written by Nike
It is a warm summer evening; the sun is slowly dropping behind the massive skyscrapers and all the streetlights suddenly turn on. A dark-red convertible drives past Chicago's Navy Pier and stops on the parking lot close to the water.
Captain Black sits behind the wheel of the stationary vehicle and looks at the trademark red and white Ferris wheel, slowly turning in the stunningly coloured evening sky. He then turns his head and looks for any sign of his target.
He glances at the other parked cars and sees the small, blue sports car he was looking for. He smiles to himself and steps outside. Black walks to the back of his car and opens the boot. Inside, scattered around the stuff of the car's previous owner, lays a small plastic bag; he carefully takes it out and slams the boot closed again.
He looks around but the parking lot is almost deserted; a few people are walking along the water's edge or sitting on the grass. Whatever they are doing, they are occupied with their own business, so Black walks towards the blue sports car, unnoticed by the distracted people. While passing the parking lot he sees the car's owner sitting on a bench some fifty meters away.
Joe McLoud is sitting with his laptop on his knees. The twenty-nine year old, brown-haired, brown-eyed, Chicago-born man looks away from his screen and across the water. Seeing the dark clouds approach on the horizon he glances at his watch and sees it is already getting late. He finishes the e-mail he was writing, sends it and closes his laptop. He grabs his long, grey coat lying beside him and gets up.
As he walks across the grass towards the parking lot, he notices a man in dark clothes and with short dark hair get up right next to his car and walk away.
"Sir, are you okay?" he asks the man, surprised. The man freezes and slowly turns around, his dark-brown eyes looking right at him.
"Yeah, yeah; I just dropped my keys," the man says and holds his keys up to show he has already found them.
Joe nods his head friendly and the man walks away, towards a dark-red convertible parked on the other side of the parking lot.
Joe gets his keys out of his jacket and holds his thumb on a small black key-chain, it flashes and simultaneously the car unlocks and the door on the driver's side opens automatically.
He gets in his car and throws his coat on the passenger's seat. He looks in his mirror for any obstructions and starts the engine; he puts the car in reverse and leaves the parking space, changes gear and then drives smoothly away.
A few minutes later, Captain Black is following the blue sports car along the edge of Lake Michigan in his red convertible. While passing the Lakefront Trail, he looks at the small, grey detonator on his dashboard. He grasps it with his right hand and accelerates. The road is relatively quiet at this time of night and Black draws level with the blue sports car.
Joe sees the driver on his left and recognizes him as the man from the parking lot. The man looks at him, and returns his inhuman focus back to the road. Then without warning, he steers sharply to the right and pushes Joe off the road and onto the beach. Joe panics as his car lunges out of control and comes to a jolting stop on the beach.
Shaking, and feeling a sharp pain on the side of his head, he looks over his shoulder and sees the red convertible standing on the side of the road behind him. The man has stepped outside and holds a small grey device in his hand. Joe tries to open his door, but it is badly bent by the crash and won't budge. He wipes his forehead with the palm of his hand and sees it covered in blood; he quickly tries to get out through the passenger's door and starts crawling over the seats. He hears a soft bleep coming from under the vehicle and the car suddenly explodes in a ball of flames.
Black stands some thirty meters away and drops the detonating device on the ground. Around him, metal car parts start raining down from above and he walks towards the burning wreckage. Although the road was quiet a few moments earlier, several cars pull onto the side of the road to help.
As Black walks towards the wreckage, he sees the familiar shape of two green rings sweep over the beach towards the wreckage. They briefly sweep across the burning car and then disappear.
On the other side of the car, hidden in the smoke, green-tinted tendrils of light start to flow from the wreck and begin to take the shape of a man. As the light slowly fades, Joe McLoud stands in the smoke, his eyes glowing bright green.
He walks through the smoke towards Black, who is waiting a few yards away, and he follows him to his car. The small crowd of people who were about to offer help, are stunned by the fact he has escaped that fireball in one piece.
"You alright?" one woman asks him, surprised; but she gets no response from the Mysteron agents who step into the red convertible. Black starts the engine and the two drive off into the city.
On Skybase, Scarlet was leaning on the circular-shaped metal railing and looking out over Flight Deck from Central Control. Below him, he saw the round platform on the edge of Runway 01 drop down, and a new one rise from below. He looked at the shining, white aircraft rising up and saw Destiny sitting behind the controls. She didn't look up, focused on the FRED robot which was giving her her instructions. Once it gave her the signal to launch, she eased the throttle and shot across the runway.
Scarlet pushed himself up and turned around to see Colonel White sitting in his office behind his desk, writing, with a tall pile of paperwork next to him. Lieutenant Green was rapidly typing behind her vast holographic control screen. On the other side of the room, several technicians were behind their desks typing away. It was quiet, too quiet.
