A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story
PART FOUR - CONFRONTATIONS
When Scarlet opened his eyes, the room was fully lit; he wasn’t on the floor, but was lying on a soft surface; the bed, from the feel of it. He looked around, in some confusion, asking himself how he had ended up there.
“You all right, Scarlet?”
Scarlet looked to his right and saw two men standing next to the bed, watching over him and waiting for him to wake up. The face of one of them made him jump in surprise, and he swiftly sat up, on the defensive.
“Hey, calm down!” Captain Blue, in full uniform, took a step forward and gestured reassuringly to his friend, while Captain Black took an instinctive step back, to stay in the background.
Scarlet blew a deep sigh. “Sorry about that…” He pointed at Black. “But seeing your sombre companion right next to you gave me quite a scare…”
Black scowled. “Well, I’m glad to see you too, Scarlet,” he replied darkly.
“It was purely instinctive, Black. I didn’t really mean to react that way.” Scarlet smirked and jerked his thumb in Blue’s direction. “Besides, his face was the last I saw before I was shot.”
“And I’m happy to see that reviving after being dead doesn’t affect your sense of humour…” Black answered with a raised brow. “Such as it is.”
“So it was my double who shot you, then,” Blue said musingly.
“Of course,” Scarlet groused. “Who else do you think could have done it?” He ran his fingers through his short hair to tidy it, and noticed the darkness outside, through the window, with white snow falling against the black background. He looked at his watch and frowned. “I’ve been out four hours? How long have you been here?”
“About an hour,” Blue answered. “Cloudbase has been trying to contact you, without success, so we came here directly, thinking you might have hit trouble. We found you, lying on the floor. Apparently, you had been shot through the heart. But you were already showing signs of revival.”
“We put you on the bed, so you would be more comfortable,” Black continued.
“Most considerate of you,” Scarlet said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I don’t expect you found anyone else in the house, did you?”
“No-one,” Blue conceded in a bitter tone. “You were all alone.”
“He took her away, then,” Scarlet murmured.
“They were both here then? Scarlet, we found signs of a struggle. Has he done something to Karen? She probably didn’t go with him willingly, you know her.”
Scarlet quickly considered what he could say to his concerned friend; he decided against telling him about what he had seen when he had entered the room, shortly before being shot: how he had found Symphony, gagged and bound to the bed, and that, to all appearances, she looked like she had either been molested or was about to be. Telling this to Blue could very well send him in a fit of total rage; and although this Blue obviously wasn’t sick like the man he had known for the last few days, Scarlet imagined that news like this wouldn’t do him any good. Under the circumstances, Blue needed to keep his cool if he was to help find his beloved Karen.
“She was fine when I found her, Adam,” Scarlet said softly, as he rose to his feet and put a reassuring hand on the shoulder of his friend. He took notice of the peculiar way Black was looking at him, from behind Blue’s back, but ignored him. “I’m sure he won’t hurt her…”
“You’re sure?” Blue asked, trying to sound convinced. “Paul, that guy kidnapped her…”
“I know. We’ll find them.”
“He’s completely obsessed with her. If he feels that he could not live without her, who knows what he might do to keep her from leaving him? You know how it is…” He tilted his head to one side. “He shot you. He could –”
“Well, for starters, your double isn’t in love with me,” Scarlet remarked. “As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even consider me to be his friend, like you do. If anything, I am in this world the very representation of the man he hates the most in his world.” He looked over to Black for some support, and the latter gave a slight nod at his words.
“But I thought he knew you were not that man,” Blue insisted.
“His perception of reality has been distorted, Captain,” Black reminded him. “Remember what the Dream Spinner can do to a man’s mind…”
“Don’t remind me,” Blue sighed. “I saw what it could do, yes. And I was even threatened to be subjected to it myself.”
“The Dream Spinner?” Scarlet repeated, with a frown, addressing Black. “That’s what you meant earlier when you mentioned ‘certain events’ that worsened your Blue’s condition?” Black nodded in answer. “Well, now I can understand better why he turned out so badly. But what are you two doing here, anyway? Weren’t you supposed to be confined to Cloudbase… ‘to avoid confusion’, as the colonel said?”
“Things have changed since… you died,” Black explained. “When you fail to answer our calls, your colonel agreed to send us over – not alone, mind you. Captains Ochre, Magenta and Grey are also here.”
“Where are they, at the moment?”
vicinity with Spectrum teams,” Black answered as Blue moved away from them to
look through the window. “They’re looking for clues to the whereabouts of
Captain Blue – my Captain Blue, that is – and your Symphony. So far, nothing
has been found. The Angels are also over-flying the area, along with a Spectrum
“So the colonel decided to get the big guns out, then?” Scarlet asked.
“We told you there’s been changes,” Blue said. He turned around to face his friends. “The Mysterons have issued a threat.”
Scarlet’s brow rose in perplexity as he watched his solemn friend, who looked down at the floor, seemingly unwilling to meet his eyes. “They did? Well, they certainly chose their moment. Coming from them, that doesn’t really surprise me, but what does surprise me is why the colonel sent everyone here, instead of having them attending to this new threat –”
“Because it looks like this situation and the Mysterons’ threat are one and the same,” Blue said brusquely, raising his eyes to his friend. “They said they would cut off the wings of a high-flying member of Spectrum.”
Scarlet blanched. “An Angel?” he murmured.
Blue grunted. “Possibly,” he muttered sombrely. “The colonel doesn’t think this is a coincidence… He thinks the Mysterons might be taking advantage of the situation to carry out their plan. If it’s the case, then Karen could very well be their target.”
“And you think that your double –”
“Blue wouldn’t hurt anybody,” Black abruptly interrupted Scarlet. “Least of all, a person he loves dearly.”
“Perhaps not willingly,” Blue replied sharply, walking back towards the two men and standing tall in front of Black to glare straight into his face. “Have you considered that your ‘friend’ might have become a Mysteron himself at some point since his arrival in this world?”
“Not before leaving Cloudbase,” Scarlet said thoughtfully. “And he didn’t act like a Mysteron agent when I met him here and he shot me. He was too… passionate. What he was saying didn’t ring true for a Mysteron agent. And my sixth sense didn’t give me any indication that he might be one.”
“Well, we all know, even at the best of times, your sixth sense is less than reliable,” Blue retorted impatiently.
“I’m sorry, Paul, but I am deadly worried for Karen. That madman could do anything to her, and I’m here, sitting on my hands, doing nothing, and feeling useless!” Sighing with irritation, he turned his back on them, and returned to the window. He leaned against the frame, and returned to his contemplation of the night sky, apparently brooding.
Scarlet sighed deeply, shaking his head; like his friend, he felt like he had to do something. He reached for his cap, which had been put on the table by the side of the bed, and put it on. He lowered his microphone.
“Captain Scarlet to Captain Ochre…”
“S.I.G., Scarlet,” the voice of Ochre responded. “It’s good to hear your voice. We heard you’d been hurt. How are you now?”
“Never mind that. Have you found any clues yet on our quarries’ whereabouts?”
“Actually yes, I was just about to report to Cloudbase. Grey and I discovered the car rented by Blue and Symphony when they landed at the airport yesterday.”
“The car?” Scarlet repeated, causing Blue to turn around to look intently at him. “Where is it?”
“It has been abandoned in a ditch by the road, on the other side of the mountain. We’re not sure if it had been left there on purpose, to hide it, or if it ran into the ditch by accident. There’s no trace of either Blue or Symphony.”
“There’s a fresh coat of snow on the ground, Scarlet. Any footprints have been covered by it. We’re searching the area, but it’s quite possible that Blue took another car, after he got rid of that one, to get away with Symphony. There’s blockades on all the roads… We’re intercepting any car going by.”
Scarlet sighed. “S.I.G., Captain. Continue the searches and keep us posted as soon as you have something new.” His mic returned to his visor and he looked up to see both Black and Blue looking at him expectantly. He reported to them what Ochre had told him, and then turned to a pensive Blue. “We won’t rest until we find a trace of them, Adam. Of that, you can be certain.”
Black shook his head. “Problem is, in the last four hours, Blue could have got a good distance from here.”
“Not with a captive Symphony in tow. She would not make it easy on him.” Scarlet was watching for a single sign of reaction on Blue’s face. The only indication he received that his friend was listening was a deep scowl. “He could not take her through Sardy Field Airport’s gates, or take the bus with her. Let’s consider that he might have stolen a new car after abandoning his… With the Spectrum blockades all over the area, he wouldn’t get very far either.”
“Then they should still be around. Why can’t we find them?”
“It’s a large area, Captain Black… They might not be on the roads at all. They could be hiding somewhere.”
“Where did Ochre find the car, exactly?” Blue suddenly asked.
“On the other side of the mountain,” Scarlet explained.
“Not that far from Snow Capped Summits?”
“I wouldn’t know exactly.”
“Scarlet – the Snow Capped Summits Resort has a direct access to the top of the mountain, by going through a tunnel at the bottom – exactly on the other side of the mountain, from here. It’s hidden away by a large concealed door – which looks exactly like it’s part of the mountainside, when it’s closed. The door was designed that way, so the scenery would not be defaced by what would look suspiciously like a huge garage door. I’m pretty sure that the other Blue is hiding there with Symphony.”
“How do you know about this secret access?” Scarlet asked with a frown. “And how would the other Blue know about it too?”
“The Snow Capped Summits Resort is owned by my family, Scarlet,” Blue explained. “It was bought by my grandfather, at the same time they built this cabin. That ‘secret access’, as you called it, was built at the same time. It’s used only by family members, friends and special guests. It leads to the golden V.I.P. section of the resort. If his family owns this cabin in his world, they would also own the resort.”
“And he would have used the concealed access to evade pursuit,” Black said thoughtfully. “He would be hiding nearby, waiting for us to move away in our search. That would be like him.”
“He’s there, with Symphony,” Blue insisted. “I’m pretty sure of it.” He moved towards the door, but Scarlet suddenly snatched him by the arm.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“To go to Symphony’s rescue… Who knows what that madman is doing to her right now. I don’t want to run the risk of him killing her!”
“Think, Adam!” Scarlet replied sternly, keeping hold of his friend’s arm as the latter made a further move towards the door. “You’re not even sure they’re in there to begin with. And if they are, and you go rushing in, you will put her in danger.”
“Don’t you see, it’s Culver all over again?” Scarlet said sharply. “That’s how it all began in his world. How he became the way he is. He felt so guilty over his Symphony’s death that he became unstable, and he never truly got over it.”
“Of course, the Network did provide a little help,” Black continued. “Using his mental state against him to make it worse.” He shook his head thoughtfully. “However, considering he is not Scarlet –”
“Or Black,” Scarlet interrupted gruffly, glaring at the man from the other dimension. While it had been the Mysteronised Scarlet who had shot Symphony in his world, it was Black who had threatened her in this one. Black conceded the comment with a nod.
“Considering that he loves her,” he corrected himself, pursuing his line of thought, “I am sure he wouldn’t hurt Symphony in anyway.”
“And what if he is a Mysteron?” Blue replied icily.
“Adam,” Scarlet said softly. “If he was a Mysteron, and Symphony was his target… then we would already have found her.”
