A "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons" Story
By Sue Stanhope
Many thanks go, as ever, to Chris Bishop for her invaluable suggestions and advice throughout the writing of this story. I must also thank Chris Bishop and Hazel KŲhler for their patience in beta-reading the story.
"About time, Iíd say," Captain Magenta smiled smugly as he parked the Spectrum Patrol Car in the visitors car park to the left of the sprawling, three story laboratory.
"What is?" murmured Ochre unbuckling his harness with ease.
"A nice easy job," Magenta grinned at him as they both stepped from the car. "One where weíre not going to get shot at, no oneís going to explode, Captain Black," he waved an arm vaguely indicating the area in and around the laboratory, "is nowhere to be seen."
"He never is," countered Ochre grimly.
Magenta frowned and leaned his arms on the roof of the car, clasping his hands.
"When are you going to lighten up?" he demanded to know.
"Thereís nothing wrong with me."
"Yeah, right!" Magenta scoffed. "Youíre still sore because the Colonel chewed you out this morning."
"It wasnít as bad as he made out!" snapped Ochre with a scowl.
"No it wasnít, but heís been trying to get you for playing those stupid practical jokes on people for ages and this time you got caught! Youíre slipping, Ochre, getting careless," Magenta grinned again, "in your old age."
"Careless? Old? I could show you a trick or two, Magenta!" he rallied.
"Good, well, now youíre back to your old, did I say old?" he flashed a wicked smile in Ochreís direction, "self, shall we go in?"
Ochre slammed the door on his side and offered Magenta a defeated smile. The pair headed at a fast pace towards the front of the building.
The laboratory, R & L Stevenson Technology Ltd was situated approximately ten miles north of Edinburgh and a group of four of the companyís top scientists were currently hard at work developing a new, more powerful fuel for Spectrumís exclusive use. Magentaís confidence was well placed as a Mysteron threat had already been pronounced on the development of the new formula and defeated only three weeks earlier. Now Ochre and Magenta had arrived on a regular monthly visit to assess progress. They had already heard that it was in the final stages of testing and were hoping to receive the news that it could be put to use. The new fuel was sixty percent synthetic, and so was cheaper and easier to produce. The main advantage to Spectrum, though, had to be that it was even more powerful than the fuel manufactured at the Bensheba Refinery. The attack on the refinery a couple of years ago had brought home to Spectrum just how reliant they were on one single source of fuel. It became the main prompt in the search for a new source of fuel that could be manufactured cheaply and easily almost anywhere.
Magenta whistled cheerfully as he almost danced up the steps leading to the main entrance. Holding the door open for a pretty laboratory assistant, he nodded politely as she stepped through the door on her way out.
"Youíre incorrigible!" muttered Ochre as he joined him.
"And youíre jealous!" Magenta countered with a sidelong glance.
It was true, well, possibly anyway. Ochre couldnít quite allow himself to admit to the possibility that he was right. There was something very free and almost anarchic about Magentaís nature that sometimes made Ochre feel decidedly reserved when in his company. But, he told himself firmly, Iím NOT dull and I donít need to prove it to him!
"Captain Magenta," Doctor Robert Lawson called on seeing the pair of Spectrum officers escorted to his laboratory, extending a hand towards them. "Captain Ochre, welcome back."
Magenta and Ochre took turns in accepting the proffered hand for a hearty shake.
"No doubt youíve heard that the lab tests are complete and weíre ready to begin trials on Cloudbase," Lawson continued enthusiastically. "Here let me show you the data."
"Doctor Lawson," a quiet female voice cut in. "While you show the data to Captain Magenta, perhaps I could give Captain Ochre a tour of the laboratory. It may be their last visit."
Lawson paused as he glanced from the Spectrum captains to his assistant, his eyes finally resting on Captain Ochre with an expression that asked if he would be interested.
"ErÖ" It was Ochreís turn to be uncertain. It would only require one of them to sign off the data on the laboratory tests and it did seem like an interesting offer. "Sure," he continued with a smile. "Iíd like that."
"Well thatís settled then." Lawson nodded. "Captain Magenta, if youíd follow me into the office and Doctor Hyde, if you and Captain Ochre can be back within twenty minutes, we can set off."
"Of course, Doctor, we wonít be long. Captain Ochre?" She offered him a bright cheerful smile as she indicated towards the door.
Ochre offered her a smile in return as they both headed out on their tour of the laboratory.
"Sheís very dedicated," Lawson explained to Magenta as he led him into the office, "and remarkably intelligent. Sheís even found the time to do a little research of her own into performance enhancing drugs and believe me, Captain, sheís been working very hard on the Spectrum project, itís amazing she managed to find the time."
"As you say, Doctor, sheís dedicated. Anyone that keen will ALWAYS find the time, somehow."
Lawson smiled at Magentaís understanding, having been initially worried that he may think personal research had slowed the progress of the Spectrum project, Magentaís reply had settled his mind on the subject.
Captain Ochre was enjoying himself, much more than he had expected to.† Far from just a tedious walk around the laboratory building, Dr Hyde was treating him to a display of fascinating experiments and giving him the opportunity to mix some of the chemicals himself.† He wished chemistry had been this much fun when he had attended high school, perhaps, he thought, he would have paid more attention.
ďActually,Ē Hyde began as she headed towards a cupboard on the wall behind them, ďthereís one more I can show you, but I just need to fetch some ammonia.Ē
Ochre nodded enthusiastically as he continued to inspect the bottles laid out in front of him. ďSo whatís this?Ē asked Ochre inquisitively.
"What?" asked Hyde, turning to see what the American captain was referring to. As she turned she saw to her horror that he held a flask of clear liquid and was about to remove the bung. "No! Donít take thatÖ"
Her cry stopped mid sentence as Ochre removed the stopper only to be enveloped by a cloud of vapour. Dropping the flask he staggered backwards in pain and severe discomfort. Coughing violently, he was disorientated and temporarily blinded.
"I canít see!" he croaked, trying desperately to wave the vapour away. Tripping as he staggered backwards away from the cause of his suffering, he fell heavily to the floor in some distress. "Doctor Hyde!"
Ochre felt comforting hands on him as Hyde tried to calm his fears.
"Captain, donít worry, itís only temporary. Youíll be fine, I promise," she said in soothing tones. "Please relax, Iíll get you something to take the pain away."
Hyde stared at the stricken captain and chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. The effect of the contents of the flask, whilst apparently dramatic would leave no long-term effect or even last more than a few minutes. Would it be fair to play on the captainís fears? She had wanted to test her theories for so long. She had the ideal opportunity now and the means to monitor the results.
"Iíll be two minutes," she advised. "Youíll be fine, I promise."
True to her word, Doctor Hyde returned quickly to see Ochre rising uncertainly from the floor.
"Captain Ochre? Are you all right? Can you see?" she asked with some hesitation.
Ochre squinted, he could see something, but mostly it was just fuzzy shapes. "A little. Are you sure itíll come back?" he asked with obvious trepidation.
"Iím certain, Captain. I have something that will help. Please donít worry," she replied. She was lying and she knew it. The vapour would result in no lasting ill effects, she didnít need to do any more than rinse his eyes out, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.
Gently she rinsed Ochreís eyes, ensuring that they were thoroughly cleansed of the harsh drying effects of the vapour. Ochre rubbed his throat as his sight returned.
"Thank you," he nodded gratefully, his voice hoarse and dry. "I really thought my career was over. I should know better than to do that."
"It was a mistake, Captain, and youíre lucky, there are no long term effects, youíll be fine," she smiled. "But," she paused. Could she really do this? "You should use this."
Pressing a small bottle into his hand, she smiled uncertainly. "Your eyes might dry a little, this will stop that. You should put two drops in your eyes now and each night before you go to bed."
"Youíre sure Iíll be okay? I canít go to Doctor Fawn, over this, Iíd be in so much trouble," Ochre frowned.
"Iím certain," she sighed slightly. "Now, I wonít tell anyone if you donít," she added with a smile. "And donít forget, Iíll be on Cloudbase for the next week for the fuel trials, Iíll watch you carefully. Iím sure everything will be fine, but you must take those drops every night. Promise?"
Ochreís expression showed his relief as more of his sight returned. "I promise!" Placing two drops from the bottle in each eye, Ochre smiled. "Thanks Doctor Hyde, youíve been really considerate."
"Jacqueline, Captain, please call me Jacqueline."
Ochre smiled once more, followed after a short pause by a confident, appreciative nod. "Then, you must call me Rick," he replied taking her hand, then added with a twinkle in his eye. "In private."
Hyde smiled; she felt better about this already. How easy it had been to convince him, but, of course, he trusted her. She would be on hand to ensure that the trial would run successfully. What could go wrong?
"How do you feel now?" she asked, aware that they should be heading back, but unwilling to do so until he was fully recovered.
Ochre took a deep breath, and almost seemed embarrassed by his earlier reaction.
"Fine," he said giving her hand a squeeze. "Better than fine, in fact."
"Really?" She replied with slightly raised eyebrows. Could it be working already? "In what way?" She could have kicked herself for asking in so clumsy a way. It seemed to her that it would be obvious that she had an ulterior motive and so early on in the course he would surely be aware of the difference. She neednít have worried; Ochre merely grinned at her.
"Stop worrying, Jacqueline, I promise you, Iím fine!"
Hyde smiled, grateful to be let off the hook. "I think we should get back. They must be ready to leave now."
Ochre nodded and pointed with the open palm of his left hand to the door.
"After you," he replied graciously.
"Good tour?" asked Magenta with a smile, believing it to be the last thing that Ochre would have enjoyed.
"Who could not enjoy such charming company?" Ochre replied with a broad smile.
Magenta raised his eyebrows; this was an unexpected turn.
"Well, er, sure," he replied with uncertainty, followed by a slight smile as he realised that, just maybe, there was more to Ochre than met the eye.
The small group headed out of the factory towards the Spectrum Saloon, Magenta still marvelling at Ochreís attentiveness towards Dr Hyde. They had come on many visits to the laboratory and he had not noticed anything that suggested a relationship might be developing; and he prided himself on his observation skills. Yet this trip was most definitely very different. He grinned broadly as he slid behind the wheel.
"What are you grinning at?" Ochre asked quietly as they pulled away.
"Me?" replied Magenta innocently. "Nothing."
The Conference Room was full. Colonel White, all of the senior captains, Lieutenant Green and four of the Angels had gathered to meet the two scientists who would be conducting the new fuel trials. Colonel White looked up from the file on his desk.
"Iíve read your proposed schedule, Doctor Lawson and Iím in complete agreement with you. May I compliment you on a very thorough testing procedure? Iím sure the project will be successful. Although, I note that you want to start your testing with the interceptors. Do you have any specific reasons for that, Doctor?"
"Yes, Colonel, as you know, Pro-Butyl 6 is designed as a highly specialised fuel, specifically for Spectrum use. Your interceptors are, without doubt, the most technically demanding of all of your craft. Frankly, if our compound does not function to a high standard with the interceptors, there is little point continuing the testing."
White nodded slowly. "I appreciate your thoroughness, Doctor and your honesty, although Iím certain that everything will proceed as expected, Iím more than aware of the extensive testing youíve already completed."
"I hope the trials here are just as successful, Colonel," Lawson replied with a confident smile.
"Iím sure they will, Doctor," White agreed. "Well, I think for this evening youíll want to get some rest and weíll begin the trials in earnest first thing tomorrow. Captain Magenta and Destiny Angel will see you to your quarters."
"Thank you, Colonel," Lawson smiled as he rose from his seat.
Hyde glanced in Ochreís direction. She appeared suddenly concerned, but the reassuring smile Ochre afforded her in return seemed to calm her spirits. Magentaís eyes flickered from Ochre to Hyde and back, the slightest glint of amusement registered briefly in his curious gaze. Something was going on, that was certain. As he headed down the corridor with Destiny and their visitors, he shrugged as he noticed Ochre turn away without further comment and head for his quarters.
Ochre stared closely at himself in the mirror, pulling at his lower eyelids to afford himself a better look. They looked normal enough and they felt okay, not at all dry. He looked down at the small bottle resting on the shelf and sighed. How could he not take the drops Doctor Hyde had given him? Heíd been in enough trouble with the Colonel already that day for getting caught pulling another of his practical jokes. This time it had backfired and heíd been caught. It was as if the Colonel had been building up to this for some time and had exploded in one furious tirade. There was no way he was prepared to risk another lashing from the Colonel, due to his own foolishness of inhaling the vapour back in the laboratory. Tilting his head back, Ochre squeezed two drops of the cold liquid into each eye.