After the attack on London nearly two weeks ago, things had been very silent indeed. No attacks, no threats, no sign of Black, nothing that indicated any Mysteron activity. If London wasn't destroyed he would have thought he had succeeded in destroying the Mysteron city. But still, Spectrum was on Red Alert the whole time, and all the captains were in London, changing shifts every forty-eight hours.
Lieutenant Green's voice broke the silence in the room. "Colonel, I've got Captain Blue coming through."
"Put him on," the colonel ordered, as he came out of his office and walked towards the lieutenant's desk. Scarlet followed closely.
Captain Blue appeared on the transparent screen, wearing a shining, white Spectrum Nuke-suit, with a blue, colour-coded edge around his helmet. Behind him, several destroyed buildings could be seen in the distance.
"Captain, report,’’ the colonel said.
"Sir, I just got word things are slowly getting under control, the systematic search for survivors will be completed in ninety minutes and Commander Murphy just said Spectrum's assistance wouldn't be needed after that," Blue explained. He quickly glanced to his right away from the camera and then looked back, keeping a sharp eye on the massive operation that was still in full swing.
'Right, Captain; you'll be on the last shift, but tell them if they do need our help, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Report again when you're ready to leave."
"S.I.G., Colonel," Captain Blue replied, and turned off the screen, making it clear he was under a lot of tension.
Colonel White glanced at Lieutenant Green and Captain Scarlet, and asked the lieutenant to turn on the latest news reports. Within seconds, a news anchorman appeared on the screen and the lieutenant turned the volume up.
"It has been twelve days since the devastating nuclear strike on London,” the anchorman said. “So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack and apart from the Prime Minister’s report yesterday, no information has been released so far." The image changed, and then the British Prime Minister appeared on the screen.
"As you know, on August 29th, at 19:44, a terrorist attack on London was carried out, with devastating consequences. For security reasons, I am not going to give any more details, but the terrorist group responsible used one of our own B-83 transport planes, a highly sophisticated transporter, to drop a nuclear warhead on our nation’s capital."
Colonel White looked away from the screen as the Prime Minister continued:
"So far, more than fifty thousands people have been rescued from underneath the rubble, and many more have been..."
"Alright, I've seen enough, Lieutenant. There’s nothing new," the colonel said. Lieutenant Green turned off the news report and the room was quiet again. At the same moment, Lieutenant Silver walked in, ready to relieve Green from her duty.
A dark red convertible stopped a few miles away from Chicago, in front of the Great Lakes Institute for Rare Diseases, up in the hills northwest of the city. Joe McLoud held his security pass in front of the reader outside the perimeter fence and was granted entry to the facility.
Once he had parked his car, he walked towards the main building, a large, white, six-storey building with another, narrower, ten-storey building attached to it. He walked to the gate and the blond security guard on duty greeted him as he put his magazine down.
"Morning, Doc! You’re early!" the guard remarked.
"I've got a busy day coming up, so I decided to make an early start," Joe replied. He looked at the digital clock hanging on the wall behind the guard. It read 05:16.
"Okay, sir," the guard replied. He held up his retina scanner to Dr. McLoud's left eye. A thin line of red light projected from it and crossed Joe's retina. A split second later the device bleeped and a green "Identity Confirmed" appeared on the screen.
"Right, good luck today, sir," the guard said. He pressed the large "release" button on his desk and opened the doors to let the Mysteron agent inside.
Once inside, Joe quickly made his way towards the research labs and entered the five-digit entry code. The heavy metal doors opened and he entered the sterile, white tiled room filled with desks, computers, microscopes and much more research equipment. He looked across the room and walked towards the reflective glass vault with a large yellow biohazard sign on it.
He entered yet another entry code as his eyes flashed green for a brief moment and the doors unlocked and slid inside the wall. The opened vault revealed a whole range of glass canisters, each sealed by a thick metal lid on top, which also was secured by a security code.
Joe glanced across the rows of canisters until he saw what he was looking for:
Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) - Viral Mutation
He took the small three-inch tall glass canister out of the holder and held it against the light. Inside he could see a clear liquid, slightly pink in colour. He then put the canister in his pocket, careful not to break it, and left the room.
He walked back through the silent corridors of the research building towards the security station.
"Sorry, Billy, forgot my laptop is at home, I need it for the test results,” he said as he walked towards the security guard.
“I did some calculations late last night, and I need to compare those."
The guard looked at him; he had no clue what Dr McLoud was talking about, but he opened the doors and Joe made his way out towards the red car. Once inside, he removed the small canister from his pocket and put it in a small locker in between the front seats.
He started the engine and looked at the security camera in front of him, which was positioned on a high pole next to the streetlight.
