Original series Suitable for all readersAction-oriented/low level of violence

 

Red Alert

 

 

A Spectrum tale for Christmas

by Chris Bishop

 

 

“Sometimes, I wonder if the colonel likes me at all,” commented Captain Magenta, as he sighed dejectedly for the nth time, leaning on his elbow against the side of the communication desk.

Captain Blue, seated on the commander’s seat, his feet raised up, and his hands behind his head, raised a brow, looking at him with curiosity.  “Why would you think something like that?”

“Why, because I’m condemned to ride this station, on Christmas Eve, while the Trinidad wonder is away for the Holidays,” Magenta replied.  “It’s obvious the old man wants to punish me.”

“I don’t know where you get that idea.”  Blue gave it some thought. “Oh, I know:  that last stunt you pulled at the Crowned Victory Palace, perhaps?  When you stole his uniform, planning for someone to pass off as the colonel?”

“Scarlet passed himself as the colonel.  He wasn’t punished.”

“He got recalled to Cloudbase before the end of his furlough.  You don’t call that being punished?”

“Oh, come on,” Magenta replied. “He was recalled because of this Mysteron threat… the same as me. But now that it’s done, he’s not here with me. You are.”

“Don’t be dense, Pat – he’s still recovering from his latest injury. As for me…”  Blue nodded.  “I volunteered.”

“Why? The old man asked you keep an eye on me to make sure I won’t run away with his control desk?”

Blue rolled his eyes. “Be fair, Captain: you were not punished, and you should know it. You’re manning this station, because Seymour is away, and you’re by far the best man to do it in his stead. And I am here, while the colonel is away on vacation, because he thinks I’m reliable…”

“Obviously, he hasn’t heard from the Angels about those multiple target practices you sent them on, that time he went in hiding when the Mysterons threatened him,” teased Magenta. “Or you might not be riding that desk again.”

Blue waved dismissively, choosing to ignore the remark. “Be happy that tomorrow we’ll be relieved in time to be at the Christmas celebration in the Conference Room,” he commented.  “So stop complaining over nothing.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.”  Magenta sat back in his seat.  “Well, so far, it has been a quiet evening…  Maybe too quiet, but who’s complaining?”

“You?” Blue suggested, teasingly.

He has barely spoken when, suddenly, there was a buzz from the communication station, and he automatically put his feet down. At the same moment, Magenta became alert, and moved his seat to position himself in front of a blinking red light. 

“What is it?”  Blue asked with a frown.

“Intruder alert,” Magenta informed him. He checked the information arriving on his station, while Blue was waiting. The Irish captain turned a disbelieving look in the direction of his colleague. “Someone has entered the base through the Amber Room access chute!”

“What?” an equally incredulous Blue said. “Are you sure?”

“There’s been an unauthorized opening of the elevator tube from the upper flight deck,” Magenta reported. “The intruder then took the elevator down to the Amber Room…”

“… Which is empty right now because the three Angels are on patrol,” Blue said thoughtfully. “Could they have returned before schedule and be on the deck?”

“Well, we would know that, wouldn’t we?” Magenta grumbled.

“Captain…” 

“I’m checking that…” Magenta pressed a few buttons on his console. “The Angels are presently about 800 miles from our present position, following the scheduled patrol procedure. They are not due to come back for an hour… And Captain?” His expression became hard as he turned to face Captain Blue. “Sensors are indicating that there’s presently a craft on the upper deck. And it’s definitely not an Angel interceptor, nor any authorized Spectrum craft.”

Blue’s perplexity was growing more and more obvious. As well as his nervousness.  “How was it able to land there without us noticing it?”

“Don’t ask me that, I’m still trying to figure out how this intruder was able to open the access chute.”

“Recall the Angels, Magenta.”

“S.I.G.”

And as Magenta was swiftly carrying out his order, Blue punched the alert button on his console; sirens started howling, and rotating red lights came into motion all over the base; at this late hour, the night shift automatically became alert, and those who had been sleeping for hours were suddenly drawn out of their sleep. Captain Blue was barking into the console microphone, warning every member of the latest events:

“Spectrum is Red!  Intruder onboard!  This is NOT an exercise!  Repeat:  this is not an exercise! All Security teams to proceed to Amber Room to intercept intruder! Spectrum is Red!”

“The Angels will be back in about fifteen minutes, Captain,” Captain Magenta announced.

“Good. We should have apprehended this intruder before they arrive. Instruct them to keep guard over whatever craft might be stationed on deck, on arrival.  Can the deck cameras give us a picture?”

“Trying to get that, Captain – but it seems the said craft is equipped with some kind of camera jamming device…  We only know it’s there because the sensors tell us so.”  Magenta turned to Blue again. “Could it be that it’s also equipped with an anti-radar device too? That would explain how it was able to approach us undetected.”

“Must be a pretty efficient one, if you ask me, to be able to land on Cloudbase undetected. We’ll soon find out.  Has the intruder reached the Amber Room now?”

Magenta was swiftly working on the various commands of his station, a frown deepening on his brow as the seconds ticked by. “Elevator doors have been opened, and the intruder is now in the Amber Room, yes.  The camera will tell us about this unexpected visitor…”  He pushed a small lever, but as he did so, the light suddenly extinguished inside the room.  Blue tensed.

“What happened?  What did you do?”

“I did nothing,” Magenta scoffed. “And will you relax? We didn’t lose all our power, just the lighting…  Can’t you see the little bulbs are still lit on my computer and on your desk?”

“Not funny, Magenta!” It took a fraction of a second before a humming sound was heard and the emergency lighting filled the room with a dim, red hue.  “That’s more like it,” Blue muttered.  “Have you any idea what happened?”

“Beats me. The computer is running a full diagnosis on all the systems. But if you ask me, I find it a pretty strange coincidence that it should happen at the same time as this intrusion. That can only be related.” Magenta frowned as he started receiving information on the situation on his main screen. “The computer reports that nearly the whole of Cloudbase is now running on emergency lighting,” he told Blue. “But all the rest of our systems are working as they should.”

“Great,” muttered Blue. “Then it certainly isn’t a coincidence. How long before normal light is restored?”

“Technicians are already working on it. That shouldn’t take very long, Captain.  A matter of minutes.  But it could hinder in our capture of this intruder.”

“Captain Ochre to Control Room,” a voice was heard through the Control Room speakers.

Blue pushed a button on his desk where a yellow bulb stopped blinking and stayed lit.  “Go ahead, Captain.”

“I’m with the first security team to arrive at the Amber Room to apprehend the intruder.  We couldn’t find him.  He seemed to have given us the slip.”

Blue frowned.  “Have you seen any trace of him?”

