A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” short story
The pumpkin rolled silently down the dew soaked knoll behind the Old Cemetery and splashed with a sudden sharpness into the stillness of the murky pond. The sound that bespoke of an untold fear and implied a fate far worse than tidy death, reverberated in the ears of the startled sexton and was amplified by the stunning quietude of that eerie moonlit night. It was Halloween. Someone or something moved through the chill dead air of that demonic night; a thing or being not completely of this Earth.
"Hold, who goes there!" rang out the deep voice of the burly sexton, while attempting to negotiate the rail fence separating him from the shadowy figure edging its way up the hill. The sexton moved in the lumbering fashion of one who is more adept at lifting heavy objects than in lifting one's own feet.
"Blast," he growled as he struggled to pull himself off the ground, having done a complete somersault over the top rail. As he gained his feet to rejoin the chase, he caught a glimpse of the dark intruder disappearing over the rise of the hill.
Moments later, from his vantage point at the top of the low hill, Tom could see awash in the moonlight the entire length of the pathway weaving itself down the other side toward the church and, in the distance, the darkened outlines of the few buildings which made up the small village of Lakenscroft. Beyond, scattered in all directions, lay the houses of the village; their lights - looking like fireflies on a summer night - flickered through the near leafless branches of the trees in the cool, crisp autumnal air.
Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, the sexton perceived a glint, and on turning toward the source of the flash, glimpsed a figure vanishing behind one of the larger tombstones in the adjoining cemetery. There had been minor vandalism of some of the headstones within the last few nights and Tom was keen on apprehending the perpetrators. It appeared that there was only one, and Tom had the culprit in his sights as he closed the distance between him and the lichen covered monolith.
'Probably that wretched Wicker lad,' thought Tom as he rounded the headstone and peered into the darkness of the bushes. "Come on out of there, Bret; you don't want me to have to come in and drag you out."
"Looking for someone?" came the metallic voice behind him.
The sexton spun full circle before the last syllable had faded from the lips of the cadaverous form now facing him.
"Who in blazes are you?"
"What, would be the better question, Earthman," rasped the gaunt, unsmiling figure standing only a few yards before him; as Tom steeled himself against the blazoned threat.
His defences were completely useless against the unseen force that seemed to spring from the dark, deep-set eyes of his assailant. His readied fists fell limply to his side as he felt a wave of cold silence flood over his weakened body; then there was darkness.
Were the reader to look over the shoulder of the victor, who is now stooping above his victim, he would see in the distance, filtered through the closed drapes of the vicarage lounge, the dull glow of a room lamp. In that room; at a small table, two men are huddled over a checkered board of sixty-four alternated light and dark squares.
"Checkmate!" Cried the man in the red uniform, as he slammed down the white knight with a bit more force than the move required; disturbing for a moment the sleep of a large black cat who lay in front of the blazing hearth. The old cat stirred, stretched out a paw; then through the miracle of dream, returned to the green pastures of his youth.
"Good Heavens, and checkmate it is," sighed a bewildered Anglican priest; enviously inspecting the beauty of his opponent's successful commando raid; while realising that his own black troops, which he had so intricately massed around the enemy monarch, would never be given the command to attack. "I should have sacrificed my bishop last move and taken the initiative."
"That would never have done, Father," stated the victor flatly.
"Why ever not?" Inquired the elderly cleric as he once again scrutinised the crowded board. "What would you have done, Captain?"
"Panicked, no doubt. You see, it was psychology that was you undoing. I was counting on the psychological reluctance of a parish priest to sacrifice his bishop."
"Damn unsound psychology, my boy; and, in future, I advise that you not depend on it. I've a bishop, in this diocese, whom I should sacrifice at the first opportunity ... no, it was the irritating presence of your overbearing queen at f4 that compelled me to defer my sacrificial attack by one move."
"So, you would have sacrificed the bishop," mused the opponent.
"The bishop?" Questioned the cleric, looking up from the board and shooting a knowing glance over his spectacles at his guest. "I should sacrifice the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself, if it would ensure a winning position."
At that moment a brilliant light flashed across the drawn curtain behind the priest, sending the uniformed captain into motion. In a blink he had moved across the room, thrown back the curtain and opened the window; only the darkness of the chamber gave testimony to the fact that he had hesitated momentarily at the light switch as he passed.
"Listen!" Whispered the priest in great expectation, "it shan't be long."
"Yes, I hear it," confirmed the captain, after a moment's interlude. "It is just as you had described it; a humming sound. And it seems to be coming from over there," indicating a section of the church cemetery which was now discernible through the opened window.
"Bolt this window behind me," ordered the Captain as he stepped into the darkness, "and under no circumstance open it to anyone but me or another member of Spectrum."