"Your quarters are here, Doctor Lawson," Magenta swiped a card through the security slot and handed the card to Lawson as the door opened. "You should find everything you need but if not, just call me and Iíll make sure itís sent to you. Doctor Hydeís quarters are along the corridor to the right, so youíll be close by should you want to compare notes. Iíll be back at seven tomorrow to take you to breakfast before the trials."
"Thank you, Captain, thatís most considerate."
Magenta smiled. If visitors tried to find their own way around the many corridors of Cloudbase, it would be unlikely that they would ever be found again!
"Good night, Doctor," he replied cheerfully. "Sleep well."
"You too, Captain."
The following morning Captain Ochre stood alongside Doctor Hyde at the monitoring consol situated in the empty hangar bay from where a test intercepter had just been raised to the flight deck. The test interceptor had been fuelled and linked up to the consol so that the Cloudbase team could follow the test flight and be aware of all of the information available to the test pilot. In the cockpit, Melody Angel awaited clearance that all crews were ready and she could begin.
"How confident are you?" Ochre asked Hyde conversationally as he went through the pre-flight safety checks at his station.
"Fairly, no, well, very confident. Thereís no reason why it should fail, itís been tested thoroughly enough," she replied.
Ochre smiled. Hyde, he guessed, was still overly concerned about the incident at the laboratory. She seemed a little uncomfortable around him, yet strangely attentive. She had spent the morning, during the preparation for the interceptor, checking his eyes, his heart rate and temperature. He had grown somewhat concerned at first, after all she had assured him that there were no long term effects from the accident, but she assured him she was being over-cautious, after all she didnít want him getting into trouble with Doctor Fawn.
A light flashed on the console indicating that the test flight was about to begin. Ochre ran through the checks again, his eyes ran down the console and back to one near the top. Something didnít seem quite right somehow.
"What do you make of this?" he asked with some concern.
"Let me see," Hyde approached the console and immediately her brow furrowed. "Thatís not right."
"The fuel intake? Right?"
"Yes, check with Melody."
"Melody, I have a red light here. Are you reading the same?" he asked urgently.
"S.I.G., Captain, but itís nothing to worry about, itís all under control," she replied smoothly.
"Melody, are you sure?"
"Yes, Captain, no problem, in fact, itís all clear now."
"Iím not getting the same here, Melody, still a red light," Ochre persisted.
"Then your console must be malfunctioning. Iíve got all green lights and so has Lieutenant Green."
"Hmm, guess so," replied Ochre sounding decidedly unconvinced.
The next voice they heard was that of Lieutenant Green advising Melody that she had launch clearance.
"S.I.G.," Melody replied.
Ochre couldnít take his eyes off the console. He considered his options. This was serious, if he were right the consequences could be fatal, but if wrong, the very worst that could happen would be a severe tongue lashing from Melody. He was not prepared to take such a risk with Melody, of all people. Of all people? The words echoed around his head. Now where had that suddenly come from? Ochre allowed himself a faint smile; maybe heíd known for some time, but hadnít admitted it to himself, but he cared for her. More than cared, in fact. His eyes were drawn back to the flashing red light. At that moment, Melody fired the engines in the interceptor. Ochre thought about it no more; acting purely on instinct, he hit the abort button. Instantly Melodyís engines were cut and there followed a stream of insults and threats.
"Er, Melody," began Green with an embarrassed tone, "youíre still on comm you know."
Silence followed. The sort of silence you could almost hear. Ochre turned to Hyde and shrugged uncomfortably.
"Iím in trouble now."
Hyde smiled, trying hard to conceal a laugh.
It was less than five minutes later than the door slid open to reveal a perfectly furious Melody.
"What was that all about? Aborting just as I fire up my engines?!"
"I had a red light," Ochre defended himself.
"I told you everything was fine. You really are an old woman, Ochre!"
"Everything was NOT fine! Look!" Ochre pointed to the console.
"I didnít get a light, Green didnít get a light, but you did. Just you, mind. But you HAVE to be right, donít you. I donít know why they put you on this detail. This is test piloting, you know! There are always risks, but you wouldnít know how to take a risk if it came gift wrapped!"
"Will you just shut up and look at this?!" Ochre yelled.
The sheer volume and tone of his voice was enough to stop Melody in her tracks. His tone wasnít what she expected; he didnít sound angry, well, not just angry anyway. There was concern, even hurt in his voice. She approached the console in silence as he explained.
"Look, this is the light, the fuel intake. I checked it and double-checked. It wasnít a fuel problem, it was a fault in the interceptor. Some of the fuel was backtracking on itself, there was a very real risk of the engine just exploding. You wouldnít even have chance to eject. I donít care if itís a false reading, it was too much of a risk to take, gift wrapped or not."
Melody looked at the reading; it wasnít the same light she had seen earlier, it was very possible that Ochreís tenacity had just saved her life.
"Iím sorry, Captain Ochre. Iím glad it was you here. Thank you," she replied awkwardly.
Ochre smiled sympathetically. "Perhaps I can make it up to you?"
Melody cocked her head to one side, she never knew how to take Ochre. Was he serious or leading her on? She decided to play it safe.
"Sure, you can buy me a coffee."
Ochre smiled again. Well, itís a start, he thought.
It took most of the morning to repair the interceptor and Ochre was at once horrified and relieved to discover that his fears had been correct. The jetís engines were faulty and would almost certainly have resulted in disaster had Melody been allowed to take off.
Everyone was just a little more cautious when the testing resumed later that afternoon. Checking, double and even triple checking all the details before proceeding. But, it proved unnecessary as the tests were completed without a hitch. Melody even commented on how much quieter and smoother it was than she had expected.
Hyde and Lawson were delighted. The success of the interceptor trials meant that they could continue with the remaining tests. Confident that all would go well, they retired to their quarters for the evening to prepare for the following day.
It wasnít a long walk back from the Spectra-Mart store back to his quarters, but Captain Ochre decided to take the scenic route and make it last. It was a quiet enough evening; he was off duty and had decided to take a stroll. There was nothing he particularly needed from the store, but, well, it was near the Amber Room and maybe, just maybe heíd see Melody. Heíd never said anything to her; in fact heíd always kept a more than discreet distance. But now, the more he thought about it, the more he wondered why. Secretly, he felt that she would return his affections if offered and now, he decided, was the time to make his move. The duty roster said she would be heading for the Amber Room in the next few minutes and he would be waiting.
He didnít have to wait for long as, just as he turned out of the store, he could see her approaching from further down the corridor. He smiled in anticipation as his speed picked up. Stopping just feet from her, he smiled warmly.
"Hi, Melody, youíre looking lovely tonight," he greeted her with a hopeful yet confident expression.
Melody frowned suspiciously at him.
"What do you want, Captain Ochre?" she asked him, a little harsher than she had intended.
Ochreís face fell in an exaggerated, almost theatrical way.
"Melody, you wound me!" he grinned.
"Iím on duty in five minutes, Ochre, what do you want?" she asked, now certain that he was making fun of her and was less than impressed with the idea.
Ochre manoeuvred himself so that Melody was standing near the wall of the corridor. Placing his left hand on the wall, blocking her path he cocked his head and smiled self-assuredly, somehow managing to exude a confident charm.
"Canít you guess?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Melody glanced at his arm and frowned before looking back up at the tall, dark haired American captain.
"I really donít have time for guessing games, Captain!" she snapped pushing his arm down and trying to move past him.
"Ah, ah!" Ochre chuckled catching her once more. "Donít I get a goodbye kiss?"
"You most certainly donít!" Melody declared, utterly scandalised by the suggestion.
Pushing him aside once more she stormed off down the corridor. Behind her, she could hear Ochreís quickening step as he hurried to catch up with her.
"Look, Ochre, IÖ"
Melody was cut short in her astonishment as Ochre seized both her arms and pressed her against the wall. His grip was firm and although not painful, was intended to restrain.
"You canít REALLY want to go?" he asked with a look of mock disappointment in his eyes.
"IÖ" Melody paused. Whilst shocked by his conduct, she reminded herself that this was Ochre and she was determined not to set herself up as a target for his ridicule. And yet at the same time, the fleeting thought that he might be serious almost brought a blush to her cheeks. Dismissing the idea instantly, she shrugged off his grip. "Iím busy, Ochre."
"Rick," he corrected running a finger gently down her arm as he released her. "Then, maybe later? When you come off-duty. On the Promenade Deck."
"ErÖyeah, maybe," replied Melody, her guard dropping slowly.
"Iíll see you later then," he replied with a smile and a wink.
Melody watched open mouthed as he headed off down the corridor. There were no jokes, no smart remarks, just Ochre. No, just Rick. She found herself smiling and felt the flush in her cheeks that she had been so fortunate to avoid earlier. Shaking herself, she looked around, thankful that no one had seen her behaving like a giddy schoolgirl. She would not previously have given a momentís thought to the idea that she may hold any such feelings for her compatriot, and her own reaction had come as more of a surprise to her than even his behaviour. Watching until he disappeared from view, Melody turned and composed herself before heading to the Amber Room.
Symphony and Melody couldnít help but laugh at Captain Magentaís latest tale. Magenta had arrived in the Amber Room roughly thirty minutes earlier, having shown Doctor Lawson to his quarters. He had then begun to regale them with a full account of Ochreís dressing down by the Colonel, the details of which he had managed to wheedle out of Lieutenant Green. Naturally, for narrative necessity, he had embellished it almost beyond recognition. The two Angels were helpless with laughter at Ochreís expense, but it seemed almost poetic justice as they had all suffered his practical jokes at one time or another. It did them good to hear a tale of the Colonel extracting revenge on behalf of them all. How much of the tale was true and how much was fabricated, they would never know, but it made for a highly entertaining story to fill the hours of a dull duty watch.
"And with that, ladies, I must bid you good night," a grinning Magenta rose and bowed graciously to them.
"Good night, Magenta," Melody replied, still laughing, "sleep well."
"Pleasant dreams," Symphony added with a smile.
"Oh, Iím looking forward to getting to bed tonight, I can tell you!" Magenta nodded as he turned to leave.
Magenta turned his cap in his hands and chuckled to himself as he headed along the corridor leading away from the Amber Room for the few minutes walk back to his own quarters in the control tower. He neither saw nor heard the approach of his assailant. One arm wrapped around him, grabbing his right wrist in a tight almost painful grip. Another arm clamped a drug soaked cloth over his nose and mouth. Magenta held his breath and fought against the vice like grip, trying hard not to breathe. Magenta was strong and athletic, trained in self-defence and yet every move he tried to free himself from his unknown aggressor was countered and ultimately unsuccessful. After a few moments, it became necessary for him to take a breath. Trying desperately to pull his head away, Magenta gasped for air. Taking in a lungful of the sweet scented chemical, he could feel his mind clouding and almost instantly he slipped to the floor as his knees buckled under him.
Magenta shook his head vigorously, reacting to the sharp odour, as the small bottle of smelling salts was waved under his nose. A flood of sensations fought hard to gain his attention as he woke, that it would be almost impossible for him to recall later exactly what he was aware of first. He was lying on his back on a bed, of that he was certain. Unable to see, he realised a length of cloth had been tied tightly across his eyes. But even without the use of his eyes, the slight chill he felt made him acutely aware of having been stripped to the waist. The next thing of which he was aware as he came to fully were the handcuffs securing his wrists to each end of the bedís headboard. He pulled on them sharply, as if to test their strength, but they were firm enough.
"What is this?" he asked furiously. "Whoís there?"
"I thought you were good at picking locks, Magenta, surely this canít present you with much of a challenge?" came a gruff, croaky voice. Whilst tinged with amusement, the voice was decidedly menacing.
Magenta now realised that his boots and socks had been removed and his ankles too were secured to the foot of the bed, this time with rope. Infuriatingly, the rope had been fastened with just enough slack in it to allow him only the most ineffectual of struggles.
"Who are you? Let me go!" Magenta demanded, frustrated by his predicament.
"Oh, I donít think so," the voice gave a hoarse laugh.
Magenta felt a tickling across his chest as if several strands of a stiff material were being pulled slowly across him.
"Whatís that?" He asked nervously, his muscles tightening as he became increasingly tense.
He made a sharp intake of breath in response to the noise, as he heard the loud crack of slapping leather next to his ear. The sensation he had felt and the sound he had heard placed a very clear image in his mind. Whoever this was, he was holding in his hand the Ďcat oí nine tailsí from Lieutenant Greenís prop box. The Cloudbase Amateur Dramatic Society, founded by Green had put on a performance of ĎMutiny on the Bountyí in which Magenta had played a somewhat overzealous Captain Bligh, with a striking portrayal of Fletcher Christian by Captain Blue. The sound of the cat was one he had become all too familiar with during the rehearsals and there was no mistaking its sound now.