Black agreed. “The Mysterons would certainly make sure we knew they had carried out their plans.”
An angered Blue roughly disengaged his arm from Scarlet’s grip, and glared ominously at Black. This certainly wasn’t what he needed to hear.
“You certainly are the coldest human being I have ever met, Black.” He turned to Scarlet. “As for you, if it was Rhapsody in this madman’s clutches instead of Symphony… You probably would be reacting quite differently.”
Scarlet nodded. “And then, you’d probably be the one to hold me back,” he commented quietly.
There was a short silence from Blue as he pondered this, looking levelly at his friend; he had to admit he had a point. His anger cooled down instantly, and he slowly nodded. “You’re right, damn it.” He sighed, in an attempt to calm himself. “So what do you suggest we do?”
“First of all, we make sure that the resort is where your double has taken Symphony,” Scarlet answered. “To that end, we will need you to take us to that entrance you told us about. I suppose there’s also another way in?”
“Yeah. The regular entrance is not that far from here. There would be nobody there at the moment. The season will not start for a good week or two, and renovation work has been done during the off-season period.”
“An Angel can go in reconnaissance,” Black suggested.
“Too loud,” Scarlet replied. “The Spectrum helicopter has a spy drone that might be launched from a safe distance. It can fly as low as we need and the infra-red camera should help us see if there’s any sign of life in the resort. Then, if we discover that the other Blue and Symphony are there, we will have to move in quietly.”
“Are you planning on using tear gas?” Black asked.
“If we have no other choice. Symphony will be clever enough to know what to do if we use that option. However, I’m not sure that Blue’s double will not do the same… And that might make him panic, too.”
“The ideal choice would be for us to be able to negotiate with him,” Black remarked. “Adam might be confused at the moment, but maybe we could reach him.”
“You think you could?” Scarlet asked him.
“I’m his partner. I might be able to.”
“Before you volunteer, Captain Black, you might also consider that your ‘partner’, when he shot me, was so confused that he imagined me to be the same Scarlet as the one who shot his girlfriend in your world… He accused me of being a fifth columnist working for the Mysterons. If he gets even the slightest notion that you’re not on the level, or suspects that you might be the Captain Black from this world, he might shoot you dead. And you did tell me you weren’t retrometabolic, so…”
“I have an idea,” Blue murmured. He had been pensive ever since they had started making plans. He looked straight at Scarlet. “You might not like it, though.”
Scarlet scowled. When Blue had an idea that started with ‘you might not like it’, it never boded well. However, the idea was often a good one, so it was always worth listening to what it was all about.
Scarlet braced himself “I’m listening,” he told his friend. “And I hope this idea of your is as good as you seem to think.”
Using Spectrum-issued binoculars that he had taken from the patrol car when he had fled the cabin a few hours ago, Adam Svenson checked the immediate area. The V.I.P. chalet of the Snow Capped Summits Resort was built nearly at the very top of the mountain, and standing here in the large, dark lounge, looking through the large bay, he had a good vantage point and a strategic view; the huge window gave an incredible panoramic view of the snowy hills beyond.
He could see anything or anyone approach for a good distance, and consequently, would have plenty of time to decide what to do and put his new plans into motion.
He had seen a Spectrum helicopter and Spectrum Angels flying around, but they couldn’t possibility know exactly where he was hiding. The resort was completely empty and unlit, and he had left no trace that might indicate that he had come here. The tunnel inside the mountain was unknown to anyone who was not related to the Svenson family, and its entrance was totally invisible from the road. He didn’t even expect that this world’s Captain Blue had mentioned it to his friend Scarlet – as obviously, Symphony Angel herself didn’t know about it. And if there had been someone to whom Blue would have talked about it, it would certainly be her.
Expectantly, he watched as the Spectrum helicopter that had been flying a little too close to his hiding place lit the side of the mountain, obviously searching for traces of its quarry – him, of course, and the woman he had taken with him. He saw it as it flew away, not even approaching the chalet, and veered in the opposite direction. Then Captain Blue lowered his binoculars, and heaved a deep sigh. Safe, he thought. For the moment, he was safe.
Or rather, they were safe, the both of them.
But he realised they wouldn’t be for long if they were to stay put. They would have to go soon, and far away, the second he was sure that Spectrum had moved along to pursue its search further away. He had one major problem, though: Symphony would not follow willingly, wherever he wanted to go. She would fight him all the way, just like she did up until now.
I have to make her understand, he told himself. To convince her that there is no other way for us if we want to stay together. She has to trust me. And to follow me.
With one last glance through the large window, and reassured that he couldn’t see the Spectrum helicopter anymore, he left his watching place; his steps echoed through the empty lounge as he went to the maintenance door and opened it wide. The staircase was lit by security lights set on the concrete wall, and he descended the stairs grimly, until he reached the last level and opened another door, leading into the semi-dark basement, which was barely lit by a few lights, quite similar to those found on the staircase.
In silence, Blue made his way across the concrete floor, between the heaters and pipes, until he reached his destination. Symphony was in exactly the same place he had left her – not that he had expected her to go away. She was gagged, and was seated on a thick blanket he had laid on the floor, her head resting against her hands, which were handcuffed to a system of heating pipes running along the wall next to her. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed to have dozed. Blue noticed that the other blanket he had covered her with had slipped from her shoulders to fall onto the floor in a heap all around her. He crouched in front of her, reaching for the blanket, which he started wrapping around her shoulders.
At his touch, she seemed to wake up, and instantly, she drew away from him, leaning further against the wall behind and under a horizontal set of pipes. She rolled fearful eyes at him and he sought to reassure her, showing his open hands.
“Easy, Karen… I won’t hurt you.” He moved his hands closer, and gently removed her gag. “Here, let me –”
She launched a kick in his direction, but he easily deflected it with his hand and backed away one step. “Don’t touch me, you…”
“Okay, okay… I won’t touch you. He let his hands fall freely across his knees, and he watched her at a distance; in the semi-darkness of the room, he could still see her angry eyes glaring warningly at him. He shook his head dejectedly. “Why won’t you believe me when I say I don’t want to hurt you, Karen?”
“Why?” she scoffed loudly. “You have the gall to ask me why? You kidnapped me, tied me up and gagged me! How do you suppose I should react to that?!”
“I didn’t have any choice, you know that.”
“You might feel that you didn’t have any choice – I don’t! You’re nothing but a murderer! You killed one of my friends!”
“Come on,” he replied, a little more unsympathetically. “You know as well as I do that it would not be a permanent condition for Scarlet. I only needed to take him out of the equation temporarily. Knowing him, he’s probably already up and about… without a single scratch on him.”
“That’s not the point!” she lashed. “You shot him!”
“To protect you, don’t you understand?”
“Protect me from what? He wasn’t threatening me. You were! He would have protected me from you!”
Blue sighed. “I keep telling you, you have nothing to fear from me. Come on, Karen…” He made an attempt to approach her again, but she backed away further – if it was possible – and drew her legs against her in a protective way. He kept his distance.
“You will have a hard time convincing me of that, buster,” she replied, glaring murderously at him. “After what you tried to do to me in the cabin, how am I to know that you won’t try again?”
He looked at her, intensely; then, he sighed, and sat back directly on the floor, not caring that it was cold. His expression was a miserable one. “I won’t,” he said dully. “I promise you. It was a bad thing to do, I know that, and such a terrible mistake. I should never have done that. I don’t know what came over me, Karen…” He shook his head again, trying to avoid her still furious stare. “I’m sorry… truly I am. It will never happen again.”
She kept silent for a moment, not taking her eyes off him. “How can I believe you?” she murmured, unconvinced.
“I only can give you my word,” Blue murmured. “It won’t happen – ever again. I swear to you. You should know I always keep my word.”
“Do you?” Symphony asked. “You’re obviously unstable, and there’s no telling what an unstable man will do. Let alone keep his word.”
The glacial tone of her voice made him visibly shiver. He looked away, avoiding her accusing eyes. She tried to regain some of her calm; which wasn’t an easy thing to do, considering she was the captive of a man who looked exactly like her lover, who seemed to have an unhealthy fixation on her... and who had tried to rape her not that many hours ago.
“Who are you?” she asked with a frown.
He looked back at her. If she was willing to talk to him, he was certainly more than happy to answer. “You know who I am. I’m Adam Svenson. Your husband.”
She shook her head. “You are not my husband, and you certainly are not the Adam Svenson I know.” When he didn’t answer, she narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re the Adam Svenson from that parallel world Scarlet visited last year, aren’t you?”
Blue kept silent at first, looking straight at her with an ardent stare. He tilted his head to one side. “You were able to figure that out, then.”
“After what Scarlet said in the cabin earlier, it was quite obvious. And there was that accident at the Research Centre a few days ago. That’s when you came to our world, apparently. That explains everything about your recent behaviour.” She marked a pause. “Paul told us all about his adventure in your world, how it was there. Of the people he met. Of you, whom he described as a ‘fairly nice guy’, quite like our Adam, but that you had a mean streak in you since…” She stopped, and checked him closely, before adding, carefully: “… Since your Symphony died.”
Blue was as rigid as a statue, at first not reacting to her words. Slowly, he got to his feet, his eyes still on her, before he started to turn away. He seemed to prepare to leave.
“At the Culver Atomic Centre,” Symphony quickly added. She saw him stop, but he kept his back to her. “I know she died there, Adam,” she continued. “And I know that you said you wanted to protect me. But I don’t want or need your ‘protection’ – I am not her. I am not your Symphony.”
“For me, you are.” His voice was so low that Symphony wasn’t sure she had heard him properly. He turned back to face her. “You are… my Karen returned back to life,” he murmured. “My second chance for happiness, and for a life with the woman I love. My… redemption.”
“Your redemption?” she repeated doubtfully.
“It’s my fault my Symphony died.”
For a moment, she was stunned into silence. Then, she found her voice again: “Scarlet told me what happened at the Culver Atomic Centre in your world. I know you are feeling responsible, but you only wanted to save her. You didn’t pull the trigger.”
“It felt like I did,” Blue replied, his voice dropping down an octave. He returned to crouch in front of Symphony. “Since then, I’ve felt so empty – I’ve been trying desperately to find a meaning to my life, to atone for what I did. Fighting the Mysterons as hard as I could seemed like a good way to do that – and at the same time, I could exact retribution, making them pay for what they did to the woman I loved.” He sighed. “It never seemed like it was enough.”
“You not only punished them – you punished yourself,” Symphony realised. She shook her head sadly. “That’s not a healthy way to live your life…”
“I realise that… but maybe I won’t have to do it as hard as I used to now. I’ll have you back. I can start again. Get back the life that I lost.”
She looked squarely at him. “You can never go back, Adam,” she said in a steadfast voice. “Can’t you see? I am not your Symphony.”
“Oh yes, you are,” he replied obstinately. “You’re exactly the same woman I loved. You have the same stubborn streak, the same courage…” He reached to stroke her cheek, very tenderly. “The same beauty, outside and inside, that made me fall in love with you all over again…”
With a jerk of her head, she pulled away from his touch; she didn’t like the way this conversation was going. “It will never work,” she said, averting her eyes. “I’m not yours to own… My heart belongs to Adam.”
“But I am Adam,” he repeated, with an uneasy, yet genuine, smile.