“No, Captain.  Well, we couldn’t see him, but I think I heard hurried footsteps as we came into the corridor, we’re giving chase down corridor 4E, in the direction of the Angels pilots’ quarters. I’m leaving two men to search the Amber Room, in case he’s trying to trick us and left something behind.”  There was a pause from Ochre.  “Is there more than one intruder, by the way?”

“We cannot confirm that, Captain Ochre,” Blue answered. “Captain Magenta, can you give us the security cameras on that section of the base?  Maybe they’ll be able to give the intruder’s progression.”

“Way ahead of you, Captain,” Magenta answered, as his hands expertly moved over the commands of his station.  Behind Blue, the large video screen came alive with a mosaic of images, and Blue stood up to face it. All of them were showing corridors of Cloudbase, plunged in the semi-darkness of the emergency lighting… 

Except for one, which was only showing static.  Blue frowned, and pointed to it.

“Where’s that one?”

“Camera 23, straight at the entrance of the Angels’ quarters,” Magenta answered. 

“Captain Ochre, proceed with your team in direction of the Angels’ quarters,” Blue ordered, pressing a button from his desk.

“S.I.G.”

“Could it be our visitor is carrying a camera jamming device on him as well?” Blue murmured. As he said those words, the image on a second camera disappeared, to be replaced with static.  Then another followed.  “Quick!  Give me a report of these cameras, Magenta!”

“Camera 22, straight in the middle of the Angels’ quarters, and camera 21, at the other end of the section…”  Magenta’s voice trailed off, as another camera went offline, and the first one which had been showing only static, returned with an image.  “Camera 18, from the airlock leading out of the Angels’ quarters,” he reported.

“Our friend, moving fast,” Blue commented. “But we’re able to follow his trail. Can you give me a blueprint of Cloudbase with the camera positions, Magenta?”

“Coming right up…”  At a pressure of a button, the huge screen separated in two. Magenta called onto the higher part a full display of Cloudbase’s diagrams, white-lined on a blue background, with dots of green lights all over the places, except for three of them which had turned red, at the very right bottom, where the Angels quarters were located.

“I want the position of all security teams,” Blue ordered.  “And a follow up of their movements.  Each team leader is to activate his position beacon.”

As soon as Magenta had relayed the ordered, five white dots appeared on screen, at various points.

A green dot turned to red.

“Camera 16, from Lift 10, near the Angels’ quarters’ area – leading to crew’s quarters on Deck C,” Magenta reported.

“Put me through to all security teams.”

Magenta pressed one single button. “Done, Captain.”

“Control Room to all teams,” Blue announced out loud.  “Our prey has left Deck D, and has taken the elevator from the Angels’ quarters up to Deck C.  Proceed in that direction.”

“Captain Grey to Control Room,” a distinctive voice was heard through the speaker.  “My team is on Deck C, near the elevator in question.  We’re about to arrive to intercept the intruder before he can leave the cabin.”

“On camera, Magenta,” Blue commanded.  “I want to witness the arrest of this intruder.”

“S.I.G… sir,” Magenta answered with half a smile, as he pressed a series of keys on his station.

An image appeared on screen, right underneath Cloudbase’s map, showing a corridor, lit again with red light; a team of armed security guards was moving carefully along the wall, Captain Grey walking in front.  Magenta moved the camera angle to show the sliding door of Lift number 10; Grey and his team took position in front and each side of it, guns at the ready.

“Elevator about to arrive on Deck C,” Grey announced in a low voice.

Blue gave a grunt.

“Okay, mister,” he said between his teeth.  “Now let’s see what you look like…”

The indicator next to the elevator lit green and the door slid open; Grey and his team raised their guns…

… To an empty cabin.

“Where is he?” Blue snapped angrily, addressing Magenta, as the men of the security team looked at each other with confusion.  “Did he stay below, in the Angels’ quarters?  Captain Ochre?” he called out loud.

“I confirm that he’s nowhere around here…”

A green dot on the blueprint onscreen turn to red.  Blue frowned.  “Magenta?”

“Deck C, airlock exit from the lecture theatre to the sickbay,” Magenta announced. “There’s a maintenance staircase in that area. He probably took it instead of the elevator.”

“And send the cabin up to confuse us,” Blue murmured, with a nod. “Clever bastard.” A new dot changed to red onscreen. “Sickbay?” he asked Magenta.

“Sickbay, sir.  And he’s moving fast.”

“Grey, Ochre, all security teams…  Proceed to intercept intruder who has now entered the sickbay area.  Catch him at all cost!”

“S.I.G.”

Blue pressed a button on his desk.  “Doctor Fawn?”

“What’s all this going on?” the grumpy voice of Fawn said through the speakers.  “I was deep asleep in my bed when I heard all that noise! It’s a good thing the patient rooms are soundproof – you would have waken all of them up!”

“That’s the red alert alarm, Doctor,” Blue said, with a sigh.  “There’s an intruder onboard Cloudbase and he just entered sickbay. Security is on its way, but I suggest you and your team be on your guard until they arrive.”  He marked a pause.  “How’s Scarlet?”

“Last time I checked, about a couple of hours ago, he was fine.  I’ll soon be discharging him to his quarters. Do you suppose that intruder has come here to harm him, while he’s recovering?”

“I don’t know,” Blue said musingly. “So far, we haven’t been able to figure out who this intruder is, why he’s here – and how he came in, to begin with.  Something is certain; it cannot be for something good.  I’m assigning guards to sickbay, but I want to make sure you will be careful down there in the meantime.”

“Don’t worry, we will be. I’ll go check on Scarlet, making sure he’s still all right.  Fawn out.”

“The intruder has moved on, Captain,” Magenta suddenly called from his station.  

Blue turned to the screen and saw new dots turning from green to red, while cameras previously offline were returning.  He frowned.

“On his way out of sickbay?” he reflected with puzzlement.  “What is our visitor’s motive, exactly?”

“Captain Grey’s team is coming from behind,” Magenta reported. “While Captain Ochre is coming forward. It could be that we’ll have our intruder trapped soon.”

“To escape both, he’ll have to turn in this corridor.” Blue pointed to specific point on the blueprint.  And then up this elevator…”

“Lift 15, to the sports centre,” Magenta confirmed.

“Captain Ochre, separate your team in two and go straight up to the sports centre,” Blue ordered out loud.  “Captain Grey, divert half of your team towards the laboratories upstairs… Magenta, quick, get us camera 12, bottom of the elevator on Deck C…”

Magenta followed the instructions, and the image from camera 12 appeared onscreen – just in time to show the door to the maintenance staircase shut close after someone’s passage.

“Camera off on this staircase,” Magenta announced.

“Get me the cameras on Deck B and A, at both exits,” Blue demanded.

Magenta pressed a new command. “Nothing on Deck B,” he announced.  “Oh wait, Deck A… I see something!”