"What are you doing? Who are you?" Terrified, Magenta pulled hard on the shackles only to suddenly stop, bemused as his captorís laughter rang in his ears, fading as he heard a door open and close.
Magenta frowned. What on Earth was happening? Drugged, tied to a bed, threatened and left. If he hadnít heard the unknown voice, heíd have believed this to be Ochreís most unpleasant joke yet. Magenta reflected on the idea. No, Ochre would never go so far as attacking any of his victims. Annoying as they were, Ochreís jokes were harmless. Frustrated, Magenta pulled once more on the handcuffs. There was no way he could release himself, with no tools, sight or even the ability to reach the locks, he had to resign himself to the embarrassment of rescue. About to shout for help, Magenta opted for an apprehensive silence as the door slid open once more to admit, he believed, his captor. Instead he heard the gasp of a female voice.
Magenta turned his head to face the door, horrified by the sudden realisation of where he must be. He had, after all, been attacked in the corridor beyond the Amber Room, where the Angelsí quarters were located.
"Destiny?" he whispered hopefully.
"Well," came the abrupt voice of Symphony Angel. "I know now why you were so keen to get to bed tonight. But I think you chose the wrong room!"
"Symphony!" Magenta spluttered, his face flushed a deep crimson beneath the blindfold.
"Whatís wrong?" came a voice behind her as someone else entered the room.
"Oh, God! Blue! Itís not what you think, really!" Magenta pleaded, wishing that somehow the bed would simply absorb him and lessen the acute embarrassment he now felt.
"Really?" snapped a furious Blue, stepping forward and removing the blindfold with unnecessary roughness. "You tell me what Iím thinking! I come in here to find youíve tied yourself to Symphonyís bed withÖ" Blue paused, momentarily lost for words as he saw the whip that Symphony was now examining with an amused expression on her face. "With THIS!" he barked, snatching the whip from Symphonyís hands and waving it under Magentaís nose.
"And this," added Symphony with a chuckle, handing Blue a two-thirds full bottle of massage oil.
"Go on, Magenta! You tell me what Iím thinking!"
"I didnít tie myself up!" Magenta protested. "How could I?"
"Relax, Adam, he was expecting Destiny," Symphony announced.
"Destiny?" Blue repeated perplexed.
"Let me see if Iíve got this right, Pat," Symphony began with a smirk. "Youíve suggested a, well, rather different style of eveningís entertainment to Destiny and sheís called your bluff and tied you up in here instead of in her own quarters?"
"No!" cried Magenta. "Itís not like that at all, listenÖ"
"Where are the keys?" Blue cut in irritably.
"Go easy, Adam, itís just a joke," Symphony nudged his arm.
"Well I donít find it funny!" he replied.
Neither do I! thought Magenta despondently.
"Where are the keys?" Blue asked again.
"Iím trying to tell you, I donít know," Magenta replied. "Really, Adam, itísÖ"
"Then I guess Destiny must have them," he grumbled turning on his heels and heading back towards the door.
"No!" Magenta yelled, mortified by the idea that Blue would bring Destiny to see him like this. Pulling on the handcuffs he turned as much as his restraints would allow. "Blue! Please!"
Magenta fell back onto the bed, flustered and fretting. He heard footsteps returning almost immediately. Perhaps Blue had changed his mind and would hear him out. No such luck!
"Patrick Donaghue!" came the clipped and imperious voice of Destiny Angel. "I am appalled! You think this is amusing?! Vraiment!"
Open mouthed, Magenta glanced briefly at the French pilot; letting out a deep hopeless sigh, he flopped back and gave up.
Captain Ochre stared out of one of the many large windows on Cloudbaseís Promenade Deck. It was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies and a few light scattered clouds drifting below them. It was a perfect day to meet Melody, and the perfect place. Almost all of the flowering plants were in full bloom and a sweet scent hung in the air. It was the perfect backdrop to accentuate her beauty. He smiled to himself, and, despite her lateness, Ochre felt confident that she would come. Her duty shift must have finished almost twenty minutes ago and she had still not arrived, but, Ochre decided, she would and it would be worth the wait. Casting his eyes casually around the deck, Ochreís gaze fell on the spectacularly cultivated and lovingly cared for white rose bush belonging to Colonel White. Each year, White grew the most perfect and dazzlingly beautiful white roses to place on his wifeís grave. Everyone had known for years just how important the bush was to him, but had only recently discovered why. But, Ochre mused, he wouldnít miss one. Not just one. Selecting one that had fully opened, Ochre snapped the flowerís stem, pricking his forefinger in the process on a protruding thorn.
"Ow!" Ochre yelped, sucking the side of his cut finger to soothe the pain. "Damn thorns!"
Settling himself comfortably in a chair, Ochre continued to wait. A further ten minutes passed, then another, it was looking as though Melody may not arrive after all. Ochre looked down at the rose still in his hand.
"Well, letís see," he murmured to himself as he plucked one of the petals and let it fall slowly to the floor. "She loves me," another petal, "she loves me not," another, "she loves me."
Ochre continued until the once beautiful rose was almost stripped bare and a shower of white petals surrounded his chair. About to pluck the last one, Ochre heard a voice behind him.
"Rick?" It was Melody.
Ochre plucked the last petal with a broad smile and discarded the stem as he stood to greet her. "She loves me!"
Heading for the door, Ochre met Melody before she had entered far enough to see the scattered petals and, taking her arm, escorted her to a more secluded area of the Promenade Deck.
"I didnít know whether to come or not," she admitted. "Whether you were serious," she went on to explain. "You know what a joker you are."
"Not with you, Mags." Taking her hand and raising it to his mouth, Ochre gently kissed her fingers then brushed his cheek lightly against them. One look from his warm, smiling brown eyes was enough to convince her that, at least now, he was sincere.
Blue held the still damp cloth that had been used to render Magenta unconscious. Destiny had found it at the foot of the bed, almost out of sight. The sweet smell of the potent drug still clung to its fibres and had gone a long way towards convincing them to hear Magenta out. Blue looked up as Magenta reappeared from the bathroom reaching for the two ends of his tunicís zip, relieved to be, once more, fully dressed.
"Why didnít you tell us?" asked Blue with a sigh.
Magenta raised his eyes from fastening the tunic zip; they were wide with disbelief.
"When? Every time I tried, you cut me off!" Magenta pouted, feeling very sorry for himself. "And, Juliette, how could you thinkÖ" Magenta paused, suppressing a surprised smile as he noticed Destiny quietly reading the label on the bottle of massage oil. "Anyway, thatís not an issue," he finished quickly, clearing his throat.
"Have you any idea who it was?" asked Symphony with a meaningful stare.
"Oh, come on, you donít really think it was Ochre, do you?" Magenta asked with a frown. "Whoever this was physically attacked me. Okay, it was a pretty cruel joke, butÖno, I donít believe it for a minute."
"No, I guess not," Symphony nodded, "but I did pass him in the corridor on the way here. I guess Iím just jumping to conclusions."
"Anyway, I heard him, it wasnít Rick. Sounded really creepy to tell the truth," Magenta added with a worried frown. "Ochre may have seen him though, where was he headed, did you see?"
"He went into the Amber Room as I was leaving," advised Destiny with a shrug.
"Regardless, we have to let the Colonel know whatís happened," Blue sighed.
"Oh no," Magenta shook his head whilst waving his hands in front of him. "You are NOT telling the Colonel about this! Iíve been humiliated quite enough, thank you!"
"We canít not tell him, Pat," Symphony agreed with Blue. "We have visitors to Cloudbase, we have to consider their safety as much as our own."
"Or even -," Blue began thoughtfully, "- that they may be responsible."
"You canít really believe that." Magentaís brow furrowed at the idea.
"But we canít rule it out either," Blue reasoned. "So we have to tell the Colonel."
Magenta squirmed. "Well, Iím not going to be there when you do!"
"Actually, Pat, youíll have to do it," Blue smirked. "You KNOW heíll have questions."
Magenta sighed heavily as his head drooped. "I canít believe this! I really canít!"
"Heís not going to embarrass you, Pat," Destiny reassured him.
Magenta gave an exasperated frown. "Yeah, like anyone COULD make it worse!"
The following morning, Captain Scarlet sat in the pressurised observation room in the SPJís hangar. He looked comfortable, yawning, with his feet up on the monitoring console. Ahead of him, through the thick glass panel, he could see Captain Blue seated and ready in the SPJ awaiting launch clearance.
"Shouldnít you be doing something?" asked Symphony pointedly.
"Done it," he replied with a distinctly bored tone to his voice. "Iíve run through all the checks, twice, thereís some sort of issue with a weather balloon, weíre waiting for it to clear."
Scarlet yawned again.
"This is dull," Scarlet complained, "I mean what are we doing this for? Surely the engineersÖ"
"The engineers donít have to fly these things, Captain Scarlet, donít you think itís better to have the people who use them every day testing them?"
"Testing them, yes! Staring at an overgrown calculator complete with fairy lights, no!"
Symphony raised an unimpressed eyebrow and frowned.
"It canít always be action, action, action, you know."
"Captain Blue," came the voice of Lieutenant Green, "you are cleared to leave the hangar."
"S.I.G.," came the crackly response.
"Captain Blue, the SPJís communicator is breaking up, would you like to postpone?"
"Negative, Lieutenant," came the indistinct reply once more, "once airborne, Iíll switch to my cap mic."
"S.I.G., Captain. You may leave the hangar."
Scarlet lowered his feet and sat upright. "Right, here we go."
Slowly the hangar ceiling separated allowing in a flood of bright sunlight. Scarlet watched with mild interest as the heavy doors continued to roll back, revealing a hundred foot by fifty foot opening. He hadnít observed the process for a very long time, possibly years. He had almost always been inside the jet looking out. The hydraulic lift began raising the SPJ but before it had even moved ten feet, the jetís canopy flew off. Scarletís eyes grew suddenly wide with horror and his mouth dropped open as Captain Blue shot from the cockpit out through the hangar roof.
"Adam!" Scarlet and Symphony cried in unison.
Symphony raced to the door of the monitoring station but was held back from the controls by an equally shocked Scarlet.
"Itís depressurised, thereís not enough oxygen out there!" he explained, frustrated by the delay. "We have to close the hangar bay and pressurise."
"Well, hurry up then! If we canít breathe out there, neither can Adam!"
"Get hold of Green," Scarlet instructed as he set the hangar doors to close. "Find out all you can."
Symphony did as she was asked and listened to Greenís reply with a complexion that paled with each word. Turning to Scarlet, he could see that she was drained of all colour, shaking and having difficulty holding back the tears that welled in her eyes.
"What? What is it?" asked Scarlet, shocked at her appearance. Surely there was hope, after all Blue was fit and healthy.
"The chute didnít open," she whispered almost inaudibly.
Scarlet was hit by a wave of sadness so strong as to almost take his strength away. He wavered on the spot as he took in the news. Then before him he saw Symphony; she looked frail, he had never seen her looking so fragile, almost as though she would shatter at the slightest touch.
Scarlet moved forward to take her in his arms in a protective, supportive embrace. He had so long thought of her as the sister he had never had. Her relationship with Blue had brought the three of them close like a family and now it was time to comfort his Ďsisterí.
As Scarlet took a step forward, the door of the cabinet behind them flew open with such force it reached itís farthest point and started to swing back once more. Out of it tumbled the body of a man moaning noisily.
Symphony screamed. Scarlet didnít know what made him jump more: the sudden surprise or the deafening and piercing shriek in his ear.
They both turned and were at once delighted and dumbfounded. Slumped on the floor, moving as though reluctantly waking from a deep sleep, was Captain Blue.
Scarlet looked out of the window towards the still closing hangar doors, back to the cabinet, then to Symphony. They both stood for the slightest moment, rooted to the spot, unable to react, before Symphony fell to her knees at Blueís side.
Scarlet called for medical assistance first, before informing Lieutenant Green of the bizarre events. He smiled briefly as Symphony fussed over Blue, her tears, now of joy, dampening his tunic.
"First Magenta and now this." Scarlet rubbed his eyes. "I think we might have a problem."
Colonel White turned his seat as he looked around the table. Before him sat Captains Scarlet, Grey, Ochre and Magenta. White was frowning, deeply dissatisfied with the reaction to the report Captain Scarlet had just delivered on Captain Blueís attack and the subsequent hoax.
