A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
A trick… It’s got to be a trick.
But… how could they have done it? former Admiral Charles Gray mused. How could they have compelled him to mistake that series of numbers for the World Navy identification he had received so long ago? It seemed so impossible, but…
The Dream Spinner. They had put that ‘identification number’ in his mind by way of the Dream Spinner.
But if it was the case, then all the things those Spectrum people were telling him, about his mind having been tampered with by that damned contraption, about false memories planted in his head… then they would be true?
Gray had tremendous trouble considering that eventuality. So many of his memories were gone, the mere idea of those that were left being false was… maddening, to say the least.
No. They’re trying to manipulate me… They want to deceive me.
Why would they do that? This is so troubling…
The English Captain didn’t want to let go. Seeing that Gray was still incredulous about this whole I.D. number issue and all it could imply, he pursued, relentlessly, presenting other arguments, other so-called ‘proofs’. Gray didn’t want to listen, and obstinately used every means to resist. He pretended again he was tired and that he needed to rest. The younger man did not permit him that. He pressed on, ruthlessly.
It went on for two full hours.
Captain Scarlet could see Colonel White was wearing out. But still, the older man refused to give. He had ignored Scarlet, insulted him, even threatened him a couple of times, almost jumping at his throat on at least one occasion, but catching himself just before actually doing so. The Spectrum captain couldn’t help but notice that, despite Doctor Fawn’s assumption that a mere word or move could set him off, the colonel was actually getting more and more in control of his outbursts of temper.
He imagined it could only be a good sign.
How can I reach him? Scarlet was asking himself. This was getting really frustrating… His commander didn’t recognize him, didn’t listen to him, refused to take any food, and still considered himself a prisoner. How was it possible to make him understand that it wasn’t the case, that he was one of them? That here, on Cloudbase, he was among friends, and therefore had absolutely nothing to fear?
Sure, this interrogation room was not a familiar environment for him, Scarlet pondered. Cooped up like this in here, he could not see what Cloudbase really was.
And what if…
Well, why not? It could work.
Charles Gray could see the eyes of the young captain light up, as if an idea had suddenly come to his mind. He had confirmation of that when the Spectrum officer called upon Corporal Jarvis and another security guard. The two men entered and, following the captain’s orders to them, Admiral Gray found himself back in shackles. This time, however, his feet remained free.
“You’ve had enough, then?” Gray asked the red-clad officer. “I am to go back to my room?”
“No,” the captain responded shaking his head. “There is another place I want to take you.”
“Ah!” Gray pondered this a few seconds and thought he had it all figured out. “I don’t need medical care anymore, so I will be going to the brig…”
“Wrong again, sir.”
Captain Scarlet was answering with as even a voice as he could produce, trying not to alarm Colonel White. He saw, however, the flash of concern in the older man’s eyes, as he was obviously worried about where he was going and what would happen to him. Scarlet smiled reassuringly.
“Don’t worry, sir. I have already promised you, nothing bad will happen to you.”
“Why these shackles, then?” White mumbled, showing his hands, now restrained to that damned belt.
“Mainly for security. As we’re going to walk through Cloudbase’s corridors, I don’t want you to try and make a break for it.” Scarlet paused. “You’ve already tried it.”
“If you were in my situation, you would probably do the same,” White replied dryly.
Scarlet paused a second, before answering, with a very calm voice. “Actually, I WAS in your situation, once. And it’s because of what you did THEN, that I’m so willing to help you NOW.”
Colonel White stared intently at him, obviously wondering what he was talking about. Captain Scarlet didn’t add anything else and put his cap on, before dropping his mic. “Lieutenant Green? I have a couple of favours to ask of you…” He glanced at Jarvis who nodded to him that the prisoner was now ready to go. “First of all, have the corridors between the interrogation room and the Promenade Deck empty of all personnel until further orders… and then notify the Angel pack to get ready for a demonstration. I’ll give you the word shortly.”
The mic returned to its place on the visor and Scarlet turned to his commander, who was still scrutinizing him with a curious look. The captain gestured toward the opening door. “This way, please, sir…”
“’Promenade DECK’?” White repeated. “What is this Cloudbase of yours, anyway? A carrier, or something like that?”
“Oh, that’s right…” Scarlet said innocently. “We haven’t told you that, yet…” He took the colonel by the arm and gently guided him toward the door.
