This story is based on characters created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson for the TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Some events and characters Copyright © of all trademarks materials (Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, all characters, vehicles, crafts, etc.), owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton. Information of the series are all been taken from copyright © materials (books, magazines, videos, T.V. media, comics, etc) owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.
As always, thanks to Hazel Köhler and Mary J. Rudy for their invaluable help as beta-readers.
A Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons story
By Chris Bishop
PART 1 - THROUGH THE MIRROR
Culver Atomic Centre,
They told him not to go in. But Captain Blue wouldn’t listen to them. He was too concerned – too worried that she would get hurt. He had to try and do something to help her, even if it meant going behind everybody else’s back, even if it meant disobeying the Colonel’s orders. He didn’t care anymore about that. All he wanted to do was to make sure she was safe.
He had crept out of the office while everybody had been looking elsewhere. They would soon realise he was gone – probably they did, already, but there was no way they would stop him now – he was already too far away. The second he had crossed the doorway, it was too late to stop him, anyway. He was determined to go through with this – alone, if he had too. Symphony was in danger. He had to save her.
It was pretty easy to find out where exactly their prey would be hiding with his hostage. He had come back to the Atomic Centre for what reason, exactly? Because the radiation from the Centre would hide his own? Probably at the beginning, but it would mean Spectrum would know exactly where he was. Well, eventually, the radiation within him would wear off, but would he be able to get out of there then? Spectrum was watching every exit – they knew approximately when he’d no longer be radioactive, so they knew when he’d try to escape. So, he would take them by surprise. Somehow. It was exactly his style. And in that case, in order to get away, he would need to clean himself of his radiation.
There were only one place to do that, inside the perimeters where Spectrum knew him to be.
Captain Blue carefully pushed the door and entered the room. It was dark in there, nearly as dark as it presently was in the majority of the Centre at the moment. It was good for him, he thought, as he might be able to get in without being seen. Maybe he’d be able to surprise his prey, and get Symphony out of his clutches, without so much as a fight with her abductor. Maybe he’d be able to capture him, without having to kill him, as the Colonel would like, and then Spectrum would be able to free him from the Mysterons’ control? He was one of Spectrum’s best men once; in Blue’s point of view, their very best. Maybe there was still hope to save him too.
Silently, Blue advanced into the dark room, his gun drawn. In front of him there was a glassed-in cabin, with a console set in front of it. A kind of decontamination chamber, he reflected. Good. He was in the right place.
A sound on his right made him turn suddenly, his gun at the ready. He froze, when he found himself aiming it at Symphony herself, standing a mere six feet away from him. She was looking at him with eyes wide-opened with fear. Behind her stood Blue’s quarry, using Symphony as a shield, his forearm pressed against her throat, and holding a gun at her head. Blue could see a pale face over the young woman’s frightened features, with icy eyes, glaring darkly at him.
“Don’t make a move. Or she’s dead.”
Blue blinked, hearing the warning, as cold as the eyes were themselves. He couldn’t recognise the voice. It sounded so much like the Mysterons’ voice. It bore so little likeness to that of his friend – so devoid of emotion. He swallowed hard, and kept his gun steadily aimed at his target.
“The place is surrounded,” Blue declared with as assured a voice as he was able to muster. “You can’t hope to escape.”
“You’ve made a mistake coming in here, Earthman”, the alien voice said, through the lips of the man who had been his friend and colleague.
“YOU’VE made the mistake,” Blue replied. “You drove yourself into a corner by coming back here. Now, please. Surrender. Maybe we can help you…”
The scoff was bitter, and so loathing. The gun against Symphony’s head was removed, and Blue nearly blew a sigh of relief. Until he saw that the hand holding it simply lowered down to press the barrel against the young Angel pilot’s side. She flinched, and gave a desperate look to Blue. “Adam…” Blue saw the arm pressing harder on Symphony’s throat, ensuring its hold on her. He blanched.
“Don’t hurt her!” he demanded. “Let her go!”
“I was about to,” came the cold replied. “I came to an agreement with her… I was going to give her ONE chance…”
Blue’s feverish eyes left those of the Mysteron agent and locked onto those of Symphony. He was trying to pass a message to her. Don’t be afraid, I’m here… I’ll get you out of this…
He lowered his gun, very slowly. Maybe he could gain time until the others arrived. Surely, they would arrive shortly. They would probably follow the same line of thought as himself, deduce where Symphony and her abductor were – and where Blue had gone – and come as quickly as they could.
“Don’t hurt her,” he repeated, trying to keep his voice calm. “There’s no need to…”
“You forfeited her last chance to live, Earthman.”
The rest was very quick, but for Blue it was as if it happened in slow motion. He saw the Mysteron agent’s finger squeeze the trigger and simultaneously, heard the detonation, and the cry of pain emerging from Symphony’s lips as she flinched under the impact. He saw the blood erupting from the left side of her body and nearly splashing into him. He froze for the space of a second, before a deafening roar tore through his throat, as the same time as an inexpressible pain tore through his heart. It was almost a physical pain, as if the bullet that had struck his beloved Angel had struck him too. He raised his gun, as Symphony fell and, blinded with fear and rage, fired at the tall figure in black that was now standing in front of him, unprotected. His aim was faulty, but he knew his bullet reached its target. At this range, he couldn’t miss. But the Mysteron barely recoiled. Instead, he raised his gun, and it fired anew; and Blue, hit in the right shoulder, lost hold of his weapon and staggered.
“Not good enough, Earthman…” The Mysteron was on Blue before he could react and violently hit him over the head with his gun. Blue’s knees buckled, and he fell down on the floor. With blurred vision, he could see his adversary make good his escape through the door, the bullet the Spectrum captain had put in him hardly slowing him down.
As the Mysteron disappeared from his view, Blue’s dazed attention instantly turned to the figure sprawled at his side. He could hear Symphony’s laborious and panicky breathing as he literally crawled to her, desperation distorting his handsome features. God, please, no… Don’t… Let me help her…
She was so pale, lying on her side on the cold floor, a pool of blood enlarging underneath her, staining her white uniform where the bullet had hit her. Blue awkwardly sat down, and with trembling hands, notwithstanding the pain from his wounded shoulder, he gathered her limp form and cradled her in his arms.
“Karen, I’m so sorry… Karen….” He could feel her body trembling, going into shock. She looked up at his apprehensive face.
“I’m cold, Adam…”
No… God, don’t let her die…
“I’m here,” he whispered, holding her close. “Don’t worry, I’m here…” Where’s my radiocap? he thought, panic overtaking him. I got to call for help… She needs a doctor…
I won’t let her die…
“H-hold me tight,” he heard the murmur in his ear.
“No.” His own voice was but a croak, now filled with tears. He could feel them starting to form on the bridge of his nose. He held her closer still, as if somehow hoping this way to chase the shadow of death threatening to take her away from him.
He heard rapid footsteps in the distance, drawing closer; he didn’t even see Captains Ochre, Magenta and Grey as they entered the room and turned on the light to discover the appalling scene. They awkwardly gathered around. He didn’t care to answer their calls. He didn’t care for their presence. He only cared for the woman he was holding so close against his rapidly beating heart, feeling her’s slowing down, at the rate of her breathing.
“Please, don’t die… Karen, I love you… Don’t die.”
She managed a faint smile; and tiredly lifted a hand to stroke his face. “I love you too, Adam…”
“Hang on… Please, hang on, darling…” Blue desperately looked up to the three faces staring down at him with uneasiness. “Call a doctor!” he demanded in a shaky, but still forceful voice. “She’s been hurt! Can’t you see she needs help?”
Ochre managed to briefly nod his acknowledgement and lowered his cap microphone, to quickly make the required call. But he knew, as he was doing it, that it was already too late.
“Who did this, Blue?” Grey demanded looking down at the prostrate man at his feet.
“Don’t die, Karen, please…”
“Blue, WHAT happened?”
Blue’s face was streaming with tears; Symphony’s head was leaned against his wounded shoulder. She was barely breathing now, and her face was even paler than before. Her lips were moving with not a single sound coming from them.
She was dying. And he was helpless to do anything.
“Blue, WHAT happened?”
That was Grey’s voice coming through the heavy fog enveloping Blue’s mind. The pain on the blond Captain’s face then metamorphosed – and gave way to an overwhelming expression of hate and rage that made his handsome face crease hideously.
“He shot her!” he growled in an undertone, his eyes taking a murky, sinister look. The tears of pain were now mixed with tears of bitter hatred, and his jaws tightened as if he was desperately trying to contain the righteous anger mounting inside him. “He shot her down without any mercy… I swear, by God…”
“Where is he, now?”
“He’s GONE!” Blue snarled at the insistent Grey. “But I’ll find him! I swear I’ll find him! And when I do, you’d better not step between me and him!” He held Symphony closer still against him, as in a protective way, not wanting to let her go, as he knew she was breathing her last breaths. “I’ll kill him for what he did to her!” he promised with a fury. “For hurting the woman I loved… I’ll kill that son of a bitch! I’ll kill Captain Scarlet!”
* * *
“I HATE this kind of assignment!”
Captain Blue looked at his partner and friend, Captain Scarlet, as the two of them were strolling down the corridor of Cloudbase deck C in the direction of the Research and Development Lab. Blue was his usual happy-going self, while Scarlet, at the moment, would have given anything to be in another place.
“Courage, Captain Scarlet,” Blue chuckled with a wide grin. “It’s only going to take an hour of your time! How bad could it be?”
“You really want to know?” Scarlet replied, shooting an old-fashioned look at the American officer. “Then YOU be the guinea pig for a change!”
“I’m afraid that won’t give the same results,” Blue answered matter-of-factly.
“Right. I’ve been Mysteronised. So I’ve got to be the experimental subject. Lucky me.” Scarlet pressed a button, to open the first protective door of the airlock leading to the lab. He heaved a sigh, and he and his friend walked through the doorway. “It all goes to remind me I’m not totally part of the human race anymore.” The first door closed behind them and he was about to push the button for the second door when Blue stopped him in mid-movement.
“Come on, now,” the blond captain protested quietly, looking his friend in the eyes. “You should know you’re not THAT different from us.”
“Aren’t I? How many times have you died, Adam?” Scarlet saw the hurt look in his friend’s features and automatically regretted his harsh words. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. I should be grateful for you coming with me, rather than laying it all on you.”
“I can understand your frustration,” Blue replied with a faint frown. “No, I don’t think it’s a fun situation for you, when you’re called by security, or sickbay, or R and D, whenever they need to test or verify something that concerns the Mysterons.”
“Not fun at all,” Scarlet grumbled. He jerked his head in the direction of the closed door. “Especially when the person calling me is Doctor Lavender.”
“I haven’t had time to get to know him yet. He only arrived a month or so back, didn’t he? What kind of a man is he?”
“Oh, he’s not a bad sort… Don’t get me wrong. He’s very professional. With him it’s always… down to business. Kind of detached, when it comes to socialising with other human beings. Not at all like Doctor Fawn. Although he can get very enthusiastic about his work. I’m sure that down inside, Lavender is a great guy.” He paused. “Deep down.” Another pause. “When you get to know him, that is.” He pushed his fists into his trouser pockets.
Blue chuckled. “I can see you’re really not that eager to see him.”
“I would rather play a game of chess with you. No matter how boring it might be.”
“Since when are our chess games boring?” Blue protested.
“They always are when you’re not concentrating enough. Too easy to win against you, then.”
Blue scoffed. “See? You’re NOT different from us at all! You can be as insufferable as…”
The door slid open in front of them, and Captain Ochre stood on the other side, staring at them with curiosity.
“…Him,” both Scarlet and Blue finished, before sniggering. Ochre looked at them crossly, figuring he was the subject of some kind of a gag.
“Can I ask what’s going on?” he demanded, with a furrowed brow.
“Oh!” Scarlet replied with a vague gesture. “You had to be there.”
“And YOU have to be HERE,” Ochre replied wryly, taking his colleague by the arm and nearly dragging him into the room. “Doctor Lavender was sending me to see what could possibly be holding you. He’ll be happy to see you’ve finally arrived!”
“Hey! I was coming!” Scarlet protested, shrugging Ochre’s hold on him. “And of my own free will!”
“Riiiight. And that’s why Blue was escorting you? To make sure you didn’t get lost on your way here?”
“I came with him for moral support,” Blue defended his friend.
“What am I here for, then? I can give moral support.”
“Very reassuring!” Scarlet muttered.
“And anyway,” Ochre continued, ignoring the remark, and turning to Blue, “weren’t you supposed to meet with somebody at two o’clock?”
“What’s going on, at two o’clock?” Scarlet demanded.
“Symphony will have finished with her Angel One duty,” Ochre informed him.
“Oh my God!” Blue checked his watch. His eyes became suddenly wide. “I’m nearly late! I must go!”
“What?” Scarlet said in disbelief. “You’re leaving me alone here? What about your moral support?”
“Sorry, Paul, old buddy – but I have some more pressing business to attend to. You know, Symphony and I… That wedding we have to prepare? That meeting with the colonel to see how he can get round regulations so the wedding can be approved?” Scarlet’s face fell, as he realised there was no way his friend would be able to stay. Blue gave him a reassuring pat on the arm, and a big smile. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
“In an hour, I’ll be out of here,” Scarlet replied dryly.
“Then I’ll see you in the Officers’ Lounge. We’ll play one of those BORING games of chess, okay?” Blue backed away, still grinning. “See you later!” The door slid closed on him, and a discomfited Scarlet found himself staring blankly into empty space, where his friend had been, seconds earlier. He felt Ochre encircling his shoulders with his strong arm and forcing him to turn around. Like an automaton, Scarlet followed, looking in annoyance at the grinning face of Ochre.
“Don’t worry, pal,” the American told him. “Like you said, it’s only ONE hour… Blue, he will have to spend the rest of his life with the little lady.”
“Precisely!” Scarlet replied. “So what’s so hard about giving me that hour?”
“Don’t pout, Paul,” Ochre chuckled, greatly amused by his friend’s behaviour.
Scarlet sighed. “You’re right. I’m being selfish. This is important for Adam. And Karen…” Something seemed to suddenly register in his mind. “And she HATES being called a ‘little lady’. You know that.” He gave a suspicious look at Ochre. “And what are YOU doing here exactly, Rick?”
“I asked him to come,” a voice answered from behind.
Scarlet turned around with Ochre. Doctor Lavender, formerly a valued assistant of Research and Development head of research Doctor Giadello, and recently assigned as the resident R and D ‘Mysterons specialist’ of Cloudbase, was standing behind them, wearing a white jacket, and holding a plastic plate in his hands, with a small piece of white cloth concealing whatever was on it. He smiled broadly at Scarlet. “Good afternoon, Captain Scarlet. So nice of you to finally join us.”
“Sorry, doctor,” Scarlet defended himself. “I was busy with some pressing business that couldn’t wait.” That made Ochre roll his eyes. Scarlet wouldn’t be able to invent a lie if his life depended on it – not that he would have any need for it. He took a note to eventually give his British friend a few lessons in that field.
Doctor Lavender sighed. “Never mind your excuses, Captain,” he said, walking past the two captains with his plate. “And you shouldn’t worry. Today’s experience is quite unlike what you’re obviously afraid of. So you may put your fears to rest. As a matter of fact, I think you may find the demonstration… rather interesting.”
“Who said I was afraid of anything?” Scarlet followed Lavender, Ochre in tow. The doctor led them to the centre of the room, where was set some kind of hexagonal aluminium console, covered with circuitry, coloured knobs and switches of all kinds. Dead centre of the console was a slight bulge - smooth-surfaced, and flat-topped, with an empty centre where microchip circuits were visible. Scarlet frowned deeply upon seeing the contraption, and, stopping in front of it, turned an inquiring look toward Ochre.
“That’s Doctor Kurnitz’s machine,” he remarked.
Ochre nodded his acknowledgement. It was indeed the communication device that Doctor Kurnitz from the Radio Communications Division of the Nash Institute of Technology had designed, nearly two years ago, in the hope that Spectrum would be able to contact the Mysterons on Mars, in order to negotiate a possible truce in this war of nerves they were waging against Earth. The source of energy and communication Spectrum were to use at the time was an object that Captain Scarlet, along with Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green, had brought back from the moon, where they had been sent to investigate a complex the Mysterons had started building there. The object, a translucent stone the size of a man’s hand, dubbed ‘diamond pulsator’ by both the Nash Institute and Spectrum, possessed its own inner energy from which it glowed when hooked to the proper apparatus. Following Kurnitz’s instructions, and from studies of photos and information brought from the preceding mission on the moon, Spectrum R & D had constructed the console of transmission circuitry that Scarlet was presently looking at with Ochre. It had worked for its intended purpose. Colonel White had been able to contact the Mysterons, but the negotiations proved useless, as the Mysterons – in an ironic turn of events – tried to use the diamond pulsator and the device conceived by Kurnitz and Spectrum to destroy Cloudbase, as they had promised they would in an earlier threat. The diamond pulsator went into some kind of overload, threatening to explode, but Captain Ochre had successfully unhooked it from the console and tossed it out through a porthole. The pulsator then safely blew up while falling down to Earth, without hurting anyone or destroying anything.
“I thought that thing had been dismantled and sent to a warehouse,” Scarlet mused, looking down at the console, while Lavender took his place on the other side, depositing his plate on it.
“Well, it was,” Lavender admitted quietly. “Up until a few weeks ago, when it was assembled again, in order to pursue new tests. I had it flown to Cloudbase about a week ago.”
“What is it to test?” Scarlet asked with curiosity. “This thing is man-made – granted, using information taken from Martian technology. But aside from that, there’s nothing alien about it. It’s not as if we have another diamond pulsator to connect to it.”
“And even then, I would hesitate to take that risk again,” Ochre replied dryly.
“I noticed you modified it,” Scarlet said, examining the console.
“Yes, that we did,” Lavender admitted, nodding vigorously. “We did so after studying that other console you found in Greenland two years ago, Captain. You remember it, I think.”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. “Do I! I was supposed to negotiate with the Mysterons’ representative, but they ambushed me and tried to blow me up using that console – and another diamond pulsator they had hooked to it. I just escaped with seconds to spare.”
“Good thing you did too,” Ochre added. “Or you would never been have able to contact us and tell us of the danger Cloudbase was in from that pulsator.”
