A “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” story
by Hazel Köhler
Sarah Faber gritted her teeth as she spoke to her editor on the videophone. She knew just what he was going to say, and, true to form, he said it. “It’s a good piece, babe. What are you so worried about?”
“Please don’t call me ‘babe’, Jack. It’s all part and parcel of the same thing. I write all this slushy stuff, and people think I’m slushy too. I mean, look at this garbage. Your Hundred Best Men. Film stars, male models, soap stars – twenty-first century women should have better things to occupy their minds.”
“You’re good at that stuff, babe. It pays your mortgage, keeps you in nice clothes – don’t knock it.”
Sarah silently counted to ten, and not-so-silently sighed. “I suppose so, Jack. But sometimes it makes me wonder why I took that degree course in journalism.”
“You do fine, babe. Now, get your pretty little backside out of there. You’re due back here in London this afternoon. And I meant it. It’s a great story.”
“Terrific. A casting call for a model agency. Just what the world needs – another guy who looks good with his shirt off but doesn’t have anything between the ears.”
“Good girl. Got everything?”
She nodded, and patted her shoulder-bag. “Notebook, phone, camera.” She glanced out of the window at the terrible weather. “Umbrella...”
Paul Metcalfe opened his eyes, momentarily disoriented by the unfamiliar bed and surroundings. Wood-panelled walls, heavy chintz curtains, trouser-press beside a dark mahogany wardrobe… oh yes. The Franklin Hotel, Torquay. He lay in bed, revelling in the unusual luxury of a lie-in and no particular deadline. As long as he was back on Cloudbase by 8pm tonight, he was free and clear.
A grin tugged at his mouth as he remembered last night. He hadn’t had so much fun in, well, years. The war with the Mysterons had seen to that, and while life on Cloudbase wasn’t all doom and gloom, there wasn’t much outright fun. Captain Ochre did his best with his foul practical jokes; Scarlet’s sense of humour was in the right place, but he felt that practical jokers deserved something special. Keel-hauling, maybe.
He had been astonished to get the invitation to the reunion. Peter Franklin had been his best friend at university, and together, they had regularly terrorised the bars of the Student Union and the town of Winchester. Peter had been a legendary party animal. How he’d managed to get his degree was one of life’s great mysteries. On graduating with a fairly respectable Second in Modern History, Peter had surprised everyone by getting married, moving back to the coast and taking over the management of his family’s hotel. The reunion had been his idea, and, it being out of season, he’d made the hotel available to everyone who cared to turn up.
“You must be doing OK,” Paul had remarked to him while collecting yet another trayful of drinks from the free bar. “Don’t forget how much this lot can put away in one night.” He nodded towards the twenty or so people getting noisily sozzled on Peter’s generous hospitality. Peter had waved that off, but peered blearily and suspiciously at his old friend.
“How come you’re not as ratted as the rest of us?”
“Hollow legs,” Paul replied blandly. “And I’ve bribed the barman to give me coloured water.”
They’d all stayed the night. Just as well, really; no-one was in any fit state to drive, an obvious fact which Peter had anticipated and catered for. Paul showered and went down to breakfast, plastering a look of fake sympathy over his grin as he spotted Peter behind the reception desk.
“How’s the head, Pete?” he asked.
“Must have been a good night. Don’t remember a thing after about 10. You?”
“Oh, fine, fine. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed.”
“Bastard. Hope the breakfast chokes you.”
Paul laughed, which made Peter wince, and went into breakfast. As he ate, he gazed unenthusiastically out of the window. The torrential rain that had begun last night still hadn’t let up, and on top of that, the south coast had experienced one of Britain’s rare but destructive tornadoes during the night. Travel was going to be tricky. Sighing, he went back out into Reception where someone had turned on the television; all channels were broadcasting warnings of extreme weather conditions across the whole of the South Coast, as far inland as London, and advising essential travel only. Damn, he thought, getting back to Cloudbase counts as essential travel. Better check in, I suppose.
Back in the privacy of his room, he used his personal radio to call Cloudbase, and spoke directly to Colonel White.
“Sorry, sir, it looks as if I might be a bit late back,” he apologised. “The weather’s bad all the way to London, the local airfield’s closed, and the storms have closed most of the roads, too.”
Colonel White was, naturally, already aware of the situation. “I can’t let you go over on your leave, Captain,” he warned.
Scarlet nodded understandingly. “I’ll try to make my way to LIA by train, if someone could pick me up from there? According to the latest updates, there’re a couple of trains an hour heading for London. I’ll see if I can get on one of them.”
“SIG, Captain. Keep me posted on your progress. I’ll send Captain Blue to meet you at the airport as soon as you can give me an ETA.”
Scarlet signed off, then quickly checked the online booking system for trains to London. He was in luck – one was leaving within the hour, and a handful of seats were still available. A few minutes later, the booking confirmation appeared on his phone: seat 12, coach B, 11.02 BritRail South Coastal service to London International Airport.
Scarlet paid the taxi driver, and sprinted through the downpour to the station.
Sarah Faber paid her taxi driver, and sprinted through the downpour to the station. The train was waiting at the platform already – she’d be lucky to catch it. Clutching her dripping umbrella, she dived into the nearest carriage just seconds before the train pulled out of the station. She called up her seat reservation on her phone: seat 14, coach B, 11.02 BritRail South Coastal service to London International Airport.
Battling her way through crowded carriages in search of her seat, she cursed the weather, she cursed BritRail and she cursed her editor for sending her to Torquay, of all damned places How excited she’d been, just a few years ago, to land a job at TV21! She’d dreamed of following members of the WSP and the WASPs on their assignments, perhaps even getting a glimpse of the legendary International Rescue team. Even now, so long after their first dramatic rescue of the sabotaged Fireflash, no-one really knew that much about them. Then, a handful of years ago, Spectrum had burst onto the scene, brought forcibly to public attention courtesy of the Mysterons, and Sarah had recognised her Holy Grail. No-one ever interviewed members of Spectrum. Only the most senior and respected of TV21’s reporters were allowed anywhere near their operations, and rumour had it that anyone who accompanied Spectrum agents had to sign away their first-born even unto the fourth generation, or something like that. Sarah didn’t care. She KNEW that she had what it took. In her dreams, her powers of persuasion cajoled Colonel White into an interview, fascinated the mysterious and shadowy figures of the Captains and Angels – even their NAMES were romantic – yet here she still was. Three years into the War Of Nerves, and she was still on the godawful Lifestyle section. One day she’d do it. One day, she’d show bloody Editor-of-Lifestyle-and-Sweet-Fanny-Adams bloody Jack bloody Carter that she was capable of doing more than interviewing handsome but vacuous male models in bloody Torquay, the armpit of England –
Jerked out of pleasant daydreams of fame, power, and grinding Jack Carter’s face into the mud, she muttered an apology to the overfed businessman whose newspaper (TV21, she couldn’t help noticing, with yet another Spectrum story on the front page) she had just swatted with her bag. Damn. Her seat was right next to him, and was he going to move to let her in?
