A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story
PART THREE - DECEPTIONS
“About time you arrived,” Destiny Angel said with barely concealed irritation when the door slid open and Symphony entered the Amber Room. “Where have you been? You’re late!”
Symphony offered a bashful smile. She was late for her shift, that she knew; as she knew that Destiny wouldn’t normally mind that much about it. However, it wasn’t the first time she had been late this past week. It had happened a little too often lately and Symphony was quite aware that it was beginning to irritate her fellow Angels, who were forced to cover for her.
“I’m sorry, Juliette, truly, I am,” she offered apologetically. “It won’t happen again.”
Destiny raised a dubious brow. “You said that last time too.”
“This time is the last, I promise.”
“It’s not so bad for me, I only had to cover for Harmony in the Amber Room shift…” She jerked her thumb in the direction of the elevator behind her. “If you want to really apologise to someone, it should be to her. She took your place in Angel One.”
“Yes, I know,” Symphony sighed. “It was supposed to be my turn…” She glanced in the direction of Rhapsody, who, seated on one of the sofas, was reading a book, until Symphony had entered. Now, the English pilot was watching the exchange, keeping silent. “I’ll make it up to her,” Symphony said to Destiny. “And to you as well, I promise.”
“Okay…” Destiny said with a slow nod, narrowing her eyes at her friend. “You know, I don’t like to be on your case, Symphony, but as leader, I am responsible of you Angels, and I do take this responsibility seriously. I mean, this is really important that the Angels schedule works smoothly, or we will all be in trouble. I need to make reports to Colonel White from time to time, and I don’t want to report this.”
Symphony’s eyes flashed. “Am I in trouble?” she asked, a little edgily.
Destiny smiled. “Not right now, no. Simply because, it never happened before that you would be so late so often. But please, try to be sensible about it from now on and return back to your normal self? At least, if you anticipate being late, do call to inform us?” There was some kind of pleading tone in her voice, and that made Symphony smile in turn – this time, with gratitude.
“I will. Don’t you worry, it won’t happen again.”
“Thank you.” Destiny sighed deeply. “Now I had better go. I have a very special rendezvous that I don’t want to miss… and I will be late if I don’t go prepare quickly.”
“Anyone we know?” Rhapsody asked, turning a new page in her book.
Destiny answered with a teasing smile. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” she answered mysteriously. “A girl sometimes needs to keep her secrets, ma chère Dianne… You have yours… I have mine.”
Rhapsody looked at her with raised brows. “You know all my secrets,” she commented.
Destiny scoffed. “That coming from a former secret agent? Oh, I’m quite sure this isn’t true!” She walked towards the door, and pushed the opening button. “Don’t wait up for me at dinner. I expect to be quite busy.” With that she left, the door sliding closed on her.
“I wonder who her secret could be,” Rhapsody mused. “Brad? Patrick? Someone else we don’t know about?”
“It’s not like you to gossip behind a friend’s back, Dianne,” Symphony commented bleakly, coming to sit on the other sofa, just in front of her friend.
Rhapsody looked at her with curiosity; she could recognise the grumpy tone of her voice, just by the way she had spoken. Now Symphony was looking around the room, apparently searching.
“How come you’re still here?” she commented. “I thought it was Melody’s turn for the Amber Room shift – along with Harmony, until she replaced me, that is.”
“Melody is in the hangar repair bay,” Rhapsody observed.
“So she’s late too?” Symphony remarked acerbically. “How come Destiny didn’t wait to admonish her too?”
Rhapsody rolled her eyes. Yes… grumpy indeed…
“The difference between you and Melody is that it’s the first time in about six months that Melody has been late for her shift, and that she actually informed us that she would be. And she had a good reason. She was called regarding the repairs made on the interceptor she brought back to base last week. Seems the mechanics were not able to discover the problem that she reported to them, and they needed her input to know exactly what she was doing when the malfunction that she detected appeared. She should be back in about an hour, tops, and I agreed to wait until she gets here.” Rhapsody closed her book and put it aside. “Which is just as well, too. We’ll have time to talk.”
“Time to talk about what?” Symphony said in surprise. “You want to chew me out too, like Destiny did?”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake! I don’t have any intention of ‘chewing you out’ as you put it,” Rhapsody replied with a frown. “Destiny did her job, she doesn’t need an echo. I just want to talk, as a friend.” She uncurled her legs, put her feet back on the floor, and looked closely at a sombre-looking Symphony. “Is there anything wrong?”
Symphony shook her head. “No… what make you think such a thing?”
“Because I know you, Karen Wainwright. As Destiny commented earlier, you never used to miss your shift so often in the past. This past week, you’ve been late five times, counting today. And you seem distracted, these days. You’ve also been really bad at target practice… and you’re usually our sharpest shooter. So that’s enough to make me think there’s something wrong with you.”
“Not with me, no.” Symphony sighed. “Well, it’s Adam.”
Rhapsody slowly nodded. She left her place to sit next to her friend. “I imagined it was something like that,” she said. “What is it? Have you had a fight with him?”
“A fight? Oh no!” Symphony protested quickly. “It’s nothing like that at all!” She hesitated. “He’s been very… attentive of late. He’s been around me almost constantly, keeping me company, wanting to do all sorts of things with me – and no, it’s not the kind of things you’re actually thinking about!”
“I didn’t say anything,” Rhapsody said with a chuckle.
“Well, I can hear you think loud enough…” Symphony remarked, reddening slightly. “You’re thinking ‘oh well, that’s why she’s late all the time, then…’. Well, no, it’s not the reason. Actually, it’s not that Adam wouldn’t like to, he’s been very… enterprising in that aspect, but as Doctor Fawn had recommended that he rests for a few days, I didn’t give in to his advances.” She sighed. “However insistent he was, and however difficult it was to resist temptation!”
Rhapsody laughed. “I admire your self-control, Karen,” she teased. “But frankly, I don’t quite see the problem with that.”
“Well, that just about it, Dianne. He’s been acting… I don’t know, weird, lately. Haven’t you noticed?”
“Weird in what sense?” Rhapsody asked with a renewed frown.
“He’s been like this since that incident. He’s kind of monopolising me, going where I go, doing the same things I do, niggling me about the smallest details of what he thinks what I might do wrong… He always insists on doing things his way, and when I refuse, he gets stroppy. You know, he keeps insisting that I let my hair grow… And never cut it, ever again. It’s like, so important to him right now, and yet – it’s such an insignificant detail.”
“Well, that’s not the Adam we know,” Rhapsody commented.
“You tell me. He’s normally a calm, cool guy, but recently… I don’t know, he’s more difficult to live with. Mind you, he’s always suitably apologetic when he realises that his behaviour annoys me. He takes up so much of me right now, that I forget about time – and work.”
“The reason why you’re late so often, then.”
“My fault, really – I shouldn’t be blaming him for that. I should be able to escape him when I need to! It’s like he doesn’t want me to leave him – ever! You know he returned to light duty the day before yesterday, and I was kind of glad he did – I thought it would give me some time for myself! But no…He was still all over me.” Symphony smiled shyly. “Oh, I must sound terrible now…”
“Not at all. I think I know what you mean,” Rhapsody replied quietly. She sat back on the sofa, as Symphony looked at her with curiosity. “I did notice he wasn’t acting quite like himself,” she remarked. “Well, with me, anyway.”
“How come?” Symphony asked.
Rhapsody hesitated. “I don’t know, it’s like… he’s awkward with me. Shy, or something. He can barely talk to me at all, and when he does, he doesn’t look me in the eyes. Which isn’t like him at all, as you know. And I have the definite feeling that he’s avoiding me.”
“Why would he be avoiding you?” a surprised Symphony asked.
“You tell me – I didn’t do anything that might have shocked or embarrassed him in any way. At least, I don’t think so. And it can’t be because of that ‘Twilight of the Gods’ affair of a little while back. This behaviour of his would have been obvious before if that was so, but it really started about a week ago.” She paused a second, nodding thoughtfully. “I mentioned this to Paul. He’s also noticed there’s something odd with Adam. He’s not as easy-going as he used to be, and he doesn’t seem to be able to get his mind back to his work, once he returned to duty.”
Symphony frowned in perplexity. “You mean, he’s been neglecting his work? Paul told you that?”
“Well, that’s not like him at all,” Symphony murmured. “His duties always have been very important to him… What could be wrong with him?”
“Paul also mentioned him getting irritable at every little detail.”
“Well, yes, there’s that too, I told you already. He’s very ill-tempered these days, I’m not quite sure how to take him, anymore.” Symphony sighed. “I know that Doctor Fawn said his concussion last week wasn’t that severe, but maybe it was more serious than he thought!”
“It all seems to originate from that incident in Valley Forge, yes,” Rhapsody agreed.
“You think I should mention this to Doctor Fawn?”
“I think you should mention it to Adam first.”
“Actually I did… He got angry at me and started sulking. Now that’s the reason why I’m late today. I was trying to get him to talk to me, because I annoyed him with that comment. When I saw I couldn’t get through – well, I realised I was acting crazy to try to apologise to him and took the opportunity to escape him instead!”
“Escape him?” The door had slid open without the two Angels noticing it, and both Melody Angel and Captain Ochre entered the Amber Room. They obviously had heard the last part of Symphony’s comments, and it was enough for Captain Ochre to catch the ball and use it in his own inimitable way – even if he didn’t quite know what it was all about.
“Don’t tell me you’re getting tired of your boyfriend already!” he joked good-naturedly. “And you’re not even married yet – imagine what it will be like after ten years of matrimony! You’re sure you’re up to it, Symphony?”
“Probably better than you would ever be, Captain Ochre,” Symphony replied with a sly smile.
“She’s probably got you there, Captain,” Melody remarked, addressing an amused smile at her companion.
He grimaced. “Ouch! You hurt me, Symphony. How can you make such an insinuation? I’m such a loveable guy!”
“Says who?” Rhapsody asked with a raised brow.
“Well… says the pretty lady here by my side,” Ochre replied.
“Oh, don’t bring me into this!” Melody protested, going to sit on the sofa in front of her two fellow Angels. “Fight your own battles, Rick!”
“And here I thought you loved me enough to back me up,” Ochre said musingly. He added, with a falsely disappointed sigh: “Here’s another illusion dissipating into nothingness.”
Rhapsody chuckled. She gently patted Symphony’s hand. “It looks like we’ll have to continue this conversation later,” she told her, addressing a sideways look in Ochre’s direction. “Because I don’t think it’ll be quiet enough in here from now on…”
“Hey, keeping little secrets from me?” Ochre asked, looking offended.
“Leave them alone, Captain Ochre,” Melody advised, taking hold of the day’s newspaper lying on the seat next to her. “Don’t you see you’re bothering them?”
Ochre seemed thoughtful for a second or two. “No,” he said shaking his head. “I don’t see that. Do you?”
Melody rolled her eyes and didn’t deign to answer, instead opening the newspaper to start reading.
Rhapsody got to her feet. “Melody is here, so I will go for now. If you want to talk, Karen…”
“I’ll find you after my shift,” Symphony answered with a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
Nodding to her, Rhapsody left; Ochre and Melody, who had momentarily lowered her newspaper, watched as the door slid closed behind her and turned to Symphony.
“You okay, Karen?” Melody asked in concern.
“Just feeling a bit down,” Symphony answered, looking at her compatriot. “But yes, I’m quite all right. Thank you for asking.”
“Of course, she’s all right,” Ochre replied, sitting down next to Symphony and taking her hands into his. “You know she always bounces back, our Symphony, whatever might happen to her. She’s a regular rubber ball.”
Symphony giggled at his comments, and answered, keeping her eyes down. “Rick… whatever people could say about you… you’ve always known how to put a smile on a girl’s face, you know that, don’t you?”
“I know, yes,” he answered grinning. “That’s one of my specialties.” He gave a sharp motion of the head in the direction of Melody. “Well, except for this lady, here… She seems immune to my charms.”
“And proud of it,” Melody answered in a spiky tone, raising her newspaper to seemingly return to her reading.
“See?” Ochre asked Symphony with a wink.
She chuckled. “Oh, you’re really not fooling anyone… You’re so sweet with each other…”
“I swear I don’t know what you mean,” Melody said from behind her paper.
“And me neither,” Ochre replied. He squeezed Symphony’s hands, still smirking. “You’re more like my kind of gal, Karen. Come on, let’s elope.”
She frowned in mock surprise, and murmured: “What?”
With no-one noticing, at nearly that precise moment, the door slid open and Captain Blue walked in; as he cleared the door and it closed behind him, he stopped in his tracks, catching sight of the way Ochre was holding hands with Symphony. He watched them, in silence, irritation mounting within him as he wondered what this was all about.
“It is not too late,” Ochre continued, addressing a perplexed Symphony, and approaching closer to her. “You can dump that boring boyfriend of yours, and you can still choose me instead…”
“Aw… that’s sweet, Rick…” she answered in an amused voice, getting into the game. “But eloping? Been there, tried that… and it nearly ended up in disaster, I’ll remind you!”
“But it wasn’t with me!” Ochre protested. “I wouldn’t take you to Las Vegas! Las Vegas? Please! Blue certainly lacks imagination! Any common man would take his girl to Las Vegas to get married! You deserve far more better!”
From his position at the door, Blue kept watching, his eyes narrowing to mere slits, and suddenly burning with a cold, angry glow.
“Oh right… and you know the perfect place, I suppose?” Symphony said with a laugh.
“Just give me time, and I’ll find it for you, darling,” Ochre answered, his grin broadening. “We would be perfect for each other… More so than you and Mr. Old Blue Blood from Boston… We are from the same crowd, you and I.”
“You’re going too far, Rick,” Melody intervened at this point, lowering her newspaper, and glaring at Ochre. “Nobody can come from the same, annoying, insufferable crowd as you – you’re in a class of your own!”
“You hurt me, Mag!” Ochre protested with a wicked smile. “I’m not such a bad guy!” He returned his attention to Symphony. “You know, I would do anything for you, Symphony… I can make your life so exciting…”
She raised an amused brow. “And how, exactly?”
“Such as… well, let me think…” He seemed to struggle for a second or two, before a thought came suddenly to his mind and he beamed at her. “Wait, I know… We can go fly together, side by side, and do aerobatic stunts… You know I’m as good a pilot as Blue is…”
“I seriously doubt that,” Melody said from her seat.
“Okay, maybe not… but I can prove I’m good enough! What do you want as proof? I can fly between the control tower’s pylons, if you want! That’ll show you…”
Symphony chucked. “Oh, that would certainly be interesting to see…”
“Oh right!” Melody laughed. “Wouldn’t that put you in the colonel’s good books! That’ll only prove that you are a heedless, dim-witted, reckless daredevil.” She leaned over to Ochre. “The last person who did that particular stunt was lucky not to get himself sacked from Spectrum, and only grounded by the colonel.”
“That’s just a minor detail,” Ochre replied with a dismissive wave of the hand, before addressing Symphony anew: “So is that a yes?” he asked in a murmur. “Are we eloping?”
“It’s a ‘no’,” she answered. “And there will be no eloping with you, my poor Rick.” She extracted her hands from his and patted them, in mock comfort. “I’m so sorry,” she added, fighting hard not to laugh too openly, as she pursued the game. “But I’m afraid I’ll hold on to my ‘boring boyfriend’.”
“Aw… you don’t know what you’re missing.” He smirked. “And he sure doesn’t know how lucky he is.”
“And I was right all along with you,” Symphony said with fondness. “You always know how to lift a girl’s heart.”
From the door, Captain Blue cleared his throat, attracting everyone’s attention. They turned and they saw him approaching to walk down the three steps leading to the lowest level in the centre of the Amber Room. He noticed how Symphony and Ochre’s hands quickly separated, but he feigned not to see it.
“You’re wrong, Captain Ochre,” he said quietly. “Her ‘boring boyfriend’ knows exactly how lucky he is.” He stopped near Symphony and, putting a hand on her shoulder in an almost possessive gesture, he leaned to kiss her on the brow. “Hi, honey…” he lowered his lips to her ears. “I’m sorry about what happened earlier,” he said in a whisper. He kept his eyes fixed on Ochre, burning with a cold fire, and he knew, by the way the other man looked back that he had heard the words he had just said. He had meant for him to hear, anyway.
“That’s all right,” Symphony told him, reaching for his hand. “It’s already forgotten…”
She had barely spoken when an alarm resounded through the Amber Room, alerting them all. Lieutenant Green’s voice then suddenly boomed through the speakers:
“Unidentified craft entering Cloudbase’s exclusion zone. Angel One, immediate launch. Angels Two and Three – immediate launch. Investigate and report.”
“S.I.G.! Symphony called out loud, jumping to her feet, imitating Melody who was already rushing to the lifts. “I’m sorry, Adam, but I have to go – I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Of course,” he answered, as she disappeared into the lift and took her place in her chair; both she and Melody were strapping themselves in securely when the amber doors closed on them, and the hydraulics took them up to their craft. Blue followed with his eyes the seated silhouette of Symphony, through the semi-transparent door, until it disappeared from view.
“She’s quite a wonderful lady,” the voice of Ochre said behind him.
Slowly, Blue turned around, to glower at Ochre. “She is indeed,” he agreed in a low voice.
Ochre failed to hear the warning in his voice. He had lost his previous easy-going attitude, when he had been play-acting with Symphony; now, he was looking straight at Blue with all seriousness. “Have you been fighting with her?” he said with an inquiring frown. “She didn’t seem very happy earlier…”
Slowly, Blue approached him. “It’s not really of your business, now, is it?” he retorted, coldly. “Whatever happens between Karen and me –”
“You’re both my friends, Blue. I’m always concerned about what happens to my friends. I like you both very much, and I would hate to see the two of you unhappy.”
“I’ll let you know that Karen and I are far from being unhappy,” Blue replied sharply.
“Really now,” Ochre said, raising a brow. “Come on, Adam… You’ve been acting very strangely these last days. I noticed… actually, we all noticed, I’m quite sure of that. You’ve become irritable, and moody. It’s like you don’t want to mix with the crowd. Is there something wrong between you and Karen? Maybe you’re under stress, and that’s affecting your behaviour…”
“There is nothing wrong with my behaviour,” Blue snapped angrily. “And there is even less something wrong between Karen and me. For the last time, keep your nose out of our affairs, Fraser.”
“Well, she did look like she needed a little cheering up, just there,” Ochre said, shaking his head.
“Oh. And you’re always very willing to… ‘cheer a lady up’, aren’t you, Ochre?” Blue asked, standing menacingly over his colleague.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Ochre replied with a frown.
“I’ll explain what I mean,” Blue spat between his teeth. “What is it with you, you can’t get a girl for yourself, so you’re trying to seduce another man’s girl?”
“Hey, wait a minute…” Ochre defended himself. “You’re not thinking I was serious earlier when –”
“You were ‘cheering her up’, Ochre, right? Is that what you actually call trying to get a woman into bed with you?”
Ochre jumped to his feet. “Whoa, back off, buster. I’ve always respected –”
“Like Hell you have!” Blue roared.
The intensity of his anger surprised Ochre – and annoyed him at the same time.
“You must be mad, Svenson,” he said, eyes flashing. “You’re getting really possessive with your lady friend, and this is really not healthy behaviour. I really don’t have to listen to all this nonsense. When you’ve cooled off, we can discuss it like civilised people.”
Ochre turned on his heels, with the obvious intention of leaving, but Blue wouldn’t let it to end there. He reached for his colleague’s shoulder, stopping him in his movement, and when an exasperated Ochre turned back to him, meaning to order him to let him go, he didn’t have the time; Blue sent his fist into a fast and quite unexpected punch, that caught Ochre right in the chin. The dark-haired American took a bad fall, his back crashing roughly against the steps behind him. He winced in pain, half-stunned, and looked with astonishment as Blue, his face a mask of pure anger, came at him again.