“But I don’t understand, Doctor,” Scarlet continued. “That explosion was pretty violent. There must have been nothing left of that device to examine.”
“Not much, I admit, but we found some bits of it. And we were able to reconstitute parts of the puzzle…”
“That’s a way of saying it!” Ochre scoffed.
“And while we were searching the area for bits of that puzzle,” Lavender continued, ignoring Ochre’s intervention, “we discovered this.”
He removed the cloth covering his plate to reveal three rounded stones of a semi-translucent dark red colour. There were half the size of chicken’s eggs and the surface was smooth and polished. Scarlet and Ochre narrowed their eyes at the objects, wondering what they might be. Lavender, his eyes as brilliant of those of a child who was showing off his most prized pebbles, grinned widely at them. “Aren’t they beautiful?”
“What are they?” Scarlet asked.
“They, Captain Scarlet, are pieces of what is left of a diamond pulsator.”
Scarlet gave the scientist a doubtful look, before looking down at the three stones. He shook his head. “They look nothing like a diamond pulsator, Doctor,” he remarked. “They’re dark red, and rounded… If they were broken pieces of the pulsator, wouldn’t they have sharp edges?”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you? They ARE pieces of the diamond pulsator, Captain, believe me on this. All the tests are conclusive. You see, when the diamond pulsator released that intense energy, the explosion transformed the molecular structure of the pulsator – giving this new dark red colour. The pulsator must have exploded into many, many pieces – and the generated heat of the explosion must have vaporised the tiniest of those pieces into nothingness – while polishing the surface of these three remaining, bigger pieces that we found in the vicinity of the explosion.” He shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s all that’s left of the diamond pulsator, we found nothing more around that place.”
“I’m not sure I’m that happy to see these on Cloudbase,” Ochre murmured. He discreetly looked around, as if in search of a porthole he would eventually need to get rid of those stones he wasn’t so sure of. A soft chuckle from Doctor Lavender made him turn to face the scientist.
“No need to worry yourself, Captain Ochre,” Lavender said, taking one of the stones in his hands. “We tested these rocks extensively. There didn’t seem to be a single trace of the energy previously found in the diamond pulsator.”
“You mean to say they’re inert?” Scarlet asked, watching warily as Lavender played with the stone. Somehow, he was asking himself if the doctor shouldn’t be handling it with more care, and certainly put on some gloves before touching it.
“We don’t know, Captain. Apparently. But here’s a curious occurrence. How much would you say the diamond pulsator you took from that complex on the moon weighed?”
“About… five pounds, more or less.”
“And that pulsator you saw in Greenland was about the same size?”
“A little smaller, maybe.”
Lavender nodded thoughtfully. Ochre standing closer to him, he took his hand and put the red stone into it, before the American captain could react. “How much would you say this stone weighs, Captain Ochre?”
The upset officer looked crossly at Lavender, not believing that he would be as careless as to put something potentially dangerous in his hands. Then, curiously, he lowered his gaze to the stone. It was cold to the touch, very smooth – and although small, weighed more than he would have expected.
“I would say, roughly, five pounds,” he answered. “If you have a scale, maybe we could check it out.”
“That’s impossible!” Scarlet replied. “There’s three of them – and if they came from the same pulsator…”
“I told you the explosion had transformed those stones’ molecular structures,” Lavender remarked. “And apparently, their mass was increased by the incident.”
Scarlet took the stone Ochre was handing him. He weighed it in his hand and came to the same evaluation as his colleague. He, too, took note of the smoothness and coldness of the surface. He eyed Lavender with a suspicious look. “What do you intend to do with this now?” he asked.
“Why… hook one of them up to the Kurnitz console, of course.” Lavender answered, putting one of his remaining stones onto the small bulging centre of the console. That simple gesture was enough to worry the two captains. The words weren’t really reassuring either. That was what they were afraid to hear.
“Are you nuts?” Ochre snapped. He didn’t take heed of Lavender’s warning look toward him, and removed the stone from its perch.
“Not to worry, Captain,” Lavender said with a reassuring voice. “The current is not on.” He put his last stone on the console to replace the previous one, much to Ochre’s dismay. “We would need to power the Kurnitz console first. And even if it had been on, I assure you, there’s no danger whatsoever.”
“No danger?” Ochre protested. “Last time we hooked up something to that, the whole base almost was blown to smithereens.” He pointed to the stone on the console. “So I advise you NOT to turn on the juice, doctor!”
“Did the colonel agree to this experiment, Doctor?” Captain Scarlet asked in turn.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Lavender protested with a disarming smile. “There’s nothing to worry about. As far as the Research and Development lab in Valley Forge was able to gather, these stones have nothing of the old pulsator properties.”
“They performed tests down there?” Scarlet asked. “With this console?”
“Not exactly. We used the other console Doctor Kurnitz assembled two years ago in order to pursue his research at the Nash Institute. He has been gracious enough to give it up to the Valley Forge Lab after the – er – incident on Cloudbase.”
“That’s the same kind of console as this one?”
“Well, not exactly as modified as this one has been since our studies of the pieces of that other device found in Greenland. And… the tests didn’t prove conclusive. They didn’t work, in fact. That’s why I’ve been modifying this console – the one that had been previously installed on Cloudbase, two years ago, and which served to make contact with the Mysterons.”
“The tests didn’t work on the ground?” Scarlet repeated, suspiciously.
“The stones didn’t even produce a spark, I’m afraid. That’s why we suspected that they might very well be inert. Like you suggested earlier, Captain.”
“But nevertheless, you want to try them on THIS console.”
“We should find out, at least, if there’s a single spark of energy in these stones, that might eventually lead us to a chance to attempt communication with the Mysterons…”
“We’ve been trying that for the past two years, telling their agents what happened on Mars was a mistake, whenever we had a chance,” grumbled Ochre. “You don’t call that ‘attempting communication’?”
“It’s not the same, Captain. We have to get to the Mysterons themselves. Not their… puppets.”
“Did Colonel White agree to this test, Doctor?” Scarlet asked again, noting that Lavender had not responded to his earlier question.
“He does know I’m conducting tests…”
“Does he know about THIS test?” Ochre insisted in turn.
“Well… no, not exactly. But he gave me a free hand…”
“Certainly NOT for this kind of experiment,” Scarlet sharply cut in, as Ochre was rolling his eyes upward. “Doctor, there’s more than four hundred people onboard this craft. And in case you have not realised it, we’re way up in the sky, 40,000 feet up, to be precise. Do you realise the catastrophe that would happen if something should go WRONG with your experiment?”
“But nothing is supposed to go wrong, Captain.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to refer this to the colonel. I’m sure he’ll allow you to pursue this experiment of yours, as it’s obviously an important one… But it’s more than certain that you’ll do it on the ground…”
“Where this will be MUCH safer,” Ochre agreed with a vigorous nod.
“We’re sorry, Doctor.” Scarlet put the stone he was holding into Lavender’s hand. The doctor was presently looking very disappointed, as he stared unbelievably into Scarlet’s now set features. “I suggest we discuss this with Colonel White. As for Captain Ochre and me, we cannot allow you to continue.”
And thus putting everybody’s life on base in danger, he added to himself. Lavender lowered his head and then sighed, acquiescing. He put the stone back on the console, with a defeated gesture. “All right, Captains, since you insist that it may be too dangerous… I’ll ask Colonel White’s permission to continue this research at Valley Forge.”
“That would be the best course of action, Doctor,” Ochre agreed, relieved that the scientist had finally seen the light. He offered Lavender a large grin. “Now that that’s settled, then, is there anything else we can help you with?”
“Very gracious of you, Captain Ochre,” Lavender said with an enthusiastic tone, not noticing the murderous look Scarlet was addressing to his colleague. “Now if the two of you would come with me over here, and explain how some of the computerised controls of that console exactly worked? There are a few minor details I was unable to figure out, as it is quite different from the console used at Valley Forge.”
“I think Captain Scarlet would be more suitable to help you than myself,” Ochre remarked. “He was there when that thing was used, two years ago. I wasn’t.”
“As long as it isn’t powered up,” Scarlet muttered. “All right, Doctor. I’ll tell you what I remember. But I’m curious, though. You made your modifications without knowing how this whole thing worked?”
“I didn’t need the computerised controls, Captain. I was to use only those built into the console itself. But as you’re here, it’ll be interesting to know everything about the full controls.” He motioned to a far side of the room, where a huge, high computer-like device had been set up against the wall. “This way, please.”
He walked past the two officers and eagerly directed his pace toward the new device. Scarlet sighed deeply, and addressed a whitening look towards Ochre, who was still standing next to him, playing with the red stone he had removed from the console earlier. “You’d better put that thing down,” Scarlet hissed between his teeth. “Who knows what it has gone through? And what trouble it could bring us?
“Looks nice as a paperweight,” Ochre replied with a grin, obeying nonetheless, and putting the stone on the console. “If you want my opinion, this thing is simply a piece of volcanic rock that the good doctor mistook for a piece of that diamond pulsator.”
“You wish!” grumbled Scarlet. “You really think Lavender would make a stupid mistake like that?”
“Honestly? No, I don’t.” Ochre nodded in Lavender’s direction. “Come on, let’s join him before he touches anything important.”
“I’m with you on that,” Scarlet agreed.
Both men left the side of the Kurnitz console and quietly walked towards Lavender, who was presently busy examining exactly what command into the huge machine he wanted Scarlet to explain to him. Scarlet and Ochre hadn’t taken more than a few steps before a faint sound suddenly struck the British captain’s ears. He stopped in his tracks, grabbing Ochre’s arm to stop him too.
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Ochre asked, suddenly concerned by the tone of his friend’s voice. “Are you trying to scare me, or…”
“No.” There was such conviction in Scarlet’s voice that Ochre instantly knew he wasn’t trying to make fun of him. Both men suddenly had the same suspicion crossing their minds; they turned around toward the console.
They were petrified when they saw the stone on top of the bulge glowing – pulsating and obviously gaining strength with each glow.
“Oh no,” Ochre murmured. “Not again…”
“I thought those things were supposed to be inert!” Scarlet said between his teeth.
He and Ochre moved forward, quickly returning to the Kurnitz console. Just as the two other stones on it started to glow in turn, although very faintly. The first stone in the centre suddenly glowed considerably stronger, with a dazzling hue of red light that enclosed the entire console, reflecting on the other stones. They too started to glow more strongly.
That was starting to be REALLY distressing.
“Doctor Lavender!” Scarlet cried out.
Lavender had already turned around; he had seen the red light that was now expanding beyond the console. The two captains had instinctively stepped back, in order to avoid it. “What the…”
A huge, sudden noise, like that of a aircraft passing through the sound barrier made itself heard in the room, forcing the three men to cover their ears against it and Scarlet and Ochre to back away further from the console. Both captains felt their knees buckle under them, but they found the strength to stay on their feet. The light had now expanded throughout the entire room. The stone in the centre of the console was blazing wildly with a blinding light that made it almost impossible to look at. The two other stones were shining with more and more intensity.
“How come those things are glowing like that?”
Scarlet noticed he had yelled in order to make himself heard. His ears were ringing from the earlier deafening sound. He wasn’t sure that Ochre or Lavender had heard him, before he heard the doctor answering from a distance behind him, yelling as well:
“The system shouldn’t be operational! The power isn’t on! I don’t understand! These stones have never behaved like this on their own before!”
“Well, they are now!” Ochre responded. He lowered his cap microphone. “Ochre to Security! S.I.R.! S.I.R. at R and D lab! Request immediate assistance! Possibility of radioactive leakage and explosion!”
“That stone in the centre!” Scarlet then said, his eyes set on the object in question. “It seems to be the cause of the problem. I must try to remove it!”
He made a step forward to the console, determined to do his best to stop the flow of energy emanating from it, and very afraid that it would mean the doom of Cloudbase if he was unable to do just that. A deeply concerned Captain Ochre turned to him. There was no way to say if the energy coming from the stones was radioactive or not and what effect it might have on even the indestructible Captain Scarlet. What he was attempting might be pure folly.
“Paul! Get away from there!”
Ochre took a single step in direction of his friend; he was unable to do more than that, as the stone dead centre of the console suddenly seemed to explode. A booming noise even more terrible that the first one filled the room, covering any other possible sounds. A wave of pure, blinding energy seemed to emerge from the centre-stone, and hit everything around with tremendous force, tearing shelves from the walls, blowing away furniture that wasn’t bolted down, destroying smaller pieces of equipment, and knocking the three men in the room off their feet.
It was as if a hurricane of pure, white energy had suddenly been unleashed, with nothing able to stand in its way.
Lavender, who was still standing near the huge computerised device, and farther from the source of the explosion, found himself thrown against the wall and rolling to the floor, behind a fallen cabinet that, luckily for him, served as a shield to protect him from further hardships. His body hurt all over, and he was on the verge of losing his senses. As for Scarlet and Ochre…
Closer to the centre of the explosion, both captains had been flung through the air and onto the floor. That was the last Lavender saw of them, before an even brighter light engulfed them. Then, unable to hang on to what little was left of his consciousness, he groaned and let his head fall down on the floor, where he stayed motionless.
* * *
Through the portal
Both Captains Scarlet and Ochre were in a whirlwind of total fury.
They could barely see; they could barely hear; but they could feel the wind lashing at them, the heat from the light nearly burning their skin and intensifying by the second, and the deafening sound making their heads want to explode. It was as if the loud bang that had nearly knocked them unconscious had now transformed into a loud, indefinite humming that was driving them crazy. The pain was nearly unbearable for both men, who were trying their best to protect their ears and were keeping their eyes shut. Ochre, his ears bleeding, was the first to lose his senses under the terrible pain, sprawling completely on the floor, a mere two feet away from Scarlet who was still desperately fighting to stay conscious.
Scarlet unsteadily rose to his knees, and tried to open his eyes to see what could be possibly going on around him. White light was bathing the entire room, making it so very hard to see anything. He saw Ochre lying by his side, on his back, unconscious. Or maybe he was dead, he couldn’t tell. As for himself, he was feeling so very weak, his mind in a total daze, his muscles like jelly, and his ears hurting him, blood dripping from them. A flash of red appeared on his left, and he realised, through the light, that it looked like a fire had started and was already spreading, coursing through the wires of the room’s electric installation.
Scarlet dazedly looked down at Ochre. Whether he was dead or not, he couldn’t leave him there. He had to get him out of this blinding light – this possible source of radiation, even if it might be too late. He crawled on his hands and knees to his friend, each move shooting a twinge of pain throughout his tortured muscles, and took him under the arms. Doing so, he noticed the pulse under his fingers.
Come on, Rick… I’m getting you out of here. I will not let you die like this…
He started to haul Ochre painfully away from where the light was most intense, inch by painful inch – to what he presumed would be safety. He probably guessed right. He could feel the furious wind dying down progressively.
That was when he heard sounds, very faint, through the continuous humming filling his ears.
Human voices, calling urgently, as the fire continued to spread through the room.
“Get a fire extinguisher around here! Quick! Call the fire team!”
“S.I.G.! We’ll get on with it!”
“Hurry up, man! There might be survivors in here!”
Scarlet narrowed his eyes in the direction the voices were coming from. The surrounding light was dimming, slowly, but what remained of it was now making coloured shadows in the clouds of smoke that had started filling the room, following the various explosions and fires. Scarlet’s eyes, almost blinded by the earlier blast, could barely see. At first, he was able to distinguish darker silhouettes against the still too-bright surroundings. They were running all around the place, obviously trying to control the present situation. Curiously, no-one was coming to their aid. Probably they hadn’t been seen yet, with all that chaos.
He tried to call, but his voice broke into a cough, that was drowned out by another explosion. Objects flew around him, and something even hit him in the shoulder. He instinctively ducked behind a piece of fallen furniture, shielding Ochre with his body. With fearful eyes, he looked in the approximate direction of the Kurnitz console. He couldn’t see it, but not because of the smoke, which was getting dense – or the light which had practically disappeared entirely anyway. Where the console should have been, he could only see a large, bright halo of intense red light, with rays of white flashing from its centre. That seemed to be all there was left of the bright light that had invaded the entire room up until now.
The light was now stationary – didn’t seem to want to shrink more than it already did – or to expand again. And it was now pulsating regularly – exactly as the stone had some minutes before.
Exactly like a diamond pulsator.
Scarlet wasn’t sure if he should be worried by that, or reassured by the fact that the worst of the crisis seemed to be finished now.
“I saw movement! This way, could be survivors!”
Scarlet’s ears were clearing, as well as his sight. The voices were coming from behind him now, and he looked over his shoulder from where he was lying. He could see the silhouettes more clearly – dark uniforms through the dense smoke. Security agents, most likely. He rose to his knees, bracing himself against the fallen cabinet he and Ochre had hidden behind. Doing so, he looked down at his fallen friend. He was distressed when he saw a trickle of blood pouring from the left side of his head. He understood right then that Ochre must had been hit by something during that last explosion. He raised his head toward the silhouettes not that far away from them.
“Over here!” he called, his voice barely a croak. “Someone injured here!”
He saw the silhouettes move toward him and rose to his feet, unsteadily. His legs were shaking; his balance was rather precarious. He held himself as steadily as possible against the cabinet, trying to regain his focus, looking down to ease his sudden vertigo. He could hear people approaching him.
When he looked up again and turned to welcome them, he found himself face to face with Doctor Lavender, nearly on him. His footing still unstable, he nearly tripped and caught himself against the scientist’s arms, to look straight into his face.
“Doctor Lavender!” he gasped, relieved to see him apparently in good shape. “Thank God, you’re all right…”
Scarlet didn’t perceive at first the expression of intense confusion in the doctor’s features, nor how rigid he had gone when the British officer had grabbed at him. But now he could see Lavender was staring at him, his eyes wide open, as if he didn’t understand what he was being told. “What’s the matter, Doctor? Were you hurt in those explosions?”
“No, I’m…” Lavender frowned, “…fine. I’m fine… Captain Scarlet?”