Crimson with embarrassment and annoyance, she climbed over the businessman, and flopped dramatically into the seat. To compound her discomfiture, sitting directly opposite her was perhaps the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid eyes on. He glanced up, smiled slightly, then looked back down at his paper to continue with the crossword.
“Horrible weather,” she remarked, feebly.
He looked up again, and nodded. “Appalling,” he agreed.
Sarah had intended to do some work on the journey to London, but, quite uncharacteristically, she was totally distracted by the man in the opposite seat. She found herself covertly studying him, fantasising about him; not what he would be like in bed (although that did come into it…), but who he was, what he was.
Tall, dark and handsome X, she thought, mentally writing an article about him, skilled… – now, what would he be? Tall, dark and handsome was obvious at a glance. Black hair, cut a bit shorter than was currently in fashion, but that didn’t mean anything. Suited him. From what she could tell under the jeans, sweatshirt and elderly leather jacket, he had a slim, muscular build. Athlete? No. Actor? Model? Somehow, she didn’t think so, although with those looks, he could have been. He knocked spots off all those vapid, posturing models that had been infesting Torquay for the last few couple of days. His haircut made him look a bit like a soldier, but if that was the case, the World Army’s recruitment standards had skyrocketed in recent years.
The stretch of coast between Torquay and Dawlish had once boasted one of the best cliff-side walks in the country. It had taken heavy damage during the British Civil War, though, and part of the cliff had collapsed, breaching part of the railway line, and burying the entrance to the Kennaway Railway Tunnel under hundreds of tons of rock and soil. The tunnel had been propped, closed at its other end, and then forgotten, and the current monorail had been built on top of the cliff.
Far beneath the monorail supports, the old tunnel, degraded by years of neglect and weakened by repeated vibration from the trains passing above it and the storms that often lashed the south coast in the winter, started to give way…
Scarlet’s attention was wrenched away from his crossword by a sudden, tearing scream of brakes. The train lurched wildly and jerked to the side.
Ahead of the train, supports for the monorail track were lurching and sliding towards the cliff-edge as the tunnel beneath them finally collapsed. The speeding train stood no chance of stopping in time… the first carriage came off the track, twisting onto its side and ploughing through the mud and rock of the collapsed cliff-side, dragging the rest of the train behind it. By some miracle, the ploughed-up mess slowed and finally halted the train; the first three carriages were on their side, half-buried in mud, splintered trees and rock, while the rest of the train clung precariously to the bent and twisted track.
Scarlet opened his eyes. Around him, he could hear the screams and moans of the trapped and injured. His head was throbbing abominably – he put a hand up to the worst of the pain, and it came away sticky with blood. He’d only been out a few minutes then, otherwise the wound would have stopped bleeding. He tried to push himself up, away from the seat that pinned him down, but stopped with a gasp as lances of pain tore through his chest and abdomen.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” shrieked an hysterical voice from the other end of the coach. There were sounds of frantic hammering, but the toughened safety glass didn’t even craze.
“What about the door?” Scarlet didn’t even recognise his own voice as he asked the question.
“Jammed! We’re going to die in here!”
Scarlet spoke, more calmly than he actually felt. “The emergency services will be here soon. They’ll get us out.”
Scarlet hoped he was right. He hated feeling so useless, so unable to help, but he could feel an ominous seeping sensation just below his ribs – bleeding from an abdominal injury. His leg ached savagely; broken, by the feel of it. He turned his head painfully, to look out of the window above him. Torrential rain still lashed the wrecked train. Turning the other way, he could see only darkness, churned mud and pulped vegetation, and muddy water streaming down the window. The coach was on its side, the front lower than the back. Yes – they’d have to wait for rescue.
Something he’d seen only a moment ago started nagging away at him. Something dangerous.
He looked around again. Injured people. Dead people. Bags strewn around by the impact. Above, murky light and the rain hammering on the window. Below, mud – that was it! The rain was going to undermine the coach’s tenuous position. He hoped that help wasn’t too far away.
Sarah thanked every god in every pantheon in the history of the world that she’d chosen to go to the toilet just before the crash. In such a small space, she had been able to brace herself, and there’d been nothing to smash into her. Apart from a wrenched wrist, where she’d held onto the grab-rail for grim death, she was unhurt. As she staggered out of the small cubicle, she looked around for X, and saw with a surge of relief that he was still alive. That stunning face, though, was streaked with a mask of blood, and he looked as if he was badly hurt.
The interior of the coach was chaos, she thought, mentally composing a story. The injured and dying lay surrounded by the debris of violent impact. Only a few people escaped serious injury, among them –
Her flow of composition was abruptly interrupted by a sudden lurch as the coach shifted downwards.
“What’s happening?” someone cried out.
“I think we were wedged against something, and it’s giving way.” Although he’d only spoken a couple of words to her during the journey, Sarah recognised X’s voice – controlled, smooth, but with an undertone of command.
X was lying at her feet, trapped under a broken seat. She grabbed it and heaved it off him, and he grunted softly with pain as the pressure on his back and legs was relieved. “Are you OK?” she asked, uselessly. He gave a one-shouldered shrug, then winced.
“I’ve had worse.”
He reached into his leather jacket, and pulled out a small, flat box, about the size of a cigarette packet. He flicked a switch on it, and put it to his ear, then sighed, and put it away again with an expression of combined disgust and resignation.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Personal radio. I use it at work. Thought I might be able to call for help, but it’s broken.”
Call for help! Her phone! She almost kicked herself for forgetting – the only possible excuse was shock. But as she took the small instrument out of her bag, the coach lurched again, this time for longer. As if the front had caught on something, the back of the coach swung downwards. She lost her balance, and staggered forward, fetching up painfully against the edge of a seat. Taken by surprise, she lost hold of the phone, and it flew out of her hand to smash on the far wall. She felt like crying.
“We’re sliding.” Sarah jumped – she’d almost forgotten about X. “I didn’t really pay it much attention, but I think we’re fairly near the top of a landslide, and it’s a long drop. There’s a lot of water underneath us right now. We have to get out.”