"Captain Ochre, you are alone in finding this situation amusing!"
"Looks that way," he shrugged, then added, "Sir."
"Captain Ochre! You are running a very serious risk of a charge."
"Iím sorry, Colonel," he began, "but you have to see the funny side. Somebody switches Captain Blue for a dummy and nobody notices!"
"Captain Ochre, may I remind you that Captain Blue was attacked and is currently recovering in Sickbay. I donít see Ďthe funny sideí of that!"
Ochre frowned; Colonel White was right, he was alone in finding it amusing. "No, Sir," he conceded.
Colonel White directed a harsh stare at the normally courteous and respectful officer, wondering if his love of practical jokes had somehow blinded him to the seriousness of the situation.
"Gentlemen, we have a very serious situation here. Somebody on board Cloudbase has attacked two of my senior staff. I would like to hear your thoughts. Captain Magenta? Do you have anything to say?"
Magenta frowned. Remembering the particular predicament he had been left in did not appeal to him at all.
"Sir, Captain Blue commented that the attacks had only started since the two doctors were brought on board. He thought we should put them under surveillance."
"Youíre blaming Lawson?" scoffed Ochre.
"Well, it certainly wasnít Hydeís voice I heard!" retorted Magenta. "Are you suggesting that Hyde could overpower me? Sheís half my height!"
"Donít exaggerate! And we only have your word for it that you were attacked!" Ochre snapped in return.
"Captain Ochre! The next time you speak, it will be respectful and relevant, do you understand me? You can leave your petty personal bickering for when you are off duty, but you DO NOT bring it in here! Do I make myself clear?!"
"Yes, Colonel," Ochre grumbled in reply.
"Captain Grey, what are your thoughts?"
"Iím inclined to agree with Captain Blue, Sir, but for different reasons. If it is them, weíll soon know. If it isnít, we have to protect them. A discreet guard would be useful either way."
"I agree." White nodded. "Captain Scarlet?"
"I agree, Sir, the last thing we want to do right now is to postpone the project when weíre so close to finishing, and as we donít know who is behind it, we have to both protect and watch our visitors until we know more."
"We are all in agreement then?" asked White. "We place a discreet guard on Doctors Lawson and Hyde, but we keep the information from them. If itís not them, we donít want to worry them. If it is them, we donít want them to know weíre suspicious."
Murmurs of agreement and ascension followed, and with that, White concluded the meeting.
"Very well, gentlemen. I will make the necessary arrangements. Thank you."
"Colonel?" asked Magenta.
"Has Captain Blue been able to give you any information yet?"
"Not much," White sighed. "He was attacked from behind, as in your case, Captain Magenta. The same drug used in both cases. Doctor Fawn has advised me that a bottle of it is missing from Sickbay. I want you all to be vigilant. If you see or hear anything, I want to know, straight away. Dismissed."
All four captains rose and headed for the door, each one appeared pensive and concerned.
"Whatís with you, baiting the old man like that?" Magenta demanded turning to face Ochre as the door slid closed behind them.
"What? You didnít find it funny? Be honest." Ochre sighed in reply. "Or are you getting as dull as the rest of them?"
"The day I take lessons from you in joie de vivre, Iíll resign!" Magenta replied stoutly.
"Picking up French phrases now?" Ochre raised his eyebrows.
"Everyone knows that phrase!" Magenta defended himself.
"Yeah, but not everyone pronounces it correctly." Ochre revelled in the uncomfortable glance afforded him by Magenta. "Anyway, I have to be somewhere. Iíll see you later!".
In the Amber Room, Melody was nearing the end of her duty watch. Settled in a comfortable chair she turned another page of the book she was reading and stifled a yawn. Looking up at the clock on the wall, she offered up a slight smile, only thirty minutes remaining. Having already spent four hours that morning in Angel one followed by a duty on stand-by in the Amber Room, Melody was more than ready for a break and some sleep. Ten feet away, Rhapsody was making a fresh jug of coffee. They had no idea how long the existing jug had been kept warm on the hotplate, but it had tasted decidedly stale. Rhapsody looked to her left as the door to the Amber Room slid open and Captain Ochre entered. She gave him a smile and a small wave as she continued with her task. She shrugged as he all but ignored her, his eyes finding and never leaving Melody as she sat engrossed in her book.
"Mags?" he said as he crouched down at her side. "Why donít we get out of here and have some fun?"
Melody turned from her book and frowned deeply at him. "Excuse me?"
Ochre reached across and plucked the book from her hand, closed it and placed it behind him without diverting his eyes.
"Hey!" Melody cried. "I was reading that!" she added trying to reach past him to pick it up again. As she leaned forward he circled his left arm around her waist and pulled her closer.
"You donít need it right now, do you?" he whispered, leaning in so that his lips brushed her cheek.
"Ochre!" His increasingly overt advances in front of Rhapsody startled Melody.
"Donít mind me!" Rhapsody complained noisily. Melody looked in Rhapsodyís direction, her expression one of embarrassment. "Melody?" Rhapsody stepped forward concerned by Melodyís obvious discomfort.
"Sheís fine!" Ochre snapped glancing briefly over his shoulder. "Letís go?" Ochre suggested with a grin and a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Melody pushed Ochreís arm away, but he forced it back with some insistence. Drawing his arm back he practically pulled her from the seat so that he now held her pressed closely against him.
"Donít fight me, Melody, or I may just have to throw you over my shoulder," he murmured into her ear. His tone, whilst genial, somehow managed a vaguely menacing undertone.
"Captain Ochre," Melody began, keeping her voice firm and controlled. "Let go of me, right now! I am on duty, and IÖ"
Ochre shrugged lightly. There seemed only one way to stop her complaints. He reached to place his right hand behind her neck and gently, but determinedly drew her closer still until his lips met hers in a soft, tender kiss. Melody gave a cry of objection, her eyes opened wide with surprise as he held her firmly, refusing to relax his grip on her. Melody was furious. With her face set in a resolute expression, she pulled away and shoved him back away from the chair. Rocking on his heels, he steadied himself and laughed.
"Donít laugh at me, Fraser! How dare you act that wayÖ?"
Leaning forward once more and without saying a word, Ochre wrapped his arms about her waist. With startling ease he scooped up the astonished pilot and, with her draped inelegantly over his left shoulder, got to his feet and headed for the door.
Melody gasped with surprise as she found herself looking down Ochreís back. She hadnít realised quite how tall he was until now. It was a long way to the floor, but she had no intention of letting him do this. It was so undignified! Bracing her hands against his back, she tried to push herself off.
"Put me down!"
Melody was no match for Ochreís strength, but her struggles were making it difficult for him to keep her aloft without a serious risk of dropping her. Again, without feeling the need to comment, Ochre merely sighed in exasperation as he let her slip a little further down his back.
"Donít drop me, you idiot!" Melody shrieked, as she looked set to fall.
Ochre smiled, taking her words as acceptance of his behaviour and continued on his way out. As he approached the door, he noticed Rhapsody staring, open-mouthed at his actions. He nodded politely in her direction, then rolled his eyes as he pinned Melodyís legs with his right arm to prevent her slipping further.
"Anyone would think she wasnít interested," he shrugged with difficulty as he paused waiting for the door to slide open.
Rhapsody moved her mouth to reply, but no words would form. She could only watch in complete and utter amazement as the door closed behind them.
Left alone in the Amber Room, she glanced up at the clock and realised that there was still twenty minutes to wait before Harmony returned from Angel one. Where was everyone?! Gossip like that really shouldnít have to wait!
"Would you like to open the door?" Ochre asked Melody casually.
"Call me Rick."
"Captain Ochre, put me down!"
"Look," he sighed, ignoring her protests, "we can either go in here or I can carry you all the way to my quarters. Itís up to you."
Melody sighed angrily. If thatís what it was going to take for him to put her down then thatís what she would do. At least in her quarters, she could throw him out. That would be very satisfactory.
"Put me down first."
"No, I want to carry you in, Iíll just turn so you can reach the controls. How about that?"
"Rick," he corrected again as he turned and waited for her to open the door.
As the door slid open, Ochre entered and pressing the contols to close the door, headed for Melodyís bed.
"You have it looking great in here," he nodded his approval as he gently lowered her onto the bed.
Melody stared up at him, at a loss to know what was going on. Did he really not realise how furious she was with him? Or was he just being deliberately obtuse?
"Captain Ochre!" she began as she leapt from the bed. "I donít know what you think you were doing back there, but I do not appreciateÖ!"
Melody didnít get to finish her sentence as Ochre pulled her close for a soft gentle kiss. Surprised by the action, Melodyís first instinct was to pull away. She stared with a mixture of emotions jostling for position on her face. At first she felt only anger and frustration at his presumption, but on seeing the disappointment in his eyes as she pulled back, a second instinct took over. She didnít actually want to pull away. Her features softened and a slow smile formed.
"I was embarrassed," she explained simply.
"Iím sorry," he whispered brushing his lips against her cheek.
"You just donít do that in front of people." Melody slipped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer for another kiss.
Ochre smiled and scooped her up in his arms. "You donít like this?"
"Thereís a time and a place," she replied settling herself comfortably.
"And is that here and now?"
"I should be on duty in the Amber Room."
"Do you want me to take you back?"
Melody smiled and shook her head, drawing him closer for another kiss.
The pool looked inviting to say the least, but then, to Captain Grey, it always did. He enjoyed an evening swim most nights, finding it helped him relax. It often felt very strange to him, even now after all these years, that he was stationed so far from the sea. He was a Navy man, it was in his blood and ever since he could remember he had felt happiest in water. Even his father, a retired captain in the World Navy had been astounded at just how comfortable and adept his son was in the water. A born diver with his quick mind easily understanding the technology and physical theory behind it, it was no surprise that he ended up helping to design the prototype Stingray submarine for the WASPS at Marineville. His interest in all things aquatic didnít end there. He passed many long hours studying, and although he had sat no formal exams on the subject, Grey was knowledgeable in the field of marine biology and ecosystems. But now he was a Cloudbase Captain and further from the sea than he had ever been in his working life; the pool would have to do. Dropping his towel on a rail near the poolside, he kicked off his shoes and prepared to dive in.
The room was suddenly plunged into darkness, the only light coming from the pool itself as the underwater lights shone upwards casting an eerie undulating blue glow on the walls and ceiling.
Grey sighed and wondered what was going on. He hadnít seen another soul in the pool area, so he figured that it had to be a technical failure of some sort.
"I just hope it didnít affect the heating," he muttered to himself, staring at the lightly rippling water. "Iíve had enough of cold water."
With the light from the pool, Grey could see just enough to be able to head back towards the changing rooms but stopped short as in the near silence of the cavernous room, a noise caught his attention.
"Whoís there?" he asked with a curious frown as he peered into the darkness. Not even the tiniest movement caught his eye as he looked around. Shrugging he chided himself.
"Youíre getting a bit jumpy, Brad, thereís no one here but you."
"And me!" came a gruff almost croaky voice behind him.
Greyís eyes opened wide with alarm as a sweet smelling cloth was clamped over his nose and mouth. Struggling to free himself, Grey was simply overwhelmed by the strength of his attacker. Unable to shake him off, Grey found himself weakening under the effect of the drug soaked cloth. Slipping to the floor, he lay, still conscious but unable to fight off the intruder as he pulled a length of cloth over Greyís eyes, securing it behind his head. He then bound Greyís hands behind him and attached something around his waist. A small bottle was waved under his nose and Grey found his senses returning as he pulled away from the pungent smell.
"Up!" growled the voice.
Grey felt a pistol held against his neck as he was dragged to his feet. Still unsteady and his mind fogged, Grey staggered and swayed under the additional strain of what he now realised was a diving weight belt.
"Up, I said!"
Grey found himself being pulled upwards. Blindfolded he took a tentative step up, almost stumbling in the process. The floor suddenly became unsteady and he realised heíd been dragged onto the diving board. Next he felt his ankles being bound closely, but far enough apart to allow him to shuffle his feet.
"What?!" Grey replied astounded by the order.
The gun was now pressed firmly into his neck under the jaw line. "Walk!"
Grey could hear the light lapping of the water below him. He was a fine swimmer, that was true, but with the heavy weights tied around his waist and his hands and feet bound, remaining above water would be simply impossible.
"Iíll drown!" he protested refusing to budge.
"You might, but if you donít walk, Iíll shoot you, itís your choice!"
Grey couldnít believe what was happening. Who was this maniac?
"Walk!" he yelled again.
