Melody and Harmony Angels had left the Control Room to get together to the base runway. While Harmony had gone to Hangar One, Melody goes directly to Angel Two, in order to take her place behind the pilot controls.
The early night is quiet, with a clear sky. Before entering the cockpit, Melody looks about. To her side, she can see the old little Cessna, with the three men standing next to it, apparently discussing between them. From a distance of about ten feet of them, the uniformed security guard is keeping look on things. Neither of them seems to have seen her. All is apparently normal.
Harmony has gathered her tools from Hangar Two, and then puts up a white overall, way too large for her. So she would not smeared her hair with unwanted dirty grease, she puts on an old baseball cap. Le the overall for her body, the cap is a bit loose on her head, but she always put it on nevertheless, when working on a plane. It was a gift from Symphony, offered the same week the new pilot had arrived, and it’s sporting the symbol of the California Angels baseball team up front. It was all meant as a joke, and nobody knew exactly where Symphony had found the old cap. But Harmony loved it the minute she saw it.
And so attired, Harmony leaves Hangar One and, practically dragging along her toolbox, goes to the Cessna.
Brad Holden, disguised as the security guard, sees the figure in white overall coming their way. He goes to the others to alert them.
“Guys, I think the mechanic is coming.” He whispers.
Blackburn, Donaghue, and Fraser look up and see the little figure in white overall and baseball cap walking in the semi-darkness of the runway toward them. Fraser frowns. “He’s just a little guy.”
“Yeah.” Blackburn nods. “Can hardly raise that toolbox of his.”
Donaghue pushes him behind the plane. “Keep back, Steve. He could be looking for a blond guy named Kowalski. You don’t exactly fit the description.”
“Don’t sweat it, guys… I will take care of the mechanic.” Holden announces.
“How so?” Fraser asks him.
“Like you said: he’s just a little guy. And he won’t mistrust me. I’m the security guard, remember?”
Holden distances away from the others with a quiet walk and go back to where had been standing a bit earlier. As Melody draws closer, Holden turns slightly away and inconspicuously hides his face. From the corner of his eyes, he sees the mechanic passing by, without even looking at him, and going his way toward the three other men by the Cessna. When the mechanic has his back turned on him, Holden turns back and quickens his pace to get to him. He grabs him from behind.
The mechanic lets go off his toolbox, which tumbles loudly to the ground. For a little guy, thinks Holden, he puts quite a struggle.
Then, to his surprise, the heel of his intended victim crushes hard on his toes, and a very pointy elbow catches him in the abdomen, draining the air from his lungs, freeing the arms of the mechanic. Holden then finds himself flipped over the back of the little guy and crashes down on the asphalted ground with a loud moan.
Donaghue and Fraser have looked with astonishment at Holden’s fall. Their friend is now lying at the mechanic’s feet, stunned. Without even heeding Donaghue’s words of warning, Fraser rushes to the mechanic, intended on running him through.
Still at the feet of Angel Two, Melody has seen with surprise the quick fight between Harmony and the security guard. Now she witnesses as one of the American tourists try to attack her too. She does not wait much longer to run to her friend’s rescue.
Not that Harmony really seems to need her help. When Fraser thinks he has reach her, she suddenly disappears from where she was standing… and his stomach collides brutally with a strong knee that sends him lying right next to Holden.
Donaghue hesitates to enter the fray. The little guy, at least one head shorter than each one of his companions, has spread them out without even exhorting himself. Holden had tried to take him by surprise and Fraser, as a cop, certainly knows how to handle himself in a fight. Each has failed miserably. Donaghue knows how to defend himself – leaving in a New York ghetto for the first part of his life had taught him a thing or two about street rumble – but now, what chance does he have against a guy like that?
He doesn’t have to take a decision, as he hears footsteps behind him that make him turn. He sees Melody coming and suddenly stopping, pointing a pistol at him.
“You don’t move, mister!”
Donaghue shows his hands and produces a faint smile. “Hey! I have no intention to, lady! I know when I’m beaten!”
Melody keeps her gun trailed at him and comes closer, while Harmony keeps a close eye on the two men sprawled at her feet. They look up at her with astonished glance, now seeing who she really is.
“You boys should learn how to treat a lady.” The young Asian pilot remarks cynically.
“I’ll be damned!” Fraser exclaims. “Brad! That’s a girl who has just laid us out!”
“I KNOW!” Holden replies between clenched teeth. “I can see it too!”
Melody has the sudden feeling that somebody is crawling up from behind her. Of course, she thinks. There is a fourth man! That can only be him! But the realisation of that comes in a little too late as she feels the barrel of a weapon stabs her in the back.
“Okay, now. Don’t make any sudden move and all with go smoothly. Pat, take her gun.”
“With pleasure!” Donaghue takes the pistol from the hand of a dismayed Melody and blinks mischievously at her. “Now, do YOU know when you’re beaten?”
“As for you, the mechanic,” Blackburn calls to Harmony, “Step back from my friends, so they can get up.”
Harmony gets quietly aside and Fraser and Holden stand up. While Holden, picking up the rifle he has previously let go on the ground, seems pretty shaken, but yet stable on his feet, Fraser holds his stomach, mumbling.
“Are you hurt, Rick?” Donaghue asks him mockingly.
“Only in my pride.” Fraser hisses. He darts furiously at Harmony. “How did you do a trick like that?”
“Judo.” Harmony quietly answers.
“Judo? That’s all there is to it?”
“Did it not suffice?”
Fraser does not respond as Blackburn presses Melody to join her friend. When she turns back, she sees that the man who had surprised her has only a pipe in his hand. Now the two women are trailed by Melody’s own pistol, in Donaghue’s hand.
“You tricked me!” Melody says to Blackburn, with a scandalized tone.
“It worked well, now, isn’t’ it?” Blackburn responds, smiling at her.
He throws the pipe away; Melody stares at his face with insistence.
“I know you!”
“That you do, lieutenant Jones. We met a few weeks ago.”
