A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story
PART 2 – CONFUSIONS
Captain Blue wasn’t sure if it was the loud banging he was hearing that pulled him out of his unconsciousness. He had a violent headache, the awful sound reverberating inside of his skull like a painful echo.
“Captain Blue! Open this door this instant!”
The muffled calls punctuated the banging, and it was with great effort that Blue opened his eyes, groaning. He was lying flat on a dirty floor, his right cheek against the cold surface of cement. He took a breath and dust filled his nostrils. He coughed loudly and pushed himself up; his whole body protested, and he grunted in pain. He reached for his head with one hand and felt himself where it was hurting the most; he grimaced when he touched a sensitive point and brought his hand forward to see blood smearing his fingers.
“Captain Blue! Open this damned door! That’s an order!”
Blue blinked and looked around; he was still in the laboratory where the explosion occurred, and there was wreckage everywhere. The dust in the room had started falling down, and strangely enough, there didn’t seem to be as much damage as he remembered. The Kurnitz console was lying on its side, barely two feet from him, and there was a small fire at the other side of the room; nothing that couldn’t be controlled, once the fire extinguishers were brought in – which made him wonder why the foam sprinklers had not activated at all. He imagined that there would be something defective in the system; either it had been caused by the explosion, or it was already there. He would have to have a serious talk with security about that.
Seated on the floor, his head still pounding, he searched with his eyes for Scarlet, but couldn’t see him.
“Captain Blue!” Blue raised his head. The muffled voice he was hearing had a distinctly angry edge to it, and seemed to come from afar. The banging started again and he discovered that it was coming from behind the door...
A door that, oddly, wasn’t blocked by debris anymore.
Blue frowned, puzzled. He did remember the large heap of heavy blocks that had piled in front of that door, trapping them inside this room… as he remembered Scarlet being half-buried under that same rubble. At least, he thought he remembered all that. His head was hurting so much that he wasn’t sure anymore.
“Open this door!” The voice shouted again, and this time, Blue recognised it. He painfully pulled himself onto his feet and, swaying a little, walked towards the door. When he arrived in front of it, he discovered that the opening controls were still working – but that the magnetic lock had been engaged with a numeric code. Obviously, it had been done on this side of the door, which would explain why nobody could enter from the other side. Fortunately, he didn’t need to know the code to disengage the lock; he just pushed the opening control and the lock clicked open.
The heavy security door opened, and Blue found himself face to face with a grim-looking Captain Ochre.
Next to him, stood an equally sombre Captain Magenta; and Blue blinked in surprise upon seeing him.
How come he’s here? he wondered inwardly. Last he knew, Magenta was still on Cloudbase, working on some program updates on the Cloudbase computers. He was to be very occupied for the next two or three days…
Behind his two colleagues, there was a small detail of Spectrum guards, led by Lieutenant Obsidian, the young officer in charge of security at the Research Centre, and with them, three medics, with a stretcher.
“Hey, Ochre…” Blue said with a tired smile, overcoming the pounding pain in his head, “I’m sure glad to see you. Magenta, what are you doing here?”
Magenta addressed him with what looked like a puzzled expression, tinted with deep irritation. “You playing smart with us, Blue?”
“About time you opened that door!” Ochre said sharply. Neither of his two colleagues seemed too happy, and Blue wondered why. Ochre pushed him aside, none too gently and entered with the others. They spread around in the room. “What a mess,” Ochre muttered, turning to Blue. “What have you been up to?”
“Me?” a puzzled Blue asked, leaning against the wall, and reaching for his throbbing head. One of the medics was already approaching to check him.
“Are you hurt, Captain?”
“I think I got shaken up a bit,” Blue answered. “I feel a little light-headed. Doesn’t seem to be anything broken… I’ll be okay.”
“You might have a concussion. You should let me –”
“Later,” Ochre said, brushing the man aside. “He’s up and apparently able to answer a few questions.”
“Easy, Ochre,” Magenta recommended. “He might be seriously hurt…”
“Easy? Don’t tell me you don’t feel like punching this guy in the nose too!”
“What?” Blue asked with a puzzled expression.
“Don’t play the innocent. Blue, this time, you’ve gone too far. The colonel will not look the other way!”
Blue opened his eyes wide with incomprehension. “What did I do?”
Ochre marched over and stood in front of him, taking him by the collar of his jacket and pushing him forcefully against the wall behind. Blue was too surprised by his behaviour to react. In any case, the nausea suddenly hitting him would have made it impossible for him to defend himself. He could only look into Ochre’s furious face, with a totally bewildered expression.
“Ochre!” Magenta called again, walking to his partner and putting a calming hand on his arm, in fear that he would go too far.
“You know very well what you did!” Ochre lashed at Blue, seemingly not taking any notice of Magenta by his side. “This obsession of yours has to stop, Adam! You are going to hurt yourself and others if you continue acting like this!”
“W-What?” Blue blinked. “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about…”
“Let him go, Ochre, you can see that’s he’s not well!” Magenta tried again.
“Listen, you can explain later,” Blue said, licking his dry lips. “We have to find Scarlet… He’s somewhere around here and he’s hurt and –”
“You say Captain Scarlet was here?” Ochre suddenly let go of him and turned around to exchange a worried glance with Magenta, and then with Obsidian, who, with his men, had heard the revelation. They suddenly appeared frantic. “Search around!” Magenta then ordered. “And be careful, men!”
Blue watched with puzzlement as they spread out, guns at the ready, to search the room. Magenta joined with them, while Ochre stayed with him. Exactly what was going on?
Ochre turned again to face him. “Are you telling us that Scarlet caused the mess in here?” he asked him.
“What?” Blue murmured, frowning. “What are you talking about? Ochre, have you gone insane?”
Ochre raised a brow. “YOU’RE asking ME that?” he muttered. He sighed. “Was Scarlet here or not?”
“He was… we both were!” Blue answered. He was starting to lose patience. “You know that as well as I do, Ochre! You came with us!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ochre demanded.
“Captain Ochre!” Captain Magenta was standing by the Kurnitz console, while Lieutenant Obsidian knelt down behind it, obviously examining something that neither Ochre nor Blue could see from where they were standing. “We found someone!” the Irish captain reported.
“Scarlet…” muttered Blue in concern. He pushed Ochre aside; he would deal with his annoying colleague later on, when he had seen to Scarlet. He hurried to the place where Magenta stood, closely followed by Ochre, barely noticing that the latter had his hand on his gun.
“He’s been knocked out but I think he’ll survive,” Magenta reported. Blue stood next to him and looked down; there was the body of a man sprawled on the floor behind the Kurnitz console; Obsidian was tending to him. But it wasn’t Scarlet; he was wearing a white lab coat, and had a cut on the side of his head. Two of the medics rushed to him.
“Giadello?” Blue murmured in perplexity. He turned to Ochre who was now next to him. “I don’t understand… Giadello left well before the explosion occurred…”
“What caused the explosion, Blue?” Ochre asked him. “Was it Scarlet who set it off? Or you?”
“Ochre?” Blue shook his head, not believing what he was hearing. “What are you talking about? How can you believe –”
“Captain Ochre,” Obsidian said suddenly, attracting everyone’s attention. He picked up something from the floor and showed it to the officers standing over him, taking great care to hold it with only two fingers. Magenta took it; it was a metal rod, one end of which was covered with blood. “The explosion didn’t knock him out,” Obsidian observed.
Magenta nodded, coming to the same conclusion. “It seems he was attacked and hit with this.”
“Really now?” Ochre sounded bitter this time. He turned to Blue, and Magenta did the same. “Scarlet must have attacked him, then, mustn’t he?”
By the tone of his voice, it was obvious that he didn’t believe it. But Blue couldn’t help noticing the accusation. The same was obvious in Magenta’s eyes.
“You think that I did this?” he defended himself. “No! Ochre, how can you believe that? What’s got into you? Magenta…”
“We could ask you the same question, Svenson!” Magenta replied abruptly. “What’s got into you, exactly? You’ve been driving us nuts with this obsession of yours for weeks… But now, if you have attacked someone because of it –”
“That’s the second time one of you has mentioned this so-called obsession,” Blue cut in. He had trouble concentrating, due to his headache, but not to the point of not being able to defend himself against his two colleagues’ obvious accusations. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”
Ochre didn’t really seem to listen to him. “You know,” he said, scoffing, “at first, I felt sorry for you. We all did, in fact, with everything that happened to you and all that… We felt for you. But it’s growing increasingly difficult now, Blue.”
“You’re getting worse every day,” Magenta continued. “Now even the colonel has had enough – and I wonder how your partner can tolerate you the way he does. The man’s a model of patience, I’ll tell you that… I never thought I’d ever say this, but he has won my respect…”
“Now, wait a minute –”
“No, you wait a minute, buster.” Ochre poked Blue in the chest with his finger, warningly. “This has gone on long enough… And you have really gone too far this time.”
“What did I do?” Blue asked with impatience. “I still don’t understand what you mean…”
“Oh, we’re still playing at that, are we?” Ochre scoffed again, derisively. “Now let’s review your latest escapade, shall we, Captain Blue? You left Cloudbase without authorisation. You came here, to the Valley Forge Research Centre, under false pretences, you broke into this lab, because you knew the Kurnitz console was stored here and that it was fully operational.” He ignored Blue’s apparently clueless stare and briefly looked down to the unconscious Giadello, before returning his attention to Blue. “Now I’m only guessing the rest… Giadello somehow tried to stop you, and you knocked him down. Then you tried to set up the console, all by yourself. But something went wrong and it exploded. Am I right?”
“Ochre…” Blue said hesitantly, shaking his head.
“Scarlet never was here, was he?” Magenta added in turn. “You just pretended he was here, just so you could accuse him of causing the explosion…” He shook his head in a disgruntled way. “You should have your head examined, Blue.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” Blue suddenly exploded. “I don’t understand anything that you’re saying. You’re raving, the both of you! Nothing that you say ever happened!”
Ochre shot him an annoyed, almost murderous look, and would probably have replied when groans coming from Giadello interrupted him. The three officers turned to the wounded man and saw that he was coming round. His eyelids fluttered open, and he looked about, dazedly, and winced when he tried to move his head too quickly.
“Easy, Doctor,” Obsidian told him soothingly. “Stay calm, a medic is looking after you. You took a bad knock on the head…”
“I did?” Giadello slurred, raising his hand to his throbbing head. “How… What happened?” He groaned and closed his eyes.
“Doctor Giadello, what happened?” Magenta asked, kneeling by the injured man’s side.
“How did you get in here?” Blue asked in turn, staying by Ochre’s side. “You were gone when the console exploded…” Ochre glared at him, in a way that was meant to silence him, but he took no notice.
“The console… exploded?” Giadello said, obviously confused and making an effort to remember. “I… I don’t remember… My head…”
“You were attacked,” Magenta informed him carefully. “Captain Blue said that Captain Scarlet was here. Do you remember seeing him?”
“Captain Scarlet?” Giadello repeated. Blue wasn’t sure, but he thought he could hear doubt in his voice. He frowned, wondering what it could mean exactly. Didn’t Giadello remember that he had brought both him and Scarlet – with Ochre and Lavender – into this room, just before the explosion?
“Do you know who attacked you, Doctor?” Ochre asked insistently.
Giadello’s eyes were still closed. He nodded slowly, at Ochre’s question. “Sure… I remember,” he slurred again. “I remember perfectly…” He half-opened his eyes and gestured in the general direction of Blue. “He did… Captain Blue did…”
Blue was stunned by the accusation. “What?!”
“We figured as much,” Magenta muttered between his teeth. He rose to his feet and stood next to Ochre, in front of Blue, and both men glared at him with the same icy expression. “Should I tell him, or will you do the honours, Captain Ochre?”
“I will,” Ochre said between his teeth. “Captain Blue, you’re under arrest.”
Blue frowned, still unable to comprehend what was happening. Nothing of this made any sense. Had they all gone insane?
“You can’t be serious,” he murmured in a low tone. “I didn’t do anything wrong!” He pointed to Giadello. “I don’t even know why he’s accusing me! He wasn’t even here when this explosion occurred. He was gone, and then there was a buzzing sound, and then…”
“Will you STOP with this?” Ochre snapped suddenly, losing patience.
“Captain Ochre, Captain Magenta… you just have to believe me! Please, search for my partner, he’ll explain everything…”
“Your partner?” Magenta raised his brows. “He’s not here, Blue.”
“What are you talking about? Of course, he’s here! He came with me… with us. The three of us together, with Ochre, we…”
“I didn’t come here with you, Blue,” Ochre said. “Captain Magenta and I have been following you here. As for your partner, he’s in Australia at this moment.”
“He can’t be! I know he was here with me! What would he be doing in Australia?”
“Do I have to explain that to you? You should know why he’s gone there!”
“Ochre, it doesn’t make any sense. I tell you, you have to find Scarlet. He’s around here somewhere, he –”
“He, what, will explain everything to us?” Magenta scoffed and gestured towards the room. “Look around, buddy. There isn’t anybody else but us, here! Your partner is not here! Scarlet is not here! You can see that for yourself!”
“But he must be here!” Blue protested again.
Magenta sighed and ran his hand on the back of his head; he looked tired. “We’re sorry, pal. Truly, we are. The both of us. But we’ve been running after you since you left Cloudbase without authorisation last night, and we have no intention of letting you go now. You’re coming back to base with us, where you’ll have lots of explaining to do.”
“Magenta, what the devil are you talking about?” Blue protested again. “I keep telling you, I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying!”
“This game doesn’t work with me anymore, Blue.” Ochre motioned to the guards; two of them approached, and stood on each side of Blue. “I doubt it will work with any of us, now.”
“Game? What game?” This time, Blue couldn’t take it anymore. He shook off the hand that one of the guards put on his arm, and barely took notice of the other guard relieving him of his gun; genuinely angry at the way he was treated, his attention was totally focused on Ochre. “I’m not playing any game, Ochre, and you damn well know it! Now I don’t know what kind of joke you are playing, but –”
“Do I really look like I’m joking, Blue?” Ochre snapped suddenly, interrupting his colleague. “Look me straight in the eye and tell me – do I look like I’m joking?” As Blue remained silent, Ochre stood in front of him, eyes glaring, his face displaying a very stern, almost implacable expression. “Now, for the last time… you are under arrest. Will you come quietly back to base with us, or will we have to drag you back there, in handcuffs?”
Blue shook his head. “I won’t leave until we find Scarlet.”
Ochre, sighed, and exchanged disheartened looks with Magenta. “We were afraid you would say that,” he said in a low voice.
Suddenly, having had enough of attempting to make their colleague see sense, both Ochre and Magenta grabbed him by the shoulders and tripped him. Surprised by the sudden attack, Blue didn’t react at all, and fell face first onto the half-destroyed Kurnitz Console, where the two guards, coming to the officers’ help, held him down, pulling his arms behind his back. Blue yelped; his head was still hurting too much, and he had no idea why he was treated this way.
A second later, he heard the click of handcuffs, as they were secured around his wrists. Blue clenched his teeth in anger and grunted in pain, as the steel bracelets bit into his flesh. He was forced to stand, gasping, confused beyond reason, and angered because of this confusion; furious, he tried to reach for Ochre and Magenta, who now stood in front of him, but he was held back by the hands of the two guards.
“What is the meaning of this?” Blue lashed out furiously at his colleagues. “Ochre! Magenta! Tell them to let me go!”
“You’re not really leaving us any choice, Blue,” Ochre replied, shaking his head. “You have completely lost it. I really don’t know if it’s still a game you’re playing or…”
“I told you I know nothing of any game!” Blue shouted at him. “Why don’t you believe me? I don’t understand anything about what’s going on! Why are you treating me like this? I did nothing wrong!”
“That’s enough,” Ochre muttered. “We’ll get to the bottom of this on Cloudbase.” He turned to the guards. “Escort him back to the SPJ… Make sure he’s secured safely, but make him comfortable. And if he offers any resistance, have him sedated.”
“What!?” roared Blue in outrage. “Ochre, have you gone insane?”
“It’s for your own good, Blue.”
“Have that wound of his checked,” Captain Magenta added, his voice taking on a more charitable tone. “He might have a serious concussion…”
“I don’t need any medical help! Magenta! Ochre! Please, I beg of you…”
“Take him away,” Ochre ordered the guards, tiredly.
“No, wait…” Desperately trying to make sense of what was going on, Blue was pulled and pushed towards the door, stumbling, trying to resist the hands holding him. The nausea in him was mounting at each step, and he didn’t know how long he would be able to resist before either throwing up or losing his senses to this awful pounding headache. “Listen to me, this is all insane! I don’t know what’s going on… You have to find Scarlet! He’s around here, somewhere, wounded… Ochre! Magenta!”
Neither Ochre nor Magenta listened to Blue’s desperate cry and they simply turned their backs on him as he was taken out of the room. Ochre sighed and shook his head, despondently.
“Scarlet… has never been here,” he muttered bitterly, almost to himself.
And Magenta could only exchange glances with him, and sadly nod in agreement with this assertion.
By the time he arrived on Cloudbase, Captain Blue’s anger had barely simmered down.
He was now locked in a room in sickbay – especially designed to treat either prisoners or violent patients who needed to be isolated and kept under lock-and-key for security reasons – and he knew perfectly well that he was being observed right at this moment: there was a security camera, right over the locked door, which was following his every movement. He was aware that his obviously impatient behaviour might not be helping his case at all. But he couldn’t help himself.
