A New Captain Scarlet Fanfiction
by Isabelle Saucier
Disclaimer: Thank you Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and the CGI team for creating such a beautiful playground! The characters are not mine, I'm having a great time writing the stories, and no profit is intended from this.
At the end of the episode “Proteus”, Lieutenant Green refused the promotion offered to her. Yet, she still wanted to provide adequate protection to Colonel White if she were out with him as part of an escort. I decided to throw a lot of blue, sometimes steamy, fluff into her training...
Many, many thanks to Skybase Girl for her beta-reading and really helpful advice! Any remaining mistakes are mine.
The door chime rang. Looking up from the book he was reading, Colonel White glanced at the com-link display and frowned as he saw the visitor's identification. His executive officer was off-duty. What was she doing here? "Come in, Lieutenant," he said, after pressing the command to unlock the sliding door.
The young woman came in. She looked preoccupied by something, he noticed. She stood to attention in front of him and said: "Sir, I would like to have a word with you, if I may?"
"At ease, Lieutenant." White stood up as she relaxed her posture. "Don't tell me you reconsidered the promotion to the rank of captain?" he tried with a half smile, praying nevertheless that she had not.
"No sir. I'm not interested in more field work. The captains are doing that part of the job quite well already. I love what I do and you know it," she replied
"I've been doing a lot of thinking since we came back from the Proteus mission, sir. As I said, I'm not interested in a being a captain. However, one of my duties is to protect you," she said.
"I'd say you proved to be quite competent at that already," he commented.
She winced. "Sir, I felt very inadequate out there. I felt like a novice, and I can't help thinking that if I had been more efficient, you wouldn’t have been injured."
"One, they were exceptional circumstances. Two, considering the situation, I think it went rather we..."
"What is exceptional in our line of duty, Colonel? That was usual. The captains go through things like that all the time. If you're out, whoever is around you has to be able to handle anything. And that includes me, sir."
"I have every confidence that you ca..."
"I don't! I should have downed those drones with fewer shots. I emptied both my magazines, and yours, and still I had to short-circuit the last one using its own equipment!" she exclaimed.
White made a face, both impressed and confused that she was not happy to have been able to handle four drones on her own considering she was not a field agent. "Serena, I think you're being a little too har..."
"No, sir. Scarlet probably didn't even have to reload once." She stopped, realizing that she kept cutting off her superior officer. "Sorry," she apologized.
He couldn’t help but smile at her, amused despite himself. Green had always been frank and direct with him, and that was one of the many qualities he appreciated about her. She could say and do things that others would never dare to. "Knowing you, you didn’t come here only to rant about your shortcomings—real or otherwise; you have something in mind," he said.
"I studied the curriculum that the senior officers follow, and it includes advanced weaponry and combat tactics."
White nodded, crossing his arms on his chest. "Go on."
"As you know, sir, training takes several months in a facility away from Skybase. Considering the current Mysteron menace, it would be hard for me to attend and complete the requirements to obtain the certification in the usual way. However, I thought that I could be credited for a good part of the theoretical and computer stuff based on my current position and past training. I could study for the rest of the course in my off- time. All I would have to do is take the exams at the end."
She stopped, but White knew she was not done. "I contacted the relevant people to ask how I go about this and was faced with mitigated responses. They couldn't confirm that it was possible without a special license, which would involve senior officers and, well..." She rolled her eyes in a comical way, considering the seriousness of her words.
"Would those senior officers include me by any chance?" he asked.
"I know this isn't within the regulations, but it would allow me to improve myself drastically and I'd feel more confident that I can protect you, regardless of the circumstances. You'd never notice that I'm training; I'd make sure that it doesn't interfere with my duties."
White looked at his young officer pensively. "Why not just train here? I'm sure any of the captains or even the Angels would be more than happy to help you," he said.
"It's not the same. The certification will confirm I’m qualified. I’ll know I’m up to par with the others."
"And what about tuition funding?" he asked, but discovered she had already thought of that when she mentioned taking out a student loan which she would pay back little by little.
"This is very important for me, even if it seems trivial to you," she pleaded.
She was like a daughter to him. He was proud of her, impressed that her dedication and loyalty made her want to outdo herself, and depended on her more than she would probably ever know. But at the same time, he was sad that such a burden had fallen on her young shoulders. He sighed. "I can't guarantee you anything, but I'll see what I can do."
Her face lit up immediately. "Thank you, sir!"
"Don't get your hopes up, nothing is sure," he warned.
"I have every confidence in your persuasion skills," she assured him with a winning smile.
Who's calling who persuasive, he thought. "I will keep you updated on the situation when I have news."
"Thank you again. I really appreciate it. I won't take up any more of your time," she replied, before turning to leave. "Good night, sir!"
"Good night Serena," he replied, his mind already figuring out who to call, even if he would not be able to do it before the following morning.
Lieutenant Green didn’t hear anything more for a few days. There was a worldwide conference on oil trading, and Spectrum was naturally involved in overseeing security and the prevention of any Mysteron or terrorist-related problems. Once the event was over, she hoped that Colonel White would have the time to see to her request, but knew better than to ask about it. She continued working as usual, reeling in her anxiety.
One evening, she was in the Viewing Room with the Angels, playing cards, when White entered, holding a small pile of books in his hands. Harmony saw him first and smiled at him. "Good evening, Colonel! Did you come to read? I'll scoot over and sit with Serena," she offered.
"No, thank you. I won't be long. Lieutenant Green?"
"I thought you might be interested in these," he said, watching her reaction as he handed her the books.
The title of the first one read Advanced Field Tactics. Green sprang up from her seat, looking like a child who’s just received the best Christmas present ever. She watched as he produced a folded piece of paper from his uniform pocket. "Spectrum has a budget for continuous education. So you don’t need to worry about funding. I'd say you're all set," he commented, flicking the paper between his index and middle fingers.
The Angels watched, bewildered, as the young lieutenant literally skipped forward to hug their commanding officer and kiss him on the cheek. White seemed taken aback by her unusual lack of self-control, but returned the hug briefly. "Don't be too quick to rejoice, though,” he warned her. You only have a little over four months. It’s not a lot of time to complete the course”.
"Don't worry sir. That won't stop me," she assured him.
White handed her the paper, then left the room with a nod and a courteous "Ladies."
When the lift door closed behind him, Harmony let out a giggle, unable to stop herself. "I thought he was going to faint when you hugged him!" she exclaimed.
"He's more a handshake type of guy, that's for sure," Destiny added with a smile.
"I wonder what would happen if we gave him a group hug?" Melody asked.
"He'd probably have a heart attack," Harmony replied, laughing.
"Come on, girls, he's not that bad," Green argued, but couldn’t help smiling.
Destiny picked up the cards on the table and started to shuffle them. "So... what's the story?" she asked, tilting her chin towards the books.
"Yeah, I'm curious too," Melody added.
"I don't want the promotion, but I want the training. I'm trying for the advanced weaponry and tactics certificate," Green explained.
Rhapsody whistled. "In four months?"
"I already have part of the training, and I'll go pass the exams at the end of the session. Since this is not 'traditional' as far as taking the classes go, I needed help from Colonel White to get admitted. The theory exams should be pretty easy to pass, considering all we do here; I'll train for combat and weapon handling during my off time."
"Well, if anyone can pull it off, it's you," Symphony said encouragingly.
"We could help you train for combat, if you want," Harmony added. "We could train once a week, and then in between you could use the simulator in the gym to practice. The field exam is never the same for anyone, so we can't give you precise pointers, but we can still show you what we figure could be useful to you."
The other pilots nodded in agreement. "That would be great girls, I really appreciate it," Green replied with a smile, hugging the books to her chest.
"You'll probably need a mentor for weaponry, too. One of the captains I'd say. They get more field practice in real situations," Harmony said.
"Actually, I thought of asking Paul if he'd want to help me..."
Harmony pouted. "Nah," she replied doubtfully
Green frowned. "Why not?"
"Paul's good, but I'd go with Adam."
"I would, too. He's more knowledgeable, weapon wise, he's an excellent marksman and he's a really good teacher, although a demanding one," Destiny stated.
An emotion crossed the young lieutenant's face, but she controlled it almost right away. "I guess I'll try and ask him tomorrow, then," she said.
"Great, we'll have you set in a flash and you'll ace the exams! How do Tuesdays sound for our training sessions?" Harmony asked.
"That works for me, thanks." Green paused. "I think I'll sign out for tonight. I'm actually curious about those books."
Since the Angels still had to be available for duty for a little while, they didn't follow her out and bade her farewell. "Wow, girls, you were almost subtle," Rhapsody said to Harmony and Destiny with a snort.
"Someone has to push them in the right direction," the Angel leader replied.
"Yeah, they're quite pitiful... but Adam is the right guy for her training. And if they can stop circling around each other like two love-stricken teenagers and actually get together, well, that’s a bonus," Harmony added.
The following day, Colonel White had to go to the UN headquarters in New York to meet with state officials. He took Captains Ochre and Scarlet with him as an escort, so Green held the fort with Blue.
The American officer was sitting at White's desk, working on something. Green had thought of waiting for both of them to be off-duty to ask for his help, but this opportunity was perfect, since it was rather quiet as far as the day went, and Central Control was deserted. She consulted different parts of her large monitor, noting the Angel patrol ETA and reading the short report Ochre had just sent her on the status of the meeting. Then she caught a flicker of color in the glass as Blue approached her desk. He stopped behind her, looking over her shoulder at the report. "I guess they're as bored as we are up here," he commented.
"Be grateful for uneventful days, Adam."
"You know me. I get restless when I don't get to run into something with a Rhino," he said.
Green turned her chair to look at him with a mock-exasperated look on her face. His expression was stern, but his eyes had a suspicious-looking twinkle that brought warmth to her stomach. "I'm getting coffee at the canteen. Can't stand that mud they have up here. Do you want some?" he asked.
That would give her a little time to gather her courage and ask him, she thought as she watched him walk to the lift, trying not to stare—not too obviously anyway—at his muscular physique. She was not sure why she was nervous about asking for his help. She was usually able to handle her feelings for him pretty well. Perhaps the thought of spending one-on-one time with him was the reason?
She sighed, tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear. Well, might as well consider this as part of the training, she guessed, being efficient despite having a strong distraction nearby. It would be the usual complicity, the usual friendly banter, and the firing range and armory were certainly not romance-inducing locations, so maybe she was worrying for nothing.
Blue returned, holding two mugs. He gave her one and was about to walk away from the console but she held him back by touching his arm. "Wait, I wanted to talk to you about something," she said.
"Uh oh. What did I do now?"
"Actually, this was the Angels' idea..."
"Is this supposed to reassure me?" he asked, taking a sip of coffee.
"I'd like you to train me on how to kick some serious butt using an assault rifle."
He almost spat his mouthful of coffee out. "What...?" he coughed.
"I'd probably need a refresher course with the laser pistol as well. I mean I'm pretty good at the range, but..." she continued.
"Wait, Serena, what are you talking about? An assault rifle?"
"Or anything else you'd think I would need to get the advanced weaponry and tactics certification. The Angels will help me with combat, and they suggested you as my mentor for weapons," she explained.
He blinked, but said nothing.
"I have about four months," she added, biting her lip.
He blinked again. "Was this White's idea?" he asked.
"No. It's mine."
His expression softened. "I'd be happy to help you. You know that," he said.
She stood up to access another console, pecking him on the cheek as she walked past him. "Thanks Adam, you're the best."
He was glad that her attention was turned elsewhere because he felt an unwelcome rush of blood come over his face and ears. He had been attracted to the young woman ever since he had seen her for the first time in Spectrum London when they were building up the team, and any gesture of friendship she displayed was interpreted by his poor brain as more meaningful than it probably was.
Fearless driver and fighter, able to face explosives or Russian Druznyks without even batting an eyelash, but becoming a bumbling idiot when she touched him. Figured.
"I'm meeting with the Angels once a week, and then I’ll practice on my own in-between. We could do the same?" she asked, still working at the other console, surprised that her tone of voice sounded so casual after what she had just done.
She looked at him. "You don't sound very convinced. You don't have to say yes, you know."
"What do you want me to say? Thursdays are boring, so let's do it on Fridays after a dinner date at the canteen?" he asked.
They both stared at each other, slack-jawed, as what he had just said sank in. He could probably fry an egg on his face by now, he thought. Dumb blond complexion...
He was about to apologize, when a communication came in from Scarlet, asking for detailed scans of the area where the UN building was located. They were preparing to leave and he wanted to make sure that they were not in for any surprises. "Do you want me to redirect the Angel patrol your way, captain?" Green asked, settling back into her chair and switching to her executive officer mode automatically.
"Send two. That should be enough," Scarlet replied.
She opened another communication channel and dispatched Destiny Angel to transmit her new orders, sending the appropriate flight plan data directly to the Falcons. Still gazing at what she was doing on-screen, she blurted out: "Actually, that's not a bad idea."
He stared at her. When he didn’t say anything, she looked back up at him. "The dinner beforehand," she added. "That way we could review what went right and wrong during the previous week’s practice."
"Yeah, sure, that works," he replied, relieved that she hadn’t pushed him away.
He left her desk to go back to White's and continue working. Green fought a silly smile finding its way up to her lips, but failed. Despite the technical aspect of the dinners, she would be looking forward to them.
The young lieutenant settled into a work routine rather quickly. The Angels were making her training actually fun, and she improved her speed and reflexes. They even persuaded Captain Magenta at some point—coincidently, he was always training at the same time as they were—to play the "larger, male assailant part". Magenta could not believe his luck, although he probably thought the idea less charming when he ended up with a few bruises for his trouble. Green found out that despite his hopeless flirting, he was surprisingly useful and she appreciated his help.
Her "dinner-dates" with Blue were hardly that. The other officers had learned about her training, and would sit with them to offer advice, or help her review her theory work. She was happy that everyone was rooting for her, but annoyed that she didn't have casual time with the blond officer before training, where he was as ruthless as Destiny had said he would be.
No worries about awkward moments if he stood close to adjust her shooting position (after all, that's what happened in movies). He had done it only once, and had barely touched her. He usually put her through various situations using the firing range simulator and either acted as her partner, or watched her have a go at it, then questioned her on how she could have improved, what had gone right, usually making her find the answers herself rather than telling her. He had sent her out in the cold without appropriate clothing, given her empty magazines, a jammed gun, even no gun at all at one point. She was usually exhausted by the end of the training sessions, but it was exactly what she wanted.
She was sitting at one of the canteen tables with him, and for the first time in the month since she had begun training, they were alone. They were reviewing a simulator case where she had "died"—twice—and eating dessert at the same time. Actually, Blue was eating a piece of apple pie and Green was looking at the screen of her tablet, which she had placed on the end of the table. "See? There! I fumbled with the rifle that I found. It was too dark and I couldn't see what was wrong with it," she commented.
He pointed at the screen with his fork while he chewed on his mouthful of pie. "The magazine was not slammed in correctly, so when you pulled back on the charging handle, the round didn't get in. Sometimes, you can tell just by hearing the sound it makes," he explained.
She sighed, resting her chin in her left hand, then stole his fork to take a piece of pie. "Sometimes, I wonder if I'll be ready in time."
"You'll do fine," he assured her in a gentle tone of voice, putting his hand over hers.