“You’re the chief test pilot at the WAS…” Melody remembers. “Mister Blackburn?”
“Captain Steven Blackburn at your service, lieutenant.”
“What are you doing here?” Melody looks around. “What have you done with the real security guard? Where’s Kowalski?”
Blackburn frowns. “Kowalski?”
“She means Adam.” Fraser informs him.
“Oh! Well… to answer your questions, if not into order: your security guard is in the plane. He was just coming around the last time I checked. “Mister Kowalski”, as you know him, is gone exploring your base in search of somebody. As for my presence here… it’s rather a long explanation.”
“Well, you’d better start explaining yourself!” Melody replies angrily. “All of you, you don’t know what kind of trouble you’re into!”
Fraser mumbles. “Can’t be worse than what we had faced so far…”
“Who are you people, anyway?” Harmony asks.
Donaghue smiles. “Oh! Five happy fellows looking for a missing friend… and searching for inputs on some unanswered questions…”
Melody frowns. “Missing friend?” She thinks about what Symphony had told about Black’s information concerning the prisoner’s accomplices. “Are you terrorists? Or criminals of some sort?”
“What make you think we are criminals?” Donaghue protests.
“Not every one of us is, anyway…” Fraser begins.
“Shut up, Fraser!” Donaghue warns him.
Blackburn tries to sound reassuring. “Don’t be alarmed, ladies. We are not criminals.”
“Sure.” An ironic Harmony replies. “Honest men ambush defenceless women all the time…”
Holden snorts. “You call yourself defenceless? First of all, I didn’t know you were a woman.”
“Would that have change anything in your behaviour toward me?”
“Heck! I wouldn’t have manhandled you that way!”
“So you say.” Harmony smiles mockingly. “Anyway, that wouldn’t have made any difference: the result would have been the same.”
Holden grumbles something not really gentle. Melody glares at the four men.
“You’re here for the man imprisoned in our brig.” She states.
“You’re on, lady.” Fraser nods.
“And what will you do when you’ll recuperate him?”
“Well…” Donaghue scratches his head and looks at his companions. “I personally have no idea. In fact, I don’t know what we should do NOW.”
“May I suggest you surrender yourselves?” Melody tells them. “Face it: you can’t get off base like that.”
“Well, not in the plane we have come with, that’s for sure.” Fraser agrees. “But you seem to have plenty of aircrafts here. We could borrow one.”
“The minute you’re on the air, we’ll come chasing after you to shoot you down.” Harmony coldly warns.
“Is that a menace, dear lady?” Blackburn asks her.
“I’m only stating a fact. Your WILL be shot down.”
Donaghue grins. “A real party girl. But I’m afraid she has a point.”
“I know.” Blackburn sighs. “We will wait for Adam. Maybe he would have some idea what to do when he comes back.”
“With Paul, hopefully.” Holden adds.
Meanwhile, a quiet Fraser is looking toward the nearest building, screwing up his eyes. “We may not need to wait much longer. Look that way.”
Everybody does and sees two dark figures coming their way. A very tall one, armed with a rifle, and a smaller, female one. Both have a head of blond hair. The four men recognize Svenson, but are perplexed as to his companion.
Donaghue mumbles. “Well, that certainly isn’t Paul with Adam… Who is she?”
Harmony and Melody, who are looking too, are puzzled. The flight uniform states that this is one of their owns. The blond hair and the height indicate clearly her identity.
“That’s Symphony.” Harmony whispers to Melody.
“Who?” Blackburn asks them.
“One of our pilots…” Melody answers. “What is she doing with your friend?”
“They seem really chummy…” Fraser remarks.
Indeed, Svenson and Symphony are walking side by side, at the same pace, talking to each other’s, perfectly at ease. Men and women near the Cessna are wondering exactly what’s going on when the two stop in front of them.
“I see you all met with each other’s.” Symphony says with a smile.
Svenson points to the weapons Holden and Blackburn have in their hands. “We will have no need for that, now, fellows.”
“Are you sure?” Blackburn replies with a suspicious tone. “Adam, did you find Paul?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I take it, he’s all right?” Fraser asks him.
“All things considered, yeah, I’d say he’s quite all right.” Svenson turns to Melody and Harmony, who, obviously relieved, glance now at him with curiosity. “Ladies, I trust my friends have behaved themselves?”
“We have kept them in line.” Harmony answers with an amused smile. “You’re mister Kowalski?“
“His name is Adam Svenson.” Symphony presents her newfound friend. “He’s not a terrorist, but a security agent at the WAS.”
“Well, that about sums it all.” Svenson grins.
“WAS security?” Melody looks at Blackburn, who has lowered the pistol. “So your presence here has something to do with WAS, or the Angels aircrafts?”
“I’m afraid it’s much more complicated than that.” Blackburn sighs.
“Explanation will have to wait, until we’re inside the Control Room.” Symphony tells them. “Destiny has sent us to retrieve you all for a briefing.”
“A briefing?” A perplexed Holden repeats. “All of us together?”
“Yes, Brad.” Svenson nods. “All of us. Seems the Angels have a story of their own to tell us.”
“At the condition that you tell us yours.” Symphony adds.
“Right you are, Symphony.”
“That’s quite some names.” Donaghue muses. “Symphony, Melody, Destiny… I take it they’re not real, right?”
“They’re codenames, sir.” Melody answers.
Holden smiles. “I find them quite charming.”
“Beats ‘Magenta’, anyway.” Fraser retorts.
“You’re just jealous because you don’t know yet what yours is.” Donaghue answers back.
Harmony frowns with perplexity and turns to Svenson. “What are they talking about?”
“Don’t mind them.” Svenson addresses his companions: “We’d better free that poor security guard in the plane… And Brad, give him back his uniform before he catches cold.”
“I’ll be glad to be back in my own clothes.” Holden motions toward the plane, followed by Donaghue and Melody. He turns toward the young woman and stops her. “You better wait here, lady.”
