A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story for Halloween
WE THE MYSTERONS WILL ELIMINATE A SENIOR SPECTRUM OFFICER. DO YOU HEAR US EARTHMEN? YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON OUR MARTIAN COMPLEX. ONE OF SPECTRUM’S MOST TRUSTED OFFICERS WILL DIE.
Colonel White sat pensively at his console. He listened as Lieutenant Green called the captains and Angels to the conference room for an emergency briefing.
“Colonel White,” said Green, stirring him out of his reverie.
He looked up. “Lieutenant?”
“They are waiting for you in the conference room,” Green reminded him.
“Yes, of course. Inform them I’m on my way.”
City traffic was heavy – bumper to bumper. Meg was tired after an exhausting day at work. It didn’t help that the traffic was unaccountably worse than usual and she had been late collecting her daughter from childcare. Meg glanced across at her sleeping child. Leonie was three and to Meg there could not be a smarter, prettier or sweeter natured child on the whole planet. It was too bad the child’s father wasn’t here to see her but he had gone before Leonie was born. Said he wasn’t ready to raise a family. She had long ago ceased shedding tears over her failed marriage – it was just her and Leonie now. They didn’t need anyone else. No, that was not quite true, she silently had to acknowledge. She did need help on one level at least. With her parents dead and being an only child herself, Meg’s driving need to ‘stand on her own two feet’ and hold down a job instead of living on welfare meant putting her daughter in childcare during the day. Fortunately for Meg a daycare centre was provided by her employer. Fees were charged on a sliding scale based on an employee’s pay level and the number of children he or she had the centre. As an admin clerk, Meg could manage the fees and was still able to make a comfortable home for herself, but she was never going to be rich on such a wage.
As the traffic slowed down to a crawl Meg looked across at the car coming alongside her. Her glance took in the driver – his skin an unhealthy colour, such cold eyes. He did not return her gaze but stared fixedly ahead. It seemed to Meg as though he was perfectly aware of her looking at him but had deliberately chosen to ignore her. Meg quickly returned to concentrating on her driving after a hasty check to make sure her car doors were locked. They were. She sighed with relief and fervently wished the traffic would clear and she could get home.
Captain Black could see his quarry ahead. Silver car, driver about 40, male, slightly overweight, an employee of Spectrum. Not a military member but one of the civilian staff employed to work on one of the many tasks contracted out to commercial companies. Catering, grounds maintenance, cleaning, building maintenance – it didn’t matter which. One of those services. Captain Black knew the security on Cloudbase was airtight, but he also knew in outlying areas part time contract staff and even permanent civilian employees working in low security areas might not be checked with Mysteron detectors as regularly as perhaps they should be. Procedures that might have to change very soon, he thought with unaccustomed grim humour.
Soon his quarry would turn off the main road and he would be able to seize the moment and strike. It was already growing dark but the heavy traffic meant he had to be patient. Captain Black, knowing the Mysterons’ plan, was irritated by the unusual traffic problem. It had already caused unnecessary delays. Captain Black could see there was some kind of obstruction ahead. Police cars, barriers, flashing lights and uniformed men redirecting traffic. It was a traffic accident. Black noted the overturned tanker and the firemen spraying foam over it and the surrounding spillage. He also noticed a crumpled car blocking the turn-off his target had planned to take. Impossible to take that road now – what would the driver do instead? Captain Black, watching the silver car just ahead, suddenly realised a policeman redirecting traffic was waving him onto a side road different from the detour the silver car had been directed to take. He briefly considered ignoring the policeman and following the silver vehicle anyway but in the seconds he spent considering what to do the policeman seemed to sense his hesitation and was now glaring at him, angrily gesturing to him to obey his hand signals. Captain Black knew attracting too much attention was contrary to the Mysterons’ plan so he took the alternate route and drove on.
“CAPTAIN BLACK, THE ACCIDENT HAS CAUSED A CHANGE OF PLAN. YOU HAVE A NEW TARGET. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU MUST DO.”