“Blue, what –”
Captain Blue took him by the collar of his uniform and roughly forced him up; Ochre made a commendable effort to resist, but his painful back was already handicapping him, and when he tried to hit Blue back, his fist passed a mile away from Blue’s face. He was unable to avoid Blue’s second punch, to his stomach. He doubled over, trying to catch his breath.
“Think you have a chance against me, Fraser?” Blue told him between his teeth, eyes flashing with fury, as he hit a half-stunned Ochre a second time to the stomach. “Think you can steal my girl and beat me in a fair fight? Think again, you bastard!”
He hit him anew across the face, splitting his colleague’s lower lip and drawing blood. Ochre staggered, and his knees bent. He managed to find his breath, and held on to Blue to keep himself up, glaring up at him.
“This is hardly a fair fight!” Ochre wheezed, holding his painful stomach. “You caught me by surprise, you –”
He launched himself at Blue, tackling him in mid-section and pushing him down, making him lose his footing. But Blue seemed to have anticipated that counter-attack, and he held on tight to Ochre, as he fell backwards; he managed to twist his body during the fall, so that Ochre was underneath him; they both landed violently on the glass table that stood in the middle of the Amber Room, breaking it into many pieces with a loud crash.
Ochre’s already injured back received the full brunt of the fall, but despite his pain, he still desperately tried to keep on defending and protecting himself. Blue, only suffering from a few cuts, didn’t seem to take any notice of them and, sitting astride Ochre, was still hitting him savagely. A lucky punch caught Ochre’s temple, and he saw stars dancing in front of his eyes; he dropped his defence and Blue, holding him by the collar of his uniform, kept on pummelling into him with his free fist.
“Who caught who by surprise, Fraser?” Blue spat angrily between his teeth, addressing a barely conscious Ochre, while punctuating each line with a new punch. “You thought you could better me, with your dirty tricks, you double-crossing, two-timing crook? Is that how you learned to fight your battles with street criminals? Once a creep, always a creep, Fraser… And there’s no way in Hell, I will ever let anyone, not even you, try to seduce my girl away from me! IS THAT CLEAR?”
At this point, Captain Ochre could hardly hear him, much less answer to his raving rant; he was now lying motionless under Captain Blue, his eyes closed, his faced bruised and bleeding from multiple cuts.
It was at this point that the door slid open and that Rhapsody Angel entered; she had returned, after realising that she had forgotten her book there, when she had left earlier on. Shock made her stop at the entrance, when she saw the scene of Captain Blue kneeling across the obviously defenceless Captain Ochre, and mercilessly pounding into him.
She didn’t know what could have happened to push the normally calm and poised Blue to such extremes, and she didn’t really care; right now, all she could see was that one of her colleagues was in distress and that she needed to intervene.
She quickly ran the short distance separating her from the two combatants. “Stop it!” she yelled. “Captain Blue, that is enough!”
She caught Blue’s arm on the fly as he was swinging it back to hit Ochre again and held onto it. He swiftly turned to her, and she was dismayed by the look of cold fury she could see in his normally handsome face. For a second, she imagined that he would hit her too in his blind rage, but it didn’t last any longer than that and suddenly, his eyes lit with the recognition of who she was, and he froze. He didn’t resist at all when she pushed him off Ochre and he stood back, leaving her to kneel and lean over the injured and now unconscious officer.
When Rhapsody gently stroked Ochre’s face, he gave a weak moan, but he didn’t open his eyes. She turned an angry stare up at Blue. “What the Hell’s wrong with you?” she lashed at him.
“Dianne, I…” He seemed in shock, but he quickly shook himself, and straightening up, he pointed an accusing finger at Ochre. “It’s all his fault. He –”
“I don’t care!” Rhapsody replied. “I know Ochre’s infuriating sometimes, but that’s no reason to hit him like that! Have you gone completely mad? You could have killed him, Captain Blue!”
“I would not have killed him,” he protested in a mumble. “I –”
“No? Look at him, Adam. He’s barely conscious!” She examined the injured man in concern, and again he moaned.
“Rick, can you hear me?” she asked softly.
“Of course, he can hear you,” Blue remarked dully. “His head is thicker than that. He can certainly take that kind of punishment. And if he doesn’t stay away from my Karen –”
“What has Karen anything to do with all this?” Rhapsody asked him.
Blue refused to answer, and simply glared at Ochre; when he looked at Rhapsody again, he couldn’t bear the reproach he could see in her eyes; he broke eye contact and looked away. “That’s between him and me,” he said simply.
To Rhapsody, it was an admission of his guilt. Her eyes flashed with anger. “Since when do you resort to violence like that?” she demanded. “This is not like you, Adam.”
“Get out of here!” she spat.
“Dianne, wait –”
“Get out of here, Adam! You need to cool down, and think about what you just did! This is not the behaviour I expect from you, and I hope you’ll come to realise that pretty damn quickly!”
“Get out of here, before I report you to the colonel!”
That shut Captain Blue up instantly; for a short moment, they looked into each other’s eyes, with the same intensity. There were no regrets in Blue’s eyes and only resentment in Rhapsody’s; he could see she meant what she had just said. With a curt nod, he turned around, picked up his cap and walked toward the exit.
Rhapsody watched as he left and the door slid closed behind him, trying to understand what this rather odd and certainly out-of-character conduct of his could mean. She was starting to feel very ill-at-ease with all this; maybe there was something more to Blue’s behaviour than she had first imagined when she had discussed it with either Paul or Karen. What he had done today was certainly not like him at all.
She put those considerations aside, and leaned once more over Ochre, who was moaning pitifully; for now, he was the one who needed her attention the most.
“Rick, can you hear me?” she called softly.
His eyes fluttered and opened. He looked straight at her, with a confused expression that made Rhapsody wonder if he was okay.
“Hi, Angel,” he said with a croak. “Are you a sight for sore eyes…”
She presented her hand, with three fingers up. “How many fingers do you see?” she asked in concern.
“Three,” he slurred. He shut his eyes tight, groaning. “I think,” he added, with uncertainty.
“Lie still. I’m calling sickbay to get a medic and a stretcher here.”
He shook his head, his eyes still closed. “Na…” he muttered, as he pushed himself up. “I can… get there by myself…” He nearly fell back on his face.
“You certainly can’t,” Rhapsody protested. “You won’t be able to take two steps before falling down.
“Just… give me a minute to get my breath back,” he slurred, looking at her. “Or two minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded his head, tiredly. “Quite sure…”
She nodded and gently helped him onto the sofa, where he slumped down, with a loud moan and a relieved sigh, rubbing his sore back. “Rick,” she asked, “Whatever made him beat you up like that? What did you do to him?”
“Hell if I know…” he slurred again, leaning his head back onto the sofa to rest. “I’m really not sure exactly… He didn’t make any sense at all… I’m not sure, but I think he called me a ‘two-timing crook’…”
“A crook? You?” she asked, her brow rising. “You probably didn’t hear him properly…”
“Probably,” Ochre moaned. “I admit… I had trouble concentrating… I’ve never seen him that angry before.”
She nodded again, this time thoughtfully, as he closed his eyes to get some rest. “Me neither… And that tells me there is something definitely wrong with him,” she murmured.
Captain Blue returned to his quarters. If his door had not been a sliding one, he would probably have slammed it; as it was, as soon as it closed, he threw his cap onto his bed, and sent his fist ramming into the nearest wall to vent his frustration. He was still very fired up over what happened in the Amber Room, but his anger now was not directed towards Captain Ochre – but towards himself.
Everything was going so well; he felt for sure that no-one suspected a thing about it. So far, everything was proceeding according to his plans. At the Research Centre, the investigation was leading everyone to believe that what happened in the laboratory had been a simple accident. Obviously, in this world, studies of the inter-dimensional space between parallel worlds were not as advanced as in his own – probably because they weren’t working on the same data – so no-one thought that the explosion had been caused by the opening of a vortex between their two worlds. Blue’s utmost concern was that they would discover either the device he had used to make the jump, or the red stone which powered it – in which case that would have provided a certain clue of the real cause of the explosion. Blue had made sure that the stone was securely stored – here, in his quarters, where no-one would think of searching for it. As for the device… Nothing, up until now, had been found – or they would have heard about it. So more than likely, it had been destroyed when the ceiling had collapsed on him.
So nothing to really worry about – but to continue what he had set himself to do…
He had grown close to Symphony, and between them, things were moving along – aside from a few hitches that he was confident would be smoothed over in time. He considered most of these as minor ones, anyway – except for the fact that she had not consented to sleep with him as yet. Because of that concussion he had suffered at Valley Forge, she had got into her pretty little head that crazy idea of following to the letter Doctor Fawn’s recommendation that he needed rest and relaxation. That she hadn’t realised yet that the best way for him to relax would be in her arms was beyond him. However, he was a patient man; he knew she would give in to him soon – he could feel it, whenever he was with her; she wanted him as much as he wanted her, she was just fighting it – for his sake, she thought.
Wonderful, sweet, naïve Symphony… You are truly the girl for me…
Why did he have to go and mess up like that? That excess of rage towards Ochre… He realised he might have gone too far. He had never really meant to blow it like that, but it was as if he couldn’t help himself. He wondered what would have happened if Rhapsody had not arrived when she did… He shook his head in annoyance. No, Ochre had it coming to him. He’s exactly like his counterpart from my world – an ex-crook needing a lesson in good manners. Well, this Ochre got it. He deserved the lesson. Of course, I would have stopped before really hurting him. He will be fine… He’s a tough guy.
But there was another problem now; if Ochre or Rhapsody should report it to Colonel White, that could ruin everything. Because of this one event, this access of anger that he had not been able to control, all his efforts could be blown to pieces. He was trying very hard to settle in, in this world which was so similar to his own, and yet so different. Even though he was sure of having succeeded, it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be.
Dealing with the differences was one thing – he still felt somewhat ill-at-ease with Captain Scarlet, the man who, in his world, had become his worst enemy, the one he hated most in the world, for having killed the woman he loved. But that Scarlet wasn’t the same as this man, and Blue only had to remember the short time during which this man had visited his own world, the preceding year, how he had rediscovered the ancient camaraderie he had had with his former colleague. However, it was the similarities that were more difficult for Blue to get used to; in this world, there also was a Dianne Simms – who was equally as attractive and charismatic as the one from his own world. And being near her had proven the most difficult of tasks; he had tremendous difficulty overcoming his own feelings of guilt, or remorse that he felt for his own Dianne, that he had left behind. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t quite forget her. And that led to awkward moments with Rhapsody Angel, whenever he met her.
Everything will be fine, he told himself, shaking his doubts away. If Rhapsody was anything like the woman he knew, she would not report him to Colonel White; and Ochre was too proud a man to denounce him. They would keep quiet, and at the worst, there would be some discomfort between them for a time; Ochre might not forget – well, he’d better not forget, anyway, if he knew what was good for him! And Rhapsody – friendly, tactful Rhapsody – would keep the incident to herself. Maybe, just maybe, she would mention it to Scarlet – but Scarlet, he could handle. After all, Scarlet was his best friend.
The most important thing for Blue right now, was to concentrate on Symphony. He had to make this relationship between them move to the next level.
He thought about it for a moment; Ochre was certainly talking nonsense when he said that Symphony didn’t seem happy to him, but Blue had to confess that it was true that he still had to break the ice with her once and for all, if they were to truly be together.
She seemed to appreciate Ochre’s banter, Blue reflected. But it wasn’t quite his style; he could never sweet-talk a lady the way Ochre could, making her laugh, and putting her at ease, through teasing and witty repartee. No, it wasn’t like Blue at all to act this way; he didn’t have much in common with Ochre, anyway.
A thin smile tugged at Blue’s lips as a thought crossed his mind. Yes… there was something else that seemed to have caught Symphony’s attention, in middle of all that smooth-talk Ochre doled out to her. And that was certainly one thing he could do – far better than Ochre ever could.
He picked up his cap from the bed and put it back onto his head. Then, he left his quarters and walked down the corridor towards the nearby lift, with a decidedly self-confident step. He would not wait any longer to put his plan into motion.
Now was the perfect moment to act.
“Angel Leader to Cloudbase… Unknown aircraft has been identified as civilian craft which had strayed off-course. We’ve escorted it back to safe distance from base. Harmony Angel will follow the civilian aircraft to make sure it won’t stray again. Angels One and Two now returning to base.”
Symphony Angel barely waited for Lieutenant Green’s acknowledgement and sat back comfortably in her seat, sighing. That was mainly routine work, she told herself. She knew that once they had returned, Cloudbase would change position, as per security procedure when an unauthorized non-Spectrum craft got too close to its present location.
Other than that incident, everything was quiet – almost too quiet – these days. Well, there was that explosion at the Spectrum Research Centre the week before, of course, but according to the earlier results of the still ongoing investigation, it looked like it was a simple accident – although the cause still needed to be determined. The worst that had come of it was the concern they all felt when both Captains Scarlet and Blue found themselves trapped… But they got out of there alive and apparently well – although Blue’s concussion was an obvious cause of concern – and headaches. Especially lately.
He’s been acting mighty peculiar these days, Symphony told herself, musingly. Particularly towards herself. He had always been attentive to her, that was true, but recently… it was even more than usual. And as she had admitted to Rhapsody, if a little reluctantly, it was even becoming a little overwhelming. What she found particularly disconcerting was what she had just learned from Rhapsody – that Blue had started neglecting his Spectrum duties. That certainly wasn’t like him at all; he always took so much pride in doing his work, and doing it well, right to the last little detail.
Symphony wondered now if their relationship, in view of the latest events, would be regarded as a source of distraction; she certainly had not let it become one, and it seemed that Adam had done the same. At least, so far anyway.
I would like to know what could be going through Adam’s mind, lately, she reflected, with some irritation, which was tinged with a touch of concern. If ever the colonel started to think that their impending wedding would cause them to function less than perfectly in their work, she wouldn’t like to speculate what his reaction would be; and that was a somewhat distressing thought.
“Cloudbase Bandit at one o’clock…”
Melody’s voice drew Symphony out of her fugue and she nearly jumped in surprise; she could kick herself. It wasn’t a good idea to daydream while on patrol duty; it could lead to serious problems – not to mention potential danger. Fortunately, she had recognised the cheerful tone in her fellow pilot’s voice. And anyway, ‘Cloudbase Bandit’ was their own way of describing an approaching craft coming from base.
Symphony looked ahead and sure enough, coming from Cloudbase, which was now in view, she could see a Spectrum Passenger Jet flying in their direction. The craft changed its trajectory and leaned to its right. Symphony watched as it flew by, at a relatively safe distance. She was about to contact the pilot, when a new cheerful voice made itself heard from her speakers:
“SPJ 18 to Angel Leader – care for an escort?”
Symphony’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor. She looked to her left and exchanged a glance with Melody, whom she could see at the helm of her own fighter. She could swear she saw her colleague shaking her head in dismay.
Now she felt annoyed. She returned her attention to the SPJ.
“Captain Blue,” she called into her microphone, a stern intonation in her voice, “what are you doing here?”
“Doing my job as a test pilot, Angel.” With growing irritation, Symphony watched as the SPJ slowly took station between the two Angel craft. The young woman could see the blue helmet through the cockpit, and even caught sight of Blue waving at her. She didn’t need to see his face to know he was smiling. “This baby has had some trouble with its stabilisers,” Blue continued, by way of explanation. “The repair crew put it back in order, but they still need to know if it’s really working properly.”
“We have a test crew onboard to do that, Captain,” Melody commented, quietly. Symphony was about to make the same reflection, but of course, she would have used a much harsher tone than her fellow Angel pilot.
“Yes, but none of them is as good as I am,” was the cheery reply that made Symphony frown even deeper. “Beside, I need the exercise. I don’t want to let my skills get rusty…”
“Have you asked permission to leave base, Captain?” Symphony was worried. If her fiancé were to go to far in this new attitude of his, she was wondering exactly what the colonel’s reaction would be. Certainly, it wouldn’t be too good for either of them… What if he were to reconsider his approval of their upcoming marriage?
“Cheer up, Wainwright,” she heard her fiancé tell her, and the way-too-free use of her last name filled her with deeper dread. “What is it, still afraid I’ll show myself a better pilot than you are?”
“That isn’t the question,” she replied automatically. “Beside, I don’t think there is any need for me to prove anything to you. I am the one who’s been chosen to fly an Angel fighter.” She realised it was a mistake to even attempt to taunt him, but the words were out before she could stop them.
“Oh, low blow, Symphony Angel…” Symphony could hear the chuckle in her fiancé’s voice, and she wasn’t sure it was a good sign at all. “We all know that if you had been a man, instead of a girl…”
“Captain Blue,” Melody suddenly interrupted, as if she was concerned that he would indeed go too far, “I think you should stop right there before you say something you’ll regret.” Her voice was still even and calm, and it was a definite contrast with Blue’s far too jovial tone.
“You’re much too serious, ladies,” was Blue’s answer. “Anyway, why don’t we put our respective skills to the test? Catch me if you can?”
“A SPJ against two Angel jets?” Melody replied dubiously. “You’re not serious?”
Symphony shook her head; she had an odd feeling… Don’t rise to the bait, Mag…
“See if I am, Angels. I’m quite sure you won’t be able to follow me where I’m going. I’ll see you later!”
With that said, Blue suddenly opened the throttles to their fullest and the SPJ launched forward, leaving the two fighter craft behind. Both Angel pilots were much too taken by surprise to react properly.
Their surprise became something akin to horror when they saw the SPJ’s trajectory…
… It was going straight towards the Control Tower.
“What...?” For a brief instant, the most dreadful of thoughts came to Symphony’s mind, making her heart nearly stop, as she imagined that her fiancé might have been taken over by the Mysterons, and that, doing their bidding, he would crash the SPJ against Cloudbase. Her trembling thumb drift over the firing button, as a reflex born with years of fighting practice.
But then, she saw the jet changing course ever so slightly, its nose tipping down.
Symphony’s heart seemed to start beating again, but this time, it was thumping against her ribcage like a hammer.
“Oh no…” she muttered.
And on the speakers, she could hear Melody’s voice, now disheartened, echoing her own alarming thoughts:
“Here we go again…”
“Ah, Captain Scarlet,” Colonel White welcomed as the door leading into the Promenade Deck opened to let Captain Scarlet walk in. “Here you are.”
The Spectrum commander, standing in front of the small circular table set in front of the large window bay, lifted the lid of the teapot, checking if the water was still hot enough. He nodded with satisfaction.
“I was beginning to think that I would be spending Sunday tea alone,” White continued, as Scarlet sat down on his usual seat.
“I’m the first to arrive?” a surprised Scarlet said, removing his cap. “I knew I would be late, but…”
“Well, you are late,” White commented. “But obviously, you were not the only one. Now I wonder what could be holding –” He was interrupted when the door slid open again, and Rhapsody Angel and Doctor Fawn entered in turn. “Ah, here they are now. Then it would seem that our usual group will be complete today.”
“Sorry about the delay, Colonel,” Fawn offered as both he and Rhapsody approached. “I had a… last minute situation to attend to before coming.” He and Rhapsody exchanged quick and furtive glances, that White, who was already too busy pouring tea into four china cups, didn’t notice. Scarlet, however, did, and understood right away that the two of them were sharing some kind of knowledge that he and White weren’t aware of.
“Something the matter?” he asked as Rhapsody took her seat beside him.
She shook her head. “Nothing of importance, no.”
The way she was looking at him was clearly saying ‘I will tell you all about it later’, and so Scarlet decided not to press her further. She probably had good reason not to say anything in front of the colonel, and she made a good job of keeping whatever could be concerning her concealed from their commander’s attention, when the latter offered her a cup of tea.
Fawn, however, looked gloomy enough for the two of them, keeping his arms crossed against his chest, in a thoughtful pose, and as White was handing him his cup, he instantly noticed there was something going on.
“You don’t look too pleased, Doctor,” he commented. “Is there something troubling you?”