Melody smiles at him. “I’ll just keep close just to make sure Lewman understand that you’re not the enemy.”
“Yeah, well… Keep also your eyes away from me. I’m not overly scrupulous, but I much prefer a girl to know me better before she looks at me undressing.”
“Think I’ve never saw a naked man before?” Melody retorts, laughing. “I was raised with lots of brothers, you know!”
“Well, I’m not one of your brothers.”
Still, Melody is following him quietly. “I’ll try to keep that in mind…”
* * *
When the group of men and woman follows Symphony and Svenson to the Control Room, they find it already occupied by Destiny, Rhapsody, Metcalfe, and Evershaw. The later is still in front of her radio; if she had shown quite a surprise when she saw Metcalfe first arrive, a few minutes earlier, she had kept her questions for herself. Now, as the larger group enters, she glares at them with obvious puzzlement, wondering if the Angels are wise to invite these strangers into the Control Room.
Well, colonel Metcalfe doesn’t really seem like a stranger to Destiny, anyway. Evershaw had heard them discuss openly, as only old friends would… And the Angel Leader obviously trusts that was implicitly.
Sitting at the conference table, he is now at his third cups of strong coffee since he had arrived. Rhapsody had taken a look at the wound over his head, had gone to take the first aid kit form its shelve and is now nursing it gently. About that moment, the others arrive. The men following the Angels are relieved to see Metcalfe who greets them with a broad smile as they come toward him.
“Guys, I’m really glad to see you’re all right! How was the desert?”
“Hot.” Blackburn responds with a grin. “We were worried about you, Paul. You don’t appear to have suffered much. “He looks at Rhapsody. “And you have a personal nurse, as I see.”
Rhapsody darts a glance at him. “Keep quiet. I’m a pilot, not a nurse. I’m just doing my best, her.”
Svenson and Symphony come to Metcalfe. The young woman has a rather big bag of brown paper that she puts on the conference table in front of the WAAF colonel.
“I’ve taken all the sandwiches that were left in the galley. I hope they will be satisfactory.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
“Give me your hands, buddy.” Svenson asks his friend.
Metcalfe obeys as Svenson presents him with the key to the handcuffs. He has taken it earlier from Martin, who is now imprisoned in the cell previously occupied by Metcalfe. The WAAF colonel sighs in relieve when the shackles are finally taken of his wrists and thrown on the table.
“That’s more like it.” He says, rubbing his injured wrists. He takes the brown paper bag and opens it to take a salad egg sandwich. “Now things are really looking up.”
Rhapsody sighs annoyingly. “Will you please stand still for a moment? It’s difficult enough to nurse this wound as it is!”
“Yes, ma’am.” Metcalfe takes a bite off his sandwich, and then notices Donaghue, sitting next to him. He smiles. “Mister Donaghue. So nice to see you again!”
“Nice to see you too, colonel. And you can call me Pat.”
“Only if you call me Paul.” Metcalfe takes another bite. “I heard you were the one who rescued the others?”
“Yeah, well… I got no real merit in the matter.”
“Don’t be so modest, Pat.” Blackburn says quickly. “You know we still would be out there without you!”
Destiny draws nearer. “Before you go a little too far with your story, gentlemen, the rest of the girls and me would really appreciate it if you’d start from the beginning of it.”
“That we would.” Melody nods. “Right now, I’m feeling like I jump right into the middle of a movie.”
“We better sit down, everybody.” Destiny invites the group. “ We have coffee for anyone caring for it. I suggest you take some before colonel Metcalfe dry out the pot by himself.”
As there are not enough seats around the table for everyone, Svenson, Melody, and Symphony go to fetch some chairs in another room. In the meantime, Metcalfe notices Fraser’s grimace as he sits near him.
“Is something the matter, mister Fraser? You look as if you’ve just been thrown under a bulldozer.”
From the corner of his eye, Metcalfe sees Donaghue chuckling, as Holden sits too with some difficulties.
“And what about you?” Metcalfe asks the WASP officer, while taking another sandwich from the brown bag. “Your back’s still causing you some problems?”
Holden mumbles. “It was just fine before somebody with a judo belt flung me up in the air and then down on the ground!”
“Who has done such a thing to you?”
Donaghue laughs suddenly. “This young lady.” He points his thumb to Harmony, presently sitting at his left. “You should have seen her get rid of Brad… Then she made a rug out of Rick.”
Metcalfe looks over Harmony with curiosity. She just shrugs, as if everything is normal to her.
“It wasn’t my fault. I only defend myself. They attack me first.”
“You really did that?” Metcalfe says, turning to Holden and Fraser. “Come on, guys! That’s no way to treat a lady! You never learned how to use diplomatic talk?”
At those words, Rhapsody stiffs. As she’s actually cleaning Metcalfe’s wound with an iodised gaze, she puts it right flat on it. Metcalfe lets out a moan of pain and turns to throw darts at her.
“What was that for?”
Rhapsody ‘smile is one of pure innocence. “For your own brand of diplomacy, colonel.”
Metcalfe frowns. “First, you want to maim me, now you’re trying to burn me. What will you do next?”
Rhapsody does not even respond. She looks rather thoughtfully at his head wound. “I think it would be wiser if we stitch that.” She remarks. “We wouldn’t want to leave a scar on that handsome face of yours, now, would we?”
“Let it be.” Metcalfe replies, with eyes glaring. “I’m a fast healer. I don’t think it will make a scar.”
Rhapsody sighs. “That’s your decision.”
She applies a sticking plaster on the wounds and goes her way with the first aid kit. Metcalfe follows her with his eyes.
“Don’t let that girl coming near me with a needle.”
Destiny laughs. “I wouldn’t concern myself with Rhapsody, if I were you.” She sits right next to her old friend. “Now, by what should we begin?”
“How about some presentation?” Harmony suggests. “We want to know each other’s to begin with.”