“Not my Adam,” Symphony replied dryly.
“We are married,” Blue insisted.
She raised her head to glare at him, accusingly. “We are not married. You tricked me. You used my Adam’s identity to coax me into marriage… Do you really believe I would have chosen you over him, if I had known who you really were?” She shook her head. “All I feel for you presently is pity, for what happened to you in the past, but that doesn’t excuse any of what you did recently.”
He stared at her, his face not displaying any emotion. “I don’t need your pity, Karen – what I want is your love.”
“Fat chance of getting it…” she mumbled. “I don’t even know what you did to the real Adam.”
“The Real Adam…” Blue snorted at her choice of words. “‘Real’ is such a relative view, Karen. In my world, I am the real Adam. I’m as real there, as yours is here. If we trade places, does that make us unreal, wherever we might be? There’s no difference between us… We’re the same person.”
“You are not like Adam,” she insisted. “You are… not acting like him at all. You’re conniving, in a way that Adam could never be. You are living the life of another – you stole that other man’s life to make it your own. You’re lying constantly…”
“So that’s how you see me, is it? Have you ever wondered what kind of life your Adam was living before joining Spectrum? What he had to do to survive in the kind of job he was doing? It was not always peachy; believe me, I know. Lies and deception and cunning… it was part of everyday life. That and much more, actually. If he did what I had to do in order to survive, to get the job done, then he isn’t as innocent as you seem to believe. It’s probable that neither of us would have been chosen to join Spectrum if that was the case.”
“Adam would never have done anything dishonest,” Symphony argued.
“No… I won’t dispute his honesty. Like me, he probably stayed within the limits of legality. He just needed to be harsher, colder, to get the job done.”
“I’m sure,” Symphony replied icily. “But you are presently talking about yourself – and it’s another kind of honesty that I’m talking about. The kind you’re obviously lacking if you were able to deceive like you did the woman you pretend to love.”
He lowered his eyes. “Some situations require a little cheating,” he conceded. “I’m sorry.”
“A little cheating?! That’s what you call what you did?!”
“If it reassures you, I didn’t do any harm to your lover,” Blue said.
“Paul already told me he’s alive – what have you done to him?”
“I told you – I traded places with him. I came over here… and I sent him to my own world. As far as I know, he is quite safe.” Blue tilted his head to the side, pensively. “What I wonder is how Scarlet would know he’s alive… I don’t see any way for him to come back.”
“So you did intend to take his place indefinitely!”
“Of course… This life with you should be mine, Karen. I do intend to live it fully, and to be very happy with you.”
“You’re insane – or rather confused. How can you really think that your plan now has any chance of success? I know the truth… Scarlet knows the truth… and if he does, you can bet that the rest of Spectrum does too. They’ll stop at nothing to find us and to free me. And if Adam is not back from your world… they’ll find a way to get him back.”
“Maybe they’ll be able to,” Blue said, rising to his feet again. “But by then, it would be too late, Karen.”
Symphony’s heart started pounding wildly. “And what is that supposed to mean?” she asked, looking up at him fearfully.
“I told you: you don’t need to fear me. I would never ever hurt you. I don’t need to hurt you to convince you. Eventually, you’ll come to the realisation that I’m the only man who can make you happy. I can be quite persuasive. And I’m very patient.”
“If the kind of persuasion you’re thinking is the same you attempted in the cabin –”
“I gave you my word already: that won’t happen again. I don’t need to use force to make you love me. There are other ways.” Blue reached for her and gently stroked her cheek again. In disgust, she turned away, but this time around, that didn’t deter him, and his fingers slowly traced the contour of her face. “I can cajole you… convince you with tender words and gestures… You’ll mellow to me, Karen, and then you’ll realise I love you – and that you love me. And you’ll give yourself freely to me.”
“You are really insane,” Symphony said harshly. “Hell will freeze over before this crazy plan of yours works. You’ll have to lobotomise me first!”
“I told you,” he replied calmly, “I’m a very patient man. I will wait as long as necessary. I have found you now, Karen. I do not intend letting you go, or of letting anything, or anyone, get between the two of us. We belong to each other – forever.”
Right at this moment, a voice suddenly rang out through the dark room, coming from behind Blue, which made him shiver almost despite himself, and sent a flare of hope into Symphony’s heart:
“Aren’t you forgetting someone in this plan of yours?”
“I’m not overly keen on Blue’s plan.”
Captain Black had to fight not to roll his eyes, when he heard the complaint from his partner of the moment.
“It is a good plan, and probably the only one that might work with the minimum of fighting – which is what we need at the moment, if we want to avoid anyone getting hurt. And that means Symphony Angel as well as my partner, Captain Scarlet.”
“It is still damned risky,” Scarlet said between his teeth.
Both men were climbing the side of the mountain, using a path that Blue had showed them, when he had dropped them half the way up to the ski station, a few minutes ago. Luckily, the path had been cleared of snow recently – in preparation for the resort re-opening in a few days – and both of them were competent climbers, and they both were wearing hiking rocket-boots. The rockets were not powerful enough to push them up like an hover pack would, but still, they were enough to ease their ascent. They expected to arrive at their destination shortly.
“How much time do you think Blue will need to get there himself?” Black asked his companion.
Scarlet checked his watch. “I reckon he’s already arrived,” he answered. “Going through that tunnel of his has got to be easier than climbing this mountain. We will surprise your partner from two sides.
Black concurred. “Blue should wait until we get there,” he commented. “He wouldn’t risk starting the operation without us.”
Scarlet nodded; if nothing else, even considering that the situation concerned him very closely, Blue was still the professional and would carry out his part of the mission perfectly. Providing that everything else went without a hitch.
And it was that possibility that was nagging at Scarlet at the moment. He was almost sure that something would go wrong; at the moment, the operation was proceeding far too smoothly for his taste. Was it Black’s presence by his side that rendered him so nervous? Or the fact that the Mysterons, up until now, had stayed very quiet? They were probably biding their time… waiting for the right moment to strike.
As for Black, he didn’t fully trust him, despite Blue’s assurance that he was on the level; for Scarlet, this man was too emotionally detached – he would even say far too cold – to be someone he would be completely at ease with.
And Black had noticed that.
That was another thing Scarlet didn’t like about Black: he was a little too perceptive. And in that respect, he resembled the Captain Black Scarlet knew, before he had been taken over by the Mysterons.
“You don’t like me, do you, Scarlet?” Black said, glancing over his shoulder. “Being partnered with me during this mission doesn’t please you that much.”
Scarlet raised a brow. “I damned well prefer it to the idea of seeing you partnered with one of my friends,” he replied. “This way, at least, I can keep my eye on you.”
Black shrugged. “I’m kind of used of being under surveillance. It’s not that big a change for me. Blue – my partner – didn’t trust me either, in the beginning.”
“Geez, I wonder why… What happened, you grew on him with time?”
“You could say it was something like that… We learned to respect each other.”
They had just climbed over the last ridge, and from that new position, they could now see the chalet at the top of the mountain. Knowing that no-one there could see them, they both stopped, leaning against the side of the cliff, to regain their breath for a moment, before they attacked what they had left to climb. Black turned to face Scarlet.
“I like to think that we became friends, my partner and I,” he continued. “The way you and your Captain Blue became friends.”
“I didn’t stay under Mysteron control for years,” Scarlet replied dryly.
“No… six hours, I was told?” As Scarlet confirmed the information with a nod, Black continued: “Tell me, what is the difference between six hours and two years, when an ethereal enemy has taken control of your every action? It seems to me that makes both of us victims…”
“In two years, you did far more damage that I did in six hours,” Scarlet replied.
“More than likely, yes,” Black admitted. “Actually, you were stopped before you could seriously hurt someone. The World President escaped with his life, and you regained your freedom. So the only thing that got harmed was your reputation and your honour. I lost that too, and much, much more. I know how it was, Scarlet, you had to regain the trust of everyone around you, proving yourself with everything you did, all of your actions being watched carefully. Perhaps even asking yourself if you were truly free from the Mysterons, and wondering if they were waiting around a corner to take you back again.”
“Oh, the thought did come to my mind,” Scarlet conceded. “But I discovered early enough that I was utterly free from their control – so much so that they consider me a considerable thorn in their side, that they often attempt to eliminate. And they did try, on a few occasions, to regain control of me. Without any success, thank God. I would rather definitely die than become one of their mindless puppets again.”
“That does sound familiar, Captain,” Black answered. “Our situations are quite similar. Except, in my case, I don’t have retrometabolism.”
“And you think it’s such a good thing for me to have it?” Scarlet said in a low voice.
Black shrugged again. “Still protects you from being killed from time to time. As for me…” He turned his back on Scarlet, preparing to climb again. “All they left me with was the responsibility and the guilt of all those deaths that I caused over those two years… and the nightmares each one of them are causing me, each and every night that I can sleep.”
Scarlet was about to reply, but stopped himself, recognising the barely-hidden grief he could hear in Black’s voice. He lowered his head, ashamed. “Look, Black, I…”
A cracking sound coming from overhead interrupted him, and he saw small pebbles rolling down the cliff and falling nearly at his feet; he raised his head to look towards the top of the mountain, directly over them, beyond the path they were about to climb. He thought he saw movement, but he wasn’t sure. Was it a dark human silhouette or…
The noise intensified, and he suddenly saw what it was. Huge snow-covered boulders of rocks were detaching themselves from the side of the mountain and were coming straight at them.
“Look out!” he yelled. “Avalanche!”
Alerted, Black raised his head and instantly recognised the danger; he cursed under his breath.
Without consulting one another, the two men made exactly the same movement, in a desperate attempt to get themselves out of harm’s way.
They jumped down the ridge, and squeezed underneath it, as close to the rocky wall as they could.
I knew it! Scarlet thought with irritation. It was going all too well!
He roughly pushed Black against the wall and covered his body with his own, in an attempt to protect him. He closed his eyes and braced himself as a huge amount of rocks, soil and snow started raining on them…
A few metres up, just at the top of the cliff, the Mysteron Captain Black was looking down with cold eyes at the results of the avalanche he had caused; he couldn’t see the two men he knew were hiding under the ridge, but he just knew that they had barely any chance of avoiding all those rocks which were falling on them. They would be crushed, and they would die – and that would allow the Mysterons to move on and carry out their plan.
Black raised his head and looked into empty space, his face set like stone, not showing any emotion, any guilt, for his present actions or for the task that was awaiting him.
“This is Captain Black, relaying instructions from the Mysterons,” he intoned in his monotone voice. “The target is inside the V.I.P. chalet of the Snow Capped Summits Ski Resort. I will make sure no-one will escape, until you arrive. You know what you have to do…”
He didn’t wait for the answer, but at the very limit of his hearing he could perceive a muffled sound, carried by the wind, which seemed to come from the horizon.
… The sound of an airplane’s engine.
Black slowly turned around and walked in the direction of the chalet.
The Mysterons’ orders had to be carried out.
