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.)
The escape capsule had miraculously stopped at the very edge of the cliff toward which it had been heading when Destiny lost control of it. When the French Angel pilot regained her senses, under the tender care of Captain Ochre, she realized how close they had all been to death. The capsule had lost its hovers, wings, and tail. Many windows had been shattered, as well as the windshield, and one side of the cabin was ripped open, tearing out the access door in the process. They all had lost consciousness at one point or the other, and Ochre had been the first to come out of it. His first priority had been to check on his colleagues. Destiny had a very light concussion and, like him, some cuts and bruises. Nothing really serious and he had proof of it when she regained consciousness shortly after he did. Captain Grey was less lucky. He was still unconscious long after his colleagues had come back to life. Aside from a bad concussion, his right leg was broken and he had a very nasty bruise on his right side. Fractured ribs, Destiny thought.
In the emergency cabinet, there was a first aid kit, some food, warm clothing, blankets, and other items to provide for their comfort and needs. UEA had included a dozen standard-issue yellow coats too. Since none of the survivors had brought Spectrum issue winter clothing in their luggage, the coats were distributed around. Destiny attended to Grey, strapping his chest and waist and splinting his leg. She then gave him an anti-tetanus injection and covered him with a blanket to keep him warm. Meanwhile, Captain Ochre used one of the other blankets to cover up the hole in the side of the cabin, so the falling snow, wind and cold would not enter the capsule. Then he went outside to evaluate the situation and installed some emergency flares all around the capsule. He sent up a flare and then went exploring their surroundings, keeping the capsule in sight, not wanting to get lost in all that snow.
While he was gone, Destiny heated up a alcohol stove also taken from the cabinet and put a pot filled with snow on it, with the intention of making some strong hot coffee. Then, with Ochre returning to the cabin, she kept a close watch over their wounded, still unconscious, comrade.
Grey regained his senses an hour later, during which time Ochre had gone out again, to check on the weather. He tried to get up from where he was lying, but Destiny gently pushed him back. The pain overwhelmed him and he went very pale.
“Lie still,” the Angel pilot told him. She shook her head, smiling gently. “You have a broken leg and some broken ribs. You’ll be all right if you keep quiet.”
“We’re down?” he asked her, his voice filled with pain but still coherent.
“Yes, we have made it.”
Grey smiled faintly. “You really are a great pilot, Destiny.” He frowned. “Where’s Ochre?”
At that moment, Captain Ochre pushed the blanket aside to enter the capsule. He saw Grey awake, and crouched down next to him. He seemed relieved.
“You’re finished with your beauty sleep, chum?” I was worried about you.”
Grey nodded to him. “Was I out long?”
“Longer than Destiny or me,” Ochre told him. “Two hours or so. You got a big bump on your head. Must have hit it pretty hard.”
“Yeah, I suppose I did…” Grey paused a second. “I’m sorry about your friend Torey, Rick.”
Ochre shook his head. “What happened to him, Brad? I guess he was thrown out as we crashed, through that hole in the side, but… I didn’t see any sign of his body outside.”
“You wouldn’t,” Grey informed him. “Shortly before the capsule ejected, he went down to the baggage hold… Figured he had a responsibility to help Scarlet out…”
“The fool,” Ochre murmured. Destiny gave him a cup of coffee and he nodded his thanks to her. “It’s quite cold outside,” he said. “We better keep inside here, and keep ourselves warm with that stuff. Want some, Grey?”
“Don’t feel like it now. Maybe later. What about the jet? Did it land okay?”
Ochre looked gloomily at his fellow officer. “The jet crashed,” he answered. “Literally pulverised itself, as it hit the ground. It didn’t explode, but… I don’t think Jim could have made it.”
Ochre shook his head. “No sign of him yet.”
“He’ll be back,” Grey said with a sigh. “He has survived, I’m sure.”
“Well, in the meantime, we’ll have to concentrate on our own survival,” Ochre replied. “We must contact Spectrum to tell them what happened so they can pick us up.”
“The radio’s still dead?” Grey asked.
“It would be now even if it wasn’t before the crash.”
“And the radiocaps?”
“Yours has disappeared, and mine was destroyed… And Destiny’s communicator won’t work. We tried.”
“Why, I wonder…” Grey said, musing.
