Original series Suitable for all readersMedium level of horror











Captain Scarlet, the Mysterons, et al belong to and were created by Gerry Anderson.  The nain rouge is an old legend, so it doesn’t belong to anybody.


Thanks to Hazel Köhler for taking the time to beta-read this, and to Chris Bishop for all the support.







The ethereal voice faded quickly from the Cloudbase speakers, but less so from the ears of the color-coded officers who had heard it.  A meeting in the Control Center was called immediately.

“I suppose there’s no point in reminding you all of the gravity of this threat,” Colonel White told the assembly of officers around his desk.  “Considering that there are hundreds of thousands of cities on Earth, this might be one of our most difficult tasks yet.”

“And let’s not forget that the word ‘city’ can have many different meanings,” Captain Blue added grimly.  “Spectrum’s going to be pushed to its limits.”

“Then the sooner we get started, the better!” White’s voice solidified with resolution.  “Think, everyone!”  Everyone’s expressions tightened as they did just that.  Captain Scarlet  spoke first.

“I say we concentrate on a more literal interpretation,” the British captain suggested.  “The ‘eye-for-an-eye’ implication of the threat would make it a logical starting point.”

“Not that it helps,” Blue replied.  “Like the Colonel said, there are hundreds of thousands of places on Earth that could qualify as cities.”

“It would have to be a place of some significance,” Scarlet suggested.  “Destroying a major city would leave a more devastating impact than if it were a smaller or less important one.”

“That still doesn’t narrow it down much,” Lieutenant Green added from the communications console.

Colonel White had been staring down at his hands folded on the console, frowning thoughtfully.  Finally, he glanced up.

“Lieutenant, I want you to put out an alert to all Spectrum bases.  Tell them to spread their officers out as much as is reasonable to the largest cities.”

“S.I.G.,” came the reply.

“From this moment onward, nobody is off duty,”  Colonel White continued.  “I want all the officers on Cloudbase assigned to the following metropolitan areas.  Angel pilots, you will receive your orders in the Amber Room.”

There was a collective “S.I.G.” as the four present Angels filed out of the room.  White turned to his remaining officers.  As the most experienced and competent members of Spectrum, they would receive the largest, most important cities of all to patrol.  With no time to lose, Colonel White started giving them their orders.


It was nearly dark when Captain Ochre pulled his Spectrum Saloon up to the camp he and Captain Magenta had set up deep within the city of Detroit, where they had been assigned to patrol the streets for anything suspicious.  Their only help were a few low-level security officers, and then not that many, as most had been sent out to the smaller surrounding cities.

Now, Magenta sat in a folding chair alongside a card table set up in the center of Hart Plaza.  The city itself had been evacuated hours ago; where Magenta had found the fast food was a complete mystery.  As Ochre parked his car next the Magenta’s, he heard the faint ping-ping-ping of cooling metal from the latter--apparently Magenta had only just arrived as well.  He sat down on the empty chair. 

Both men had spent the day driving around the city, stopping only to refuel, and hunting for everything from Captain Black himself down to a suspiciously displaced manhole cover.  Their search was, naturally, futile.  Detroit was a vast, gigantic city whose endless nooks and crannies could never be fully investigated, even with the help of a hundred thousand security officers, much less the dozen or so they actually had.

Ochre sighed.  He hadn’t even seen Detroit since his “death” several years ago, aside from pictures.  Nevertheless, it was here that was born, raised, and lived the majority of his life so far.  No distance of space or time could diminish the bond he felt with his birthplace, and Ochre suspected this was true of everyone.  Maybe it had been a coincidence that he was assigned to his own city of origin, or maybe the colonel had felt that Ochre’s knowledge of the place would give Spectrum an edge.  If that were the case, then why wasn’t Magenta assigned to New York City? 

Either way, Captain Ochre was too hungry to think about it any more.  He gestured toward the collection of cheeseburgers, French fries, and soft drinks on the card table.

“Where did that come from?” he asked.

“Some guy who worked at a local burger joint was having car trouble, and I happened to pass by.”  Magenta said.  “He offered me this stuff in return for a lift out of the city.”  Ochre gave his partner a doubtful look.

