He saw the wreckage of the truck first, twisted and mangled almost beyond recognition.
Adam felt his chest tighten as though his body armour was trying to crush him, as he brought the bike to a halt. He didn’t bother looking in the burnt-out remains of the driver’s cab. Experience told him that if the guy hadn’t been dead when he hit the diner, then there was no way he could have survived it.
In fact, there’s very little chance that anyone could survive that, he thought, concentrating the bike’s sensors on the remains of the diner but, if anyone could, it was Scarlet. He offered silent thanks that the Mysterons had chosen to use an abandoned diner for their meeting, rather than one in a populated area.
During his service with US Army in the Terrorism Wars, he had seen what could happen if a fuel truck was detonated in a civilian area. It was a favourite trick of the Berklin rebels.
Shaking his head to rid it of the memories of blackened, charred corpses, he focused his attention on the bike’s readings. They were humans. Scarlet was...whatever he was – the guy had survived being through though the electric field of Skybase’s engines. He could survive this.
In spite of these positive thoughts, he felt a stab of relief as the sensors confirmed that there was a life-sign in the wreckage.
Drawing his gun, Blue stepped over the remains of a wall, staring around the wrecked diner. By some miracle, the counter stood at one end, comparatively undamaged. The tables were like blackened tree stubs, and the booths no longer existed. Truck had apparently impaled itself on one of two pillars, before exploding, but the second one was still intact. And at the bottom, chained to this second pillar was...
“Paul.” He ran over, touching his helmet, which he hadn’t bothered to remove when he stopped. “This is Blue. Spectrum is Red. Emergency medical assistance needed at my location. Immediately.”
“S.I.G., Captain Blue.” Lieutenant Green’s calm voice came though the headset. “A team is on their way. E.T.A. two minutes.”
“Better halve that,” he muttered, pulling the helmet off and kneeling down beside his friend.
“Hang in there, Paul,” he muttered, withdrawing a laser pencil from his belt and working on removing the cuffs that bound his friend’s wrists behind the pillar.
“Captain Brown to Skybase.”
Leaning against the Spectrum Raid bike, baking in the midday heat, Ricky Nolan, also known as Captain Brown, Spectrum’s liaison officer, rubbed at his head trying to move the sticky strands of hair without dislodging the cap. Barely here an hour, and he had already broken two of his own rules for these situations, and was about to break a third.
Firstly, never be the only Spectrum Agent at a scene.
Well, there was nothing really that could be done about that. His preferred partner, Captain Indigo, John Roach, was stuck in Scotland undergoing interrogation training, and he hadn’t thought he’d need anyone else. It was Scarlet after all.
Then he’d come down from Skybase seen the covered body and Blue, who was looking like a man who wanted to be sick but had nothing left in his stomach to be sick with. Brown hadn’t thought, just waved him on to the transport plane, the other man barely glancing in his direction.
He could have call Skybase and asked for back up, but the scene was secure, and anyway he had the local FBI and law enforcement agencies to back him.
Second: never let anyone leave the crime scene without DNA and fingerprints.
Brown looked around the scene, shaking his head. Chance of any DNA, even of the first victim in the truck, surviving would be a fine thing, and fingerprints… He shrugged to himself. Most Spectrum personnel were on AFIS, the military database. If they weren’t, Spectrum had their own records; he’d just compare any fingerprints that might have been fused on the plastic of the tables or metal of the cuffs or the pillar with them to eliminate. The casualty and any chance that Scarlet had of surviving this had to be the priority.
Third, he thought, as he heard Green’s voice replying, never leave a crime scene before it was processed.
“Skybase here, Captain Brown. We’ve got confirmation.” He sighed. “Truck was from of Kagutski Petro- Chemicals. They’re a local firm, so I’m heading over with the FBI to see if we can get an ID on the body.”
“There was definitely a corpse then?” He paused, reluctant to describe the charred fragments that CSI had already lifted out of the cabin as a corpse. “Remains of one.”
Green was smart, she’d understand that. He paused again, reluctant to ask, but knowing he had to.
“Any word on the other casualty?”
He could hear the worry in Green’s voice as she said, “No word as yet.”