Grey shuffled forward, slowly, nervously. He had no idea how far along the board he was. One step in the wrong direction and he could be dead in seconds. His only hope was that someone would walk in and discover them. Too late. His heart sank as his toes curled around the edge of the board.
"Who are you?" he asked bitterly. "What do you want?"
"I want you to take one more step."
"And if I refuse?"
Grey felt the shove and heard the maniacal laughter. He pitched forward, taking a deep breath as he fell. The fall onto the cold tiled floor knocked all the air from his lungs and he gasped with surprise. The laughter increased in both volume and pitch as Grey realised he had stepped off the opposite end of the board than he had expected. Lying on the floor, Grey gathered his senses as the laughter faded into the distance and he heard a door open and close. Shivering, he tried to pull himself into a sitting position and grimaced with pain, realising that he had hurt his right hip and shoulder in the fall. Trying, from his memory of the pool area, to get his bearings, Grey tried to crawl in the general direction of the changing rooms. The pain of the motion threatened to overwhelm him. He felt sure if heíd been able to see the room, it would almost certainly be spinning. Grey frowned deeply, he was alive, but there was still a maniac loose on Cloudbase. The Ďjokesí had started innocuously enough, but they had progressed to become increasingly violent and dangerous and the only man aware of that fact was currently bound and blindfolded on the cold tiled floor at the side of the pool. There seemed to be only one course of action left open to him.
Magenta sighed; it had been a long and eventful day. All he wanted to do was relax. He liked the Promenade Deck, he liked all the greenery, it reminded him of home. Even though he had lived in Ireland for only three years, he still regarded it as his home. Maybe it was because of the tales his parents would tell him as he grew up, maybe there was something inherently Irish in his way of thinking. He didnít know. Neither did he know why he still retained a hint of his accent, but he was glad he did. He was proud of his ancestry and upbringing. Magenta headed toward a favourite corner of the Promenade Deck. Looking forward to half an hour of peace and quiet, Magenta headed away from the door. The scene that met his eyes made his heart sink. Almost immediately, he knew that peace and quiet would have to be postponed. Ahead of him he saw a chair surrounded by white rose petals near to Colonel Whiteís rosebush.
It took only a brief examination for Magenta to notice the blood stain on the thorn still on one of the main stems of the bush. He shook his head in wonder.
"No one in his right mind would touch THAT rosebush! Well, if youíre our man, you just hung yourself. With any luck, Doctor Fawn will be able to find out who you are."
Ochre entered the corridor leading to the Angelsí quarters and headed immediately for Melodyís door. The few hours he had previously spent in Melodyís quarters had been without parallel. Simply blissful. But, he wondered, could you really have too much of a good thing? Waiting almost patiently he knocked. A few moments later, he knocked again and again. Inside, Melody, taking a soothing shower, was oblivious to the noise. About to knock once more, Ochre was suddenly distracted by the sound of singing behind him, he didnít recognise the tune, but it sounded sweet and inviting. Crossing the corridor, he knocked on the opposite door.
"Come in!" called Rhapsody. "Itís open."
Ochre opened the door. Ahead of him, he saw Rhapsody with her back to him, dressed casually in a pair of smart close fitting jeans and a simple white t-shirt. He stood for a moment, smiling appreciatively. It didnít seem to matter what she wore, she always looked stunning; he felt she could make rags look elegant. She had just settled a bottle of wine in some ice and was clearly expecting someone, presumably Scarlet. But today, thought Ochre, Scarlet would have to step aside.
Ochre approached her, slipped his arm around her waist and nuzzled her neck. At first Rhapsody succumbed with a happy smile, but almost immediately she felt something was wrong; it felt different somehow. Glancing to her right she caught sight of the manís hair and immediately she pulled away.
"Rick! What are you doing?" she gasped with surprise.
"You invited me in," he replied waving vaguely at the now closed door behind him.
"I thought you were someone else and you know it!" she snapped in reply. "Besides, that doesnít give you the right toÖ"
"Easy!" Ochre cut in with his hands raised defensively. "I just saw you were alone and thought you might like some company."
"No, thank you, Captain Ochre, now if youíd please leave," Rhapsody replied, still shaken by his actions.
"But," began Ochre, removing his tunic and throwing it casually on a chair. "I only just got here."
Rhapsody glanced from Ochre to the tunic and back, not knowing quite what to think. Was he joking? She felt nervous, she had never felt like that in his presence before. There was definitely something about him that was quietly menacing right now.
"Rick, I want you to leave, and Iím not joking."
Ochre stared intently at her then smiled wickedly. Quickly stepping forward, Ochre slid his arm around her waist once more and pulled her close.
"Neither am I! But can you picture Scarletís face when he finds out about the two of us?"
"There is no Ďusí!" Rhapsody snapped.
Ochre merely laughed, giving her a playful squeeze.
Astonished by his reaction, Rhapsody stared up at him and received a further surprise as he leaned in, and placing his left hand behind her head, kissed her softly, but firmly, refusing to allow her to pull away.
Lifting his head once more, he grinned with a mixture of mischief and satisfaction.
"You still want me to go?" he asked, although it was clear he had no intention of listening to her.
"Yes, I do! How dare you!"
Ochre pulled her close for a second more forceful kiss. She struggled and writhed in his arms to no avail; Ochre, whilst always strong, seemed to be now almost unnaturally so. Placing her hands on his shoulders and pushing with all her strength she managed to pull out of the kiss, although she was left with the distinct feeling that he had allowed her to.
"My, you are a feisty one!"
"Get out!" Rhapsody yelled. Lifting her right hand from his shoulder, she slapped him across the face.
Ochreís features grew dark as he stared at her and suddenly Rhapsody felt real fear.
"So," he replied slowly, "you like to play rough? I think I can accommodate that."
"Ochre, I want you to leave, right now. Please, just go!" She struggled once more in his grip, but it was not, as she initially believed, that he was oblivious to her distress, in fact, to the contrary, it seemed to be encouraging him.
Rhapsody looked over his shoulder as the door to her quarters slid open. She hoped desperately that Scarlet would be standing beyond the door, but was almost as relieved to see Melody standing there, until she spoke.
"So! I might have known you werenít serious!" She stood, obviously furious, still in the doorway. Rhapsody opened her mouth to try to explain that she had not encouraged him at all; however, before she could say a word, Ochre had spun her out of his grasp and had turned to face Melody.
"What can I say?" Ochre shrugged nonchalantly. "You werenít there. You canít expect me to wait around all day."
"If I canít expect that, youíre not the man I thought you were!" she snapped in return.
"You had no arguments on that score yesterday," Ochre countered with a wicked grin.
Melody flushed with embarrassment at the oh-so-obvious reference to their intimacy; especially now that he had made a fool of her in front of Rhapsody. She knew that Rhapsody would certainly not welcome his advances, but she was perfectly capable of telling him so herself. Humiliated and upset, she turned quickly and left.
"Melody!" cried Rhapsody, horrified at being left alone with Ochre once more.
Ochre shrugged as he turned back to face Rhapsody. "Guess she realised we want to be alone."
"I want to be alone, Ochre, now go! Donít you understand, I donít want you here!"
"You know, you could be a little more friendly. I mean, Iím okay with the Ďplaying-hard-to-getí routine but anyoneíd think you were serious," Ochre stepped forward again, reaching to caress her cheek.
Pushing his hand away forcefully, Rhapsody turned a look of disgust and anger toward the American. "I am not playing hard to get!"
Ochre smiled, but it was an unpleasant, arrogant smile.
"Iím pleased to hear it," he replied. Grabbing a handful of her hair he pulled her closer again and with his other hand behind her back, held her for another forceful and unwelcome kiss. Throwing his head back at the end, he laughed as she tried once more to pull out of his grip.
"Why donít I find out what else keeps Scarlet coming back for more?" he asked quietly as he leaned in to kiss her neck.
With strength borne out of fear of his latest suggestion, Rhapsody finally managed to pull out of his grip. Taking two steps back and almost breathless with apprehension and disbelief, Rhapsody found that at first she was at a loss to know what to do. She was in shock, pure and simple. This was Rick, a friend, a trusted friend and he was forcing himself upon her. No matter how she tried, no matter how plain he made his advances, she couldnít believe it. She didnít want to believe it. Any moment now, she wanted to believe, he would declare it to be a joke. But no. Now he was advancing on her once more, the expression on his face told her that her fears were real. He stood between her and the door. Glancing past him, she weighed her chances of escape, they were slim, but she had to try. Rhapsody bolted for the door, but his reactions were as fast as lightening. Wrapping his arms around her as she tried to pass him, she didnít even manage to reach the controls.
"Let me go!" she screamed, her arms now held immobile inside his, she glanced over her shoulder at him, her eyes wide with horror as he began to drag her backwards towards the bed.
"Lights off," Ochre requested using the voice command programmed into all of the quarters on Cloudbase.
The lights dimmed and Ochre smiled as the room was bathed in the warm glow of the soft light from the illuminated fish tank acting to separate the sitting area from the bed.
Rhapsodyís eyes grew suddenly wide as she realised she had forgotten the communications system also operated on a voice command.
Rhapsody got no further before Ochre clamped a hand firmly over her mouth. With an aggravated sigh, he whispered into her ear: "Twoís company, doll."
Taking a detour past the desk, Ochre removed his hand from her mouth and switched the controls to manual.
"Rick, let meÖ" She was stopped once more by Ochreís hand.
"There now, we donít want anyone interrupting us and spoiling our fun, do we? Eh?"
Throwing Rhapsody down onto the bed, Ochre kneeled astride her hips, pinning her arms to the mattress.
"Youíre not going to persist with this game and fight me are you?"
Rhapsody looked up, something was clearly wrong with Ochre, this was simply not like him at all.
"Rick!" she demanded. "Let me go or IíllÖ!"
"Youíll what?" Ochre mocked.
"You heard the lady. Let her go!" Scarlet shouted from beside the fish tank, hitting the light switch and looking with a mixture of anger and horror at the sight before him.
Ochre turned his head and sighed at the man that he saw as nothing more than an irritating distraction. Getting to his feet he turned to face Scarlet. So, he wanted to fight for her, did he? Very well.
"You wait there, babe, this wonít take long."
"I donít believe it," Fawn shook his head.
Standing nearby, Captain Magenta edged forward to see the DNA results himself. His eyes opened wide as he stared at the paper.
"Youíve got to be kidding?" he replied, his brows furrowed in disbelief.
"I wish I were," Fawn sighed.
"Youíre telling me that blood sample is Ochreís?"
"Thatís not all," Fawn shook his head. "The blood is flooded with a variation on adreno-diethylamide."
"In English?" Magenta asked with a frown.
"Plain English?" Fawn shook his head again. "Heís doped to the eyeballs with some sort of performance enhancing drug."
"Ochre would never take drugs!" Magenta scoffed at the idea.
"I know, I have a hard enough job getting him to take prescribed medication. Nevertheless, the amount of it in his system is staggering."
Magenta thought about it for a moment.
"Enough to make him act out of character?"
"Yes, and no. Sort of in character, but more so." Fawn frowned. "Much more so."
"So these Ďjokesí that have been played on us all?"
Fawn nodded. "Very possibly. But I donít understand how heíd get his hands on a drug like that, I donít keep anything like it. Or why would he take it for that matter."
"He was acting a little strange even at the laboratory."
"Now, theyíd probably have some, yes," nodded Fawn.
"But he wouldnít know what it was, would he?"
Fawn and Magenta suddenly reached the same conclusion at precisely the same moment.
"So somebody gave it to him," they both said in unison.
"Was he ever out of your sight?"
"ErÖ yes, Doctor Hyde took him on a tour," Magenta nodded.
"Our first port of call then."
"We canít go accusing her of druggingÖ" Magenta paused as something clicked in his memory. "Her experiments!"
"What! What experiments?"
"Doctor Lawson told me she was doing research into performance enhancers. It looks like sheís somehow managed to convince him to be her guinea pig!"
Scarlet approached Ochre with a determination to make him pay for hurting Rhapsody. It didnít even seem to register with him that Ochreís behaviour was completely out of character; the look on Rhapsodyís face was enough to blind him to all such considerations.
"I donít know what you think youíre doing, Ochre, but it stops now!" Scarlet growled, his eyes burning with fury.
"You donít know?" Ochre grinned. "Well, all I can say is Ė poor Rhapsody. Maybe you should just turn around and leave her with someone who does know what heís doing?"
Scarlet lunged forward, throwing a hefty right-hander, which connected with Ochreís jaw sending his head wrenching to his right. Ochre turned his head slowly back to face him and grinned again as he nodded, acknowledging the power behind the punch. Scarlet found himself merely staring in amazement. How could Ochre possibly still be standing?
