A ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ story for Halloween
By Chris Bishop
Captain Scarlet pulled the collar of his coat around his neck; he wished that those who had designed this winter coat uniform had given more thought to extreme cold temperature. The little fur there was on the collar wasn’t nearly enough to protect him. Fortunately, he knew what to expect coming here, so he had put on a few more layers underneath, and rolled a woollen scarf around his neck for additional protection.
It was only the beginning of the fall, and the worst was yet to come. Winter in this part of the world was very harsh, very cold and very long. The weather was unpredictable and a snowstorm could sweep across the country and cover the ground with a thick layer of snow in only a few hours, changing the landscape in such a way that it became unrecognisable.
Scarlet knew all this from experience. It wasn’t the first time he’d come to this part of the world, and he had learned it the hard way.
Although to be perfectly honest, he had actually been quite a few degrees north from this position, where winter was even harsher and nature even less forgiving. Up there, a man alone, lost in the cold, the snow and the nearly everlasting night of winter could easily die if he didn’t take care. It nearly happened to him, a year before, and he was grateful that help had come when it did, when all hope was gone, and he thought everything was over.
And it had come in a very unusual fashion.
Scarlet checked his watch; nearly one hour had passed since Blue had left him here, all alone, before taking off with the helijet for Kangirsuk Airport, about a hundred kilometres down the Arnaud River at the mouth of Ungava Bay. Although Blue was obviously perplexed and curious at his friend’s request to leave him there on his own, without any backup, he had accepted Scarlet’s simple explanation that he had a promise to fulfill… and a friend to meet. The English officer had assured him that there was nothing to be concerned about. Seeing that his field partner didn’t seem inclined to explain more than this, the American had showed himself very discreet and had not asked any questions, but had promised that he’d be back in two hours… just enough time to have the tank of the helijet filled up, and to have a bite to eat in the meantime.
Scarlet looked around, at the desolate tundra surrounding him. No trees as such, only scrawny shrubs covered with a thin layer of frost, struggling to survive in this harsh environment. This was as isolated a place as could be. He couldn’t see a single soul at the horizon. The closest human settlement in the area, an Inuit village called Kangirsuk, with a grand total of about 700 inhabitants, was some 22 kilometres east from his current position.
Scarlet sighed; his appointment was getting late. He looked up at the huge monument he stood next to, musingly, wondering if this was the right rendezvous point after all. But he was sure he wasn’t mistaken; it could only be this place. If there were a number of inuksuk in the area, there wasn’t any other quite like this one. Nearly eleven feet tall, in a T-shape, composed of only three rocks, the Hammer of Thor had been so named because upon its discovery, a hundred years before, it was thought that it had been erected by visiting Vikings. The site had become an archaeological one over the years, but because of its remote location, few archaeologists or even tourists came over to take a look at it. Which was a shame, really, because the monument was quite impressive.
Scarlet smiled inwardly. The description fitted the monument perfectly. But as he knew it wasn’t built by Vikings, he also knew it wasn’t exactly an inuksuk either.
He walked to the banks of the river, turning his back on the monument; the big carry-on bag he transported on his shoulder was starting to weigh heavily, so he put it down, and sat on it. The river was already half-frozen, with only a trickle of water flowing between the large icy patches which formed between its banks. The English officer was sure that during the night, the river was frozen solid. He remembered having been told that it only flowed during the summer.
He became aware of a presence behind him a second or two before hearing footsteps on the frosty ground; he was somewhat surprised that a man of such size as the one he had come to meet would be able to move with such stealth. But then again, this man wasn’t any ordinary human being.
“I was convinced you wouldn’t even come.”
The voice was as he remembered it: strong, grave, cavernous… Yet it was even as it addressed him, without one ounce of resentment. Scarlet remembered how hostile it had sounded the first time he had heard it, carrying all the bitterness that had been bottled up inside for too many decades.
“I promised I would come. I’m a man of my word.” Still seated on his bag, Scarlet slowly turned around to look over his shoulder. “If you thought I wouldn’t come, why are you here, then?”
Standing against the sun and leaning against the monument, there was a very tall, bulky man, dressed in a fur anorak which had obviously seen better days, with the hood pulled over his head. Scarlet couldn’t see his face from this distance; beside, he had the sun in his eyes and the hood shadowed the man’s features. The Spectrum captain was certain it wasn’t a coincidence, knowing how he felt about his appearance.
“I promised as well,” the man said. “I, too, am a man of my word.”
Slowly, Scarlet rose to his feet and put the strap of his bag upon his shoulder, before walking towards the man; the latter didn’t make a move, and watched his approach calmly.
“You are late,” Scarlet commented. “I did think you were not coming.”
“The only watch I own stopped working, a month ago,” the man answered. “I’ve been busy trying to repair it. Besides, considering my way of life, are you really surprised that I might not be punctual?”
Scarlet smiled thinly. “It’s enough for me that you should be here, today,” he said. He advanced to about two feet from his interlocutor; the man stood a good two feet higher than he was – a giant, in all the senses, with a bulky frame and wide shoulders. Scarlet remembered that, but he couldn’t help still feeling intimidated. And Captain Scarlet wasn’t a man easily intimidated.
The man still wasn’t willing to look straight at Scarlet and slightly turned his head to avoid his eyes. He would obviously not be the first one to talk.
The Spectrum officer cleared his throat. “I know this is a very long way from your usual turf. How the devil did you manage to come from way up there to here? It must be… what, more than two thousand kilometres… You certainly didn’t do that on foot. Such a journey would be hazardous, for any man.”
“I am not any man,” was the grumpy answer he received. “It would not have been the first time I travelled such a distance. Walking has been my main means of travelling for many years, such distance means little to me.”
“Would not have been…” Scarlet echoed thoughtfully. “So you didn’t walk all the way?”
“Not all the way… Do I need to give you all my trade secrets?” The giant glanced surreptitiously at Scarlet and noticed the knowing smile on his lips. “I hitched one or two rides on the way down,” he admitted gruffly. “In the back of a lorry or two, aboard a vessel…”
“Without being noticed?”
“I think I told you this already: I am very good at not making my presence felt… or seen.”
“So you did. But you took an enormous risk.” Scarlet watched as the man shrugged dismissively. “I feel honoured that you trusted me enough to take that risk, and that you showed up.”
“As I said – I, too, am a man of my word.” The man caressed the surface of the monument with his hand. Even covered with thick woollen mittens, it was obvious that his hands were huge, by any human definition. “Beside,” he added in a low voice, “I didn’t come all this way just to meet you. However far this place is from my… home, it holds memories that I do not wish to forget.” He looked at Scarlet from under his hood. “I come here from time to time. It’s like a pilgrimage for me.”
Scarlet nodded. “I understand,” he said softly. “It’s good to see you, Shelley.”
other man answered with the briefest of nods. He pushed himself from the
monument and, with calculated slowness turned to fully face the Spectrum
officer. The latter didn’t react at the sight of his unusual and unpleasant
features, which many before him had found repulsive. He knew this was the
reason why Shelley was so reluctant to show his face to anyone. He hated the knee-jerk
reaction it almost invariably caused; that had certainly done nothing to
improve his social skills – quite the contrary.
“I realise you felt compelled to come, because of your promise,” Shelley said quietly. “But nothing really obliged you to do it. Why did you come, really?”
“You have to ask?” Scarlet shook his head, putting the heavy bag at his feet. “You saved my life, Shelley.”
“It was the least I could do. After all, I was the one who put it at risk to begin with.”
Scarlet tilted his head to the side. “Maybe… But that doesn’t change the facts. You did save my life, Shelley. One year ago. Without you – I’d be dead today. ”
The unlocked wooden door was bent, stuck into the bottom of the frame, probably because of the cold; it was old, needed a good layer of paint and the hinges were frozen, so it resisted when Scarlet pushed it open, with almost all of his weight against it.
It was almost a miracle for him to have spotted this place in a raging snowstorm. He was cold and tired, and he welcomed any shelter he could find. The unpredicted storm had arise suddenly around him, right in the middle of the chase, cutting him off from all civilisation – although in this desolated area of the great North, civilisation was scarce to begin with – and making it impossible for him to see beyond the curtain of falling and swirling snow. He had become quickly disoriented. The GPS from the snowmobile he had borrowed in Alert was of little help, since it was unable to reach any satellite to indicate his position, or give him a direction to go to. He couldn’t return to Alert – he had no idea where it could be. He couldn’t continue the chase – there was nothing to be seen around to go after.
The only thing that was working was his radiocap, and he was just about able to contact Cloudbase to announce that the storm had caused him to lose his quarry – a French-Canadian mercenary named Jean-Pierre Lebeau that he was to apprehend in Alert – and that he had managed to get himself lost at the same time. Colonel White wasn’t very pleased, though he knew that his officer was hardly to blame. In this part of the world, on Ellesmere Island, in the far north of Nunavut so close to the pole, the weather was very unpredictable, and although the satellites had picked it up, no-one had forecast that this snowstorm would rise so abruptly, trapping his man in the cold white wilderness.
According to all weather forecasts, the storm was not supposed to last very long; even so, it could be potentially dangerous to stay out, without cover. Colonel White had ordered Scarlet to stop the chase, to find shelter from the cold and the wind as soon as possible, to turn on his location device, and to wait for help to arrive.