“Quite so.” Destiny agrees. “Angels, as I know you are dying to know who the man in our brig is, I will present him to you: Colonel Paul Metcalfe, of the WAAF Special Forces.”
Melody smiles. “So… you’re not a terrorist after all… Contrary to what Captain Black had told us.”
“As per my job, I would fight terrorists instead of siding with them.”
“I vouch for colonel Metcalfe’s identity.” Destiny says to her fellow pilots. She then presents herself to the men: “I’m Juliette Pontoin. Here, I’m codenamed Destiny Angel. I’m the designated leader of the Angels Pack. I have serve with colonel Metcalfe for two years. We’re like old friends.”
“A little more than that, if I don’t miss my guess.” Melody notes. She smiles again to Metcalfe. “How do you do, colonel? I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“And I’ve heard a lot about you too, lieutenant Jones.”
“So, you know who I am?”
“Why, yes… Magnolia Jones, the best test pilot in the WAAF… who had been thought dead, lost at sea for a year. Everybody who’s anybody in the WAAF knows you! To bad you had left us upon your return to civilisation. You were quite ingenious.”
“I’d say!” Blackburn retorts. “Being able to scratch build an entire craft with the remains of the one you had crashed with!” He looks at the Angels. “I’m captain Steve Blackburn. Some of you know me: I’m chief of the test division at the World Aeronautic Society.”
“He’s the one who first test the Angel fighter jet.” Melody says, nodding.
“A rather handsome craft, if you ask me.” Svenson replies in turn.
Blackburn points to him. “That quiet fellow there is my buddy Adam Svenson, security agent from the WAS. At a time, he was the second best test pilot the WAS ever had.”
“And who’s supposed to be the first?” Holden asks, ironically. “You?”
“I should think this evident.”
“Well, modesty isn’t obviously your strong suit…” Holden sighs. He presents himself, name, and assignation. His WASP uniform, rather misplaced in the middle of the Australian desert, makes the Angels smile with amusement. After Harmony asks him to forgive her about the way she had flipped him, she presents herself. When he learns the name of the young Asian woman, Fraser smiles contently and extends his hand to her.
“So you’re Chan Kwan… I should have recognized you sooner. I’ve followed your trip around the world with most interest, miss.”
“Which one, exactly?”
“The two of them, actually. I found it rather heroic that you should abandoned the race the first time, to help those men stranded on that blazing ocean rig…”
“I couldn’t very well leave them to burn there, you know!”
“Yes, quite right. But you succeed at your second attempt. Think anybody will break your record soon?”
“If somebody does, I’m ready to take off for a third trip.”
“I’ve got a model of your one-seater from your second time.”
“A model?” Harmony repeat, a bit perplexed. “As in glued plastic one? None was issued…”
“I built it myself.” Fraser explains. “From photos and blueprints.”
Svenson then looks curiously at him. Understanding has finally dawned on the blond man.
“So that’s it, Rick? That collection that you keep talking about… It’s plastic models?”
“Well, everybody has to have a hobby.” Fraser answers hesitantly.
Donaghue laughs. “So that’s really it? Funny, I’d never thought you’d be the king of man to build plastic models! Richard Fraser, commander detective of the World Police, a model builder! That’s quite a laugh!”
“Richard Fraser.” Everybody turns to Rhapsody. The young British woman nods her acknowledgement over the name and smiles to Fraser. “I’ve heard of you. I was with the FAB when your department called on us to help you with a very difficult affair. I’m Dianne Simms.”
Fraser grins. “You’re the young lady who succeeded to Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward as head of the Federal Agency Bureau, is that right?”
Metcalfe frowns. He looks over Rhapsody, a newfound respect twinkling in his eyes. “You have take over the FAB after Lady Penelope?”
“Yes, after she retired. She said she wasn’t young enough anymore to continue her work properly. I’d say that at age sixty-five, after working all her life as a spy and private investigator, she was untitled to some rest!”
“I remember encountering her when I was a kid. She seemed like quite a charming lady.”
“That she is. She was my mentor, and she believed in me. To bad I wasn’t able to keep FAB from closing down, though.”
“That wasn’t really your fault, Dianne, if you recall the story correctly.” Symphony remarks. She presents herself in turn: “I’m Karen Wainwright, Symphony Angel. I’m with the Universal Secret Service… Well, maybe I won’t be anymore, depending on what will happen next here.”
Destiny smiles. “Symphony is our reckless one.” She says. “But I think she tend to worry a little bit over our situation here. That’s not exactly like her, though.”
“Who would blame me, really?” Symphony turns to Donaghue. “That brings us to you, sir. I notice you kept mostly quiet, except to draw fire at commander Fraser. Now would you present yourself?”
Damned the girl’s observation skills, Donaghue thinks gloomily. Obviously, that was part of her investigative training.
“My name is Patrick Donaghue. I’m from New York City… and I’m a computer and electronic expert.” As the others are waiting for more, he hesitates before adding: “I’m a businessman.”
“Yeah! Rather shady business.” Fraser remarks, grinning.
Donaghue frowns. “Shut up, Rick. No sense to cause distraught to these ladies.” He pauses, than shrugs. “Well, it’s true. My business often tends to bring me over the other side of the law.”
Destiny screws her eyes up to him. “How often?”
“More than I would care to admit.” Donaghue sighs. He then gives a shy smile. “Mostly all the time. To tell you the truth… I’m head of a crime syndicate in New York State.”
Harmony widens her eyes. “Dear God! You’re a criminal?”
“You don’t look the part.” Symphony says.
“Well, you don’t look the part of a secret agent either, lady. As for my being a ‘criminal’… well, I reassure you right away: I’m not a bloodthirsty killer. I specialize myself in computerizing crimes.”
“Such as?” Destiny asks.
Donaghue nods toward Fraser. “If you don’t mind, I would rather not tell. Not with my friend, commander detective Fraser, as a witness over there.
Fraser gives an ironic grin. “As if I don’t already know any of your misdeeds!”
