She was 22 and the first batch of new recruits for Spectrum for 2071, as she boarded the plane for Skybase. Her name was Jane, and she had been trained to be an engineer. By anyone’s standards, she was small and slight.
Perhaps that was why he picked her to talk to. Or perhaps he had sat next to everyone who had ever sat in that seat on that aircraft since it happened, but she was the first one to see him. Or the date meant something special to him. No one would ever know.
“Can I help you with that?” Jane lifted her head to see the man with dark slicked back hair and pale skin staring down at her. He was wearing the uniform of a Spectrum captain, though she wasn’t entirely sure what colour it was.
It looked dark, and he was standing in the light.
“I’ve got it,” she said, determined to make a good first impression. Spectrum agents didn’t let anyone touch their bags. And she was now a Spectrum agent. “Sir.”
The man’s face twitched. “You sure about that?” He paused and added. “And it’s Conrad. We’re off duty and ‘Sir’ makes me sound as old as Colonel White.”
She blushed as she was fairly certain it wasn’t good practise to laugh at a superior officer. Especially if you’d never met him before.
He seemed to take this as an admittance, as the bag was out of her hands and in the overhead luggage rack before she could say anything more.
“Thank you, sir.”
He sat down next to her, in the aisle seat. “Don’t I at least get a name?”
“Jane Anderson. Engineer. Second class.”
The man smiled. “Conrad Lefkon.”
On the flight, they talked.
Conrad had been with Spectrum for nearly three years. He didn’t say what department he worked with, so she assumed he was a field agent, one of the colour captains, as they were known. He talked freely about the others, telling her to watch out for Magenta’s flirting, Grey’s love of swimming, even of Scarlet’s snoring.
In return, she told him about her training, her appointment to Spectrum, how excited she was. And about Joey, who had broken their engagement when he heard what she planned to do with her engineering degree, as he didn’t think their relationship could survive the secrecy and separation her career would require.
Conrad had been sympathetic.
“It’s hard making a relationship work in Spectrum.” he said, and he’d told her about his former girlfriend, Destiny. He showed her a photograph. She thought Destiny was pretty enough, but looked a bit of drip.
“Why aren’t you together anymore?” she asked, handing the photo back.
Conrad looked embarrassed. “I made a stupid mistake. And it screwed everything up.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, and Conrad shrugged.
“Worked out well for her. She’s with my best friend and they’re both really happy,” he said, calmly. He then smiled, sadly. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes.”
When the plane landed on Skybase, it was organised chaos, as everyone hurried to get off the plane. Conrad must have lifted her bag down, because it was sitting on the seat next to her, but he must have gone ahead of her, as she couldn’t see him.
When they left the aircraft, they were separated. The returning Spectrum agents were sent one way for DNA test to confirm identity and check for Mysterons among them, while the new agents were sent another for similar examination and registration before they would be assigned their new duties.
Somehow she missed Conrad.
Jane tried looking for him at meal times and asked the other engineers, but none of them had even heard of a captain called Conrad Lefkon. But most of them were new like her, and a few admitted they had problems knowing the captains by anything other than their colours.
She’d been on Skybase for about a week, and she was eating in the canteen when a voice came over her shoulder: “I haven’t seen you here before.”
She glanced up to see a man dressed in pink body armour gazing down at her.
“Do you come here often?”
“Everyday. It’s the only place to eat on Skybase, Captain Magenta.”
Jane watched as he slid down opposite her, clutching at a cup of coffee.
“So you know me.” She could almost see him running though a mental list, trying to figure out where and when he might have met her.
“No. Conrad warned me to watch out for you.”
His face creased. “Conrad?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Captain Conrad Lefkon.”
The effect of this simple sentence on the man was incredible. The coffee he had just taken a sip from was suddenly all over the table, and he was on his feet.