“Yes. No,” Fawn answered quickly. He uncrossed his arms and took the cup, as White looked down at him with a puzzled expression. He smiled uneasily. “Forgive me, Colonel… But you know your own rule of our little get-together for Sunday tea – no mention whatsoever of work, isn’t that right?”
“That’s right,” White replied, offering a cup to Scarlet, but not taking his eyes off Fawn. “And we’ll respect that rule, if you don’t mind, Doctor. But afterwards, if you want to discuss it…”
“I don’t think that will be possible,” Fawn replied. He took a sip of his tea. “Patient confidentiality – you know how it is…”
White glared at him suspiciously. “When you wave that at me, it always means trouble,” he commented.
Fawn offered a reserved smile in answer; he would have liked to respond that it wasn’t the case this time around, but truth to say, that might have been a lie. When Rhapsody had brought Captain Ochre in, he had treated him himself, and had been very surprised when he had been told what had happened – although both Ochre and Rhapsody had been rather reluctant to fully reveal everything to him, including who was actually responsible for Ochre’s looking like he had just had a run in with the latest boxing champ.
That Blue would lose his cool and his normally endless patience was one thing, but that he would act in such a bizarre manner, was another, and Fawn had wondered if there wasn’t something else going on in the younger man’s mind that he wasn’t aware of. In any case, an incident like the one that just occurred might very well be the indication of something even more serious going on with Captain Blue. And it would seem that Rhapsody was in agreement with him on that subject; Fawn was about certain that she had talked to Symphony – and that the American pilot had revealed to her friend even more than Rhapsody was willing to reveal at this point.
But for now, Fawn reflected, he would have to wait until he knew more about all those strange goings on, before deciding if he should say anything to Colonel White.
“Well, this is really kind of boring,” the Spectrum commander commented as he took his own seat, after preparing for himself his own cup of tea. “I must say, I don’t remember a single Sunday where you have been so quiet, all of you. Rhapsody,” he added turning to the young woman, who, almost startled, seemed to emerge from her deep thoughts all of a sudden, “you seem so far away… Do you want to share your thoughts with us?” He took a sip from his cup. “Please, say something – anything – before I fall asleep…”
She offered a bashful smile. “I’m sorry, sir. Actually, I don’t –”
She stopped, as she was suddenly interrupted by strange vibrations that seemed to make the whole tower shake. The table with the cups and teapot on it, and even the chairs on which they were all seated, were visibly moving. Then they heard it – the sound of loud engines approaching. Colonel White, who was about to take a sip from his cup, froze in mid-movement; he didn’t know why he had a sudden, alarming impression of déjà vu...
That was a split second before a huge silver and blue streak passed very close to the window bay, apparently coming from underneath, and then the sound of jet engines thundered deafeningly. White, seated close to the window, nearly fell from his chair and put his cup down swiftly, spilling its contents onto the table. He was on his feet the next moment, and with him, Scarlet, Fawn and Rhapsody, and the four of them watched with utmost astonishment as the SPJ receded into the distance. Two Angel fighters, who had obviously not dared follow the same trajectory, flew on each side of the tower and went after the runaway jet, visibly gaining on it with each passing second.
Scarlet was watching, slack-jawed, wondering if he dreamed what had just happened. It was exactly as if the clock had been turned back, and they were reliving the same events of three years back… Except, this time, it couldn’t be Captain Brown who had gone between the tower’s pylons and buzzed the Promenade Deck bay window…
He looked in the direction of Colonel White; the latter was livid, his face nearly the same colour of his uniform. Not out of fear – in all the years Captain Scarlet had served under Colonel White, he had never seen his commander show fear – but out of anger. There was an icy expression in his eyes, his jaws were clenched tight and there was the slightest twitch of a nerve over his brow. Frozen, and totally silent, he watched as the SPJ veered around to return to base, now escorted by the two Angels interceptors. Scarlet exchanged a concerned look with Rhapsody, who seemed totally petrified, unable to speak and her eyes wide. By her side, Doctor Fawn was watching White in deep concern, and Scarlet could see in his features that the physician, like him, was waiting for the explosion to happen.
“Who’s at the helm of that SPJ?” the colonel seethed between his teeth, his voice very low and glacial enough to freeze the air around him.
Scarlet swallowed hard. He wasn’t quite sure about that… but he caught Fawn and Rhapsody exchanging wondering glances. They seemed to have some kind of a suspicion…
“I… I don’t know, sir,” Scarlet said truthfully.
White slammed the comm.link button embedded into the table in front of him. “Lieutenant Green!” he shouted, and that angry roar made all present on the Promenade Deck wince. “I want to know who was the pilot of that SPJ which just flew between the tower pylons!” He didn’t need to elaborate; like them, Green would have felt the vibrations from the Control Centre. It only took two or three seconds for the communications officer to give the answer that White was waiting for:
“Captain Blue requisitioned SPJ 18 for test flight, about twenty minutes ago, sir.”
Scarlet caught the new exchange of appalled glances between Fawn and Rhapsody. So, he realised instantly, he was their prime suspect, then… Now they just had confirmation.
Scarlet was at least as dismayed as they seemed to be. What could have possessed Blue to do a thing like that, anyway? Even considering his present, very odd, state of mind, he wouldn’t run the risk of crossing Colonel White, and putting himself in harm’s way. And doing that particular stunt was one sure way to get a ticket to hell… as Captain Brown, the first ever culprit who had dared to do it years ago, had learned the hard way. That was one incident that Colonel White didn’t want to be reminded of – and Blue just had to go and do the same thing all over again.
When he heard the name of the person who would soon be at the receiving end of his just wrath, Colonel White’s expression became very hard; he took a deep intake of breath and let it out slowly, in an exasperated sigh.
“Blue,” he repeated in a barely audible voice. Scarlet suddenly realised that like himself, the Spectrum commander might also have noticed Blue’s peculiar behaviour of late. Truth to tell, however, it was more than likely that none of them would have imagined him to act so recklessly. And probably, least of all the colonel.
But if he was surprised by the revelation, it didn’t show at all on his face.
Scarlet opened his mouth to try and offer some kind of defence for his friend: “Sir…”
“Later.” That was all Colonel White had to say, and his tone suggested he wouldn’t suffer any objection; he swiftly turned on his heel, leaving Scarlet and Rhapsody where they stood, and walked in long and rapid strides towards the exit. Fawn immediately followed on his tail.
White ignored his call and left the Promenade deck. Grumbling under his breath, Fawn went after him.
Still rooted at the same place, Scarlet watched as the door slid closed on them; then he turned to exchange perplexed glances with Rhapsody.
“Would you mind telling me what exactly you and Fawn know about all this?” he asked with a frown.
Rhapsody hesitated; she wasn’t quite sure if it was time to tell her fiancée about the incident in the Amber Room; quite frankly, she didn’t know if it was in any way related to this new event. In any case, she didn’t have time to answer, as right at that moment, they heard the sound of approaching engines, and they turned around; through the window, they could see the SPJ, still escorted by the two Angels, approaching to land on the lower deck of Cloudbase. In only a few minutes from now, Blue would be back, and surely, Colonel White would want to see him… and that particular meeting would definitely not be a friendly one.
Scarlet swore under his breath, and then apologised to Rhapsody – who hadn’t heard him anyway. He picked up his cap from the table, before turning towards the door.
“The idiot,” he muttered tersely.
“Where are you going?” Rhapsody said, following him.
“To talk to my idiot friend,” he answered over his shoulder.
They left the Promenade Deck together.
Scarlet didn’t know if he would be in time to do some damage control, but at least, he hoped he would be able to catch up with Blue before Colonel White himself… If only to give him a piece of his own mind.
The door to the hangar slid open and Captain Blue, grinning with intense satisfaction, stepped into the corridor, his helmet tucked under his arm; he saw Symphony marching out of an elevator and walking to him with a fuming expression on her usually beautiful face. He didn’t have time to say anything as she brutally pushed him against the now closed door he just had crossed.
“What the hell are you trying to do?” she shouted, pressing an inquisitive finger against his chest. “Adam, you’re a jerk! Do you realise you could have KILLED YOURSELF?!”
Blue’s grin grew wider. Now that was more like it; this was exactly how he loved his Symphony: passionate and intense. But she was worrying needlessly.
“No way!” he replied, chuckling. “I’m too good a pilot for that!”
Symphony’s jaw dropped to the floor at this carefree declaration and her eyes grew wide. She was about to protest, when another angry shout coming from behind interrupted her:
“SVENSON! What the frigging hell’s wrong with you?!”
Symphony turned around and Blue raised his eyes over her blonde head to see; Captain Scarlet was coming their way at a very quick pace, arriving from the other lift, followed by Rhapsody Angel who seemed to have trouble keeping up with him. Scarlet seemed at least as annoyed as Symphony herself, and she moved aside when the English captain came to a stop in front of Blue. He looked levelly into his eyes.
“Do you have any idea what kind of trouble you are in?”
For a short second, Blue entertained the notion that Rhapsody had told Scarlet about what happened in the Amber Room; he glanced at the young woman, but couldn’t decide if she had or not. However, Scarlet’s next words dispelled his suspicion.
“What is it, you suddenly have a death wish, pulling a stunt like that? You could have killed yourself! You are not indestructible, you know!”
“You’re all worrying over nothing,” Blue replied coolly.
“Oh, you think so?” Scarlet said between his teeth. “Well, you should know what’s coming to you now, crazy Yank! You couldn’t have chosen a worse moment!”
“Colonel White was on the Promenade Deck?” Symphony inquired.
“This is Sunday, he’s off duty – of course, he was on the Promenade Deck!” Scarlet answered, almost snapping at her, although she wasn’t the object of his ire. However, he saw that annoying smile on Blue’s face suddenly disappear to be replaced by a frown and sombre expression.
“Don’t talk to her like that,” Blue said, and Scarlet could have sworn he had heard a serious warning in his voice. He dismissed it, thinking he had imagined it, and instead poked a warning finger at his friend’s chest.
“Listen, buster, you have much more to be concerned about than my tone of voice… The colonel is on the warpath. You’ll be lucky if you get out of this one in one piece, you –”
The speakers suddenly came to life, interrupting him in the middle of his harangue, and the voice of Lieutenant Green filled the air: “Would Captain Blue come to the conference room. Immediately. Colonel White is waiting for you.”
The speakers fell silent right after that; Scarlet was still staring Blue in the face, with a stern expression. Strangely enough, Blue’s expression remained the same; he didn’t react to the message they had heard from the speakers, and kept looking levelly at Scarlet, obviously not willing to break eye contact.
Scarlet shook his head. “I told you you were in trouble,” he said dully. “Now… if I were you, I would go there straight away – and if you don’t have a valid excuse, you should carefully prepare your insanity plea while on your way.”
Blue’s features became darker at these words and his frown deepened. “You are not my father, Scarlet,” he replied icily. “I don’t need your advice. I can fight my own battles and take care of my own problems myself.” That said, he glanced in Symphony’s way and caught sight of her reproving – and surprised – look. He found the same expression in Rhapsody’s eyes, but with her, lowered his eyes, just briefly; he then brushed Scarlet aside and passed through, to walk towards the lifts in silence.
Scarlet and the two Angel pilots watched as he entered one of them and the door slid closed on him. They exchanged perplexed and interrogative looks. None of them could imagine what could be wrong with him, and quite frankly, that was even more worrying than the dressing down they just knew Colonel White would be giving him.
Scarlet gave a deep sigh. “You want me to walk you back to your quarters, Symphony?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Thank you, but no. I would prefer to walk alone for a moment. Besides, I still have an hour of duty left to do in the Amber Room.”
“If you want me to cover for you…” Rhapsody started.
Symphony smiled. “You’re very kind, but you’ve all done too much of that lately. I can do with the work for now, anyway.”
Neither Rhapsody nor Scarlet insisted, and she went away, down the corridor; the English captain followed her with his eyes for a moment, before turning around to look in the direction of the lift into which Blue had disappeared a few minutes earlier. Rhapsody was standing by his side; he had noticed the way she had kept silent in front of Blue earlier, looking at him in an almost accusing way, and that had reminded him of his suspicion that she knew something he didn’t.
“Now will you tell me what you know about all this?” he demanded in a low tone.
Rhapsody sighed and shook her head. “I do know something – but I’m not quite sure it has something to do with this incident. But I’m starting to get very worried by all these strange goings on.”
Scarlet put his arm round her shoulders, and they started walking down the corridor, in the same direction Symphony had taken earlier.
“Come on. I’m taking you back to your quarters, and you will tell me exactly what you know… You’re not the only one to be worried now, I can tell you.”
“This is the last straw! That imbecile went too far this time!”
Waiting in the conference room for Captain Blue to arrive, Colonel White was walking around like a tiger in a cage, fuming. In comparison, Doctor Fawn, who was leaning back against the large round table, was looking very composed; he was trying very hard to try to calm down the Spectrum commander’s righteous anger.
“You’ll burst a blood vessel if you keep it up like that, Charles,” he commented. “Please, sit down, you’re giving me vertigo.”
“This is no time for frivolities, Doctor,” White snapped, stopping and turning in his direction, eyes glaring. “The actions of that… that idiot could have had serious consequences! What if he had impacted against one of the pylons? Or the Control Tower? What if he had crashed onto one of the decks? He could have killed someone – everyone – onboard including himself! And he did this dangerous stunt of his using a Passenger Jet!”
“Would your anger be any different if he had done it with an Angel fighter?” Fawn asked with a raised eyebrow.
“An Angel fighter is much more manoeuvrable… and smaller than an SPJ. But that’s beside the point! I would still be throwing the book at him!”
“Oh yes, that you would… If I remember correctly, a few years ago, you were in approximately the same state of anger when Captain Brown did that same exact stunt. And that time, it was with an Angel jet…”
“No, I’m much angrier now than I was then!” White replied, starting to walk around again, which caused Fawn to roll his eyes. “This is Captain Blue we’re talking about this time. And Captain Blue doesn’t do this sort of thing!”
Fawn raised a doubtful brow. “He doesn’t?”
“Not often, anyway,” White conceded, turning his back on Fawn as he started another round of the room. “I wonder what is wrong with that man right now… He’s not acting like himself at all!”
“You noticed that too?”
“Of course, I noticed! He doesn’t do his work properly, he’s always late for his shift, he’s distracted, he’s ill-tempered…”
“Somebody told you?”
White scoffed. “I don’t need anybody to tell me to realise something is wrong with one of my officers. The others are covering for him, but I noticed anyway.” White stopped and turned on his heels to stare at him, scowling. “From what you said, I take it you noticed too, then?”
“Of course, I did,” Fawn answered in a low voice. “And as his doctor, this… problem of his is concerning me very much. I think it should concern us all.” The physician shook his head, slowly. “As you said, he’s not acting like himself at the moment. He’s tense, undisciplined, distracted to the point of forgetting his duties, gets careless, quarrels with his colleagues – he even got into a fight with one of them…”
“Did he?” White enquired with a deeper frown. “With whom and for what reason?”
“Who isn’t really important,” Fawn replied. “Nor the reasons why it happened. Let’s say that the person involved came to sickbay seeking treatment afterwards, and that’s how I learned of the incident. Professional discretion prevents me from revealing that person’s identity, as you should know.”
“So. That ‘incident’ is why you were late for tea earlier,” White realised.
Fawn feigned not to notice the annoyed expression on the Spectrum commander’s face and left the table to approach him. “What is important, Charles, as you pointed out just now, is that this is Captain Blue we’re talking about. The easy-going, considerate, patient, and professional officer we’ve all come to know and appreciate. That is – that’s how he should be, but right now… he’s very different. Considering all this, I don’t think that disciplining him – like you apparently want to do – would be the proper answer in his case.”
A growl of anger mounted from White’s throat. “What are you telling me, Doctor? That I should overlook such a blatant display of indiscipline?”
He was obviously against the very idea; Fawn shook his head again. “No. Not overlook it. But rather try to understand why this is happening. What could possibly cause such out-of-character behaviour…”
“Like what? A head injury? When Captain Blue was involved in that explosion at the Research Centre, he was examined thoroughly, but neither you, nor your colleague in Valley Forge found anything seriously wrong with him. Are you reconsidering your diagnosis?”
“He had a concussion, that’s true, and it didn’t look severe,” Fawn admitted. “But maybe there’s something else, that goes deeper than that.”
“Psychological?” White still seemed doubtful, but at least he wasn’t dismissing the possibility. “Then if you suspect as much, we could call upon Doctor Weiss…”
“Yes, we could do that, of course… But I suggest something else too.”
“Send him home,” Fawn suggested quietly. “Or give him a holiday. Send him to ground, on furlough. For at least a few days.”
“What?” White sounded confounded. “He does something stupid and I should reward him by offering him days off? That doesn’t sound very logical, Doctor.”
“Think about it, Charles: Blue has been on the go for months. He hasn’t stopped more than a day to take a breather. And there was that incident with that awful ‘Twilight of the Gods’ game… Blue had a bad time of it then, if you recall, but even so, he was amongst those who insisted on coming back on duty as fast as possible…” Fawn could see that White was now pensive, considering all these arguments carefully – and with a cooler head. His anger seemed to slowly dissipate. “And then, there was that accident at the Research Centre,” Fawn continued, taking advantage of White’s attention and obvious mellowing. “Okay, maybe he wasn’t that seriously injured physically… But all this coming all at once, maybe it left deeper wounds than we might think.”
“Mmm…” White nodded slowly. He started stroking his chin, pensively. “So some much needed rest would be what you recommend, Doctor…”
“We can all do with some rest from time to time, Colonel,” Fawn remarked. “If we don’t get it, we cannot do our job efficiently. And we start to do strange things…” He smiled thinly. “Maybe we should recognise that Captain Blue has just reached his limits right now… and do something about it, before it goes even further.”
This time, White seemed to agree completely. “I prefer to send him on leave,” he commented, “to sending him to Doctor Weiss in his present state. I wouldn’t want her to sign him off indefinitely…” He pointed a warning finger in Fawn’s direction. “But if he is not back to his old self when he returns, he will have to see her at the next opportunity.”
“That would be my suggestion, Colonel.”
White nodded again. “I wonder if he’ll ask permission for Symphony to go with him,” he thought out loud.
“If he does, I suggest you consent to the demand, Charles.” White addressed a new doubtful glance at Fawn, who shook his head, smiling again. “Some… comfort… from his fiancée could only be good for him. In any case, Symphony also needs some time off.”
“As you said, Doctor, we all can do with some holiday,” Colonel White commented dryly. “Thank you for your observations in this case.”
“All part of my job, Colonel.”
“And do me a favour, Edward: if one day I start acting peculiarly, like Blue, stop me before I go too far, and send me back home: I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if my staff witnessed me acting like an idiot.”
Fawn grinned. “I promise, Charles… Although I would value forever the memory of the day I see you fly between the Cloudbase Tower pylons.”
Almost despite himself, Colonel White smiled at the thought; he didn’t really have the time to comment on the subject as, just at this moment, the buzzing at the door announced that Captain Blue was waiting to come in. He exchanged a glance with Fawn and went to sit at his usual place at the table.
“Our friend has arrived, Doctor,” he said, setting his face into a neutral expression. “Please let him in. We have a lot to discuss with him.”
An hour later, after his meeting with Colonel White, Captain Blue went directly to Symphony’s quarters, as he knew that she would be off duty at that time. He buzzed and then let himself in. He wasn’t surprised to find her waiting for him; she was seated on her couch, in the living area, a book in her hands, but she had obviously not been able to concentrate enough to read it, as she was holding it upside down. As soon as she saw him, and the door closed, she threw the book away and jumped to her feet, rushing to him.
“So? How did it go with the old man?”
She still looked angry, but her voice betrayed her underlying concern. He chose not to worry her more than was really necessary and offered as answer only a half truth of what had been going on. He shrugged in a carefree manner as he walked towards her, choosing a big red apple from the plate of fruit in the middle of the low table in front of the couch.
“Pretty well, all things considered.” He rubbed the apple against his vest. “He offered me a furlough.”
