“I should only be away for seventy-two hours at the maximum; the World President doesn’t let these things drag on.” Colonel White sighed and looked along the line of officers standing at ease before his circular desk. “I know I can trust you all to maintain the high standards of Spectrum in my absence. If you receive a Mysteron threat I expect you to notify me of it – however trivial it may seem – but you have my authority to order whatever action may be needed in the event of an incident.” There was a murmur of muted ‘SIG’s from his assembled senior command. White stood and picked up his briefcase, before saying, “I am leaving Captain Grey in command, although I expect you all to cover for my absence.”
“Thank you, sir,” Grey saluted his commander.
The colonel returned the salute. “Permission to leave, Acting-Commander?” he asked formally.
“Permission granted, sir. I hope your conference is an unqualified success,” Grey added.
White strode from the Control Room to join the plane waiting for him in hangar two, and he tried not to worry at the whoops of delight that reached his ears as the door started to close. They were all sensible men, well-trained and trustworthy. He just wished the World President hadn’t decided to call an emergency finance meeting this weekend because he had a feeling that they were planning something. Oh, well… he had more things to worry about than minor breaches in regulations – as long as they stayed minor, that was.
Back in the control room, Captain Grey was sitting at the control desk, and Captain Ochre perched on the console whilst Captain Scarlet was peering round the corner of the observation tube, watching the SPJ take off.
“He’s gone…” Lieutenant Green chirped merrily from the communications desk as the colonel’s jet left the runway and turned for London.
“Right,” Ochre said decisively, “let’s make a start.”
The night sky was ablaze with millions of stars and the moonlight glazed the massive airborne base with silver by the time the emergency shuttle from London landed smoothly and sank into one of the hangars to be unloaded. Captain Scarlet clambered from the cockpit and opened the door of the freight bay as the hangar pressurised. He could see Ochre, Magenta and Blue walking across the hangar with a trolley and he waved a welcome to them.
“Did you get them?” Magenta hissed.
“Every one I could get,” Scarlet explained. “There should be more than enough – I must’ve emptied Covent Garden…” He started handing down boxes to Blue who passed them to Ochre and Magenta, who stacked them on the trolley with great care. “You know, I’m beginning to think I may have overdone it…”
“I think you may be right. Never mind, we’ll think of something to do with the spare ones afterwards,” Magenta said, eyeing the overloaded trolley with a jaundiced eye.
“Where to now?” Scarlet asked as he jumped down and closed the freight door behind him.
“We thought the VIP’s quarters might do – we’ll have plenty of warning if any VIP is expected…” Ochre said.
“Right, Adam, you scout ahead and we’ll follow …”
“Launch Angel One! Angels Two and Three immediate launch!” Lieutenant Green snapped the command with his accustomed authority. Moments later the gleaming white plane roared off from the carrier and soared in the direction of the breaking dawn. The other two jets were soon following.
“What orders, Lieutenant?” Angel One’s pilot asked.
“Proceed to grid reference 649 mark 2… and await orders…”
“S.I.G.,” Destiny Angel’s voice sounded suspicious. “What has happened?”
“No confirmation at this time, Angel One. Proceed to grid reference.” Closing the comm.-link, the lieutenant turned and grinned at Captain Grey, “The Amber Room should be empty now, Captain.”
Grey nodded, and pressed the red coloured light on his console. “Captain Scarlet, proceed with care – Operation Doolittle is under way!”
“S.I.G.,” Scarlet replied.
“Well, it wasn’t what I’d expected, that’s all,” Rhapsody said as she and Symphony walked from the canteen towards the Amber Room. “Paul has always done something to mark the occasion before. Last year we spent the weekend in Rome – this year – nothing! I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is nice to get a card.”
“Hmmm,” her American friend said thoughtfully. “Adam’s been even less talkative than usual since the colonel went to this conference. He seems awfully preoccupied. I couldn’t find him at all, last night…”
They looked at each other and said simultaneously, “They are up to something…”
“Angel One, you have permission to land,” Lieutenant Green said. “Angels Two and Three, please land immediately Angel One is secure.”
He glanced up at Captain Grey who was watching from the observation tube. He activated his cap mic and reported, “Grey to Scarlet, Angel One is down… Two and Three are down… Now!” He strode back to his desk and punched a communication link. “Destiny Angel, please report immediately to the Control Room,” he snapped into the console mic.
“But, Captain, that will leave Angel One unmanned….” she protested.
“Destiny Angel, I gave you an order!”
“S.I.G., but I am not happy with it…” Destiny was annoyed, they had been sent half way round the globe for no other reason than a whim of the captain’s – as far as she could see – and now she was being told to abandon her post. “Is there a standby pilot to replace me?”
“Rhapsody and Symphony are on their way to the Amber Room…”
The main door slid open almost at the same time as the pilots of Angels Two and Three arrived back in the Amber Room in their hydraulic chairs direct from their cockpits. The chair from Angel One could be heard approaching the Amber Room launch bay.
Rhapsody and Symphony Angels gasped with surprise, Harmony grinned and Melody whooped with amazement as they all looked at the transformation of their duty lounge.
On every available surface there were flowers. In the centre of the seating area was a huge floral heart, made of red roses, and a depiction of the colourful Spectrum logo, made from hundreds of flowers threaded onto a circular wire frame.
