A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story for Christmas
By Chris Bishop
“Why, Lieutenant Green… It’s good to see you back!”
As Captain Blue and Melody Angel entered the conference room for their last briefing of the schedule test flight of SPJ P010, they had the good surprise to discover Lieutenant Green seated at the table with Captain Magenta. The young man, who had been on reduced duty for the better part of the previous week since he had been injured during the accident in the engine room, swirled on his seat and offered them a welcoming smile.
“Thanks, Captain Blue,” he said, as the two Americans joined them at the table. “Doctor Fawn authorised me to come back to full duty starting today. Do you know how depressing it is to be only able to work three hours a day for the better part of one week? I was starting to grow roots!”
“So you will be resuming your duties in the Control Room today, then?” Melody asked him.
“Yes, I’ll relieve Lieutenant Argent right after this meeting. This means I’ll be able to supervise the flight test myself.”
“Well, I’ve got the impression the test being postponed as often as it did had a little to do with the fact that you weren’t available for it, Lieutenant,” Blue said with a grin. “Despite the colonel’s confidence in Argent’s proficiency, I believe he preferred that you would supervise the test. After all, you’ve been there since the very beginning of this project and were instrumental in its design and development.”
Green reddened slightly. “Captain Magenta’s help was invaluable in actually seeing through the application of the project,” he replied graciously enough. “His computer expertise actually saved us a lot of time… and spared us a few headaches.”
“You’re the expert in communication, Green, so I take very little credit for my work,” Magenta replied. He gave a slight scowl. “Do you have any idea why the voice recognition program actually was able to identify Captain Scarlet’s voice, when it heard the young Paul’s voice in the cockpit? It was very curious. It’s not exactly like they sound the same…”
“That particular voice recognition program is actually more advanced than any other round of the mill V.R.P., Captain,” Green explained. “It works on the principle that the human voice is unique for each individual. Like prints, of eye retinae… We all have distinctive voice patterns and that’s what the program is able to identify. So if you have a sore throat or a cold which makes your voice sound different, the V.R.P. will still be working, contrary to some other programs which are far less sophisticated.” He grinned with some amusement. “Some programs have been known to lock their users out, because they couldn’t recognise the voice. We certainly didn’t want to do that.”
“So that would mean that if someone imitates my voice, the V.R.P. will not let him in?” Melody suggested.
Green nodded. “Exactly.”
“Here’s hoping that’ll take care of Mysteron ventriloquists,” Magenta commented.
“Well, that’s exactly what the colonel hoped when we selected that V.R.P.,” Green confirmed. “But I’m afraid it won’t extend to the point of including replicates. Exact copies, you remember?”
“If we have only one edge, we’ll take it,” Blue retorted.
“I imagine that young Paul, as a child, must have a similar voice pattern than his adult self,” Melody commented thoughtfully.
“That would be my conclusions, yes,” Green agreed. He nodded quietly. “I accidentally stumble on him,” he said in a soft voice. “While I went to sickbay yesterday for my check up with Doctor Fawn, so he would sign me back to full active duty. He seemed like a lively young lad… Although he didn’t seem to appreciate or understand why he’s being called to sickbay nearly every other day.”
“That would be a normal reaction for a ten year old,” Melody commented. “I didn’t like doctors at that age either.”
“Scarlet doesn’t like doctors even as an adult,” Magenta replied with a faint smile. “There’s no reason why he would be different as a kid.”
“Fawn wants to see him regularly to check if there’s any improvement in his condition,” Blue reported.
“And is there?” Green inquired. “Any development, I mean?”
“So far, unfortunately no. Paul had started getting suspicious as to why he was called to sickbay so often, so Fawn had to come up with the explanation that it was because he had been caught in the explosion of the reactor, and that he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t develop some kind of illness after that.”
Green nodded slightly. “Could make sense. I know I was sick as hell the first days I was in sickbay, and I’m not sure it was only from that concussion I received. Those fumes I breathe sure can upset a stomach.”
“Paul didn’t seem to have suffered from those,” Blue noted with a slight frown. “At least, that I know of. Mind you, the first two days, Fawn kept him in sickbay.
“I hope he’ll get back to normal soon,” Magenta murmured.
“As do all of us,” Blue sighed. “But, it’s been a few days already and…”
Blue shook himself. He wasn’t going to have negative thoughts and despair in front of his colleagues. He wanted to give the example, to keep hope that everything would be all right soon… even if it was becoming more and more difficult. For the same reason, he certainly wasn’t to tell his colleagues what Colonel White and himself had talked about the evening before.
He turned to Melody, changing the subject briskly: “I told him yesterday about the test of today, and he was worried that we would miss the Christmas celebrations with him. I told him we should be in time…”
“Of course we will,” she said with a fond smile.
“I plan to visit him before we go. Would you care to come with me?”
The invitation surprised Melody. She took a few seconds before answering: “Of course I will, Captain. Then we will reassure him together that we will be here for the celebrations.”
“Then we’d better start this meeting A.S.A.P.,” Blue said, turning back to the order of the day. “We’re leaving this afternoon, and we still have some details to check before we’re ready.” He was deeply aware that the others were watching him with curiosity; they possibly guessed that something was bothering him, and he supposed they were pondering what it could be exactly. He was grateful that they decided not to press him with questions.
“Right,” Lieutenant Green said with a sigh, opening the folder in front of him. “I have here all the instructions you’ll need for the test. There have been a few changes, so let’s check it out together and get ourselves ready for the big moment… Hoping I won’t suffer yet again another setback that’ll force us to postpone the test until after Christmas…”
When about two hours later Captain Blue and Melody Angel went together at Paul Metcalfe’s room, it was Symphony Angel who opened the door for them and invited them in. The living area was empty, and the television set was turned off; a rag was covering the plane model Paul had been working on for the last days and right next to it, there was a plate of what remained of a small breakfast. Symphony had a cup of coffee in her hand, and she was obviously on her way to finish it.
“Is Paul here?” Blue asked, all the while craning his head in direction of the boy’s bedroom. He couldn’t see any light coming from the opened door.
Symphony shook her head. “Paul is long gone,” she answered, taking a sip of her coffee. “He left early this morning with Daniel Younger.”
Blue almost gasped. “Daniel Younger?”
“Yeah. He came in around eight o’clock. He buzzed, and when I opened the door, he stood there, in front of me. As soon as he saw him, Paul finished his breakfast and was on his way.”
“The Younger boy actually came to fetch him? Blue asked with deep perplexity. “Now that’s surprising… From what I heard, when they met, they didn’t see eye to eye… Then, I found them in the gym, acting like bosom buddies. And now this…” He shook his head, grunting. “I don’t know if I like it…”
“Me neither,” Symphony agreed with a pout. “I’m not sure I like that Younger kid. “‘Can Paul come out and play?’, he asked when I opened the door.” Symphony grimaced. “That didn’t even sound genuine… ”
“Calm down, you two,” Melody said, chuckling. “You’re acting exactly as two concerned parents who have seen their son leaving home with a friend you don’t approve off. Daniel Younger is no bum… he’s the World President’s son, for Goodness’s sake.”
“He might be the World President, I don’t think I like him much,” Blue declared. “And I would dispute that he’s not a bum… I supposed Ochre told you how he acted upon his arrival on Cloudbase yesterday?”
“He did… He does sound like an insufferable kid,” Melody admitted.
“I hope he won’t have a bad influence on Paul,” Symphony muttered. “We came a long way to gain his trust. Well, some of us more than others,” she added, looking at Blue sideways.
“Do you know where they went?” Blue asked her.
The young woman shrugged. “No… Paul just said they’d be hanging on together, doing stuff… I know they probably won’t go to the simulator today, as nobody’s available to supervise them. There could be a number of places they could go. A thought came to her mind. “Oh… I’ve got to show you this. Come along!”
Blue and Melody followed the blond woman who walked briskly to the low table; with a swift gesture, she removed the rag covering the model. “Ta-da!” She waved at it theatrically. “He finished it last evening. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“My Lord,” Blue murmured, reaching to delicately pick up the small airplane which rested on a metallic support. “It’s not only beautiful, it’s superb.” He turned the plane into his hands, gently, scrutinising from all angles. Melody, standing by his side, was doing the same. “Look at that paint job,” he said, showing the surface of the model. “Mainly grey, with specks of white, black and brown… That’s why they called that model the Diamondback… And there’s not a single trace of excess glue. Paul certainly did a wonderful job of it.”
“I bet Ochre would not have done as well,” Melody remarked with a grin. “I’m sure even he would be impressed. And envious.”
“Paul told me he wanted to give him the model,” Symphony said with a warm smile, causing her two colleagues to look at her. “For Christmas, to make it up for all the time he had been making his life difficult. Isn’t it sweet?”
“It’s nice indeed,” Melody said as Blue carefully put the plane down. “You shouldn’t worry about him being subjected to the Younger kid’s bad influence. That’s not likely to happen.
“Yeah, well… Paul must have realised I was concerned, but he said not to worry about him telling anything to Daniel about himself. He said he gave his word he would not, so he’ll be keeping it.”
“Well that should be enough for me.” Blue shrugged it off. “I’m sure we worry needlessly. They’re kids, they’re together, and they’ll be having fun. At least, with the Younger boy, Paul as a companion his age…”
“An older companion, of about four years,” Symphony retorted. “What could they have in common exactly?”
“We have seven years, Mommy,” Blue said with a grin. “And I do think we do have a lot in common.”
She glared at him and waved in annoyance. “It’s not the same, you nitwit,” she mumbled. “Oh… do go on and make your test flight already. I’ll tell Paul he missed you when he returns.”
“Tell him we’ll be back in time for the Christmas celebration,” Blue said, laughing. “That should set him mind to rest. He was worried Melody and I would miss it.”
“I will,” Symphony said, watching with a smile as her fiancé and her friend set out to left. “And be careful, the two of you!”
“SPJ P010 to Cloudbase Control, Captain Blue said out loud in the cockpit, while checking the last information relayed on the control panel in front of him. “We’ve been on flight for seventy minutes, and we have just left Cloudbase’s exclusion zone. We are now ready to turn on computerised auto-pilot Spectrum AP-2070, Mark 2, code-named ‘Georgina’ for testing…”
“S.I.G., SPJ P010,” the voice of Lieutenant Green responded. “We are now sending you the coordinates for your destination through encrypted file directly to your onboard computer. Please acknowledge reception when download is completed…”
“S.I.G., Cloudbase control.”
Blue turned to Melody, seated in the co-pilot seat by his right. The young woman was reading the information displayed on her screen. It barely took ten seconds, before she spoke into her mic in turn:
“Cloudbase Control, coordinates have been received. Course destination: Futura City, Bermudas. Confirm destination, please.”
“Destination confirmed. Enter coordinates into Georgina and set course.”
“S.I.G., Cloudbase control. Putting Georgina online.” Blue pressed a button onto his own console, before clearing his throat and calling in a strong voice: “Computer.”