Captain Blue gazed around the old buildings with interest. Spectrum’s Main Administration Complex for the southern region was a revelation. Most of the original buildings dated from the mid 1800s and had been occupied continuously by successive military organisations from that period onwards, beginning with the local militia. The older buildings were built of a solid slate grey rock known as bluestone, they had small colonial style double hung windows, high ceilings, large heavy solid wooden doors and many other original period features. Necessary security upgrades were by and large unobtrusive. Newer buildings dating from the 20th century were tucked behind the bluestone ones, a combination of chunky red brick buildings typical of the military style of that era (very much of dubious architectural merit), and the much later constructions of brushed steel and mirrored glass. Blue idly wondered how security was maintained as the front façade of the older bluestone buildings faced directly onto the main road. Other areas in the compound were protected by an old and substantial brick wall bristling with security cameras and various other electronic barriers. He noticed with surprise the old walls also retained their original combination of cut glass and barbed wire along the top of the very oldest of the fortifications. Entry to the complex was via two bitumen driveways protected by guard posts and imposing heavy steel security gates.
Captain Blue, having showed his ID, had been admitted into the compound under the watchful eye of duty security officer Sergeant Rolfe, who was singularly unimpressed to see the Spectrum officer. He had spent some considerable time compiling all the documentation he was instructed to present to Captain Blue. Yet another damn security assessment, he thought sourly.
Blue was aware of the sergeant’s apparent hostility and of the general attention his presence was attracting. He guessed the place was seldom visited by colour officers. Not recently at least, he amended.
Sergeant Rolfe ushered the Spectrum captain into one of the newer red brick buildings.
Meg gazed at her extensively damaged car in confusion, the bonnet perfectly indented into the shape of the tree it had apparently hit. How had this happened? Leonie…! She was relieved to see her daughter was still alive, but she had to get help - and soon. As Meg trudged up the steep embankment she was shocked to see the cold faced stranger standing near the road observing the accident with interest. She thought of appealing to him for help but something told her it would be fruitless to try. Meg returned to concentrating on negotiating the stony ground and when she glanced up again the stranger had vanished. Ahead she could see the headlights of a car and she redoubled her efforts to reach the road. The car whizzed by at speed. Meg shook her head in disbelief. Now that was odd, the car looked just like hers. Same model and same colour, right down to the rusting dent in the passenger side door. She shrugged.
A little while later Meg felt close to tears in frustration. No-one would stop to help her. Grimly she watched as car after car sped by. Meg supposed it was the result of living in such security conscious times where a lone stranger might be considered a threat. She had to try again.
“Did you see her?” the passenger in the green Ford asked her companion.
“See who?” he replied.
“The woman standing beside the road. She signalled for you to stop,” she replied.
“I didn’t see anyone. You’re imagining things,” the driver scoffed.
“No I’m not. Stop the car and back up! Now!” she commanded.
“Waste of time,” he grumbled but complied just the same. There was no reasoning with her when she was in one of her ‘peculiar moods’ he reflected glumly. They parked beside the road and his partner got out of the car. There was no sign of the woman she had claimed to have seen. Suddenly he heard her shouting.
“Call for an ambulance, there’s been an accident!”
Instinctively he reached for his mobile phone and started to dial the emergency number.
Captain Blue’s orientation lecture to Cloudbase’s newest personnel was going well. He leaned back carelessly on the edge of the desk at the front of the lecture room feeling hard pressed not to smile at the dozen eager faces before him. Not even a running commentary of rules and regulations delivered in a somewhat dry tone could curb their enthusiasm. They bombarded him with question after question and Blue wondered if there would be anything left for them to ask when they actually arrived on Cloudbase and were supposed to receive more detailed briefings from the various departments to which they had been assigned. His initial talk was intended to cover basic safety regs and the Colonel’s strict code of conduct. Somehow it had branched out from there. Even Sergeant Rolfe had stayed and seemed to be listening with interest, despite his original intention to go back to his office, returning sometime later to collect the Spectrum captain ‘roughly in an hour or so’. Captain Blue would have been very surprised to have known the effect his talk had had on the jaded duty NCO.
