A ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ story for Christmas
by Polly Amber
The sky was heavy with the promise of snow as off-duty Spectrum Captain Paul Metcalfe drove his silver sports car down the tree-lined avenue which led to his childhood home on the outskirts of Winchester.
“Christmas at home seems to bring out the ten year old in me again,” he quipped as he drove on to the sweeping gravel drive that led up to his parents imposing Georgian home.
“It’s kind of your parents to invite me too,” replied his front seat passenger Dianne Simms.
“My mother likes to have people to fuss over, especially at this time of year. It’s a pity I’m an only child.”
“Oh so lonely,” crooned Dianne as she caressed her boyfriend’s arm.
“Well not tonight I hope.”
“Do you think your mother will put us in separate rooms?”
Paul frowned. “I hadn’t thought about that. No, I think she’s fairly broadminded, after all we are in the two thousand and sixties rather than the nineteen sixties.”
“Actually the nineteen sixties were pretty wild, by all accounts.”
“That’s if you can remember them.”
“Someone must have remembered them to be able to write about them in the history books,” replied Dianne. “That era certainly was a good time to be a young person. There was so much to discover. Space was waiting to be explored. If we only knew then what we know now.”
Paul did not answer. The car tyres scrunched to a halt at the bottom of a set of mellow stone steps. Paul applied the handbrake.
“What a lovely old house. I almost expect the servants to come out to open our car doors for us and carry our luggage,” said Dianne.
“We usually give them the day off on Christmas,” joked Paul as he opened the car door for Dianne. He then walked round to the boot of the car to retrieve their luggage.
“Now I’m starting to feel nervous,” admitted Dianne. “Do you think your mother will like the flowers?”
“They’re beautiful… and so are you,” he added as he planted a butterfly kiss on her cheek.
Doctor Fawn sat at his desk in the corner of the Spectrum Cloudbase infirmary. He was filling in the report sheet for the day. Until half an hour ago there had been nothing serious. Most of his day had been taken up with issuing flu jabs for the personnel who were returning Earth-side for the Christmas holidays. There had been four sore throats, three gippy tummies, two migraines and a dental extraction – or should that be a partridge in a pear tree!
Doctor Fawn switched the angle poise lamp off; the bulb was starting to get hot. He replaced the top on his pen and closed the file of patient notes to which he had been adding. The dental extraction patient who had an impacted wisdom tooth had been referred to the dental surgery but the dentist had called for the doctor’s assistance to stop heavy bleeding. The patient was discharged with a wad of cotton wool padding his cheek out like a hamster. Doctor Fawn was just about to congratulate himself for having a completely empty sickbay when he received an urgent call for a gurney.
The doctor was disturbed by a knock on the infirmary door. “Come in,” he called without turning around.
A tall but not particularly attractive woman in her mid-forties, wearing a Spectrum uniform, entered the room. She introduced herself as Lieutenant Mocha and announced that she was the officer in charge of Health and Safety.
“I’ve been expecting you,” answered Doctor Fawn. “I suppose you will want a full report.”
“What can you tell me about the accident? I trust there will be no lasting damage to the patient.”
“He’ll be as right as rain in a few hours. Is it really necessary to submit a full report?” queried Doctor Fawn, who didn’t really want the extra work at the end of a busy day. “I didn’t see the accident; I can only tell you that the patient was brought to me unconscious and with a broken wrist.”
“Any accident which occurs on Spectrum property to a member of Spectrum personnel is my concern,” explained Lieutenant Mocha in the high handed manner of someone addressing an indolent child. “I am required to investigate the incident and make a full report.”
“You should really speak to Captain Blue; he will be able to explain what happened.
“I intend to speak to everyone involved. But first I require you to furnish me with a report on the patient’s condition when he was admitted.”
“I’ll do it later,” said Doctor Fawn flatly.
Lieutenant Mocha swept from the room. Doctor Fawn shook his head and went back to his desk.
