A "Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons" story
“Is it really you… or are you a Mysteron agent?”
Doctor Fawn was scrutinising Harmony with suspicious eyes. The petite woman was crouched in front of Rochester, checking if he was really dead. Reassured that it was the case, she got to her feet.
“So it is the Mysterons' doing, then,” she commented. “I thought as much.”
She took a step forward; Fawn backed away, only to find himself with his back to the wall.
“Keep away from me,” he warned, in a threatening tone.
She smiled, trying to appear reassuring.
“I don't blame you for being distrustful, Doctor,” she said quietly.
“Damned right I am,” Fawn mumbled. “Burgundy and Bromwell told us you were – dead. That you suffocated inside Angel One's cockpit once your oxygen ran out. And then you showed up, very much alive and – apparently – saving my life. What am I to think?”
“I escaped,” she answered simply. “Before I ran out of air. But it is an advantage if the Mysterons think of me as dead.”
“How did you escape?” Fawn asked suspiciously. “You were trapped in the cockpit. As I understand it, Burgundy blocked all commands. You couldn't get out.”
“Or so he believed. I know all there is about the Angel craft, Doctor. All its specifications – all its security features. I knew how to bypass whatever jamming features had been set, get the belly hatch open, and access the chute beneath. I simply climbed down to safety from there.”
“You climbed down to the Amber Room?” Fawn asked with a doubtful frown.
Harmony chuckled. “I didn't dare go that far. I realised that, under the circumstances, the Amber Room might be under surveillance.” She paused for a moment. “I used the first maintenance hatch I found,” she explained. “It's a good thing I am so small. I ended up in the repair bay. From there I made my way through the corridors, avoiding cameras and security systems.” She nodded slowly. “It was Burgundy's doing then? I knew that could only be done from the Control Room… So it was during his shift he did it – after the Mysterons took control of him. I understand now.”
“Right,” Fawn said gloomily. “You would say that now. How am I to know it's not all an act?”
“It is really me. I can assure you, I am not a Mysteron agent.” Seeing that Fawn still seemed wary of her, she pointed to Rochester, lying at her feet. “Didn't I just save you from him, and kill him in the process?”
“Uh-uh,” a still doubtful Fawn retorted. “With Mysterons, that doesn't prove anything. How did you get here, avoiding detection? All surveillance cameras are under enemy control.”
Harmony sighed. “I played hide and seek with every camera and security device I knew of – to avoid being spotted. I am very good at that.”
“So you say,” Fawn replied harshly. “I still don’t believe you.”
She tilted her head to one side, thinking. “Isn't there a way for me to prove to you that I am the real me? Isn't there an X-ray machine we can use that will show you I'm still human?”
“X-rays are not commonly used these days, you know that. Although we still use the term now and then, out of habit. No, we…” Fawn suddenly stopped in the middle of his diatribe as something occurred to him. He slapped his forehead with his open palm. “God, I must be either tired or very upset to have forgotten about that.” He rounded his desk – managing to keep clear of Harmony – and strode to his cabinet, fishing the key out of his pocket. He unlocked it, mumbling against his own foolishness, and opened the door, under the curious eyes of the Angel pilot standing behind him.
He produced a medium-sized, red device, hanging from a strap that he put around his neck before turning to Harmony. She needed only a glance to know what this thing was and what he was doing.
“If I had remembered about it sooner, maybe I could have avoided Captain Blue injuring me,” Fawn mumbled.
“Pardon me?” Harmony inquired, rather surprised to hear that Captain Blue would hurt the good doctor. Unless he was a Mysteron himself, of course… Fawn simply shrugged at her question. He pointed the detector in her direction; she didn't move when he pressed the command button.
It didn't take long for a picture to pop up from the top of the machine; still keeping an eye on Harmony, Fawn took it and checked it. Harmony saw a smile slowly spreading on his lips.
“So you believe me now?” she asked, finally approaching him.
“I'm sorry if I was suspicious, Harmony,” Fawn apologised, putting the Mysteron detector on the desk. “But with the Mysterons, you know that we can't take anything – anyone – for granted. So when we were told you died…”
“There is no need to apologise, Doctor.” She smiled kindly. “It was perfectly understandable that you should have doubts about me. Considering you were surrounded by Mysterons agents who were keeping you prisoner. Doctor, I wish to understand… How has this happened? While trekking across Cloudbase, I only found people unconscious – everywhere. Then I saw a guard awake, and followed him through here and…” She stopped, suddenly noticing that Fawn didn't seem to be listening to her at all; instead, he was looking at the picture he was holding in his hand, brow furrowed in deep absorption. “Is something wrong?” she asked a little warily. “Didn't I just…”
“Nothing's wrong with you, Harmony,” he reassured her quickly with a shake of his head. “That is… if this detector isn't defective… which I suspect isn't the case,” he mused, lowering the picture and glancing at the detector sitting on his desk, the frown deepening on his brow.
“What do you mean, Doctor?” a curious and slightly confused Harmony asked.
In answer, Fawn shook his head and handed her the picture. She took it and looked at it, still wondering what he was babbling about.
The picture – the proof that she wasn't a Mysteron agent – showed the X-ray image of herself standing in front of the office door. It was almost a full-frame shot, and at first, Harmony couldn't see exactly what Fawn had found wrong with it.
She suddenly opened her eyes wide with astonishment when she realised what it was.
In the picture, just behind the X-ray of herself, she could see the body of Rochester slumped on the floor…
… showing an X-ray image just like herself.
She turned around, looking at the man lying dead on the floor behind her, looked back at the picture as if to make sure it was the same, and stared at him again.
“That's impossible,” she murmured, as her mind registered the information – and the full extent of what it meant.
“On the contrary, it's quite possible,” Fawn declared, compelling her to turn her attention to him. He was leaning against his desk, and was also looking thoughtfully in the direction of the dead body. “How else could the Mysterons actually be able to take over Cloudbase – if not with the help of at least one human agent?”
* * *
“What the devil is he doing here?”
Rhapsody Angel, standing by his side, had hissed between her teeth the same question Captain Blue was asking himself. They were both watching warily as Ochre and Scarlet were walking toward the newcomer to welcome him. In the true spirit of his character, Burgundy bowed in front of them, before they clasped hands.
“You want to bet he’s here to make sure I play the game as I’m supposed to play it, and kill Scarlet?” Blue answered in a murmur.
“I’m not betting,” she answered quickly, in the same fashion. “Because I’m fairly sure you’re right. It wasn’t enough we had to be wary of Captain Black,” she added, addressing a venomous glare at the approaching Burgundy, “now we have him to contend with as well.”
“Don’t worry,” Blue replied. “Whatever his plans are, there is nothing he can do that will make me do what his masters want. I can assure you of that.”
“You are right to be suspicious of the Lord Vali, my prince.” The voice suddenly raised on Blue’s right nearly made him jump. He turned in that direction. Symphony was standing there, obviously having just come back to his side. Blue wondered how much she had heard of his conversation with Rhapsody.