“Voice recognition activated,” a female mechanical voice replied. “Captain Blue, Cloudbase staff officer. Awaiting instructions for flight plan.”
That made Blue raise a brow in surprise. “Female voice?” he inquired.
“Magenta’s latest updates, sir,” Lieutenant Green said with an upbeat voice. “He said that, since the Angels had called the auto-pilot Georgina, it might as well sound like a woman.”
Blue exchanged glances with Melody who chuckled. “Can’t argue with the man’s logic,” she said. “Computer. Acknowledge co-pilot identity.”
“Voice recognition activated: Melody Angel, Angel squad pilot. Awaiting instructions.”
“Clever girl,” Blue said, musingly. “But she has a one-track mind. Computer: set a course for Futura City Airport, Bermudas. Spectrum Airstrip Nine.”
“Setting course. Calculating coordinates…” There was barely a second’s wait, and then the mechanical voice echoed again through the speakers: “Coordinates for Futura City Airport, Bermudas, Spectrum Airstrip number nine. 32o21’50.31” North, 64o40’42.41” West. Final bearing: 258°38′54″ 258.64825156. Back bearing: 78°38′54″ 78.64825156. ETA one hours, twenty-one minutes at present speed and velocity. Awaiting information for Futura City Airport air traffic control…”
“Coordinates exact,” Melody then said, after checking the computer’s coordinates against the calculations provided by Cloudbase. She grinned at Blue who smiled back and gave her the thumps up. “Do you copy, Cloudbase Control?”
“Loud and clear, SPJ P010,” the voice of Green answered joyfully. “Looks like the baby’s working…”
“Information from Futura City Airport air traffic control received,” Georgina then said. “Confirm course settings, please.”
“Course confirmed, computer. We’re definitely going to Futura City.”
“S.I.G. Do you need me to contact Spectrum Airstrip Nine to confirm arrival?”
“S.I.G.? Another update from Magenta, I believe,” Blue said musingly.
“Maybe we shall ask for the autopilot to answer to the name of Georgina instead of ‘computer’, after all?” Melody suggested.
“You heard that, Green?” Blue asked.
“Loud and clear. I’m sure Captain Magenta would be more than happy to accommodate you, Captain Blue, but maybe Colonel White might not be so keen.”
“Shall I contact Spectrum Airstrip Nine to confirm arrival?” the mechanical voice then repeated.
“Impatient, are we?” Blue said, smiling. “Yes, computer, announce our arrival Spectrum Airstrip Nine. Set procedure for automatic landing for time of arrival.”
“S.I.G. Do you have further instructions, Captain Blue?”
“We’re leaving you in full charge of the flight from now on. Inform us in time for arrival.”
“S.I.G. Setting auto-pilot in full mode.”
“We’re on, Cloudbase Control,” Blue announced, as he let go of the helm and the auto-pilot took control of the flight. “Looks like everything is going according to plan. We’ll have to wait about an hour and a half to know if Georgina will handle herself properly for the landing procedure in Futura City. Will contact you in due time.”
“S.I.G., SPJ P010,” Green answered. “We’ll wait impatiently for your call. We’ve been waiting so long to see how Georgina will behave, I guess two hours more is not such a long wait now. Have a safe trip.”
“Thank you, Cloudbase. Blue out.”
Blue flicked a switch, closing the communication and sat back. Sighing heavily, he rubbed his eyes, before crossing his arms and looking contemplatively to the slow motion of the helm in front of him. From the corner of his right eye, he could see Melody pushing the co-pilot seat away from the console and unbuckling her seatbelt to make herself more comfortable.
“So that’s it, then,” he said quietly. “We go to Futura City and let Georgina land this baby all by herself. Then we fill up the jet, and Georgina flights us back to Cloudbase, well in time for the Christmas celebrations.”
“About four hours of a very relaxing assignment,” Melody commented. “That is, if everything goes according to plan.”
“Can’t see why it wouldn’t be the case,” Blue commented. “Georgina’s been acting beautifully so far, and if the previous testing are anything to go by, everything will go smoothly.”
“As a test pilot, you know as well as me that it’s the actual test flight that really counts, Captain,” Melody reminded him. “Not preliminary ground testing.”
“You know,” he said pensively, “I’m not quite sure I like all these innovations they’re making to our equipments. They are removing all the fun in flying these planes.”
“You tell me?” Melody said, sighing in turn. “There are so many automatic features in the Angel interceptor, at times I don’t even know if it’s me flying it or the plane flying itself.”
Blue smiled knowingly. “You are flying, definitely. There’s no way a machine can reproduce those intuitive and oh-so-dangerous moves that you girls are making during a fight and which sent a shiver down our spines. And it’s a former test pilot who’s telling you that.”
“Good or bad shivers?” Melody asked teasingly.
“Well, let’s put it this way… I’ll be marrying an Angel pilot at some point in the very near future, so that should mean they are good shivers.”
She laughed, then looked ahead, through the windshield. “It’s good to be testing again,” she said. “Sometimes, I missed that.”
“Yeah, me too. But hey, life is interesting in Spectrum without the testing. And actually… testing craft sounds pretty down to earth compared to what we do on a daily basis.”
“Especially since the appearance of the Mysterons,” Melody said gloomily.
“Yeah… especially since then,” Blue approved with a nod. He looked in the distance, and then sighed. “They’ve been quiet of late,” he said in a soft voice. “I hope this will hold a little longer… Maybe until the holidays…”
“At least… until the situation with Captain Scarlet is resolved?” Melody suggested. Blue turned back to look at her. She offered him a sad smile. “You are very worried about him, are you not?”
“Yes,” Blue said in a soft voice. “I’m very worried. He shook his head, dejectedly. “You have no idea how much I am…”
After much prevarication, Colonel White had come to the conclusion that he should talk to Younger that very day, to give him a full report of what had exactly happened in the engine room and the consequences this had for Captain Scarlet. However, as the World President was already scheduled to follow Captain Grey in a tour of the lower parts of Cloudbase – visiting the very place which had been the site of the drama that was causing such headache for the Spectrum commander – White decided to himself make use of the morning to shut himself in his office to settle many administrative details in his that needed to be completed before Christmas. He would see Younger at some point after lunch.
Colonel White’s many, very boring tasks took him well after past thirty past one in the afternoon, and it was in a hurry that he left his office and took the lift down to the guests quarters. He watched his watch as he went down. As this time, Captain Blue and Melody Angel had already left the hangar for the flight test of SPJ P010. The colonel had hoped to visit the Control Room, before going to visit the World President and see how the operation was proceeding. Lieutenant Green, who had just returned to full active duty that very morning, was personally supervising the test. The young man had been instrumental to the project, and had been involved with it since the very beginning. He certainly deserved fully to see it through himself.
Sadly, White considered he didn’t have time to make that detour; now that he was determined to talk to Younger, it was time to go. He would not delay the inevitable much longer.
When he buzzed at the door of the V.I.P. lounge, Colonel White had the surprise to see Sahra Younger welcoming him in. The little girl still had her unattractive ragdoll in her arms when she looked up at him with bright eyes.
“Hi, Mr Colonel White,” she said in her little voice.
“Hello, Miss Younger,” he answered formally. “Is your father present, by any chance?”
“I’m over here, Colonel.”
Sahra stepped away from the door and White, offering her a graceful thank you smile, stepped in. World President Younger was sat on the sofa, visibly finishing the last of a late lunch, with Ms. Brenshaw seated across him on the settee, drinking a cup of tea.
“Please, do sit down, Colonel,” Younger invited him. “I’m sorry if I’m a bit busy. I came back late from that tour on the lower deck with Captain Grey. That was a very interesting visit.”
White sat down. “I understand he took you to the Engine Room where the accident happened a week ago?”
“Yes,” Younger confirmed, picking up his cup of very dark coffee and taking a large gulp. “Yes, he did. Damages are certainly extensive, but I could see they are well taken care of, just like General Peterson told me.” He showed his cup to White. “I’m sorry, would you care for some coffee?”
“No, thank you, Mr President,” White replied. “I’ve got a little too much coffee since this morning.” Indeed too much… I only drink that amount of coffee when I’m nervous… No wonder. “I hope for you it’s not Captain Blue who made it,” he added with a brief smile. “The man is notorious for his bad coffee around the base.”
“Ms. Brenshaw made it,” Younger said, putting his cup down. “She made the most wonderful coffee in the World.” He winked at White. “Australian beans, you know…”
“You don’t say…”
“I haven’t seen Captain Blue since we briefly met yesterday,” Younger continued. “Will he be one of my guides during the next phase of Cloudbase’s inspection?”
“Not today, sir,” White answered. “Captain Blue’s expected to be busy most of the day… He’s performing a flight test of one of our Passenger Jets, that we recently equipped with a brand new very high-tech, and fully computerised auto-pilot. The tests had been delayed many times in the last few weeks, for various reasons, and we very much like to see it through before Christmas.”
“… Which is tomorrow,” Younger said with a grin. “You’re cutting it pretty close, Colonel. Can I guess that my delayed visit also served to delay that test as well?”
“The accident in the engine room didn’t help either, sir.”
Young nodded thoughtfully. “So I imagine.”
White was about to add something when he became aware of a nearby presence; he turned his head on his right to peer right into Sahra Younger’s big eyes. The little girl was standing there, just staring at him, rocking gently on his toes and heels, which her doll was dragging on the floor. With her there, watching him so closely, the colonel wasn’t sure how he would be able to talk with the World President and tell him everything he had set himself to say.
Younger probably realised his daughter’s presence was somehow intimidating the Spectrum commander; with a smile, he said: “Ms. Brenshaw, would you please take Sahra into her room, please? The colonel and I need to talk business.”
“Of course, Mr Younger.” Swiftly, Ms. Brenshaw put her cut down and rose to her feet, to go get Sahra by the hand. “Come on, Sweetie. Your father will be busy for a little while.”
Sahra didn’t reply and docilely followed her nurse… all the while looking over her shoulder towards the man seated across his father. White followed her with his eyes until she disappeared behind the door leading to her bedroom, bemused by the obvious fascination the little girl seemed to have of him.
“As this rate, Charles, she will likely ask you to marry her before the end of the Holidays,” the World President said with a chuckle. “She seems to like you.”
“You reckon, sir?” the colonel said musingly. “Why, I do not think I did anything that spectacularly special for her to be so impressed with me…” He glanced around. “I don’t see your son around, Mr President.”
Younger waved the question aside. “Daniel’s not here. He left early this morning.”
“Did he?” White asked with a furrowed brow. “He’s visiting Cloudbase on his own?” He wasn’t sure he liked the idea.
“No, I don’t think he’s on his own. From what I understand, he had to meet with that young fellow…”
“Paul?” Now White’s brow raised sky high. “He’s with Paul?”
“Why yes… The lad came last night and he and Daniel had a talk for things to do today. Daniel told me after the meeting that the two of them met in the gym earlier that day. They cleared things up between them and consequently, they became quite chummy.”
