Scarlet hesitated. “They were only a few images…” He shook his head. “Most of them of violence and pain. I… saw myself falling. Maybe it was that fall from the helicopter?”

 

Rhapsody nodded thoughtfully. The thought came to her that it was also quite possible that Scarlet might have recalled his first deadly fall, many months back – the one that had freed him from Mysteron control. But just as she considered that, she wondered how much he remembered of that ‘incident’ in the first place. He had always said that he couldn’t recall anything of the time he was a slave of the Mysterons.  Maybe that specific memory was not exactly absent, but simply buried deep within his mind.  And in his effort to remember about himself, he could have accessed it somehow – or at least a particularly acute moment of this hidden memory.

In frustration, Rhapsody threw her hands up in the air. “HOW could this have happened? Why can’t it ever be easy, for a change?”

“Do you mean to say it’s always like this?” Scarlet inquired worriedly.

“When it comes to you, more often than not.”

He scowled. “Now, that’s reassuring.”

“How could this even happen to you?” Rhapsody continued. “Do you know how you could possibly have lost your memory?”

He hesitated again, thinking. “I thought that maybe that fall could have caused it?” he suggested.

Rhapsody was doubtful. “I don’t think that would be sufficient.”

 

She seemed so certain of what she was saying that again, Scarlet regarded her suspiciously. She knew something she wasn’t telling him. “Why? Wouldn’t that be sufficient to kill anyone, to begin with?”

“Captain, in your case – that would take far more than that.” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.  Scarlet was now staring at her with a deepened frown.

“What do you know about my case?” he asked her, rather roughly.

It was Rhapsody’s turn to hesitate. “It is… difficult to explain…”

Scarlet realised that his suspicions about her, after what she had just said, were right: she did know something about him. “There’s a lot of that with you, isn’t it? Or with me, to be exact.” He narrowed his eyes, watching her attentively. “Does it have to do with this… peculiar condition of mine?” he asked in a low voice. “You know about that too, don’t you?  The way I… heal fast?”

 

Rhapsody noted Scarlet’s sombre and cagey expression. She paused for a moment, wondering how exactly she should tackle the subject. There was no point denying the truth that she indeed knew, but in his present state, should she tell him everything there was about himself?  She doubted he would be able to understand it all – or even accept it.

She opted for caution, and simply nodded at his question, very slowly. “I imagine that, being amnesiac, finding out about your… condition was pretty much of a shock,” she said musingly.

 

Scarlet blinked, now having the confirmation that she knew. It was surprising to realise she didn’t seem bothered by this; she seemed to find it very much normal.

This was a curious, yet fascinating, young woman.

“What is it with me?” Scarlet asked.  “This is not… natural. Right?”

 

Rhapsody smiled lightly. Seeing him so confused was certainly disconcerting. She wasn’t used to it. “For you, it is. You are… well, as you said, you heal fast. Faster than any other human being. And you’re tougher than most.  It takes… a lot to hurt you.”

He scoffed. “I think I already worked that out!  But why? How is it possible?”

“That’s a power… a gift you have received.”

“A gift?”

She nodded, her expression growing sombre. “One that was given to you by the Mysterons.”

“Them again,” Scarlet groused. “Who are they? Exactly what do they have to do with this?”

Rhapsody paused slightly. “Well, this is rather –”

“… A long story, yeah,” Scarlet interrupted with some irritation. “Okay, I get it, already.”  He leaned forward, and scrutinized her. “Why do I get the uncomfortable feeling I would not like whatever explanation you give me about this?”

“Because you’re probably right?” Rhapsody smiled, almost apologetically. “You usually are… especially when it comes to the Mysterons.”

“I don’t know why, but I don’t find that reassuring in the least.” Scarlet sat back, scowling deeply. “Well, at least, I know now I wasn’t going crazy. After what I experienced, with all those wounds healing so unnaturally fast... I was beginning to think I was losing my mind.”

“What did you experience, exactly?” Rhapsody asked him. “How did you find out about this?”

 “Accidentally, of course.  The first time I woke up, I had a broken leg – I remember that vividly. I must have lost consciousness after that… But when I woke up again, my leg was healed. More than that, there was no scar, no mark, nothing on my body to indicate I had taken a fall from a helicopter.  If that really happened, that is.”

“It did. I saw it all.” Rhapsody shook her head. “There was nothing I could do to help you.  Mind you, at that point, I had problems of my own, trying to evade missiles that same helicopter was shooting at my plane.”