“How?” Sarah demanded. “We can’t break the windows, one door’s against the ground, and the other’s on the ceiling! And it’s jammed!”
Scarlet sighed again. He was getting very tired of this person. He was getting very tired, full-stop. Part of the ‘time-table’ of retro-metabolism was that just after an injury, he had an overpowering urge to sleep while his enhanced healing process got on with its job. The door was jammed, and above their heads. OK, they’d have to climb out, then.
Unbeknown to this pest who’d latched onto him, Scarlet had a ‘key’ that would open the door. He gritted his teeth against the pain, and tried once again to move.
This time, he managed it, and hauled himself painfully towards the back of the coach, trying not to put any weight on his injured leg. Sarah followed him, mouth open in amazement.
There was another violent judder, and the stricken coach flipped upside-down. It continued to slide, slowly, but unstoppably. Worse, Scarlet could now see that he’d been right. They were sliding inexorably down the landslide. He hauled himself up again, sickeningly aware of a fresh seepage of blood soaking into his sweatshirt, but he had no time to dwell on it. At least with the coach now lying on its roof, no-one would have to climb up to reach the door.
At last, he reached the far end of the coach, and examined the door mechanism. It kept blurring – uh, oh, he thought, lost too much blood. Can’t see straight…. He shook his head to clear it, and immediately regretted it as a thundering headache started to pound through it again. He dug out his Swiss Army knife, using one of the shorter, stronger blades to lever the cover off the door control.
Sarah peered over his shoulder. “Do you know what you’re doing?” she asked.
“Make yourself useful,” Scarlet replied in a barely-controlled monotone, “and start getting people organised. Once I get this door open, we’re not going to have very much time. Anyone who can walk, help anyone who can’t. And don’t worry too much about being gentle. If it’s a toss-up between making an injury worse, and getting them out alive, I think I know which one I’d go for. Now do it, and get out of my light.”
Sarah realised, after it was all over, that it never occurred to her to disobey this man, or to ask what right he had to give her orders. “I just knew he was someone special,” she told her editor. “He gave commands, and we all just did as he said. It was amazing.”
As Sarah carried out X’s orders, she was startled by a series of short, sharp bangs. Whirling around, she saw him holstering a small, but nevertheless deadly-looking, gun. She’d thought she was immune to any more shocks, but somehow, the sight of such an incredibly good-looking man, standing injured in the middle of a train wreck, using a gun, was so overwhelmingly outside of her experience that she couldn’t process it. In shock, her journalistic instincts took over. She was still clutching her shoulder-bag like an amulet – out of it she took her camera, a birthday present from her brother, and took several pictures of the mystery man by the door. She recorded him closing his eyes and taking a breath, as if to gather his strength, then start heaving at the door. It shorted out in a shower of sparks, and flew open suddenly, so suddenly that he was thrown backwards against the partition. As he fell, he lost his grip on the edge of the door, and it slammed shut again. Gritting his teeth, he turned round and dragged himself to the opposite partition. Bracing himself against the wall, he wedged a foot against the bottom of the door, and pushed. The door opened easily.
“Get out!” he shouted. “Get out now! I’ll hold the door open!”
Sarah marshalled her walking wounded toward the door; as they climbed over the human door-stop, she turned to him. “What about you? You’re hurt, why don’t you let someone else do this?”
He looked at her steadily, and she realised that the sapphire-blue eyes that she’d thought were so cold, were in fact kind, compassionate, filled with pain, and above all, were the eyes of a man who’d seen and experienced far too much. He didn’t look old enough to have such eyes. “I have my reasons,” he said quietly. “Now, get out. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold this door.”
It only took a couple of minutes for everyone except the dead to get out, but it seemed so much longer. Once she had scrambled to the top of the treacherous mountain of jumbled rocks and mud, Sarah leaned against a broken tree, raised her camera, and started taking pictures. She zoomed in on the incredible sight of the injured man holding the door open for the other injured to get out. Some of them were being carried, or dragged, by others – it was a truly heroic sight. She turned to get pictures of the enormous scar of churned mud and grass stretching to the top of the slope, and of the rest of the train, lying half-on, half-off the track, when from the corner of her eye, she saw a movement. Horror-struck, she couldn’t move as she watched the coach from which they’d so recently escaped start to slide again. Her mystery man, whom she’d already dubbed ‘The Hero of the 11.02’ in her unwritten story, fell back inside, the door slammed, and the slide gathered pace.
Sarah continued to record the inexorable slide of the coach, experiencing a strange sense of detachment as it tore the rest of the train from the track and crashed to the ground, the other coaches piling on top of it…
Colonel White looked up from the latest batch of status reports at the sound of Lieutenant Green’s voice.
“There’s something on the news I think you ought to see, sir.”
Green pressed a couple of switches on his console, and White swung his chair round to face the big screen behind him. In pictures obviously taken with a hand-held camera, a man in a leather jacket was struggling to open a door.
“…This morning’s derailment of the 11.02 BritRail South Coastal train is believed to have been caused by the collapse of the old Kennaway Tunnel at Dawlish. These dramatic pictures from inside Coach B were taken by journalist Sarah Faber, a passenger in the ill-fated train. According to her eye-witness report, the man short-circuited the door’s mechanism by shooting out the control panel with a small firearm, then held the door open, allowing trapped passengers to escape.”
The picture wobbled alarmingly as the camera operator climbed over debris to get closer to the door, and now the man’s face could be seen clearly.
“My God…” Colonel White whispered, as he recognised the man’s face. “Scarlet…”
The scene changed to an exterior view of the wreck, people clambering over the recumbent figure of the man in the leather jacket. “Just seconds after the last surviving occupant of Coach B got out, the wreckage fell onto Dawlish Town Beach. The search for survivors from other coaches is being hampered by rising tides, and there seems little hope that the mystery man could have survived.”
White turned away from the screen, and glanced at Lieutenant Green. “Get me Spectrum London, Lieutenant. And the Press Office. Conference call.”
“SIG,” Green replied, hurriedly making the requested connections.
Colonel White was speaking to Spectrum’s representatives in London as Captain Blue hurried into the Control Room. “… find that journalist. And get those pictures. I don’t want any more publicity for Scarlet’s part in this than we’ve already seen. That’s all.”
He waved Blue to the stool that rose up in front of his desk. “You saw the news coverage?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Certainly looked like Scarlet to me,” Blue replied. “I’d like to volunteer to go join the rescue team.”