Obviously not enough to make her suspicious he might be losing his mind – like the night before – as she continued, nodding in Vali’s direction, “If I remember correctly, this is the man who came searching for you in Vanaheim, after the incident at the pass of Svartalf, is it not? And according to what you told me, his was the strongest voice against the union of our two peoples…”
“Er…” To tell the truth, Blue didn’t know how to answer this. He was mystified. Was this already part of the plot on which the game was based, or had the Mysterons suddenly changed the rules to fit their plans?
“Nay, Lady Iduna,” the voice of Grey suddenly said from behind. He too had approached the group, and was looking with suspicion in Burgundy’s direction. “Lord Vali was against the union of our two peoples only because he could not be betrothed to a Valkyrie himself…” He smiled cautiously, “… Namely, yourself.”
“Pfah!” Symphony replied with disdain. “Even if I was not already married, this so-called ‘prince’ Vali would not even stand a chance!” She touched Blue’s forearm lightly. “Keep a cautious eye on him, husband. He might hold a grudge against you.”
“No kidding,” Blue muttered under his breath. He made a mental note to ask Doctor Fawn to look up Vali’s name, and see what part he played in the Aesgard legends. He couldn’t recall having seen it anywhere. Somehow, he had the impression that it could be vital information, in view of the situation.
Escorted by both Scarlet and Ochre, with Green following close behind, Burgundy was coming in their direction. Blue tensed suddenly, ready for anything; but the newcomer simply stopped a mere three steps in front of him and bowed slightly.
“Salutations to you, Prince Hodur,” he said courteously – and, Blue noted, in a lilting accent. “And may I offer you my sincerest congratulations to you and your spouse, the fair Lady Iduna?” He only offered a glance in Symphony’s direction, but she turned her eyes away, feigning to ignore him. Blue responded to the bow with a curt nod of his own. He was perplexed; Burgundy had the same accent as all the others. Of all the people playing the game, he had noticed that only Rhapsody and himself didn’t share that accent; he had gathered that it was because, unlike the others, they were not really under the influence of the game and remembered who they were. He didn’t know about Black – he hadn’t had the chance to hear him at all in this setting.
But exactly what was the deal with Burgundy/Vali right now?
“And this is, I believe, the Lady Nanna?” Burgundy took Rhapsody’s hand before she could even react.
“My wife, Lord Vali,” Scarlet presented.
“A fitting lady for you, my prince.” Burgundy brought Rhapsody’s hand to his lips. She made an effort not to shiver when he lightly touched her fingers.
His lips… are so cold…
She removed her hand, swiftly enough to make him understand that she wasn’t letting herself be impressed nor deceived by his amiable behaviour. She thought she saw a bright glow in Scarlet’s eyes, if ever so briefly.
‘Vali’ straightened up.
“Please accept my apologies, my princes,” Burgundy continued nonchalantly, “for having missed the ceremony last night. But as you know well, I was busy patrolling the Northern border of our Kingdom.”
“Did those dogs of Svartalfheim cause you any trouble, Lord Vali?” Scarlet asked in a detached enough tone.
“Nay, my prince, except for some isolated bands of brigands, they are keeping rather quiet. ‘Twould seem that Svartalfheim men are very cautious now, since their encounter with the combined forces of Prince Hodur’s troops – and those of Lady Iduna.”
“Need we more proof that the alliance between our peoples’ forces is for the best, then, Lord Vali?” Grey asked. “As you may recall, you were not entirely in agreement with this decision.”
“I can admit my mistakes, Lord Tyr,” Burgundy answered suavely. “And I should never doubt our Lord Odin’s decisions. He is, after all, usually right.”
“He is always right,” Ochre corrected with assurance.
“However, let us not be over-confident, my brother,” Scarlet remarked. “This alliance does not mean we are totally safe from our enemies. On the contrary, now they will feel more threatened than before – and they will take whatever steps they deem necessary to protect themselves… and eventually destroy us.” With a twinkle in his eyes, he drew his sword. “That is why we must be vigilant and keep our skills sharp. Your sword, Lord Vali!”
A distraught Captain Blue watched as a faint, cruel smile spread across Burgundy's lips and he slowly drew his sword. A quick glance at Rhapsody's suddenly ashen face told him she shared his concern. What if this was it, then? What if Burgundy himself was set to kill Scarlet in this world – would the indestructible man survive in the real one this time? Can I take the chance? Blue wondered. Almost without thinking, he took one step forward… Only to see Burgundy turning to him and throwing him his sword, handle first. A surprised Blue clumsily caught the weapon, and just avoided being touched by the blade.
“It would seem, Lord Balder,” Burgundy said quietly, “that your brother would like to take my place and duel with you.”
“Hey!” Blue protested, glaring angrily at Burgundy. “I never…”
“Aye, Vali,” Scarlet said with a smile, not hearing Blue's objection. “Lord Hodur does need training. We do not want his skill and reflexes to rust so he becomes easy prey for the heathens. Guard yourself, brother!”
Scarlet lunged forward, attacking Blue with his sword. Taken by surprise again, this time by the suddenness of the assault, Blue only had time to parry. Blade loudly clashed against blade, only a inch away from Blue's face. It was a good thing he had good reflexes, or he would, at the very least, have received a scarring blow.
He forcibly pushed Scarlet's sword – and Scarlet at the same time – away from him, his face ashen with anger. “That was NOT funny!”
“Good reflexes, my brother,” Scarlet retorted, smirking with obvious satisfaction. Not far from him, Burgundy was also sneering in a similar fashion, but his smile had something sinister to it. “Would you care to continue the joust?”
“That's enough!” Just as Scarlet was preparing to reiterate his attack, Rhapsody stepped forward and put herself in front of Blue. Symphony did the same, only a second or two later; the two women were now standing between both men, glaring meaningfully at Scarlet.
“Just what the HELL do you think you are doing?” Rhapsody snapped at him. “You know as well as we do that he's not in top shape!”
“It is a good thing that he has indeed good reflexes,” Symphony said in turn. “You could have hurt him seriously.”
Scarlet frowned, his smile fading instantly; there was exasperation in his features – as well as obvious displeasure – at the girls' untimely intervention. He lowered his sword.
“Do you honestly believe that I would willingly hurt him?” he asked in a rather cold tone. He then addressed a reproachful glance at Rhapsody. “That the Lady Iduna would seek to protect her man is to be expected, but that you, my wife, would also do the same…”
“I only wanted to stop you making a grave mistake,” Rhapsody cut in quickly.
“Do you think me careless enough to put my own brother's life in danger? I know my own strength and skills, woman.”
“But you’ve obviously lost sight of his,” Rhapsody reiterated obstinately. “He still needs time to recover…”
“He also needs to get back into shape to face the battles ahead! The sooner, the better.” Scarlet glared at Rhapsody and then at Blue. “And I will have to add, my lady, that you seem to have recovered enough fire for the both of you. After all, you did shared the same… harrowing… experience as my brother in the Mountains. And I still wonder… what exactly happened there.”