“Is that where you got hurt?” he asked, pointing to her wrapped arm.

She waved dismissively. “When I ejected and ended up here, yes.  But that’s only a scratch.”

“So that means you’re not like me.”

Rhapsody chuckled. “No, I’m not.  Getting her seriousness back, she looked him in the eyes. “What else happened to you?”

“I got shot –” Scarlet began.

“… You got shot?”

“By the sheriff. And the wound healed itself. Apparently, I woke up – yet again – in the hospital’s morgue, and scared a nurse stiff. I don’t remember that.”

Someone else witnessed your healing abilities?” Rhapsody asked in alarm.

 “Why do you think those boys were calling me a freak?” Scarlet replied with a frown.

She answered with a scowl of her own. She suspected something must have happened, but she never imagined it had gone to that extent. “Who else knows?” she asked.

 

 “The sheriff,” Scarlet answered after a second or two. “And his deputy…” He hesitated a moment longer. He could see this subject was bothering the young woman seated in front of him.  There was now a dark, concerned expression on her beautiful face.

“Is there someone else?” she asked insistently.

“There was the doctor,” he finally said.

 

Rhapsody stared at him in disbelief.  This was even worse than she imagined. “You saw a doctor?”

“I told you I scared a nurse in the hospital’s morgue,” Scarlet reminded her. 

“He must have examined you,” Rhapsody remarked.

“I imagine. I mean… I don’t really know exactly. Apparently, they must have believed me dead, if they put me in the morgue. And he did come to see me when I was in jail.”

“Great,” Rhapsody grumbled. “The sheriff, his deputy, a doctor and a nurse… And these murdering bastards who tried to hang you.  That’s way too many people.  The colonel will not be happy.”

“The colonel?”

“Our commander, Colonel White. He insists – quite rightly!that knowledge of your retrometabolism must be Spectrum’s best kept secret. That so many prominent people have witnessed what you can do will not please him.”

“What kind of a word is that, ‘retrometabolism’?” Scarlet shrugged almost irritably. “It’s not as if there was anything I could do to prevent them seeing it, you know – I didn’t even know about it supposedly being a secret to begin with.”

“I know.  Sorry, Captain, I didn’t mean to blame you –”

“And I wouldn’t be too quick to call Les Arbrisseaux a ‘prominent place’,” Scarlet continued without giving her the chance to speak further. “From what I could judge of it, it’s a very small town, which has very little truck with civilisation. Beside, I’ll remind you that the sheriff is dead – although it’s quite sad, he was a brave man, all in all. And his deputy is dead too.”

“The deputy is dead too?” Rhapsody repeated after him, opening her eyes wide. “Don’t tell me you’re accused of his death as well!”

He looked even sombre than before. “Seeing how my luck is going, that’s probably what will happen. No, it was those guys on the road, who the sheriff thought were Spectrum –”

Rhapsody cut him off, perplexed by his words: “Hang on… What guys?”

“They were dressed as military commandos – and they were armed with heavy weapons.  They –”

“Montgomery and his men!” Rhapsody realised quickly.

“I take it you know them, then?”

“I do know them… and you do too.  And they certainly are not Spectrum.”

Scarlet nodded. “I think I’d worked that out already. I had this strange feeling about them – that they were bad news. Who are they?  What do they want from me? I –”

“Paul, stop.” Interrupting him anew, Rhapsody extended her hands and took Scarlet’s; she looked straight into his eyes, a new sense of urgency now imposing itself on her.  Silenced, he looked back at her, his expression one of loss and bewilderment. She felt her heart going out to him, deeply aware that this amnesia was an unusual experience for him, which was making him unexpectedly vulnerable.

This was making their mutual situation even worse than she originally thought; and they still had their mission to complete.  She had yet to ask him about the microchip; somehow, she had the distinct impression he would not even know what she was talking about.

“You’re understandably confused,” Rhapsody told him gently. “And quite frankly, I am too. I think we’d better start at the beginning... Each of us, telling our part of the story in as much detail as we can. Maybe then, we’ll get a better understanding of exactly what’s going on?” She gave him a kind and encouraging smile. “And maybe that would help jog your memory?”

He paused, pondering, and then agreed in a very low voice:  “I would very much like it if that happened.”  He nodded at her. “I think you should go first. You’re the only one of us who knows who we are, and why we’re here, to begin with.”

She agreed, and started her story.

