Thanks to Hazel Kohler – with some help from Mary J. Rudy – who had graciously offered to be my beta reader and had proof-read this story. This is this chapter revised version. C.B.)
It took about a half hour for Captain Grey to find out where Ochre had gone to. It wasn’t often that his friend secluded himself in his personal quarters, and it didn’t occur to him that he would be there. Grey had to visit the other rooms of the sport centre, then the officers’ rest room and finally the Amber Room to discover that. In fact, Grey wasn’t even sure Ochre would be in his quarters. He was relieved when he knocked on his door and heard the invitation to enter.
When the door slid open, Grey stepped into Ochre’s quarters. His hangar, he often teased him. Ochre’s taste for model building was well known throughout Cloudbase. His quarters were full of miniature planes that he had carefully built from scratch. Ochre often annoyed his fellow officers by working on his planes in the officers’ rest room… the smell of glue and fresh paint never was a pleasant one. But since Ochre was such a skilled craftsman and as he often gave his works away as gifts, everyone tolerated it. Even Colonel White, who was often dismayed by Ochre’s 'childish habits'. However, he had found himself pleasantly surprised when, on his last birthday, Ochre had offered him a beautifully crafted plastic-built British destroyer. To the World Navy Admiral Colonel White had been in the past, it was a gift that was worthy of a place of honour in his own quarters. Especially since he knew very well that Captain Ochre specialised in building only aerial models.
When Grey entered, Ochre didn’t raise his eyes. He was sitting at a low table, working on a new, half-completed model. Grey eyed him sternly.
“You’re a bastard, you know that?” Grey said evenly.
“If you’ve got nothing else to say to me, you can get out of here,” Ochre responded.
“You’re also very lucky Blue wasn’t around to hear you talk to Scarlet the way you did,” Grey continued.
“I’m not afraid of Blue.”
“You should be. He can take on any one of us, without even breaking a sweat.” Grey paused, looking at Ochre, hoping to see a reaction. There was none. “And you should also be afraid of the Colonel. If he ever heard about what you said to Scarlet…”
“Well, go and tell him!” Ochre suddenly shouted at him.
“Maybe I should, but that wouldn’t set anything straight!” Grey shouted back angrily. “Why did you have to go and say all those terrible things to him?”
Ochre did not respond. Well, at least he’s stopped working on his damned model, thought Grey.
“You should have seen his face, Rick,” Grey added quietly. “It was like you put a knife into him and twisted it…”
“See if I care,” Ochre muttered bluntly.
“I don’t understand you, Ochre,” Grey said with a frown. “I remember how you were, in those first days when you were training with Magenta. You didn’t seem to trust the guy… never wanted to give him a break…”
“I had my reasons, back then,” Ochre replied. “I didn’t trust him because he was a well-known mobster.”
“And you, as an ex-cop, felt like you had to keep your eyes on him,” Grey added sarcastically. “You were wrong then, Rick.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ochre sighed. “Pat turned out to be a very decent guy, on the level.”
“Rick, even with Magenta, you never were so aggressive, so insulting, like you were today with Scarlet.”
“It’s different.” Ochre looked up at Grey with blazing eyes. “And don’t tell me I’m as wrong about him as I was about Magenta.”
“What’s wrong with you, Rick?” Grey asked him again. “Why did you assault Scarlet like that?”
“You know why.”
Ochre’s voice had a catch in it, as if he was remembering a very difficult memory. Grey, who knew exactly what his friend was thinking about, looked straight at him, clearly waiting for him to open up. When he saw that Ochre had no intention of elaborating on the subject, Grey sighed.
“Yes, I know,” he said very quietly. “But, Rick, whatever happened, Scarlet is not responsible. If anything, he was a victim…”
“A victim?” Ochre scoffed. “Don’t give me that!”
“He’s not at all what you think. You know what he did at the Airport last week, to save the Director General…”
“The Director General died!”
“So did Scarlet, that day.”
Ochre stared blankly at Grey. “You know that guy can’t really die,” he said evenly. “What happened that day, the way it looked, doesn’t prove anything.”
“Don’t give me that!” Grey snapped angrily. “You weren’t the one who stepped into that SPV and found him. I was!”
“Yes… and I was the one who found the bodies of the real Scarlet and Brown over at New York.” Ochre said in response. “So don’t tell me THIS guy’s a victim. THOSE were the victims, Brad. Steve Blackburn and Paul Metcalfe… the REAL Paul Metcalfe.”
Grey looked blankly at his stubborn friend. He shook his head. “I’m not going to be able to make you see reason on this, am I?”
Ochre didn’t respond. Grey shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe you should cool off a little. Maybe I’ll be able to talk to you after that.”
“Don’t hold your breath, Grey,” Ochre muttered.
“I’d better go, now… before I lose my patience. I’ll start throwing you round the room if I stay a minute longer.”
Grey turned his back and left the room. Ochre looked up as the door slid closed behind his friend. Then he tried to get back to his model. He found out he couldn’t concentrate anymore. Grey had found a way to upset him.
“No, not Grey,” he mumbled to himself. “That phoney Scarlet…”
No, it wasn’t that either, he had to admit to himself. It was those damned memories of what had happened nearly a month ago. Ochre reached into his trouser pocket and produced a shiny object he had kept ever since. A Swiss Army knife, with the initials C.S. engraved on its handle. It belonged to Captain Scarlet. The real one, who died in that car crash. Ochre remembered that Paul’s father had given it to his son, when he received his Spectrum commission, about a year before. Well, thought the American officer with bitterness, that’s one thing that phoney won’t get. He already has all the rest… And on top of this, Paul’s parents don’t even know what had happened to their son… They think that impostor really is Paul…
Enraged by that thought of flagrant injustice, Ochre smashed his model and swept it off the table. He then held his head in his hands and closed his eyes, trying desperately not to sob.
If only the memories would go away! But he knew very well that they would never go, that they would follow him to the end of his days…
* * *
Ochre was posted at Spectrum New York Headquarters when that first Mysteron threat came literally out of the blue. He didn’t know much about it, exactly who these Mysterons were, and why they were vowing revenge on Earth. He only knew it had something to do with Captain Black, and the fact that he could have been the cause of the destruction of the Mysterons’ complex on Mars. Nevertheless, it was Spectrum’s job to thwart the Mysterons… and their present threat was directed against the life of World President James T. Younger.
The Mysterons had failed a first time, Ochre had learned. They had blown up the entire Security Building in New York to get to the President, who had been taken there for his protection by Captain Brown. Somehow, the President had escaped, but everybody else in the building had died… including Brown, who had stayed there to guard the President’s life.
Ochre was puzzled. How on Earth had the Mysterons succeeded in getting a bomb into the Security Building, to begin with? The security there was so tight he could have sworn even a mouse couldn’t get in or out. Then he was even more perplexed when Colonel White had asked him to go check a car crash site, just outside the city. Ochre did know that, prior to the Security Building explosion, Captains Brown and Scarlet had been in a car accident, while en route to meet the President. That they both had escaped with their lives was a miracle, as he understood it. Ochre didn’t see Brown after that, since Scarlet had left him with the President, but he did meet with Scarlet. He didn’t even have a scratch. “Just lucky, I guess,” Scarlet had simply said with a smile. And then, following orders, he had gone back to Cloudbase, without Ochre having the chance to ask him more questions.