“We don’t remember,” Rhapsody answered swiftly.
“Or so you keep saying,” Scarlet replied dryly.
“We genuinely don’t remember, Lord Balder,” Rhapsody repeated. “When we find out, we'll be sure to tell you.: She didn't like the underlying suspicion she could hear in Scarlet's voice.
Scarlet narrowed his eyes. “Will you?” he seethed in a low tone. “Was there more to that journey than you are willing to let on, the both of you?”
“What do you mean exactly?” Blue asked abruptly.
“That is enough.” Ochre stepped in front of Scarlet and looked him squarely in the eyes. “We do not need these pitiful quarrels between us, brothers and sisters,” he said in a poised and reasonable tone. “It would give too much pleasure to our enemies, if they should see dissension amongst us.”
Blue had to fight himself not to open eyes wide with surprise. Ochre… acting as the voice of reason?!
Following the remonstrance, Scarlet seemed to hesitate a second, before exhaling slowly and deeply. He sheathed his sword, his eyes still on Rhapsody. “Aye, brother Thor, you are right,” he admitted. “There should be no quarrels amongst us. He grinned, addressing Blue. “But you will need training soon, Hodur. And if it reassures your lady – and mine – I promise I will go easy on you…”
“Why should you be the one to train him?” Rhapsody asked with a frown.
“Is this worry I detect in my wife's voice?” Scarlet answered with a chuckle. He obviously wasn’t willing to say at whom he assumed this concern was aimed, but it was easy to guess his inner thoughts. “Do not fear, Lady Nanna… Who better than me to train him, indeed? In his present state, if he becomes clumsy with a sword, he might hurt me, accidentally. But I will be able to recover without any trace of it left on my skin. As you should know.”
Rhapsody blanched. Oh no… Could this be how the Mysterons intended it to happen? She glared furiously at Burgundy who was watching the scene quietly. By the smug expression she could see on his face, she became more convinced than ever that he had just that in mind, when he intentionally caused the altercation between Scarlet and Blue – by handing that sword to the latter.
The manipulative bastard… so full of himself…
“Lord Vali should go about his business, my brothers,” Scarlet then said – and Rhapsody wondered if he had noticed the uneasiness she was presently experiencing with the man in question. “You were mandated to keep an eye on Loki, Lord Vali. I trust you will be up to the task?”
“Of course, Prince Balder,” Burgundy confirmed obsequiously. “That is, as soon as we find out where Lord Loki has disappeared to.”
“Disappeared?” Blue asked with a concerned frown.
“Aye, my prince,” Green confirmed with a brief nod. “It would appear that the villain is nowhere to be found at the moment. My warriors are still searching for him.”
“Is it not proof enough that Loki is indeed guilty of wrongdoing?” Scarlet noted, not without dissatisfaction.
“I'm afraid this will not be proof enough for our sire, Odin,” Ochre answered.
Scarlet shrugged dismissively. “Nevertheless, it is obvious to my mind that Loki is guilty. I need but one excuse to run him through with my sword and be done with him once and for all.”
“But the prophecy…” started Green.
“… Is nothing but old maids' gossip,” Scarlet interrupted him. “Spread by Loki himself to preserve his miserable life from our liege's righteous justice. You will join the search, Lord Vali, and when you find Loki, you will watch his every move.”
“My intentions exactly, my Prince,” Burgundy replied with a slight bow.
“We will fall on him like hawks, the moment we have confirmation of his malevolence,” Scarlet pursued with a sinister glow in his blue eyes. “And then, nothing, not Odin's protection, nor the so-called Prophecy, will stay my hand. This, I vow to you. Loki will finally meet his well-deserved fate.”
* * *
“Harmony is alive? That’s wonderful news!”
Not long after everyone had departed the field, Blue had returned to his chamber. He had watched warily as Burgundy left with Green, to – as he pretended – join in the search for the missing Loki. Rhapsody had left with Scarlet, and Symphony had joined both Magenta and Grey, while Ochre announced that he had to meet with ‘his wife’ in that hunt invitation that he had mentioned earlier. That had left Blue to himself, with the opportunity to contact Doctor Fawn on Cloudbase. His chamber seemed to offer the best privacy – and safety – to do so.
As soon as he had contact with Fawn, he reported Burgundy's presence in the fantasy world, and expressed his concern at what the Mysterons’ intentions might be from there. Then he heard the doctor's news about Harmony, and his first reaction was one of relief and joy.
Then, of doubts.
“You're sure she's not a Mysteron?” he asked, stopping his pacing in the middle of the room.
“Positive. I can confirm one hundred percent that she is not a Mysteron. She's our same, good old Harmony. Don't ever tell her I said that. She might not appreciate being called ‘old’.”
“Rhapsody will be so pleased to hear she’s okay,” Blue pursued. “She was very upset when I told her that Harmony was dead…” He stopped suddenly, realising what the doctor had just said. “Wait, Doctor… She's not with you at the moment?”
“Actually… no. She’s on a mission right now.”
Fawn explained the latest developments; how Harmony had come into his office just in time to save his life, after having escaped from Angel One’s cockpit and the death planned for her by Burgundy. Then he told of his earlier findings on his computer, just before he had been interrupted by Rochester. He didn’t mention his discovery of Rochester being human; that would only serve to raise more questions, to which none of them had answers yet; they had little enough time to lose as it was right now. There would be time enough to discuss it later on, when the situation was resolved.
“As soon as I mentioned that door and that it might hide Scarlet behind it, Harmony volunteered to check it out. She left a few minutes ago.”
“I hope she’ll be careful,” Blue murmured. “We wouldn’t want to lose her now that we found her alive and well.”
“Don’t worry about Harmony,” Fawn reassured him. “If there’s anyone who can successfully pull off a mission like this, it’s certainly her. She’s like a shadow, that girl. With her Ninja-like skills, she’ll be able to avoid detection and find out what – or who – is behind that door.”
“You don’t fool me, Doctor. I know you must be as concerned about her as I am.”
“I try not to think about my worries too much, Captain. Or I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all.”
“Good point. Do you know where that room is, Doctor?”
“I had trouble finding it again, after we… dealt with Rochester. Harmony and I lost precious minutes going through the surveillance cameras again… But we did find it, eventually. If I’m not mistaken, that door is in the R&D department. Probably one of the laboratories there. It was rather difficult to say. You see, although I’ve been able to hijack the camera system, I failed to also access the program needed to tell me which camera I’m looking through.”
“R&D?” Blue repeated with a puzzled frown. “Why would they keep Scarlet there?”
“If indeed he’s there…” Fawn answered gloomily. “But if he is… I shudder to think what they could have done to him in such a place. There’s too many instruments there they could use to harm him – indestructible though he might be.”
“Doc, he must be alive,” Blue said softly. “Or he wouldn’t be here… in this fantasy world.”