As the young Spectrum officer moved up the hill from the vicarage towards the apparent source of the low droning, he was halted by a refulgent burst of white light which momentarily illuminated the tombstones affronting the mausoleum.
Father McGinnis had warned of strange lights and uncanny noises emanating from that area of the cemetery and would not rule out the plight of restless souls as its cause. An unmarked grave, lying just beyond the mausoleum was supposedly the resting place of the local Grey Lady, or resident ghost. In her corporeal life, some 300 years earlier, she had attracted the suspicion of the local witch-hunting ecclesiastics; dramatically escaping their clutches by the fateful intercession of a more merciful, but just as untimely death. Her lifeless body had been found at the foot of Beacon's Bluff; that she was interned in holy ground suggested that her death had been attributable to misadventure rather than suicide. Her numerous manifestations over the centuries spoke of a troubled soul; perhaps, one with an old score to settle before she would be allowed to rest.
"This is Captain Scarlet," the young officer whispered into the cap-microphone. "Lieutenant Green, are Captains Blue and Magenta in position?"
"Yes, Captain, your tracking devices are all functioning perfectly and I can plot all of your positions and follow any future movements from the monitor here on Cloudbase."
"Can you hear the humming, Lieutenant?"
"Yes, and it is loudest from the tracking device carried by Captain Blue."
"That's not surprising, Lieutenant, as he's somewhere within the mausoleum, itself."
Captain Scarlet had made his way to the side of the building housing the remains of the Capriccio ancestors and while attempting to look through the barred window was nearly blinded by another flash of light.
"It's an oxyacetylene torch, Lieutenant," he whispered into the cap-mike. "Whoever it is has just gained entry through a steel door that would appear to lead into the hillside. Can you roust Captain Blue into action?"
"No go, Captain. He's not answering."
"I'm going in; get Captain Magenta back to the vicarage, Father McGinnis may be in danger."
Darting to the front gate of the mausoleum, Captain Scarlet found the bolt cut and the two doors standing open. The roar of the blowtorch had been silenced, as had the accompanying light. He stood hesitantly for a moment while his eyes accommodated themselves to the darkness of the interior.
"Captain Blue," he called out not much above a whisper; then again, somewhat louder.
"Over here, Captain Scarlet," came a muffled voice through the darkness of the burial chamber.
"Where? I can't see you," asked the other as he half stumbled toward the rear of the chamber.
"You're standing right in front of me! Open the door."
"Door?" Murmured the confused rescuer, looking along the back wall. "Don't tell me you're in one of these vaults?"
"Where else would I hide in this shoebox?" Look, I can't seem to find the handle on this side; open the door before I suffocate."
"The owner of this thing would have had little incentive to design it to be opened from the inside," quipped Captain Scarlet as he threw open the door and dragged his fellow officer gasping from the crypt. "I don't know what you were worried about," he said, surveying the snug interior with the aid of the moon which had just peeked over a drifting cloud, "even with the lead lining, there is a good four of five hours of air in one of these vaults."
"Yes, perhaps, but I don't wish to test that theory. Most definitely not on Halloween." He reached into the vault and retrieved his cap, then nodding toward the steel door, from which a dim glow of light was emerging, he added: "Besides, we've got a ghost to catch."
"Captains," came the voice of Lieutenant Green over three headsets simultaneously, before going silent.
"Captain Scarlet! Captain Blue! are you reading me," came the anxious accent of Captain Magenta over the respective headsets of the two captains.
"Yes, Captain Blue and I are both here; very much alive and about to follow our Grey Lady through a shaft leading from the back of this mausoleum. We've no more idea than you what the Lieutenant was on about."
"SIG, Captain Scarlet. I'm at the cemetery gate and shall make my way ..."
"You're at the gate! What in blazes are you doing there? Didn't you get a message from Lieutenant Green to go to the Vicarage?
"Captain Magenta, this is Captain Blue. Do you read me?"
Captain Scarlet directed his fellow officer back to the vicarage while he sped off toward the lambent light. The tunnel snaked its way through the side of the hill and with each footfall the returned humming and hissing of the blowtorch increased in pitch, in step with the waxing brightness of the ghostly light.
Captain Blue could see the glow of the light from Father McGinnis's lounge and was cursing the fact that the drapes were opened and a priestly figure could be seen silhouetted in the window. Before he could finish his curse, a dull coloured human-like form caught the attention of his peripheral vision. The form disappeared behind a dome-shaped tombstone. The Spectrum officer instinctively hit the ground and rolled behind a nearby edifice. Within seconds he was on his cap-mike to Captain Magenta: "Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me."
"Look, I've got an intruder trapped just below the vicarage. If you sneak out the side door and make your way down the fence line you can surprise him. He's behind a five-foot dome-shaped stone under the oak; there's a statue of an angel just behind him toward the vicarage. Do you know where I mean?"