Scarlet shook his head. Lavender did seem to recognise him, but at the same time, appeared unsure. Probably, Lavender was a bit shaken by what had happened, and still recovering from the shock. But as he seemed physically fine, Scarlet was more preoccupied with the well-being of Captain Ochre. He let go of Lavender to turn towards where his friend was lying, and didn’t notice how the scientist drew back from him, his eyes fixed on him with the same perplexity as earlier. “Captain Ochre has been hurt by the explosions of those stones of yours. He needs medical help right away. He…”
Running footsteps made him turn around. A security guard was now standing next to Lavender, and was, like Lavender before him, staring with wide eyes at him. Scarlet just had time to discern the intense horror in the guard’s eyes, a fraction of a second before the man reached nervously for his sidearm and aimed it at him.
“Stay where you are!”
Captain Scarlet frowned, wondering what was going on. He was about to ask the guard, with a rather stern and annoyed tone, when a gasp from his left made him turn in that direction. There were another guard arriving from there – rather young – and he too was looking at the British officer with an aghast expression splattered on his face. He reached for his gun too, and clumsily drew it out. “Don’t make a move, Captain Scarlet!”
The way the two men were obviously holding their weapons on him, Scarlet thought that something was DEFINITELY going wrong. He considered the situation quickly. Were they Mysterons? That was possible, considering that he didn’t know what damage the explosions had done, nor if there had been any casualties from the incident. Or was he the victim of a huge misunderstanding?
But that seemed unlikely… Everybody on base knew who he was.
“Are you insane?” he growled. “Captain Ochre is lying there and he needs help! And there’s that thing over there, that we have to…”
“Don’t move!” barked the first guard, seeing as Scarlet was gesturing a little too wildly for his taste.
Scarlet was more and more perplexed. He looked around. The smoke was gradually being cleared by the intake ventilator, while, all around, the various fire centres were being put out by the automatic fire extinguishing system or agents armed with extinguishers. Some of those men had turned in their direction, hearing the shouts, and wondering what was going on. Scarlet didn’t have time to notice their expressions, as a third man was now entering by the destroyed first door of the air lock and coming their way, running. Scarlet sighed, recognising Captain Grey. If this was a mistake made by two too-nervous security guards, surely the American officer would clear it up.
He watched as Grey, slowing his pace, stopped in front of him, his eyes set on him with an unbelieving expression in them.
“Captain Grey,” Scarlet declared roughly, dismissing the two guards keeping their guns aimed at him, “am I glad to see you. Would you tell these two hotheads that there’s been a huge misunderstanding?”
Grey stared at him, his eyes suddenly becoming dark. “There is one, yes,” he said with a nod. “And YOU have made it.” He drew his gun in his right hand, and reached with the left to relieve Scarlet of his own. The British officer was too taken aback to even react, before his sidearm had left his holster.
“You’re under arrest,” Grey announced with an icy tone. “Seize him!”
Surprised by the sudden order, Scarlet nevertheless reacted, almost by instinct, when the two guards jumped him. Big mistake, he thought, they should have stayed away. As soon as they tried to reach for him, he was in motion. His right fist smashed into the first guard’s face, sending him to his knees, and his left foot hit the second in the stomach. He then sent the first guard right into Grey who was levelling his gun at him. The American captain fell on his knees. Scarlet was on him a mere second after, snatching the weapon out of his hand.
“Brad, are you crazy? What…” He just had the time to see Grey’s other hand, which was still holding the red-coloured gun he had taken from Scarlet. The latter grabbed the wrist, before the barrel could be aimed at him. He looked incredulously into Grey’s face, and then saw the sheer determination in it. “You’re a Mysteron…” he murmured, thinking he now understood the reason for his friend’s reaction.
Grey’s expression changed ever so slightly hearing those words, into one where perplexity could be perceived. Scarlet didn’t wait to understand what it could mean. There was just the realisation that one of his friends had been killed and Mysteronised. He punched Grey on his left temple, sending him sprawling at his feet, his last weapon clattering on the floor. Scarlet levelled the gun at the man’s head.
“NOW, tell me what’s going on!” he growled furiously. “Or I’ll blow your brains out!”
Scarlet raised his head to see two other men standing in the destroyed doorway. Two colour-coded officers he had not seen come in, and who were now aiming their handguns at him. Captain Magenta was on one knee, keeping his weapon steady with both hands, while behind him, just beside one of the destroyed door stood…
“…Ochre? Oh no…”
In a fraction of a second, Scarlet’s mind whirled. He had not a single doubt in his mind now. Captain Ochre had been killed in the accident. And just there, his Mysteron double was standing, ready to kill him.
With… Magenta? A Mysteron too? As Grey?
A gunshot filled the air and he felt the pain. But neither of the two officers targeting him had fired. He had been hit from behind, in the right shoulder. A skilful shot that shattered his shoulder blade and sent a searing pain through his back and arm, forcing him to let go of his weapon. He grunted, and reached for his wounded shoulder, nearly falling on his knees, but somehow finding the strength to keep up straight. He turned around to see who had gone around him for that shot, while the two other officers were distracting him.
He opened eyes wide with shock when he saw a tall blond man, wearing a pale blue tunic, standing barely ten feet away from him, his right hand extended with his handgun still smoking from its recent use. He could see the cold glitter in the man’s eyes, set on him with a harsh, unemotional stare. Those were eyes Scarlet knew very well – but in which he had never seen such an expression of total hatred.
Captain Blue lowered the gun slightly, and only then did Scarlet notice something so very wrong in the man who was standing there, aiming that weapon at him yet again.
Not only was it cold and devoid of emotion… but it was also sporting a beard.
Scarlet had barely realised that, and frowned in complete confusion, than the man who was wearing his friend’s face squeezed yet again the trigger of his gun. Scarlet felt the impact of the bullet in his chest and fell backward, like a cut tree. He roughly hit the floor, the shock driving the air out of his lungs.
Through the growing mist invading his mind, he heard footsteps approaching from him. Pinned down by the pain, unable to move, but fighting not to lose what was left of his consciousness, he looked up, as a figure appeared over him. The blue-jacketed, blond-bearded officer gazed down at him with pure coldness and contempt. Scarlet frowned, not understanding what was happening. His mind was refusing to work, as he was going into shock.
He saw the gun being levelled at his head.
“That’s enough, Captain Blue!”
Captain Magenta appeared in turn in his line of vision and pushed the threatening barrel aside. The bearded Blue turned his now furious stare at the Irish officer, who stood his ground, refusing to lower his own gaze.
“He’s already down! There’s no need for that!”
“He should be dead!” Blue snapped with a harsh tone.
“We won’t let you finish him!” the voice of Ochre suddenly replied. He stepped up to Magenta’s side, to face Blue. “What’s got into you, man?”
“He tried to kill Captain Grey!” Blue replied.
“I’m alive,” Grey answered, getting to his feet, to stand next to Ochre. “And I agree with the others.”
“Are you insane?” Blue barked.
“No, but you obviously are!” Magenta shot back. “We’ve been running after that man for the past two years, hoping to catch up with him, and now that we have him…”
“That man!” Blue snorted derisively. He looked down in contempt at the weakening Scarlet. By now, the latter’s mind was in a complete haze. He was unable to focus on what was going on, even less to understand what was being said around him. The voices were starting to come from afar. Not far enough for him not to hear the spiteful and hurtful words falling from Blue’s lips: “You know as well as I do that this is not a man at all!”
Scarlet shivered; whether due to shock or hearing that declaration, he would have been unable to say. He couldn’t concentrate enough anymore as the last of his strength was leaving him. He could only stare up in pain, straight into Blue’s fading face, as the last terrible words pronounced by his friend made their way through his last conscious thought. “He’s a Mysteron… And I swore I was gonna see him die!”
The hateful expression on the bearded Blue’s face was the last thing he saw before mercifully passing out.
* * *
“Good going, Blue!” Upon hearing the last grunt from Scarlet, Captain Ochre knelt by his side to examine his chest wound. He briefly looked to his compatriot. “He just lost consciousness. He’s badly hurt… He may be dying.”
Blue snorted again and turned away from the scene, as if he couldn’t care less. “Whatever that means for him,” he said with bitterness in his voice.
“Let me see him,” Doctor Lavender then said, kneeling next to Ochre.
“You can help him?” Ochre asked with uncertainty.
“Well, as you know, Captain, I’ve been examining bodies of Mysteron agents virtually since the beginning of this war of nerves – You might say I’m an expert on the question.”
“They were DEAD Mysteron agents,” Magenta remarked coldly.
“This one is still alive. Barely. That’s more of a job for Doctor Fawn.” Ochre was lowering his cap microphone. “Captain Ochre to Sickbay. Send a medical team to the R and D Department. S.I.R., it’s urgent!”
Blue furrowed his brow. “Why bother?” he grumbled.
“Why bother?” Grey repeated, opening wide eyes. “Blue, he may be a Mysteron, but do you realise what capturing him means for Spectrum?”
“Yes, yes!” Doctor Lavender then said, springing to his feet. “Think about this, Captain Blue. Don’t you see the possibilities?”
“I tell you what it means,” Blue snapped. “It means danger! For all of us! Who knows when he’ll be going overload on us and explode, like Captain Brown did?”
“We just have to make sure it won’t happen,” Lavender replied coolly. “I have already designed something in the event that we capture a Mysteron agent… Something that will keep him quiet and will prevent him from making any contact with his masters.”
“Oh yes! Now I’m reassured!” Blue scoffed. “Doctor, what we know of the Mysterons’ powers is practically zilch, so how can you be so sure you’ll be able to keep him under your control?”
Grey eyed him with a reproving look. “We all know why you want to see him dead, Adam,” he said in a low tone. “We can all understand what you feel…”
“Can you, really?” Blue replied dryly.
“…But try to put your personal feelings aside,” Grey continued. “I beg you, be professional about this. You do have to agree that we may need him, if only to know more about the Mysterons and how to deal with them.”
Blue shot his colleague a wary look. He lowered his gaze. He had to admit that Grey was probably right. He shook his head. “All right, then. I see your point. But we’d better keep a close eye on him.” He turned his attention back to the unconscious wounded man lying on the floor. His stare had not lost any of its burning hatred. “But you don’t have to worry that much about him. I’ve seen him hurt worse than that in the past, and walking away from it.”
“Well, nevertheless, he’s going to sickbay,” Grey replied.
Blue shrugged. “Have it your way, then. You have command of Cloudbase while the colonel is away, after all.” He turned around; for him the conversation was finished. Grey refrained from sighing deeply, staring at his friend’s back. Was it him, or was Blue growing more and more indifferent to things happening around him, as time passed by? He had become so distant from nearly everyone since that incident two years earlier. All that concerned him now was the ongoing battle against the Mysterons and countering their agents on Earth. Like Captain Black and Captain Scarlet.
Mainly Captain Scarlet.
Nobody had fought harder than Blue in that battle, but Grey was growing concerned for his friend. There was something unhealthy in this behaviour of his. Almost destructive.
“Can anybody please tell me HOW he got onboard Cloudbase?”
The voice of Captain Magenta brought Grey to more pressing matters. He turned around, and came back to the small group surrounding the downed Mysteron agent. A team of three medics had just arrived, pulling a gurney through the destroyed airlock and approaching them. Everybody stepped back, to give them space, except for Doctor Lavender who stayed nearby. Blue had drawn a little farther away from them all, and didn’t seem to have heard Magenta’s remark – or to concern himself with it. Grey gave a last sideways look in his direction, before addressing the Irish captain’s question.
“Yes, that’s something to be concerned about, isn’t it?”
“We’re facing a major breach of security,” Ochre remarked. “If Mysteron agents are able to come in like that, undetected … And walk in here, to wreak havoc on the place…”
“We don’t know what happened in here, Captain Ochre,” Grey replied.
“Could he have stowed away aboard an incoming aircraft?” Magenta remarked, pointing at Scarlet.
“And if that’s not the case, did SOMEONE actually bring him here, intentionally?” Ochre added.
“I hope not!” sighed Magenta.
“We’ll ask Captain Indigo to check that out,” Grey nodded. “He’s in charge of general security, after all.”
Captain Blue, who had moved a few feet away from them and was standing in front of the fallen cabinet Scarlet had been using to hide himself from the explosion, was barely listening. He had now just discovered the strange, unnatural light that was pulsating brightly in a corner of the room, over what he thought he recognised as the Kurnitz console, a few feet away from them all. The light was small, smaller than a basketball, but the space surrounding it – the console, the floor beneath and the walls behind – was marked with black stains, and heavily damaged, as if it had been the site of an explosion or an intense fire. He was wondering what that thing might be, that the others had not noticed so far. He was willing to bet, without a single doubt in his mind, that it was one of the Mysterons’ unearthly creations…
Blue looked over his shoulder; from where they were, the others couldn’t see the strange phenomenon. He turned to look at it again, and narrowed his eyes. The light was now fading away, into nothingness. Now the only thing that was left was the destroyed console. He blinked, now unsure of what he had actually seen.
“There's something weird here...”
“What is it, Blue?” Grey asked. Blue’s reflection was a little more than a murmur, and only Grey had really heard it. The others were too absorbed with checking Scarlet, to have been aware of it.
Blue shook his head, his eyes set on the spot where he thought he had seen the light. “I’m not quite sure…” He stepped forward, wanting to examine the console more closely, and nearly right away his foot bumped into something that made him look down. He saw a golden boot protruding from behind the fallen cabinet. With curiosity, he stretched his neck to see what was behind it. He shivered.
“We’ll put the base on full alert,” Grey was saying behind him. “No craft is to land or depart from base until further notice. I want everything and everybody checked out – metal detector, Mysteron detector, the whole game. NO exemptions.”
“You think he might have accomplices?” Ochre asked.
“I don’t know – you want to take the risk that Captain Black might be here too, and want to finish the job Scarlet started?”
“Grey!” Blue called at this moment, crouching behind the cabinet. “You’d better come here quick! And bring a medic!”
“You found a casualty?” Grey asked, moving toward Blue, instantly followed by Ochre and Magenta, and one of the medics who had heard the blond captain’s call.
“You can say that again!”
Blue rose to his feet, allowing the medic to crouch behind the cabinet, near the injured man he had found. He saw the face of the medic becoming pale and raising an uncertain stare at him. Blue nodded. “He’s still alive, surprisingly enough.”
“Why is it surprising?” Ochre asked, reaching Blue’s side.
“You tell me.” To Ochre’s surprise, Blue drew his gun, and pressed it against his side, before relieving him of his own weapon. “I suggest you stay quiet, or I won’t hesitate to shoot.”
“Blue, have you lost your mind?” Grey yelled, rushing the last metre separating him from his two colleagues. He was very afraid that Blue had definitely lost it now.
“Not at all,” Blue replied with a blank expression, staring straight into the perplexed face of Captain Ochre, who was obviously preparing to protest. “Look for yourself.”
He nodded down in the direction of the man lying at his feet, just as Grey and Magenta reached their position. Ochre looked down too. There was a collective gasp as they gazed at the still form of another Captain Ochre, his eyes closed, covered with dirt, with a bloody gash on the side of his head.
All the colour had left Ochre’s face, as he stood looking down at his twin in slack-jawed disbelief. He raised his eyes to meet the accusing glare of Blue.
“He IS alive,” the blond captain remarked bitterly. “Quite a surprise for you, isn’t it?”
“W-what does that mean…?” Ochre stammered, looking down again at the unconscious man.
“Maybe Scarlet didn’t hit him hard enough!” Blue replied angrily, pointing his finger at the man’s head, where he was bleeding.
“Blue, you can’t mean it…” Ochre defended himself. “You don’t think I am…”
“What should we think?” Grey asked in turn, staring into the accused officer’s obviously bewildered eyes. “There’s two of you and one is down. I think it’s perfectly clear who and what you are!”
To Ochre’s growing concern, both Grey and Magenta were now levelling their handguns at him. Ochre paled; he felt Magenta grabbing him by the arm.
“This is insane!” he protested. “I am NOT a Mysteron!”
“I think Captain Black may not be the only person we should worry about on Cloudbase,” Blue declared.
“Now, listen to me!” Ochre lashed out. “I’ve been with either one of you all day! WHEN would I have been Mysteronised, tell me? I am the real Ochre.”
“Can you prove you were with one of us all the time?” Magenta asked.
“You’re all mistaken! And HE ISN’T dead, either, isn’t he?” Ochre replied, anger now replacing surprise and concern. “I ought to know who I am. And I am NOT a Mysteron. Maybe HE is!”
“Then shouldn’t you be dead?” Blue growled icily, pointing his gun under the baffled Ochre’s nose.
“I tell you I am not a Mysteron!” Ochre insisted between his teeth.
“Enough!” barked Captain Grey. “Whether you are or not should be easy enough to check out! But in the meantime, you’re going to the brig. I can’t afford to take any chances at the moment! Magenta, take two security guards and escort Captain Ochre… this Captain Ochre to a secure cell. Have someone keep an eye on him, and as soon as possible, test him with a Mysteron detector.”
“I can’t believe it,” Ochre murmured, dumbfounded. “You’re locking me up?”
“Believe me, it’s for your own good,” Grey replied, with a simple nod. “Magenta…”
“S.I.G., Captain Grey,” Magenta answered, pulling Ochre by the arm. “Come on, ‘Ochre’, you’re coming with me.”
Ochre grumbled, and reluctantly followed, as two guards, called out by Magenta, came to stand either side of him. “You’ll soon find out I’m the real Ochre,” he declared, addressing his colleagues. “As soon as the Mysteron detector clears me.”
“For your sake, I hope so,” Grey replied.
He watched as ‘Ochre’ was diligently escorted out of the room by the two guards, Magenta following close behind. He lowered his gaze to the medic, who was checking on the other Ochre. “How is he?”
“Can’t tell, he received a huge knock to the head. Looks serious enough. We have to take him to sickbay right away. I already called for a second team to come.”
“Does that wound seem to be healing? Like it would on a Mysteron?” Grey was aware of Blue’s intense look set on him; he ignored it, waiting for the medic’s answer.
“It doesn’t appear so, sir. As far as I can tell, this guy is a regular Joe. But considering the Mysterons…”
“They’re masters of deception,” Blue admitted with a nod. “You’re giving the other Ochre the benefit of the doubt.”
“Until we understand what’s going on,” Grey answered. “I want this Ochre brought to sickbay, treated for his injuries and kept under tight surveillance… and checked with a Mysteron detector too.”