“Yes… We must stay positive, you’re right. Anyway, we’ll soon know. Harmony has a headset communicator. She’ll contact me with the results of her investigation – as soon as she has them.”
“Meanwhile, we have to concentrate on the new problem we have here,” Blue continued. “Mainly, Burgundy’s presence. It would seem he wants to take a more active role in this dangerous game. Despite the fact that he… talks… like the others and appears to be as completely overcome by his character as the others, I suspect he’s fully aware of who he really is. I’m sure it’s all an act.”
“Yes – he would need to be in total control of himself in order to carry out his mission,” Fawn agreed.
“This name he took, Vali… it isn’t familiar to me. Can you look it up, Doc?”
“I’m just checking as we’re talking, Captain… Fortunately, I don’t need Worldnet for that. Cloudbase has a rather extensive library on our Intranet. It won’t be long now… Here it is…”
There was a short pause, during which Blue imagined that Fawn was reading the information he had discovered. When he found that the doctor wasn’t coming back fast enough to his taste, Blue called him back:
“Doc? Doctor Fawn, did you find something?”
“Yes, I did,” the voice of Fawn answered, with a sombre note to it. “Did you say that Burgundy seemed to want to take a more active role? Boy, you don’t know how right you were!”
“So?” Blue asked impatiently. “Who is this Vali character?”
“Well, according to legends… it seems that he killed Hodur.”
Blue rolled his eyes. “Oh, great…”
“… To avenge the death of Balder,” Fawn added.
“Wonderful,” Blue mumbled. “So if I understand his strategy correctly, he’ll make sure I kill Scarlet, then will kill me afterwards.”
“That might be his plan, yes,” Fawn confirmed. “Whether it is or not, I suggest you be extra-wary of him, Captain Blue.”
“Unnecessary advice, Doctor. I already am. Officially, he’s here to ‘keep an eye on Loki’. But I’m betting he’ll rather join forces with him and stab us in the back. I’m keeping my eyes wide open. Rhapsody too. Have you found anything on that Prophecy concerning Loki?”
“Not yet. But I’m working on it.”
“”We are too,” a thoughtful Blue said. “We’re just hoping that we will find out before it’s too late.” He paused a second. “We’d better end this communication, now.”
“Agreed. I’ll contact you shortly with more news.”
“S.I.G. The same here, Doc. Good luck and be careful, please.”
“To whom are you talking, brother?”
Blue had just cut contact with Fawn when the voice suddenly rang out behind him; he nearly jumped out of his skin, and turned on his heel. The door was wide open; Captain Scarlet was standing in the doorway leading into his chamber. He must have opened that door very quietly, Blue mused.
“Balder… I didn’t hear you come in,” Blue said, evading the awkward question.
“Obviously.” Scarlet entered, and approached slowly. “So… to whom were you talking, just now?“
“Nobody, of course… Do you see anyone but me here?” Blue gestured around to emphasize his point. He received nothing more than a doubtful glance from Scarlet. He cleared his throat. “I was just… wondering out loud about… the Prophecy… you know?”
“The Prophecy,” Scarlet repeated, slowly nodding his head. “Yes, I heard you say the word. Do not tell me you are worrying about that nonsense also?”
“Actually…” Blue continued a little awkwardly, “I was… wondering about… exactly what it means?”
“What?” Scarlet scoffed. “Either you are not being serious, brother, or you lost more than we suspected in your journey to the Icy Mountains!”
“And what if I did?” Blue asked with a raised brow.
Scarlet sighed, and lowered his head. “You are wasting my time with trivialities, brother,” he muttered. “What are you hiding from me? Or is it that you are trying to avoid the question that you know will soon come from me?”
“Pardon me?” Blue was genuinely surprised by the remark.
Scarlet raised his head, looking at him with gleaming eyes. “Where is she, Hodur?” he asked in a low tone.
Blue frowned. “Where’s who?”
“My wife. The lady Nanna,” Scarlet explained, approaching closer.
“Was she not with you?” Blue asked. “I seem to remember you left the field together…”
“Aye. We left together. But we quarrelled and we departed from each other’s company. Now I cannot find her anywhere. So I thought she had come to see you.”
“What did you quarrel about?” Blue stopped and did a double take, and his frown deepened, at the realisation of Scarlet’s second statement. “Why did you think she would come to see me?”
“The answer to both your questions is the same, Hodur,” Scarlet said meaningfully. “And I should think it would be obvious to you.”
He stopped in front of Blue, only a foot away from him, and glared coldly at him.
“I am not as foolish as you imagine,” he said in a hard tone. “And neither am I blind…” Fast as lightning, his hand grabbed Blue’s left wrist and lifted his hand to eye-level. “This ring, brother,” he said between his teeth. “My wife is wearing the very same. Did you exchange tokens, the both of you? While you were alone in the Icy Mountains?”
“WHAT are you talking about?” Blue lashed out, roughly removing his hand from Scarlet’s grip.
“You know very well what I mean,” Scarlet replied brusquely. “What did happen to the pair of you in those mountains, Hodur? Why did you go after the Valkyrie in the first place? I remember you insisted on going in my stead – when I offered myself. What was it, brother? One Valkyrie princess was not enough for you? You had to put two of them in your bed?”
“Are you totally crazy?” Blue exclaimed, the accusation finally sinking in.
“I think not!” Scarlet pointed an accusing finger at him. “You claim you do not remember what happened in the mountains. That is rather convenient… Or are you really telling the truth? I would not know for sure – but what I do know is that you seem to perfectly remember your feelings for a woman who is now your brother’s wife.”
“You ARE crazy!” Blue snapped back. “I do not harbour such feelings for D… for Nanna. How can you imagine such a thing?”
“I should have seen it before,” Scarlet said between his teeth, without hearing him out. “I had it before my eyes… I was warned, but I chose not to listen.”
“Who warned you?” Blue demanded suspiciously.
“That is enough, Hodur!” Scarlet lashed out. He literally sprang at Blue, before the latter could react, and roughly took him by the collar of his tunic. Blue found himself staring into his friend’s furious face. “You WILL tell me where my wife is!”
“I don’t know where she is!” Blue repeated.
“You are lying!” Scarlet accused, raging. “You will leave her alone from this moment on, brother, or I swear it to you, I will make sure you will!”
“Now this is enough,” Blue said warningly. “Stop this, please. I don’t want to hurt you, but...”
“You, hurt me?” Scarlet cackled, a cruel smile playing on his lips. “Brother, if you think you can best me, you are sadly mistaken.” He pushed Blue away, with such force that the blond man stumbled and had to struggle to stay on his feet. Scarlet started walking around him, pointing a warning finger at him. “Now, for the last time… Where is my wife?”
“For the last time – I don’t know! Listen, if you can’t find her, maybe there are reasons for you to worry. We have to join forces to find her…”
“I am worried,” Scarlet growled, interrupting him. “But, by Ymir’s blood, I will be damned to Hela’s domain, if ever I join with you to search for my wife, treacherous brother!”
