A Captain Ochre of Spectrum story.
It really all started when Captain Blue strained his back in a freakish accident aboard Cloudbase, about which he was unusually reticent, even for him.
Captain Ochre found it amusing to see Blue, who was normally disgustingly fit and healthy, shuffling around Cloudbase with a walking stick, looking very sorry for himself and he hadn’t been able to resist the temptation for a little light tormenting; even though that earned him a tongue-lashing from the absurdly over-protective Symphony Angel and a look that promised retribution from the normally imperturbable Bostonian.
Then, this mission came up.
“It probably isn’t a Mysteron affair,” Colonel White said, “but we’d better make sure.”
He looked around the Conference Room and his gaze came to rest thoughtfully on Captain Ochre and then on Captain Scarlet. He said decisively, “You two can go and check it out; keep me informed.”
It was easy to see that he felt he’d killed two birds with one stone: he’d given the ever-fidgety Scarlet something to do and provided Blue with respite from Ochre’s barrage of imaginative suggestions about just what he’d been doing when he’d hurt his back…
But even the colonel could see that neither officer was as contented with the decision as he was.
Yeah, right, Ochre thought grimly, as he marched down to the hangar deck with the equally disconcerted Captain Scarlet.
The pair of them made uneasy partners as Ochre was sure that the rather priggish Englishman did not like him much – or at least – did not like his sense of humour. He consoled himself with the thought that Scarlet didn’t like anyone’s sense of humour much: he was as humourless as Blue was tone-deaf, and maybe there was nothing either of them could do about it – but Ochre couldn’t help feeling that Scarlet enjoyed acting like he’d lost every humorous nerve in his body when he fell from the London Car-Vu.
Modern-day miracle or not, and Ochre was willing to accept that Spectrum’s job would be much harder without the indestructible Scarlet at the forefront of their defence of the Earth, Ochre imagined it was only Blue’s vast reserve of patience that stopped him from throttling his partner.
Captain Scarlet flew the SPJ down to New Orleans.
The city, which had risen from the slime of its devastation by a hurricane almost seventy years ago, lay sweltering in the humidity and heat of a Louisiana summer. Parts of the old city had survived, been repaired and ‘improved’, but the pervasive atmosphere of claustrophobia and eldritch uncertainty that was the popular impression of the city lingered on.
Captain Ochre had always thought that New Orleans attracted oddballs like a magnet attracted iron filings; the dispossessed and the souls who marched out of time with the drumbeat of ‘normal’ humanity gravitated to a place where they fitted in better than in most places. It wasn’t a city he was at ease with, it wasn’t somewhere he liked. His prosaic northern soul was bewildered and, to some extent, threatened by what he saw as the knowingly sly amusement of people who were at ease with the occult. He had a feeling they knew something he didn’t and he’d never liked appearing less than in full possession of the relevant facts – it was a legacy from his poor academic performance and something he’d come to regret in his adult life.
The two Spectrum officers collected an SSC from the local terrestrial base, gathered the information they needed to conduct their search for Mysteron agents from the relevant authorities and then drove to the old part of the city, where they parked up and went to sit at a café table on a street corner.
They were drinking root beers and weighing up their possible courses of action, when Scarlet said, “This place gives me the creeps. It’s like Glastonbury on speed. I guess it must be the heat and the general… weirdness of the place.”
“Glastonbury? You mean the rock music festival?”
Scarlet gave a disparaging roll of his blue eyes that made Ochre’s hand clench into a fist and he had to fight the urge to punch his companion’s teeth down his pompous throat.
“No…well, yes,” Scarlet replied. “But there’s more to Glastonbury than a rock festival. It’s a centre for the occult and mystical goings-on in England. Links to King Arthur and Merlin and all that. Its reputation goes back for centuries.”
Ochre drained his glass. “Yeah? Well, I think I’d rather deal with Old Arthur and his merry men than a crowd of Zombies or Vampires – which is far more New Orleans’s style.”
Scarlet’s dark eyebrow rose sceptically. “You don’t mean to say you believe in that sort of thing, do you? I’d never have imagined that of you, Ochre.”