‘No one can stop me now,’ he thought to himself. He realised that he had been spotted and it would only be a matter of time before Spectrum would find out, but whenever that time was, it would be too late. He drove towards the perimeter fence; he held his security pass to the reader and the fence opened. He stepped on the gas and drove away.
"I can't tell you how glad I am this assignment is over," Captain Blue said with a sigh as he walked into his quarters, closely followed by Lieutenant Green. He threw his blue cap on the bed and switched on the coffee machine in the small kitchen. "Want one?" he asked her as he grabbed two mugs.
"Yes please," Serena said with a smile as she sat down on the sofa. Out of all the officers, Adam was the one who made his quarters very comfortable and Serena liked that. Underneath his gung-ho image, he was actually quite soft. And although the quarters were far from large, he had found room for a small sofa.
Ever since Scarlet and Black had departed to Mars a month and a half ago, Blue struggled to find his place in the group, he and Scarlet were almost always together and now he suddenly had to fill in his off duty time by himself. And although Destiny really had a rough time being alone and confused, Blue also found himself a bit lonely.
When or how it happened, he couldn't really recall, but Serena noticed it and their very long "I like you, but I don't want to make things complicated" relationship suddenly opened up, and here they were. Not officially together just yet, but they did spend much more time with each other than before.
Blue came towards her, with a hot steaming coffee in each hand and handed her the drink.
"Thanks, Adam," she replied as she took the mug. She suddenly noticed how tired he looked. "You okay?" she asked softly, putting her coffee down on the table in front of as he sat down next to her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said with a sigh, taking a sip of his drink. "No, that's not true, I'm not fine," he corrected with a quick look at her. "You know, back in London... I've seen some wrong stuff before, during the Wars I mean... but this..." He fell silent and closed his eyes as his head dropped forward.
"Go on..." Serena urged him, laying her hand on his shoulder.
"There was this six year old kid... He had lost both his parents in the initial blast, but he and his little brother had survived, they were staying at their aunt's place for the weekend... The three of them were buried under the rubble for a week." Adam leaned forward and put his coffee on the table. "She was already dead, and the two boys were diagnosed with stage four radiation sickness... You should have seen the six year old’s face when his brother died this morning..."
Serena had no words for what she’d just heard. It was obvious that during an incident as this some horrible things happened, but hearing individual stories like this one was just... too terrible for words. She knew Adam had seen horrible things before. After all, she had read everyone’s file as Spectrum was set up; she and Colonel White were the first members of the organization.
"Sorry I'm not good company today," Adam said with a smile as he looked at her and took yet another sip of his drink. Normally, Blue was more then capable to deal with situations like the one he faced this morning, but with children involved it's something different.
"You're always good company, Adam," Serena replied softly. "Here, you might need this." She changed her position on the sofa and gave him a big hug.
"You know, you're not too bad to have around yourself," Adam said, smiling as she released him a few moments later. But then he suddenly got a playful blow on his shoulder.
"So you want me to stay a little longer then?" Serena asked, looking at him with her large, brown eyes. Blue nodded and she laid her head on his shoulder.
"Alright, that's all for now," a young man in a green supermarket uniform said to the truck driver as he scanned the last cart with his portable terminal. The truck-driver, a bald, middle-aged man much older than his companion, secured his cargo with several metal beams and then closed the ramp.
"Time for something to drink, it's damn hot today!" the driver said.
"Sure, something cold then?" the young man asked.
"Absolutely, doesn't matter what it is," the driver said as he signed the digital manifest in the back of the depot.
"This is a new drink, no idea what it is, but I like it!" His companion said, throwing a green can of soda to the older man and closing the refrigerator room door behind him.
"Yeah, that should do it, thanks! See you next time.”
The truck driver left the depot and the metal shutter closed behind him. A large white and green logo was on the door: a green globe with a white background and the black letters "Distri-Food" on it.
Distri-Food was one of the largest supermarket chains in the U.S. and this particular centre was a very special one. The Distri-Food store in Chicago had a Plantlab facility added to it. Plantlab was a concept that had started in the second decade of the 21st century, growing fruits and vegetables in controlled environments with perfect light, temperature and humidity, but it had never really taken off until the last few years.
Many major cities in the States had a Plantlab Facility, which supplied fruits and vegetables to stores for the entire district. No more crop failures due to bad weather conditions and always the best quality possible, twelve months a year.
Unknown to all the employees in the building, deep in the basement, two green rings of light swept over the main water pipe and, as if being bent by two invisible hands, it snapped and water rushed out of the breach. The two rings disappeared as quickly as they had come.
"Sorry I'm late, Joe," John McLoud said as he hurried into the busy restaurant. Joe was sitting at a table, waiting for his brother.