"Not bad," he taunted, "but I think youíll find that itís not quite enough." He shrugged lightly. "On the other handÖ" He turned slightly away, as if intending to give up but instead turned back swiftly, landing a punch of his own that sent Scarlet reeling backwards.
"Now," Ochre laughed, "thatís a real punch."
Scarlet stumbled against a table set against the wall and regained his footing only to see Ochre turning back to Rhapsody, and catching her wrists as she tried to shove him back away from her.
"My, my, Rhaps, youíve got more fight in you than your boyfriend. You should have been a man," Ochre grinned.
"So should you!" she retorted, pulling fiercely away.
Ochreís expression was one of mock horror as he steered her so that she had her back to the bed.
"Rhapsody! You wound me!" he replied with an exaggerated sigh as he released her, sending her toppling backwards onto the mattress. Behind him, Ochre could sense Scarletís approach. "Hold that position, honey," he added, ducking as he anticipated Scarletís move.
Scarletís bluff worked perfectly and his foot impacted neatly with Ochreís shoulder sending him spinning to the floor.
"Ooh, clever!" Ochre jeered as he rolled himself onto his knees. "Youíre learning."
"Donít get too cocky, Ochre, Iíve been a soldier all my adult life, Iíve nothing to learn from you in combat skills! But youíve got a lesson coming to you, mark my words!"
"Less talk, more action, Ďsoldier-boyí. Show me how good you are!"
Scarletís eyes narrowed at Ochreís disturbing grin and wild eyes taunting him, goading him, daring him to act. He didnít need much convincing; he had caught Ochre in the act of assaulting his beloved Rhapsody and there was only outrage and fury driving him now.
"Get up!" yelled Scarlet at the still kneeling Ochre. "Get up and fight!"
Ochre gave a short mirthless laugh.
"Thereís one thing your soldier training seems to have neglected to tell you." Ochre spun onto his hands and swung his legs around in a single swift, deft movement, sweeping Scarletís legs out from under him. He laughed as he watched the English captain crashing to the floor with little time to break his fall. Leaping to his feet, Ochre stepped forward pressing his booted foot down heavily on Scarletís neck. "Not everyone fights fair," he grinned pressing his foot down harder and almost revelling in the gurgling and choking sounds emitted by Scarlet as he struggled to breathe.
"Rick! Stop it! Let him go!" Rhapsody approached quickly with the intention of dragging him off, if she had to. "Youíll kill him!"
"Yeah, but for how long?" Ochre winked, turning slightly as Rhapsody approached. "Maybe long enough to work out how to kill him for good!"
Rhapsody couldnít believe that she had heard him say the words; even in jest, if that was what his grin was implying. He wasnít about to find out, however, as the momentís distraction had been enough to allow Scarlet a chance to get a solid grip on the heel and toe of the gold coloured boot. Twisting it viciously as he forced it up, sending Ochre hurtling to the floor with a yelp of pain. Face down on the carpet, Ochre grimaced as Scarlet pushed a knee into his back and twisted his left arm behind him.
Ochre slapped the floor with his right hand as a wrestler might to admit defeat.
"Okay, thereís no need to be so enthusiastic!" Ochre cried as Scarlet forced his arm further up his back, almost to breaking point.
"What the Hell did you think you were doing?!" Scarlet yelled applying even more pressure to Ochreís back with his knee.
Ochre gasped with pain. "Let go! For pityís sake, Scarlet, youíre gonna break my arm."
Rhapsody looked on with a pained expression as she saw Ochre claw the carpet with the fingertips of his right hand.
"Paul, donít hurt him," she whispered.
"I know, but, somethingís wrong. Heís not himself, canít you tell?"
Scarlet relaxed his grip slightly, and, whilst still held firm, Ochreís pain eased. "Then heís dangerous!"
"Damn right I am!" Ochre took advantage of the small respite. The momentary distraction was enough to throw Scarlet off and for Ochre to once more gain the upper hand. Scarletís skill and tactical ability far outweighed Ochreís, but Ochreís drug induced, increased physical strength more than compensated.
Sitting astride his chest and holding him by the throat, Ochre levelled his pistol between Scarletís eyes.
"I warned you that not everyone fights fair!"
Melody looked up as the door to the Officersí Lounge opened. She had half expected it to be Rhapsody who entered to commiserate with her, or even Ochre with a damned good apology. She sighed audibly when it was neither of them. Instead she noticed Magenta and Doctor Fawn standing in the doorway. At first she looked down, but there was something about the expressions on their faces that drew her attention.
"Melody," Magenta finally spoke after they had scanned the room. "Have you seen Ochre anywhere?"
Melody wasnít in the mood to talk about Ochre, not even to give people any information on his whereabouts, but there was something sharp and undeniably urgent in Magentaís tone. The very presence of Doctor Fawn gave her an added concern. She stood up frowning.
"Why? Is something wrong?" she asked as she approached the door.
"Have you seen him?" Magenta asked again; the urgent tone in his voice had not been imagined.
"He was with Rhapsody before," she explained simply.
Magentaís face twitched with sympathy for the Angel, having detected the sadness and anger in her voice.
"Was he acting normally?" asked Fawn, unwilling to go into detail.
"Whatís normal for Ochre?" Melody snapped then cursed herself for being so obvious.
Magenta stepped forward and spoke quietly to her. "Melody, we have to find him. Heís... not himself. Heís been drugged, he might hurt someone."
Melody turned her eyes upwards to meet Magentaís. The look of horror on her face told him that his worst fears about his friend might just be realised.
"Where is he?"
"Rhapsodyís quarters. I left her alone with him. I would never..."
"Itís not your fault, come on!"
The small group ran from the Officersí Lounge and headed towards the Angelsí quarters near the Amber Room in the carrierís main platform.
Scarlet couldnít believe it - Ochre had a gun to his head and the determined almost frenzied look in his eyes told him that he meant to pull the trigger.
"Ochre! What are you doing?! Rick!"
Ochre continued to stare at him, but his expression was changing. It was as if he had just woken from sleepwalking, with no clue of where he was or why he was there. He turned puzzled eyes toward the gun in his hand, and then its target.
"Paul?" he whispered.
For a brief second, Scarlet glimpsed the look of horror in Ochreís eyes as his confused and drug-ridden mind took in the situation. Then Scarlet saw Rhapsody, her expression one of fury and single-minded purpose.
There was a momentary lapse as Ochre hung between consciousness and oblivion, before crumpling to his left, out cold before he even hit the floor. Behind him Rhapsody held the bottle of wine that was chilling in the ice bucket on Ochreís arrival.
"A very good vintage," croaked Scarlet pushing himself onto his elbows with relief.
Before Rhapsody had even a chance to drop to his side to check on him, she heard a hammering on the door accompanied by calls to both her and Ochre. Rhapsody opened the door to an out of breath Magenta, just as Fawn and Melody arrived to join him.
"Are you okay? Is Rick okay?" Magenta demanded taking in the surprising scene before him.
"Weíre fine!" replied Rhapsody. "And he Ė" she glanced at Ochre with a look of disdain, "Ė is lucky to be alive!"
Fawn dropped to Ochreís side as Scarlet hauled himself up, watching as the doctor checked the American over.
"Heíll be okay," Fawn announced finally.
Magenta sighed with relief and looked towards Scarlet and Rhapsody. From Scarletís protective stance, Magenta could tell that Ochre had done something pretty appalling.
"What did he do?" he asked quietly, almost reluctantly.
Scarletís expression darkened at the memory of what he had witnessed, knowing full well it was much worse for Rhapsody. Magenta chewed his lip as he noticed Scarletís murderous expression, realising that it was something serious.
"How did you know he was here?" Scarlet asked suspiciously.
"I told them," Melody replied quietly. "Rhapsody, Iíd never have left you alone with him if Iíd thought for a momentÖ"
Heís not himself, is he?" asked Rhapsody diplomatically as Melody stood uncertainly in the doorway.
Magenta looked from Rhapsody to Melody and sighed as he waved for Melody to enter. Glancing to Scarlet, his expression was a plea for tolerance before nodding to Fawn to explain.
As Fawn told the small gathering of his findings, it was hard to know which of the two Angels was benefiting most from the comfort of the other. Having listened to Fawnís discovery, Scarlet discreetly disclosed a short summary of what had just occurred for Magenta and Fawn.
Magenta sighed hopelessly, producing a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. "Donít really have much choice do we?"
It was early the next morning before Ochre woke, and he had been awake for several hours more before Magenta arrived to check on him. Standing in the brigís Surveillance Room, Magenta watched the monitor in furious silence as Ochre stalked up and down the small cell, pacing out a regular pattern, apparently muttering to himself. Beside the Irish captain, Doctor Fawn looked on with an anger all of his own. Magenta, caught up in his own thoughts, hadnít even seen the doctor approach.
"Magenta?" Fawn spoke gently so as not to startle him.
Magenta turned worried eyes toward the man beside him. His concern switched to an unusual mixture of anger and hopefulness as he saw Fawn.
"So?" he asked with ill-disguised bitterness in his voice.
"Sheís admitted everything. It wasnít planned. An opportunity presented itself for a guinea pig to test her experiments, and she took it. She claims to have been monitoring him for any significant changes in behaviour," Fawn explained without enthusiasm.
"But, look at him! How could she check for changes if she didnít know what he was like in the first place! How could she not have noticed something?"
"Did you?" asked Fawn. "You know him better than anyone, did you spot any differences?"
Magenta bit his lip in frustration. "No, not really, not at first. A bit more outgoing maybe. Nothing I could really put my finger on, anyway. The tricks he pulled on us, he didnít behave like that otherwise."
"Heís not stupid, Magenta, he NEVER has witnesses!" Fawn sighed and continued. "Hyde didnít see it either. As for his other behaviour, the jokes, you and Grey even heard him but you were both sure it wasnít him." Fawn shrugged. "It was an effect of the drug. It was at its most potent immediately on taking it. Its effects appear to have acted as a dis-inhibitor as well as increasing strength and stamina. A side effect was to deepen his voice in the short term. Itís no wonder you didnít recognise him."
"Okay," Magenta nodded, "we know who, and a little about how and why. What about when? When will it wear off?"
Fawn chewed his lip. "Iíve never seen anything like it, Pat."
Magentaís heart leapt into his throat; Fawn hardly ever used first names, often only when it was very serious or bad news.
"Iíll have to do more research. I just donít know, not even if, never mind when."
"Do you know whatíll happen?"
Fawn looked down uncomfortably. "I donít know what the formula is yetÖ"
Fawn pinched the bridge of his nose. This was certainly nothing that Magenta couldnít find out on the internet within five minutes. "Other experiments of this nature have rendered the individuals insane where an overdose has occurred."
"And hasÖ?" Magenta couldnít finish the question.
"I donít know, Pat. I really donít. Heís had a lot, possibly more than he was meant to, I just donít know yet." The frustration at being unable to answer Magentaís questions was more than evident in Fawnís voice.
Magenta turned back to the still pacing Ochre inside the cell. Fawn patted his arm sympathetically.
"Iíll do my best."
"Why wasnít I allowed in the meeting?" Magenta snapped, turning back as he did.
"None of the captains were there, Magenta, itís not as though you were left out. Just the colonel, myself, Hyde and Lawson."
"I was at the laboratory when she did this!"
"Magenta, youíd have lynched her and you know it."
"Damn right I would!" he yelled furiously.
"Calm down, Pat," Fawn admonished. "He needs calm right now. Talk to him, maybe you can help."
Magenta nodded, curbing his anger.
"Iíve got to get back to my office. Weíll do everything we can, I promise."
"We?" asked Magenta warily.
"Iím working with Doctors Hyde and Lawson to find a solution."
"Hyde?!" Magenta cried in surprise. "How can you let her anywhere near him after what sheís done?"
"Because sheís the only one who knows what sheís done. Like it or not, she could hold the key to all this and Iím not about to let that chance go. It wasnít malicious, Pat, sheís as upset about this as you are."
"No," Magenta waved a finger. "I seriously doubt that."
"Iíd better go. Talk to him, calmly. See if you can get any sense out of him. One thing though..." Fawn paused, unsure if he really wanted to say it, but was compelled. "Donít go in there with him, heís dangerous right now. Unnaturally strong and cunning. Heíll..."
"I get the picture," Magenta replied abruptly, not wishing to hear the full prognosis.
Fawn nodded and turned away. As he headed for the door, he heard Magenta head in the opposite direction towards the cells.