“We’re surrounded by mountains. And there are still these electrical storms overhead. Could be causing interference.”
“Or it is the Mysterons interfering?”
“Hey, they tried to kill us. We’re still alive, aren’t we?”
“For how long?” Destiny noted. “We’re out in these mountains, there’s a blizzard, and we have food for only three days.”
“It’s still snowing, yes, but the wind has dropped,” Ochre responded. “And I rigged some emergency flares. If we keep them from being snowed in, somebody is bound to see them and then we’ll be found. Sooner or later.”
“Hope it won’t be TOO much later.”
The very distinctive English voice that had uttered these words came from the breach in the side of the cabin. All three Spectrum agents turned that way. They were amazed to see Captain Scarlet, who had just pushed the blanket aside to get in, standing there looking at them. Incredibly, he didn’t have a mark on his body, but his dishevelled hair and the sad state of his uniform told them instantly he had been through a trying time. He looked tired, and cold too, all covered with snow as he was; he was trying to keep from shivering, but was doing a bad job of it with his reddened hands. Destiny took one of the remaining coats and went to put it round his shoulders. There was gratitude on his face when he looked her in the eyes. “Are you all right?” she asked him.
“Yes, thanks.” He shrugged. “Retrometabolism may work wonders for injuries, but I’m afraid it’s rather useless against the cold. I’m just about frozen.”
“You look like it,” Ochre agreed. “Come and get some coffee. You need it.”
“Thanks for the invitation,” Scarlet said, putting on the coat and approaching. He looked down at Grey, who was looking at him, smiling faintly.
“Hey, sport,” the wounded man said. “Knew you would make it…”
“How’s it hanging, Grey?” Scarlet asked him, using one of Grey’s favourite expressions.
“He has a broken leg,” Destiny explained, pouring a cup of coffee. “A few cracked ribs… and a mean concussion.”
“I’ll be all right when we get back to civilisation,” Grey added.
Destiny came back to Scarlet and handed him the cup, which he took greedily between his hands, grazing hers as he did. She shook her head. “You weren’t kidding earlier. Your hands are frozen.”
“Not quite,” he said with a smile. “But it feels like it. I’ll be all right in a few minutes.”
“I knew you’d survive that crash, Scarlet,” Ochre said, “but I didn’t count on you finding us so quickly.”
Scarlet took a sip of coffee. “The wreckage of the jet is up on top of a cliff,” he explained. “Not far actually, about half an hour on foot from here, all downhill. I saw your emergency lights and the flare you sent up. I just headed this way.” He looked straight at Ochre. “Your friend, Torey…”
Scarlet nodded. “When I came to, I had a look around the baggage hold to see if there was anything useful in there. Torey was there. Sorry.”
“He wanted to help you out,” Ochre sighed. “Guess we should have explained to him that he was likely to die where you would survive.”
“Were you close friends?”
“I don’t have many close friends, Captain. Guess Jim was as close as it gets. He was the one who taught me to fly.”
Scarlet nodded. In spite of Ochre’s apparent coolness, Scarlet could see he was saddened by his friend’s demise. He kept to himself in what sorry state he had found Commander Torey’s body, all broken, bloody and smashed, the baggage spread all over him. It wouldn’t do Ochre any good to hear about that.
“So,” Ochre asked him, clearing his throat, “did you find anything useful?”
Scarlet nodded again. He gave his cup to Destiny and went back to the breach he had come through earlier. He had put next to it a heavy black backpack he had brought back from the wrecked jet.
“I think I may have found our ticket back to civilisation,” he said. He came back to the others, got down on his knees, and unzipped the bag, to show a dish of about one foot in diameter which he put into Ochre’s hands. His fellow officer looked at it, with perplexity in his eyes.
“And what do you propose we do with this?” he asked Scarlet.
“There’s a radio transmitter in that bag,” Scarlet explained. “Its power cell isn’t very powerful, but still, coupled with that dish… we should be able to contact Cloudbase. Or somebody else who might be able to help us out.”
Destiny looked in the bag and took a large electronic black box from it. As the communications expert of the team, she examined the transmitter thoroughly and shook her head. “This thing is prehistoric. How come it was in the baggage hold to begin with?”