He had rarely been as furious as he was at this very moment. He had been accused by two colleagues and friends of misdeeds – crimes even – he knew he had not committed; then he had been manhandled, handcuffed, arrested by the same so-called friends, and forced to take an SPJ back to Cloudbase, while leaving behind a missing Captain Scarlet whom nobody seemed to care about. What had happened to him, and where could he be? Australia? That was a load of bull! Scarlet had never gone to Australia, and Ochre knew it perfectly well. But he still denied it, and continued to accuse Blue of lying and playing whatever kind of ‘game’ he was imagining.
Blue could have thought it was all a joke on Ochre’s part – rather a huge one, even considering his colleague’s usual standard – maybe some idea of a ‘bachelor party’ of some kind that Ochre had come up with. But Blue was about certain that his colleague would not have gone so far with it – and certainly it wouldn’t have gone to the extent of having him strapped into his seat – and eventually sedated, as Blue continued to resist and protest, demanding explanations of why he was being treated this way.
Blue didn’t even remember most of his flight back to Cloudbase. He had awakened in this room, the wound to his head treated, out of his uniform and in white pyjamas. He had obviously been treated by the sickbay staff: there was a dressing over his head wound, and he felt better. He was free of restraints, and at first he was relieved, considering all that had happened so far, but it was a brief relief when he realised that the door, when he tried to open it, was equipped with a magnetic lock and that he couldn’t get out. Then he saw the camera and knew exactly where he was. He had himself suggested the concept of this room, more than a year ago. He had never imagined it would be used against him.
He waited for a short time, sitting in bed, hoping that someone would come soon to talk to him. When, about an hour later, nobody had come yet, he considered banging on the door, to demand explanations again; he kept himself from doing that, thinking – probably justly – that it wouldn’t be helpful in any way, and that he would likely be ignored.
He had had enough of waiting, so he started walking around the room, impatiently. He knew he was under surveillance, so he imagined that soon, people would tire of watching him and would come. He would have a few well-chosen words for them. He didn’t know what exactly at this point, and if his anger was still very high, it was largely impregnated with a large dose of concern.
Strangely enough, this whole situation reminded him of that time he had been kidnapped, at the end of the first year of the war against the Mysterons. People posing as agents from Spectrum Intelligence had taken him into a false Cloudbase, built inside a huge warehouse and, accusing him of having given away important information about Spectrum, they had tried to deceive him into giving them security codes to access Spectrum’s computers. When they realised they would fail with that scheme, they had tried to inject him with truth serum, but he had escaped, just in time. He wondered if this wasn’t a similar set-up. It seemed unlikely, seeing as he had been captured in the middle of the Research Centre – by Ochre and Magenta, no less – but it might certainly explain what was happening to him.
That might also indicate that Ochre and Magenta had been Mysteronised, then… They had both acted openly hostile towards him, with all those accusations that didn’t make any sense at all… with the way they had treated him… and with their refusal to look for Scarlet, even refusing to acknowledge his presence.
Blue shook his head dismissively. Even if he considered that Ochre and Magenta had been taken over by the Mysterons – he didn’t want to even think of this possibility, but he had little choice under the circumstances – then what about the rest of the Spectrum Research Centre? The Mysterons could not possibly have done the same to everyone… Or could they? Blue had seen, what, ten, twelve people, when he had been dragged forcibly to the SPJ? Certainly no more than that… Could they have been Mysteron agents too?
He remembered that they did check him with a Mysteron detector, just before putting him in the SPJ – and to his own relief, as he was starting to have doubts in even himself, he had shown negative on the results. He was thinking now – would Mysterons be that that brazen as to actually do that verification? It was standard procedure, of course… they wouldn’t want for him to be suspicious of them.
And how about Cloudbase? If indeed this was Cloudbase…
What if the Mysterons were pulling the same ruse as before? They rarely tried the same trick twice, but this time, however… it would be more – much more – elaborate…
And where in the world could Scarlet be? What could have happened to him?
Blue sighed in frustration. Stop it, Svenson… You’re getting paranoid. You’re starting to see all this as a big conspiracy!
There has to be a better explanation for all this nonsense…
Tired of marching around and of trying to understand, Blue flopped onto the bed, sighing deeply, and leaned against the pillow in a comfortable half-seated, half-slouched position to resume his waiting, as patiently as he could, crossing his arms sulkily on his chest and glaring murderously in the direction of the door, as if willing it to open.
Strangely enough, this magic seemed to work, and he heard the buzzing of the electro-magnetic lock as it was released. Immediately, Blue jumped to his feet, and stood expectantly.
The door slid open, and Doctor Fawn entered, his pad in his hand as always, scribbling on it.
“Doctor Fawn!” Blue took a step forward to meet the physician. He was relieved to actually see him. So this indeed would be Cloudbase. “Am I glad to see a friendly face!”
Fawn had stopped in the middle of the room and raised one eyebrow in what seemed like a dubious expression, as his attention went from his pad to the tall blond man standing in front of him.
“Indeed? Now this is strange coming from you… You’re normally way too happy to get away from me and the hell out of sickbay as fast as possible every time you get stuck in here. Mostly by your own reckless fault, I must add.”
Blue frowned, hearing the obvious sarcasm in these bitter words. “Doc?” he asked in puzzlement.
“Don’t try to get out now,” Fawn observed. “You’re under close surveillance and it wouldn’t look too good in your records, considering the situation.” He pointed to the door. “You wouldn’t get very far, anyway.”
Blue followed the direction of his finger with his eyes and beyond the door which had stayed open, he saw that there was a guard standing rigid outside. He scowled. “So I really am under arrest?” he demanded, turning to Fawn.
“What did you expect?” Fawn replied in a neutral voice. “Sit on the bed.”
“Sit on the bed, I’m going to examine you.”
Reluctantly, Blue obeyed. Fawn removed the adhesive bandage he had on his forehead and temple and checked the wound underneath. He seemed satisfied with what he was seeing, and put a new dressing on.
“Stitches are holding. They didn’t pop with all this leaping around you’ve been doing in here since you woke up…”
Blue’s frown deepened. “This is no time to make jokes, Doctor! Would you mind –”
“Stay still,” Fawn interrupted. “Follow the light. Just with your eyes.” He checked Blue’s pupils, shining a small light into them, and Blue followed its direction as he was instructed. The doctor nodded his satisfaction again and put the small torch back into his pocket. “Okay, you don’t seem to have a bad concussion… I shouldn’t be surprised with that thick skull of yours.”
“Doctor, listen to me: there ‘s something seriously wrong here!”
“You don’t say?” Fawn said icily. “I already know that. I just received a report from the medics at the Research Centre. You’ll be happy to know that Giadello will make a complete recovery after your attack. He’s just suffering from a slight concussion… Worse than yours, though. You were rather rough on him.”
“But I didn’t attack him!” Blue protested.
“Yes, you mentioned Scarlet, didn’t you?” Fawn continued calmly. “He was at the Research Centre, and I suppose that’s why you went there too? You knew he was up to no good and you wanted to stop him? How did you come by such information, Captain?”
Blue scoffed incredulously. “Why are you all so quick to think that Scarlet is behind what happened at the Research Centre?” he asked. “Ochre and Magenta made the same assertion. You’re all wrong. He has nothing to do with it! It was an accident, as far as I can say!”
“Is it? Now there’s an explosion, Captain Scarlet is in the vicinity, and it’s not his fault? That is a new one, coming from you, Captain Blue!”
“What –” Blue shook himself. “We can hardly blame everything that happens on Scarlet, Doctor!”
Fawn raised a brow. “It’s not like you to say something like that! What game are you playing now, Captain?”
“Game? What game? You’re the second or third person to ask me that, Doctor. I’m not playing any game. The way I see it, you’re all playing a game. Not me!”
Fawn looked straight at him, pensively, with the same doubtful expression as before. Blue could see he wasn’t getting through to him. He addressed the physician with a desperate look: “Doc, I don’t understand anything that’s happening to me. Why was I arrested? Why do you all think I did some harm to Doctor Giadello and caused that explosion in the first place? Why don’t you believe me about Scarlet? This is beyond me!”
“Why?” Fawn repeated dully. “You are asking why, Captain? Well, you should know why, shouldn’t you? We all know about your obsession, and your interest in Doctor Kurnitz’s work of late, so it’s natural that we assume that you became… maybe just a little bit too interested in his latest discovery?”
“I don’t have any interest in Kurnitz’s work!” Blue protested again. “What latest discovery are you talking about? The breakthrough he and Giadello stated they had made? I don’t care! Doctor, you have to believe me! I was just there to escort –”
“Enough, Captain,” Fawn suddenly interrupted in a stern tone. “I didn’t come here to discuss this with you.”
“But someone has to listen to me! Something wrong is going on, and I’m thinking that the Mysterons must be behind it!”
“The Mysterons indeed,” Fawn muttered. “Well, I can assure you, Captain, the Mysterons have nothing to do with your situation at the moment. You have only yourself to blame for it.”
“Colonel White will interrogate you himself on this particular subject. I know he can’t wait to hear what you have to say…”
“Finally!” Blue said, throwing his hands upwards. “That’s all I want, really! Someone to talk to, so I can explain myself!”
“This will be good,” Fawn commented, rolling his eyes. “Colonel White will be pleased. But until then – there is someone else who wishes to see you.”
“No, I’ve got to see the colonel right away… This is too important! I will go crazy if I don’t…”
“And the colonel isn’t ready to see you right now, Captain.”
“But… it might already be too late, later! Captain Scarlet…”
“Leave Captain Scarlet alone, Captain,” Fawn warned. “He had nothing to do with it – not this time.”
“But we have to find out where he is!”
“We will,” answered Fawn with a slow nod.
“What is going on here? This doesn’t make sense! I have to see the colonel…”
Fawn sighed, tiredly. “And I said, ‘later’. There is no discussion about it, Captain. You will have to wait. Now, about this person who wants to see you…”
Blue frowned, puzzled. He tensed. “If this is Captain Ochre or Captain Magenta… I’d better warn you, I’m in no mood to see either of them now. After the way they treated me…”
“And how should they have treated you after the stunt you pulled, Captain?” Fawn replied, causing Blue to plunge ever deeper in the most complete perplexity. “Well, I will reassure you: they don’t really feel like meeting you right now either.”
“Then who is it that’s here to see me?”
“Why, your fiancée, of course.”
Blue’s tension immediately left him. “She’s here?” he murmured hopefully.
“Yes, of course. She’s waiting just outside. Should I tell her she has to go, or can she come in?”
There was little hesitation on Blue’s part. If Symphony was here, then maybe he’d be able to convince her, at least, that something was very wrong. Symphony would listen to him; and maybe help him. And explain to him exactly what all of this meant. He nodded his acknowledgement to Fawn.
“Please, Doctor, let her come in.”
“Right. I’ll be leaving the two of you alone, then.”
Of course, Blue mused inwardly. I’ll be alone with her, but still under surveillance… He gave a sideways glance towards the camera hanging over the door, wondering who could be watching. He imagined it could be someone he knew well; but if it was friend or foe, he couldn’t really tell…
Fawn had reached the door and motioned to someone outside to enter, while he himself stepped out. Blue smoothed the top of his pyjamas, in an attempt to try to look good for his visitor. He put a smile on his face; he could see no reason to worry Symphony needlessly. And anyway, he was rather glad that she was allowed to come and see him.
He heard her light footsteps and prepared to welcome her.
She entered fully into the room and Blue’s eyes opened wide in total surprise; the young woman was not in uniform, but was dressed in a fashionable ensemble of pastel blue, that he had never seen before. She went directly to him, at a quick pace, an apprehensive expression on her beautiful face, which was surrounded by a crown of brilliant red hair, neatly done in a new hairstyle.
“Darling, are you all right?”
She didn’t seem to notice his clueless expression, nor the disappearing smile as she came to take him into her arms, nor that he responded to her embrace like a robot; she stood on tiptoe to lightly kiss his cheek and he saw the depths of her blue eyes, set on him, filled with concern for him. He could only look back at her, frowning with incomprehension as he tried desperately to grasp the reason for her presence here, instead of the woman he hoped he would see.
“What is it, love?” she asked, the English accent full of concern, as she tenderly caressed his cheek. “You’ve turned pale all of a sudden…Are you ill? Is that head wound hurting you?”
He finally found his voice. “Rhapsody… what are you doing here?”
She seemed shocked by the question. But she found in herself the strength to smile, as she stepped back to look at him. “Rhapsody?” she repeated with a chuckle. “You haven’t call me that for a long time, Adam. You know that I resigned my Angel commission a year ago…”
“You –” Blue shook his head, still frowning. “No, you haven’t…” he murmured.
“Of course, I have, don’t you remember? You didn’t want me to leave.”
“Wait…” Blue rubbed his head, which was starting to hurt again, so hard was he trying to understand what was going on, what she was telling him. “Wait… Rhapsody…”
“Dianne,” she corrected him, gently, approaching yet again. She frowned in turn, looking into his puzzled face. “Don’t you remember?” she asked him teasingly. “Or are you suddenly shy about using my name? You shouldn’t feel shy, Adam…”
“Dianne…” He swallowed hard. Nothing was making sense anymore. “Wha… why are you here? Doctor Fawn said… that my fiancée was waiting…”
“That’s what he said, Adam. That’s why I’m here. We’re engaged, don’t you remember that either?”
“Engaged…?” he murmured. “What about… what about Scarlet? What about Paul?”
He knew they were being watched, and more than probably, the watchers were listening too, but at this point he didn’t care if he blew the lid on Scarlet’s and Rhapsody’s secret liaison. He just desperately wanted to know what was going on.
He saw her shiver, and then freeze, as she looked at him fixedly. “Why do you ask that question, Adam? You know very well what it does to me…”
“No,” he whispered. “No, I don’t… What about… Karen? Where is she?”
This time, Dianne blinked. “Karen?” she repeated. She stepped back, slowly. “Oh no, Adam…”
“What about her, Dianne?” he asked insistently. “Why isn’t she here? Why are you here… saying we’re engaged? Where is Karen?”
“Adam…” Dianne shook her head, despondently. She looked like she wasn’t sure anymore of what she had to do, or to say. “Please don’t do this to yourself, Adam Don’t do this to us… We’ve been fighting for too long –”
“WHERE is Karen, Dianne?” Blue asked again, stepping forward, insisting.
He put his hands on her shoulders, impatiently and felt her shudder under his touch, as if she was afraid of him. Automatically, he let go. He looked at her in desperation. There was a sad expression on her face now, and she seemed to want to avoid looking him in the eyes. He had some deep, sinking feeling that there was something more terribly wrong than he first thought.
“Please,” he whispered. “Where is she, Dianne?”
“Adam… You know the answer to that question. You know what happened to her. She was…”
“No…” Blue shook his head, suddenly suspecting what she was about to reveal to him.
“She was killed, three years ago…”
Blue’s heart instantly missed a beat. His mind suddenly went blank, as he tried to grasp the full meaning of these words, although he already knew what they would be, before they were spoken. The worst possible thing they could say to him, which would make no sense at all… Which would turn his life completely inside out… No, it was impossible… How could that have happened? Why would they be telling him these lies?
It didn’t take very long for him to recover all of his wits…
And to explode, like a simmering fire which had been slowly building underneath hot ashes.
“NO!” he shouted suddenly, straight in Dianne’s face. “YOU’RE WRONG!”
“Adam, please… You know it’s the truth…”
“NO!” he repeated forcefully, shaking his head in complete denegation. “This CAN’T be! I was with her yesterday! We were making wedding plans! I know she’s alive.”
“Adam,” Dianne pleaded. “Stop, you’re hurting yourself…”
“This is wrong!” he continued, turning his back on her and walking away. “All this happening… Ochre’s and Magenta’s accusations at the Research Centre… Scarlet’s disappearance…” He spun around to face her again. “And you, you showing up here saying that Karen is dead! All this can’t be true! It ISN’T happening! This is a nightmare!”
He saw the hurt in her beautiful face. “Adam, we’ve been through this before,” she said. “I thought you were over it… That you had freed yourself from this destructive obsession of yours…”
“What obsession?” he roared angrily, walking to her. He grabbed her by the shoulders, and she gasped, almost fearfully. “What the hell are you talking about?! What kind of sick game are you all playing with my mind, tell me? What are you trying to do to me?” He blanched, suddenly realising that he had been right from the start. He let go of Rhapsody and stepped back, starting to walk around her, looking at her, trying not to shiver. She followed him with her eyes. “This is all a trick,” he murmured. “A Mysteron trick… Isn’t it?”
“I’m no Mysteron, Adam. You know that.”
“How could I know?”
“You should feel it in your heart. I’m the woman you are planning to marry…”
“No, you are not! I don’t know what your game is, Rhapsody, but if this is your idea of a sick joke –”
“I don’t think even Captain Ochre would go this far with a joke, Captain Blue. Step away from the girl.”
The voice coming from behind him made Blue freeze on the spot as he was about to take an almost threatening step towards Rhapsody; he blinked in surprise, thinking his brain had suddenly stopped working again, still wondering if he was dreaming the worst dream he could imagine. This voice – which he recognised so easily – he had not heard it in years; and he had never thought he would ever hear it again.
Slowly, he turned around, unsure, almost dreading to see what he knew he would see.
His heart started pounding wildly when he finally saw, and he shivered from head to toes.
With two guards behind him, Captain Black, in full Spectrum uniform, was standing only a few feet away from him, in front of the open door. The Mysterons’ main agent on Earth, guilty of so many crimes against his peers, constantly on the run since his return from Mars, and whom Spectrum was so desperately trying to catch – he was there, in front of him, casually looking at him.
