Re-posted in celebration of the website's 10th anniversary, 'Trick or Treat' represents a very important piece of Spectrum HQ history. This short story, which was already presented for the first Halloween Challenge in 2002, was the first ever Captain Scarlet fan fiction submitted by Marion Woods. It was to become the first of many, as since then, Marion submitted a total of 63 stories, participated to other various projects, and became one of Spectrum Headquarters' closest collaborators.
a Halloween Story for Captain Scarlet
Halloween on Cloudbase. On this particular evening, Captain Scarlet had learned to avoid the more riotous element of the Americans on the base. Even the usually staid Captain Blue wasn’t to be trusted on such a day - as the memory of last year’s incident with the itching powder testified. He heard a burst of laughter and an outraged shout from the next corridor and smoothly turned and went the other way to the canteen. Riding up on the escalator he gave a forced smile to the excited crowd coming down the other stairway, all wearing masks and waving party favours.
“Gawd help us all,” he thought as he stepped into the canteen. “Would you trust these people to save the World?”
Once inside, he gave a moan of despair; the place was festooned with plastic bats and spiders and over the service counter was a frieze of witches on broomsticks and pumpkin lanterns. “Just once,” he thought, “it would be nice if the Yanks didn’t take over the entire place when they want to party.” In another month, the menu would consist of turkey dinners and that awful pumpkin pie as they ‘did’ Thanksgiving. It hardly seemed that long since it had been hamburgers and popcorn for Independence Day! He glared at the waitress behind the counter, who was wearing a grotesque mask, and curtly ordered a baked potato with cheese.
“Happy Halloween!” Scarlet nearly choked on his mouthful of potato and was thumped heartily on the back.
He turned to remonstrate and saw Rhapsody smiling down at him. “Dianne, don’t tell me they have got to you too?”
“Got to me? Oh, you mean the mask? No, Melody gave it to me; isn’t it a hoot?” She pushed it to the top of her head and grinned at him.
“What’s scary about Marilyn Munroe?” he asked.
“Well, she’s been dead quite a while.” Rhapsody laughed and sat next to him. “Have you seen Ochre? He’s dressed up as a wizard and is putting spells on everyone.”
“No, thankfully I have been spared that spectacle.” Scarlet returned to his potato.
Rhapsody sat alongside him in silence for a while and then got up saying, “Yeah, I think Melody was right. You are a complete dead loss today.”
He looked up at her. “I am not! I am just not American and I object to being forced to join in their childish pranks.”
“It isn’t just the Yanks, you know. All Hallows is a festival in plenty of other Christian countries. Lighten up, Paul, Its just a bit of fun.”
“I don’t happen to think playing silly pranks on people and extorting money is fun.”
“The money goes to charity,” she reasoned.
“I’m sure it does; the Spectrum home for juvenile delinquents probably.”
Rhapsody stuck her tongue out at him and walked away. “See you tomorrow, when you’ve found your good humour again,” she called over her shoulder.
“You must be the prettiest witch in history.” Blue smiled as Symphony paraded before him in her fancy dress costume. “But its not very witchy.“
“There are pretty witches - like the one in Wizard of Oz – I am one of those witches.” She pouted and tugged at a wayward piece of green chiffon.
“I’ll buy it,” he laughed. “Sure beats black serge, hook noses and warts!” he patted Symphony’s backside as she sashayed past him, hands on hips.
“Keep your hands to yourself, Svenson – unless you are prepared to loose them forever!” she glowered, turning and grabbing him by the wrists, then tilting her head to receive his kiss.
He obliged, she kissed him back and let him go, turning away to hide her amusement.
“Was that the trick or the treat?” he asked, looking down towards his feet. “I mean, have I changed into a frog or something and don’t know it?”
“No,” she said, trying hard not to laugh. He gave her a suspicious smile and went to the mirror. He had to join in her peel of laughter as he surveyed the bright red imprint of her lips on his cheek.
“You’ll get me cashiered one of these days,” he chided, wiping the lipstick off with his pocket handkerchief.
“Spoilsport,” she pouted. “Are you coming to the officers mess?”
“I’m on duty with his Britannic Misery in twenty minutes, I’d better not stay long.”
“What is wrong with Paul?” she asked, applying more lipstick.
“Who knows? He’s been sulking all day. Claims we are all acting like kids.”
“Huh – he should know.” She explained in response to his quizzical smile, “’If you won’t play the way I like I won’t play at all!’”
“Maybe,” he conceded quietly. Adam felt disloyal criticising Paul, even to Karen. Most people on Cloudbase just did not know how insecure the debonair Captain Scarlet could be, when he wasn’t on duty; but Blue did. He had sat beside his sick-bed on countless occasions, and listened to the World-weary and heart sore ramblings of his delirium, enough to know that Paul felt his only real value was his ability to survive against the odds, and this very ability made him an outsider, even amongst his friends. “I guess he sees himself as one of the supernatural things we all like to parody,” he added half to himself.