"About time you showed up!" Joe said. He stood up and gave his brother a firm handshake. "I already ordered your breakfast," he added, sitting down again.
"Thanks, man, things are a bit crazy right now. It's hot during the day, but it's freezing at night, so yeah, pipelines break, don't they?"
"If you say so, I'm a micro-biologist, not a plumber," Joe replied. Although the two were twin brothers, they were very different in appearance. Joe was brown-haired, and John was blond. After the death of their father at the age of eleven, the boys were put into foster care. John quit school as soon as he could in order to start work. He now was an employee of Pipeline Repair Works, one of the largest plumbing companies in the state. His brother, however, wanted to stop people dying from diseases and decided to become a doctor. During his university years, however, he changed direction and became a microbiologist.
John was unaware that his brother had become something very different the night before, and that in a few minutes, so would he.
"I got something for you by the way, I found it last night, thought you'd be interested," Joe said to his brother as their breakfast was served.
"What is it?" John asked curiously. Suddenly his phone rang and he picked it up. "John here... At Don's Diner, sir," he said, rolling his eyes at his brother. "Yes, sir. I can be there in fifteen minutes. Right, I'm on my way.” He hung up the phone. “Sorry, bro,” he said reluctantly. “I got work to do.”
"No problem. We'll do lunch instead then?" Joe said with a smile on his face.
"You bet!" his brother said.
They both walked out of the restaurant towards their cars, parked in the alley next to the diner.
John suddenly heard his brother call him as he got into his white van and he lowered the window when he saw Joe run towards him. His smile suddenly faded as his twin pulled a small silenced handgun out of his jacket and aimed it at him. He wanted to start the engine but his brother had already pulled the trigger.
There was a soft bang, and then his lifeless body collapsed and glass shattered by the shot flew through the van's cabin.
Two green rings appeared and swept the van, and the blood-soaked body of John McLoud sublimated into a cloud of green gas and light. The luminous green gas flowed out of the van and the bullet holes in the windscreen vanished. The replicated John McLoud looked at the Mysteron reconstruction of his twin.
Joe put his hand in his pocket, and carefully withdrew the small stolen canister. He gave it to his brother, his eyes glowing bright green before he exploded in a flash of green light, leaving John standing alone in the alley. He walked to his white van and started the engine, ready to drive to where his boss wanted him to go: to fix a snapped pipeline at a local Distri-Food store...
"Captains Scarlet and Blue, report to Colonel White's office immediately," Lieutenant Green's voice announced over the intercom. A few minutes later, Scarlet and Blue walked into Central Control.
there is an Albatross ready for launch,” Colonel White said in a strong,
commanding voice. “I'll brief you on the way over. You're heading to the Great
Lakes Institute for Rare Diseases just outside Chicago."
“SIG, Colonel!” Scarlet replied. And then he and Blue left the room, as quickly as they had entered it.
A few minutes later, after a stomach-turning fall from Skybase, they were on their way to Chicago, listening to Colonel White’s briefing on the monitor in the cockpit of the Albatross.
"So that's the situation, I want you to find a lead to where he has gone with that stolen canister,” the colonel said.
"Any sign of McCloud? Has he been seen anywhere?" Scarlet asked as he changed the Albatross’s course and switched on the auto-pilot.
"So far not yet,” the colonel replied. “But in a few minutes there will be a broadcast on local TV networks to ask people to report to local authorities if he is seen.”
On arrival at the Great Lakes Institute for Rare Diseases, Captains Scarlet and Blue were met by greatly concerned scientists in the main security room.
''Epidermolysis bullosa is a pretty horrible skin disorder that causes blisters and heavy burns, even at the slightest touch and pressure... this causes the skin to fall off and leave the victim open to infections," one of scientists explained to Scarlet and Blue about the stolen sample.
"So he arrived at 05:16 this morning and left a few minutes later. Is that right?" Blue asked Billy who was the guard the previous night.
"Yes, Captain Blue,” Billy confirmed with a nervous voice. He felt partly responsible for what had happened and this investigation sounded like an interrogation to Billy. “He said he wanted to make an early start, and a few minutes later he said he needed his laptop as he had done some calculations at home which he needed that day."
"He could have used the network to get into his computer at home," Scarlet suggested, with a glance at Blue.
Billy snapped, "God damn it, I know I should have suspected something, but I didn't, alright? That was my fault, I know!"
"Calm down, man, we’re not blaming you, but we need to find him, and fast," Scarlet replied.
Suddenly, one of the other security guards spotted something on the security footage.
"Look!" he said as he pointed at the screen. He urged the Spectrum officers to come and take a look. Scarlet and Blue looked at the footage which showed their target getting into a red convertible in the parking lot. It was barely visible, but they could see he was getting something shiny out of his pocket to put it in the locker next to his seat.