“Jim was a bit of a radio buff,” Ochre mused. “I remember, way back when, he used to have fun doing some pirate broadcasting with a shortwave transmitter.” He looked thoughtfully at the dish. “Guess that thing was his latest toy…”
“You’re sure that transmitter works, Scarlet?” Grey asked.
“It’s a sturdy enough thing,” Destiny noted before Scarlet could answer. “It has certainly survived the crash without much damage. The only problem would be the power source, like you said, Captain Scarlet.”
“If we had a hover pack,” Ochre added thoughtfully. “Or something of the kind…”
“We would have had one if this plane had been one of our SPJs…” Grey muttered.
“Yes, but you would not have had an escape capsule in an SPJ,” Scarlet replied with a faint smile. “You would have crashed with the rest of the plane.”
“What about the emergency battery?” Destiny suggested. “The one from the onboard electrical equipment?”
“I already thought of that,” Scarlet nodded. “If it’s still functional, we may be able to use it.”
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be functional,” Destiny shrugged. “All the electricals are down, but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with the battery. But we still have a problem to consider.”
“The mountains,” Ochre continued, putting the dish on the floor. “We’re in some kind of valley. The mountains all around us will interfere with transmission. Even with this dish.”
“Which is why we have to climb one of those mountains,” Scarlet replied. “There’s a high enough peak, just next to the plateau where the jet crashed. We can see it from here, to the North West. We can install the dish on top of it and make the transmission from there.”
“In this weather?” Ochre remarked, frowning doubtfully. “You’re not serious!”
“You said yourself that the wind’s dropped,” Grey noted.
“And the snow is about to stop,” Scarlet added.
“Yes, but it’ll only be temporary. As you well know, in these mountains, that kind of weather is pretty unpredictable. It’ll start snowing again in a little while, and I’m sure that before long the wind will rise again. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on some mountain when it happens.”
“I know it’s risky,” Scarlet said. “But we don’t have much choice.”
Ochre was still sceptical. “Why not wait until the weather has calmed down a little bit more before trying? And beside, we don’t even know it that plan will actually work.”
“I’m sure it will work,” Scarlet retorted sharply. And we CAN’T wait, Captain Ochre. For more than one reason…” He looked toward Grey. “Grey’s broken leg can’t wait much longer, without seriously endangering his health… if not his life.”
“I can hold on if necessary,” Grey said in turn, in an offended tone.
“No, you can’t, Captain,” Destiny replied. “At least, not for long.” She turned to Scarlet. “I agree with you. We must act as soon as possible. Better to try something than wait until we freeze.”
“I didn’t say we should stay put and do nothing,” Ochre protested.
“Then what’s bothering you?”
Ochre scowled at Scarlet’s question. “I just think we should be careful.” He looked at Grey. “And yes, for your sake, Grey, we do have to hurry things up a little.” He sighed, looking back at Scarlet. “There’s a toolbox in the emergency cabinet. I’ll go fetch a screwdriver and I’ll take that battery out of the cockpit.”
“I’ll help you,” Destiny said. “You’ll need my knowledge to get that thing without damaging it. It’s neatly tucked behind a panel, under the equipment board.”
Ochre went to the emergency cabinet at the rear of the cabin, picked up the toolbox inside it and came back to the others. He put the box next to Grey and sorted out a number of tools before putting his hands on a couple of screwdrivers and a wrench. Looking at him thoughtfully, Scarlet took the transmitter from Destiny’s hands and kneeled down, putting it before him.
“While you get that battery, I’ll open the casing,” he said. “To get the old battery out and prepare the connexions for the other one.”
“You’re sure you’re up to it?” Ochre asked him.
“I’ve done this kind of thing before, Ochre.”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever you say.” Ochre’s tone was very sharp, still largely defiant. His eyes were bright as he stared at Scarlet. “Be back in a jiffy.” Destiny followed him into the cockpit, casting a last look in Scarlet’s direction. The British Captain returned the look until she disappeared from his view.
“Do I detect a little warming up in here?”
Scarlet turned to Grey who had just said those words. His friend shook his head. “Destiny doesn’t seem as cold as she was toward you,” he remarked.
“I noticed it too,” Scarlet agreed. “Too bad the same can’t be said of Ochre.”
“He’ll come around, Paul. You’ll see.”