He took a bite out of the apple. She was taken aback; now that certainly wasn’t what she had expected. She narrowed her eyes, looking suspiciously at him. “You’re lying.”
Blue grinned, chewing on his piece of apple. “Have you ever known me to lie to you?” he asked her.
“No… Not really. Not about something that matters.” She paused, obviously waiting for him to open up to her. She waited in vain. Frustrated, she sighed and turned her back on him. Her anger wasn’t subsiding – quite the opposite. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you these days, Adam, but you’re acting very strangely. Obviously, if you don’t want to tell me what’s going on with you, you might as well walk out of here right now…”
As she took a few steps away from him, Blue suddenly reacted. He threw his apple down onto the couch and went after her, taking her by the arm, rather roughly, and making her turn to face him again. That forceful attitude of his surprised her even more, and her irritation at him grew; she swiftly freed herself from his grip.
“What’s the matter with you? Will you let go of me?!”
He did as she asked, showing his open palms as a gesture of truce. He watched as she rubbed her sore arm, where he had grabbed her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you…”
“Oh yeah? Well, I think you’d better be more careful with the way you handle people, Svenson, because you are hurting many people around you, whether you realise it or not.”
Blue’s eyes narrowed: had she been talking to Rhapsody? “What do you mean, exactly?”
“You should know what I mean. Take Paul, for example… I’ve rarely seen you being so mean to him… You know he has your best interests at heart… We all do…”
“Yes, I know…” Blue sighed, realising she didn’t know about Ochre – and that he was handling this new problem the wrong way. He rubbed his brow. “Look, I apologise. I’ll apologise to Paul too later, when I see him. I know you’re only thinking about what’s best for me, but you should know, all of you, I can take care of myself quite well.”
“Normally, you could, but lately…” Symphony left the rest hanging in midair. Slowly, she shook her head, as Blue stood there, looking at her, saying nothing. “I don’t know, you’ve been acting rather out of character… You’re careless, you’re neglecting your duties, you’re distracted… You’re possessive.”
“Yes, possessive. Towards me. It’s starting to be very overwhelming, Adam. And added to that, you’ve been acting almost self-destructive…”
“Such as?” he asked bluntly.
“Do you need for me to spell it out? You should know what I’m talking about – you’ll be throwing away your career, the way you’re going!”
“You shouldn’t worry about me, or my career, that much.”
“Well, I do! You’re missing the point, aren’t you? The main thing is… well, that’s not like you at all. You seem to have changed.” Symphony saw him tense. She came closer, and put her hand on his shoulder, to look him in the eyes, as if trying to decipher what could be hiding behind them. “Is there something on your mind, Big Blue?” she asked tentatively. “Something you are not telling us – me – about? Something… bothering you?”
“Nothing is bothering me,” Blue answered with a shake of his head. “Except… Maybe I’m tired of this whole situation.”
“Us. Our situation.” He frowned. “And yes, there is something on my mind, Karen. That’s something is you. I find that I can only think of you, and if that isn’t enough of a distraction, then I don’t know what is.”
Symphony smiled. “Well, I’m flattered, of course. But that doesn’t explain –”
“Yes, it explains it,” he interrupted her suddenly. “I admit it, I might have been possessive towards you – I didn’t mean for it to bother you, believe me, but I can’t help myself. Don’t you see? You’re foremost in my mind. I mean – you always have been, but since that incident at the Research Centre… I don’t know, it made me realise that I could have died there, suddenly, that in this crazy job of ours, I could die at any moment, that you could die at any moment… without us ever having the time to resolve whatever we have between us.”
“Whatever we have between us… what do you mean?”
“I love you, Karen. And I know you love me. Should I die tomorrow or in seventy years, I will always love you. That’s why I think we must come to a decision, once and for all.”
“What do you want to do exactly?” Symphony asked, frowning, and obviously confused by his words. “You want to leave Spectrum? I’m not –”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” Blue took both her hands in his and moved closer to her, looking her in the eyes. “Let’s get married.”
She smiled, unsure. “Isn’t that what we’re actually preparing?”
“No… I mean: let’s get married right now. Without any more delay. I’m tired of waiting. Let’s do without that big ceremony and without all those guests we’ve been talking about for days… weeks,” he corrected quickly. He smiled, in an enticing way. “Let’s get away from all that and elope to get married quietly.”
“What?” Symphony murmured in perplexity. “Elope? Right now?” She chuckled, thinking he was joking. “You’ve heard Rick, haven’t you? Like you heard him saying he would fly between the pylons… Well, you know he wasn’t serious, Adam…”
“Ochre has nothing to do with this,” Blue replied. “But he did give me the idea. And it’s a perfect solution. These plans for a big wedding, it’s become a chore. It’ll be easier, much easier if we elope.”
“We can’t do that, Adam. We tried once, remember? Las Vegas. We nearly got ourselves into trouble with Colonel White.”
“It won’t be the same this time. He already gave us his agreement, didn’t he?”
“He wants to be there when we marry… He’s to walk me down the aisle. And what about our families? And friends? What about Paul… He’s supposed to be your best man…”
“Ah, he’ll understand… They will all understand. The colonel, like the rest of them. He knows we’ve been waiting for so long… What can he say against it?”
Symphony shook her head. “Adam, I’m not sure…”
“Listen, I’ve told you: he gave me a furlough. He said to go somewhere quiet and to take it easy. He figured that I needed some rest… and you know what? He’s right.” Blue came closer still, and took her in his arms. “But I will truly be able to relax – only if you come with me. And if we get married, then I know I’ll find peace of mind.”
“You are truly serious about it,” she said, musingly.
“Of course I am,” he said with a renewed smile. “We’ll be husband and wife – finally. Truly belonging to one another. We have all the papers ready, the blood tests are done… All we need is the ceremony. Come on, let’s do it…” He winked at her. “Let’s get married.”
“We’ll have to ask the colonel…” she answered, still hesitating. “I can’t leave without permission…”
“Let me handle it. He won’t refuse me…” Blue leaned forward to brush her lips with his. “I’ll tell him… that I need you by my side to help me relax… He won’t say no, I’m sure of it…”
“You’re deluding yourself if you think that.”
“You wanna bet?” he whispered.
“No…” Symphony answered in the same tone. She looked up to him. “And yes. When asked like this… How can a girl say no to the man she loves? Yes, Adam Svenson. I will marry you. As soon as possible. Just as you want.”
“My love…” he kissed her full on the lips, briefly. “And I know just the place for us to go,” he told her quickly. “It’s a nice place, very quiet… where no-one will come to disturb us. And once we’re there, I’ll contact a friend of mine… He’s a minister. And he’ll marry us quickly.”
“A friend of yours?” Symphony smiled. “You already thought all this through, didn’t you?”
“I’ve been thinking about this for days,” he admitted. “I just needed to tell you about it – and to wait for the perfect occasion.” Blue grinned. “Well, this is the perfect occasion, we couldn’t ask for a better one.” He held her tight. “And then, once we’re married, the rest of our furlough could become our honeymoon, just you and me… how does that sound?”
“Like a perfect plan…” Symphony whispered. “I can’t wait for it to begin…”
“Me neither, my love…” Blue pressed her against his heart, and gave a deep, shaky sigh. “We’ll be so happy, you’ll see… the happiest couple in the world. You just wait…” With that, they exchanged a long languorous kiss, that Blue just never wanted to end.
“You’re going to what?”
Captain Scarlet could hardly believe his ears; he was in Symphony Angel’s quarters with Rhapsody, and they were both watching her as she filled her bags. Scarlet shot a perplexed glance at his fiancée who shrugged in defeat.
“Told you she had lost it…” she commented quietly.
She had heard the news only a few minutes before Scarlet, from Symphony’s lips, and had called her fiancé right away; she had hoped he would have a better chance than she did to convince their mutual friend that this project she was about to undertake with Blue was a complete mistake.
“We’re going to elope,” Symphony explained, without slowing down as she put a pile of shirts into her suitcase. “Adam is taking me to his family cabin in Aspen, and he knows a minister friend of the family who will gladly marry us on the spot.” She looked at Rhapsody, who was seated on the bed next to her suitcase, and then at Scarlet, who was standing on the other side of the bed, with a concerned expression on his face. “Aren’t you happy for us?”
“Have you both lost your marbles?” Scarlet demanded. “This is already hard to swallow from Adam, even considering his present state of mind, but coming from you, Karen…” He frowned. “Wasn’t the last experience in Vegas enough for the two of you?”
Symphony scoffed and closed the lid of her suitcase. “We’re not likely to meet anyone wanting personal revenge on Adam this time…”
“I don’t mean that! I mean the colonel, and you know it.” Scarlet leaned against the bed to look at her levelly. “What do you think he’ll say – and do – if you elope again? Last time, it could have cost you your job.”
“This time, it’s different,” Symphony answered. “He already gave his blessing, Paul. He did, a long time ago.”
“You asked him to walk you down the aisle! What will he think now, when you run out on him? He’s not going to be happy!”
“You worry too much,” she answered dismissively. “Adam said that he arranged things with him. See, I’ve got my leave permission quite easily, so I could go.”
“You actually think that Adam told the colonel of his plans to elope with you?” Rhapsody asked with a doubtful frown.
“Have you asked the old man?” Scarlet asked in turn.
“I haven’t seen him… And why would I doubt Adam?”
“I don’t know, Karen, you tell me,” Scarlet said, straightening up and crossing his arms on his chest. “You know as well as we do how peculiar he’s been acting lately.”
“He wouldn’t lie to me…”
“I’m not sure. Right now, I wouldn’t put it past him…”
“Really, Paul, you should be ashamed of yourself! Thinking such things of your best friend!”
Symphony was now busy checking in her handbag, to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything.
“Are you even listening to me?” Scarlet asked her with a frown. “You’ll get into trouble…”
“… With the colonel, you’ve said it time and again.” She looked up at Scarlet. “Actually, I think you are the one who’s not happy about this. I know, you were supposed to be best man at our wedding… and you’re thinking you’re going to miss that… Maybe you could ask to join us, and –”
“I can’t get away,” Scarlet cut in abruptly, his frown deepening. “I’ve got duties to attend to. Karen… I’m concerned about Adam right now. The way he’s been acting –”
“I told you he explained that to me. And I told you about it: that accident in Valley Forge – that really put his life into perspective.”
Scarlet mused about the wisdom of telling her about the incident in the Amber Room, between Blue and Ochre, that Rhapsody had just told him about. Already, he felt concerned about his friend’s behaviour, but knowing that he had physically assaulted one of his colleagues – another friend – that was even more disconcerting. He chose not to reveal it to Symphony right now. Not before mentioning it to Blue himself.
“You’re actually very naïve if you believe that explanation,” Rhapsody remarked.
“Adam is not the kind of man to let himself be impressed by a brush with death – no matter how close it might have been,” Scarlet concurred. “There’s got to be another explanation…”
“Oh yes? Then what could it be? It seems fairly logical to me…” Symphony zipped her handbag, then, leaving her luggage on her bed, she walked towards her door and pressed the opening button. The door slid open. “Now, if you will both excuse me, I need to finish getting ready… The shuttle for New York will not wait, and I still have a lot to do before taking it with Adam.”
Scarlet and Rhapsody exchanged glances, understanding that they were now officially thrown out; sighing, the English pilot rose from the bed, and they both walked towards the door. As they stepped out, Scarlet turned to Symphony one last time, and put his hands on her shoulders, gently.
“Karen, you know that there is nothing I would like more than for the two of you to finally be together as husband and wife,” he told her. “But I can’t shake the feeling that this is a mistake you’re both making… eloping like this. There’s got to be another way.”
“We’ve been waiting too long already, Paul,” Symphony replied in an assured tone. “Look, we’re both adults. We know what we’re doing. You shouldn’t worry about us.”
“Well, I can’t help myself,” Scarlet said brusquely. “Adam’s my best friend – and you are like a sister to me.”
She smiled, faintly. “And you’re doing your job as a big brother by protecting me? I appreciate the sentiment, Paul… but I’m quite able to take care of myself.”
“Don’t I know it…”
“And what could I be afraid of? I’ll be with Adam.”
Scarlet nodded slowly, not finding any answer to this; Symphony stood on tiptoe to plant a kiss on his cheek. “We’ll be all right,” she promised in a whisper. “Stop worrying so much. We’ll send you pictures from Aspen – and the wedding.” She gave Rhapsody a hug too, and stepped back into her quarters. The door slid closed on her.
Rhapsody heaved a deep sigh. “Shouldn’t we have told her about Ochre?” she asked, glancing up at Scarlet, who looked even more concerned than before.
“No,” he answered quietly. “That would not have changed anything, given the circumstances.”
“What do we do now, then?”
“I’m convinced more than ever that there is something definitely wrong with the Blue Boy,” Scarlet said sombrely. He turned on his heels. “It’s high time he gave me a decent explanation…”
In his quarters, Captain Blue had since long finished preparing his luggage, and had called for someone to take it down to the hangar. He still had some time for himself, and so he had decided to have a last cup of coffee before the flight. As he took his first sip, he went to his desk, and powered down his computer. His hand hovered in front of his top drawer, hesitantly, as a sudden thought came to his mind.
He opened the drawer, and pulled a small object from it, wrapped in a black handkerchief; he drew a deep sigh. So, it was still where he had left it. Not that he had imagined that anyone would search for it – and especially not here. He unwrapped the handkerchief and revealed, resting in the middle, the small, egg-sized, crystal-like, red stone that had permitted him to actually come to this world. Without it, he realised, he would not have been able to find his Symphony again, and he would not be so close to marrying her – like he had always dreamed.
And to think – I owe it all to this thing, he reflected, almost a little bitterly. A Mysteron object… that I was able to obtain through Scarlet.
He looked at it as if mesmerised for some time, pondering how his life had changed, and how much it would still change because of it.
Of course, when Scarlet had told him, all those weeks ago in Iceland, what this stone could do for him, Blue would have done anything to get it… But he wasn’t as yet ready to make a deal with his worst enemy. Despite the fact that he was providing him with the possibility to see Symphony again, Blue couldn’t forget that he had lost her in the first place because of that Mysteron bastard. Besides, he still had his Spectrum duties to consider: Scarlet had to be stopped at all costs – Blue would still get the stone, even if he had to take it from his mortal enemy’s dead fingers. He had tried to arrest him – but the sudden and unexpected presence of Destiny Angel, who got injured during the struggle, had hindered his efforts. And Scarlet, as always, had made good his escape.
Leaving the stone behind him…
Blue heard buzzing at his door. That drew him out of his fugue.
Quickly, he wrapped the stone in the handkerchief and put it back into the drawer.
“Enter,” he called.
The door slid open, and Captain Scarlet walked in; Blue kept himself from scowling, and instead took another sip from his mug.
“Shouldn’t you be preparing yourself for your furlough, instead of attempting to poison yourself with that awful coffee of yours?” the English captain asked good-naturedly, as he came to his friend.
Blue raised a surprised eyebrow. “What’s wrong with my coffee?” he asked, presenting his cup to Scarlet.
The latter eyed it carefully, a little unsure; he took it, and more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, took a sip to taste the contents. He frowned in surprise. “Not bad,” he commented, before taking a larger gulp. “Not bad at all.” He looked at Blue with a frown. “Who finally took the time to show you how to make proper coffee?”
“Symphony’s mom?” Blue suggested, taking the mug back. He just had realised, from Scarlet’s words, that his counterpart from this world seemed to have quite a reputation for his bad coffee. He thought it best to avoid the question further. “Who told you about the furlough? The colonel? Doctor Fawn?”
“Symphony.” Scarlet watched attentively as Blue took a sip from his coffee; if he thought he would see a reaction, he discovered he was wrong. “She is about ready, by the way… She’s nearly finished packing.”
“Great.” Blue took another gulp. “I already had mine taken to the hangar. I thought I just had the time to get a cup before going. The coffee machine onboard SPJs serves horrible coffee…”
Scarlet nodded. “Symphony also told me about your plans to elope.”
“Did she? Now I would have preferred for you to hear about the surprise upon our return…”
Scarlet scoffed loudly. “Surprise? Well, that’s a good name for it, that’s for sure!” He watched as Blue took a last gulp of his coffee, draining his mug completely. “What is the matter with you, Adam?”
Blue looked surprised. “Whatever do you mean?”
“You know damned well what I mean,” Scarlet remarked angrily. “You’re going to elope? Like last time?”
“Last time? Oh, you mean, Las Vegas.”
“Yes, I mean Las Vegas. Don’t you remember what happened there? The colonel himself came after you and Karen, in an attempt to stop you throwing your careers away!”
“Of course, I remember.” Blue lied as he turned around to put his mug onto the counter behind him. “This is not the first time today someone’s reminded me of it… I couldn’t very well forget it. Don’t worry, Paul. This won’t be like last time.”
“Why not? Adam, it nearly ended in disaster then… You were very wise to change your mind when you did. Don’t you remember the reasons why you did? You didn’t want to show any disrespect to the old man by going behind his back…”
“And I’m not showing any disrespect now. He knows we’re going to get married, and even consented to it…”
“Does he know of your plans right now?” Scarlet insisted. “I doubt it very much.”
Blue glared at him. He could feel the anger mounting in him. “This doesn’t concern you, Metcalfe. This is my life – and Karen’s life.”
“You are both my friends, Adam. So yes, it concerns me. I am deeply worried for both of you. Especially you.”
“Are you now?” Blue asked coldly.
“You’re not acting like yourself, Adam. I’ve never seen you like this… So far, I hadn’t thought it was that bad – except for those inexplicable mood swings of yours…”
Blue scoffed. “So now I have mood swings, do I?”
“You certainly do,” Scarlet said sternly. “And it becomes serious when you assault one of your colleagues and friends because of it.”
For a short moment, Blue stared at him, fixedly. “Dianne told you about it,” he said, finally.
“She did,” Scarlet confirmed. “What you did to Ochre –”
“… is none of your concern. It’s between him and me. Besides, he had it coming. If Dianne had let me explain it to her –”
“Ochre explained it to her,” Scarlet interrupted suddenly. “He told her about your sudden possessiveness and jealousy – and how you lashed out at him without any apparent good reason. Oh, he admitted he had been teasing Karen, but that he never meant any harm – and certainly nothing serious. Knowing him, I know it must be the truth.”
“So that makes me the liar – and the bad guy, then,” Blue said, still in the same cold voice.
Scarlet sighed tiredly. “No, Adam – that makes you someone who obviously needs to have a major reality check. There is something seriously wrong with you, my friend, and thinking about your plans to elope with Karen right now, while you’re in that state of mind –”
“Do you think now that I would hurt her?” Blue interrupted incredulously. “I would never hurt her!”
“I never said that!”
“You were about to!” Blue accused. He shook his head. “There’s nothing wrong with me, Metcalfe. But with you, there’s definitely something wrong. I’d say you’re jealous.”
“I am what?”
“You’re jealous. You haven’t found the courage yet to talk to the colonel about your own relationship with Dianne. So it kills you to see that Karen and I are so close to finally tying the knot, you can’t bear it.”
“Adam… That’s crazy! How can you think –”
“You know, it really annoys me to see that you are actually not supporting us in this, and instead you’re bringing up any argument to stop us from leaving? Are you planning to tell the colonel about the… incident with Ochre, then?”
“I never said that either, Adam. I just want you to realise –”
“I’m realising something all right. You should be happy for us. And yet… you’re not. Some friend you are, Metcalfe!”
“I am your friend, Adam!”
“Are you? If so then, you should just buzz off – keep out of our business, and let Karen and me do what we want to do!”
Scarlet frowned in perplexity. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” he asked anew.
“There is nothing wrong with me at all!” Blue snapped again. “I just want to be with the woman I love. Is that so hard to understand?”
Scarlet shook his head dejectedly, watching as Blue turned his back on him to lean against the counter where his coffee-maker stood.