“Paul, how lovely to see you.” Mrs Metcalfe welcomed her son with a kiss. Paul could hear the harmonious sound of the King’s College Choir singing ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ coming from the drawing room. Mrs Metcalfe turned to Dianne and kissed her on the cheek too. “What beautiful flowers, thank you so much. I will put them in a vase immediately.” She took Dianne by the hand. “Come, you can help me. We will leave the men to have a chat by the fireside. I aim to make this a perfect Christmas.”
Dianne glanced hesitantly at Paul as she was enthusiastically dragged off by his mother for an impromptu flower arranging lesson.
Paul was shaking hands with a distinguished looking, grey-haired man in his mid-sixties. General Metcalfe stood tall and upright with the posture of a trained military man. He had been out walking the dogs. Paul couldn’t help but notice that his father was oddly dressed. So muffled up against the cold you would have thought he had been out dog-sledging with a pack of huskies. Paul realised that his father was getting old and was bound to start feeling the cold. A pair of energetic golden retrievers gambolled on the front lawn.
“It’s starting to snow,” noticed Paul. He rubbed his nose. There was a definite nip in the air.
“Is Jack Frost nipping at your nose? That’s a good enough reason to open the best malt whiskey,” answered his father.
Paul concluded from his father’s quirky turn of phrase that he must have been at the whiskey a little earlier. He followed his father into the grand hall which had been decked with bows of holly and garlands woven with tartan ribbon and pine cones. His eyes fell upon the eight foot high spruce tree glittering with tinsel and fairy lights. His mother had certainly surpassed herself this year. There were mingled smells, the pine needles, mulled wine and something else; a sweet, hot smell that he couldn’t quite place.
“You’ll never guess who we met at church this morning,” announced General Metcalfe as he led his son in to the drawing room. Paul felt the warmth of the open fire glowing in the stone hearth. And he smelled something sweet … the same sweet smell he had noticed in the hall but in here it was stronger. He cast his eyes over the glowing embers in the fireplace; chestnuts … yes it was the smell of roasting chestnuts.
Paul became aware of another person standing, warming himself in front of the fire. The man clad in a long black coat had his back to the door. He turned around as Paul entered and he offered his hand. “Hello, Paul.”
In spite of the heat from the fire Paul froze. “What are you doing here?” he gasped.
General Metcalfe interceded, “I thought you would be surprised. Conrad was saying just before you and Dianne arrived how long it had been since he last saw you.”
“And how is the lovely Dianne?” inquired the visitor.
“Conrad Turner! How can this be possible? What brings you to Winchester?”
“See, I told you that you would be surprised,” said the General gleefully. “Conrad has a wife now and a couple of children, tiny tots with their eyes all aglow who’ll find it hard to sleep tonight.”
“They know that Santa’s on his way,” continued Conrad Turner. “He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies in his sleigh.”
Paul clapped his hand to his cheeks. This was surreal. This whole scene could not possibly be happening.
“I invited them all to stay with us,” explained General Metcalfe. “Would you believe they were staying in a hotel just a few yards away?”
“We were travelling back from Heathrow. We should really be in America by now staying with my wife’s parents, but the planes have been grounded because of a terrorist threat. It started to snow so we pulled in to the nearest town to find a hotel.”
Paul was still trying to make sense of the scene. His father looked just like his father but he had been acting a little strange. There was an air of false bonhomie about him; and as for the jumper he was wearing - a red Fair Isle knit! Paul could only assume that it had been hand knitted for him by a close friend. In normal circumstances his father would have consigned it to the nearest charity shop.
However, the biggest shock of all was the sight of the smiling dark-haired man who now stood in front of the fire. Paul was sure this man could not possibly be here. Codenamed Captain Black, Conrad Turner had disappeared following a disastrous mission to Mars. At first it was assumed he had suffered a mental breakdown. Spectrum officers carried out an extensive search but failed to find him. He was rumoured to have died from radiation poisoning following an alien attack. His body has never been found and subsequent sightings of him confirmed the belief that he had been taken over by the unseen alien entity in retribution for launching an attack on their settlement. In his capacity as Captain Scarlet of Spectrum, Paul Metcalfe had worked closely with Captain Black and had formed a strong friendship.