He left it there. It felt warm. She welcomed the feeling it sent up her arm. "Thank you," she said, looking at his pale fingers over her darker ones.
"For not being nice to me during training."
He removed his hand. "Being nice won't help you."
He just had to repeat to himself that he was training anyone else but her to keep from jumping in and saving her when she was in trouble. Which was becoming more and more difficult as her training progressed. In a way, he could not wait for those months to end. "We probably should get going," he said, conditioning himself to revert to teacher mode as he stood up and picked up his food tray.
The young woman nodded and followed him out to the armory. Blue put his hand on the scanning device which opened the door, then followed her in. "Today we're going to practice assembling and disassembling weapons," he said, gesturing towards the worktable in the center of the room.
They had done these steps before, and she was about to tell him that, but figured that there must be a reason why they were doing it again. He gave her a first model—the same one she had trouble with in the simulation—and watched her as she went through the motions. She had practiced on her own, so she had gained speed and efficiency. He seemed to recognize her efforts, but made her do it again, telling her to feel and hear the process. Then, he gave her a faulty magazine that he knew would not clip well into the rifle, and had her switch it. Could she hear the difference? Feel that the magazine was not leveled? He looked at her work, then got up from his seat opposite her. "Wait here," he said before leaving the room.
She shrugged, then took out another weapon to assemble and disassemble it as well, trying to go yet faster, and listen to what Blue was trying to show her. She was on a third weapon when he came back into the room, holding what appeared to be a scarf in his hand. "I thought blindfolds were something of a party trick?" she asked with a half-smile.
"It's a party trick that can save your life if you need to manipulate a weapon without being able to see it," he replied.
He stepped behind her and wrapped the scarf around her head, covering her eyes. The navy cloth was soft against her face. She heard him move to her right, then place one of the weapons in front of her on the table. "Go ahead," he said, then watched her as she went through the motions again, feeling her way around, much slower than before, and fumbling a little.
"This is pretty bad," she commented as she worked.
"Yeah, if this were a real situation, you'd probably be dead by now."
She winced, putting the rifle on the table. Blue had her do it again. And again. She let out a frustrated sound at her own performance. "I can't manage to pick up speed!" she exclaimed.
"It's not that bad. You just have to follow the right pattern. Take the blindfold off, I'll show you," he said.
She untied the scarf and stood up as he took her place. He gestured for her to blindfold him. "Are you showing me, or showing off?" she asked, tying the scarf around the back of his head, and resisting the stupid sudden urge to run her fingers down the nape of his neck.
"A little bit of both," he admitted, with a lopsided smile. "Watch the order in which I do the steps."
He was fast. He had probably practiced this dozens of times, in all kinds of weathers and conditions. His fingers were already telling him how to rotate or adjust the parts as soon as he picked them up. The way he placed them on the table mattered as well.
He repeated the motions once again to show her the pattern. As he put the magazine on the table, Green switched it with the other one that was not clipping well, and waited. He replaced the other parts, and when he shoved the magazine in, his head tilted to one side, and even if she could not see, she knew he had frowned under the scarf. He removed the faulty magazine and held it out to her. "Really?" he said with a touch of sarcasm.
"I wanted to see if you'd notice," she said, putting the other magazine in his hand.
He snorted. "Did you hear the difference in the sound it made?"
"Yes teacher, I did, sir," she replied.
"Good. I guess you know what a part of your homework will be this week. Give me the pistol; you'll see as I do it that the pattern is pretty much the same."
She removed the rifle and put it back on its stand, then walked back to the table. "You're in a good mood tonight," she commented, noticing his relaxed posture despite the fact that he couldn’t see anything.
"It was nice to have the dinner table to ourselves for once," he replied.
"Yeah, sometimes I think it gets a little too busy," she agreed.
His mouth set into a thin smile and she bit her lip. His words implied that he was happy to be alone with her. But was she reading too much into it? Her heart began pounding in her chest as she stared at him. "Adam?"
"Yes?" He turned his head towards the sound of her voice.
"There's something I've been wondering about..." she began.
Leaning on the table, she tilted his head up with one hand under his chin. Then she kissed him. There. She would get her answer once and for all. He gasped and she felt him tense up, clearly not expecting this, but then he began to kiss her back. She pulled away after a while, a little short of breath. "I was wondering what it would feel like to do that," she said in a low voice.
She saw his throat move as he swallowed, then he answered: "Actually, I’ve been wondering about it myself."
He pulled on the blindfold to remove it from his face, blinking at the sudden light. Neither said anything for a little while, looking at the other. "So? What's your conclusion?" he asked, his azure eyes uncharacteristically showing apprehensiveness.
She smiled shyly. "It felt really good." Her smile turned into a short, happy laugh. "I didn't think you'd kiss me back."
"Why not? I thought you weren't interested; that's why I didn't try anything before. I mean you're pretty friendly with everyone in much the same way so I to—"
"Shh," she interrupted him, kissing him again.
He was more confident to kiss her back now that he knew that she welcomed him, but he was moving rather gently and slowly, as if he were savoring the moment. That sent feelings down her back that were definitely not appropriate in the armory and she reluctantly pulled away. "I kinda put a damper on the training session," she began.
"I kinda don't give a damn at this moment," he replied, before kissing the palm of her hand, still on his cheek. "We were almost done anyway. I would have shown you about the pistol, and then that would have been it. I'll figure out a few simulator cases and enter them for your training program tomorrow after I'm off duty."
He stood up to put the remaining weapons back into their respective locations, making sure that they were in working order and putting the faulty magazine into a cabinet where they kept parts for training and spares. Green picked up the navy scarf, feeling the soft wool between her fingers, then followed him out into the hallway.
They walked silently for a while, heading back to level 8, where Green's quarters were located. As they entered the lift, she leant against the wall, her hands behind her back. She watched Blue press the level number on the lift panel, a gentle smile on her lips as her eyes traveled to his face. "I'm happy I asked you to help me with the training," she commented.
"Are you now?"
She nodded. "At first, when Simone and Rebecca suggested you instead of Paul, I wasn't sure, because I thought I'd be too distracted to make it work. But their arguments were logical and I told myself I would be able to handle it." She chuckled. "It's actually working better than I thought, but I failed pretty miserably in the distraction stakes today."
"I'm rather glad you did."
"I think the blindfold did it."
The lift door opened and they turned left into the corridor. "You know..." she began, slowing down and frowning at the same time. "They seemed really insistent that I chose you over Paul."
"I am a better marksman," he replied, not without a hint of manly pride in his voice.
"That's what they said, but... do you think..."
"That they took the opportunity to set us up?"
They stopped next to the door to Green's quarters at the end of the corridor. He shrugged. "Maybe. I'll have to thank them."
"Please don't. They'll gloat about it and we won't get a minute of peace," she said.
They stared at each other, suddenly feeling a little awkward. "Don't study too late," he said.
"All right. I'll see you tomorrow."
He gave her a goodnight kiss, but did not linger, for fear of getting caught if someone walked down the corridor. Colonel White did not forbid relationships between crewmembers on Skybase, but the unspoken rule was that it had to be discreet and it could not interfere with the operations on-board.
It was only when the doors to the lift closed behind him that she realized that she was still holding the scarf. Smiling goofily, she brought it to her face to feel its soft texture and breathe in Blue's scent. Oh my goodness! What just happened!? she wondered to herself as she hit the button to open the sliding doors.
She walked to her bed and let herself fall on it, covering her face with the scarf and laughing happily. The thought that the degree of distractedness for both work and training had just increased crossed her mind, but she pushed it aside quickly. I feel the same way about him as I did yesterday, and it did not stop me before. It's just that now I get goodnight kisses as a bonus... that was nice...
Her thoughts were interrupted by the chime on the communication system. Rhapsody Angel appeared on the com-link, asking if Green would join Melody and herself for training in the morning since all three were off-duty. They agreed on a time, pondered the risks of actually inviting Magenta to join them—and finally decided to wait and see if he would "coincidently" show up again before making up their minds.
After closing the communication channel, Green stood up to prepare tea and settled down with one of the reference books Colonel White had lent her. Most of them were quite arid, honestly, but she read a little each time she could, noting questions as she went. When she had a list, she would bring it to the "non-dinner-date" table to get feedback from the other captains. Her eyes fell on the scarf, which was now folded on her desk. "I wonder how long it's going to take before someone notices something has changed?" she asked herself, welcoming the warm feeling the thought of Blue brought to her stomach.
Surprisingly, no one seemed to pick up on it, not even the Angels, who were probably actively looking for signs that their matchmaking plan had worked. In public, Blue and Green acted as they had before. Now that they knew how the other felt, they realized that they had been sending each other hints of affection all along—the way Blue always stood closer to her if something was happening at the desk in Central Control, their friendly banter, how they usually referred to each other using their names instead of their colors or ranks, how they "accidently" touched the other—so continuing to do that was not unusual, but took a stronger meaning now that it was their own secret language.
The training was still pretty much business-like, since both took it very seriously, but it was now punctuated with kisses or other affectionate gestures here and there. They no longer hoped to have the Friday dinners alone and sought other ways to have private moments; Green found out she became addicted rather quickly to Blue wishing her goodnight whenever he could in person, or through the com-link if he was out on assignment. There was something a little old-fashioned about the whole thing, but at the same time, she would not have had it any other way.
It would be a com-link goodnight for that evening, as Blue had to go down to New York City to meet with an informant. He was standing by Green's desk as she sent the information to have a Swift ready for his use in Hangar deck. He wouldn’t be gone for a full day, but would most likely return after she’d gone to bed. "I'm practicing with the girls tonight, so if I'm not there, just call again a little later; if you can that is, with the time difference," she said as she typed something.
"Okay. I'll find a spot."
"Thanks. I need my fix," she chuckled.
"Ditto," he replied, smiling. "We're worse than teenagers."
"I know." She pressed on a key with a definitive gesture. "You're all set to go. I'll notify Spectrum New York of your arrival as soon as you leave Skybase."
"Thanks." Impulsively, he leant down and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips. "Talk to you tonight."
"Be safe," she replied, and he waved back as he left, putting his cap on before entering the lift.
From his desk a little farther away, Colonel White watched him leave, a surprised look on his face. Well. It's about time, he thought.
And maybe this development was not so recent considering how natural the gesture had looked. He wondered for a moment if Green's training had anything to do with them becoming closer. He knew she was spending time at the shooting range with Captain Blue, but then again, it might have been a coincidence since there had been something developing between them for quite a while.
He saw the face of Spectrum New York's dispatch appear on-screen as his executive officer talked to him. Then another window popped up on her right, alerting her that there was a problem in Engineering. The young woman finished her call with Spectrum, then stood up, linking her computer to her Spectra-tech to go and see what the problem was.
Now alone in Central Control, White pondered the situation, then with a small smile, accessed Blue's private communication channel. "White to Blue," he called.
"Blue here. Anything wrong, sir?" came the reply shortly after; the tone of voice of the younger man indicated that he was puzzled by the use of the different channel.
"No. On the contrary, I'd say," White said.
"If I remember correctly, there's a small bakery shop close to Spectrum’s New York Headquarters, where they make excellent baklavas..."
There was a silence at the other end of the link. "I didn't know you had a sweet tooth. Did... did you want me to stop there and get you something?" Blue sounded uncertain.
White closed his eyes for a few seconds. So much for being subtle, he thought. "No, I was thinking about someone else as the recipient." He paused. "When it comes to courting, small, unexpected attentions are always welcome, I'd say."
More silence. "You saw that."
"Sorry. It's all my fault. I couldn't resist. It won't happen again."
"Don't make promises you won't be able to keep." There was a hint of a smile in the older man's voice. "You don't have to hide in a broom closet to express your feelings for each other, as long as it remains tasteful and does not interfere with your work."
"Says the man who caught me in Central Control," Blue chuckled.
"You know exactly what I mean."
Green came back at that moment, shaking her head at something. She logged on the computer, then stood there, looking at the screen with her hands on her hips.
"Something must have happened in Engineering, she doesn’t look happy," White muttered to Blue, lowering his voice.
"She told me she was working on some automation protocol with them. Guess it's not going as planned. Better buy a bigger box of pastries, then."
The older man had a little smile. "Just make sure you also talk to the informant, Captain."
"Don't worry, sir. Blue out."
White cut the communication on his side and looked at his executive officer, who was now typing something and muttering to herself. He mused on the vagaries of romance; and on an impulse, had two dozen red roses sent to Greenslade Manor.
Blue ended up buying a smaller box, after all, but had the baker arrange the pastries so he could put something else in the middle—a velvet pouch containing a small sapphire pendant. He didn’t know what had prompted him to go into the jewelry shop next to the bakery and now he was worried about Green's reaction. I mean, we’ve officially been together for what, about two months now? But we’ve known each other for over a year, so that has to count somehow, he told himself, pressing the entrance button to her quarters. He put both his hands behind his back to look casual and hide the box.
Green opened the door almost right away. "Hello, Sunshine!" she greeted him, leaning forward for a quick kiss before beckoning him into the room.
"You're full of beans today," he replied, following her.
"I think I found what the bug was in my protocol, I had an idea this morning and it looks promising. I'll have to run tests with the guys... Sorry. I'm rambling. Coffee?" she asked, reaching her kitchenette counter.
"Sure." He quickly deposited the box on her desk while she wasn’t looking, then sat at the foot of her bed.
"Here. It's not as strong as you like it, though. I'll have to get some of that jet fuel you drink," she commented, chuckling as she handed him a mug, then turned back to make herself one.
He forced himself not to look at anything, and waited, taking a sip of coffee. She didn’t make it back to the kitchenette counter, because she spotted the object that hadn’t been on the desk before right away. "What's this?" she finally said, crossing over to her desk.
He took another sip of coffee, but said nothing. His face was flushed, and he felt like an idiot because of it. "You got me a present? Why?" she asked, her tone of voice joyous.
"You didn't have to," She began, then she saw the label on the box and gasped.
He looked up. "What, you don't like them?"
"Are you kidding me?! I’ll have to put this box under lock and key otherwise I'll eat everything in one shot. Thank you!" she exclaimed.
"You're welcome," he replied, thinking, I owe you one, White.
"I've got to have one right now. Do you want any?"
She pulled on the ribbon around the box and lifted the lid, her delighted expression becoming pensive when she saw inside. Not exactly the reaction he expected, but he waited.
She reached in and retrieved the velvet pouch. Tugging on the string to open it, she felt inside and pulled the pendant out. It dangled at the end of its thin white gold chain, the blue, tear-shaped stone catching the light. Ill at ease with the fact that she was not moving or talking, he cleared his throat and said: "I know it's usually the knight who wears the lady's colors, but I thought you might humor me."
She closed her hand over the pendant, but said nothing. She probably doesn't want it and she's trying to find a way to tell me, he thought, looking at the floor between his feet and scratching the back of his neck. "It's okay if you don't like it. I'll just take it back," he offered.
She brought the pendant close to her chest in protestation, looking back at him. Padding softly over to where he was sitting, she knelt on the floor in front of him. "What are you talking about!?" she asked, taking the mug from him to put it farther away on the floor. "I love it. It's beautiful."
"You weren't saying anything."