Karen heard him and turned, her face showing a sudden sympathy of understanding. “Oh Adam, I never thought of that! None of us did – even Dianne.”
“Yeah, well, don’t go all lovey-dovey on him, or he’ll know something is wrong.” Blue warned, wishing he could remember that Karen had excellent hearing and to keep his mouth shut sometimes.
“Would I?” she bristled and flounced out of the room.
“Yes, unfortunately, my kind-hearted darling, that is just what you would do.” He shrugged and followed her down to the main corridor.
In the Officers mess, Captain Ochre was dressed in billowing purple robes and a large star-studded pointed hat. He was carrying a black and silver wand, made from dowling, black paint and tin foil. An excited crowd of Spectrum personnel, variously disguised as witches, ghosts and – what looked to Blue like – Leprechauns clustered around him. Magenta was a helpless prisoner, blindfolded and tied to a chair in one corner. A young technician was force-feeding him with all kinds of squidgy foodstuffs, which she assured him were eyeballs or entrails. He seemed to be having a whale of a time.
“Ah, “ Ochre announced in portentous tones, “here comes my very own Titania!”
“Watch it!” Symphony said, only half teasing.
“Queen of the Fairies,” Blue hissed, “Shakespeare – Paul took me to see the play.”
“So you must be Bottom.” Rhapsody laughed up at him. Blue gave her a weak smile.
“Why aren’t you in costume, Mortal?” Ochre thundered from his dais, pointing the wand at Blue.
“He’s ugly enough without a mask?” Someone suggested with a shriek of laughter. Blue tried to look stern.
“He’s due on duty with his Britannic Misery,” Symphony explained. There was a united groan of sympathy from the assembled officers.
“Who?” Rhapsody asked Blue with a suspecting frown.
“Scarlet,” he confessed.
Rhapsody guffawed. “Oh I love it! Karen, that is so right! He was sulking in the canteen a while ago.”
Symphony pointed at Blue. “Svenson’s name, not mine.” Then she bent her head to Rhapsody and they started whispering. Blue’s heart sank.
“Well, we expect you here when you come off duty, Mortal,” Ochre said. “Everyone has to do a turn or pay a forfeit.”
“I’ll just pay up now, shall I?” Blue said unhappily. “Last year you made me sing and its unfair for anyone to have to suffer that twice!”
“Yeah, well, We’ve learnt our lesson.” Ochre grinned. “This year you can dance!”
“No I can’t! Not all the years of classes at Mrs Phoebe Arbuthnot’s Academy of Dance, have enabled me to do that very well either,” Blue confessed.
“The what?” Ochre gasped, eyes wide with amusement.
“My mother sent us all to Mrs Phoebe Arbuthnot for dancing lessons, for years and years. With the honourable exception of my sister I can say it did none of us any good,” Blue explained, spreading his hands in a show of humility. “I just can’t seem to get my feet to go where they should, however hard I try.”
Symphony looked up and confirmed this. “Yeah, some people dance as if they have two left feet; Adam dances like he has no feet at all!”
“Well, it should make an interesting spectacle then,” Ochre reasoned. “And if it is so awful, you can pay the forfeit too.”
“That’s not fair!” Blue protested.
There was a ripple of laughter as the ‘Wizard’ thundered his disapproval.
“Cower, Mortal! Before the might of my powers! If you do not accept this challenge, I will conjure before you the worst imaginings of your darkest nightmares!”
“Alright, go on then.” Blue folded his arms and stood his ground. “Conjure away – do your worst!”
Ochre stood up and waved his arms around, muttering some impressive sounding gibberish. Blue sucked in his cheeks and tried not to laugh – Richard was really very good.
“There ought to be clap of thunder or a puff of smoke to go with that,” Rhapsody suggested, smiling , coming to stand beside Blue. “’Cause you haven't turned into a frog yet.”
“That’s not MY darkest nightmare – the dancing scares me far more,” Blue joked.
The door to the mess opened and Scarlet stood in the doorway, his face emotionless.
Blue turned. “Okay, Paul, I was just coming.” He sighed as he moved towards his partner. “Rick’s been conjuring my darkest nightmare, so keep your eyes peeled, will you?”
“There is no need, Earthman. I am already here.”
There was a stricken silence in the mess, and several sharp intakes of breath.
“Very funny, Paul,” Rhapsody said sarcastically, and she glanced at Blue, who had gone very pale.
Scarlet turned towards her, his eyes cold. “The Mysterons do not joke, Earthwoman. You are all my prisoners. Cloudbase is no longer under your command, so keep away from the communicator switch, Symphony Angel, it will avail you nothing.”