“Hey, it’s either this or Spectrum’s MREs,” the Irish-American stated.  “Which would you rather have?” 

“You have a point there.”  Ochre picked up the nearest hamburger and unwrapped it.  Magenta grinned and did the same.

As the two men chewed thoughtfully on their cholesterol bombs, the former policeman scanned the sky for the faint, orange-tinged speck of light that was Mars.  Despite his limited knowledge of astronomy, he managed to find it, and glared in its direction.  Puzzled, Magenta followed his gaze.


“Damned Mysterons,” Ochre grumbled.  “There wasn’t even any permanent damage to their stupid little city!  I can’t believe they’d wipe out the entire planet over one tiny little city they just retrometabolized back to normal anyway!  It doesn’t make sense!”

“Well, I guess that’s why we call them aliens,” Magenta replied.  With some help from his partner, he too had found Mars in the night sky. 

After a moment, Ochre raised his hand and flipped off the tiny dot of light.  Magenta chuckled.

“Here’s what I think of your stupid war of nerves!” growled the yellow-clad Spectrum captain.  He added the other hand to his gesture, and waved both for emphasis.  Laughter bubbled from both men, the tension melting away.

“No, no!  I have a better idea!”  Magenta exclaimed.  He stood up and moved to a more open location.  He then turned his back to Mars, checking over his shoulder to make sure he was aligned correctly, and started to undo his belt.  Ochre gasped when he realized what his friend was about to do.

“Real professional, Pat!” he chided.  “What if someone’s around and sees you?”  The other’s mischievous grin only grew wider. 

“But there isn’t anyone around, is there?”  said the Irish-American.  “So no one is going to...hey, what’s that?”

“What’s what?”  Magenta pointed towards a small, thin figure a few yards or so away, obscured by the thick shadows of the night. 

“Over there,” he said.  “Is that a kid?  What’s he doing here?  The city’s supposed to be evacuated!”  Magenta straightened up,  redid his belt, and took off after the small figure in front of them.  Ochre got to his feet and jogged after him.

Being considerably taller than the youngster, it didn’t take long for the two Spectrum personnel to catch up.  Magenta approached first.

“Hey kid!”  he called.  “The city’s been evacuated.  Where are your mom and dad...whoa!”  The kid had stopped under a street light to look back at them.  In the sodium-yellow glow, Magenta saw for the first time that it hadn’t been a kid they were after.  Come to think of it, he doubted it was even human!

The strange figure was short, no more than four feet tall, and very lean and scrawny, but it certainly didn’t look weak or frail.  Quite the contrary, its lanky arms and legs almost seemed to ripple with raw animal strength .  The creature’s face would have been right at home on a Halloween mask, and when it sneered at the two men, it bared sharp, rotting teeth.  Its eyes glowed like the deepest volcanic pits.  Most remarkable of all, the thing’s entire body was covered in thick, ratty-looking red hair.

The two Spectrum captains had scarcely acknowledged all this, then the troll-like creature took off down the street, fast as a rabbit.

“What the heck was that?” Magenta demanded after he got over his initial amazement.  “Did you see that, Rick?  Rick?  Hey, are you listening to me?”  He turned toward his strangely silent companion.  To his confusion, Ochre’s face was icy pale.  “What’s with you?” Magenta asked.

“Captain Ochre to Cloudbase,” Ochre  intoned, ignoring his partner.  The cap mic swung down obediently.  “Sir!   You’ve got to bring all available officers to the Detroit area!  Immediately!   Detroit is the Mysterons’ target!”


Are you sure?”  Colonel White sounded baffled, and rightly so.  “How do you know this?”

“No time to explain!  Just trust me on this!  Ochre out!”   The Cloudbase captain sprinted for the SPV.  “Go get the sedan, Magenta, and find yourself some backup!  I want you to head toward the east and try and block him off!  I’ll go south!”  He raised his voice to a nearby Spectrum security guard standing at the corner.  “You!  Beatty!  You’re with me!”  The two joined up and headed towards the waiting vehicle, while Magenta rounded up his own backup partner and transportation, still feeling very much in the dark.