"SIG, I ..."
"Are you all right? You sound rather ... Hello!"
The signal was gone; but the figure behind the tombstone was edging its way along the fence toward the house. Captain Blue leapt to his feet and made a mad silent dash toward the cover of the next nearest headstone standing between him and the departing figure. From his new vantage point he calculated that he might just be able to jump the phantom before being seen. He took a deep breath and in a sudden burst of adrenaline, using the toe of the angel as a launch pad, sprang flying through the air and square on to the back of the grey figure bring it to the ground.
"Well, you're not a ghost after all," said the captain, rubbing a sore shoulder before rolling the near unconscious man on to his back. Even in the half-moon light he could make out the pink uniform and as the wispy cloud, blocking the moon, was nudged along by a gentle breeze, the face of Captain Magenta was clearly discernible.
"Blast!" He cried out, glancing at his slowly recovering friend. Then jumping to his feet, he ran-off in the direction of the beckoning light of the vicarage lounge.
Captain Blue was astonished to have found the window unlashed and quickly pulled himself over the sill and into the lounge. The door to the library was ajar and he could hear muffled voices, but was unable to make out a complete sentence. Gingerly he edged the door open a few more inches to allow a view of the semi-darken room. The voices were coming from behind a door on the far side of the library; he slowly crept across the carpeted floor towards the door, trying to keep the creaking floorboards quiet. He was halfway across the room when a voice rang out from behind him "Carpe diem!" and then he felt a blinding blow to his head.
Captain Scarlet watched as the man continued cutting his way through the second steel door of the night when the words of Lieutenant Green reverberated in his headset: "SIG."
"SIG, Lieutenant, it's good to have you back," he whispered into the mouthpiece.
"Captain, the interference is impossible tonight so I must be quick. The monitor tells me that Captains Blue and Magenta have met up just below the vicarage; Captain Magenta is stationary there, while Captain Blue is quickly nearing the house. He's practically above you. I'm directing this message to you alone becaus... can't trust ... others may be ... possess ..."
"Say again, Lieutenant. Did you say someone was possessed?"
The cap-mike was dead again and the man in front of the door had finished his task and was moving through into the new opening, which to the captain's surprise was lighted by means of numerous candles suspended along the side of the walls.
The figure moved as a zombie towards the end of the tortuous passage until he stopped before a small wooden door. He twisted the knob, but the door refused to open. Having left the oxy-torch behind, he utilised the sole of his right foot as a battering ram and with one quick kick, the door yielded.
He moved through the door into the small chamber which housed a spiral iron staircase and began his ascent. Captain Scarlet watched from the bottom of the stair until the man had disappeared through the opening at the top, then he scrambled to the top of the structure. On exiting through the trap door, he found himself in an anteroom off the chapel of the church; the figure he had been tailing was kneeling before the altar. A huge jack-o'-lantern on the sanctuary table was smiling down on the macabre scene, the flickering light darting from the carved eyes, mouth and nose cast an eerie glow across the room.
"What is the meaning of this sacrilege?" Boomed the captain's voice across the room, the reverberations breaking the solemn stillness of that sacred chamber as he strode determinedly toward the kneeling figure.
The zombie seemed totally transfixed; however, a backhand across the face brought the bent figure quickly to its feet.
"Where am I?" It wailed. Then on seeing the jack-o'-lantern and recognising the chapel, the man, for it was a man, returned his gaze to the uniformed officer before him; seeing him for the first time: "Who are you?"
'That's what I was about to ask you."
"Me? I'm Tom Jefferies, the sexton. Everyone around here knows me. I chased the Old Grey Lady into the mausoleum a few moments ago and can't remember anything until awaking here. What'd you bring me here for? And who the blazes are you?
"Quick, Tom; we've got to get to the vicarage, Father McGinnis may be in mortal danger. What's the quickest way from here?"
The two men burst through the open door of the vicarage just behind a still dazed Captain Magenta and made their way to the groans coming from the library. Captain Blue had been propped against the couch by his diminutive attacker who was now administering a cold pack to the back of his head.
"What's happened here?" Barked the only captain still fully conscious, as a bewildered sexton took in the room full of brightly coloured Spectrum uniforms.
"I'm afraid it's all my fault," said the priest, still fussing over the patient of his own making, "but, you see, I took your advice, Captain. I didn't dare lose the game by not seizing the moment. Unfortunately, it was Captain Blue whom I pounced by mistake."
"Where the devil were you all this time?" Demanded an irate captain from the man in the pink uniform, who was now half lying on the recliner. "You were supposed to have been guarding the vicar."