Easier said than done. In this vast desolation, Scarlet couldn’t see far enough in front of him to find a shelter to begin with. His only option seemed to be the basic camping gear in the small luggage compartment of the snowmobile; he was thinking, without exactly looking forward to it, that maybe his best chance would be to back himself against the vehicle, put up the tent and prepare himself for a cold wait.
That’s when he had noticed a faint light piercing the falling snow… A light that had quickly disappeared, almost as soon as he had seen it.
He had driven his snowmobile in that direction; he could hear the engine going into overdrive and realised it was climbing a slope. It didn’t matter that the sound of his engine might be heard; the winds were so loud anyway, they were likely covering any other sound. The thought that he may actually have spotted the man he had been chasing since Alert crossed his mind. Lebeau was a native of this region, and his first ‘exploits’ had been those of a poacher, illegally hunting and killing animals that otherwise were protected by law. He probably knew Ellesmere Island better that anyone, so a little thing like a snowstorm was probably of little consequence to him.
And Scarlet knew he wasn’t alone; Lebeau had accomplices in the area, who he was supposed to meet for his next piece of dirty work. If by any chance Scarlet were to accidently stumble on them, that could be potentially dangerous for him.
Then again, maybe that light had nothing to do with him whatsoever. Either way, Scarlet decided that checking it out was better than freezing his ass waiting for someone to come pick him up.
A mass had suddenly appeared through the falling snow and he stopped his engine before colliding with it. It was the icy, rocky face of a cliff, which he had not noticed until that very moment; the snow was too thick, swirling into the furious winds. He deduced that this cliff and the slope he had been driving up until now must be part of some kind of mountainous formation on the island. He couldn’t recall any of this from the GPS readings earlier. Nor did he recall anything from the map of Alert’s surrounding area that he had checked before. Obviously, he had strayed far away from the route he had followed since the beginning of the chase; he had simply no idea exactly where he could be.
The beam of his snowmobile headlight had flashed against something, set against the face of the cliff. It was a small house – a cabin to be exact. It was practically invisible, almost totally hidden by snow, except for its door and part of a wall. There was no window, or other opening of any kind. Convinced that the light he had seen before came from this place, Scarlet had decided to get inside. This was a much better spot for him to wait for the storm to die out than between the flimsy, flapping walls of a tent, exposed to the cold and the wind.
Scarlet was perfectly aware that Lebeau could be nearby, and that he might also have taken shelter in here, so it was with his gun drawn and ready that he stepped in, looking warily about, trying to regulate his breathing so that whoever might be waiting inside for him would not hear him. The hinges squealed a little and that made him stop in the doorway.
He scanned the area quickly; the flames of a fire, at the very end of the cabin – which looked far larger inside than it appeared from the outside – lighted the place enough for him to see. There didn’t seem to be anyone about.
However – someone must have lit that fire.
It wasn’t any wonder that the cabin seemed larger from the inside. It had only three wooden walls, with the fourth made of the rocky surface of the cliff against which it was set; there was a natural cavity in the cliff, adding to the interior space. The fire was set just at the entrance of this opening and through the flickering flames, Scarlet could see the rock wall, with water dribbling down its surface.
Still carefully, the Spectrum officer entered fully, closing the door behind him, before too much snow could get in. As soon as it was closed and he took a few more steps into the cabin, he started to feel a little warmer; he breathed a sigh of relief; at least in here, he would be able to comfortably wait for help to arrive, without the risk of freezing to death.
His gun still in hand, he moved very slowly, with every caution, towards the flickering fire. He thought it might have been the light he had seen earlier through the snow; so someone must have opened that door. It also seemed unlikely that anyone would started a fire in this place and leave it unattended, while going out in the cold, at the risk of getting lost in the snowstorm.
Scarlet took a calculated risk. “Hello?” he called tentatively.
He received no answer; either he was truly alone or whoever was here didn’t care to answer. However, it didn’t look like there were many places where someone could hide.
Scarlet scrutinised the fire; he couldn’t see any visible chimney, so he wondered why the smoke wasn’t filling the place; he found his answer very quickly as he noticed the smoke going towards the rock wall – into a large, dark opening he had not seen before.
There must be a natural chimney going through that wall, he reflected.
He went around the fire to examine the opening; as soon as he approached it, he realised it was more than large enough to let a man through. It was dark and deep, and looked like a natural passage into the mountain… at the end of which the Spectrum officer could see another flickering of light.
The smoke seemed to go in that direction.
He could hear a soft crackling sound and disturbed pebbles echoing through the passage. There was someone down there.
It was worth investigating; still holding his sidearm, he entered the passage. The ground was a smooth, stony surface, covered with a thin layer of ice, which made it slippery at every step. It didn’t help matters that the passage was going down. He found the need to hold himself against the cold wall, so not to fall. He could hear his heart hammering inside his chest, so hard that he expected it to be heard.
After a few steps, the passage he was following enlarged considerably to become a cave, which size was double that of the cabin he had just left. There was a much larger fire burning bright in the middle, sending flickering shadows over the hard walls of stone. There was a lot of furniture around, mostly made out of wood, weathered by time and long use, and covered or filled with an ill-assortment of objects of all kinds. The ground was covered with a combination of furs and thick blankets, forming a makeshift carpet. Scarlet’s steps became silent as he stepped onto it. He advanced very slowly, ready to make use of his weapon if there would be any need for it.
He still couldn’t see anyone, as he came further into the cave. The crackling sound he had been hearing before must have come from the fire itself; he watched as a firebrand collapsed, sending small rocks rolling onto the rocky floor.
Scarlet relaxed, thinking that he was truly alone, and put his gun back into its holster.
He looked around with bemusement and fascination, bemused by this dark and damp place, upon which he had stumbled by chance. He couldn’t believe the quantity of miscellaneous items in this cave, obviously gathered throughout many years. On one of the stony walls, set on a natural shelf, there were rows of unopened pots and cans of food, from beans to peas, vegetables and fruits. An assortment of frozen meat was hanging in the coldest corner of the cave – obviously pieces skinned and cut from a large game animal – a caribou, most probably. There was a large hunting gun hanging on the wall, which confirmed to Scarlet that whoever lived here probably hunted for his meals.
The Spectrum captain found boxes of coffee, teas, and biscuits – most of them stale, he discovered by checking in one of the boxes. Powders of broth and milk lay beside metal mugs and jugs, and there was a little oil stove set on an old, rickety, wooden table, next to a very old transistor radio with a crooked antenna.
In a corner of the cave, thrown onto an old wooden bed, there was an old military sleeping bag, worn-out but of obvious good quality, with its zip broken, and a mound of blankets neatly piled at one end of the bed. An oil lamp was set beside it, on a small footstool. Scarlet crouched and touched it carefully; he found that it was still warm to the touch. It had been used very recently.
There was a box of matchsticks next to the lamp on the footstool. The light coming from the fire wasn’t nearly enough to see everything properly, so Scarlet decided that he might as well use this lamp for himself. He struck a match and lit it. The lamp was working perfectly and soon, it shone some more light into the place.
Scarlet picked the lamp up and straightened to his feet. He walked around, continuing his investigation; he wondered who could live in such a place – and where this person could be at the moment. To all appearances, it was someone who preferred to live as a recluse, away from civilisation, here, in one of the most barren regions of Earth. Surely, he must have had some contact, in one way or another, because some of the objects in this place needed to be bought, traded for – or maybe they had been stolen, for all Scarlet knew. There were dates on the cans that suggested that the owner had acquired them not so very long ago.
There’s enough in here to ride out a siege for a long time, Scarlet reflected. So whoever lives here, he – or she – won’t need to interact with the rest of the human race for a long time – only when it becomes necessary.
Why would someone want to live like that? What reason could that person have to avoid people the way he or she obviously did? Was it some kind of criminal on the run?
Could he have some kind of connection with Lebeau’s business in the area? Scarlet wondered. It seemed unlikely. But then again, a man like Lebeau would employ any kind of people for his dirty work… It was conceivable that whoever lived here might be involved with him.
Scarlet was about to turn around and leave the cave – thinking that the cabin itself would be much more comfortable than this damp place – when he discovered the far wall of the cave – or rather, what was set upon it.
A large, makeshift bookcase was leaning against that wall, and all of the shelves were covered with a multitude of books. They were of all sizes and colours, and looked very old, with yellow pages and worn out covers. Slowly, even more fascinated by this discovery than by all the rest, Scarlet walked in front of the rows of books, barely able to make out the titles adorning the spines. He saw at least two versions of the Bible, and a number of old Victorian novels; there was an almost complete collection of Sherlock Holmes books, neatly tucked at eye level, with a bookmark sticking out from one of them. There were books in English, but many were also in French and in German, which made Scarlet even more curious about their owner.
There was even a huge medical text book set flat on one of the shelves, obviously too high to fit onto it.
We have an obviously very literate person here, the Spectrum officer reflected, his hand reaching for the large book. On top of it, was another, much smaller book. It was very much worn out by many readings, the corners all turned, the cover detached from the spine. Scarlet picked it up, putting the lamp onto the shelf; the title had disappeared almost completely, and it was impossible to make it out.