“Really now,” White muttered with suspicion.
“I have to say, Colonel, I very much like the boy. He’s polite and mature, and seemingly bright… Despite his obvious lack of knowledge of modern history. He probably doesn’t care too much about that subject at school.”
White nearly rolled his eyes. Paul Metcalfe, holder of a master’s degree in history granted from the Winchester University not caring about the very subject? Not that would be surprising…
“He’s only ten, sir,” White retorted, almost defensively. “Give him some time.”
“Well, anyway, I am quite please that Daniel had found a friend him,” Younger continued. “That young boy seems to have a good influence on my son.”
I would be more concerned about the young Mr Younger’s influence on Paul Metcalfe, more than anything else, White reflected. But then, Metcalfe has never been someone to let himself be influenced by others’ opinion.
White shook himself. He wasn’t being honest with himself. What really worried him was the very possible fact that, even unwittingly, Paul might let slip information that might prove inopportune for himself – and for Spectrum.
It was all the more reason to tell everything to the World President, before he would hear it from a third party. That would not only be inopportune, but possibly disastrous.
“So, Colonel… what’s up?” Younger asked, taking another sip at his coffee. “This is more than a social visit, is it?”
White nodded very slowly. “You guessed as much, sir?”
“In all these years, I learned to read you, Charles,” Younger replied. I think I can guess by now when you have something of importance to tell me. So I thought that you would welcome the privacy.” He glanced in the direction of his daughter’s bedroom door. “There are some things I prefer my little girl not to learn exist – well, not right away, that is. And unfortunately, most of Spectrum’ business enters in that category.”
White smiled grimly. “She has time yet to learn about those,” he conceded. “I would be as protective of my daughter, if I was in your place, sir.”
Younger approved with a nod. “So… what is it you want to talk about?”
White took a deep in-breath. Here we go…
“Well, Mr President, it’s actually about –”
At that exact moment, his epaulettes flashed, startling him slightly; he scowled deeply, displeased to be interrupted as he was about to make what amounted as a confession to the World President himself.
A glance to one of his epaulettes informed him of the identity of his called. The light was a faded yellowish colour, almost golden.
White cleared his throat. “If you would excuse me, sir…” he told the Younger, while the latter was waiting in silence. “I… really need to answer this.”
“Of course, Colonel.”
White rose to his feet, and walked three or four steps away from the World President before lowering in cap microphone. “You’re calling at a very inopportune moment, Doctor,” he almost snapped in a low voice. “I hope this is urgent.”
“Indeed it is. Have you talked to the World President yet?”
That same morning, Colonel White had called Doctor Fawn to tell him about his decision to come clean with Younger. The doctor had approved – he was a man who firmly believed that telling the truth was the best course of action possible in nearly every circumstances – but had voiced some reserve regarding revealing every details of what had happened the evening the generator had exploded. Like White, he wasn’t exactly sure how the World president would react to the news that it might just have been some Mysteron activity that night. So seeing as there was not even any proof that it was indeed the case, he had suggested that the colonel ought not to mention it at all. While White agreed with that suggestion, he wasn’t quite sure that, pressed with questions, he would not be forced to reveal that bit of information… After all, Younger would be wondering why exactly it was that the Spectrum commander had deemed it necessary to keep some facts secrets about the accident.
“I haven’t yet,” White answered to Fawn’s question. He was about to add that he was about to, when he was brusquely interrupted:
“Then I suggest you don’t tell him anything at the moment and that you rush here straight away. I found something that might make you reconsider your decision.”
White scowled. “What is it, Doctor?”
“Can’t tell. It’ll be easier if I show you. Come right away, please.”
And with that, Fawn abruptly cut the communication.
Slightly cross by the doctor’s abruptness, White was at the same time much curious to know exactly what it was that he wanted to tell him so urgently about. Curious and at the same time concerned. If Fawn wanted to see him personally, it was probably something serious.
There was an unnerved edge in Fawn’s voice that certain convinced the colonel that this was a matter that couldn’t wait.
“Is everything all right, Colonel?”
James Younger had obviously noticed that his visitor had finished his call; White kept himself from grunting in annoyance, and, with his mic returning to its proper place against the visor of his cap, he turned around slowly. He prepared himself to tell the leader of the free world that he was being called away on some unattended for business that demanded his immediate attention and that whatever he needed to tell him wasn’t urgent enough that it couldn’t wait.
God, that feels so awkward.
You’d better have a good explanation to force me to do this, Edward…
When Colonel White roughly pushed the door to step into sickbay, he saw Doctor Fawn coming out of his private office, walking towards him. He still wasn’t very happy that someone had dared disrupt his meeting with the World President as he was, even if that someone was his chief medical officer. Somehow, he was hoping that whatever vital information the physician needed to tell him, it just could be good news.
However, seeing how fretful and grim Fawn looked right now, White suddenly had some doubt that what he had to tell him was anything but good news.
“You were able to free yourself, then?” Fawn asked as he joined with White in the middle of the corridor. “What did you tell the World President?”
“Nothing, Doctor, as you requested. Your call came just in time.” White noticed the relief very obvious on Fawn’s features. “What is it? Is there something new regarding Scarlet?”
Fawn invited him to follow him. “Not quite,” he said on the way. “Well, not specifically regarding Scarlet. But he’s somehow involved.” He pushed the door to his office and they both entered.
“Speak plainly, Doctor,” White requested.
Fawn took an electronic pad from the top of his desk, keyed a command on it and shoved it into the colonel’s hands. “Here. I think you’d better take a good look at this.”
White glared at him with perplexity, before lowering his eyes to the pad. “What is it, exactly?” he asked Fawn, a scowl marking his brow.
“The autopsy report of that man who died in that accident in the Engine Room, a week ago,” Fawn revealed.
“Lambert? I thought there was nothing much left to the man to begin with… that what little was left was burn to a crisp.”
“There was some left of it. Mostly darkened bones – not much, but the cleaning crew was able to put together all they could find. I’ll attract you attention to the… erm… ‘inventory’ of the remains that were found and where exactly in the Engine Room they were found. Read that.”
White did as Fawn told him. “Not much indeed,” he muttered. “Poor man… Looks like his body has been blown all over the place…”
“Uh-uh…” Fawn scrolled the picture down and pressed a new command. The pictures that appeared on the screen, right next to the text, weren’t really nice to look at. The colonel realised they were tiny bones – blackened and almost indistinct, but definitely bones.
And some of them seemed to form a hand.
“Read on,” Fawn instructed the Spectrum commander. “The part I highlighted.”
“‘Found near control consol, ten meters away from exploded variable mode generator,’” White read in a low voice, “‘Bones from almost complete right hand, minus complete little finger, and partial ring finger, with only metacarpal… triquetrum gone, piece of hamate…’ Doctor, what are those?”
“The tiny bones one has in the carpals,” Fawn explained, showing his own hand and pointing just over the junction of his wrist. “Please, continue to read.”
“‘Found one meter away from the exploded generator: Mmm… Two complete set of fingers from left hand: index and middle fingers, still attached to half carpals and part of ulna... detached proximal phalanges and metacarpals from right hand…’” White frowned. “Ring finger…”
“Metacarpal from ring finger of the right hand,” Fawn confirmed. When White raised his eyes to him, the physician nodded. “We have two of them.”
“Two…? Could this be a mistake from one of your nurses, Doctor?” White inquired. “Those bones… they’re very damaged… Maybe there’s a clerical error, and that bone comes from another finger…”
But Fawn shook his head. “No. I checked with the actual body, just after reading that report completely. There wasn’t any mistake. It was exactly like what’s written there. The same bone from the same hand…”
“Another person was in the Engine Room?” White asked tentatively. He didn’t want to think that there might be another explanation. But upon looking at Fawn’s grim face, he knew exactly what would be the answer.
“These bones came from the same person. Apparently. DNA confirmed that.”
“Lambert.” White put the pad away. “So,” he said darkly, “a Mysteron agent was in that Engine Room that evening. Rhapsody was right, and that green light she saw was the manifestation of the Mysterons’ power.” He growled with anger. “These bastards are responsible for what happened to Scarlet.”
“That seems pretty obvious now,” Fawn agreed. “However, he’s not retrometabolic, he doesn’t respond positive to a Mysteron test… That was checked a few days ago,” the doctor reported, as White addressed him an interrogative look. “So he’s unlikely to be Mysteron agent.”
“Doesn’t mean they haven’t tried to bring him back under their control, though,” White said musingly.
“Whatever they were trying to do – maybe simply kill him – maybe that attempt backfired on them? We know they tried to take him back in the past, and that they sometimes tried very hard – but always without success. I can’t see the reason why they would turn him into a child of ten.”
White nodded thoughtfully. “I agree. That doesn’t make sense. That must have been quite involuntary… and certainly unexpected, since they didn’t make a move since then.”
Right at this moment, as if on cue, both men heard a crackle coming from the speakers behind them, which instantly made them swirl on their heels to look in apprehension:
“This is the Voice of the Mysterons… We know that you can hear us, earthmen…”
“You had to say that, didn’t you?” Fawn whispered in the mandatory silence that followed the Mysterons’ usual calling card.
White shushed him as the rest of the message unfolded:
“Two boys lost will never find their way back home. Hear us, Earthmen, these two children will soon die. This, the Mysterons swear…”
And as suddenly as it had started, the ominous voice died and the speakers were silent again.
Doctor Fawn had noticed Colonel White had suddenly turned pale; either it was of anger or apprehension, he couldn’t tell.
“Where’s young Metcalfe right now?” the Spectrum commander asked urgently, turning to Doctor Fawn.
The latter opened wide eyes. “How should I know? He’s not due to visit sickbay until tomorrow. I made a call to his room when I discovered this, so that he would come over, but nobody answered, so I expect he’s somewhere around Cloudbase… You gave him freedom to go wherever he wanted, within the limits of security, don’t you remember?”
“I know, I know, Doctor,” White grumbled. “We must find him quickly them, and restrict his moves once more.”
“Surely you don’t think that the Mysterons would want to use him as a weapon –”
“Doctor, I think the Mysterons’ message is more than obvious,” White interrupted. “The boy isn’t meant to be a tool. He’s a target.”
“They turned him into a kid so they would kill him?” Fawn shook his head in bafflement. “Well, that’s as convoluted a plan as you can imagine.”
“But while in that form, and without retrometabolism –”
“He’s completely defenceless.” Fawn nodded. “And the other boy?”
“There is a second boy onboard Cloudbase, Doctor.” Colonel White lowered his cap microphone and made an urgent call to the Control Room: “Lieutenant Green, find me young Paul Metcalfe and Mr Daniel Younger. I suspect you will find them together. Have them brought to young Metcalfe’s room and put under high security surveillance. Put the base on yellow alert and call for Captains Grey, Ochre and Magenta to meet me in the Control Room. I’m on my way.”
“S.I.G., sir. I should find the boys quickly. Should I call back Captain Blue and Melody Angel?”