“No, it’s not hard to understand that, Adam,” he answered. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and felt him shiver; he had the impression that Blue wanted to draw back from him, but that he didn’t dare to actually do it. “What I don’t understand, is why you are acting so strangely lately…”
“I told you to leave it alone,” Blue groused over his shoulder, barely glancing back. “I’ve been waiting for this for too long, I won’t let anyone get in our way now. Not even you.”
“Adam, can’t you hear yourself talk?” Scarlet replied, wanting his voice to sound as soothing as he could. “You’re not yourself, brother. It’s not like you to lash out like this on anyone.”
“And I told you, Metcalfe… BUZZ OFF!”
Scarlet had not seen Blue’s hand reaching for the handle of the coffee maker’s jug; suddenly, the American spun around – and the jug, full of hot coffee, crashed onto Scarlet’s head with violence, exploding under the impact, and spilling its contents over the English officer and all over the room. Scarlet, however, barely felt the heat of the beverage. The impact on his head, fortunately, had stunned him nearly instantly. Groaning in pain, he was knocked sideways, and came crashing down onto Blue’s desk, knocking it down to the floor with him, with the computer, and everything else that was on it. He fell face first onto the floor, where he remained inert.
Blue stood over him, with what remained of the broken jug’s handle still in his hand; breathing hard, he looked down in near shock at the unconscious body, noticing the warm steam emerging from the coffee-soaked parts of his uniform, and the bleeding injury the brutal attack had caused to the side of his head. The thought that he might have killed him made its way into his tortured mind.
How important could it be? This guy is indestructible. He’ll get over it. And by the time he does, Karen and I will be long gone and finally married…
“Look what you made me do,” he grunted, under his breath. Dejectedly, he threw the handle onto the still body. “What a mess… I hope you’re happy with yourself.”
Turning his back on Scarlet, he walked to the door in long strides and pressed the opening button.
He never looked back until the doors slid closed on his departure, and never noticed that the drawer of his desk, now open, had spilled out its contents – including a now half-wrapped red stone that was shining not that far from Scarlet’s motionless body.
“Can you open that door or can’t you?”
Rhapsody was impatiently walking back and forth behind Captain Magenta, as the latter, crouched in front of the door to Captain Blue’s quarters, was working on the electronic control, of which he had removed the cover panel a few minutes ago. Captain Ochre, his face covered with bruises, a dressing over his left cheek, was leaning against the wall beside the door.
“Would you mind giving me a minute?” Magenta answered with irritation, looking over his shoulder and glaring at the young woman. “This isn’t as easy as it looks. And we don’t want to do any damage to these controls. We’re looking at charges of breaking and entering without authorisation, so let’s not leave any trace if we can avoid it, shall we?”
It had been more than an hour since the Angel pilot had last heard from Captain Scarlet, when he had left stating he would have a little talk with Captain Blue. Since Blue had long gone, having taken the New York shuttle with Symphony, Rhapsody had been waiting, in vain, until she really started to worry. She went to Blue’s quarters in her turn, only to find the door locked. Unable to open it, and not sure what to do, she had gone to Captain Ochre, who had been resting in his quarters since Doctor Fawn had treated him earlier in the day. After she had quickly explained the problem to him, Ochre realised that there was only one person who could help them out.
“I could probably do a better job than you,” Rhapsody shot back in reply to Magenta.
Magenta sighed, while Ochre, rolled his eyes upwards and shook his head.
“This,” Magenta said, pointing patiently to the control panel, “is an electromagnetic lock. It cannot be picked, it cannot be forced. The only way to open it is either to find the keycode, or circumvent the controls – which is not really easy to do, and cannot be done if you don’t have very specific electronic knowledge. Now I know you’re very bright, but you don’t have this knowledge.” He returned to the examination of the electronic wiring, carefully feeling them with his fingers. “About the only people onboard able to open these locks are Lieutenant Green…” he pushed two specific points and a beeping sound was heard from the door. He grinned up at Rhapsody. “…And me,” he finished up with no false pride.
Ochre glanced at Rhapsody, as Magenta got back to his feet. “You can congratulate yourself later,” he said. “Push that button.”
Magenta obeyed, and the door slid open in front of them; Ochre entered first, the others following behind.
Captain Scarlet was on the floor, in the middle of the living area, lying next to an overturned desk, and amongst the broken pieces of a computer. He was groaning and was presently trying to push himself from the floor, as if he was just returning to consciousness.
They all rushed to his side, and crouched near him. He was holding his head, trying to get his bearings.
“I knew there was something wrong,” Rhapsody muttered, kneeling by his side. “Paul, are you okay?”
“Hey, Paul, what happened here?” Ochre asked, helping him into a sitting position. He noticed the dried blood on the side of Scarlet’s head and pointed to it. “Had a run in with your friend too?” he asked.
“I’ll probably get over it faster than you will,” Scarlet groaned, looking into Ochre’s bruised face. “What are you doing here?”
“Rhapsody came to get us,” Ochre said, pointing to the young woman. “She was wondering what happened to you, since Blue and Symphony were gone.
“They’re gone?” Scarlet muttered. Rhapsody answered with a nod. “Oh, hell…”
“So he did hit you, right?” Ochre asked again, this time in concern. “The guy’s gone nuts.”
“There’s definitely something wrong with him,” Scarlet agreed.
“Hey, what’s this?” Magenta suddenly interrupted. He had found something lying on the floor, not that far from Scarlet, and he picked it up to look at it more closely. It was a small red stone, that had been previously wrapped in a black handkerchief. Scarlet looked at it fixedly, and then reached to take it from Magenta.
“Is that… a red stone?” Ochre asked with a frown.
“I don’t know… it does look like it,” Scarlet muttered. “That… or Blue has started collecting crystals…”
“His mother does collect crystals,” Rhapsody commented. “It could be for her…”
“Oh, you think so?” Ochre retorted, unconvinced. “It seems like too much of a coincidence, if you ask me…” He pointed to the stone. “I don’t know if it’s related exactly, or what it could actually mean, but could it be possible that this… thing… is a Mysteron red stone, and responsible for Blue’s strange behaviour of late?”
“You think he could have brought this back from the Research Centre?” Magenta suggested.
“Well, he’s been acting peculiar since he returned from there,” Ochre replied. “So I don’t know, there might be something to investigate there…”
Scarlet nodded, still looking intently at the small rock he was holding in his palm; he could feel nothing special from it, no surge of energy of any kind. But then again, he hadn’t felt anything from the red stones, to begin with… If indeed this was one, he wouldn’t be able to tell. On Cloudbase, only Doctor Lavender would have been able to say, and at the moment, after working at the Research Centre in Valley Forge for the best part of the previous week, he had gone on a brief furlough, on family business.
The only other two people who could confirm if this rock was a genuine Mysteron red stone were at the Research Centre.
Scarlet slowly got back to his feet, the others rising with him. “You are right, Captain Ochre,” he said quietly. “There might be something to investigate… and that something would be in Valley Forge.”
He took a step towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Rhapsody called.
He stopped in the doorway, and turned to look at the three of them. “It’s about time I saw the colonel,” he said finally. “And had a little talk with him.”
“Well, maybe you should clean up a bit, before going to see him,” Ochre suggested, pointing to his own face. “You look like you had a run in with a bus.” He grinned. “You don’t want the old man to know your best friend has been beating you up, do you?”
“No more than you would,” Scarlet said with a grin. He nodded. “You’re right, I’ll go and change first…” He turned around again. “Don’t mention any of this to anyone… until we know exactly what needs to be done.”
Colonel White carefully listened to Scarlet’s report; by the end of it, several minutes later, the Spectrum commander rose from his seat, and, turning his back on Scarlet, he walked towards the nearest porthole of the conference room; he stood there and looked outside, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Thank you for informing me of this, Captain Scarlet.”
He said nothing else, and that made Scarlet frown in perplexity. “Thank you? That’s all you have to say?”
Scarlet couldn’t help feeling frustrated, and was very aware he had pronounced these words with more rudeness than he really should, but at this point he didn’t care that much. He had not liked one bit to report his partner to his commander, but he felt that he didn’t have any choice left. He had told White of Blue’s strange behaviour of late, of the way he had physically attacked not one but two of his colleagues – although he didn’t mention the seriousness of the assault he had been the victim of himself. The expression on his commander’s face had changed very little, during the whole of Scarlet’s report, which left the latter with the impression that White knew most of this information, including the first attack – except for the identity of the officer involved, which Scarlet discreetly kept to himself, as he kept, for now, the discovery he had made in Blue’s quarters.
But when he told White about the second attack on himself, and that it had been triggered by his objection to Blue’s plans to elope with Symphony to get married, Scarlet thought he saw a brief reaction finally appear in White’s eyes. It was at that point that White had stood up.
“And what would you have me say?” White said crisply over his shoulder, before turning around to face his junior officer. “Would you have me call them back to Cloudbase after ordering Captain Blue off duty to take this obviously much needed furlough off base, and away from any Spectrum consideration?” He shook his head. “No, Captain. This is perhaps what he needed to set himself straight.”
“I mean no disrespect, sir, but I think that assumption is wrong,” Scarlet insisted. “I don’t think this is the solution to whatever Captain Blue’s problem is.”
“You surprise me, Captain. I thought you were on his side on the subject of his marriage to Symphony Angel.”
“I don’t think that running off to get hitched clandestinely is a solution, sir. The time… doesn’t seem right.”
“And the time was right the last time they tried it, Captain?” White asked abruptly.
“No, sir,” Scarlet admitted. “Maybe you were not aware of it, but I was against that little escapade in Vegas.”
“But you were there anyway, supporting them.” White didn’t receive any reply to his comment. He sighed and shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a solution either, but there is nothing I could do about it. Not this time.” He grunted and half-turned towards the porthole again. “They’re both adults. They should know what they have to do.”
“Last time, sir, you went to Las Vegas to stop them…”
“Last time was different. They didn’t follow proper procedures. This time, they asked for my consent and I gave it to them – a long time ago, if you recall. I made arrangements for this marriage to be possible, and to be able to keep both of them on Cloudbase. With all these preoccupations settled, I don’t think the way they choose to marry are of my concern now. I would have preferred for them to inform me, but since they didn’t… They can go back to Las Vegas and be married in a cheap chapel, for all I care.”
Scarlet could very well hear the discontentment in his commander’s voice. “You’re angry, sir.”
“Angry?” White gave it some thoughts, before turning back to Scarlet. “No… not so much angry as disappointed. I was supposed to give the bride away, don’t you remember? And you were supposed to be best man, so I think you are disappointed too, or you wouldn’t be here… to ‘warn’ me about this. Were you hoping I would stop them?”
“I am upset, I cannot deny it. But it’s not what you think. I could have lived with this, if I was sure it was the right thing for them to do. You weren’t with Captain Blue when we last talked about the big wedding project they had… How they would get married in Iowa, at Symphony’s family ranch…’
“I know,” White said bitterly. “Her mother was overjoyed at the idea.”
“It was making him nervous, I could tell, but he wanted to do it,” Scarlet continued. “For Karen. He knew she would like that. This sudden change of plan is very unexpected. And it wasn’t Karen’s choice at all. It was Adam’s alone.”
White’s frown deepened. He overlooked the fact that Scarlet had used his friends’ real names. This time around, it was a forgivable misstep. “She told you that?”
“She wasn’t as disappointed as I thought she would be… but she didn’t completely agree with it, that’s for sure. She at least wanted a wedding with close friends and family around. But considering she would finally get to marry the man she loved, she obviously let it slide and went along with his plan. I believe she was as surprised as we were, however.”
“Then what changed Captain Blue’s mind?” White asked. “He suddenly got cold feet?”
“That wouldn’t be like him at all, Colonel.”
“Well, lately, Captain Blue has done a lot of things that aren’t like him at all, Captain,” White remarked coldly. “As you have reported yourself.”
“I know, sir, and it’s this change of attitude that actually worries me, more so than his plan to elope.” Scarlet sighed. “This strange behaviour of his, it all started after the explosion at the Research Centre.”
White nodded slowly. “He’s been acting gradually more and more peculiarly since that time, yes,” he agreed. “But he was mostly unhurt in that accident. He was checked with a Mysteron detector when he got out from under the rubble, and he was examined by both the doctor at the Research Centre and by Doctor Fawn, when he arrived on Cloudbase. Aside from a concussion – not that severe, Doctor Fawn assured me – no-one found anything wrong with him.”
“I’m still not convinced he came out of it unscathed,” Scarlet insisted. “Something happened there, I’m sure.”
“What could have happened?”
“That I don’t know, sir, but…” Scarlet hesitated. He put his hand into his pocket and slowly took out the red stone, still half-wrapped in its handkerchief, to show it to his commander. “…I believe it might have something to do with this,” he added.
“Is that a Mysteron red stone?” White asked with a surprised frown. “Where did you find it?”
“In Captain Blue’s quarters, sir,” Scarlet answered. “And… I’m not sure if it actually is a real Mysteron red stone. I… have no reaction to it. Not that that would be unusual, they don’t usually trigger my sixth sense. We would need to have it checked by experts to make sure.”
“It was in Blue’s quarters?” White repeated, his frown deepening. “But where the devil did he find it in the first place?”
“The only place I can think of is the Research Centre, Colonel. I don’t know how he came into possession of it… if indeed it is a red stone… but with your permission, I’m aiming to find out.”
“You want to return to Valley Forge?”
“And have this rock examined to confirm its origins – and at the same time, check the site of the explosion.”
White nodded, but still appeared unconvinced. “So far, nothing unusual has been found on that site. Everything seemed to point to an accident – which cause has not been explained up until now.”
“And that satisfies you, sir?”
“No. I don’t like when things remain unexplained.”
“Neither do I. And I’m thinking – if Blue really found this stone at the site of the explosion, could it really be an accident?” Scarlet paused briefly, before adding: “Let’s say it’s one of my numerous gut reactions, sir. And we have to start somewhere, if we want to find some answers.”
White grunted. “I’ve learned to trust my officers’ instincts, Captain… and especially your gut reactions.” He turned to look through the porthole again. He kept silent for a moment, his back to Scarlet. “Permission granted,” he finally said. “Go down there right away, Captain, and see if you can find anything.”
“Thank y…” Scarlet stopped himself in the middle of his sentence, and cleared his throat, before giving the formal response: “…S.I.G., Colonel.”
“And do keep me informed,” Colonel White added. “If something happened down there, which might be responsible for Captain Blue’s present behaviour, I want to know right away. So we can take the appropriate steps to deal with the situation.”
Captain Scarlet looked in puzzlement at the surrounding desolation; the lab which had been the centre of the explosion a few days before had been closed down for investigation by the Research Centre security team. Consequently, almost nothing had been disturbed since the accident. A lighting system had been installed, since the one that previously existed wasn’t working anymore, and ceiling and walls had been propped to prevent further collapse; small notes had been stuck on various locations, for the investigators’ needs, and yellow tape cordoned off areas which were deemed dangerous to approach. Aside from that, everything seemed the same.
“Not much to go on, is it?”
Lieutenant Obsidian, chief of security at the Valley Forge Research Centre, was presently standing next to Scarlet, who remembered having seen him days earlier when he had been dug out with Blue from the rubble under which they had been buried. Following protocol, Scarlet had presented himself at Obsidian’s office on arrival, to request permission to visit the site of the accident. Needless to say that, faced with a Cloudbase officer, under orders from the higher command to make his own investigation into the explosion, Obsidian had assured the English captain of his complete co-operation.
“As you can see, Captain, and as I said earlier, we’ve not got very far yet. The investigation is still proceeding, even though it’s already been a few days. It’s a dangerous site to investigate, and we certainly don’t want another accident.”
Scarlet nodded slowly at Obsidian’s explanation. “It seems like a miracle that the ceiling is still holding,” he commented, looking up. “I would almost expect the other levels to come down and crush everything in this room.”
“Well, this building has been built to a similar design as our Security Buildings were… so they’re nearly as indestructible…” Obsidian offered a bashful smile. “No offence intended, Captain.”
“I can’t help thinking than even our Security Buildings can be destroyed,” Scarlet replied.
“True. But whatever exploded in here, it wasn’t powerful enough to bring the house down.”
“You didn’t find any trace of explosives, according to your earlier report.”
“Not a single trace, Captain.”
Scarlet fished out the red stone he had brought from Cloudbase and showed it to Obsidian. “How about this?” he asked. “Did you find anything similar?”
Obsidian frowned in surprise. “Is that a red stone?” he asked. “No… we didn’t find any. Nor a ‘diamond pulsator’, before you ask. Where does this stone come from?”
“That’s what I would like to know. Are there any missing from the Centre?”
“I can definitely tell you that it doesn’t come from the Centre. Ours are locked safely in the vault. They’re all accounted for. I already checked that out .”
“I know. I checked too. I needed to ask the question. However, the explosion I witnessed with Captain Blue could very well have been one involving Mysteron red stones.” He played thoughtfully with the object he was still holding in his hand. “If this is indeed a genuine red stone.”
“You’re not sure?” Obsidian inquired.
“Let’s say I found this in an unexpected place. And it shouldn’t have been there. I will need Doctor Kurnitz to check if this is the genuine article.”
Playing with the heavy little stone as if it was but a small ball, Scarlet moved around the room, looking around thoughtfully. Obsidian didn’t follow him but stayed where he was, watching as his superior officer perused the place, in search of something – anything – that might have escaped the investigative team. Scarlet crossed the security line, and carefully walked towards the hole that the explosion had left in the middle of the room.
“Careful, sir,” Obsidian called. “The floor isn’t very solid in some places. It’s a twenty foot drop if you fall through it.”
As he said these words, Scarlet’s left foot slipped on the debris-covered floor and the floor seemed to shift underneath him, ever so slightly. Pebbles rolled down into the hole. Scarlet grimaced, before giving Obsidian a sheepish smile. “Thanks for the warning, Lieutenant. What’s down there?”
Obsidian shrugged. “One of the many laboratories on the lower level. It’s been completely destroyed, so we closed it for security purposes. We’re checking it out too, of course. In case something from up here had fallen down there. But so far, we haven’t found anything there either.”
Scarlet nodded, and tested the floor, putting some weight on it. “Looks as if it will hold,” he said. “But stay where you are, Lieutenant. Our two combined weights might be too heavy for it.”
“We could both get hurt if we fall through, but we know the end result might not be the same for both of us.” Scarlet smiled.
Scarlet’s good-natured tone and friendly attitude had the desired effect: young Obsidian smiled in turn and seemed to relax completely. Scarlet had had the impression earlier that the junior officer wasn’t completely at ease with him; maybe he felt over-awed in his presence… or something else, he couldn’t say.
Still smirking, Scarlet returned his attention to his searching…
… And at that moment, noticed a buzzing sound in his ears. He raised a hand to one ear, and made a show of trying to unplug it.
“Is something wrong, Captain?” he heard Obsidian ask, behind him.
“Yes… do you hear that? Sounds like a low humming…”
As he said these words, Scarlet suddenly realised that it was exactly like last time – and that he knew what was about to happen. But he didn’t have time to react or warn Obsidian to take cover.
There was a loud booming sound, like a dull explosion that nearly deafened him, and made him cover his ears; then a violent rush of wind, that came from directly in front of him, hit Scarlet right in the face. He was propelled through the air, several feet backwards, and fell roughly on his back. He barely noticed that Obsidian had been swept off his feet as well by the force of the explosion as, surmounting the pain of his brutal landing, he quickly curled into a foetal position and hid his head under his arms to avoid the rain of debris falling all around him.
It was very brief, however, and after a few seconds, he finally lifted his head to look around. There was a cloud of dust rising from the floor, which made him cough and which half-blocked his view, but he was able to clearly distinguish a strange light coming from ahead. He couldn’t see Obsidian.
“Lieutenant…?” he called tentatively.
He received no answer, but noticed that his own voice sounded dampened, as if he was hearing it through a thick wall. He then noticed the humming sound in his ears and again raised his hand to one of them. When he looked at his fingers, he saw them covered with blood, and so imagined that his eardrum had burst. Where’s my cap? he asked himself, checking at his feet. I have to call security and tell them about this new explosion… But the cap had flown off his head when he had been knocked down and he couldn’t find it anywhere near.