Curiously, Scarlet opened the yellow pages of the book. Another English-written Victorian-era novel, he reflected, reading the title from the first page. Whoever lived here seemed to like those kinds of books…
He put the book back from where he had taken it. Maybe this man, whoever he was – and Scarlet was convinced, for no particular reason, that it was a man – wasn’t in league with Lebeau and his gang, after all. He seemed far too sensible…
Scarlet was at this point in his reflection when he heard a creaking sound behind him, just at the limit of his hearing; he barely had time to turn around before a huge silhouette, wearing a large hooded fur anorak, emerged from the shadows and suddenly was on him, to take him by the lapels of his coat. He was brutally pushed against the bookcase, and the oil lamp was knocked off the shelves, falling on the floor with a dull thud. It didn’t break. The thickness of the makeshift carpet had saved it from the worst. It simply rolled onto itself, throwing distorted shadows against the stone walls.
Surprised by the sudden attack, Scarlet reached for his sidearm and got it out of its holster. But that was as far as he was able to go; his assailant seized his wrist in an iron grip and squeezed so hard that the Spectrum officer distinctly felt the bones crack under the pressure. He yelped in pain, and his fingers instinctively opened, letting go of the gun which fell to the floor. His assailant’s free hand then grabbed him by the throat and, pressing him violently against the rows of books, effortlessly heaved him up from the ground.
Scarlet gasped for air and his hands flew to seize the man’s arm, in an attempt to get free. It was without success; the hand strangling him – cold and rough to the touch – was enormous, and strong as steel, and the fingers were like iron, tightly squeezing his throat.
He couldn’t see much the face of his attacker, hidden under the fur of the hood covering his head, only his lower jaw with a cleft chin and dark lips around two rows of very white teeth clenched into an angry expression; his skin was very pale, yellowish and seemingly translucent, with a multitude of pale blue veins visible just underneath the surface.
He was impressively strong, and very tall, taller than any man Scarlet had ever met; at arm’s length, he was effortlessly holding the Spectrum officer by the throat, and looking levelly into his eyes; the tips of Scarlet’s boots couldn’t even reach the floor. He was probably close to eight feet tall.
“Who are you?” The furious thunderous voice reverberated against the stony walls of the cave. It was a gravelly, deep voice, strong, but at the same time, seemed to make strenuous efforts to emerge from its owner’s throat. “What do you want from me? Why did you come to my home?”
“Hang on,” Scarlet gasped. “I meant no harm… I was lost and –”
The giant smashed him against the shelves, interrupting Scarlet from speaking more, and making him lose his radiocap; the pain ran through his back and he grunted.
“I saw you climb up the slope on your machine,” the man told him, his voice still dripping with anger. “I thought you were indeed lost, and I was generous, I left you the cabin so you could get some rest, and leave me alone, while I waited here. You had no business coming down here! This is my refuge, my sanctuary!”
“I… didn’t know…” Scarlet croaked.
“This uniform you wear – What is it? You must be here for me! You are no different from all the others – coming after me and bothering me. I’ve done nothing wrong! Why don’t you all leave me alone?”
Scarlet opened his eyes wide. “There’s been a mistake,” he managed to say. “I am not here for you… I don’t even know who –”
“Who are you then?” The giant’s hand squeezed Scarlet’s throat even more tightly, and the Spectrum officer found himself unable to breathe.
“Let go,” he wheezed. “You’re strangling me… I can’t… talk…”
At these words, the giant seemingly realised that Scarlet was indeed unable to tell him anything, so he lowered him to the ground; the Spectrum officer stumbled as the grip against his throat relaxed, just enough to permit him to breathe.
“Listen,” Scarlet gasped, “I don’t know even who you are… You have nothing to fear from me…”
“I fear any man who comes uninvited into my home!” the giant thundered. “You are not welcome here!”
“Please,” Scarlet said tentatively. “Listen to me. I’m Captain Scarlet, and I’m from Spectrum. You probably know about the Hot Spot Tower they’re building at the North Pole…”
“I know of the construction. What is it to you?”
“There are dangerous terrorists planning an attempt against the construction site. They present themselves as environmentalists, but in reality –”
“And you think I care about that?”
With great strength, the giant tossed Scarlet to the other side of the room, in the direction of the passage he had followed earlier to reach the cave. The Spectrum officer landed roughly on the floor, nearly knocking himself out in the process. He was still trying to regain his wits when the giant crossed the distance separating them at an incredible speed; in a fraction of a second, he was standing over him again, and snatching him by the nape of his neck to pull him up. Scarlet grimaced, feeling the iron-like fingers closing on him again; he staggered on his feet, and was unable to regain a proper footing as the giant half-dragged him, half-pulled him into the carved passage. He felt like a child being manhandled by an adult.
“I want you out of my home!” the man roared with the same anger, his voice echoing into the corridor. “I want you to go away and never to come back here again!”
Scarlet struggled to escape the man’s grasp, in vain. He nearly fell on the slippery floor; it was only the giant’s strong hold that kept him up.
“Wait,” he protested, grunting. “These men are around here… they’re dangerous. If they find you in the area, they might kill you!”
“Kill me?” The man gave a hollow laugh. He didn’t seem amused by the concept, but neither did he seem impressed. “Others have tried in the past, without success. They are welcome to try if they wish it, but it will be at their own peril!”
They had reached the cabin; Scarlet nearly dropped into the fire when the giant dragged him around it, to walk in long strides towards the door. He opened it effortlessly; the strong wind and snow rushed inside, lashing into the Spectrum officer’s face, making him blink and gasp. Absurdly, he reflected, the winds were less strong than they were earlier. The storm was already dying out.
With both hands, the giant seized Scarlet’s arms, pinning them tightly against his body; he forced him around, and the Englishman found himself staring straight into the man’s face.
Scarlet shrank back instinctively, his eyes opening wide at the sight. It wasn’t only the man’s jaw, but the whole skin of his face which seemed translucent to the point that veins and muscles were semi-visible through it. His eyes, surmounted with scowling, jet black eyebrows, were of different colours – one black, one blue – which gave an almost surreal quality to the glow of anger brightening in them. His dark lips twisted as he glared menacingly into the Spectrum officer’s face.
“As for you, you’d better forget even meeting me. I do not wish to become a murderer again, but if you ever come back here, I will kill you!”
“You can’t throw me out without a weapon,” Scarlet tried again. “I need it… and my radiocap to contact my superior.”
“You mean this?”
The giant released one of Scarlet’s arms, but kept tight hold of the other, while he showed what he held in his hand; the captain was even more impressed by the long, gnarled fingers, which skin was as sickly as the face itself, than by the fact that the man was able to subdue him with only one of these hands.
“A radiocap?” he snarled. “You mean, you can call someone with this?” With an angry gesture, he threw it over his shoulder towards the fire blazing fire at the other end of the cabin, and Scarlet followed the cap’s trajectory until it disappeared into the flames.
“You won’t have the chance to call for help and to track me again!” the giant told him between clenched teeth.
“You don’t realise what you’re doing,” Scarlet protested. “You can’t say you don’t care. These terrorists are threatening human lives…”
“Human lives?” The giant snorted dismissively. “Don’t tell me I should care for human lives… I don’t give a damn about the whole human race! For all I care, for all the good it did to me, all of the human race can die!” He leaned towards Scarlet. “Or haven’t you noticed that I am not a man?”
Before Scarlet could find an answer, the giant spun him around on his heels and pushed him through the doorway.
“Now be gone, human, and be happy that I’m sparing your life!”
And with these last words, the giant tossed Scarlet outside.
The Spectrum captain literally flew out of the cabin to land on the snow-covered slope of the mountain side; he hadn’t realised, up until now, how abrupt this slope really was; he found himself unable to regain his footing and he roughly tumbled down the slope in a cloud of disturbed snow. He gained momentum, and couldn’t stop himself.
He heard a worrying crack coming from his left leg at the same time as he felt a sharp twinge of pain that made him yell. At the end of his vertiginous fall, he brutally landed on his belly, the impact knocking the wind out of him.
The treatment to his body had been so brutal, he felt in pain all over; his left leg was throbbing painfully. Dazed, he lay there, barely able to move. He was breathing hard, each breath of the icy air feeling like a multitude of needles were piercing his lungs; he felt for sure he had broken a rib or two in his fall.
He then became aware of movements around him, and saw a first pair of booted feet appear in front of his eyes.
Then beside him, another pair. And another…
“Tiens, tiens, tiens… Look what we have here…”
Still confused, Scarlet looked up and around; in all, there were six men surrounding him, all armed, and looking down at him with the same hard expression upon their faces. He recognised most of them from the mug shots showed at the briefing, at the start of his assignment. They were all part of the Lebeau’s gang, and each of them had an impressive list of criminal offences to his credit.
Right in front of him stood Jean-Pierre Lebeau himself; the man he had been following since Alert – the man he had intended to apprehend.
“If it isn’t Sergeant Preston of the Royal Mounted Police…” Lebeau said casually. “What brings you around these parts?”
Scarlet pushed himself up, in an effort to stand; he discovered he was unable to put any weight on his left leg, as an intense pain flared from it, making him cry out. He collapsed back exactly where he had lain earlier, moaning and grabbing his leg; he had obviously broken something, during his long tumble down the slope.