“Father, could you leave us for a moment? Conrad and me have a lot of catching up to do,” requested Paul.
“Of course, I’ll just go and see if your mother could do with a hand in the kitchen. I expect she’s wrestling with the turkey. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe helps to make the season bright.”
Paul slammed the door shut, anger burning inside him. He turned on Conrad with uncharacteristic venom “What’s going on? None of this is real, is it? You’re doing things to my head.”
“Calm down Paul,” said Conrad. “I thought you would be glad to see an old friend again.”
“My friend Conrad Turner is dead.”
“How can you be sure? My friend Paul Metcalfe died after falling from the London Car-Vu and yet here we both are!” Conrad poured another glass of whiskey. “To life after death,” he toasted and drank the contents of the glass down in one gulp. “I’m very much alive, Paul. Shake my hand, you’ll find it warm.”
“No. I won’t come near you. It’s some kind of Mysteron trap. What did you do to my parents, you bastard?”
“The patient seems a little agitated,” voiced a concerned night nurse.
“He will be waking soon. He will be able to tell us what happened,” replied Doctor Fawn
“It’s my fault,” Adam Svenson announced as he stood by the patient’s bedside. “I should have been there. I shouldn’t have let him do the job on his own.”
“The Health and Safety Officer is looking for you, Captain Blue,” said Doctor Fawn. “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. She seems a formidable lady.”
“She is. She found me; gave me a lecture for nearly half an hour.”
“Did she tell the colonel?”
“I don’t think so; we were officially off duty at the time. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We sorta got roped in.”
“Couldn’t say no to a couple of pretty angels?” guessed Doctor Fawn.
“That’s about right, I guess.”
Fawn smiled. His patient stirred and moaned, and the doctor patted his cheek. “Come on now, time to come back to the land of the living again.”
“That joke’s wearing a bit thin,” said Adam.
Conrad Turner sat down on one of General Metcalfe’s leather wing chairs. “Your parents are quite safe. Dianne is safe. You forget I was in love with her once. Why would I hurt her? I know about you two. But what could I expect? I have been gone for so long. Time moves on and girlfriends move on. I am not bitter and I mean you no harm. You are quite safe too. The Mysterons have released me.”
“What do you mean? Is this a truce?” asked Paul.
“Yes, I suppose you could call it that. For the last three years the Mysterons have observed the ways of Earth people. The Mysterons struggle to understand them – I mean us. The Mysterons are the perfect race. Their technology can reconstruct anything or anyone.”
“So what do the Mysterons really want from us? This isn’t just about retribution for the attack on their planet. They obviously want more.”
“The Mysterons want to understand the ways of Earth. Particularly Christmas; they have never seen anything like it.”
“Of course I should have guessed this whole scene has been conjured up by the Mysterons – ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at my nose’. I couldn’t understand why my nose was feeling so cold while the rest of my body was warm. The Mysterons have re-created Christmas from a selection of old Christmas songs.”
“We wanted to create the perfect Christmas. We want to share Christmas with the people of Earth.”
“But you just don’t get it, do you?” Paul threw up his hands in exasperation. “Christmas is supposed to be all about giving, and being together with the people we love. It’s about maintaining a tradition and a religious belief that has been handed down through generations. Why should I trust the Mysterons after all they have done to us? They don’t want us as their equals; they just want our planet and human beings to use as their slaves.”
“The Mysterons have visited many planets inhabited with many forms of life. Only Earth is compatible to the way their planet was many millions of years ago.”
“You mean Mars was once like Earth?”
“Very similar; Mars was shifted out of orbit after a collision with an asteroid. As a result, the atmosphere heated up and many of our people died. We had to adapt to survive.”
“Does ‘adapting’ mean killing the human host to take its body?”