"He was Captain," said the vicar, "but I sent him out." Then looking down at the shattered statuette on the carpet, he added, "I was quite safe as I had Our Blessed Virgin for protection. Yes, you see I saw a grey figure -the Grey Lady, I should think- moving by the lounge window, so I sent the Captain to investigate."
'That's right," agreed, Captain Magenta. "I chased the ghostly figure to the gate of the cemetery where it just vanished. That's when I received your call and was hit from the back. I was only stunned momentarily, but when I came to, I discovered my cap missing. I was looking for it when boy blue pounced me."
"But I was talking with you on the cap phone just moments before I jumped you," protested the blonde captain. "Don't you remember?"
"You were talking to the Grey Lady; not me. She must still have my cap."
"You don't honestly believe all this superstition about the Grey Lady," laughed Captain Blue, while still holding the wet, ice-packed towel to the back of his head.
"I do," answered the sexton flatly. "I'm beginning to remember now. She came to me at the mausoleum and must have hypnotized me. All I could see were her dark black eyes. It was she who directed me to the doors and lead me into the church. She ordered me to knell before the jack-o'-lantern and promised that a truth would be revealed unto me."
"Here Pal," said Captain Blue, tossing over the wet towel, "you need this more than I do. And Father, could you turn off that incessant TV in the other room, that's what distracted me in the first place."
At that moment, Captain Scarlet's headset exploded into a loud metallic laugh; followed by the terse announcement: "S-I-R, gentlemen."
"Captain Black!," cried out three startled voices.
"Excellent deduction," chided the metallic voice. "While you three have been chasing your tails and paying homage to jack-o'-lanterns; I just helped myself to that big black cat of Father McGinnins'. The Mysterons are going to copy his brain-wave patterns and transfer them to millions of cats worldwide; then no one on the face of the earth will be able to walk in safety. Civilization shall be brought to a halt as all hospitals become overfilled with victims of Taki-induced broken limbs and necks."
Then as suddenly as it had begun, the headset went silent.
"Is - is he talking about that big black menace of a cat that I tripped over earlier, Father?" Captain Scarlet enquired. "His name's 'Taki,' isn't it?"
"Yes, that is he," the venerable Father replied, with a sigh. "I'm sorry he made you fall into the table earlier and knock over all the chessmen, but luckily I have many chess sets and I do know of a museum curator who will be able to get the broken set mended so that very few cracks will show."
"Not that antique Wedgwood set from the eighteenth century!" Captain Blue gasped.
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
Blue turned to Scarlet. "Paul, how could you?"
"It wasn't on purpose," Scarlet uttered defensively. "I didn't know that deadly furball was hovering around my feet. I just didn't see him, until it was too late."
"Good God! I'm thinking that it really will be bad luck to have not only black cats, but any coloured cat cross your path if all the cats are going to be just like him!" Exclaimed Blue, as he considered the awful ramifications of the Mysteron threat.
"Aren't you exaggerating just a bit," Captain Magenta couldn't help adding.
"Um, no." the cleric stated. "I acquired Taki after his owner was hospitalised with a broken hip and she had acquired him in a similar manner."
"Why would you take on such a dangerous animal?" Questioned Captain Blue.
"He has the sweetest disposition possible and a fatal sort of charm. Everyone that sees him loves him and wants him, and he wants to be with you all the time. He follows me about everywhere and constantly gets underfoot - I often have to comfort him after tripping over or stepping on him ..."
"Aha!" Captain Magenta jumped in with glee. "Reinforced bad habits. He knows he gets attention every time he trips you up, so he does just that for a reward."
"I never thought of it that way," said the cleric, with a thoughtful expression. "You have to apologise to Taki if you hurt him, one can't ignore a distressed cat."
"And don't the little velvet-pawed tyrants know it!"
Father McGinnis smiled and started reciting a poem:
"There once was a cat old and black,
Who was practiced at crossing one's track;
He could trip in a week
More old ladies of Leith
Than the number of cogs on a jack.
One day old Taki surveyed
A group of War Vets on parade.
He doggedly marched
Until he grew parched,
Then stopped for a rest in the shade.
The first of the marchers then tripped
At the spot where the old cat was kipped,
As the on-flowing throng,
Which soon followed along,
Found itself on the first roughly tipped.
In hospital now, from the slips,
Lie a crush of old men with cracked hips;
While a lovely old cat
Lies asleep on the mat,
With a hint of a smile on his lips.
'Tis Taki; the breaker of limbs!
To trip you is one of his whims.
Though old folks all fear 'im
His charm draws them near 'im
And doctors all sing him fond 'ymns."
"Where did that come from?" asked Captain Scarlet, in wonderment. "I didn't know you could write limericks, let alone put them altogether like a ballad; it's incredible."
"I didn't write it," confessed Father McGinnis. "This was written for me by a poetic friend, who had also discovered Taki's 'downside', so to speak. I couldn't help memorising it."