“You’re not feeling too good, obviously,” Lebeau commented coldly. “That’s a nasty fall you took from that mountain. You should really look where you put your feet, mon ami.” He looked around at his companions. “Stan, Morty… Help him up, boys.”
Two of the men took Scarlet by the arms and pulled him to his feet, none too gently. Scarlet grunted when they roughly wrenched his arms behind his back, twisting his wrists in the process. He felt the pain in his right wrist, the one the giant had squeezed so tightly earlier. He clenched his teeth as the two men held him up in front of Lebeau, who now looked levelly at him, with a cruel and cold expression in his eyes.
The weather had considerably calmed down – or perhaps it was just the fact that where they stood, they were relatively sheltered from the storm. Behind Lebeau, there was a large vehicle, equipped with caterpillar tracks, with its beams powered up, throwing two rays of light into the snow in front of it, and lighting a small snowmobile equipped with a cabin that Scarlet recognised as being the one he had chased since Alert – the vehicle that he knew Lebeau had taken from there.
“I saw you at the trading station in Alert,” Lebeau said, musingly. “With your bright red uniform, you were easy to spot… I heard you were looking for me. You are Spectrum, aren’t you?
“You know bloody well who I am, Lebeau,” Scarlet said between his teeth.
Lebeau nodded. “Yes, I was informed of your name by the barman at the station… to whom you presented yourself. ‘Captain Scarlet’, isn’t it right? And you obviously followed me from Alert…” Lebeau shook his head and tutted. “You should not have come alone after me, Captain. I’m afraid this will cost you dearly.”
Scarlet found the strength to smile, if only faintly. “What makes you think I came alone?” he asked, forcing the words through his teeth despite the pain.
“I didn’t see anyone else in Alert that looked like another Spectrum officer,” remarked Lebeau.
“We have undercover agents everywhere,” Scarlet retorted. That was the truth, but unfortunately, not the case in Alert. He hoped that his bluff would work. “How do you think we learned what your little group was planning to do, Lebeau? One of our people learned of it, and then informed Headquarters.”
“Really now?” Lebeau said, pacing around, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “I thought it was that snitch Samuelson who told you… Before McRae found him out,” he added, addressing a glance at the man next to him. The latter grinned evilly.
“Don’t be too sure we only relied on Samuelson for information,” Scarlet continued, glaring at Lebeau. “Spectrum knows exactly where I am. They’re on their way to this exact location, and they will fall on you like hawks on lemmings.”
Lebeau scoffed at this obvious display of bravado and turned around, gesturing in all directions. “Really? Then, where are they? Words, Captain, only words…” He turned back to Scarlet. “You are truly alone. And you’re only trying to delay the inevitable.”
“Even if you kill me, that won’t change anything,” Scarlet replied. “Spectrum knows of your plan to sabotage the Hot Spot Tower, so neither you, nor any of your friends will be able to approach it close enough to do any damage. You have failed.”
“This tower is an offence to Nature itself,” Lebeau snapped. “It is but a mining operation tool to melt the ice cap and further destroy the fragile balance of this planet. Ask all environmental organisations for their opinions. All of them, they’re against its construction and will applaud any action against it.”
“Stop pretending you’re a saint!” snarled Scarlet. “You know very well that the Hot Spot Tower will only melt the ice a few meters around its immediate location. The tower will be equipped with a regulating system that will prevent the melting of the ice beyond that point, thus providing a man-controlled safety measure against the possibility of the icecap melting on a global scale.”
“Don’t tell me you believe that ludicrous propaganda from the World Government?” Lebeau scoffed.
“I don’t think it’s important to you, whether it’s true or false. We have a thick file on you, Lebeau. We know who you really are and we know your methods. You can hide yourself behind the façade of an environmental activist, with a distorted vision of the truth, attempting to protect nature. You and I know you’re not.” He looked at each of the men with Lebeau. “And I know that none of these gentlemen are either.”
“And in your view, what are we?” the man closest to Lebeau asked.
“You real agenda isn’t to protect nature. You’re no more environment activists than I am.” He nodded to the man who had just addressed him. “You’re Alan McRae. You’re wanted for a murder you committed in Costa Rica last year. You,” he said to the man standing to the immediate left of McRae, “you’re Jeff Sylva. You’re suspected in the bombing of a train in Spain… Mortimer Pittman, Stan Nichols, Sam Reyes… You’re all just vulgar mercenaries selling their loyalty to whoever is willing to pay the price. And there are a lot of people who would like the Hot Spot Tower project to be stopped, isn’t there?”
“So you know our names,” McRae said between his teeth. “How unfortunate… for you.”
Ignoring him, Scarlet looked squarely at Lebeau. “The only thing Spectrum doesn’t know is the name of your client. But we’ll find out. It’s just a matter of determining who will profit the most from the Hot Spot Tower’s destruction – and who was willing to pay you to see it done.”
Lebeau narrowed his eyes and glared at him dangerously. “You indeed know more about me than you let it appear earlier, Captain. Which is all the more reason for you to disappear.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not the only one to know. We have your records. All of you. Whatever you do, Lebeau, you’re finished. If you kill me, you’ll only add murder to your long list of crimes.”
Lebeau smiled evilly. “Obviously, that file Spectrum has on my person isn’t as complete as you seem to imagine, mon ami. Or you would know that murder is already on that list.”
“What should be done with him, Jean-Pierre?” Sylva asked quietly. “Do you need it to appear like an accident – like the last one?”
“Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter,” Lebeau said flippantly. “He needs to disappear completely. Considering he got lost in the blizzard… It won’t be a surprise if he’s never seen or heard of again, is it?”
“You dirty –” Scarlet’s insult died on his lips, when McRae abruptly hit him in the jaw with the barrel of his handgun; he instantly felt the coppery taste of blood in his mouth and his mind dazed under the brutal blow.
The second that followed, the Spectrum captain felt a fist hitting him in the stomach, which forced the air completely from his lungs. He collapsed between the arms of the two men holding him. They let him fall on his knees, and another series of punches to the head – he thought he saw Sylva standing in front of him at the first blow – finished stunning him.
“Bring him along, boys,” he heard the voice of Lebeau instruct. “I know exactly what we’ll do with him.”
Half-dazed and breathless, Scarlet felt himself being dragged through the snow. The whole gang followed, and he had no idea where they all were going and what they planned to do with him.
The distance was shortly covered; after a few meters, they all stopped and Scarlet was lowered down onto his knees. His arms were still restrained, but he felt so weak that even if he had been free, he would have been quite unable to defend himself.
He heard the cocking of a gun’s hammer and raised his head tiredly to look into the business end of a handgun; Lebeau was now standing only a foot away from him, holding the weapon at his head. Scarlet felt his heartbeat increase.
“Look down, Captain,” Lebeau told him coldly.
Confused, Scarlet did as he was told, to discover that they were all standing by the edge of a cliff that dropped sheer into the sea, many feet below. He could see blocks of ice of various sizes floating on the surface, dragged by the untamed waves against the bottom of the cliff onto which they crashed and broke.
His eyes widened in horror as he realised what these men intended to do with him.
Years of battling evil and terrorists in the worst hot spots in the world… Could it really end here, in this icy grave?
“We’re standing just at the rim of the glacier,” Lebeau said, as Scarlet contemplated the void below. “We’ll throw you into the sea, and you’ll end up under the ice. Nobody will ever find you. No-one will ever know what happened to you.” He looked casually at Scarlet who raised his eyes to him. “But we’re not total monsters, Captain Scarlet. We’ll not make you suffer needlessly by drowning or freezing in that cold water. We’ll put a bullet in your brain first. That way, your death will be swift and merciful… instead of slow and painful.”
Scarlet clenched his jaws and glared at him, without deigning to answer; he straightened on his knees as best he could and presented a brave façade, preparing himself to die. He watched as Lebeau’s finger caressed the trigger.
A deafening roar suddenly resounded over the whistling of the wind, freezing everybody on the spot, and causing them to look all around. As Lebeau hesitated to fire the fatal shot, a massive silhouette, clothed in a large hooded anorak, leapt from an unseen position, higher on the slope, to land squarely on the backs of the two men who held Scarlet down, throwing the three of them to the ground. Pittman, who was closest to the cliff, stumbled… and slipped off the side, with a cry of terror, disappearing from view.
His head reeling from the earlier blows he had suffered, Scarlet watched as the giant who had expelled him so forcibly out of his house lashed out furiously at the four criminals who remained standing. He downed McRae with a single powerful bear-like backhand, hurling the man many feet away. Lebeau had just the time to duck, to avoid being hit by his companion’s tossed body and fell face first onto the snow. Reyes was dealt with a second later, a violent punch sending him onto his back. He had, however, the time to fire his gun, at point blank range.
From his position, Scarlet felt for sure that the giant had been hit – at this range, Reyes couldn’t miss – but he barely shivered and was already turning around to face Nichols, who was starting to stand up.
“You beat a man up, prepared yourselves to kill him, and you say you’re not monsters?” he snarled with fury. “I’ll show you what a real monster is! I’ll show you the same kind of mercy you were planning to show this man!”