Sergeant Rolfe, admittedly not as keen as he should have been to return to a desk probably piled high with work, had fully intended to leave once he had taken the roll call and was sure Captain Blue had everything he required. But…after the first few words he had stayed, fascinated to hear about life on the ‘floating aircraft carrier’. For the first time in many years the sergeant had shaken off his normally pessimistic nature, acknowledged the pride he felt in belonging to Spectrum and realised there was absolutely nothing stopping him from applying for a posting to Cloudbase if he wished. Even his long held opinion on the value of colour officers had thawed somewhat, recognising Captain Blue was neither elitist nor inept, an opinion he had formed of commissioned officers in general based on unhappy experiences early in his military career - admittedly not in Spectrum – when he worked directly under a recalcitrant section leader who was very much the kind of officer Sergeant Rolfe had erroneously assumed Captain Blue to be. Gradually he began to relax and look more favourably on the Spectrum captain.
The lecture finally came to an end and Captain Blue looked enquiringly at the sergeant.
“Lieutenant’s promotion next. Presentation and morning tea to follow. Conference room. Main admin block,” Rolfe murmured in an undertone to the Spectrum captain.
Captain Blue nodded. “Right. Lead on Sergeant,” he replied as he put on his cap and smiled encouragingly at the lieutenant whose promotion he was tasked to attend. On impulse Blue quickly invited the rest of the briefing class to the presentation.
“Hoping to drum up more ‘officer recruits’ are you?” asked the sergeant dryly.
“Maybe,” was Captain Blue’s single reply as his epaulettes flashed white and he moved away to take the call.
Colonel White glanced at the personnel around the conference room table. Rhapsody was on duty in Angel One and Captain Blue was also absent, having volunteered to check on security at one of Spectrum’s larger metropolitan complexes and to also conduct an orientation briefing for personnel newly posted to Cloudbase from that locality. In a few days he would return in an SPJ with Cloudbase’s new personnel. Colonel White wondered if he had done the right thing in assigning Captain Blue to what was quite a minor task. Still…aside from the briefings and security check, one of the new members destined for Cloudbase had successfully completed his training and would on promotion assume the status of junior colour officer. The Colonel thought a small ceremony organised for the new lieutenant’s promotion, presided over by Captain Blue, might prompt more staff to undertake further training and perhaps consider joining the ranks of colour coded officers. Colonel White had decided to adopt a policy of recruitment of field officers from within the organisation rather than from other military disciplines which had initially been the accepted method in Spectrum’s first year. So far it seemed to be progressing well.
“Colonel,” spoke Captain Scarlet, “surely the obvious target in this Mysteron warning must be Captain Blue?”
“I agree it is very likely,” replied Colonel White. “I have already contacted him about the threat and I’ve spoken to the commanding officer at the complex, recommending they institute lockdown procedures immediately. Naturally security at Cloudbase has been stepped up in the event Captain Blue is not the Mysterons’ intended objective.”
“Where is Captain Blue?” asked Captain Magenta.
“At Spectrum’s Southern Region Administration Centre,” replied Colonel White, thinking of the time he last visited the complex, a maze of historic rambling stone buildings only partially protected by equally old high brick walls. He made a decision. “Change of plan,” he stated briskly, “Captain Scarlet, I want you to take a helicopter and bring Captain Blue back to Cloudbase. I will notify the CO of your impending arrival.”
“SIG,” replied Scarlet.
Meg slumped in the waiting room chair, relieved Leonie was finally in the hospital, in Intensive Care. It was still touch and go, but while there was life there was hope as her grandmother used to say. Meg didn’t notice that no one spoke to her about her daughter. She felt almost numb with worry and in any case she had overheard enough from the doctors and nurses as they spoke amongst themselves about ‘that poor child’.
Meg gazed at the sign in the foyer, surprised to see the hospital was not far from where she worked. Work! Her boss would be wondering where she was. Already it was the next day and she wasn’t at her desk. She was always at her desk, ever reliable. Meg decided she would phone her boss and explain…but…right now she felt so tired. For the moment all she really wanted to do was go to sleep and somehow wake up from this nightmare to find her daughter all safe and well and by her side. Meg closed her eyes and dozed.
Task number two had gone well, though for much longer than expected. Captain Blue had met the base commanding officer, Major Costigan and the newly promoted lieutenant’s current departmental supervisor and workmates. From the thanks he received Blue concluded he had said all the right things. He had also forgotten these events were usually photographed for posterity. Captain Blue looked ruefully at the frozen expressions of himself, the CO and the lieutenant in the formal photograph he was handed, with much ceremony, as a momento of the occasion. He tucked it into a folder and looked around for the duty security officer.