“The Mysterons merely make use of the bodies that are expendable. People die everyday. The body is disposed of. We are able to make use of the body. We can regenerate it. Man no more may die! We re-cycle; it’s very good for the planet.”
“You engineer a death in order to replicate a body for your own ends,” snapped Paul.
Conrad waved an empty whiskey glass. “We are in the midst of death, my friend.”
“I am not your friend. My friend left this body. You are a cadaver. You are hollow. You have no soul. You have no life.”
The former Captain Black gave a sinister smile. “It takes one to know one.”
“He’s coming round, Doctor,” called Captain Blue.
Doctor Fawn rushed to his patient’s bedside to ease him into a sitting position. “Easy now, don’t try to sit up too quickly, you’ve taken quite a knock to your head. You could still be suffering a concussion.”
“I’m fine, don’t fuss.” Captain Scarlet swung his legs over the side of the bed and stepped into his shoes.
“Hey, you’re not going anywhere yet,” said Doctor Fawn. “I need to check on your wrist.”
Scarlet waved his left hand in a couple of circles and then waggled each digit in turn. “See, good as new. I can play the piano again.”
“Well you couldn’t before,” Blue quipped. “As for your rendition of The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole you ain’t!”
Doctor Fawn walked over to his desk to take a call. “Captain Scarlet, I have someone here who has been waiting to have a word with you.”
Captain Blue grimaced. “It must be Lieutenant Mocha – Health and Safety.”
Scarlet groaned. “Tell her I’ve had a relapse.”
Lieutenant Mocha finally had her hour. A recovered Captain Scarlet was summoned to Colonel White’s office together with Captain Blue and angels Rhapsody and Symphony. Colonel White looked suitably irritated. Lieutenant Mocha looked smug.
“There really is no excuse for this,” snapped the colonel. “I have better things to do. What were you thinking about? Do you realise that this ridiculous incident has wasted a lot of time?”
“With respect, Sir, we were off duty. We were in our own leisure time,” began Blue.
Colonel White cut him short: “What would have happened if there had been an alert? We had one of our best men lying injured in sickbay, all because of a blatant disregard or ignorance of the Health and Safety rules. And you, Captain Scarlet, should have known better.”
“I’m sorry, Sir. I’m partly to blame,” admitted Rhapsody. “I decided it would look nice to have the Christmas lights running around the big picture window in the Amber room. The window was too high for me to reach, so I asked Captain Scarlet to help me put them up.”
“I’m afraid we all had a couple of glasses of mulled wine,” said Symphony. “We put on a tape of old Christmas songs just to get us in the mood.”
“Now I remember The Christmas Song!” exclaimed Scarlet. “ ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose’! That explains a lot!”
“You’re a terrible singer! That’s why I left,” retorted Blue. “When I came back you were lying at the foot of the ladder, out cold, with a garland of fairy lights around your neck
“Do either of you have a certificate of competence to work at height?” asked Lieutenant Mocha in all seriousness.
Scarlet looked at Blue who burst out laughing. “Competence to work at height? We work at 40,000 feet above ground level! How’s that for competence!”
Lieutenant Mocha who had been waiting for her moment launched into a tirade. She had a look on her face that could sour cream. “Captain Scarlet, we are all aware of your amazing powers of recuperation, but it would have been a very different story if Captain Blue had been at the top of the ladder instead of you. You both failed to check that the ladder had been properly secured. Neither of you holds a certificate of competence to work on ladders that extend to more than twelve feet. And you, Captain Blue, failed to adequately foot the ladder whilst your colleague secured the fairy lights. You also admitted that you switched the lights on to test them whilst they were still coiled in the box. That constitutes a fire risk. You also replaced a fuse while the lights were still connected to the electricity supply. Have you any idea how many people electrocute themselves while trying to replace the fuses on a string of fairy lights?”
“I’m sorry, you’re right. I should have been at the foot of the ladder whilst Captain Scarlet was fixing the lights, but I left to fetch the coffee,” said Blue guiltily.