“S.I.G., Captain,” Blue answered. “Very wise.” He looked towards Scarlet, who had been carefully laid on the gurney and made comfortable for the short trip to sickbay. Grey’s eyes followed the same direction. The two medics were leaving with their charge. Doctor Lavender was following them, turning briefly in Grey’s direction to announce that he had preparations to make, in order to insure the security he had promised concerning the very dangerous Mysteron agent. Grey didn’t respond to the scientist’s remark. He simply watched as he left, right behind the medics and their gurney. At about the same moment, a new medical team entered the room, and headed toward the small group to tend in turn to the wounded Ochre. Both Grey and Blue stepped away to give them the space they needed to work.
“I suppose you’ll call the colonel back to base, considering the events.” Lost in thought, Grey was drawn out of his reverie by Blue’s now nonchalant voice. He nodded briefly, almost reluctantly. Colonel White had been gone only a few days, for very personal and important business, and, upon receiving command of Cloudbase, Captain Grey had promised that he would only call him if it was absolutely necessary. He would have preferred to leave him alone, but it didn’t look as if Grey would have any choice. The events were really too important. He could not NOT call him back. His presence would be required.
“He has to know what’s going on,” Grey admitted, in a low murmur.
Blue narrowed his eyes to his friend, with a glitter of curiosity in them. “Where is he, anyway, Grey?”
“That’s not your concern, Blue,” Grey replied roughly enough.
“Because you don’t know either?” Blue retorted with an innocent tone.
“I know how to contact him, that’s what important,” Grey answered. He looked over his shoulder in the direction of the medics. He felt lucky the others were not around to hear that. He didn’t want to become the centre of their questions. Fortunately, there was nobody around to take any notice of what he and Blue were saying. Everybody was too preoccupied. “You and I are in on his little secret,” Grey whispered between his teeth, turning back to Blue. “You want to blow the lid on it?”
Blue raised his hands and shrugged indifferently, shaking his head. “Forget I said anything.”
Grey thanked him with a nod. He briefly glanced down, as the medics were gently putting Ochre on the gurney; satisfied that they were taking good care of him, he turned to leave the room, followed by Blue. “I want this room sealed,” he announced, walking down the corridor. “And guarded day and night, until the investigation of what happened in there is complete.”
“Don’t you think it’s simple enough?” Blue replied. “Couldn’t it be simply that Scarlet came in here and tried to blow up the place?”
“No, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. There are TOO MANY mysteries concerning this affair, Blue. Way too many.” He stopped in his tracks and turned to his friend. “And I don’t think you believe that it’s that clear-cut either.”
“No, I don’t,” Blue admitted. “It’s certainly not.” He narrowed his eyes; he could see by his expression that Grey was still pensive, if not troubled. “Something going on?”
“I don’t know, I… An impression, I guess… Something in what Scarlet told me, when he was holding that gun at me.”
“What did he tell you?”
Grey dismissed the question with a wave. “Nothing important, I’m sure. He was probably trying to confuse me, somehow.” He stared in turn at his friend’s face, trying to see past those set features. The eyes were also dreamy, as if he too had something in the back of his mind. “What about you? Something bothering you too?”
“It’s that obvious?” Blue let out a deep sigh. “This whole situation is mad enough, Grey. This explosion happening in the heart of Cloudbase. Scarlet appearing on the spot. We capture him… And then two Ochres…” He shook his head, shrugging. “You’re right. Nothing is clear-cut in this affair. I may even be starting to see things… And since the lot of you already think I’m already crazy as it is, I’m afraid that you’ll say I’m finally losing what’s left of my sanity!”
“Would we really think that?” Grey asked with a faint smile. Blue gave him an old-fashioned look, but didn’t answer. Grey’s smile faded as soon as it had appeared. “What did you see, Adam?”
“I don’t know what I saw,” Blue answered truthfully. “Or if I really saw it even. It was so confusing in there… But if there really was something, it wasn’t natural, that I’m sure of.” He paused a second. “And there’s a second thing I’m sure of too.”
“What is it?”
Blue hesitated a second. “Don’t you find it odd,” he finally said carefully, “that the Mysterons didn’t warn us this time before attacking us?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time they would plant their pawns and make preparation for their threats before issuing their warnings,” Grey reminded him.
“I know,” Blue replied grimly, narrowing his eyes. “I just hope they haven’t changed their tactics and decided not to warn us… But frankly, just thinking about a ‘preparation’ of this magnitude… it’s scaring the Hell out of me thinking about what they might be up to this time.”
“NOW you’re worrying me, Svenson,” Captain Grey declared, his face taking an uneasy expression that Blue rarely had seen in it before.
“Maybe it’s just an impression,” Blue murmured pensively. “But I can’t shake the feeling that we have seen nothing as yet, my friend. The Mysterons probably still have some other surprises in store for us.”
* * *
One Ochre too many
Captain Ochre was walking around the holding cell, feeling exactly like a caged animal.
Strange, he reflected grimly, that he should find himself here at the moment, in this specific security cell. He had been the one who, with Magenta, had designed it to detain any Mysteron agents that Spectrum might eventually take prisoner. The cell had reinforced panels fixed to the walls, floor and ceiling, and airlock doors, equally reinforced. All that in order to withstand the force of an explosion if the prisoner should go into overload and explode, as Spectrum had witnessed on occasion. But construction wasn’t completed, yet – the entire upgrade and testing had not been performed; it wasn’t sure if the cell was even strong enough to contain the eventual blast even if completed, so it was even less certain now. But frankly, that wasn’t concerning Ochre at the moment. He wouldn’t explode, that was for sure – he wasn’t a Mysteron. He had a feeling that, if those aliens from Mars had a sense of humour, they were presently rolling around on the floor.
He saw the door slide open, and Captain Magenta enter. Ochre stopped his pacing, to stare at him, with frustration obvious in all his features. The Irish captain was just standing there, saying nothing.
“Well?” asked Ochre with impatience. What’s the verdict?”
Magenta sighed; he lowered his head and rubbed the back of his neck, in an awkward way. Sergeant Dallas had made the test with the Mysteron Detector upon Ochre’s arrival at the brig, about three hours before. Then yet again, several minutes ago – as if Spectrum wanted to make sure. Ochre had no doubt about the results. He was just wondering why it was taking so long for them to release him. He snorted at Magenta’s far too obvious embarrassment.
“Told you so,” he said callously.
“Sorry, Rick,” Magenta sighed. “We had to make sure. Obviously, you’re clean. You tested negative on the Mysteron check. Both times.”
“Very reassuring!” Ochre snapped. “Now, can I get out of here?”
“Not right away, no,” Magenta replied, a little hesitantly.
Ochre stared at him with an unbelieving and murderous look. “And why not? You just said that the Mysteron check tested me negative! So what’s the problem?”
“The problem?” Magenta seemed even more uncomfortable. “Well, you see… We also checked that other ‘Ochre’, in sickbay… and he tested negative too.”
“WHAT? But that’s impossible! I know I’m not the Mysteron… He SHOULD be!”
“Well, according to the test, he is no more a Mysteron than you. Or so it would seem.”
“What do you mean, ‘so it would seem’?”
Magenta rubbed his chin. “What if the Mysterons have found a way to duplicate humans without them being detectable by X-rays?”
Ochre’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor. “And who came up with that madcap theory? Don’t answer that. I think I know. When it’s mad, it definitely comes from Blue! And I suppose that for him I’m the prime suspect?” He looked squarely at Magenta, a doubt crossing his mind. The Irish officer wasn’t taking his eyes from him, and Ochre thought he saw suspicion in his set features. He slowly nodded, knowingly. “And apparently, I am for you too… So why are you telling me all this, Magenta? You want to see how I will react, upon hearing that crazy assumption from Blue?”
Magenta didn’t respond, not giving any reaction of his own on his set face. But it was obvious that Ochre had found him out. If anything, if his reaction didn’t prove he wasn’t a Mysteron, at the very least, it was saying that he was every bit as sharp-witted as the real Ochre was supposed to be.
“Blue wasn’t the one who suggested that theory,” Magenta replied in an even tone. “But considering the situation, it’s a possibility we have to keep in mind.” He paused a second, before adding, with a sigh, “I came to tell you that you may be here a while longer. Until we find out which one of you is the real Ochre, that is.”
“And the other one?” Ochre asked. “He’s to stay in sickbay? You realise he should be in a cell like this one?”
“I can’t discuss his condition with you. But if only to reassure you: he can’t pose any kind of threat at the moment.”
“How come? He’s still unconscious?”
Magenta didn’t answer. Ochre sighed. “And Scarlet? He’s in sickbay too, right? You know how dangerous he can be. I hope all necessary security measures have been taken?”
Again, Magenta kept silent. He raised a brow. Ochre stepped back. “Damn it, Magenta, I’m not trying to get information!” he said. “I’m just concerned that those two might be trying something that will put Cloudbase personnel in deadly danger! Nothing more!”
Magenta nodded. “Your concerns are noted.” He paused a second. “Captain, there’ll be someone from sickbay coming down soon, to do some tests on you.”
“What kind of tests?” Ochre demanded with a frown.
“Something like medical checks, nothing bad, don’t worry. You’re expected to submit yourself to the tests without recriminations – or resistance of any kind. You’ll be under strict and very close surveillance by security guards for the duration of the tests. If you try anything…”
“Now, WHY would I do that, tell me?” Ochre said rolling his eyes.
“Please. This is no laughing matter. Will you submit quietly to the tests?”
“I will, I will,” sighed Ochre. “Don’t worry. Man! You would think one physical per year would be sufficient!”
“If you are who you claim you are… I’m sorry for all of this. But surely you understand there’s no other way.”
Ochre let himself fall onto the lonely bunk furnishing the cell. “I guess that should be expected,” he grumbled. He lay down, getting himself as comfortable as he could, not letting Magenta out of his sight. He frowned. “I’ll put up with it. But be sure to come get me out of here as soon as I get the all clear. You hear me?”
Almost despite himself, Magenta smiled. Ever so slightly and very briefly. That kind of harangue really sounded like the Ochre he knew so well.
The smile disappeared almost straight away. He cleared his throat, looking down. “Sure,” he murmured, turning around. “You’ll be seeing me.” He made a step toward the door, when the voice of Ochre called him back.
Magenta turned; the annoyed expression he had seen on his colleague’s face earlier was now replaced with deep concern.
“Be careful, okay?”
Magenta nodded. “Promise,” he said before turning to leave the cell.
* * *
“Both tested negative to the Mysteron detector?” How can that be possible?”
With an enquiring, yet austere, look, Colonel White looked down at the body of the young man in the bed in front of him. He seemed to be sleeping quietly, his head bandaged, his eyes closed and a tranquil expression on his face. He had been connected to a medical monitor set atop of the bed, which was constantly checking his condition, watching for any change that might appear. For security reasons, restraints were holding his arms down, and a guard was standing near the door of his sickbay room, watching over him. It didn’t seem, however, that this Captain Ochre, man or Mysteron, could pose any kind of threat to anyone. Not in his present state.
“We don’t know yet, sir.” Captain Grey was standing next to White, looking down too at the still body. “Doctor Lavender has suggested the possibility that the Mysterons might have found a way to create an undetectable agent. Although Doctor Fawn seemed reluctant to accept that theory.”
“Does he have a better one?” Grey noticed the edgy tone in White’s voice. He was obviously upset. And Grey had the distinct impression that it wasn’t only because his base had been invaded while he was away. It was also because it had happened at a most inconvenient moment for him.
Now, urgently called back to Cloudbase to face that unusual situation, White was probably very angry to have had to postpone his trip.
Of all the moments for the Mysterons to pull a trick like this…
“No, I don’t.” White turned around. Doctor Fawn was standing in the doorway, right next to the security guard, looking straight at him. The physician entered. He approached to read the data appearing on the monitor and wrote them down on the medical pad at the patient’s bed.
“Why would you not adhere to Doctor Lavender’s theory, Doctor Fawn?” White asked.
“And a good day to you too, Colonel White. Nice to have you back.” White frowned. Not seeming to notice his expression of disapproval, Fawn put the pad back in its place and turned to the Spectrum commander, sighing, finally answering his question. “It seems very unlikely, Colonel. Look at that man: he’s lying there, unconscious, suffering from concussion due to a severe head wound. If he was a Mysteron, he would probably be healed, by now. Healed, conscious, and potentially dangerous.”
“What about that other Ochre in the brig?” White asked.
“We performed some physical checks on him. Nothing stood out from them, except some tension, which is to be expected considering the situation. The medic who performed the test took a sample of blood and noticed that the puncture wound didn’t heal as quickly as would be expected from a Mysteron. He’s as human as this Captain Ochre lying there. In fact, they’re EXACTLY alike – twins, you might say.”
“Not a single difference?” White insisted.
“There still some tests we have to conduct,” Fawn said with a nod. “I’ll keep you updated on them. But so far… there’s nothing to tell us which of these two men is the real one.”
“If not a Mysteron, then why not a human clone?” White stipulated. “It’s not as if the technology isn’t available on Earth.”
“Would the Mysterons have used that technology to create another Ochre?” Grey asked. “Why? Why would they need another – er – ‘human’ Ochre?”
“One might say ‘one is quite enough’,” White remarked with dry humour. “We still have to find that out.” He pointed to the sleeping man. “This is the one found in the Research and Development lab, where Captain Scarlet was apprehended after that explosion you reported?”
“And according to his own statement, the other Captain Ochre was always in the company of one or another of the senior staff the whole day?”
“That’s what he said, and we’re still checking his schedule for the day. So far, we haven’t found anything indicating that he lied.”
“So this one may well be Captain Scarlet’s accomplice after all.” White nodded pensively. “Nothing found to explain their presence onboard?”
“I WANT to know, Grey. At least, as far as Captain Scarlet is concerned, in the event that Ochre was duplicated here, however unlikely that might seem.”
“Yes, sir. We haven’t found anything to explain the origin of that explosion in R and D so far. We found no trace of an explosive device – although it is obvious that there was something that exploded there.”
“What did Lavender have to say about this? He was there, when it happened. Maybe he was conducting some kind of experiment that went wrong?”
“He said he doesn’t know anything. Nothing that was done in there at the time can explain why that explosion happened. He confirms it came from an outside source. It wasn’t any of R and D’s doing.”
“That’s wonderful. There are TOO many variables,” White muttered. “FAR too many. We can’t seem to find a reasonable explanation for how Captain Scarlet got onboard Cloudbase; how he found himself in R and D; how he was able to detonate something there that nearly destroyed the entire Department; how two Captain Ochres came to be – with neither of them seemingly being a Mysteron. Remind me to thank the Mysterons for that unusual present, Captain Grey. They really chose the occasion for it.”
“I know, sir,” Grey sighed. “I’m sorry I had to call you back. And that you had to postpone your… vacation trip.”
“You couldn’t very well let me pursue it, considering the situation, Captain,” White replied crisply. “My place is here, at a time like this. I’m afraid all other considerations have to be put aside, when facing such urgent matters,” he added, and Grey couldn’t help but notice the note of regret in his tone. He saw his commander shrugging the thought away. “Tell me about Captain Scarlet, Doctor,” he said, turning to Fawn.
The latter looked at him squarely. “He’s here in sickbay,” he announced. “He’s been put into a secure room, away from the wards, in case of any trouble.”
“Do you expect any?”
Fawn scoffed. “Frankly, Colonel, I hardly think it would be possible, considering Doctor Lavender’s present security arrangements!”
White took note of the more than obvious discontentment in the medical officer’s tone of voice. He didn’t mention it for the moment, but reminded himself to ask him later on what could be possibly bothering him. For now, there were more pressing matters. After two years of evading Spectrum’s attempts to catch him, Captain Scarlet had been captured, while infiltrating Cloudbase. This was unexpected. Almost too good to be true.
White had to see for himself. He had to face the man – the Mysteron agent – who had become Spectrum’s number one enemy – right next to Captain Black.
“Where can I find him, Doctor?”
* * *
Guilty until proven innocent
Doctor Fawn led both Colonel White and Captain Grey through the corridors of sickbay to a remote room, where two armed security officers were standing guard, one on either side of the door. Upon seeing the Spectrum supreme commander approaching them, the two men snapped to attention. Fawn pressed the command button and the door slid open before him. He invited White and Grey to enter, and then stepped inside himself, the door sliding closed behind him.
The room White had come into was nothing like he expected. It didn’t look like any of the other rooms in sickbay that he knew of. Rather, it looked like some kind of cross between a laboratory and an electronic control room. There wasn’t a regular bed in the room, but instead a kind of padded examination table, set in the middle of it, where a man was lying, barefoot and dressed in pyjamas, with the top opened, so electrodes could be freely applied to his chest. The man’s feet and wrists were restrained by metallic bands, his hands on either side of his head, where electrodes had also been applied. Moreover, he was hooked to the computer-like device which covered half a wall of the room, and which was nearly as big as the one in the Tower Command Centre, but with a different layout, and many screens, that were bleeping with lines, dots and graphics, almost in unison.
White’s eyes opened wide with amazement as he considered the outlandish scene. Doctor Lavender was standing in front of the computer, with one of his assistants, quietly taking notes on a pad, in a way very similar to what Fawn had done some minutes earlier in Captain Ochre’s room. He looked perfectly at ease, as if all this around him was completely natural for him. Not far from there, Captain Blue was standing rigidly, his eyes set with attention on the figure lying on the examination bed.
“What is all this?” White suddenly demanded, with a stern voice, and a furrowed brow.
“Doctor Lavender’s idea of keeping Cloudbase safe, Colonel,” Doctor Fawn declared gloomily, with an obvious edge of disapproval in his voice. White turned to him. “His… ‘invention’.”
“Simply a way of keeping Captain Scarlet from communicating with his masters,” the voice of Doctor Lavender added quietly. He put down his pad, as Colonel White made a step forward, still gazing around with that same severe look. Like Fawn, he didn’t seem to approve. Nor to be convinced of the usefulness of such a display. The Spectrum commander was now standing right next to the examination table – where Captain Scarlet, his eyes closed, was faintly moving his head from one side to the other, muttering unintelligibly. White looked down at him in surprise.
“He’s conscious,” White noted, pointing at the patient.