White quickly glanced at his watch and made a quick calculation. “No, they must be close to Futura City by now. Aborting the test at this point would serve little. However, contact them at the earliest opportunity to inform them of the situation.”
“The World President’s son?” Fawn said with a frown of doubt, as the mic returned to its place against the visor of White’s cap. “You think the Mysterons are targeting him as well? Why? He’s of little importance in regard of the war they wage against us.”
“To the contrary, Doctor,” the colonel retorted. “It’s a war of nerves. What is more important to the World President than his own flesh and blood? The loss of his son could devastate him.”
“He heard the threat, you reckon? And the little girl? That could have traumatised her!”
“Not if they still were in the V.I.P. suite where I left them a half-hour ago. The speakers in there are not links to the base’s emergency network which airs the Mysterons’ messages. Which means I’ll have to bring him the bad news myself,” White muttered under his breath.
“And you’ll tell him about young Paul’s identity?”
“I can’t see how that can be avoided now, Doctor. I certainly would prefer not to, but if I don’t have any choice…” He grunted. “The more pressing matter is to make sure both the boys are kept safe from the Mysterons, and so my job will be to reassure the World President that his son doesn’t run the risk of being killed.” White started walking towards the door. “I don’t want the man to panic on us.”
“T. J. Younger is not a man usually given to panic,” Fawn called after him.
“Yes, but he’s never got one of his children threatened by the Mysterons,” was Colonel White’s last words as he left the office.
As he strode out of sickbay, the Spectrum commander lowered his cap mic again, to make a new call to the Control Room, requesting that the World President be brought to him as soon as possible.
“A penny for your thoughts, Captain?”
Captain Blue emerged from his fugue; for long minutes, he had been lost in his thoughts, looking dreamily at the sky through the cockpit, his body and mind lulled by the quiet motion of the flying plane. Seating there at the controls, but doing nothing with the helm so close to his hands, he felt somewhat useless. He felt grateful to Melody to have called to him when she did; it would have been mortifying if he had fallen asleep there, in the pilot seat.
She turned to the young woman who smiled at him. “You went very quiet, all of a sudden,” she told him.
“Sorry… You must think I’m not good company, right now…” he said, reddening slightly, and straightening up in his seat.
“That’s all right. It’s been hard on you this last week. Possibly harder than any of us. With the possible exception of Rhapsody.”
Blue looked at her again, and she nodded knowingly.
“You were thinking about Paul again, isn’t it?” She chuckled lightly. “How easy it is to think to him as ‘Paul’ while he is this ten year old boy,” she said quietly.
“He likes you, you know?” Blue told her.
“Did he? Well, I imagine he feels that way because I stood up against Ochre… and gave him that model, and –”
“No, I think it’s more than that,” Blue said with a smile. “Don’t tell Rhapsody… but I believe he’s got a crush on you.”
“Paul? Oh, please…” Melody laughed openly. “He’s just ten… He probably thinks girls of his own age are all nuisances that need to be avoided.”
“Then maybe he likes older girls,” Blue teased her.
Melody dismissed this with a wave of the hand. “Don’t be silly, Captain. It’s true I’ve always appreciated Paul… and admired him for the man he is… or was…” She scowled, wondering how she would word this so it would not sound too stupid. Blue smiled at her with sympathy when she shrugged, dismissively: “I never thought of him in that way,” she finally said.
“How about now?” Blue asked. “How do you feel exactly?”
“Now? Well… I kind of like the boy he has become.” Now that sounds even weirder than before, she told herself, as she paused for a few seconds. “I grew up with four brothers… Four older brothers, who had a tendency to either persecute me – because I was that little girl who happened to always be in the way – or to protect me, whenever they imagined I could end up in trouble. I was… the little sister back then. It feels nice to now be the ‘big sister’ to a little boy who’s looking up to you.” She smiled with fondness. “And he’s damned cute as a kid too.”
“You would think that,” Blue remarked. “But I’m sure neither Destiny, nor Rhapsody – especially not Rhapsody – would agree with you on that subject. I’m sure they find him much more attractive as an adult.”
“It’s true they feel… awkward, in his presence,” Melody admitted. “I saw Rhapsody. She’s doing her English self, but it’s difficult for her. And Destiny… well, she’s trying to be the strong woman, but it’s obviously it’s not easy for her either. Both of them had been intimate with that man, for Heaven’s sakes… That must not be easy to deal with!”
Blue nodded. “I know what you mean, about thinking of him as a little brother. Since we started up in Spectrum, I grew closer to Paul as I’ve been to my own brothers… And now seeing him like this…” He shook his head, sadly. “All I want to do now is to protect him, and keep him from harm.”
“Do you reckon he’ll come back to normal soon?” Melody murmured. “He’s kind of miserable that way…”
“I don’t know,” Blue said gloomily. “I do hope so. But I know that the colonel is planning to tell him what happened, just after the Youngers’ departure – if he’s not back to normal by then. That would be… in case, he never returns to us.”
“What will become of him, if he should stay that way?”
Blue sighed and leaned his head against the headrest of his seat. “I don’t know. He asked me a similar question, yesterday. ‘What will become of me?’ he said. He’s afraid he’ll never be allowed to see his parents again, to go back home and be with those he loves. I didn’t know what to say. I just promised that we… that I… would take care of him.”
“You got that right the first time, Adam.” Blue turned again to stare at Melody. She nodded slowly. “We will take care of him. He’s one of us – he’s family. We’ll never let him down. Despite this crazy life we’re living,” she added with a faint smile.
“You’re a very generous person, Melody,” Blue replied with a smile of his own. “I can see why Ochre is so attracted to you.”
“Ochre?” Melody chortled, almost disdainfully. “Ochre just likes impossible challenges, and I think that’s what he finds attractive in me.”
“But that got him interested, isn’t it?”
Melody smiled again. “Yeah…”
“And what about you? What attracts you in him?”
She gave it some careful thought. She smiled mischievously. “Give me until we arrive in Futura City before I answer that question,” she requested.
Blue laughed out loud at that. Certainly, the relationship between Ochre and Melody was one of a kind.
“I need a coffee,” he finally said. “Would you like one too? Keep guard over here while I’ll go get some in the back from the distributor.”
“As long as you don’t make it yourself,” she replied in a nonchalant voice.
Blue addressed her a look of mocked offence. “Oh… I do wish to know where I got that reputation that I don’t make decent coffee,” he moaned, unbuckling his seatbelt and standing up. “I certainly did nothing to deserve that.”
“She’s blonde, taller than me and she once said you had the dreamiest eyes, she had ever seen,” Melody called after him.
“Only once? Now that’s hurtful.”
He walked out of the cockpit and into the cabin behind, closing the small door behind him and Melody found herself alone, dreamingly looking through the windshield into the clear blue sky. It was a beautiful day and the weather was perfect; it looked like the flight would be a quiet one. The automatic pilot was behaving itself nicely so far and would likely take them to Futura City without any hitch.
A quiet moment into our crazy lives, se told herself thoughtfully. Of course, if not for the incident in the engine room the week before, and the unexpected effects it had on Scarlet, the last few days might have counted as quiet enough, without any intervention from the Mysterons. However, the presence of young Paul Metcalfe was enough to remind all of them that nothing could ever be all quite normal with any of them since the Mysterons’ appearance.
She leaned her head against the headrest of her seat. Ochre… Rick… might have been childish and impossible at times during the last days, but mostly, he had acted beautifully. She couldn’t deny that, despite it all, he had tried being on his best behaviour with Paul, and certainly the boy had started to warm up to him. Well, a bit, she added with a fond smile.
While witnessing his interaction with the boy, Melody had found she had been thinking a lot about Ochre, and the relationship she was sharing with him. There have been a lot of ups and downs in it – and it would seem that they would forever fight with each other – yes, of course, she didn’t always dislike arguing with him – the best part was certainly making it up – but at time, she felt like she tired of this game of cat and mouse. And she wondered if Ochre didn’t feel the same about it. She often called him her ‘boyfriend’, but it was always playfully, a way to tease him. He knew she didn’t really think of him as a boyfriend. He was aware that for her, he was at times a playful companion… Someone it was nice to hold close and even be intimate with when she felt she needed the warmth of another human being.
But lately… she came to think that maybe she wanted a little more than that between them. She didn’t want it to be either temporary or informal… Maybe it would be time for them to go official, and bring their relationship to the next level? She felt ready for that; and maybe, Ochre was too.
She sighed, coming to a decision. She will definitely have to ask him, when she’ll return to Cloudbase. She and Blue would be back in time for the Christmas celebrations and she’ll take him away from the crowd and will talk to him, woman to man, about how he felt things should go between them now.
She heard the door click behind her as it was opened and she smiled. Blue was coming back.
“Already?” she said without turning around. “My, it wasn’t long for you to get that coffee… Now I know it’s safe to assume you have not –”
The young voice – definitely not the one Melody expected to hear – startled her and she swirled the seat.
Young Paul Metcalfe was standing in front of the now close door, with a large, innocent grin spread on his face.
Her jaw nearly dropped on her lap.
“P-Paul! What… What are you doing here?”
Colonel White made the trip from sickbay to the Control Room in record time and arrived at the same time as Captain Ochre. Inside, Captain Grey and Captain Magenta were already waiting. Lieutenant Green was at his station and he swivelled his chair around just as the Spectrum commander entered the room and walked swiftly to his desk, dismissing the use of the walkway.
“Talk to me, Lieutenant,” the colonel said. “You have found our two boys?”
“Sir…” Green hesitated at the question, and White shot him a harsh look as he reached his seat. “I can’t understand it, colonel,” the young man said, clearing his throat. “None of our cameras is able to find either of the two boys.”
“When we gave Mr Metcalfe his freedom to go wherever he would like to, you did boast that we would find him in minutes with those security cameras,” White reminded him.
The young man reddened slightly. “I did, sir.”
“There are places were the cameras don’t have access to, is it?” White snapped.
“Yes, sir, but –”
“Send security teams to these places right away,” White ordered, sitting down. “I don’t care if one of them is in the loos, I want them found and brought back to a secure place. If it has to be the brig, let it be.”
“You think both Paul and the World President’s son might be the targets, sir?” Grey asked. It was more an observation than a question. Obviously, Grey was sharing the same thought. And from the grim look on the other captains’ faces, they thought the same.
“It seems they are the most likely candidates,” White confirmed. “And I just learned from a previous visit to the World President that these two have become quite friendly towards each other.”
“What, after they nearly tore into each other at the Youngers’ arrival on base?” Ochre said with perplexity. “Well, that’s certainly a surprising turn of events.”
“More surprising things have happened,” Magenta reasoned. “Look at you and me. Who would have thought we would be working together, a few years ago?”
“The World President is on his way,” Colonel White announced them. “For the moment, and until I decide otherwise, under no circumstances are we to tell him about who the young boy’s hanging with his son exactly is. In view of the situation, Mr Younger is on need-to-know basis only, so that he won’t disturb Spectrum in its work. If someone needs to tell him, it will be me, and no-one else.”