The car crash site wasn’t difficult to find. Getting to it was another matter, though. The car was way down a ravine, reduced to a burned-out shell by an explosion. Ochre’s perplexity then changed to amazement. For Scarlet and Brown to have survived without getting hurt in any way wasn’t a miracle… it was plainly impossible.
An officer from New York Spectrum Headquarters, Lieutenant Tan, was with him when Captain Ochre investigated the crash site. What they discovered there shook Ochre pretty strongly.
They found the body of Captain Brown. Nearly intact, bruised, with a broken neck, hastily hidden under some bushes, a few feet from the wreckage of the car. The crash had obviously killed him.
The first thing that came into Captain Ochre’s mind was sadness. Brown had been a good friend. They had trained together, when they were first selected to join Spectrum as senior staff officers. Steve Blackburn was so full of life, never afraid of anything. His eagerness to serve had more than compensated for his lack of experience in the field, and he had become such a good agent. Then, Ochre’s thoughts went to Brown’s wife, Becky. She was about to give birth to their first child… How would she ever be able to handle the death of her beloved husband? Why did that have to happen to them? It was so unfair, to them and to the child, who would never have the chance to discover how wonderful his father would have been to him.
And then, the professional side of Ochre took over. If Brown had died in that crash, who was with President Younger, then? Who had died as Captain Brown in the explosion of the Security Building? And stranger still, why hadn’t Captain Scarlet told him about Brown’s demise?
Putting these considerations aside, Ochre reported his discovery back to Cloudbase. Oddly, when he told Colonel White that he had found Captain Brown’s body at the crash site, his commander-in-chief simply thanked him. He didn’t seem quite as surprised as Ochre had thought he would be.
“What does that mean?” a puzzled Lieutenant Tan asked Ochre. “Doesn’t he even care that one of his staff officers is dead?”
“Don’t ever let him hear you say that, Lieutenant,” Ochre advised the young man. “I know he must care. There must be something he’s aware of that we aren’t.”
Ochre looked around at the site of the car crash. Something was nagging him about this. And nagging him big time. He gave one last look at Captain Brown’s body, fighting emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him.
“He was a friend of yours, wasn’t he?” Lieutenant Tan asked him.
“Yes,” Ochre said, trying to make his voice as firm as possible. “A very good friend.” He shrugged, in order to regain his composure. “We should take his body back to New York HQ. But before that, I want to have another look around.”
“To find out how this accident happened?” Tan asked.
“Maybe. I don’t know.” Ochre sighed heavily. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Lieutenant. Something strange happened here. Strange and frightening.”
Tan nodded his acknowledgement. The two men spread out to look around. While doing so, Captain Ochre called a helijet to collect his friend’s body. He glanced over at Tan who was going further down the ravine, toward the burned remains of the car. He saw him turning some wreckage over and then turned his back to pursue his own investigations on his side.
A sudden cry from downhill made him jump.
“Captain Ochre! Over here!”
Tan was standing very close to what was left of the main body of the car, looking down at the ground, obviously stunned. Ochre almost slid down the slope separating him from the Lieutenant. The feeling he was having about all this was beginning to take the form of a dreadful reality.
When he arrived, Lieutenant Tan, his face very pale, showed him what he had found.
Almost hidden under what was left of a car door, a half burned hand was protruding from the ground. Ochre saw the black sleeve with the rainbow Spectrum logo upon it and his heart skipped a beat.
“Give me a hand!” he ordered Tan.
Together, they heaved at the door and flung it aside. Half buried under it was a body. Ochre got on his knees and started digging frenziedly with his bare hands. The first thing he uncovered was the red tunic of a Spectrum uniform. Even if he already knew by then what he would find, Ochre continued to throw the dirt aside. He just had to be sure.
He almost crumbled when he finally uncovered the handsome face of Captain Scarlet, now rendered pallid, almost grey, by the cold touch of death.
“God!” Ochre gasped, not wanting to believe it. “Paul… Not you too!”
His worst fears had become almost too real. Not one, but two of his colleagues and friends were now dead. Killed in a car crash. And probably not by a simple accident. All of this had the feel of a cold, well-calculated murder.
If Brown’s body was almost intact, it was unfortunately not the case with Scarlet’s. Ochre didn’t need to dig much further to know his friend had had a very ugly death. Part of his uniform was burned, the skin beneath blackened… there were burn marks on the back of his head. Ochre didn’t want to think about how badly the rest of the buried body might look.
“Captain…” It was Lieutenant Tan’s voice, trying to shake Ochre out of his shock. “Captain, I’m sorry… but you gotta snap out of it…”
“Leave me alone, Lieutenant,” Ochre responded brusquely.
“I can’t, Captain. Think, sir: how is it possible for Captain Scarlet to be here… when we saw him taking an SPJ back to Cloudbase, a few hours ago? The accident happened BEFORE…”
It hit Ochre right in the face. His friends’ bodies had been hidden in a hurry. Probably by their killers… Killers who had taken their respective identities to carry out some deadly mission.
“Look-alikes,” Ochre murmured, astonished. “Oh, my God… the Mysterons!”
He called Colonel White on Cloudbase right away with his radio cap. He was surprised to hear the urgency in his commander’s voice.
“I’m busy, Captain Ochre. Make it quick.”
“Sir,” Ochre said with a catch in his voice. “I don’t quite know how to say it… We’ve found Captain Scarlet’s dead body.”
There was a silence over the communicator. Then Colonel White’s voice came in again, sounding even more urgent than before. “You have a positive identification?”
“I found him myself, sir,” Ochre said tiredly. “Sir, I must warn you…”
“Have the bodies flown here to Cloudbase,” Colonel White interrupted abruptly. “And come with them. We may need you here.”
Ochre frowned. Talk about a cold reaction! He knew Colonel White was all work and professionalism, but he had thought that, at least, he regarded his senior staff more highly than that! And Scarlet was a compatriot of his…
“Yes, sir,” Ochre answered back to his commander. “But you’ve got to hear me out… There’s a phoney Scarlet on Cloudbase, an impostor, and he’s bound to do something against President Younger!”
“We already know that, Captain,” Colonel White sighed in response. “Your report has just confirmed what we were suspecting…”
“You were suspecting…” Captain Ochre’s voice broke out. “You’ve arrested him?”