"And what limb did this poet break?" smirked Blue.
"No breaks, just a sprained ankle and a bruised face - which was quite enough for him to be inspired to pen those words."
"I hate to interrupt this little poetic ensemble," put in an unamused sexton, "but shouldn't you chaps be making an effort to get Taki back or, at least, trying to prevent the Mysterions from infecting all ordinary cats with his trip-wire brainwave pattern!"
"Mysterons, Tom," corrected the cleric, "and they probably have old Taki halfway back to their place by now."
"Not necessarily," spoke Captain Scarlet, 'In fact, I should be most surprised if they are beyond a five mile radius of Lakenscroft."
"But there's nothing but rolling hills, woodlands, fens or the sea within a radius of three or four times that magnitude," offered the Priest.
"Precisely," returned the red-uniformed officer, "if you wished to hide a needle where would you place it?"
"Oh, that's easy," jumped in Captain Magenta, "I'd place it in a large bag of needles."
"You would," chimed in Blue, "and you'd have a devil of a time finding it again. I'd place it in a haystack where a metal detector or electromagnet would be able to retrieve it quickly."
"Yes," agreed Captain Scarlet, "but how do you propose to find the haystack?"
"Haystacks? Needles?" queried a confused sexton, shaking his head. "I wish you would come to the point."
"The point, Mr. Jefferies," shot back Captain Scarlet, "as you put it, is found right under your feet."
"The catacombs!" shrieked the priest, "but I'm afraid that all entrances have been sealed-off years ago. Besides, Captain, why should you imagine that they would have taken Taki there?"
"Now, where else," put in Captain Magenta sarcastically, "would you hide a cat except in a catacomb? Especially a black cat."
"Very droll, Captain," said Scarlet, trying to hide a smile. "But putting yourself in their place you would find it most difficult to come-and-go in a small village like Lakenscroft. I should imagine that they have taken up residence in some abandoned farm in the area."
Captain Blue was frowning and shaking his head in silent disagreement as his colleague finished his theory: "Captain Scarlet, we're not dealing with people; we're talking about Mysterons and Captain Black. No one has ever seen one of these aliens and even Captain Black has the power of teleportation."
"True, but they've been in this locality for weeks now and have probably been expanding the tunneling network which must honeycomb this area; therefore they must have equipment in place and perhaps even Mysteronised personnel as well."
"I think Captain Scarlet is on to something here," agreed Captain Magenta. "Maybe all that hocus-pocus down at the tomb was a ruse to hide the location of the 'Brain-wave Generator' or whatever it is they plan using on Taki."
"I think I know where to start looking for that haystack, Red."
"Where's that, Tom?"
"The old Owen Farm, it's been empty for years and is only three or four furlongs or so west of the church. You can come in from off the Al and never be noticed by the locals."
"Let's have a look!"
It was obvious, from its rundown appearance, that no one had been living in the remains of the old farm house west of the village and its secluded position offered cover from prying eyes. Captain Blue had been left at the vicarage to look after the safety of Tom and Father McGinnis.
"Look," called out Captain Scarlet, pointing to footprints on the dusty front porch.
"Black," suggested the other.
"Yes, Captain Black, or Mysteron agents."
After entering the lounge room through the unlocked front door they quickly made their way to a door that led to the basement. Here they found, in the moonlight that filter its way through the dirt covered windows lining three of the four walls near the ceiling, evidence that heavy equipment had been recently dragged across the floor, the marks ending at a large wooden, and recently constructed, double door.
"Now, how do we get through there?" asked Captain Magenta.
In perfect response to the question the latch was seen to move as a loud metallic clang echoed through the dank cellar. The two Spectrum officers scurried for cover behind some empty petrol drums standing amongst the scattered items that littered the basement.
Two Mysteronised men stepped through the doors, followed by a small electrically powered car that was pulling a trailer. In the trailer, some sort of parabolic reflector was lying on its side. The two men had made their way to the opposite wall where a pair of tall doors were opened onto a lane leading to a hilly paddock.
"Captain Magenta," whispered his fellow officer, "while those men are busy getting that paraphernalia in position atop that mound, let's secure ourselves in the catacomb."
"Do you think it's wise going in alone? Maybe we should wait until ..."
Before he could finish the sentences, his friend had disappeared into the hollows of the shaft.
"I wish you wouldn't do that," admonished the pinkly clad officer, after having caught up with his colleague some twenty feet into the neatly excavated tunnel. "How far do you thing we'll have to go?"
"I've no idea, but you can bet we'll know when we have arrived at our destination. The Mysterons have used good lighting and, it would appear that they have cut through with some advanced form of laser technology. No doubt the actual catacomb will look mediaeval by comparison."