It had to be an engineer to do carry out this plan, because only an engineer or a security officer could get the bomb past security. And Captain Lime, Spectrum’s head of security, chose her people as much for their loyalty as their skills.
Not that she prized one over the other, Spectrum Security was some of the best in the world, and it had to be.
Storey remembered overhearing once that Spectrum faced nearly 1000 security breaches each week, ranging from bombs to hacking attempts, but that most people never heard about them. Security dealt with them quickly and efficiently.
That didn’t mean that there weren’t weaknesses in the system. He was proving that.
He watched the luggage slide through the X-Ray machine, where a bored security officer cast an eye over it.
He’s not suspicious. Why should he be? He knows Storey, has seen him make this trip hundreds of times. His partner, Agent Castle, sitting on the other side of the machine sees nothing more suspicious than an engineer, anxious to get on shift. The X-Ray Machine has always been more for show, for a sense of security, than for any practical use anyway.
It’s the DNA that’s important, and he’s a human being, Jeremiah Storey, Spectrum Engineer Second Class and the machine will confirm that. Nothing to be suspicious about, nothing for security to worry about.
He takes the bag as soon as the light goes green. Castle frowns, and for a second he thinks she’s going to call him on it, get him to open the bag. But she just waves him through, evidently just dismissing him as being late for his shift.
He glances at his watch; he is late, but it’s not going to matter much anyway.
Normally a soft undercurrent buzzed through the off-duty lounge, as people chatted, read, or just sat in groups.
Today, however, as Captain Indigo, John Roach, pushed the door open; he was surprised by the silence that greeted him.
“What’s going on?” he asked the room at large, heading over to the coffee machine. He should really be catching up on some sleep, especially after a week’s sleep deprivation, but he had made the mistake of falling asleep on the transport back, and having being shaken awake by a kindly stewardess, it meant he wouldn’t get back to sleep before that evening.
He had tried the liaison office first; looking for his partner, Captain Brown, but Brown was on an assignment. So, he had headed up to the lounge to grab some coffee, to help him feel more alert, if not awake.
“You haven’t heard?”
Indigo chuckled softly at Harmony Angel. “Just got back from Castle Balmeath. All I’ve heard for a week is “Where is Skybase?””
“Scarlet’s been injured,” Ochre explained, from her seat. She sat hugging her knees, her brown hair trying to fall in front of her eyes.
John shrugged. “Nothing new there,” he said, pouring a cup of coffee
“This time it’s bad,” Magenta said, going over to join them. “They brought him in covered.”
John hissed, breathing in through his teeth. That was bad. Covering was only used for two groups, the dead and those with injuries so severe that Command was worried about the other agents seeing them. Either way, not good.
Glancing over, he watched as Ochre hugged her knees a bit tighter, and as Harmony played with her hair.
“He’ll be all right,” he said, with a confidence he didn’t feel.
It feels like much longer, but time seems to have slowed down since I found my friend’s body. The one-and-a-half minute wait for medical assistance felt like a year, and the journey to Skybase seemed to take a century. Lucky in one sense, I suppose, that Captain Brown, was already in Phoenix, and secured the scene. Otherwise I might be stuck down there still. Not that I’m sure it would be any more bearable.
Destiny says that ‘he’ll be O.K., Adam,’ and she looks at you, wanting you to agree with her, to reassure her. Why should she expect that? She’s a pilot, an experienced one at that. She’ll have seen what a crash can do, what fire can do. You should just keep your mouth shut, but unfortunately clear thinking seems to have taken a vacation.
‘You didn’t see him.’ You nearly tell her about it then.
About the flesh almost burned away from the chest, leaving the left lung gone and the heart exposed. About the flesh ripped off the face, so that you could see the skull beneath it. About the body-suit superheated so that it combined with the burning flesh, creating a mess that the medics decided just to get to Skybase and worry about attempts to remove it later. And the thing that makes you feel really, really, sick, even though you have no idea why, the right arm almost completely unharmed, protected by the rest of the body and the standard issue boots, polished to perfection with barely a scratch on them.