"That's it," Scarlet said. He then quickly contacted the colonel, through his cap microphone: "Colonel White, we have clear confirmation that Joe McLoud has indeed stolen the canister containing a mutated virus carrying EB, a rare genetic skin disease. License plate is...” He checked the security footage. “185624 EK," he added.
"Very well, Captain,” Colonel White answered. “We'll get right on it. Lieutenant Green, check that plate number.”
It took only a brief moment for Lieutenant Green to find the requested information.
"Colonel, the vehicle in question was stolen yesterday evening when the owner was at home,” she reported. “He heard his car engine start, made his way to the windows and saw it being driven away. He described the perpetrator as a male, black hair, pale complexion and dressed all in black,” she said, as she suddenly realized who the thief probably was. "The owner of the car reported the theft but the vehicle has not been found yet.”
Colonel White nodded thoughtfully. “Should we consider this witness reliable?” he asked.
“According to the police, the owner has a clean record," Lieutenant Green answered, reading the rest of the police report.
"Right, thank you, Lieutenant." The colonel turned to face his computer monitor again. "Scarlet, the car was reported stolen last night. The perpetrator's description fits that of Captain Black, but it seems he passed the vehicle on to Dr. McLoud. So that doesn't get us anywhere. I want you and Captain Blue to check out McLoud's residence, you may get a lead there."
"SIG, Colonel,” Scarlet replied. His microphone returned to his cap. “Let's go, Adam," he said as he got up, and he and Captain Blue left the place, wearing the same concerned expression on their faces.
Meanwhile, the white Pipeline Repair Works van arrived at the Distri-Food store and John, dressed in a dirty plumbing suit and waterproof boots got out of the vehicle. He grabbed his toolbox out of the back of the van and walked into the store. Once inside he asked for the manager and was granted entry to the Plantlab facility. When he arrived in the basement, the break was clearly visible. It was a vertical pipeline and had snapped just in between two junctions. The entire room was filled with more than ten inches of water.
He inspected the damage and the store's manager asked, "Can you fix it?"
"Sure I can fix it,” the Mysteron agent replied. “It's a small break, I just need to change this section of the pipeline and it'll be as good as new. Shouldn't take more than ten minutes."
He opened his toolbox and grabbed a large metal calliper. He measured the pipe's dimensions and did some other measurements. He then indicated the damaged section of the metal framework on the wall with his calliper still in his hand.
"I got this type of pipe in my car, I'll cut it to the required dimensions and replace this section of the pipeline," he said.
"Sounds good to me, so we can use the water in an hour or so?" the manager asked.
"Yeah, yeah, once I’ve finished, I just need to flush the pipes and it's ready for use," John said. He then walked out of the room, following the store's manager.
Once outside, John McCloud opened his van and got into the back. He selected a piece of pipe marked "Type 38MM-B" and took it out of its socket. He then picked up a small bright yellow gun-shaped device and turned it on; it was connected to a water reservoir inside the van via a thin cable. John gently squeezed the trigger and a thin jet of water shot out under high pressure.
John cut the pipe to the necessary length using the high pressure of the water and then turned the equipment off. He grabbed the pipe and walked back inside.
Back in the basement, he removed the broken section of pipeline using a channel-lock. He turned around to make sure he was alone in the room - he was – and then he took the small glass canister out of his toolbox and looked at it.
The Mysteron agent’s eyes glowed bright green as he pressed the three-digit security code into the top of the canister and it unlocked with a soft hiss. He poured the clear pink liquid out of the canister into the pipeline, and used his channel-lock to close it again.
John then turned the water pressure back on and heard the water flow through the pipes on the wall. He smiled and his eye colour changed back to normal.
He collected his stuff off the ground and put it back in his toolbox. "All done!" he shouted up the stairs as he walked out of the room.
The store manager came to meet him. "Excellent, we can now pump the water out of the room and go back to work. Thanks for the quick service!" He said, as John got the paperwork out of his toolbox.
"Just sign here if you don't mind," John said as he held out a flat touch screen. The manager signed it and then escorted him out of the store.
As John walked towards his van he knew his part of the Mysterons’ mission was over.
In a few hours’ time, everyone buying fruit and vegetables in this store will get a very, very nasty surprise when they eat them... he thought to himself as he started the van's engine and drove away.
Deep inside the Plantlab facility, Sean Stevenson, a tall, red-haired, thirty-eight year old manager was walking through a dimly lit corridor. He passed many doors and windows, each showing a plant growing under artificial sunlight bearing beautiful, perfect looking fruits.
As he passed along the corridor and into the main control room he said, "All right guys, time to switch the water on again, I just heard the pipeline was repaired."