Magenta didn’t give Jane an opportunity to ask what was wrong. His helmet mic was down and he was yelling into it: “This is Captain Magenta. I need security in the canteen on the double. Spectrum is Red!”
The voices were arguing outside her cell. Jane could hear what they were saying, but it didn’t make any more sense than the rest of the day had done.
After they arrived at the canteen, the security guards had brought her here. Blood had been taken, then she had been... interrogated, she supposed. They wanted to know about Conrad, about where she’d met him, what they’d talked about, what he’d told her.
It was strange. If Conrad was a Spectrum captain, why was everyone acting like this?
The doors opened, and female captain in yellow body armour walked in.
“Get up,” she said, her voice icy.
“I don’t understand.”
“I said,” Captain Orchre replied, her authority rebating in every word, “get up. The colonel wants to see you.”
She followed the garish captain down the corridor, trying desperately to ignore the way everyone stared at her, and pressed themselves against the wall as she passed. What was going on?
They reached the colonel’s office, and Captain Ochre knocked. As the door was opened, she saluted.
“Sir. Engineer Second Class Anderson as requested, sir.”
“Please, come in.” Colonel White looked even more impressive in person, as he sat behind the grey desk. Two colour captains, one in red, the other in blue stood beside the desk.
“Ms Anderson.” Colonel White’s voice was less icy than Captain Ochre’s had been, but no less lacking in authority. His grey eyes stared at her, and Jane had an uncomfortable flashback to her school days, and being in trouble with the headmaster. “You said a man called Conrad Lefkon helped you with your baggage, showed you a picture of his girlfriend and gave you information about life on Skybase.”
“Yes sir.” She paused, swallowing. “Sir, I don’t understand what’s wrong. He was wearing the uniform and said he was a Spectrum agent.”
“’Was’ being the operative word,” muttered Ochre, but low enough that Colonel White’s only response was to glare a slightly warning glance at her.
“Was this the man you met?”
He pushed a photograph across the table. Jane picked it up. It was a standard Spectrum identification picture, of a stern-faced man with pale skin and black slicked back hair. He was wearing a black version of the uniform the three captains in the room were wearing.
“Yes, that’s him. Sir.”
The captain in red looked to be in pain. “You’re quite certain?”
Colonel White nodded and spoke into the intercom. “Please come in.”
A woman in a white flight suit stepped in. She had blonde hair and blue eyes that stared at Jane like she was something rather disgusting on the sole of her shoe. She was wearing the insignia of the Angels, Spectrum’s elite fighters’ squadron.
“Is this the woman whose picture he showed you?” The Colonel asked, leaning forward.
Jane paused, looking at the woman. “Yes, I think so. The hair was different though.”
The colonel nodded and dismissed Destiny, who walked out the door, without even looking at Jane. The colonel then glanced at Ochre, who stepped forward. “Please, Captain. Give Ms Anderson the report of your investigation, that you presented to me earlier.”
Ochre nodded. “Security tracked down people who arrived on the plane with you last week. We asked them whom you were with. They said you were alone.”
Jane opened wide eyes. “But…”
“They didn’t see anyone helping you. They were quite positive on this point. And we checked about the officers’ leaves schedule. No Captain was on leave that weekend, so none should have been returning on that same plane.” Ochre made a pause. “The duty officer and air airport staff confirm this.”
Jane couldn’t understand this. “But he was there,” she said. “I saw him! I didn’t dream it!”
There was a silence before the colonel spoke. “The name of man in the picture was Conrad Leftkon. And indeed, he was a Spectrum agent. And he also was in a relationship with Destiny Angel, the leader of the Angels squadron. The young woman who just left.”
“I… I don’t understand, sir.”
“You couldn’t have seen Conrad Lefkon,” the red captain said.
“Because he’s dead.” The blue captain snapped this out, watching her very closely.
A feeling like she was being plunged into icy water gripped Jane at the sound of these words. She shook her head in denial.