“Well, anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Pat is a reliable guy.” Holden replies. “If not for him, we would still be stranded in the desert.”
Fraser nods. “Yes, THAT is one of the things we could be grateful of.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Rick.” Donaghue smiles.
“Nevertheless, how did you find yourself hooked up with the others?” A puzzled Destiny asks him.
There is sarcasm in Donaghue’s voice when he answers: “You mean because they are such respectable fellows and I’m not?”
Metcalfe thinks it best to interrupt quickly. “I think that our cue to begin our story, here. Adam, since you were the first to arrive at the rendezvous point this morning, would you do us the honour to begin?”
Svenson grins. “Sure. Well, ladies, it’s like this: it all began several weeks ago, by a letter send to me by a special Selection Committee…”
The men tell theirs stories, each individually than in concert. Svenson is selected to relate how himself, Holden, Fraser and Blackburn were brought in the desert, with Donaghue jumping in some point to recount his part of the story. Then Fraser explained how he came to use his personal influence on some officials in the civilian air traffic to find out where, approximately, was situated Koala Base. The idea of the distressed plane was Blackburn’s, but it was only by a stroke of bad luck that the Cessna really was in trouble afterwards.
As for Metcalfe, since his capture, he had not much to tell. He reveals however the little he knew, up until the point where Destiny and Rhapsody came to free him and then when he came face to face with Svenson.
“The rest, you fairly know.” Metcalfe finishes. “We have told you all we were aware of. And as you can see, there are plenty of blurred areas in our adventure…”
“I’d say!” Rhapsody nods. “The least of which is: who the hell is that mysterious Captain Black, who seems to hold the key of all these mysteries?”
“And who is this superior he was reporting to, when Pat intercepted their communication.” Svenson adds.
“The ‘Great White Chief’.” Donaghue nods. “Or ‘White’, for that matter, since they fancy themselves at using colour codenames.”
“I rather like ‘Scarlet’ myself.” Metcalfe grins. He turns toward Destiny. “And what about you, ladies? Now that you know our story, you could give us yours… There must be some reason you’d come in contact with Captain Black.”
“Captain Black is not the only thing we have all in common, colonel.” Destiny replies.
“There’s something else?” Fraser asks.
Destiny exchanges glances with the other Angels. They each nods one after the other. Then, Destiny gets her hand to one of the pockets of her flight uniform and produces an envelope that she gives to Metcalfe. The WAAF colonel finds that envelope strangely familiar as he opens it, all the while looking at Destiny. He already knows what he’s going to find even before unfolding and reading the letter. Svenson is standing behind him and sighs heavily, glancing over his shoulder.
“Let me guess: the Selection Committee?”
Metcalfe nods. “The Selection Committee.” He folds back the letter and returns it to Destiny: “You have been chosen to be a fighter pilot.
Destiny waves to the other Angels pilots. “We all received a similar letter, for exactly the same thing. I received mine a little more than a month ago, enjoying me to a rendezvous at a private airport outside of London…”
Svenson lifts an eyebrow. “Uh! Oh! Have you by any chance been received by hooded men with guns?”
Destiny smiles. “In fact, the only person I encountered there was Mag, here… We have been invited to the same meeting. But, rather strangely, nobody else came in.”
“Rather strange, yes.” Metcalfe muses.
“Stranger still was the how we were received after meeting one another.” Melody adds. “There was a loud speaker in the office where we were together. A man’s voice came out from it and greeted us.”
“He seemed to know all about us.” Destiny continues. “About our background, personal and professional achievements, about the letter from the Selection Committee, about our presence there…”
“Sounds like a certain Captain Black.” Svenson grumbles.
“It was not Captain Black.” Destiny replies.
“You’re sure?” Metcalfe asks her.
Destiny shrugs. “The man has a British accent. Quite a distinguished one. Definitely not something somebody would be able to render, if not natural.”
“He said his name was Charlie and that, like us, he had been chosen by the Selection Committee.” Melody continues. ”He was to be our leader and we had to obey his orders implicitly.”
“And you trusted that invisible man?” Fraser asks with surprise.
“The fact that he knew so much about us seemed proof enough of what he was saying.” Destiny replies. “Plus, there were some official papers in one of the desk drawers… Once he told us to consult them, there were little to doubt. The only draw back, of course, was the way he had chosen to communicate with us.”
“He said that we’d meet him in due time. In the meantime, all we had to know was that we were codenamed Angels. And that we were to be the first to constitute the team of the jet fighters for a new military and secret organisation that the World Government was about to create.”
“I was the first to arrive here at Koala Base. There were only sergeant Evershaw, our radio communicator here, our six security guards, the cook, and the mechanics. As for Mag…”
“My first order of mission was to go to a secret emplacement of the Flight Test Division of the World Aeronautic Society…”
“… Where you learn to fly and then take delivery of the Angel fighter jet prototype.” Blackburn says.
“Yes, that’s when we encountered, captain Blackburn. I have flight the Angel fighter here, to Koala Base, where Juliette learned in turn to fly it. Then, not long after, we received order to go back to take delivery of two other Angels fighters.”
“About a week later, Chan arrived at Koala Base. Along with Dianne, some days after. Karen was the last, about two weeks ago. As for the Angels Flight was concerned, there would be no other. We were informed, after Karen arrival, that we would be on our own for a while, now. We had full charge of Koala Base, until the arrival of new personnel, which would then take charge of the place instead of us and use the ground for the training of the new recruits.”
“Recruits?” Holden repeats. “What recruits?”
“We haven’t been told.” Rhapsody says, shaking her head. “Probably not fighter pilots, though. The job belongs to us, obviously. But maybe this has something to do with the other crafts we have learn to handle here, as well as the Angel jet…”
“Let me guess.” Svenson interrupts her. “Without knowing the quantity, I would say you’re talking about a helijet, strangely similar to a WAAF Rotar, and a Passenger Jet.”