“More or less,” Lavender explained, approaching. “Conscious, but unable to think.” He pulled down one of Scarlet’s sleeves, to show the thin tube protruding from his forearm. “You see, we’re continually pumping him with drugs, which is keeping his mind in a constant haze. As we know, the Mysterons contact and control their agents using mental communication – telepathy, if you will. The drugs are preventing Captain Scarlet from receiving their orders – or making contact with them.”
“Or to explode if he should want to?” Captain Blue asked bitterly behind him. He too didn’t seem to approve of the present setting, but obviously, for reasons that were all his own.
“That would be a sure bet, Captain.”
“I’m not a betting man, Doctor,” Fawn then suddenly said, “but frankly speaking, considering how they’ve used Scarlet those past two years, and as they seem to consider him one of their most important agents, I doubt the Mysterons would be willing to sacrifice him and let him ‘explode’ like that.”
“Mysteron agents are totally devoted to their cause, Doctor,” Blue then declared. “I wouldn’t count on them recognising the value of one of their agents. No matter how important he might be to them.” He nodded in Colonel White’s direction. “Especially if they could use him to destroy a large target, like Cloudbase.”
“So what do you propose we do with him, Captain? Kill him?” White saw Blue narrow his eyes dangerously. He didn’t need to hear the young man’s response to know what it was. “Not right now. I don’t think it would even be necessary to come to that. For the moment, by the look of it, I would say he has been rendered quite inoffensive.”
“That he is, Colonel,” Lavender approved, with a satisfied grin.
“Inoffensive!” Fawn growled behind White. He made a step forward, to stare Lavender levelly in the eyes. “Do you realise what all those drugs pumped into a human being might do to him?”
“You’re way too emotional for your own good, Fawn,” Lavender replied with a dismissive gesture.
“I’m a doctor, Lavender, and I dedicate myself to saving others’ lives and tending to them. I’m not some… ‘mad scientist’ who sees any human being as a possible guinea pig for tests and experiments.”
“Who said he’s a human being?” Blue muttered dully.
“Not now, Captain,” White warned him. “Now, Doctors – no more arguing amongst yourselves. I won’t have any of it.” Both Fawn and Lavender contented themselves with staring at each other, and didn’t answer. White looked down again at Scarlet. “I thought you said he had been wounded when he was captured,” he remarked with a pensive tone.
“Two gunshots,” Fawn confirmed. “One of the bullets had shattered his shoulder blade. The other lodged itself in his chest. He lost a lot of blood…” He gave a quick sideways look in Lavender’s direction. “…Enough for us to gather and perform tests for months.”
“I don’t see any trace of the injuries,” White marvelled. “Have they healed already?”
“Nearly. It’s quite amazing, Colonel. I know that Mysteron agents are supposed to be indestructible – at least, some of them. But even from earlier observations, I never managed to witness a complete recovery. I estimate a full recovery in about two hours – it would probably be sooner, if not for those drugs, which are obviously hindering the healing process.”
“Amazing indeed,” White murmured. “About those drugs, Doctor Lavender,” he continued with a frown, “WHY do you have to continually give them to him? As Doctor Fawn implied, it could cause tremendous trouble to his system. Why take that risk? We want to control him, yes, but still be able to interrogate him.”
Lavender scoffed quietly. “We HAVE to do it this way, Colonel. We found out his metabolism burns the drug almost as quickly as it is given to him. I have to credit Doctor Fawn with that discovery. So I’m afraid we had to take drastic steps to keep our… ‘patient’ under the influence of the drug.”
“I see,” Colonel White replied, noting in passing that Fawn had twitched ever so slightly at the mention of the world ‘patient’.
He looked down at the supine figure, pensive for a second. Right next to Captain Black – perhaps even MORE so than Captain Black – Captain Scarlet had been the most dangerous adversary the Mysterons had created for their war of nerves against Earth. Both were the aliens’ prime agents – ‘recruited’ at the very start of the war from within the ranks of Spectrum itself. Black on Mars, under circumstances yet to be determined, during the first human encounter with the Mysterons – an encounter that had resulted in Black blowing up the Martian Mysteron Complex he had discovered, thinking the inhabitants were hostile. And Scarlet, on Earth, not long after that. He had been killed in a car accident, and recreated, to carry out the task of kidnapping and killing the World President, as the Mysterons had promised. If not for Captain Blue, World President Younger would be dead. Blue had shot down Captain Scarlet in a showdown at the London Car-Vu, where he was holding the World President. The Mysteron agent had fallen 800 feet to what would have appeared to be his death, and had been buried under tons of rubble, after the Car-Vu had been destroyed in an aerial fight between the Angels and a Spectrum helicopter that had been taken over by the Mysterons. Even though his body had never been recovered afterward, in all probability, Captain Scarlet should have been dead.
Or so Spectrum believed. But barely three weeks later, he reappeared, without any apparent injuries, to carry out yet another of his masters’ tasks – killing the Director General of the Asian Republic. Captain Grey had shot down a sniper that had tried to shoot the Director General through the window of his bedroom hotel, only to discover, with surprise and complete horror, that the man he had killed was the same man Blue had shot down from the Car-Vu weeks earlier. There was not a trace of any earlier wounds, only the two bullets Grey had put into him. But Grey’s surprise wasn’t to stop there. Neither was that of Captain Indigo, who had received the not so enviable task of taking the Mysteron agent’s body back to Spectrum HQ, London. Indigo witnessed the complete recovery of Scarlet, while in the ambulance, and his return to life – and to action. Indigo was lucky to come out of the incident with only a bump to the head and a broken arm, when Scarlet had thrown him out of the ambulance, along with the driver, to take the wheel and head to the International Airport, for another attempt on his target’s life.
By the time Indigo was able to contact Blue and Grey, who were in attendance for the Director General’s protection, it was too late for Spectrum to thwart the Mysterons’ plans. Scarlet acted as a diversion, drawing both Captains Blue and Grey’s attention to him during the operation, while the Mysterons delivered their fatal blow from another direction, using a reconstructed Delta Liner plane that was sent ramming into the Director General’s private craft. There had been no survivors from the collision. And Captain Scarlet, subsequently, made good his escape. It was a total victory for the Mysterons.
And now, he was lying there, barely conscious, with not even enough strength to lift his head more than an inch from the padded surface of the examination bed. Completely harmless, from all points of view. At Spectrum’s mercy.
“I was hoping to talk to him,” White said in an undertone. Clearly, he was disappointed. Lavender stared at him for a few seconds, before clearing his throat.
“Frankly, Colonel White, it would surprise me if he’ll actually be conscious enough to…”
He was interrupted by a loud groan coming from the prisoner. Like everybody else in the room, he lowered his gaze to the man lying on the padded table, whose breathing had seemed to increase. Captain Blue had approached closer, his hand stroking the handle of his sidearm, watching expectantly. Lavender turned around to his assistant. “Check the drug flow, Grimm. Assure yourself it’s still steady. I don’t want him to…” He was suddenly interrupted in his instructions. The grunt he was hearing behind him had now transformed into a slurred voice, which made him turn back in surprise.
Almost despite himself, Colonel White moved one step closer, to stand over the man who was now agitating himself a little more on the table. He saw him open his eyes, very tiredly, and looking into space with a drowsy look. The lips moved, trying to form words, ineffectively at first. Scarlet closed his eyes tightly, grunting under the obvious efforts he was making to fight against his drug-induced stupor. When the eyelids heavily opened again, there was little change in the trembling blue eyes looking up to White – except the drowsiness was now tainted with an expression of total loss.
“C-captain Ochre…” the words had been pronounced with obvious great effort, calling on almost all Scarlet’s resources to speak. “H-how is he?”
“Captain Ochre?” White repeated, lifting a brow.
“Ex-explosion… R and D lab. He… We were… caught in the blast…”
Colonel White couldn’t help but notice the man’s voice. So unlike what he remembered of the deep, almost sepulchral voice he had heard on some occasions – and resembling that of the Mysterons. That voice he was hearing was that of the man he once knew, a couple of years ago. He shook himself, not wanting to let himself be distracted by such a detail.
Not for now.
“What were you doing in the R and D Department, Captain Scarlet?” White asked with a stern voice.
He didn’t receive any response. Scarlet had closed his eyes again, but his face was now creased with the efforts he was making to stay conscious. “Captain,” White repeated more forcefully, furrowing his brow, “do you know WHERE you are?”
“C-Cloudbase…” Scarlet opened his eyes again, slowly looking around haggardly. “Th-this is not… sickbay… Where… Why am I… restrained?”
“This is indeed sickbay, Captain. How did you get onboard Cloudbase?”
“Where… Where’s… R-Rick… He needs h-help…”
White raised an eyebrow in perplexity. Rick? And since when would a Mysteron express such concern for another? “Captain Ochre has been taken care of,” he answered gruffly. “Captain Scarlet. HOW did you board Cloudbase? Did someone bring you here?”
“Cloud-Cloudbase…” Scarlet muttered, obviously fighting to get the words out. “M-Mysterons… Mysterons on Cloudbase…”
“Do the Mysterons intend to attack Cloudbase, Captain?”
“Is that why they send you here?”
The air of total incomprehension with which Scarlet looked at him left Colonel White puzzled. He wondered if the question had registered. He saw Scarlet shaking his head. “N-no… Why do you… Can’t think…” He took a deep breath. “Grey… he… wanted to arrest me… Blue…” A distressed expression quivered in his blue eyes. “Blue shot me…” he murmured. “Why…”
“Captain Blue stopped you from killing Captain Grey,” White replied sternly.
“No… Grey… This isn’t right…” Scarlet groaned between his teeth, closing his eyes again. “Why can’t I… think…” He breathed again deeply. His eyelids flew open. “No-nothing is right… What… What is happening…” he whispered. Turning his head to the side, he saw Captain Blue standing there, rigid like a statue, staring at him in a cold, almost hateful way. Scarlet frowned, blinking his eyes several times, obviously trying to grasp something that he didn’t understand, that was simply out of his reach…
“A-Adam… What… What’s with the beard? When…” He frowned deeply. “This… this is impossible… It’s not right… Can’t…”
“What isn’t right, Scarlet?” White asked.
“N-nothing… Ev-everything… This is not… Why… am I here?”
“You are under arrest, Captain Scarlet. Spectrum apprehended you while you were trying to destroy Cloudbase R and D Department for the Mysterons…”
“What? No, I…”
“You’re denying that you planted a bomb in R and D, Scarlet?”
“Y-yes… No… There was no bomb… P-pulsator…”
“A diamond pulsator? You brought a diamond pulsator onboard Cloudbase?”
“No… P-pieces… R-red stones…”
Scarlet grunted loudly, his brow was covered with sweat from the exertion he was displaying with his mind, trying very hard to focus. White realised there was little he would be able to get from him right now. Scarlet was too much under the effects of the drug. He let out a frustrated mutter. He would have to make do with what little information he was able to gather. He turned to Captain Grey, who was standing a little behind him, staring down thoughtfully at Scarlet. “Was anything found in the Research and Development Department?”
“No, sir,” Grey replied. “At least, not yet. The explosion had left the place in quite a mess.”
“Red stones?” Blue grumbled. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Apparently, for Scarlet, it does,” White replied.
“Captain Indigo’s team is still searching R and D,” Grey added. “Surely, if there’s something…”
“In-Indigo?” The name attracted Scarlet’s attention and seemed to drew him out of his torpor a little more. He succeeded in rising his head briefly from the table, to look to White, his incomprehension even deeper that before. “But… But Indigo’s dead…”
“Dead?” White repeated, frowning.
“Two… two years,” Scarlet answered, his head dropping back on the table. “He’s been d-dead for two years…”
“What’s the matter, Scarlet?” the voice of Blue then said, filled with bitterness. “You don’t remember that he actually escaped your efforts to kill him, those two times he encountered you?”
“I… Kenya… I remember… The Mysterons…” Scarlet frowned, trying to focus on his memory. “Indigo… I did… kill him… ”
“No. You missed. That time like that other time in London, when you helped in assassinating the Asian Director General.”
“I didn’t… Indigo… He wasn’t there in London… This isn’t right...” Scarlet raised his head again, more forcefully. There was panic now dancing in his eyes. He turned to Blue, then looked around, gazing at each and every person surrounding him, searching their faces for an answer to explain the craziness of what he was hearing… of what he was seeing. “You- you’re not supposed to have a beard…” he said, looking back at a stoic Blue. “This place… This place isn’t real… Am I going mad?”
“You tell us,” Blue replied icily.
“Enough, Captain,” White called him to order. “Scarlet…”
“This can’t be true… Why… Why are you keeping me restrained to… this bed? Why do I feel so… tired? Why can’t I think?”
“He’s delirious,” Doctor Lavender declared.
“Or he’s acting the part,” Blue replied. “Can a Mysteron be delirious?”
“I am NOT a Mysteron!” Scarlet suddenly lashed out, turning at him. “You- you are not Blue! Blue would know that! Who are you?”
“Maybe you’re right, doctor,” Blue then reflected. “Maybe he is delirious.”
“Who are you people?” Scarlet almost yelled in despair, his alien immune system now fighting so intensely against the drug pumped into him that it was barely apparent he was still suffering from its effect. “You’re not… acting like the people I know! Where is Ochre? What have you done to him? What do you want from us?”
“Now calm yourself, Captain,” Doctor Fawn then said, stepping forward. Scarlet turned his head in his direction in alarm. He saw the concern in the physician’s features and desperately sought to hang on to it.
“Doctor Fawn… Please… What’s going on? Help me… Please.” He didn’t receive any kind of response other than a helpless stare. Scarlet’s hope sank, as he looked around the room once again. “Why are you… treating me this way? You’re not acting like yourselves…” A horrible thought imposed itself in his tortured mind. “What… What did the Mysterons do to you?”
“Doctors, I think you’d better see to your patient,” White suddenly declared upon witnessing the wave of panic that was presently taking hold of Scarlet. “Before this gets out of hand…”
He stepped back, to allow Doctor Fawn to approach closer. Scarlet tried to raise from his position, his eyes set on the Spectrum commander, the same air of desperation and alarm plastered all over his sweaty face. “No, please! Colonel White, list…”
The sentence died with a painful scream, as a sizzling sound made itself heard coming from the table and Scarlet arched himself in his restraints, literally jolting from the table. He fell down on it, grunting and breathing hard, unable to speak again, on the verge of losing his senses.
Fawn had instinctively stepped back, gazing with horror at the man now lying again on the bed, moaning in obvious pain. The physician raised his eyes, and stared at all the faces surrounding him. They were looking down with the same wide-eyed expression of surprise at Scarlet. Even Blue seemed taken aback. Only Lavender was displaying a straight face.
White was the first to understand what had gone on. He turned furiously in Lavender’s direction. “WHAT just happened there?”
“A security device I installed on the table, Colonel,” Lavender said, with some hesitation. “It responds to Scarlet’s reactions – reading the data the computer monitors from his blood pressure and…”
“Spare me the details, Doctor!” White interrupted with anger.
“It’s just an electric jolt, Colonel. Should Captain Scarlet attempt to break free from his restraints or…”
“JUST an electric jolt? Are you mad?”
“No, Colonel. Mysterons are known for being vulnerable to electricity.”
“What if it had killed him?”
“No danger of that – the device is designed to answer to what amount of effort he makes. And I made sure it would stay at a reasonably harmless voltage.”
“A reasonably harmless voltage?!” Fawn then repeated not believing his ears. “Lavender, what if I had touched him when that… device of yours jolted him?”
“Did you know about this?” White asked the chief medical officer.
“Certainly not! I would NEVER have agreed to such a device in my sickbay!”
“And I won’t allow its use either, on any part of Cloudbase!” White snapped, turning again to Lavender. “Disconnect that thing!”
“But Colonel… The device proved its effectiveness. The security…”
“To hell with your device, Doctor! As long as I’m in command of Spectrum, I won’t endorse that kind of action. He may be a Mysteron, but I won’t allow him to be treated that way! Is that understood?”
For a short instant, Lavender measured his gaze with that of Colonel White; but nobody in the past had been able to withstand the Spectrum commander’s intense stare for long. The scientist lowered his eyes, sighing. “Understood, Colonel. I hope you won’t regret that decision.”
“I’ll try to live with it. Disconnect that device, Doctor.”
“It’ll be done… Colonel.”
“Right.” White turned to the gasping Scarlet, who was now being examined by a wary Fawn. He stepped forward, and looked down; the Mysteron agent’s eyes fluttered slightly upon seeing him, but he was obviously unable to say anything; his eyes closed and he stayed motionless.
“I’m sorry,” White said with a genuine apologetic tone to his voice. “This should never have happened.”
“It’s useless, Colonel.” The Cloudbase chief medical officer shook his head. “Unconscious,” he announced. “For the moment, you won’t get anything out of him.”
“Damn,” White muttered.
“He was getting panicky, sir,” Grey intervened. “I doubt you would have been able to get any rational answer from him in the state he was in.”
“He seemed rather… irrational,” White admitted with a nod. “Unlike anything I would have expected from him.” He stole a glance in Captain Blue’s direction, wondering if the young man had anything to say on the matter. He found him staring squarely at the unconscious Scarlet, with something of a puzzled expression in his blue, generally cold eyes. He did notice something unusual, White reflected.
White rubbed his chin pensively, while looking down at Scarlet. Fawn was right. For the moment, he wouldn’t be able to continue interrogating him. He would have to wait for a later opportunity. “You can keep him under the influence of that drug, Doctor Lavender,” he instructed, much to Fawn’s dismay. “You are now responsible for him. But I want you to also see to his well-being. Don’t overdo it.”
“Of course, Colonel.”
“And under no circumstance are you to use that electric device again. Understood?”
“Sir, I must protest,” Fawn then declared. “Keeping him drugged is hardly ethical behaviour.”
“In other circumstances, Doctor, I would have to agree,” White said with a shake of his head. “But I can’t do otherwise. I must think of Cloudbase security. This is my responsibility.” Fawn couldn’t argue with that. White nodded to him. “As for you, I want you to see to Captain Ochre. Tend to him, treat his injuries.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Fawn sighed nodding his acknowledgement.
“And as soon as he wakes up and is able to talk, call to me. Maybe he’ll be able to shed some light on what’s going on.” White turned around, directing his steps toward the door. “Captain Grey, Captain Blue. Come with me. We have much to discuss.”