 

* * *

 

It only took two or three violent shoves from Jamie Lewis, easily the strongest member of the gang, before the door opened wide, and the boys were able to gain access to the small isolated house by the river. As Jamie had said earlier, there was no-one present, so the gang entered as if they were in their own home, dirtying the floor and carpet with their muddy feet. Just for the fun of it, Dallas Fenmore gave a slap to a nearby lamp that went crashing down loudly, while Scarecrow grabbed a beer from a half-used six-pack left by the sofa’s side. 

Jasper perused the place, and then went directly to the weapons cabinet, which stood at the far end of the living room; the rifles and handguns were displayed through the glass windows like so many trophies. When he tried to open the small doors, he found them locked; he quickly found a solution to his problem, and slammed the butt of his own rifle against the window, which shattered into countless shards. He put his rifle down and started selecting weapons from the collection.

While Jasper went in search of ammunition in the drawers of the desk by the cabinet, Jamie stood in awe in front of a crossbow and a quiver full of arrows, hanging on the opposite wall.  He removed both items from their hooks, grinning approvingly.

“I bet this beauty does damage,” he said, putting his eye to the eyepiece and casually taking aim at Johnny Monroe. 

The latter snapped at him angrily: “Point that thing elsewhere, you jerk!  What if it goes off?”

“Now who’s the jerk?” Jamie laughed, lowering the crossbow. “The damned thing is not armed, stupid! It certainly can’t hurt you!”

“Stop bickering, you two.” Jasper distributed weapons and ammunition around, keeping for himself a gleaming, brand new rifle that obviously had not been used very often. “Break a few things, guys. Make it look like this place was robbed.  And make sure not to leave any fingerprints.” 

The others approved, and Johnny and Jamie started turning the furniture over, and throwing things against the walls.  Dallas was quietly inserting bullets into the rifle Jasper just handed him. “McCullen won’t be back for a week or two,” he commented. “It’ll be a long time before someone notices we came here at all.”

“So what do we do from here?” Scarecrow asked, using his knife to puncture the sofa. “Where do you think the freak and the doll have gone to now?”

“Well, they certainly can’t return to town,” Jamie remarked.

“They might try to leave the area?” Johnny suggested.  “I mean, they don’t need to go to town for that.  They just need to find the main road, and then they can be off to any big city they want.”

Jasper shook his head. “They went upstream, towards north, going deeper into the bayou. They’re a long way from civilisation there. Considering they don’t know the area, they could go in circles a long time, or even die there before they found their way out.”

Jamie scoffed. “They wouldn’t do us that service…”

“That’s why we need to find them.” Jasper loaded his newly acquired rifle.  “We know the place better than them.”

“But that’s a big swamp,” Scarecrow reasoned. “We don’t know where they would be heading.”

“You know McCullen is an old miser,” Jasper replied. “He never puts too much fuel into his boat, ‘cause he knows people around here might use it instead of him.”

“Yeah, like us!” laughed Dallas.

“… So they’ll run out of gas pretty soon. They’re probably already out as we speak.  They can’t row on that river, even if they had paddles to begin with; it’s too wild.  So the only solution they’ll have will be to beach the boat, and go on foot.”

“The question is what side of the river will they choose to come ashore?” Jamie remarked.

“That’s why we’ll split into two groups,” Jasper moved on. “We find the boat, and then we’ll look for their traces. My guess is they’re not stupid enough to dare get too far away from the river and beside, there’s not that many footpaths they could use. So they’ll be following those, to avoid stepping into whatever danger the swamp might be hiding.  We’ll simply do the same. We’ll find them, kill them, and throw their bodies into the deepest quicksand pond we can find.  Nobody will ever hear of them ever again.” 

“It might still take some time to get our hands on them,” Scarecrow insisted.

“Look, if you have a better idea –”

Scarecrow backed away a step, as Jasper turned fiercely towards him; he didn’t like the flash of anger he could see in his friend’s eyes.  He could easily read murder in them.

He reckoned it was far better that the strangers receive the full brunt of Jasper’s rage than himself.

“No, no,” Scarecrow replied hastily. “Just thinking out loud, that’s all. I’ll follow whatever plans you have.”

Jasper scoffed angrily. “We don’t have a choice, anyway.”

“So we do what exactly?” Jamie asked. “Follow the river upstream, until we find them, or the boat?”