“Very good, mister Svenson. That’s exactly it: three helijet, to be precise, and four SPJs Passenger Jets.”
“SPJs?” Metcalfe repeats slowly.
“We don’t know what the initials stand for.” Destiny says. “But that’s how Charlie calls them.”
“Where are those crafts, presently?” Svenson demands.
“Over in some of our hangars.” Rhapsody answers. “But only the SPJs.”
“The helijets have been taken from us, four days ago.” Melody explains. “Black came here and claimed them for a special mission.”
Svenson nods. “So that would be the crafts we have seen at the warehouse…”
“Those were them, yes.” Symphony confirms.
“I thought this base was off limits to all unauthorized people.” Fraser remarks dryly. “Black had authorisation to come here and take those helijets?”
“He always have authorisation for everything.” Melody grumbles. “He’s always well prepared, sure of himself… He does as he pleases… and doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’.”
“Arrogant son of a gun.” Blackburn muses.
Melody sighs. “Tell me about it. Remember the first time he came, Destiny?”
“I almost blew him off of the sky. He was the one who brought the first SPJ into Koala Base. He flew over the area… this time with no authorisation. I was on patrol and challenged him. I tried to force his plane to land. I finally took some shots at him, but he made some pretty amazing evasive actions.” She shrugs. “All I can say is: he’s a hell of a good pilot.” She turns to Svenson: “Almost as good as you, mister Svenson.”
“He did land, I take it.” Metcalfe remarks.
Melody nods. “Yes. While he was playing with Destiny, Charlie had called us to tell us to give him free access to Koala Base.”
“You have seen his face. What does he look like?”
“Black hair, brown eyes, with an arrogant twinkle about them. Late thirties… maybe early forties.”
Destiny frowns. “I might be mistaken, but the first time I saw him, I had the feeling I knew him. I had seen his face somewhere before… but the name ‘Black’ didn’t fit in.”
“But now we know that ‘Black’ isn’t his real name.” Harmony notes. “So you may be right.”
“Seems like Black benefits from your Charlie’s protection.” Svenson muses.
“Protection or not, I’m pretty sure he won’t do anything without Charlie’s knowledge of it. Including what has transpired today.” Destiny scratches her ear. “Strangely enough, even if Black had authorisation for bringing out that equipment over here – along with you, Paul – Charlie has been quiet enough about it. He has not called to confirm any of it… as he would normally do.”
Donaghue frowns. “Why don’t you call your Charlie and ask him yourselves what that’s all about?”
“We would gladly do so, if we were able to.” Rhapsody replies. “Unfortunately, we can’t reach Charlie from our end. Only HE can call us. That’s why we always have somebody in front of the radio, day and night. When Evershaw is off duty, one of us Angels takes her place.”
“Wait a minute…” Fraser suddenly interrupts them. “You said this man calls himself ‘Charlie’? And you are ‘the Angels’?
“Yes, that’s right.” Harmony nods. “What is there about it?”
Fraser laughs softly. “Well, it’s just that somebody has a weird sense of humour… and that he has looks at one to many classic television series…”
“Charlie doesn’t sound AT ALL like any kind of prankster.” Rhapsody replies sharply.
“He me not be a prankster, but something is certain about that man.” Metcalfe says thoughtfully.
“And what is it?” Symphony asks him.
Donaghue has understood. He smiles. “Your Charlie and Black’s Great White Chief are but one and the same.”
Harmony frowns. “Are you sure about that?”
“Pretty certain.” Donaghue tells her. “I heard White’s voice, remember? He has a distinguished British accent. Like your Charlie.”
“And the relationship seems the same, should it be Charlie and Black, or White and Black.” Metcalfe nods. “Yes, it’s obvious we are talking about the same man.”
“I would concur too.” Rhapsody sighs. “But that doesn’t explain why Charlie hasn’t called on us to confirm Black’s actions.”
“Well, if you ask me, it doesn’t explain ANYTHING.” Fraser sharply replies. “Who are these guys, anyway? And what do they want from us?”
“Yes, that doesn’t make any sense.” Holden says in turn. “Black attacked us with those helijets the Angels had charge of, kidnapped us, brought us out in the desert where he planned on letting us rot for a couple of days before coming back for us… While he beats up Paul and have him incarcerated here…”
“… Because he was beginning to come ‘too close too soon to the truth’.” Donaghue finishes.
“We’ve never been farther form the truth!” Fraser exclaims.
Metcalfe smiles. “Are we, really?”
Fraser looks back at him. “What are you talking about? Do you actually know something we don’t?”
“Think about it, man: Black has all the authorisation to do as he well pleases, he knows all about us, he has access to our files… and he seems to follow orders from a man who has been selected by the Committee, like all of us here. A man who, obviously, has a lot of weight…”
“So, what does it tell you?” An impatient Holden asks.
“Don’t you see it, yet? The Committee has selected Black as well.”
There is silence following these words. Svenson, still behind Metcalfe, frowns deeply.
“That would explain a lot of things… the least of which being the apparent lack of security within the Committee.”
“But that’s impossible!” Fraser protests vehemently. “As I understand it, the selection process was a very careful one. How can an enemy was even able to get into it?”
Metcalfe shakes his head and sighs. “You don’t really got it, isn’t? Black is not the enemy.”
“He’s not?” Holden snorts.
“Not, and neither is his Great White Chief.”
“Wait a minute, here!” Blackburn says. “He ambushed us! His men had shoot real bullets at us… He hit every one of us!”
“He nearly got you killed.” Fraser adds, addressing Metcalfe.
“You mean THAT?” Metcalfe shows the dressing upon his right temple. “He wasn’t really responsible for that. Actually, I’d rather think it was an accident.”
“Yes, well... He did say he was sorry that happened…” Svenson grimly nods. “But why the hell he would have done all this if he weren’t…”
He stops in the middle of his sentence, a sudden thought coming to his mind. Realizing Svenson is probably on the right track, Metcalfe turns to look at him, smiling broadly. Svenson shakes his head in disbelief.