“Lunch?” he asked Sergeant Rolfe hopefully. The Spectrum captain had felt he had spoken non stop for hours and was looking forward to a break.
Rolfe grinned wickedly. “Lunch,” he agreed, adding; “You realise Captain, you have been invited to lunch at the CO’s table in the Officer’s Mess?”
Blue remembered, just as Major Costigan returned to claim him and take him off to the proposed meal. Another formal occasion he groaned. Probably wanted to see how he handled a knife and fork. Blue was beginning to feel like an exhibit in the zoo, or maybe more like a performing seal in a circus.
“At 1330 hours, meet me at the main gate,” Rolfe managed to say as Captain Blue departed. He nodded in reply.
At 1330 Captain Blue was at the guardhouse near the main gate as planned. If the Spectrum officer noticed the increase in security personnel since his initial arrival he gave no indication to any of the guards covertly watching him as they were instructed. Captain Blue had enjoyed the lavish meal and the old world ambience of the historic Officer’s Mess as it had been called for over a hundred years and would probably continue to be so named. Blue had also noticed the preponderance of Army terminology but surprisingly it didn’t jar at all. Somehow it seemed quite right for these quaint old buildings, he mused.
Sergeant Rolfe was prompt and they walked in silence back towards the oldest of the bluestone buildings. If the sergeant was also aware of the changed circumstances of Captain Blue’s visit and the Mysteron threat, he too gave no indication - for which the Spectrum captain was extremely grateful.
“I’ve got everything set up in the old War Room,” Rolfe finally spoke as they trudged down narrow passages, around a few sharp corners and up several carpeted staircases. The sergeant finally paused before heavy double doors and fished around in his pockets for the door key.
Captain Blue paused to take a look around the passage they were currently in, noting the heavy wooden sign screwed to one of the double doors with ‘WAR ROOM’ in old fashioned gold lettering painted on it. He also noticed for the first time the astonishingly hideous colour of the mock ‘keystone’ panels around the War Room doors and every other door in the passage as far as he could see. He examined the door jambs critically and deduced it was some kind of peculiar salmon pink-orange colour. Captain Blue sincerely hoped no colour coded officer ever had to wear that shade, whatever it was called.
Sergeant Rolfe noticed the captain’s reaction to the paintwork and offered two words; “Heritage colour.”
“What?” asked Blue.
“Heritage colour,” Rolfe repeated, then expanded on his answer, “They did a survey on what the building must have originally looked like when it was built. That’s the earliest colour they found under the layers of paint. Awful isn’t is?”
“Yes,” agreed Blue. “What colour do you call it exactly?”
“Not sure what it’s called officially. Pinky orange or something like that I guess,” Rolfe shrugged. He paused. “It has an unofficial name,” he ventured.
Blue raised an eyebrow.
Sergeant Rolfe grinned. “Rhymes with nuke,” he finally admitted.
Captain Blue laughed out loud as the sergeant finally located the key and unlocked the heavy doors. Blue stepped into the room and with a sigh settled down to read the security reports, computer data and related paperwork the duty security officer had carefully laid out on the polished conference room table in the centre of the room.
Captain Scarlet having contacted Blue en route, arrived at the Administration Complex helipad in good time and waved enthusiastically at his partner who was standing nearby watching his progress.
Blue introduced Sergeant Rolfe and made a show of critically assessing Scarlet’s perfect landing on the helipad. “Not bad,” he grudging admitted.
Scarlet glowered at him, “You still in one piece then?” he answered conversationally.
Captain Blue shrugged. “Apparently,” he replied. He grinned, struck by a thought. “And so are you!” he added, as though it was the most astonishing thing in the wide world.
Sergeant Rolfe, while not hearing all of the words exchanged, tried to make sense of the ones he did hear…and gave up. Working on Cloudbase might have seemed like a good idea but maybe it was possible you could spend too long up there above the clouds…if the comments by these Spectrum officers were anything to go by. Crazy, the pair of them, he reflected.