"It is medieval," stated an unsure Captain Magenta. "Isn't it?"
At that moment the tunnel opened into a sizable chamber and instead of the expected tombs, there could be seen an array of scientific equipment being silently operated by some dozen Mysteronised beings. From various places around the chamber there branched the start of older tunnels, obviously made many centuries earlier and each winding off to different points of the compass.
"What's your plan?" asked Captain Magenta.
"Get ready to fire."
"Just go in shooting! That's not a plan; that's madness."
"What would you suggest, wait until they get the drop on us?"
"We could call in to base and have Lieutenant Green send some backup."
"Maybe have a spot of tea and a bit of a chin-wag with the Colonel while we're at it," said the red uniformed officer as he advanced forward with gun at the ready.
Captain Scarlet had taken only a couple of steps when a movement flashed at the limit of his peripheral vision and he dropped to the floor. Two men had entered the main chamber from an anteroom at the farthest wall, and from his vantage point he could see part of the room from which they had emerged. Captain Magenta could also see the room and from his position further back he could just discern a door leading off from the tunnel where he was hiding, which probably lead to the anteroom. Moments later he was entering through the door and quickly moved across the small room where he signaled Captain Scarlet from the same doorway where the Mysteronised pair had exited only moments before. They had the Mysterons in a crossfire.
Captain Scarlet rose to his feet and entered the chamber; having felled the ambulatory pair with his first two blast, he turned his weapon on those seated at the various terminals. Those trying to flee or resist were quickly dispatched by Captain Magenta, standing in the doorway of the anteroom. "Now, that's what I call a plan," he said to his friend who had joined him at the doorway, "however, there's nothing but computers in that room," he added, with a jerk of his thumb, indicating the anteroom behind him.
Captain Scarlet had a look around the chamber before speaking: "This place is like a maze. There are five tunnels leading out of here, not counting the one we just came through."
"I should think that this one to the right would be the most promising," offered Captain Magenta.
"Well, for a start, it has lights. Also, those two zombies seemed to be heading for it when you jumped them."
Five minutes down the tunnel the pair came to a fork: "Great," sighed Captain Magenta, in exasperation. "Do we spilt up?"
"No, that branch to the right probably would take us to a power plant; let's keep going to the left it should lead back to the main catacombs."
"You mean you can still tell directions in this underground labyrinth?"
"Yes, I think it must be another aberration of my having been Mysteronised and survived. Anyway, it shouldn't be much further now. The sexton said that the farm was only a few furlongs west of the village."
"What is a furlong anyway -a Celtic mile?"
"Something like that. Look!"
About half a chain ahead of them the tunnel widened and the sound of a generator could be heard.
"So much for your built in compass, Captain Scarlet. That sounds like a power station to me."
"More like a signal generator station, Captain. Let's try to get closer."
The small enclosure was manned by two Mysteronised beings and a smaller tunnel branched-off just before reaching the station. By clinging close to the wall and ducking beneath the glass panel, the two Spectrum officers were able to enter the narrower shaft without being detected.
After a few minutes the duo came to a door and Captain Magenta gave it a try. It opened.
"It looks like an operating theater," he whispered over his shoulder, "but whatever it's purpose it appears to be empty."
"Not for long," the other whispered, nodding toward a side door opening into the small room.
From the relative safety of the corridor they could observe through a small glass plate in the door the activities of three Mysteronised men preparing the room. One had plugged in some oscilloscopic looking apparatus and was busy at the control knobs while another appeared to be testing some other electrical equipment. Their attention was diverted to the third figure who was wheeling in, what appeared to be the wee 'patient'.
"Do you suppose that's Taki under those blue sheets, Captain Scarlet".
"There's only one way we're going to find out, Patrick."
"That's what I was afraid you were going to say."
At that moment the thundering of hurried footsteps could be heard coming from the direction of the tunnel they had just negotiated. The sound echoed and gave the impression of a vast number of agents.
"With their telecommutative skills these agents would have learned from their mates back in the control room, just before their deaths, that we had invaded their necropolis, so we had best grab the cat and hoof it back to the land of the living."
Captain Scarlet was the first to enter the operating theater and leveled his gun on the man next to the array of electronic apparatus just as he was drawing his own weapon. The blast to the head killed him instantly and he dropped to the floor motionless as the man at the oscilloscope turned to see Captain Magenta making a flying tackle on the agent in charge of the gurney. The two fell to the floor exchanging blows giving the other agent time to darted for the side door. Captain Scarlet, not wanting to shoot in the direction of the gurney gave pursuit.
At that moment, Captain Magenta, struggling to winch the weapon from the hand of his Mysteronised opponent, grabbed at the body of the gun, causing it to discharge. The bullet shot into the object on the gurney causing a deep red stain to spread over the blue sheet; a second bullet tore through the throat of the agent before logging in the brain and thus releasing the hapless slave from his Mysteron masters.