"Yes, sir,” one of the technicians said. He turned a switch and a bright blue light sprang to life on a control panel. "We got water pressure again," the man reported with relief as he saw the underground farm being fed with the much needed water. All this 21st century technology was fine, but they relied heavily on the system to work: if it failed, it might mean the entire harvest could be lost.
In another part of the facility, the automated system harvested all the crops and they were cleaned by jets of water. All the fruits were then put into crates and shipped out of the facility, some directly to the on-site store, the remainder to other supermarkets.
Sean walked into the room and selected a freshly-picked and cleaned apple. He took a bite of it and looked at his staffs who where all busy with their work.
"That's fruit at its best, gentlemen!" he said and held up the apple as the workers looked at him for a moment. He then left the room and walked back through the corridor taking another bite of the sweet tasting apple...
"So let's go through it one more time," Captain Blue said as piloted the Albatross into the sky, glancing at Scarlet. "Doctor McLoud stole the bacteria; he could do anything with it, thrown it into a water supply or anything."
The visit to Mcloud's residence had turned out to be unsuccessful. A news report about a car accident involving his car had cleared a few things but a visit to the beach had done nothing to give them anything to go on.
“Exactly,” Scarlet said. “He could have already done that and we just wouldn't know about it. This version of the disease is worse, it's not a genetic fault as the original disease is; it’s been introduced to a virus, which has mutated and will allow it to spread. Although there is a cure for it, I don't like the idea of an outbreak, and I am sure the colonel doesn't either."
"So, we just wait on Skybase for the first victim to appear?" Blue asked sarcastically.
"We might get a lead or something,” Scarlet said. “We can't just drive around in the city and hope we might bump into the Mysteron replicant.”
While checking the security footage at the research institute they had both seen Doctor McLoud's eyes glow Mysteron green as he entered the security code to the vault. Although Blue had explained to the scientists that it was a new type of night vision lens, both he and Scarlet knew it was not the real Doctor McLoud who had broken into the research station last night...
Back on Skybase, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue reported to Colonel White and explained the situation. The Chicago FBI, together with the police, had put out a warrant for Doctor McLoud and this was broadcast on TV, radio and internet.
A full day later they had drawn nothing but a blank. Not a single tip came in about where they could find Doctor McLoud so they had no clue where the Mysteron Agent was, or what he was doing.
Without warning, a report came through.
"Colonel! I think we got a lead, sir," Lieutenant Green said, turning to face the colonel and the two captains, who were waiting anxiously for news.
"Go on, Lieutenant," the colonel ordered as he leaned forward on his desk, in order to listen to what the lieutenant was about to say.
"This morning, at 07:44 local time, a man was rushed into Mercy Hospital, Chicago. He was complaining about severe skin sores and after examination he was diagnosed with Epidermolysis bullosa, sir."
"Right, this is it, gentlemen. I want you down there, and take Grey and Magenta with you," the colonel ordered Scarlet and Blue.
"SIG, Colonel," Scarlet replied as he quickly got up.
Inside Mercy Hospital, in room 3826 on the third floor, Sean Stevenson was lying on a bed in a sterile blue hospital gown, staring blankly at the ceiling. His skin was bright red as if he had severe sunburn. Every movement he made ached, and every friction, no matter how small, burned his skin as if it was being set on fire. He was trying to comprehend the news he had gotten just an hour earlier.
He was diagnosed with Epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disease that was normally noticeable at birth. So how the hell did I get it now? he thought to himself.
Suddenly the doctor who examined him earlier walked in, followed by four Spectrum officers, dressed in red, blue, grey and pink.
"Mr Stevenson?" the man in red asked.
"Y... es...?" he answered painfully, his eyes squeezed shut in agony.
The man in red introduced himself:
"Captain Scarlet, Spectrum. We need your help; we believe you have been a victim of a serious incident. We need to know... do you have any idea where you got sick?” Scarlet pulled up a small metal stool and sat down next to the man, folding his hands together.
Stevenson looked at him and closed his eyes with a sigh. He was obviously in a lot of pain. "No..." he said, speaking with obvious difficulty. "Got home... nothing... woke up... last night... unbearable... pain..."
Scarlet turned to look at his colleagues over his shoulder. They were as puzzled as he was. Suddenly his shoulder epaulettes flashed white and his cap microphone swung down.
"Yes, Colonel White?" he asked, getting to his feet as he answered the incoming call.
"Scarlet, Lieutenant Green has found all the background on Sean Stevenson,” Colonel White's said over the radio. “He works at the local Distri-Food and Plantlab facility a few miles from your present position. But that's not all: yesterday morning, one of the water pipelines broke and it was repaired. The plumber who fixed the break was John McLoud, brother of Doctor McLoud."
Scarlet left the room to spare the patient the details of the investigation. He was followed by his colleagues who stopped in the open doorway.