Strangely enough, he didn’t look like the man Blue imagined he would be. Captain Black was unlike the other Mysteron agents – who looked exactly like any human being on Earth… and acted the part, until they started to work for their evil masters. For Black, it was different. Those who had the bad fortune to meet him – witnesses, colleagues, and civilian victims who had been lucky enough to survive such encounters – had described Black as a withdrawn character, not talkative, cold and unfeeling. But most noticeable was his physical appearance: with a gaunt and very pallid look, badly shaved, unkempt features… and sunken, dark eyes, so deep and unfeeling it would freeze your soul. His touch, Scarlet and Symphony had told him, was glacial – as if he was dead inside and outside. Not quite a walking corpse – rather more like an implacable, living zombie.
There was none of this in the Captain Black Blue was now facing. He looked cool, composed, his face closely shaved, looking healthy and displaying a slight tan. A man of a smaller stature than Blue, he was still an imposing presence, just standing there in his clean, freshly pressed Spectrum uniform, with his sidearm hanging from his gun belt – which was black, Blue noticed, instead of the white one he used to wear before the Mars debacle, the sign of his status as second-in-command of the Spectrum organisation.
It was a shock for Blue to see him in this place, on Cloudbase, the most secure of all Spectrum’s facilities, where no Mysteron agent could set foot without raising a hundred alarms… unless someone had died inside the base, and had been Mysteronised on the spot, which was always something to consider, and a potential nightmare for Spectrum security, who had set up various check points, not only on Cloudbase itself, but on all Spectrum bases.
And yet, Black was here; and the guards standing behind him didn’t seem to be wary of him. None of them raised a single finger when he walked casually into the room and went to Rhapsody. The latter seemed shaken, but Blue could see it had nothing whatsoever to do with Black’s presence.
Instead, it had something to do with him.
“Are you all right, Dianne?” Black asked the young woman quietly.
“Yes, of course, I’m all right,” she replied sharply enough. “You know that Adam would never harm me…”
Black stopped by her and put what he probably meant to be a reassuring hand on Rhapsody’s arm. It might have been a casual enough gesture, but Blue interpreted it as a potential threat.
And he reacted accordingly.
Black barely had the time to turn to face the tall American officer, who, as soon as he saw his foe within striking distance, launched at him… with a spectacular punch that sent Black reeling back a number of feet.
Blue had acted so quickly that nobody had had the time to actually realise what he was doing. For him now, everything was so very obvious: the explosion, Scarlet’s disappearance, Giadello being hurt… and all this nonsense happening, with him being accused and arrested, and the talk of Symphony being dead… all this was Black’s doing. It was the only possible answer.
Plus, Blue couldn’t forget the many sins this man in front of him had committed – his beloved Symphony was alive, of that he was sure, but Black had nearly been responsible for her death, years ago. Blue had swore he would force the man to pay for that, one way or another. Now was his chance.
As Rhapsody gasped in total shock and a surprised Black fell to the floor from Blue’s initial attack, the latter went to him and leaned down to grab him by the throat. Black reached for Blue’s hands, trying to release the vice-like hold that was threatening to strangle him.
The two guards had lurched inside, and took hold of Blue’s arms; he didn’t want to let go of his prey, and it took all of their strength to pull him off and drag him away from his intended victim. They forcibly held him back, as he was still struggling to reach for Black. The latter got back to his feet, rubbing his sore throat with one hand, and retrieving his cap with the other, staring at Blue with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Black, you bastard! I should have known you were behind this! What have you done with all of them? Tell me, creep!”
“Adam, stop it!” Rhapsody urged, trying to reach for Blue. Black stopped her from approaching him, as if in fear that she would receive an accidental blow.
“Keep your hands OFF her!” Blue roared furiously.
Black turned to him. “What’s got into you?!” he asked with a deep frown. “You know I wouldn’t hurt her…”
“Let go of me!” Blue raged, addressing the two guards still holding him. “Don’t you see who’s standing there? It’s Captain Black!”
“Boy, you sure know how to state the obvious…” Black said, tilting his head.
“Adam what is it with you?” Rhapsody added in turn. “Conrad is your friend… Why did you attack me?”
Blue gasped in total surprise. “My friend? He isn’t my friend! He’s a murdering creep! An agent of the Mysterons…”
Black shook his head. He looked hurt by these words. “You know that isn’t true, Adam… I’m not anymore! All thanks to you…”
“LIAR!” roared Blue. “What’s wrong with you, people? Captain Black, free on Cloudbase… and you don’t do a thing? You know how dangerous he can be… Get him!”
“Adam, calm yourself,” Black demanded.
“What have you done to them?!” Blue asked him. “What have you done to me, Black? Is this yet another of your masters’ evil plans? What’s the trick now? I swear, I’ll find out what you’re up to!”
“Adam…” Rhapsody tried again. “Please, calm down…”
“Calm down? How can you ask me that? I get knocked out in an explosion, and I wake up in a crazy world, where the woman I love is dead and Captain Black roams free on Cloudbase! None of this makes any sense!”
“What is going on here?”
From the still open door, Doctor Fawn appeared, accompanied by a newcomer dressed in a dark blue Spectrum uniform, who looked sternly into the room, obviously wondering what the commotion was all about. Blue gasped in total astonishment when he saw him, and his eyes went wide open.
What he was seeing now was totally impossible!
“Captain Indigo!” he exclaimed, stunned beyond belief. “My God, what…”
His shock had been such that he stopped struggling, and the two guards who were still fighting to subdue him, used this to their advantage; they pushed him back, face-down across the bed, holding him in this position. He resisted and tried to push himself up, in vain. Again, like when he had been arrested, they forcibly pulled his arms behind his back.
“This can’t be!” he shouted over his shoulder. “You’re dead!” Nobody was really listening to him, except maybe Rhapsody who heard the painful accent in his voice.
“You’re hurting him!” she protested.
“Sorry, ma’am, but he’s strong as an ox,” one of the guards defended himself.
“Doctor Fawn,” Captain Indigo said, turning to the physician. “You’d better sedate him, before he hurts himself.”
“Or hurts someone else,” the other guard piped up, still struggling with his companion to keep Blue down.
Fawn nodded his acknowledgement of Indigo’s instructions and strode quickly into the room, plunging his hand into the vast pocket of his white vest, and taking a syringe and a small bottle out of it. He stood over Blue and started filling the syringe, while the blond officer, still struggling to get free, was keeping his eyes, burning with confusion and anger, riveted on Black who was watching the scene with an apparently set expression. Black seemed to want to offer himself as a strong shoulder to lean on to Rhapsody, who was standing by his side, looking miserable and distressed.
“This is totally insane!” Blue said between his teeth.
Then, as he watched Indigo coming to stand next to Black, a thought crossed his mind, and suddenly, he understood exactly what was happening to him… just at the same moment that Fawn was pulling up one of his sleeves.
“Doctor, wait!” he yelled.
He felt the needle piercing his forearm, and because of his struggling, it hurt him, more than it should have. He grunted in pain, but kept on resisting; he knew it wouldn’t take long before the drug would take effect, and that it was futile to resist, but he didn’t want to give up.
“When did she die?” he asked urgently.
“What?” Fawn asked with a frown.
“Symphony… she died… three years ago?” Blue asked again. He was starting to feel numb already, his mind slowly clouding. “Please… tell me… I have to know… How did it happen?”
Standing over his patient, Fawn exchanged concerned glances with the other officers standing in the room with him. Rhapsody seemed appalled by the question – while Black and Indigo were as puzzled as he was.
“It happened at the Culver Atomic Centre,” Fawn answered softly.
Blue’s jaws tightened. “…Black?” he muttered, fighting to stay conscious. “He killed her?” There was a short moment of renewed fighting in him, but it didn’t last long; his eyelids were getting very heavy; his mind, even heavier.
“No…” he heard the voice of Black, as if it was coming from a long distance. “I wasn’t there. It was Captain Scarlet. I’m sorry. He shot her… while you were watching, unable to help…”
“Oh God…” Blue murmured, realising he was right. “This can’t be true… I… I know now… This isn’t my world, this… This is…”
Those were the last words Blue was able to utter; but before plunging into oblivion, he now knew with absolute certainty, that this nightmare he was presently living, was not a dream at all.
And that it wasn’t his life, but the life of another…
“Would you say he’s worse than ever?”
Doctor Fawn was seated in the conference room with Colonel White and Captain Grey, and the three of them were watching the large screen, which was broadcasting the recording of what had happened in sickbay, the evening before. There was no visible expression on the Spectrum commander’s face, but neither Fawn nor Grey were fooled by his apparent calm: they knew that deep inside, White was dismayed by what he was seeing, and that he probably felt dreadful.
Maybe even a little guilty.
“Don’t you mean ‘Has he become a better performer’, Charles?” Fawn asked without humour. He turned off the transmission and the screen turned black, before displaying the Spectrum logo. He ignored the frown on the colonel’s face as he turned to him. “You always thought he was acting a part, somehow. While I –”
“… While you were persuaded that there was something seriously wrong with him,” White cut in suddenly. He shook his head. “Well, considering what happened recently, Doctor, I would have to agree with you that there might indeed be something seriously wrong with him.”
“Finally!” Fawn said, rolling his eyes.
“Well, as far as I’m concerned,” Captain Grey said sombrely, “I am not totally convinced he’s not still play-acting, at the moment.”
“Wait a minute, Grey… What happened last evening was far worse than before. He’s never been that violent with anyone before.”
“No?” Grey replied doubtfully with a raised brow. “That’s funny, I seem to recall a few instances…”
“Well, yes, he was violent,” Fawn admitted, somewhat reluctantly. “He wouldn’t be Blue if he wasn’t, but never without reason.”
“His reasons probably are valid enough for him,” White groused. He sighed deeply. “I thought he was finally over it. That he would make a full recovery. He had accepted Black amongst us, as a colleague, a partner and even a friend.”
“Strangely enough,” Grey commented. “But I agree that that alone should have been proof enough that he was… getting better.”
“Then there was his recent engagement... that I had wholeheartedly agreed to,” White continued. “It had been a long time since he had been that happy.”
“Since Symphony’s death, I would say,” Fawn remarked. “And now…” He gestured towards the huge Spectrum logo on the screen. “One thing happens, and see what it did to him. He’s worse than ever. I blame myself for it.”
“You did your best with him, Edward,” Grey remarked. “You are certainly not to blame.”
“No? Well, I say I am. I should have seen it coming. With everything that happened to him….”
“Then I am to blame too,” White replied dryly. “I do feel responsible. If I had not allowed him to push himself that way… all this might not have happened to him.”
“Sir, the job needed to be done,” Grey reminded him. “And Captain Blue, despite it all, was our best asset – and was willing to take whatever risk was necessary… We all have to.”
“To the point of pushing him to insanity?” White replied. He shook his head in negation. “No, Captain Grey. We went too far this time, in accepting this situation, in the name of duty. And Blue might be paying too high a price because of that.”
Fawn grunted. “But I’m not giving up on him yet.”
“Neither am I, Doctor. We have to find a way to get him to snap out of this obsession of his.”
“That might not be that easy to do,” Grey remarked. “If he’s as sick as you say he is, Doctor –”
There was a beep, and the door behind them slid open and Captain Black walked purposefully in. The three men turned to welcome him. There was an ugly bluish bruise on his left cheek, going up to his eye and surrounding it; Grey grimaced.
“It looks like your partner did a good job on you, Captain Black,” he commented.
“He did at that,” Black answered, coming to sit with them at the table, and removing his cap. He rubbed his sore cheek, and ran a finger round his uniform collar. “He’s got quite a grip too… and he’s stronger than I remember. I’m glad that he’s on our side.”
“For now, Captain Blue is on nobody’s side, except his own,” Fawn remarked.
Black slowly nodded his assent.
“We saw in what state he was last evening,” White said. “But how is he, at this moment?”
Fawn shook his head. “He’s been sleeping since his outburst. Heavily sedated, at first. I cut the sedation this morning. Captain Indigo has ordered his door to be guarded at all time.”
“And where’s Dianne?” White asked.
“She was with him when I left earlier. She refused to leave his side and I had to order her to take some rest, before she made herself ill. She did leave, but only to return after barely two hours.”
“She’s worried about him,” Grey commented.
“Of course, she is,” Black concurred. “They’re very close to each other. When I went to Koala Base yesterday to inform her of the situation and to bring her back here with me, she made no secret of the fact that she blames all of us for what happened to her fiancé.” He pointed to White. “And you, more specifically, Charles. I believe you’re in for an earful of reproach soon.”
“And she would not be entirely wrong,” murmured White pensively, his hands resting on the table, with his fingers intertwined. “I should have put him off duty much sooner.”
“He wouldn’t hear of it, Colonel,” Black continued. “You know that. And I… well, I should have kept a better eye on him, I guess. Maybe he would not have ended this way.”
“She blamed you too, I take it?” Grey asked.
“Oh, yes…” Black nodded his head. “I told you she’s blaming all of us.”
“Well, the important thing is, she’s here,” Grey reasoned. “Blue might need her around him, given the circumstances.”
“I thought her presence would do him some good,” White agreed with a nod. “That maybe seeing her could have helped him snap out of this state of his. Now, in view of what happened last evening… I wonder if it was a safe move to make. She could have been hurt in all that commotion.”
“No,” Grey replied. “Blue would never have allowed any harm to come to her.”
“I agree,” Black added. “Even if totally insane, I doubt that Blue would hurt her.”
“He did hurt Giadello… and you…”
“That’s different, Colonel.” Black stroked his cheek again, and grimaced slightly, feeling the tenderness. “He might be confused right now, but that young lady is still something special to our Blue… even if he denies it at the moment.”
“Nevertheless,” White groused, “I wouldn’t want her to come to any harm. You know I wouldn’t hear the end of it…”
There was a new beep at the door, which slid open; Dianne was standing outside, with Captain Ochre, and both of them entered. When he saw the young woman walking his way, with long strides, and a determined and severe expression on her face, Colonel White rose to his feet and came to her, with the intention of comforting her, and reassuring her that everything possible was being done to help her fiancé get through this difficult time. He didn’t even have the time to speak; her hand came to his face with a solid slap that knocked him sideways.
Everyone in the room stared in shock, absolutely astounded at the scene.
Colonel White was more surprised than really hurt; and certainly, angry at what she had dared to do, especially in front of men from his senior staff. Rubbing his cheek, he turned to her, eyes glaring, with every intention of giving her the rebuke she so rightly deserved. But upon seeing her face, distorted in cold anger, and the unshed tears he knew she had not allowed to fall, and would probably never show in public – least of all in front of him – he stopped himself.
Maybe he deserved that slap after all…
But he wasn’t about to tell her that.
“You are really fortunate that you are family now,” he told her with barely contained anger. “Or I would have your commission on my desk before the day’s much older!”
“Don’t let that stop you, Colonel,” she replied insolently, making everyone who was witness open their eyes even wider with surprise. “I might not be an Angel pilot anymore – thanks to you – but I’m still working for Spectrum. Or do you want my resignation from Koala Base as well? You know, good instructors for pilots are difficult to come by…”
White scowled. “They are difficult to come by indeed,” he answered dully. “Especially when they’re as good as you…” He stopped rubbing his sore cheek. He could feel it burning like fire; he was sure it had turned a nice shade of red.
Her impetuous character be damned…
“Your mother would kill me if I were to sack you. You’re taking the fact that I’m your stepfather too much for granted, young lady.”
“Even if you were not, I would not have acted differently,” she replied icily. She pointed an accusatory finger at him. “How could you let Adam’s condition deteriorate to this point? This is your fault!”
“I’m sorry you feel I’m responsible for his present state, Dianne –”
“Yes, you are! You needed your best man so much, to continue to do his job, to fight the Mysterons, that you overlook his safety, his well-being… his mental health!” Dianne turned around, facing the other men in the room accusingly. Ochre was carefully keeping a few steps away from her, as if, being the closest to her, not counting the colonel, he was dreading he would receive the next slap. “You’re all to blame, as far as I’m concerned. You knew he had problems, but you kept pushing him, or ignored the blatant facts. You led him to this point! And you say you are his friends!”
They exchanged embarrassed glances.
“We already accept that we are not blameless, Dianne,” Fawn told her, speaking as soothingly as he could, leaning against the table to look at her. “But believe us… with what happened to him these last few weeks, we couldn’t foresee how bad it would turn out. I’m ashamed to admit it but – he fooled us all.”
“Yes, that he did,” Ochre continued. “We all thought at first it was simply surges of bad temper – you know, like he used to have, in the past, before… he got to know you better? Of course, it looked like it was… a bit worse than that, but we let it slide.”
“Because he was still doing his job well,” Dianne said dryly, glaring at her stepfather.
The latter sighed. “Dianne, you know how he is. He wouldn’t obey any order to slow down, and he wouldn’t agree to see a doctor. He still wanted to do his job and – I suppose that he played his part so well, that we didn’t fully realise how bad he really was. Until it was too late for us to react properly, that is.”
“I think all of us, we were giving him the benefit of the doubt, hoping that he would get through eventually,” Black said in turn. “And you were there, we hoped your presence… the closeness that grew between the two of you would be helpful to him.”
“Despite what you imply, we are his friends,” Grey continued.
“Dianne, we won’t let him down, believe us,” Black finished. “We are prepared to help him as best we can. And even beyond that. We’ll do the impossible for him.”
Dianne kept silent; she looked at each of them in turn, recognising the encouragement and support in their whole disposition. She then faced White, who was still standing before her. He, too, nodded quietly; the hard expression on his face changed, into a benevolent one; he opened his arms to her.
“You are right. I should have discharged him sooner than that. I’m sorry if I let him down.”
She looked down. “Damn…” she murmured. She let herself be enfolded by the strong arms of the man who had been her commander, and who had become her stepfather, since his marriage with her mother. “Damn them all,” she whispered, pressing her face against his chest and hugging him, trying desperately not to cry. “Just give me back my interceptor and I will blow them from here to Mars…”
“I understand how you’re feeling,” White concurred, holding her comfortingly. He knew exactly to whom she was referring.