Opening the inspection hatch on the cell door, Magenta peered in only to be startled as Ochre suddenly appeared, his face almost pressed to the grille.
"Pat, am I glad to see you!"
Magenta smiled, but it was short lived as Ochre continued. He spoke rapidly, barely pausing to breathe.
"Pat, youíve got to get me out of here, they think Iíve gone crazy or something. You can see Iím not crazy, you know Iím not. Fawn had me sedated but it didnít last long, he wanted to put me in a straitjacket, I talked him out of it though. You see, I convinced him Iím not mad, but they still wonít let me out."
"Come on, open the door, Pat, we donít have long. Theyíll be coming back for me. I donít know what theyíre trying to do but I wonít give them anything. Surely youíve noticed. Why am I in here, Pat? I havenít done anything wrong. I have to get away, they want to keep me locked up. Fawn, he wants to..."
"Rick!" Magenta yelled, followed by a tired sigh. "Iím not here to let you out. Iím here to talk to you."
"Talk? What about? What do you want?" Ochre stepped back from the door, suspicion evident on his face.
"Rick, no oneís out to get you. Youíve had a tough time and..."
"Youíre with them? I donít believe it! Pat, you canít do this to me. Please let me out!"
Magenta could only stare with a set face at his friend; the pair of them were in obvious distress.
"You!" Ochre continued, staring at Magenta as if a long forgotten ghost from the past had suddenly reappeared. "I should have known. Youíve been waiting for this opportunity for years, havenít you? Havenít you?!" Ochre yelled approaching the grille once more. "Pat Donaghue has Commander Fraser under lock and key! Oh, I bet youíre delighted! Youíve waited a long time for this and now youíve got exactly what you wanted."
"Damn it, Rick! This is NOT what I want!" Magenta turned his head toward the ceiling and drew a slow deep breath to calm himself. Looking back down, he noticed that Ochre had withdrawn back into the cell, refusing even to look at him. "Rick, Iím sorry, really. Please!"
Magenta pushed his hand through his thick dark hair. He sighed heavily as he watched Ochre curl up into a ball in the far corner of the cell, rocking slightly.
"Rick?" Magenta called, only to be ignored. Frowning with deep lines of worry clearly visible on his face, Magenta unlocked the door.
Entering the cell, Magenta moved cautiously towards his friend. As he approached he could see Ochre turn away from him and, if it were possible, curl up even smaller.
"Rick?" he spoke softly as he got within reaching distance.
"Youíre so gullible!"
Ochre cackled as he swung his right leg behind him, sweeping Magenta off his feet onto his back. Only at the last second did the Irish officer realise Ochreís intentions. Too late to move, Magenta barely had time to break his fall before Ochre was on him, pinning him down.
"Rick," Magenta began as calmly as he could, "Iím not out to get you, or anything like that."
"I know," Ochre pulled Magentaís pistol roughly from its holster and shoved the barrel into Magentaís jaw. "But what if I were out to get you?"
Doctor Fawn pulled the read out from the auto-analyser and sighed hopelessly.
"No luck?" asked Hyde.
"No, itís not quite right. It wonít work. Weíre missing something, I know we are, but what?"
"Weíve been through every test I can think of," Lawson admitted approaching Fawn to look at the data from the latest failed batch of the antidote they were trying to make.
"Heíll need something soon," Hyde began quietly. "The results weíve found here suggest that heíll go into withdrawal."
"Itís addictive?!" Fawn yelled, unable to believe that things were going from bad to worse.
"It looks that way," Hyde nodded. "It would explain why he overdosed. The amount in his blood stream was way more than it should have been. He must have taken more than I prescribed."
Fawn shook his head. "No, if I know Ochre, and believe me, Doctor Hyde, I know him a lot better than you do, he wouldnít do that. If you told him two drops, thatís all heíd have used."
"But thatís not possible," she insisted. "The amount in his blood streamÖ"
Fawn waved her to be quiet as he pondered the problem. Slowly his eyes registered that an idea had come to mind.
"If it increases your metabolic rate, it must be that thatís pumping up the amount in the blood stream. So, if we apply the same idea to the anti-serum, the two should counteract each other."
"Is it safe to increase his metabolic rate artificially whilst using an untried drug?" Lawson asked with concern.
"Weíll put it through the auto-analyser, that will run many more simulations with the known physiology of Ochre as a test subject. Much more thorough testing than your drug, Doctor Hyde." Fawn almost spat the word Ďdoctorí; it was clear he had no time for those who put their patients at risk to satisfy their own curiosity.
"It was a stupid thing to do, I donít deny it and I deserve your animosity. Iím truly sorry, really." Hyde was plainly genuinely remorseful and ashamed.
"Well," Fawn frowned, "arguing wonít get us anywhere."
Making the appropriate changes, Fawn mentally crossed his fingers as he placed the new sample into the auto-analyser. He waited the few seconds with his heart racing in anticipation of what he hoped would be a positive result. As he read, the corners of Fawnís mouth turned upwards. The further he read the broader his smile got until he was grinning triumphantly.
"Weíve got it!" he beamed at Lawson. "Now, weíve just got to find a way to get close enough to give it to him!"
"Youíll have to sedate him again," replied Lawson. "But you canít give him the drug whilst heís sedated, youíll have toÖ" Lawson trailed off as he saw the dark expression on Fawnís face.
"I know," Fawn growled, unhappy at the prospect of placing Ochre under further distress. "And weíll have to get it right too, if he gets too upset, his heart rate will rocket with this drug and thereíll be a risk of it stopping."
Magenta stared up at Ochre. He could see that his eyes were wide, his pupils dilated to that point that his whole iris appeared almost completely black.
"Rick," Magenta tried his best to sound calm. "Please, put the gun down."
"You werenít going to let me out, were you? Why should I do you a favour?" Ochre raised his eyebrows in a questioning fashion.
"Rick, youíve been drugged. Weíre friends, you donít really want to kill me, do you?" Magenta prayed that Ochre would still retain enough of himself to understand.
Ochre stared at him thoughtfully, the look in his eyes was clearly one of conflict and doubt.
"Magenta?" he spoke slowly, uncertainly.
"Thatís right," replied Magenta with a slight smile.
Ochre continued to stare at him with uncertainty and mistrust.
"I donít know whatís going on here, but Iím not gonna wait around in here to find out either!"
"Trust me, Rick. You can trust me."
Ochre pulled the pistol away from Magentaís neck; the Irish Captainís relief was short-lived as Ochre swung the butt into his left temple. Leaving Magenta lying unconscious on the floor of the cell, Ochre got to his feet and gave a grunt of dissatisfaction. He was confused and disorientated. Had Magenta been telling the truth? This was Cloudbase, he knew that now, but they still had him locked up. He rubbed his eyes as he locked the cell door behind him. He had to get away. He needed time. Time to think things through. Time he suspected he didnít have. Carefully, via a convoluted path of service corridors to avoid detection, Ochre headed for the helicopter hangar.
Captain Blue, now recovered from the events of the previous day, flicked through the pages of the helicopter flight plan. This was going to be the easiest of them all. Putting the helicopter through its paces would be relatively easy and with all the tests already performed, Blue had confidence that the final test would be completed without a hitch. Placing the flight plan back onto the table, Blue looked casually out of the glass panel in the hangarís observation room. Down below, one of the Cloudbase helicopters was undergoing drainage of its fuel to make way for the test fuel. Blue checked his watch, another half hour to go before they would be ready, plenty of time to run through some of the pre-flight checks.
Below the raised observation room, Captain Ochre looked out from his hiding place and watched with interest. He wondered how they could have realised his plan so soon, but here they were draining the fuel from the helicopter, trying to prevent his escape. He nodded to himself as he realised that it did mean that he was right about one thing Ė they had been lying to him and couldnít be trusted. Ochre looked down and pulled the pistol topped with a deep pink-stripe from his pocket; it was time to leave. Racing across the hangar, Ochre caught the technician unawares.
"Cut the pump and get out, Iím taking the helicopter," he announced tersely holding the pistol to the technicianís neck.
"Sir, thereís not enough fuel in the helicopter, itís practically drained," the technician advised him nervously.
Ochre checked the gauge on the pump. "Looks fine to me."
"No, Sir, thatís the amount thatís been drained," he explained.
"Do you take me for a fool? Remove the hose and get out or youíll get mighty cold when I open the bay doors."
"Yes, Sir," the man replied hastily.
Ochre climbed into the helicopter and waited for the technician to clear the hangar.
It was the sudden movement and the light streaming into the hangar that made Blue glance up from performing one of the safety checks. Only seconds later the stressed voice of the technician sounded over the roomís communicator.
"Captain Blue, Captain Ochre is taking the helicopter, but it only has a few minutes of fuel left in it. I tried to tell him, but he wouldnít believe me!"
"Close the bay doors, stop him leaving!" Blue ordered.
"Iíve tried, Sir. Heís overridden the command."
"Get the other helicopter ready immediately, with respirators and a jet pack."
Blue activated his cap microphone.
"Scarlet, Ochreís escaped. Heís taking the test helicopter, itís got virtually no fuel," he explained hurriedly. "The other helicopterís being readied with respirators and a jet pack to follow him. Iím stuck in the hangar. Youíll need a pilot."
"On our way, inform the Colonel."
"S.I.G." Blue looked out once more; the hangar doors had almost completely opened and the hydraulic lift was already in motion. "Hurry, Scarlet," Blue whispered.
"Melody, please come with me. Hurry, Iíll explain on the way," Scarlet barked to the Angel seated opposite him, as he rose from his seat in the Officersí Lounge.
Melody heard the urgency in his voice and followed without question. As they headed for the helicopter hangar, Scarlet briefly outlined the problem and what he saw as their only solution.
"Get the bay doors open, fast!" yelled Scarlet to the hangar technician as he and Melody ran in and settled themselves in the helicopter.
Opening on an emergency setting, the bay doors slid back in only seconds. The lack of a complete depressurisation procedure caused a sudden whirlwind in the bay sending objects and papers tumbling in all directions, but it gained them valuable time as the hydraulics pushed the helicopter to the flight deck less than a minute behind Ochreís craft. Setting the blades in motion, Melody lifted the helicopter quickly and gracefully into the air.
"Lieutenant Green," began Melody, "I have effected an emergency take off. Do you have a fix on Captain Ochre?"
"S.I.G., Melody," replied Green. "Bearing of two forty degrees from your current position and flying at thirty two thousand feet."
Making the appropriate adjustments, Melody headed at maximum speed towards Ochreís position. It seemed only a matter of seconds before they could see the second helicopter and were drawing near.
Behind Melody, Scarlet pulled on the jet pack, respirator and helmet. "Get as close to him as you can and try to contain him. Iím going to board it."
Melody frowned. "Captain Scarlet, at this altitude, youíll freeze."
Handing Melody a second respirator, Scarlet shook his head. "My retrometabolism should protect me to some extent, but Iíll have to be quick. Besides, if I donít do it, heíll be killed. There must be virtually no fuel left. Itís not as though he can eject from a helicopter."
Melody frowned and added with concern. "Thatís all very well, Captain, but wonít he freeze?"
Scarlet paused and nodded. "Weíre going to have to time it just right then. We wonít have time to force him down. Weíll just have to hope it works."
Melody drew as close as she could to the other helicopter; she could see the frustration in Ochreís eyes as to his mind they were coming to recapture him.
"Good luck, Captain," she said through her respirator as Scarlet powered up the jet pack and left the helicopter. Even with the craftís heating full on, Melody found the chill air even for those few seconds quite distracting. She wondered how it would affect Ochre, flying without a respirator, when Scarlet boarded his helicopter.
Approaching from the rear of the craft, Scarlet mentally thanked Melody for keeping Ochreís attention firmly on her helicopter as he reached the door. Holding on, he slid the door back. Almost immediately it was as if Ochre had lost control of the helicopter as it started to spin erratically. Suddenly short of oxygen and bitterly cold, Ochreís mind reeled. The controls blurred and his eyes refused to focus. Slumping forward, Ochre soon lost consciousness sending the helicopter into a dive. Melody watched in horror as the craft started its descent, accompanied by the sound of tortured metal as the blades continued to try to turn against the stresses and pressure of the air as it dropped at high speed. She prayed that Scarlet had managed to hold on and could get inside in time.
With the assistance of the jet pack, Scarlet hauled himself inside the helicopter and headed for the cockpit. Dragging Ochre away from the controls, he attached a spare respirator over his nose and mouth. About to try to pull the helicopter out of its dive, Scarlet cursed as above him he heard the blades starting to cut out as the last drops of fuel were used up. Unbuckling the harness securing Ochre to the seat, Scarlet frowned as he saw him starting to wake.