Scarlet coughed again, the dust entering his nostrils. He got unsteadily to his feet and, still wondering where Obsidian could be, looked at the light straight ahead; despite the smoke and dust, it was almost blinding.
Scarlet narrowed his eyes; in the middle of the light, he could swear he was seeing a silhouette – the outline of a man who was approaching him. But he could hear very little of his steps, through that damned ringing that was filling his ears.
“Lieutenant Obsidian?” he called again.
The light suddenly gave a violent flash that made him look away, and the humming grew in intensity, and he reached for his ears, doubling over in pain.
And then, it ceased abruptly; light and sound died out and there was nothing but silence.
Gasping with relief, Scarlet straightened up and reopened his eyes, blinking to readjust his vision; it was a blur, but he could still see the silhouette standing in front of him. No, there were two silhouettes, actually, seemingly merging into one, so blurred was his vision. It couldn’t be Obsidian - at least, not Obsidian alone. Instinctively, he got his gun out of its holster.
“Identity yourself!” he called hoarsely.
“You know who I am,” he heard the man tell him in a voice he indeed knew very well, but never thought he would ever hear again. “Do I really have to make the introductions?”
Scarlet’s heart missed a beat; his eyes were clearing and now he could see who was there in front of him, approaching, his footsteps echoing through the half-destroyed room. He took a step back and aimed his gun at him.
“Stay where you are, Captain Black!”
Instantly, Black stopped his approach. He didn’t have time to reply as the second silhouette that Scarlet had seen earlier, seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere to step in front of him, obviously shielding him with his own body.
“Wait, Scarlet, don’t shoot! This is not who you think!” He turned to Black, angrily. “Damn it, Black! I told you to let me cross the portal before you! You should have known how they would react to you here – you could have been killed!”
“Sorry,” Black replied a little sheepishly. “I guess I was over-excited to actually be able to cross to a new world…”
“That’s always been your problem, hasn’t it? Always rushing where angels fear to tread, and acting before thinking…”
Scarlet blinked, his surprise at this newcomer’s presence even more acute than when he had seen Black a second ago – and rather perplexed at hearing their exchange. His first reaction was to lower his gun, but he didn’t, caution ordering him not to believe whatever his eyes were telling him.
“Adam?” he murmured as he looked straight into the concerned but determined face of his friend. He steadied his hold on his gun. “You’d better explain to me what’s going on, Captain Blue!” he called angrily. “And what you are doing with him!”
“It’s me, Scarlet, I’m back,” Blue told him urgently.
“Back? Back from where?” Scarlet was still on the defensive, unsure. Was this yet again a Mysteron trick or…
“Can’t you tell? Scarlet –” Blue turned slightly around to reveal Black again and waved to him. “This man, don’t you recognise him? This is Captain Black, all right… but the Captain Black from that other world…”
“Other world?” Scarlet repeated with a doubting frown.
“Yes, you know? The parallel world you visited last year.”
“You helped capture me,” Black added in explanation. “I got caught in an explosion and half a cabin fell on me. I was freed from the Mysterons’ influence…”
“Were you?” Scarlet asked sternly, not lowering his guard.
“Yes, you’d gone back to your own world before that was confirmed. But I assure you, Scarlet –”
Black was interrupted by a groan coming from Scarlet’s right; when the latter glanced in that direction, he caught sight of Lieutenant Obsidian, lying on the floor in the middle of a pile of rubble, and slowly coming to his senses. He was about to take a step in his direction, when he noticed a similar movement from both Blue and Black. Instinctively, he tensed, and cocked the hammer of his gun, which was still trained on Black, and the latter stopped. Blue froze too.
“You stay where you are, until I decide if you’re telling me the truth, mister!”
“Of course… but don’t you think we ought to help your downed man in the meantime?” Black suggested matter-of-factly.
Scarlet didn’t need his suggestion. His eyes carefully fixed on the pair, he slowly moved to kneel down by Obsidian’s side; the latter was struggling to sit up, while rubbing the back of his head. Scarlet noticed his own red cap lying in the dust, not that far from the young man, and he reached for it, while attending to him. “Are you okay, Lieutenant?”
“Yeah, sure…” Obsidian grimaced with pain; his voice was slurred and hesitant. To Scarlet, it was obvious he had been very roughly hit over the head. Either when he had landed on the floor or from flying debris. He could very well be concussed.
“Lie still,” he advised. “We’ll wait for help.”
Obsidian nodded his head in acknowledgement and closed his eyes, but Scarlet barely noticed, as his eyes were still set on both Black and Blue. He put his cap on, slowly standing up, and lowered his microphone. “Captain Scarlet to security.”
“Security here…” a female voice answered. “We felt tremors coming from downstairs, Captain. We’re on our way. What’s going on?”
“There was a new explosion on Level five. Not as violent as a few days ago, but it managed to knock Lieutenant Obsidian out.” Scarlet looked intently at the two men on which he still had his gun trained. “Bring a medic along, armed guards and a Mysteron detector.”
“Mysteron detector, sir?”
“I’ve apprehended intruders that I want checked,” Scarlet explained. “Scarlet out.” The mic returned to the visor. He stared suspiciously at Captain Blue.
“You’re Adam?” he asked with a frown.
Blue nodded in silence.
“The real Adam?” Scarlet insisted. “The one from this world?”
“Yes, I am,” Captain Blue answered. “I’m the Adam you know, your friend and your partner. The other Adam trapped me in his world. He took my place, he –”
“If you’re Adam, prove it.”
“Come on, Paul. If you are here, it’s probably because you have realised that there was something fishy with the other Adam. He was acting out of character, and you couldn’t figure out why. So maybe you imagine he wasn’t exactly who he claimed to be? Am I right?”
Scarlet barely hesitated. “Yes, you’re right.” He slowly lowered his gun. “Damn it. I knew there was something wrong with him.”
“There definitely is something wrong with him,” Black then replied. “Even considering his usual… well… temperamental behaviour.”
Scarlet raised a brow, staring at him suspiciously. How strange it was to see him standing there, in a Spectrum uniform, human in all aspects of his appearance – with no abnormally pale complexion, no five o’clock shadow, and his voice having none of the deep, sepulchral tone of the Mysterons.
“And where do you figure in all this – Captain Black?” he asked roughly. He couldn’t help keeping himself on his guard, just in case this was an elaborate trap by Humankind’s alien enemies.
Black tilted his head to one side, staring back at him.
“Isn’t that obvious? I have come to take my partner back to our world.”
“Surprising, isn’t it?” Blue said with a faint smile.
“At the very least,” Scarlet replied.
“Paul, you have to believe us,” Blue said in turn. “This other Captain Blue… He’s not all that well. He’s completely obsessed…”
“Hold your horses. I’m not entirely convinced – so you’d both better keep your distance, until the security team arrives… with a Mysteron detector. I don’t suppose either of you would mind if we make sure you’re on the level?”
Black shrugged dismissively, and Blue shook his head. “Whatever you want, Scarlet, but please, do it quickly. I’m very concerned about what that doppelganger of mine is up to in this world, and I would very much like to put an end to his presence here. I’m especially worried for Symphony.”
Scarlet’s eyes narrowed. Indeed, he could hear the apprehension in his friend’s voice – that is, if he really was his friend. And if he really was the Captain Blue he knew, then that concern was well founded. He too was worried now, but he was doing his very best not to show it. If this Blue was his Blue, learning that his double had eloped with the woman he loved would only serve to aggravate the situation.
He heard hurried footsteps coming from the nearby corridor. “We’ll go through the procedures as quickly as we can,” he said. “Then we’ll see what we have to do.” He lowered his cap mic again. “In the meantime, I have to inform Cloudbase of this new development…”
Symphony was suitably impressed when Captain Blue showed her the cabin owned by the Svenson family in the mountains of Aspen. It was a relatively small, two-storey log cabin – still big enough from her point of view, but obviously not by the Svensons’ usual standards – with a nice covered front porch, a spacious open-space living area on the first floor with a high ceiling and a carpeted wooden staircase leading to a mezzanine where two bedrooms, and a nice bathroom were located. All the walls were made of wood, and decorated in a rustic style. There was a round fireplace in the middle of the living room. The furniture and the kitchen appliances were not too fancy, but still, were enough to demonstrate the wealth the owners of the place were used to.
They appropriated the master bedroom for themselves, and quickly got their stuff into place. Blue puffed and gasped – playfully, Symphony was sure – to get Symphony’s luggage upstairs. He joked about how women were unable to pack sensibly when planning to go on a trip; which, in her case, was usually true, but not so much this time around. She thought that Blue was actually lucky it wasn’t Rhapsody’s luggage he was carrying around; he would have died of exhaustion…
Symphony absolutely loved the place; the view of the mountains from the second floor was breathtaking.
As he exited the large walk-in in which he had put their luggage, Blue found her standing in front of the window, looking outside, daydreaming. He smiled as he approached her from behind; he put his arms around her in a hugging embrace, and kissed the nape of her neck. She sighed contentedly and leaned against him.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he asked in a whisper.
“I was just thinking… What a wonderful place this is. I can’t believe you’ve never brought me here before!”
“The occasion never presented itself,” he answered with a smirk. He could kick his counterpart from this world. How on Earth could he never have thought of bringing Karen to Aspen was beyond him. The man was an idiot – and truly didn’t deserve to be with such a wonderful woman.
He held her closer, kissing the top of her head
“Do you ski, Adam?” she asked him thoughtfully. It seems she never even asked him the question before.
“Whenever the occasion arises, yes… Why? You would like to do some skiing during our stay here?”
“The thought crossed my mind. It was hard not to notice the vast collection of skis and snowboards in that large closet under the stairs… And all that fresh snow… that’s rather inviting. I can imagine myself rushing down those hills…”
“Snow is early this year,” Blue commented. “I don’t seem to come as often as I should. Quite a few years ago, when I was still a child, my grandfather bought one of the ski resorts in the area.”
“Is that so?” Symphony asked with a raised brow.
Blue indicated a particular point, to their right, down the private road that they had taken to access the cabin. “Snow Capped Summits is right the other side of the mountain,” he explained. “We used to come very often, my family and I, when I was much younger, and we’d stay here, in this cabin and use the resort’s facilities.”
“Interesting. Maybe we can do that, then?” she suggested with a smile. “I’d like to visit the resort…”
“Ah, there might be a little problem… it’s not open right now. It’s still only late October, and even if it has snowed a lot lately, officially, it’s off-season, and the station needed some renovations before the official re-opening – in a few weeks I believe. We might not be able to go there. ” Almost as soon as he mentioned this, Blue wondered if it was also true in this world. He shrugged inwardly; he doubted very much that they would have the time to go to the station, anyway. He had other, more specific plans in mind. “But we can still do some skiing, if you want. The good thing is – since the cabin is in a very remote spot, I suspect we might be the only skiers around to enjoy the snow.”
“Well, that’s not too bad,” a smiling Symphony commented. “Kind of appealing, in fact.” She turned around in his arms. “Your family sure knows how to use its money,” she told him. “Buying a ski resort – now that’s thinking…”
He tutted at her comment. “You’ll have to change the way you say these things, honey. It’s your family too, now.” His smile broadened, as he presented his left hand, where a golden ring was now adorning the third finger. “Or have you forgotten?”
“Oh, look at that!” Playfully, Symphony took hold of his hand, and examined his ring in fake surprise, as if it was the very first time she had seen it. “Isn’t that a coincidence? I’ve got the same! Look!” She showed her own hand and put it next to Blue’s, as if comparing her own ring to his.
He chuckled. “Yeah, quite a coincidence,” he agreed. He drew her closer to him, and hugged her tight.
“I can’t believe we are married!” Symphony said joyfully, holding him. “We were so lucky, Big Blue, that you found your friend so quickly, and that he agreed so readily to marry us!”
Thoughtfully, Blue nodded over her blonde head. Luck had not much to do with it, he reflected inwardly. He had contacted Ben Cunnings from Cloudbase, just before they left. He had made special arrangements, to make sure his old Harvard friend would be at hand, when he and Symphony arrived in Aspen. Fortunately, this world’s version of Ben Cunnings was as greedy as the one he knew from his own world; Blue made him an offer he couldn’t resist – and he was, presently, significantly richer than he had been when he had woken up this very morning.
“Yeah, I’m quite sure he was very happy to help out a friend in need,” Blue said thoughtfully. “Probably was waiting a long time for an occasion like this to happen…”
“He was so kind,” Symphony commented, looking up at him with bright eyes. “And so eager to marry us! Looks like everyone were waiting for us to tie the knot… And that guy only met me today!”
Blue chuckled again. “It’s like I always tell you, Karen… Nobody can resist your charms.” He looked closely at her, when he noticed she was suddenly lost in her thoughts again, and appeared somewhat concerned. He raised her chin to look her in the eyes. “Hey, what’s the matter? Aren’t you happy?”
“Oh, I certainly am,” she said with a sigh. “We’re married, finally… That was so quick, I can scarcely believe it. But… somehow, I’m still thinking… weren’t we a bit mean to all our relatives and friends? They should have been with us. Those close to us, at least. Our friends on Cloudbase, the colonel… I kind of missed him, today. He was supposed to give me away.”
“I know, honey,” Blue answered, kissing her forehead. “But I’m sure he will understand. They will all understand.”
“Last time I saw him, Paul didn’t seem too happy about it.”
He smiled lightly. “Paul is just kind of jealous. He still has to work up the courage to tell the old man about his relationship with Dianne…”
“I don’t think it’s that… How about my Ma… and your family?”
Blue shook his head, a little sombrely. “I’m certainly sorry about your mother… but that couldn’t be helped, could it? This was an occasion that we couldn’t pass on. And as far as my family is concerned… Well, considering the bad blood there is between them and me, it’s probably much better that they weren’t there.”
Symphony frowned, puzzled by his words, and looked up at him. “Bad blood? I thought the problems were only with your father and brother Peter. And hasn’t that been settled for the most part? I mean, since last Christmas, it looked like you and your father were getting along fine, as far as I could see…”
Blue hesitated. Now this was something he had overlooked; in his own world, he didn’t get along with any member of his family, and it had gotten worse since he had set up his own personal war with the Mysterons. At this point, he had broken every link with all his relatives. But apparently, on this world, things were a little different.
“You know, in public, my father is an expert when it comes to presenting a façade that will hide his true feelings,” Blue finally answered. “But behind closed doors…” he shook his head in a sad way. “That’s when he shows his true colours.”
Symphony looked stunned – and somewhat hurt. “I thought he approved of me,” she said. “Especially considering that he was helping Ma with the ranch, money-wise… I didn’t realise he didn’t like me.”
I might have gone too far, Blue realised instantly. I’d better change strategy. He didn’t want to raise Symphony’s suspicions – any more than he wanted to upset her.
“Oh, he does like you, honey,” he protested, holding her tighter. “He just… well, he needs some time to get accustomed to us being married. When we tell him the good news…”
“… It might get worst between the two of you,” Symphony finished.
“Maybe for a short while, but he’ll get over it quickly.” Blue looked at her sheepishly. “Now, what do you say we get a little shower? And then something to eat? I’m famished...” He leaned forward to steal a kiss. “… And not only for food…”
“That is a good idea,” she agreed. She teasingly avoided the kiss and pushed him back a little, to extricate herself from his arms. “I claim first dibs on the bathroom.” With that, she escaped him and brushed past to walk towards the bathroom.
He watched her go, with a crestfallen expression upon his face; then smiled faintly. “Well, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” he said before the door closed on his brand new wife.
The answer came to him, muffled by the thickness of the door. “Just wait, Big Blue… I’ll be worth it, I can assure you.”
His smile broadened wickedly. “Oh, I don’t have a single doubt about it,” he muttered to himself.
“This is incredible,” Colonel White commented thoughtfully, as, on the large video screen on Cloudbase, he was watching the small group of officers and scientists presently reunited in the conference room at the Valley Forge Research Centre.
He couldn’t quite believe his ears, when Captain Scarlet had first called with the news, and now, it was as if his eyes were betraying him. Standing there right next to Doctors Giadello and Kurnitz was Captain Blue – the one true Captain Blue, according to him – and an out-of-worldly version of Captain Black, wearing a Spectrum uniform, and looking perfectly human and quite normal. Both men had been checked with the Mysteron detector by Lieutenant Obsidian’s team and they had tested negative; so they were not duplicates – not Mysteron duplicates, anyway. Which made this Captain Black’s presence even more curious.
“You don’t show positive on the Mysteron detector,” White commented, addressing Black.
“And you are not retrometabolic either – like Captain Scarlet?”
Black smiled sadly at the man he could see on the large screen. Captain Ochre, standing by the colonel’s side beside the control desk, obviously shared the same perplexity, as he stared silently at both visitors with disbelieving eyes. “No, sir. Much to my own commander’s disappointment. As far as our Doctor Fawn has been able to assess, I am still a perfectly normal human being, despite the fact that I was taken over by the Mysterons for two years. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know the reason.”
“Fair enough, then,” White answered. “Now that we’ve been able to establish your identity – as far as we can – maybe we can discuss the reason for your presence here?”
“I think that would be obvious, Colonel,” Black replied. “I came to escort Captain Blue back to his world – and to take my partner back with me.” He sighed. “We were starting to get desperate to find a way through,” he admitted. “Our scientists had been looking at every possibility, but seemed to be lacking the proper energy to open the portal. We had the coordinates…”
“With this device?” Doctor Kurnitz commented. He was examining, with quite curious interest, the hand-held receiver that Black had handed to him earlier on. He shook his head with perplexity. “This looks quite like something I worked on myself,” he commented. “Except mine never truly worked.”
“And there was a reason for yours not to work,” Blue commented quietly. “You just needed a ‘signature’ to properly open the inter-dimensional portal to a specific parallel world. Something you didn’t have in this world. In Captain Black’s world, however, such a signature was available – the one that Captain Scarlet and Captain Ochre left when they… accidentally visited last year.”
“Captain Blue used this device to home on that signature,” Black concurred. “And he was able to open the portal to this world.” He took the receiver from Kurnitz’s hand. “Apparently, this device stayed in our world, while Blue came here,” he continued. “We used the device as well to find the portal. And – we were hoping, as a key to open the portal. As you know, you need three red stones for that, and we were missing one. We were hoping that this device –”
“– Which uses fragments of red stones, right?” Kurnitz inquired quickly.
Black confirmed that with a nod. “We were hoping that it would replace the missing stone, once fully charged,” he explained. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. But while we were in the lab, trying to figure out what to do, with our two stones plugged into the Kurnitz console and the receiver showing us the way, the console suddenly came to life with energy… and the portal opened in front of us?”
“How?” Giadello asked with a frown.
“Well, from what our Doctor Giadello was able to gather, it seemed that the receiver actually detected a red stone at the destination point – and that it successfully linked it with ours to provide the necessary power to open the inter-dimensional portal. We didn’t wait too long for further explanation, though. The portal was open and we weren’t about to stand there, waiting for it to close again. We jumped in, without hesitation.”
“All our stones are stored in the vault,” Giadello commented. “I don’t see how this device of yours could have been able to detect them…”
“Wait a minute, Doctor,” Scarlet interrupted. He plunged his hand into his pocket and presented the red stone he had been carrying around since he had left Cloudbase. He had retrieved it earlier in the destroyed lab, just before leaving for the conference room. “Maybe this is the stone that your device detected, Captain Black?”
“Where did you find this?” Giadello exclaimed.
“In Captain Blue’s quarters,” Scarlet explained. He caught sight of the way Blue’s eyes glared dangerously at the rock he was holding in his hand. “I suspect it belonged to your partner, Captain Black.”
The latter nodded quietly. “We suspected all along that he had the third stone with him,” he said. “It seemed we were right, after all. That’s quite a piece of luck you had it with you when we attempted to open the vortex, Captain Scarlet.”