The Network. Spectrum had discovered the existence of this undercover organisation quite recently. They were dedicated to supporting and helping the Mysterons in the War of Nerves against Earth, in the hope of benefiting from the aliens’ appreciation and gratitude once they had won the war and established ‘a new order’. These people didn’t seem to have a single idea of the amplitude of the Mysterons’ threat… or they didn’t seem to really care. They were the worst kind of scavengers, feeding on their own people, out of thirst for personal gain and power.
And they were in large part responsible for Captain Blue’s condition.
“We will find them, Dianne,” White said, gently raising her chin. “We will find these turncoats and make them pay for what they did to Adam.”
She nodded her thanks and left his arms, looking down again, composing herself.
“In the meantime,” Fawn suggested, “we have to find a more practical way to help him out. We certainly don’t want for him to stay in the state he’s presently in.”
Dianne opened her eyes wide in horror at the thought; Black frowned in doubt.
“This is Blue we’re talking about,” he commented. “If I know him, he will bounce back.”
“Well, we thought he had healed nicely after what the Network had done to him,” Grey replied. “And obviously, we were wrong.”
“Up until recently, he still had moments of lucidity,” Fawn said. “That’s probably what fooled us. These moments – however prolonged they might be – were only temporary, and he would return to this sad condition, which worsened each time.”
“His obsession has grown,” commented Ochre. “At the same rate as his interest in the Anderson Theory, and the breakthrough made in that field by Doctor Kurnitz’s studies.”
“If he was interested in Kurnitz’s project and discoveries,” Black remarked with a puzzled frown, “why would he have destroyed his lab, then?”
Ochre shrugged. “I don’t think he did it on purpose. I think he rather tried to make the Kurnitz machine work – and as the process developed by Kurnitz is still pretty unstable…”
“It exploded,” White concluded, musingly. “Does Giadello confirm that’s exactly what happened?”
“Captain Magenta and I interrogated him earlier this morning when he woke up. Doctor Giadello explained that Captain Blue came to him yesterday, with a signed authorisation that he was to be admitted to the lab where Kurnitz’s experiments were conducted.”
“Signed authorisation?” White said, frowning. “By whom?”
“By you, sir.”
White scowled “I never signed any authorisation.”
“Of course not,” Grey reasoned. “It was as phoney as that other authorisation he waved at the hangar technician, when he requisitioned that SPJ to leave Cloudbase in the first place…”
Black chuckled, almost despite himself. “One thing for sure, our Blue has not lost any of his resourcefulness…”
“That’s not funny, Captain,” White warned with a frown.
“I never meant for it to be, Colonel.”
Somewhat irate to have learned that Blue had made use of his name without any scruples, Colonel White gestured to Ochre to continue his report.
“Captain Blue asked for Doctor Giadello to see the stones Doctor Kurnitz was working with,” Ochre continued. “So far, Doctor Giadello didn’t see any reason to mistrust Captain Blue, so he removed the stones from the safe where they were kept. Then Captain Blue demanded a demonstration of the console – without the stones, of course. That’s… when it went wrong.”
“Meaning?” White asked with a raised brow.
“When Blue started moving around the Kurnitz console and touching the controls, Giadello then realised that he had a personal agenda. He tried to stop him then, and power down the console. Blue then knocked him down, to get him out of the way. That’s the last Giadello recalls of what happened.”
“What can you tell us of the rest?” White asked.
Ochre sighed. “From what Captain Magenta and I could figure, we must have arrived not that long after that. Just in time to feel the tremor of the explosion. We didn’t want to risk taking the lift, so we took the stairs to the level where the console is stored. The door of the lab was shut and the magnetic lock was engaged from inside. We couldn’t open it, so I asked Lieutenant Obsidian to come down as soon as possible with the emergency codes to get it open. While waiting for him, we kept banging on the door, ordering Blue to open it. He eventually did – after quite a few minutes. The rest… you know, sir. Captain Magenta stayed at the scene, to gather clues while I… returned to base, with Captain Blue as a captive.”
White nodded slowly, at first silent, musing upon the revelation. “Thank you, Captain Ochre,” he said in a low voice. He turned around to return to the table, and he motioned to Dianne and Ochre to take seats. “Obviously,” he added, as he sat down heavily on his chair, “this… obsession of his has ultimately brought Captain Blue to desperate measures. I wonder what exactly he wanted to accomplish with the Kurnitz console.”
“I think this is quite obvious, sir,” Black commented. “He wanted to be with Symphony. Any Symphony in the universe. That’s how deep his obsession was.”
“He has been displaying this unhealthy obsession for some time,” Fawn observed. “But with the events of last year – your getting free of the Mysterons’ influence, Captain Black, and subsequently becoming his partner, and your… romantic involvement with him, Dianne – had made a positive impact on him. He was starting to… ‘live’ again.”
“It wasn’t that easy winning his trust, Doctor,” Black remarked sourly. “He was watching my every step at the start. I swear, I was even afraid to sneeze too loudly when around him, in fear that he would jump in surprise and shoot me without thinking.”
“I think you’re exaggerating,” Grey sniggered.
“Am I? You know Blue as well as I do, Captain.”
Grey nodded his head. “Probably even better,” he acknowledged.
“If not for the Network, who awakened this obsession again – he would probably be fine today,” Dianne groused.
White sighed, and rubbed his forehead. “Now I’m quite sure that it was not exactly what the Network intended for him, but this is nevertheless causing us some headaches…”
“Not to mention that it’s screwing up Captain Blue’s life…” Ochre added. “He’s a threat to others all right – but to himself as well.”
“Unfortunately, that’s all too true,” Fawn conceded.
“The incident of yesterday could have had serious consequences,” White continued. “Someone could have been seriously hurt – or even killed. And that someone could have been Blue himself.”
“And if we are to believe the way he acted last evening – he’s far from being well right now.” Fawn shook his head, and stared directly at White. “He has to be relieved of duty.”
“Of course,” murmured White, pensively.
“Perhaps discharged indefinitely,” Fawn insisted. “We don’t exactly know the extent of the treatment he received from the Network. He could have sustained permanent damage, and his condition might become even worse than it is right now.”
“You certainly know how to announce bad news, Doctor,” Dianne commented, glaring at him. “If you are saying that Adam might never recover from this –”
“I’m not saying that, Dianne. I know how strong Adam is, but I also know that this strength is exactly what we will have to fight against, if we are to help him recover. I think that while he’s in such a state, he might not want to cooperate. It could be a very long process, and a very gruelling one. I just want to point this out.”
“You are giving up on him,” Dianne accused with a frown.
“I am not!” Fawn scoffed defensively. “I’ve said it already: I will not give up on him.”
“Well, I won’t either,” she answered decidedly, getting to her feet. “And if you think that this little ‘pep talk’ of yours is going to discourage me from standing by his side, no matter how long his recovery takes, you are wrong.”
“Dianne,” White said in a soothing voice, “he barely recognised you when you went to him. He doesn’t remember the two of you being engaged. All of his thoughts, all of his memories… are of Symphony.”
“His long dead love,” Black murmured.
“It will be hard for you,” Grey pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter,” Dianne replied insistently. “Since when have you know me to back out when facing difficulties? Adam needs me now, more than he ever needed anyone in his life. And I don’t intend to abandon him.” She stood tall. “Now if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I don’t think my presence is necessary for this pointless assembly of yours.”
She didn’t even wait to be dismissed and turned around, to walk decidedly towards the door, under the five men’s watchful eyes.
“This is not pointless,” Fawn defended himself. “We need to know what we have to do exactly, if we are to help Captain Blue.”
“Then make your plans, Doctor. I believe I am needed much more elsewhere.”
“And where do you think you’re going exactly?” a scowling Colonel White called to her as she reached the door.
She pressed the opening button and the door slid open in front of her. She turned to face White. “To sickbay, my dear stepfather, to give the support he needs to the man I love. If you are looking for me, you will find me there.”
“Dianne…” White frowned deeply, seeing the determination on her face. He knew her all too well; he couldn’t very well see how he would be able to convince her that it would be pointless for her to go – short of ordering her to stay put, or consigning her forcibly to guarded quarters. If he was to resort to either of these actions, that could only result in her loathing him for the rest of his life. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to live with that.
Considering that his wife would probably side with her daughter, anyway…
He sighed deeply. “Do be careful, please.”
She nodded her consent, and then turned on her heels, still watched by the five men she was leaving behind; the door slid closed behind her.
“She’s quite a strong-minded lady,” Ochre commented quietly, with a knowing smirk. “Blue doesn’t know what a lucky devil he is.”
“She’s a handy one to have on your side…” Black approved. “But I wouldn’t want to cross her, that’s for certain.”
“Don’t I know it, Captain,” White answered quietly, pushing himself back on his seat. “Believe me… I’ve got a similar model at home.”
The former Rhapsody Angel made her way back to sickbay, almost absently, as her mind was mulling over the changes in her life, during the past year. The marriage of her mother to her commander had been the first indication that things would never be the same for her ever again; then, after that, a series of events came in quick succession, and her life took a radical change.
When she had been forced to resign from her duties as a Spectrum Angel, a big part of herself had been left on Cloudbase. At the time, she had tried to reach for the sombre Captain Blue – still grieving, even after so many months, for the loss of his great love, for which he felt so responsible. She had been attracted to him for some time, and she had hoped that her departure from the base might have been the catalyst that would force him to reach back to her. Although still keeping a friendly façade, Blue remained distant from her, and had not responded at the time, much to her disappointment. She had left for Koala Base, for her new work as chief pilot-instructor, thinking about all the lost and missed opportunities she was leaving behind.
Since her arrival at Koala Base, Dianne Simms had thrown herself into her new duties, finding little time for herself in this new community that welcomed her into its midst. Major Stone was a very kind commander, and he felt somewhat honoured that a former Angel was now working under his orders on his training base. The other officers were also very amiable, and some of them, she realised, showed some amorous interest in her; the same with the cadets who, upon seeing her for the first time, became quite smitten by her. They would soon realise that the young woman was one of the most demanding and efficient training officers they would probably ever have… But even that fact didn’t seem to cool off their flattering attention. Dianne didn’t care that much. She didn’t feel like mixing with the crowd – not right now, anyway. Not even in social events. She had left too much behind her – her duty as an Angel pilot, her friends, her colleagues, her entire life on Cloudbase – nothing for now seemed able to replace that. She felt so desperately alone.
However, this feeling of loneliness wasn’t to last, and Adam – quickly enough, and quite unexpectedly – came to Koala, for an official visit. It was less than a month since she had left Cloudbase, and she was delighted to see him. What was unanticipated – and a welcome surprise – was that he also seemed very pleased to meet with her again. He had always been fond of her, she knew that of course; each of them had been for the other the shoulder they could rely on, when both had lost the single person who counted the most in their respective lives. But they never became romantically involved.
Not until that moment, anyway.
Quite in contrast to the behaviour he displayed the last time they had seen each other, this time, Captain Blue was more attentive to her, warmer and more caring. His visit demanding that he stayed a few days in Koala Base, he spent most of his free time with her, enquiring about her new life and duties, and talking with her of things of the past – mostly good things, and shared memories, as if neither of them wanted any bad thoughts to come spoil these quiet and happy moments between friends.
Dianne was aware that this first night in Adam’s arms probably didn’t have the same meaning for him that it did for her; she didn’t care. He had been as lonely as herself, perhaps even lonelier, as the grief and guilt he felt for Symphony’s death had never truly left him during the past three years. As a tribute to her loss, he was still wearing that irritating beard of his, which hid half of his handsome face, and he had steadfastly refused or ignored any orders from Colonel White to get rid of it. That he was now ready to open up to someone, to share tender moments with a woman – and not only for the simple purpose of relieving some physical needs – and that she would be that woman, was enough to tell Dianne that there was still hope for Captain Blue to finally be on the road to recovery.
And as for herself, she was content to simply be with him. As for the rest… it would only be a matter of time.
They met often in the following weeks and months, Captain Blue coming over for more official business – she started to believe he was volunteering for the sole purpose of meeting with her – and the bond between them deepened at each encounter. They met outside of work too, and even planned for their respective furloughs to overlap. Gradually, Dianne noticed changes in him – and she wasn’t the only one to notice it. He became more relaxed than he had ever been in these last few years; his relationship with his new partner, Captain Black, recently released from Mysteron control, at first tense and tainted with mistrust, had improved considerably, and his obsession with capturing Mysteron agent Captain Scarlet and avenging the death of Symphony was not as important anymore. The sombre side of his persona started to fade, and Blue became a more agreeable person to know and to work with. He still wore his beard, though, which annoyed Colonel White no end; and there were still some moments when his brooding mood would come back, and he would become decidedly unsociable, refusing to mix with people – especially in friendly gatherings. In those times, it was best to leave him alone with his thoughts, and eventually, he would come around.
In time, Dianne and Adam became more than friends and lovers – much more indeed, as eventually, Adam proposed. It was totally unexpected by Dianne, and she was absolutely elated. She had accepted, of course – she barely took a moment to think about it, although she had been wondering how her family – especially Colonel White, who was now her stepfather – would take the news. Contrary to what she imagined, he took it very well; as a matter of fact, he didn’t bother to hide any sign of pride he might have when he learned about it. He was the first to congratulate Captain Blue, pumping his hand so vigorously that the younger man, afterwards, confided jokingly to his fiancée that he would never get any feeling back in it ever again. Of course, White was still a little put out that his best officer – soon to become his son-in-law – would still not shave that insufferable beard of his; but it was just a minor setback: the important thing was that he approved wholeheartedly of the engagement. The news spread around on Cloudbase and in Koala Base in the following weeks, and plans were drawn up for the future.
But then, the Network arrived on the scene. They kidnapped Captain Blue while he was on furlough with Dianne in New York, and kept him prisoner for three whole days, during which they tried to subvert his mind to their bidding, using an atrocious device they called the ‘Dream Spinner’. Blue resisted, during those three days, with the strength of will that characterised him so much. Finally, as they had been alerted by a worried-sick Dianne Simms, Spectrum found out where he had been taken, and stormed the place, to free their man. Adam had been found alive, thankfully – but the dreadful Dream Spinner had already had its malevolent effect on him, and he was so very weak, shaken and confused that it took him a long time to recuperate.
And just when everyone thought he had finally shaken off the effects of the conditioning the Network had tried to impose on his mind, and Captain Blue seemed to be his good, recent self again, and resuming his life, signs started to show that something was amiss. And the first one to notice them was Dianne herself.
He started by showing a rather odd interest in what was referred to as the ‘Anderson Theory’, which studied the possible existence of parallel worlds, quite similar to their own, but ever so slightly different. Spectrum knew very well that the Anderson Theory had verified itself – although it wasn’t public knowledge so far – because of the strange encounter they had had a year before with a Captain Scarlet and a Captain Ochre from one of those parallel worlds, who became stuck in this world following a rather odd accident involving the Kurnitz console and red stones of Martian origin. Doctors Kurnitz and Doctor Giadello had helped these strange visitors to return home, by opening between both worlds a vortex quite similar to the one they had crossed to begin with. The operation proved a success, and the vortex closed – apparently forever. Still, this rather extraordinary event in which they had been involved had pushed the two scientists to pursue study in that field – exploring the possibility of making further contact with these other worlds, or at least to study them from a distance – and contemplating the very interesting idea, if necessity should arise, even to cross the barrier between worlds.
Blue found all of this fascinating and kept himself informed of any new discovery made in that field. At first, nobody really thought twice about this new ‘hobby’ of his – Blue had always been insatiably curious about all things, so it wasn’t such a surprise that he would want to know more about the Anderson Theory. But soon, they came to the realisation that Blue’s only fascination for it was the thought that in these worlds, other Symphonys could exist… and be perfectly alive and healthy. He knew that it was the case in at least one of these worlds… The one from which those visitors of a year ago had come.
He was talking about Symphony – his Symphony, his Karen – far more than he used to, after having seemed to have nearly forgotten about her in the past few months. Now he would mention her as if she was still alive, using the present tense when he did. At first, when he realised it, he would correct himself, and chide himself for the misuse; it became more frequent, and he would grow annoyed, frustrated, and even irritated, as if he was desperate to get rid of a very annoying habit that was hard to kill. But it didn’t die... On the contrary, it got worse; and Blue’s temper grew more irascible each passing day. That’s when he started to display frequent, violent mood swings.
Dianne had heard that the Dream Spinner treatment would use a traumatic event, weaving false memories around it to apply the conditions needed to break the mind of the subject and convert him. If that was so, it was considered by Doctor Fawn that Symphony’s death was probably the traumatic event that the Network tried to use against Adam. Even if he had resisted the treatment, it was quite possible that it left some kind of after-effects that might have altered his mind – subtly enough, for them not to be visible at first. But as time passed, these after-effects would become more apparent.
Captain Black, Blue’s ever-patient partner for the past year, who had won his friendship and trust the hard way, was the first to suffer the consequences of these changes; he became the venting focus of Blue’s growing anger and frustration – and again, of his mistrust. Blue’s obsession with his long-lost love showed itself more and more, to the point of exasperating colleagues and friends – and most of all, his commander and his fiancée. At times, it would become intolerable, and nobody quite knew how to handle Blue’s moods anymore. It lasted until it nearly reached the breaking point – and the engagement nearly was called off – about a week ago.