“You can’t be thinking what I’m thinking right now!”
“I would say I am.”
“No, that can’t be serious!” Svenson frowns. “Not to THAT extend…”
“What the hell are you talking about?” A confused Donaghue demands.
“I think I know what it is.” Destiny muses.
“Well, I, for one, don’t have a single clue.” Fraser grumbles. “What is it?”
Metcalfe sighs. He clears his throat, before making his announcement: “Gentlemen, we’ve been had. We didn’t face a real enemy here: we have been unwilling subjects to a series of tests.”
A new silence. Then, after a few seconds, the first reactions come in.
“Tests? What kind of tests?” Donaghue scoffs.
“The kind they use to learn how you would react facing a real threat… a real enemy.” Svenson explains.
“You got to be kidding!” A bewilder Blackburn protests. “Like some kind of exercise?”
“Or war game?” Holden adds.
“And they wouldn’t even tell us about it?” Fraser sceptically adds.
“There wouldn’t be much point to the test if we have known about it, you know.” Metcalfe says with an ironic smile.
“Isn’t that charade a little far fetch for a simple test?” Rhapsody asks him.
“Believe me, that test was a walk in the park compared to the one I’ve been through when I joined the Special Forces.”
Fraser snorts. “Says who? YOU didn’t get to be steamed up in the desert, like the rest of us!”
Destiny frowns. “He spent hours in handcuffs, hood, and gag. I think THAT should count for something! And as I understand it, you didn’t have to STAY very much long in the heat, since mister Donaghue was kind enough to rescue all of you!”
“Now, look here, lady…”
“All right, calm down, everybody!” Svenson interrupts. “That’s not the time to let our temper get hold of ourselves!”
“Quite true.” Harmony nods. “We better remain calm, all of us, if we want to evaluate the situation properly.”
“I agree.” Holden says in turn. “Now, colonel, you’re sure about that theory of yours?”
“It is more than a theory, Brad: I’m one hundred percent certain that it’s a fact. ‘White’ or ‘Charlie’ as the Angels call him, has been selected by the Committee, like us. Like the Angels. He acts as leader of the Angels. A rather mysterious one, but nevertheless, hi is their leader.”
“And he also is Black’s superior, that’s sure.” Donaghue adds.
“So, he may be acting as a government official… testing us.” Svenson continues.
“To what purpose exactly?” Rhapsody asks.
Metcalfe shakes his head. “I told you: to see how we act face to an unexpected situation. They want to know our strength of character, how initiative we can be, what our reactions would be toward events we have no control over… and that we don’t comprehend.”
“We don’t comprehend… you can say that again! There was not much to understand about Black’s behaviour.” Fraser smiles, musing: “Think we passed the test?”
Metcalfe scratches his head. “These kinds of tests are not really designed to be succeeded. The odds are generally so overwhelming... They’re only created specifically to evaluate levels between different subjects.”
“So I take it you failed yours miserably when you joined the Special Forces?” Fraser tells him mockingly.
Destiny laughs. “On the contrary! Paul was one of the rare people to… well, using his words, ‘overcome the odds’. And beat them.”
Fraser sees the coy smile over Metcalfe’s face and scowls. “It figures.”
The others laugh at his discomfited frown.
Svenson smiles lightly. “So, armed with this new knowledge, what do we do, now?”
Metcalfe rubs his chin, thoughtful. “Depends on what you all want to do.” He turns toward Destiny. “Can we still count on the Angels’ collaboration, now that you know all this? We won’t hold it against you if you don’t help us, but in that case, we would really appreciate it if you keep silent.”
Destiny frowns. “To whom should we tell all this?”
“Charlie.” All glance over Rhapsody, who smiles when she continues: “I’m sure he would like very much to learn that you men know all about this test thing.”
“I’m not the one who would tell him.” Symphony replies.
“Me neither.” Harmony adds. “Seeing how we were used in this masquerade, I see no point to squeal on you.”
“Beside, we have no way of calling Charlie to tell him what we know.” Melody says innocently.
“No. No way at all.” Rhapsody continues with the same tone.
“You have to realize, ladies, that you’re talking mutiny and insubordination, here.” Metcalfe insists.
“Let’s just say we take advantage of a situation to prove how ‘initiative’ we can be. Destiny smiles.
“Beside, mon cher, you’re a fine one to talk. As I remember, you were always the one to act upon the moment. I don’t really thing you have changed that much, now, do you?”
“Do we take it as you’re ready to help us?” Svenson asks.
“Well, like the colonel said, that depends on what you intend to do…”
“What do you say about surprising Black and his superior by doing something totally unexpected?”
Holden looks straight at Metcalfe. “You already have something in mind. I can tell it by the twinkle in you eyes…”
“I’m ready to do anything, but don’t you think we must first secure the area?” Svenson then remarks. “Remember, Black had left men on the Base.”
“I was coming to that.” Metcalfe nods. “One is already in the brig. That leaves us two, who are…”
“… One in Hangar Two, and one in the heavy-duty ‘porter.” Melody tells him.
“Right. So we better take care of them and send them to join their comrade in the brig.”
Svenson smiles. “That should be easy enough. And about the security guards? To whom their loyalty goes?”
“As far as I know, they don’t even know the existence of Charlie.” Destiny says. “And they’ve been rather indifferent toward Captain Black, during his few visits. Until now, they’ve been obeying our orders fairly to the letter.”
“But if you’d rather not take any chances with them, let’s just don’t tell anything.” Harmony suggests. “They’re not the asking type. Even if they see you, they won’t bother to ask any questions… Providing we tell them your presence here is normal.”
“I think we’d do just that.” Metcalfe agrees. He turns toward the woman sitting before the radio controls: “And what about you, sergeant Evershaw?”
“What is it, sir?” Evershaw asks him, with a tone of surprise.
“What do you think about all this?”
The young woman smiles innocently. “What do I think about what, sir? I don’t know anything… I’ve never seen you on the Base.”