Thankfully, Colonel White enters the room before you have a chance, and Gold comes in only a few seconds after him.
You know, the instant he enters that its bad news, and you’re angry with yourself, both for being the person to ask the question, when any fool knows the answer, and for getting your hopes up. You know the odds for victims with those sorts of injuries, and even retrometabolisation can’t beat the odds all the time.
Your anger, however, is nothing compared to Destiny’s, who looks for a moment like she’s going to attack Gold.
In a strange way, you’re grateful to her as it gives you something to do. You focus on her, focus on getting her out of there, of taking care of her, because that’s something you can usefully do.
Skybase is a small base, and gossip is already circulating. Most people give you a wide berth and a sympathetic look, as you guide Destiny though the corridors.
Harmony is already waiting outside Destiny’s quarters, and she reaches out taking the woman from you. While no words are actually said, it’s clear your presence is superfluous.
You walk back to your own quarters as though in a dream, noticing no one. Lock your door and strip off everything you’re wearing and place it all, even the underwear in the incineration chute, though it’s only supposed to be use for contaminated clothes.
Turn your shower up to maximum and step in. Stand there for as long as you can stand it, as though the water can wash away what happened.
Security is one of the most demanding postings in Spectrum and there’s always something going on that needs attention from Engineering.
Monty Baker didn’t even bat an eyelid when Storey walked up and offered to do some routine maintenance work for Security.
Probably the idiot thinks I’m sweet on one of the officers, Storey thought, as he entered the steel room that formed the joint headquarters for Spectrum Security and Intelligence.
In the middle sat a miniature version of the computer Lieutenant Green used on the main flight deck, displaying images and data from across Skybase, monitored by a Security officer. At the other end of the room, by the entrance to the brig, stood a raised desk, with another officer sitting there, watching the brig. Storey knew both of them slightly and risked a smile as he knelt down beside the computer and pulled open a panel.
If the X-Ray machine was more for show than anything else, then this was the real deal. Behind the panel he was removing was the full protection of Spectrum: everything from ‘fire’ to the general ‘Spectrum is Red’ alert could be accessed and controlled from here.
Some were also accessible and monitored by Lieutenant Green in Central Command, but Green had designed the system and was much less likely to miss any changes made to it.
He looked in, examining the wires. There were three systems he would have to overcome, if the bomb was to remain hidden for another six hours.
The first was the sweep for explosive devices. Carried out once every six hours, it was monitored both from Security and Command Central, with the authorisation of Captain Lime, the Head of Security, and Colonel White, before anything could be done to alter the system. Thus, there was no way he could alter it to ignore the fusion bomb sitting at his feet.
However, the sweep was only done once every six hours. It had originally been programmed to go every hour, but complaints had come in that it was adversely affecting other systems, so a compromise had been reached.
The sweep also was programed to ignore regulation explosive devices, the missiles for the aircraft, for example. If he could get the bomb to one of the hangers and possibly even into an empty missile crate, the sweep would pass over it without ever seeing it.
The second was a bit trickier. Since the incident with the Mysterons’ electronic bugs, a sweep had been put in place to detect unauthorised electronic devices. This was much more thorough than the bomb sweep, meaning that every electronic device, from a captain’s razor to the main computer had to be registered. If it wasn’t, then an alarm went off and the miscreant had security officers tearing their quarters apart.
He could have logged on and registered the bomb, but that would have left a record and he still wasn’t entirely convinced that this plan was going to work. It seemed slightly fantastic. Then again he hadn’t thought they could kill Scarlet either, but both security officers were discussing it in hushed voices.
The sweeps’ only real weakness was that he knew the pattern it would follow. It was carefully designed to appear random, but even now completely random number generators were a myth. He’d checked the pattern for that day when he was in engineering, and by the time the scan reached the area where he planned to hide the bomb, it would be too late to do anything about it.
That only left the third thing, his own escape, the reason he was here.
Storey was the first to admit he was no pilot. He didn’t even especially like the planes that brought them to and from Skybase. However Skybase’s location meant that all personnel were required to be trained parachutists. Despite having never done it before, Storey had scored highly on the course and had indulged in some more training during his leave, something he had failed to mention to his superiors.