“Yeah, that’s what we’ll do. Jamie, you and Scarecrow will cross Devil’s Bridge and follow the bank on the other side.  Dallas and I will check this side.”

“What about me?” Johnny suddenly said, noting he was left out. “Which team do I go with?”

“None.  You’ll go back to the sheriff’s car.  I want you to clean up the mess.”

Johnny frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Hide the ORVs where they can’t be found.  Throw them in the river if need be, and erase all traces of ‘em.”

“Throw them in…  Wait a sec, one of them is mine!” Johnny protested.

Jasper turned angrily to him. “You want to run the risk of ending up in jail?” he barked. “They find the machines, they’ll know we were there! They’re useless anyway, the state they’re in right now.”

“Yeah,” Jamie grumbled, “thanks to that crazy chick…”

“We have to get rid of them machines. That’s small price to pay, Johnny-Boy, and besides, when this is all over, you’ll have enough dough to buy yourself ten bikes!” He pushed a handgun into his friend’s hand. “Here! This might be handy if you find yourself in front of unwanted witnesses.”

“Think you can handle it?” Jamie cackled behind him. “So far, you’ve been pretty much useless.”

Johnny gave him a murderous look. “Shut up, Lewis.  I can use this as well as you.”  He cocked the hammer. “If anyone sees me, he’ll be history.”

Jasper smiled evilly. “That’s a good boy. Oh, and check the sheriff’s car as well. See if there’s anything in there that might be either useful… or incriminating. If you know what incriminating means!”

“I do know,” Johnny replied heatedly. “I’m not that stupid!”

Jamie chuckled. “You’re certainly hiding it well.”

“Watch it, you –”

“That’s enough!” Jasper snapped again, irate at his companions’ bickering. “We have stuff to do, and we’d better make it fast, if we want to have this done before nightfall.”  He flicked his cell phone. “We’ll keep in touch with this. The first team to find either the boat or our two lovebirds will call the other.”

“I might have some fun before I call you,” Jamie said with an evil sneer. “That girl owes me a bike, and I promised her she’s gonna pay with interest.”

“Don’t be cocky,” Jasper advised, pointing a warning finger at him. “They’re armed, and she already showed she can handle that shotgun. And we know her boyfriend can be a handful. You just follow them and keep them in your sight. Wait for us before moving in.”

Jamie shrugged dismissively. He slung the quiver over his shoulder, and rested the crossbow across his arms. “Whatever you say.”

 “We’ll soon get our hands on what we’ve been working so hard to get,” Jasper added, “but that won’t be before we tie up all our loose ends.  Now let’s go and get this business settled.”

 

* * *

 

 

“I can scarcely believe the mess we’re in,” said Rhapsody Angel, in reaction to Captain Scarlet’s story. He had just completed it, seconds ago, just after she had given him her own account of their situation.

Upon hearing her words, he stared at her in bafflement.

You can’t believe it? You do realise, of course, that your story is even harder to believe than this whole affair?”  He shook his head doubtfully. “Earth, at war with aliens from another planet? From… Mars, specifically?  Come on…”

Rhapsody had told him about the Mysterons, and he had listened to her with absolute perplexity. She could see in his face that he could hardly believe his ears, but he had not interrupted her. He had no reaction when she mentioned – without going into too much detail – how they had ‘used him’ for their own purposes, and that it was on that occasion that he had received that ability he had discovered – to heal from any injury, however severe it was. He had waited until now to voice his doubts; considering his usually impulsive temperament, that was something of an achievement. 

He was sceptical, of course, but he couldn’t very well deny the truth.

“If not for those healing powers I have – that you said they gave me…”

“Unwittingly, I’m sure,” Rhapsody quickly pointed out. “They wouldn’t have given them to you if they thought you would have used them against them. Or that you would escape them.”

“Even so, you have to admit this is still very hard to swallow.”

“Do you have a better way to explain your powers, then?” Rhapsody challenged him.

He pondered that. “Genetic engineering?” he suggested. “And I don’t mean, performed by aliens… something more down to Earth?” It was her turn to give him a doubtful look.  He shrugged.  “Or maybe I’m some kind of mutant.”

Rhapsody chuckled, almost despite herself. “You read too many comic books, Captain.”

“Well, I wouldn’t know about that, obviously. Remember? I’m amnesiac.”