Blackburn laughs with amusement. “I think I like that girl. Sergeant Evershaw, when all this is over, would you like to out with me?”
Evershaw keeps her back turned to him, but still responds to him with an congenial tone: “I still can’t hear you, sir… But I would like that very much.”
Metcalfe grins. “All right, now that’s settled. Symphony, you said to us that Black should be here tomorrow?”
“In the morning, that’s what he said. But judging by how he likes to get everybody by surprise, I would say he’d come very soon.”
“Then we’ll have to be prepared to greet him properly. Mister Donaghue?”
“Do you think you can use that special computer of yours to find the radio wavelength used by Charlie to communicate with Koala Base?”
“Well, if he didn’t change wavelengths too often… It should be possible. Naturally, we couldn’t use the same trick as in the Cessna, when you looked for Koala Base…”
Rhapsody scoffs. “You can’t very well send a distress call hoping Charlie would respond to it, and then track down the signal to its source. You’ll have to find another trick if you want to find out where Charlie is, and then go to him.”
Metcalfe looks over her, suspiciously. “You knew I was planning to pay a little visit to your Charlie?”
Rhapsody smiles mischievously. “Lady Penelope trained me in investigative skills, remember?”
Metcalfe still eyes the young woman with uncertainty.
“So, Donaghue, do you think you can do it otherwise?” He says, turning to the Irish American.
“Is your radio connected to a computer?” Donaghue asks Destiny.
“I think so, yes.”
Donaghue nods. “Yes, I think I should be able to do it. Could take all night, though.”
“You’re up to it?” Metcalfe asks.
“Yeah, sure. Could prove interesting. I have to get my computer on the Cessna, first.”
“Then get to it.” Metcalfe stands. “The others, you’ll come with me. We have to take care of Black’s men.”
Everybody stands or motions toward the door. Metcalfe stops the Angels on their tracts, as the other men, save Svenson who is behind him, get out of the room.
“You, ladies, you better stay here.”
“Yes, that wouldn’t be too wise for you to come with us.” Svenson adds.
“Try and stop us!” Symphony snaps.
“Yes. As I see it, ONE of us was sufficient to overcome TWO of you bullies.” Melody retorts.
Harmony gives a conniving smile; she could hear Fraser and Holden grunting on the other side of the opened door. Metcalfe smiles.
“That’s not it. Your skills in this matter are not questioned, here.”
“Come on, Paul.” Destiny pleads. “This base is our responsibility.”
“Which is why you should not get involved in the first place.” Svenson interrupts her.
“But we have said that we wanted to help.” Symphony notes.
“For now, you have done plenty.” Svenson replies with a smile. “And you’ll have occasions to do so again. But THIS is something WE have to do by ourselves.”
“No sense in risking ruining your future, now.” Metcalfe nods. “Think about yourselves. You have a lot more to answer to than us. Especially you, Juliette. Remember, your higher rank here.”
“And what about YOU?” Destiny retorts.
Metcalfe smiles. “Me? I’ve got something to prove. And our puppet master knows this.”
“I hate it when you’re right.” Destiny mopes.
“I’m always right.” Metcalfe bends to her and kiss her lightly on the corner of the mouth. “Don’t worry. We won’t make any fuss. We won’t shoot one bullet.”
He gets out, taking the lead to the others outside the room. Svenson mockingly pats Symphony’s cheek passing by her.
“Sit tight. We won’t be long.”
He’s the last one to leave, the door closing behind him. The Angels stand there, staring at the closed door. Symphony lets out a loud sigh.
“Do you believe the nerves of those guys?”
“Men! They’re all impossible!” Melody grumbles.
“Yes, who needs them, anyway?” Harmony adds. “Especially when they play machos.”
Rhapsody returns to her seat, sighing. Resting her head on one elbow, she glances thoughtfully at Destiny. A sly smile comes upon her face.
“What?” Destiny asks her, noticing her stare. “Why are you looking at me that way?”
“I was wondering… was he worth the troubles you have get from his dad?”
The others stare at Destiny, even Symphony who had already discovered that fact also. Destiny feels herself rapidly reddening and casts a furious look at Rhapsody.
“You use to go out with Paul Metcalfe?” Melody asks with bewildered eyes.
“Yes, I would have thought you had figured it out by now…”
“And HIS father was the general who nearly sacked you out of the WAAF?” Harmony says.
“That was he, yes.”
“How serious was it?” Symphony smiles.
Destiny reddens even more. “Well pretty serious… We even talked about marriage at some point.”
Melody shrugs. “Juliette, girl, your sentimental life has been far more interesting than mine… and to think you were raised in a convent!”
“Never mind his father, how can you let him go?” Symphony frowns.
“His father has nothing to do with it… Well, not much, anyway. We just got our different ways when we received separated assignments. That’s the army life for you.”
Harmony mumbles. “That stinks.” She looks at Destiny with bright eyes. “But now, do you intend to rekindle your past relationship?”
Destiny shakes her head. “It’s far from us. We’re just friends, now”.
“And what about that kiss?” Rhapsody notes.
“It didn’t mean anything. Paul was just being nice. He’s like that.” Destiny looks at her friends thoughtfully and smiles. “You really want to know if he was worth the trouble I got myself into?”
Symphony looks at her with a doubtful look. “Are you really going to tell us?”
The others are paying close attention to what Destiny is going to tell. She giggles mockingly.
“Not really. I will just let Dianne find that out by herself. Maybe SHE will tell you.”
Rhapsody frowns. “Will you lay off me with that?” She snaps, almost angrily. “Do I look like I’m interested?”
Rhapsody snorts. “You’ve got too much imagination, Juliette. Must be that dirty romantic French side of yours.”
The other Angels are laughing at the little confrontation. Symphony pats her gloomy British counterpart on the shoulder.
“Face it, honey: you wouldn’t be a flesh and blood woman if you weren’t interested by THAT guy…”