“We’re actually after him. I’m afraid we reacted too slowly. Captain Scarlet has already kidnapped the World President…”
* * *
Captain Ochre remembered that, upon his arrival on Cloudbase with his two friends’ dead bodies, a few hours later, he had gone to the Control Room to find that everything was already over. Ejecting from a SPJ not far from London, with the World President, Scarlet had stolen a car in order to evade capture with his prisoner. His car was forced by an air attack from the Angel Interceptors to follow a road leading to the London Car-Vu. He drove his car directly to the top of it. Captain Blue was following close behind in a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, and along with the Angel flight, a Spectrum Helicopter was providing air support. As Ochre understood it, the Helicopter seemed to be a part of the Mysterons’ plan, probably intended to take Scarlet and the World President away from Spectrum. The helicopter attacked Blue, and was in turn destroyed by the Angels; it fell into the Car-Vu supporting pylon, damaging it badly. As desperate as his situation was, the renegade Scarlet had continued to fight on, firing several shots at Captain Blue. Blue had returned his fire and Scarlet was shot through the heart. The impact pushed him off the top of the Car-Vu and he fell 800 feet to the ground. Blue had just had the time to retrieve the World President and fly off with him with a hover pack, seconds before the Car-Vu finally collapsed.
What followed afterward was pretty confusing. Spectrum Intelligence had investigated the final events. Doctor Fawn, along with other specialists, had examined the bodies of Captains Scarlet and Brown and their respective impostors. It turned out they weren’t really impostors. Somehow, the Mysterons had produced clones of the original Scarlet and Brown. And these clones, these ‘reconstructs’ as Doctor Fawn was referring to them, were totally devoted to their masters… a devotion bordering fanaticism. It was Brown’s reconstruct who had brought the bomb which destroyed the New York Security Building… It was hidden on his person and he set it off in some sort of kamikaze attack on the World President’s life. As for Scarlet, if the reports of both the President and Captain Blue were to be believed, he acted exactly as if he didn’t care about his life. In fact, he was totally oblivious to anything that didn’t involve his ‘mission’. He didn’t say a single word, a shaken President Younger said, save for a very frightening phrase that he seemed to address at some point toward nobody in particular: “The Mysterons’ instructions will be carried out.”
That had sent a shiver down Ochre’s spine. If the Mysterons could choose anybody, kill him or her and then make a clone out of this person to do as they willed, then how could Spectrum think it had any chance of thwarting their plans?
And then, Captain Scarlet came back to life. Not the Captain Scarlet he knew so very well, not Paul Metcalfe. The cloned one. The Mysteron reconstruct. And he was supposedly free of the Mysterons’ influence. He claimed he didn’t even remember what happened. That was rather convenient, Ochre thought cynically. They were all to believe that this Scarlet had been in some sort of hypnotic trance and that he didn’t have any idea, any control over what he had done? Ochre couldn’t believe that Colonel White would accept so easily that kind of explanation. He was really astounded that his commander-in-chief should put back on duty a man who had kidnapped the World President and even tried to kill Captain Blue… Even less understandable was Blue’s reaction to all this. Aside from Destiny Angel, Blue had been Paul Metcalfe’s closest friend in the Spectrum organisation. And then, he didn’t even seem to think twice about considering the cloned Scarlet as his original friend… regardless of the fact he had taken several shots at him.
As for Colonel White, perhaps he was only thinking about the practical side of things. That Captain Scarlet had retained the power to recover from any wound. Very seductive for Colonel White to have under his orders an agent that could be sent on deadly assignments, where no other would even dare think of going. Many lives could be saved that way, and Spectrum would suffer the minimum of loss.
Well, that’s all crap, Ochre thought angrily. Why didn’t anybody else but him see the potential danger in all this? What if it was only an elaborate plot on the part of the Mysterons to bring Spectrum down from within? Scarlet could be an inside agent, awaiting only the proper moment to bring about the downfall of them all…
He seemed on the level enough… Aside from the Spectrum scientists’ and Intelligence people’s evaluation stating that Captain Scarlet was his old self again, there was that incident at London International Airport, with the Asian Director General… and Ochre had to admit he had acted exactly like the original Scarlet would have. But Captain Ochre wasn’t about to let his guard down just yet. There were too many unresolved feelings within him for the moment.
Ochre looked down at the Swiss knife he was turning in his hands. He had found it, not far from Scarlet’s dead body. Perhaps he should have sent it to Paul’s father, but that would have jeopardized Spectrum security… And if nothing else, Ochre believed in Spectrum, and would never have risked its integrity. Beside, this knife was his only reminder of his dead friend; he was reluctant to part from it.
He stared blankly at his destroyed model, strewn across the floor of his quarters… A strange feeling came upon him… as if that model was somehow a premonition of something dreadful about to happen.
Someone had to keep an eye on Captain Scarlet, he thought grimly. And it seemed that someone should be him… since there obviously was nobody else willing to do that job.
* * *
In the cockpit of Angel One, on the upper runway of Cloudbase, Destiny Angel was feeling rather down. There was really nothing much to do, while standing ready for emergency take-off. Destiny had found herself reminiscing about the past. Mostly recent, painful memories had come to her mind, and she would have preferred to forget about them altogether. She couldn’t really evade them, though. And it was the surprising presence of Captain Scarlet in the Amber Room that had brought them about.
Nobody could really understand what she was feeling toward Scarlet. She had difficulty explaining that even to herself. Did she mistrust him, because of what he had done under the Mysterons’ control? Right now, at least, he seemed free from them. Was she upset that he was wearing the face of a very close friend who had to die so he could live? He wasn’t really responsible for that. Was she angry with him because he was using a name that wasn’t his own? That was definitely the case.
She was uneasy with him, that was for sure. He looked like Paul, acted like Paul, even claimed to have his memories… and probably did have his feelings as well. Knowing what he was, how he came to be, the extraordinary recuperative power he now had… Destiny had difficulty considering him as a human being. And she certainly couldn’t bring herself to think of him as Paul. That was beyond her capacity.
Paul Metcalfe was dead. There was no question about that. Destiny had seen his body, a month ago, right after the operation to rescue the World President…
President Younger had apparently been hijacked by Captain Scarlet. Her old friend’s strange behaviour in this affair had astounded Destiny. She wasn’t really aware of all the details, in fact. She had thought that, somehow, Scarlet had been brainwashed into doing what he had done. Never would Paul Metcalfe, in his right mind, have done all those things. Of that, she was absolutely certain.
She had seen the World President’s kidnapper fall from the Car-Vu, to his death 800 feet below. The sight had literally turned her stomach. She had hoped that Captain Blue would have captured Scarlet without doing him any harm. She knew Adam had tried. Paul was his friend; he would never have killed him if the circumstances had allowed otherwise.
Destiny and the other Angels hadn’t stayed around the wreckage of the fallen Car-Vu, after the end of the mission. Blue had received orders to arrange for President Younger’s further security, and then take Captain Scarlet’s body back to Cloudbase. There was no need for the Angels’ air support anymore. So the fighters went back immediately to base, without waiting for Blue.
Upon her arrival, Destiny had gone directly to Sickbay, for she had sprained her wrist during the mission. She wasn’t feeling very well, but she was going strictly on adrenaline right now. The realisation of all that had happened during the last hours hadn’t fully dawned on her yet.