As he listened to Colonel White’s explanations, Scarlet's eyes widened suddenly as a terrible realization hit him. Captains Blue, Grey and Magenta also instantly understood what happened.
"We're on our way, Colonel!" Scarlet said.
"I'll stay here,” Captain Magenta suggested then. “My nephew was born with EB, so I might be able to get some more information out of Stevenson."
"Go do it, we'll be at the facility." Scarlet ran down the corridor to the elevator, followed by Blue and Grey. He pressed the call button and they went inside as soon as the shining metal doors opened.
"So what do you think, Paul?" Captain Blue asked worriedly.
"Not sure yet, but I can guess that the Mysterons took over Doctor McLoud's brother as well and used him to poison the water pipes," Scarlet speculated.
The elevator doors opened on ground level. As they made their way towards the exit, they saw a second EB victim rushed inside on a stretcher and hurried into the elevator, quickly followed by several others.
"This is bad..." Captain Grey said, looking at his colleagues.
"Right, you two go to the store, I'll go after the Mysteron agent before he does any more damage," Scarlet said, urging Blue and Grey to one of the two Cheetahs they arrived in.
Blue and Grey nodded and ran towards the Cheetah. "Mario, we got problems," Scarlet said through his cap microphone. "We got people swarming in, multiple victims so far. I'm going after the Mysteron agent; Adam and Ian are going to the facility to try to stop the damage from spreading any further. Keep a lid on it here in the hospital.”
"SIG," Captain Magenta answered. Scarlet ran outside and saw the first Cheetah race off as he quickly got into the second waiting vehicle.
"Scarlet to Skybase, request information on John McLoud. I'm going after him, Serena," he said as he started his engine and raced after the first Cheetah.
Meanwhile, in a parking spot near his apartment, John McLoud was sitting in his van, waiting for Spectrum to arrive. He knew it would only be a matter of time before Spectrum would find out. He glanced at the passing traffic; it was busy and there were dozens of cars passing by every second. He suddenly noticed the familiar shape of a Spectrum Cheetah as it made its way through the speeding traffic. The red car turned off the road and stopped a few meters away from the white van.
John smiled as he started his engine and raced off. He took a sharp U-turn and cut into the fast moving traffic flow, tires screeching as he sped away.
Scarlet saw the van race off and responded accordingly; the red Rapid Response Vehicle shot off in pursuit, following the van through the flow of traffic.
Scarlet focused on the speeding van as it made its way through the fast moving cars. It turned off the road, took the exit to Western Avenue, then raced through a red traffic light.
Car tires smoked and screeched as drivers did their best to avoid an accident but crashed into each other, creating a blockade in the middle of the busy intersection.
Scarlet grabbed a small lever on his right side and pulled it back. His speeding Cheetah transformed into Flight Mode as two panels on each side flapped down to form gliding wings and the back of the car morphed into a tail fin, exposing powerful boost-jets. When they ignited, the car shot forward. Moments later, the entire car took to the air, gliding clear over the traffic below and smoothly landed a few seconds later on the road.
Scarlet saw the road rising ahead of him to a bridge, possibly over another road or perhaps a railway.
Ahead of him, John saw Scarlet's evasive gliding manoeuvre in his mirror. He swung the van sharply to the right; the entire vehicle crashed through the guardrail and plummeted down to the busy road below.
Scarlet repeated his gliding manoeuvre and landed a few meters away from the crashed van. He hit the brakes and the speeding car squealed to a halt.
The Cheetah's scissor door swung up and Scarlet got out and drew his firearm as he moved towards the crashed van. He pulled the driver's door open... It was empty.
Suddenly a loud hissing sound was heard and Scarlet quickly turned around: he saw John McLoud standing with a shotgun-sized, high-powered water cutting tool aiming right for him.
Scarlet ducked for cover behind the side of the van as a blast of high pressurized water hit and cut straight through the van's bonnet, barely missing Scarlet on the other side of the vehicle.
He thought quickly; crouching low, he ran as fast as he could towards the back of the van.
"Come on out, Scarlet!" he heard the Mysteron Agent say. At the scene, many people were now gathering, trying to offer help at what seemed like an accident.
The Mysteron agent turned around and aimed his weapon at the approaching crowd of curious bystanders. "Nobody move, or I'll cut you all in half!" he yelled at the terrified onlookers.
Scarlet glanced past the back of the van and saw his attacker standing with his back to him. This was his chance: he jumped out and fired. The Mysteron turned around at the last moment and aimed at Scarlet. Before he could fire however, the blast of the stun gun hit him and he fell to the ground as bright blue electric sparks jumped across his body.