She smiled, compassionately. “Paul, this is real. All of what I told you. The Mysterons. The War of Nerves.  What you experienced in their hands changed you forever.  I am not pulling your leg, this is the truth. You have to believe me.”  Seeing him so sombre and pensive, she reached out and took his hands between hers, like she had done before.  “You have to trust me,” she said, with more emphasis.

He lowered his eyes, chewing on his bottom lip. “All right,” he said in a low voice, before looking at her again. “I believe you, however preposterous this all seems. I don’t know why, but even if I don’t remember you, I feel like I should trust you.” 

The intense way he was looking at Rhapsody made her lower her eyes slightly. “I don’t think it will be long before you remember me,” she said. “Then you’ll see you were right to trust me.”

He smiled laconically.  “If you say so.  These Mysterons…  I guess you don’t know how they actually managed to do this to me? You said they took control of my body and mind, so that I would follow their orders. They brainwashed me, in some way? But I think I’m right in saying that’s obviously not all they did to me, for me to end up the way I am now.”

Rhapsody hesitated.  She had told but a fraction of the story to Scarlet. How could she explain to him that the Mysterons actually had killed him, in order to take control of him?  That this body wasn’t his original one – but an exact replica that his persona now accidentally inhabited? That he not only ‘healed fast’, but that he was virtually indestructible, that he could also cheat death itself, and return to life, if he should ‘die’? 

As she recalled, it had not been easy to explain to him the first time around, when he had awakened in sickbay, after the Car-Vu incident. It also had been difficult for him to actually accept what he had become, and for a long time, he had held himself apart from the others, brooding on his condition. He only had started to come to terms with it quite recently.

Going through it again would probably be worse this time around, as he didn’t even have any recollection of who he really was to begin with, and no idea what the Mysterons were capable of. Considering all this, it seemed a better idea not to reveal everything to him.  That might be too distressful for him at the moment.

In any case, Rhapsody also considered that it might not be that necessary to tell him everything at this point, and to give him unwarranted cause for concern; as she said, he would probably regain his memory soon, and would remember it all, anyway.

At least, she fervently hoped so. Because at the moment, she was unable to explain exactly why he couldn’t remember anything to begin with. This was a little worrying.

She smiled lightly at him, again apologetic. “Sorry, I can’t say exactly how they did it,” she answered, grateful that it was partly true, as nobody knew what exactly the Mysteronisation process was, and how it worked. “Maybe it was genetic engineering, after all?”

“Performed by aliens?” he said. “That sounds suspiciously like one of those unbelievable accounts of alien abductions that sometimes pop on the news.”  He stopped to think it over, and noticed the way Rhapsody was looking at him. He frowned at his own statement. “Now where did that come from? How can I remember hearing about those stories, when I can’t even remember who I am?”

“Some stuff may be so beyond belief that they would stick in your mind, I suppose,” Rhapsody reflected. “Or maybe – it’s simply too close to your own experience for comfort? That would have marked you.”

He shook his head, mystified. “Failing a better explanation, I will buy that. There are probably things more difficult to believe than that… Although I can’t think of any at the moment.”

“I can think of one,” Rhapsody said with an amused smile, as she rolled her eyes at him. “For example, I find it very hard to believe that you seriously told the sheriff your name was ‘Scarlet O’Hara’.”

She chuckled at the thought, and her colleague looked at her quizzically. She suddenly realised he had no idea why this seemed so funny to her. Her attempt to ease the tension for a minute or two had fallen short.

“It suddenly came to my mind in a flash,” he defended himself. “The sheriff was interrogating me, trying to find out who I was. It popped up – and I naturally assumed it was my name.  Since the name ‘Scarlet’ was on those tags…”

“Well, it isn’t your name,” Rhapsody said, her smile broadening, if only a little. “Not your real name, that is.”

“So I know now. And how could I have known it was a codename? I mean, I know it’s a colour, but I didn’t know of Spectrum at the time. And anyway, I would never have made the connection.  But what is it about that name that’s so funny?  I know the sheriff also gave me an odd look.”

“Geez, I wonder why.” Rhapsody rolled her eyes again. “I’m guessing you don’t remember ‘Gone with the Wind’? It’s a very popular American novel… and an even more popular film. Everybody knows its main character, Scarlett O’Hara. It’s like saying you were…”  She searched for a name at random, “… Napoleon Bonaparte.”

Scarlet frowned. “Who?”

Rhapsody groaned. “Well, if you, the historian, don’t remember that one, we’re certainly in trouble. The point it, nobody would have believed it to be your name.  Especially considering it’s the name of a woman.”