Blue turned around at the sound of Magenta’s word, but wasn’t fast enough; all he was able to see was the door closing, and a shadow as someone, apparently walking into the corridor, disappeared from view.  Then the camera went offline, showing only static. 

“What did you have time to see?”  Blue asked.

“It was moving too fast for me to actually make it out. It was like a blur… a red blur,” commented Magenta with a sombre voice. 

“You’re sure?”

“If I had blinked I would have missed it. But yes, I do think it was red…  Strange colour to wear when you want to be inconspicuous.” 

A new camera went offline.  “Damn,” Magenta muttered.  “Camera 14, in the airlock outside of the auditorium.”

“I can’t believe how fast he moves – and that he keeps eluding our security!” Blue raged.  “All teams, converge to new coordinates.  Magenta, for God’s sake, seal the surrounding airlocks with high priority locks, to be opened only by security.”

“I’m trying, Blue, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to stop this guy!”  Magenta looked from his screen in direction of Blue, with an incredulous expression.  “He just got through the airlock near the Bursar’s office… like he knew the security code!”  He sounded worried.  “Could it be Captain Black?”  he asked.

“All the codes were changed after Black was taken over by the Mysterons, Magenta – and we changed our system since then.  You should know, you were part of the team who did the work.”

“I know. Sorry. I’m still trying to figure out how this intruder does it. It’s frustrating to see him avoid our attempts to get him.” A new camera went offline.  “Damn. Ochre just missed him by an inch. He’s off to portside Nacelle A passageway.”

Blue tensed.  “Could he be coming to the Control Tower?”

“… Or he might want to sabotage the hover?”

“It doesn’t look like it’s his objective, Magenta.  Or he would have set his sight on starboard Nacelle D, right next to the Amber Room, which was closer to him.  No, I’m sure he’s coming this way.” Blue punched the comm.link button again. “Control Tower security team, converge to Support Pylon A, to intercept intruder.  Check escalator, elevators and maintenance staircases.”

“Lieutenant Purple to Control Room.  S.I.G., Captain, we’ll get him.”

Now I’d like to see him escaping us now,” Blue said with unconcealed satisfaction. “There’s no other way for him to pass through.”

“Angel Leader to Control Room,” came an English-accented voice through the speakers. “Angels Pack arrived at Cloudbase, and presently circling in formation over the Upper Deck, awaiting instructions.”

“Rhapsody Angel,” Magenta said, answering the call.  “Your instructions are to keep your eye on the unauthorized craft presently on the Upper Flight Deck and to stop it from taking off.”

“What unauthorized craft, Captain?” Rhapsody’s voice sounded puzzled.

Magenta and Blue exchanged astounded gazes. “You mean to say there’s nothing on the deck, Rhapsody?” Magenta demanded.

“Nothing at all, Captain Magenta.  Flight deck is completely empty…”

“Impossible!” Blue replied. “We would have known if it had left…”

“Deck cameras are disabled, Captain Blue,” Magenta reminded him. “It could have gone off…”

“But shouldn’t the sensors still have told us?”  Blue insisted. Obviously, he was getting very unnerved by the whole situation.

Magenta shrugged. “For whatever reason, they didn’t. I still can’t explain why…”

Captain Blue sighed. “Never mind for now. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this as soon as we’ve captured our visitor…”

“Lieutenant Purple to Control Room,” came a new voice through the speakers.

“… And that should be right now,” Blue finished.  “Talk to me, Lieutenant.  You have caught our intruder?”

“Er…  Not exactly, sir.”

Blue’s satisfied expression disappeared to be replaced with an annoyed one.  “What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Purple said apologetically, “but nothing came out of the lift when the door opened…”

How about the escalator?  The maintenance staircase?”

They’re empty, sir.”

“They can’t be!” Blue raged.

“Relax, Adam,” Magenta said. “He couldn’t have gone very far…  He certainly didn’t disappear into thin air.”

Blue wasn’t very amused by this whole absurd situation.  In frustration, he was about to snap at Magenta for the free use of his real name, when he saw another green dot blinking to red on the blueprint, and then a camera went offline underneath it.  He narrowed his eyes, noticing the light’s position.

It was from starboard Nacelle B.

“Son of a gun…  He took the elevator from the other pylon…”

“Obviously sent us a red herring,” Magenta said, checking the data from his station.  “Yes, I confirm that the cabin is presently in the middle of the pylon.” 

“Cabin camera,” Blue requested quickly.

Magenta pushed a button and a new image appeared on screen, just below the blueprint.  But all they could see was static. “Of course,” he grunted, before returning his attention to his controls. “I confirmed that the cabin has reached the lower level of the Tower now.” He pressed a new command, and looked on the screen again. “Camera 3…”  The image to be relayed by the said camera just had the time to show the opening of the elevator door, before turning to static.  “There he is.”

Blue’s features became hard as he looked down at Magenta. “Well, there isn’t any way on Earth he’s going to be able to leave the Tower and get back to his craft now, is there?” he grumbled. 

“If there is any craft,” Magenta replied. “Rhapsody did tell us there isn’t any on deck, remember.”

“He’s not going to escape us for long, anyway.”  Blue turned around to face the blueprint on screen.  “Captain Ochre, what’s your position?”

Going up the elevator of Portside Pylon,” Ochre’s voice reported.  “I left guards at the bottom of the pylon, at all entrances.”

“Captain Grey?” Blue called again.

“I’m entering second elevator from Starboard Pylon B,” Grey answered.  “Here too all entrances are blocked.”

“Then we’ll have him,” Blue said with conviction.  He can’t escape.”

“You said that, last time,” Magenta muttered.

“Well, just hope that we stop this guy before he does whatever he came here to do!” Blue snapped at him.

Magenta ignored his outburst, and continued studying their prey’s progress.  “He’s just entered the Conference Room.”

“Lock the doors,” Blue ordered.

There was a beep as Magenta pressed a button. “Done!”

“There’re two cameras in the Conference Room…”

“All static, of course…”

“Try to get one working – I want to see the face of our visitor.”

“I’ll try, but his jamming device sure is efficient.” 

Magenta busied himself at the controls, while Blue, expectantly, watched the screen, where multiple white spots were converging in the direction of the Conference Room. Unable to support the suspense anymore, Blue reached for his cap, and strode towards the door leading out of the Control Room. 

“And where are you going?” Magenta called after him. 

“This intruder is trapped,” Blue answered over his shoulder. “He can’t escape now – and I want to be there when we get our hands on him.”

“Do you think that’s safe?”  Magenta asked in concern. 

“No… but since when has it stopped me?  Continue to work on these cameras and make sure to open the doors only when we give you the word.”