* * *
“Before the staff meeting, I want to know what you think of all this, Captains.”
Upon the opening of the door leading to the Conference Room, Colonel White strode directly to the round table, and sat down on his seat. He put down in front of him the folder that Captain Grey had given to him earlier and in which was contained all the information concerning the recent incidents. White turned around to look at Captains Blue and Grey who had followed him inside, and who were now standing in front of him. The Spectrum Commander sat down comfortably, waiting.
“Well?” he asked. “Not even one constructive thought?”
Grey cleared his throat, before diving in. “This is certainly an unusual case, Colonel…”
“Unusual?!” White scoffed. “I would hardly call it so, Captain.” He leaned on the table, looking squarely at Grey. “Let’s see if I can summarise the situation: Captain Scarlet broke into Cloudbase. We don’t know how, we don’t know when. He found his way to the Research and Development Department, avoiding any personnel, and without being spotted by the security cameras. We don’t know how. An explosion occurred in R and D, we don’t know how, and Scarlet is captured there. With a double of Captain Ochre, who is injured. We don’t know how this double came to be, or WHICH of the two Ochres is the right one, since neither of them seems to be a Mysteron. There’s an awful lot of unanswered questions, gentlemen, and for one, I DON’T LIKE IT.”
“Neither do we, sir,” Grey replied. He hesitated a second. “You may want to add to your list Captain Scarlet’s unusual behaviour, too,” he carefully pointed out.
“I was COMING to that, Captain. What do you make of it?”
Grey shrugged. “This is not the way I’ve seen any Mysteron behave, sir,” he admitted. “Especially from what we know of Captain Scarlet. The few times we encountered him, he was cold, dispassionate. Ruthless. No emotion whatsoever was apparent in his eyes. This… man… we have in sickbay… is none of that. He’s confused, lost… I would say even afraid. And it seems obvious he doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is going on.”
White nodded thoughtfully. He had come to the same conclusion as Grey. He looked over at Blue, who was keeping deadly silent, and looking straight ahead, pensively. “Any thought on the matter, Captain Blue?”
“Sir,” Blue said, snapping out of his reverie and turning to his commander. “I agree with you that what we have witnessed is a rather odd reaction – coming from a Mysteron.”
“What do you make of his voice?” White asked, narrowing his eyes. “I’ve heard his voice before, a couple of times, since he was taken over, and so have you. Didn’t you find it different?”
“I… It sounded like his usual voice, sir,” Blue admitted, almost reluctantly.
“That’s what I thought too,” Grey agreed.
“And I,” White added with a brief nod. “What do you make of it?”
“Usually, Mysteron agents have the use of their normal voice, as far as we know,” Blue remarked.
“Not Scarlet or Black, though. For whatever reason. So why did Scarlet revert to his original voice?”
“Could be a trick?” Blue said with a shrug. “We’ve found out that Mysteron agents MAY, on some occasions, imitate other people voices.”
“That they can, but I doubt that had anything to do with the present problem. Could all this recent behaviour of his… be attributed to the drugs that are keeping him in check?”
“Anything is possible, Colonel.”
“I don’t know,” Grey, said in turn with a faint frown, making both White and Blue turn to him. “He seemed already rather confused when we apprehended him in R and D.”
“Are you sure?” White asked, with a frown of his own, obviously pondering that reflection.
Grey sighed. “That’s just it, sir, I’m not sure of anything. But…” he gave it some thought for an instant, before continuing. “When I found myself face to face with him, he wasn’t threatening in anyway. At first… He kept saying that there was a huge misunderstanding… And he called me by my name…”
“A way to distract you,” Blue reflected.
“There was more than that, Blue. Much more.” Grey hesitated a short instant, obviously trying to recall the events that had surrounded Scarlet’s earlier arrest, some hours before. “He asked if I was crazy and… He said something else to me. When he disarmed me and was holding that gun to my head. At that instant, I could almost have sworn he had said ‘you’ll be a Mysteron’. But the more I think about it… I think he actually said ‘You’re a Mysteron.’”
White raised a inquiring brow. “‘You’re a Mysteron’?”
“That’s what he said, sir.”
“What do you think he meant?”
“I’m not sure… But there was something in his eyes when he said those words… I can’t describe it exactly, but, it looked as if that idea wasn’t pleasing him in the least. Sir…” Grey was obviously hesitating, not sure if he should voice the thought that was forming in his mind. “What if… he had freed himself of the Mysteron’s influence?” he asked tentatively.
Blue snorted at the theory. But obviously, the same thought had found its way into the colonel’s mind. He narrowed his eyes to Grey, pensively. “Could that be possible? And how would he have achieved that?”
“It could also be a trick,” Blue replied. “The Mysterons may be trying to deceive us, as they often have in the past.”
“Would they go that far, Blue?” Grey countered. “I don’t think we should dismiss that possibility.”
“He tried to kill you,” Blue reminded him icily.
“If I am honest with myself, Captain Blue, I have to confess that he attacked me only when I ordered the guard to seize him.”
“Oh right!” Blue snorted. “That changes everything!”
“We made that mistake once, Captain,” Grey remarked dryly, while Colonel White was listening and watching. “Captain Black did, when he attacked the Mysterons on Mars, presuming they were hostile. That’s what put us in this whole mess, to begin with.”
“There’s a huge difference, Captain Grey. Seeing Scarlet there, you KNEW he was up to no good! What did you thing you should have done? Go up to him and say ‘hi, Captain Scarlet. What can I do to help you blow up Cloudbase? Oh, and by the way, nice explosion.’”
“We don’t know if he was really responsible for that explosion, Blue!”
“One and one always makes two, Grey. He was there; there’d been an explosion. I don’t need further explanation! If you see one, explain it to me!”
“Enough!” Colonel White called out severely, nearly jumping to his feet. “You are not schoolboys, but Spectrum officers! Stop that bickering this instant!” His order had an immediate effect. Both men stopped arguing, but kept meeting each other’s eyes, defiantly. “I agree with Captain Grey that we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he has just presented, but at the moment, we’re still pretty much in the dark about what is going on, so I also think we should take no chances. This is something we’ll have to check thoroughly. In the meantime, we have OTHER problems to concern ourselves with.” He leaned back in his chair, clearing his throat. “Captain Scarlet mentioned something about a diamond pulsator,” he pursued, in a more even tone. “If he told the truth, it may be the cause of that explosion in R and D.”
“From what we know of diamond pulsators, sir,” remarked Captain Blue, “an explosion of one of these devices would have been more devastating. The whole deck would have been blown up.”
“Actually, he mentioned ‘red stones’,” Grey specified. “I don’t know what they have to do with the diamond pulsator, but…”
“Colonel,” Blue then declared, “if there is a diamond pulsator involved – wouldn’t it need the Kurnitz console to work?”
“Probably, Captain,” White said, looking up at the younger man, as a thought suddenly crossed his mind. “And the Kurnitz console was brought back to Cloudbase recently – a demand by Doctor Lavender, who needed it for special research.”
“Yes, it’s in R and D,” Blue confirmed with a nod. “I saw it. Half-destroyed, by the look of it, following that explosion. And I thought I saw something peculiar about it. But I thought it was just a play of light, or something of the like…”
“What did you see, Captain?” White demanded. “Any clue could be useful.”
“Just a glimmer, sir. A faint glow – that seemed to originate from over the console. Nothing comparable to the light show displayed by a diamond pulsator, mind you. And it disappeared very quickly.”
“I wonder if we shouldn’t ask Doctor Lavender again about what he was working on, when the explosion occurred,” Grey said gloomily.
“Maybe it wasn’t Lavender’s doing,” White reflected. “Maybe Scarlet did bring a diamond pulsator – or something similar, in order to hook it to the console and destroy Cloudbase with it. And obviously, his attempt failed.”
“If that is what happened,” Grey replied. “We can’t be sure.”
“You’re right. Go to Captain Indigo, Captain Blue. Tell him to have the Kurnitz console examined by experts. Discreetly.”
“S.I.G., sir. I take it we won’t inform Doctor Lavender of our research?”
“No. Not just yet. We’ll tell him IF and WHEN we find something. Just in case he may be even unknowingly responsible for that… accident. That’s why I want any discoveries that might be made be kept as restricted as possible. And reported directly to me.”
“Right, sir,” Grey agreed. “In any case, he’s rather busy with checking on Captain Scarlet.” I doubt he’ll have a clue that we’ll be looking over him over.”
“We’ll find something soon, sir,” Blue declared confidently.
“I certainly HOPE so, Captain!” White said, grumbling, pushing himself against the backrest of his seat. “Because we desperately need to find an explanation of what is going on, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get one soon.”
* * *
Captain Scarlet was slowly coming back to consciousness. His muscles felt strained, from the earlier bolt of electricity, and his mind was still a little fuzzy. He still had trouble focusing, but he could feel the haze dispersing this time, without him having to fight as hard as he had before.
“You’re awake? Good. The last remnants of the drugs will disperse soon enough, don’t worry.”
Scarlet frowned, concentrating. He could barely recognise the voice, although he was sure he knew it. He tried to move. He was still strapped down to the same padded table he had found himself earlier, the electrodes still attached to him. He tested the strength of his bonds, but for his efforts was hit by a wave of dizziness. He let his head fall on the padded surface, grunting and closing his eyes, trying to regain more of his strength. He was still very much confused.
“Do not try to free yourself. Don’t you remember the experience resulting from your earlier attempt? You might find another one… disagreeable.”
Scarlet opened his eyes. NOW he recognised the voice. He twisted himself in his bonds, looking in the direction of the voice. His eyes fell on the tall man who was standing next to a computer wall, staring right at him.
“Doctor Lavender?” he murmured.
There was nobody else in the room. Lavender nodded slowly; quietly, he walked forward to stand right next to the table. He peered down at Scarlet, with a strange expression on his face. The captain’s brow furrowed into a deep, puzzled expression, as he looked the scientist right in the eyes. He still didn’t know what was happening around him – or to him. Why things were… different… not quite as he remembered them to be – why everybody was regarding him as some kind of enemy and treating him accordingly. He was rather distressed, as he couldn’t see a logical explanation for all this. It had all started with the explosion of the stones in the Research and Development lab. Since then… Everything had gone awry, going from bad to worse.
“We’re alone, now,” the voice of Lavender quietly said. “We won’t be disturbed. The effect of the drug is dissipating. With your speedy metabolism, you should recover a fully cleared mind in a matter of a few minutes, now. It’ll then be easier for you to answer a few questions, ‘Captain’. And I advise you to answer them well. Or you might find that I’m not as patient – nor as compassionate – as Colonel White.”
Scarlet’s eyes went wide open with understanding, when he suddenly realised something was even worsE than he thought with Lavender. His system slowly but surely clearing of the drug, he was now aware that the nausea and headache he was feeling was not due to it, but to something else, altogether different. He swallowed hard.
“You’re a Mysteron agent,” he said to Lavender.
The latter raised a brow in curiosity. “Very good, Captain. How did you find that out exactly?”
“So you or your masters are responsible for what is happening around here,” Scarlet accused him. “What have you done?”
“I can assure you, Captain, the Mysterons did nothing at all to change the perception you have of this world – or the perception the others have of you.” Lavender rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and started walking around the table, quietly, to stand on the other side of it. “Who are you?”
“What kind of question is that? You KNOW who I am!” Scarlet spat angrily.
“What I do know and what is obvious to me is that you are not the Captain Scarlet I’ve heard about. The one Spectrum has been trying to capture for the past two years. The Mysteron agent. The terrorist. The cold-blooded assassin who is wanted by authorities all around the world for countless crimes.”
“What are you talking about?” Scarlet snapped. “I am none of those things!”
“No. Obviously, YOU are not. So where do you come from?” Scarlet didn’t reply. He didn’t know what to answer, to be truthful. He was still trying to figure out what was going on. Lavender gave a sigh. “It is obvious you are confused. Lost. Distressed, I would say. You don’t understand what is happening to you… That must be quite unnerving, mustn’t it?” He fished in his white jacket pocket and produced a small, dark object which he held out to Scarlet. It was one of the red stones the captain had previously seen in the R and D lab, prior to the explosion. One of the things responsible for it, actually.
“Can you tell me what it is?”
Scarlet snorted. “You should know that,” he replied dryly. “It’s yours, after all.”
“You’re not very co-operative, Captain.”
Lavender went across to his huge computer; Scarlet watched expectantly, as the scientist pulled up a switch with one hand, and put his other hand on a large dial-like control. He looked over his shoulder in his prisoner’s direction. “I think I told you already…” His hand turned the dial. Instantly, an electric shock surged through Scarlet. His body arched and he let out a cry of pain. Lavender cut the power off and stared mercilessly at the British captain, who had fallen back on the table, gasping and grunting. His whole body was shivering. “I am NOT a patient man. Now, this was just a little shock. You ARE going to answer my questions. And if your answers don’t satisfy me… I’ll turn up the power, gradually. I’m sure you will not like it. Especially when I reach full power.” He turned his back on his computer, and leaned against it. Crossing his arms on his chest, he looked without emotion at his prisoner, who, although still searching to find his normal breathing rate and to regain his focus, was now turning an angry and disgusted stare at him.
“Now,” Lavender added very coldly. “Let’s start again…”
* * *
Angel of Mercy
“Since when are you back on Cloudbase, mon amie?”
Rhapsody Angel was unpacking her luggage when Destiny and Concerto Angels came knocking on her door, and entered, almost not waiting for her to invite them in. Carefully re-folding a blouse which had been somewhat crumpled during the trip, Rhapsody put it back in a drawer and smiled faintly. “I see news travels around Cloudbase as quickly as ever.”
Concerto Angel snorted playfully. “You’ve been gone only a week,” she said in her strong, Gabonese accent. “Do you expect us to change our ways that quickly?”
Rhapsody raised an amused brow. “One can always hope, Djami.” She transferred the last of her clothes from her suitcase into the drawer, before closing the lid, and slipping the case under her bed.
“Weren’t you supposed to be gone for another week?” Destiny asked.
“Three, actually. I’ve been recalled to Cloudbase in a hurry.”
“They called you back?” Destiny said, lifting a brow. “Why? You might as well have stayed down there. It’s not as if it would make a difference… The colonel I can understand, but…”
“The colonel’s been called back too,” Concerto informed.
“So I heard,” Rhapsody replied with a nod. “What is it, girls? What’s so urgent right now on Cloudbase?”
“You mean you don’t know?”
“No, Djami. I don’t. I haven’t been told anything yet. Do you mind telling me what’s going on?”
Concerto exchanged a glance with Destiny, who nodded thoughtfully. “There’s been a break-in onto the base,” the French pilot declared. “We don’t know how, but someone succeeded in avoiding all the surveillance cameras and accessed the R and D lab on the lower deck.”
Rhapsody frowned. “Someone?” By the look she could see on each of her fellow Angels’ faces, the English girl easily guessed that they knew exactly the identity of that ‘someone’. “Who?” she asked with insistence.
“Captain Scarlet,” Destiny announced.
That nearly made Rhapsody jump. “Captain Scarlet? Here on Cloudbase? H-how…?”
“We told you, we don’t know how,” Concerto replied. “But there’s been an explosion in R and D…”
“An explosion? Was anybody hurt?”
“No. No, as far as we can tell. Captain Ochre is in sickbay at the moment, but…”
“Rick has been hurt?” Rhapsody asked in a worried voice.
“We were told his life wasn’t in danger,” Concerto reassured her. “But that’s as much as we know at the moment.”
“Except that Scarlet obviously tried to destroy R and D,” Destiny added quietly. “And that he was captured when he didn’t succeed.”
“Oh my God,” murmured Rhapsody. “He was captured.” She opened eyes wide with total surprise. Now that was news she wasn’t expecting. Captain Scarlet had been captured. After two years of evading Spectrum’s efforts to apprehend him, he had finally been caught. And here, on Cloudbase, after breaking in. Rhapsody felt suddenly nervous about the news. She found the need to sit down on the side of her bed. She let the revelation sink in.
“No wonder Colonel White has been recalled,” she murmured pensively. “He… he’s in Spectrum custody, then? Captain Scarlet, I mean. He’s still onboard Cloudbase?”
“In the sickbay,” Concerto confirmed.
“Not in the brig?” Rhapsody asked in surprise.
“He was badly injured during capture, from what we heard.” Destiny answered. “That’s why he’s in sickbay.”
“And from what I was told by one of the medics working there,” Concerto added, “Doctor Lavender has cooked up some kind of specially designed security device to hold him. So there shouldn’t be any reason for us to worry about him getting away.”
“Right,” Destiny murmured. “And from what I heard, this device of his is NOT a nice one.”
Concerto gave her a perplexed, curious look. “Whoa! Is that concern I detect in your voice, Juliette? Don’t you remember who we’re talking about here?”
“Don’t worry, I do remember,” Destiny replied harshly, looking up to the tall black woman, with an angry flash in her eyes. “But I can’t escape the fact that this… man… is a Mysteron duplicate of a very dear man I nearly married five years ago. A man who would never have done half the things this duplicate did.”
“Well you had me worried for a second,” Concerto murmured. “Listen, I got to go take my shift in the Amber Room. I’ll be late if I don’t go right away… and Melody will kill me certainly,” she added with a large bright smile. “Poor girl has been on duty for a very long twelve hours…”
“You’d better go then,” Destiny replied with a smile of her own, although it was obviously a forced one. “Melody does have quite a temper!”
“See you later, Dianne,” Concerto said, turning toward the door. “It’s a good thing you’re back. Now we’ll return to a more normal duty roster.”
“See you later, Djami,” Rhapsody answered with a wide smile. The door opened in front of Concerto Angel, who walked out. Pensively, both Rhapsody and Destiny watched as the door slid closed on their departing friend. Rhapsody stole a glance in Destiny’s direction. “Are you all right?”
“Of course, I am!” the French pilot nearly scoffed. She paused a second. “Are you?”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You know very well what I mean.”
Rhapsody shrugged, turning away from Destiny to pick up the coat lying on her bed and hang it in her closet. “I’m over it now, you should know it.”
“Are you really?” Destiny asked with uncertainty. “Dianne, it’s me. I know how you felt when this… terrible thing happened to Paul, two years ago. I think you’ve been as badly affected by it as I was myself.”