“We all know how he feels towards Scarlet, sir,” Grey commented. “Considering his own experience, he might put into his head that the boy Scarlet has become might be a threat for his son. He would fear that history might repeat itself.”
“Especially if he learns that his becoming a child possibly is due to the work of the Mysterons,” White said darkly.
“Sir?” Grey and Ochre said at the same time.
“What did you say, Colonel?” Magenta added.
White looked up to them; he could see the same confusion in their faces. “I come from sickbay,” he informed them. “Doctor Fawn had some very disturbing news to give me which seems to indicate that the Mysterons were at work the night the variable mode generator exploded.”
“Oh hell,” Ochre muttered, as his two companions looked at each other in dismay. “That’s all we needed…”
“Colonel White,” Lieutenant Green then suddenly said from his seat, “the security teams report that so far, they can’t find either Paul Metcalfe or Daniel Younger.”
“It’s like they’re not onboard at the moment,” Green suggested tentatively.
“That’s impossible,” White muttered, shaking his head. “They must be onboard somewhere…”
“And no craft left Cloudbase recently,” Ochre reflected. “That is, no craft, except…” He and Magenta looked at each other, as the same suspicion formed into their mind.
“SPJ P010,” they said in unison.
White swiftly addressed Green anew: “Have you called SPJ P010 already, Lieutenant?”
“I was about to when you came in, sir. I was a bit busy with trying to find the two boys up until then.”
“I’ve got a feeling I know where they are,” White muttered darkly. He swivelled his desk around. “Put the security cameras around and in the hangar on screen, Lieutenant,” he ordered over his shoulder. “Check the recording from before and at the time of departure of SPJ P010… I want to know if any of these boys were seen around those premises at the time.”
“How the devil did you get onboard?”
Melody’s was staring with astonishment; she couldn’t believe her eyes. The boy standing in front of her couldn’t possibly be onboard, and yet, there he was, smiling at her with that roguish smile of his.
He shrugged, very casually. “I was getting bored, hanging around Cloudbase, doing the usual stuff,” he said. “I knew about you and Adam doing the testing today so I thought I might go with you?”
She was flabbergasted by this unexpectedly quiet reply. “You stowed away onboard?!” she exclaimed. “How did you manage to do that?”
He laughed. “It was easy enough, you know,” he said mischievously. “I’m not big enough to notice, and nobody really expected someone to get onboard, I think.”
“There were guards at the door,” Melody reminded him. “How did you get past them?”
“Oh well… I arranged for them to look the other way, and then I simply slipped onboard.”
The colonel will go postal, Melody realised with a groan.
“Why have you done that?”
He shrugged again. “I heard you were going to Futura City. I wanted to go with you. I’ve never seen Futura City before. I heard it’s very beautiful. It’s in Bermudas, isn’t it?”
“Yes… It…” Melody shook herself. “You know that’s where we were supposed to go?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, I heard Magenta talking to Ochre yesterday… He told him. I’ve never seen Futura City, you know…”
“Oh, Paul… Are you in a lot of trouble now! Don’t you know people will be worried about you when they realised you’re gone missing? They must be looking all over Cloudbase to find you as we speak!”
“Why? I can take care of myself…”
“Oh, I bet! Where’s Blue?”
Paul thumbed in direction of the door. “He’s in the back cabin… Getting coffee, you said?”
“He didn’t see you, I take it? No… He certainly didn’t, because you wouldn’t be there, standing in front of me right now, while he’s still over there.”
Paul grinned. “I was hiding between the seats. He passed in front of me, without noticing I was there.”
“He will be furious at you when he’ll realise you’re here. He might like you, but there are limits to what he’ll accept from you.”
Paul’s smile fell. “Then do we have to tell him?” he asked with a grimace. “That can be our secret, Melody. I can continue to hide back there and then –”
“What do you take me for, suicidal?” Melody interrupted him. “There’s not only Blue to consider, there’s Colonel White at well. And if I were to hide you in here, and not report you, I would be in a lot more trouble than you will ever be, young man. The colonel might show some leniency towards you because of your age, he will certainly not do the same for me!”
She glanced at the panel control; it was all against regulations to leave the cockpit unattended for, except in a case of extreme emergency; plus this was a test flight, to make sure the new fully-automatic auto-pilot was working as expected. However she figured it was a lot less risky taking Paul herself in the back to inform Blue of his presence, rather than wait that he returned and have a confrontation between them in the cockpit.
Beside, Georgina was still behaving herself perfectly. If there should be any trouble – and Melody didn’t expect any to happen in the next few minutes – they would be alerted immediately.
In any case, the test flight was definitely shot out of the water. She sighed.
“We’ll have to take you back to Cloudbase,” she declared.
The boy moaned, obviously disappointed. “We won’t see Futura City then?”
“You would not have seen much of it anyway,” Melody replied in a stern voice. “The flight plan was to come back straight away after filling the craft up. This wasn’t mean as a touristic flight, Paul – it was a test flight.”
“Oh…” Paul lowered his eyes, plainly disappointed.
“You’ve been a very bad boy, Paul Metcalfe,” Melody continued, glowering at him. “You should know better than to pull a stunt like this. You disappoint me. You’ll disappoint Blue as well, after the trust he put in you. And Colonel White… He gave you more freedom onboard Cloudbase, and see how you thank him. Do you realise how angry he’ll be at you?”
“I’m not afraid of the colonel,” Paul declared bravely.
Melody almost winced. “You should,” she advised. “You’ve never seen him angry… I mean really angry. You’ll be very lucky if you don’t end up spending the rest of your stay on Cloudbase in the brig!”
“So we’re really going back then?”
“You want Blue and I to be in trouble?”
Paul sighed. “No, I guess I don’t want that,” he murmured. He lowered his head. “You’re both my friends.”
“That’s more like it.” Melody extirpated herself from her seat and opened the door. “Now, let’s get back there and tell Blue that you’re here. And let me do the talking, please. It’ll go down easier if I tell him myself.”
“Don’t you think he’ll figure it out when he’ll see me?” Paul reasoned.
“Now don’t play smart with me,” Melody replied. “Paul… You don’t know how I’m really, really angry at you. I expected better of you.”
“All right, all right. I get it.” The boy sighed. “Seems like a good idea at the time…”
Melody gently pushed him through the door and followed behind him. Together, they strolled to the back of the passenger cabin, towards the small door leading to the onboard kitchenette which they could see beyond the entrance hatch.
As they reached their destination, they could hear Blue humming behind the door, which was only opened a crack. Melody sighed inwardly. He still sounded in as good a mood as when he had left the cockpit earlier. Maybe that’ll be easier than she imagined, then. All she had to do was join him in the kitchenette, alone, and bring the news down gently to her him. Paul could wait in the cabin, while she would calm Blue down – because she was about certain that he would have a fit when he’ll learn about the kid having stowed away onto their craft, and that they will have to turn around to go back to Cloudbase. That flight test had been put off so many times, it was starting to become a joke.
But could they do otherwise?
Melody stopped in front of the door; she turned around and looked down at Paul. He was looking up at her, obviously waiting to see what her next move will be. “Now you stay here,” she whispered. “I’ll go tell him.”
He rolled his eyes. “Better you than me…”
She glared meaningfully at him and gently pushed the door to enter.
Blue was at the counter, and was preparing coffee, humming a Christmas tune. He heard her come in and turn around, stopping as he was pushing the ‘on’ button. Noticing how she was standing there in the doorway, looking at him with a strange expression in her eyes, he coloured slightly around the ears and cleared his voice. He looked slightly uncomfortable.
“I… er… I guess you caught me red-handed. There wasn’t any coffee in the distributor, and I thought of making some… If only to clean my reputation…”
He scowled slightly, realising suddenly that she should still be in the cockpit, checking on Georgina, and not be here with him.
“What’s up, Melody? Something’s wrong with Georgina?”
Melody hesitated, not knowing how to start exactly. She stepped forward, carefully pulling the door behind her, but leaving it open just a crack. She didn’t want for Blue to spot Paul just yet. Bring him the news gently, she told herself. He won’t feel like throttling the boy, then.
“Georgina is fine,” she said. “But there is something I need to –”
Just at the limit of her hearing, Melody heard the click of the door behind her, as it closed. Then there was the sound of a lock being pulled. She frowned in perplexity and turned on her heels, looking at the handle.
She reached for it. It refused to turn.
Melody paled, suddenly realising she had been had. “Oh no…”
And then, she started banging on the door and shouting, under the astonished eyes of Captain Blue.
“Paul! Paul Metcalfe! Open that door immediately!”
“P-Paul?” Blue echoed, not sure he was to believe his ears. “What is he doing here?” The coffee was forgotten, and he came to join Melody at the door.
“He stowed aboard,” the young woman explained with an exasperated sigh, as Blue pushed her aside to stand in front of the door. “He said he wanted to visit Futura City.”
“No kidding,” Blue muttered. He tried the handle. It wouldn’t budge. Of course, Spectrum had to build their SPJ to be that solid…
“Paul!” he roared, banging on the door. “Open that door right now! You don’t know in what trouble you are!”
“I’m sorry, Adam!” came the clear young voice of Paul Metcalfe through the door. “I’m sorry, Melody. I didn’t want to do that to the both of you… Especially the both of you. But I do want to go back home. And this is my only chance.”
“Go back –?” Blue exchanged glances with Melody and could see in her eyes the same concern he now felt. “To Winchester?” he asked. “Paul, how can you hope to achieve that? You can’t change the course… I’ve already set it for Futura City.”
“I’ll change the course. I know how to do it…”
“You can’t fly this plane!”
“Georgina will do it for me. She’ll do everything I’ll ask her.”
“Georgina?” Blue was now beyond any surprise. “You don’t have proper authorisation…”
“Adam?” That was Melody’s voice behind him and Blue turned around to look at her with an inquiring look. The young woman shook her head. “The V.R.P.,” she whispered. “It’s able to recognise his voice as that of Captain Scarlet’s… He has the authorisation.”
Blue stared at her, at first unable to accept the news; then he closed his eyes. “Oh, no…”
“We are in trouble, are we?”
Blue’s eyes glared with barely contented anger. “Not as much in trouble as a certain ten-year-old I know when I’ll get out of here,” he growled.
He started banging on the door again.
Green was working feverishly on his computer, his fingers flying over the keyboard. Multiple screens opened on the large screen set on the wall behind Colonel White’s desk. Grey, Magenta and Ochre approached behind their commander and they watched, as Green selected a timeframe from the recording of about a half-hour before the SPJ’s departure.
Images fast-forwarded rapidly on the screens. The Spectrum officers watched them with bate breath, sharing the same hope that they were wrong, but at the same time, expecting to see exactly what they were suspecting.
Magenta suddenly pointed to one of the screens. “There. Camera 21.”