His right fist drawn back, he rushed at Nichols who, once on his feet, was struggling with his gun; he backed away from the giant’s advance, his face pale with fear. He didn’t have time to shoot, as his assailant, moving with a stunning speed, was already on him and drove his fist into his body with great strength; Scarlet heard Nichols emit a gasp, and saw the man’s eyes and mouth open wide with terror. There was a sickly tearing sound as Nichols’ body trembled against that of the giant, who was holding him with one hand. Then he let go.
Nichols fell onto the ground, not far from Scarlet; he was dead, a large red stain enlarging on the torn front of his coat and quickly reddening the snow underneath him. Looking up to the giant standing over the dead body, Scarlet saw his clenched right hand, dripping red with blood; the next second, he charged Sylva, with a roar that would have made the bravest of soldiers back away. Terrorised, Sylva turned on his heels and attempted to reach one of the two vehicles. He didn’t get that far; the giant was on him in only five long strides, and heaved him up. He effortlessly broke his back.
Scarlet struggled to push himself slightly up, gritting his teeth under the multiple pains of his body; his injured leg was useless and his right wrist was throbbing; but it was his head that caused him the most trouble, as he found his vision was blurred and he couldn’t concentrate properly on this incredible and unexpected turn of events. He was obviously concussed from the punches he had received.
However, he wasn’t about to stay idle while his saviour was doing all the work. Sooner or later, one of the remaining criminals would gather enough wits to finally use his weapon and shoot him down. That was something Scarlet would not let happen.
He somehow succeeded to pull himself on his knees, but was unable to go further; his head hurt too much; he reached for it with his uninjured hand and felt the tenderness on his temple. Blood was running down the side of it. He felt dizzy. Definitely concussed, he thought with a moan, as he fought not to throw up. Before his eyes, he saw the giant using his great strength to throw Sylva’s dead body at Reyes, sending him to the ground.
How many of them are left? Scarlet thought in confusion. He had lost count, but surely, his ally had taken care of nearly all of them.
At that moment, an arm came to roll around his throat and he felt the coldness of a barrel pressing against his lower jaw. He froze and held his breath.
He hadn’t even felt the presence behind him, before it was too late.
“Don’t move, Captain, or you’re dead.”
That was McRae’s voice, close to his ear; he forced Scarlet up, and the Spectrum officer grimaced as he struggled to stand on his injured leg. He tried to reach for the arm around his throat with his uninjured hand, but McRae swatted it away with his gun.
Scarlet saw Lebeau come to stand by his side; the French-Canadian terrorist’s face was white, livid with barely contained anger, as he watched the giant in the fur anorak easily dispose of Reyes, by crushing his throat. He pressed his gun hard against Scarlet’s injured temple, making the latter wince.
“You!” Lebeau called forcibly. “Stop it, right now!”
The giant dropped the dead body of Reyes into the snow and turned around, contemplating his two remaining opponents. Scarlet tried to struggle to free himself, but the arm across his throat pressed closer still, almost strangling him.
“You stay quiet, you bastard,” McRae told him ominously. “Or I won’t even wait for Lebeau’s order to kill you.”
“Release him!” the giant thundered, his strained voice carrying a barely concealed threat. “Release him and you may still walk away alive and free!” He waved around. “You saw how easily I dealt with your companions? I can do the same to you, easily and without second thought!” He pointed to Lebeau. “I’ll repeat it one last time: release that man or suffer my wrath!”
Lebeau scowled. “What is this man to you?”
“He’s nothing to me, truly… I am just aiming to correct a mistake I made… by unwittingly throwing him to the wolves. Kill him… and you’ll follow him to the grave!”
He made a step forward, and Lebeau, instinctively, pointed his gun at him. The giant chortled. “You think you scare me with your little gun? I’ll show you something to be scared about!”
Saying these words, the giant threw his hood down; Scarlet watched in shock at the full revelation of the man’s features. The little he had perceived earlier in the shadow of the hood was nothing compared to what he could see now. The man’s skin looked so thin that not only the vascular system was visible through it, but the surface of his striated muscular system as well, and most markedly, the cartilages and bones of his nose. He had jet black hair, matching his eyebrow and his left black eye. A large scar ran across the side of his head, from the brow to the lower part of his jaw.
Scarlet heard the low curse uttered by McRae at the horrific sight and felt his hold tightening on him, almost out of reflex. As for Lebeau, he was rooted into place.
“Are you sufficiently scared now, human?” the giant asked scornfully. “Have you had your eyes full of me?”
“Who… or what the devil are you?” Lebeau said. His voice was soft, but the tone betrayed shock and repulsion. “You’re not a Spectrum agent…”
The giant snorted loudly. “Isn’t that obvious? I’m a monster… Worse than what you may hope to become in your wildest dreams. I’m a murderer, just like you. Many years ago, I took the lives of many, while seeking revenge on my own father. I killed his brother, his wife, his best friend, a young woman I framed to be accused of one of those crimes… Ultimately, I caused the death of my father as well. I accept that responsibility… But I’ll be damned if I am to be responsible for the death of an innocent man!”
“Innocent?” Lebeau retorted. “He can’t be innocent, he’s Spectrum – haven’t you heard of them? They’re the ultimate representatives of the World Government… They pursue people like me all around the world. Given the chance, they may even go after… a monster like you.”
“It’s true I have little love for authority,” snorted the giant. “But that doesn’t give me the right to leave him to die at your hands. And the way I heard it, people have good reasons to pursue you.” The giant pointed an accusing finger at Lebeau and took a few steps forwards. “You’re criminals!”
He stopped when he saw Lebeau cocking the hammer of his gun. “Stay where you are or I’ll shoot you! And then I’ll shoot him and will throw both of your bodies to a watery grave!”
“Shoot me then!” the giant shouted, challenging him. “Shoot me and kill me if you can! Because even with that, if you shoot him, it won’t stop me from reaching you and tearing this gun from your lifeless fingers!” And with that, he walked forwards, purposefully.
Lebeau cursed, and pulled the trigger; the first bullet hit the giant in the chest, but did little to slow him down; Lebeau fired again, and again, and blood started appearing on the advancing man’s anorak. He was still coming forward.
Cursing, McRae removed his own gun from under Scarlet’s jaw and took aim at the giant who was nearly on Lebeau. Scarlet saw his chance at this moment; he wasn’t about to let his ally be riddled by bullets like that, without intervening. With a shout of fury, he seized McRae’s extended arm with both hands, ignoring the pain in his wrist, and pushed it down, away from the advancing man. In the same movement, he threw himself back, with all of his weight, making the mercenary lose his hold on him – as well as his footing.
Scarlet had not realised how close the two of them were to the edge of the cliff, and it was only when they both stumbled down into the emptiness that he understood that this heroic gesture to save another’s life might very well be his very last. He felt himself getting dizzy and his breathing became erratic, as he fell head first towards the water below.
The fall was short; he violently hit the waves, miraculously avoiding the floating blocks of ice, and immediately went under, without having the time to take a last gulp of air. The water was icy and the cold immediately got to him; his heart rate decreased, and he tried to keep the little oxygen he had in his lungs as long as he could, as he struggled to return to the surface. He was unable to find the right momentum, and continued to go down, his limbs growing more and more numb by the second. For one of the rarest times of his life, he started to feel panic.
His movements became frantic, but soon, he found himself almost unable to move; even his mind was deadening, slowly losing the will to fight and live; he was struggling to keep his eyes open, raised towards the surface, towards that single, apparent ray of light that was dancing on the waves. With one futile gesture he reached for it with his hand, as if hoping to grasp that light and pull himself up.
Inexorably, he was sinking. Straight to the bottom.
The last vision he had was of a great body diving through the waves above, in a large swirling of water, and of someone rapidly swimming down to reach him.
His eyes closed and he mercifully fell into oblivion.
* * *
Scarlet gasped loudly when consciousness returned to him – and with it, the pain, which awakened throughout all his body, as if cold needles were piercing him in every part. He could still feel his heart painfully hammering against his ribcage and was shivering uncontrollably; he felt very cold, as if he never would know warmth again.
He tried to move, but the pain kept him down.
“You must have a tremendous hold on life, Spectrum man. In all respects, you should be dead.”
Scarlet slowly opened his eyes and blinked; he recognised that deep voice.
“Where am I?” he rasped.
“In my cabin, of course.”
The first thing Scarlet truly saw was the warm fire burning near him; he lay on a hard, but not so uncomfortable surface, wrapped and covered with multitude blankets from neck to toes. Underneath, he could feel that he wasn’t wearing anything at all; as a matter of fact, he could spot his uniform, lying in a heap nearby, his coat and shirt torn into tatters.
He was indeed in the cabin he had been thrown out of already; he could see two of the wooden walls, and part of the cliff that opened into the cave he had visited. He saw movement nearby and turned his head swiftly in that direction; that too abrupt movement sent a wave of pain inside his head; he felt like throwing up.
He saw the giant who had came to his rescue, seated by his side, directly on the floor; he had his hood drawn over his head, but Scarlet could still see half of his face; the blue eye was looking stoically at him.
“Easy,” he told him in a gruff voice. “You're very weak. You shouldn’t move too fast. Give yourself time to gather your strength.”
“I’m… cold,” Scarlet said, his teeth chattering inside his mouth.
“You also have a severe case of hypothermia,” the giant informed him. “I took you out of the water and tore your frozen clothes off you as quickly as I could, and gave you first aid treatments.” He shook his head. “Added to that, you have a broken leg, a wrist fracture and possibly two or three cracked ribs. I expect you’ll be out of action for a time. Here. Drink this.”