“I’m not saying I do and I’m not saying I don’t,” Ochre replied. “I mean, I’m sitting here drinking root beer with an indestructible man; I earn my living by thwarting the threats made against our home world by invisible aliens, and everyone I grew up with imagines I’m already dead… what could be weirder than that?”
Scarlet gave a sniff of disapproval and decided to drop the subject. They had a lot of work to do and it wouldn’t be a smart move to let Ochre needle him this early in the mission. He stood up.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get this investigation underway, shall we? The sooner we get out of here the better, agreed?”
“Couldn’t say it better myself – we are in total agreement …”
“For once.” Scarlet said the words in unison with Ochre and they shared a rather surprised glance. Neither of them was that much at ease, it seemed.
“We’ll split up and interview these potential witnesses the local base has identified… meet back here at… oh, 22:00 hours?”
“S.I.G.,” Ochre agreed.
Several hours later, Ochre was almost wishing they’d stayed together. He‘d spent far too long trying to worm the truth out of the people he’d interviewed so far, and he was getting tired. They’d all been trying to make a fool out of him – his cop’s instinct told him that much – and, what was even more galling, he’d managed to learn exactly nothing. He’d have loved to forget himself and have punched the fact that he was no one’s fool into each of them.
He paused to swig from the bottled water he carried and the thought came to him that he was feeling unusually angry today. It wasn’t like him to consider resorting to violence at every provocation.
Must be this place, he thought and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. It’s really setting my nerves on edge.
He consulted his list and the street map he had.
Right, the next interview is close by and I can get to it by cutting down this alley and across the next street. It’s much easier when the streets follow a nice orderly grid plan – this is like Boston, another city that was built along the tracks made by ambling cattle – and yet people like the places!
As he crossed the street he saw several of the famous period houses of New Orleans; their tall, shuttered windows and ornate iron-work balconies cooled by the trees that clustered within their walled courtyards. He glanced at the address on his list and headed purposefully towards one of them. As he passed before a neighbouring house, his head turned to glance into the secluded courtyard and the heady scent of bougainvillea assaulted his senses. He paused, breathing in the rare perfume.
Without making a conscious decision, his hand reached out to the wrought-iron gate and pushed: it opened smoothly at his touch. Without pausing to think he crossed the cool courtyard where the sound of water splashing into the stone fountain added to a feeling of other-worldliness, and approached the entrance of the rather impressive villa.
The white-painted porch was partially hidden by trailing moss from the trees and the steps creaked as he walked up the short flight of stairs. He rang the bell and somewhere deep within the building he heard a surprisingly deep clang that resonated through the house.
There was a long delay and he was getting ready to go, when the door was partially opened by a young woman. She was small-boned, and dark-haired, dressed in a long gown, with a wispy lace shawl over her head and shoulders that shrouded her face.
She looked at him with expressionless features.
“Good afternoon,” he said, “Is this the residence of Mr Philip Comines? I’m Captain Ochre of Spectrum…”
“Come in, Richard Fraser, we’ve been expecting you,” she said abruptly and opened the door.
Instinctively, Ochre hesitated. How could she know my name? I don’t know her and I’ve never heard of Philip Comines. It’s not even on my list …I must’ve noticed a name plate back there on the gateway, without realising it…
The woman waited patiently beside the half-open door. She said nothing and showed no sign of impatience at his indecision, in fact from what he could see of her face, she was uninterested in the whole business.
This place is definitely getting to me - he thought irritably, moving back towards the doorway. But I can’t help feeling I’m on to something. Maybe it’s one of those ‘hunches’ that Scarlet’s always saying he gets about Mysteron plots… well, they seem to get him results, so I’m gonna play this one…
As he stepped into the house, his senses were hyper-alert and his nerves strained almost to breaking point.
He followed the woman across the dusty hall, watching her with a policeman’s trained eye for detail. She moved with a bewitching grace, gliding on silent feet – in fact, the only noise he could hear was his own sharp footsteps pacing across the open space.
She stepped aside as she opened an internal door and lowered her eyes modestly as he had to brush past her. He thought he saw the tip of her pink tongue flick over her lips.