“Adam!” Symphony didn’t doubt that the newcomer, this Captain Blue, who emerged from the shadows to stand in full view in the middle of the vast room, was indeed her Adam – her fiancé, whom the other Captain Blue had stated he had trapped in his own parallel world. She was ecstatic to see him, but at the same time, a little concerned about what might now happen. The other Blue didn’t seem very happy about this new development, if she was to judge by the way he was now glaring at this unwanted caller. There was a visible vein throbbing on his temple; his jaws were clenched tight, and his right hand was stroking the handle of his gun, which he had stuck under his belt. Slowly, he rose to his feet.
“So… you have come back,” he said glacially, turning fully to face his rival for the affection of the woman he claimed to love. “How did you manage that?”
“They found a way to send me back home,” Blue said quietly. He had noticed the other man’s gun, but he chose not to appear too impressed by it. “They used a very special key – a little gizmo, that was left behind at the Research Centre when you crossed the portal between the worlds. You probably remember it…”
“The receiver?” The double nodded slowly. “I didn’t leave it behind. I thought it had been destroyed after my arrival here…” He gave it some quick thought. “The portal wasn’t quite closed when the ceiling collapsed – maybe the receiver – somehow – was thrown back to the other world, when I lost hold of it. That must be the answer.”
“Whatever might have happened – your colleagues found it. And we made very good use of it.” Blue tilted his head to one side. “They want you back, Adam. They know you are sick, and they’re ready to help you.”
“Do they?” his double said with a frown. “How did you manage to convince them of your story, I wonder? Colonel White isn’t the most receptive of men when it comes to cockeyed stories…”
“And you carefully prepared the ground so he – and anyone with him – wouldn’t believe me, didn’t you? Well, obviously, they’re a lot smarter than you give them credit for. And so are the people in this world. They saw through your act. At least, they realised that the Captain Blue they knew wasn’t exactly acting like he should.”
“I might have been a little careless, yes,” the Captain Blue from the other world admitted. He shook his head. “I am not going back.”
“Come on, we cannot both exist in this world.”
“Ain’t that a fact?” the double said between clenched teeth. His hand caressed the butt of his gun again. “That could be easily corrected.”
“You’re not a killer, Adam. Even if you are obviously very confused. Killing me would be like killing yourself, and would only serve to send you deeper into whatever mental illness you are suffering right now.”
“Will you quit telling me I’m mentally unstable? You are making it very easy for me to decide to kill you.”
“You will not do it. Because if you do, you’ll have to do it while Karen’s watching. You want to win her love… Do you really think she’ll love you after you’ve killed me?”
“I’m ready to take that chance. I’ll know how to make her forget you – and love only me.” The double drew his gun, slowly, and pointed it to towards Blue. “You should have stayed in the other world – and settled in as me. You know, I never really planned to kill you, but now… You leave me very little choice.”
“You kill him, and I guarantee you, I’ll make your life a living hell, until I can avenge his death!” Symphony lashed from behind him.
The double hesitated, but did not lower the gun. Blue feigned not to see the threat.
“My life is not over there, Adam,” he continued. “My life is here, in this world.”
“No. This will be mine now. I’m not leaving Karen ever again!”
“This isn’t your true life here! Your life belongs in your own world. You would abandon your friends, who are waiting for you there? All those who care for you?”
“They don’t give a damn about me.”
“You’re wrong. They’re not giving up on you. They know there’s something terribly wrong with you and they want to help you. They’re prepared to do anything it takes for you to recover – and live a normal life again.”
“A normal life?” The double chuckled. “What is a normal life for the likes of us, can you tell me, Captain Blue? We’re constantly living on the edge, fighting the Mysterons – and when it’s not them, it’s earthly terrorists. We could die any day, lose those we love any day. Well, I’m tired of it. I’ve had enough. I can’t fight anymore. All I want is to be with the woman I love, for the rest of my natural life. I found that woman again. I’ve been given a new chance – and I’m not about to let it go.” He pulled back the hammer of his gun, and Blue grew rigid. “And certainly not for you…”
“And what about me, Adam?”
The new, soft, female voice, echoing from the shadows, made the double freeze on the spot. He looked beyond Blue, eyes narrowing, trying to see past the darkness. He heard footsteps, and the silhouette of a woman emerged, who came into full view when she reached Blue’s side. The double shivered when he saw the woman’s face, and the sad expression on it.
“Dianne…” he murmured. “What are you doing here?”
“I said you had forgotten someone in your plans, Adam,” Blue told him calmly. “I wasn’t only talking about myself… There’s someone else involved in all this.”
“Put the gun down, Adam,” Dianne said, her voice still soft and gentle. As he didn’t obey, or make a single gesture, she started walking in his direction, moving to put herself in the line of fire, literally offering herself as a shield for Blue. The latter visibly tensed; he wasn’t that sure that it was a very safe thing for her to do. His double’s confusion was growing more and more intense; there was no telling what he could decide to do.
“Easy, Rhapsody,” he whispered.
Whether she heard him or not, he wasn’t sure, but she was definitely not stopping her approach.
Not daring to move, he watched, apprehensively, as the young red-haired woman closed in on the man holding the gun.
“Are you planning to shoot me too, Adam?” Dianne asked quietly, her eyes not leaving those of the other Blue. “Is that how you want to get rid of your problems?”
He blinked in surprise; frowning, he shook his head energetically. The thought seemed to revolt him. “No… How can you think…? You know I would never hurt you, Dianne… I… I care for you.”
“Care for me? You used to say you loved me. Did you lie to me then?”
“I never lied to you, I –” He sighed deeply, unsure of what he had to say. “I did love you. But that was before… before…” He glanced over his shoulder, in Symphony’s direction. The latter was keeping very still, watching the scene in silence, concerned about what would happen next.
“Before you discovered that you might have a chance to be with Symphony again, is that it?” Dianne had stopped in front of him. They were so close now that they could even touch each other. She didn’t dare do that. Not just yet. “She doesn’t want you, Adam,” she continued softly, and she could see her words were causing him a lot of pain. “Don’t you see that? She’s not the Karen you lost. Her love will only be for one man, and, unfortunately for you, that man isn’t you.”
Calmly, she covered with her own, his hand that was still holding the gun aimed in Blue’s general direction. At first, she met a resistance, when she tried to push it down towards the ground, but it was only momentary. Slowly, obeying her imperative, he lowered the gun.
“She loves her Adam,” she continued. “And if you hurt him, you will hurt her too. And she will hate you until Kingdom Come…”
“But I do love her…” he whispered. “She’s so much like my Karen… I never meant to hurt her…”
“And you think that treating her the way you did – the way you are now – is not hurting her?” Dianne shook her head. “You used to have better judgment than that, Adam. You should realise that what you’re doing right now is killing her.” She took another step towards him. “As it is killing me too, to see you do all those awful things…”
“Dianne… you’ll be better off without me. I made you suffer too much, I realise that…”
“And you didn’t make her suffer?” He followed Dianne’s eyes to Symphony again, but as if he couldn’t bear the accusation in the captive Angel’s eyes, he returned his attention to the English woman. “She doesn’t love you, but I am not giving up on you, no matter how much you protest. I know you’re hurting right now. I love you, and I will help you with all my heart, for you to return to me.” She reached out, touching his chest, where she could feel his heart beating fast. She felt him shiver under her touch. “Adam, I know how much you loved Karen. But to love… it’s also to let go.”
“But you said you would not let go of me.”
“Because there is still hope for us. But for you and Karen…” Dianne shook her head again, and sighed. “You are hanging on to the impossible, love. Let go. Of both of them.”
He looked at her, straight in the calm of her blue eyes. Then he lowered his own eyes, looking her very slowly up and down.
His eyes narrowed again, as he scrutinized her face again.
Behind the young woman, Blue became nervous. He didn’t like it; his plan, that Scarlet had agreed to follow, if only reluctantly, didn’t seem to be working. There were too many things going wrong. First neither Scarlet nor Black had arrived at the scheduled time, and they were getting later and later with each passing minute. Then, he felt he had to intervene, when he had heard his double talking to his fiancée and approaching her a little too closely, and he had feared what he might do the very next moment.
And now this…
The whole operation was going sour; if Rhapsody was getting through to his double, only seconds ago, it looked like he was still hesitating.
Damn it, Scarlet – where are you? You should have arrived a long time ago! We need you here!
“You are not Dianne,” the double whispered suddenly. He watched to see reaction from her face. There was none; her eyes didn’t even flicker. He nodded in realisation. “Not my Dianne, I mean. You’re the Rhapsody Angel from this world…”
Uh-oh… Blue thought. Here it goes…
He made a step forward, but his double turned his attention to him, suddenly, and the gun was raised and aimed at him again. Blue stopped in his tracks, keeping himself from groaning.
“Stay where you are, you!” His gun trained on Blue, the double looked down at Rhapsody again. There wasn’t any resentment in his eyes, only curiosity… and perhaps, admiration.
“You’re very courageous, to have done what you did,” he said quietly.
She stared straight back at him, unblinking. “I had to try,” she answered quietly. “If only to help my friends. And I am quite willing to help you too.”
He stared at her, thoughtfully. “If you would do this for your friends… risking your life to try to convince a madman… how much more could you do for the man you love?”
She didn’t answer, nor did she need to; her composure was enough of an answer for him. “How very similar you are to my own Dianne,” he reflected quietly.
“We’re the same, are we not?” Rhapsody said, her calm not leaving her. “What I told you… if she had had the opportunity to be here in my place… she would have told you the same.”
He nodded, very slowly; the tension suddenly left him, and he lowered his gun. “All right, Svenson, go to your fiancée,” he called to Blue. “I believe she can’t wait to be with you.”
Upon hearing these unexpected words, Blue’s first reaction was to freeze on the spot, unsure if it wasn’t some kind of a ruse. But as he stared at the other Blue with a doubtful frown, he could see it wasn’t a trick at all and, relieved at how well things were turning out, he strode towards Symphony. When he passed by his double, the latter tossed him a small key, taken from his pocket. On reaching his fiancée, Blue first hugged her comfortingly and then proceeded to free her from the handcuffs keeping her down.
The double was watching them uneasily, sadness obvious on his features. He couldn’t help thinking that he was losing all over again the woman he loved – or at least, thought he loved. This Symphony would never love him the way his Symphony had loved him; he realised that now, and he was willing to accept it. But realisation and acceptance weren’t making it any less painful for him.
How different was my own behaviour from Scarlet’s, when he kidnapped my Karen, three years ago? he pondered. The gesture was equally repulsive, and when he thought of what he had done to her in this adventure, what he nearly did in the name of his so-called love, he realised that he had made her suffer more than she deserved – and that it could have been far worse, if he had been allowed to go further with his plan.
At least, she will continue to live – and to give her love to someone who really deserves it.
As for himself… he wondered if he was even worthy of such a love…
He put his gun back into his belt and turned around to look at Rhapsody. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“For what?” she asked with a frown.
“For showing me the truth – to help me realise how wrong… and mad… I’ve been.” He smiled uneasily. “For reminding me that I have someone somewhere, someone real, who does love me, and that I shouldn’t hold a torch for a memory… or a ghost.”
“You were not completely responsible,” Rhapsody replied, reaching to stroke his arm comfortingly. “I’ve been told what the Network did to you, with the Dream Spinner. I know how much it can screw up even the strongest mind…”
“I’m not entirely recovered,” he murmured. “I will need help, I know that now.” His eyes flashed. “Do you think… my Dianne will still want to help me?”