Scarlet answered with a doubtful nod. He chose a screwdriver from the toolbox and began to undo some screws. Grey was staring at him thoughtfully.
“So… what’s the other reason?”
“You said there was more than one reason to hurry things up. One being my injuries. So there must be at least one other.”
“You’re sure I said that?”
“I may have a concussion, Scarlet, but my head is clear enough right now. I’m pretty sure Ochre and Destiny heard the same too. Why they didn’t say anything about it, I don’t know.”
Scarlet put down the screwdriver, and pulled the casing up. Grey shook his head. “I can see something’s troubling you, my friend. What is it?”
Scarlet didn’t answer. Walking down to the capsule earlier, he had been wondering if he should tell the others about what he had witnessed. And up to this moment, he hadn’t reached a decision yet. Even if they knew about it, it wouldn’t change anything… Except, perhaps, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.
It was obvious to Scarlet that the Mysterons had duplicated the Passenger Jet in order to sabotage the airshow. And if that was the case, that would imply that they had all had been targeted to be Mysteronised. All of them, except for Captain Scarlet himself, maybe, for he had his doubts about the possibility of being Mysteronised yet again, as he could no longer be killed.
“What is it, Paul?” he heard Grey asking him again. “What’s bothering you?”
Scarlet put down the casing. He was wondering if his colleagues were aware of how close they had been to falling under the Mysterons’ control, like he had some weeks ago. He was wondering if they knew that he would probably escape that danger himself… which made him even more different from them. And he was wondering if the aliens truly would need to Mysteronise him again, even if it were possible, since they were probably trying to regain the control they already had on him.
“Would you believe… that I’m frightened, Brad?” Scarlet asked Grey, rubbing his hands nervously, looking into the distance.
“You?” an astounded Grey exclaimed. “I’ve never known you to be afraid of anything. Even before you became indestructible.”
“Not so. But I always could keep my fears in check. And now, with the Mysterons…” Scarlet shrugged his shoulders.
“What did you see up there?” Grey asked him.
“What did I see?” Scarlet stared at his friend’s face. “I saw the extent of the Mysterons’ powers. I saw as they duplicated that jet. I saw the duplicate flying above my head and going to carry out its orders… No doubt to sabotage the airshow.” He got to his feet and began pacing in front of a dumbfounded Grey. “I was there and what I saw gave me the creeps… I’ve never been so afraid in all my life.” He stopped, and looked at Grey again. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe… I could only… watch.”
“And what exactly was it that frightened you so much?” Grey asked, frowning. “Do you know?”
“Do I?” Scarlet sighed, running his hand into his hair. “All the people onboard the plane, Grey. All of them… All of YOU: you were to be Mysteronised. Like the plane itself.”
“You left yourself out, I notice.”
“Why would they Mysteronise me again, Brad? Even if they COULD… All they have to do is wait until they are able to regain control of me.” Scarlet sat back in front of the transmitter. “And I’m scared to death they will actually succeed,” he murmured.
“Oh, now, if you’re thinking about Fawn and his theories…”
“It hasn’t left my mind for one second, Brad!” Scarlet interrupted abruptly. “What happened up there, it was so unreal. I saw what they did! I FELT their presence before it actually happened!”
“Felt?” Grey repeated, frowning.
“Yes, in the form of a wave of nausea, stronger than any I’ve felt until now. Even as I’m speaking to you now, my head is still hurting. And I know they’re near.”
“And… if it was just that?” Grey murmured thoughtfully.
“If it was just that? What if those spells you’re having are just some kind of feeling… a ‘sixth sense’ you’ve developed about the Mysterons since your encounter with them?”
Scarlet had a doubtful frown. “Grey, you know that sounds absolutely crazy…”
“Not as crazy as that idea of yours that the Mysterons are trying to regain control of you!”
“That’s not MY idea.”
“Maybe, but it’s something you fear.” Grey could see Scarlet was rather sceptical about his theory. He shook his head. “Think about it, mate: what if it was possible? Could it explain all those spells?”
“No, not all of them…” Scarlet was thoughtful. The week before, when he had the first dizzy spell, the Delta Liner the Mysterons had taken over had just arrived at London International Airport. Then today, it happened just before the Mysterons had made their threat. And then there was that violent nausea that had hit him when they Mysteronised the Aero Special One. He could not yet explain the spell he had in the duty hangar, but if he was to follow Captain Grey’s theory, he could attribute his headache throughout the flight to the impending danger they were all in …
Then why the Hell hadn’t it left him yet?