“Juliette.” Rhapsody sighed and spun on her heel to face her friend again. “Trust me. I’m over it. Now if you will excuse me…” She waved around, indicating the piles of luggage lying about everywhere in the room, and offered an apologetic smile. “…I have some tidying up to do.”
“All right,” Destiny said with a nod, rather unconvincingly. “I’m asking nothing but to believe you.” She turned toward the door and pressed the opening button. “Just remember,” she then said, looking over her shoulder to her friend, standing rigidly in the middle of the room, “he killed one of us already. I certainly wouldn’t want for him to kill another.”
With that, Destiny left, followed by Rhapsody’s curious and somewhat upset eyes. The British Angel chewed on her lower lip. Nothing gets by you, does it, Juliette? she thought dourly. Destiny had always been a very dear friend, concerning herself deeply with the well-being of all those she loved – especially of all the Angels. It was kind of a motherly attitude she had toward them. She could be so tough and ruthless, and nobody would dare face her when she was furious – but at the same time, she was so caring and protective. Rhapsody had only seen her cry twice since she had known her. The first time, when the real Captain Scarlet, a man she had been so much in love with, had been killed. The second time…
Rhapsody forced herself to draw out of her reverie. Not now, she thought. I don’t need to be reminded of that now…
Not when she wanted to see for herself how he was doing.
Is it really safe? she asked herself. After all, Concerto had said that they didn’t have to worry about Scarlet getting free, so what risk could there be?
That wasn’t really the kind of risk she had to be worried about, Dianne, and you know it. Did she really want to play with her feelings like that? She had succeeded in forgetting about him, about the feelings she once had for him. Did she really want to put all that in perspective again? And hurt herself more than she already had?
No, she didn’t.
But she wanted to know how he was doing…
* * *
“Find anything useful yet, Andrew?”
Captain Blue walked through the destroyed doors to enter the Research and Development lab and found Captain Indigo standing in the middle of it, giving orders to his men who were searching the room and taking samples from all parts of the room. Indigo turned on his heels hearing the call from his colleague, and welcomed him with a discouraged sigh. “Ah, Captain Blue. No, not yet, I’m afraid.” He looked around gesturing helplessly at the surrounding destruction. “Quite a mess, isn’t it?”
“Quite a mess, indeed,” Blue mumbled. “I was hoping you would have found a trace of the thing that had done this.” He took Indigo by the arm, and drew his attention to the Kurnitz console, in the corner. The machine had obviously suffered some massive damage. “The colonel wants you to have this thing checked out thoroughly,” he said, almost in a whisper, “and to report anything you find directly to him.”
“That’s the device that was used to contact the Mysterons two years ago,” Indigo reflected. “What should we look for, Adam?”
“I don’t know exactly. Anything out of the ordinary. See if it has been used recently… If there’s not some residue of something in it…” He hesitated a second, pondering what Captain Scarlet himself had said in front of him. “Pieces of a diamond pulsator, for example… or some red stones…” Can’t believe I’m giving any credit to what that Mysteron said, he added to himself, almost angrily.
“A diamond pulsator?” Indigo repeated opening wide eyes. “Surely, you’re not suggesting…”
“Anything is possible, Andy,” Blue sighed. “Especially when it concerns the Mysterons. You know that. Now. I think Doctor Lavender has a locker in here somewhere.” He looked around, searching with his eyes. “Could you show it to me?”
“Doctor Lavender’s locker?” Indigo repeated, looking up with perplexity into his taller compatriot’s blue eyes. Blue was keeping a set expression, giving nothing away of his thoughts or feelings. Not that it was any surprise – Blue had always been a reticent man since…
Indigo shrugged. “This way,” he said, pointing to the other side of the room. Blue followed his lead and the two men, crossed the room, walking over debris, to soon find themselves standing in front of a series of lockers. A couple of doors had been ripped open by the earlier destruction, their contents having been spilled everywhere on the floor, but two were still closed, with one of them sporting the name of ‘Lavender’ on a tag. Blue reached for the handle and tried to open it. The door refused to budge.
“Locked,” he mumbled. He tried a series of codes on the numeric pad, without success.
“Of course,” Indigo said with a nod. “Doctor Lavender must keep some interesting… samples of something in there. Or inventions, whatever.”
Blue gave the chief of security a sideways look. This apparently innocent reflection did nothing but strengthen his earlier thought concerning Scarlet’s statements.
I really CAN’T believe I’m going through with it.
“Get it open,” he said, firmly. “I don’t care if this looks like invasion of privacy, it’s a high security matter,” he quickly added, seeing as Indigo was ready to protest. “I take full responsibility and will make apologies later to Doctor Lavender.” If there’s need to, he added inwardly.
“S.I.G., Captain Blue,” Indigo sighed deeply. “I’ll go search for a crowbar and…”
“Wait.” Blue was looking down at the foot of the row of lockers; something had drawn his attention. Furrowing his brow, he crouched down. He reached out his hand, and touched the floor, which appeared darker right in front of Lavender’s locker. The explosion had covered the surface of the floor with a fine layer of dust, but there, right under that dust, at this exact spot…
Blue raised his hand, and looked at what had been left on his fingers, rubbing them together to get rid of the dust mingled with it. It was a thick, almost syrupy substance… Red.
…Which was coming from the locker in front of which he was crouched.
Blue sprang to his feet and pointed to the locker, with a livid expression on his face. “Get this damned door opened! Quick!”
* * *
Captain Magenta was looking down in concern as Captain Ochre, lying in the sickbay bed, was finally opening his eyes, so very tiredly, groaning loudly. The Irish captain forced a smile on his lips, as the man he didn’t know was his friend or not stared up at him, blinking several times. “P-pat?” Ochre whispered with a bleak voice.
Magenta nodded. “How are you feeling… Rick?” he asked carefully.
“Awful,” Ochre moaned, trying to get himself into a better position. “My head’s killing me…” He couldn’t move much, as he had been restrained to his bed. He didn’t seem to notice that fact. Probably, he was still too much under the effect of the painkiller. He closed his eyes, grunting.
“H-how… how’s Paul?” he asked with a thick voice.
“Paul?” Magenta asked, trying not to let the surprise get past his apparently calm composure.
“Yeah… We were… in R and D Department together when that thing went off,” Ochre slurred, his eyes closed. “He was closer to the source of that…” he hesitated, apparently searching for the word.
“Explosion?” Magenta offered.
“Yeah, I guess you can call it that,” Ochre sighed tiredly.
“What went off, Ochre? What where you doing down there with… Scarlet?”
“Those red stones,” Ochre sighed again. “Paul… I don’t know by what crazy idea… I think he wanted to try to stop it… You’re sure he’s all right?”
“He’s all right,” Magenta confirmed with a nod. “Rick… Red stones? What red stones?”
“The pieces of that pulsator thing…” murmured Ochre. He was beginning to drift back into unconsciousness. Magenta leaned over him and pressed on.
“A diamond pulsator, Rick? Where did it come from?”
“Why so many questions, Pat?” Ochre answered, his eyes closing. “I… My head’s hurting…” His voice trailed off, and he fell silent. Magenta waited a few seconds, hoping he would say something else. All he could hear now was regular breathing.
Frustrated, Magenta straightened up. He turned to Doctor Fawn who was entering the room.
“He woke up?” the physician asked.
“Just did,” Magenta said. “But he’s gone to sleep again.”
“Naturally. He took a bad knock on the head, and he’s got a mean concussion. He needs his rest.”
“Doctor,” Magenta added with a frown, “he just said the most… curious thing to me. I wonder… Maybe he was feverish or something… With that concussion he has, it’s possible, right?”
“It is possible, yes,” Fawn admitted, frowning. “Whatever did he say, Captain?”
“It didn’t make any sense,” Magenta said, scratching his head. “But… I don’t know if I should dismiss it. I should tell the Colonel about it. It could be relevant information.”
* * *
“This is the voice of the Mysterons… We know that you can hear us, Earthmen. For your act of aggression against our Martian Complex, we will strike a terrible blow. The clash between the gods of War will not be without damage… Before you can use it, we will destroy what you would come to consider your most effective weapon against us. We will be avenged…”
In the Officers Lounge, which was unusually empty at the moment, Colonel White was standing in front of the porthole window, stirring a cup of tea, and staring out pensively into the blue when he heard the threat come through the speakers, as it always did. He looked up with perplexity at the speaker, with almost a murderous look. I really HATE it when they pronounce riddle threats like that! he reflected grimly. Although, this time, he had a good idea what they could mean. As if, at the moment, we didn’t have enough problems… That was without mentioning how he felt about all this on a personal level… He was starting to think for certain that the Mysterons were giving him all these problems, at this exact moment, deliberately, as a private attack against him. But he dismissed that possibility, as it seemed so unlikely.
It’s only pure coincidence, he told himself.
That didn’t annoy him less, however.
Regretfully, he put down his cup on the counter, and picked up his cap from the sofa, where he had left it. He knew the call requesting his presence to the Control Room would come soon, so he thought he had better be on his way right now.
Surely enough, the speaker came to life again, and the voice of Lieutenant Green made itself heard. “Colonel White requested immediately to the Control Room, please.”
White lowered his cap mic. “S.I.G., Lieutenant. I heard the Mysterons’ threat. I’m on my way.”
“Sir,” Lieutenant Green continued with a tentative tone to his voice, “it’s not only the Mysteron threat. Just before it came through the speakers, I received a communication from Spectrum Los Angeles.” There was a pause, in which White could feel the uncertainty even more. “They sent a tape… I think it’s something you will definitely want to see. Maybe before you call a staff meeting.”
White frowned. That was certainly intriguing. He didn’t doubt one instant that Lieutenant Green might be right in his assumption. Over the past few years, the young communications officer had learned to anticipate his superior’s moods and decisions. The colonel knew he could rely on Green’s instinct to be right.
“I’m on my way,” he repeated with a sigh. The mic returned back to its place on the visor and White briskly left the lounge.
* * *
Captain Scarlet fell back on the padded table with a grunt, and remained there, gasping loudly, barely able to move, his brow showered with a cold sweat. He was in pain, all the nerve endings of his body killing him. His vision was blurred, and his head felt as if it was filled with cotton. He tried to concentrate, not wanting to give in to the unconsciousness that was threatening to take him. He didn’t know how long it had been going on already, but it felt like hours. Every electric shock sent throughout his body – each of them more powerful than the preceding one – was eating away at his strength and focus. He didn’t know how long he’d be able to hold on, but he was almost sure it wouldn’t take long now before the last of his energy would be drained.
He didn’t have much hope; he was living a pure nightmare, since the moment he had escaped that explosion in R and D. He couldn’t begin to understand how he could have landed in it, exactly what was happening around him. It was the only reason why he had answered – as far as he was able to – some of Lavender’s questions regarding that precise subject. As much as the Mysteron agent himself, he wanted to know what the meaning of all this was, if only for the sake of his own sanity. That didn’t save him from further tortures at Lavender’s hand, the latter obviously not finding his answers to his liking – although they had been as truthful as possible.
Trust a Mysteron to not keep his word…
Over the ringing in his ears, he could perceive the voice of his torturer addressing him, again, inquisitively, almost tauntingly.
“Very interesting. I must commend you, Captain, on your determination. I’m sure another man in your place would already have given up to exhaustion.”
Scarlet blinked his eyes, as much as to clear his fogged vision as to chase away the salty sweat threatening to drip into them. He was exhausted – just not willing to surrender to it.
“Although,” Lavender continued in the same quiet voice, “you’re probably only able to resist because of those rejuvenating powers of yours – a Mysteron power.”
“I’ve told you everything I can!” Scarlet shouted with all the strength of his lungs, although it came out more as a tortured croak than anything else. “I can’t tell you anything else! I don’t understand any of this any more than you do!”
Another electric shock surged through his body, cutting him off before he could add anything else. He let out a cry; the jolt was brief, but the pain sustained, as he fell on the table once more.
“I believe you when you say you don’t understand, Captain,” he heard Lavender said with what sounded like a falsely understanding tone. “After all, you don’t have an analytic mind… like I do.” Scarlet turned to look in the direction of the Mysteron scientist, as the latter quietly walked toward him and came to stand near the table. Lavender scratched his ear, pensively. “I think I’m now getting a good idea of what happened to you… Mind you, it’s quite fascinating. And to your insignificant human brain, it would seem incredible… Your kind would even say ‘impossible’.”
“What are you talking about?” Scarlet asked, between breaths. “You know what’s going on?”
“I think I know, yes.” Lavender paused a second, staring at his prisoner. “You are not of this world, Captain Scarlet.”
Scarlet frowned, still trying to steady his breathing. “W-What do you mean, not of this world?” he murmured, with puzzlement obvious in his eyes.
“Have you ever heard of ‘parallel worlds’?”
“Parallel worlds?” Scarlet repeated, opening wide eyes. “That’s science-fiction… oddball fantasy.”
“Is it, really?” Lavender said, narrowing his eyes. “I stand corrected. We Mysterons are… aware of realities that you narrow-minded Earthmen have no idea even exist! It’s a pity your most valuable visionaries had to hide their most extraordinary discoveries in cheap novels, comic strips and television series! Your race would have evolved beyond its own limits if you had taken more seriously some of those ‘oddball fantasies’.” He sighed deeply. “Time and space are infinite, Captain. And in constant movement. And possibilities are as infinite, and as shifting as time and space themselves.”
Lavender made a pause, and then smiled, leaning down against the backrest of a nearby stool. He cleared his voice and then started his explanation, in a composed tone, as quietly as if he had been a teacher engaged in a complicated and yet captivating lecture.
“There are countless universes, existing one right next to the other – some of those universes sharing the same timeframe – the same space reference. They’re so very similar, you have to look at details to notice them. Time and space being so fluid, as I explained already, it can happen that at one point in time, an event, or a chain of events, will change the history of that universe, to take it in a new, different direction from the one you would be familiar with. The changes may be ever so slight… or on a large scale – but always, it will have an impact on this timeframe future. That world will then become different from yours, as you might know it.”
“That’s… crazy,” Scarlet murmured, turning his eyes to Lavender, not sure if he should accept as gospel truth the eccentric theory the Mysteron scientist was presenting to him. And yet… He had the sinking feeling that some of it may be true. Lavender addressed him a faint grin.
“It may sound crazy, Captain, but do you have any other explanation of what is happening to you?”
“I…” Scarlet shook his head, obviously distressed. He couldn’t produce a good enough answer. “If what you say is true,” he continued, “how… How did I find myself here? Since you know so much… Do I have to think that the Mysterons are behind this? That they sent me here?”
“The Mysterons have powers beyond your comprehension, Captain…”
“I know that already,” Scarlet replied dryly.
“But they are not the ones who sent you here. They are responsible, though. Indirectly.” He got out of his pocket the small red stone he had previously shown to Scarlet. “This stone – which I found on the floor of the R and D Department… Now I know that this stone is what remains of what you humans call a diamond pulsator – something the Mysterons use as a source of energy. This stone may appear inert – but when put into contact with active fragments or irradiated devices that have themselves been in contact with a diamond pulsator – they still produce a powerful and very volatile energy. Somehow, this stone opened a gateway – a portal – between your world, and this one. These two worlds, apparently, followed a very similar timeframe. But in this world there is, for you, a very major difference. Here, Captain Scarlet is a dangerous Mysteron agent, hunted by Spectrum and all international security forces. In your world… You’re obviously still a Spectrum agent, although you share with your ‘doppelganger’ some attributes that obviously come from the Mysterons.”
He approached to stand very close to the table and stared down with a probing curiosity at his prisoner. Scarlet simply glared back at him, waiting. “So at some point, you must have been ‘mysteronised’, to use the term your Doctor Fawn invented,” Lavender continued. “But somehow – you escaped from Mysteron control and kept your healing abilities. How did that happen?”
“You expect me to tell you that?” Scarlet said between his teeth. He noticed the dangerous glow in the scientist’s eyes. “Honestly, I don’t know,” he answered sharply.
“That will not do, Captain.” Lavender turned around to walk in the direction of the computer. Scarlet followed him with apprehensive eyes, knowing full well what would come. Sure enough, Lavender reached for the dial controlling the electric flow to the table and turned it abruptly. The shock was brief, but tremendous, and Scarlet twisted in his restraints, crying out in pain, before falling again on the table.
“That will not do at all,” Lavender continued, very quietly.
“I DON’T know, you maniac!” Scarlet cried out to him, through his gasping. “ It was a fluke! Something Spectrum scientists – YOU amongst others – were unable to find out!”
“Me… you mean my counterpart on your world,” Lavender said casually. His stare became hard. “A fluke, really? And you EXPECT me to believe that nothing was ever found to explain how you were freed from the Mysterons’ influence?” He turned the dial once more, forcing another scream from the helpless Scarlet. “Tell me!”
“I… don’t know!” Scarlet yelled.
The current was coursing through his body, arched over the table, fighting desperately to escape the intolerable pain inflicted on it. He closed his eyes against the pain, tried to stifle the screams that came naturally to his lips. He couldn’t think straight anymore. The pain was blinding his mind. Through a deepening haze, he could hear the voice of Lavender addressing him, each word seeming to come farther away.
“If you can’t tell me anything else, I’m afraid you leave me no other choice but to dispose of you, Captain. I’m urging you to talk, while you’re still able to.”
He’s going to kill me, anyway, was the realisation that imposed itself into Scarlet’s mind. Of course, there was no other logical course of action for Lavender. He had a potentially dangerous new enemy of the Mysterons in his clutches. He would have to kill him eventually. If not now, later on…
But Scarlet had the distinct impression it would be really soon.
His mind fogged completely at this point, and he cried out under the growing pain endured by his tortured body. He couldn’t hear Lavender’s voice now; he didn’t even register as, a few feet away from him, the door leading into the room opened, to let a slender figure with flamboyant hair, and casually dressed in simple but fashionable attire, enter. The door slid closed almost immediately, and Rhapsody Angel was left standing in shock, at the sight of the unexpected and horrendous scene that revealed itself to her eyes.
“Come on, Captain, make it easy on yourself,” she heard a voice say with a disturbingly quiet tone. “Answer my questions and things will be easier for you.”