“If she’s just a little bit like me…” Rhapsody smiled again, reassuringly. “… I’m sure she will.”
“Oh, she is like you,” he smirked. “Quite a lot, like you. That’s why I felt so awkward, whenever I was with you. I couldn’t help feeling guilty about what I was doing to her. I felt like… I was cheating on her, or something. And seeing you vividly reminded me of that.”
A sound coming from behind Rhapsody attracted their attention, and they all turned in that direction; a man emerged from the shadows, his footsteps echoing dully through the room; as he approached, his face remained in the semi-darkness. The double frowned, as he recognised the features and silhouette.
“Conrad?” he called with perplexity.
Captain Blue, still crouched near Symphony, busying himself in freeing her, raised his head and looked in the direction of the newcomer. “About time you showed up, Black! What have you and Scarlet been up to?”
“Conrad, is that really you then?” Blue’s double repeated, leaving Rhapsody’s side to walk in the direction of the advancing man. “So you came to this world to take me back, then?”
There was no response, and the man was still walking – and suddenly, Captain Blue, from his position, got a better view of the man’s sickeningly pale face, and saw the gun in his hand, aimed at his double. “Look out, it’s not…”
There was two consecutive detonations, and Blue’s double stumbled back, hit at almost point-blank range. He fell to the floor, grunting in pain.
The Angels gasped, and Rhapsody stepped back away from the Mysteronised Captain Black, trying to merge into the shadows, as if fearing she would be next. But Black barely looked at her; he had stopped not that far from his fallen victim, and was now giving all of his attention to Captain Blue, who was staying next to Symphony.
“Don’t touch that gun.” His grave, slow voice had all the accents of the Mysterons and no matter how many times they all heard that voice, it was always unsettling to hear it emerging from the lips of a human being. Blue, who was surreptitiously trying to reach for the gun stashed in the back of his belt, stopped in his movement, when he saw Black turning his weapon on him.
So that’s what happened to Scarlet and the other Black, he mused. The Mysteron agent probably had something to do with their absence.
“What are you doing here?” Blue asked harshly, glaring murderously at Black; the latter kept silent, as he looked at each of them with what seemed like total contempt in his very cold eyes. He glanced at the wounded man at his feet, moaning in pain, holding his now bleeding belly, barely able to move. Rhapsody, surmounting her fear of Black, was approaching slowly, and crouched by his side, gathering his shivering body into her arms. Seeing her there, so close to the Mysteron agent, sent his mind into a state similar to panic. He looked up at her with a pleading look.
“G-get back… S-stay away… S-stay away from him, Dianne… That monster… He’ll kill you… Get back…”
“I am not leaving you,” she murmured to him.
Black barely gave her a glance.
“Have you ever heard the expression ‘killing two birds with one stone’?” he asked, his voice devoid of all emotions as he spoke. “Four of you will die tonight, in one single blow.”
“You came to do the Mysterons’ work, then,” Blue replied between his teeth, holding his fiancée against him, protectively.
“I am not the one who will kill you,” Black intoned. He started to back away, slowly. “The Mysterons will. None of you will ever leave this place…”
A hand emerged from the shadow behind him, and seized his own, pushing the gun down; a face, the same as his, and wearing almost the same implacable expression, doubled with barely contained anger, appeared as the newcomer came into full view to face him. “Neither will you,” the human Captain Black spat between his teeth. And his free hand, closed in a fist, rammed into his Mysteronised double’s face, in a powerful punch, making him stagger back a few feet.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Black said with no concealed satisfaction. He had snatched his double’s gun from his hand, and he threw it away from him in disgust.
“So have I,” another voice replied coolly. Captain Scarlet appeared in turn behind the Mysteron agent, Black’s punch having knocked him directly into Scarlet’s path. He struck him in turn, straight into the face too, and again, the Mysteron reeled under the punch, and fell to the floor, apparently stunned.
“About time you showed up!” Blue called from his position. He noticed the sad way both Scarlet and Black looked, their uniforms covered with dirt, and torn in places, Black’s face displaying a deep, ugly cut across his cheek, while Scarlet retained scratches from still healing superficial injuries. They seemed to have experienced a difficult time, quite recently.
“Adam…” The human Black was leaning over his fallen partner and friend, quickly assessing his wounds. Despite Rhapsody’s obvious attempt to keep him down, Blue’s double was pushing himself onto his knees, grimacing at the pain in his belly; blood was dripping from between his fingers, to the floor.
There was still a determined expression on his face. “He’s getting away!” he shouted, declining his partner’s help with a shove of his blood-covered hand, before pointing with it.
Surprisingly enough, the Mysteronised Black was already back on his feet, and was now staggering away from his opponents, trying to escape. He was obviously far stronger and resilient than they thought. He pulled open the door to the staircase and started to climb the stairs to the floor above.
“Come on!” Scarlet called to his partner of the moment. “Now’s the time to take him out once and for all!”
The human Black hesitated, looking down at his partner. “I’ll be all right!” Blue’s double said harshly. “Go get him!”
“It’ll be my pleasure,” the human Black said between his teeth. He left his friend, and with Scarlet, went after his own, evil double – his nightmare incarnated.
The Mysterons’ agent hadn’t gone far; they caught up with him as he reached the next floor and entered the dark and empty lounge. He faced them, backing away as they advanced on him, very slowly, and soon found himself with his back against the large bay window of the chalet.
“You cannot hope to escape,” Scarlet told their enemy. “Surrender. We might be able to help you, the way this other Black was helped.”
“Just… do resist a little bit,” the human Black required, very quietly. “Don’t make it too easy on yourself…”
An annoyed Scarlet fought the urge to tell him to stop taunting their prey. He saw a flicker passing through the eyes of the Mysterons’ main agent on Earth. Scarlet couldn’t decide what it meant exactly; it wasn’t a challenge, or loathing, or even hate… It was something else.
It looked like an expression of regret.
“It’s you, who cannot hope to escape,” Black replied, his face suddenly returning to his usual glacial expression. “All of you, you are doomed.” Before the two officers’ startled eyes, his appearance started to blur. “The Mysterons’ orders will be carried out…” And his human form faded, out of existence, his voice trailing out after him.
Neither Scarlet nor Black had time to really react faced with this unusual and certainly astonishing way of escape; just in front of the window where Black had stood a fraction of a second earlier, beyond the thick glass, they could see a plane coming…
Straight at them.
Scarlet cursed under his breath. “Let’s get out of here!” he roared.
He and Black were down the stairs faster than they could ever imagine, and pushed open the door to get back into the basement.
“Everybody, OUT!” Scarlet shouted. “We have to leave right away! A plane is going to crash into this place!”
Blue went pale. “Oh my God…” He got up quickly, pulling Symphony a little roughly to her feet.
Scarlet and Black ran towards Rhapsody, who was still attending to the wounded double of Blue.
There was a loud, thundering sound coming from upstairs. The place shook and cracked, like it had been uprooted from its foundations, throwing off their feet all the occupants of the room. Everything around them started to fall apart; the roof came down on them, in a rain of huge chunks of concrete debris, torn and twisted steel studs, wood, splinters, dust and fire; loud rumbling and cracking sounds were heard from everywhere, mixed with explosions, which sent wreckage in all directions. The floor fissured into large gaps that threatened to engulf them; Scarlet, about the only one who had been able to stay on his feet, slid into the one that opened underneath him.
The wounded double of Captain Blue, rising to his knees, watched in shock as all hell broke loose around him, trying to see how his companions were faring. So far, it had been a miracle that no-one seemed to have suffered from the falling debris coming from upstairs. Black was bending over the hole on the side of which Scarlet was holding for dear life, and on the other side of the room, Captain Blue was cradling Symphony Angel in his arms, protecting her as best he could Part of the roof under over them was shaking unsteadily, and was threatening to fall down on them…
And so was the wall against which Rhapsody Angel was leaning.
None of them seemed to have noticed the danger they were in – but Blue’s double did, and in that moment he found himself torn, between what he should do exactly and what he wanted to do.
It lasted a second, and he took a fateful decision.
“Blue!” he shouted. “The roof!”
The warning arrived just in time, and Blue, holding Symphony, dashed to safety, out of the way of the falling roof… while his double, in a effort borne out of desperation, still holding his aching, bleeding belly, leaped to Rhapsody’s side.
The wall came tumbling down on them, just as Black succeeded in getting Scarlet out of his hole.
“NO!” he roared over the thunderous sound as he saw his fiancée disappear under the debris and dust.
He brushed Black’s helping hands aside and went rushing to the scene.
The rumble was dying away, but there was lots of dust and smoke filling the room now, and all of them were fighting to breathe properly and to see. Black followed Scarlet, stumbling onto the debris, until they reached the place where both his partner and Rhapsody Angel had disappeared, and from the other end of the room, Captain Blue and Symphony Angel were coming too; miraculously, the four of them had escaped with their lives – but they were deadly afraid of what had happened to their two missing companions.
And none of them were as worried as Captain Scarlet himself.
Breathing hard in the dusty air that clogged their nostrils, coughing, their eyes burning and watering, they started digging quickly, pushing the fallen wall’s debris aside, deeply aware that they might not find anyone alive underneath it, but hoping that they would have somehow survived. The ceiling over their heads could fall at any moment, and the floor could crumble under their weight, but they pushed these considerations aside, as they worked feverishly, every second counting.
It didn’t take long, before they finally reached someone; the back of the other world’s Captain Blue appeared through the debris and they dug around, to extricate him; they pulled him up from his precarious situation, and he gave a loud moan. He was bloody all over, his body injured by the falling debris, but he was alive, if semi-conscious.
From the place where he had been found, Rhapsody Angel coughed. They could see her dirtied face now and she was blinking up at them in confusion. There was a thin trickle of blood on the side of her head, but she otherwise looked fine.
“Dianne, are you okay?” Scarlet asked with concern.
“A bit battered and bruised,” she answered, coughing again. “But otherwise… fine.”
Relieved, Scarlet pulled her out from under the debris, with the help of Blue. She didn’t seem to have broken anything, as she had said. With a look of concern, she nodded in the direction of the apparently shattered body laid next to her, across Black’s and Symphony’s laps. “He took the brunt of it,” she explained. “Protecting me with his body…”
She reached for him, putting a delicate hand onto his chest. He stirred under her touch and his eyes fluttered, before opening completely. He looked at her, confusion and pain clearly obvious in his blue eyes.
“Dianne…” he whispered. His left hand moved and, trembling, reached for her. She grabbed it between hers. “I made you suffer… I’m sorry… will you… forgive me?” His eyes fluttered again. “I’ve always… loved you…” With a groan, he lost consciousness. They could hear his laborious breathing.
“He’s concussed,” Scarlet declared. “And seriously wounded. We need to get him to a doctor quickly.”
Blue exchanged a glance with his partner, and then with his fiancée, knelt by his side. He could see in her delicate features, that her heart was aching for this wounded copy of himself; the man who had deceived her, kidnapped her, and because of whom she had nearly been killed by the Mysterons. This was a measure of her compassion, and he loved her for it, but he couldn’t help feeling the tiniest bit of bitterness, and that his double, because of his actions, had deserved some of what had happened to him. Never mind that he was sick.