“What’s all this about, sir?”  Beatty asked as they climbed into the sedan.  Captain Ochre didn’t respond, but gunned the engine and started a fresh patrol, scanning the streets desperately, and hoping he wasn’t too late.



“What are you looking for?” Beatty asked eventually.

“Captain Black, mostly,” the Cloudbase captain replied.  “But pretty much anything that looks suspicious”  Several helicopters flew overhead, carrying Spectrum officers from adjacent areas.  “Looks like the cavalry’s on its way,” he commented.   Apparently his call had been taken seriously. 

“I don’t think it would be anything as obvious as a nuclear bomb in the middle of the city,” Beatty commented.

“No,” Ochre agreed.  “It would probably be disguised as something--or someone--who’s integrated into the city backdrop.  Something that nobody would look at a second time.”  His jaw clenched in desperation.  “It could be anything from a building to a pop can.  But whatever it is, I’m not gonna stop until I’ve found it.”

“You already have found it...Earthman!” Beatty snarled.  Before Captain Ochre could react, the Mysteron that looked exactly like a Spectrum security officer pulled a gun and aimed.  Years of police work had honed Ochre’s reflexes razor sharp; he lunged at the creature’s hand just as the firearm went off.  The noise was deafening  in the close confines of the SPV.  The pair wrestled vigorously for the gun, with Captain Ochre the winner.  He leveled the weapon at the traitor’s face and took aim.

“Go ahead and fire, Earthman,” Beatty sneered.  “It will do you no good.”  Even as he spoke, the Mysteron’s body went limp in his seat.  Smoke poured out from his collar and sleeve cuffs.  Realizing what was happening, Ochre immediately wrenched the SPV’s steering apparatus into a skidding, gravel-crunching turn that directed the racing vehicle across the highway and out into the empty field bordering the road, where it could do the least harm.  Not waiting to see whether this plan was successful, he threw his door open and rolled as far as he could, just as the SPV burst into a mushroom cloud of flaming debris that washed the field in orange light, and burned the dried plant husks into ash.


Captain Ochre stumbled away from the wreckage, blinking the afterimages from his hazy vision.  A dull ache along the right side of his body spoke of nasty burns and scratches, and also of adrenaline threatening to wear off.  A similar, more urgent pain in his arm indicated a broken bone at the very least. 

“Rick!”  Captain Magenta called as he ran up to his friend and partner.  “Rick, what happened?  Did you find the booby trap?”

“Yeah,” Ochre grunted. 
“It was Beatty.  The Mysterons must have got him before even arrived.”  He winced as the pain in his arm turned up a notch or two. 

“How did you know Detroit was the target?”  Magenta asked.  The other captain only shook his head.

“You wouldn’t believe me.”  Magenta blinked in consternation, but Ochre refused to say any more.


There is an old legend, at least as far back as the eighteenth century, that the city of Detroit is haunted by a specter called the nain rouge, the red gnome.  It is said that seeing this small, ugly creature foretold a terrible disaster for the city.  Thanks to Ochre’s hasty communication, the disaster, in this case, never happened.  Spectrum had concentrated their resources on Detroit, eventually finding and disarming about forty well-hidden bombs before any damage could be done, as well as the true triggering device; the Mysteronized Officer Beatty had merely been a backup.

Captain Ochre spent the remainder of that night wandering the streets of his home city, thinking about the red-furred creature he and Magenta had seen.  He had never believed in fairy tales before, but now it would seem that one had actually saved a city.  Stranger still, the being in question had long lived under the label of evil.  This, of course, begged the question as to whether the nain rouge actually brought disaster, or did it merely warn of what was to come?  And if the latter was true, could it really be considered evil?  Ochre shook his head; this was getting too cerebral for his liking.  He quickly turned and headed for his hotel, where Magenta was probably already asleep.  As the Spectrum captain started on his way, the faint peals of the old Church of Detroit rang out in the night.  He stopped briefly to listen, and to count each chime: twenty-nine, just like it had been for almost one hundred years. 

Captain Ochre smiled and continued on his way.  All was right with the world.







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