“You’re the boss, Boss…”  Magenta didn’t even look back when he heard the door slide close on Captain Blue – at the same time he heard him contacting Captain Ochre.  He shrugged dismissively.  “But you sure should learn to relax a bit,” he mumbled to himself.

 

 

Captain Blue rendezvoused with Captain Ochre and his team of three men in front of the large double doors leading into the Conference Room, a second or two before Captain Grey and another security guard arrived on the spot in turn.

“Nothing new?” Blue asked expectantly.

“No, he hasn’t moved from there,” Ochre reported.  “As far as we know, that is…”

“Magenta?” Captain Blue asked, lowering his cap mic.  “Can you confirm our prey is still in the Conference Room?”

“The only thing I can confirm, Captain, is that the two cameras inside are still offline, and that there is no sign of the intruder moving out of there.”

“Great. Wait for my order, then...”  Blue got his gun out, and looked all around him, as his companions, almost cagily, were preparing themselves. “Ready?” he asked.

“You say the word,” Ochre declared, standing by his side.  “I can’t wait to see this guy’s face…  We’ve been running after him for too long.”

“Okay, then… Magenta… open the door now!”

As the word was given, there was a beeping sound from the doors and they slid open in front of the security team.  Ochre and one of his men were the first to enter, followed by Blue, and the two remaining guards, with Grey bringing up the rear.

As soon as they crossed the threshold, there was a humming sound, and suddenly, the lights came fully on, replacing the dim red lighting, and almost blinding them on the spot. 

“What the…?”  Blue looked around in surprise, blinking. The Conference Room looked empty.  It had been decorated for Christmas, with garlands and mistletoe hanging from the ceiling, and a huge pine, in one corner, all trimmed and illuminated with multicoloured blinking lights; oddly enough, there was soft and joyful Christmassy music coming from the speakers, which contrasted unusually with the present emergency. 

With one guard standing in front of the open doors, the others spread into the room and looked around.  They had to accept the obvious:  there was no-one in the room.

“Where is he?” Captain Blue growled with annoyance.  “You can’t tell me he disappeared?! Not after having the whole security team of Cloudbase running after him.  It isn’t possible!”

“Well, he certainly isn’t here,” Ochre commented.

With irritation, Blue lowered his cap microphone.  “Magenta!” he barked.  “Where’s the prey?”

“This is as puzzling for me as it is for you, Captain Blue,” the voice of Magenta replied.  “As you entered the room, the lights returned everywhere on Cloudbase.  And so did the cameras that were offline.  Including those in the Conference Room.  All I can see now is you… all of you… searching for our intruder.”

“You say the cameras have returned – no trace of him anywhere on Cloudbase?”

“None that I can see…  The cameras are clear, except for security guards looking all around the place.  Nothing out of the ordinary, except that.”

“He cannot have left,” Ochre commented, as the security guards and Grey were continuing to search the place.

“Put me through to Angel Leader,” Blue demanded again of Magenta.

It took barely five seconds, before he heard the voice of Rhapsody through the speakers.  Angel Leader to Captain Blue…”

“Have you seen any craft leaving Cloudbase, Rhapsody? Blue asked swiftly.

“No, Captain…  I told you we couldn’t see any unauthorized craft on deck…”

“This is madness,” Blue murmured.  Nothing out of the ordinary, then?”

“Nothing – except maybe a red shooting star…”

“A red shooting star?”

“Why yes… shooting through the clear night sky…  Destiny saw it first and showed it to me.  It was very bright… and quite beautiful…”

“Very bright and quite beautiful,” Blue repeated with exasperation.  “I’m not really interested in reports in star-gazing!  What is it with you people, tonight?  You seem to take all this like a huge joke! I know this is Christmas Eve, but there was an intruder on Cloudbase and –”

“Captain Blue.”  Captain Grey was standing in front of the big Christmas tree, on the other side of the conference table, and was calling to the truly annoyed Captain Blue. He nodded in direction of the foot of the tree, which his colleague couldn’t see.  Blue strode in his direction, followed by Ochre. 

The two of them stood next to Grey and followed the direction of his eyes.

There were multiple gifts, of all sizes, surrounding the foot of the tree, up to the lower branches, and running nearly up to the table.  All of them were wrapped in colourful, fancy paper, of various patterns, with bright ribbons and bows attached to them, and cards, spangled of gold, red and silver.  Blue looked down in puzzlement, and took one of the small boxes lying at his feet, checking the name on the tag.

“What seems to be the problem, exactly?” he asked, turning to Grey who was staring at him.

“Did you have the tree filled with gifts tonight?” Grey asked him. 

“No… Did you?” 

Grey shook his head and Blue looked in the direction of Ochre, who shrugged.  “Hey, you think I had the time to do that, with all this running around we’ve done?  I had other stuff on my mind. Beside, whatever gifts I have to give are not wrapped so elegantly…”

“I was going to bring mine here tomorrow morning,” Grey said in turn.

“Then who –”  Blue stopped himself in mid-sentence, as a thought suddenly occurred to him.  He lowered his mic again.  “Magenta?”

“Yes, Captain?”

“To your knowledge, did anyone fill the tree with gifts tonight?”

“Er… no, Captain.  Well, not that I know.  Why that odd question?”

Blue slowly nodded thoughtfully for himself. “What colour exactly was that ‘blur’ you saw earlier on the cameras?” he asked again.

“It was only a glimpse, Captain…” There was some hesitancy from Magenta’s part.

“What colour, Captain?” Blue insisted.

“Red…”  Magenta paused a second.  “You don’t suppose…”

“I suppose nothing.” Blue started moving towards the door, in long and quick strides, followed by the eyes of the still perplexed Ochre and Grey. “I might have an idea who has been playing Santa Claus tonight. And he’ll have a lot of explaining to do…”

“What do we do with the gifts?” Ochre called.  “Consider them as suspect and dispose of them?”

“No… not right away, anyway.  Just check them out with X-rays to make sure there isn’t anything suspicious in them…  And then await my orders.  Grey, can you come with me?  I need a witness…  In case I do something I’ll regret.”

 

 

When the two of them reached sickbay, they were welcomed by Doctor Fawn, who was waiting for them at the reception desk; he seemed very excited and quite relieved to see them arrive. However, when he saw the determined and cross expression on Captain Blue’s face, he knew that something was going on.

Blue barely slowed down when he came near Fawn and continued to walk purposely into the sickbay’s corridors, Grey in tow.  Fawn had no choice but to follow them, and had to increase his pace to draw level with Blue.

“Did you catch your intruder?” he asked.

“We’re about to,” Blue answered, aloofly, looking straight ahead.

“You mean he’s here in sickbay?”  a worried Fawn asked.

“You have no need for concern, Doctor.  I can assure you, this…‘intruder’ is pretty harmless.”