He shook his head. “I’d like to agree with you, Grey, but there are still some unexplained details about…”
Scarlet stopped short when he saw Captain Ochre and Destiny coming back from the cockpit. Ochre had the battery cell in his hands. He put it down next to the radio transmitter, and then looked at his now silent colleagues. “Something going on?” he asked.
“No, nothing at all,” Grey responded quietly.
“You look green, Brad. Maybe you shouldn’t overexert yourself,” Ochre replied. He turned to Scarlet. “There’s your battery. According to Destiny, it’s in perfect condition. Brand new, as a matter of fact. All that’s left to do is to hook it to the transmitter.”
Scarlet nodded thoughtfully. “Good. Let’s get down to it, then.”
“While you and Destiny do that, I’ll go check the flares. I don’t want them to get snowed in.”
“Yes, we’d better be quick, before the weather gets too bad outside. As soon as the transmitter’s ready, I’ll be on my way.”
“There’s no way I’ll let you go up there alone,” Ochre protested vehemently.
“I thought we’d agreed, Ochre, that this expedition would be pretty risky.”
“Yes, we agreed on that. And that is exactly why I’m going with you.”
“Out of the question.”
“Look, you may be indestructible, but that doesn’t mean you should be the only one to take risks. Remember that we are Spectrum agents as well as you. We can take care of ourselves. We’re not children you have to take care of, for God’s sake!”
Silence followed as the two men stared each other in the eyes, neither one of them willing to give in.
“What about the emergency flares around the capsule?” Scarlet asked. “Somebody must maintain them.”
“I can take care of that,” Destiny proposed. “Now, if the two of you would stop playing macho…”
“I’m not playing macho,” Scarlet replied rather dryly.
“And neither am I,” Ochre said in turn. “I’m just trying to point out to our fearless leader here that it would be madness to go up there alone.”
“If you fell into a precipice with that equipment,” Ochre interrupted abruptly, “you might not be able to get out of there all by yourself. And then what would happen to the rest of us?”
Scarlet could not find any answer. Ochre looked defiantly at him one last time before turning away from him. He pulled up the hood of his coat over his head.
“Think about it while I go check the flares,” he said. “As soon as you have finished preparing the transmitter, we’ll pick up some ropes and enough warm clothing and be on our way. In the meantime, call me if you need me. I’ll be outside.”
He picked up some more flares from a box near the door, pulled the blanket aside and went out, without even looking back. Scarlet’s glare followed him until the blanket fell behind him. Then the British agent sat down in front of the transmitter.
“We’d better prepare that thing, Destiny, if we ever want to be ready to go…”
“So you’ll let Captain Ochre go with you?” the French pilot asked.
“He’s right, you know,” Grey remarked in turn.
“Yes, I know,” Scarlet sighed. He looked at Destiny. “And that is why we’ll go together. Anyway, he doesn’t leave me any choice in the matter, does he?”
“I’m glad he’s going with you,” Destiny said, sitting too. She chose an assortment of wires and proceeded to strip the ends. Scarlet began to remove the old power cell from the transmitter, shooting some furtive glances in the young woman’s direction.
“Why does that make you glad?” he asked her.
The question took the French woman by surprise. She looked at Scarlet with some embarrassment, but quickly regained her composure. “Ochre’s argument about what would happen to us if you go all alone to climb that mountain was a valid one,” she said, shaking her head.
“Oh!” Scarlet sounded somehow disappointed. “I thought that…” He stopped.
“What?” Destiny didn’t even look at him; she could sense his eyes staring intensely at her, waiting for a reaction.
He shrugged. “No. Nothing. Forget about it.”
He concentrated on his work and didn’t notice Destiny giving him a concealed look. I know what you hope to hear, she thought, but I’m not about to say it to you. Though there might have been some truth in the fact that the young woman felt some worries about Scarlet’s safety rather than their own, she wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Not to herself and least of all to him. She was still unsure of the mixed feelings she was presently having about him.