Meg awoke disoriented. Where was the hospital waiting room? This place…it looked like her boss’s office. How on earth did she get here? Well, as long as she was here she would explain what had happened and apply for an extended period of leave. Noting her boss was not actually in the office, she set off in search of him.
Captains Scarlet and Blue followed Sergeant Rolfe back through the maze to the War Room. Blue had somehow talked an extremely reluctant Scarlet into helping him complete his report. “Only take another hour or so,” he cajoled. “Besides, courtesy demands you meet Major Costigan on arrival at his establishment. It’s tradition,” he added, feeling somehow caught up in the atmosphere of centuries of military procedures ingrained almost into the sombre wood panelled bluestone building.
Captain Scarlet shrugged but allowed himself to be talked into helping his partner…and meeting the CO. Scarlet also brought along his Mysteron gun which the sergeant eyed with interest.
An hour and a half later Captain Blue’s report was finished and both he and Scarlet packed up everything intended for Colonel White on Cloudbase and followed the duty sergeant down several corridors into a small antechamber for a chat with the CO over a cup of coffee and biscuits. Scarlet, mindful of the Mysteron threat insisted on retaining the gun much to Blue’s annoyance.
At one point along the route Captain Scarlet was startled to feel something brush against his face like a soft but nevertheless chilly breeze. The doors leading off the passage they were traversing were all closed and overall the building seemed to him to be quite warm.
“Don’t suppose this place is haunted?” he asked Sergeant Rolfe jokingly.
The sergeant gave him a look that suggested he’d just asked the silliest question possible. “Course not,” he replied scornfully. “Just because the building is old…” he let the comment hang.
Captain Scarlet, disapproving of the NCO’s tone, stepped up to his partner and reminded him they had to leave for Cloudbase soon. Blue, amused by the sergeant’s comments and Scarlet’s reaction, nodded in reply but continued on to the appointment with the CO. Scarlet realised he had no choice but to follow.
They arrived at the room before the CO and Sergeant Rolfe mustered the major’s personal assistant to make the coffee and set out some snacks or biscuits or whatever was at hand.
Meg ran fruitlessly through the corridors, a horrible suspicion forming in her mind. She brushed against one of the three personnel she observed walking towards a small syndicate room. They seemed not to notice her at all except…
She continued to search for her boss, hoping he would know what had happened to her…and maybe make it right. It occurred to Meg the three men she saw might have been intending to meet up with him. She retraced her steps and was rewarded by seeing the major going into the small room as she’d hoped. She walked purposely towards the antechamber and was surprised to see a shadow fall across the doorway of the tiny tea room nearby. She stepped into the tea room and saw…
Meg screamed and screamed but the sound did not carry beyond her own mind…unlike the clattering sounds of moving coffee cups and bread and butter plates that her doppelganger was making.
Exhausted and shocked, Meg leaned weakly against the wall. She glanced fearfully at the woman again. A perfect copy in every detail, save…Meg felt she was looking at an empty husk. There was no life behind those eyes, no mind. It was all a blank. But that creature was certainly real to the men in that other room while she was…a shadow.
The mysteronised copy continued with the task of preparing the drinks. Meg watched in alarm as she saw the woman add something to one of the coffee cups. A powder that briefly changed the contents to a sickly fluoro green before it faded back to the drink’s normal hue. Meg felt a rising panic as she realised that somehow she had to warn the intended recipient not to drink its contents. Meg watched the alien woman carry the drinks into the other room. Hurry. Hurry. Think. There wasn’t much time.
Captain Scarlet once again felt the brush of something cold against he face. He looked around sharply but saw nothing unusual. None of the others seemed to notice anything different either. He mentally shrugged and returned to listening to Major Costigan outline his plans for upgrading the complex. Scarlet wondered idly what it cost to maintain heritage listed buildings while trying to install top of the line security, pay and filing systems. His head ached and he felt a sudden longing to be back on Cloudbase as soon as possible.