White shook his head. “An American stranger would stand out like a sore thumb. I’ve alerted London, but even they’ll have to go plainclothes – I don’t want anyone even suspecting Spectrum interest.” He noticed Blue biting his lip and looking sideways at the continuing coverage of the accident. “I want you to keep in touch with London on this, Captain. They have to find Scarlet and get him back here before anyone notices that he’s not as dead as he should be.” White glanced back at the screen, now showing an aerial shot of the crash site. “And they’d better hurry. I don’t suppose Scarlet will appreciate waking up buried under that lot.”
Scarlet lay perfectly still in the darkness. He had very little option – there was a heavy weight pressing on his legs and back that made it impossible to move. Sounds filtering through to him suggested that rescue was on its way: groans and screeches of tearing metal, the roar of heavy lifting gear, and voices – he listened hard. “I think I see something!” a voice called. “Lever that up – I’m going in.”
There was another sound of bending, tearing metal, a shaft of light poured into the wrecked carriage, and a few minutes later, Scarlet saw a helmeted, overalled figure wriggle through the narrow gap.
Scarlet breathed a sigh of relief as he recognised his rescuer: Lieutenant Butler from London HQ. “Am I glad –” The lieutenant quickly drew his finger across his throat. Scarlet fell silent as Butler indicated the two-way radio attached to his helmet.
“I’ve found him,” Butler said into the mic. “He’s trapped under a lot of wreckage – hello? Hello? Can you hear me?” As Butler went through his little charade of losing contact, he broke the stalk of the mic, letting it dangle on one wire from his helmet. He tapped it experimentally, then grinned. “Unfortunate accident,” he said to Scarlet. “Got it snagged on something.” His smile faded. “How are you, sir?”
“All the better for seeing you. I hate waking up in the same situation I died in. So, what’s the plan for getting me out?”
Butler knew that Scarlet wasn’t referring to the mechanics of cutting him out of the remains of the train carriage. “You’ll have to play dead,” he said. “There’s a couple of us here as members of the emergency services, and we’ve got a rescue chopper just up the embankment.”
“What’s the situation outside?” Scarlet asked.
“A lot of press interest, video coverage – some journalist took pictures of you getting the door open.”
Scarlet grimaced. “Yes, I saw her. I should have stopped her, but I had other things on my mind at the time. So the pictures went public?”
“Yes, sir. Colonel White went crazy, bawling out the London office and Press Office to get them suppressed.”
Scarlet sighed. For a few moments, neither of them spoke, instead listening to the approaching hiss of laser cutters slicing through the twisted carcass of the train.
“All right, sir,” Butler said finally, “you’re dead. Shut your eyes and try not to breathe.”
Scarlet snorted, but said nothing, closing his eyes and doing his best to look like a corpse. He listened to the orders flying back and forth, and tried not to wince at the sudden return of pain as the weight was raised from his back. Eventually, he was lifted and strapped to a stretcher, covered head to foot with a sheet, and carried up and out of the crashed train.
Over the next few days, Scarlet grew heartily sick of ‘the hero of the 11.02’.
“I wish I’d never got on that bloody train,” he groused. “Going overdue on my leave would have been much simpler. And I had reason to. Bad weather, airfield closed, motorway closed –”
“- and those people would have died,” Blue reminded him. “You got them all out safely.”
“Yes, but – oh, damn. Forget it. I’m going to do my best to.”
Much to Scarlet’s relief, the train crash story was supplanted a few days later by another Mysteron threat, this time against the historic visit of the Bereznian head of state to Unity City. The conference room was swarming with the world’s press; Scarlet, still feeling a little jaundiced about Sarah Faber, was uncharacteristically short with them, almost losing his temper at one cameraman he noticed pointing a lens directly at him. They’d located and dispatched the Mysteron agent in time for the press conference to go ahead as scheduled, much to Blue’s relief. Scarlet’s temper, never on a particularly long fuse at the best of times, now seemed to operate on a hair-trigger, and the thought of a long, drawn-out operation surrounded by journalists wasn’t going to improve matters.
Sarah Faber got home from work, and flopped down in front of the television with a stiff drink. She was pleased with the kudos she’d earned from the train crash incident, although not with the visit she’d had in hospital from the quietly-dressed, polite man and woman who’d ‘suggested’ that she hand over her pictures of her mystery man, and forget all about ‘the hero of the 11.02’. Their manner had left her in no doubt that whoever the man had been, he was someone important. To hell with them, she thought complacently. She had an excellent memory, and would never forget what he’d looked like, and besides, there was that little matter of the uplink from the camera to her home network. Thank you, Kenny, that was a wonderful birthday present. Copies of all the pictures were safely hidden behind several layers of encryption and password-protection. It would take a hacking genius to get at them.
She flicked through the channels until she found the early evening news. One day, she swore, she would break out of lifestyle journalism and into the real stuff. Like the story that was on now, of the Mysteron threat against the Bereznian president…
“… members of the Spectrum organisation successfully neutralised the Mysteron threat, and the conference has started as planned…” Suddenly, she started bolt upright in her chair. The newsreader was speaking over a piece of video of the Spectrum operation, on which a dark-haired man in a red Spectrum uniform turned round with a frown on his handsome face and started striding towards the camera. Sarah snatched up the remote control and hit Record. She knew that face!
Trembling, she hurried over to her computer and entered the passwords that would access her digital picture collection. She found the correct folder, and clicked on one of the filenames. “Come on, come on,” she breathed, as the computer decrypted the file and displayed it onscreen.
“In other news…” She stopped the video recording, and ran it back to the start, freezing the frame which showed the Spectrum agent clearest.
Sarah looked back and forth between the video and the computer monitor in disbelief. But there it was, unmistakable and undeniable. Her mystery man from the train crash was the Spectrum agent at Unity City. But he was dead! Or ought to be…
“Welcome to the Special Services desk, Miss Faber.”
Sarah Faber hugged herself with glee as she looked around her new workplace. Special Services! Her piece on the train crash in Dawlish had proved to others what she had always known of herself – that she was capable of serious journalism. She smiled, and shook hands with the editor of the department she’d always dreamed of working for. “I understand you’ve expressed an interest in working on our Spectrum desk?” he said.
“Oh, yes,” she replied. “They do such wonderful work. I’ve been following your stories on them with considerable interest, and I understand they sometimes allow reporters to go on assignments with them?” She let a little hope creep into her voice.
“That’s right. But only under the tightest restrictions. And I’m afraid you wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near them, not until you’ve got a lot of field experience under your belt.”