But if Scarlet had his doubts about that, Captain Grey was certain he knew what was going on. Lying there quietly, he could see all the reactions of his two colleagues, who were trying to avoid any eye contact. He had guessed the turmoil within Destiny. The time was not far, he thought with a faint smile, when the girl would completely overcome her resentment and begin fully trusting Captain Scarlet, the way she did before this whole mess with the Mysterons.
Ochre, however, Captain Grey grimly added to himself, was another matter altogether…
* * *
Captain Ochre had just finished clearing up the snow that had covered the flares he had put around the capsule. He stood up and pulled up the collar of his coat around his neck. Blowing a heavy sigh, he looked up the snowy sky. At least, he thought, if a plane flies low enough, there was a good chance its occupants would see them.
Ochre shot a glance toward the capsule; Scarlet and Destiny must be about finished preparing that transmitter, he thought. We’ll be on our way soon. Good thing, too. The snow was falling heavily; the winds weren’t too strong right now, but if they rose, they would end up with a pretty bad blizzard.
Better go see what they’re doing, Ochre mused, moving toward the door. We can’t wait much longer.
He heard a sound behind him and stopped suddenly. He spun around. Was it his imagination? Or maybe it was the wind playing tricks with his ears… It was like a low moan, in which he could swear he had heard his name.
There was a large boulder about ten feet in front of him. He thought he saw movement behind it. He approached it with caution, his right hand on the handle of his pistol. He pricked up his ears, but this time heard nothing. Still, he continued to walk toward the boulder.
He had just reached it when someone sprang from behind… and fell off-balance right between his arms. A stunned Ochre nearly had a stroke when he recognized the pale face of the man staring at him.
“Dear God!” he murmured. “Jim!”
“Am I glad to see you, Rick…” Commander Torey’s tired features lit up with a faint smile as he struggled to get to his feet, leaning on the boulder behind him. Ochre helped him up. Torey’s breathing was heavy. He was absolutely exhausted, his clothes were in rags, but otherwise, he seemed fine.
“You’re alive!” Ochre said. “I can’t believe it!”
“Yeah, me neither,” Torey responded, trying to get his breath back. “Although I came very close to dying… I think I may have a few broken ribs.” He winced, getting his balance back. “It’s a real miracle, Rick. In fact, if the Aero’s fuel tanks hadn’t been empty, it would have exploded as it crashed… and it would have been ‘bye bye Jimmy’.”
“That doesn’t explain how you survived,” Ochre replied. He was still on his guard, not sure how to react to Torey’s unexpected return. The commander looked at him with perplexity in his eyes.
“What’s the matter, Rick? I’d swear you don’t believe me…” Seeing how Ochre didn’t seem to react to this remark, he sighed. “I was thrown out of the plane through a rip in the side,” he explained. “I landed on a thick layer of snow… that broke my fall.” He looked to Ochre closely. The Spectrum agent was still unsure of what to do. “I swear it, Rick! It’s the truth! What is it? What are you afraid of?”
“You tell me,” Ochre replied, still defiant. “Scarlet said you were dead.”
“Oh! He would say that, wouldn’t he?” Torey said dryly. He put his hand on Ochre’s shoulder, looking him squarely in the eyes. “That guy’s not human, Rick. I don’t know what he is… but he’s not human!” Ochre didn’t bat an eyelid. He just noticed that Torey seemed somehow panicky. “I don’t know how HE survived that crash… He came walking out of that wreckage, like some sort of… of zombie or something. I saw him, Rick. He was injured, but that didn’t seem to bother him. He passed right by me… I needed help, I begged him to give me a hand. He just stared at me. That look, Rick… The look in his eyes…” Torey shivered and looked away. “I’ve never seen the likes of it before. It was something inhuman.”
Torey seemed to lose his footing and hugged his arms around himself, obviously freezing. Ochre then removed his coat and put it over his friend’s shoulders, who thanked him with a nod. “He passed right by me. Never even acknowledged my presence. Like he didn’t care.” Torey shook his head, staring back at dumbfounded Captain Ochre. “He didn’t seem to be the same man he was on the craft, Rick. WHAT is he?”
“What happened then?” Ochre asked him, instead of answering his question.
Torey shrugged. “I’m not quite sure. I… I think you’ll say I’m crazy, but…”
“I heard the engines of a plane, flying overhead. When I looked up… Rick, it was a Passenger Jet. And even in the falling snow… I could have sworn it was the Aero Special One.”