Meg almost ground her teeth in frustration. Following the progress of the tainted coffee she could see the intended victim was the blue-clad Spectrum officer. All her efforts to warn him had so far come to naught. Meg watched in relief as the officer seemed likely to be the last to be given the coffee as the major asked her duplicate to fetch the sugar and some spoons. A reprieve. Think, she raged. Think. Meg suddenly had an idea. If she couldn’t alert the men, maybe she could exert influence on her duplicate. Take it over somehow and stop it. It could touch and move things while she had no influence on inanimate objects at all. But they were the same, it was a duplicate of her so surely she should be able to control it.
Captain Scarlet watched the major’s personal assistant, wondering if he might ask her to get him a glass of water instead of the coffee. Or he could get it for himself. The brew room must be nearby considering how little time it took for her to fetch the sugar. He watched her pick up one of the drinks. Scarlet blinked in confusion. Her image seemed to shimmer and blur. The woman paused appearing perplexed. Once again, if something out of the ordinary was really happening (and Captain Scarlet was not sure he wasn’t just imagining it all) he seemed to be the only one in the room who could see it.
The woman’s almost expressionless features suddenly became anguished and Captain Scarlet realised she was staring directly at him trying to tell him something. Again the edges around her seemed to blur and this time Scarlet had the strangest impression there were two separate women. She almost dropped the coffee cup but in the nick of time Captain Blue reached out and grabbed it from her.
Meg looked dumbly at the cup in the blond officer’s hand. So close. She looked up in despair and found herself staring directly into the wide blue eyes of the red uniformed officer. She fixed her gaze on him and carefully and slowly stepped away from her duplicate. His eyes widened further. Meg pointed to the cup in Blue’s hand. ‘Poison’ she mouthed, carefully repeating the gesture and word several times, hoping he would get the message in time.
Scarlet watched in fascination. What was she saying? Looked like…. As Captain Blue slowly brought the cup up to drink Scarlet suddenly galvanised into action and dashed it from his hand.
Captain Blue and Major Costigan stared at Scarlet in shock. “What are you doing?” yelled Blue, as the duplicate suddenly screamed in fury and launched herself towards him.
“Mysteron!” bellowed Scarlet as he reached for his gun and taking careful aim, shot her dead. The crackle and sizzle of the electric current echoed in his mind long after he had set the gun down.
The major hurriedly called for security as Captain Scarlet reported to Cloudbase that the Mysteron threat had been neutralised. Captain Blue stared at the broken cup in shock, knowing he had been only seconds away from death.
It had been one hell of a day all things considered, thought Captain Scarlet. His partner still appeared to be appalled by everything that had occurred. Well, he’ll just have to snap out of it, Scarlet reasoned. No time like the present to bring him back to reality, because reality was definitely where he’d have to be when they reported to Colonel White back on Cloudbase. Scarlet walked over to the window and looked out towards the helipad.
“Well, that was surprising,” he remarked thoughtfully with a sidelong glance at his partner. “I must admit I did not expect such a ‘low tech’ attempt on your life from the Mysterons. Not something as simple as a poisoned cup of coffee anyway.”
“Low tech be damned,” growled Blue in reply, “I almost drank it!”
“Still, quite logical I suppose,” continued Scarlet, warming to his theory, “considering this is not an operational base but an administrative one. They have a small weapons cache, which is normally kept under lock and key. No explosives, nothing remotely like that at all. Just paperwork really - a hell of a lot of paperwork.”
Captain Blue glanced again at where the cup had fallen and where the carpet still showed evidence of its contents - and shuddered. The Mysteronised woman’s body had been removed and Scarlet’s Mysteron gun was propped almost carelessly against the wall near the entrance to the room. He turned to his partner. “Perhaps you might like to tell me how exactly you knew about the coffee?”
Captain Scarlet considered the question. Seeing a ghostly apparition was not something he was willing to admit to yet, not even to Blue. “Didn’t you notice how oddly the woman was behaving?” he finally answered, “or maybe it was my ‘sixth sense’ finally kicking in. I really can’t say.”
“I guess,” replied Blue absently, wondering what his partner was not telling him. Still, something about the woman did seem a little…strange. The way she almost dropped the cup… “Who was she?” he finally asked.
“One of my most trusted staff members,” answered Major Costigan who had overheard the Spectrum captain’s question. “Worked for me for 10 years, never took a day’s sick leave, an exemplary worker, I can scarcely believe what has happened,” he sighed. “Her name was Meg - Marguerite - Cooper.”