* * *
Cloudbase’s Promenade Deck was the only strictly non-duty area of the entire hovering military base. It was the favourite spot of many Cloudbase officers, including Captain Scarlet and Colonel White himself. The Spectrum supreme commander often went there to relax and do some gardening. It was also there that he usually gathered with Scarlet, Rhapsody, and Doctor Fawn for Sunday tea. It had become something of a tradition, started almost from the beginning of Cloudbase’s active duty, three years earlier. Captain Black was of the gathering, in those days, and Scarlet remembered how he and Colonel White always had those animated discussions on sports… most noticeably team sports. It was during those conversations that Scarlet had learned of Colonel White’s love for them… Especially basketball. That he was captain during his time at King’s College, and that he had led his team to victory three consecutive years. Thinking of his commander as an eagerly sportive teen was something of an odd concept for Captain Scarlet.
That, of course, was some years before a still very young Charles Gray enlisted in the Navy and trained to become an officer.
Captain Scarlet was hoping that the familiar setting of the Promenade Deck would somehow trigger something in Colonel White’s memory and compel him to at least listen, and consider what he was trying to make him understand.
All the way to the Promenade Deck, Scarlet explained about Cloudbase to his amnesiac commander. At first, White feigned complete indifference, but as the Spectrum Captain continued his depiction of the hovering carrier – going into such details as how it was constructed, four years ago, in different factories around the world and then assembled in space before being brought down into the stratosphere to sit at about 40,000 feet above Earth – it became quite apparent the Colonel’s interest had been stirred. He didn’t ask any questions. He merely listened carefully to what Scarlet was telling him. He took great care not to look TOO interested, though. But Captain Scarlet was not blind to the obvious.
He may be taking mental notes on the enemy’s strengths, the British captain mused. Or maybe he hopes I’ll accidentally indicate a means of escape. He may be brainwashed and disoriented, but he’s still the strategist. Unfortunately for him, I won’t be that careless…
The door leading to the Promenade Deck opened before Scarlet and he entered. White followed and passed before him to step further into the large room. He looked around him, with unconcerned curiosity, at all the trees and exotic plants that thrived in there. Aside from the absence of animal sounds, anybody could believe he had stepped in some flourishing part of the Rain Forest.
Scarlet stopped the security guards before they could walk into the Promenade Deck and asked them to wait outside, by the door. It slid closed and the young Brit quietly approached, as White came closer to the large bay window that enabled visitors to look outside. He did so, staring indifferently at the clear blue sky and white clouds passing by, his back turned to Scarlet. The latter left him to his observation and deep thoughts, hoping it could somehow yield some results.
“Lovely setting,” the colonel then said in a flat tone. He turned back to face Scarlet. His features were expressionless. “Can I go to my room now?”
The Captain stared at him very quietly for a few seconds, trying to see if that set face was keeping something from him. He couldn’t decipher anything.
“So this place doesn’t remind you of anything?” he asked.
His elder shrugged his shoulders. “Should it?”
“You like this place a lot. The little free time you allow yourself, you mostly spend it here, stargazing, doing some gardening, writing… On Sunday, whenever it’s possible, you receive some of us from the senior staff for tea, here.”
“Really?” White scoffed mockingly. “I didn’t know I was such a good-intentioned commander… Or that I was such a sucker for traditions…”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. I much prefer him SILENT than sarcastic, he told himself. He really can be disagreeable when he’s like this…
He wasn’t giving up on his commander yet. He approached him and took him by the shoulder.
“Come close to the bay window, sir.”
White obeyed passively. Scarlet pointed toward the flight decks they could see very clearly, from where they stood. “On the higher deck, you can see the Angels,” the captain explained. “Our interceptor jets. They’re the best in the world.”
Admiral Charles Gray looked down. He could indeed see three white, sleek interceptors, standing in Delta formation, on the higher and narrower deck. He remembered having seen those jets quite recently, skimming the treetops over his head.
“I hope you properly thanked those pilots for having saved your life,” Colonel White noted matter-of-factly, addressing Scarlet.
The latter answered with a rueful smile, but said nothing.
“We’re really 40,000 feet up in the air?” White asked him.
“Yes, sir. Why do you ask? Are you wondering how you’d escape from such a height?”