Green slowed the fast-forward and rewound the recording slightly, before putting the image back on. “Corridor leading into the hangar,” he described. “Twenty minutes before the SPJ’s take off.” On the screen, maintenance personnel were opening the door leading into the hangar; they walked inside, and left the door open for the soon-to-arrive officers who would board the craft about to depart.
Two smaller figures were seen, swiftly and surreptitiously passing through the doorway.
White clicked his tongue with annoyance. “Give us the cameras inside, Lieutenant,” he said blankly. “One minutes after these two scamps got inside. I want to be sure they made it as far as the SPJ.”
Green gave a brief nod and selected a new camera, which was aimed almost directly at SPJ P010. He searched for the requested moment on the recording, slowed down the fast-forwarded image to a regular speed, and they all watched anxiously.
Two security guards were walking in front of the catwalk leading inside the SPJ, visibly keeping the entrance secured. In the far corner of the camera, they saw a small figure appear again, which crouched near one of the feet of the SPJ. Ochre narrowed his eyes.
“That’s Paul, isn’t it?”
“Looks like it,” Grey muttered, his eyes riveted on the screen, waiting to see what will happen. “There’s something in his hand…”
They all witnessed as the young boy, taking advantage of a moment where the guard nearest to him was looking the other way, threw whatever he held towards the other end of the hangar. Both guards turned in the same moment and left their station, to rush in that same direction. Moved by a sudden impulse, Green turned the sound on, and rewound the scene slightly, to put it back again. The scene repeated itself, and the Spectrum officers clearly heard the loud thumping of something metallic falling on a hard surface, just before the guards left their station.
“Little bastard,” Ochre then said between his teeth. There was a hint of admiration in his voice, but that didn’t stop Magenta from glaring at him. “Even at ten, he knows all the tricks…”
“Ochre,” Magenta warned him.
Paul waved at someone off-camera. Daniel Younger then emerged from seemingly nowhere to hurry up the catwalk, while Paul Metcalfe, leaving his hiding place, dashed after him.
“Fifteen minutes before take-off,” Green announced blankly. He pushed the image forward, up until the time Captain Blue and Melody Angel boarded the craft. Then they saw the catwalk being removed, and the door closing.
“They never left the SPJ,” Grey said. “They were onboard when Blue and Melody departed Cloudbase.”
“Why those little –” Colonel White was absolutely livid. He swivelled his desk back to its regular position. “Lieutenant Green, Contact SPJ P010, and order them back to Cloudbase immediately,” he ordered with a harsh voice. “Inform them that they have two stowaways onboard. Launch Angel One to escort them back.”
Ochre sighed in exasperation and looked at Grey. “You were saying something about history repeating itself?”
“Those young imbeciles,” White muttered darkly. “I don’t know what they wish to accomplish by doing a stunt like that. Don’t they know in how much trouble they are now? I’ll certainly give an earful to the both of them when they’re back… Mr Metcalfe and Mr Younger. No matter that he’s the World President’s son.”
“Sir,” Lieutenant Green then interrupted. All eyes turned to him. They could see his face was ashen, and his eyes were wide with concern. “There’s something wrong with SPJ P010, sir… I can raise them.”
“I mean, there’s a signal to the onboard radio, but they do not answer…”
Magenta swallowed hard. “I don’t dare thinking that the fault comes from the onboard auto-pilot.”
“Paul Metcalfe! I order you to open that door right now!”
Paul smiled mischievously and shook his head. He was genuinely sorry to have played such a devious trick to two people he appreciated and liked so much, but he didn’t regret any of what he had done. He wanted to get home. He wanted to be there in time for Christmas. And even though only the day before it was even unlikely to happen, now he just knew his plan could only succeed.
He turned his back on the door, trying his best to ignore the banging and shouts coming from behind. His friends knew how desperate he was to see his parents again. They might not be happy now, but he was confident that they would eventually understand why he had done this; and then, they will forgive him.
His accomplice, who had helped him close the door and lock it, was standing just a feet away from him, his arms crossed on his chest, looking at him. Paul offered him a victorious smile.
“Told you we would make it,” he said. “Phase two of the plan is completed.”
Daniel Younger scowled. “And what was phase one?” he asked.
“Getting onboard this plane, of course. What do you think?”
Daniel’s brow furrowed more deeply; he didn’t share his young companion’s enthusiasm. His fourteen year old experience was telling him that even though things were seemingly going according to plans, something wrong was bound to happen sooner or later. And according to his own observation of the present situation, it would be very soon. From his point of view, locking two Spectrum officers into a kitchenette was a very bad move. He was sure there were a certain number of laws that prohibited doing a thing like that.
“I can’t believe I followed your lead in this crazy plan,” he grumbled.
“Well, it worked, didn’t it?” Paul shrugged dismissively. He started striding towards the cockpit. After a moment’s hesitation, Daniel followed behind.
“I should be the one making decisions,” Daniel continued. “I’m older than you… you’re only a kid! Tell me, mate – now that they’re both under key, who will be flying this plane? ”
“You heard me earlier,” Paul said, with an exasperated sigh. “I told Captain Blue: Georgina will help us.”
“Who the devil is Georgina?”
“Auto-pilot? You’ll be leaving the auto-pilot to take us to your home in Winchester? You’re crazy, mate… From what I understand, auto-pilots don’t land planes. Who will land this one?”
“I could if I wanted to,” Paul said nonchalantly.
“You? You’re insane, shrimp.” As they were about to enter the cockpit, Daniel looked back towards the kitchenette door. He stopped in his tracks and held Paul by the arm. The younger boy looked at him with annoyance. “I thought one of them could have taken the helm…”
“How? You would have held a gun to their heads?” Paul asked, his voice dripping with irony. “Now who’s the most insane between the two of us, Danny? I’m sure this is very illegal.”
“So’s keeping Spectrum officers under lock and key while stealing their plane,” Daniel came back. “I didn’t sign for this, mate. I thought your idea was to ask one of your friends to fly us wherever we wanted to go!”
Paul glared at him as if the suggestion was immensely stupid. “They would never have accepted. Both of them are soldiers. They are following orders. Helping us would put them in deep trouble, don’t you know? We’ll have to make do ourselves.”
The two boys entered the cockpit and Paul eagerly jumped onto the pilot’s seat, and started studying the controls. Daniel stood behind him, his face white, looking at him with incredulity. “You’re not really going to do that, are you?”
“Why not?” Paul asked, looking back at him with surprise.
“You’re just a little kid… If someone should fly this plane, it should be me.”
“Have you any experience in flying?”
“No… and you? You said you ‘sort of knew’ how to fly. It’s that ‘sort of’ that doesn’t fill me with confidence. Personally, considering your age, I would doubt very much if you knew how to fly this bird!”
“Stop telling me I’m too young! I’m an ace with simulation flight games… And I had plenty of exercises with the Cloudbase training simulator.”
“Oh God…” Daniel whispered. “We’re gonna die. So you never actually flew a real plane?”
“No… But it’s the same.”
“No it’s not! How many times did you crash with that flight simulator?”
“Will you relax?” Paul replied, not willing to tell him that he crashed the simulator twice at the beginning, when he had been left to pilot it on his own. “We won’t gonna crash.”
“You can’t fly this plane by yourself, Paul.”
“Okay, then.” Paul pointed to the seat on his right. “Here. You can be my co-pilot.”
“M-me?! I can’t be your co-pilot. I’ve never even played those flying computer games… I prefer shooting alien invaders…”
“Uh – you’re dull, Danny.”
“And you, you’re really nuts, shrimp!” Daniel shook his head despondently. “I didn’t think this through. This was all a crazy mistake. I suggest we let the pilots out, and let them get us back to Cloudbase. Maybe my father – and Colonel White – will go easy on us… especially if we tell them it was all your idea in the first place.”
“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Paul said, turning to him, eyes flashing. “You would put all the blame on me, then? You insisted in coming. You even blackmailed me so you would come. I never asked you. I didn’t want you to begin with! And now, you say you’d sell me out?”
“Hey, you’re the kid, and you’re cuter than me. They’re liable to forgive a ten year old kid more than a fourteen year old teenager. You’ll get off of this easier than me.”
“Well, what does that make you, then – following a kid my age into this? We’re in this together… Daniel.” Paul returned his attention back to controls panel. He frowned. “I know these controls…” he murmured. “I’ve seen these before…”
“Yeah well, they ought to be a lot like that simulator on Cloudbase you told me about,” Daniel muttered. His eyes grew wide in near panic when he saw Paul’s finger hovering over a big red button. “What’re you doing? Don’t touch anything!”
He reached forward, but it was too late – the button was pressed and the auto-pilot voice made itself heard into the cockpit. “Computerised auto-pilot on… Course set for Futura City, Bermudas. Awaiting new instructions.”
Paul grinned at the still worried-looking Daniel. “See? I told you I knew what I was doing. I was pulling your leg, Danny… I never had any intention of flying this plane. I told you: Georgina will fly it for us.”
“And she will land this plane by herself. You know, she’s a very special auto-pilot. She can do much more than an ordinary auto-pilot, Danny.”
“Don’t call me that. I told you I hated that name.”
Paul sighed and rolled his eyes. “Computer?” he called out loud.
“Voice recognition activated,” the mechanical voice of the auto-pilot replied. “Captain Scarlet, Cloudbase staff officer. Awaiting new instructions.”
“Hey, what’s this?” Daniel asked with a scowl. “You’re not a Cloudbase staff officer.”
Paul shrugged. “There seems to be a fault in the voice recognition programming,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it seems the computer is mixing me up with this Captain Scarlet. I heard that the first time I visited this SPJ. So I thought that maybe I should take advantage of it?”
“You were planning this from the beginning,” Daniel realised. “Why didn’t you take the plane off Cloudbase yourself, if this special auto-pilot was to fly it by itself, then?”
“I couldn’t do that. You need authorisation for take off from the control tower to take a craft off Cloudbase,” Paul retorted.
“I was lucky enough to learn that this plane was set for test flight, just before Christmas,” Paul continued. “So I was hoping for an opportunity to hop onboard.”
“And after that?”
“Well, as you know, we improvised. And it worked, didn’t it?”
Daniel scowled. “Well, that’s all very good, genius – but we’re going to Futura City – and didn’t you want to go to England instead?”
“Boy, I may be younger than you – but you’re certainly thicker than me, you know that, Danny-Boy?”
“I told you already –”
“Computer?” Paul repeated, interrupting his companion.
“Awaiting instructions,” the female voice repeated.
“Set new flight course for Winchester, England, please.”
“You don’t say ‘please’ to a computer,” Daniel muttered under his breath.
“Calculating new course…” There was a very short pause, before the voice made itself heard again. “Fuel sufficient for new course. Flight course calculated… “Coordinates for Winchester, Hampshire, England: 51o03’35.18” North, 1o18”36.51’ West. Final bearing: 87°39′39″ 87.66081857 Back bearing: 267°39′39″ 267.66081857. ETA: four hours at present speed and velocity.”
“Are we at full speed?” Paul inquired.
“Time of arrival?”