He knew where the suits and chutes were kept; it would be child’s play to get his hands on one from an open locker as the area was not particularly secure.
However, all entrances and exits to Skybase were monitored from Security Head Office and any authorised access resulted in an alarm sounding. There was also a monitoring facility for the pressure on Central Command, but providing the pressure re-established itself, as it would do as soon as he was out, Lieutenant Green was unlikely to be concerned. Security officers, engineers, pilots were always up on the flight deck, carrying out investigations or routine maintenance work. Green wouldn’t mention it until the end of shift, and by then the bomb would have gone off and it would be too late.
All he had to do was disable the alarm here.
He checked that he had the right panel, and stood up to retrieve the spare tool kit that was always kept there.
“What are you doing?”
Lieutenant Verdant, Captain Lime’s second-in-command, towered over him. To be fair, Verdant towered over everybody, being nearly six foot six and nearly as broad.
Rumour circulated that Verdant had been a member of La Gendarmerie Mobile, the Parisian Riot police, before being recruited for Spectrum, and certainly he displayed the ill-humour for which his former comrades were famed.
Storey jumped slightly, not that that was suspicious. Most people were nervous of Verdant.
“I was told to check the connections for the cameras from Deck 22.”
From his base, Lieutenant Amber piped up, “It’s being flickering all day. Sir.”
Verdant nodded slowly. “Then why do you not use your own tool kit?”
Storey forced himself to keep looking into the small, dark eyes. “I don’t have the right equipment here.”
Verdant’s eyes rested on the tool kit, then back to Storey’s face. Storey could tell he was sweating, his face heating up.
You could almost see the connections being made, as Verdant confirmed that he had enough reason to stop legitimate engineer work being carried out, without risking an interdepartmental feud.
His mouth was open, the phrase evidently on the tip of his tongue.
Sir, would you please open the bag, and then all would be lost.
“Lieutenant. There you are.” Captain Lime strolled into the security. The Head of Spectrum Security looked like a dwarf beside her second-in-command, but her entrance had the necessary effect. Verdant automatically jumped to attention, forgetting about Storey, and the Security chief didn’t even seem aware of him.
“I’m going to need you to cover my shift here this evening and arrange cover for two other shifts.” Lime’s face was creased, the scar that bisected the right side of her face seeming deeper than usual. “With Captain Scarlet’s demise, and the current recruitment situation, I’ve had to rearrange shifts to cover his and Captain Blue’s shifts for the next two weeks.” Her face was tense. “After that, I need to speak with the colonel.”
“I would be honoured, sir.” Verdant reached out to take the electronic pad with the details on it. Lime nodded, pushing her hair out of her face. “Hopefully we will get some new recruits to ease things up, but until then, the whole base is on double shifts. Make sure the necessary additional arrangements are in place.”
“Sir.” Verdant was practically saluting. Storey busied himself behind the panel as Captain Lime directed an “as you were” nod to her three underlings. She walked right past Storey, but her mind was clearly elsewhere, as she never even looked in his direction.
“Captain Brown to Skybase.” Brown leant back against the wall of the building, resisting the desire to mop his brow.
It felt like it was nearly 100 degrees out here. The trucks of Kagutski Petro- Chemicals stood lazily in the sun while the tarmac around them steamed. The employees were hiding out in the offices and the weather was only fit for “Mad dogs and Englishmen”, as Scarlet would say.
Except he was out here and he wasn’t English, so what did that make him?
“Skybase, we have a tentative ID on the body, based on the truck, as the body was too badly damaged for conventional identification methods.” He consulted his pad again.
“Harris Ford, aged 58. He was definitely driving 098 truck, and no one’s heard anything from him since late yesterday afternoon, when he was supposed to be heading west out of Phoenix. It’s all circumstantial, but it’s pretty compelling.”
“He has any family?”
“Wife.” He can hear the bitterness in her voice. “And two kids at college.”
Just an ordinary guy working a little overtime to make ends meet. A guy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, like his father, like thousands of people since this mess started.