Captain Magenta ran to the gurney and gingerly pulled back the blood stained sheet, blocking from his mind the sound of crashing equipment and glass coming from the other room.
The sheet being removed, disclosed a broken vessel containing the shattered remains, of what appeared to be a brain.
"Paul! I've got some bad news for you," he yelled through the door.
"Well, I've got some good news," answered his friend, entering the door carrying a big black cat, who was wearing a very smug expression on his feline face. "Taki's just disabled his first Mysteron Agent."
"Taki! You're as sight for sore eyes," exclaimed Patrick, pointing to the mess on the gurney. "Must be testing other ideas besides cat brain-wave generation. I thought you were a goner for sure."
"He will be if we don't get out of here. Quick, let's see where this tunnel leads."
The three had only just disappeared around the corner as a group of Mysteron Agents stormed out of the shaft from the opposite direction and entered the operation theater. The agent whom Taki had tripped into the equipment and knocked unconscious was just regaining his feet. Luckily, there were two other exits and the six agents divided themselves accordingly.
"SIG," came the voice of Lieutenant Green over the earphones of Captain Scarlet's headset. "I have you back on the scanner and you are heading straight toward the cemetery."
"SIG Lieutenant. Captain Magenta has Taki in tow, and we are being pursued by Mysteron Agents; will try to make it topside before engaging the enemy."
Rounding a slight turn, Captain Scarlet could see that the tunnel branched into at least four different directions.
"Which way?" asked his companion, as the sound of Mysteron Agents grew louder.
"Cats have a built-in sense of direction; perhaps if you set Taki down he could lead us back to the vicarage."
"This cat's 15 years if he's a day; he's got a dicky knee and an aversion to walking, let alone running, and I doubt that he has any homing instincts apart from sniffing out his food dish from his bed in front of the fireplace."
"Just do it. He's too heavy to carry."
As soon as Taki's paws touch the ground he unhesitatingly pranced off down one of the four branches, coming to an abrupt halt when only ten feet into the shaft.
"What is it, Taki?" inquired Captain Scarlet. "Are you lost?”
"He's probably exhausted, that's the most I've seen that cat move all day. I think he's telling us that he's done his bit in finding the correct path, now it's up to us."
"Come on, Taki, let's just hope your sniffer's in better order than your legs," said Captain Scarlet as he scooped up the huge cat on the run, before disappearing round the corner with Captain Magenta on his heels.
The two Mysteronised agents now standing at the entrances of the various shafts, listening for sounds of the fleeing Spectrum Officers, were rejoined by two of their number who had checked out a shorter tunnel.
"They've gone down this shaft," said the one who seemed to be in charge, "we should be able to overtake them."
At that moment Captain Scarlet arrived at the end of the twisted labyrinth he had been negotiating. He paused momentarily before the steel door, knowing that the Capriccio mausoleum lay immediately behind it and wondering if the door had been secured. He tried the handle. It wouldn't budge.
In the indefensible starkness of that exposed tunnel, Captain Scarlet gently placed Taki on the ground and withdrew his weapon; indicating that Captain Magenta do the same.
"You and Taki get behind me where I can offer you some protection. Don't argue, Patrick, there is no time and you know that I am practically indestructible."
Suddenly there was heard a loud metallic clank as the steel door behind them flew open. As the two spectrum officers turned around they came face-to-face with a smiling Captain Black, who was holding a large crystal-looking weapon and it was pointing in their direction. It was glowing a light yellow and emitting a low hum.
"Why so surprised Captains? You must have known that I shouldn't let you leave without saying good-bye."
The two Spectrum Officers fired simultaneously and were flabbergasted to see Captain Black still standing unharmed, the sickening smirk widening across his emaciated features.
"Not only is this Crystal Seisascope capable of turning you to jelly, but at this setting it acts as a perfect force shield as well."
The four Mysteron agents had come running around the last twist in the tunnel and now, with weapons drawn, were approaching at a more leisurely pace.
"Surely Captain Scarlet, you didn't believe that we went to all this trouble just to duplicate your friend's brainwaves? The cat's, Captain Magenta - I don't think yours would be that beneficial to anyone. When you realise that there are over a billion cats in the civilized world alone, then even a mere ten percent of them endowed with that black cat's predilection for disaster would be a major cause of concern; all of them so afflicted would be quite catastrophic- pardon the pun. However, your elimination is even more beneficial to us and you walked straight into our little trap. Now we have both you and the disastrous cat."
The Mysteron agents, having disarmed the two Spectrum Officers, positioned themselves on either side of their captives and began leading them back into the interior of the tunnel.