“I understand. But perhaps I could have a look at some of the past coverage,” she asked, “and chat with the reporters who are allowed to go with them?”
The editor smiled. “I don’t see why not. But remember that everything to do with Spectrum is under strict embargo, and that you’ve signed an undertaking not to reveal anything to any third party.”
Sarah nodded. “Of course. I appreciate the importance of secrecy. Thank you.”
Sarah had no intention of revealing anything that she found out, signed agreement or no signed agreement. She wanted to satisfy her own curiosity about Spectrum Agent X, that was all.
‘X’ was X no longer. He had a name, of sorts – Captain Scarlet. She read everything she could find about Captain Scarlet, which wasn’t much. He was English – well, that much she knew already. He was apparently also something of a daredevil – story after story had him in the thick of the action. Reading between the lines, he also seemed to lead something of a charmed life. There was the incident at the launching of the President Roberts, where a bomb had detonated in the VIP box – Scarlet had got out of there just in time to avoid being killed in the explosion. She read on. On another occasion, Scarlet had been shot at point-blank range by a Mysteron agent who’d infiltrated SHEF, and had been back on duty, if the timeline was correct, within a couple of weeks. Spectrum seemed to assign him to more Mysteron threats than any other agent. Even the carefully neutral prose of the TV21 reports seemed to scream at her that Captain Scarlet was something special.
She leafed through her skimpy notes. The more she looked, the more a pattern appeared to be emerging. Captain Scarlet apparently had some sort of resilience against physical injury, and an uncanny ability to spot Mysteron agents. He even seemed to be able to cheat death – she tried to push away the idea forming insidiously in her mind, but it kept sneaking back. “What the hell,” she murmured. “Go with it.”
In her digging around, she found an unpublished, in fact unfinished story, marked with TV21’s embargo code, but, rather carelessly, not password-protected. It wasn’t a story as such, more a feature on the Mysterons. It theorised on the way Mysterons might recruit their human agents. It seemed that on several occasions, someone known and identified as a Mysteron agent had later turned up dead. In each case, Spectrum had killed the Mysteron, but duplicate bodies had been found, sometimes miles away from the action. The feature surmised that the Mysterons had some way of copying dead bodies and controlling them. Presumably, they could do the same with inanimate objects, too. An injured Mysteron healed in moments… people thought to be dead turned up alive, but Mysteronised…
The suspicion lurking in Sarah’s mind suddenly burst out into certainty… there was no way Captain Scarlet could have survived that train crash! No way! Captain Scarlet had been killed. He’d been killed and Mysteronised, and taken back by an unsuspecting Spectrum!
No. That couldn’t be right. Spectrum apparently had ways of identifying Mysterons, and would surely not baulk at testing their own staff. Besides, all the evidence pointed to an ability to recover from injury even before the 11.02 derailed that was almost superhuman… or non-human.
Sarah held her breath, almost afraid to follow her thoughts through in case they fell apart. The only theory which matched all the facts was that Captain Scarlet had been duplicated by the Mysterons long ago.
And Spectrum knew.
IS THERE A MYSTERON AGENT IN SPECTRUM?
By our Special Services correspondent
The Spectrum organisation has, over the three years of the War of Nerves, earned the respect and gratitude of the world. Its agents are of the very highest calibre, and this newspaper would never, under normal circumstances, venture criticism of them.
But an organisation like Spectrum, which demands ultimate authority during the execution of a Mysteron threat, must, like Caesar’s wife, be above suspicion. That they may sometimes use unorthodox methods is understood – they are fighting an unorthodox enemy. But have they overstepped the mark? Evidence gathered by this newspaper suggests that Spectrum has a double-agent in its highest ranks, a senior field agent who displays extraordinary powers of recovery, who can apparently ‘sense’ the presence of a Mysteron agent. We challenge Spectrum to answer this question publicly and honestly: is there a Mysteron agent in your ranks? And if so, why? We trust you to protect us: do you deserve that trust?
Everyone on Cloudbase was walking on eggs. Colonel White was incandescent with rage, primarily directed at the Press Office for not squashing the story before it had time to hit the news-stands. Most people were avoiding Scarlet, too. Although the TV21 story hadn’t named names, it was obvious that ‘Our Special Services Correspondent’ had someone specific in mind.
Scarlet himself had no doubt who the ‘correspondent’ was. He had a quiet word with Lieutenant Green.
“She must have kept copies of the pictures,” he insisted. “See what you can find.”
“Sarah Faber… Faber…” Green murmured thoughtfully. “Name sounds familiar…”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. “From the train crash?” he suggested.
“No,” Green said slowly. “Something else… ah, got it! She’s got a brother, Kenneth, works at Grenfell Electronics. They make sophisticated communications and media equipment. The pictures of the train crash were taken on a digital camera of theirs, tiny little thing, far more video storage than you’d think, and a wireless uplink to any nominated computer address.”
“But SI stripped her camera and computer of all the pictures,” Scarlet mused. “Or so they said… what do you bet that she’s got copies stashed away somewhere?”
Green nodded. “I’ll see what SI came up with while they were taking her computer to bits.”
“See what you can get, Lieutenant.”
Green came up with the goods within an hour. He triumphantly displayed his link with the network in Sarah Faber’s home, and Scarlet permitted himself his first smile of the day. No mere domestic set-up stood a chance against the lieutenant. That would give Miss Faber a shock, he thought with satisfaction. But he had to admit that she’d made a pretty good job of finding the information on him, and putting it together the way she had.
The repercussions of this incident would be far-reaching, of that he had absolutely no doubt. If Colonel White’s mood was anything to go by, there’d be a considerable change of personnel at the Press Office, and TV21 would probably lose its privilege of being able to follow Spectrum around… Scarlet’s train of thought was interrupted by Colonel White slamming the ‘phone down.
“Lieutenant Green, call a staff meeting. Immediately.”
With the exception of Rhapsody Angel, who was listening on a conference channel in Angel One, everyone was crowded into the meeting room. We need a larger room for these meetings, White thought inconsequentially.
He cleared his throat, and looked around the table. “Members of Spectrum,” he began in the traditional manner. “I expect you know why I’ve called this meeting. Three years ago, the decision to keep Captain Scarlet’s Mysteronisation a secret was taken at the highest level. The War of Nerves had just started; the Mysterons were perceived, rightly, as a menace to the whole of humanity. The thought that a Mysteron agent was employed in the very organisation pledged to stop them would panic the world. Captain Scarlet’s personal feelings in the matter were also an important consideration.