Suddenly, Blue’s behaviour changed again, drastically – as if he had suddenly been cured overnight of whatever he was suffering from. He became sociable again. And people wondered if, at last, he had beaten his obsession once and for all when he appeared one morning at a staff meeting – freshly shaved. White had been the most surprised – and that surprise actually overshadowed his satisfaction that Captain Blue, finally, had deigned to acknowledge his order. Dianne had been stunned too; she had mentioned the beard to Adam often, wondering when he would get rid of it – and he had simply chuckled, saying that it had been a part of him for so long, he would find it very difficult to depart from it.
And suddenly, it was gone. Blue didn’t offer any other explanation than a shrug and a mutter stating that ‘it was time’. Somehow that didn’t inspire any comfort in Dianne. There was something going on, she could feel it.
And then these new events happened; and quite frankly, she didn’t quite know what to make of them.
Had Adam finally lost it? Dianne hoped not. And even if it was the case, she was a woman of her word. She would stay by his side and help him, no matter what the future may throw at them. She would be there for him.
She was now in Sickbay, and came out of her fugue as she approached the room where Adam was being kept; there was still a guard, leaning against the wall next to the door, and when he saw her coming, he straightened up and stood to attention. She smiled at him. “At ease, Corporal…?”
“Samuels, ma’am,” he presented himself.
“How is Captain Blue doing, Samuels?”
“So far so good. He woke about a half hour ago. Just in time to get his breakfast.”
Dianne kept herself from scowling. You could always count on Adam to have stinking timing; he probably woke up a few minutes after she had left him.
“I went in with the nurse, just in case he… tried anything?” Samuels offered a bashful smile. “But he looked calm and quiet. He didn’t make a single threatening move. He was preparing to eat when we left.”
“Good. He has to keep his strength up.” Dianne gestured at the door. “Can you let me in?”
Samuels hesitated. “I’m not sure if it’s a good idea, ma’am… I’ve got orders.”
“He won’t hurt me, Samuels. You said yourself he was calm now.”
“Well, he was a few minutes ago, yes…”
“Then we can check that out,” Dianne suggested. She pointed to the small monitor set next to the door, fitted into the wall. The screen was presently dark. “Let’s turn that on and have a look? If he’s still calm, I can go in, and you will stay by the door, in case I need your help – not that I expect I would.”
“I still don’t know, ma’am…”
“Well, let’s start by checking first…” She stood in front of the screen and turned it on; it relayed the picture from the camera inside of Adam’s room, set just over the door, and pointing in the direction of the bed; it would show whatever was going on inside. The screen flicked for a second or two, before the image came into focus.
And suddenly, Dianne’s heart missed a beat and she paled horribly.
Adam’s body was half slumped on the floor, the upper part of his body resting against the side of the bed; he was lying quite still, and his head was hanging low onto his chest; there were large reddish stains, covering both his wrists, and his right fist was closed on a sharp object.
“Oh, dear God…” She turned to Samuels, who, standing next to her, was staring at the screen with unbelieving eyes. “Open this door right away!”
“Don’t you see he needs help, dammit? OPEN THIS DOOR!”
Under the vehemence of her order, Samuels didn’t hesitate anymore; he certainly didn’t want to be responsible for his charge dying on him. He punched in the security code for the lock, which hummed before the door started sliding open. Both he and Dianne entered the room.
The young woman was already rushing to her motionless fiancé, her heart pounding wildly, all sorts of dreadful thoughts coming to her mind all at once. How could Adam do a thing like this – was he so desperate that he could see no way out but to kill himself? It was too horrible to even think she had arrived too late to save him.
“Call for a medic!” she urged Samuels. “Adam, you fool…”
When Dianne leaned over Adam, fearing the worst, she gently reached to touch his chest, hoping that they were not too late.
She was amazed to feel the steady beating of his heart.
Blue opened an eye at that moment and stared at her, and that caused her to freeze.
Swift as lightning, he grabbed her and pulled her against him, making her fall onto his lap; she was so totally taken by surprise that she merely gasped, and didn’t react when he imprisoned her, twisting her right arm behind her back with his left hand so roughly that it actually hurt her, while his right arm snaked around her neck to hold her in a strong lock. She felt something cold, possibly sharp, pressing under her throat, and instinctively, she lifted her chin to avoid being cut.
Samuels, upon witnessing Blue’s stealthy attack, tried to reach for him, but it was already too late; when he saw the cold grey metal so closely held against Dianne’s throat, he stopped in his tracks, his hand resting on his gun, not daring to make another move.
“That’s right, soldier,” Blue told him in an even voice, leaning against Dianne to secure his hold on her, his head resting against hers, and his lips next to her ear. “If you don’t want anything bad to happen to the lady, you will stay quiet and do whatever I tell you.”
“Adam!” Dianne gasped, torn between concern for him and fear for herself. “Have you gone crazy? What do you think you’re doing?”
“What I am forced to do, I’m sorry to say.” Blue addressed Samuels anew: “I won’t do anything to her,” he said, still very calmly. “But I want to see Colonel White.”
“What?” Dianne whispered.
“Tell him to come to me,” Blue demanded again. He pressed his weapon closer to her throat and she winced in anticipated dread. “Or else…”
“He won’t do that, Adam,” she said urgently.
“On the contrary, I think he will,” Blue replied coolly. He glared up at the guard, still standing in front of him, rigid as a statue. “Do as I say,” he said sternly. “Go and get Colonel White for me. Convince him to come into this room in thirty minutes, or I might get desperate. And you don’t want to know what I’ll do if I get desperate.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Dianne told him.
He ignored her intervention. “Is that clear, soldier?” he asked Samuels forcefully.
“It is clear, sir.”
“Then get the hell out of here – and close that door behind you.”
Not taking his eyes off them, Samuels backed away slowly, and finally left the room, closing the door as he was instructed. Blue followed him with his cold eyes, not releasing his hold on Dianne. There was a buzzing sound as the lock was engaged.
“We’re getting up,” Blue told his hostage. “Slowly.”
Dianne had no other choice but to follow his lead, as he was keeping his weapon still very close under her chin as they moved up. Once they found themselves on their feet, Blue pushed the young woman down onto the bed, more roughly than he intended to; she landed on top of it with a huff and turned angry, concerned eyes in his direction. But he had now turned his attention to something else, as he grabbed the mug filled with warm coffee from his bed table, next to his half-eaten meal, and threw it violently against the wall over the door. The gesture startled Dianne, as for a split second she thought he was having a sudden outburst of rage; she understood almost immediately that it wasn’t the case as her eyes followed the mug’s trajectory.
He had perfect aim; the mug crashed on the wall, spilling the hot beverage all over the camera beneath, which sizzled and started to smoke. A red light on top of it extinguished, indicating that it was now out of commission.
Captain Blue blew a deep sigh and, satisfied with himself, turned to a surprised-looking and dishevelled Dianne, who was glaring at him with barely contained anger.
“I can’t believe you pulled a knife on me!” she spat at him. “Have you lost your mind?! Where did you find that knife?”
“What knife?” Grinning, he opened his left hand and showed her the object now resting in his palm; it was a simple spoon – the handle had been the ‘blade’ he had threatened her with. He threw it onto the table.
“Do you really think sickbay personnel so careless as to actually provide a dangerous patient with a knife? Doctor Fawn would have their hide.”
“But… your wrists?” she enquired, frowning. “You didn’t try to commit suicide?”
“Hardly.” He picked up a napkin from the table, revealing two empty plastic packets. “Ketchup,” he explained, then used the napkin to wipe his soiled wrists. “The oldest trick in the book.”
“And yet, still very effective,” Dianne commented, realising that she had been thoroughly had. “I should have seen it coming.” She pushed herself into a sitting position, Blue keeping a close, watchful eye on her. She rearranged her hair, and smoothed her clothes, carefully demonstrating a calmness that contrasted with her rather bleak situation. “All right, now what are you planning to do?”
“If it’ll reassure you, I will not harm you, Rhapsody.”
“I didn’t expect you would.” She frowned again. “And stop calling me Rhapsody.”
“Sorry. Old habits die hard.” He tilted his head. “You’re not an Angel pilot anymore. You’re… chief pilot instructor at Koala Base.”
“It’s been over a year. Nice to see you can actually remember. Maybe there is hope that you’ll recover yet.”
“Actually…I didn’t remember it. I was told.”
Blue shook his head. “If I tell you that, you will still say I’m crazy.”
“I don’t need that to say you’re crazy,” she replied bluntly. “Adam, what’s got into you? What do you think you will accomplish by taking me hostage? You’re still locked in here. You can’t hope to escape!”
“I don’t plan to escape. Like I said… I just want to talk to Colonel White,” he said, simply enough.
“The colonel will have you jailed – if not worse – and throw away the key! What makes you think he won’t send someone here, gun blazing, to take you out, instead of maybe risking his own life?”
“Do you really think I pose a threat to him?” Blue enquired.
“What I think is not relevant. If he thinks you’re dangerous –”
“And do you really think he would go to that extreme? You might get hurt in the process.”
“The fact that I am his stepdaughter will not –”
“His stepdaughter? Blue interrupted suddenly, raising a curious brow. “Since when?”
“Since he married my mother… Adam, what is it with you? How can you not remember that?” Dianne looked at him with deep concern and sorrow – and curiosity as well. She couldn’t help noticing how different he looked and sounded from the night before. He was composed, very relaxed, and sure of himself, despite the situation – well, at least he seemed like it. But he also appeared to still suffer from that strange amnesia of his – as if he couldn’t remember some details of his life, or of the lives of the people surrounding him. He was presently looking at her with attention, obviously musing over what she had revealed to him; he nodded slowly, and sat down on the only chair available in the room.
“Well, if you are family, then I suppose it’s a good reason for him to answer my ultimatum,” he remarked.
“And if he doesn’t?” Dianne asked insistently. “Will you carry out your threat? Will you kill me?”
“Come on, Dianne! Whatever happens, you know I wouldn’t hurt you. I was only bluffing.”
“Nobody is sure with you anymore, Adam. Although I kind of worked out you were bluffing. But it’s good to hear you say it. With the weird way you’ve been acting lately…”
Blue nodded again. “I had a feeling that there was something like that,” he commented, looking thoughtfully at the tip of his toes.
They heard the beep at the door, signifying that the lock had been opened and they turned as the door slid open.
Boy, that was fast, Blue reflected inwardly, and he stood up swiftly as Colonel White entered and walked purposefully towards him; he fought the urge to stand to attention when the older man stood in front of him, eyes glaring. Behind him followed Captain Indigo who came to stand next to Blue, pointing his gun at him.
“Captain Blue, have you completely lost what’s left of your mind?” the Spectrum commander snapped in an irate tone. “What are you trying to do with a stunt like this, get yourself in front of a firing squad?”
Dianne rolled her eyes. “Oh please…”
“Stay out of this,” White ordered her. “I am still your commander.” He turned back to Blue. “Hand me your weapon, Captain, before someone really gets hurt.”
“The blade you were threatening my stepdaughter with! Hand it to me right now!”
Dianne quietly reached for the spoon on top of the table and showed it to White. “This was his weapon, Colonel.”
White glared ominously at the utensil. “You have to be kidding me,” he muttered.
“Did you really think I would threaten Dianne with a knife, sir?” Blue inquired calmly. “You should know I would not hurt her.”
“With you, these days, I don’t know what to think anymore.” White shot a suspicious look at his stepdaughter. “Did you have any hand in this?”
“If you’re asking if she willingly helped me, I can tell you that she didn’t, sir,” Blue answered quickly. “She wasn’t aware of my plan. I… simply used her. So I could get you to come here… and have a little talk with you.”
White scowled, before gesturing to Indigo to lower his gun. “Now what is it with you? Resorting to a fake suicide and taking a hostage to get my attention?”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“So much so that I will either have you strapped onto your bed or locked in a high security cell in the brig. It’s a toss up between the two. So don’t try my patience.” White’s attitude loosened up slightly, but he still was glaring dangerously at Blue. “You wanted to talk to me? So talk.”
“Only if you promise you will hear me out completely,” Blue replied.
White’s frown deepened. “You are playing with fire, Captain,” he warned. He nodded curtly. “I will hear you out. But it had better be good.” He glanced in Dianne’s direction. “You must also allow my stepdaughter to leave.”
“Out of the question,” the young woman suddenly objected. “I’m staying.”
White glared at her. “You are also playing with fire,” he cautioned her. “We will definitely have to have a little talk about discipline, you and I. The fact that I married your mother doesn’t give you the right to contest my authority.”
She didn’t answer but the expression in her eyes spoke volumes; she lifted her chin defiantly, demonstrating thus that she wouldn’t change her resolution.
“Does Captain Indigo have to stay too?” Blue asked, looking in Indigo’s direction.
“As long as I will think you might be a threat to our commander, or anyone in this room, Blue – I will be staying,” Indigo replied bluntly. “I am responsible for security onboard Cloudbase, and I will do whatever needs to be done to enforce this security.”
“Stay by the door, then, Captain,” White told him. “You’ll be able to watch his every move and intervene if he should pose any kind of threat.”
Indigo hesitated; he glared meaningfully at Blue, then acquiesced to the colonel’s order. He went back to stand at ease by the door, his eyes set on Blue, watching him like a hawk.
Blue ignored him. “Thank you, sir. But I can assure you – I have no intention of threatening anyone onboard.”
White sighed. “Your behaviour of late is enough of a threat as it is, Captain Blue.”
“It’s hardly his fault,” Dianne commented. She left the bed to sit on the chair, and made a show of not noticing her stepfather’s annoyed and warning glance.
“What is it that you want to talk to me about?” the Spectrum commander demanded gruffly.
“I just wish to explain myself, sir.” Blue took a deep breath, and then let it go, slowly. “I am not who you think I am,” he said carefully.
White raised a curious brow. “You are not what?”
“I am not Captain Blue. At least, not your Captain Blue.”
White’s expression became hard and from the corner of his eye, Blue could see Dianne tense. Strangely enough, Indigo, still standing guard next to the door, didn’t seem to react; his expression stayed neutral.
“Are you telling me you’re a Mysteron?” White asked in a low voice.
“No!” Blue gave an brief, nervous chuckle. “No, that’s not what I’m telling you at all.”
White turned an enquiring look at Indigo, who shrugged, before he turned back to face Blue. “In any case, you were checked when you got onboard. And again, a few times after that. You would have checked positive a long time ago if it were the case. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.” He crossed his arms on his chest. “I suggest you’d be careful with your choice of words.”
“I’m sorry, but there is no easy way to explain this. I am genuinely not your Captain Blue. I… come from a parallel world.”
If Blue expected a reaction, he was highly disappointed. White was like a statue, looking at him with an icy expression. A look down at Dianne informed him of her dismay, just by the expression displayed on her face; as for Indigo, he obviously was keeping himself from sighing – and was rolling his eyes upwards.
None of them believed him.
“Is this some kind of joke?” White finally asked, very slowly.
“I know this is hard to believe, but it’s the truth!” Blue defended himself. “Look, you met my partner last year: the Captain Scarlet of my world… who’s not under the Mysterons’ influence anymore? And Captain Ochre too? They told us all about you. And I know it was hard to believe them, so I can understand that you don’t believe me either!” He looked straight at an imperturbable-looking Colonel White. He could see he still wasn’t reaching him. “You hired Scarlet’s service to capture your Captain Scarlet – and Captain Black too – in exchange to sending him and Ochre back home. He only got half of the job done, but you held to your end of the deal.”
He stopped and watched again, waiting for a reaction. White kept silent for a moment, before slowly shaking his head. “Blue, this has to be your most ludicrous trick ever...”
“Sir, it’s not a trick at all. I’m telling you the truth. I was with Captain Scarlet and Captain Ochre, and we had escorted Doctor Lavender to the Research Centre…”
“Doctor Lavender has been dead for a year,” Indigo pointed out from his post at the door. He has been listening to Blue’s justification, and by the tone of his voice, it was obvious that he didn’t believe a single word of it.
“Ours isn’t,” Blue replied swiftly enough, turning briefly to him. “Our Captain Indigo, however, is.”
Indigo tilted his head to one side, eyes flashing, but didn’t say a word; he had caught the warning glance Colonel White had sent in his direction, instructing him to keep silent.
“It’s actually when I saw Indigo that I realised what had happened,” Blue continued, addressing White.
He walked a few steps around the room, feeling the need to move to clear his mind. While he had his back turned on them, White glanced briefly at Dianne; she was displaying a disheartened expression on her beautiful face and he couldn’t hide the fact that he also felt somewhat disillusioned. Blue’s condition seemed to be worse than ever, if he expected them to believe such a story.
“I should have realised it sooner,” Blue continued, not really taking any notice of their dubious expressions. “When the Kurnitz console exploded in my world, I was alone with Scarlet in the room, where Giadello had left us. The explosion… I might be mistaken, but it seemed to originate from the console itself – or somewhere around it. It destroyed most of the room, and we got trapped there. The door was blocked with debris, and Scarlet was knocked out. I came out of it unscathed…”
“Unscathed?” White asked. He pointed to his own brow. “And that cut you have there? How did that happen?”
“That’s the odd thing, sir. I told you, I was alone with Scarlet and he was out cold. And then… I heard something. I could swear there was someone else in the room. I went to check that out… and that someone blindsided me.”
“You don’t know who that ‘someone’ was?” White asked with a frown.
“I didn’t see who it was, no… I lost consciousness and the next thing I remember… well, I woke up again, Scarlet was not in the room anymore, the door was not blocked with debris… and Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta were making wild accusations and arresting me.”
White nodded slowly; he rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. “If I am following you… you’re suggesting that our Captain Blue might have been the one to knock you out… and to trap you here, so you would take the fall for his… misdeeds?”
Blue seemed puzzled. “I’m not making any suggestions, sir,” he answered. “I know this, though: it is obvious this is not my world. You can understand that I was confused earlier – I couldn’t understand why I was treated the way I was. I’d done nothing wrong.”