He came closer and effortlessly slightly raised Scarlet’s upper body, before bringing a small bowl to his lips. Scarlet held it with his left hand and drank from it; it was a broth of some kind, of an indistinct taste, but it was warm and it did him some good. The giant lowered him down gently, and sat back, noticing Scarlet’s grimace as he got himself comfortable.
“How’s your head?” he asked.
“Hurts… a lot.”
The giant nodded in acknowledgement. “We should add concussion to the list of your injuries, then. Try not to move, for a time. It’ll be less painful.”
“You’re a doctor?” Scarlet said in a slurred voice.
There was a moment of silent as the giant contemplated him, without seemingly wanting to answer.
“My father was,” he finally acknowledged, in a low voice.
“I saw the medical text book in your… cave,” Scarlet insisted. “Was it… his?”
The giant sighed and shook his head. “No. I stole that book from a hospital in Vienna, a long time ago. I’m not enough of the sentimental sort to have kept one of my father’s books.”
“A man you said you murdered?” Scarlet looked at the giant squarely. He didn’t answer the accusation. The Spectrum officer didn’t press. Instead, as a thought crossed his mind, he asked: “How did you… get me out of the water? You… dived after me, didn’t you?” Again, the giant kept silent. Scarlet swallowed hard and continued in a weak voice: “You risked your life… diving into that freezing water to save mine…”
“What other choices did I have?” the giant asked roughly, interrupting him. “It was that, or leaving you to die. You wouldn’t have lasted very long in that cold water.”
“Still… you could have died yourself.”
The giant shrugged. “I know I wouldn’t have. Cold has little effect on me. And I can hold my breath for a very long time, so drowning wasn’t a problem either. Beside, I can survive through a lot more than you can imagine. I already have.”
“Like… someone shooting at you?” Scarlet weakly tried to rise on his elbows to look more closely at the man, but for all his efforts, he was rewarded with pain, and an extreme weakness pulled him down. The giant simply gazed at him, shaking his head.
“I said that you shouldn’t try to move,” he said evenly. “You’ll only hurt yourself.”
“I saw the bullets strike you,” Scarlet said, gasping. “I saw the blood on your coat… I saw how you drove your fist into Nichols’ chest with inhuman force… No-one can do that or survive that much…”
“Be careful, Spectrum man,” the giant warned him. “Don’t make me regret having saved you. You are asking too many questions.”
“If you had wanted me dead, you would have let me drown,” Scarlet retorted, his voice finding more strength. “Or let me die of exposure…”
“…Or left your wounds unattended to,” the giant proposed. “Perhaps, for my own safety, it would have been better if I had let those men deal with you as they intended to. If you had disappeared… I wouldn’t have any concern about my future.”
“But you saved me from them.”
“Yes. Against my better judgment.”
“And you saved me again, from those freezing waters.”
The giant heaved a deep sigh. “I saw what you did. You tried to divert the gun that man was aiming at me, in an attempt to spare me. An unnecessary risk, I assure you. But appreciated, nevertheless. I was sure then that I had taken the right decision when I decided to rescue you from those men in the first place.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was because of my actions that you fell into those men’s hands. I already have too many deaths to my credit, Spectrum man… Deaths mainly of innocent people who ended up collateral damage in a conflict that didn’t concern them and that they weren’t even aware of. After having lived so many years with that guilt weighing on me, I couldn’t bear being responsible for the death of yet another innocent. Especially if that innocent is a good man.”
There was a short pause during which both of them looked at each other in complete silence; Scarlet was the first to break it.
“Thank you… Whatever your motivations… I appreciate what you did.”
The giant huffed dismissively, as if it wasn’t important.
“What did you do with them?” Scarlet asked with a slight frown. “The last I recall… McRae fell off the cliff with me. He must be dead, of course. What about Lebeau?”
The giant shrugged. “Let’s say that justice has been served,” he said in a low voice, his eyes flashing. “For all of them.” As Scarlet gazed at him in silence, he added: “I disposed of the bodies and of their vehicles. The way they planned to dispose of you. I know you probably don’t agree – but I cannot afford them being found next to my home.”
“So that’s how it ended for them,” Scarlet murmured. “Spectrum won’t have to worry about them doing harm to people anymore…” He gave an understanding nod. “You’re right, I don’t agree… But I see your point. And… what about me?”
His companion chuckled dryly. “Don’t worry. I won’t kill you after putting so much effort into saving your life. I’ll take you to the hospital in Alert when you have regained enough strength. I’ll leave you there, to receive medical treatments I can’t give you here.”
“Aren’t you afraid someone might spot you?”
“Do not concern yourself about me. Throughout the years, I’ve become very good at not making my presence felt or seen. Besides, I sometimes go to Alert, to do business at the trading post. I exchange caribou meat and skins for goods… The trader never asks questions. And he’s never seen my face.” He gestured to himself. “Not all of it, anyway. I hide most of it with this hood and a scarf.”
“You don’t have to hide it from me,” Scarlet said softly. “I’ve seen it already.”
The giant glared at him. “You saw it and you don’t feel any revulsion? I know I’m hideous, and that the sight of me horrifies people. Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same.”
“I can’t deny it… It was a shock to see your face. But once that was past… I don’t feel any repulsion for you. Nor pity.”
“Good. That would be even worse. I can’t bear pity.”
“Somehow, I had no doubt of that,” Scarlet said with a weak smile.
“Do not expect me to stick around when I take you to Alert. I will be gone before anyone can be with you… or you have the time to denounce me to your fellow Spectrum agents.”
“What makes you think I will denounce you?”
“You are an agent of the World Government, are you not? An agent of the law… I’ve admitted being a murderer to you… And you saw me kill those men – even if it was to save you. It would be your duty to have me arrested, Spectrum man.”
“My name is Captain Scarlet.”
There was a smile on the giant’s black lips. “Of course it is…”
Scarlet nodded, acknowledging the irony behind those words. After a pause, he said, quietly: “I am Paul, to my friends.” He gazed inquiringly at his companion, waiting for the usual reply, which never came. “What are you called?”
“I don’t have a name,” was the immediate response.
“Every man has to have a name,” Scarlet softly retorted. “Surely, you were called something.”
“Something all right…” his companion muttered darkly, scowling. “If you knew who I am and how I came to be –”
“I know who you are. And how you came to be.” The interruption seemed to surprise the giant who stared at Scarlet with some scepticism. The latter nodded slowly. “I saw the book on your shelf.” Seeing his companion still hesitating, he added: “The one that tells your story. I read it.”
“Not in the short time before I found you.”
“No, I meant: I’ve already read it. A long time ago. I recognised you, from the description it gives of you.” Scarlet chuckled, and that ended in a brief cough. He cleared his throat, and added: “I remembered at the time thinking how different this description was, from any of the films they made afterwards.”
“Oh, those movies…” The giant waved his hand dismissively. “None of them got it right. Those I managed to see, anyway. I was curious to know how they would handle the story.” He narrowed his eyes as Scarlet. “Is that all it took for you to discover my identity?”
Scarlet shook his head. “What you said about your father… Those innocents you killed to avenge yourself on him… I remembered that it was in the book as well. I also witnessed your strength, your speed… how little effect bullets had on you... All the clues were there. And the way you avoid people… humans, as you called us… and have very little trust in us…”
“With good reason, don’t you think?” the giant retorted in a cold voice. “I was never chased with pitchforks and torches, but I might as well have been… Your kind hates and fears what’s different.”
“Not all of us. There are still decent people in the human race.”
“Some maybe. Not many.”
“Times have changed, since…” Scarlet frowned, trying to mentally figure out how much time his companion had been living the way he did. His head hurt too much to permit him to complete the effort.
“Two hundred and seventy years,” the giant provided.
Scarlet stared at him with disbelief. “That long?”
“Don’t look so surprised. You forget when the book was written?” his companion asked with a sardonic grin. “That should have given you a clue, no?”
“You don’t look a year over… Well…”
“Don’t try it. I know it’s impossible to figure out my age. I don’t look like anyone you can use as reference. I cannot age. I cannot get sick. I seemingly cannot die. I probably cannot procreate. That last part I don’t know, and probably will never know, because there will never be anyone like me to be my companion.” The giant shook his head sadly. “My father denied me even that…” He lowered his head. “I sometimes wish I had carried on with my plans to immolate myself, when my father died.”
“The book ended on that note,” Scarlet remembered. “You changed your mind?”
“I simply lacked the courage to do it. I had built a pyre, in a desolate area, somewhere by a river which flowed into the Ungava Bay. I even set fire to it and I was ready to jump into it… But didn’t. Something I found I have in common with most humans, I suppose: I am very much attached to my life, however miserable it might be.” He looked at his fire, burning on the other side of Scarlet, and his voice became thoughtful. “So I let the pyre consume itself… as the guilt over what I had done consumed me. And while it burned, I started building a memorial… to honour those deaths my thirst for vengeance has caused. To honour even my father.”
“A memorial?” Scarlet slurred.