However, he didn’t wish for him to die.
He slowly got to his feet. “I’m calling for the helicopter,” he said with a sigh. “And we’d better get the hell out of here, before another accident happens to us too.”
Gravely, they agreed to his suggestion, and slowly, gently, Scarlet and Black started carrying the wounded man out of that hellhole, closely followed by the others.
“I thank you for your input in this last mission, Captain Black. The help you provided was appreciated.”
Three days later, on Cloudbase, Colonel White arranged a meeting with Captain Black in the Conference Room. Slightly injured during the adventures in Aspen, Black had his left arm in a sling, and although he looked refreshed and was wearing a clean uniform, he still looked like he had not slept for a long time. Colonel White knew the exact reason why; ever since his wounded partner had been freed and taken to Cloudbase, Black had stayed by his side, until he was deemed out of danger. Of course, the injured man could have been taken to the Aspen Valley Hospital, at least until he had been stabilised enough to be transported without endangering his life further, but his too great resemblance to the son of the owner of one of the Aspen’s popular resorts – and a familiar figure in the area – might have caused a security risk in revealing Captain Blue’s civilian identity. And since Cloudbase had moved to take station over the area, it was deemed preferable to get Blue’s double directly to base, instead of to one of the four military bases around the area.
Now with his partner and friend on his way to recovery, Black was a little more relaxed, but still in need of sleep. Nevertheless, he had agreed to meet Colonel White – provided, he joked, that he would be allowed to bring a huge mug of coffee along, which he was presently sipping contently.
“Don’t mention it, Colonel,” he said, in answer to White’s welcoming line. “It’s always my pleasure to thwart the Mysterons’ plans whenever I’m able to. Whether in my world, or in this one, it makes no difference to me.”
“Doctor Fawn tells me your… partner’s condition is improving?”
Black nodded. “He was in a pretty bad shape, when we dug him out from under that debris, and he was already severely wounded, with the two slugs that Captain Black put in him…”
White shook his head. “If he survived that, and being crushed under a wall, then he must be nearly indestructible!”
“Well, he is not, not like your Captain Scarlet, that is,” Black said with a slight smile. “I owe your man my life, Colonel. If he had not pushed me against that wall to protect me with his own body… I might not be here to talk with you.”
“You can always count on Captain Scarlet to unselfishly risk his own life, if it means saving another,” White said. “In that respect, your Captain Blue did exactly the same, thus saving the life of Rhapsody Angel in the process. Only, as you pointed out yourself, he is not indestructible.”
“But very tough.” Black shook his head. “He will make a full recovery,” he added softly.
“You are not talking about his physical injuries.”
“No…” Black sighed. “If I know him, like I think I do, he’s on the right path to return to his old self. I saw it, in the chalet, at the top of the mountain. He was already starting to see some sense – to realise that his insane plans with Symphony had no hope of succeeding.”
“He wasn’t responsible, Captain,” White declared quietly. “I, more than anyone else, know what the Dream Spinner can do to a man’s mind. I’ve been at the receiving end of it myself. You should have seen me, about a year and a half ago. For the duration of that blasted contraption’s treatment, I wasn’t making much more sense than he did. Fortunately, it only lasted a few days.”
“You?” Black raised a perplexed brow. “Now that’s something I wasn’t aware of. Your Captain Blue didn’t mention it.”
“And I thank Captain Blue for keeping the story quiet. It’s not something we want to become common knowledge, in any case. And even if you are from a parallel world, and it would be unlikely that this secret would be known around here because of you, I would be grateful if you do not…” White left the rest of his request hanging, and stared meaningfully at Black.
The latter nodded. “Understood, Colonel. You can count on my complete discretion.” He looked thoughtfully at the older man. “You do seem to have recovered without any lasting effects…”
“I like to think that I did. So you see, I do think there is hope for your partner.”
“I do think the same, yes. Once he’s back in our world, he’ll get all the help he needs. He certainly deserves it, with all he has done in his fight against the Mysterons. And there is someone there… waiting for him… who will be very happy to see him again.”
“His fiancée? Your world’s Rhapsody Angel?”
“Ah, she’s not Rhapsody Angel anymore... But that’s the help I was thinking about, yes.”
White smiled thinly. “That’s the best help he could wish for.” He made a short, thoughtful pause, before addressing Black again. “Captain, although I can see you’re obviously happy to know that your friend will probably eventually recover from his ordeal, even knowing how reserved a man you can be…”
“I can’t fool you, can I, Colonel?” Black asked with a sad smile.
“Well, I’ve known this world’s Conrad Turner for years, so I’m pretty much able to read you.” White narrowed his eyes. “He was a close friend, and contributed to the creation of Spectrum.”
“The same as me, in my world. On both accounts.”
“Seeing you amongst us… brings back memories.”
“Not too painful, I trust?”
White pondered that. “Well, some of them, better than others,” he admitted good-naturedly enough. “I couldn’t help noticing, when you first arrived on Cloudbase, that you are not wearing the white belt of second-in-command. What happened? Did you get demoted?”
“After all I had done under the Mysterons’ control, did you expect anything else?” Black sighed. “Of course, it was taken into consideration that I wasn’t really responsible for those acts, but that doesn’t make the fact that I actually did them any easier to accept. I was put on probation – which is quite understandable, if you ask me. And even if they had not removed my privileges, I would have relinquished them willingly. Returning to complete, active duty, as a ground agent, was quite satisfying. I thought I would be able to prove myself then.”
“And your Colonel White partnered you with Captain Blue.” White shook his head. “Must not have been the easiest of tasks for you.”
Black chuckled. “No… not at first, it wasn’t.” He became serious again. “But our relationship evolved – eventually. We gained each other’s trust.”
“So tell me then – what is bothering you, Captain? Because I know there’s something on your mind now. What is it?”
“Yes,” Black murmured. “Yes, there is something on my mind. Ever since I met Captain Black, just after he shot Adam.” He stopped himself, realising what wording he had chosen, and then sighed. “Odd, isn’t it… to actually see that man, and to refer to him as ‘Captain Black’. That’s what I was, just over a year ago… I don’t actually have any memory of that period, just feelings…” He shivered. “Well, feelings are quite enough, I can tell you.”
“I understand,” White said with a nod. “But you were ultimately able to break free from Mysteron control.”
“Purely by accident,” Black reminded him. “As I’m sure Captain Scarlet told you.”
“Nevertheless, I see it as an indication that there might still be hope for our Captain Black… if we’re ever able to get our hands on him, that is.”
“And if he doesn’t get himself killed before that.”
Again, White gave a nod, but this time, it was a pensive one. “Yes, there is the possibility of that, of course. He’s quite ruthless, when it comes to carrying out his orders from the Mysterons. We… discovered that he was actually at the small private runway, in Los Angeles, from where that small private plane took off, a few hours before it collided with the ski resort. The original plane was found, crashed in the Rockies. There was only one person onboard – the pilot. An L.A. businessman on his way to meet his wife for a week-end in Aspen.”
“So Black might have done something to that plane so it would crash, and the Mysterons could take it over,” Black realised, musingly. “Poor guy… Another innocent victim of the Mysterons… And another life to put on Captain Black’s ever-growing list.”
“So you see, under the circumstances, I certainly won’t ask my officers to risk their lives, or the lives of others, just for the sake of capturing him alive, if they can’t avoid stopping him by any other means than killing him.” White looked straight at Black. “I hope you understand…”
“Of course I do,” Black said quietly enough. “I know how dangerous he is. He shot Blue in the gut, in cold blood, and tried to bury Scarlet and me in that avalanche. It was only by a miracle that we were able to get out from under there and rush to the chalet after that.” He scratched his head. “I will admit it, Colonel, despite the fact that this man is supposed to be me in your world, when I saw my partner at his feet, I could only think of killing him.”
“I think I can understand how you’re feeling, yes. We’ll take care of the problem he represents eventually, Captain. I give you my word on that.”
“Oh, I know you will do your best, Colonel. One way or the other. Unfortunately, I won’t be here to see the conclusion.”
“When you do think you’ll be leaving, then?”
“As soon as Captain Blue is fit to make the jump through the portal leading to my world… In a few days, I believe.” Black stared into his nearly empty mug. “In the meantime, our scientists – and yours – are perfecting the travelling process. They managed to modify the receiver so they would have two-way communication. They should know when we’ll be ready to make the jump. And they will open the portal, and we’ll be on our way. I won’t lie to you – I can’t wait to get back home. The further away I am from your Captain Black…”
“The better you will feel, I know.” White stood up, and Black did the same, understanding that the official meeting was coming to an end. The Spectrum commander held out his hand to him. “In any case, Conrad… it’s been an honour to meet you. I would say, ‘good to see you again… my friend’.”
Black grasped his hand and shook it vigorously, offering a genuine smile to the other man.
When one copy of Captain Blue woke up slowly in sickbay, after days of comatose sleep, he felt disoriented, and looked around in confusion, wondering how he had ended up there. At first, he wasn’t sure, but he did recognise the familiar settings; too often, he had awakened in a similar bed, with similar instruments and tubes connected to him, hearing these same sounds he was presently hearing, and smelling these same odours he had grown to detest.
Except, this time, he realised, this wasn’t exactly the same place.
At the end of the bed, stood a tall blond man, watching him with attention, waiting patiently. The wounded man raised his head slightly to look at him, a frown displayed on his pale brow.
The man standing there was wearing the same face as himself.
Exhausted by the simple effort he had made, he let his head fall onto the pillow, and groaned.
“Are you okay?” his twin asked quietly, his features unflustered.
“Yeah,” was the weak answer. “I think I will be…” He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “Actually… I don’t feel much of anything. A little woozy perhaps…”
“That would be the painkillers. You’ve been shot. You’re suffering multiple fractures. Do you remember what happened?”
“You won’t be walking for quite a few weeks, I heard.” Captain Blue left his position at the end of the bed, and came closer. He stopped next to the man, and looked down at him. “I won’t say you don’t deserve this…”
“Yeah. Divine justice, you think?” his twin said with a renewed frown.
“You could say that, yes,” Blue said, a little harsher than he really intended to. “You trapped me in your world…”
“Your people thought I was you… and that I was completely insane.”
“How could you do that to your own fiancée? She didn’t deserve to be treated the way you did!”
The double lowered his eyes in shame, trying to avoid those of Blue.
“As if deceiving everyone in your world wasn’t enough, you also did it in mine,” Blue continued. “You passed yourself off as me, did all kinds of mischief as me, and that I will be hearing about for months to come… You beat Ochre up… And ultimately, you kidnapped my fiancée and conned her into marrying you.”
“And killed my best friend,” Blue finished, eyes blazing. “Okay… so Scarlet got better. But it’s a lucky thing for you that he actually could.” He leaned over the man, and stared at him, accusingly. “Is there anything else you did that I should know about?”
His double swallowed hard. He could see the anger in Blue’s eyes, and wondered exactly how much he knew of what had happened in the cabin. “I know I… hurt Karen.. I didn’t mean it to… but I hurt her anyway.”
Blue’s eyes burned hotter. “What happened?” he asked tersely.