The room he was shown into dark. The furniture was shrouded and everywhere was dusty. The shutters at the windows were closed, and motes of dust danced in the fragmented light from the fierce sun beyond the courtyard that filtered through the narrow apertures. It was kind of spooky, but Ochre welcomed the cool shade and respite from the glare.
As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he saw a hunched figure sitting in an armchair across from the door, his back to the light.
“Mr Comines?” he asked.
“Yes. I am Philippe de Commynes. How may I be of assistance, Richard Fraser?”
“Sir, I don’t know how you come to think that’s my name, but I’m a Spectrum agent, and my code name is Captain Ochre.”
“You are Richard Fraser – the late Richard Fraser of Detroit. You can have no secrets from us, Richard.” de Commynes’s voice sounded as dry as the dusty room.
Ochre’s heart pounded nervously. Before he’d joined Spectrum he’d been involved in an elaborate deception to make his criminal adversaries think he was dead; thereby protecting his identity and allowing ‘Captain Ochre’ to function efficiently for Spectrum. If his cover was blown, he was in big trouble.
He was on the verge of activating his cap-mic and contacting Scarlet to request back-up, when de Commynes said:
“It won’t work inside this house, Richard. You have entered a… twilight zone.” There was a quiet amusement in his voice as he spread his hand in a sweeping gesture encompassing the gloomy room. Ochre could see from the silhouette he created against the fitful light from the shuttered windows that his nails were long and curved.
De Commynes continued, “None of your modern equipment will function here. In fact, almost every rule that governs the ‘orderly’ world you prefer to inhabit, does not apply here. You are entirely at our mercy. That is, you would be, if we had any mercy…”
The laugh that terminated the chilling statement sent sharp prickles of fear down Ochre’s spine and he realised he was sweating – his polo-necked uniform top was sticking uncomfortably to his skin.
“What do you want from me?” he managed to gasp out.
“Oh, Richard, can’t you guess? We want your company – we want you to stay with us. Forever, Richard.”
“I’m a Spectrum Officer in the lawful pursuance of my duty… you have no right to try to keep me here. I came to ask for your co-operation, sir,” Ochre said, wondering fleetingly why he had come to the house. “If you’re not prepared to help me, I’ll take my leave…” and he attempted to turn and leave the room.
He was brought up sharp by the unexpected sight of three women – including the small figure that had let him in – blocking the doorway. They were dressed the same, in long, dark, flowing gowns, but here in the twilight of the room the petite woman was bareheaded, her dark hair a mass of intricate, tumbling curls, whilst her companions wore elaborate turban-style headdresses over equally fantastical coiffures. Their glossy raven-hued locks fell in entrancing tendrils around the beautiful, pale skin of their exposed necks and the barely-restrained swell of their full bosoms. Normally he’d have appreciated the sight, but right now, it sent another shudder through him. He heard the women give a slight moan as his heart thumped uncomfortably.
“We want your devotion, your allegiance, your love…” de Commynes continued, as if Ochre had not spoken.
“Your body…” one of the women purred in conclusion, with a lascivious smile. The meagre sunlight glinted off her teeth. Ochre almost whimpered as he noticed her incisors were unnaturally long.
He made another effort to move to the door, but his legs refused to obey his commands and he remained rooted to the spot.
“Who are you?” he murmured through his dry throat.
From behind him de Commynes replied, “You know who we are, that’s why your heart is racing, although we have yet to discover if it is fear or excitement that drives it. We are the undead, Richard. The very people whose existence you doubt and who you mock by your continuing existence. You are as undead as we – you have chosen to live an existence that is not yours… and so you dare to walk the earth in the sunlight. You have not yet paid for the privilege of your life with the tribute you owe us.”
“You’re crazy,” Ochre panted. “And I don’t believe a word of it. You’d better let me go – I can appreciate a good joke, but this is has gone far enough.” He didn’t hear de Commynes moving, but suddenly the man was before him, but still shrouded in a twilight gloom that hid him from plain view.
“No, this is no joke, Richard,” he said, all pretence at friendliness gone from his voice. “We are serious. This is, what you might call…‘payback time’…and you must give us what your assumed life owes. And then, if you please us with your oblation, we will initiate you into the never-ending world of the children of the night…” de Commynes laughed at the contemptuous grimace on Ochre’s handsome face. “You are ever the sceptic, Richard, but I can see within your soul that you are yearning to believe - and you will believe; you will beg me to take all you can give, Richard, believe me, you will.”