“Quite lucky, yes,” Scarlet muttered. He handed the rock to Kurnitz. “I wanted you to see if this really is a Mysteron red stone, Doctor. Guess we already have the answer to that question now.”
“Captain Scarlet, did you have any suspicion that that man wasn’t really Captain Blue?” Colonel White asked from the screen.
“I probably should have realised it,” Scarlet admitted. “Especially after finding this stone. But I didn’t really work out that that man was a different Captain Blue. I even less imagined he could be that Captain Blue I met last year – when we departed, we’d become friends…”
“I should also have realised who he was,” Captain Ochre then added quickly. “He called me a crook when we… had that altercation in the Amber Room. I thought I imagined it – but apparently, I didn’t. And I didn’t put two and two together… but the Captain Ochre from his world is a reformed criminal, if I remember correctly.”
“What kind of ‘altercation’ did you have with him?” Black asked with a curious frown.
“That is not really important right now,” Ochre answered, and both Black and Blue could see he was rather reluctant to answer the question.
“I knew that his strange behaviour had something to do with that… ‘accident’ that happened here a few days ago,” Scarlet continued. “That’s why I came back to investigate what could possibly be responsible for him to act the way he did.”
“He caused that accident,” Black explained. “At just the right time, so he could take your Captain Blue’s place.”
“And why would he have done that?” Scarlet asked. “I still fail to see his motives.”
“He’s insane,” Captain Blue answered dully. Up until now, he had kept very quiet, while the others had been talking. But now, he felt it was time for him to add his own voice to the discussion. “He’s completely obsessed by one thing, and one thing only.”
“And that thing would be…?” White asked with a raised brow.
“Symphony.” Blue’s features became hard. “He did all this to be with her.”
Scarlet twitched. “Are you serious?”
Black sighed, lowering his eyes to the ground. “I’m afraid Captain Blue is right,” he answered in a low tone. “Our Captain Blue is a very sick man. You do remember how bitter he was over his Symphony’s death in our world, Captain Scarlet. Well, that… condition of his only worsened with time, especially following certain events, that’ll take too much time to explain at the moment. Suffice to say that he became infatuated with the Symphony Angel of this world. He fell so obsessively in love with her that he devised this whole crazy scheme for the sole purpose of being with her.”
“Good Lord,” White murmured in a low voice.
“His condition is that serious?” Ochre asked with a frown.
“Unfortunately. He needs to be taken back to our world – as soon as it’s possible to re-open the inter-dimensional portal again,” Black continued, “so we can take care of him properly.”
“You have mentioned his strange behaviour,” Blue said, looking at Scarlet, “If you are here to investigate, I suspect that my doppelganger has caused a certain amount of problems while passing himself off as me…”
“Indeed,” White concurred as he and Scarlet exchanged uncomfortable glances, and Ochre lowered his gaze. “He did cause – a certain amount of trouble.”
“Well, make sure he doesn’t know we’re here, sir,” Blue advised. “Not until you apprehend him and lock him up, that is, until Captain Black can safely take him back to his home world.”
“I’m afraid that will be a little difficult, Captain,” White commented, a little hesitantly. “Your double isn’t on Cloudbase.”
He had revealed that information with some reluctance, and Captain Blue noticed that instantly. “Where is he, then?” he asked, tensing.
“I’ll get after him right away, sir,” Scarlet said, addressing their commander. “I know where they went.”
“They?” Blue repeated, turning to Scarlet. His friend’s gloomy expression and hesitancy to answer was enough of an answer. Suddenly realising, he blanched. “Oh no… he’s not gone with…”
“I’m afraid so,” Colonel White confirmed from the screen. “And they’re supposed to… get married.”
“What?!” Blue roared. “And you knew about this project, and we stayed here, doing nothing but talk, while this no-good –”
“We had to make sure of your identity and your explanation before doing anything,” White said with a frown. “Now that we know –”
“It’s time we got moving,” Blue snapped. “Before this madman hurts her!”
“Take it easy, Blue,” Scarlet told him swiftly, as he could feel the trepidation suddenly and almost tangibly rising within his friend. “Your double is not out to hurt Symphony in any way.”
“Certainly not,” Black agreed. “He would never do her any harm.”
“Can you give me any guarantee of that?” Blue asked tersely.
“I know where they are,” Scarlet repeated. “He has taken her to your family’s cabin in Aspen. I’ll go there, and take them back to Cloudbase.”
“I’m coming with you,” Blue said with determination.
“Out of the question.” White’s objection rang clear and loud on the video-screen speakers, and Blue turned to him, dismay obvious on his face.
“But, sir –”
“Captain Blue, if only to avoid confusion, you will not accompany Captain Scarlet, in search of your double,” White interrupted categorically, with a voice that would not suffer any protest. “And the same goes for you, Captain Black. I don’t have to remind you that in this world, the version of yourself is a hunted man, wanted by the world’s authorities. We wouldn’t want you to be mistaken for him, if you were to move around freely. You’ll be escorted back here to Cloudbase, by the Research Centre security team. And you will remain here safely and wait for the end of all this.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Black answered dutifully. “You are absolutely right, of course.”
As for Captain Blue, he didn’t deign to acknowledge the order; brooding, he had lowered his gaze, not willing to look in the direction of the video-screen, where White’s image was staring sternly at him.
“Will you be needing back up, Captain Scarlet?” White continued, addressing his number one agent.
“I will need people in the area, sir,” Scarlet confirmed with a nod. “But, I think it would be safer if I approach the other Captain Blue by myself. He’ll be less suspicious of me if I am alone.”
“Agreed. I’ll have a team of ground agents nearby in attendance. Doctor Giadello, while we conduct this operation to get the other Captain Blue back, I want you and Doctor Kurnitz to use this new information provided by Captain Black to work on a proper and safe way to send our visitors back to where they belong when the time comes. I’ll call Doctor Lavender and ask him to cancel his furlough, and to return at once to Valley Forge.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Giadello acknowledged. He showed both the red stone and the hand-held device that Black had given back to him. “With those, and with the signature provided by Captain Black to find the way to his world, our work should prove successful.”
“I’m counting on you all, Doctors.”
“Don’t worry, Adam.” Captain Scarlet put a reassuring hand onto his friend’s shoulder, and the latter finally raised his eyes to look him in the eyes. The English captain smiled encouragingly. “I’ll make sure that Symphony is okay – and I’ll take her back to Cloudbase, safe and sound.”
Slowly, Blue nodded at his friend’s promise, and offered him a smile of gratitude. But it was a sad smile and he kept silent, as he didn’t want to voice the concerned thoughts that were brewing deep inside his mind.
The same concerns were present in Scarlet, as he walked out of the room and hurried towards the nearest lift which would take him up to ground level.
Seated in front of the small mirror, wearing a lovely nightgown she had bought not that long ago and that she was wearing under a fluffy, impeccably white night-robe, Symphony was brushing her hair very conscientiously, while waiting for Blue to finally get out of the bathroom where he had succeeded her for his own shower. She still didn’t know how she had found the strength to refuse his invitation to join him; with an amused smile, she recalled that her excuse that her skin might winkle after two showers in a row was rather a lame one, especially considering that her brand-new husband had told her he didn’t care about that and would love her however she looked.
She was planning for this honeymoon to be absolutely perfect, and somehow, a love-making session under hot rushing water wasn’t exactly her idea of how the first night of a married couple should start. Smiling, she looked at the carefully prepared bed behind her, draped with still untouched white sheets and pillows, all surrounded by fragrant white, pink – and blue, of course – candles. It seemed to her that it would be a shame not to make proper use of the bed for their first night as husband and wife. As for the shared shower… well, later perhaps. Maybe then she would let herself be tempted.
Through the closed door, she could hear Blue’s singing, and that made her smile broaden, even if she wondered – with some perplexity – why his voice sounded so good, all of a sudden. Blue wasn’t a good singer – he wasn’t such a bad one either, but he had a tendency to sing off-key when reaching some specific notes. But tonight, strangely enough, he didn’t sound bad at all. In fact, his singing was nearly perfect. Was it, perhaps, the prospect of marital bliss to come that had transformed him that way?
She put the brush down, pensively. How different he is right now, from what he was lately… Admittedly, these last few days, his behaviour had been odd, to say the least, and until he had told her that it was all following some kind of epiphany he had, surviving that explosion at the Research Centre… it had not occurred to her. He was more like his old self now, but still, there were some differences that she couldn’t help but notice.
And that was still worrying her.
Her purse was lying on the table, and as she looked down, she noticed a blinking red light through the gap of the open zip. Pricking up her ears, she could distinct a faint buzzing sound; that fully attracted her attention and she frowned. That sounded a lot like her Spectrum Personal communicator; she remembered having set the buzzer to the lowest level possible; she wondered how long it had been going on like this. She reached for the pen-like device and got it out of her purse; the red LED blinking steadily on top of it told her beyond a doubt who was trying to reach her.
Scarlet. She frowned in perplexity.
What could Paul want from me? He knows we’re on honeymoon!
And the pulse with which the LED was blinking… It was the emergency signal.
Sighing, trying to imagine what could be so damned important at the moment, she took the communication. “Symphony Angel to Captain Scarlet…”
“Thank God you answered, Karen!!” She heard the voice of Scarlet through the tiny speaker. “I was afraid that you had turned your communicator off!”
Symphony’s frown deepened. Scarlet’s use of her first name was to her an indication that this call might very well be nothing like an official one. She felt her anger and annoyance slowly rising.
“What seems to be the emergency, Captain?” she asked crisply into the communicator. “You should know better than to use this signal without good reasons! You know Adam and I are on honeymoon and –”
“Honeymoon? You’re married already?”
“Of course! You know we came here for that. Now will you tell me why you –”
“Symphony, shut up and listen to me!” Scarlet abruptly interrupted her. “This IS an emergency! That guy with you ISN’T Adam!”
Symphony’s jaw dropped. “What?” she demanded. Her anger rose one more degree. “This isn’t funny! If this is your idea of a joke…”
“It’s not a joke! Please, Karen, believe me!”
“How can I believe you?”
“You have to believe me. You know I’m right! THINK of his recent behaviour! You know that’s not the way the Adam we know would act!”
She paled. “Oh my God… A Mysteron?” she stammered. She felt as if her heart stopped beating. If that was the case, then it would mean that Adam was…
Scarlet’s next words restored her hopes. “No, no! He’s not a Mysteron! Adam is quite alive! But you have to get away from him! I know him! He might be dangerous and…”
“Paul, that doesn’t make any sense,” she interrupted him again. “He’s not a Mysteron agent and you know him? How…”
“Please, stop asking questions! Are you at the Svensons’ cabin, right now?”
“ I’m on my way there… You have to get away from him, Karen!”
Symphony’s jumped out of surprise, her heart hammering wildly. She had not noticed, in the last few seconds, that the shower had stopped running in the nearby bathroom; Blue had opened the door and was presently stepping out, a large towel around his hips. She closed the communicator and swiftly put it back into her purse. He didn’t seem to notice a thing, as he was rubbing his head vigorously with another, smaller towel. His face appeared, under his dishevelled hair, and he beamed at her. “You were saying something?”
“Me?” Symphony hesitated. She smiled uncomfortably. “I was just… humming to myself. That singing of yours under the shower was… inspiring.”
“Right…” He threw the small towel onto the bed and came to her; gently, he took her hand and gently, coaxed her to stand up; she found herself responding to the invitation, and as soon as she was on her feet, in front of him, he put his arms around her hips, and drew her close to him; she shivered, almost despite herself and grew tense. He noticed her reaction, and chuckled with barely concealed amusement. “Hey, don’t tell me you’re nervous or something?” he asked, leaning to kiss her neck.
“No,” she answered, escaping his lips. “It’s not like we’re doing this for the first time…” She looked into his eyes, searching for an indication that Scarlet had told her the truth – that he was playing with her. Although it wouldn’t be like Scarlet to do a thing like that. Even Ochre would not go that far with a joke.
She could see nothing peculiar; except a slightly perplexed expression, as he wondered why she was playing a little hard to get.
“Isn’t it?” she added insistently, as if waiting for a straight answer to her last question.
He frowned, still smiling and shook his head. “No, of course,” he answered. “But for me… it seems like a long time…” He pulled her closer to him, holding her tight, and this time kissed her neck. She made a supreme effort not to shudder again. “A very long time, indeed…” he murmured into her ear. “I’ve waited so long for this… To finally be all alone with you… Finally hold you… as my wife…” His lips followed the curve of her jaw, and reached her cheek, that he kissed tenderly. “I love you so much it hurts me…”
Almost in spite of her own doubts, Symphony found herself mellowing to his advances. This cannot be possible, she told herself, more and more ill-at-ease with the situation. Paul’s got to be wrong… This cannot NOT be Adam… As if her body had a mind of its own, she abandoned herself to him. The bed was just beside them, and he gently brought her down onto it; it was only when she heard the springs complain under their combined weight that she realised in what a position she was putting herself. He was leaning over her, mindful not to crush her under his own body, his hands untying her belt and opening her robe to caress her, crumpling the delicate fabric of her night gown, his lips covering her with kisses, all over any surface of bare skin they could find. She tried to push him off, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“Adam,” she called to him. “Wait…”
“I’m through waiting, honey…” he whispered to her. “Tonight we’ll be together… Like we never were before… as husband and wife…” His kisses became more intense and his lips covered hers hungrily. For Symphony, this was too overwhelming; her mind categorically refusing Scarlet’s recent allegations, she found herself responding to his kisses and his caresses. Her hands started stroking his belly, and it was his turn to shiver under her touch – but in his case, it was for a reason far different from hers.
Her hands ran along his muscular body, tenderly, and reached his hips, and he moved closer against her, shifting his weight, and covering her body; she heard the bed springs protest again, but she took little notice. Her fingers were too busy pursuing their sensual exploration of this body they knew so well; they suddenly encountered a scar, that they absently started to follow.
That was when she realised the truth; and suddenly, she became totally aware that something was indeed very wrong. Her eyes flew wide open with surprise.
“Adam?” she called again.
He was nuzzling against her neck, covering it with kisses; he didn’t seem to hear her and his body was starting to move against hers. She brought her left hand against his chest and made an effort to forcibly push him off her. “Adam, please, stop.”
He did, obviously reluctantly, and rose onto his forearms to look down in puzzlement into her face. She looked deep into his eyes again, as her right hand rested against his hip – against this scar that she knew shouldn’t be there. For a moment, forcing herself to stay calm, she studied his face, wondering, her mind still refusing the fact of what she knew was the truth.
He was intrigued by the attentive way she was staring at him. “What is it?” he asked in a murmur.
That brought Symphony back to the present moment. And with it, came a complete understanding of her situation, and exactly what she had to do. She was still a professional, and she knew exactly how to play the game to survive – and prevail.
She kept her face neutral when she nodded in the direction of the bathroom door.
“I heard the water running. Looks like you left the tap on.”
He raised a brow in perplexity, and pricked up his ears, listening. “Did I? I don’t hear anything…” He made another attempt to lean against her, but she resisted and escaped the kiss he was about to plant on her lips.
“I mean it,” she said firmly, pushing herself onto a sitting position, which caused him to partially let go of her. He looked at her with an expression of annoyance – and frustration. “I do hear water running,” she insisted, “and you’d better go check it out before it goes over the top and spills all over the place…”
“I don’t remember putting the plug in,” he said with a shake of his blond hair.
“I would like for you to make sure. I’m not looking forward to mopping the floor, really…” She smiled and stroked his cheek, gently.
Blue hesitated, torn between obeying her request and not leaving the bed; but when she looked at him that way, with eyes full of promises, he couldn’t refuse her anything. He sighed.
“You owe me one,” he told her. “Wait for me. And be ready when I come back.”
“Oh, I’ll be ready,” she answered. She watched as he quickly scrambled to his feet, readjusting the towel around his hips, and strolled into the bathroom, where he disappeared from her view.
Swiftly, Symphony jumped off the bed, and hurried to take her purse from the table. She was searching through it, when she heard Blue’s voice coming from the bathroom.
“Honey, I think you should have your ears checked, when we’re back on Cloudbase…” Blue emerged from the bathroom, an amused smile on his lips. “The taps weren’t running at all in there…” He stopped in his tracks, upon discovering that his blushing bride had left the bed, and was now standing next to it…
… Holding a small gun that she was pointing in his direction.
He smiled a little awkwardly; he didn’t seem to notice the stern expression on her face. “Now what is it? Don’t tell me you’re getting cold feet, or something like that? Your reaction seems a little extreme…”
“Stop that,” she commanded, harshly. “What have you done with Adam?”
If he was taken aback by her question, he didn’t show it, not even by a blink. He frowned, however and, and feigned perplexity, as if he didn’t understand what she meant. “What are you talking about? I’m Adam…”
“You are not and you know it!” she snapped angrily. “You were trying to manipulate me, you dirty –”
“Watch the words, hon,” he interrupted her, chuckling. “Are you accusing me of being a Mysteron?” He took a step forward in her direction.
“Stay where you are!” she ordered, raising the gun higher. He stopped his advance. “You are not a Mysteron,” she continued angrily, “but you are not Adam either…”
“You are talking nonsense, love,” he insisted, his voice surprisingly calm compared to hers. “You know who I am, I’m your husband and –”
“Stop with that, you are not my husband!” She pointed the gun in the direction of his hips. “That gave you away… That scar you have there!” He looked down at the wound, but his face didn’t display any expression at all when he returned his attention to her. “Adam doesn’t have a scar like that,” she continued. “It looks like it is recent. I bet you forgot about that when you took his place, didn’t you?!”
“I didn’t take anybody’s place,” he defended himself. “Honey, you are mistaken. I am Adam…”
“I told you to stop it!” Symphony snapped again. “Did you think I would not notice the scar? I should have realised… This explains everything. Your strange behaviour of late… your attitude towards me… What do you want from me?!”
“What I always wanted, Karen.” Blue took another step forward. “I love you. I’ve always loved you, you should know that…”
“Don’t move!” He stopped again, but he had gotten a little closer to Symphony. “Paul was right,” she murmured. “You are not Adam…”
“What do you mean, ‘Paul was right’?” Blue asked with a renewed frown.
“What have you done with Adam?” Symphony asked, not answering. “Tell me!”
“Karen… My love, you’re obviously confused…”
“I am not!” she shouted. “I don’t know who you are, but –”
“I am your husband, Karen…”
“You are not!”
“Of course I am.” Blue smiled in a reassuring way, and took another, careful step in her direction. “Don’t you remember? We got married today… My friend Ben Cunnings joined us in holy matrimony, only a few hours ago.” He saw the hand holding the gun quiver. He narrowed his eyes, looking straight at her face. “Now, Karen… you wouldn’t shoot your own husband, would you?”
This last sentence upset her further and made her react carelessly; she stepped forward, furiously, waving the gun. “You are not –”
Swiftly, in one long stride, Blue crossed the short distance left between them and grabbed her wrist, pushing the barrel away from him. Instinctively, her finger squeezed the trigger and a shot rang out; the bullet lost itself into the floor.
“Gotcha!” he said triumphantly. He squeezed her wrist and, under the painful pressure, she let go of her weapon, which clattered onto the wooden floor.
Symphony retaliated with an elbow strike directed at her opponent’s face; he received the blow on the cheekbone. He felt for sure that if he had been a second too slow in trying to avoid it, his nose would have been broken; slightly stunned, he nearly let her go, and she tried to slip away from him, but he managed somehow to keep his hold on her.
“Oh no, you don’t…” He tripped her, and she lost her footing. They both fell onto the bed, Symphony face first onto it, and Blue on top of her; his weight was pinning her down, and he pulled her arms behind her back, trying to control her as she struggled to escape him. He had his knee against her lower back and it was hurting her.
“Let go of me, you creep!” she yelled furiously.
“I’m just trying to stop you from hurting yourself,” he answered.
“You are hurting me, you bastard! Let me go!”