"I was overwhelmed. I didn't expect this." She held the pendant in front of her for him to take it, then said: "I will be more than happy to wear your color, Sir Blue."
"Well, in that case..." He fumbled with the clasp, which was too small for his fingers. "Who comes up with these things—you're not helping," he protested when she started kissing his face, smiling nevertheless.
He managed to fasten the chain on the fourth attempt, despite being quite distracted by her kisses, especially as he was reciprocating when he could. They both groaned in protest when they heard the communication chime on Green's work station. "I have to take that, it's either Engineering or Central Control," the young woman said before standing up.
It turned out to be Central Control because Colonel White's face appeared on-screen. Blue probably wasn’t within camera-range, but the younger man moved away from the bed nevertheless, almost knocking over the mug on the floor in the process. By the time he bent down to pick it up, Green was done and had closed the communication channel. "The Big Boss needs me," she said, turning around with a small, apologetic smile on her face.
"I should go too, actually," he replied before taking a healthy swig of coffee, grimacing at the fact that it was both tepid and too weak. He walked over to the kitchenette counter to empty the rest into the sink.
"Too bad we're not supposed to wear jewelry with our uniforms, I would have liked to show it off a bit," the young woman commented, looking down at the pendant.
"Just keep it for special occasions, then," he replied.
She gave him a Look. Then, she took the necklace and slipped it into the collar of her bodysuit, so that it rested directly against her skin. "I'm not taking this off," she stated, picking up the box of baklavas and pitting it in the small refrigerator.
"Ever?" he couldn’t help but ask; he meant it as a joke, but was aware of the fluttering in his stomach at the same time.
She had a secret little smile on her face when she stood up, and the fluttering increased in a rather unsettling manner. "That's a pretty good idea, actually," she replied, before kissing his jaw and moving back to her closet, where she retrieved her field boots to put them on.
Apparently, the fluttering could go up yet another level.
They had been monitoring the old satellite for days. The ISA had launched a shuttle to salvage what they could, and avoid leaving space junk. There was already too much floating around and after a global agreement, it had been decided that any space mission leaving Earth had to contribute to the cleaning effort and either bring something back to recycle it, or destroy it to a point where it would self-consume as it came back down.
Green was not surprised to see a message from the Space Agency on her screen, as it was standard procedure to communicate the progress of the mission. However, one look at the ISA correspondent's face told her immediately that something had gone wrong. "ISA Houston, this is Skybase, go ahead," she said in a calm, but firm voice, pressing a button on her keyboard to alert Colonel White that something important was happening.
Knowing that his executive officer would not interrupt a briefing with his senior officers just for the fun of it, he immediately opened the glass partitions, stood up and approached her desk, followed by his captains. On-screen, the ISA correspondent began explaining the situation: "When the shuttle reached its orbital location to begin the salvaging work, the lifting body did not detach as it should have. It remained half stuck in place. We decided to have two of our astronauts go out to see what the problem was, since trying to move it away using the thrusters could have damaged the shuttle or sent it off-course. While they were preparing, the lifting body finally detached itself."
"Was the shuttle damaged?" White asked.
"Not as far as we could figure. However, the lifting body did not follow its trajectory and is not responding anymore. It's coming back down, but we have no control over it," the correspondent said.
Green typed something on her keyboard, then asked the correspondent: "Is the GPS tracker still working on it? Can we at least follow its descent?"
"We have a signal, but it's weak. I'm sending you the data right away. We are still trying to regain control of it so as to land or crash it somewhere safe."
"They're gonna wait until it's too late and ask us to blow it up," Blue said in a low voice, causing Ochre to elbow him in the ribs.
"Did you manage to compute the trajectory?" White asked.
"Yes... our estimation puts it..." the correspondent began.
"In Russia," Green completed, seeing her own calculations.
"In a populated area?" Scarlet asked.
She nodded. "At this point, it's not very precise, but it's more than likely."
"And if the wings catch some air current, or if the lifting body turns a certain way, it can alter its direction significantly," the dark-haired man mused, looking at the calculations. "So sending the Angels is a bit of a gamble. They could circle round and run out of fuel, unless we wait until the last minute."
They all looked at each other.
"Could we get at least a general location where it's likely to fall, and drop Rhinos in the area? We'll blow it from the ground before it reaches the inhabited regions," Ochre suggested.
"We could, but we'll have to wait a until we have a manageable area." Green updated the calculations and displayed the potential impact location on a map.
Colonel White nodded. "Lieutenant Green, have the Albatrosses ready to launch as soon as you can compute a suitable location, and have the Angels on standby. The second we see that this lifting body poses a threat to anyone, we'll shoot it down," he said.
The correspondent shook her head. "Sir, the ISA asks you wait until we confirm that we did not regain control of the—"
"The ISA has requested Spectrum's help. I will do what is necessary to avoid injuring or killing innocent people. We will keep you informed on what actions we take. Spectrum, out." He waited for his executive officer to close the connection. "I believe you are monitoring their system and comparing their data with ours, Lieutenant?"
"Of course, sir," Green replied.
He nodded. He was going to say something else, but another communication request—this time from the director of ISA Houston—appeared on-screen. "Send it to my office, I'll take it there" he commented, before walking away from her.
"We should get ready to go," Scarlet said decisively and the others agreed before walking toward the lift to Hangar deck.
"I'll have everything ready. And I'm sending Doctor Gold with you," Green replied from her desk.
"Alright. Hopefully, he won't be needed," the dark-haired man said as the doors closed and the lift started to move down.
"Ochre to Skybase, come in."
"Ochre, report," Green said as Colonel White approached her desk.
The Irishwoman's face appeared on-screen. She was standing next to one of the Rhinos. "The situation is under control here, the target was destroyed completely," she said.
"I can see fire behind you, Captain," White commented.
"Yes. That's under control as well. The local firemen are on it now."
"What happened?" he asked.
"The path we had to guide us was approximate, as you know, so we ran in circles a bit before we could get within range. Captain Gray shot it down as soon as he could without having it drop off on someone's lawn, but we had to wait till the last minute. Most of it fell into a fallow field, but some bits hit a farmhouse building and set it on fire. Scarlet, Blue and Magenta went with their Rhino to the site because we thought there might have been some people trapped there."
"And?" Green asked.
"The Rhino's sensors located movement, so they went in. They couldn't really wait for the firemen. It would've been too late. They got two people out, and when they reached the third person, part of a wall collapsed on them. The firemen were there by then, though, so they went in and helped to dig them out," Ochre explained.
"So, no fatalities?"
"No, Colonel. But our guys took a rough beating. Paul broke his leg, Mario broke his arm, and Adam's face looks like it met with the wall when it fell. They should all be fine, but they looked quite heroic to the crowd." She laughed a little.
White noticed that his executive officer's posture tensed, despite the fact that Captain Ochre did not seem worried. "Is Doctor Gold with them now?" he asked, hoping that more details would reassure her.
"Yes. We'll ship them up as soon as the Albatross comes back. Iain and I will stay behind to take care of the remaining details. Hopefully, the ISA won't cause problems in compensating those poor people who have lost homes or businesses.”
"I'll make sure that they are aware of the situation. They're lucky that the damage was so limited," White said.
In the lower part of the computer screen, a message notification appeared. Blue was using his private communication channel to contact Green. White saw the young woman's finger hesitate over the key that would open the channel, but she moved her hand away and focused on sending the new flight plan to the Albatross. "I'm going back to see if we can help with securing the area," Ochre said, gesturing at the scene behind her.
"Keep us updated on the situation as it progresses, Captain."
"S.I.G., sir. Ochre out."
The window closed. "I will go get some tea at the canteen. Do you want some?" White asked.
Green looked up at him, and she saw his gaze go from the blinking notification to her. He was giving her privacy, she realized. "No, thank you, but I appreciate the offer."
He nodded, then left. She suspected he would take his time and thanked him mentally again for what he had just told her without any words. When she pressed on the key and opened the channel, Blue's voice said: "Hey."
"Hey yourself. What's going on? Elaine said you had an encounter with a wall?" she asked.
"I guess you could say that. I was hoping to reach you before she did. She tends to exaggerate a little and I didn't want you to worry."
"Is this also why you have shut off the camera on your Spectra-tech?"
There was a short pause at the other end. "It's not cleaned up yet. It looks a lot worse than it really is. You don't need to—" he began.
"It's only a scratch. Don't worry."
"Show. Me. Your. Face."
She had not raised her tone of voice, but it held an impressive level of authority. He sighed. She was probably able to hack into the stupid thing and activate the camera if she wanted to, anyway. He switched the display on.
She was not sure of what to expect, so he strangely looked both better and worse than she thought he would. There was a good size cut on the left side of his forehead, and blood had run down into his eyebrow, the side of his eye and his cheek. His cheekbone and the area around the cut looked scratched or bruised, and probably hurt quite a bit. He was trying to look impassive, but she knew he was tense, preparing for what she would say. "Are you injured elsewhere?" she finally asked.
"I might have a bruise here and there. I'll be fine," he replied.
Green made a face that clearly showed she wasn't convinced. "I thought we had an understanding about recklessness?"
"I am not." She ignored the small voice at the back of her mind that told her she was a little angry. "I'm just wondering if this was necessary."
"There were people in there. We didn't have a choice. We couldn't wait for the firemen." She looked as if she was going to protest, but he continued: "I'm not going to stop doing what I do because we're together, Serena. And I will get injured in the process. You know how it works."
She sighed. "I do know. And I wouldn't expect you to stop. I know you're an action man and you can't just sit there and do nothing. It's just that... remember you're not indestructible. And... and you have someone to come home to now."
"Serena..." he began.
She gave him a lopsided smile. "You know you'll always be my hero, even if you are a little bit more careful while doing your job."
"I love you," he blurted out, overwhelmed by the emotions he felt she was throwing at him then gaped, surprised by his own words.
She froze on the spot, her expression showing that she hadn't expected that to come out of his mouth either. Well, wasn't that grand! Some guys chose a fancy restaurant with flowers and everything to display their feelings. What was his method of choice? Dodging the medical team, sitting next to a charred barn, and speaking into a Spectra-tech. And probably scaring her away.
He scratched the right side of his head, then said: "Sorry, I'm not the most romantic guy around. But I meant every word, even if that's probably the crappiest love declaration ever."
She pursed her lips slightly before smiling at him. "It was spontaneous and to the point. Just like you." Her smile broadened and she suddenly looked almost bashful. "I... I love you too," she added in a gentle voice.
His face split into a grin that was most likely painful, but he didn't seem to care. His obvious joy was contagious and she grinned back, even if she thought that they probably looked a little foolish to any observer. And they probably would have remained like that for a while if someone on Blue's side had not called out to him and broken the spell. "I'm busy!" he called back in an annoyed tone of voice.
"Maybe they're worried you passed out somewhere. You really should let Doctor Gold have a look at you," Green commented.
He waved his hand in front of him. "Details, details. Besides, I wanted to talk to you first."
"Well, thanks for that, anyway. Just don't try to hide stuff from me again. Or I'll have to kick your butt."
He chuckled. "I'd like to see you try."
He looked to his right as Doctor Gold approached him. "Captain, I have to insist you come with me," the medical officer said. "You can continue your discussion once you're back on Skybase."
"I'm not sure he wants to," Green commented, and began laughing when Blue pulled his tongue at her. "Take good care of him, Doc, I leave him in your capable hands. Green out."
She was still smiling a while later when Colonel White came back to Central Control. "Thank you again for your understanding, sir," she said as he approached her desk. "I'm slowly adapting to the situation. I'll become less panicky with time, I guess."
"I don't think it goes away with time, Lieutenant. And it probably shouldn't, as it would mean you don’t care about him anymore," he replied, rather surprisingly, she thought.
"So it gets worse with time,” she said gloomily.” Got it. Thanks for the pep talk, sir."
He poked her shoulder with his index and middle fingers, as if he was telling her to watch her tongue, but his eyes were showing a glint of mischief. "Any changes since I left?" he asked.
"Captain Ochre sent a report. She says that the ISA is sending agents to take care of the scene. She doesn't want to leave until she's sure they won't mess things up, but she's worried they'll try to bully their way in," Green replied.
"Let her know I am backing her up entirely, and if they have a problem with that, they can talk directly with me. I will not tolerate any bullying of my officers or any civilians."
Green nodded. "She also said that while she is waiting, she'll discreetly ask around to know if anyone saw something unusual. This could be related to the Mysterons."
He pursed his lips. "I don't know. It wouldn’t be a logical move for them."
"Could it be a decoy?" she asked. "They've used that strategy before. And with three captains down, even temporarily, it could be considered a success for them."
"Is the first Albatross on its way back?"
"Yes. ETA, fifty minutes."
"Good. Have the captains come up to Central Control when they can."
He went back to his desk and Green carried out his requests, trying to contain her anxiety and glad she would see Blue right away instead of having to wait the end of her shift. The Albatross made better time than expected, but she figured that the men had to do a stopover in sickbay so that Doctor Gold could complete their treatments, so she did not expect them to appear right away. This gave her a little time to calm down and convince herself that she didn't need to run from her seat to Blue when he showed up.
This is getting ridiculous! He’s been injured before and I didn't behave like this. What’s wrong with me? I can't believe it's just because now I can express my actual feelings... she thought, forcing herself to look at her screen, and not the door she could see in the background. Now I know how Simone feels; to think I used to say she was exaggerating a bit!
She was startled when the door actually opened. Looking up, she saw Magenta and Scarlet, both wearing Spectrum-issued sweats and tee-shirts, step into Central Control, laughing about something. The door slid closed behind them as they approached her desk. "Um, where's the third musketeer?" she asked, trying to act nonchalant, telling herself they would not be laughing if something serious was going on.
"Under observation, in case he has a concussion," Scarlet replied, leaning on his crutches.
"He's not too happy about it. You should have seen the look on his face when Doctor Gold told him he's staying in sickbay overnight," Magenta added with a chuckle.
"I'm not sure I'd be happy about that either," Green commented, feeling both better and yet more anxious at the same time.
"I think he's angry mostly because it's Friday and he's going to miss practice with you," Scarlet said, smiling gently at her.
The young woman rolled her eyes. "Who cares about that!"
Magenta looked slightly puzzled at her outburst; Scarlet smiled a little more. Colonel White arrived from his office, stopping on the other side of Green's chair. "Gentlemen, I know you have earned some well-deserved rest, but I wanted to look something over with you while your memory of the events was still fresh. If you'll go to my office," he said.
Both younger men nodded and walked away. White put his hand on Green's shoulder in a calming gesture. "Lieutenant, can you send the data from Captain Ochre's Rhino to my computer?" he asked.
"Right away, sir."
"You can go if you want," he added, lowering his voice so that she was the only one to hear.
"Sir, I—" she began, but something on the screen popped up, requiring her attention. "Not yet, I guess," she concluded, raising her eyebrows in resignation, as he squeezed her shoulder and left.
She ended up actually finishing her shift since one request or problem followed the next, and only left when Lieutenant Silver came in to take over. Since Captains Ochre and Gray were coming back at that point, matters were calming down somewhat and the Australian woman was able to pick up on things quickly.
Green considered going to sickbay right then and there, but then she figured that she would probably spend most of the evening there, so it might be a good idea to change first. She arrived in her quarters and activated the com-link on her work station to contact Doctor Gold as she removed her boots and jacket. The medical officer appeared on-screen after a little while. "Hey Doc, is your patient still moping around?" she said as a greeting.