Oddly enough, there was an abnormal amount of security surrounding the Sickbay. She virtually had to fight her way in, just to see someone to take care of her wrist. She was already on edge after that dreadful mission; she didn’t need anybody to pick on her right now. Fortunately, Doctor Fawn heard the commotion outside Sickbay’s main door and pleaded on her behalf to let her in.
He treated Destiny personally. And while he was bandaging her wounded wrist, she was looking around, wondering why there were so many security agents and orderlies around. One of them pushed open the door to the operating room. Despite Fawn’s much too obvious efforts to distract her, she saw what was behind that door and went stiff.
There were two shrouded bodies lying each on a table.
“Who are they?” Destiny asked Doctor Fawn faintly.
He shook his head, hesitating. “I’d rather not tell you,” he almost whispered. “Security is so tight…”
“About these bodies?” Destiny turned a confused look toward Fawn. “Please, Doctor, all that is happening right now with these Mysterons is driving everybody nuts... I’m about to lose it, right now. I don’t think I can bear any more of this…” Her voice broke. “Please, tell me… Are they some of our own?”
Doctor Fawn hesitated anew. But seeing Destiny’s pleading features, he gave in. “Yes,” he muttered. “They are.”
“Captain Brown?” Destiny asked more specifically. She knew of the explosion of the Security Building in New York. She was the one who had reported it to Cloudbase. Fawn nodded in acknowledgement and sighed heavily. “Who’s the other one?” Destiny asked again.
“Captain Scarlet.” Fawn answered in a murmur.
Destiny was absolutely stunned. She looked blankly at the closed door. “Already here?” she whispered. “That does not seem possible…” She glanced back at Doctor Fawn. “It IS impossible! Doctor, I just saw him, about an hour ago… He had just fallen from the Car-Vu. He was still under all that wreckage…”
Her voice caught in her throat. She closed her eyes, trying to dismiss the vision of her friend falling to his death. “You are sure it is really him?” she asked Fawn.
“Captain Ochre brought him in,” Fawn said hesitantly. “I think he knew Scarlet well. And myself, I…”
Fawn’s voice trailed off. His remark had sunk just a little into Destiny’s mind. Captain Ochre had brought him? But Ochre was nowhere near London during the Car-Vu incident. He was still in New York, investigating the explosion at the Security Building…
“Did you make a positive identification?” she insisted, looking Fawn in the eyes.
“Destiny, I…” Fawn could see what she had in mind. He shook his head in negation. “I couldn’t let you do that. You were his oldest friend…”
“That’s exactly why I have to do it,” replied Destiny.
“You don’t WANT to.”
“Yes, I do.” Destiny spoke out with the most assured voice she could produce under the circumstances. “It seems so impossible for me, Doctor. I have to make sure. Please, let me… identify the body.”
The Doctor gave in again. He nodded and took Destiny to the operating room. It was cold in there, she thought as she entered, following Fawn. They must have lowered the temperature to… preserve the bodies. She was looking at them, covered head to toe in white shrouds. Carefully, Doctor Fawn guided her toward one of the tables. He stood over the body, looking at her expectantly.
“You’re sure you can do this?” He obviously wished she’d say no. She nodded. Sighing, Fawn raised part of the shroud, uncovering only the face.
It was Paul. And Destiny had to call on all her strength not to break down at that very moment. She glanced over the handsome face, now nearly as white as the sheet covering his body. She noticed black marks on the back of his neck. Burn marks, she realized, shivering, wondering how he had been burned. She didn’t recall any fire or explosion as the Car-Vu collapsed on him.
“Destiny, are you all right?”
The young French woman nodded again. She fought back tears that threatened to overcome her. “I’m all right,” she muttered. “Yes… It is him. It is Captain Scarlet.” She raised her eyes to Doctor Fawn. “Can… can I go now?”
Fawn covered the face, looking straight at Destiny. “I’ll need your signature on the death certificate…”
“I’ll sign anything you want, Doctor. Just let me get out of here as soon as possible.”
Doctor Fawn made it quick. Upon guiding Destiny back to the other room, he presented her with a paper that she signed blindly. He asked her again if she was all right. She answered that she would need time to accept all this and then left the Sickbay, oblivious to anything else surrounding her, except her own pain.
She was aware that the security guards in front of Sickbay’s main door were staring at her as she walked quickly away. Then she bumped right into Symphony, who had come to reassure herself that her friend was okay.
“Hey! Where are you going like that?” Symphony stopped Destiny right in her tracks and took her by the shoulders. She tried to look at her face. Destiny, for her part, was averting her eyes.
“Juliette?” Symphony called softly. She gently lifted Destiny’s chin and saw the tears filling her eyes. “What is it?” she asked with a concerned frown.
“I’m about to crumble, Karen,” Destiny answered with a shaky voice. “Take me away from here, please.”
For Destiny, crying was not an habitual thing. She was probably one of the strongest people Symphony had ever known. Something was terribly wrong… and Symphony had a feeling she knew exactly what it was.
“You want to go to your quarters?” the blonde American asked.
“Yes… Yes, my quarters would be fine.”
“I’m not leaving you there alone, Juliette.”
“I…” Destiny look back at Symphony and sighed heavily. “Thank you… I need a friend, right now… and a shoulder to cry on.”
* * *
It took Symphony a good hour to get me to calm down, thought Destiny, staring at the blue sky beyond the Angel fighter cockpit. The young American pilot had proven to be a good listener… a friend anybody could count on. It was no wonder that she would join Rhapsody in Scarlet’s defence like they did today. For Rhapsody, Destiny had the feeling there was something personal about her own intervention. Some weeks ago, that would have amused Destiny a great deal. Now, she didn’t even care enough to be angry about it. She was just feeling sick, about her own feelings toward the apparent return from the grave of a man she had once been very much in love with.
How had these feelings started out, anyway? When exactly? Well, from the very beginnings, Destiny grimly remembered. From the first time she had laid her eyes on him, AFTER she had learned the truth about his origins. That was after Captain Blue had returned from London, after the Car-Vu incident. Destiny, who was still wondering about the fact that Scarlet’s dead body was already in Sickbay BEFORE Blue’s official arrival with it, had come to a very satisfactory conclusion about that mystery. The longer she had pondered it, the more she was convinced it was the only logical explanation. An explanation that also shed some light on the strange behaviour of the man who had kidnapped the World President.
He wasn’t Captain Scarlet at all, but an impostor. A perfect look-alike, who had killed the real one in New York and taken his place. That would explain everything, including why there was so much security in Sickbay. Destiny was quite relieved to have come to that realisation. She knew her old friend would never have acted the way this impostor did.