“However, we now face the forcible revelation of this secret. I would like to make it very clear that I hold Captain Scarlet in no way responsible for any part of this unfortunate affair. Your actions during the train crash were highly commendable, Captain, and what I would expect of you – indeed, of any member of this organisation. We have to take some kind of action. Suggestions?”
No-one spoke for several seconds, but at last, Scarlet broke the silence.
“As I see it,” he began, “we have a number of options.” He ticked them off on his fingers. “One: flat, outright denial. Miss Faber was wrong, didn’t recognise me correctly, the man in the train only looked like me.”
Colonel White looked sceptical. “Those pictures of you were crystal clear,” he reminded them. “Perhaps I should authorise a permanent issue of a photo-fogger to you.”
Scarlet continued. “Two, we silence her.” He glanced around the table to see the reactions of his colleagues to that one. Just as he’d thought, they didn’t much like the sound of that. Spectrum could be ruthless, but the thought of killing the woman was not something they cared to entertain. Yet.
“Three, we offer her a job in the Press Office. After all, we have to admit she did a pretty good job in ferreting out all that stuff about me, and it would silence her just as effectively.”
Some thoughtful nods around the table indicated far more approval for that idea than any of the others. Now for the bombshell.
“Four. We admit it. We announce that there is indeed an ex-Mysteron in Spectrum, and we stress the ex.”
Scarlet looked around again. In its way, this option was even more unpalatable than the others. It had cost Scarlet a great deal of heart-searching even to suggest it. What would the reaction of the world be? For years now, the general public had been conditioned to regard the Mysterons as an implacable enemy, to be killed on sight. Spectrum itself had been largely responsible for this attitude, and to an equally large extent, shared it. To announce that one of the enemy was a senior member of the very organisation dedicated to their destruction was asking for trouble, to put it mildly. No-one would remember or consider that Scarlet had been instrumental in so many Spectrum victories, that his actions were not those of a enemy, but of a loyal soldier; no, Scarlet would be branded a traitor in the eyes of the public and Spectrum would suffer too, by association. Getting anything positive out of this would be a public relations nightmare.
“She’s gone into hiding.”
Colonel White glared at the image of Ground Agent Reynolds on his desk monitor; she returned his stare without flinching.
“We’ve checked at TV21,” Reynolds continued. “They’ve clammed up, and not even the threat of legal action or withdrawal of access privileges will make them talk.”
The door signal sounded. “It’s Captain Scarlet, sir,” Green announced.
White nodded. “Let him in.”
The doors opened, and Scarlet came in, still limping slightly. He’d just scored a spectacular victory over the Mysterons in their latest threat, almost losing a leg in the process. Another plus-point for Spectrum in the forthcoming public relations fight. The press had been there in abundance, and for once, Spectrum had done nothing to get rid of them. No co-operation, but no obstruction either. White was almost resigned to telling the truth. Too many people had seen pictures of Scarlet lately, and would compare them in their minds with the pictures from the train crash… but it would be hard. Very hard… and Scarlet would suffer the worst.
“Sit down, Captain.”
With an audible groan of relief, Scarlet sat on the stool almost before it had finished rising from the floor, easing his leg as he took his weight off it.
“I’m surprised that Doctor Fawn let you out before you were fully healed, Captain,” White said mildly.
Scarlet had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. “His actual words were ‘I can’t stand any more of your moaning, get out of my sight’,” he admitted.
White tried hard not to smile. Then suddenly, his expression changed. “Captain, have you and Doctor Fawn ever calibrated how long injuries take to heal?”
Scarlet shook his head. “Not really, sir. Too many variables. Funnily enough, though, the variables only tend to apply to bigger injuries. Something little, like cutting myself shaving, would heal in five, maybe ten minutes, tops. Why do you ask, sir?”
“Because, Captain, I’ve just had an idea…”
Spectrum press conferences usually took place in one of the large rooms in the non-secure section of Spectrum London. Not that just anybody could get in, though – accreditation was strictly enforced, and this occasion was no exception. However, despite the rigid security, anybody who was anybody in the world of journalism was there today. After TV21’s story, everyone wanted to see how Spectrum was going to get out of this one…
The SSC drew up outside Spectrum London, attracting the attention of a large crowd of onlookers. Ground agents moved in to clear a path through the crowd for Colonel White and Captain Scarlet, but as White and Scarlet stepped forward, there was a sudden disturbance.
A distraught-looking man burst through the crowd, forcing his way through the cordon of ground agents. Scarlet reacted instantly, pushing White behind him as he spotted a large knife in the man’s hand.
“My family was on the DT19!” the man screamed, brandishing the knife. “You killed them, you alien bastard!”
Scarlet tackled the man to the ground, wresting the knife from his hand. The ground agents closed in, seizing the man and dragging him to his feet.
“Are you all right, Captain?” White asked solicitously.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Scarlet replied. “Just a scratch.” He held up his hand which was bleeding profusely from a cut along the side of a finger.
White brought a first aid kit out of the SSC, and cleaned the cut, watched with avid interest by those of the crowd who were close enough. He applied a dressing, then they made their way inside the building.
The general chatter in the press room died down to a muted buzz of speculation as a man wearing a large “Spectrum Press Office” badge walked onto the stage. He cleared his throat, tapped the microphone and made his opening announcement:
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am Daniel Freeman, Acting Chief Press Officer for the Spectrum Organisation. I will read out a short statement, and then Colonel White will be answering questions.” He cleared his throat again, and peered at his clipboard. “The Spectrum Organisation utterly refutes all recent accusations made in certain publications that we are harbouring a known Mysteron Agent. All agents and staff in whatever capacity are subject to regular security checks, and such an imposture would have been quickly discovered and dealt with. However, we are aware that, given the recent accusations and speculation, you need a little more than our word, which is why this conference has been called. I’m sure that most of you know Colonel White – I will now hand you over to him.”
Colonel White entered and took his seat, closely followed by Captain Scarlet. The buzz of interested chatter from the audience grew again, then died down as White started to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen. The story published in TV21 last month was extremely disruptive to my organisation, and might even have caused a security breach that would have made a Mysteron threat look like child’s play. I understand that the writer of that piece is in the audience today. Will she make herself known, please?”
Sarah stood up.
Colonel White spoke again: “Are you Sarah Faber, of the TV21 Special Services desk? And are you the same Sarah Faber that was on the train?”
“Yes, Colonel White, I am.”
“Miss Faber, you were asked to bring your camera with you today, the camera you had with you in the train that day. Do you have it?”