One of the women moved closer, murmuring indistinctly as she reached out and removed his radio cap, sending it spinning away from him with a casual toss. She ran her hand through his thick, short, hair, twining her arms around his neck so that he was unable to move freely. She pressed herself against him, nuzzling at his jaw line. He jumped in surprise as her warm, moist tongue probed the intricate contours of his ear.
He tried to move, but once more found himself trapped. The second woman moved close and with gentle, caressing movements unfastened the belt on his golden uniform tabard and unzipped the long fastener. She slid the garment from his shoulders and he heard it thud on the bare floor. She extended her hands; the long fingers ended in sharp, talon-like nails that shredded through his black pullover as she raked them over his torso, scoring his chest with narrow scratches that oozed tiny droplets of blood and stung with his sweat, as, between them, the two women stripped the ragged garment from him.
Ochre’s struggles were ineffectual; he was already in their power and a strange inertia began to seep into his limbs as they manhandled him to a divan in the corner and pushed him down across it. A cloud of dust rose from the coverlet and smelt musty and old beyond imagining.
He was finding it hard to concentrate. He knew he ought to leave…
One woman cradled his head against her soft breasts, bending low as she continued kissing, licking and sucking at the flesh of his chin and neck. The second woman unzipped his boots, throwing them across the room. His trousers and underwear quickly followed suit. Then the petite woman who had answered the door, and who had taken no part in the undressing, moved forwards, the others making way for her, as if, despite her apparent youth, she was pre-eminent amongst them. She straddled him, licking the sweat and the droplets of blood from his chest and tracing the outline of his nipples with her moist tongue. Naked and vulnerable he lay trapped beneath their bodies, as they writhed and moaned around and across him, shedding their own dark clothes, and dragging him down into a vortex of exquisite delight, such as he had never experienced, or imagined could exist.
He had always loved danger and this was dangerous; it was as if his body had a mind of its own and that mind was in no hurry to make them stop. The women obliged, caressing, kissing and tormenting him, until he was sobbing with the intensity of the sensations that engulfed him; but still that final climax, that final release, was denied him. His body, which now totally dominated both his intellect and his reason, demanded its satisfaction. He needed the deliverance of the natural culmination of such irresistible foreplay; but they were skilled in their art and prided themselves on stimulating every nerve-ending until it burned with desire. Millennia had taught them everything a man could wish for and how to never quite give it and against such proficiency, he was powerless.
After some time, when each moment felt like incalculable aeons to the over-wrought man on the bed, Ochre sensed a movement across the room and opened his dark eyes - their pupils widened by the lassitude that had seeped into him - and stared up at the face of the man who was now towering over him.
Philippe de Commynes was tall, almost emaciated in appearance and his desiccated skin was as pale as that of a corpse. His hair, a dull, lifeless yellow was streaked with grey and his eyes were cold and black. He smiled down at their prisoner and Ochre could see the wicked, sharp points of his incisors.
“Now you are ready, Richard. Now you will discover the ultimate sensation a human can experience and still remain human. Now, you will believe…”
I believe, oh how I believe, his mind whispered in response, his eyes beseeching an end to this hedonistic torment. He trembled beneath that haughty gaze.
With a tantalising slowness, de Commynes bent down and kissed the other man’s parted lips. Ochre felt his hot, dry breath, stale with the ashes of the centuries, flow into his lungs; scorching a trail that spread around his body like a drug. De Commynes’s lips moved down to Ochre’s exposed neck and then he raised his head, his mouth open to reveal sabre-like incisors bared to strike.
Ochre groaned as he felt the blades pierce his skin and his body exploded in an orgasmic rigour, his back arching. A warm rush of his blood gushed into his captor’s mouth with every beat of his racing heart. Beside the divan the frustrated women were gibbering. Angry at losing their prize, their hands stroked first at de Commynes, importuning for his notice and then at Ochre, prolonging his ecstasy that they too might feed on him.