“Agent Granger’s just getting an address for the wife and an Inventory for the truck. Might be able to figure out if the truck was targeted specifically or if it was just chance,” he added, dropping his voice. “Official story for the family and the bureau is he was forced off the road by terrorists, probably in truck jacking.”
“Close enough to the truth. Keep us briefed.”
“S.I.G.,” he muttered, glancing over to the agent – who looked too young to have graduated high school, let alone be an FBI agent – who walked over, waving two pads with the information on them.
“Hey, Adam, wait up!”
“Can’t. Colonel wants to see me.”
Alex Springs, also known as Dr. Platinum, Skybase’s resident therapist, put on a burst of speed, to stand in the lift next to him.
“You’re back on duty?” she asked sounding surprised.
Adam shrugged, stepping on to the lift. “I wasn’t the one injured.”
“No,” Alex agreed, stepping on to the lift with him. “But you were the one who found your best friend’s body, after he’d been blow up.” As Adam reached for the button for the Command Deck, she continued, throwing her hand over the button. “And it’s not the first time.”
Adam froze and Alex pressed her advantage.
“You were in Bura, in Bacura, when a suicide bomber drove a fuel truck into a café full of American soldiers. A café you yourself had been in only moments before.” She paused. “You escaped with minor cuts and bruises, and were back on duty in a few days later.”
“What’s your point?” Adam demanded.
Alex bit on her lip.
“I checked your records. There’s no record of any counselling being offered, nor did you seek any.”
“So?” he exclaimed.
“So...” Alex stared at him. “Adam, I'm asking you, voluntarily, to come and talk about it.”
“After the mission.”
“You can’t pretend it hasn’t affected you.”
“And you can’t pretend that has anything to do with it.” He glanced around the thankfully deserted corridor, dropping his voice. “You’ve being writing a paper on Scarlet. On how ‘frequently coming back to life’ has affected him. Now he’s gone, I’m your next best thing!”
The flushed look on Alex’s face told him that he struck near to the mark. “I am concerned about you,” she reasoned.
“Yeah.” He leant over and pressed the button.
Alex glared. “I could ask White to confine you to barracks, until you submit psychological examination.”
“Yeah, you could.” He frowned at her. “But you can’t. Because if White had agreed to that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Alex was defeated, and she knew it. “You do need to talk about it, Captain Blue,” she said firmly, using his codename for emphasise.
She was right, Spectrum did have a counselling policy for after the death of a partner, but Adam was damned if he was losing this argument.
“After the mission.”
“What happened to you?” Spectrum’s Head of Intelligence, Robert Coulson, known as Captain Orange, leant back in his chair as Captain Lime walked in with a face like thunder and a red handprint on her left cheek.
“Captain Magenta and I had a disagreement, when I informed Captain Ochre that she would be covering Captain Scarlet’s shift on Friday.”
Orange paused a moment to translate this.
“Magenta hit you?”
“No.” Lime replied, her voice carefully neutral. “Ochre did. When I informed Captain Magenta that Dr. Gold had pronounced Scarlet death, and we couldn’t keep living in a fantasy.” She shrugged. “It’s O.K.; everyone’s on edge today.”
“Including you.” Robert sighed. “It wasn’t your fault!”
“Not yours either.” Lime glanced at her partner and friend. “The tip was good, and you had to order follow up. Scarlet should have taken back up. Would have, if we had more people. There was no way to know how it was going to turn out.”
Orange didn’t reply, his face darkening. His voice when he spoke was calm though. “You here to ask me to cover a shift?”
Lime accepted the subject change without comment, telling him more than words how exhausted she was. “Yeah. Monday Alpha. Until we get a replacement, everyone’s on double shifts. The colonel has already agreed to put the paper work through.”
“I don’t understand.”
Miranda Ford was a pale-looking woman, who stood in her kitchen fiddling with the coffee pot, even though both the Spectrum captains and the FBI agents had refused coffee.
“Harris would never have picked up a hitchhiker, never.”
“The group may have pretended to be broken down or even stepped out in front of your husband to get him to stop.” At the slightly shocked look on the woman face, Captain Brown continued. “We think the terrorists hoped that all evidence of their presence would be destroyed by the resulting explosion, and that it would be written off as just another driver falling asleep at the wheel.”