"Iím sorry, Rick, but I really donít have time to fight with you again."
"WhatÖ?" It was all Ochre managed to say before Scarlet swung the butt of his gun down on the side of his head. Ochre slumped once more and Scarlet hauled the unconscious American captain from the seat.
"You are going on a diet, my friend," Scarlet grunted as he tried to hold the dead weight of Ochre securely before heading back to the still open door. Scarlet looked up, now thankful that the blades had stopped turning; it was one thing less to worry about as he stepped from the helicopter, placing his trust in the power of the jet pack to hold the pair of them sky-borne. He watched the helicopter drop away below him as he struggled to hold the unconscious Ochre aloft whilst Melody flew down to pick them up. The helicopter had almost disappeared from sight, but the explosion as it hit the ground was seen as a highly visible ball of fire, several seconds before the sound of the blast reached them.
"Okay, okay! You were right, I was wrong." Magenta tried to push Fawnís hands away only to receive a harsh stare. "Do you want it in writing? In blood?"
"I got it in blood!"
"No," Magenta corrected, "I got it in blood!"
"Youíre lucky he didnít kill you! Youíre a fool, Magenta and yes, I would like it in writing! If only to be able to show you every time you do some other fool thing!"
Magenta scowled. Two stitches had been needed to close the wound made by Ochreís gun. Magenta had been unconscious less than thirty minutes, but getting out of the cell had taken almost as long. It had seemed an absolute age to him before somebody had heard his calls for help and released him, all the while the terrible, throbbing headache had just got worse and worse. Now the headache was the least of his worries.
"Anyway, I have other patients so Iíll leave you with Nurse Simpson and Iíll see you later," Fawn said sternly as he headed for the door.
Magenta frowned deeply as Fawn walked away.
"Patrick, if you knit those brows any more, youíll have a sweater before the dayís out!" The West Indian nurse stood only a few feet from where he sat. "And donít roll your eyes at me, young man!"
"Would I, Martha?" Magenta grinned.
"Yes, you would!" she replied with a grin of her own.
"Have you heard anything of Ochre?"
Martha pursed her lips. "Yes, heís in one of the other rooms, heís sleeping."
"Great!" Magenta got to his feet. "Which room?"
Martha placed her fingers lightly on Magentaís chest. "Iím not done here yet and Doctor Fawn has requested Ďno visitorsí."
"No visitors? Why?"
"Oddly enough, I didnít question him on the matter and neither should you."
Magentaís brows furrowed deeper even than they had earlier; something felt wrong.
Fawn entered a small ward near the back of the medical centre, his already face set with concern, darkened visibly as his eyes fell on the figure lying on the padded leather consulting couch in the centre of the room. As the door opened to admit Fawn, the man turned his head, revealing terrified eyes to the Australian doctor. Doctors Lawson and Hyde, stood beside a table laid out with preparations of various drugs and equipment also turned as the door opened.
"Heís ready," Lawson said simply.
Fawn drew his lips into a thin line as he looked from the two doctors back to his patient, Captain Ochre, lying on the couch. Ochre appeared scared, very scared. The drugs inside him had built to the point where he couldnít really be expected to accept that what was happening was for his own good. In truth, it was hard enough even for Doctor Fawn to accept it, but it seemed the only solution. Even without further doses, the amount of the drug in Ochreís system had risen dramatically as his increased metabolism and adrenalin boosted what he had already taken. As he approached Ochre, Fawn frowned deeply as he noticed the restraints holding his patient firmly to the padded surface.
"Captain Ochre," he began softly, "can you hear me?"
Ochreís eyes had been fixed on Fawn from the moment he had entered the room. His fists were clenched and Fawn was willing to guess that all his muscles were equally tense.
"Captain Ochre?" Fawn asked as he looked down at the nervous captain. "Do you know who I am?"
"I donít know," Ochre replied quietly. "I thought so, but the Fawn I know wouldnít do this to me."
"Youíre wrong, Ochre, this is for your own good. Youíre ill, we can make you feel better."
"I feel fine. Let me go!" Ochre begged.
"Doctor, the sooner we begin, the better," Lawson spoke from behind Ochre.
"I know, I know," Fawn sighed. "I just donít want him unnecessarily distressed."
Lawson glanced down at Ochreís anxious features. "I think itís a little late for that. Heíll be distressed no matter what happens."
"Fawn?" Ochre pleaded almost in a hushed whisper.
"Captain Ochre, you have to trust me," Fawn continued gently. "You have been given something thatís made you quite ill, Iím going to make you better, but you have to relax. Do you understand?"
"Why am I restrained?" Ochre asked as calmly as he could, but Fawn could hear the nervous tension in his voice.
"We feared that you might try to fight the treatment, or us. Now, Ochre, please just relax. Iím going to give you an injection. Okay?"
Ochre furrowed his brows; it was clear that he was deeply uncertain. Whilst he recognised Fawn, the situation in which he found himself made it difficult to trust him, especially in his present state of mind.
"Ochre?" Fawn asked again.
"Doctor Fawn, we donít have time, we have to do this now," insisted Lawson.
Fawn frowned in frustration. Couldnít Lawson see that their patient was scared and confused? He had to relax, it was vital.
"Ochre, do you trust me?"
Ochre searched inside himself and gave a brief cautious nod.
"Good," Fawn smiled reassuringly, "weíre not going to hurt you."
Lawson offered Fawn the syringe with a quiet sigh of relief and watched as Fawn administered the injection.
"Your pulse may quicken a little, Ochre, but weíll be keeping a careful watch on you. Youíll be fine."
Ochre twitched as he felt a sudden surge of energy accompanied by blind panic. He strained on the straps holding him down, his eyes growing wide and wild as he tossed his head from side to side.
"Damn it!" Fawn cursed as he saw all the attached monitors register a sudden surge in heart and brain activity as Ochreís adrenalin count rocketed. "Give him a shot of RD90, ten ccís."
"Is that enough?"
"Just do it!" Fawn snapped.
The door behind them slid open to reveal Captain Magenta framed in the doorway. His eyes widened at the sight before him. Racing in, he pulled Fawnís arm turning him to face him.
"What are you doing to him?!" he yelled. Turning his head, Magenta saw Lawson approach Ochre with a second syringe. "Fawn? What are you doing?"
"Captain Magenta, get out now! Youíre making it worse."
Magenta looked up furiously at Lawson as he prepared to inject Ochre.
"Get away from him! YouÖ" Magenta suddenly stammered in disbelief as he looked between the two visiting doctors. "Youíre helping Hyde with her experiments arenít you?"
"Pat!" came the panicked voice of Ochre, amidst all the sudden confusion and commotion. "Pat, help me, please!"
"Let him go!" Magenta insisted.
"Lawson, give him that injection, now!" Fawn cried as he tried to pull Magenta to one side.
In his fury, Magenta easily pushed the Spectrum doctor aside and rounded the couch on which Ochre lay. Around them monitor alarms sounded, warning them that Ochreís condition was rapidly worsening.
"Leave him alone!" Magenta yelled seizing Lawsonís hand. Wrenching the syringe from his hand and casting it aside, Magenta landed a heavy punch squarely on his jaw.
Ochreís body convulsed as the new drug took control. Beyond its healing properties, its unpredictable effects on Ochreís already fragile nervous system was too much for him to cope with. As Fawn headed swiftly in Magentaís direction, a warning sound that even Magenta understood sounded behind him. A continuous beep rather than the erratic flutter he had previously heard made him turn and stare in horror, first at the monitor, then Ochre himself, lying suddenly still on the couch. Fawn caught Magenta by the tunic.
"Weíre trying to help him! Get out!" he yelled angrily, shoving him to one side.
Magenta stared as the three doctors headed swiftly to Ochreís side, swiftly exchanging opinions on treatment as they worked to resuscitate the American captain.
"HeÖheíll be okay?" Magenta stammered, realising, too late, what he had done.
"Out!" yelled Fawn irritably.
Magenta swallowed hard and nodded quickly as he backed away, almost stumbling in the process. Outside the ward, Magenta slumped into a chair and leaned forward with his lower arms resting on his knees. He struggled to breathe, almost gasping in the shock of seeing Ochre effectively die in front of him. He clasped his hands tightly together as though praying and still breathing heavily he sat with his hands drawn up to his mouth, eyes closed, rocking ever so slightly.
"Patrick?" came a gentle voice.
Magenta looked up. Before him he saw Nurse Simpson; the look in his eyes told her all she needed to know.
"I might have killed him?" he admitted in barely a whisper.
"Patrick," she sighed. "Doctor Fawn knows what heís doing. Heíll be okay."
"You donít know that, you canít be sure!" Magenta protested bitterly.
"No, but, Iím sure," the now calm voice of Doctor Fawn came from behind Magentaís chair. He now sprang to his feet, his eyes filled with a mixture of hope and relief.
"Heís okay?" he hardly dared ask the question.
"Heís very ill," Fawn sighed, then nodded. "But heís going to be okay. Heíll be here in Sickbay for about two weeks though, but I guess thatís the least of his problems."
"IÖIím sorry," Magenta shrugged, ashamed of his actions and accusations.
Fawn nodded and sighed. "I know," he sighed again. "I know."
Four days later, life on Cloudbase had pretty much returned to normal. The fuel had successfully completed its trials and the doctors had returned to their laboratory. The following week, Doctor Hyde was to face a disciplinary hearing, which Colonel White was to attend. White had deliberated long and hard over the situation. She had almost killed one of his senior staff, and yet it had been wholly unintentional. Her rash actions, however, could not simply go unpunished. He had a lot of thinking to do.
"So," Magenta threw his cap onto the bedside cabinet. "How are you feeling?"
"Rough," Ochre admitted. "AndÖIÖ"
Magenta raised his eyebrows; it wasnít often that Ochre was lost for words.
"What?" he prompted.
"Well, I did some terrible things," Ochre sighed heavily.
"You remember?" Magenta rubbed his eyes. "We were kind of hoping you wouldnít. We know that wasnít really you, Fawn explained it all. The drug, it changed you."
"But RhapsodyÖ" Ochre looked away ashamed by the memory of his actions.
"Was as worried about you as we all were. Anyway, itís official," Magenta laughed. "Only someone completely under the influence of a drug like that could shred one of the Colonelís roses and get away with it!"
"Pat, Iím sorry." Ochreís eyes looked everywhere except at Magenta. "You know forÖ the whole thing in Symphonyís room."
"Oh, donít be," Magenta grinned. "Opened up a whole new world."
"Youíre telling me thatÖ?" Ochre began incredulously
"Iím not telling you anything!" Magenta replied guardedly. "Anyway, what about Melody?"
"What about Melody?" Ochre replied cautiously.
"This is ME here, Rick. Besides, you werenít exactly being discreet."
"All sorted," Ochre nodded gravely.
"What do you mean, sorted?" Magenta asked with dread.
"I told her it was the effect of the drugs. That I wasnít in control. I apologised and itís all behind us now."
"You idiot!" Magenta snapped.
"What?" Ochre pouted defensively.
"You and her? Itís the only good thing thatís come out of this!"
"And the fuel," Ochre corrected pedantically.
"Oh! FÖ forget the fuel! You really are witless, Rick! Canít you see whatís right in front of you?"
Magenta shook his head sadly. "You might have been doped up, but Melody wasnít."
"You mean, sheÖ?"
"Yes!" Magenta sighed turning disbelieving eyes to the ceiling. "Look, you can still fix this."
"I canít just go up to her andÖ noÖ IÖI canít, not now."
"Youíre shy, arenít you?" Magenta realised, a broad grin covering his face.
"No! I just donít think nowís the right time."
"Oh, sure," Magenta sounded unimpressed. "When will be?"
"Pat, you donít understand. I do care about her," Ochre sighed hopelessly, "very much so, but I embarrassed her, hurt her."
"Iím sure sheíd understand," Magenta nodded as he rose from the seat. As he turned, he smiled cheerfully at Melody standing in the doorway. Wondering how long she had been there, he turned back and picked up his cap.
"Maybe now is the right time, after all? Iíll see you later."
Leaving the ward, he offered a bright smile to the Angel as he passed by. As she approached, Ochre pushed himself to a near sitting position in the bed, his expression one of uncertainty and apprehension.
"Melody? Iím glad you came," he began.
Some events and characters Copyright © of all trademarks materials (Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, all characters, vehicles, crafts, etc.), owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton. Information of the series are all been taken from copyright © materials (books, magazines, videos, T.V. media, comics, etc) owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.