When Colonel White called a staff meeting just after the mission, what he said just confirmed her suspicions… with some rather unusual aspects about it. The Mysterons had indeed put up a look-alike instead of Captain Scarlet AND Captain Brown… The fantastic thing about it was that they were CLONES of the original ones. Exact replicas, down to the last molecule… No wonder nobody had realised! Impostors of that kind could fool anybody, closest friends, family… If the Mysterons had this capacity to recreate people – and objects, since the helicopter that had attacked Captain Blue at the Car-Vu was ALSO discovered to be a Mysteron reconstruction – surely, they could be successful in their threat to ultimately destroy all life on Earth…
That was frightening… and sickening at the same time. After the meeting, Destiny felt a desperate need to relax. She was due for duty in the Amber Room with Harmony Angel. Work would take her mind off all this nonsense. But as she found very soon after, her ordeal wasn’t exactly over yet. Captain Blue came to fetch her, about an hour after she had begun her shift. It wasn’t so rare that one of the senior staff officers should come in, but there was something peculiar about Blue’s visit. He seemed somewhat official – and rather uneasy – when he asked Destiny to follow him to Sickbay, where her presence was requested by agent Wade of Spectrum Intelligence. Destiny was not sure why she was needed. She soon found out when, after presenting herself to Agent Wade, she was asked to make another identification. She followed Doctor Fawn who, oddly enough, didn’t guide her this time to the operating theatre, but into a recovery room where a patient, surrounded by machines, lay on a bed. Destiny then had the shock of her life when she recognized Captain Scarlet, bandaged, unconscious… but definitely alive, if she could believe the readings on the machines he was hooked to. When asked if she recognized him, she said yes, without even thinking about it. Then it hit her, and she had turned to Fawn and Blue, almost accusing them.
“This is the impostor, isn’t it?” she had asked them angrily.
“We don’t really know for certain, yet,” Blue had said apologetically.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? This is the man you brought back from the Car-Vu, isn’t it? How come he is even alive, after that fall? I thought he was dead for sure!”
“We thought that, too,” said a hesitant Captain Blue. He had asked Destiny to calm down, tried to justify himself by telling her it wasn’t his idea to have her came there to make the identification. In fact, he had been against it, but Agent Wade had insisted that the same witness who had signed the death certificate should also be the one to identify this man. Blue then had explained to a very confused Destiny that Captain Scarlet’s body had begun repairing itself in Sickbay, until the man finally woke up, a few minutes ago… asking if Captain Brown had survived the car crash.
“He doesn’t seem aware of what happened between the crash and his awakening here…” Blue said in conclusion. “Like we faced two different men, in the same body. The other, the Mysteron agent who had kidnapped the President… and this one. Who seems to be the real Captain Scarlet.”
Thinking about all this now, Destiny couldn’t explain to herself why she didn’t react more harshly right away to the very idea that the Mysteron reconstruct could be considered as the real Paul Metcalfe. As it was, she was so shocked that she didn’t react to it at all. Ever since that day, she had tried to repress her feelings… of mistrust, doubts, resentment, even betrayal. When ‘Captain Scarlet’ had returned to active duty on Cloudbase, after having been sent to the ground as a non-active agent for a few days, Destiny had done her best to avoid him. It wasn’t always possible, however. For example, during that last mission against the Mysterons in London, Destiny was in the Angel Flight that had been assigned to the protection of the Asian Director General. She was at the International Airport when Captain Scarlet had ‘risked his life’, so to speak, in trying to stop a Mysteronised plane from crashing into the Asian Director’s personal jet. She had found Scarlet’s actions rather impressive, even if it was desperately in vain. In any case, his attempt had served to prove he was on the level…
Destiny didn’t really know what to think about this. The only thing she was certain about right now was that she couldn’t keep her feelings to herself any more. It had come as a total surprise to her as much as anybody else present in the Amber Room when she drew back from Scarlet the way she did. He was the most surprised of all. Surprised and hurt.
Guess he didn’t expect that kind of reaction coming from me, thought Destiny. Well, he’s not the man I knew. That man is dead. Nobody can come back from the dead. No tricks from the Mysterons could ever convince me of that.
Destiny really wasn’t feeling very well. Not enough, in any case, for deck duty. That could prove a very volatile situation in case of emergency. She used her radio helmet to call Lieutenant Green in the Control Room.
“Request permission to be relieved of duty,” she said to him.
Destiny could almost hear the puzzled hesitation as Lieutenant Green took a moment before responding. “Are you all right, Destiny?”
“I’m feeling sick, Lieutenant,” Destiny said. “Must be something I ate today.”
It was rather rare that one of the Angel pilots had to ask to be replaced on deck. For Destiny to make such a request, she must have been really under the weather, thought Lieutenant Green.
“Request granted,” he said. “Go get some rest, Destiny Angel. Hope you didn’t catch Captain Blue’s flu…”
Destiny smiled sadly. “I don’t think that’s the case, Lieutenant,” she sighed. “I don’t really see how that would have been possible…”
* * *
When Captain Scarlet wanted to find some peace and quiet, away from the rush and troubles of the rest of the world – or at least of Cloudbase – he usually went to the Promenade Deck. It was the only strictly recreational area of the entire military base. Even the sport hall had its functional purpose, by keeping all the base personnel fit and healthy. The officers’ lounge had often served for official and non-official staff meetings. Here, on the Promenade Deck, there was nothing ‘official’. The ceiling and walls were of reinforced glass, totally unbreakable, and specially treated to lessen the effect of the dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun, so they wouldn’t burn up anything alive in there… be it humans or the exotic plants that thrived in there. Some Spectrum members even found the time to do some gardening there during their spare time… as was the case with Colonel White, who was culturing various kinds of plants and flowers. He was particularly fond of a special variety of white rose tree, magnificent when in full bloom. So proud was the commander of that tree, than he had strictly forbidden anyone to touch it. Everybody knew the Colonel well enough to be aware that he didn’t make idle threats… so nobody would even dare to go near the rose tree.
The Promenade Deck had a view of the flight deck of Cloudbase. From there, Scarlet could see Angel One stationed at its usual place, on the upper runway, waiting for immediate launch, if Lieutenant Green should give the order. Scarlet could see the pilot through the canopy, but couldn’t quite make out her features; he knew it had to be Destiny in there. She had told that to him herself, just before she gave him the cold shoulder.
First Destiny, and then Ochre… generally easy-going Captain Ochre. Scarlet didn’t remember ever seeing him so aggressive toward anybody. He had shown some mistrust toward Captain Magenta, in the early days of Spectrum – their respective pasts had been between them – but since then, they had become good friends, exceptionally loyal to each other… as Ochre was to all of his fellow officers, in fact. Lately, however, he was merely polite toward Scarlet, and had always stayed civil… But his violent reaction to him had completely taken Scarlet by surprise. He hadn’t known that his colleague had so much repressed resentment that he would so totally blow up at him that way.
Scarlet heaved a deep sigh. He realized that both Destiny and Ochre must each have their reasons for rejecting him. But they had both been his friend before his dreadful Mysteron experience. He didn’t think himself as responsible for what had happened; the whole affair with World President Younger and all that… In retrospect, Scarlet even thought of himself as one of the Mysterons’ first victims in this ‘war of nerves’ of theirs.