Miranda was nodding, her head moving up and down like an old fashioned nodding dog. “But you saw though that?” she asked, her voice higher-pitched than usual. “Then why didn’t you stop it?”
Before either could formulate a response, she continued in the same high-pitched voice. “Why couldn’t you stop them? You said they were aiming to kill a member of your staff, but why did they have to kill my husband? You people,” she pointed at Brown, her finger shaking. “You people are supposed to keep us safe, not be the reason they die. He was a good man and –”
“Mom.” Her oldest son, home for the weekend from College, intervened grabbing her. She collapsed against him shaking with sobs.
“I think you better go.”
Ricky nodded. “We are all very sorry for your loss,” he said, carefully addressing the boy, trying to convey that it wasn’t just words: his sympathy and understanding were genuine.
“Don’t be,” he replied. “Just catch the bastard who did it.”
Ricky nodded. “We’ll do our best.”
They stepped out in to the evening sun, not that it had really made any difference in the temperature. Almost as soon as the door closed, Ricky found himself searching through his jacket, finding an electronic cigarette. Lighting it up, he leaned back against the porch. “That went well.”
“You think?” he recognised the sarcasm and turned to look at Agent Granger standing next to him, looking slightly shell-shocked.
“First time you’ve ever done that, kid?”
Brown leaned back, taking the opportunity to blow out smoke. “Counting that one, this was my 457th.”
“Oh.” He could feel the kid watching him as he began to idle down the path to towards the Cheetah. “Does it get easier?”
Brown couldn’t help it, he laughed. “Kid, if you want this to be easy, then you’re in the wrong job.”
“This is everything we’ve got on the cell in Phoenix.”
Captain Orange handed the data pad over to Captain Blue. His eyes didn’t hold concern or pity in them, and for that, Blue was grateful. It was one of the things he liked about the Spectrum Head of Intelligence; the man was a consummate professional.
“Not much, I admit, but sufficient.” The other captain took his seat with a shrug. “I’m hoping that Captain Brown and local law enforcement may have something more concrete.”
Blue nodded, gripping the pad tightly.
“When do I leave?”
“In about twenty minutes.” Orange looked apologetic. “Engineering has been busy today, problems with the air conditioning apparently, and as a result little things like refuelling of jets have fallen by the way side.” He shrugged. “Guess no one is frying on all cylinders today.”
Blue nodded. “Thanks.”
He walked out of the office, shoving the pad into his body armour.
Twenty minutes wasn’t very long, but it was enough for what he needed to do. Alex had being right, he had never being offered counselling for what happened in Bura, but there were methods of dealing that didn’t show up on formal records.
Like tracking down the bastards who’d been responsible and blowing them to Hell. That’s what he’d done in Bura, and it was what he was going to do now.
But first he needed to do something.
He needed to talk with Destiny, to let her know what he was going to do. Just in case he didn’t make it back.
“And here’s the duty roster for the next two weeks.” Captain Lime carefully pushed the pad towards Colonel White who examined it closely.
“As you can see, I’ve managed to allow for Scarlet’s...absence and Blue’s leave, but it’s not a permanent solution.” The implication that more officers would be needed and soon, was left unvoiced, but the colonel answered it.
“I have already being in contact with London. The files for the best replacement for Captain Scarlet will be before the Security Council before the end of the week.”
“Only Captain Scarlet?” Lime bit down on her lip. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Sir, this might be the best time to consider replacing Captain Black as well.” She rushed on. “It would limit the disruption caused by the arrival of a new officer and allow –”
“As I have already informed you,” Colonel White interrupted, “I will replace Captain Black when he is placed in front of a court martial and found guilty or confirmed as dead.”
“Black is dead,” Lime stated, aggressively. “I have a certificate of death, signed by Dr. Gold in my files. I also have a certificate of burial. For Christ’s sake, Colonel, I was the one who broke the news to his family.”
She could still see them now, which was strange as these duties usually blended together, impossible to tell one from the other.