“Napoleon was a woman?”

Rhapsody looked at him a little anxiously. “Scarlett O’Hara was a woman,” she specified. She noticed his amused smile. “You are pulling my leg now.”

“Hey, I might not remember who Napoleon is or was, but I certainly know that it’s a man’s name,” he said.  “Sorry, I couldn’t resist… You say I’m an historian?”

“You have a degree in History. And you’re an expert in military history, specifically.” 

“I do wish I could remember all this.  How long do you reckon it would take for me to regain my memory? You seemed so sure earlier that it would come back soon.”

She shrugged slightly. “It’s just a guess, and I hope I’m not wrong. You see, you usually heal very fast, Captain. And really, I can’t explain why this amnesia of yours isn’t already taken care of. What is happening to you right now is… well, it’s not normal.”

“You mean, not normal for me.” Scarlet gave it some more thought. “Have I experienced amnesia before?”

That was a tricky question, Rhapsody thought. After all, he didn’t remember the six hours he had been under Mysteron control. And it was likely he would never remember them. “To my knowledge – not since you were freed from the Mysterons,” she answered, going around the question.

Scarlet nodded. “So according to you, we just have to wait and see when this particular problem will clear itself?  Hoping that it will.”

 “You do seem to continue to heal quickly, if I can judge by what you told me,” Rhapsody observed, in an attempt to reassure him.

“Do you think it could be the bullet the deputy sheriff said I have in my head that might be causing this?”

Rhapsody gave it some thought. Scarlet had told her of the projectile in his head; she found this curious.

“I don’t know. I don’t even think the bullet should still be there, to begin with.  I think it should be gone already.”

How?” Scarlet inquired with curiosity. “I mean… if nobody extracts it – how can it go away by itself?  Would my body expel it somehow – like, will I spit it out…? Or does my body – I don’t know – absorb it, or dissolve it – or something?”

Rhapsody hesitated.  She looked helplessly at Scarlet. Somehow the image his words conjured in her mind – him spitting out a bullet he might have caught during a mission – was something of a funny vision. But at the same time, she didn’t feel like laughing at all.

“Quite frankly, Captain… I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know how your retrometabolism works. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t curious enough to ask the question.”

He squeezed her hands, looking down again, and asked, a little sheepishly: “From what you told me, I gathered that… there isn’t anybody else like me, then?”

She frowned.  “You mean… retrometabolic?”

“Yeah, that word, if that’s what you call my healing powers.”

“Yes – it’s referred to as ‘retrometabolism’. As the Mysterons put it themselves:  it’s ‘the power to reverse matter’.”

“Whatever that means exactly.”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Rhapsody shook her head. “No. I – we don’t know of anyone else but you having that power. As far as we know, you are the only human being who possesses it.  Aside from you –” She stopped and hesitated again, and Scarlet looked at her closely, noting that she didn’t seem willing to continue.

“What?” he inquired insistently. “Aside from me – what?”

“I was thinking of Mysteron agents,” she said, again apologetic.  “We know that they can be like you, but we haven’t seen many cases, since the War of Nerves began.  We don’t even know if Captain Black himself possesses that power.”

“Captain Black?” he repeated.

She shivered. “The commander of the mission to Mars, which caused the mess we’re in. He’s the man who’s responsible for it all: the War of Nerves with the Mysterons.”

“The name suggests he was part of Spectrum,” Scarlet noted.  “Am I right?”

“Yes – yes, he was.  But it’s another long, complicated story. Suffice it to say – he’s now totally under Mysteron control. He’s their prime agent, the most dangerous and wanted man in the world.” Rhapsody shook her head. “In your present condition, it wouldn’t be very good if you were to meet him. Fortunately, at the moment, nothing indicates that he’s involved in this current Mysteron threat.”

“Only this… Montgomery, and his men, right?”

“Yes  and they’re apparently after you.” 

“What do they want with me?” Scarlet asked.  “Do they want to kill me?  If they wait long enough, maybe Jasper’s gang will do the job for them.  They nearly did already.”

“Hanging you wouldn’t have been enough to kill you.”

“Yeah, well – I sure wish I could be as sure of that myself.”

“It’s not only to kill you that Montgomery and his men want. They’re after something else. If they had it already, they wouldn’t bother to go after you, and would already be away. From what we know of Mysteron agents, their mission always comes first. As it is, they believe you have what they want, so getting rid of you would be a welcome extra.”