“That’s a relief,” Fawn sighed. “There seems to be a strange occurrence happening tonight… You know, that Christmas tree we always set up in the general recovery ward? The nurses and I were supposed to fill it up with gifts tomorrow morning…  Well, it seems someone got ahead of us… And put his, or her, own gifts underneath it already.”

“Is that so?” Blue said, rising a brow. “Lots of gifts?”

“Yes – quite a lot of them.”  A perplexed Fawn stared at Blue. “You don’t seem surprised by this news.”

“Well, a little bit…”  Blue stopped in front of one specific door, before turning to Fawn.  “But not that much, considering what has been going on tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re about to find out.” 

Blue started banging violently on the door, and pushed the buzzer, keeping his finger on it. Fawn opened eyes wide with surprise – and a certain degree of annoyance; he didn’t appreciate very much that one of his patients was being disturbed, and certainly not in such a rude manner. He made a point of telling Captain Blue off.

“What’s the matter with you?” he snapped with irritation. “Don’t you know the man needs his rest?!”

“Oh come on, yourself told me that he was recovering fine!” Blue replied, pushing repeatedly on the buzzer.

“Well, stop all that noise and simply enter!” Fawn countered.  “It’s not locked.  There’s no need to be so –”

He was interrupted, as the door slid open.  Blue let go of the buzzer straight away.

Captain Scarlet, in red pyjamas, stood awkwardly in front of him, straining his eyes against the drowsiness obvious on his haggard and puzzled face. He ran a hand through his untidy hair, recognizing who it was that came to disturb him on this late and unexpected visit.

“Adam?” he said in a slurred voice. He stifled a yawn. “What’s going on?”

“I should ask you the same question,” Blue replied coldly.  He looked Scarlet up and down and back again. “Red pyjamas, of course…  Even you couldn’t be that fast to change…”

“What do you mean?”  a perplexed Scarlet asked.

“Oh, you know damn well what I mean!”  Blue said, poking an accusing finger into his friend’s chest and pushing him back into his room, as Grey and Fawn, still puzzled by what was going on, followed behind.  Scarlet seemed even more surprised. The door slid close and he found himself with the three men, Blue addressing him an accusing look.

“So you decided to play Santa Claus this year, did you?”

“What?”  Grey said, with a frown.  “You think Scarlet is responsible for this… ‘alert’ on Cloudbase?”

“Santa Claus? Alert?” Scarlet looked at both of them with a clueless expression.  “Mind telling me what you’re on about?”

“Don’t tell me you didn’t hear the alarm siren?” Blue replied, sceptically.

“No, not a sound…  I was sleeping.”

“You were sleeping… right!”

“Honestly, Adam.  I was sleeping.”

“Captain Blue,” Doctor Fawn intervened, “in Captain Scarlet’s defence, I have to remind you that there is no alarm in the patients’ rooms in sickbay. So it is quite possible that he was sleeping all the time of the alert.”

“Glad to see you’re on my side, Doc,” Scarlet observed.  He frowned.  “Now what alert are you talking about?”

“We had an intruder on base,” Grey reported.

“Intruder?”  Scarlet repeated with apparent concern.

“There as been no intruder,” Blue interrupted swiftly, looking completely exasperated.  “It seems we’re all been the victims of a giant hoax.”

“What kind of a hoax?” Scarlet asked, still not understanding what all this was about.

“Well, to all appearances, someone had successfully entered Cloudbase, through the Amber Room’s flight deck elevator, after landing an unknown craft onto the upper deck. The cameras on deck were disabled – or jammed by some kind of device – and we were not able to see what this craft looked like.  The intruder made his way all through Cloudbase – going through all security, avoiding all guards, opening all locked doors without a problem in the world…”

“What about the cameras?”  Scarlet asked, growing more and more perplexed. “Those onboard, I mean…  They weren’t working either?”

“Apparently, our intruder was carrying the same kind of jamming device that was preventing us from seeing his craft – so we were not able to see what he looked like.  Except…”  Blue pointed another accusing finger against Scarlet’s chest.  “… Except soon after he left the sickbay area. Magenta got a glimpse of him for a second or two.  A blur, before the camera turned to static.  A red blur.

“And you now assume it was me?” Scarlet said, opening wide eyes. “Why?  Whatever makes you think something like that?!”

“Apparently, except for the fact that he put everyone on edge, our culprit simply amused himself with leaving Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree here in Sickbay – and the Christmas tree up in the Conference Room.”

“He made it to the Conference Room?”  Fawn asked with puzzlement.

“… Where he seemingly escaped, without a trace,” Grey confirmed.  “And we had all the exits guarded.”

“So,” Blue continued, “if playing Santa Claus was this intruder’s only intention, that could easily make you the obvious suspect, Captain Scarlet.”

“Because of a red blur?” Scarlet asked sceptically, raising a brow.  “And the fact I’m wearing red pyjamas is enough of a proof to you? I tell you I didn’t leave my room.  Fawn confirmed that to you.”

“He was here, during the alert, yes,” Fawn agreed. “Remember, you call me and I came to check on him.  He was in bed, and I thought it would be better not to wake him.”

“You should have,” Scarlet replied.

“So you would join the hunt?”  Fawn scoffed.  “You needed your rest, Captain!”

“At least, it would have stopped my so-called friend to suspect me of being this ‘intruder’ he was looking for.” Scarlet turned back to Blue.  “All right, if I am your culprit, what about that ‘craft’ you said had landed on the flight deck? How could have I managed to put it there exactly?”

“On returning from patrol, the Angels reported that they couldn’t see any craft on deck,” Blue replied.  He shrugged.  “My guess is that there never had been one.  Somebody disabled the deck cameras and tricked the deck sensors to ‘believe’ there was something there. The same somebody who somehow tricked the security sensors in the Amber Room chute…”

“Riiight...” a thoughtful Scarlet replied. “And disabled all the cameras on base, too?  If I was that somebody, how would I have escaped being trapped in the Conference Room?”

“I don’t know – you tell me. You know everything there is to know about this base, Scarlet – maybe better than any of us. You spent weeks studying the security system, and perfecting it.  You know all the access codes. You regularly run security tests…”

“All that is very true, but I’m not a computer expert.  And let’s face it, Blue-boy, to do what you have described to me would take the likes of Lieutenant Green or Captain Magenta, not me.”

“You deny it was you, then?  That you didn’t go to all this trouble, leaving huge mountains of gifts everywhere, to make believe we were visited by Santa Claus?”

“I most certainly do.  Apparently the word of Doctor Fawn that I didn’t leave this room is not enough for you.”  Scarlet raised a brow.  “I’m not averse to a trick once in a while, that’s true, and I do like to get into the spirit of Christmas, but come on! Don’t you think you should consider the usual suspects, before accusing me?”