Scarlet hated thinking of himself as a victim. He shook his head. That’s self-pity, Paul. Don’t dwell on it or you’ll be good for nothing. There’s a problem here, and you won’t solve it that way… The base of the problem was that Destiny and Ochre didn’t accept him. Ochre never really tried to conceal his mistrust… well, perhaps he was more careful in front of Colonel White, for he should know that the commander-in-chief of Spectrum would never accept such destructive behaviour within the ranks of his organisation… let alone amongst his senior staff officers. Scarlet knew that Ochre was the one who had investigated his car accident about a month ago, in New York. So, he had a hunch that Ochre’s feelings toward him originated from what he had found during that investigation.
As for Destiny, she had kept her thoughts to herself. It had never occurred to Scarlet that she was avoiding him all those weeks. Now, it had become painfully clear that she didn’t want anything to do with him.
And if Ochre and Destiny were just the tip of the iceberg? thought the moody Scarlet. If there were other Spectrum agents, here in Cloudbase, who were thinking the same and, like Destiny, were keeping it bottled up inside?
Captain Scarlet turned away from the glass bay, going slowly toward an assembly of chairs and tables installed nearby. There was a number of such groups of furniture, in strategic places around the Promenade Deck, for the visitors’ comfort. Scarlet settled himself heavily on one of the chairs and put his cap on the table. He took his head in his hands and sighed. As hurt as he was, he was also bitterly angry. He didn’t know how to react or what to do… and not being in control upset him even more.
“Oh, come on, now!” he growled furiously to himself. “Snap out of it!”
He stood up suddenly and almost sent the chair toppling backward. He reached out for it and stopped it from falling just in time, but his sudden movement knocked down a nearby flowerpot that went crashing down into another plant, breaking fragile branches, crushing early buds, and squashing flowers…
With horror, Scarlet saw white petals spread on the ground.
“Oh, God!” he muttered to himself. “Now I’ve done it.”
The unfortunate plant he had just damaged was Colonel White’s rose tree. Now I’m REALLY dead, he thought as he crouched beside the tree, looking grimly at it. It was covered with soil from the broken pot, with the other plant – whatever it was – tangled in it. Pieces of pottery were everywhere. Scarlet frowned. Maybe if he acted fast enough, he would be able to save the roses… well, at least some of them. That could save him from being thrown into the void by his very upset commander-in-chief.
“The Colonel will be very annoyed with you.”
Captain Scarlet, who was trying to get some pieces of the broken pot out from the rose tree, jumped, hearing this voice, like a thief disturbed doing his guilty work. Had somebody witnessed his mishap? Standing up too fast, he scratched his hand deeply on the thorns of the rose tree. He just had time to muffle a loud curse on discovering who was standing there, looking at him. Quickly, he hid his scratched hand behind him, hoping she hadn’t seen him getting hurt.
Rhapsody smiled when she saw the embarrassment on Scarlet’s face. She pointed to the damaged roses, walking toward her compatriot.
“Knowing how he is with his prize roses, he’ll demand your head for this,” she joked.
Scarlet smiled faintly. “I know a few people who would gladly hand it to him on a silver platter,” he said with false humour.
“Not everybody here is like that, you know, Captain,” Rhapsody answered back. She had noticed how he was keeping his right hand behind him. She tilted her head to the side, trying to get a glance at it. “What is it you’re hiding from me?”
“Nothing,” he lied uneasily.
She saw little droplets of blood dripping to the ground. She gently took Scarlet’s forearm. “You’re bleeding,” she stated matter-of-factly, pulling his injured hand in front of him.
“Really, it’s nothing,” he insisted. “I only scratched my hand on some thorns…”
“Rather nasty ones,” Rhapsody noticed. The back of Scarlet’s hand was covered with blood. “Must be a deep cut.”
“I tell you, it’s nothing…”
Scarlet sighed when he saw Rhapsody taking a handkerchief from her uniform pocket. “Let me have a look at it.”
“Don’t bother,” Scarlet muttered, frowning deeply. “It doesn’t even hurt anymore. You’ll just ruin your handkerchief.”
“I swear, Captain,” Rhapsody sighed heavily, carefully wiping out the blood off his hand, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think that you were trying to stop me from tending…”
She stopped right in the middle of her sentence. The hand, now nearly clean of blood, appeared to her unscathed. Her jaw dropped. She cleared her throat and looked up at Scarlet’s face, trying not to look or sound too uneasy.
“Well,” she said, “that’s pretty impressive…”
Scarlet looked back at her, grateful that she, at least, tried to take it so naturally. But there was nothing natural about his condition and they both knew it. Taking the handkerchief in order to finish cleaning up his hand himself, he turned his back on her and took a few steps toward the glass bay.
“Tell me about it,” he muttered. He looked at his hand, clean, uninjured. He frowned. “What are you doing here, Rhapsody? I thought you were so exhausted that you only had sleep on your mind…”
“Well, a priority came in.” Rhapsody approached him, looking at his profile. He did not even turn to face her. “I thought a very good friend of mine needed some company.”
“Oh?” Scarlet frowned again. “Was it my imagination, or did I see you in the gym, not an hour ago?”
“Yes, I was there.”
“So you know what happened?”
“With Captain Ochre? Yes, I heard.” Rhapsody put a hand on Scarlet’s shoulder. “If you want to talk about it, I’m here.”
Scarlet snorted. “What is there to talk about?” He drew away from her touch, stepped away from her, again turning his back on her, and then stopped.
“Maybe Ochre is right,” Rhapsody heard him say in a low voice.
“Right about what?” the puzzled Angel pilot asked.
“About me being a freak.”
“Oh! Now that’s really nonsense!”
Scarlet spun around and presented his hand to Rhapsody. “Is it?” he asked her. “You’ve just seen it, Rhapsody. You saw what happened with my hand!”
“So you heal fast, now,” Rhapsody replied quietly. “That doesn’t prove you’re a freak.”
“Heal fast?” Scarlet threw up his hands. “That’s an understatement if I ever heard one!” He looked back at the Angel pilot and shook his head. “There’s much more to it than that, Rhapsody.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Well, you certainly don’t know everything about it. I’m just starting to find out myself, with Doctor Fawn.” He paused, then continued: “Just a little example, to begin with: I’ve just discovered that I only need to sleep a couple of hours a night, now. Seems my body doesn’t need much more than that, except when I… er… regenerate.”
“Lucky guy!” Rhapsody sighed with a faint smile. She suppressed a yawn. “I know I certainly would be happy if I only needed that amount of sleep.”
“Don’t say that, Rhapsody,” Scarlet pleaded, coming back to her. “You don’t know how it is…” He looked at her tired features and gave a faint smile. “You DO look exhausted, though. You should go and get some rest.”
“I’m not leaving you here alone.”
“Stubborn girl. Then at least sit down.”
Scarlet guided her to the table and chairs and she sat down. He pulled up a seat for himself. She glanced at him thoughtfully. “I imagine you don’t have that problem anymore,” the female pilot remarked.