"He tried to escape twice already. I threatened him to knock him out with a strong pain killer for a few hours. I think he got the message," Gold replied.
"Hang on, I'm coming to the rescue," she said with a chuckle. "Has he eaten yet?"
"No, but I'll let him have something light in about half an hour. So far, he's doing well, but if he has a concussion, I don't want to make things worse."
"Do you mind if I join him, then? I'll stop at the canteen on my way there and pick up dinner for myself."
"Just have your meal sent down with whatever I order for Captain Blue," he said.
"Thanks, I'll do that. Will you be able to hold on until I get there?"
"If push comes to shove, I'll lock him in,” Doctor Gold said with a smug smile. “See you in a little while, Lieutenant."
"Green out," the young woman replied before cutting the communication.
She set her work station to download some things onto a tablet she would take with her to sickbay, ordered her dinner, then finished undressing and took a quick shower before putting on her Spectrum-issued sweats and tee-shirt to be more comfortable. She picked up the tablet, as well as a small metal box containing mint-flavored green tea, then left her quarters to go to sickbay.
Gold looked up when he heard her come in. "Just in time, they sent the trays down a few moments ago," he said as a greeting. "I'll help you carry them, then I'll go take a break, and leave you to your babysitting. See how long you can last."
"Don't worry about me," she assured him, putting her tea on the tray he handed her, managing to balance the latter using one hand, as her other one was holding the tablet.
He walked into the recovery room, saying: "You have a visitor Captain Blue, although I'm not sure you deserve it."
Blue was lying down with his hands behind his head, his expression the epitome of boredom. He looked at the doctor, then past him and his face lit up when he saw Green. "Aren't you a sight for sore eyes," he said, sitting up.
The Austrian man made a face. "At least wait for me to leave before you start flirting with her!" He put the tray he was holding on the small table next to the bed, then turned to Green. "Should anything go wrong, or if you need the strong pain killer to knock him out, just press the button on the nightstand," he stated.
"Okay. I'll remember that," she replied with a smile as he left.
She put the tablet on the empty bed next to Blue's, and her tray on the small table, then sat on the edge of the bed and turned to face him. Pursing her lips, she took his chin between her fingers to look at the left side of his face. "Well?" he asked.
The wound had been cleaned up and more than likely, some sort of derma-glue had been applied to close it, as she couldn’t see any stitches. The area around it all the way down to his cheekbone was scratched, and looked somewhat like a scraped knee. There was another, smaller cut closer to his eye. The whole area was swollen, as one eye looked a little smaller than the other. "Does it hurt?" she asked.
"Not really. But then again, Gold gave me something earlier." He let his fingers run down her arm. "Sorry about missing tonight's session. He won't let me out."
She hugged him close. "Oh shush. As long as you're back home safely, I don't care," she commented, then pulled away after a little while and said: "But all is not lost, since we can still have dinner, and I brought my tablet so we can view this week's training! We can always replace next week's simulator session with the training we would have done tonight."
She stood up to retrieve the small table and rolled it so it was perpendicular to the bed. "I'm not sure what he got for you though. He said you shouldn’t eat a lot at the moment," she said as she removed the lids from the trays.
"He just wants to weaken me so I don't run away," he replied with a grim expression when he saw the soup and smallish omelet with some toast and fruit on the side. "This is ridiculous."
"If all goes well, I'll try to get you something else later on," she said, trying to placate him. She removed the plates from the tray so that there was more room on the small table.
When she put her own food on the table, he realized she was going to sit at the foot of the bed and he sat cross-legged himself to give her more room. She mimicked his posture, her shin resting against his because the table was quite narrow, but she didn’t mind, as it felt quite intimate. "At least we're alone, and the view's not too bad" she said, looking out of the window at the clouds that were tinted pink and purple with the setting sun.
"Well, I try. Don't say I never take you anywhere."
She snorted. "Yep. You know how to show a girl a good time."
He reached out under the table to pinch her big toe, making her yelp in surprise and try to move her foot away. Realizing what it meant, he let out a low laugh, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "Well, I'll remember that," he murmured.
She welcomed the warm feeling it brought to her stomach, but waggled her finger at him in warning. They decided not to talk about work or training during the meal and ended up having the most random conversation about barbeque joints, cars and dolphin-watching in Florida—something they found out they would both enjoy doing.
Once they were done eating, the young woman went to put the trays back in the dumbwaiter to free up space, and used the coffee machine to fill a mug with hot water to make her tea (Doctor Gold hated disposable cups and had a small provision of actual mugs next to the machine). She put some loose leaves in a small sifter and let the beverage infuse while she set the tablet on the rolling table and moved a chair closer to the head of the bed so she could sit next to Blue.
She leant in to set the playback application on the tablet, purposefully brushing against him as she did so. Aside from the fact that they were in sickbay and that Blue was physically injured, this was almost better than their usual Friday nights, she thought, moving back slightly, leaning her cheek against his right shoulder and taking a sip of tea once in a while as the first training session played on-screen.
He watched and commented, replaying a few moments to ask questions and explain things, his tone quiet and relaxed. She reached forward to select the second file when the first one ended, but hesitated. "How's your head?" she asked.
"It's fine," he replied, kissing her temple before looking at the screen again. "Oh-ho! Someone tried for a session using only her left hand!" he exclaimed, leaning forward in interest.
"I wanted to see if I could manage the whole thing like that."
He nodded approvingly, but said nothing as he kept watching. When the session ended, he made an appreciative pout, then said: "That was beau-ti-ful."
"Meh," she let out, smiling and shrugging, feeling her face heat up.
She stood up to put her empty mug into the dumbwaiter and retrieve a deck of cards Doctor Gold always had on his desk. "You have improved a lot. And you're more confident," she heard him say from the other room.
"I had a good teacher," she replied, walking back in to find that he had pushed the table aside and was now sitting with his legs off the edge of the bed as if he were going to stand up. "What do you think you’re doing?" she exclaimed.
"I'm fine. I'm leaving!"
"You need the official OK from the doctor before that. He doesn't want you to pass out somewhere, or throw up, or whatever people with concussions do." She moved so she was standing in front of him, putting her hands on the mattress on each side of him to block his exit. "At least wait until he comes back and ask him," she pleaded.
He reached for her waist and brought her closer to him. "He's taking an awful long time to eat dinner. Maybe he forgot about me," he said, leaning forward so that his mouth was touching hers.
"Maybe he went to Central Control," she replied, smiling as her lips brushed against his when she talked.
"Maybe he's tired after his trip to Russia and no one will notice he's taking a nap somewhere." He ended his sentence by taking her bottom lip between his.
"Maybe he just doesn't want to do all the paperwork from that right away and he's stalling." Her last word was somewhat muffled by his kiss, but she went along happily. I bet Doctor Gold is going to walk in at any moment now, she thought, putting her arms around Blue's neck.
When as if on cue, she heard the doors to sickbay open and Doctor Gold entered—rather noisily—she could not help but laugh a little, even if she felt as disgruntled as Blue looked. She pulled away from him and tried to look innocent.
The medical officer walked into the room, and Green could have sworn he seemed relieved not to have interrupted anything suspicious. "Doing laundry service now, Doc?" Blue asked when he saw the older man was carrying a bundle.
"I sent your things for cleaning when you were admitted here earlier. I just picked them up on my way back," he replied, before putting the blue uniform on the unoccupied bed.
"Does it mean I can leave?!" Blue looked so hopeful Green could not help but smile.
"I should keep you overnight, Captain," Gold commented.
"I've been here for ages already! I ate that children's portion you got me for dinner, I looked over Serena's training session, I didn't feel funny, dizzy or anything! I mean, sure, I can rest if you want, but at least let me do it in my own bed, where I can actually sleep. Not here, where I can barely move!" the other man complained.
Gold sighed, looking at the ceiling. He walked to a cabinet where he kept his instruments, then came back to examine the younger man. Blue stopped talking while the medical officer looked at his eye, then blinked a few times as if to get rid of the dark spot he could now see. "I can come back tomorrow, and you can do all this flashlight routine again before you let me go and I won't complain. And, as a bonus, you won't have to have someone here to keep me from running away!" he concluded.
Gold folded his arms akimbo, staring back at him. "What about your injury?" he asked.
Blue looked perplexed. "What about it? It's not like I'm gonna dunk my head into a potted plant or anything. Come on! Do I need to sign something in case I keel over somewhere and it's not your responsibility or something? I'll do it!"
"Sometimes, I wonder why I bother," Gold muttered, shaking his head. "Fine. Go back to your quarters. You're still off-duty tomorrow, and you are to rest. The second I hear you're at the gym, or the firing range, I'll bring you back here by the scruff of your neck. And I'm not signing any work authorization until your wound has started closing to my satisfaction."
"If your head hurts, or if you feel nauseous, you come back here on the double."
Blue nodded, standing up. Green began putting the furniture back where it was before she moved it. The medical officer made a gesture that meant not to bother with that, and returned to his office. "Let's get out of here before he changes his mind," the younger man said half-jokingly, putting his shoes on, not bothering with socks.
Green folded the uniform so it was easier to carry, then picked up her tablet and tea box, while Blue took the field boots, his belt and his cap. Gold grumbled a farewell to them as they passed his desk, already busy with his reports. They walked to the lift; Green held the uniform and tablet to her chest, and freed her index finger from holding the tea box to press the lift button. They both stepped in, and she pressed 5.
She glanced at Blue, smiling at the small burst of love that warmed her stomach unexpectedly. "You look tired," she said, softly.
"Why do you think I wanted to go to my quarters? I can't sleep in sickbay. Trust me, I've tried before," he replied.
The doors of the lift opened and they stepped out. "As long as it's just that. Mario said you took a pretty big hit. Doctor Gold has reasons to be worried."
"Did Mario also say I pulled Paul out after we got the last guy? That I carried him on my shoulder to safety? If I had been seriously injured, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. He weights a ton," he said.
They stopped in front of Blue's door and he put his cap on her head to be able to change the status on the wall panel and push the open button. He waited for Green to step inside, then followed her. "Of course, Gold is going to say it was the adrenaline rush," he continued, putting his things in his closet.
"That’s because it probably was. At least part of it."
"A really small part, I assure you." He took the cap from her head, leaning over to kiss her nose. "Stay a little?" he asked. "I'm not that tired. We can watch a movie."
"Okay," she replied, glad to spend more time with him even if she suspected he would fall asleep right in the middle of it.
They settled on his bed, him propped against pillows and her using his chest as a cushion, her right arm behind his back. It reminded her of the time when the Mysterons had used her father as an agent and she had asked Blue to stay with her afterwards. However, the circumstances were much nicer now and she enjoyed even more how he was stroking her hair—he probably wasn't aware he was doing it as he was actually focused on the movie.
When his movement slowed to a stop about two-thirds into the viewing, she looked up to see he had fallen asleep. She smiled, thinking he did look like a romantic hero this time, with his injury on one side of his face. Lifting her head slowly, she pulled her arm out from behind his back, and sat up. Standing up quietly, she walked around the bed to the nightstand where the remote for the entertainment system lay.
She turned the television off and he awoke with a start, mumbling: "Uh, what?" in a gravelly voice.
Green winced. "It's all right. I turned the TV off," she whispered.
"Sorry, I fell asleep."
"Shh. Time for bed. Just get under the blankets."
He moved drowsily, but didn’t protest, lying down on his back. She pulled the blankets up, smiling at the thought of tucking in a fully-grown, quite masculine man, and kissed his forehead as she would have done for a child. "Sleep tight," she said, to which he replied with a low grunt.
She let her fingers run through his short hair and added a gentle kiss on his lips. "I love you," she murmured.
Apparently, he was not fully back to sleep because he whispered back, "I love you too," as she straightened up.
She pressed the switch on the nightstand to turn the lights off, save for the small nightlight in the alcove. Then she picked her shoes up on her way toward the door, but once in the alcove, she stopped. Looking back, she gazed at Blue's long form in the bed. On an impulse, she locked the outside door, stepped back into the room, and closed the alcove door after shutting the nightlight off. What am I doing?! she asked herself as she put her shoes back on the floor and walked silently to the side of the bed that Blue was not occupying.
He turned on his right side in his sleep, facing away from her. Biting her lip, she pulled on the drawstring at the waist of her pants, took them off, and folded them to put them on the floor. After a short hesitation, she also took her bra off, pulling it out through her tee-shirt sleeve, then folded it as well and put it inside the pants.
She gingerly slid under the blankets, taking care not to uncover him and lay down on her right side as well. Wow, he's really tired, he's not waking up at all! she thought.
She resisted the urge to snuggle up to him so as not to startle him, but she could feel the heat emanating from his body, and it was comforting. She fell asleep rather quickly, more tired from her day than she thought, lulled by Blue's regular breathing.
Something woke Blue up. He opened his eyes, looking at the clock on his nightstand automatically. One thirty-five. He frowned. The room was silent and relatively dark, his face did not hurt, he did not remember any nightmare or... he froze as he felt something touch his back.
He turned his head to look behind him and saw Green's form. Way to go, sleep through the girl of your dreams getting into your bed, he thought, snorting aloud before he could stop himself.
He felt her shift a little and turned his head to look again, then heard her whisper softly: "Are you awake?"
"Yeah," he answered, matching her tone of voice.
There was a short silence. "Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"It's all right. I'm glad you're here."
"I didn't feel like leaving."
Her hand touched his back again, between his shoulder blades, then began moving gently; she probably meant it to be relaxing, but it shot bolts of pleasure down his spine that awoke him fully. "Does your head hurt?" she asked, still whispering.
"No. It's just annoying because I can't turn completely to look at you, or hold you properly because the left side of my face hurts if it touches the pillow."
Her hand moved to his waist and she hugged him from behind, kissing the nape of his neck. "This is nice," he said, putting his hand over hers. "Maybe I should get injured more often if this is the kind of treatm—what the Hell!?"
Apparently, his injuries had not affected his reflexes because he turned around so fast that she found herself trapped under him before she could do or say anything. He was bracing himself on his hands and knees so as not to squish her, however, and she felt more amused than threatened by his gesture. "I thought you said you'd kick my butt if I hid stuff from you! What was that for?" he asked.
"I've extended that to when you say stupid things as well," she stated.
"Hey!" he protested, but there was laughter in his voice.
"And technically, it was my knee, so it wasn't really a kick..." her argument ended in a soft moan because he began kissing her neck, leaving a trail of fire up to her mouth as he moved.
Her hands went to his sides, then his back, holding him close and encouraging him to continue what he was doing. When he hit a particularly sensitive spot on her ear, her fingers clenched on the fabric of his tee-shirt. Blue made an impatient sound in his throat and moved to take the tee-shirt off, but Green stopped him, saying: "Wait."
He blinked in the darkness, his right arm already free of the garment. Was he going too fast? She had seemed responsive so far... he felt her hand run up his naked arm. "Let me help you so you don't hurt your face," she continued.
He didn’t really need her help, but humored her, enjoying her gentle touch, flinging the tee-shirt somewhere to his left when his head was free from it. "Does this mean I get to help you take yours off?" he asked with a mischievous smile.