Scarlet ran towards the unconscious replicant and crouched down over him to make sure he stayed down. Once he was sure McLoud would not cause any more problems he hung his gun back in its holster and stood back up.
At that moment, he noticed a Spectrum Hummingbird in the sky above. As it lost altitude he could see Captain Ochre behind the controls and waved at her.
She waved back at him as she landed the massive white helicopter in the middle of the intersection.
A red Spectrum Cheetah sped smoothly onto the busy parking lot and stopped right in front of the large supermarket with a sign bearing the words "Distri-Food" on the roof.
Captain Blue and Captain Grey jumped out of the car and ran through the automatic glass sliding doors to enter the store.
Inside, everything looked normal. Blue looked around; it was packed with people, hundreds of them. He saw rows and rows waiting in line to pay for their groceries.
He ran past the cash desks towards the office that overlooked the front part of the store, closely followed by Captain Grey. People gave them funny looks as they hurriedly tried to make their way through the mass of people.
Once they arrived at the office, Blue knocked, pulling out his Spectrum badge.
The large, thick metal door opened and the manager came into view. "Can I help you?" he asked, surprised to have Spectrum in his store.
"Captain Blue, Spectrum," Blue said, allowing his ID badge to fall open to reveal the logo and his photo. “You've got to close the store, right now. Yesterday morning, you had a pipeline repaired by John McLoud from Pipeline Repair Works, correct?"
"Well, yeah, why?" the manager replied, confused.
"The water was poisoned and whatever and whoever has come into contact with it, has also been contaminated,” Blue explained quickly. “Sean Stevenson, operational manager at the Plantlab facility, was the first victim. He is in hospital right now, and when we left, several other victims were rushed in. We need to stop this now before it gets any worse! Stop production and have everyone evacuated!"
Blue didn’t need to explain more; the manager had already reached for the intercom system before he finished his last sentence.
"Attention all personnel, this is an emergency! Stop the line immediately! Drop what you are doing and start emergency evacuation procedures. This is not a drill!”
His message transmitted and the manager led the Spectrum officers out of the office to assist in the evacuation.
A few minutes later, the entire store was empty and everyone was outside on the parking lot.
"Now what?" the manager asked Captain Blue in concern.
"There is a Spectrum team on its way, we need to put a warning out there and retrieve all infected products that have been sold in the past twenty-four hours."
Captain Blue suddenly realized that it was easier said than done...
Later that day, when the full picture emerged, it became clear that more than six thousands five hundred customers had bought infected fruits and vegetables in that one day... More than twenty thousands products in total.
The first step was to find out where the infected products had gone. As it turned out, they’d been delivered to many stores throughout the state. A warning was put out and finally all products that hadn't been eaten were retrieved. It was a massive operation, but tragically, the warning came too late for the more than two thousands eight hundred people who were all infected with the mutated EB virus.
"Most victims will make a full recovery, but it will leave permanent marks and not just physical ones," Doctor Gold explained a week later to Colonel White, who was listening intently to the doctor's explanation, accompanied by Captain Scarlet, Blue, Grey and Magenta.
The doctor continued with his explanation: "A cure for EB was developed in the early 21st century, and over the years, the treatment improved and brought up survival chances to ninety-five percent. So far, out of the two thousands eight hundred sixty-five definite cases, a thousand nine hundred ninety-nine have fully recovered, or are expected to recover very soon.''
"Good, at least that is something," Colonel White commented. "Well, I think we can say that the Mysterons had this operation well planned. The full story is clear now: security footage taken from the Lake Shore Drive road shows the stolen red convertible being driven by Captain Black, so that confirms he is still alive."
Scarlet looked away, through the massive panoramic windows and to the open sky beyond. He felt anger rise up inside him and clenched his fists.
"Thank you, gentlemen, that's all for now," the colonel said as he sat down behind his curved desk. The other officers stood up and left.
Travelling in the elevator down to the Officers’ Lounge, Scarlet looked at Blue. "How on earth am I gonna tell Destiny this... about Black I mean?" he asked his blond colleague.
Blue looked back at him. "Maybe you shouldn't," he said, much to Scarlet's disbelief.
"Come on, Paul, we're not stupid, you haven't talked to her since last week when you had a bit of a row," Blue said. "Maybe it is best to just leave her alone for now, she can read the report on this mission if she wants to, but in my experience you’ve got to leave the past for what it is."
Scarlet's mind was racing; maybe Adam was right, he and Destiny just needed some space right now.
"Come on, Paul," his friend said, clapping him on the shoulder. "How about a boring-bullshit-guys movie in my quarters tonight?"
Scarlet smiled; it sounded like a good idea, and it would give him the chance to keep his mind off things.
"Which one then?" he replied with a smile, looking at an over-enthusiastic Captain Blue who had obviously already picked the perfect movie.