“E.T.A. Twenty oh fourteen, local time.”
“Great, it’ll be dark, then,” Paul said with excitation.
“Confirm new settings, please.”
“The computer said ‘please’,” Paul noted with a smirk, glancing at Daniel. “Computer, settings confirmed. Take us to Winchester.”
“New settings accepted. Course set for Winchester, Hampshire, England, Winchester W.A.A.F. Airbase. Do you want to confirm arrival at destination?”
Paul scowled at that last information; he looked at the controls panel with confusion. “W.A.A.F. Airbase?” he murmured, not understanding.
“Yeah, sure,” Daniel reasoned from his seat. “It’s normal that this ‘Georgina’ would want to take us to the nearest airstrip.”
“I don’t understand,” Paul murmured, nearly not hearing him. “How come there’s a W.A.A.F Airbase in Winchester? I don’t remember that… There’s the British Airbase, where Dad’s working…”
“That must be it, then,” Daniel said. “You probably have the name wrong, kid.”
“I’m sure I don’t,” Paul retorted.
Daniel sighed. “Well, never mind the name. We have some kind of problem here. Wouldn’t we be in trouble if we land onto an airbase? They’ll catch us on arrival.”
Paul shook himself. “I certainly don’t want to be caught at that airbase,” he murmured. “Whatever the name. Hang on… This SPJ has VTOL capacity.”
“Vertical Take Off and Landing. So that means this plane can land whenever I want it to. We can choose a field close to my home then.”
“And what about radars?” Daniel suggested.
“Computer?” Paul asked. “Is this plane is able to avoid being seen by radars?”
“Affirmative. All Spectrum SPJ are equipped with cloaking device permitting them to avoid detection from radars, except those which are part of Spectrum’s detecting equipment.”
“Computer, turn on cloaking device,” Paul then ordered.
“Cloaking is inadvisable during long-range flight, due to possible conflict with radio-traffic control database from civilian and military traffic controls. Cloaking device could only be turned for a maximum period of thirty minutes. Please confirm use of cloaking device.”
“On second thought, we will wait until we arrive close to destination,” Paul said musingly.”
“That would be preferable,” Daniel agreed.
“Computer, belay that order.”
“And computer… if I give you an address in Winchester, can you find a place close by… so we can land there vertically?”
“Affirmative. Please enter coordinates.”
“I can’t believe this is actually working!” Daniel exclaimed. “How can we be so lucky?”
“I don’t know, but I’m certainly not complaining,” Paul said with a large grin. “You still want to go back to Cloudbase then?”
Daniel shook his head. “No.” He sat into the co-pilot seat. “Got to admit it to you, mate – you’re smart… for a ten year old.”
“I knew that already,” Paul replied with a smirk.
“Think our luck will hold?” Daniel asked as he buckled himself into the seat.
“Of course,” Paul grinned. “So far so good, isn’t it? No reason to think we won’t make it now.”
A bleeping sound made itself heard and Daniel looked at the panel control, where a white light was blinking steadily. “And what’s that?”
“Nothing,” Paul answered flippantly. “It looks like Cloudbase is trying to contact the plane.”
“Ah… I don’t think we should answer it, then,” Daniel suggested.
“I’m thinking exactly the same,” Paul said with a grin. “Let’s ignore it.”
“Yes. Let’s. And… how about them?” Daniel asked, thumbing in direction of the cabin; in the distance, they could still hear pounding against the kitchenette door.
Sighing, Paul closed the small door separating the cockpit from the passenger cabin. As soon as it clicked, the sounds coming from the kitchenette deadened to a point where it could barely be heard.
“Aw, they’ll calm down eventually. And there’s no way they could stop up at this point. And even if they get out, it would be too late. Once we’ll have some distance made, we’ll have to continue.”
“And that is because…?”
“Well, we might run out of fuel, if we change course again.”
Daniel shook his head sombrely. “It’s scary to see how much a kid your age knows about these things. I’ve got to hand it to you – I would not have made it thus far on my own.”
Paul only beamed with no concealed pride at his companion’s remark.
“Computer,” he said turning back to the control panels. “Here’s the address where we need to go...”
Paul gave Georgina his latest instructions, and the computer confirmed them without any hesitation. Then he quietly sat back. The name of that Airbase the computer had mentioned was still troubling him; he couldn’t explain himself why it would mention a W.A.A.F airbase in a country where there wasn’t supposed to be any.
He shrugged his shoulders dismissively. This was a mystery that he will have to wait to elucidate. Right now, he was too eager to get back home to let himself be distracted by such trivial consideration.
In merely four hours, he’ll see his parents again; probably, they were very worried about him, wondering what he was becoming, how he was… In a very short time, he’ll be able to tell them all about his adventure on Cloudbase. Just in time for Christmas, too – but that was an added bonus.
Maybe his dad will be unhappy that to see him back, putting himself in harm’s way from the recruiters. But he didn’t care. His father wouldn’t stay mad at him for long.
The important thing – he was going back home. And he planned to never leave it ever again.
He was confident that everything will still go very well from now on.
Perhaps Paul Metcalfe would have reconsidered his possibilities of success, if he had noticed the little white light steadily blinking in the far left corner of the controls panel – and if he had known the meaning of it.
The onboard computer, following standard procedures, was contacting Cloudbase Central Command – to notify it of the change in course…
“I can’t believe it!” Captain Blue raged as he thumped angrily against the close door. “We’re stuck in here!”
“Can’t you open the lock?” Melody asked from behind him. “You know, using a pin or something…”
“It’s a magnetic lock!” Blue lashed over his shoulder. “We cannot force it open! I know of only two people with the capacity to open those doors, and they’re back on Cloudbase. What was the idea to put a magnetic lock onto a SPJ’s kitchenette door, I ask you…”
“Added security?” she suggested.
“Well, a lot of good it does us! Short of shooting this lock out, there’s nothing we can do to open this door! It’s hardened fleetonium-plastic – meaning, I’ll break my shoulder before breaking it down! And since we’re at 35,000 feet in the air, using a sidearm in here wouldn’t be very advisable!” Blowing a deep sigh, Blue abandoned his efforts on the lock and leaned his head against the surface of the door. “You heard that other voice? That was Danny Younger with Paul. I should have known… I should have guessed they were up to something when I caught them yesterday in the gym. They were already conspiring this thing together… How did they do it… How did they get onboard exactly?!”
“They stowed away, Captain.”
“I guess they did!” Blue raged. “I will have a few chosen words with hangar security when we’ll be back to base, that I can tell you!”
“Adam, calm yourself,” Melody suggested. “You’ll pop a nerve.”
“And it’s you telling me that?” Blue exploded, turning suddenly to her. “You and I, we’ve been had, Mags… This kid took advantage of our friendship, and used it, waiting for an opportunity to escape Cloudbase custody and go back home! How come you’re so calm? I could just… throttle that little bastard!”
Melody rolled her eyes. That was exactly what she expected him to say.
“I am upset!” she shot back. “But Adam, I know that getting that fired up won’t help us at the moment. We have to get out of here before these two do something that might lead to a catastrophe…”
As she said these words, they felt the floor tilting under their feet, and heard a slight change in the engines through the canopy; Blue found himself leaning against the door he had tried to break down a few seconds earlier – and Melody, losing her footing, find herself between his arms.
The craft straightened up after a few seconds.
“You were saying?” Blue grumbled.
“We changed course?” Melody murmured, incredulously. She pushed herself off Blue. “We changed course!” she repeated. “These kids took control of the plane!”
“You don’t tell me,” Blue sighed. Reluctantly, he lowered his cap mic. “Guess it’s time for us to warn Cloudbase of the situation…”
There was a beeping sound coming from both the console in front of Green and Colonel White’s desk. The Spectrum commander lowered his eyes, to see the comm.link blue indicator blinking steadily.
“Captain Blue’s online, sir,” Green announced as he took the call.
“Using his cap communicator instead of the onboard radio,” Magenta said with satisfaction. “Then it must indeed be a default in the SPJ’s computer.”
“Wanna bet?” Ochre said under his breath. “Ten dollars it’s not a computer’s fault.”
“Put him on speakers, Lieutenant,” White ordered. “So that we can all hear him.”
Green flicked a small lever. “On speakers, sir.”
“Captain Blue to Cloudbase command control…” came the strong voice of Blue through the speakers.
“Captain Blue, what is it?” White demanded loudly. “We were trying to reach you through the SPJ communication console, but it doesn’t seem to be working properly. Is that why you’re using your cap communicator?”
“I don’t think you’ll receive any answers from the two pirates who have taken control of the plane, sir,” was Blue’s answer to that question.
White scowled deeply hearing these words. “Excuse me, Captain?”
“Cloudbase, Melody Angel and I are under lock and key, with no way to reach the cockpit and to take the craft back under our control.” There was a moment of silence, before Blue added, in an ominous, almost uncomfortable tone: “SPJ P010 has been hijacked… but the most unlikely pirates you can ever imagine.”
“Sir, SPJ P010 has changed course,” Lieutenant Green then announced.
“Ten other dollars I know what the new course is,” Ochre muttered to Magenta.
“Shut up, Ochre,” the Irish captain replied with irritation.
Lieutenant Green was making the verifications on his computer. He groaned and turned to his superior officers. “Destination… Winchester, England, Colonel.”
Ochre rolled his eyes, as the others echoed Green’s groan. “I knew it!”
“How did he do it?” White said with some kind of morbid fascination. “How the bloody hell did a ten year old boy manage to overcome two adult, very competent Spectrum officers, take control of a SPJ and then change course to Winchester, to go back home?”
“You already know Paul’s behind this, sir?” the voice of Blue asked with surprise.
“And we also know that the other ‘pirate’ is none other than Mr Daniel Younger,” White answered. “We just discovered they stowed away on your craft, Captain.” He raised his head, swiftly. Now was time for them to act quickly. “Lieutenant Green, do you have the exact coordinates P010 is taking?”
“The SPJ’s onboard computer transferred the information to us, sir,” Green answered.
“Order Angels Two and Three to join Angel One. They are to follow that jet to its destination.”
“Captain Magenta, Captain Ochre – get and SPJ and set a course to the same location P010 is heading to. You’ll receive new instructions in due time.”
“On our way, sir!” Ochre answered as both he and Magenta jogged in direction of the door.
“Captain Blue, are you still online?” White called out loud, as both men left.
“I have to inform you the Mysterons have issued a new threat. Believe it or not, but they have chosen both Mr Metcalfe and Mr Younger as their targets this time.”
“Oh no, sir,” Blue said in alarm. “They want to take opportunity of Captain Scarlet’s actual state as a boy to get at him, then?”
“Unfortunately. Furthermore, Doctor Fawn found indications that the Mysterons might actually be behind Scarlet’s actual state.”
“They turned him into a child?” Blue said with a dubious voice. “It wasn’t an accident then? Why? That doesn’t make sense!”