Black’s mother had broken-down. She hadn’t cried, that was too light a word for the animal wail that wracked her body as Caroline told her that her baby was dead. His father had nodded, his eyes fixed on his hands. He had asked who was responsible. She had never felt relief about telling a parent that the manner of their child’s death was classified, but she had come pretty close to it with Black’s. The thought of what his father would do to those who killed his youngest was chilling, even if a part of her was curious to see what a crime boss would do against the Mysterons. His brother had asked about the funeral, but none of them had attended. She couldn’t say she was honestly surprised.
“All contact with Black since that date is indicative that he is no longer one of us.” She looked at the Colonel intently. “He’s one of them and we can’t keep hoping for a second miracle. We’ve managed for a little over two years being one officer down, but it can’t continue. We need more men.”
“The partnerships that you proposed seemed to have worked quite well,” the colonel suggested coolly.
“They were proposed as a temporary measure while we assessed Scarlet. They were not and were never meant to be permanent.” Caroline shook her head. “Colonel, I understand your and the Council’s point of view, but –”
Whatever Captain Lime planned to say was lost as a shockwave rocked Skybase, followed rather belatedly by the roar of klaxons and alarms.
The colonel hit a button on his desk, calling up an image of Green.
“Bomb, sir. Detonated in close proximity to Skybase.”
“Any craft on the radar?” Lime asked, forgetting the colonel’s presence for a moment. Green shook her head, her fingers moving rapidly over the keys.
“No, sir.” She paused, frowning. “It seems to have originated from Skybase.”
The captain and the colonel froze, looking at each other, both running in their minds through a list of the explosives present aboard Skybase and trying to come up with a reason for them to dentate so close.
“Sir, I have Captain Blue on a priority channel.”
“Put him through,” the colonel said, his voice grave.
Blue’s voice sounded tense and out of breath over the link. “Colonel, there was a bomb aboard Skybase.”
“Do you mean to tell me,” Lime demanded, suddenly putting the pieces together with astonishing clarity, “that you are responsible for what just happened?”
There was a pause before Blue answered, “Not exactly.”
The comm. panel bleeped again, informing the colonel that Dr. Gold was trying to contact them, demanding in a voice that sounded full of wonder that the colonel report to the infirmary.
Running her fingers through her hair, Captain Lime sighed. “I think you had better report to my office, Captain. Seems like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”
“I’ll kill them!” Captain Brown paced back and forward across the viewer. “I’ll fucking well kill the pair of them.”
“That would seem slightly contradictory to the colonel’s instructions to help them, Captain Brown.” Captain Indigo leant back, smiling his slow steady smile at his partner’s rant. He didn’t entirely blame the other man, his first reaction to the news had been something similar, but it was always amusing to watch Ricky blow up.
Ricky ignored him.
“A column of air led them to the bomb! I am supposed to stand up in front of a court martial and tell them that the bomb was discovered because two Spectrum agents followed a column of cold air?”
“Technically that’s Captain Lime’s responsibility,” John pointed out. It was true. As Head of Security, Lime was responsible for all prosecution cases in courts martial, along with the Spectrum legal team. “I’m sure they’ve heard less likely stories.”
Ricky didn’t seem to find this reassuring. “Not normally from the prosecution.” He pouted.
“I don’t know.” John flicked through a book that was on his desk. “Didn’t H.R. James have a story about a ghost being used as proof in a trial?”
“In fiction!” Ricky yelled, causing one of the FBI agents to open the door to the room to check everything was alright. Ricky waved him away and asked in a slightly calmer voice, “What else do we have?”
Indigo shrugged. “Not much. Bomb was a standard fusion device, probably left over from the terrorism wars, so there’s virtually no evidence of the container it was in. Incidentally,” he added, turning to make a note on a pad, “Captain Blue is signed up for Spectrum’s bomb safety refresher course. Running through Skybase with a fusion bomb and then throwing it out over a populated city is not best practise.”
“Bet he’s thrilled about that.”
“About as much as you’d expect.” Indigo leaned back. “Unfortunately, in spite of the circumstances, the authorities in Houston have expressed their concern to Colonel White. He figured it was best just to apologise and put Blue on the course.”