“Paul. Stop it,” Rhapsody said, trying to keep the tension out of her voice. “This isn’t funny anymore – if it ever was.”
Scarlet drew his gun and aimed at Blue as he moved a pace towards him. “Stay where you are, Captain. My Masters have new tasks for you all; you will become servants of the Mysterons and together we will take control of this planet. We will be revenged for your unprovoked attack on our Martian complex. “
There was mounting panic amongst the junior staff, clustered around Ochre.
“Do something!” Someone called.
Blue moved forwards. “You won’t get away with this – there are too many of us here, you will be destroyed.”
“I have had months to make sure that enough of your personnel are already Mysteron agents. You are all too lax and overconfident of your invulnerability here, Captain. How many of the men on the base can you really trust?”
“Where’s Captain Scarlet? What have you done with him?” Blue snarled.
“I am Captain Scarlet, don’t you recognise me?”
“Scarlet would rather die than allow himself to be taken over by the Mysterons once more!”
There was the coldest of smiles on the dark man’s lips. “I am already dead, Adam; have you forgotten? The Mysterons have never let go of my mind, they just allowed you to think they had ‘lost me’. I know everything about this base and its weapons and its personnel. YOU cannot defeat ME, with your puny threats and hopeless appeals to my ‘better nature’.”
Rhapsody started to cry. Her shoulders shook and she turned her face away, covering it with her hands. Symphony went to her side.
“Go on, blast me to pieces if you want to!” she raged. “Look what you’ve done! Just kill us all but save us from the sermons. Jeez, you Mysterons love to talk, don’t you?” She put her arms around Rhapsody and comforted her as best she could.
Scarlet watched impassively.
“What are you going to do?” Ochre asked. He had shrugged off the purple robes and the pointed hat. Magenta now stood alongside him, both displaying defiance.
There was the slightest of pauses, and the minutest of quavers in the Mysteron’s voice as he said, “Well, I could make you all pay a hefty forfeit.”
There was pandemonium.
Ochre and Magenta sprang towards the open door, but Blue got there first. He landed a punch on Scarlet’s chin that swept his friend of his feet.
Lying on the floor, helpless with laughter and the pain in his jaw , Scarlet saw Blue looming over him. There was no answering amusement in the American’s sky blue eyes.
Blue straddled his partner and gathered his red tunic in his strong hands. “Don’t you ever, ever, ever, do that again!” he said, banging Scarlet’s head on the floor with every word. “You are a completely, crazy, son-of-a-bitch, Metcalfe. I ought to knock your head until some sense gets lodged in there!”
“Sorry,” Scarlet wheezed, gasping for breath. “Oh, but Adam, if you could have SEEN your faces!” He started laughing again. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the World!”
“We could have killed you, you lunatic!” Blue remonstrated, clambering off the still breathless Scarlet and kneeling alongside him.
“Not very likely, is it?” Scarlet managed to say between weak bouts of laughter.
He looked up into the room to see every occupant staring at him, most angry but a few still looked uncertain. He tried to calm himself down. Blue was still annoyed, he could see that easily enough. The tight, thin lips and the clenched fist, clear indications of the emotional turmoil within. But that was nothing compared to the rage he saw in Symphony.
“You moron!” she fumed. “You scared us all! And – what is a hundred times worse, you made Dianne cry!”
“Not really, Karen.” Rhapsody looked up to reveal her face. “I had to hide so you couldn’t see me laughing.”
“You thought it was funny?” Ochre asked. “You knew about this?”
“No. Not until he called Captain Blue Adam. Then I guessed. It was clever, Paul, but more than a little cruel,” she chided. “Poor Adam looked as if he was going to throw up.”
“Never mind, ‘Poor Adam’!” Magenta snorted. “How do we know he isn’t a Mysteron still, tricking us again!”
“Don’t start that, Patrick, for pity’s sake,” Blue said wearily.
“Well, you all kept telling me to lighten up and get in the mood of the occasion. I was only trying to oblige,” Scarlet said, defensively, as he scrambled to his feet.
“I think I prefer you as His Britannic Misery more than as a Satanic Mysteron,” Symphony said, thawing a little towards the penitent Scarlet.
“His what?” Scarlet said, affronted. “Britannic Misery!” He glared at the unfortunate Blue, still kneeling on the floor, “And who’s bright idea was that? As if I couldn’t guess.”
Blue looked up and smiled. “Let’s just call it quits shall we? You don’t really have a leg to stand on, do you, Your Majesty?”
Later, as they sat over a coffee in the almost deserted canteen, Scarlet asked, “Was it really your darkest nightmare? That I might become a Mysteron again?”
Blue drained his coffee. He took a moment to consider and said, with a slight shudder, “You’ve never met Mrs Phoebe Arbuthnot, have you?”
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