“And I will be more careful in future,” added Scarlet with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
“Just get out of my sight, all of you,” grumbled Colonel White.
“Yes Sir. We’re sorry, Sir.”
Lieutenant Mocha lingered by the side of the Colonel’s desk. “I hope you didn’t mean me Colonel,” she said.
“No of course not,” replied Colonel White.
“Good, now while we are on the subject of Health and Safety, there are a few things I would like to go over with you regarding the coming festivities.” She thrust a wedge of paper in front of him. “Firstly, if you must have festive decorations, they must be put up by a competent person who has experience of working with ladders. The appointed person must attend a two days training course to obtain a certificate of competence to work at height. The decorations must not exceed a height of ten feet. They must not impede the doorways or the fire exits. They must not trail across any machinery or computer equipment which is liable to generate heat. The decorations must be flame retardant. The same goes for artificial Christmas trees. The baubles on the Christmas tree must be shatterproof.
On the subject of the Christmas dinner, coins or lucky charms must not be placed in the Christmas puddings. They constitute a choking hazard. The turkey must be thoroughly defrosted before cooking. The danger of salmonella is always present and food poisoning would be a catastrophe for your understaffed sickbay.
It goes without saying that alcohol must be restricted. Bearing all this in mind, please ensure your colleagues enjoy a safe and happy Christmas.” And with that she left.
Colonel White was rather taken aback at her abrupt departure. He knew Lieutenant Mocha wasn’t one for small talk, but if you got her one her favourite subject – Health and Safety, you couldn’t stop her. She was a diligent and loyal officer but regarded by her colleagues as being somewhat stuffy. Colonel White wished she wasn’t so pedantic; his ears were still ringing. He was beginning to get a headache and he was due to say a few words at the carol service this evening. He hadn’t even begun to think about writing his speech. He thumped his fist on a scarlet button on his desk console. He knew who he was going to delegate this task to.
The small chapel smelled of pine and candle wax. Reverend Green greeted the worshippers who filed in for the carol service. Spectrum was a multi- faith, multi-cultural organisation, but his chapel was packed to the seams. The carols were sung with gusto. Voices lubricated by mulled wine that had been served with mince pies earlier in the evening.
Captain Scarlet had hastily prepared a fitting speech for the assembled congregation. Colonel White was suitably impressed and now stood at the altar beside Reverend Green to address the congregation. The colonel shifted his weight from his left foot to his right and began to speak.
“We come to give thanks for the birth of Jesus who was born so that man no more may die. Our earthly bodies were designed to grow old and die; but we take comfort in knowing that the soul transcends death. We hope to live on. We are threatened by an alien race able to give us just that – eternal life, but as we have seen for their own ends.
The Mysterons will never be superior to us. They lack the empathy that makes us human. They may be able to replicate and regenerate bone, tissue and muscle but they can never replace a soul.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask you all to pray for the soul of a man who once was a good friend and colleague. Captain Black, Conrad Turner. We may now see him as our enemy, a puppet of the Mysterons. We must not forget this man once lived and worked and joked with us. We do not know if the mind and soul of Conrad Turner still lives on in a body enslaved by the Mysterons. A part of me hopes that his soul does still live on and yet another part of me hopes that it does not.
The perfect Christmas for all of us would be for peace between the Mysterons and Earth. The perfect Christmas present would be for Conrad’s soul to be released from evil.
Christmas is not about the presents, the food or the tree. It’s about making the world a better place. We must pity the Mysterons who may be highly evolved but are little more than machines. They watch us. They need us. They strive to become what we are.
Be wary and be watchful, but above all, have a safe and happy Christmas.”
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is a Gerry Anderson creation licensed by Carlton/Granada
‘The Christmas Song’ was written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells in 1946. It has been performed first by Nat King Cole, and many other artists in the following years, amongst them, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, the Jackson Five, Twisted Sister and Celine Dion.
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