She grabbed his hand and put it on her hip, close to the hem of her own shirt. The invitation was clear. He sat on his heels, putting both his hands on her waist, feeling her soft skin. His thumbs began a slow circular movement on her belly, moving the fabric of the shirt up and uncovering her. He kissed the area right above her bellybutton and made his way up, following his hands. Green arched her back and her breath hitched in her throat when his thumbs brushed against the underside of her breasts; the sound she made when his tongue actually touched one of her hardened nipples was one of the most arousing things he had heard in his life.
He closed his mouth over the sensitive area, sucking gently and making her arch her back again; he took the opportunity to pull the tee-shirt over her head and also flung it away, not really caring where it landed.
Blue kissed his way up to her mouth, smiling when his lips met with the sapphire pendant. He was leaning on his elbows to be closer to her, and the feeling of her warm body under him without the barrier of clothing was beyond what he could have dreamed about—and he had had his fair share of dreaming about her over the time he had known her.
Her hands were roaming over his back, pressing down on him as if she wanted him even closer, her hips were undulating to try to reach him, but the fact that he was straddling her legs hindered her movement somewhat.
He leant back on his hands to be able to move his legs about easier, but stopped in his tracks when he felt her hand travel from his waist to his stomach, then lower to reach the top of his sweats. She hesitated a little, then pulled on the drawstrings to unfasten them and slid her fingers inside the waistband. He leant his forehead on hers, closing his eyes, and let out a ragged breath when she touched him. He was so hard it was almost painful and her hand felt so good on him he could only enjoy her caress for a little while before he had to back away reluctantly. "I'm not gonna last long if you keep doing that," he apologized, kissing her shoulder.
"I wasn't doing anything." There was a smile in her voice.
"M'kay..." he let his tongue trail down to her breast and nipped at the sensitive peak, making her squirm. "Don't mind me, I'm not doing anything either," he replied, giving her one last flick of his tongue before straightening up and remove his sweats and underpants in a somewhat shaky move since he was kneeling on the mattress.
He tossed them away, briefly thinking they would never find everything again without turning the lights on, and couldn’t help but smile as a small piece of pale clothing appeared in front of him, dangling from one of her fingers. "Here, just to complete the set," she commented, laughing when he quickly obliged her and her panties went flying in the general direction of the kitchenette counter.
He crawled back up to her, running his hand along her leg, her hip, showering her with kisses. She gasped when his fingers reached her core, her body tensing in anticipation, and her gasp turned into a whimper when he moved them gently about, exploring her, feeling how warm and ready she was. She rocked her hips, calling out his name almost in a plea, and when he replaced his hand with his manhood, she tilted her head back and a soft "oh" escaped her lips.
He paused, giving her some time to adjust to him inside of her, reveling in the hot, silky heaven he had just discovered for himself, then began moving slowly, taking his time to make love to her.
She marveled at how natural it felt to follow him, how his whole body caressed her, how the subtle shift of his hips as he was buried in her made her feel like she was going to explode with pleasure. He leant his forehead on her shoulder, murmuring: "It feels so good, Serena..."
"I know..." she whispered back, wrapping her legs around him.
The change of position brought him even deeper into her, and he bucked his hips, letting out a helpless "Oh God!" in a shaky voice.
Something in how vulnerable he sounded—combined with how he moved against her in a more urgent manner—sent her over the edge. Hard. She cried out when the initial blissful wave hit her, moaning again with each subsequent one as they spread from her core all the way to her fingertips and toes. In the midst of it all, she felt Blue tense against her, taken by his own release, his voice still shuddering with emotion, his hips rocking harder against hers a few times.
The room became silent, save for their heavy breathing that slowed down progressively. Green put her arms around her companion, stroking his back, feeling sated. Blue kissed her shoulder lazily. "I know I should probably say something at this point, but I'm just... dazed, wow," he murmured, his voice rumbling in his chest.
She smiled and leant her head against his. "So I'm not the only one to feel like that," she commented.
He shook his head. "I don't think I could walk even if I wanted to."
She tightened her arms around him, hugging him. "Then stay here," she said.
"That's really tempting, but I'm probably squishing you."
"It's all right, it's a comfortable squish."
He remained silent, as if processing the information. Then, he raised his head to look at her—or at least at her outline since the room was rather dark. "Comfortable squish?" He sounded incredulous.
She shrugged. "It's warm and cozy. And kinda crushing, but in a good, protective sort of way."
"You're something else..." He kissed her jaw, and her shoulder, and settled his head back in the crook of her neck with a sigh.
She resumed stroking his back, drawing circles with her fingers, smiling when he let out a low, contented, purr—that ended in a yawn. "I guess that's my cue. I don't want to fall asleep on you, protective crush or not," he said.
They settled back for bed after a quick trip to the bathroom. Green stumbled on a tee-shirt on her way there—they had not turned any lights back on—and found out it was not hers when she put it on, but decided to keep it anyway. Blue didn’t even bother to look for anything, stating he usually slept in his underwear, and went directly to his drawers to get a pair of clean ones. He ended up lending a pair to her as well when she found out with some degree of embarrassment that her own were soaked through and not really useable. "Hey, they’re actually pretty comfortable!" she said as she put them on.
"I can just picture the Angels' reactions if they catch sight of them when you do the laundry for your personal stuff," he replied, chuckling and laying on his back so she could cuddle up to him.
She made an odd little "ohohoho" laugh, which made him think she was actually considering doing that to see what the girls would do. She moved about a little, getting comfortable, ending up with one of her legs over his and her left arm draped over his stomach. He closed his eyes, resting his chin against her head, then opened them again. "Are you on duty tomorrow?" he asked.
"I switched shifts with Bethany. She has 48-hours leave and she wanted to go earlier. So I'm due in for the afternoon and part of the evening," she replied.
"Okay. I would have set the alarm clock if you had to get up early."
She rubbed his stomach gently in a silent thank you. He closed his eyes again, and drifted to sleep almost immediately, feeling the most relaxed he had been in weeks, as if things were finally where they should be.
Blue woke up expecting his head to hurt. There was a little something, but it was quite bearable. The side of his face was pulling slightly. He hoped it would not become itchy as it healed. He looked at the ceiling, where the light coming from his window was creating a colorful pattern, then at the alarm clock.
He had overslept, by his usual standards anyway. He had probably needed the additional hours of sleep, especially considering... he looked down at Green, who was still huddled against him, using his chest as a pillow. How she could sleep like that without hurting her back was beyond him, but he was not about to complain. He saw the blue piping on the tee-shirt she was wearing, and despite knowing it was ridiculous and that she would probably not be too thrilled by the notion, he enjoyed the somewhat primitive, possessive feeling it created in the pit of his stomach.
He nuzzled her hair gently, inhaling the subtle smell of her shampoo. Her left hand moved a little on his stomach. She was probably awake as well, but feeling as languid as he was, he thought with a small smile. He put his hand on hers, and her thumb went over his almost right away. "Good morning," he whispered, kissing her head.
"Morning, Sunshine. Did you sleep well?" she asked.
"Pretty good actually. Did you?"
She nodded against his chest. "I'm just surprised nothing has happened yet and we were able to sleep for so long."
"That's true. Since I'm not in sickbay, I would have expected Scarlet or Magenta to stop over to see how I am," he commented.
"How are you, anyway?" she asked, straightening up to take a look at his face; she ended up kneeling next to him so she was not twisted around. "Does it hurt? Is it pulling?"
"A little of both, but I guess it's to be expected."
She winced. "You didn't miss your shot. I think you're gonna get a really nice shiner as a bonus. When you go to sickbay, ask if you can put some cream on this. If you manage to keep the scabbing soft, it might not hurt as much."
She stroked his hair gently. "Do you want to stay here and get some more sleep?" she asked. "I can go to sickbay and get you something for the pain. I don't mind."
He sat up. "You're a gem, you know that? But no, thank you. I'll go myself. I just hope Gold doesn't put me out of commission for a long time. I'll be pissed if this impacts on your training."
"Your health is more important than the training."
"Yes, Nurse Green."
"I'm serious, Adam," she said, shaking her finger at him.
"I know." He grabbed her hand and kissed the tip of her finger, then added: "Tell you what. I'll go to sickbay and let Gold do his thing as I told him I would. And I promise that if he tells me no training, I'll be a good little boy and I won't complain. In the meantime, you go get ready for your shift, and we'll meet at the canteen for br..." he looked at the clock. "... unch?"
"That works for me."
"Actually, I would have liked to cook breakfast for you, but I don't think I have much left. Maybe some yogurt and fruit, and my jet-fuel coffee, as you call it..." he said, scratching his head.
"You'd be surprised."
She smiled. "Is that an official invitation for me to come back?"
"You're welcome any time you want." He kissed her gently. "And now I have to stop touching you because it's giving me ideas and we should go get ready."
He got out of bed and looked around to locate the remaining clothes he had enthusiastically thrown about the night before. Green glanced at the clock, bit her lip, then in a swift move, got rid of the tee-shirt and flung it in his direction as he bent down behind the kitchenette counter to retrieve something.
The garment flew over him, hit the window, and fell limply to the floor. He straightened up and turned around with a surprised expression on his face; she was covering her mouth with her hands, but they couldn’t hide her huge smile. "I don't think we have to get ready right this minute," she said, beckoning him to come closer and welcoming him into her arms as soon as he did.
Blue had been right about being out of commission for a while. Doctor Gold refused to allow him to do anything that might cause him to hit his head or reopen his wound for a week. Which meant no active training in the simulator, and no field missions other than meeting with informants and investigating. He had tried his best not to act frustrated when he announced the news to her, but he was angry that she was left somewhat on her own so close to her exams, which were in three weeks.
Unexpected help came from Colonel White himself, who offered to replace Blue in the rounds, saying that considering the reason why Green was training, it was only fitting that he stepped in. This placated the American officer, especially since he actually wanted to see how she would handle herself with their commanding officer by her side.
She “died” the first three times because she was too nervous, and ended up arguing fiercely with Blue about it until White intervened. He told the younger man to leave them, that he would handle the situation himself. Blue did as he was told, trying to ignore his frustration at being brushed aside, and the hint of jealousy he felt as he saw how their commanding officer was talking to her, how close they looked.
He thought of going to the gym to let off some steam, but didn’t feel like talking with anyone who would be there, so ended up back in his quarters, absent-mindedly watching whatever old series he found on the entertainment system. As his anger dissipated, he felt increasingly like an ass. Green had been on the verge of panicking in the simulator, and instead of helping her as a mentor—not to mention a boyfriend—should have done, he had yelled at her and made her feel even more inadequate.
He wasn’t sure why he’d been so impatient with her. Was it because he couldn’t understand why she was missing things she usually didn't? He knew that might make her look bad in front of White, which would mortify her. Or was it because it would tell White that he had failed as a mentor? Maybe the colonel would keep him away from her from now on. He didn’t like the feeling that thought did to his stomach.
Green didn’t contact him that evening, not even for their usual goodnight wishing session, which made him feel even worse. He did leave a message on her communication link, saying he was sorry and that he loved her, but it remained unanswered.
The following day found him feeling dejected, not having slept much and uncertain of how things would be when he got to Central Control. She was already there when he arrived for his briefing with Colonel White, and seeing that Scarlet was not there yet, he took a chance and stopped next to her. "Hi," he said in a soft voice.
She didn't look away from her screen, but she didn't sound especially angry either, rather unsure, or sad. He was so used to feeling relaxed and happy around her; this tension between them was very uncomfortable. "How... how did it go?" he asked.
"I did three more scenarios and it was better. I'm training with the colonel again tonight, and probably tomorrow."
That hurt more than he cared to think about. His hunch about being excluded had been right. He was not about to ask if she had received his message. He knew she had. He sighed. "Serena..." he began.
"Not now, Adam," she cut him off.
"We need to—"
"We're on duty. Not now."
Neither heard Colonel White approach, and were startled when he asked: "Is there a problem?"
"No, sir," Green hurried to reply.
White looked at each of them in turn. "I thought you would have settled this by now," he said. Neither replied, but they both looked slightly guilty and definitely miserable. "What kind of lover's quarrel is this anyway? You're not even angry at each other," he continued, exasperated.
"Sir..." Blue's face was red.
The older man looked at his watch. "The briefing is in fifteen minutes. I suggest you use this time wisely," he said, before returning to his desk.
Green remained seated, silent, looking at her hands resting on her keyboard. Blue let out a short sigh and swiveled her chair in his direction so that they were facing each other. The young woman let him, her hands falling to her lap. "I don't particularly feel proud of myself," she let out. "I shouldn’t have yelled at you."
"I shouldn’t have yelled either."
He held out his hand for her to take it and they strolled down to the Observatory Deck, reaching the farthest corner of it so that they wouldn't be in direct view of Central Control or the Colonel's desk. They stopped next to the railing, Blue still holding her hand in his.
Green looked up at him and said: "I was angry because I trained so much to protect the Colonel, and I “died” during the first exercise! You worked hard to prepare me for all kinds of situations, and this is what I end up doing. I failed both of you!"
"Sweetheart, you know that's not true!" he protested.
"Well, it's what it feels like."
He pursed his lips. "So you're tackling this head-on, and you'll train on your own with him."
She nodded, moving closer to him and putting her hand on his chest. "For a few sessions at least, until I build my confidence back. I know you don't like this."
"It's what you want that counts." He had a roguish smile. "Don't mind me. I'm just jealous the Old Man gets to spend time with you and I don't. Guess I'll have to content myself with being the doting boyfriend welcoming you afterwards with a fresh pot of tea and a foot rub."
She smiled back. "And breakfast in the morning?"
"Sure. I had the time to stock up over the last few days. I'm all set."
She reached forward to gather him into her arms and hug him, then headed back towards her desk because she knew the Angel patrol's return was imminent and she would have to communicate landing information to them. "Can I at least watch the footage?" Blue asked from behind her on the stairs.
She turned to face him and he stopped on the step below, making them level with each other. "Of course. I was going to ask you anyway," she replied.
He looked to his right and saw that Colonel White wasn’t paying them any attention. "By the way, you forgot something last night," he said before taking her chin between his fingers and kissing her soundly on the lips.
"Thanks. I needed that," Green whispered when he let go of her.
"So did I."
She couldn’t resist another quick peck before turning around again to reach her desk, but nearly collided with Scarlet, who was standing in the middle of the passageway with his mouth open. It took an extra effort not to chuckle at his dumfounded expression, but she managed a casual "Hey, Paul" before walking past him to her computer.
The dark-haired man blinked, then turned to Blue, his jaw working as if he were trying to say something but no sound came out. Blue was about to speak when Colonel White called them over to his desk for their briefing. "I think we're due for a little chat after this meeting ends, buddy," Scarlet said under his breath, to which the other man replied with a lopsided smile before they sat down in front of the rounded desk.
In order to make Green more confident regardless of the partner she was paired with, Colonel White kept inviting "surprise guests" to the simulator for the training sessions. Destiny, Symphony, Ochre, Scarlet, even some of the security guys contributed.
Blue was also back when he could, but it was clear that they had lost that time together as well. He tried to reason to himself that it was much better for her training, that White knew what he was doing, and that it would only be for a few more days, but couldn’t help feeling frustrated.