“The usual suspects?”  a suspicious Blue asked with a frown.

“Who do you think would prepare such an elaborate hoax?  Ochre, of course.”

“Ochre?!” Grey repeated.  “But he’s been running after this intruder too!”

“Of course… what better way to avoid suspicion? Tell me… did you even see this intruder of yours?”

Grey shook his head to the negative.

“No,” Blue admitted.  “We only knew where he was, because the cameras were going offline, because of his jamming device. And because of doors, that were closing or opening…”  He snapped his fingers. “Wait…  Magenta did see him.”

“Ah yes, the ‘red blur’ he got a glimpse at.  But he was the only one to actually see it, right?”

Grey frowned.  “Are you saying…?”

“To do such an elaborate trick, Ochre certainly needed an accomplice,” Scarlet said with a nod.

“Magenta,” Fawn declared.

“Certainly, Magenta,” Scarlet agreed with a nod, watching Blue as realization was sinking in.  “Magenta would have the expertise to actually make believe that a craft was on the flight deck, and to play around with the cameras… and open or close doors at distance…  Tell me, Captain Blue, where was Captain Magenta all this time, during this alert?”

Blue only marked a short hesitation. “At Lieutenant Green’s communication station,” he finally growled.

“Oh…”  Scarlet chuckled loudly.  “Well, I believe he had all the tools at the tips of his fingers, then.”

“The son-of-a-gun,” muttered Blue, as his eyes burned with a dangerous glow.  “He tricked me…  You should have seen him, leading me on, on the bridge.”

“He and his no-good friend,” Grey replied. “No one man alone could have moved all these gifts under that tree. Not in so little time. They probably had gathered all of them there in advance. Maybe they have other accomplices as well.”

“Ochre said he thought he had heard footsteps, while trying to trap this intruder,” muttered Blue. “Damn, he was playing the same trick as Magenta, with this ‘red blur of his!”

“They got us, all right,” Grey growled.

“Hook, line and sinker, I’m afraid,” Scarlet said, with a grin.

“I ought to send them pass Christmas in the brig!” Blue exploded.

“What?  And have the whole base going into mutiny for having arrested these two Father Christmases?”  Scarlet shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.  You’re already unpopular enough when you take command, as it is, Blue-boy…  Do you want to be categorized as a Scrooge as well?”

Blue scowled. “Oh, all right, I get the picture! So what do you suggest I do about this instead, then?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?!”  Blue glared incredulously at Scarlet.  “You’re not serious!”

“I’m very serious.  Don’t tell them anything – either Ochre or Magenta.  Make believe that this never happened… Or that it was all a false alarm?”

“Nobody’s going to swallow that!” Grey protested.

“So what?  Everyone will think that it was exactly what it was – someone got some fun playing Santa Claus going down Cloudbase’s chimney and leaving gifts to all the good boys and girls…”

“You’ve got a weird way of thinking, Scarlet,” Blue grumbled.  “And what if someone imagines they’re all gifts from the Mysterons? Nobody will want to open them, to find that out.”

Scarlet grimaced. “You have a point, of course.  I suggest you check them out – if only to put everyone’s mind at ease.”

“That’s a useless recommendation – I’ve already given that order.” Blue paused, thoughtfully.  “To Ochre himself, actually.” He clicked his tongue in annoyance.  “He must be laughing in his beard…”

Scarlet chuckled. “Appropriately put, if you consider he’s been our Father Christmas this year, Blue.”

“I still find this very infuriating, you know?” Blue replied with a frown. “These two ruffians would never have dared do a stunt like that, with Colonel White’s in command. Why did they have to pick on me?!”

“Come on, Captain Blue,” Fawn said with an amused smile, “I’m sure it’s nothing personal…”

“Be a good sport, Adam,” Scarlet added in turn.

“ All right, I’ll follow your advice. And won’t say a thing.” Blue sighed. “And I’ll let everyone believe that Santa came to visit us tonight, and got through our security with all the ease in the word…”

“That’s the magic of Christmas, Captain Blue,” Scarlet said, still smiling.

“Bah, humbug,” Blue grunted, still riled about the whole affair.

“Don’t be like that, Captain,” Fawn told him, with a smirk.  “Come to think of it, it was rather a thoughtful thing to do…”

“Oh, you think so?”  Blue replied with obvious doubt.

Scarlet laughed again at his friend’s dark expression. “Now if you’ll all excuse me – I’ve still got some recuperating to do?” He pushed everyone towards the door.  “I don’t know about you, but I want to be fresh and about come morning – I do want to see that mountain of gifts you’ve been telling me about and see if I have been a good enough boy to get myself a nice present…”

“I know at least two boys who have been bad enough not to receive any,” Blue muttered under his breath, as he turned with Grey and Fawn towards the door, which slid open before them. The other two men left and Blue addressed one last smile to his friend, shyly. “Get some rest, Paul – tomorrow should be a busy day.  We’re expecting you for the Christmas morning.”

“I should be there.”

“No hard feelings?”

Scarlet smirked, and squeezed Blue’s shoulder. “None whatsoever.  Actually – it was kind of funny that you imagined me as Father Christmas.”

“That isn’t that strange.”  Blue chuckled, looking his friend up and down again. “Maybe it comes with the colour you usually wear…”

“Then maybe I should try that next year.”

Not if I’m still left with command duty again,” Blue protested playfully.  He sniggered.  “Sleep well.”

Blue walked out of the room, and the door slid close behind him.

Slowly, still smiling, Captain Scarlet returned to his bed.

 

 

Captain Grey returned to the Conference Room where he found Captain Ochre, busy with a team of security guards, as they were checking each and every one of the gift-wrapped packages underneath the tree with an X-ray machine. Ochre turned to his colleague as he entered, and watched as Grey, quietly, his hands into his pants’ pockets, approached him, looking thoughtful.

“Well?”  Ochre asked.

“Well what?” Grey asked, seemingly getting out of whatever fugue he was in.

“Well, did you find anything?  Where did you and Blue go like that?”

“To see Scarlet in sickbay.”

“Scarlet?  Why?  I thought he was still recovering…”

“Oh, he’s nearly recovered.  Maybe still needs a couple of hours of sleep, that’s all,” Grey answered matter-of-factly.

“So, what did Blue want to see him for?”  Ochre insisted.

“Just to check something.”  Grey crossed his arms on his chess, looking at Ochre in a thoughtful way.  “Scarlet has quite an interesting theory about this intruder – who left all these gifts under the tree.”

“Oh yeah?”  Ochre grinned.  “He thinks it’s Santa Claus?”

Grey tilted his head to one side. “How did you figure that out?” he asked quietly.