Scarlet and Blue made their farewells to Major Costigan and set off towards the helicopter. Sergeant Rolfe insisted on accompanying them all the way to the helipad. Scarlet gazed at the colourful flower beds carefully laid out around the old bluestone buildings. “You know,” he remarked to Blue, “this really is a very pleasant place.” Speechless, Blue stared at him.
Sergeant Rolfe, sensing something was amiss, pointed towards the tiny paned windows of the main building. “Did you know,” he remarked conversationally to the Spectrum officers, “old photographs of this building show these walls were once covered in a deciduous ivy that every summer grew so well it almost blocked the windows. Boston Ivy I think it might have been called.” He was rewarded with a hastily smothered laugh from Captain Scarlet and a wry smile from Blue.
What did I say, Sergeant Rolfe wondered. There was no doubt about it, those two have definitely spent too long in the clouds. Crazy, the pair of them, he reflected, absolutely crazy.
Meg glanced down at her daughter lying on the hospital bed. The doctors had removed much of the machines she had been hooked up to. Meg noticed the steady reading of the ECG that indicated a strong regular heartbeat. Leonie was breathing on her own now too – she would recover. Meg could not physically cry but she felt the almost crushing emotional pain of separation from her daughter and the life she had planned for them both. All gone. In the weeks it took for her daughter to improve enough to leave intensive care Meg’s ex-husband had been found and was told of Leonie’s situation. To Meg’s astonishment he had rushed to his daughter’s side and seemed genuinely concerned for her welfare. Meg noticed the new lines on his face and his almost permanent tired and worried expression. He looked a little older and wiser, and just perhaps he was even ready to assume the responsibility of caring for their child. As the weeks progressed and Leonie finally regained consciousness he was still there, badgering the doctors to do more for her and making his own plans for her welfare. Meg watched him suspiciously at first, not daring to hope her daughter would have a family life after all and not be shunted around a succession of temporary foster homes as she had feared. Meg listened as her ex-husband talked to Leonie, even when she was still unconscious and could not hear him – promising her a fine and happy home, expressing his regret over the failure of his marriage to her mother and his sadness at the neglect of his daughter. He would make it up to her. Meg began to feel a sense of relief and lightness, as though the heavy weight of worrying was gradually starting to ease.
One day nearing the end of her daughter’s stay in hospital Meg noticed Leonie had two extra visitors. Not the hospital staff this time but Spectrum officers. She watched them talk to her ex-husband in hushed whispers though the only words she could make out were ‘employee benefits’ and ‘trust fund’. She was disturbed to hear her husband start to argue, saying something about ‘being perfectly able to care for his daughter’. Meg wished he would be quiet – she did not want Leonie to be upset by any raised voices. She moved closer to her daughter’s bed and looked curiously across at the officers, startled to see one of them seemed to be staring right back at her. Could he see her? She recognised him at once. Bright red uniform, Captain Scarlet it was. The one who had somehow sensed her on that fateful day. And the other officer – Captain Blue. She smiled fondly as Leonie grinned winningly up at him – blue was her favourite colour. Meg stared intently at Captain Scarlet, willing him to see her. And suddenly she realised he could. She smiled at him, he nodded in reply, a gesture so subtle that it was unlikely anyone else in the room could be aware of what was happening. The Spectrum captain glanced at his partner and slowly mouthed ‘thank you’ to Meg. She nodded in understanding. Meg looked again at her daughter and her child’s father and realised they would be OK from now on. She listened as Captain Scarlet spoke about ‘Spectrum caring for its own’, said for her benefit no doubt, guessing neither his companion or her ex-husband would ever suspect who his comments were really intended for.
Meg knew that it was finally time to let go. With her family and Captain Blue in earnest conversation she reached out to Captain Scarlet as though to shake hands and say goodbye, and he moved forward slightly as though to take her hand too, until both smiled ruefully at each other, forced to acknowledge the gesture was impossible. Meg, just this once granted the luxury of tears, brushed her daughter’s cheek and taking one last look at the tableau below her in the tiny cramped hospital room, unhurriedly and gracefully floated ever upwards towards the guiding light.
T H E E N D
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