Ricky nodded, though it was clear he wasn’t paying attention, not really. It was one of the great things, John thought, about working with the guy; he jumped from one thing to the other, even when you couldn’t see that there was any links between.
“Prints,” he said, suddenly stopping his pacing. “In the photo you sent over, there was a print on top of the storage box. A very clear one. Do we have a match on it?”
John sighed. “Yes, but you’re not going to like it.” He picked up the files. “The print is positively identified as an exact match for one Paul Metcalfe, a.k.a. Captain Scarlet.”
“Yeah,” John agreed.
That had being pretty much Lime’s reaction as well. Explaining to a military court martial how the print of a dead officer – all right, they were going with ‘in a coma’ to explain things to the board – came to be a top of the weapon box where a bomb was found, while said officer was in Sick Bay, was going to be… interesting to say the least. He shook his head.
“Whatever the truth in this matter, Storey is still a deserter and a suspected saboteur. Leaving aside Captain Scarlet’s testimony, there was only one unauthorised entrance or exit of Skybase during the last three days, and that was made by Storey. He was also seen doing maintenance on the central computer in Security, which Monty Baker has confirmed was sabotaged. The colonel wants you to drop the Mysteron thing for now – anyway, you said it looked like they’d cleared out of Phoenix for the time being – and concentrate on Storey.
Brown muttered and swore for a few moments, but he understood that it was an order. “Send me cards, known associates, anything else you’ve got on Storey, and I’ll get on it.”
“I wish to tender my registration.”
Captain Lime looked up from her papers. “What?”
Lieutenant Verdant fidgeted uncomfortably, almost filling the Head of Security’s small office. “The sabotage occurred on my watch. It is therefore my responsibility and I can only apologise for the gross oversight that led to this –”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lime interrupted. “You picked up that there was something suspicious about Storey before anyone else did, and if I hadn’t distracted you, we might have got him. Therefore, if anything, the fault is mine.” She shook her head. “Besides, even if we have Scarlet back we remain a man down and I need a second I can trust.” She glanced at Verdant, showing one of her rare smiles. “So, Lieutenant, ready to help me redo the duty roster again?”
Verdant sat down, beaming.
“The cameras have picked up a yellow convertible heading East on Route 42. And audio tracking confirms it’s the same car Storey purchased in Houston.” Captain Orange shook his head. “The man’s arrogance astounds me. Did he really think that even with Skybase destroyed Spectrum would be gone? That we would let him get away with it?”
“I’m not sure he was thinking at all,” Blue remarked, glancing over the information on the pad in front of him. “I mean he was dealing with them. You have to be crazy, or at least extremely naïve, to do that.”
“True enough,” Orange agreed. “Captain Brown has his eyes on him and says you should be easily able to overtake him and capture him. No evidence of any other conspirators, human or Mysteron.”
“But we can’t entirely rule that out.”
“Indeed.” Captain Orange glanced at the third man in the briefing. “And may I just say, welcome back, Captain?”
Scarlet grinned. “So we’re off?”
“The jet fuelled for Captain Blue is ready and waiting. E.T.A. two minutes. Oh, and Captain,” Orange added, as the two friends prepared to leave his office, “If you ever pull a stunt like that again, I personally will take care to make sure that it is permanent next time.”
Scarlet grinned. “You’ll have to get in line. Ochre and Magenta have already said something similar.”
“I thought as much.” Captain Orange returned his attention to his papers. “Well, are you waiting for the colonel to decide to press charges against you?”
He allowed himself a small smile as the door closed behind the two captains.
Captain Lime might still be annoyed about the colonel’s refusal to replace Black, but even she had to agree that everything felt right now that Scarlet was back.
Author’s note: This started because while I love Chiller as an episode, I always thought that we only got half the story. After all, there had to be a moment where Blue found Scarlet, they’d have to try and find out the information about the Mysterons. It started with Blue’s experiences in the scene with Destiny and Gold (which is supposed to be in Blue’s mind, an almost out of body experience, so sorry if you didn’t get that, but I couldn’t persuade it to change to first or third person) and kinda grew from there.
My thanks as ever to Chris and her marvellous Beta teams. These fics couldn’t happen without you.
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