“Or so you say,” Indigo muttered.
“Captain,” White warned.
“Please, Colonel,” Blue continued, “I don’t know what it is that your Captain Blue did that everyone seems so angry about – but it has nothing to do with me. When Rhapsody… sorry, Dianne… came to see me, claiming to be my fiancée, and telling me that Karen – the woman I’m engaged to in my world – was dead, my confusion deepened even more and… well, I admit I flipped. And I totally lost it when I saw Captain Black – who was claiming to be my partner… I thought it was all a trick of the Mysterons’, you see? That’s why I attacked him…”
“I saw the recording of what happened, Captain. No need to make any report on it,” White declared curtly.
“I still need to explain myself,” Blue replied with a frown. “Scarlet had mentioned how things were in this world… about the other, still Mysteronised Scarlet, how he had helped capture Captain Black – I’m guessing that Black was eventually freed from the Mysterons’ influence…”
“Eventually,” came a voice from the door. Blue swiftly turned in that direction; Captain Black was standing there, next to a silent Doctor Fawn; Indigo had let them in without announcing them.
Black looked straight at Blue. “You probably remember how I woke up that first time, after I was captured, and I was myself again,” he said, walking further into the room. “How difficult it was for me to prove myself, to make myself accepted by everyone – by you especially, whom the colonel made my partner. I suspect, to keep an eye on me.”
“I don’t remember that,” Blue said, shaking his head. “I am not that Captain Blue.”
“Adam, please,” Dianne said imploringly.
“Come on, Adam,” Black grunted in turn, stopping in his approach and standing a few feet from Blue – who, feeling some kind of a threat from him, took a few steps back. “We heard every word of your story – the doctor and I,” he specified, gesturing in Fawn’s direction. “Don’t you think this game has gone long enough?”
“You came with the colonel, then?” Blue inquired, almost accusingly.
“What did you think? We were with him when, alerted by Samuels, Indigo informed him of what happened here. Do you think we would let him come here alone, to face a crazed man? We had cause to be concerned, when we heard that you had taken Dianne hostage. So we acted accordingly.”
“Meaning?” Blue asked, tensing.
“We don’t want this to turn ugly,” Fawn added quickly, fearing that Blue would get upset. “Spectrum guards are outside, with Captain Ochre, waiting to come in at the first sign of trouble and to subdue you should it become necessary.”
“I am not armed, and I am not planning to hurt anyone,” Blue replied dryly. “All I wanted to do was to explain myself.”
“You could hurt yourself,” Fawn offered in a gentle tone. “Come on, Adam – this game must finish now, before it goes too far.”
“Why do you keep thinking I’m playing a game?” Blue asked in annoyance, frowning. “I’m telling you the truth. I am not your Captain Blue.” He turned to White. “You promised you would hear me out,” he accused. “I thought I could trust your word as much as my own commander… You only agreed to meet me… just to set me up!”
“Captain Blue…” White sighed deeply, and took a step forward. When Blue backed away again, he stopped his approach. He didn’t want to scare him to the point where he would make a desperate gesture. “I was true to my word, Adam… I heard what you had to say. But admit it to yourself, it doesn’t make much sense.”
“You’re wrong,” Blue replied with a shake of his head. “Why don’t you believe me?”
“Because it’s too far-fetched, Adam,” Black replied. “As far as we know, travelling between parallel worlds doesn’t work – well, not since we sent those visitors back to their own world last year, that is. The Kurnitz console is not functional.”
“As far as you know…” Blue repeated. “Why don’t you ask Doctor Kurnitz and Doctor Giadello how far they’ve got in their research at the moment?”
“If you are indeed from a parallel world, what would you know of the extent of that research?” White demanded.
“Similar research is being performed in my world,” Blue defended himself. “And I don’t know how far they went, either, but they were hopeful that they would make some kind of breakthrough, soon. We were about to attend a demonstration, when the explosion occurred. And considering I’m here, at least in one of our worlds, the research in that field must be advanced enough. It’s the only reasonable explanation!”
White clicked his tongue in exasperation and shook his head. “No, there’s a more reasonable one, Captain, and you know it,” he declared sternly. “This story of yours may be far-fetched, but somehow I think there is some truth in it.”
“What do you mean?” Blue asked with a frown. “You believe me, then?”
“Not quite, no.” White stepped forwards again, and this time, Blue didn’t back away. The Spectrum commander looked levelly into the younger man’s eyes. “This is what you were planning to do, isn’t it?”
“I fail to understand, sir… I was planning to do what?”
“I think you genuinely believe that travelling to a parallel world is possible. So much so that you built your entire fixation upon it. It is quite alluring to imagine that in this other world you mentioned, there might be another Symphony – another Karen – quite alive, and waiting for you. All you need to do is to open an inter-dimensional vortex – and get there, isn’t it?”
Blue couldn’t believe his ears. “Wait a second… Are you saying…”
“You’re so obsessed with the girl’s death, you blame yourself so much for it, that you would be willing to do anything – even the craziest of schemes – to try and be with her again. Even if it’s only another version of her.” White pointed to Blue’s face. “That’s the reason why you shaved your beard. I never could get you to get rid of it in three years. The only person who would have been able to do that would have been Symphony. You were probably planning this for a very long time. The thought of being with her again was so strong, wasn’t it? You couldn’t resist.”
“Adam, is that true?” Dianne asked, her voice sounding as if she had been hurt by the realisation that what Colonel White was saying could be accurate.
“No!” Blue shook himself. “I mean… I don’t know what the other Blue was planning, but I…”
“I don’t blame you, Adam.” The Spectrum commander shook his head, despondently. “I really don’t blame you,” he said in a softer voice. “It’s not your fault, none of this is, really. No, I blame myself, for having letting things go this far, without seeing your torment – and without putting a stop to this sooner. I should have foreseen it. You’ve been distraught ever since we rescued you from the Network’s clutches.”
Blue opened his eyes wide. “The Network? What has the Network got to do with this?”
“They tried to convert you to their cause,” Dianne softly informed him, as he turned to face her. “Don’t you remember what they did to you? Don’t you remember the Dream Spinner? You’ve been having nightmares about it for weeks.”
“I didn’t even come near that dreadful machine,” Blue objected.
“You might not remember now, that’s true,” White added quietly. “You might have escaped their programming, but what they did wasn’t without consequences. All the lies, the secrets you’ve been keeping from us – you weren’t well, but you pretended you were. You became even more careless in your work – to the point of endangering not only your life, which wasn’t so uncommon in the past with you, but the lives of others as well.”
“I told you, I didn’t attack Giadello…”
“Giadello is not the only one, Blue,” Black said in turn, approaching. “What about Destiny?”
“What about her?” a puzzled Blue asked.
“Don’t you remember? When you went on your own to Iceland… pretending to be looking for clues to find Scarlet… Was it only coincidence that he was there – or maybe he was waiting for you? Destiny was caught in the crossfire and got injured. She was lucky to get out of it alive. And so were you.”
“We know now that you were looking for red stones,” Indigo continued. “Or maybe Scarlet provided you with some? Were you ready to make a deal with the devil for your plan to work, Blue?”
“You’re talking crazy!” Blue protested.
“We found red stones in your quarters,” White explained. “Well, more like splinters, actually, very tiny, probably not powerful enough for what you were planning. Did you have more on you, when you left Cloudbase without authorisation, to go to the Research Centre? Doctor Giadello only had two – according to what we know, you need three to open up a vortex…”
Shaking his head grimly, White slowly started walking, and passed by Blue, turning his back on him and going to his stepdaughter who was still sitting on the chair, looking miserable at all these revelations. Blue turned around, following the colonel with his eyes; he watched as White put a comforting hand on Dianne’s shoulder and she raised her beautiful, sad face to look at him.
“If your Blue had the third stone,” Blue said sternly, as a sudden thought came to his mind, “and if what you’re saying is exactly what he was planning to do… then it would mean that his plan worked all too well! That would explain everything… He trapped me here so he could be in my world. With my Karen.” These last words seemed to sadden Dianne even more and she lowered her eyes, not daring to look at him. Seeing this, Blue considered that his counterpart in this world was a right bastard for putting her through all this ordeal. He forced himself to ignore this, and took a step towards White’s back. “I swear it’s the truth… You have to help me find a way home… if that man is as crazed as you say, and he’s with my fiancée now –”
“The plan backfired, Captain,” White interrupted over his shoulder, interrupting him. “Because you’re still here. But you do need help, and we intend giving it to you.” The colonel turned around. “Even if it’s despite yourself.”
Blue felt Black’s presence close behind him only after the latter swiftly crossed the last steps separating them and caught him in a strong arm lock, his hands pressing against the back of Blue’s head in the process to immobilise him.
“Hey, let go…” Trying to free himself, Blue stumbled, and Black used the momentum to push him against the nearest wall. Indigo had left his position at the door to come to the rescue. Both of them were nearly not enough to keep the very strong and desperate Blue still, and they were trying very hard not to hurt him.
“Let go of me!” Blue demanded, grunting. “I’m telling you it’s all a mistake!”
“Sorry, Adam,” Black answered with a genuine accent of regret in his voice. “But you must believe us, it’s for your own good.”
“Like hell! Your Adam is in my world, with my fiancée! You have to let me go back!”
“Doctor!” Black called urgently. “Bring that sedative right now, we won’t be able to hold him very much longer!”
“Not again!” Blue moaned between his teeth.
During the scuffle, as Blue was trying frantically to get free, his pyjama top got loose, and Black, pressing his resisting opponent against the wall, inadvertently pushed it up Blue’s back, revealing a good part of his upper body. Something unexpectedly caught the attention of Dianne, who was watching the scene with total dismay. Unsure, she frowned and made a double-take. She looked carefully, opening her eyes wide with perplexity.
Fawn had neared the three struggling men, an hypo-gun in his hand, and was about to give Blue his third shot of sedative in less than two days, when all of a sudden, Dianne jumped to her feet, and ran to them. “Doctor, wait!”
Fawn stopped. “Dianne, we don’t have any choice…”
“Come back here, Dianne,” White ordered sternly.
“No, wait. You don’t understand!” She got closer to the fighters; pressed against the wall, Blue could barely move. Jaws clenched in his efforts to resist, he addressed a hopeful look at the young woman, who was now standing next to him.
“Dianne, you’d better get away from there,” Colonel White warned.
“No!” She turned to Blue and locked eyes with him; she saw the desperate and pleading expression in them. She nodded, slowly, as the full realisation finally made its way into her mind, and she knew with complete certainty that he was saying the truth. “He’s not Adam,” she said softly.
“What?” an unbelieving Indigo said, while Black was staring at her with mystification. “You believe his crazy story?”
“Yes, I do!” she answered firmly. “He’s telling the truth!”
“Come on, Dianne, don’t fall for his story,” White remarked with annoyance. “It’s completely irrational!”
“I have proof!” she suddenly declared with self-confidence, much to everyone’s surprise. “Doctor, take a look. Look at his back… at his right hip!”
She pushed the bottom of the pyjama jacket up and pointed to Blue’s naked upper body. Narrowing his eyes, Fawn approached and looked closer. He could see nothing. At first, he wondered what the young woman was driving at, and suddenly, he realised…
Still somewhat sceptical, just to make sure he wasn’t mistaken, he leaned closer, and pushed the pyjama top further up, to run his expert hand over the surface of Blue’s skin; the latter shivered visibly.
“There’s no scar,” the physician announced, stunned.
As Blue, still imprisoned in the arm lock, was looking at Dianne with a confused expression, she explained, as much for his benefit as for all the other men in the room: “Six months ago, Adam got injured during a very difficult mission. Badly injured. He survived, of course, but it left him with a scar that he will keep all his life. A long scar that runs from just over his lower back, down to his right hip…” With her finger, she followed the described path on Blue’s unscathed skin. “See? There is no scar there!”
She looked triumphantly in White’s direction; the latter was staring at Blue’s back with a stern and scowling expression. He then looked at Fawn for confirmation. The physician nodded, letting go of Blue’s pyjama top.
“That’s true. The Captain Blue I know will have that scar for good. But this man here, he doesn’t have the scar.” Fawn looked at Blue in disbelief. “It means this is not the same man,” he concluded.
“Or the Mysterons found a way to duplicate someone without making him sensitive to our detectors,” Indigo replied suspiciously.
That was not exactly what Blue wanted to hear and he groaned in obvious frustration.
“You’re full of optimism, you know that, Indigo?” he lashed at the other man. “And full of bull, too! I am no Mysteron… If I was, I would probably have that scar anyway. Remember, exact duplicate? A mistake like that could give me away instantly!”
White glared at Dianne. “I won’t ask you how you know about the scar,” he grumbled with humour.
Dianne kept herself from smiling; she knew her stepfather couldn’t be that naïve. She could see by the look on his face that his mind was now processing all this new information, analysing it and pondering what he should do now. They all waited expectantly for his decision – Blue obviously hoping that he would finally give credence to his story and wouldn’t consider Indigo’s suggestion.
White made his decision very quickly, and gave his next order to Black and Indigo within the next minute: “Release him.”
Both men obeyed without any hesitation, and Blue, finally free, turned around, massaging his sore neck and arms in the process. He grimaced when he heard his muscles and bones pop and crack as they returned to their rightful places. He addressed a shy and grateful smile at Dianne who was still looking at him attentively.
“Thank you,” he told her with a deep sigh of relief, as he smoothed down his wrinkled pyjama top. “You’ve just saved me from getting sedated again… I was beginning to get rather tired of it.”
“Don’t mention it,” she answered with a weak smile of her own. “I think I saved you from much worse than that, actually.”
“Yes… like spending the rest of my life in a padded cell.” He chuckled, but he still felt very uncomfortable. It had been too much of a close call for him to be perfectly at ease. He could still see in the expressions of the two men standing on each side of him that they weren’t that sure of what to make of him. He wondered if they still doubted him, thinking he was the Captain Blue they knew – who obviously, in his insanity, had deceived them a few times already – or if they still entertained the thought that he might be a Mysteron.
He was somewhat reassured when Indigo held out his hand – and grinned at him. “So sorry about this, Captain,” he said, genuinely apologetic. “I hope you understand it was nothing personal…”
“You could have fooled me, Captain Indigo.” Blue shook the proffered hand. “No harm done. You were just doing your job. Obviously, you couldn’t know.”
“No, we couldn’t,” Black said in turn, causing Blue to turn his attention to him. The older man was staring at him, a frown displayed on his face, and seemingly studying his features very closely. He presented his hand in turn. “I can see there is something decidedly different in you. The madness isn’t in your eyes…”
“I probably looked crazy enough earlier,” Blue commented sheepishly, taking the man’s hand, if a little undecidedly. “I was getting really desperate to make you believe me.” He looked squarely into Black’s face. “You know, this is awkward. The Captain Black from my world…”
“I know. Is still under Mysteron control.” Black shook his head. “If not for your partner who visited us last year, I still would be too.”
“And your Captain Scarlet…”
“… Is still on the loose, unfortunately.” That was Colonel White, who had approached and now stopped in front of Blue. The latter stood tall in front of the Spectrum commander’s probing eyes.
“Colonel White… thank you for finally believing me.”
“It’s Doctor Fawn and Dianne you should thank, Captain Blue. They’re the ones who finally realised you were telling the truth.” White nodded slowly, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, while still examining Blue steadily. “Captain Black is right. There is something different in your eyes… Something which is in our Captain Blue’s eyes, and isn’t in yours. I can see it now.”
“That’s because now, I’m far more relaxed than I was,” Blue commented.
“So you are.” White gave a rueful smile. “Welcome to Cloudbase, Captain.”
“Thank you, sir,” Blue answered, shaking his third hand of the morning.
“And how is your partner, Captain Scarlet? And Captain Ochre too?”
“They’re very well, sir. At least, I think they should be. Although, the last time I saw Scarlet was when I… departed… from my world. He was half-buried under rubble at the Research Centre…”
“Knowing him, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, I believe.”
“No… He was alive, and didn’t seem too badly hurt,” Blue confirmed. “But I’m still worried nevertheless, sir.” His expression became very serious. “As I am also very worried about what your man might be up to in my world.”
For a moment, White kept silent, and thoughtfully considered this comment from the younger man – this visitor from another world – who was scrutinizing him with a concerned gaze. The Spectrum commander gave a brief nod of acknowledgement..
“Yes, I can understand your apprehension. We have to discuss this, but this is not the right place. Do you want to get some rest, or are you up for debriefing right now?”
Blue raised a brow, not amused in the slightest by the question. “I slept enough as it is,” he replied dully, stealing a glance in Fawn’s direction. “And I wouldn’t want to waste too much time. Just… give me time to get a shower… and a change of clothes would be appreciated too. And then I’ll be with you, sir.”
“I’m sure all that can be arranged,” White confirmed. “Captain Indigo will escort you to the visitors’ quarters. You are our guest, Captain Blue.”
“Thank you, Colonel. But I hope you understand… I certainly don’t plan to hang about very long…”
Quite relieved to finally be allowed to leave sickbay, Captain Blue followed Captain Indigo to his new quarters, where he took his much needed and desired shower. When he stepped out of the bathroom, Indigo, who was waiting for him, handed him a brand new uniform – a blue one, that he had retrieved from the quarters of this world’s Captain Blue, while Blue was under the shower. Apparently, his own uniform had not been cleaned up yet, since they had returned from the Research Centre, and the colonel had ordered that his guest be dressed properly for the briefing.