The colonel spoke again: “Conrad Leftkon was killed on Mars in the opening days of the war with the Mysterons. His body was later resurrected and used by them. So you can understand Captain Magenta’s concerns, when you mentioned his name, and having talked with him.”
“But…” Jane gripped the edge of the desk, feeling like she was going to faint. She had being briefed, everyone had been, on the Mysterons and what they could do with a corpse, but Conrad had being warm, friendly. His eyes had been brown, not green, and he behaved perfectly normally. He couldn’t have been a replicant. “So I talked to a Mysteron agent?” she murmured with incredulity.
But Captain Ochre shook her head. “No. We went over that plane with a fine toothed comb. There was no evidence of Mysteron DNA anywhere. The seat next to yours had not been assigned to anyone and remained empty throughout the flight.”
Jane felt like she was falling down a deep pit, her head spinning. She didn’t understand this. She wasn’t lying and she hadn’t imagined it. She didn’t want this, she wasn’t a field agent, she’d joined Spectrum for the planes, not to get involved in interplanetary conflict. It was too much. She thought someone was speaking to her, possibly Ochre continuing with her report, but she couldn’t hear or understand what she what saying now.
She swallowed. “Sir, I’d like to request a transfer off Skybase.”
Colonel White’s face relaxed. “I think that might be for the best.”
“A shilling for them.”
Captain Scarlet blinked as he looked up to see Captain Blue bending over him, looking concerned. “Excuse me?”
Blue shrugged, sitting down next to him. “A penny seemed too cheap.” he paused, and added. “I just spoke to Green. Jane Anderson arrived back in London. She’ll be assigned to the training facility until a permanent post can be sorted out.”
“Which might take some time.” Scarlet sighed. “What happened there?”
Blue sighed, avoiding Scarlet’s gaze. “Got a few theories, but none of them seems to explain… everything.”
“What are they?”
Blue fiddled with his cuff, still refusing to meet Scarlet’s eyes. “First theory is that Jane Anderson fell asleep on the plane, and had a particularly vivid dream. Conrad was used, as were all of us, in some promotional material, and that’s how she’d know him. A case of so-called ‘secret memories’ coming to the front.”
“But the personal details she gave…”
“Could have been picked up from gossip. “ Blue grinned dryly. “Let’s face it, everyone loves a scandal.”
“It’s not a particularly satisfying explanation, but it’s the most logical one,” Blue interjected rapidly. “Second is Anderson suffered a psychotic episode, again retrieving information from her subconscious. It’s unusual, though not unheard of in people in their early twenties, but all tests for standard mental illnesses were negative.”
“And the third explanation?” Scarlet asked
Blue shifted even more uncomfortably, “ The third explains everything, but makes less sense.”
“What do you mean?”
Blue sighed. “Conrad Lefkon did sit next to her.”
“But there was no trace of Mysteron DNA anywhere on the craft.” Blue watched unhappily as Scarlet grasped what he was saying. “You’re saying that he appeared to that girl in some form of ghost?”
Blue hesitated. “I know it sounds crazy, but it does fit the facts.”
“No.” Scarlet shook his head. “No, Conrad is alive. I’ve talked with him, since the… incident on Mars. It was him.”
Is that what you believe, or what you, all of us, want to believe? Blue thought, watching the agitated man. Because if Conrad, in some form, still exists, then so does Paul Metcalfe.
He shrugged. “Conrad was officially buried and dead for nearly two weeks before he reappeared. No one’s really sure what the Mysterons did to his body, anymore than they are with yours. It’s possibly during that time his soul escaped – if souls exist. Might be why we got you back, but not him. Your spirit was still inside that body the Mysterons gave you.” He shrugged. “Like I said, none of these theories fit all the facts,” He sighed. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened. We’ll never know exactly who was in the aisle seat.”
Scarlet sat in silence, staring out into the night.
This story was beta-read by members of the Beta-Readers Panel. Any remaining mistakes are the author's.
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