“Paul, please, make sense! How can you believe a word you say?” Blue almost implored, calling on his friend’s real name in the hope of making him listen. It wasn’t to be the case, unfortunately; he watched with alarm as Scarlet drew his sword, seemingly ignoring his pleading.
“You leave me little choice, Hodur,” Scarlet said, playing with the sword and slowly advancing on Blue who was backing away as many steps. “Mark my words, you will tell me where you hid my wife, or I swear to you, I will slice the flesh from your…”
As Scarlet was nearly on Blue, he was alerted by a faint sound behind him and turned quickly on his heel – not quickly enough, as a huge earthenware jar came crashing right onto his head; it just missed his face as, by a last reflex, he turned his head the other way to avoid it. The blow was strong enough to knock him out almost instantly, while the jar shattered with a loud crash; he fell down on the floor, with a loud huff and sprawled there, unconscious.
Symphony Angel, standing over him, drew the dagger at her belt, her eyes glaring dangerously. Her intentions were obvious. Blue literally jumped over the prone body and caught her wrist. “No!” She looked up to him, eyes still flashing, but also inquiring what he was doing now. He nodded towards the door. “Close it,” he ordered hurriedly. “Before someone comes.”
She agreed with a nod of her own and strode to the door; she looked outside to make sure there was no-one around and pushed the door closed, before coming back to Blue; the latter had crouched over Scarlet, and was checking him over. There were cuts on the left side of his face, and a huge bump was starting to form under the hairline, but his vitals were strong. Blue drew a sigh of relief.
“Thank God, he’s okay,” he murmured.
“You do not want him dead?” Symphony asked, standing over them.
“No, I do not want that,” Blue said patiently, raising his eyes to meet hers. “Why would I want to kill him?”
“Did he not want to kill you himself?” Symphony asked with a perplexed frown. “I came just in time to hear his accusations…”
“I hope you trust they were not true?” Blue asked, eyeing the dagger. He did remember the jealousy scene of the previous night and wasn’t eager to repeat it right now.
“I do not know… ‘Less you swear it to me.”
Blue sighed. “I swear to you there is nothing between Nanna and me, and that I love only you.” He paused. “When this is all over, I will prove it to you,” he added, almost in an undertone.
She seemed satisfied with the answer. “Then I believe you.”
“Thank you,” Blue sighed again.
“What came over your crazy brother, then?”
“He’s not crazy,” Blue muttered, “he’s been manipulated. We all were.” He stroked the ring on his finger, thoughtfully. “They must have known. They knew it would give cause for Balder to suspect us. They were counting on it sending him off at the deep end, and that it would cause a conflict between us. A conflict that might end with his death – and the coming of Ragnarok.”
“I do not understand most of your words,” Symphony said softly. “But I do understand, however, that there is conspiracy going on. Our enemies seek to destroy you.”
“Us,” Blue retorted, getting to his feet. “All of us, Iduna. We're all in danger.” He turned to her. “Do you know how to make knots?”
Her eyes flashed. “I am a Valkyrie. I myself tame the horses I ride, dear husband. I should know how to restrain them, do you not think?”
“Well, instead of a horse, I want you to restrain him,” Blue said, pointing to Scarlet. “Securely. And you’d better gag him too. He may not be very happy when he comes to, and I would not want either for him to attack you or give alert until I come back.”
“And where are you going?” she enquired as he strode to the door.
“To search for Nanna. He said that he couldn't find her anywhere. That worries me. I'm just hoping I can find her so she'll help me make him see sense. Balder's room is as good a place as any to start looking for her.”
“So I am to stay here and watch over him?” Symphony said. She nudged the still body lying on the floor, with her foot. Scarlet didn't make a move.
“I won't be long,” Blue reassured her.
“And what if you cannot find Nanna?”
Blue stood still, his hand on the handle, puzzling over the question. He didn't answer it and simply shook his head. “Wait for me,” he demanded instead.
She grumbled her acknowledgement but Blue didn't wait to hear if she had anything else to say. He had opened the door to quickly depart, taking great care to close it behind him.
* * *
When Doctor Fawn had told Harmony in detail exactly what was happening on Cloudbase, and the others' predicament – and that only the doctor, Captain Blue, Rhapsody – and now herself – were aware of what was going, the young woman knew that it was her duty to join in her colleagues' attempt to foil the Mysterons' evil plans. The four of them were the only chance everyone onboard Cloudbase had of surviving, using all their skills and wits, all their capacity and strength to achieve what at the moment seemed like an impossible goal.
Captain Blue and Rhapsody were stuck in the fantasy world, struggling to find a solution from that end, while Doctor Fawn, from behind his computer, was desperately trying to find clues and information that would help them – the two teams keeping contact with each other by an ingenious communication device connected directly to the subconscious mind of both Blue and Rhapsody. Harmony couldn't help but smile at the doctor's cleverness in devising such a system. Truly, she reflected, desperation could lead to miracles. When Fawn continued his tale with his and Blue's suspicions concerning Captain Scarlet being the key to the situation, and finally mentioned his discovery of a guarded door in what he presumed was a section of the Research and Development department, she knew exactly what she had to do.
She had to go and check what was behind that door.
With her particular skills, keeping out of view from the security cameras didn't prove that difficult for Harmony Angel, despite Doctor Fawn's assertion that she would not be able to constantly evade them. She had argued that from the moment she had escaped Angel One's cockpit to enter Cloudbase, up until the moment when she had finally found him, she had been skilful enough to avoid them all. Of course, Fawn still had objections – he claimed that she had simply been incredibly fortunate, and repeating that feat a second time would be next to impossible – and too damned dangerous for her to get caught, and even killed when discovered. That did not deflect Harmony's resolution.
She took almost an hour to finally reach the R&D Department, going through corridors which were otherwise unused except for maintenance robots, slipping under cameras, hugging walls, and crawling, with all the dexterity of a real Ninja master. She addressed a silent prayer to her Japanese uncle Toshiro, her beloved sensei, who, by his teachings, had patiently honed within her the skills she was so expertly using today.
She was right at the corner beyond which Doctor Fawn expected the suspicious door to be. Keeping close to the wall, she leaned her head round the corner and checked, cautiously.
“Bingo,” she whispered, in emulation of her occidental friends.
She could see the door, about ten metres from where she was standing, with the Spectrum guard – probably Mysteronised Spectrum guard – standing before it, rigidly and vigilantly.
There was no way for her to get past him without being apprehended, or him having time to alert his accomplices.
She leaned back into her corridor, pondering what next to do.
The voice from the small receiver in her ear was a murmur that she alone could hear; she adjusted the tiny mic attached to it. “Hearing you loud and clear, Doctor,” she answered in a whisper. “Go ahead.”
“Captain Blue just made contact with me from the fantasy world,” Fawn told her.
“Are there new developments there?” she enquired.
He quickly told her. She sighed, closing her eyes. “I hope he and Rhapsody will be careful of that traitor,” she murmured.