He was pleasantly surprised however, when she still sought his advice, even if he wasn't attending all of the training sessions. He was even more pleasantly surprised that several of their “goodnight-wishes” ended up in sleepovers, especially if the night before had been of the com-link variety. He was curious as to what type of routine they would settle into once things were back to normal—or as normal as they could be on Skybase—but certainly hoped that that would continue. And apparently, so did Green considering that she had made room for some of his own items in her storage cabinet.
Colonel White stopped her training in the simulator the week before her exams, saying she needed to wind down a bit before travelling to Scotland where the tests would take place. He recommended only light gym training and normal shooting practices to maintain her momentum.
As they set the duty roster, he asked her if Captain Blue could have any business to take care of in Glasgow during the time she would be there, or if the notion of him being close would make her nervous. Green was not fooled by his question for one second and had to hold back the urge to hug her commanding officer, especially when he mentioned that a 48-hour leave would be planned for both of them after the exam was completed. "Some people are going to say you are going soft, sir and favoring us," she commented with a smile as she entered the details into the roster.
"Not at all. I'm favoring myself, actually. Captain Blue is going to be insufferable if he stays here. If his presence won’t bother you, I might as well send him along. Of course, technically, he won't be with you during the day as he will be performing inspections and giving lectures; after all, I have to keep him busy..."
"You're having him give lectures?! Oh, he's going to love that."
"Call it a test of commitment."
"Sir!" she exclaimed, chuckling despite herself.
White's lip curled up briefly into a smile, already knowing that Blue would agree to such a compromise without a second thought. He also knew that the man would happily perform another task that the colonel had intentionally kept to himself: collect the customized pistol he had ordered for his executive officer. If Green had to go out in the field to protect him, she should do so bearing her own color and equipment.
It felt odd to be back in traditional Spectrum teal and light gray, Green thought as she walked down the corridor to reach the theory examination room. She supposed it was to have a notion of equality for all of the candidates throughout the tests. At least she wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb with her green jacket.
She had arrived the night before so as not to add the fatigue of the trip to her examination day, leaving Central Control in the competent hands of Lieutenant Silver, who was sharing duty with Captain Magenta, of all people. He still had to be careful with his arm, but as with any other of the Spectrum captains, he couldn't stand still as he healed, so he had readily offered to help.
Green had been the one doing the com-link goodnight to Blue, which had been a little awkward, and they ended up talking for an hour and a half like teenagers who know they have to hang up but cannot muster the courage to do so. He was to fly out of Skybase the following day to do his duties and they would probably not see each other until dinner time or even later, depending on how long the shooting part of the examination lasted. She felt lonely and nervous, and despite the fact that she had not said so precisely, her boyfriend could feel it even though he was not right next to her.
She breezed through the theory part almost as if it was a simple formality. Her answers were probably more detailed than necessary, since sometimes she could see situations from different angles and had elaborated more than once. She wondered if that would cause her trouble. The "nerdy know-it-all" approach might not appeal to the people who were marking the tests. Oh well. It was a little late to tone it down now anyway. Lieutenant Green was known for her thoroughness, and she wasn't going to stop now.
The shooting exam was not quite as she expected. Instead of simply having a session at the range, they had the candidates run through some sort of obstacle course to get them short of breath and somewhat disoriented, and they had to shoot different weapons at targets in different locations. Some of the weapons were more familiar than others, some shooting angles were difficult, but she managed quite well, in her opinion, although she would need an ice pack for her left shoulder after a particularly acrobatic, upside-down shot. Blue would have been proud.
When they met for a late dinner, the goofy smile on his face told her that he had seen the footage of her test—he didn't specify if he actually could do that, or if he had pulled rank on someone. She suspected that the footage was also already 65,000 feet up in the sky, even if Blue didn't mention anything about that either. "You know what? When this is all done, I want to just sit somewhere for a while and do nothing," she commented, taking a sip of her tea as they sat at one of the canteen's tables.
"Is 'somewhere' a location in particular?"
She leant her chin into her hand. "Not really. As long as it's nice, restful, and outside. Lying down in a field of grass and looking at the clouds from below sounds like a perfect vacation right now."
Blue seemed thoughtful, mimicking her position by also leaning his chin on his hand, then asked: "Would a beach do? Spain isn't that far in flying distance... we could take a Swift, then go back to Skybase from there."
Her eyes lit up. "Giving it your best for our first official outside date, aren't you?"
"You get your beautiful place to sit, I get to see you in a bathing suit. It's a win-win situation, really."
She snorted in laughter and threw a sugar packet at him. "Do I get to see you in a bathing suit?"
"Yum," she murmured into her mug to hide her smile.
He threw the sugar packet back at her, his expression a mix of disbelief and uncharacteristic shyness at her implicit compliment. "Well, you just go breeze through your simulation test tomorrow as if it were a normal practice run, and I'll take care of the rest," he said.
"You make it sound so easy," she replied, standing up.
He sighed. "Maybe at some point you'll believe me when I tell you that you can do this."
He picked both trays from the table and she took his cap in a reflex gesture before they headed for the trash bins, then out of the canteen. They did not spend a lot of time together afterwards since Green wanted to rest. So Blue took her back to her temporary quarters, where he kissed her goodnight several times, despite being interrupted by a Spectrum employee who walked past them in the corridor, giving them a startled look, while at the same time trying to act as if he had not seen anything.
As Green didn’t know when the next day’s test would end, they agreed that she would contact him as soon as she was ready. He had a lecture to give early in the morning, then had to retrieve the green pistol. He was allowed into the control room where they monitored the tests so he could see her progress live—something he chose not to tell her in case it made her too nervous.
He also chose not to tell her that the broadcast would be sent to Skybase, and that it would be watched live with much interest over there as well.
A Spectrum employee came to get her the following morning and took her, along with the other four candidates, to a briefing room, where they gave her general instructions. Each candidate had a scenario to follow. They would be fitted with a sidearm that shot small paint capsules instead of actual ammunition, an earpiece with an integrated microphone and a protective vest. Green wondered why they simply did not allow her to wear her own green uniform which already had all that save for the sidearm, but guessed that it was yet again a measure of uniformity for all of the candidates.
The tests began at different times, as each candidate started from the same location but would then receive additional instructions specific to their own scenario. A team of technicians and an evaluator would then follow their progress using cameras and microphones strategically placed everywhere on the premises of the testing facility and provide other instructions as needed into the earpiece.
With interest, Blue watched Green's team get ready for her to start, curious to see what they had chosen for her. The simulator we have on Skybase is nothing compared to this! He thought.
At the appointed time, she came in, adjusting her earpiece on the side of her head, her light-gray protection jacket fastened. She had her serious, authoritative look on and if she was nervous, she was hiding it quite well.
On board Skybase, the Captains, Angels, Doctor Gold and Lieutenant Silver were gathered around Colonel White's desk to watch her progress on the display screens. "Looking sharp, Serena!" Harmony said with a smile.
"Make us proud, darling!" Rhapsody added.
Colonel White said nothing, but there was a glint of pride in his ice-blue gaze.
The technicians busied themselves around Green, getting the last details ready. She was to bring someone they dubbed a VIP from one location to another safely and efficiently. She concentrated on what the technician was explaining, showing her the locations she had to cover on an interactive map. She saw several opportunities for booby traps along the way, trying to find ways to see how she could avoid them. She did her best to squelch the feeling of being overwhelmed that came over her, and had a thought for the Captains. She definitely did not want this to be her full-time job, she decided. "As soon as the VIP arrives, you'll be on your way, Lieutenant," the technician said, before turning away from her and speaking into his microphone: "We're all set on our side, where's Max?" he asked one of the people in the control room.
"We don't know. He called to say he was on his way; he should be here by now."
"Did you try to call him back?"
"I got the voice mail. I'll try again." The control room technician turned to Blue, who was sitting next to him. "They told him he was a VIP, he's acting the part to its fullest," he commented.
"I guess..." the other man replied, a nagging feeling tugging at the back of his mind as he watched the viewing monitor.
The person they called Max arrived shortly afterwards, apologizing profusely because his Spectra-tech was not functioning properly and he’d had to go and retrieve another one since it was needed for the test.
When Green reached forward to shake the VIP's hand in greeting, she recognized him as the person who was in the corridor the night before and gave him an apologetic smile. He smiled back. "Captain Blue is a lucky man," he said.
"Don't tell him, but I think it's actually the other way around," she replied.
In the control room, the technician turned to Blue, who was unsuccessfully trying to hide a grin.
On Skybase, there was a short silence. "WHAT!" Destiny yelped, staring at the screen in front of her, then at Harmony, who was seated next to her.
She remembered where she was and put a hand over her mouth, casting a sheepish glance in the direction of Colonel White.
"Guess they got caught again," Scarlet commented, as White shook his head with a smile.
Destiny turned her head sharply, frowning at Scarlet, feeling utterly betrayed that he apparently knew things that she did not. "You mean our plan actually worked?" Harmony cut in to try and alleviate any incoming argument.
"I wasn't aware of any plans in the first place,” Scarlet protested with a placatory look at Destiny. "But something happened, that's for sure," he added.
"Well, then. I guess there's only one thing left to do," the redhead said, an impish glint in her eye.
Scarlet grinned back. Between them, Destiny rolled her eyes, smiling as well, despite herself. "Just keep it tasteful, please," White commented in a quiet voice, staring at the screen intently to avoid their stunned gazes and hide his own amused expression.
Green and the VIP were driven to the first location of her test, some distance away from the control center. They were dropped at what looked like a conference facility, with people mingling around as if a meeting was ending and they had to leave. The conference room was located on the second floor, and Green's job was to lead the VIP from there to a back exit to avoid the crowd. Once there, they were to board a black saloon car and go on to the next location, a restaurant, as the VIP was to attend another function.
The atmosphere of the setting was rather relaxed and the distance they had to cover was short, but the young woman knew this was not meant to last, and was actively looking for problems, aware that normally she would have had a partner to help her oversee everything. She tried to make the best of the situation.
She was speaking into the microphone as she went, her voice firm and her comments relevant to the situation. The evaluator was taking notes, watching her on the monitors, but was mostly silent until he noticed that she passed a side corridor and busy as she was looking in another direction, she did not scan it for incoming threats. The evaluator grunted disapprovingly and didn’t look particularly impressed when a little while later, a woman came out of the corridor and surprised Green, who started and nearly drew her weapon before realizing that the woman was one of the "conference center" employees, and was supposed to be harmless.
Blue did his best not to look too worried in front of the evaluator, and kept repeating It's all right over and over in his head, either for her or for himself, he wasn't sure. He prayed that the she wouldn’t dwell on this and lose her confidence.
Apparently, she had learned her lesson because she was more careful as she proceeded towards the exit. When she opened the outside door, she scanned the parking area carefully before letting the VIP out. There were several vehicles there: a small delivery truck, three cars that she presumed belonged to the "conference workers," the black saloon, and a Spectrum Cheetah.
The saloon was parked slightly away from the other vehicles, which was good in that she would see any suspicious activity around it from a distance, but it also meant that she had to cover more ground in the open. Green thought that had this been a normal mission, one partner would have probably gone to fetch the car, and the other would have remained with the VIP, just in case. She didn’t have that option. "Stay close to me," she instructed the VIP, proceeding slowly forward.
She focused on the saloon, on the truck, which was a nice place to hide, then the small car to the right, then back to the saloon... she stopped, putting her arm out to hold back the VIP.
The trunk of the car was not completely closed. The back of the vehicle was facing her, and she could see a small gap between the bumper and the trunk. She would have to investigate before letting the VIP anywhere near, but that meant that he would be out in the open by himself... she looked around, aware that she only had moments to make a decision. The Cheetah. It would offer protection if she sat the VIP in it. If nothing was wrong with the saloon, she could always plead that she was over cautious.
She directed the VIP away from the saloon, and toward the red vehicle. "What's happening?" he asked.
"I want to make sure it's safe. I’m going to verify something first, so I'll sit you in the Cheetah in the meantime," she said.
The VIP looked concerned, and she had to admit that his acting was realistic. "Is there something wrong?"
"The trunk isn't closed," she replied, pressing the button to open the passenger door and gesturing to him to get in. "This won't take long."
"Does this mean we have to escape? Can we take this car?" He gestured towards the display on the dashboard. "It says it's locked down!"
"I have the access rights in the very unlikely case we need to 'escape', sir," Green reassured him , before closing the car door and walking slowly towards the black saloon.
In the control room, the technicians and evaluator grew silent, watching the screen. There was a slight, almost annoyed frown on the evaluator's face, but Blue figured it was because he was concentrating on what he was seeing. Honestly, he was not sure how he would have reacted to the situation himself, and thought Green was handling it rather well... except for the fact that she hadn’t locked the Cheetah’s passenger door and the VIP emerged from it almost immediately. "Lieutenant Green," he began as the young woman turned around slightly with her hand on her holster.
"Please go back inside, sir," she said, trying to sound polite and authoritative at the same time. Colonel White would never interfere like this, she thought, annoyed.
"Lieutenant, I'd really feel better if I knew that we can escape quickly. Can you unlock the car so we are not trapped by accident?"
What is this, a test to see if I follow protocol or give in to the VIP's demands? She took a few steps back towards the Cheetah. "Sir, go back. I insist."
The VIP's expression changed slightly. "It is I who must insist," he said, his voice no longer sounding worried. "I really need you to unlock the car."
Green swallowed, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach when she realized that this was not a simulation anymore. "Why? You need me to do the retinal scan before I die?" she asked.
The VIP flashed her an evil grin, his eyes glowing an unnatural shade of green. Then he pounced forward so fast that she barely had time to move to avoid him.
In the control room, Blue sprang up from his seat as if it were on fire. "Send the grid reference to Skybase! NOW!" he shouted, putting his cap on before running out of the room.
On the aircraft carrier, Scarlet stood up as well, when the com notification chimed on the Colonel's desk. "Blue to Skybase, come in!"
"Go ahead, Captain," White replied, watching what was happening on the screen at the same time.
"I'm going after her." It was not a request. "I asked for her coordinates to be relayed."
Lieutenant Silver was already at the Central Control computer to provide whatever assistance she could. White nodded to Destiny, who stood up without being told, running to the elevators to reach her Falcon.
As she ducked to avoid the VIP replicant's fist, Green realized that practice fighting and actual fighting were totally different stories. She was used to holding back and the movements were done in a somewhat controlled sequence. The VIP wasn't holding back and wasn't acting in sequence either. She felt slow and awkward, but managed to fend another blow—that one would leave a bruise—and turned so that he was between her and the Cheetah. What was she supposed to do? Knock him unconscious and flee? That would prevent him from forcing her to unlock the vehicle and do whatever he was supposed to be doing with it.
He tried to swipe at her head, but by doing so, he left his chest unprotected. She swung back with her leg and hit him as hard as she could with her foot, knocking him backwards. In doing so, she lost her own balance and fell down hard on the ground. He was not so lucky: his head hit the side of the opened Cheetah door with a sickening crack and he toppled over, motionless.
She scrambled away out of reach of his hands and barely had time to cover her face before he disappeared in a flash of green light. The silence that followed was deafening. She blinked, looking at the empty spot in front of her. Does that count in my evaluation? she thought, feeling a little stupid for wondering about such a thing at this inopportune moment.