The giant shrugged. “There wasn’t that much material around… I took what I had to hand. I tried to build a cross, with three massive rocks. I set the largest upright… It was as tall as myself. Then I lifted the second rock and put it atop the first one, to form the cross and finished the construction with the last, smaller rock. It didn’t look that much, but it was my memorial.” He chortled. “About a century and a half later, a so-called archaeologist discovered it and said it had been built by Vikings, and that it was proof they had established a settlement in the area. As for the Inuit – they claimed it had been there even before their own arrival. I imagined they really didn’t want to admit they didn’t know how that monument mysteriously appeared on that site, one day, when they knew there was nothing there before!”
Scarlet gave a short, weak laugh. “You certainly had them fooled. Mary would have loved that ending, if she had known it. Of course,” he added, “she might have set you to burn on that pyre of yours anyway. Tragedy sells books much better.”
His companion shook his head. “Even that book, however close to the truth it could be, is a fictionalised account of what happened. Written by an over-romantic young girl.”
“… Who had a rather morbid taste for death,” Scarlet said, looking towards the ceiling, thoughtfully.
“I suspected she got the story from Captain Walton – to whom my father talked, before dying. He possibly gave him his notes as well. And his journal. Somehow… all of this found their way to her.”
“She was sympathetic to you.”
The giant scowled doubtfully. “Was she?”
“Read the book, you’ll see.”
“I read it numerous times. So much so that I wore it out. The spine barely holds the pages together now… I read it to try to figure out a sense for my life, and every time, I fail to see one. Each time I read it, it brings back painful memories… and I am reminded of my guilt over what I have done.” His eyes flashed angrily. “I don’t think Mary had any sympathy for me.”
“Read it again. Carefully.” Scarlet smiled sadly. He coughed again. A pain awakened in his side as he did so and he grimaced, before finishing: “You might be surprised by what you’ll find.”
Seemingly concerned, his companion approached, taking a similar bowl to the one before and helped him to drink. The taste was horrible. Whatever it was, it wasn’t the same broth as before.
“You should lie still,” the giant advised, pushing him down – more gentle than he had been before. “Get some rest now.”
Scarlet nodded and put his head down on the pillow; he looked up at the giant seated on his heels, by his side. He could see his face more clearly now, by the fire’s light. “You know that for everybody on this planet, this ‘over-romantic’ young girl created you. So she might be considered your mother.”
The giant scowled. “She was not. And she didn’t create me. My father did.”
“She wrote your story – however she came upon it. Because of her, you became known to this world.”
“As a character of fiction. At least for that, I’m grateful.”
Scarlet nodded his understanding. “You should probably take her name,” he suggested in a slurring voice, causing the giant to gaze at him with perplexity. “Shelley. That sounds much better than –” He groaned as he felt suddenly very tired and strangely light-headed. He raised his hand to his head.
He realised the truth instantly.
“Confound it, man… What is it you gave to me?” he groaned, looking at his companion with confusion.
“Don’t worry. It’s only a drug to make you sleep. You are much stronger than I expected you to be, so I won’t wait that long to take you back to Alert. That cough you had may be the start of something, and I’m ill-equipped to take care of it, should it aggravate itself. When you wake up next, you’ll be at the hospital where they’ll be able to treat you properly. I’ll use your snowmobile to get there faster. It’s still parked in front of my door.”
“You know how to drive one of those?” Scarlet asked in a low voice.
“I might be antique by your definition, but I’m not totally ignorant. In two centuries, I have seen a lot as far as technology goes. So I learned to use it to my advantage. That includes how to use modern tools and drive vehicles.” He sniggered. “Although, you can imagine I don’t own a driver’s licence.”
“So this is how we part?” Scarlet slurred. “I had… so many more questions to ask you....”
“And I have no answers to give you,” was the abrupt reply. “I don’t like to talk about myself. Surely, you must have realised that.”
“I won’t betray your trust, Shelley,” Scarlet promised, his voice growing weaker, barely taking note of the scowl the use of that name caused in his companion – who nevertheless said nothing. “I figure you’ve paid your debt for those deaths already… with all your decades of self-imposed exile. I won’t… tell anybody about you. I owe you my life. Your secret is safe with me…”
“I never had any doubt of that,” the giant replied. “That’s all I’m asking.”
“I’d like to make sure… you’ll be safe.” Scarlet was desperately fighting against the sleeping brew. It was becoming increasingly difficult, but he didn’t want to fall unconscious before he could obtain from his saviour the answer he was hoping for. “How can… I be sure of that? How can I find you again? Can I… come back one day and –”
“You can’t come back here. There’s little chance you’ll find this place again, even if you try. You only stumbled upon it by chance, while pursuing those criminals. Besides, I might actually try to find another sanctuary… at least temporary.”
“I really would like to make sure…”
“You’re a stubborn one, aren’t you?” Seeing as the Spectrum officer was still unwilling to give in to the effects of the drug, the giant hesitated, and finally relented, sighing. “If it’s so important to you… You know of my father’s memorial now. Meet me there, in exactly one year. At noon. And you’ll know I’m all right.”
“How can I find it? And you promise… you’ll be there?”
“You’ll find it. And I give you my word.” He took Scarlet’s raised hand into his; his touch wasn’t as cold as the Spectrum officer expected it to be.
With eyes inexorably closing, Scarlet let out a deep breath of relief and made the same promise before falling asleep.
“I still can’t believe you pulled that dirty trick on me.”
Scarlet’s falsely annoyed voice made Shelley raise a brow. He had a crooked smile, exposing his remarkably white teeth. “You mean, drugging you so you would shut up and finally leave me in peace? You left me no choice. You were asking too many questions and I wasn’t ready to answer them. I lived my life as a hermit for the better part of two hundred and seventy years, you couldn’t expect me to feel sociable with any human being – however decent he might be.”
“Thanks… I think.” Scarlet tilted his head to one side. “When I woke up in Alert, the doctors said they found me on their doorstep, rolled up in warm blankets, and shivering from the cold. You know, I could have died of exposure where you left me.”
“I made sure someone would find you before leaving you.”
“And that’s not counting the trouble you gave me, explaining to my superior what happened…”
Shelley scowled. “Is that all the gratitude you show me for saving your life?”
“You know better than to ask that question. I was just teasing you. You should learn to understand jokes, Shelley.”
“That very name is a joke in itself.” He nodded slowly. “But I like it. It is indeed, much better than… the alternative.”
“I knew you would approve,” Scarlet said with satisfaction. “And it wasn’t meant as a joke. Now if I had suggested Mary’s maiden name,” he added with a mischievous smile, “Wollstonecraft Godwin… that would have been a joke.”
Shelley rolled his eyes and preferred not to answer to that one.
“What did you say in the end?” he asked with curiosity. “To your superior? You didn’t tell him about me?”
“I didn’t tell anybody about you. Not even to my closest friend. I gave you my word I wouldn’t, and I stuck to it.” Scarlet shrugged. “I pretty much looked the worse for wear, so everyone figured I’d had a bad encounter, possibly with Lebeau and his gang. I confirmed that, but as I had a concussion, I said I didn’t remember much beyond falling down a slope after they beat the crap out of me. How I found myself on the hospital’s doorstep, I had no idea.” He put his hands into the pockets of his coat. “The doctors thought that maybe someone found me in the snow, and took me to them. Someone who preferred not to stick around to receive any thanks.” He grinned. “Seems there might be a few people like that living in the North who prefer not to attract too much attention to themselves – whatever the reason. Maybe it’s not the first time you saved someone from the cold, Shelley?”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Shelley retorted, with a dismissive shrug.
“Right… I’ll believe you. But I think I’ve already figured out what kind of person you are.” Scarlet paused for a second, before continuing: “Spectrum did wonder what could have happened to Lebeau and his men though, as since that time, they seem to have disappeared from the surface of the Earth. It was figured that they must’ve been victims of that raging storm… which, I heard, grew in intensity after you’d brought me back to Alert.”
Shelley nodded. “Indeed. Men can lose themselves in such blizzards… and never be heard of again,” he said in a casual and aloof voice.
“And the storm didn’t hinder you from going back to your cabin, I guess…”
“No… I’m immune to the cold. I was actually grateful for the storm. Covered my tracks quite nicely. Oh, and thank you for the snowmobile. For the time it lasted, it was much appreciated.”
“I imagined that, once you were done with it, it ended at the same place as Lebeau, his men and their vehicles?” Scarlet asked casually.
Shelley gave a mocking grin. “Why, you must be a mind-reader, Captain Scarlet.”
“I’m beginning to know you,” Scarlet said simply.
“So you say you do. But I think I can still manage to surprise you.” Shelley looked at the monument by his side, and caressed the surface with his big hand. “So you had no trouble finding the memorial, then?”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. “Oh, I had trouble. Lots of it. You didn’t give many clues about its location… something you obviously ‘forgot’ to provide. There are certainly at lot of rivers flowing into Ungava Bay. It was the Viking connection that gave it away, at the end.” He looked up at the monument. “Doesn’t look much like a cross.”
“It doesn’t look much like the Hammer of Thor either,” Shelley retorted, musingly. His hand stopped stroking the surface of the monument and he looked squarely at Scarlet. “It is still strange to me,” he said, “how you can accept my existence so easily. After a year, I still cannot understand why you didn’t look all that shocked when you discovered who I was.”