“He actually said the same about you when I mentioned your mission,” Fawn replied. “I think I successfully reassured him that you’ll be doing okay.”
“Without showing your own concern, Doctor?” she said with a smile. “That might be quite a performance.”
“What is your present position?”
“I’m in a corridor, from where I can see the guard and the door,” she explained.
“I can see him too, on the camera. You won’t pass him that way, I’m afraid.”
“I already figured that out, Doctor.”
Harmony looked around in the corridor, brow furrowed, looking for a solution. Her eyes rose to the ceiling and fell on the maintenance trap leading into the air vents and power ducts. I wonder…
“Doctor, I may have found a way in,” she reported. “I can use the power ducts within the ceiling and crawl my way over the guard and into the room, without him ever suspecting a thing.”
“Harmony, will you actually be able to FIT in that narrow conduit?” There was doubt in the good doctor’s voice, and Harmony smiled.
“I am slim enough,” she answered quietly. “I’m sure I can squeeze in. If maintenance robots can, I can too.”
“You’ll be crawling amongst electricity cables, Harmony,” Fawn insisted. “Maintenance robots are insulated, in case of electrical short-outs or bare wires. You, on the other hand, will be more vulnerable. If you touch the wrong cables, you could get a hefty shock.”
“I’m ready to run the risk.”
“Of course you are, Harmony.” The doubt was still there, but there was now fondness as well in Fawn’s tone. “It’ll be a tight fit, but you’re the smallest of our Angels, and you probably are the only one who would be able to do it.”
Harmony kept herself from chuckling. Any of the other Angels could have taken umbrage at the remark.
“I take it as the compliment it’s meant to be, Doctor.”
“Be very careful, please?”
“S.I.G.,” she murmured.
The corridor in which she was standing was narrow enough for her to brace feet and hands against opposite walls and heave herself toward the trap over her head. Then, wedging her body between the walls as best she could, she used her hands to free the flap. It came easily, along with a cloud of dust that nearly made her cough. So far, she had successfully worked silently enough not to attract attention from the guard standing at his door; it would have been embarrassing to alert him with something as silly as a sneeze.
Pushing the flap inside the opening, she then slipped inside the conduit. There was enough space for her to turn around and explore her surroundings. That direction, she reflected; she looked into the conduit opening before her. She could see rows of intricate cables and pipes of all sizes running all the way into the narrow vent, and disappearing into the darkness beyond. This will indeed be a tight fit, she acknowledged. She mentally evaluated the position and distance of the room she was to enter. She sighed. This will be a long and harrowing venture…
Carefully, she put back the flap onto the opening, to remove traces of her passage, and started her progression into the semi-darkness, slithering amongst pipes and cables, and holding her breath so not to inhale the sudden amount of dust that assaulted her.
* * *
Captain Blue strode down the corridor, looking over his shoulder to make sure that nobody was around. Fate seemed to be with him and he reached Balder's chamber without encountering anyone.
The door was wide open, and Blue entered, feverishly looking around. The large room was empty and the only movement in there came from the wind blowing the curtains open.
“Dammit, Rhapsody… where are you?” he mumbled under his breath. “This is no time to play hide and seek…”
He walked to the windows and looked outside to see if he couldn't see her in the garden. No such luck, he thought with irritation. He turned around, and his eyes were suddenly attracted by something lying on the floor, beside the leg of the table.
It was a wooden stick, one end of it charred and still smoking. Puzzled, Blue approached, and crouched down to pick it up. Curious, he thought, coming to his feet and looking towards the fireplace in the wall, a good ten feet away from him. How could this have ended up here?
Then he saw something else, on the table next to which he was standing; weighted down by a heavy jar. It seemed to be a piece of yellowish paper… He lifted the jar and picked up the paper.
There were black words on it, and Blue realised that they had been hurriedly written with the half-burnt stick he was holding. He fully expected them to be runes of some sort – in this setting, it certainly would not have been surprising! – but he was rather perplexed to discover they were English words. He read.
His eyes opened wide.
“COME JOIN US AT YGGDRASIL. ALONE.
OR THE WOMAN DIES
“Oh no,” Blue murmured. “No wonder Scarlet couldn't find her…”
He crumpled the paper in his hand. Damn. It's a good thing he didn't find this paper as well. He would have rushed to her rescue.
And right into a trap, Blue was sure of it. Whatever Yggdrasil might be, wherever it was, he just knew that something bad was awaiting Scarlet there. They're using Rhapsody as bait – they want Scarlet there for their plans to work… Blue was convinced now, more than ever, that his friend was the key to end this game. Whether that key would save them all or be their ultimate destruction only depended on who was holding it.
I sure as Hell won't tell him about this ultimatum, Blue reflected, glaring murderously at the ball of paper. I won't let him go and play the Mysterons' hand.
But I simply cannot leave Rhapsody in the hands of that murderous creep.
It's up to me now.
“Have you found something?”
The voice behind him made him jump and he turned around to see Symphony standing in the doorway. She closed the door behind her and walked towards him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked her rather roughly. “Didn't I tell you to stay in the other room?”
“And watch over Balder? Yes you did, but since when do I blindly follow your orders, Hodur?”
“You never did,” Blue muttered.
She smiled thinly. “Do not concern yourself for your brother. He's well tied up, and will not be going anywhere.”
“That's perfect. Because it's imperative that he should stay at the palace.” She gave him a look of inquiry and he explained: “Nanna has been abducted by Loki. He took her to Yggdrasil and set up a meeting with Balder there.”
Symphony was obviously shocked by the news. “Ymir's Head,” she murmured. “What does he want with her?”
“Bait, of course. To attract Balder into a trap. But in his present state of mind, I doubt that Balder will be able to face danger as efficiently as he should.”
“You mean he is too angry at the moment to think clearly,” Symphony remarked. “With you.” She nodded her understanding. “He might not be careful enough if he goes against Loki and that could be a fatal encounter.”
“And he made it very clear that he doesn't want my help,” Blue confirmed.
“But is he not invulnerable?”
“I’m not sure how invulnerable he is,” Blue said thoughtfully. A suspicion was forming in his mind. He marked a pause, hesitating before asking the next question. “Iduna,” he finally said, a little hesitantly, and lowering his head. “Do you know anything about the Prophecy regarding Loki?”
She gave him another curious look. “I know it is the reason why Lord Odin is so lenient toward him,” she answered.
“Do you know exactly what it is all about?” Blue specified.
“You should know about it yourself, Hodur,” she remarked, with obvious perplexity at his question. “After all, this Prophecy comes from within your own people.”
“I don’t have time to explain myself,” Blue cut in suddenly. “Let’s say I forgot about it during my… misadventure in the Icy Mountains, okay? Now, what is that Prophecy about?”
She sighed. “From what I heard, it came from the mouths of the Ice Giants themselves,” she finally explained.
“What does it say?” Blue demanded again.