“Whether they really planned to make him a child again or not is irrelevant at this point, Captain,” White replied. “Right now, they want to kill both these boys – so it’s our job to keep them safe from harm.”
“You are on course to Winchester, England,” White announced. “Apparently, our young Mr Metcalfe wants to return home. You and Melody, find a way to get out of wherever these two… pirates… have locked you and try to regain control of that plane before a catastrophe happens.”
“We’ll do our best, sir.”
There was a new beep on Green’s console and he swiftly answered it. “Yes?”
“Control Room, this is Corporal Jackson at the door,” a deep voice told him. “The World President just arrived with General Peterson.”
White exchanged looks with Captain Grey who was standing in front of him, and then turned to Green. He could see the worry on the faces of both men. Neither of them were looking forward to the World President learning that his son had ran away from Cloudbase, while there was a potential death threat on his head. They just knew he wouldn’t take it well at all. And they knew it was their commander’s job to inform Younger of what was happening. They visibly didn’t envy him this task at all.
“Have the corporal escort both Mr Younger and General Peterson to the Conference Room, Lieutenant,” White ordered.
“S.I.G., sir,” Green answered, turning to his microphone to relay the order right away.
“Captain Grey, I leave you in charge of the Control Room. I want you to inform me the second there is a new development. Is that clear?”
“Like crystal, sir,” Grey answered. “We’ll get these boys back, colonel, I’m sure.”
“I wish I had your confidence, Captain…” White steeled himself and stood up, slowly. “I’ll go meet with the World President and will make him a report on the situation. Let’s hope he’s in a good mood…”
“You mean to tell me that my son has been able to stowaway in a craft leaving Cloudbase, with the man who had kidnapped me two years ago, and that the Mysterons have now decided to make him a target in their war of nerves?!”
White nodded his head almost imperceptibly. For a politician, T. James Younger certainly knew how to summarise a situation well. He also knew very well how to yell when he was upset. And quite frankly, right at this moment, he had every reason to be upset.
The World President was pacing in front of him in the Conference Room, his steps long and fast, his hands behind his back and his face totally livid. General Peterson sat at the conference table, in complete silence, and was following the World President’s progression with calm and attentive eyes.
Colonel White had told them everything, without holding any information, starting with the real identity of the ten year old boy who was currently residing on Cloudbase, and how the accident which had happened a week before in the Engine Room had been responsible for his presence onboard. At first, the World President was sceptic, the story seemingly too extraordinary for him to grasp, and then, when he heard of the Mysterons’ involvement in the accident – that Spectrum had just found out with certainty – he became apprehensive of Scarlet – just as White expected of him.
But that was nothing compared to his reaction when he learned about the Mysterons’ threat against his son’s life… and that his life had currently run off of Cloudbase, stowing away onboard an SPJ with the complicity of a boy who was the same man who had almost killed his father, two years before.
And to add insult to injury… It looked like the two boys didn’t content themselves with playing hide and seek with the Spectrum officers who were flying the SPJ, but had actually succeeded in locking them out of the cockpit, and had taken control of the plane.
“A fine bunch of incompetent fools you have under your orders, Colonel White!” Younger thundered. “How could my son be able to leave Cloudbase to begin with? Isn’t this base supposed to be the most secure pace on this planet? How could this be possible?!”
“To this crew’s defence, I must think they’re probably more concerned with people trying getting in, rather than getting out,” Peterson then said reasonably.
“No, General,” White replied with a scowl of obvious displeasure. “The President is right. Despite the cleverness displayed by these two boys to stowaway about that SPJ, this should never have happened. When this is through, there will be an investigation about how security is conducted in the hangar, but for the moment, it’s not what’s the most important.”
“The most important is to get my son into safety,” Younger said with irritation, glaring at White. “And that, without any delay, Colonel!”
“We are working on it, sir,” White declared, his voice very calm. “I expect Captain Blue and Melody Angel to be able to get out of this room the boys had locked them in and that they’ll be able to take the SPJ back under their control.”
“It’s all very good that Captain Blue should be involved,” Younger said, sighing, as he continued to pace. “I have confidence in him… After all, he was the man who stopped Captain Scarlet two years ago. He will stop him again.” He stopped his pacing and turned to glare at White. “Unless his friendship with the man would stand in the way?” he suggested in a venomous tone.
“Captain Blue is a competent officer,” White replied. “He would net let anything in the way.”
“Yes, yes… he killed Scarlet the last time. But now, Scarlet is a boy… He might hesitate to shoot a boy.”
“And why would he shoot him, exactly?” Peterson asked with a frown.
Younger turned fiercely to him. His face was now red with total anger. “Because he’s involved with the Mysterons again, and he kidnapped my son!” he snapped.
Peterson scoffed at the suggestion. “Confound it,” he muttered. “From what Colonel White told us, he has not kidnapped your son. He’s only a boy of, what, ten years old?” White nodded at the general’s estimation. “I can’t see a boy of ten forcing a boy of fourteen to do something he doesn’t want to.”
“I do not believe he’s an agent of the Mysterons,” Colonel White objected.
“No?” Younger replied, dubiously. “You told us yourself that the Mysterons were responsible for Scarlet becoming that young boy! Why else but to use him against my son would they have done this?”
“They would have done it on purpose, one week ago, in preparing for this very occasion?” Colonel White disputed. “None of us even knew two days ago that your family would be coming onboard, sir. The Mysterons are working on the moment. They have not prepared this. It seems much more likely that their turning Scarlet into a child had been an accident they didn’t expect. Because up until now, they didn’t work on it.”
“What the colonel says,” Peterson supported. He nodded his head when Younger turned again to glare at him in an almost murdering way. “He knows the Mysterons much better than we do, Mr President.”
“So you’re saying it’s my son then, who decided to take this boy with him?” Younger suggested cynically. “And what if that other boy was armed?”
“From the footage we have of their boarding of the SPJ, it is fairly evident neither one of them was forcing the other,” White replied. “We saw no weapon of any kind. All the appearances indicated that they were in league, working together to get aboard that craft.”
“They’re accomplices, then,” Peterson realised. “Well, that would make sense. Both these boys wanted to get off this base. They put their heads together and found a solution to their common problem.”
“And by doing so, they offered the Mysterons a chance for them to strike anew,” Colonel White confirmed. “Mr President, young Paul Metcalfe isn’t an agent of the Mysterons. According to the wording of the Mysterons’ threat, he’s as much a target of the Mysterons as your son.”
“Still,” muttered the World President. “Daniel is fourteen… He should know better than to pull a stunt like this…”
“Should he?” Peterson said unsympathetically. He did something similar before. Remember Rainbow Bay, two years ago. Granted, it wasn’t as serious as this, but still… it was a start for him. And this time,” he added, “the result of his actions might endanger another boy’s life…”
“That boy is Captain Scarlet,” Younger reminded him bitterly.
“… Who is not retrometabolic at the moment,” White added.
“So… that would be the reason why the Mysterons might be striking at him now?” Younger suggested. “In that case, Daniel’s life is endangered by the only fact that he’s hanging on with that… boy.”
“Both of them are threatened,” Peterson said softly.
“Daniel is no-one… why would they threaten him? He’s only a child…”
“He’s your son, Mr President,” White remarked. “It’s enough to mark him as a target, I’m afraid.”
“We know the Mysterons have no pity,” Peterson added carefully. “How many children were killed in the destruction of DT-19, when they took it over for their attack on the Director of the Asian Republic, two years ago?”
Younger closed his eyes and shook his head in desperation. The red of his face disappeared and he became pale again. “I don’t want to think about it…” he said with a sigh. When he opened his eyes, it was to turn to White once more. There was a pleading look in them that was hard to miss. “Save my son, will you, Colonel? If the Mysterons are using him to get to me…” He swallowed hard. “Save both of these boys… I don’t know about Scarlet anymore, so we’ll sort it all out later about him. For the moment, your organisation must do what it does best.”
“Of course, Mr President,” White said in a reassuring voice. “Rest assured that we’ll do just that.” He paused a short second, before adding: “However, in order to do that, with no interference, I will ask you to keep out of our way.”
“Out of your way?” Younger repeated as if he didn’t understand.
“This is not a request, sir,” White said firmly. “You are too involved, too close in the situation to have an objective mind about it. I know it’s your son who’s in danger, but your involvement would not be helping us. To the contrary, it could only interfere with our work.”
Younger stared at the Spectrum commander in disbelief. His shoulders were sagged, his hair dishevelled, he gave all the outward appearances of a lost and desperate man.
“You’re asking me to step down?” he murmured.
“Yes,” White confirmed. “From this moment, and until the end of the operation, the Control Room is off-limit to you. In fact, I will ask that you should be escorted back to the V.I.P. suite, where you will be staying until further notice. Do not try contact anyone to get involved with the operation. I know the U.S.S. is charged with your safety, and that you might be tempted to ask for their help, but in this situation, their participation might do more harm than anything else. The Mysterons are ours to deal with. Spectrum knows to handle them.”
“I certainly know you do,” Younger said, soothing his hair.
“It’s for the best, James,” General Peterson then told him. “Colonel White and his men know what they’re doing. I think he’s right, and that you should retire to the V.I.P. suite. Remember than Sahra is there, waiting for you. She must not suspect that something terrible had happened to her brother.”
“Oh. Of course.” At the name of his daughter, Younger seemingly shook himself. He straightened up to his full size, clearing his throat as he rearranged his clothes. “I’ll be waiting for further development in my room, then,” he said, trying to render his voice as firm as he could. “I… be sure to keep me informed, Colonel… Charles. And… please, be careful. I want my son back alive.”
“That’s a useless recommendation, sir.” White pressed a button on the console, and a security guard entered. “Corporal Jackson will take you back to your room, Mr President.”
Younger nodded mechanically, addressing a last pleading look to Colonel White. Then he strode out of the Conference Room, and Jackson followed behind.
The door closed and alone together, White and Peterson kept staring at it for a few seconds.
“If something happens to his son, he’ll be a destroyed man,” Peterson declared. “I hope you’ll be able to save him, Charles.”
White nodded slowly. He intertwined his fingers together and with his elbows on the table, rested his chin on them, taking a thoughtful pause. All things considered, that had gone well with Younger. He knew the seriousness of the situation, and the danger his son was in, and of course, he had reacted like any father would have. But he had acted professionally enough to accept to let Spectrum do its work, without interfering. That was enough for White to be content; he wouldn’t have a distressed father in the way during this operation.
“You know we’ll be doing what we can, Brian,” he answered to Peterson. “I thank you for your support during this meeting with the World President. This was… much appreciated.”
“Well, It was easy to see you could use all the help you could need,” Peterson said slowly. “And as always, I’m quite ready to give Spectrum that kind of help.” He paused a second, before adding: “And I do hope you’ll get this sort out, without Daniel coming to any harm… For Captain Scarlet’s sake.” He shook his head. “Because whether he is a target himself or not, and even if he’s not responsible, if something should happen to his son… I’m not sure the World President will be willing to forgive and forget this time.”