“I… didn’t go as far as you think. She… wouldn’t let me.” He looked away guiltily, not willing to look Blue in the eyes. “I… I’m sorry. Truly, I am…”
“You are sorry.” Blue heaved a deep sigh, and straightened up. “I thank you for your honesty. Karen wouldn’t tell me anything.” He nodded. “Yes, I know… you’re not responsible for what you did. After your experience with the Dream Spinner, it messed up your mind, and you were confused… And at the end, you did actually come to realise the craziness of what you were doing… and came through for us.” He shook his head. “If not for you, Rhapsody Angel would not be alive today. You risked your life to save her, got injured in the process, and for that, I am grateful to you… But I will find it very difficult to actually forgive you for all you did.”
“I know, and I will live with the guilt for the rest of my life.” Blue’s double looked up, hopefully. “I will do my best to make amends…”
“I’m sure you will,” Blue said glacially. “But you will find it very difficult to send me money to repair the damage done to Snow Capped Summits…”
“Oh.” The expression on the double’s face was one of unease. “Is there a lot?”
Blue rolled his eyes. “The chalet is completely destroyed, and the entire season is in jeopardy. My father will learn sooner or later that it was all due to a Spectrum operation, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing from him very soon…”
“Sorry…” his double repeated, but Blue could see that he was having a hard time to conceal the amusement he obviously felt at the news. Blue, on the other hand, was anything but amused.
“Don’t play smart, Captain, you’re not entirely off the hook.”
“I know I’m responsible,” Blue’s double said, trying to regain his seriousness. “Truly, I am sorry…” He frowned with curiosity. “What was it… that the Mysterons wanted to do anyway? Was it… their plan to destroy the resort?”
Blue scoffed. “Hardly! You think that a ski station would interest them, even if it’s owned by the family of one of Spectrum’s senior staff? No… their latest thread was to ‘cut off the wings of a high-flying member of Spectrum’… We thought they could mean an Angel.”
“So… they were taking advantage of the situation… like they often do… to make a move against Karen?” The double closed his eyes in horrified realisation and sighed. “My God… because of me, she nearly got killed…”
“It could be they were also after you,” Blue said firmly, causing his double to look up at him in perplexity. “In a way, you’re also a high-flying member of Spectrum… and in your world, even more than I am myself, according to your Captain Black. So it is possible that the Mysterons were going after the two of you – striking a blow in their war – in both worlds at once.”
“That would be like them…” the double murmured. “Still, if I had not kidnapped her… she might not have been targeted.”
“You won’t see me arguing with that.”
“I put everyone’s life at risk. Karen’s, yours… Black’s and Scarlet’s… and Dianne’s…”
“We were very lucky that the chalet was so solidly built,” Blue remarked. “Obviously, it was much sturdier than the Mysterons imagined, when they planned to throw that civilian plane against it. Or maybe they were thinking of sending it against the cabin, and your kidnapping of Karen – to take her to the chalet – made them change their plans? Neither of you would have survived that.” He paused, leaving the wounded man to ponder this. “Tell me something,” Blue continued, “in the chalet, when everything was falling apart… I could see you were torn between coming to Karen’s rescue and saving Dianne. What made you choose to go to Dianne, ultimately?”
“Karen… was already protected by you,” his double said in a low tone. “She didn’t need my help. But Dianne…” He frowned. “Dianne was in danger… She needed me. I couldn’t… simply turn my back on her.”
Blue stood there, looking thoughtfully at the man on the bed; finally, he slowly nodded, and turned around. “That’s good enough for me…” He started to make his way towards the door.
“Wait!” The call made Blue stop, just at the end of the bed, and he turned to face his twin, who was looking desperately in his direction. “Do you think… do you think she will ever forgive me?” he said in a murmur. “Dianne… My Dianne, that is? Will she… will she take me back?”
Blue gave it some thought. “That depends,” he said. “Provided you can get a quick annulment for that fake marriage of yours… she might be willing to consider it.”
The other Blue frowned deeply. “You can’t get an annulment for a fake…” He stopped himself and opened his eyes wide, suddenly registering the complete wording Blue had used. “You know it was fake?”
Blue went to the door. “Of course I know. I’ve known ever since I saw the signature on the ‘wedding certificate’. Ben Cunnings has never been a minister of the church – only a bad actor, always willing to help a University friend in need – provided the said friend would give him enough money for his services…” He pushed the opening button and the door slid open in front of him. “It was a little matter for him to use his father’s little church – who’s the real minister in the family – to conduct a fake ceremony.”
“Does Karen know?”
“No. No, she doesn’t know yet.” Blue turned around and smirked at his double. “She’ll be coming around shortly, to see how you are. I’ll leave to you the opportunity to explain this last deception to her. Pray that she’s in a good mood, brother… Or that there is someone with her when she comes, who will be willing to hold her back when you tell her.”
With that, very satisfied with himself, he left the room, leaving his double to contemplate with distress the task that would be awaiting him shortly.
Two weeks later, the other Captain Blue’s condition was deemed satisfactory enough for him to make the bumpy trip back to his own world with Captain Black. In the meantime, Spectrum scientists from both worlds had been in contact with each other to find a way to ‘ease’ the opening of the portal, so it would not end up almost destroying the rooms in which it would open on both sides.
The relative success of this operation could not really be verified; it would have meant using up too much of the remaining energy of the red stones, when there was barely enough to open the portal once, for the trip back. Everyone was, however, confident that it would work reasonably, and so, considering that it was now ‘safe’ to proceed, Colonel White authorised an SPJ to take the two visitors from the parallel world back to the Spectrum Research Centre in Valley Forge.
They were escorted by Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue, and Colonel White consented to Symphony and Rhapsody Angels accompanying them as well. It was noticeable, however, that Captain Blue was keeping very close to his fiancée – as if suspecting that, at the last minute, his double would make an ultimate desperate attempt to get away with her. He need not have worried, though, as his twin would have found it very hard to even try to escape with the young woman: his right leg was broken, as well as his left arm, and, still very weak, he needed a wheelchair to move around. And anyway, it wasn’t the double’s intention to even attempt such a crazy stunt: although he looked a little sombre, he seemed to have finally accepted that he would never be able to return to whatever he had had with his own Symphony, and had made peace with the woman he had treated so badly.
As it turned out, Symphony Angel, although upset to hear, a few days ago, from the embarrassed – and worried – double of Captain Blue that he had, once again, deceived her with a lie, was so very happy to learn they had never been married in the first place, that she automatically forgave him for this last trick – and even kissed him as a way of thanking him. It was a gentle kiss, on the cheek, like a sister would give a brother – or a stepbrother, she had joked – but it had brought red to the man’s face. Probably, reflected Rhapsody, who had been present at the scene, the other Adam would cherish this last expression of affection from his lost love – at least, what he considered his lost love – for the rest of his living days.
“I’m pretty sure Colonel White will want my commission for what I did,” the double observed as Scarlet pushed his chair out of the lift and into the corridor leading to the room where the Spectrum scientists were waiting for them. “He won’t look the other way after a stunt like this.”
“Do you think?” Rhapsody asked, with a twitch of her brow.
“Nah,” Captain Blue commented, his voice dripping heavy with irony. “He would never do that… Not to his future son-in-law…”
“That’s if Dianne still wants me,” his double replied gloomily. “She might not want to give me the time of day anymore... And I wouldn’t blame her.”
“Well, you’ll learn soon enough.” Captain Scarlet pushed the chair through the open door, and everyone followed behind. Doctors Giadello, Kurnitz and Lavender were all waiting for them, and welcomed them warmly. Scarlet experienced a strange sense of déjà-vu, as he remembered a similar assembly, a year back, when he and Ochre had been sent back to their own home world. This time around, it was another Captain Blue and another Captain Black who would do the reverse trip.
“Everything is ready for the experiment,” Lavender declared, and Scarlet had to fight himself not to frown at the scientist’s everlasting use of the word. Everything seemed to be an ‘experiment’ for him, even on the more human level. It was never very reassuring to hear him talk this way.
“Just time to ‘warm up the machine’, so to speak,” Giadello continued. “The ride will be far smoother than it has been up until now. Oh, of course, the opening of the portal will still create a sonic boom, but the dispersal of energy will not be as great…”
“The fact that the stones used to open the portal are on both ends this time makes it much easier for us to control the flow of energy,” Kurnitz continued. “We will then able to re-direct that energy right into the Console, which has been further modified for the occasion, following the instructions given by our… er… alter egos from the parallel world. They’ve provided us with valuable information that we will be studying for months!”
“If not years,” Lavender declared. “This is all so fascinating… We might be on the verge of mastering inter-dimensional travel...”
“Mastering is a big word, my dear colleague,” Giadello argued. “We’re merely able to interact with that world, because of the accident of last year, and the energy signature that seems to have been left between our two worlds since then. But to successfully master inter-dimensional travel, we will have to learn how to choose our destination carefully – and to actually be able to go where we want. As it is right now, it would be quite like a parachute jump with no control over where you would land. And that could be very risky.”
“It might be a moot point, anyway,” Kurnitz added in turn, “since we would need the proper energy to make that jump in the first place. And we might not have any, once the red stones we presently have are drained completely.”
“We could always find another compatible source…” Lavender started.
Nobody else but themselves really listened to the rest of the three scientists’ explanation – and further argument they might have on the subject. So it was with some perplexity that the Spectrum officers watched them debating, not comprehending half of what was actually being said. What they really wished to know, however, was if the trip back to the other world would be safe, and since nobody was apparently willing to give them this bit of information, Captain Scarlet volunteered himself to ask it directly. He imagined, by the way Giadello glared at him, that the man had not appreciated being interrupted in a very exciting conversation.
“Oh yes, it will be quite safe,” he said, somewhat dismissively. “Like crossing the street, actually.”
“Albeit, a very windy street,” Kurnitz replied.
“Now, now, Doctor…”
And with that, the argument started again. Shrugging, Scarlet returned to his colleagues, a smile on his face.
“That’s good enough for me,” he said quite simply.
“I’m not sure,” Black said with a concerned frown. “How ‘windy’ are they thinking this could be, exactly? Are we talking ‘hurricane’ windy or ‘cool early Spring breeze’ windy?”
“I do remember how you and Ochre landed rather roughly when you returned to our world, Scarlet,” Blue commented in turn. “It was as if Oz’s tornado had dropped you in the middle of the room…”
“You were not ‘dropped’ too roughly when you and Black arrived here,” Scarlet reasoned. “So I’m supposing that the ‘experiment’– to use Doctor Lavender’s favourite word – should be about the same.”
“It wasn’t all peachy,” Black replied. “And one of us wasn’t injured then…”
“I don’t mind,” the double of Captain Blue replied at this moment.
As everybody turned in his direction, he locked the wheels of his chair, and pushed himself into a standing position. Rhapsody, by his side, handed him the crutches she had been carrying since they had left the SPJ; he thanked her gracefully, and propped them under his arms to support himself. The crutches might have been an inch or two too short, so he stooped a little, while making an effort to stand as tall as he could. He smirked.
“I’m ready to go home,” he said.
“And ready to face whatever might be awaiting you there?” Blue asked him.