“What?” Ochre exclaimed.
“I know that sounds crazy. The Aero Special had crashed and… It must have been an hallucination. I lost consciousness then. When I woke up, Scarlet was gone. He must have thought I was dead!” Torey peered closely at Ochre. “You do believe me, don’t you?”
The Spectrum officer didn’t respond. His feelings were in turmoil right this moment. Torey was there, in front of him, very much alive, and after having heard his side of the story, Ochre was quite in dismay. These last few hours, he could have sworn Scarlet was on the level. Now he wasn’t sure about anything at all.
A confrontation seemed in order, Ochre thought. Maybe when Scarlet and Torey came face to face, then he would know what to do. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Come with me. We’ll have to see what Captain Scarlet has to say about your story.”
“I can use some warm coffee right now, Rick,” Torey said with a faint smile.
“You’ll get it. I promise you. Now come.”
Ochre guided Commander James Torey toward the capsule. Walking a couple of feet behind the Spectrum agent, a victorious smile spread across the pilot’s features… A smile Captain Ochre failed to notice.
* * *
Captain Scarlet had just finished putting the casing back on the transmitter with the help of Destiny Angel when a new wave of nausea suddenly hit him. It was a violent one. Almost like the one he had when the Mysterons made their reconstruction of the Aero Special One. If he hadn’t been seated, the British captain would probably have fallen. Destiny saw him becoming very pale and taking his head between his hands. Concerned, she touched him gently. “Are you sick?”
Captain Grey, who had been feeling bad himself some minutes ago, was about to doze off when he heard Destiny’s worried question. He opened his eyes and tried to raise himself on his forearms to look upon Scarlet. The latter pushed him back down. “Keep your strength, Brad. You’ll need it.”
“You don’t look too good yourself,” Grey noted. “What is it this time?”
“I don’t know.” Scarlet looked toward the blanket covering the opening on the side of the capsule. “I need to go outside. Get some fresh air…”
“Good idea,” Grey sighed, trying to get himself comfortable. Scarlet glanced thoughtfully at his wounded colleague, then turned to Destiny.
“Keep your eye on him,” he whispered to her before getting to his feet. She nodded and watched as he strode toward the exit. She saw him pushing the blanket aside to get out. Then, she turned her attention to Captain Grey.
Scarlet didn’t feel any better outside the capsule than inside it. As a matter of fact, he felt quite the opposite. Dear God, what is happening to me? he asked himself.
Throughout the falling snow, he saw a figure wearing a yellow coat coming slowly toward him. He walked up to it.
“Captain Ochre, did you finish with the flares?”
He received no response. A strange, unnerving feeling of impending danger came over him as the figure drew nearer. Instinctively, Scarlet put his hand on the handle of his pistol.
He didn’t have anything to fear from Ochre, wasn’t that right? Even if his colleague was presently holding him in so much contempt, that didn’t mean he would go to the extent of threatening him in any way…
“Ochre, why don’t you…”
Scarlet’s words died on his lips upon seeing the face of the man who had just stopped about five feet in front of him. The Spectrum agent took a step backward. “Commander Torey!”
“Surprised to see me alive, Captain?”
‘Surprised’ was putting it mildly. Absolutely astounded would have best described Captain Scarlet’s reaction to the man he had seen dead a couple of hours earlier. And then there was the absolute certainty that THIS man wasn’t what he appeared to be. There was no doubt in Scarlet’s mind that he was facing a Mysteron reconstruct.
Scarlet quickly drew his weapon; he aimed it at Torey who suddenly looked at him in panic.
“Please, don’t shoot!”
Strange, thought a puzzled Scarlet. He had a feeling fear would not be part of a Mysteron agent’s retained traits… Unless it was just an act.
The Spectrum officer didn’t have time to assess his suspicion. As soon as the thought came to his mind, his eye caught a shadow coming fast toward him to his right. He was pushed to the ground with tremendous strength and lost his weapon in the fall. He struggled to get free, but his attacker was keeping him pinned to the ground, using all his weight.
A bewildered Scarlet just had time to glimpse Captain Ochre’s angry face, just before the butt of a golden coloured pistol hit him violently over the forehead. He instantly lost consciousness.