She couldn’t detach her eyes from the man lying on the table, crying out and contorting himself with terrible pain.
“Stop it!” she suddenly yelled, taking a step forward. “Stop it this instant!”
Lavender had not noticed her enter; surprised by her sudden outburst, it was almost by instinct that his hand turned off the dial. Scarlet fell down heavily on the padded table, without as much as a faint, barely audible moan. Rhapsody, her eyes flashing angrily, went around the table to walk briskly toward Lavender, and stood before him, in an outraged stance.
“Doctor Lavender, what is the meaning of this?”
He stared at her stoically. “Rhapsody Angel. What are you doing in here?”
“What am I doing? What are YOU doing, Doctor Lavender?” she lashed out in anger.
“Don’t you know we’re holding a very dangerous Mysteron agent in this room?” Lavender countered. “How did you get access…”
“Never mind me, Doctor. How DARE you? How dare you torture a prisoner on Spectrum premises?”
“I’m… trying to extract valuable information. I’m only doing what is needed for Spectrum to…”
“Spectrum doesn’t work that way, doctor! We are not savages!”
“Dear lady, you shouldn’t be here,” Lavender sighed, keeping extraordinarily calm under the circumstances. “I’m sure Colonel White wouldn’t approve of your presence in this room.”
“Probably not, but he would certainly approve less of your conduct!” Rhapsody replied. “I doubt he gave you authorisation for that kind of interrogation! And I’ll make a point of telling him!”
She barely noticed the cold stare Lavender gave her, as she turned her back on him to come near the table. Captain Scarlet was now lying still, his eyes closed, his face covered with sweat and looking terrible pale and worn-out. How long has he had to suffer that treatment? Rhapsody asked herself with a pinch to her heart. She looked in concern at the strained and yet handsome face of a man she had known so long ago, and to whom she had been very drawn. That was before he had been taken over by the Mysterons, of course, and before he had done all those terrible things for those dreadful aliens – she couldn’t forget all the grief she had felt because of this man over the last two years. But that didn’t excuse in any way the way he had been treated just now.
Expectantly, she reached for his shoulder to shake him; when she didn’t receive any reaction to her efforts, she was concerned that he might be dead - electricity, after all, was Mysteron agents’ weakness. She instinctively searched for a pulse on his neck, and felt it beating strongly, if erratically, against her fingers. Under her gentle touch, he began to moan, and stir, very faintly. He drew a deep, shaky breath.
“Captain Scarlet?” she called. “Captain Scarlet, do you hear me?”
She saw him wince, then his eyelids fluttered. A pair of weary blue eyes searched the empty space, before looking into her face. She thought she saw concern – or fear, she couldn’t decide – in them.
“Dianne…” The sound of her name, almost whispered by a man whom she thought should be all of Spectrum’s mortal enemy, nearly drove her back in surprise, and made her shiver almost despite herself. “Dianne… G-get out of here… Lavender…”
“You don’t understand…” By the sound of his thick voice, Rhapsody could only imagine that Scarlet was still very weakened by his experience. Either he was delirious or couldn’t concentrate, she couldn’t decide. But the expression of distress on his face, and his following words certainly were disconcerting enough. “You’re in danger, love… Get out… Get out before he hurts you… He’s a Mysteron…” Scarlet’s voice trailed off, as his eyes closed. He was still desperately trying not to lose consciousness. Rhapsody stared at him with perplexity.
“What are you talking about?” she murmured with a frown. “Lavender…?
“He’s telling the truth.”
The detached words coming from behind her shocked Rhapsody and almost froze her on the spot. Slowly, she turned around; she found herself facing Doctor Lavender, who was aiming a gun in her direction. Fear crawled into her heart, at the realisation of the deadly situation she now found herself in. She nervously grabbed the table behind her with both hands, in a frightened gesture. She could hear Scarlet still calling to her, apparently unaware that his warning had come too late.
“G-get out, Angel… run…”
“Doctor Lavender?” she spoke softly, staring in incomprehension at the scientist. “You…?”
“Yes, Earthwoman,” Lavender said in a quiet tone. “I am what he said: a Mysteron agent.”
“But… But I don’t understand,” she stammered. “Why a Mysteron would do what you just…”
“What I just did to him?” Lavender cut in, raising a brow. “Why, my dear, because, simply, Captain Scarlet is not a Mysteron agent. Not this Captain Scarlet, anyway.” She continued to stare at him with the same confused expression. Lavender laughed softly, apparently taking great pleasure at tormenting her. “I can see by the look on your face that you don’t have a clue what I’m saying. That’s typical of you Earthmen. Well, it isn’t important. Your presence is a regrettable incident. For you, that is. But for me… This might present me with a way to settle my little dilemma.”
“You’re going to kill me,” Rhapsody realised, the colour leaving her face instantly.
“Clever deduction.” He waved his gun at Scarlet. “And I’m going to make believe he did it. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t do anything to save that poor young woman who, with all her good intentions, was heedless enough to free the prisoner from his bonds. All I could do was kill Scarlet, before he turned on me.’” Lavender’s lips curled into a wicked grin. “So sorry about that, Colonel.”
“Nobody is going to buy that, Doctor.” While Lavender was busy expounding his dark intentions to Rhapsody, he unwittingly suggested to the latter a way to escape her fate. Furtively, her hands were fumbling under the side of the table, searching for a button she expected would be around there somewhere, hoping she would find it before the Mysteron scientist became aware of what she was doing.
She found it, and pressed hard on it, hearing the faint click behind her revealing that her efforts had succeeded.
“They wouldn’t believe I was stupid enough to free a dangerous, known Mysteron agent,” she continued defiantly, “knowing very well that he might turn against me.” She wasn’t out of the woods yet – and was wishing very hard that she wouldn’t get herself in even hotter waters than she was already in.
“Everybody knows you’re a bleeding heart, Rhapsody,” Lavender mocked her. “Of course they will believe it.”
She moved away from the table, drawing Lavender’s attention to her; he followed her with his eyes, her gun still aimed at her. She shook her head. “You’re trying to deceive yourself,” she replied, stepping back. “Please, Doctor, this isn’t necessary…”
“You think so?” Lavender said, raising a brow. “I know what I must do, Earthwoman. Even if my mission has changed. I can’t let a man live who could eventually become a hazardous threat to the Mysterons. He has to be destroyed.”
“You’re talking about Captain Scarlet?” she murmured, frowning in surprise.
“Yes,” he concurred. “This Captain Scarlet.” He started walking her way, slowly, and she stepped back further. He stood next to the padded table, and raised his gun to her. “DON’T move any further,” he warned her. “You can’t get away, anyway. So it’s useless to run.”
She stood rigidly. “Why would you kill one of your own kind?” she asked, feeling her heart beating faster in her chest.
“Haven’t you been listening to me?” he replied harshly. “This Captain Scarlet is NOT a Mysteron agent. He may be retrometabolic, but he’s not under Mysteron control. He’s another Scarlet, from a different dimension, who found himself stuck in here following an explosion in his world, that caused a breach in the inter-dimensional barrier!”
Rhapsody opened bewildered eyes at him, her mind not grasping any of his explanation. “You’re talking nonsense,” she started.
He was on her quicker than she could react, surprising her totally. He raised the gun high in the air and hit her across the face with the barrel. She just had the time to see it coming, and tried to roll with the strike. It made contact, however, less brutally than it was intended to, but she was nevertheless sent sprawling to the floor, gasping in pain, at Lavender’s feet. Half-stunned by the attack, she raised frightened eyes to the Mysteron agent, standing over her, flashing the gun at her.
“You would think I’m mad, Earthwoman!” he lashed out angrily. “But you can’t even start to comprehend the nature of this universe in which we live! The Mysterons know much more than you humans could even dream to learn in all your millennia. Not that there’s much time left to your pitiful race!” He levelled the gun at Rhapsody’s head, cocking the hammer. She instinctively lowered her eyes and closed them tightly shut. “You’re only one of many, Rhapsody. Soon, others will follow!”
He was about to squeeze the trigger when someone suddenly jumped him from behind and pulled him back. One arm was brutally pressed tightly against his throat while a hand seized his wrist. The hammer of the gun clicked down, but hit nothing but flesh, as the strong hand now covered the weapon. The sound made Rhapsody gasp in surprise.
“I won’t let you hurt her!” a furious voice growled in Lavender’s ear.
Almost despite herself, Rhapsody looked up, to see Captain Scarlet, who had grabbed Lavender from behind and was holding him in a strong headlock, while at the same time trying to force him to let go of his gun. The anger, hatred and weariness was fairly apparent on Scarlet’s drained and livid face, covered with sweat. It was obvious he was still suffering from his recent ordeal, but he was also very determined not to let go, until he was sure that Lavender was no longer a threat.
“Call for security!” he croaked to Rhapsody. The order was a surprise in itself, and Rhapsody, awkwardly, scrambled to her feet. Just as Lavender elbowed Scarlet in his exposed stomach; the Brit’s knees bent, his hold on Lavender threatening to let go. Rhapsody lunged forward, in an attempt to help the man who had just saved her life. Lavender’s free arm swung in her direction and his clenched fist hit her on the temple, driving her backward. She collapsed heavily on the floor, with a soft grunt.
“Leave her alone!” In desperation and fury, Scarlet had squeezed Lavender’s wrist so hard that the Mysteron let go of his weapon. Then Scarlet spun him around and violently punched him in the throat, cutting off his air. Lavender wheezed loudly, unable to breath, and his legs buckled underneath him. Scarlet punched him once more, this time in the face, sending him to the floor. Standing over him, Scarlet ruthlessly pounded into him, blinded by his rage and hatred, every movement an almost unbearable torture for his strained muscles, but barely able to contain himself.
“I will see you dead, you miserable scum!” he muttered under his breath. “I will see you dead before you hurt her again!”
His fist now smeared with blood from his opponent’s now heavily bruised face, Scarlet barely noticed that Lavender seemed out for the count, unable to defend himself. He didn’t care much either, as he continued pounding at him with all his fury. Lavender had attempted to kill Rhapsody – and had put him through hell for what seemed like hours. All Scarlet wanted to do now was exact his just revenge on the Mysteron agent, and make sure he wouldn’t try again. If it meant killing Lavender with his bare hands, then…
The stern order snapped suddenly into the room, loud enough to reach Scarlet’s mind, fogged by rage. Still leaning over Lavender, panting with the effort he had just made, he raised his head in the direction the voice had come. His haggard eyes found Captain Blue standing there, holding a gun levelled at him. Scarlet frowned. The bearded Blue, his mind registered. The one who had shot him in the R and D Department, without any hesitation. Now, as Scarlet looked past the barrel of the gun and into the clear blue eyes set on him, flashing with a cold determination, there wasn’t any doubt in Scarlet’s mind that this time too, Blue wouldn’t hesitate. He slowly straightened up, his eyes not leaving the American officer’s.
“Captain Blue, it’s not…”
“Keep your hands where I can see them!” Blue barked. “Back away. Slowly!”
“Blue, Lavender is…”
“I know what he is. I found the real Lavender’s body in R and D! And I also know what you are. Now step back, I said!”
Scarlet backed away one step from the fallen Mysteron, who presently lay motionless on the floor, his face a near pulp. He looked down at his bloody hands. He realised he didn’t really look very reassuring at the moment, and he certainly could understand that Blue didn’t trust him, considering what he had learned so far of his counterpart in this world.
If he was to believe what the Lavender duplicate had told him so far – and frankly enough, he had no reason NOT to believe it, as crazy as it may have sounded. At the moment, he could see no other – or really logical– explanation for his present situation.
For now he had little time to concern himself with that. From the corner of his eye, he had just noticed the prone body of Rhapsody, lying not that far from him. He made an instinctive step in her direction, but was called back to order by Blue’s stern voice. “STAY where you are! And put those hands on your head!”
“Blue,” Scarlet tried with a pleading voice, keeping his hands in view, “Rhapsody is there… She may need help – Lavender hurt her and…”
“Lavender… or you?” Blue spat, his eyes flashing angrily.
“You can’t mean that!” Scarlet protested. “I could never…”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” Blue barked furiously, interrupting him. “But I’m sure as Hell not going to take any chance with you! I said BACK away! Get away from her, as far away as possible!”
Behind Blue, through the open door, another man, wearing a dark blue uniform entered, his gun also aimed at Scarlet. The latter opened eyes wide with amazement upon recognising him.
“Indigo… My God… That’s…”
Well, if ever he ever needed any further proof that Lavender had spoken the truth… Captain Indigo’s mere presence seemed to be enough to confirm that. Because on his world, Indigo had been dead a long time. Killed by the Mysterons and replicated by them to follow their orders. Then his replicate had in turn been killed by Scarlet. With a Mysteron gun, thus with no possible way of ever coming back.
And this Indigo… This Indigo standing there was very much alive. And obviously NOT a Mysteron.
“Do what Captain Blue tells you, Scarlet!” Indigo stated sternly, but with a more composed tone than Blue. “Get on your knees and put your hands on your head!”
“Do it quick!” Blue added crisply. “I’m JUST asking for just ONE excuse to shoot you where you stand!”
“I believe you are,” Scarlet murmured. He backed a few steps again, then knelt down, putting his hands up and then on his head as he had been ordered to. All the while, Blue and Indigo were stepping forward, carefully.
Blue’s eyes scanned the area, and took note of the two prone bodies, Lavender lying to his right, apparently in a very bad way from the beating Scarlet inflicted on him, Rhapsody farther away to his left. The latter was the one he was more concerned about.
“Check on Lavender, Captain Indigo,” he said to his colleague. “And keep an eye on Scarlet. I’m going to check on Rhapsody.”
“S.I.G.,” Indigo muttered between his teeth. His gun levelled at Scarlet, he slowly moved in the direction of Lavender. Blue had reached for Rhapsody, and was crouching next to her, to examine her with obvious concern. As soon as he touched her, she let out a groan. Scarlet, was watching with attention; he sighed with relief when he realised that Rhapsody was alive. Blue, his back turned on him, was lowering his cap microphone, while Indigo was crouching in turn next to Lavender, his gun and his eyes still on Scarlet.
“This is Captain Blue. Send a security team, and a medic team to Sickbay Room 22. Right away.”
“She’s all right?” Indigo had just voiced the same concern present in Scarlet’s mind.
“Yeah. Apparently, only a bump to the head. She’s lucky. With these two Mysterons… Who knows what may have happened to her?” Scarlet couldn’t help but notice the bitterness – almost hatred – in Blue’s voice. A louder groan from Rhapsody made itself heard. “She’s coming out of it,” Blue announced, with a satisfied tone. “Hey, honey… Take it easy…”
Still keeping an eye on Scarlet, but all the while concerned about Rhapsody’s well-being, Indigo crouched and reached his hand toward Lavender’s neck, to check on his pulse. Maybe he wasn’t paying as much attention as he should have been, or maybe he wasn’t really counting on anything happening, judging by Lavender’s state. He had barely touched him when the latter suddenly came back to life.
Indigo saw the flash of a scalpel aimed at his throat and unconsciously drew back. The blade sliced deeply into his neck, but narrowly missed his carotid and jugular. A muffled sound escaped his lips as his hand instinctively reached to his wound, to try to stop the flow of blood coming from it. Doing so, he left himself exposed to Lavender’s second swift attack; the blade struck again deeply in his left side, as the same time as Lavender’s hand was clasping around his gun.
With horror, Scarlet had witnessed Lavender’s incredibly fast action. He saw Indigo fall as the Mysteronised scientist raised the gun at Blue who had still his back turned on them, and was helping a still half-stunned Rhapsody up to a seated position. It took the Brit a mere second to get to his feet. “ADAM! Look out!”
Blue turned quickly, his arm extended, his gun in his hand, in the direction from which the call had come. The very first thing he saw was Scarlet launching himself in his direction; his finger squeezed the trigger in an automatic gesture. He heard the second detonation almost on top of his own, and as Scarlet dropped, saw where it was coming from, with Lavender aiming at him, Indigo lying at his feet. Blue saw red. With an angry growl, he pulled the trigger several times. Each of his bullets hit their target. Lavender was violently thrown back by the multiple impacts, and collapsed on his back.
“Oh my God…” That was Rhapsody, who was now looking with dismay at what had just happened. Blue just had the time to glance in her direction before the security team was literally bursting through the door, guns at the ready, alerted by the gunshots. Their sudden appearance made Rhapsody jump nervously. Blue motioned them to move in the direction of both Lavender and Scarlet. The latter was sprawled on his back, moaning loudly, while not far from him, Indigo, with great difficulty, was trying to raise himself enough to sit on the floor, and was leaning against a wall, keeping a hand on his neck, and the other on his side, where the scalpel had struck him.
“Andrew?” Blue called with alarm in his voice. “How...?”
Indigo addressed him a haggard look. “I’m… all right,” he croaked feebly. “Looks worse that it really is… lucky, I guess. Can’t believe… I’ve been so stupid.”
“Get the medical team in here quick!” Blue barked, getting to his feet.
They were already rushing inside. Four medics who spread themselves around the room. Blue looked on, as two men were tending to Indigo, keeping his distance, as if not wanting to get in the way. Security guards were surrounding both Lavender and Scarlet, lying on the floor; Lavender was dead this time – as dead as a Mysteron could be, until a Mysteron gun would be brought in to definitively take care of him.
Blue turned around, and approached awkwardly, to stare down at Scarlet, unconscious, and apparently in a very bad way. He had been laid on his back, so a medic would be able to check the new gun wounds he was suffering from. One in his left side, and another in the abdomen. Both were bleeding profusely. Blue looked down guiltily at his own weapon, still smoking from the use he had made of it. One of those wounds, he realised, had been caused by this gun. The other, by a bullet from Lavender’s gun, when Scarlet had literally thrown himself into the line of fire. Taking the bullet instead of Blue.
“He saved my life,” a shaken voice then murmured next to Blue. He turned around. Rhapsody was standing next to him, her face very pale, except for a bluish bruise on her temple, looking down in concern at the man lying on the floor. Blue nodded, with a sudden profound feeling of uneasiness, as he stared again at the injured man who was obviously breathing with growing difficulty.
“He saved mine too,” he finally conceded, with a grim nod.
He looked on, feeling helpless and guilty, as Scarlet drew his last breath.