Blue felt awkward, as he slipped into this uniform that wasn’t really his own, all the while wondering what its owner might be up to at the moment. What he had heard from everyone onboard so far concerning this other Blue wasn’t very reassuring, and he couldn’t help feeling worried, not knowing exactly what could be going on in his world, where a duplicate of himself – who was not a Mysteron – was walking around, amongst his friends, totally undetected, free to do whatever he wanted.
Thoughts of Symphony kept coming to Blue’s mind; he recalled that Colonel White had said that his counterpart was totally obsessed with her. Consumed by thoughts of revenge against the man who had killed her, and feeling remorse over her death, more than three years ago… Considering that this man might presently be pretty unstable, Blue wasn’t very reassured either of what might happen to his friend and partner in his own world – but most importantly, he was starting to get worried sick for his fiancée.
Indigo walked him to the Conference Room. This Cloudbase, Blue realised, was very similar to the one he knew, except for a few details; Scarlet had already told him about that, and how he had found it so perplexing when he had been there. Blue was experiencing the same sense of puzzlement now, as well as some disorientation. The mere presence of Captain Indigo, walking there by his side, served him as a reminder that this place wasn’t exactly home. Indigo was dead in his world – a victim of the Mysterons, in the first year of the War of Nerves. He had seldom been on Cloudbase before his death. But this Indigo was at ease in this place; he was responsible for security onboard, and it was obvious he was taking this responsibility very seriously.
When they reached the conference room, Captain Indigo pressed the opening button for the door, which slid open in front of them. The others were all present, already waiting for them: Colonel White, of course, who came to welcome him, Captain Black and Doctor Fawn, who already knew everything about him, and Captains Ochre, Magenta and Grey, who glared at him suspiciously as he entered. Blue wondered how much White had already told them about him – and if they believed any of it, to start with. By the way they were acting now, neither of the possibilities seemed very likely. Lieutenant Green was there too, on White’s left, in front of the computer keyboard imbedded into the table, while Dianne Simms, Blue noticed, had also taken a seat at the circular table. He imagined that, since she had been deeply involved with the events since the very start, she had a right to attend the meeting too.
Ten minutes later, as everyone was ready, the briefing started. Lieutenant Green had set up a video contact through to the Spectrum Research Centre and Doctor Giadello, his head bandaged, and Doctor Kurnitz appeared on the screen, seated at a work-table. White started by enquiring about Giadello’s health, concerned that the meeting might be a little too demanding to the injured scientist. The latter simply smiled at the comment, and thanked the colonel for it.
“Do not worry, Colonel White,” he said quietly. “Really, it is simply a slight concussion… My doctor says I should be all right, as long as I don’t exert myself physically. Quite frankly, considering the content of your message earlier, I really wouldn’t want to miss this meeting at all.”
“We’re glad to have you, then, Doctor,” White replied. “Your expertise will be welcome. Because, you will see – we are presently faced with a very peculiar problem. One you and Doctor Kurnitz already were confronted with, about a year ago.”
Having gained everyone’s attention that way, White started by first presenting Captain Blue to the whole assembly, and carefully explaining his present situation to those who didn’t already know about it. The first flicker of mistrust and surprise Blue had seen earlier in the eyes of Captains Ochre, Magenta and Grey gradually changed to scepticism, then puzzlement, and was finally followed by total surprise. But these men were officers as effective as those Blue knew on his world, and, when they were totally reassured that this man sitting amongst them was on the level, they soon recognised that there was a need to go into action. They would help in whatever way Spectrum could, so he would be able to return to his world, and they could reclaim their own man.
If that was possible.
“What about the Mysterons?” Magenta suggested, as White came to the conclusion of his introduction. “Do we know if they’re involved in this?”
“I am not a Mysteron agent, Captain Magenta,” Blue said warningly.
“That’s not what I’m implying, Captain,” Magenta told him, apologetically. “Not at all. I know that Captain Indigo has checked you out…”
“More than twice, actually,” Indigo confirmed.
“I just meant – could they be behind this incident that got you and our Captain Blue… trading places in both worlds?”
Blue considered this. “I don’t think this has anything to do with the Mysterons, Captain. Either in my world, or in yours.”
“Are they the same Mysterons, to begin with?” Grey pondered out loud.
“We already wondered about this during the last year, Captain,” White intervened, “and we didn’t come up with a satisfying answer to that question. I don’t think now is the time to present the problem again. However, I can see why Captain Magenta is wondering about the Mysterons’ involvement in this affair.”
“The Iceland incident,” Black said with a nod.
“The one you mentioned earlier?” Blue inquired. “When your man, as well as Destiny Angel, was injured?” At Black’s nodding, he continued, frowning: “What happened in Iceland?”
White indicated to his officers that they should offer the explanation. Black was the first to start:
“Captain Blue – our Captain Blue, that is – somehow got hold of information that he would find clues to Captain Scarlet’s whereabouts in Iceland,” he explained. “At least, that’s what he told us afterwards, although he never truly explained how he received that information.”
“That was shortly after we retrieved him from the Network’s clutches,” Fawn continued. “He had been in sickbay for a few weeks, recuperating, after that earlier incident.”
“When he got out of there, he set out for Iceland, without any explanation,” Black continued. “We went after him, of course. Doctor Fawn wasn’t convinced he was fully recovered.”
“And apparently, I was right,” Fawn groused.
“We found Blue eventually,” Ochre continued. “Around the site where Captain Indigo was nearly killed a few years ago, when the Mysterons set up a meeting place to ‘discuss peace’.”
“Destiny thought he might be around those parts,” Grey said in turn. “Logically, it would be the only place for Blue to look for clues… at least, it was a place for us to start searching for Blue. So Destiny flew there and saw a car parked in front of the half destroyed cabin, where Indigo nearly was blown to smithereens. She reported the information, and landed to verify. Blue was there, all right. But he wasn’t alone.”
“He had found Scarlet,” Blue realised.
“Yes,” Black confirmed. “He did find Scarlet. At this point, we didn’t know about Destiny’s discovery, and when Destiny failed to respond to our calls, we went there in turn, thinking she had hit trouble. When we arrived, we found Scarlet and Blue firing at each other, with Destiny lying on the ground, in a pool of blood; Blue got hit, while trying to get to Destiny and take her to safety. We didn’t waste any more time trying to figure out how things had got to that point, so we went into action.”
“Scarlet eventually escaped,” Ochre added. He gestured with his fingers, and glanced sideways at Black. “Evaporated into thin air…”
“Don’t remind me,” Black griped. “I know the Mysterons did that to me a number of times, but I have no idea where I went in those times or how it felt… I’m thinking, not very comfortable.”
“And you don’t know how your Blue got the information on how to find Scarlet there?” Blue demanded with a frown.
“No. When he woke up in sickbay two days later, he said he didn’t remember,” Fawn said in turn. “Which was a possibility, mind you… He could have had a short-term amnesia for that particular incident.”
“I never bought that,” Indigo snorted. “Most likely, he could have heard about it while captive of the Network. Overhearing the information…”
“… Or maybe the information was freely given to him,” Ochre suggested. “As part of the Network’s attempts to convert him.”
“In any case, when Destiny woke up, and she was interrogated about what she knew of the incident,” White pursued, “she said the last thing she remembered, just before she was shot, was to have crept to the cabin to see inside, and to have seen Blue and Scarlet facing each other, arguing. Blue was arguing, at least, and shouting, and threatening to kill Scarlet. Then guns were drawn… and Destiny was hit.” The Spectrum commander shook his head. “What happened before the argument and the shootout, we never knew. Blue never told, because he claimed not to remember either.”
“You said that your Captain Blue got his hands on red stones,” Blue said, rubbing his chin pensively. “Would he have found those on that site?”
“That’s what we’re assuming,” White said.
“We had searched the place with a fine tooth comb,” Giadello then said from the screen. “We thought that the largest pieces had all been retrieved and brought back to the Research Centre, so that our scientists, under Doctor Kurnitz’s directions, could study them. Whatever Captain Blue might have found, could only be insignificantly small fragments.”
“What we found in Blue’s quarters certainly was tiny,” Indigo confirmed. “Most of them, barely big enough to fit onto a ring.”
“You thought that Scarlet might have provided him with a bigger rock,” Blue suggested.
“I was just trying to make you react – as I thought you were him,” Indigo admitted. “However, now that you mention it…”
“That’s preposterous!” Dianne scoffed. “You really think that Adam would have accepted a gift from Scarlet?”
“Desperate as he was, Dianne…”
“You’re forgetting something, Captain Indigo: the ailment from which he suffers now didn’t appear until many days, weeks, after this incident,” she said insistently. “And it came on slowly, gradually… What you’re suggesting would mean that he had been planning this trip to the other world almost from day one.”
“It could have been planted in his mind,” Black suggested softly. “Either by the Network, as part of their original plan… or by Scarlet, who recognised the weakness of Blue’s condition at the time, and thought he could use that to his masters’ advantage.”
“If that’s the case then, it isn’t really reassuring,” Grey said.
“But what would they have to gain by doing such a thing to the poor man’s mind?” Blue wondered.
Black shrugged. “Creating havoc, pure and simple? Who knows?”
“I thought that maybe you would, Captain Black?”
Black raised an eyebrow at Blue’s question. “Me? Well, maybe I know a little about them, but not that much, and certainly not what’s going on in their collective mind. The memories I have of my time under their control are very vague, Captain – and fortunately, only come back to haunt me in occasional nightmares. I don’t retain anything from them, thank God, and don’t wish to remember more than I already do.”
“You’re not retrometabolic, then?” Blue asked with a curious frown.
“You mean, like your friend? Your Captain Scarlet? No… I’m quite human, as far as I know. Just like you.”
“Sorry. I naturally assumed…”
“I know that the Mysterons must have killed your friend,” Black interrupted swiftly, before Blue could add more. “The way they killed the Captain Scarlet from this world…”
“It was a car accident, during the very first mission against the Mysterons,” Blue explained. “They had threatened the World President. They killed Captain Scarlet – and Captain Brown with him – and took them over.”
“Exactly like they did here, then,” Black said evenly. “But I can assure you, Captain, with the little I know of the Mysterons… that ‘car accident’ was anything but an accident.”
“We already that figured out, Captain Black.”
“As for myself, I don’t know what they did exactly to me,” the unflappable Black continued. “I don’t remember having been killed… Either on Mars, or anywhere here. I’m not saying they didn’t… My memory is quite like a Swiss cheese, regarding the Mars mission and whatever lucid moments I might have had when the Mysterons took control of me. Doctor Fawn says I have a… selective memory – blocking from my mind whatever horrific recollections I wouldn’t be able to bear. Call it survival instinct, if you will… I can live with that.”
Blue narrowed his eyes at him. “You’re quite the cold fellow, Black,” he said in a low voice. “The Black I know never was a very demonstrative person, but you... you’re like an iceberg.”
“I can’t afford not to be,” Black replied. “I need to keep my emotions in check at all times. Or I would go mad.” He raised a brow. “Beside, as my partner, Blue has enough emotions for the both of us. I have to keep some balance…”
“He’s not that bad, really,” Captain Ochre, seated next to Black, said quietly. “Always a good victim for a joke, actually.”
Black gave a patient sigh and addressed an amused look towards his American colleague. “Yes, and you’re constantly trying to get me to break up, aren’t you, Captain Ochre?”
“Always aiming to please, Captain…”
“If you’ve quite finished…” White leaned on the desk, intertwining his fingers, and glared warningly at his officers. “We have a meeting going on, gentlemen?”
“Of course, sir,” Blue apologised. “If I may… I might have another suggestion of where your Captain Blue could have got those stone fragments you’re talking about…” He turned towards the screen, narrowing his eyes. “Doctor Kurnitz, Doctor Giadello… aren’t you using something similar for your research into the Anderson Theory?”
Both scientists exchanged surprised glances, before looked straight at Blue through the screen. “And how do you know that, Captain Blue?” Kurnitz asked.
“Quite simply, because your counterparts are conducting the same research in my world, Doctors. They mentioned such shards shortly before the incident that sent me here. Is it possible that the other Captain Blue took those shards from your own reserve?”
“Quite impossible,” Giadello answered with assurance. “He never came to the Research Centre before yesterday...”
“And he already had his fragments here on Cloudbase,” Black remarked. “Which reminds me…” He indicated Magenta. “Aside from these fragments found in Blue’s quarters, we found something else…”
“Yes, indeed…” Magenta leaned down and picked up from the floor a small box that he put on the table in front of him. Opening it, he took out a little device, which was about the size of a hand-sized remote control. He flipped the cover open and a screen automatically flickered into life with a red glow. He put the object flat on the table and pressed a button under the round table, which started rotating, slowly, so that everyone could get a good view of the device.
“What is it?” Dianne asked, with curiosity.
“We don’t know,” Magenta answered. “I found it at the Research Centre, next to Blue’s cap, while searching the site of the explosion. I showed it to Colonel White earlier. We were hoping that Blue…” he pointed to the man in front of him, “would be able to tell us, but obviously he’s not the right person to do that. Perhaps you can, Dianne?”
“Me?” Dianne said with a frown. She picked the object up and checked it out, on all sides. “I’ve never seen this thing in my life. You’re sure it belongs to Adam?”
“It has his fingerprints all over it, anyway,” Magenta answered.
“Well, if it is his, he never showed it to me,” Dianne replied.
“Can we see this object more closely, please?” That was the voice of Doctor Kurnitz on the screen. Nodding to their request, Dianne put the small device onto the table which continued its rotating course. She stopped it in front of the screen. Both scientists narrowed their eyes at the object they could now see very well.
Giadello gave a sharp gasp. “Doctor Kurnitz, this is your missing prototype!”
“Indeed, it does look like it,” Kurnitz confirmed.
“Prototype?” White frowned deeply upon hearing the two men’s exchange. “You mean to say this is yours, gentlemen?”
“It was, Colonel,” Kurnitz said. “Do you remember the break-in in my office at the Nash Institute, quite a few months ago? I had some papers stolen, as well as a few communications devices I was working on at the time… Amongst them, this thing.” He shook his head. “The security at Nash Institute did find the thief, about three days after the incident. His car had run off a cliff and caught fire. He was killed in that accident, and everything in his car was destroyed. I thought this device was too!”
“Uh-oh…” Ochre muttered darkly. “It has all the hallmarks of a Mysteron reconstruction here... I would handle this thing very carefully, if it were me…”
“No danger in that, Captain,” Kurnitz replied. “The device is not one of destruction. And in any case, it never worked properly, so…”
“What did you build it for?” Blue asked, taking the object in his hand. “Your counterpart in my world, Doctor Kurnitz, did mention that he worked on a hand-held device of some sort. This thing of yours… it looks a bit like… an over-sized portable videophone.”
“It is not quite a communication device, Captain Blue,” Kurnitz confirmed. “It’s only a receiver… it doesn’t transmit. Basically, it was built to create an opening into the inter-dimensional wall – a tiny pinhole, if you wish, of no consequence at all, which would have permitted us to reach into a parallel world.”
“The device,” Giadello continued, “ would focus on various radioactive signatures – which are unique to each world – to find the one which would meet our requirements… Of course, we only had one signature we could really recognise and concentrate on… We really didn’t have that many samples to work on…”
“In English, Doctors?” White interrupted, sighing.
“Quite simply, Colonel,” Kurnitz said, “this device, if working, could have recognised the world from which our visitors of last year came – the same world as yours, Captain Blue – and to open a kind of channel through to there… and we would have been able to observe that world.”
Blue nodded thoughtfully. “That sounds like something similar to what your counterparts in my world were attempting to do,” he reflected. “But why our world?”
“Because of your friends’ visit of last year, as we said. Theirs was the only sample of radioactive signatures we had. So the only vortex we could open with that signature would be to your home.”
“You said the device didn’t work?” Blue mused.
“No… it should have worked with red stone shards…” Kurnitz frowned, as every eyes turned to Indigo. “Quite like those you actually described, Captain Indigo… But Captain Blue could not possibly have made the receiver work. It was defective, and never produced any results.”
“He might not have been able to make it work, but what do you want to bet the Mysterons could?” Blue said darkly.
“They have powers beyond our imagination,” Black said softly with a slow nod. “Of course, they could have made the device functional. Must have be a piece of cake for them…”
“Lord, they were behind this,” Captain Grey muttered.
“Or it was their self-proclaimed allies,” White commented. “To whom the Mysterons could have provided the means to carry out whatever plans they were preparing…”
“The Network?” Blue suggested.
White nodded. “It isn’t the Mysterons’ way to prepare such long-standing strategies. The Network on the other hand…”
“That would be like them, all right,” Blue confirmed.
“So I take it, from what you’re saying now and by your lack of surprise earlier when we mentioned the Network, that you’ve had to face these despicable people too in your world,” White commented musingly.
“A couple of times, sir,” Blue admitted. “They’ve been a thorn in Spectrum’s side that we are trying very hard to extract.”
White nodded thoughtfully. He turned to the screen. “You said this device of yours was simply to observe our visitor’s world, Doctors. Could the Mysterons be able to modify it so that a journey to this other world would be possible?”
Kurnitz shook his head. “Impossible, Colonel.”
“Impossible is not Mysteron, gentleman,” Captain Grey declared. “They might not need any device at all to make such a journey.”
Kurnitz sighed and shook his head obstinately. “For themselves, perhaps – although this is not a reassuring thought… But for human beings, it might be different. That said, I can confirm that the receiver cannot be modified to provide the energy necessary for such a trip through the inter-dimensional vortex to the parallel world. It could provide a direction, though – the path to follow to access this world.”
“Through that signature you were talking about,” Blue said thoughtfully. “A signature that you took from Scarlet and Ochre’s visit to this world.” He took the device and examined it. “It doesn’t seem to work now, does it?”