“Curiosity, that’s all,” White mumbled quickly.
Scarlet didn’t believe him in the least. But he did not make any remark on the subject. He shrugged. “Then I’m glad something DID catch your interest, after all.”
“Yes, right,” White replied with annoyance. “Really interesting.” He turned back to the door. “Get me back to my room. Or my cell, wherever you want me.”
“I want you HERE, for the moment,” Scarlet retorted dryly, seizing his arm to stop him from leaving. “I’m not done with you, yet.”
“I was afraid you would say that,” White answered, tiredly. “What now?”
Scarlet dropped his cap microphone. “Lieutenant Green, launch all Angels.” He motioned to Colonel White to look through the window. The older man did so, staring down at the three interceptors on the higher deck. Less than thirty seconds later, the first one literally catapulted itself into the sky. Fifteen seconds after, the two remaining Angels followed and joined the first one.
The three of them turned around and came back toward Cloudbase, flying in close, perfect formation. They passed by the Promenade Deck like lightning, waggling their wings in unison. Colonel White’s eyes followed them as they shot upward into the sky. The Spectrum commander seemed less than impressed. Or rather, he didn’t seem to care at all about what he had just seen.
“Don’t tell me you brought me up here to try to impress me with this demonstration!” he scoffed, turning toward Scarlet. “What is this, a show of force? Trying to make me understand that our efforts against your kind are useless?”
Scarlet stared at him incredulously. “You believe that’s what I’m trying to do right now, sir?”
White did not respond. Scarlet sighed. He led his commander to a nearby set of chairs and table and made him sit there. He took the other seat. “I brought you here, hoping it would somehow jolt your memories of what and who you truly are.”
“I know who I am.”
“Yes. ‘Charles Gray, former World Navy admiral’. I lost count of the times you’ve said it. What about that ‘mistaken’ I.D. number? How could you explain a Spectrum identification number ending up in your head?”
“I hope you’ll tell me.”
“NOW who’s playing games, sir?” Scarlet gave another sigh and dropped down his cap microphone. “Lieutenant Green, recall the Angels,” he said. He paused, looking at White. “The… operation didn’t work as we hoped it would.” Scarlet heard the disappointment in Lieutenant Green’s acknowledgement; he knew exactly how the young man was feeling. The mic returned to its place. “You’ve seen the Angels take off countless times,” he explained his commander. “That’s why I asked for this demonstration…”
“Like you said, ‘so it would jolt my memories’?” White noted flatly. “Sorry, Captain. There are no memories to jolt.”
“You believe there aren’t,” Scarlet replied persistently. “But they are there. They’re just buried very deep. We just have to dig further to reach them.”
“This is becoming very tiring… Why don’t you tell me what your superiors want from me and be done with this charade?”
“There is nobody else here to answer to than yourself, sir. And right now… you’re quite unable to take command. That leaves Captain Blue and me.”
“The two of you?”
“You left us in joint command before leaving for the surface on holiday, some days ago.”
“Simple captains in charge of so huge an organisation? And your commander… a colonel?” White’s tone was sardonic enough.
Scarlet shook his head. “Spectrum ranks are not what they appear, sir. They serve to protect our anonymity.”
“As the codenames? ‘Scarlet’, isn’t it?”
“That’s right, sir.”
“Your friend, I’m not sure… But you’re definitely military.”
“Right again, sir. My family has a long military tradition. I was in the WAAF before joining Spectrum. I had the rank of Colonel.” Scarlet paused a second, before adding, carefully: “Does that remind you of anything?”
White shrugged. “Not a thing. Should it?”
“You’re the one who actually convinced me to join Spectrum.” Scarlet paused. “And you did it here… You and Captain Black, to be precise.”
He watched for White’s reaction. He saw none.
“Captain Black?” White repeated. “By the name, obviously one of your own.”
“For a time he was your right-hand man in Spectrum. The best of us. Your friend and mine. You knew him under another name: Conrad Turner.”
Again, Scarlet watched and waited; White did nothing more than shrug. “That name isn’t familiar to me.”
“Are you sure?” Scarlet insisted. “You’ve mentioned it, already, when you were brought up here to Cloudbase, delirious with fever.”
“Oh yes… I think your psychiatrist told me that, too.” White shook his head. “Sorry. Doesn’t ring a bell at all.”