It was Scarlet’s turn to raise a brow. “Oh, I was shocked. I just wasn’t in any state to demonstrate it with any kind of proper reaction. I was so cold and in so much pain, my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton-wool – and the revelation came so gradually, I guess my woozy mind just accepted the clues as they came along.”
Shelley chuckled. “I’ll tell you there is life on Mars next, and you’ll believe me.”
Scarlet only smiled at this reply. “Well, you do seem to be able to make jokes too,” he said simply.
“I heard you’ve been busy at the Hot Spot Tower, six weeks ago,” Shelley commented.
“You heard about that?” Scarlet asked with a raised brow.
“Of course. My home is up there. I still trade with the general store in Alert, where the employees of the Hot Spot Tower buy their stuff. I heard them talk. And I have my radio… I may live like a hermit, but I like to keep informed.” He glanced at Scarlet sideways. “Weren’t you tempted to find my place again?”
“I was tempted, yes,” Scarlet admitted. “But you told me you might not even be there anymore, even if I were to find your cabin.” He looked at his companion with curiosity. “Are you still living there?”
Shelley didn’t answer. He simply smiled, mysteriously.
“Of course, you wouldn’t tell me,” Scarlet sighed.
Shelley shook his head to the negative. “You should have let the ice crush that tower,” he said, his voice suddenly colder. “Its construction is an abomination.”
Scarlet scrutinised him, trying to see his eyes beyond the shadow of the hood. “You sound just like Lebeau,” he remarked in an even tone. “I know for a fact that you’re not like he was… Or have you changed that much?”
He saw Shelley lowering his head, in an almost self-conscious way. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring back bad memories.”
Scarlet grinned again. “That’s in the past, Shelley. All water under the bridge.” He was satisfied to see the tall man chuckle with some amusement.
“Considering what happened, you have odd choices of words, Captain Scarlet.”
“Have I? It wasn’t intentional.”
“Like I would believe that.”
Scarlet smiled briefly, and then lowered his eyes. “Do you believe in Destiny, Shelley?”
“No,” was the simple answer.
“I wasn’t sure I believed in it either. But in the past year since we met, since you saved my life, something happened to me. Something that changed me.”
“Changed you?” Shelley asked. “In what way?”
Scarlet shook his head. “I can’t even begin to explain,” he said in a low voice. “But that something gave a new purpose to my life. I believe that Fate had plans for me… And if you had not saved my life a year ago…”
“This would not have happened to you.”
“A lot of people rely on me now… A lot depends on my capacity to do what I alone can now do. And that’s… a responsibility that weighs heavily on me.”
“And you can’t… shrug that responsibility off?” Shelley suggested him. “If it’s so heavy on you…”
“I can’t – even if I wanted to. But that’s the point. I don’t want to forfeit it. I accept my duty wholeheartedly.” Scarlet sighed. “This whole thing… it gives me a better understanding of what you may be feeling.” He raised his eyes to look at the giant who was staring at him, obviously wondering what he was on about. “Believe me when I say I know what you are going through.”
Shelley scowled. “I don’t see any sign that you have become an ugly bugger yet…”
Scarlet chuckled, to hide his awkwardness. “Give me a few years… And you might actually realise what I’m talking about.”
“Because you expect we will meet again?”
“I hope we will indeed meet again. And I expect we will.”
“Oh. I stamp my feet with enthusiasm,” Shelley said dryly.
Scarlet laughed openly; he knew Shelley didn’t really mean it. If that had been the case, he wouldn’t even have come to this meeting in the first place. The Spectrum officer considered his friend for a moment, thoughtfully. He remembered the bag at his feet.
“I have something for you,” he said, as he crouched down and opened the zip.
Shelley approached, and looked down in curiosity, as the Spectrum officer searched through the bag. “You shouldn’t have,” he said.
“Ah, it’s only a few things… stuff that you might find useful, and that might help you pass time in your Fortress of Solitude in the North… You say you have a radio?” He got a small tablet-like computer out of the bag. “This is way better. It’s got long-range integrated wi-fi. I didn’t know if you knew how to use one of those, so I added…” He put the computer back in the bag and got a small book out. “… instructions,” he said with a grin.
“I haven’t had a computer in ten years. Too risky for the IP address to be tracked down.”
“Not this one. A friend of mine set this up for me, with a firewall that will shield your location, wherever you might be. Believe me, you are quite safe using this.” Scarlet put the book back into the bag. “Let’s see, I’ve got solar-regenerating batteries… A few packets of biscuits… not stale… Fresh coffee and bags of tea… Chocolates… Oh and more importantly…” He got a new book out. It was large and had a thick leather cover. He stood up, and handed it to Shelley. “… A new Bible.”
“A Bible?” With perplexity, Shelley took the book, which didn’t have a title on its cover. He opened it and checked the first page; frowning, he closed it to look at the spine. “It’s not a Bible,” he said, looking at Scarlet. “It’s –”
“It’s your Bible, Shelley,” the Spectrum officer interrupted him. “Your Genesis.” He put one hand underneath the book, and covered it with the other one, looking straight at the man’s face. He couldn’t read any emotion on it, but the mere fact that Shelley was staring at him without a word meant that he was accepting the gift. “And maybe it could be… your Revelation as well.”
Shelley shook his head, very slowly. “I don’t know what you expect to achieve, Paul. If you think this would persuade me to reveal myself –”
“I never held such a thought,” Scarlet cut him off again. “I was just hoping… that it might help you to see better within yourself.” He looked down at the book. “This contains the first edition,” he explained softly. “Just as Mary wrote it the first time, before she revised it following pressure from her editor. There’s also the revised version, with the revisions added as notes… I thought this might, if not replace that old copy you have, at least get a better understanding of what she originally wrote.”
Shelley stared at him for a moment, in silence. He took the book in his hands and, with calculated slowness, opened the few pages. He stopped and read the lines he found just underneath the title:
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
He looked Scarlet in the eyes.
“Paradise Lost,” the latter said. “by John Milton.”
Slowly, Shelley closed the book. His eyes were trembling; Scarlet could have sworn the blue one was getting watery.
“Thank you, Paul,” he said in a low voice. “This means more than you can imagine.”
Scarlet put his hand onto his. “See you next year, then?”
Shelley gave a brief nod. He smiled. And this time, his smile wasn’t a derisive one, or filled with mockery.
It was a genuine smile.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, my friend.”
At this point, you probably have recognised the mysterious character of ‘Shelley’ from the clues left in this short story. It is, of course, the creature a certain Doctor Victor Frankenstein built from stitching together many parts of cadavers and artificially gave life to in his laboratory, in the novel written by Mary Shelley, ‘Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus”, published for the first time in 1818.
‘Frankenstein’ has been ailed by many as the first writing piece of modern science-fiction. At the time she started it, Mary Shelley was only 19 years old. The genesis of the novel is well-known, and in itself is the stuff of legends: Mary and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, with some of their friends, amongst them the poet Lord Byron, planned to pass summer at Lake Geneva. But the rainy weather was such that they found themselves confined indoor, passing time by telling each others German ghost stories – which at some point prompted Lord Byron to propose that they should each write a ghost story of their own. Inspiration didn’t come to Mary for days, but one evening, after one of those many discussions she had had with her friends turned to the principles and nature of life, the idea germinated into Mary’s head… And thus ‘Frankenstein’ was born. One might wonder if the novel would even have been written, if not for the bad weather in Geneva that summer. But Mary Shelley had left to the world one of the most recognised stories and some of the most known characters that had ever been created: Frankenstein (the creator/father) and the creature (his 'son').
My first reading of the novel left me with the same feeling as Scarlet: the description of the creature was nothing like what was classically known from the movies. He was not square-headed, there were no electrodes on his neck or head, his movements were not that of a creature who had difficult to walk, he wasn’t dim-witted… and he certainly wasn’t mute. To the contrary, Mary described a creature that was intelligent and quite loquacious – he even spoke three languages. His appearance, while different, remained horrific – even more so that what the movies led us to believe. So it is on these facts, and mostly on Mary Shelley’s novel, that I based the description I made of ‘Shelley’. I added of course a bit of my own imagination, and maybe a few facts, which source were indeed taken from movies as well – such as the possibility of the creature being untouched by ageing – but I mostly tried to keep respectful of the work done by that great lady – the mother of our modern science-fiction.
The similarities between the creature of Frankenstein and Captain Scarlet were too obvious for me to avoid. Both had been dead. Both had been revived. Both were, at some point, enemies of the human race. Both are hard to kill. And both might just be immortal. I thought that a meeting of the two might be interesting to explore. I made a conscious decision – after much deliberation – of setting this story before Scarlet became indestructible, because it appeared to me that the impact would be greater and the implication much more dramatic, if the creature was to save the life of a vulnerable Scarlet. That they would meet again after Scarlet’s mysteronisation seemed like the natural conclusion to the tale.
‘Frankenstein’ is part of public domain, but Mary Shelley was, and will remain until the end of time, its undisputed creator.
‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and all the team who at the time worked with them. The rights of the series are those of its rightful owners © Carlton.
This story is a respectful tribute to their work.
A great, great, GREAT thank you to Hazel Köhler for beta-reading this story, and to Marion Woods, for her input on the last additions I made into it - at the very, very last minute. Ladies, your patience, dedication and, most of all, friendship are really very much appreciated.
Happy Halloween to everyone.