Ochre chortled. “Lucky guess, I imagine.”  Grey didn’t answer, and kept staring at him intently.  Ochre realized that there was something in his colleague’s mind, so the smile on his face disappeared instantly. “No, Grey, you can’t be serious?”

Grey kept gazing at him for a moment, in silence, looking very solemn.  Then, a thin smile appeared on his lips, broadening at each passing second; Grey’s hand reached for Ochre’s shoulder which he thumped briskly.

“Nice one, Rick,” he said, nodding with approval.  He turned around and went to the door.  “Keep up the good work.”

Ochre followed Grey with his eyes, puzzled by his words, as the door closed on him.

 

 

“So, did you see Scarlet?”

Captain Magenta had got to his feet upon Captain Blue’s arrival in the Control Room, and went to him.  Blue gave him a mere glance – which seemed intended to freeze him on the spot – and so Magenta stopped his advance.  He watched, as his colleague passed by him with a brooding expression, and went to take his place in the commander’s seat. He raised his feet one by one and, with a calculated slowness, set them up on one corner of the desk, sitting back comfortably and heaving a deep sigh.

“What happened?” Magenta asked, walking to him.

Blue stared at him; it took a few seconds before he shook his head.  “Nothing happened,” he answered finally.

“What do you mean, ‘nothing happened’?” Magenta asked again, this time scowling.  “And the intruder?  What happened to him?  Where did he disappear to?”

“There was no intruder,” Blue replied.

“No intruder?”  Magenta seemed puzzled.  “Come on, Blue, what just happened tonight –”

Blue closed his eyes and sighed. “Give it a rest, Pat.”

“Sorry?”

“Don’t you know?  It was Santa Claus who came for a visit, tonight,” Blue continued.

“Santa C…  Blue, are you feeling all right?”

“Yeah.” Blue nodded, thoughtfully. “Yeah, I guess I’m feeling all right.”  He put his feet down, before leaning over his desk, glaring meaningfully up at Magenta.  “Now, if you know what’s good for you, you will stop asking questions – and in return, I won’t ask any, that might put you in some serious trouble. Am I making myself clear, Captain Magenta?”

“Er… quite clear, Captain Blue.” 

In reality, Magenta looked rather confused, but he knew better than to challenge Blue’s authority under the circumstances. He had recognized a serious warning in his friend eyes, and thought better of letting it go.  At least for tonight.  Maybe Blue would be in better disposition the next morning.

“I think I’d better go back to my station, then,” Magenta continued, backing away.  “Now that the alert is finished…”

Blue nodded his consent, putting his feet up again, and crossing his hands behind his head.  Magenta had only turned around when he called to him:  “Captain Magenta?”

Magenta turned on his heel to face him again; Blue gave him a friendly smile.  “Merry Christmas to you.”

“Merry Christmas…  Captain,” Magenta answered back.  And he turned his back on Blue once more to return to his seat, thinking that this night was a very strange one.

 

“How did it work out?”

“It worked out very well, sir,” Captain Scarlet answered the very distinctive English voice he could hear from the speakers of the telephone.  As this was a secured conversation, using a private channel that went directly through to London HQ, without passing through the communication station in the Control Room, he had no concern that someone – and certainly not Magenta – would intercept any of it.  It had received the ‘Lieutenant Green’s stamp of approval’, before the young man had left, a few days ago, for his furlough in Trinidad, when all this operation had been prepared and set up to the finest details.

“This ‘intrusion’ Green orchestrated for you by tampering with the security system was quite effective,” Scarlet continued. “The cameras shutting down and the sensors indicating that a craft had landed on deck really gave them the impression that the intrusion was real. That kept everyone on their toes, running around in trying to catch an ‘intruder’ that they could never see, but that they really thought was here.”

“That was the idea behind it all, Captain,” Colonel White replied with no small amount of satisfaction obvious in his voice. “Even on Christmas Eve, Spectrum has to keep its vigilance up. We never know when the next attack from the Mysterons will come from.”

“That is all too true, sir,” Scarlet confirmed.

Without Green’s expertise, and your knowledge of Cloudbase’s security system, this would not have worked. I take it you didn’t have any trouble with the controls the Lieutenant left for you?”

“None whatsoever,” Scarlet answered.  He winked in direction of Doctor Fawn who, standing by his side, was following the conversation. “The lieutenant has been very thorough with this remote of his,” he added, looking at the small control box, equipped with a tiny screen, set on the bedside table.  “But then again, coming from him, it’s not really a surprise. He has thought of every detail: I was able to shut down cameras, open doors and airlocks, and move lifts with it quite effectively.”

“How would you rate everyone’s effort in the exercise, Captain?”

“Not too badly, actually,” Scarlet answered. “If this intruder had been real, he would have been stopped at the end, when they ‘trapped’ him in the Conference Room.”

“But he would have succeeded in going through many sections of Cloudbase, avoiding capture,” White retorted.

“To be fair, sir – we cheated quite a lot with this exercise. The intruder was a ‘ghost’, after all – and the pace at which we set the exercise was nearly impossible to follow. The idea was not really for the intruder to be successfully captured – but to push security to the edge.”

“You are right, of course.  And considering this, the test served its purpose.”

“Actually,” Scarlet continued, smiling mischievously as he propped himself comfortably against the pillows behind him, “Captain Blue did suspect me as being the culprit of this intrusion at some point. I managed to divert his suspicion towards more likely candidates.”

“Poor Magenta and Ochre,” Fawn muttered, rolling his eyes upwards.  “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Scarlet.”

“Hey, you entered the game too, Doctor,” Scarlet answered, with a smirk. 

“What happened exactly?” White enquired.

“Well, I think I successfully convinced Captain Blue that this was all a gigantic scheme – really devised by Captains Ochre and Magenta – who together have more than the necessary expertise to do the trick – to make believe Father Christmas came here on a visit and left gifts under the Christmas Tree.”

“Well, that was part of the scenario, anyway,” White said pleasantly enough. “You just changed culprits… And this is a nice way to repay them back for all those practical jokes Captain Ochre plays on some of you. With Magenta as his willing accomplice in some of them.”

 “I really couldn’t resist, sir,” Scarlet chuckled, his smile becoming a wicked one.

“I believe we should let the farce go on for a bit. Only tell the whole truth to Captain Blue after a little while.  Maybe a few days.”

 “This is a good idea, actually,” Fawn commented.  “Considering how angry Captain Blue looked…  It might give him some time to cool off.”

“He will not forgive me that easily, when he’s finally told. And he will not believe you are behind it all, Colonel,” Scarlet added, still smiling. “Quite frankly, I didn’t know you had it in you. Devising such a plot for Christmas… And then letting Ochre and Magenta take the fall, even if this is only temporary? This is truly wicked!”  He sniggered. “Congratulations, sir.”