Sarah nodded, and held it up.
“Would you bring it up here, please?”
Sarah approached the stage as Colonel White continued to speak. “Let’s have another look at the pictures Miss Faber took with that camera; the pictures she made freely available to the media on the day of the accident. We obtained this copy of the pictures from the World News Network.”
He nodded to a technician, who inserted a data disk into a player. Once more, the famous pictures appeared on screen. The inside of the doomed train, the people climbing over the injured man to get out, then the exterior of the train as it started to slide down the cliff, the man falling back inside the carriage as the door slammed shut, trapping him inside… The screen went dark as the display came to an end.
“Miss Faber, those are the pictures on which you based your… theory… that the man you met on the train was Captain Scarlet, and that he is therefore a Mysteron agent. Is that correct?”
Sarah lifted her chin. Spectrum didn’t have a leg to stand on. Everyone had seen those pictures, the man in the train was undeniably sitting just a few feet away, smartly dressed in a red Spectrum uniform. And it WAS the same man. There was absolutely no question about it…
“Captain Scarlet,” White continued, turning his attention to his agent, “was that you?”
“No, sir. I wasn’t on the train – I wasn’t even in England that day. I heard about it on the news like everyone else.”
“Where were you?”
“On Cloudbase, sir. Records will show that.”
“Records can be faked!” Sarah burst out angrily. White turned to her with an expression of benign gravity.
“I’m told by my technical staff that this particular make of camera takes still and moving pictures of exceptionally high quality. Sergeant, would you show us the first pictures again, please?”
The technician spun the pictures back to the beginning, and once more, the injured man was propping open the train door while people climbed out over him. “Pause it there, please, Sergeant.”
The injured man was looking straight at the camera, and obviously saying something. White looked from the screen to Captain Scarlet, then to Sarah and the audience. “Yes, quite an astonishing resemblance, I agree. However, if we look more closely… Sergeant, would you zoom in?”
The picture enlarged on the screen, centring on the injured man. His image was no longer at the back of the carriage, but taking up the whole screen.
The man’s eyes were partly closed but their light blue-grey colouring was clearly visible. A small scar puckered the skin above his left eyebrow. The dark brown hair showed a few strands of grey.
“Thank you. Now, Sergeant, please use Miss Faber’s camera to show us a close-up of Captain Scarlet.”
The technician took the small camera from Sarah’s hand, mounted it on a tripod, and connected it to the same player unit. He switched it on and pointed it at Scarlet, zooming in to match the picture already on the screen, then split the display.
The two pictures, displayed side-by-side, pointed up many subtle and some not-so-subtle differences.
Colonel White raised a hand to quell a murmur from the audience, in which he had distinctly heard “faked…”
“Captain Scarlet. Show everyone your right hand, please.”
Scarlet held out his hand, the slightly bloodied dressing clearly visible.
“What have you done to your finger, Captain?”
“We were attacked outside the building just as we arrived, by a man with a knife. I disarmed him, and in the process, the tip of the knife caught my finger. You put the dressing on it.”
“Please remove the dressing, Captain.”
As Scarlet picked at the adhesive, White continued speaking: “We arrived in this building just over an hour ago, as many of you would have seen. Thanks to Miss Faber’s article, the world now knows that Mysterons heal extremely quickly – in our experience, the cut on Captain Scarlet’s finger would, for a Mysteron, heal in approximately ten minutes. Captain – please show us your hand.”
Without being prompted, the sergeant moved in for a close-up of Scarlet’s hand – on the side of his index finger a fresh cut, a couple of centimetres long, was still bleeding slightly.
“Several differences in appearance, no rapid healing, no proof that Captain Scarlet was on the 11.02 train that day… Miss Faber, I don’t think your theory holds water.”
Sarah answered the door. Colonel White had to admit that she handled the surprise well, merely glaring at them instead of attempting to do them physical injury. “What the hell do YOU want?” she demanded.
“May we come in?” Scarlet asked mildly, but not neglecting to put his foot in the door just in case she took it into her head to slam it in their faces. She continued to glare for a moment, then with a brusque shrug, stood back from the door. Scarlet removed his cap, gave her a charming smile, and stepped across the threshold, White following close behind.
The small entrance hall opened out into a haphazardly-furnished sitting room. Papers, books and magazines were piled everywhere, unwashed coffee cups adorning the tops of some of the more stable piles – the place was a tip. The only part of it which looked cared for, and thus rather out of place, was the workdesk that dominated one side of the room.
Sarah leaned against the edge of the desk, arms folded belligerently across her chest. “You still haven’t told me what the hell you’re doing here. You’ve got some nerve, barging in here after that – that – charade yesterday! I’m finished as a serious journalist now, you know that, don’t you?”
“If so, Miss Faber, you have only yourself to blame. What on earth did you hope to gain by pursuing Spectrum like that?”
Sarah, flushed with embarrassed anger, glanced across at Captain Scarlet, perched silently on the windowsill, watching the confrontation with a deceptively indolent air. She had no doubt that, if things got nasty, that would change very, very fast.
“The public had a right to know,” she muttered.
“And now, they do,” White said gently.
“They had a right to know the TRUTH!”
White raised his eyebrows at her. “Are you saying that we lied at the press conference?”
She boggled at him. What does he take me for? “Yes,” she said out loud. “Yes, I’m saying that you lied, to protect your precious secrecy. You couldn’t face the thought of how angry people would be, when they found out that one of the very people who are supposed to protect us from the Mysterons is one himself!”
“Miss Faber, yesterday at the press conference, and in your research notes, you were very clear about one of the ways of identifying a Mysteron agent. Do you remember?”
“Of course I do!”
“Abnormally rapid healing, wasn’t it?”
Sarah snorted, not bothering to reply. White knew that as well as she did.
“And you deduced that from looking at the timings of Captain Scarlet’s assignments.”
Again, Sarah didn’t bother to answer. Why was White re-hashing all this?
White said, without taking his eyes off her, “Captain Scarlet? Would you show Miss Faber your hand, please?”
Scarlet slid off the windowsill and approached Sarah, holding out his right hand. She recognised the now slightly grubby dressing as the same one that she’d seen the previous day; hardly looking at him for permission, she picked at the edge of the dressing and stripped it off. Underneath was a rather sore-looking cut, about two centimetres long. Exactly as she’d seen it the day before. Oh, no...