What would it count as, anyway? Technically, she had just killed her VIP, but at the same time, it had not been him... Her brain registered a sound to her right, and she looked up.
Standing up in the trunk of the saloon, Captain Black was staring at her with an almost pleasant expression on his face, a gun in his hand. From his elevated position, he could see straight over the hood of the Cheetah, and was in an excellent place to shoot unhindered. "Oh no, you don't!" she let out, rolling over inelegantly towards the vehicle to hide before he could do anything.
Taking out her gun, she positioned herself where the hood and the windshield could offer some protection. Black had the gall to look amused. "A paint gun, Lieutenant?" he asked. "I almost feel bad for you."
"Don't," she muttered, and did a quick double-tap shot.
Every male watching the monitors, either in the control room or Skybase, winced. Apparently, Mysteron groins were as sensitive as human ones. Black bent forward in pain, lost his balance, and fell out of the trunk. His gun went flying away, momentarily forgotten. Well, that was almost disappointing, she thought.
But encouraging as this small victory was, she knew she didn’t have much time to act. She ran around the Cheetah, trying to grab Black's gun while he was still writhing in pain on the ground.
She made it about halfway before she saw him stand up slowly. He saw her raise her weapon again. From where she was, even if it was only a paint gun, she could do enough damage to slow him down and give Spectrum time to arrive—and they were more than likely on their way by now.
His original plan had been for the VIP replicant to drive away with the unlocked Cheetah once Green's attention was drawn elsewhere. Now he had to figure out something else. He adopted a less threatening stance—the pain still radiating from his groin helped to achieve a convincing look—and waited for her to lower her sights. Predictably, she did. Scarlet or Blue would have known better, but she was a novice, despite her apparently accurate shooting skills.
This gave him the time to reach backwards, open the saloon door on the driver's side, and get in just before two rounds of purple paint landed where his head had been. He started the car, backed it out, and drove forward so quickly the tires squealed and the trunk slammed shut. Green barely had the time to move away as she watched him actually drive over the gun and exit the parking lot at a dangerous speed.
She picked up Black’s weapon, then raced to the Cheetah. "Technicians in the test facility, relay the GPS tracking information for the black saloon to Skybase immediately! Spectrum is red, this is not a drill!" she barked into the microphone attached to her earpiece.
She heard the acknowledgement as she disengaged the locking mechanism of the vehicle and drove off. "Green to Skybase, come in," she said into the car's communication system.
"Go ahead, Lieutenant Green," Lieutenant Silver replied.
"I've asked the technicians to send you Black's coordinates. I'm currently in pursuit."
"S.I.G. I'm transmitting the info to your Cheetah."
"He's luring you away! We already lost the visuals from the testing premises. Wait for Captain Blue to reach you, he shouldn't be far behind," Colonel White cut in.
"I'm going to waste time if I wait, sir. The convention center is a fair way from test control. It's going to take Adam some time to catch up with me."
"Colonel, Destiny Angel has just launched,” Silver said.
He nodded, then turned back to the com-link. "Follow him, Serena, but keep a safe distance until Captain Blue catches up with you," he repeated.
She didn’t answer. Either she was concentrating on driving, or she did not intend to follow his instructions. Knowing Green, both were possible, and that did nothing to reassure him. "That was not a suggestion, Lieutenant," he added.
"S.I.G.," she finally answered.
She remained silent after that, concentrating on following Black. He was changing directions often, preventing her from gaining on him and giving Blue a hard time as well, since his actual destination was not clear.
Black finally stopped next to an old warehouse. By the time Green reached the location, he was out of the saloon, and presumably inside the building. "Oh my gosh, that just spells 'trap' in capital letters," she told herself.
Her words were picked up by the earpiece microphone, and Colonel White could not help the "Good girl" that escaped his lips.
In the control room, the technicians and evaluator were also tracking the young woman's progress as much as they could with the GPS coordinates and the things they could hear from her microphone. One of the technicians pointed at the screen, frowning. "Isn't that—" he began, but was cut by an incoming communication from another examination team.
"What is your candidate doing in our test premises?! We're prepping up the set for our guy, and she's going to ruin everything!" an angry voice shouted when he opened the communication channel.
"You can see her? Can you link your camera feed?" the evaluator asked, then proceeded to explain to the other test team what was happening.
"Suddenly, the image of the conference center parking area was replaced with a view where they could see the Cheetah and part of the black saloon. "Lieutenant Green, we have visuals of your location again" the technician informed Green.
"Can you see if there's someone inside?" she asked.
The display changed to show a different camera view. "Negative. The place seems deserted. Skybase, can you see anything?"
The people around the Colonel's desk were all looking intently at the screens, where the feed had been relayed. "Negative as well," Lieutenant Silver replied after consulting the others. "Wait... I think I just saw something move in the lower left hand corner!" she exclaimed, pointing at the computer screen.
"That's one of our guys setting the premises up," the evaluator said through the com-link.
"He's inside?" Green asked, following the conversation with both the earpiece and the Cheetah's system. "We have to get him out of there!"
She reached for the pistol she had put on the left seat of the vehicle and got out, ignoring White's order to stay where she was. She hurried to the door of the building, then stopped. The gun had been dropped and rolled over by a car. Was it even still working? Biting her lip, she released the magazine and emptied the chamber to make sure no round was stuck inside. The magazine looked all right, but she was not familiar with this type of weapon and hoped that the feeding lips had not been bent or cracked. When she put the magazine back in she heard a sound she didn’t like. She racked the slider back to try and feed a round in, but when she slid it a second time to check, there was nothing in the chamber.
What the... it didn't load! she thought frantically as she hit the magazine up to try and put it in place, but racking the slider back didn’t feed the round in. Something was wrong with the magazine or the slider. This gun was pretty much useless, unless she could chuck it at Captain Black's head. Perhaps she could still use it to make him believe she was armed?
Praying Blue was nearby, she opened the door and went in, scanning the area. I still have the paint gun, one well-aimed round in the eye or forehead would really hurt. I just hope I can find the test guy very fast and get him out. You can stay hidden, Conrad.
The technician spoke quietly into her earpiece: "Kevin is to your left, Lieutenant."
She turned her head and saw him walking in her direction, a frown on his face. She motioned to him to be silent and keep moving. When he was close enough, she whispered: "This is not a drill. Get out as fast as you can."
The man saw the gun and figured she was serious. He passed her and began running for the exit. There would be time for explanations once he was outside. Green backed away to follow him out, still scanning, but came to an abrupt stop when she felt something press against her side. "That wasn't very nice, what you did back there." Captain Black's voice was soft, but with a hint of menace.
"I thought that on the contrary you'd appreciate the creativeness of the gesture," she replied, "I can't guarantee the stains will come out, though."
"You've been training with Captain Blue, I see. Always a witty comeback." He moved from her right side to stand in front of her. "I'll take that," he added, extending his hand towards the pistol.
"Captains are proving to be too much for you and you're settling for lieutenants now?" she retorted, mockingly.
"Actually, you fit perfectly with my plans. Who would suspect Lieutenant Green in an official Spectrum vehicle?" He put his hand out again. "If you please."
"Considering this was an exam I was taking, don't you think your window of opportunity is limited? They'll come looking for me."
"What is she doing, making small talk with him?!" Harmony asked aloud.
"She's stalling in the hope that Adam arrives," Scarlet replied, staring at the screen with a grim expression.
Captain Black threw away the piece of wood he had jabbed into her side to make her believe he was armed. "You're right. The window is closing." He reached forward and grabbed the pistol forcefully, aiming it back at her. "Let's get this over with."
Everyone watching the screens held their breaths. Knowing they risked their lives every time they went on a mission was one thing, watching it live was another.
Green's expression was a mix of fear and anger. She didn’t offer any witty comeback, as she knew her window of opportunity would be tiny when he realized that the pistol was not functional. She saw his finger move to the trigger, her eyes narrowing in anticipation, her heart pounding in her chest...
She jabbed out with her right arm, her curled fingers striking his throat. Black stumbled backwards, coughing. She tried to knock him down with a roundhouse kick to his head, but he put his arm out to block her, the butt of the pistol hitting her knee so hard that she heard a pop and cried out in pain. She tottered back, unable to put weight on her injured leg, but took her paint gun out. Black was wheezing in front of her, trying to catch his breath. He gave her a wary look, then darted away towards the exit. She fired, hit him in the shoulder, then missed her next shot. "Control room, the target is escaping. I can't run after him at this point," she said into her microphone, trying to limp forward.
"We can see him on the cameras, lieutenant. He just boarded the Cheetah," the technician informed her.
She groaned in dismay, remembering that she hadn’t locked down the vehicle. Even if he hadn’t succeeded in killing her to use her as a replicant, he could still do quite some damage before someone recognized him, or suspected that he wasn't supposed to be wherever he was going.
When she painfully made it outside, the red car was gone. Of course. She leant against the door, closing her eyes for a moment. More than likely, there were more Spectrum vehicles out to get him now, if not an Angel or two. She opened her eyes again when she heard the distinctive whirr of a Rhino's engine, and felt both relief and irritation when it stopped close to her. Relief that she wasn't alone anymore, and irritation that Blue had chosen to make her his priority instead of pursuing Captain Black.
The side door opened and the seat came out. She hopped as fast as she could to reach it and winced in pain when it revolved back into place inside the vehicle. "What happened?" Blue asked, a concerned look on his face.
"Later. Black got away." As he put the large vehicle back into motion and began following the coordinates for the Cheetah, she talked into her microphone: "Control room, I'm aboard Captain Blue's Rhino. We're resuming pursuit."
"Green out." She yanked the earpiece away and pressed a few buttons on the console in front of her to contact Skybase. "Green to Skybase, come in."
"Go ahead, Lieutenant," Silver's voice responded.
"Beth, try to scan the area and see what Black’s target might be. Check for any important meetings or summits he might want to foil."
"I'm looking..." the other woman replied, already busy typing something.
"There would be summits in the area and Spectrum isn't involved?" Blue asked doubtfully.
"He told me the Cheetah would go unnoticed, especially if I were in it."
"What's around here? We're going northwards, so unless this is a decoy, he's not going to London, or even—"
"Wait! I think I know! Let me check in the communications log," Silver cut in. "Isn’t the President of the United States on vacation in Scotland this week?"
Green nodded, her eyes widening in understanding. "Yes, you're right!"
"Got it here. He was going to Loch Lomond with his family, but he only took a small security team for an escort, since he didn't publicize where he was going. Spectrum was notified via confidential communications, but they refused our support, saying it would attract too much attention."
"So how did Black get that information?" Blue asked.
"I don't know, but for now we must presume that’s where he’s headed. We’ve got to stop him from getting there," Green replied.
"Destiny should be with you shortly," Silver commented. "I'll notify her of these new developments."
Blue swore under his breath. "He just got on the motorway."
Considering the Cheetah was faster and much more maneuverable than the Rhino, this could be really bad news. Realizing he could follow Black quicker without using the exact GPS trace, Blue propelled the massive armored vehicle up the ramp to access the M8.Traffic was busy, making the filter onto the motorway slow. Fortunately most people, faced with the bulk of the Rhino in their rearview mirror, quickly moved aside to give them ample room.
Ahead of them, Black was not so lucky. He had to swerve between lanes to try and keep his advantage and he was not able to accelerate much. Since he still had some distance to cover, he was hopeful that the traffic would ease and he could pull away soon. He overtook a small car on the inside lane, almost cutting it off when he swerved in front of it.
Looking in his dashboard mirror, he saw the vehicles behind part ways for the incoming Rhino. In front were two lorries, one to his left, one on the right. And ahead, an empty road. Perfect. He reached into the middle console and activated the thruster to send the Cheetah over the lorries, landing in front of them with practiced skill.
Clearly not expecting a car to arrive suddenly in front of him, and especially not from the air, one of the lorry drivers slammed on the brakes. His load swerved behind him dangerously and ended up blocking most of the road as the vehicle jackknifed. Behind him, Blue swore savagely. "I don't have time for this," he muttered, activating the front battering ram, without slowing down one bit. "Hold on!" he warned, before he ploughed right through the trailer of the lorry.
They barely felt a jolt. "What the... you could have injured the driver!" Green protested.
"He's more than likely going to be fine. Look at it this way, now no one can follow us and be endangered by Black because they'll be blocked back there. Besides, I couldn't exactly go around the guy and the next exit off the motorway is nearly five miles away.”
"This is the worse test ever," she muttered as she contacted the local emergency services to report the accident. "At least you didn't launch a rocket at him," she added, rolling her eyes.
"No, I'm keeping those for our little friend in front of us."
The road straightened in front of them, and they could see the rear lights of the Cheetah in the distance growing smaller as Black pulled away from them. Blue pressed a few buttons and after a few calculations, a computerized voice announced that the target was acquired. "Sorry Black, no vacation at the lake for you," Blue announced, before launching the rockets.
Both watched on the display screen as trails of light travelled away from the Rhino and sped forward, only to explode about halfway between the two vehicles. Black had launched deflectors. He sped off, unharmed. "Is there another route I could take to cut him off?" Blue asked.
"It's difficult to say, I don't know the area." She worked on the console. "I really miss my computer right now."
The com-link came alive at that moment. "Destiny Angel to Green. I'm right behind you."
"He's ahead of us, Simone. He just avoided our rockets," Green informed the Falcon pilot.
"Well then. Let's see what I can do."
Blue began to slow down and they saw the Falcon in the rear screen, then the front one as Destiny passed them. It was over in a matter of seconds. The Cheetah blew up in an impressive display of fire and smoke. The Falcon circled quickly around and Destiny's "Target eliminated" sounded in the Rhino's cabin before they saw her fly up and away, presumably back to Skybase.
Blue approached the burning vehicle slowly, activating the detectors to see if there was any movement. "No one could survive that," Green remarked.
"It's Captain Black we're talking about."
She contacted Skybase to give an update of their situation, and Lieutenant Silver informed her that Captains Brown and Indigo were on their way from London aboard an Albatross to take over the operation. Firefighters were also on their way to take care of the wreckage. "So we wait for them to arrive?"
"We can't leave this site unattended." He stopped the Rhino. "I'll go have a look around."
He was out before she could protest that she wasn't able to back him up, but figured that the risks were rather limited considering there wasn't much of the Cheetah left. And she could always use the Rhino's weaponry... Small upgrade from the paint gun, she thought.
The relative silence of the cabin was welcome after all the excitement. She sat back, shifting in her seat a little to relieve the pain in her knee as she watched Blue inspect the remains of the Cheetah. He came back after a while, stopped on her side of the vehicle, and waited for her to open the door. "Nothing. Either he vanished into thin air, or he's burnt beyond recognition."
"And both are possible."
"I'd say the first is more likely." He removed his cap. "But for now, let's take a look at you."
He gave her a peck on the cheek and went to retrieve the first-aid kit in the back of the vehicle. Green pulled her pant leg up slowly, groaning both in pain and at the fact that her knee had swollen quite a bit. "At least it's not bleeding."
"Good. We'll try to... oh, honey," he winced in sympathy when he saw her and put the first-aid kit on the ground to have a closer look.
He probed gently, but didn’t want to risk moving it too much in case it made things worse. He pulled her pant leg back down and took out an instant ice-pack. "We'll try to get the swelling down, and as soon as Brown and Indigo arrive, we'll get you to a medic."