“And what they want is the microchip you told me about – for which we were sent here?”

Rhapsody acquiesced: “Those two guys who almost caught me earlier? They said they would use me as a bargaining chip to get it from you.”

“But I don’t have it!”  Scarlet protested.  “I don’t remember even finding it in the first place!”

“If they think you have it, then you must have found it.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Rhapsody hesitated. “I’m not. The last I knew of you before we lost contact was that you were still looking for it.  I left to try and make contact with base at that point.  But you were on the ground then, and when I returned, you were back in the chopper, with all the others.  So I must deduce that you’d probably found the microchip by then.”

“You like to play detective, don’t you?”

Rhapsody offered him a gracious smile. “I told you I was one, remember?”

“Well, let’s suppose I found it then. I certainly don’t have it now. I could very well have lost it when I took that plunge from the helicopter. When I woke up at Joe’s place, I had nothing on… I found what I thought were probably my clothes in a basket. They were camouflage clothing.”

“Your Spectrum-issue camo uniform,” Rhapsody confirmed.

“Right. It was in tatters and only good to be thrown away. Except for the boots…” He pointed to one of his feet. “These same boots, that I’m currently wearing. There was nothing else on me, except for these dog tags I told you about and – ” He stopped in mid-sentence, as something suddenly came to his mind. 

Noticing his expression, Rhapsody frowned. “What?” she asked, hopefully. “You remember something?”

“The box,” he answered almost absently. He stroked his brow, thoughtfully. “I remember – there was a small box, in one of the uniform’s pockets. Quite like a jewel box, except it was metallic. I thought it contained a ring, or something similar…”  He shook his head. “I don’t know what it was exactly; it looked like some kind of tiny electronic device… Smaller than the tip of my little finger.” He glanced at her hands. “Smaller than the tip of your little finger.”

Rhapsody straightened up.  “That must be it,” she said excitedly. “The microchip.”

“That’s possible…” Scarlet said, thinking about it.

“When was the last time you saw it?”

Scarlet hesitated to answer, then reddened slightly. “I – erm – I didn’t think it was that important.  I threw it back into the basket, with what was left of the uniform.”

“You didn’t!” Rhapsody exclaimed.

“That was minutes before I saw Jasper and his gang kill Joe. They were outside the cabin, and I saw the whole thing through the window. I rushed out… and then the sheriff arrived, and…” Scarlet shrugged. “… Well, you know the rest.” He offered a bashful smile. “Seriously, if I had known it was that important – ”

“It must still be there,” Rhapsody reflected.  “At Joe’s…” 

“Probably, yes.  At the bottom of that basket.”

Rhapsody’s features became hard. “We must go and retrieve it.”

Scarlet stared at her incredulously. “You’re not serious?”

“I am. Captain, our original mission was to find this thing. According to what Colonel White told us when we left, this microchip is of vital importance.  Well, it would be, if it was found intact.”

“Considering the time you told me it’s been in this swamp, don’t you think it might not be intact anymore?”

“That was always a possibility, even before we were assigned this mission, but now that we know it still exists – do you want to assume it’s not?”  Rhapsody grunted.  “I don’t know what it contains, but since it looks like the Mysterons are after it, then you can be sure it only can be dangerous data.  We must get it back before Montgomery and the others.  We have an advantage over them, too.  We know where to look for it.”

“Do we really?” Scarlet asked gloomily. “Even if we know where the microchip is, it would seem to me that we have a similar kind of problem as Montgomery: we don’t know where in this swamp Joe’s cabin might be.”

Rhapsody smiled. “That’s where you’re wrong…”

Her hand went into the pocket of her trouser and she took the map she had previously put there. She extracted it from its plastic pouch and unfolded it to put it down onto the vacant seat between the two of them.  Scarlet looked down at it, and Rhapsody pointed to each of the areas marked with a red pen. 

“This is Les Arbrisseaux… Here, this is the spot where I found you, and where we took the boat…  See this X nearby? It says ‘home’ – so that’s probably where the owner of this boat lives.” Her finger followed the river on the map. “This is Devil’s Bridge…  We passed underneath earlier, while you were still unconscious. At the moment, we’re approximately here…” She went further north on the map, still following the river upstream, and her finger stopped to tap on another mark. “See what’s written there?”