“Excuse me?” Scarlet asked her, frowning.
“Being tired. Since you don’t need much sleep…”
“No. You’re right. I usually feel restless, now. Don’t try any endurance races with me. You’ll tire well before me.”
“At the moment, I’d tire before anybody.”
“I was talking in the general sense, Rhapsody.”
“I know that!” the young woman scoffed. “I’m not THAT tired, you know, Captain!”
Scarlet smiled slightly. He thought carefully of what of what say next. He surprised himself – and Rhapsody as well – when he took her hand in his.
“What do you know about the main aspect of my… condition, Rhapsody?”
“What Colonel White told us,” she answered quietly. “That you are… indestructible.”
“And what does that tell you EXACTLY?” Scarlet insisted.
“That you cannot be killed anymore…”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Angel. I CAN be killed… I just come back afterward.” Scarlet’s voice took on a morose note. “In fact, according to Doctor Fawn, I’ve already died a number of times.”
Rhapsody glanced at him blankly. “That’s rather hard to swallow,” she said, “But after seeing you fall from the top of the Car-Vu…”
She stopped suddenly, realizing that what she had just said might have hurt him. He simply shrugged it off.
“That’s right,” he said thoughtfully. “You were there.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“Don’t fret over it, Angel. It’s quite all right. I don’t remember any of it, you know. But I’ve been thoroughly briefed about it.” He cleared his throat. “I died that time, Rhapsody.”
“You died?” The Angel pilot repeated, frowning. “But… I heard them say that they THOUGHT you were dead… and that they then discovered you were alive, when they brought you back here, to Cloudbase.”
“No, that’s not it. That’s what EVERYBODY assumes, I guess, but they’re all wrong. I really died, Doctor Fawn confirmed it.” Scarlet got to his feet and started pacing in front of a disbelieving Rhapsody. Well, she thought, it’s true he is restless…
“Blue’s bullet should have killed me at the Car-Vu,” he explained. “According to him, it didn’t. But the impact knocked me off the observatory… THAT’s what killed me.” He sighed, stopping in his tracks. “Doctor Fawn thinks the fall broke the Mysterons’ spell over me…” He looked at Rhapsody, frowning. “If I’m not mistaken, you were at London International Airport last week, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was,” Rhapsody nodded. “You gave me quite a scare there, you know!”
Scarlet looked perplexed and came back toward her. “I did? What do you mean?”
“You have to ask?” Rhapsody scoffed. “After what you did? I swear, I thought you had gone mad when you ordered us to continue our aerial attack on that plane… Your SPV was right UNDER it… trying to ram its wheels.”
“Don’t you think I was scared, too?”
“I should think so! What were you trying to do, anyway? You could have got yourself killed with a stunt like that!”
Scarlet did not continue; Rhapsody immediately understood what he was implying. She looked at him, with horror in her eyes, and he felt his heart sink. But then, she put her hand to his heart and he understood that it was not what he had become that horrified her, but what she had just said.
“I should have realized,” she almost whispered. “You died that time too?”
He nodded. The young woman sighed. “That’s what you meant when you said you can come back afterward,” she murmured. Then she added, this time more carefully: “I’ll ask you again: why did you do it?”
“You shouldn’t ask that,” Scarlet said, shaking his dark head.
“Because I know the answer? Yes. You wanted to prove yourself.”
“Still the detective, I see,” Scarlet muttered. He let out a sigh. “Colonel White had enough faith in me to put me back on duty so soon. I had to make it count.”
“Nobody, not even the Colonel, ever asked you to risk your life so blindly,” Rhapsody replied. “And were you even SURE you would come out of this ALIVE?”
“There were other lives at risk!” Scarlet said, more roughly than he would have really wanted. “I HAD to try…” He looked away from her. “For what it was worth … Everybody died. I failed.”
Rhapsody gently touched his cheek to force him to look at her. She was smiling softly.
“Did anybody ever blame you for that?” she asked him.
“No,” he admitted.
“And I’m sure EVERYBODY has told you, again and again, that it couldn’t be helped,” Rhapsody continued. “You did all that was humanly possible to try to save the Director General and his staff…”
“Humanly possible?” Scarlet replied dryly. “Rhapsody, I’m not sure I’m even human anymore.”
Oh no! Rhapsody thought. He’s in an even worse state than I thought…
“Don’t say that,” she admonished him. “Because you know that’s not true.”
“Oh, isn’t it?” Scarlet’s gaze hardened. “Do you know why my body can rebuild itself this way, Rhapsody? Do you know WHY I can die and come back again?”
“Paul, stop it. You’re doing nothing but hurting yourself.”
It was the first time, Scarlet noticed, that Rhapsody had called him by his first name. If it was an indication of anything, at least it told him she was accepting him for the real thing. When he looked into her blue eyes, he could see the sadness in them. How much does she actually know of the truth? he asked himself. He swallowed hard.
“Do you know exactly what the Mysterons did to me, Dianne?” he asked her softly. When Rhapsody didn’t respond, he looked her straight in the eyes. “They killed me…”
“So they could recreate you and use you for their own ends,” Rhapsody continued. “I already know that…”
“Do you know that they, in fact, DESTROYED my real body?” Scarlet interrupted her in a low voice. “This is not my real body…” He motioned to himself. “It’s just… a copy of the original one.”
Rhapsody stared at him blankly. “I’ve heard rumours,” she said. “But I didn’t really know for sure…”
“Well, now you know,” Scarlet sighed. “I’m not the real Paul Metcalfe. I’m just… a clone of him.”
“No. THAT, I will never believe.”
“Some people believe it. Look at Ochre… and Destiny. Ochre, I know why. I’ve been told he was the one who found my real body in New York.”
“You don’t know the reason behind Destiny’s behaviour toward you?” Rhapsody shook her head. Well, she knew, but she wasn’t about to tell Scarlet. That wouldn’t solve the problem between him and Destiny. “Maybe you should ask her,” she suggested.
Scarlet snorted dryly. “IF she ever lets me get near enough to ask her!”
“She’ll come around. And Ochre too, I’m sure. After all, they’re both reasonable people.”
“Well, I don’t know about Ochre. And since Destiny is French…”
“Oh! That’s terrible, Captain!” Rhapsody laughed, and he smiled. “Well, your sense of humour hasn’t changed much. It’s still as bad as it was before!”
“I don’t FEEL different,” Scarlet said, shrugging. “Aside from these… powers I’ve retained from my encounter with the Mysterons, I feel the same. My memories… my feelings, my personality, so to speak, they haven’t changed. All that came back after my fall from the Car-Vu. I’m the same person… Except now, I have this alien body, which happens to be indestructible.”
“The Machine to Kill,” Rhapsody said thoughtfully.
Scarlet frowned. “What is that?”
“The Machine to Kill,” Rhapsody repeated. “It’s an old Gaston Leroux novel… You know, the guy who wrote ‘Phantom of the Opera’? I think the original French title of that one was ‘La Poupée Sanglante’…”
“The Bleeding Doll,” Scarlet translated. “I don’t see any relation between the two titles… What’s it about?”