Ochre’s mind began to melt into unconsciousness, drifting away like the stream of blood that pulsed from the sharp wounds on his neck. Yet, when de Commynes stood, Ochre’s eyes opened to plead with him… he wanted the sensation to continue. Even in his docile state of mind, he felt astonishment at what he saw. De Commynes was still tall and spare, but his hair was now shining gold and his skin had the rosiness of health. His eyes, still cold in expression, were now a bright blue – the colour of the summer skies around Cloudbase.
“Feed, my daughters,” he said, and the women cooed with delight. “He is strong, he is healthy, and he is ours for as long as we want him…”
The feverish women swooped down on Ochre, and together they lapped hungrily at the blood, licking the warm, salty rivulets that ran down his neck and pooled in the hollow of his collar bone. Slowly, inexorably, Ochre felt his strength failing him; the blood did not clot, the flow continued and with it went all individuality, his will and his mind.
Finally, he was too weak even to move and he felt the women roll him over and over until he fell to the floor with a heavy crash; the breath forced from his body by the impact. Tears welled into his eyes – but he didn’t know if he wept for himself or for the cessation of such a profound and mystical experience.
He managed to turn his head to look for the women. They were lounging around the chair in which de Commynes sat, laughing and fawning over him; deliberately spurning their captive and revelling in his dejection. Ochre realised that the consummation he had so wished for would never be his – such pleasures were strictly reserved for de Commynes. He felt used, dirty, cheap – he wanted to crawl away and die, ashamed of his own body’s base physical needs - and, yet, deep inside he felt the stirrings of a familiar and long-buried yearning – to enjoy these feelings forever, and revel in the bitter pleasure of total self-abasement.
He closed his eyes tightly to shut out the hateful sight of his pitiless ravishers. He wanted to die – he wanted this feeling of loneliness to leave him. He wanted peace.
From a great distance away he heard de Commynes’s arrogant voice saying, “We could have taken your life, but, of our mercy, we have not. You will live, but there will be no peace, Richard Fraser. For the rest of your days, you will crave the kiss of the vampire and search for us to your life’s true end. Then, and only then, we may return to you and offer you the consummation you crave. But even that could turn to ashes in your mouth, Richard; for eternity is a long time. Be careful what you wish for when that day comes…”
Ochre opened his eyes and saw that the room was empty. They had gone.
Richard Fraser wept.
Hours later he was dragged back to reality by the crash of the front door being forced open and the sound of footsteps pounding over the wooden hallway and into the gloomy room.
“My God, Rick, what’s happened to you?” Scarlet sounded worried. He knelt beside the abused body of his colleague and examined him, wincing as he saw the deep wounds in his throat. “Were you mugged?”
He glanced at the clothes scattered across the floor and back at the grimy, sweaty and blood-caked torso of his friend. Ochre was weak, he seemed to have lost a great deal of blood although there was no sign of it around him, and he was almost unconscious. Scarlet recognised the need for swift and decisive action.
“Cloudbase, we have a medical emergency. Captain Ochre has been attacked; he’s wounded. Lock on to my co-ordinates and get a medijet here, as soon as possible.” Scarlet rapped out the orders and as soon as his radio-mic had swung back to the peak of his cap, he turned to Ochre. “Hang in there, Rick; we’ll soon have you back on Cloudbase.”
Scarlet found the discarded uniform trousers and the un-torn tabard and eased his colleague back into them, making him as decent as he could. He was loath to touch the deep gashes on his neck as, from their raw, inflamed mouths the thinnest stream of blood was still trickling, but he un-stoppered his water bottle and gave Ochre a drink, gently dribbling the water through the bruised and blood-caked lips.
Scarlet sat beside his colleague until the medijet arrived and followed as Ochre was bundled up onto a gurney and wheeled into the belly of the craft. As the powerful machine rose into the rosy dawn of another hot Louisiana day, Ochre found the strength to whisper:
“How did you find me?”
Scarlet gave a shrug. “When you didn’t turn up for the rendezvous, I started working my way through the list of suspects you’d taken. I made a few mistakes, but finally I found the man we were looking for – but there was still no sign of you. I was walking back towards the rendezvous when I passed that house… something seemed to draw me to it – I felt sure you’d gone there. I don’t know why – just a hunch, I guess - but I decided to check it out. Why did you go into such a derelict place? It can’t have been occupied for decades and the suspect you should’ve been interviewing lived a few doors away. He was the Mysteron agent by the way and I’ve dealt with him – he won’t be posing a threat to anyone or anywhere again.”