“Joe’s.”  Scarlet shook his head disbelievingly.  “This guy has Joe’s cabin marked on his map.  Talk about dumb luck…” 

“That’s not that far from where we conducted our search for the microchip,” Rhapsody continued, waving her hand over an area a little north of the mark indicating Joe’s home.  “You fell over here, on the other side of the river.  It’s not difficult to imagine that Joe indeed saw you from where he lived.” Rhapsody examined the map further, her brow furrowed. “It’s deep into Devil’s Bayou. There’s swamp and quicksand all over the place… Not to mention dangerous wildlife. I know, I walked all the way from there to where I found you.”  She shivered inwardly, thinking of the way Williams had died, in the jaws of alligators. She pushed the thought deep into the back of her mind. “We’re in luck, though… the cabin is on this side of the river. We just need to leave the boat here, and follow the indications on this map to get there.” She made a quick calculation. “Considering how much time it took me to travel that distance already, I’d say we might get there a little before nightfall.”

 “Okay… but once we have this microchip, what do we do? We’re still stuck here. We can’t waltz into Les Arbrisseaux after what happened to the sheriff.” Scarlet’s hand went to his neck, and he rubbed it uncomfortably. “I’m liable to get hanged again.”

“We’ll tackle that problem in due time, Captain.” She hesitated for a moment, realising that she was suddenly taking all the decisions, without leaving him much choice.  She bit her lip. “I’m sorry, I realise that, technically, you should be calling the shots, you being the superior officer…”

He waved his hand dismissively. “Hey, that’s okay. I may be amnesiac, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fool. It’s sensible to think that, in my current condition, I would be quite unable to make proper decisions regarding what we should do. So it’s better you take over, actually. I’m just concerned that I might not be much of a help.  Actually – I might be more of a hindrance.”

“I don’t think you would.  Amnesiac or not, you’re still Spectrum’s best field agent.”

“Am I, really?” Scarlet asked, raising a sceptical brow.

She nodded vigorously. “Beside, it isn’t as if we have much choice, is it?”

Scarlet shook his head. “No, you’re right. I’d rather do that with you than returning to Les Arbrisseaux and into the lion’s den. If you think we should go get that microchip then...” he smiled lightly, “… let’s go get it.”

“Then you don’t think me a heartless bitch?” she asked, a little coyly.

Scarlet tilted his head, looking at her with curiosity. “Now why should I think such an ugly thing of you?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Here I am, dragging you in pursuit of this mission – while you barely remember anything about yourself. I realise this must not seem very charitable of me.”

“I would never think badly of you.”

“Right. You would say that. But in your current state, you don’t know me. For all you know, I might be the enemy, trying to drag you into some kind of a trap.”

Scarlet chuckled. “I don’t think you would have bothered saving my life earlier, if it was the case.”

“That might not really count, you know…”

“You mean, taking into account my healing abilities?” She didn’t reply and Scarlet shook his head. “You still helped me over there, and for that, you have my undying gratitude.”  He smiled. “I said it before, Rhapsody – Dianne:  I trust you.”

“And what if you shouldn’t trust me?” Rhapsody insisted, looking gravely at him.  “After all, I might be a Mysteron agent. Trust is not something you should give implicitly.”

He considered this, staring at her calmly.  Then he nodded, slowly. “No,” he said.

“No, what?”

“Look, I still have difficulty believing it – all of what you told me, and what I can do.  However, I do think I’m still a good judge of character. I’m thinking of what you told me about Mysteron agents, and how I can ‘feel’ them – which explained why I felt so sick when I met this Montgomery and his men earlier.” He paused a second. “You definitely don’t feel the same.  So you can’t be a Mysteron agent.”

“That sixth sense of yours doesn’t always work, Captain...”

“Paul.”

She looked at him quizzically. He smiled. “You said my name is Paul.  Please – call me Paul, then. Hearing you calling me ‘Captain’ while I’m in this situation… It just feels weird.”

Her hesitation lasted only a second. “All right. Paul.”

“And regarding this ‘sixth sense’, as you call it…” He shrugged, his smile broadening. “Well, perhaps it doesn’t always work well, but I’m sure it’s working fine right now.  And taking that into consideration, to me, you feel… right.”

The intense way he was now looking at her brought red to Rhapsody’s cheeks, and she found the need to look the other way to escape his eyes. “Let’s see what we can take with us,” she said by way of changing the subject. “Then we should get going. If we want to arrive before dark...”

He nodded in silence, before helping her make a smart selection of the objects they could find in the boat.

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 8

 

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