She nodded, watching him set the pack in place using an elastic bandage. "Your job sucks," she commented. "I want a promotion even less now."
He smiled. "White will be glad to hear that. But I hope now you realize that you can hold your own should the occasion arise."
"So, what happened? I was in the control room with the tech guys, but I left when you were fighting with the VIP," he said, leaning against the vehicle.
"You saw the broadcast?"
"Part of it. It was sent to Skybase as well."
"I kinda figured that out considering what they were telling me when I was in pursuit the first time. I take it that you'll want to see it, too?"
Her expression was guarded, but he knew her well enough to read between the lines. "Uh-oh. There's something you don't want me to see." He tried to sound lighthearted, but something in his voice told her he was already unhappy about it.
"Since I expect you not to hide things from me, I must do the same to you, but some explanations are in order first." She smiled despite herself. "Some things might look more dramatic on TV than they really are."
"Trying to tone it down... got it. You could have also said that worse things probably happened to me."
"Well, that's true."
He stared at her. "Have you been shot at?"
"Yes and no." Seeing his confused expression, she waved her hands in front of her. "It makes perfect sense when in context. You say you left when the VIP attacked? I'll start from there."
She did not hold back on any details. He seemed greatly amused by Black's misfortune with paint guns, but was much less amused by what had happened in the warehouse, even if the young woman had insisted on being sure that the pistol would misfire. "So, that was my exam. Or whatever we can call what just happened," she concluded.
"I sure hope they consider it as your exam. What more can they put you through?" He reached out to stroke her hair. "I'm glad you told me. I might not be ready to watch that yet, though."
"You don't have to. I'm sure glad I don't get to see everything you guys go through."
They spotted a set of lights on the horizon. The Albatross was approaching with Indigo and Brown onboard. "While you go to the medic, I'll go get our things," Blue said as they watched the aircraft.
"Won't I have to stay there for a while? They'll want reports, or something. I'm not really sure of what will happen since my test didn't go according to plan.”
"We'll see. We'll be ready anyway."
"Am I even supposed to go on leave after this?"
"Where do you want to go? You can't even walk properly. You'll be due for sick leave. You wanted to go relax somewhere, so that's what you'll do. At the beach. I'm sure sea water is excellent for swollen knees."
Captain Indigo contacted them on the Rhino's com system, asking if they required the Albatross for a transport elsewhere. Green slid back in her seat to reply, declining the offer as they were going back to Glasgow. Blue went out to greet the two other captains and brief them on the situation. The firefighter team was also on their way and should arrive shortly, but had been slowed down by the half-destroyed lorry on the motorway—Blue was glad Green wasn't close by to give him a Look at this news.
The Albatross took off back to London, and Blue returned to the Rhino to find Green talking to Skybase. She was nodding at something Silver told her, then cut the communication. "The Colonel says to treat this as any other mission. So we'll issue reports," she said.
"Did he say anything about the exam?"
"No. I have to see about that with the evaluator. More than likely, they'll have to take this into consideration, since the situation wasn’t typical."
Blue started the engine and drove off. "I wouldn't worry about it."
The ride back to Glasgow was much quieter and took about half an hour. Blue stopped the vehicle close to the infirmary, and simply carried her in, not wanting to wait for a wheelchair. The young woman went along without protesting much, enjoying the attention, his arms being a rather comfortable place to be.
While she was having her leg scanned, he left for their quarters to bring back their luggage. Not that they had much. They had planned on staying around Glasgow at first and had only taken one set of civvies, some nightclothes in the case of Green, plus their uniforms. They would have to do some purchases once in Spain, he supposed.
He came across the evaluator on his way back. The man was going to the infirmary, probably to speak with Green. "Do you think she will be too tired to have a chat?" he asked.
"I don't think so. She's probably waiting for you anyway."
They went into the infirmary. The evaluator remained in the waiting area while Blue deposited their luggage in the corner of Green’s room. She was sitting on the bed, wearing a hospital gown, her right knee bandaged. "The good news is that it's not broken. The bad news is that it's a bad sprain, and I'll be on crutches for a little while, with a brace. Ice, rest, and a visit to sickbay when we go back to Skybase," she announced, swinging her good leg.
He put her bag next to her on the bed, then deposited his own bag on a nearby chair so they could change together. He traded his uniform for a pair of jeans and a polo shirt and turned around to see Green, now wearing a pale pink tunic and looking at her own jeans in dismay. "One, I hope they'll fit, two, I think I need help," she said anxiously.
He assisted her with the jeans—they were snug around the knee, but otherwise fitted—and the brace. She managed to put her shoes on by herself.
"Just go see the evaluator,” he said. “ I'll pick things up in here."
She picked up her crutches and proceeded a little awkwardly, getting used to the motion. Blue took his time, sensing that the "hovering boyfriend" would not give a positive impression. He returned to the waiting area once he heard that the other man was gone. "What's the verdict?" he asked.
"As expected, they don't really know what to do. They'll wait for my report, and deliberate. I should get more info in a few days."
"So now all that's left is to take the Swift to Spain?"
"I'm not sure I can get into the front seat..."
"Sure you can. If not, you can just sit in the back like a princess and fill out the reports."
Princess Green ended up filling out the reports, but told herself that they would be done and they could fully enjoy their stay afterwards. It was not the tourist season, and they had unhindered access to the beach. The hotel personnel even found some sort of disks they could put under the crutches to help her walk on the sand without sinking.
They had only two nights and two days, but it felt like a complete vacation; Blue was delighted to be able to take her out to a real restaurant, and sleep in a proper bedroom instead of the cramped quarters on Skybase. He even managed to find tickets for a show on the second evening, to complete the actual dating experience.
On their way back, Green managed to sit in the co-pilot seat, joking that Blue would have to extract her from there once they arrived. The flight was uneventful, and Captain Magenta gave them the authorization to land on strip 03.
The aircraft revolved at the end of the strip, then taxied to its parking bay.
"Do you want to go to sickbay right now?" Blue asked, helping her stand up.
"No. I want to drop the luggage off first and change."
She was able to go down the steps on her own using the handrails on each side, and he handed her her crutches before retrieving their luggage.
They went through the security check, then up in the lift to level 8. Since it was the end of the day, the hallways were quiet and they didn't meet anyone on their way to Green's quarters. "While you go see Doctor Gold, I'll go down to the canteen and get us something to... what on Earth?" Blue started as they approached the end of the corridor.
Someone had decorated Green's door and the area around it with colorful paper hearts. The young woman laughed. "Something tells me that the Angels know about us," she commented as they approached the display.
"Well, considering what they probably heard right before you started your test..."
She smiled as she took the hearts stuck to the door and put them on the wall so that they didn't get caught in the door mechanism. "I meant every word I said." She looked at a turquoise one on which they had written Adam + Serena—A match made in Heaven, then began laughing again. "Even the Mysteron agent knew before them, that's really sad!"
She punched in her access code and the door slid open. "I wonder if they decorated my door as well?" he asked, following her inside. "I'll have to check."
They put the luggage on the bed and he began to unpack. Green went to her work station and logged into her computer in Central Control. When she got access, she sat down and began to type something. Blue looked up when he heard the keyboard strokes. "Hey! Get away from that, you workaholic! We just got back!" he protested.
"I'm just checking something..."
"I know you. You're checking something, then you'll see something else, and check that as well, and hours later you'll still be sitting here."
"I want to look at the duty roster. You're due in at 08.30 for a briefing, and I'm... nowhere. What?" she exclaimed.
"Maybe White thought you needed the additional rest. He's probably waiting for the OK from Gold."
She sighed, then logged out. "I think a little courtesy visit is in order then." She turned around only to see him putting toiletries away in the en-suite. "You don't have to do that, Sunshine, I'll take care of it when I come back."
"Military guy, remember? Can't stand it when it's messy," he replied.
She stood up and hopped to her closet to get a change of clothes. "Well, thanks anyway."
"Sure," he replied, leaning sideways so she could kiss his cheek on her way to the bed where she sat down to change.
Her Spectrum sweats were looser than her jeans and they would be easier to handle in sickbay. She put some ballerinas on so she wouldn’t need socks, and traded her tunic for a soft tee-shirt. "Well, let's see what the good doctor has to say," she said, standing up somewhat unsteadily because the mattress was softer than a chair.
"I'll go down to my quarters to put this away," Blue replied, picking up his travel bag—which still held the case containing the green pistol.
He would sneak out to give it to the Colonel while she was in sickbay, and continue with his other errands afterwards. As they left Green's quarters, he stopped next to the collection of paper hearts. "Wait."
He went back in, retrieved a pen from her work station, then wrote Thank you Angels on one of the hearts close to where they had put their initial message. "Good call," Green approved, then took the pen to add We love you too on another one before putting the pen in her pant pocket and walking away.
The door chime rang. Looking up from the book he was reading, Colonel White glanced at the com-link display and smiled as he saw who his visitor was. He stood up to open the door in person. "I didn’t expect to see you before tomorrow morning," he said as a greeting, moving aside to let her in.
She grinned at him. "Sir, how could you expect me not to stop over after finding out I'm not on the duty roster?"
"I thought you would have more leisurely activities in mind considering your leave is not officially over yet." He motioned towards the couch in his living area. "Please, have a seat."
She put the crutches on the floor at her feet. Colonel White nodded towards her braced knee as he sat next to her. "Does it hurt a lot? Black seemed to have hit you quite hard from what I could tell."
Well, that confirmed it, he had seen the footage. "He did. It's not so bad now. Doctor Gold gave me something for it. I just have to rest for a little while. I'm afraid my field boot won't fit, though. Not with the brace anyway. Maybe I could find a green sock to put on instead. I know it's not standard... but I can still work fine, sir. I don't understand why I'm not back on the roster."
"I wanted to make sure that Doctor Gold agreed you were fit to be back first."
She looked as if she was going to protest, but changed her mind. "I'm sorry you had to see that," she finally said, staring at her hands folded in her lap.
"I wasn't particularly happy to see you disobey a direct order right under my nose, no." His tone of voice was not angry. "And you knew the pistol was going to misfire but you went in anyway."
Of course. He would have noticed the fumbling outside the building and come to his own conclusions. "I had to get the guy out,” she protested. “I couldn't wait for Adam. Sir, I think I was right to disobey. It’s what any of the others would have done."
"I know." He sighed. "Of course, I couldn't expect things to be much different, considering who you are, and who you trained with..."
"I nearly shot some poor woman, I killed the person I was supposed to protect, I had not one, but two vehicles stolen in front of my nose, one of which was blown to smithereens, disobeyed a direct order from my superior officer by entering a building by myself, messed up some other candidate's test setup, got involved in an accident that could have cost the life of some poor trucker, and to top it off, I didn't even complete the mission on my own since Adam and Simone got involved! The evaluator said they'd deliberate, but frankly... This whole thing was a mess. I wouldn't be surprised if they decide I displayed reckless behavior and recommend I am removed from your service."
An emotion crossed his face briefly. She was not sure what it meant, but she had worked with White long enough to read him, and she knew he was hiding something. Realization hit home and a bad feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. "They contacted you," she said, horror-struck. "Oh my God, they did. And if they did it so quickly, it's got to be pretty bad. They probably sent the footage to the Secretary of the UN Special Security Council, and she decided I should be demoted. And you wanted to wait until I came back to tell me, and that's why I'm not on the roster.”
She gazed at him, a pleading look in her eyes. “Sir, I might have failed the test and I'm unfit for field work but you know I’m the best communications specialist there is I know Spectrum, and I know you. I make things work and happen up here! They can't just..." She stopped and took a deep breath when she realized she was babbling on. "There's got to be a way for me to fix this. I could redo the training. Yes. I'll wait for my knee to heal, and I'll redo the training. Of course, I'll pay for it out of my own pocket. This is all my doing." She took her crutches and stood up, then looked back at White, her eyes growing wide. "I can redo the training, can't I? They didn't cut me off permanently, did they? Am I going to be court-martialed?"
He blinked. "Serena..."
"You interceded in my favor, didn't you? I don't want any of this politicking, sir, you—"
His words were so sharp, she obeyed wordlessly, putting the crutches on the floor again. She looked at her hands once more, trying to calm down.
"The Secretary of the UN Special Security Council did see the footage. And she did contact me. You won't be surprised to hear that the president of the United States himself heard of this as well," he said.
"What am I going to tell Adam?" she murmured, closing her eyes.
"Probably that he'll have to go back to Glasgow at the end of the week. I'm not sure he'll be thrilled to wear a suit, though." He tried to remain impassive as he watched her reaction; she frowned, trying to make sense of what he had just said. "In that rather impressive speech you just offered me, you forgot to mention that not only did you display resourcefulness during a dangerous—and quite real—situation, you showed you work efficiently in a team and that you would protect the innocent with disregard for your own safety. Not to mention that you helped save the president of the United States and his family from a Mysteron attack."
Her mouth dropped open as she gaped at him. "What?"
"The president wants to personally thank the Spectrum officers who were involved. He’s invited you to dinner at his holiday home in Loch Lomond."
"Does this mean I passed?" Green asked incredulously.
White smiled. "Try to look surprised when he announces it officially at dinner."
She put her hands to her mouth. "Oh, sir!"
"Actually, I had nothing to do with it. Their decision was already final by the time Madam Secretary called me. You came in first for theory, unsurprisingly, although she commented that some of your answers were 'wordy'; you were second in your shooting exam. Considering you reacted as I would expect a Spectrum Captain to do in your simulation test—if we can still call it that—I'd say you are up to par with the others. I hope you are now convinced of that as well?"
Green's relief was evident."I'm going to start believing it,” she said cautiously. “Adam told me the same thing two days ago when we were waiting for Captains Brown and Indigo to arrive."
"Speaking of Captain Blue... he was with the evaluator in the control room when the whole thing fell apart. He left as you were fighting with the replicant. That means he hasn’t seen everything that happened. If the subject were to come up during dinner with the president, I don’t think he’d appreciate learning about some of the details in that way."
She nodded, grateful for his tact and understanding. "We've talked about it. He said he doesn't want to see the footage right now, but at least he knows what happened. You know me, sir. I like it when things are clear."
"Hence your visit about the duty roster."
"My head and my arms still work. I can do my job. I even got the official OK from Doctor Gold!"
He shook his head in mock despair. "Come to Central Control after the briefing and we'll sort it all out. I think Magenta will be glad, actually. He looks a little overwhelmed at times."
"Poor Mario," she chuckled, struggling to her feet again. "Sorry for the panic attack earlier," she added.
"It's all right, Lieutenant," he assured her, standing up himself, He held out his hand. "I know it's not official yet, but let me be the first to congratulate you."
"Thank you, sir. I'm very happy." She shook his hand firmly, then headed toward the door of the colonel's quarters. "Can I tell Adam? I mean, since it's not official, I can wait if you prefer," she asked.
"You honestly think he's not going to notice that huge grin on your face? Yes, you can tell him."
"I can't wait to see his reaction!" She stopped at the door. "I'll see you tomorrow morning, sir."
"Good night, Serena."
She left with what he thought was a lively spring in her step – or was it a hop, considering the crutches? He watched her make her way to the lift before closing his door, a broad smile of pride and affection on his face.
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