"Take them to the Operation Theater," instructed the man in black. "Captain Scarlet, don't forget your cat."
As Captain Scarlet bent down to pick-up Taki, Captain Magenta took advantage of the moment's distraction to elbow one of his guards in the solar plexus while kicking the other in the crotch. He was a good ten yards down the shaft and about to disappear around the bend when Captain Black turned-up the Crystal Seisascope to 'kill'. The hum increased in frequency and the yellow glow changed to a dangerous red. The increased pitch of the output caused a terrified Taki to spring from Captain Scarlet's hands and dart across the ground just as Captain Black took a step forward in preparation to firing. Tripping over the cat, he flew across the cave banging his head against the wall and crashing down on the ground with his weapon firing indiscriminately. Taki disappeared through the doorway into the vault as the other Mysteron agents, who were momentarily distracted by the commotion, were now firing their weapons just as Captain Magenta safely rounded the bend at the end of the tunnel. Before they could join the chase they were cut down by another volley from the Seisascope and fell in a lifeless heap.
Captain Scarlet, who had dived through the doorway of the vault in an effort to escape the blast, had been hit by one of the invisible waves and lay motionless. In the ensuing quiet a meowing Taki had approached his fallen friend, leaned forward and tentatively mewed in the captain's ear. When that didn't awaken him, Taki started tugging at the man's hair with what few teeth still remained in his ancient head. Finding no reaction to his tugging, the old cat tried pawing the captain's cheek - but he still had no response, so he renewed his efforts with increased vigour, this time applying his tongue across the same cheek in an attempt to revive the unconscious officer.
Captain Magenta had returned to the scene and having retrieved and holstered his gun, bent down and removed the Crystal Seisascope from an awakening Captain Black. Holding the weapon, still in the 'kill' position, on the prone agent he backed toward his friend.
A light touch on the neck could discern no pulse from his friend and as Captain Black began to regain his feet, Patrick could hear the sound of a familiar voice calling from without the mausoleum.
"In here Captain Blue, we need to get Captain Scarlet back to Cloudbase immediately."
Captain Blue ran to his prone friend and instinctively felt for a pulse.
"You won't find one." came the taunting voice of Captain Black. "That Seisascope doesn't just kill, it churns organs into jelly and makes retrometabolism impossible."
"I'll try it on you and test that theory," said a stern looking Captain Magenta.
"Sorry to disappoint you, Captain," returned the grim-faced agent as he began fading from sight.
"Blast him Patrick!" screamed Blue. But it was too late. Captain Black had been teleported out of reach.
"I'm getting a pulse! It's only just there but it's getting stronger- I'm sure it is."
"Captain Blue! What's that?"
Both officers shot back from their fallen comrade as Taki darted back to the safety of a dark corner of the vault.
Hovering over the prone Captain Scarlet was a vaporous form that seemed to be coming from the body of the near-dead officer. Slowly it formed into the likeness of a young woman dressed in the garb of a bygone era.
"Who be this man?" came its weak voice with an accent hardly recognizable as English. "He is not of our realm. Ye must take him back."
And with that the form faded from sight.
One hour later, back aboard Cloudbase, Captains Blue and Magenta were being congratulated by a delighted Colonel White while a somber Lieutenant Green was looking on from his normal station at the control panel.
"I've been informed by Dr. Fawn that Captain Scarlet is almost perfectly recovered and they are running some routine test before releasing him. Each of you played an integral part in the ultimate success of this mission against the monstrous plan of the Mysterons. However, none of the dangerous work on the ground could have been performed without the coordination of our communications officer, Lieutenant Green."
"Here, Here!" added the other two Spectrum Officers, raising their glasses in salute.
"One burning question, though," put in Captain Scarlet as he made a surprised entrance into the control room, "what was that message you sent me about someone being possessed?"
"Not possessed, Captain," answered the Lieutenant, "as you recall the interference was playing havoc with transmission at that time and my message was continually breaking up. What I was saying was that I couldn't be certain who was in possession of Captain Magenta's headset."
"Perhaps, Lieutenant," mused a thoughtful Colonel White, "'possessed' may have been the more appropriate terminology."
"I wasn't there, Sir, and for all we know, what Captains Blue and Magenta saw may have been some aberration of Captain Scarlet's retrometabolic process brought on by the effects of the Seisascoptic Rays."
"I should think that to be the case," agreed Captain Scarlet. "Had the rays been directed at me, instead of being bounced off the wall, then I doubt that my retrometabolic abilities would have brought me back to the living."
"But you are safely back, Captain," smiled the Colonel, "so, gentlemen, let us all charge our glasses and toast the hero of the hour."
With glasses charged and raised, Captain Magenta quickly beat the colonel to the toast: "To Taki."
"To Taki," echoed a cheerful chorus of admirers.
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