“Not until you calm down and you hear me out! I can’t believe you actually tried to shoot at me!”
“If I get hold of that gun, I will try again!” she promised menacingly.
“You’re not leaving me any choice, are you?” Blue muttered under his breath. Keeping hold of her delicate wrists with one of his strong hands, he swiftly removed the belt from her robe, and started roping her right wrist with it; when she felt the burning bite of the improvised rope, she renewed her efforts to resist, squirming under his weight. “What do you think you’re doing?!” she shouted in protest.
“I told you…” Without too much effort, he turned her onto her back, somehow managing to keep hold of her wrists, just avoiding her nails clawing at his face. He sat down across her belly to immobilise her, and pulled both her hands over her head, lassoing her other wrist with the belt, that he finally tied to one of the bed posts, making sure his makeshift restraints were secure and that she wouldn’t be able to break free. All the while, she was thrashing and kicking, but she couldn’t reach him.
“…I’m just trying to stop you from hurting yourself,” he said quietly, finishing his statement. “And hurting me at the same time,” he added, reaching for the sore spot on his cheek.
For Symphony, the situation was more mortifying than anything else. Although very tight around her wrists and solid enough to hold her; the fluffy polyester cord wasn’t hurting her skin. She couldn’t believe she had let herself be taken out so easily. Her adversary was kneeling astride her and leaning on his hands to look her straight in the face. She lashed at him, furiously.
“I’ll do far more damage to you if you don’t free me this instant, you creep!”
He raised a cynical brow. “Now then, that is an incentive not to free you,” he commented. “Not right away, at least. Now will you calm yourself and listen to me?”
“No!” she raged.
“Karen, be reasonable. You’ll understand everything when I explain –”
“You have nothing to explain! You took Adam’s place! What have you done with him? Have you hurt him? I swear if you have hurt him –”
Blue shook his head, despondently. “Karen, I love you… Please, you must believe –”
“You love me?” she scoffed scornfully “I don’t even know you!”
Symphony saw an expression of hurt in his eyes. “Of course, you know me… I’m Adam…”
“You’re not!” she replied insistently. “How about the scar, buster? Adam has no scar like that. I would know that, wouldn’t I?”
“Yes,” he said. He nodded his head slowly, trying not to lose whatever patience he had left. “Yes, you would know, but Karen, honey –”
“Don’t call me ‘honey’! You don’t have the right!”
“I have the right. We are married…”
“You married me under false pretences, you creep! Under a false identity! You’re nothing but a fraud! You are not Adam! You are not my husband!”
“I AM ADAM!”
The sudden, violent outburst surprised Symphony so much that it shut her up and she stopped thrashing instantly. Blue leaned closer to her and she could see that the expression on his face had changed; he was obviously still hurt, but it was a different kind of hurt; he was now angered, frustrated, as if her stubbornness was irritating him to breaking point. She started to feel fear creeping into her heart.
“I am your husband,” he told her in a low voice that indicated that he would not tolerate any more objections from her. “And you are my wife. And yes… I have the right to treat you as such. And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do right now.”
Symphony wasn’t really sure what emotion was strongest in her at this very moment, as she clearly understood the full extent of that ominous promise: her fear, her disgust or her anger. It was probably a mix of all of them. Her heart now pounding, she resisted courageously, but with no real hope of success, as he forcefully spread her legs wide, to then position the lower part of his body between her thighs, keeping them apart, while the top of his body lay heavily against hers, pinning her to the bed, making the springs protest even louder than they had until now. He brutally kissed her full on the mouth, smothering the cry of outrage that was coming from her throat; then, leaving her breathless, his lips hungrily moved along her neck and down her jaw to her breastbone. His hands were not caressing anymore, but were roughly fondling her, hurting her, rumpling her nightgown and tearing through it, as they moved impatiently along her body, touching the bare skin of her arms, shoulders, neck, breasts, hips and belly; one hand slipped between their two bodies so closely pressed together, slithered down her groin, and came to rest a little too intimately against her inner thigh. She gasped in revulsion, and she writhed in a desperate attempt to get him off her, but he was too strong, too heavy, and way too determined to have his way with her. Much to her horror, she realised almost immediately that her vain and frantic efforts to free herself only served to increase his excitation even more, as she heard the hoarse groan coming from his throat, and felt the rising desire of his erection against her inner thigh. He pressed his body harder against hers, demonstrating this way that he had no intention of letting her go before he was through with her.
She instantly stopped all resistance, the rise and fall of her breast now her only movement as she tried to calm her rapidly beating heart and to clear her mind of the panic. If she had hoped that her apparent submission would dissuade him from going further, she was mistaken. On the contrary: he didn’t stop, and his body slowly started to rock against hers, pressing, demanding, eager to have her. He was now nibbling at her neck, his teeth abrading her tender skin, and she grimaced under the slight pain and the absolute disgust she felt for him.
Symphony realised it wouldn’t be very long before he would take her. And she was unable to even defend herself; she was utterly and completely at his mercy.
If she had any doubt left about his identity, these doubts had left her completely now.
“You say you are Adam,” she said between two breaths. “But you are certainly not him… Adam would never treat me the way you are at the moment! He would never hurt me.”
He froze at these words. Slowly, he raised his head to look at her. The over-excited anticipation was making him breathe as hard as herself, but for the rest, he was still as a massive statue over her, his weight painfully pinning her down, his body so dangerously close to having her. There was a look of desperation in his eyes as he gazed down into the angry and hate-filled face of the young woman. He seemed to hesitate, and swallowed hard.
“Karen, I love you…” he said, seemingly trying to convince her once more. “I would never hurt you, you know that…”
“And what do you call what you’re doing right now, huh?” she asked between her teeth, her voice filled with loathing. “You’re about to rape me… Is that how you show your love to me?” She shook her head in disgust. “Adam would never do that to me…You are not Adam. You could never be him. And there’s nothing you can do now that will convince me to the contrary. You can force yourself on me if you want, I cannot stop you. But that will certainly not make me love you.”
He now seemed confused, as he peered into her glaring eyes; he could not see any love in them; only anger, accusation – and fear and repulsion, and even hate. It hurt him. He seemed to suddenly realise what he was about to do – what he was so close to doing. Disgust now filled him; this was certainly not the way he had intended for this to happen.
“Karen…” Blue raised himself slightly from her body, as if realising that his weight was causing her discomfort and pain. She breathed more freely, but didn’t dare feel relieved yet. He looked apologetically down at her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to –”
He was suddenly interrupted by a sound that made him prick up his ears; he looked in the direction of the window, which was slightly open, wondering if he was dreaming.
No, it was the sound of a car engine. Quickly, he left the bed to jump onto the floor. Tightening the towel around his hips, he strode to the window and pushed the curtain slightly aside to look outside.
There was a red car, coming to park in front of the cabin’s door.
A Spectrum Patrol Car.
Blue watched warily as the car came into a halt, and the engine was turned off. He saw and heard a car door being opened, and then saw a tall man, wearing a red uniform, getting out.
He scowled with irritation.
“Scarlet,” he muttered. He slowly turned his head to look in Symphony’s direction. She was watching him apprehensively, and he saw what he thought was hope flickering in her golden eyes. He nodded, understanding hitting him. “He was the one who warned you against me,” he continued, walking back towards her.
The accent of disbelief in his voice, the accusing way he was looking at her didn’t reassure Symphony in the least; fearful of what he might do next, she struggled again to free her hands, and prepared herself to scream for help. He was on her faster than a tiger on its prey, immobilising her yet again under the weight of his body, and putting his palm over her mouth to smother the first sound from her throat; it came out as a panicked, muffled grunt, that would be barely audible beyond the confines of the room.
“Ssshhh…” Blue requested in a soothing voice. “Don’t make a sound… I’m not going to hurt you, you know that.” She didn’t believe him, and continued to fight back. The small towel he had used to dry his hair a little earlier was still on the bed, just within reach, and he took it with his free hand. Quickly, he improvised a gag with it, that he pushed between Symphony’s teeth. She tried to resist, but as usual, her efforts proved vain, and he tied the two ends of the towel behind her neck, securing it in her mouth to make sure it wouldn’t fall out.
He leaned to whisper in her ear, not paying any attention to the way she was glaring murderously at him. “Don’t worry – I’ll get rid of him. He won’t hurt you like he did before…” She blinked in puzzlement and watched as he pushed himself away from her, and got back to his feet. His eyes were burning with a cold resolution. “This will be the last time he will ever interfere between us, darling. That I promise you.” With that, he grabbed the gun lying on the floor before rushing to the bathroom, Symphony’s muffled protests following him.
“Hello? Anybody home?”
The door of the cabin not being locked, Captain Scarlet let himself in. He knew there was someone in this house; he had seen the rented car parked up front, and had no doubt this was the car used by ‘Captain Blue’ and Symphony to come to this remote place in the mountain. He looked around carefully, assessing the place. Not bad, he told himself. The Svensons sure know how to pick them… He imagined that ‘Blue’ must have felt very fortunate that this cabin also existed in this world, as it existed in his. This was probably making things easier for him.
They must be somewhere around, Scarlet told himself. Symphony had told him they were at the cabin. But that was already fifteen minutes ago, and he was dreading what might have happened since then. He wasn’t even sure if Symphony had believed him. And if she had, he wondered if she had confronted ‘her husband’ with it, rather than get away from him, like he had told her to. He knew Symphony was not the kind of woman to run away when confronted by danger; especially if that danger involved her boyfriend, whom she might believe to be threatened too. And if she only suspected that, she would have wanted to have answers. Scarlet wondered now if it had been such a good idea to call her in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t, but he knew he had to warn her.
Now he was worried; this place was much too quiet for his taste. Where could Blue and Symphony be now?
He heard a crash coming from upstairs and that made him look up towards the mezzanine. His hand on his holstered gun, he started climbing the stairs, slowly, carefully. When he reached the landing, he looked to the right and left; he could see light coming from a room to the left, at the very end of the landing, where the door had been left open. He went to it, a little on edge; he could hear sounds coming from it. Muffled human voices, moaning… and the complaints of bed springs roughly put to the test.
He was almost afraid of what he’d discover once he reached the open door.
It wasn’t exactly what he expected, when he finally peeked inside. Symphony was lying on the bed, wearing an open robe over a rather sexy nightgown, and was struggling furiously to free herself from bonds that tied her hands over her head, to a bedpost. She was gagged and the upset look in her eyes was enough to suggest to Scarlet that what he was seeing was anything but the vestiges of some erotic games between lovers. On the floor were the remains of a broken lamp, that she had knocked down – probably the cause of the crash Scarlet had heard earlier. He didn’t extrapolate more on the subject, and entered the room fully, striding to the bed. “Karen!”
She stopped struggling as soon as she saw him, and he knelt down to remove the gag from between her teeth. She shook it out furiously and gasped to take a deep breath.
“My God, what happened?” Scarlet asked, looking at her in concern, and noticing bruises on multiple parts of her body. “What has he done to you?”
“Look out!” she gasped. “He…”
Her warning was interrupted by the cocking of a gun; she looked towards the bathroom and Scarlet followed the direction of her eyes. Captain Blue was standing just in front of the door, wearing only trousers, bare-footed, and was holding a small gun at arm’s length, aiming it at Scarlet. His face was set in a stern expression.
“Step away from her,” he said between his teeth, warningly.
Slowly, Scarlet got to his feet, keeping his hands well in view; he faced Blue, while Symphony, still tied to the bedpost, watched the confrontation in silent concern.
“Lower the gun, Adam,” Scarlet said quietly.
“Not with you in this room,” Blue replied tersely. He nodded in Symphony’s direction. “I won’t let you hurt her.”
Symphony was confused by the words, and she looked towards Scarlet with an interrogative look; obviously, he knew what it was all about. Shaking his head, he took a few steps away from her, his hands still raised, his eyes set on Blue. “You know I’m not going to do her any harm, Adam,” he said in a calming voice. “And quite frankly, I’m not the one who’s hurt her. Look at her.” He pointed at Symphony, keeping his eyes on Blue. “Look what you’ve done. Don’t you see she’s afraid of you?”
“No…” Blue shook his head in negation, scoffing at the very idea. “No, that won’t work, Scarlet. She’s not afraid of me… She knows I love her.”
“I know you do, Adam. But this is not the way to show your love to her.”
“Don’t pretend to tell me what I should do!” Blue snapped angrily. “You are through telling me what to do, Scarlet! I’ve heard enough of you! Enough of your lies, of your deception… I know who you are… I know what you’re planning to do! And I swear to you… this time, you won’t hurt her.”
Scarlet shook his head, trying to keep his calm and to find a way to reach to the raving man threatening him with the gun. “Adam, you’re confused now. I’m not the man you seem to think I am. You should know that. Don’t you remember? I’m not that man from your world… That other Captain Scarlet whom you hate, because of what he did to your Symphony.”
Symphony opened her eyes wide at his words, as understanding started to dawn on her; however, she could see Scarlet’s appeal didn’t seem to have any effect on Blue, as the latter was keeping his gun aimed at the English captain, his expression still tense.
“Adam, think,” Scarlet said insistently. “This world isn’t yours. In this world, I am free of the Mysterons’ influence. I’m not like… him. I would never harm Symphony, in any way.”
“Oh yeah?” Blue replied between his teeth. “How can I be sure of that? You can’t offer me any insurance, Metcalfe. As far as I know, you might be playing a part. You could be a fifth columnist – planted within Spectrum’s ranks, waiting just the right moment to strike, in the name of your masters.”
“You’re raving, Adam…”
“All I know is that I love Karen. That I have to protect her from the likes of you. From what you could do to her. Like you did at Culver…”
“Adam, please. You’re confused. You’re not making any sense now.” Scarlet steadied himself, as he took a step forward. “You have to go back…” He stopped as Blue raised the gun higher, nervously.
“Go back to what?” Blue snapped. “To my life of misery?”
“You have friends waiting. They’re worried about you. They want to help you…”
“My life is nothing without Karen. So you expect me to go back… and leave her behind? Is that what you’re telling me?” Blue shook his head. “No… I found her again. I’m with her again. And this time, I swear, I won’t let her go.”
“Listen to yourself, Captain Blue, you’re completely obsessed!”
“Please, listen to him…” Symphony tried from her position on the bed. “You don’t have to do any of this!”
Blue only glanced at her once; he did notice the distress on her face, the pleading way she was looking at him; but it didn’t waver his resolve. He needed to protect her this time; even if it was despite herself. He returned his complete attention back to Scarlet, his expression becoming hard.
“I might be obsessed,” he said in a sombre voice, “but it doesn’t matter. I won’t let you get between her and me again, Scarlet. This time, I’ll be saving her.”
Scarlet saw the man’s finger move slightly on the trigger; knowing that he had failed to make him see any sense, he launched forward, in a desperate attempt to reach him before he fired. He didn’t make it.
The last sound he heard was the ringing of the shot, and he felt the pain in his chest as he fell to the floor, a fraction of a second before darkness engulfed him.
George Harding was walking around next to his private plane, smoking a cigarette, and muttering under his breath, as he waited for that damned mechanic he had called for, it seemed to him like an age ago, to finally deign to show up and repair his plane. He was growing impatient and irritable, wondering if he would finally be able to make it to Aspen before nightfall, and join his wife Clarice, who was presently waiting at their private cabin for his arrival.
“Marauder 2 Alpha Charlie Bravo.” A female voice came through the radio, as he passed in front of the door he had left open. “This is the Control Tower. The runway is empty and you have clearance to take off in twenty minutes. Are you ready to go?”
Harding threw his cigarette butt away and rushed to the radio to answer. He sighed as he took the microphone. “This is Marauder 2 ACB, Harding speaking. Understood, Control, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to leave. I am still waiting for that mechanic who should be checking the cooling system, before I take off. He should have been here long ago.”
“He will have to arrive soon, Mister Harding,” the controller answered quietly. “The runway will start being busy again. We won’t be able to hold your clearance for long, and there won’t be another one for two hours. Unless there’s a flight cancellation.”
“You wouldn’t do that to me, Edna?” Harding moaned. “My wife is waiting for me – we’ve been planning for this week-end away from L.A. for a long time. I will already be late, because of that last minute contract signature. She’ll kill me if I don’t arrive until morning!”
“Sorry, Mister Harding.” There was obvious compassion in the woman’s voice. “I’ll try to hold your place for ten more minutes, but that’s the most I can do, without disturbing the flight schedule.”
“You’re a doll, Edna,” Harding said into the microphone with a smirk. “You’ll have a nice gift from me for Christmas.”
“Just get my boss to give me a raise, Mister Harding, that’ll do perfectly.”
Harding switched off the microphone, and extricated himself from the cockpit. Sighing, wondering if he’d ever be able to leave that day, he turned around – and jumped in surprise when he saw the man standing there behind him, watching silently.
“Good God, man!” Harding’s hand reached for his chest, in a futile gesture to calm the sudden pounding of his heart. “You nearly gave me a heart attack!”
“You are George Harding?” the man asked without emotion, his voice deep and slow.
“Yes, I am. And you’re the mechanic who’s supposed to check my plane?” He checked the newcomer. Truth to tell, he didn’t exactly look like a mechanic. He was wearing black clothes, and a rather fancy leather jacket. His face was drawn, didn’t have much colour to it and was in dire need of a shave. “You okay? You look like you need a good night’s sleep…”
“I am all right.” The man stepped forward to the plane; a panel on the side was open, and he peered into it, checking conscientiously. “Cooling system, right?”
“Right.” Harding heaved a deep sigh of relief, his first impression of doubts leaving him. If this man was able to point out what the problem was with only a glance, then he must be good. “You’ll be able to repair it, I hope?”
“Of course,” the man in black said, his face still set, and not turning to address Harding. “It will not take long.”
“That’s great!” Harding said cheerily, as the mechanic set to work immediately, his expert hands moving inside the panel, examining and touching the many wires and parts. “You see, I only have a half hour max, before I lose my take-off slot. And if I do lose it, I won’t be able to make it to Aspen in time to avoid a divorce!” He chuckled. “Well, you know how wives can be, don’t you?”
“No. I am not married.” The man closed the panel and turned around to face Harding. “It is done.”
“Already?” Harding opened his eyes wide with surprise. “Boy, you work fast. Are you sure…?”
“It was only a little matter. Quite easy to fix. But I suggest you have your plane checked at the next available moment.” The man looked up to the plane beside him, examining it thoroughly. “It does look like it will need a good thorough maintenance.”
“Yeah – I’ll keep that in mind.” Harding presented his hand. “You seem quite like the expert. If you’re available, I’ll call on you for the check up. Mister…”
“My name is Black.” He shook hands with Harding, looking coldly at him. “And yes, I am an expert, but I don’t think I’ll be able to help you.” He let go of Harding’s hand and gave a last, hard look at the plane behind him. “Have a safe flight, Mister Harding.”
“Thank you, Mister Black,” Harding said with a genuinely grateful smile. “I’d better go while I still have the time. You just saved my life!”
And with that, Harding rushed back to climb into the cockpit, while Captain Black quietly left the parking area in front of the hangars. He looked over his shoulder, and watched as Harding, after closing the door and strapping himself in, powered up the engine, and called the tower on his radio. Then, the plane started to roll towards the runway, a short distance away. Black followed its progress with his eyes, his face still set, his expression unmoving.
I am sorry, my friend… But you will never see your wife ever again.
He turned around and walked toward the hangar; he could almost feel, without having to really see it, the Mysterons setting their aim on George Harding and his little private plane.
He never reacted, as he heard in his mind the Voice of his terrible masters, issuing their new threat against his home planet. This message, as always, was intercepted by Spectrum’s radio satellites, before it reached every communication systems, and caused panic amongst the unsuspecting people of Earth.
The Mysterons didn’t care, as long as their threat, as always, was delivered to those it was really meant for:
“THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS. WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN…”
And Black vanished into thin air, to be transported to the new location, where the Mysterons needed him to be.
END OF PART THREE