“‘Death will come by the evil trickster, and by his death, the one who walked with the Giants in turn will bring the end of all things…’” Symphony intoned. “I do not believe in it myself, but I think the Prophecy could not be clearer…”
“The evil trickster… Loki,” Blue said thoughtfully.
“Of course, Loki,” Symphony said, lifting an inquiring brow. “Do you know any other person whom this description fits like a glove?”
Blue seemed thoughtful. “And what of the rest of the Prophecy?” he murmured. “What if it wasn’t about Loki’s death? What if it was about someone else, to whom Loki should bring death?”
“You are thinking of Balder,” Symphony noted.
“This is all clear now,” Blue muttered under his breath. And fitting with what I know of the legend, yes… This is indeed Balder’s death that this Prophecy announces. By Loki’s hand, obviously.
And in the wake of his death, everything, and everyone, in Aesgard and Vanaheim will be destroyed.
“So what are we to do?” Symphony asked, seeing him so silent and thoughtful.
“I will be going after Loki myself.”
Symphony's eyes flashed. “You will do this? And save Nanna from his clutches?”
“That's the general idea, yes,” Blue reasoned.
“Why should it be you, husband?” she asked insistently. “Why do you wish to take that responsibility?”
“Don't tell me you're jealous again!” he sighed. “I thought you understood that…”
“Aye. I do understand. I am not jealous, Hodur. I am concerned.” She put a hand on his chest, tenderly. “If you so insist to play the hero, you do not have to do it alone,” she remarked. “Let me help you.”
“You will be helping me,” he said with a faint smile. “But by staying here and keeping an eye on Balder. And if possible, when he comes round, trying to explain to him that I am not his enemy.”
“At least, if you will not have me,” Symphony insisted, “ask someone else to go with you.”
“I cannot,” Blue retorted obstinately. “Loki probably waits for Balder to come after him alone. If he sees an entire troop going after him, he might get suspicious – and kill Nanna. No, it's better I go alone. That way, it'll be easier to follow his trail inconspicuously.”
“You do not even know the way to Yggdrasil,” she remarked. “How will you know where to find it?”
“I don’t have to know exactly where it is,” Blue reasoned. “Obviously, Loki does know where it is. I just need to find Loki’s trail and follow it.”
“If Loki indeed knows where Yggdrasil is, it is curious that he did not share this information with the Ice Giants,” Symphony reflected. “It is said that destroying Yggdrasil will hasten the world’s destruction.”
Curious indeed… Blue approved inwardly. “Yggdrasil is on their territory, isn’t it?”
“Aye, within the Icy Mountains.”
“But they don’t know where?”
“Nay. Else they would destroy it.”
“Mmm…” Blue was thoughtful. Or they know where it is but are unable to reach or destroy it. Or need something – some specific circumstances – in order to do so.
“I have to start the chase somewhere,” he murmured. “Can you give me an indication of where Thor and Tyr found Nanna and me, when we returned from the Icy Mountains?”
She smiled. “It is quite easy to find,” she answered. “It’s beyond the low plains, after you have crossed the Bifrost. At the limits of Fenrir’s Forest. I will show you the way.”
“Stop trying,” Blue said with a smile. “Just give me the directions I need. I’ll be able to find it.”
Symphony nodded. “When you have reached that position, you will have to go through the Forest, towards the Icy Mountains,” she said with a sigh. “There is but one safe path to cross the Forest, and that will be the one Loki will have taken. You will find his trail easily from there.”
“Thank you.” Blue leaned toward her and gave her a grateful kiss. She hung from his neck, and the kiss deepened, longer and with more passion, as he took her into his arms.
“I have to go,” he murmured into her ear. “Stay with Balder – watch over him, please.” This is more important that you can imagine, he added inwardly to himself. ”Promise me?”
“I will,” she confirmed. “I give you my word. Just be careful, my love.”
“I’ll come back,” he said with a new smile. “That is my promise.”
They left the room together to depart each their way, Symphony slowly walking back to their own chamber, and Blue taking the other direction in long strides, leaving the palace and heading for the stables where he would take a mount for his journey. She watched him until he disappeared from her view, even though she had reached her door and was standing in front of it, her hand on the handle. She didn’t feel right letting him go all by himself; she felt her duty was to go with him, and stand by his side during the upcoming battle.
But she had – foolishly – given her word.
Sighing with annoyance, she pushed the door open and entered. Angry with herself – and with Hodur’s determination – she slammed the door shut, without looking back. Pah! I should forget my promise and follow him, she thought savagely. He still talks crazy words and is not ready to face an adversary like Loki. He needs someone to back him up!
She was so engrossed with her own thoughts that she had not noticed the presence that was standing behind the door, waiting for her. Something heavy suddenly hit the back of her head; stars danced in front of her eyes at the violence of the blow and she crumpled. She was unconscious even before hitting the floor.
“Sweet dreams, Symphony Angel,” a voice she couldn’t hear told her in a cold, sarcastic tone.
Lieutenant Burgundy – in the guise of the warrior Vali – gave but one glance at the woman lying at his feet, making sure that way that she was properly knocked out. Satisfied that it was the case, he stepped over her, and walked towards the bound and gagged figure lying at the foot of the bed – also unconscious.
Slowly, Burgundy crouched in front of Captain Scarlet, unsheathing the dagger hanging from his belt. Thoughtfully, he played with the blade, and then looked down at the still face and closed eyes of the man lying there, defenceless – totally at his mercy.
He held the blade to Scarlet’s throat for a moment, before shaking his head and moving it down to the bound wrists.
“Wakey-wakey, Captain,” he murmured without humour, as he started slicing through the ropes tying Scarlet up. “I really can’t wait to tell you what’s been happening while you were sleeping... ” A smile started tugging at his thin lips. “I can’t wait to tell you that your… ‘estranged wife’ and your ‘dear, loyal brother’… have finally run away together.” He chuckled evilly. “Isn’t it lucky for you that I know exactly where you’ll be able to find them? I’m sure you’ll find the information interesting…” He cut through the last knots as his smile transformed into a very cruel and cold sneer. “… And the Mysterons will see the ‘Prophecy’ accomplished – and their act of retaliation completed!”
* * *
Crawling and slithering through the dust-infested duct indeed proved to be an irksome experience for Harmony Angel. Her body was covered with dust, and her hands and face had sustained a few scratches, but she had successfully managed to progress towards her aim, as silent as a shadow, and so slowly that it seemed to take an eternity.
When she saw the raw light appear through another flap in the floor of the duct, just up front, she knew that she had reached the end of her journey.
She crawled the last short distance and leaned over the flap to peer through the tiny ventilation holes. The room looked like a fully lighted and operational laboratory. She listened carefully for any sign of life; all she could hear was sounds of bubbling; no breathing of any kind, no walking, no indication that someone was inside that room.
With much care, she pulled on the flap; it disengaged with a dull sound, that echoed through the vent; she grimaced, hoping that it wouldn’t attract anyone’s attention. Still no sounds came to her ears from the room below; nobody had heard.