Indigo shook his head. “Aside from that red glow in the screen… we were unable to do anything with it.”
“The shards used as its power source must be dead,” Giadello provided.
“It was made to observe,” Blue continued pensively. “It is equipped with a screen, so whoever was using this device could actually see what’s going on in my world?”
“If provided with the proper power source… and if the Mysterons indeed modified it so it would work properly… Yes, I believe it could,” admitted Kurnitz.
“It would be set on the signature, then…” Blue rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. “He was spying on us…” he murmured.
“What?” White said with a frown.
“Your Captain Blue was spying on us. This device was set to follow Scarlet or Ochre’s signature. So he used it to know our whereabouts… My whereabouts. To know exactly when to make his move.” He put the device back onto the table. “You were right, Colonel White… he was planning this for a long time.”
“Now just wait a minute,” Dianne started to protest.
“So it is, then,” White said, not listening to his stepdaughter’s interruption. “Either the Network – or the Mysterons themselves – provided Blue with the means to carry out his plan. Whether this was exactly what they wanted is as yet unknown, but at the very least, their actions are creating havoc… which probably suits them fine.”
“Who knows what’s going on in my world,” Blue murmured. “What this crazed man could be up to there…”
“Adam isn’t a bad man,” Dianne interrupted again, causing everyone to look gravely at her. “Surely you must know that, Captain Blue: he’s this world’s version of yourself. He wouldn’t do anything wrong while in your world.”
“Obviously, he was planning all along to trap me here and take my place, Dianne,” Blue explained, frowning. “Spying on us, he knew that I was to escort Doctor Lavender to the Research Centre – he knew that it had to do with the Kurnitz console we also have stored there, and with the studies that our Kurnitz and Giadello were making on the Anderson Theory…”
“That would be plausible,” Kurnitz declared. “The console in your world would provide the ‘exit door’ of the vortex, opened from our side… He would certainly land there. The same room he would have left in our world, the same space/time continuum.”
“This is getting too heavy for me,” Ochre declared with a frown.
“It’s simple, Captain: when you travel through the dimensional continuum, you will end up in the same space that you left, but in a different dimension,” Giadello explained. “You’re in Cloudbase’s conference room right now. That would be your destination if you went to Captain Blue’s world, for example.”
“Even if Cloudbase is a moving carrier?” Grey asked with a frown.
“Let’s not get too technical, here,” Ochre protested. “Grey, don’t complicate things with superfluous questions…”
“I’m not getting superfluous…”
“To explain his presence in my world,” Blue continued, not hearing them out, and following his train of thought, “and to actually take my place – he needed me to be at the same place where he would arrive. So that was the perfect time for him to strike.”
“I thought the console wasn’t working!” Indigo remarked in turn.
“If the Mysterons made this thing work,” Blue said, pointing to the receiver on the table, “then they could have provided a helping hand for the console to work too.”
“And we actually had some results with it,” Giadello remarked. “Nothing really that conclusive, but we were on the right track. Remember, Captain Blue came to me that evening, asking me questions about it, requiring to see the stones we had left… He powered up the console. Unfortunately, he knocked me out before I could stop him – or even see what his actions would be leading to.”
“It led to an explosion, that’s where it led to,” Magenta remarked.
“The opening of the vortex between dimensions would cause an explosion,” Kurnitz replied.
“You are going too far,” Dianne protested again, confused by all she was hearing, and not ready to accept any of it. “Captain Blue would not have planned all this…”
“Oh yes, I believe he did,” White replied with a frown. “That would explain a lot of what’s been going on, actually…”
“Well, I can’t believe it!” Dianne defended her fiancé. “He would not willingly become the pawn of the Mysterons. You’re wrong about him. You cannot accuse him without evidence!”
“Unfortunately, we have evidence,” Grey remarked. “As well as the means…”
“And a motive,” Blue added, causing a distraught Dianne to turn to him. “To what purpose, do you think, did he do all this, Dianne? I don’t think he’s willingly doing the work of the Mysterons either. I’m sure you’re right when you say he wouldn’t do that. No, he has his own agenda. He’s a sick man, obsessed with only one thing…”
“Being with Symphony,” White supplied.
“If not his, then mine would do perfectly,” Blue said between his teeth. “In his sick mind, that’s the only thing that really matters to him.”
“I…” Dianne stopped herself, unable to go on, to find any arguments to effectively support the man she loved. She looked into empty space, dazed, shaking her head in dismay, as she tried to absorb all this. “I don’t know what to say…” she murmured. “Didn’t I count for anything at all, then?”
“You cannot think that,” Ochre answered, putting a hand on her own, as it rested on the surface of the table. He squeezed it comfortingly. “I know that Adam cared for you…”
“He’s just confused,” Indigo provided in turn. “It’s that damn Dream Spinner’s programming… He’s not to blame. He’s just a sick man who desperately needs help.”
“He might not be to blame,” White said, “but we need to bring him back home.” He turned to Blue. “And send you back to your own world.”
“How do you propose we do that, sir?” Black enquired.
“The same way Blue used himself.” White’s seat spun to face the screen. “Doctor Kurnitz, Doctor Giadello… You reported that the Kurnitz console was damaged during the explosion which opened the vortex to the other world. Can you repair it?”
The two men exchanged glances, then nodding to each other, returned their attention to the waiting Spectrum commander. “We can always try,” Giadello answered, if a little hesitantly. “As I said, we’ve already had results with it. Whatever modifications might have been made to it, we should be able to get it to work again…”
“We have spare parts from two other consoles that we might use too,” Kurnitz continued.
“How about the power source?” Black enquired. “You have two stones left. If I remember correctly how it’s done, you would need a third.”
“That would be the problem, indeed,” Giadello mused. “ Maybe Captain Blue had a third stone, that he took with him on his journey.”
“Or maybe the receiver that you presently have can be used as such,” Kurnitz proposed. ‘If it’s filled with shards of the red stones… it might be sufficiently powerful to replace a fully charged red stone.”
“We can try,” Giadello said with a nod. “And anyway, we will need the receiver, to use as a key to open the right portal, if we succeed.”
“We need enough power for two such journeys,” White reminded them. “To send back our visiting Captain Blue to his world – and to bring back our own.”
“He might not want to come willingly,” Black observed. “So I’m volunteering to go over with you, Captain Blue.”
Blue raised a curious brow. “You? Are you sure that’s wise, Black? Have you forgotten that in my world, the version of yourself is under Mysteron control and a wanted man? My colleagues are liable to shoot first and ask questions later. Like your colleagues did with Scarlet last year, if I’m not mistaken. He was lucky, since he was indestructible. But you…”
“I’m willing to take that risk. Blue is my partner, and although our relationship has been tense at times, he’s still a friend of mine. If circumstances were reversed… I know he would do the same for me.”
“Provided he’s in his right mind,” Ochre muttered under his breath.
White nodded his agreement to Black’s volunteering, and turned again to the screen. “Get to work on the double, gentlemen. Captain Ochre will be on his way soon, with the receiver. Do whatever it takes, but make that machine work. Captain Black and Captain Blue will prepare for their journey, and will be with you as soon as you give the word.”
“Understood, Colonel White,” Giadello said with a smile. “I mean… S.I.G. You’re giving us quite a challenge. But Doctor Kurnitz and I, we love a challenge – and working under pressure. Expect news from us very soon… Spectrum Research Centre out.”
The image on the huge screen flicked out and the giant Spectrum logo soon replaced it. Captain Ochre was already moving, picking up the receiver from the table and putting it into its box.
“They’ll be wanting this as soon as possible. I’ll be on my way right away, sir,” he said to Colonel White.
“S.I.G., Captain Ochre. Captain Magenta, you will accompany him.”
“S.I.G., sir.” Magenta stood up. He nodded around and then he and Ochre left the conference room in a hurry.
“As for us,” Colonel White continued, “we will wait. But stay alert, everyone. As soon as we receive the call from the Research Centre, we will move. This meeting is now over. Dismissed.”
With murmurs, everyone rose from their seats and started to leave.
The waiting period was always the worst part before a mission, and especially when no-one knew for sure what would happen next. This time was even worse for Captain Blue, as he genuinely wondered if he should put too much trust in the efforts of Giadello and Kurnitz who, for hours since the end of the meeting, had been working on the Kurnitz console. The last news they had received from the Research Centre, in the middle of the evening, had been encouraging enough, but neither one of the two scientists were making any promises as yet. There was still too much unknown data for them to work on, and the console was such in a sorry state, that they had to work practically from scratch in order to make it function again.
Although Blue didn’t feel much like it, he tried to get some sleep that night, but without much success. He kept tossing and turning in bed, wondering if he would ever get back home, worried sick about what was going on there, with all his friends, with Karen… The thought of knowing she was presently with a perfect stranger, who looked like him, who actually was him, with an insane streak, and completely obsessed with her, was haunting him. He was afraid the other Blue would do her some harm… and that fear was increased even more by the possibility that this crazy situation might have been orchestrated by the Mysterons after all. Nothing good ever came from them… Well, except Scarlet, of course, but in his case, they never meant for him to escape and join Spectrum again to fight them. And he would certainly argue that the powers they had given him were more of a curse than a gift.
Unable to sleep, Blue left his bed and dressed in the borrowed uniform. When he left his quarters, it was to find, with surprise, that Captain Black was leaving his as well. He was in pyjamas and slippers and looked like he was having a rough night so far.
“Couldn’t sleep either?” Black said, as the two of them met in the corridor.
Blue shook his head. “No – I was heading to the officers’ lounge for a coffee and something to read. I don’t think I’ll sleep at all tonight.”
“I’ve got insomnia,” Black explained, shaking his head. “Not an uncommon problem with me, I’m afraid to say. Right now, it’s the fourth night in a row. I normally fight it with sleeping pills, but I didn’t dare take any tonight, as the Research Centre could give us a call at any time and we’ll have to go.” He sighed. “I’m afraid I’ll have to resort to using the Room of Sleep tonight. I need to be fresh when we receive the call.”
“I don’t remember our Captain Black ever suffering from insomnia,” Blue reflected.
“If he’s like me, he always suffered from it, but never mentioned it to anyone,” Black said, with a weak smile. “But it was to a lesser degree, before I was… taken over. It’s been worse after I was released from Mysteron control a year ago.”
“You mentioned having nightmares.”
“Yes, when I do sleep. But maybe I’m simply afraid of having them, and that’s what’s keeping me from sleeping?” Black shook his head. “It’s possible. Come on, I’ll escort you to the officers’ lounge. It might not be a good idea for you to stroll Cloudbase’s corridors unescorted. Considering the situation, you might attract attention.”
Blue had to admit he had not thought about that, and so he thanked Black for his consideration.
They reached the lounge, and Black, trying hard to suppress a yawn, pressed the opening button for the door, which slid open in front of them. The room was quiet, dimly lit, and empty – except for Dianne Simms, who was there, standing in front of a porthole, gazing thoughtfully outside.
When she turned to see who was coming, she stood rigidly, as if transfigured, staring straight at Blue. The latter had frozen at the entrance, just after clearing the door. Black, still by his side, looked from one to the other, curiously; then, recognising that there was a need for them to talk things over, he cleared his throat, and stepped back outside. “I’ll be leaving now, Captain… I still have to get that little shut-eye tonight.”
“Have a good night’s sleep, Captain Black,” Blue said, giving him a grateful nod, and Black pressed the button again, to close the door.
Left together, Blue and Dianne continued to stare at each other; it lasted only a brief instant, before she found her composure and her voice again: “For a moment there, when I saw you arrive, I thought you were… him. I know I saw you earlier in that uniform, but…”
“Colonel White suggested I wear it. I hope your fiancé won’t mind… and that you don’t mind either.”
“Of course not. It suits you as much as it does him.”
“Why, thanks,” he said with a wry smirk. He approached to stand in front of her. “I take it you couldn’t sleep either?”
She answered with a shake of her head. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week,” she answered.
He nodded his understanding. “I’m glad we’re having these few minutes, Rhapsody – I mean, Dianne. I wanted to thank you again for helping me this morning… no, yesterday morning. It’s well after midnight, now.”
She smiled, and frowned with some amusement. “Why is it that I always end up playing Angel of Mercy to the men from your world?”
“Because you are one where I come from?” he suggested. “I mean… the other Dianne Simms that I know…” He stopped. “This is really confusing,” he admitted, smiling again, but this time shyly.
“You’re telling me,” Dianne answered, rolling her eyes. “What is your relationship with her… in your world?”
“You mean with Dianne?” Blue shrugged. “We’re friends. Very good friends. But,” he added quickly, as if fearing she might misunderstand his meaning, “not that good… or that close either, if you see what I mean. I’m in love with Karen, and I’m faithful to her. And Dianne…”
“She’s Captain Scarlet’s girlfriend, I know,” she interrupted before he could go on. “He told me as much when he got stranded here last year. At least, they were together at the time…”
“They still are,” Blue confirmed. “Still very much in love with each other, I must say. Not married, yet, but… we’re still hoping they’ll get there eventually. Those of us who know about them, that is…”
“And you’re not married either, I understand…”
“No. Not yet, either. But that should be done soon. In a few months, probably in spring… if things all go according to plan.” He sighed and looked thoughtful. “We… we are still trying to figure the ceremony out. We would like all of our families to be there, and our friends too… but it is difficult to reconcile family, private life, and our work with Spectrum. We might have to give up on a few things…”
“I understand completely.”
“And your Adam and yourself,” Blue asked, “when were you supposed to…?”
“We had not set a date yet either. We were thinking that we would do it sometime before the end of the year.”
“That would have been very soon, then.”
Dianne’s expression became a sad one. “Yes, but that was before this whole mess with the Network started, and Adam gradually started to get ill.”
Blue nodded his sympathy for the young, visibly heartbroken woman. Almost instinctively, and a little shyly, he reached for her arm in an attempt to comfort her; he felt her shivering under his touch, and the first thought that came to his mind in response was that he should probably let go of her; he fought that urge, sensing she needed a friendly contact at the moment.
“I’m sorry… it’s probably not very easy for you right now,” he reflected.
“No, it’s not,” she said in a near whisper. “I had to see him going progressively deeper and deeper into this depression of his… not to mention his obsession – for another woman. No matter that she is long dead, it’s still a disheartening thought.”
“For any woman, I should assume so, yes…”
“I often wonder why I kept on going. Maybe I was sensing his distress… his need for help. I could see there was something wrong with him, but even though I was willing to help him, to support him… I often felt so helpless. Because whatever I would do, it seemed to do no good.” Dianne swallowed hard, trying to chase away those depressing thoughts. “I wish I could go with you and Conrad.”
“To get him back?”
“Yes. Maybe I could try to reach him… to make him see the folly of his plans… how ill he is, and convince him to come back willingly. Without having to resort to force. Because, you know, that will be the only way for you and Conrad to get him back. I don’t think he will listen to any of you, and that might end in violence.”
Blue shook his head. “Your stepfather would never consider letting you come with us, you know that. And I wouldn’t want to take that risk either, so forget about it. I doubt you would be able to reason with him, anyway.”
She lowered her head, sadly. “You might be right. It might not make such a difference after all. Although he used to listen to me. If he still loves me… or if he ever loved me…”
“I’m sure he does love you.”
“Sometimes, I wonder. What if I was only a distraction for him, while he was waiting to get back to the woman he really loves?”
“He cannot be that insensitive.” Blue stroked her shoulder, in a reassuring gesture. “He’s sick, but he’ll get better, Dianne. You’ll see.” He grinned encouragingly. “If I know him like I know myself…”
“I have to believe he will get better, yes,” Dianne admitted. “And that he’s not yet beyond help.” She sighed again, deeply, and looked away; her eyes were brimming with tears, but she was not willing to cry in front of him. “You know, three years ago, when that awful thing happened to Paul – I was heartbroken. I had not told him of my feelings for him, and he never knew. Then the Mysterons took him, and he was lost to me forever. Now Adam is slipping away from me too, after he finally opened up during this last year and admitted me into his heart. I’m wondering now if I’m jinxed, or something, and some awful curse will fall on every man I ever love…”
“Awww… don’t talk like that. You know it’s not true.” Blue took her into his arms and brought her close to him. She leaned against his powerful chest and held on to him, while he gave her a warm comforting hug. “You’re not jinxed, Dianne,” he said over her red head. “No more than I am myself. And sometimes, with the kind of lives we lead, it would really seem like all of us in Spectrum are cursed! It’s just Fate, throwing unfair curveballs at us. But you know what they say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“Then we must be the strongest people in the Galaxy…” Dianne replied, and there were barely-contained tears in her voice. “You’d better keep away from me, though… Just to be on the safe side.”
He chuckled, recognising her attempt to regain her composure. He let go of her, and stepped back to look into her face; gently, he wiped the still visible tears from her eyes with the tip of one finger. “Dry your eyes,” he told her softly. “Dear Dianne… He shouldn’t make you suffer like this.”
“It’s not entirely his fault,” she replied.
“Maybe not , but you don’t deserve it. And I’m wondering if he deserves you, with the way he’s treating you.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Dianne answered with a faint smile, that she wanted to appear wicked. “He’ll get what’s coming to him… when he’s his old self again, that is. But for that, he first needs to be helped… and to get that help, he must come back.”
“We’ll see that he will,” Blue promised. “He’ll come back to you, Dianne, and I’ll return to my world, to my Karen. We’ll set everything all right again… Despite the Network – and despite the Mysterons.”
“I sincerely hope you’re right,” she said, offering a courageous smile.
“Yes,” he said with a nod, bringing her close again “You and me both, honey…”
It was not only an attempt to reassure her, but to reassure himself as well.
Because he had no idea how – and if – he would ever get back home.
END OF PART TWO