She grabbed his hand, closely examining the cut. It certainly looked about 24 hours old. A thought occurred to her, and she inspected the dressing, too. The medicated pad was stained with blood. Old, dried blood. The outer fabric was slightly frayed and slightly dirty and rubbed slightly smooth. All consistent with this piece of sticking plaster having been worn for, oh let’s say, a day…
Her shoulders sagged, and she dropped the dressing into an already-overflowing ashtray. In a tiny voice, she said, “I’ll get you a clean piece,” then looked up at him. If he’d been smiling, she would probably have either burst into tears, or smashed his face in. But he simply returned her look, not smiling but not unkind either.
“Thanks. I’d appreciate that.”
As Scarlet busied himself wrapping the new dressing round his abused finger, Sarah addressed Colonel White again. “So, what happens now? Do I disappear, or what?”
“Disappear, Miss Faber? Why should you do that?”
She spread her hands in a vague gesture. “Well, you know…” She was irritated with herself for being unable to articulate her conviction that Spectrum was going to come after her. If they didn’t want to silence her, why were they here?
“Ah, I see. You think that, one day, some unseen assailant will – what was that dreadful phrase you used, Captain? – take you out of the game.” White shook his head. “Spectrum doesn’t work like that, Miss Faber, don’t worry.”
At first, Sarah was so relieved that she took White’s words at their face value. But words had been the tools of her trade for far too long, and something in what he’d said suddenly rang alarm bells in her head. Why would Scarlet have been talking about ‘taking someone out of the game’? And if Spectrum didn’t work ‘like that’, how exactly did they work? She swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly dry.
“You accused us of lying to preserve our secrecy, Miss Faber. And that’s quite true. We did lie. We denied that the man on the train was Captain Scarlet for one very good reason. And that reason wasn’t your mythical Spectrum Mysteron.”
Sarah winced at his choice of words.
“Have you ever wondered why we go by colour codenames? It’s for protection – not so much for ourselves, but for our friends and families. We make it very, very difficult indeed for anyone to find out who we are, where we come from… apart from the superficial details of racial characteristics, accent and so on, of course. Then suddenly, here’s someone claiming that a stranger she met on a train is a member of Spectrum. And not just that – she claims that he’s actually a Mysteron agent. This person goes public with pictures, accusations in the press – for which, by the way, heads have rolled in our Press Office. According to this person, a KNOWN Spectrum agent is travelling on a KNOWN train at a KNOWN date and time. People now know what he looks like, and where he was travelling from. That train had made no stops between the start of the line at Torquay, and the site of the crash, Miss Faber. There was only one possible place and time that he could have got on. When you were making your accusations, did it never occur to you that you were making him rather easy to identify? His family and friends rather easy to identify? Spectrum deals with some highly unpleasant and ruthless people on a daily basis, Miss Faber, and that means that we sometimes have to be equally as unpleasant and ruthless. Give that some thought, would you?”
For several hours after the two Spectrum agents had left, Sarah remained where she’d been sitting, silently staring at the wall. All her life, she had wanted to be a journalist. Idealistic, passionate and articulate, she held to a fervent belief that the truth was a desirable thing in and of itself. Subterfuge and concealment were anathema to her. In her social and professional circles, pronouncements from government and military were automatically to be disbelieved. The world would be a much better place if everyone told the truth.
You stupid, self-centred, thoughtless little MORON!
As Scarlet drove the SSC back to London International Airport, Colonel White mused, “On the whole, I think that went rather well, don’t you?”
Scarlet nodded, “I think we’ll need to let her cool down a bit before we offer her the job, though. I have to say, I’m glad it’s over.”
“It must be a relief to be exonerated.”
Scarlet sighed. “Yes, there’s that, but mostly I’m glad that those calibration tests are over!. Fawn’s got no more excuse to slice my fingers open and time how long they take to heal. I swear he was starting to enjoy it far too much.”
The doorbell rang, jerking Sarah out of her fugue. The man and woman standing at her door offered Spectrum Intelligence ID wallets in the names of Maclean and Amery.
“So if you’d like to accompany us to SI HQ, Miss Faber,” Maclean said as he put his coffee cup down, “we can start the process of your induction into Spectrum.”
Still not quite able to believe the sudden turn of events, Sarah followed them out to their car. As it pulled away from the kerb, Sarah quite failed to notice a van starting to follow them… Inside the van, a white-coated doctor started to prepare the first of a sequence of hallucinogenic injections…
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending. My name is Susanna Farmer, Assistant Press Officer for the Spectrum Organisation. I will read out a short statement about the recent Mysteron attacks in Moscow and St Petersburg, after which I will answer your questions…”
Susanna, once known as Sarah Faber, read the statement, then looked around expectantly. As she expected, a forest of hands waved for her attention. She indicated one of them:
“Joanne Wilson, TV21 Special Services Desk. We saw on the video coverage one of the agents involved in the Moscow attack being injured by flying debris, but the same agent was also seen in St Petersburg the very next day, with no apparent injury. How do you account for that? Are you sure there’s been no security breach?”
Susanna smiled. “I presume you’re talking about Captain Scarlet and that old story about him being a Mysteron construct? I can assure you – Captain Scarlet is as human as anybody in this room, and although he had, as you say, no apparent injury, the bruises on his shoulder where the flying brick hit him were spectacular!”
There was a small ripple of sympathetic laughter.
“Field agents’ uniforms are lined with a flexible body armour which protects against such injuries. Captain Scarlet was a little sore, but otherwise unhurt. There are no Mysteron constructs in Spectrum. Next question, please?”
As the questions continued, she rubbed absently at the back of her neck, where a row of insect bites, or maybe tiny puncture wounds, were healing…
AUTHOR’S NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Whoever owns the copyright these days, it is not me and I am making no profit from my unauthorised use of characters, vehicles and concepts from the series.
TV21 was published in varying formats between 1965 and 1971 by City Magazines / Century 21 Publishing, and I read it avidly every week from the age of 10, despite the rather disparaging remark that “that’s a boys’ comic, little girl” from the newsagent.
Yes, this is the second time I’ve put poor Captain Scarlet in a train crash! This story idea came first, though, and I reused the plot device in another story. Implied mention of the Dream Spinner and the Network are courtesy of Chris Bishop.
My grateful thanks go, as ever, to Marion Woods for her suggestions on how to get the story moving on from a jumbled collection of barely-connected paragraphs, and for reading through and approving the final version; to Chris Bishop for such a fabulous website and the world’s biggest collection of Captain Scarlet fanfiction; to all the Scarletinis for support, brain-storming sessions and lots of wine; and of course, to the late, great Gerry and Sylvia for their incredible world-building.