Ochre gave a deep sigh and Scarlet placed a hand on his arm, asking intently, “What happened to you in there, Rick?”
Ochre shook his head and turned his gaze away from Scarlet’s concerned face. Scarlet didn’t press him for an answer, but he didn’t remove his hand from his colleague’s arm either.
After a long silence, Ochre asked in a voice that was heavy with desolation, “Scarlet, how does it feel to know you will live for eternity?”
Surprised, Scarlet frowned. It was not a topic he liked to consider, let alone talk about, but there was something akin to hollow despair in Ochre’s voice and he realised the question had been a genuine one.
“It aches,” he replied after a long silence. “It aches like hell.”
Tears seeped under Ochre’s closed eyelids. “So does the knowledge that you’ve been denied the chance…” he murmured.
Scarlet’s hand tightened his grip in wordless sympathy.
Silently, with a despair that seemed immeasurable, Richard Fraser started the monumental task of burying this experience beneath the cultivated layers of ‘self’ that made him who he was. His mind sought for rational explanations of what had happened to him, reasons that’d be believed, for he could never tell anyone the truth.
As the medijet touched down on the runways of Cloudbase and the paramedics swept him towards sick bay, for an emergency blood-transfusion, Ochre told himself he was lucky to be alive.
He caught a glimpse of the concerned faces of his colleagues as they entered the emergency ward, Captain Magenta foremost amongst them. They’re all worried about me – even Blue’s here, with Symphony at his side, as ever.
As he waited for Doctor Fawn to arrive, he reached out a shaky hand to Captain Scarlet. “I owe you my life,” he whispered, his throat parched and sore. “Thank you.”
Scarlet gave a wry smile. “I told you New Orleans gave me the creeps… there are some weird things on this planet, Rick – I mean, ever weirder than me.”
Ochre smiled weakly, recalling their conversation at the street-side café. “Nothing about anyone is weird to their friends, Paul. It’s just what makes them uniquely themselves,” he managed to croak.
“Yeah,” Scarlet agreed, “friendship’s an amazing thing; it even allows guys to tolerate someone with the world’s most annoying sense of humour…” Ochre glanced up at the Englishman’s face in some distress, only to see those normally prim features soften into an affable grin, “… just because he is a friend,” Scarlet concluded, patting the American’s shoulder.
Ochre’s bruised lips broadened into a wan smile in response, but then he gave a slight frown as he saw Magenta approaching the gurney. His eyes met Scarlet’s in a plea for help.
“I don’t really know what happened to me,” he said in as strong a voice as he could summon, desperate to forestall Magenta’s questions. “Do you have any idea, Scarlet?”
Captain Scarlet hesitated. He’d seen enough at the house to formulate what appeared to be a possible theory – however improbable. “Not a clue,” he said finally. After all, if even Richard Fraser couldn’t make a joke out of recent events – then it really wasn’t funny.
He stood aside with another friendly nod at Ochre and a pat on Magenta’s arm as the Irish-American came to check on his partner.
Captain Blue collared Scarlet as his friend moved towards the exit.
“What did happen to him?” he asked, every resentment over past teasing forgotten in his concern for a friend.
Scarlet paused and rubbed a hand over his rough, unshaven chin. That wasn’t an easy question to find an answer for – especially given his unspoken promise to Ochre not to say anything - but he knew Blue would expect one, nevertheless.
Finally, as even Blue’s patience began to wane, he said, “I think he got a taste of eternity.”
And, despite the incomprehension on Blue’s face, that was the only comment Scarlet ever made on the subject.
As Captain Ochre is – at least officially – dead, he seemed to be the most likely target for the vampires’ interest and New Orleans seemed an apt place for him to encounter them. The handsome captain is one of my favourites, as he is for many fans of ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’, so I was careful not to kill him off…
Some sources say that Selene, the Moon Goddess, was the mother of the vampires, which would certainly account for their nocturnal habits.
Thanks to S for allowing me to post her story.
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