“Well… er… I should take that as a compliment, I believe.”

 “The gifts were a nice gesture, by the way,” Fawn commented.

“I figured everyone was entitled to a little reward, after this hectic year. That’s why I asked Lieutenant Yellow to provide us some help in putting these under the tree – just before the exercise would take place.”

“I’m sure everyone will appreciate them,” Scarlet said. “I haven’t seen the tree, but from what Captain Blue told me, you went overboard with the presents, sir.”

“Well, just a few, actually – I would hardly describe it as ‘going overboard’.”

“Really?” Scarlet frowned and exchanged glances with Fawn.  “Blue mentioned a ‘mountain of gifts’, being under that tree.”

“And what about the tree in sickbay?” Fawn asked, with a frown.

“I’m quite sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, gentlemen,” White replied quietly.  “Other people probably added their own gifts under both trees.”

“Probably, yes,” Scarlet said musingly.

“You didn’t tell me what had caused Captain Blue to suspect you, Captain Scarlet,” White continued. 

“Oh… because of some red blur that Captain Magenta got a glimpse of, before one of the cameras went offline,” Scarlet answered.  “I couldn’t figure out what it could be… do you have any idea, sir?”

“None at all.  Perhaps Lieutenant Green devised something of the sort, but it would surprise me if he had done so without informing us.  Maybe it was simply a trick of the eye?”

“There were lots of red lights flashing around, with the alert and all,” Fawn said thoughtfully.  “That could have been it, yes.”

“In any case, let’s rate this operation as a success, gentlemen.  I thank you for your help, Captain Scarlet – so soon after you had recuperated from your last injury.”

“I would not have let a little thing like that stop me from doing this… exercise, sir,” Scarlet replied.  “It was too much fun preparing it, I couldn’t miss it.”

“And I also thank your accomplice onboard.”

“My pleasure, Colonel,” Fawn answered.

“Now, if you will excuse me, I will resume my vacation. Merry Christmas, gentlemen.”

“Merry Christmas, Charles,” Fawn called.

“Merry Christmas, Colonel.” Scarlet closed the channel.  He turned to Fawn, who was looking at now silent phone, with a thoughtful expression.

“A penny for your thoughts, Doctor?” 

Fawn nodded. “I was wondering about those gifts,” he said. “When I helped Yellow put the Colonel’s gift under the tree in the Conference Room earlier, there were plenty of them, but certainly not the mountain that Captain Blue described…”  He looked down to Scarlet, and pointed to the phone. “Unless he’s leading us on, and asked Yellow to put more gifts, he didn’t seem to know all about those other gifts which multiplied under that tree – and those who appeared under the one in Sickbay…”

Scarlet shrugged. “He’s probably right, you know – other people would have put their own gifts under the trees.”

“Could be, but then again…”  Fawn rubbed his chin, still musing, as if this was really nagging him.  “And what about that ‘red blur’, seen by Magenta? And those footsteps Ochre thought he heard?”

Scarlet fixed him intently, wondering what he was driving at.  A thought slowly made its way into his mind and he narrowed his eyes to Fawn, suspiciously.  “Doctor, are you actually thinking… that Father Christmas really came to Cloudbase tonight?”

“Me?”  Fawn seemed surprised.  He dismissed the accusation with a wave of the hand and laughed. “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I reached six and couldn’t explain him rationally.”

“You were far too precocious for your own good, Doctor,” Scarlet chuckled.  “You probably had a very dull childhood after that!”

“Well, what do you think could explain that red blur, Captain?” Fawn asked.  “Red light, reflecting on some object… or something else?”

Scarlet didn’t answer, and kept silent as he obviously thought about it all.  Fawn smiled mockingly.

“Don’t tell me that you yourself is considering as a possibility that Santa Claus did come for a visit, Captain!” He scoffed loudly. “I thought you were more pragmatic than that!”

Scarlet gave it some more thought, before slowly nodding at the comments.

“Normally, I’m pretty much a rational guy, Doctor,” he confirmed, seriously enough.  “But once you have been confronted with the Mysterons – rationality tends to lose some of its usual meaning, don’t you think? And with that in perspective, well – maybe there is a real Father Christmas out there somewhere, then? And to think he might have come for a visit…” He smiled.  “Well, who could really know?

And to that, Fawn couldn’t really think of something to say. He was wondering whether Scarlet was leading him on – or was very serious in his assertion.

He would be damned if he could be sure.

 

Upon the Angels’ return to Cloudbase, Rhapsody Angel still had a full hour of Angel One duty on flight deck, while her two fellow Angels, who had accompanied her on patrol that night, had to continue their duty in the Amber Room.  Rhapsody didn’t mind that much; it was a beautiful night, and she could see the stars, shining brightly beyond the cockpit over her head.  With the alert finished on base – and reported to her by Magenta as being a ‘false alarm’ – it was now a very peaceful evening and she didn’t expect for it to change in any way for the reminder of her shift.

Soon, she’d be able to leave Angel One, and return inside the base and find out what this false alarm was all about exactly.  Then she’ll go to visit Paul, and see if he was awake.  From what she had heard, he had nearly fully recovered from his injury at the Mysterons’ hands, during his last mission. 

In the meantime, she might enjoy herself, with a little star-gazing.

Right there, just over the horizon she saw one particularly shining star and watched it as it was moving – away, it seemed to her.  A shooting star, which, even at this distance seemed tinted with a reddish colour.  She wondered if it was the same one she had seen earlier, which seemed a little brighter at the moment.  Surely, it couldn’t be the same.  Probably another one, quite similar, but which seemed a little further away.

A thin smile started drawing upon her lips as, almost despite herself, the lyrics of a Christmas song came to her mind.  It was, in her opinion, a silly little song, that mostly children sang, at Christmastime, as they watched the skies expectantly.

Almost despite herself, she started humming:

 

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,

Santa came to say:

"Rudolph with your nose so bright,

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?"

 

Such a silly – but sweet little song…

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

Author’s words:

 

A few days ago, during an online chat, I offered a friendly challenge to my friend Marion Woods – to write a short story, in a limited amount of time, that would be posted on the website for the Christmas Challenge, once complete.  Marion graciously answered to the challenge, and started to work, and so I did the same from my end.

 

The results of Marion’s efforts are now seen online, with the very nice story “Christmas Lights”, that I enjoyed very much.   As for myself – you have just read this story, “Red Alert” which is the story I wrote for the occasion.  Marion took less time than me to write her story, and it’s certainly shorter.  So, I’m acknowledging her as the winner of our little personal challenge – and I also want to thank her for beta-reading this story.

 

Both stories are presented as online surprise gifts to our online friends.

 

Merry Christmas to all.

 

Chris Bishop,

December 2008.

 

 

 

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