The banner, hung across the bookshelves and bearing the words, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’ was also painted with some very un-aerodynamic cherubs, carrying bows and arrows. Closer inspection would reveal later that the faces of these infant warriors bore a passing resemblance to the senior command, and that one dark-haired poppet was carrying a sub-machine gun. On the sofas were five wicker baskets, each bearing the name of an individual Angel and each one full of assorted gifts. Destiny arrived and joined in the general excitement as the girls collected their baskets and began to open the presents.
“Chocolates!” Symphony crowed.
“Parfum,” Destiny cooed.
“Opera tickets…” Rhapsody sighed.
Melody caught the sound of a smothered giggle and she turned to the door of the small office. “Come out, come out, whoever you are!” she called gaily.
There was a scuffle and Captain Ochre appeared stumbling to a halt in front of them – obviously having been pushed out of the office.
“Is this all your doing?” Harmony asked with apparent innocence. She waved a delicate hand around the flower-strewn room.
“Well, not just mine, but I was involved.”
“I bet you made the statues,” Symphony said, her mouth full of a particularly heavenly chocolate.
“Well, I made the frames, yes…” Ochre agreed modestly. “But we all did it – we spent all last night shoving the damn flower-heads through the wire…”
“Non, non, non,” Destiny exclaimed, winking at the other girls. “Such a magical thing as this is the work of the fairies, non?”
“Who are you calling a fairy?” Scarlet demanded as he led the others from the office, amidst the laughter of the girls.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Magenta carolled.
“Merci bien, Patrick.” Destiny went and kissed his cheek – one side and then the other. She moved on to Scarlet, Ochre and finally Blue, who already had Symphony hanging on one arm.
“Did you get chocolates too, Juliette?” Symphony offered her the box. “Help yourself…”
“Un seulement,” Destiny purred, daintily selecting a white chocolate truffle and biting into it with every sign of relish. “Merci bien.”
“Chocolate, Paul?” Symphony thrust the box under Scarlet’s nose and he chose a large caramel.
“I really hate to be a party pooper, “ the disembodied voice of Captain Grey said solemnly, “but Angel One is unmanned.”
“Tiens, I go…” Destiny collected her helmet. “That is - if you do not wish to see me in the Control Room, Captain Grey?”
He laughed, “No, I’m afraid it was just a ploy to get you all there together.”
“Then I shall save your kiss for later, mon cher Capitaine,” Destiny promised with a merry laugh.
“And the Angel launch, was it also a trick?” Harmony asked.
“Just another ploy,” Grey admitted.
“The colonel’s going to have fun when he reads the duty-logs…” Rhapsody mused as she munched her way through her own box of chocolates.
“Welcome back, Colonel,” Lieutenant Green said, as White stepped off the automatic walkway and returned Captain Scarlet’s salute.
“We didn’t expect you until the morning, sir. I hope this doesn’t mean the conference was a failure?”
“Quite the contrary, Captain. The World President was convinced by the submission I presented and his support swayed the wavering members of the council. The budget was passed with only one abstention. We should be able to go ahead with all of our new projects next year.”
“Congratulations, sir. You must be pleased.”
“Satisfied, Captain, very satisfied. I think the Council is finally coming to see that Spectrum represents value for money and that we do not use our equipment wastefully.” The colonel gave a slight smile. “Anything to report, Captain?”
“No sir, nothing at all. It’s been remarkably peaceful…”
“Well, that is good news.” White took his seat and looked contentedly round his desk. His eyes fell on a small vase of flowers on the edge of the console. “Roses?”
“Rhapsody brought them in - said it would cheer the place up, sir… you know how these girls are…”
“Well, she is right – they do cheer the place up, but perhaps this isn’t quite the place for them. Put them on the shelf by the door and I’ll take them to my quarters at the end of my shift, if I may? I am particularly fond of white roses….”
“Please, sir, be my guest… personally, I think you can have too much of a good thing.” In his mind’s eye Scarlet could see the dozens of pots of flowers scattered around the command decks and prayed that the Colonel wouldn’t get too suspicious.
“I saw some flowers on my way up from the hangar deck…” He gave Scarlet a wry glance. “I thought maybe someone had ordered some ... for Valentine’s Day?”
“They may well have done, sir. I really couldn’t say.”
“No, Captain, I am sure you couldn’t. By the way, I was talking to Major Alexander before I caught the London shuttle, he sends his regards. He told me that one of his airport staff had sent a report that late on Friday someone from Cloudbase had turned up in an SPJ. He was in civilian clothes, and he borrowed a truck from the airport staff and drove out to Covent Garden where, apparently, he bought enough flowers to almost fill the freight hold. I can’t imagine what anyone would want with all those flowers, can you, Captain?” Scarlet’s face was a mask of innocence. “I don’t suppose they turned up here, did they? No? Well, I suspect the major got the wrong end of the stick – don’t you, Captain?”
“Yes sir, I suspect he did…”
“Very good, Captain. Carry on.”
“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir.” Scarlet snapped off a smart salute and marched straight out of the room.
As the door closed the colonel turned to his trusty lieutenant and said genially, “Now, suppose you tell me just what they did get up to?”