Harmony slipped her dust-covered head through the opening and cautiously looked around. Her earlier assessment that there was no-one around was confirmed; the room appeared empty. All she could see was electronic devices lying on a table, a huge wall of computers on one side of the room and a large tank filled with a bluish liquid, the surface of which was half-covered by a white froth bubbling steadily.
Harmony lowered herself through the opening, hanging from her hands, and let go to drop the remaining distance to the floor. Dirt covering her from head to toes flew everywhere upon impact and she dusted herself off in annoyance. I have to tell maintenance to send a vacuum robot inside those vents, she reflected inwardly. That amount of dust can’t be good for ventilation.
She looked around; her attention was mostly drawn to that huge aquarium-like tank. It was such an unusual device to find in a place like this, she thought. R&D being the domain of Doctor Lavender, she didn’t imagine that the austere and serious-looking scientist would have any interest in taking care of fish… In any case, not in such a huge tank!
From where she was, she could only see one end of the tank, where cables were attached, connecting it to the computers nearby. The rest of her view was blocked by a control desk, on which a dark screen was showing dots, lines and numeric data, which was constantly changing second by second. Curious about exactly what the tank could be, she approached – and noticed the sheer size of it: about seven feet long, three feet wide and four feet deep. As she drew closer, Harmony saw a series of cylinders were also mounted against the tank support; she started noticing sounds of all kinds – beeping from the control desk, and the bubbling of whatever fluid it was inside the tank and…
She stopped in her tracks as the tank came fully in view and she finally saw what it contained. She gasped in horror, and took one step back, her hand to her mouth.
A tall, practically naked man was immersed in the blue liquid, fastened by restraints on hands, ankles and torso, holding him down nearly at the bottom of the tank. The coloured liquid lent his skin a disturbingly ghostly tinge, giving him the aspect of a dead, still body.
And in truth, Harmony first thought he was dead. Then she noticed the mask strapped over his mouth and nose, which until that moment had been hidden by the eerie movement of his dark hair. She took note of the long plastic tube running from that mask to a kind of pump surmounting one of the cylinders mounted against the tank.
No… Not a pump, she suddenly realised.
She could see it working, and at the limit of her hearing, she could perceive the sound coming from it too – the hissing sound of pumped air, like a steady breathing.
As steady as the beeping coming from the control desk.
She walked around the tank, slowly, looking on with revulsion. There were many sensors attached to the still body inside, probably sending data to the computer to which this tank was linked; Harmony now checked for any sign of life, wanting to make sure that the man was indeed alive.
She saw small air bubbles, escaping from the mask, and that his chest was moving – just very slightly.
But the face, ghostly-looking in that strange fluid, motionless except for the hair movement, and the closed eyes, were a clear indication that the man was deeply unconscious. Harmony wasn’t surprised by her discovery – especially considering the identity of the prisoner inside the tank.
“What have they done to you?” she murmured, distress and compassion obvious on her beautiful face, as she leaned against the thick glass. She noticed how cold the surface was. “Captain… Why put you in this… thing? This is too horrible…”
She didn’t expect an answer from Captain Scarlet. The only one she received was the steady beeping coming from the control desk. Detaching her eyes from his still face, she straightened up and looked over into the tank and the bubbling liquid. Except for the bluish colour and the froth forming at the surface, it seemed to be similar to ordinary water.
What could it be, exactly? she mused. It can’t be that toxic – his skin doesn’t appear more damaged than it would be after a prolonged soak in regular water.
Harmony decided it would safe for her to test it herself. She rolled her sleeve halfway up and, tentatively at first, put her hand into the tank. It was very cold to the touch, almost icy, but the texture was that of water, so she plunged her hand deeper still, trying to reach Scarlet. She only succeeded in brushing his shoulder slightly, before she started feeling a tingling sensation in her hand; the sensation quickly propagated up her arm to her elbow. She quickly removed it from the tank.
Her whole forearm felt numb now, and she had barely any feeling left in her fingers; she almost couldn’t move them. Shaking her hand for the sensation to return, she grunted in annoyance, now having an idea of what this strange liquid was.
This is revolting – how could they treat a human being this way?
Disgusted, she used her communication device. It was time to make her report.
“Doctor Fawn?” she called into the mic.
“Harmony, thank God…” the physician’s voice answered almost instantly. “I was beginning to worry about you.”
“No need, Doctor… I’m perfectly all right.”
“Have you entered the room?”
“Yes, I’m inside…” Harmony answered. She was unsure how to continue.
“Did you find Scarlet?” Fawn asked again. “Is he… is he all right?”
“Oh, he’s alive, of that I’m sure… And he doesn’t appear to be in any pain…” Harmony hesitated. She took a sharp intake of breath. “… But I’m not sure if he’s… all right,” she finally said.
“What do you mean?” a concerned Fawn inquired. “Of course, he must be unconscious right now… Like all the others who are trapped in that fantasy world…”
“He’s unconscious, yes… but not quite like the others.” With apprehension, Harmony looked at the prisoner inside the tank. “I will need you, Doctor,” she added with a catch in her voice. “We have to free Captain Scarlet from this thing they have trapped him in – and I don’t know where to begin, without putting him in further jeopardy. I desperately need your help…”
She couldn’t bear looking at the tank anymore and turned around towards the other part of the room, if only to escape from that awful sight for a few seconds. She gasped aloud, as something new was suddenly revealed to her eyes. Hearing that sound provoked Fawn’s worry.
“Harmony, what is it? Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she breathed into the mic, her eyes riveted to what she had just discovered. She had not seen it until now, as it was mostly hidden under a huge electronic device, that cast a shadow over it. She cautiously approached, barely daring to breathe, unsure of what she should do – or if she should even be there. She stopped in her tracks and exhaled her relief slowly, realising that she was safe.
But she still felt nervous…
“Doctor,” she announced into the mic, “there’s something else…”
“What?” an agitated Fawn asked. “What have you found, Harmony?”
“Actually, it’s someone, Doctor.” Harmony took another step and looked closely at her discovery.
Another man was in the room, sleeping on a reclined padded seat under the electronic device, feet elevated and eyes closed, breathing regularly. Or rather, she corrected herself inwardly, he was unconscious too, like Scarlet – though he was obviously settled much more comfortably. And like Scarlet, there were sensors on his forehead, and on his chest, under his open black shirt – sensors which were attached to a control desk by his side. Just over his head, inset into that device which loomed over him, there was some kind of screen, which was sending a gentle, multicoloured play of light onto his face – a face so very pale, and covered with a stubble indicating that he had not shaved for days.
The sight of this man, unconscious though he was, was enough to send a shiver down Harmony’s spine.
“Harmony?” Doctor Fawn called, worried at not hearing from her. “What… WHO have you found?”
“Doctor,” she answered slowly, “you won’t believe me… and please, don’t be alarmed when you hear this… but I have Captain Black here, in front of me!”