“Well, it’s about an honest man, named Benedict, some kind of outsider, who’s framed for murder… The woman he loves finds him trying to get rid of a dead body planted in his house by the real murderer. It is her testimony which sends him to the guillotine.”
“Rather heavy stuff,” Scarlet murmured. “But what…”
“The story doesn’t end there, though,” Rhapsody added quickly. “The woman Benedict loved has a fiancé, who’s something of a scientist. He’s constructing some sort of automaton of flesh and blood… In order for his creation to work, he needs a brain. So he takes Benedict’s…”
“A variation to the Frankenstein’s theme,” Scarlet noted. “I love it already.”
“Well, while the Frankenstein creature was ugly and even repulsive, Gabriel – that is the automaton’s name – is a rather handsome man. Only, he needs to be wound up.”
“Wound up? With a key? Like an old clock?” Scarlet shrugged. “All right, I’m confused now. What’s that got to do with me?”
“Benedict’s brain took control of the automaton’s body… Like you, his feelings, his personality, even his voice were the same. He just changed his name, because his appearance was different. The first thing that ‘Gabriel’ did when he came back to life was to prove himself, prove his innocence… and try to save his love who was to be the real murderer’s next victim.” Rhapsody paused a second. Scarlet seemed to be all ears, eager to heard the remainder of the story. “There was another thing Gabriel had in common with you. He was virtually indestructible… But in his case, it was mainly because, aside from his brain, he didn’t have any vital organs to begin with…”
“Quite a story,” Scarlet mused. “How does it end?”
Rhapsody hesitated, remembering suddenly HOW, indeed, the novel ended. She waved her hand.
“It’s not really important,” she said.
“That bad, huh?” Scarlet replied with a frown. “He didn’t save the girl?”
“Oh yes, he did save the girl.” How was she to tell him that, upon being rejected by the woman he loved, the main character of the novel committed suicide by throwing himself off a cliff? Good going, Dianne, she thought, angry with herself. You really know how to find GOOD examples to lift the morale of your friends!
“Look, it’s a French novel,” Rhapsody sighed. You know how the French are at concocting love stories… They are always sad, mixed up with blood, tragedy, destiny…” She stopped and frowned. She saw Scarlet’s amused smile. “Did I just make a bad pun?” she asked him.
“I guess your sense of humour is as bad as mine,” Scarlet sniggered.
The two laughed together, but their good humour didn’t last long. Scarlet suddenly swayed, seeming to lose his balance. Rhapsody reached out to him, helping him to keep stable. She saw his face, suddenly pale, covered with sweat. He was obviously dizzy.
“What is it, Paul?” the concerned Angel pilot asked. “You look ill…”
“I’ll be all right,” Scarlet responded. “I…”
He tried to get up and staggered. He almost fell down on the chair he had left earlier. His head felt like it would split open when he took it between his hands.
“You’re obviously not feeling well,” Rhapsody nodded with a frown. “Maybe you caught the same bug as Captain Blue has…”
“It doesn’t feel like the flu,” Scarlet replied between gritted teeth. He had felt like this before… in the tower, at London International Airport. It was exactly the same thing… except this time, it seemed to him it was more vivid, more painful.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped and Scarlet felt much better. He let out a sigh.
“It’s gone, now,” he muttered, raising his head. “I’m okay.”
He was relieved. Not because the sickness he had just felt was nearly unbearable, but because of what it could represent.
The last time he had experienced that dizzy spell, the Mysterons were involved…
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Rhapsody asked him again. “You still look very pale…”
Captain Scarlet was feeling all right, at least physically. But he couldn’t admit to Rhapsody Angel that he was afraid – terribly afraid that Doctor Fawn might be right about these spells.
And if the Mysterons should really regain control over him and use him again to hurt those close to him, he would never get over it.
“Captain, what is it?”
Rhapsody tried again to reach to him, but he shied away from her, much to her surprise and dismay. She frowned.
“Something is wrong,” she stated decisively.
“It’s really nothing, Angel,” Scarlet replied, shrugging.
“I don’t believe it. Something’s troubling you big time, I can see it. Do you want me to go with you to Doctor Fawn…”
“No.” Scarlet’s response came rather swiftly. He smiled apologetically, seeing Rhapsody’s surprise. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to jump at you. It’s just that it’s not necessary that you should come with me to see Doctor Fawn.” He smiled again, this time roguishly. “People might begin to talk about the two of us…”
“You won’t go to Doctor Fawn?” Rhapsody replied, feigning not to hear his bad joke.
“I didn’t say that,” Scarlet sighed. “Don’t worry. I’ll go and see him. Maybe he could find out this time what it’s all about.”
“You mean it’s happened before?”
“Yes,” Scarlet answered. He sighed again. Was there no way to escape the girl’s questions? “Yes, it’s happened before. But last time, it involved the Mysterons…”
“What do the Mysterons have to do with it?” Rhapsody asked sharply.
“Well, I don’t know exactly, but this time they don’t seem to…”
At about that exact moment, the loudspeaker of the Promenade Deck gave out a burst of static, soon replaced by a familiar, ominous voice, that neither of the two Spectrum agents would ever grow accustomed to:
Rhapsody let out an angry sigh.
“That voice!” she muttered. “It sends shivers down my spine…”
One look at Scarlet told her that he felt the same way; but he was looking expectantly, attentively, toward the loudspeaker.
“Our next act of retaliation will be to destroy the pride of the Aeronautics Exhibition and to take the lives of members of the Spectrum organisation in the same fateful blow…”
“Oh, blast!” Rhapsody muttered. Scarlet motioned her to stay calm. But the voice was silent now. The Mysterons had obviously finished.
“Do you realize that’s a direct threat to us?” Rhapsody remarked.
Scarlet didn’t respond. Another voice was coming out of the speaker, calling with a tone of urgency. “Attention to all personnel! Spectrum is now on yellow alert! All senior staff field agents on duty report to the Control Room at once!”
Scarlet got up on his feet. “That’s my cue to go,” he said.
“You’re sure you’re all right?” Rhapsody insisted.
“You just heard Lieutenant Green… I just have to put up with it.” He smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m quite all right. Talking to you helped me. A lot.”
“I’m glad I was helpful, if even just a little.”
“It was more than that,” Scarlet interjected. He bent down in front of her and gently planted a kiss on her cheek, before smiling again. “Thanks, Angel. You’re a very good friend.”
He took his cap from the table and strode quickly to the door. Rhapsody suddenly stood up.
He stopped and turned a puzzled look on her.
“Be careful,” she simply said.
He smiled. “Always. Go and get your rest now. You’ve earned it.”
He left. Rhapsody sat down, thoughtfully. She touched her cheek, where he had kissed her.
“Who can rest, now?” she muttered to herself. She caught a glimpse of the damaged rose tree, standing not far from her. She groaned in dismay. “With all that, we’ve forgotten all about that tree! What am I going to do now?”