His twin nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, it’s about time I did that too. I’ve been avoiding reality for too long. Plus… I’m prepared to face the consequences of my act. Although…” He faced Symphony, who was standing right next to her fiancé – who, he noticed, was holding her round the waist, in a seemingly protective way. “Whatever judgment awaits me in my world, I’m pretty sure it won’t be enough for me to make amends for all the wrong I did here… especially towards you, Karen.”
“I think you have been sufficiently punished,” she replied charitably. “I do understand that you were sick… Well, not yourself, anyway…”
He nodded, lowering his eyes. “Yes… maybe I was sick, and I may have a long way still to go… But I promise, I will make every effort to recover… this time.”
She reached to him, and he leaned down, so she would be able to kiss him lightly on the cheek. “You already made a good start on it,” she said as she stood back, “when you saved Rhapsody’s life.”
Blue’s double grinned. “Probably the only thing I did right in this world.” He looked directly at the red-head, standing next to Symphony. “Dianne… thank you again, so very much. You helped me put things back into perspective in my life. Without you… I don’t know how things would have turned out. For me and everyone.”
He leaned to kiss her, and she smiled. “I am not the one you should thank,” she said. “I did the talking. But the idea actually belonged to your twin.”
“So I heard,” he said turning to Blue. “Adam…” He presented his hand, that Blue squeezed.
“Don’t thank me, and don’t start apologising again,” he said, adding with a smile, “and most importantly – do not even think of kissing me.”
His double chuckled. “I would hug you, if I wasn’t afraid I’d actually fall down,” he replied. “And I would also say to you – ‘hope to see you again soon’, but I do believe you would prefer not to see me ever again.”
“Now what makes you think a thing like that?” Blue asked, although he inwardly admitted what his double had said was very close to the truth.
The latter’s smile widened. “I don’t know… a feeling, perhaps? If I was in your place, that’s what I would think…” He glanced in Symphony’s direction. “Do take care of your girl for me.”
“I will, don’t worry.”
“And you, of yours,” Blue’s double added, turning to Scarlet. “Whatever the world she lives in, she’s special.”
Scarlet clasped hands with him. “I happen to think the same,” he said. “And Adam… no hard feelings.”
“Thank you… I needed to hear that.”
“Gentlemen,” the voice of Doctor Lavender then said. “We are about ready to proceed.”
The two visitors exchanged glances, and then, Blue’s twin stood as tall as he could and cleared his throat. “Come on, Captain Black… we’ve wasted enough time as it is. Let’s go home.” And with that, he turned around on his crutches, and directed his steps towards the waiting scientists who, in the meantime, had stopped arguing and were busying themselves around the controls of the Kurnitz Console. Captain Black stood with the others, as they thoughtfully watch him go.
“You reckon he’ll be all right?” Scarlet asked once he was sure his partner’s double was out of earshot.
“I think he will be,” Black confirmed. “If there is one thing I’ve learned about him, it’s that he’s resilient.”
“And stubborn,” Symphony piped up, glancing at her fiancé. She knew, all too well, that it was at least one trait of character he shared with his double.
“That too,” Black agreed with a faint smile, turning to face them all. “If we do meet again, I hope it will be under better circumstances.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Blue commented. “In our line of work?”
“And with the Mysterons to boot?” Scarlet added.
“Yes, it seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?”
A sonic boom was heard from the Kurnitz console and that attracted their attention; they looked up, and saw a blinding light appear, seemingly out of nowhere, almost directly in front of Captain Blue’s double. It enlarged in a matter of seconds and took on a circular form, with the light far brighter on the external edge and gradually disappearing as it was swirling towards the inner, like a tornado of pure bright light, laid on its side.
“It works!” Giadello exclaimed excitedly. “We are controlling the flux of energy! But it’ll only be a short time before the vortex closes. You must go in!”
Captain Blue’s double was facing the large opening, standing on his crutches, his clothes and hair flapping in the hot wind of energy swirling all around him. He was looking deep into the portal, trying to see beyond the winds of light, seemingly hesitant at first.
He turned around once. “Come on, Conrad, what are you waiting for? Are you planning to stay here for the rest of your life?”
That caused Black to raise a questioning brow and he turned one last time towards the Spectrum officers from this world, so similar to him, and yet so different. Like the reserved man he was, he simple nodded at them, and he purposefully turned his back on them and hurried towards his waiting colleague.
He was the first to cross the threshold of the portal, closely followed by his friend.
Slowly, the others approached and watched expectantly, as both men slowly went deeper into the tunnel, which seemed to expand well beyond the confines of the room.
Captain Black disappeared from view, as if he had been engulfed by the light.
As Captain Blue was about to disappear in turn, a silhouette appeared at the end of the tunnel. Rhapsody gasped.
At first, the silhouette was barely recognisable, but soon, its contours became clearer, and the Spectrum officers, standing at a safe distance from the vortex, as if afraid they would be swallowed by the whirlwind emerging from it, saw that it was a woman.
A red-haired woman, dressed in civvies, who after a few steps, stood still and waited.
A little hesitantly, the other Captain Blue approached, and stopped in front of her; the Spectrum officers were too far away, and the winds were too loud, so they couldn’t hear what words the two exchanged – if indeed they talked at all. Blue stood expectantly, almost awkwardly, as if apprehending what would be the young woman’s reaction upon seeing him again.
He didn’t have to wait very long.
The last scene the officers saw before the light slowly closed on the two estranged lovers was that of Lady Dianne Simms suddenly jumping into the arms of Captain Blue, without taking any care of his crutches and making him stumble almost to the point of falling. They exchanged a long languorous kiss.
And then the light closed on them, and the portal started to fade.
“Aw….” Rhapsody sighed, leaning her head against her fiancé’s chest. “Wasn’t that sweet?”
“Sickeningly,” Scarlet responded imperturbably. Which won him a vigorous, but still loving, pounding on the chest.
“Yeah,” Captain Blue agreed with a brief nod. “But I hope they’ll be happy together.” He sighed. “What d’you say about us returning to our non-confusing, comforting, day-to-day, normal life?”
“Whatever normal really means for us,” Symphony said.
“Well, at least it’s real,” Blue commented.
“I’ll buy that,” Scarlet replied. “Let’s get out of here.”
The four of them turned around, as one, and started walking towards the exit, Scarlet and Blue exchanging places with each other after a few steps, as they suddenly came to the realisation they were not holding their respective girlfriends.
The four of them
chuckled and giggled at the confusion, and left the room, as the last of the
vortex disappeared into nothingness.
It didn’t matter – not really. It was but an experiment of a sort for them. With their vast powers, they as yet still needed to fully control the multiverse inter-dimensional flux of energy – to use it to for their own purpose, and to eventually create further havoc for this race they had sworn to destroy.
The Earthmen made perfect guinea pigs, even though they were not aware of this. Their tentative progress in a field they did not completely understood was very informative for the Mysterons, who fully intended to use this to their own advantage eventually. The Mysterons would help them, of course – they would provide the tools the Earthmen needed – the tools that would eventually be used to destroy them. Like the Martian red stones, of which the Earthmen were just starting to discover the full power…
Did they actually think the receiver, created by Doctor Kurnitz, and that the Mysterons ‘improved’ on a molecular level, really returned to its own world accidentally, after Blue crossed the inter-dimensional portal? The Earthmen were naïve enough to believe so…
This object, recreated by the Mysterons, would answer their command. Moving it through the still-open vortex had been but the first small step in a larger scheme…
These two worlds, out of the countless others that existed in the multiverse, so similar, and yet so different – they would eventually give the Mysterons the key they were looking for, to master the inter-dimension – like they had mastered the reversal of matter… And that would be the Earthmen’s downfall. Of course, they could not be allowed to keep the secret of that power – that would be something that the Mysterons, and the Mysterons alone, should be allowed to control. Then these two worlds would be destroyed, to insure that would be the case…
The Mysteronised Captain Scarlet nodded his silent approval. All in all, the experiment had been a success. Captain Blue had been compromised; he would not be able to pursue his work within Spectrum for the foreseeable future… He didn’t dare think that he would never be back; Blue had that nauseating habit of always bouncing back, eventually, but at least there would be some respite. He was the Mysterons’ most relentless opponent in this world, even counting Captain Black.
In that other world, there was Captain Scarlet… And that one was even more dangerous.
Eventually, the Mysteron Scarlet thought, the two of them will have to meet again. And when that happened, only one of them would survive. Even if he had to find his own way to that other world…
Not now… but soon… So very soon…
Time was on the Mysterons’ side.
And the Mysterons could not not win.
“Parallax Blues” is the sequel to “Parallax View”, a story that I wrote in 2003, as a part of the Multiverse and Halloween Challenges. This story was supposed to be about the same length but, as often it happened when you start writing something, it took a life of its own, and became longer of about the double. This author does hope, however, that it was still entertaining enough for you to enjoy to read – as much as I enjoyed writing it. I wanted for a long time to bring back the character of ‘Bearded Blue’ and to explore him a little more in a story of his own. While they’re many actors in “Parallax Blues”, it is mainly about this Captain Blue from a parallel world – ‘Real’ Blue – and as his twin said, ‘Real is such a relative view’ – comes as a close second, and I also HAD to mention the Captain Black from that other world – whom I had freed from the control of the Mysterons at the end of “Parallax View”.
To my knowledge, the existence of ‘Parallel Worlds’ is an old concept, developed in many science-fiction stories over the past years, either books, comics, or movies. Marvel Comics Group and DC Comics used the concept often, and in their comic books I found my first interest in this fascinating subject. Gerry Anderson himself dwelled into it with his movie ‘Journey to the Far Side of the Sun’, also known as ‘Doppleganger’ – where an astronaut visits another Earth, similar but also so different in details of our own. As a tribute to this movie, I named the ‘Parallel Worlds theory’, the ‘Anderson Theory’ – a term that was used in “Parallax View” already – and might be used again, if there is a last sequel to that story.
Many of the characters from “Parallax View” made a return, including Captain Indigo, with the identity of Andrew Lawrence, that I borrowed from the 1993 Thunderbirds, where he had been given a character’s background . He was not officially named in the TV series, but I thought it would be a nice touch to use the name ‘Andrew’ for this story. Doctor Lavender, Cloudbase’s head of R and D, and the ‘red stones’, that I created for “Parallax View”, also made a return. The ‘Dream Spinner’, that I mention in this story, made its first appearance in my story “Spectrum is White”. Other of my stories are referred to, such as “The Twilight of the Gods”, “Christmas with Adam’s Family”, and “A Symphony in Blue”.
The Spectrum Research Centre in Valley Forge was the creation of Mary J. Rudy for her story “Mixed Doubles”. Mary also is the originator of the idea of Captain Brown flying between the Control Tower’s pylons – an event that was mentioned a few times already before I used it again in this story. Lieutenant Obsidian, chief of security at the Centre, is my own creation.
Thanks to helpful beta-reader Hazel Köhler, for having checked, commented, corrected, advised many versions of this story, working harder than myself I believe, for me to meet the approaching deadline. And also to Mary J. Rudy and Marion Woods, for their help, encouragements and comments. Any mistake that you will find in this story are my own.
Many thanks to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, for the creation of the ‘Captain Scarlet’ series, its characters and its background.
And finally, I want to thank you, readers, for reading this story.
Happy Halloween to all.