“Then why did you call out his name while you were feverish?”
“You’re sure I really did that?”
“I have no reason not to believe Doctor Fawn. It was in his report.”
“And I have no reason to believe you.”
Scarlet scowled. He stared intensely at his commander, who met his gaze without flinching. He was serene enough; no deception apparent in his look. It could be possible he didn’t remember Conrad, after all; the fever could simply have brought up the memory of the renegade captain from the Colonel’s subconscious.
“It may surprise you, sir,” Scarlet then said evenly, “but I DO believe you.”
“Indeed, you surprise me, son,” White answered back sarcastically. He held out his hands, the best his restraints allowed. “Sorry, didn’t mean to call you that.”
Clearly, he remembered the words that had been exchanged between the two of them, during that fight they had in the wood. Scarlet smiled quietly. “No offence taken,” he said. He nodded toward White’s bruised face. “And sorry to have been so rough on you.”
Colonel White lifted an eyebrow. “This is even MORE surprising,” he replied. “I remember that you wanted to kill me, before saving my life when that gun exploded…”
“I’m sorry to say that I would probably have killed you if you hadn’t tried to make me angry.”
“So it’s something I said that stopped you?” White paused. “What mistake did I make?”
Scarlet sighed. “Let’s say I realised you weren’t at all what I thought you were and that, obviously, you weren’t responsible for your actions.”
“Even with what I said concerning the girl?” Scarlet didn’t blink. If White thought he would provoke a reaction, he was mistaken and would wait in vain. He shook his head. “I’m sorry I said that. I lied, you know.”
“Yes, I know.”
“How is she, anyway?”
“Rhapsody’s quite fine. She didn’t suffer much from her ordeal. In fact, she’s already back on duty.”
White looked down. “I’m glad she’s all right,” he said in an undertone. “She saved my life, I know that… Putting her own on the line…”
“She did it because she thought we would be able to help you. She has faith in you. A lot of us have.” Scarlet scratched his ear. “However, I suspect she might be disappointed that her little demonstration with the others just now was fruitless…”
White gave him a puzzled look. The young officer nodded toward the bay window. “She was at the helm of one of the Angel jets that just took off from the upper deck.”
“She’s a combat pilot?” White mused.
“Yes, sir. That’s her principal duty.”
“She’s not… a spy?”
Scarlet shook his head in negation. “She was a detective, in one of her earlier jobs,” he explained. “Trained by the best. That why she was sent after you with Captain Ochre, when you disappeared, two days ago.”
“I thought she was a spy.”
“Spy… Militarist agent… Bounty hunter… Double agent, maybe?” Scarlet shook his head. “You were wrong on all counts about Rhapsody, sir. She didn’t trap you to hand you over to your enemies.”
White pondered that for a few moments. “Well, what you’re saying right now may be true or not,” he said evenly. “I don’t know, really. What I know is that I really didn’t want that young lady to get hurt.”
Scarlet nodded slowly. That must be true too, he mused. He seems far too sincere to fake this. Rhapsody is right. There is still enough of the old man’s real personality present in him. Surely, he can be helped…
“Is that why you protected her from Jonathan Dempsey?” he asked the colonel carefully.
“She reported that episode?”
“She told me you tore into that man with your bare fists. Beat him to a pulp.”
“I lost control,” White murmured, looking down at his hands. “Happens a lot since I was put through that… Dream Spinner treatment. One of the consequences of that, I suppose…” He paused. “Well, anyway, I don’t regret giving that swine the lesson he deserved.”
“That’s what you call what you did to him?” Scarlet asked, scratching his ear again. “A bullet in the head? A lesson?”
The colonel gave him an odd enough look. “You mean he’s dead?”
“Yes, quite dead,” Scarlet responded, watching every reaction from his commander. “We thought you had… executed him. Obviously, it wasn’t the case. You don’t even seem to know he had been killed.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“Do you have any idea WHO might have killed him?”
White kept silent for a short instant, pondering that. Shelby’s final words concerning Dempsey came to his mind. “No,” he finally said, “I don’t have the slightest idea.”
Scarlet narrowed his eyes at the older man. “I’m sure you’re lying,” he noted. “You DO know who killed that scum.”
White frowned deeply. “What do you care, anyway? You’ve just said it yourself. Dempsey was scum. Why would his death have any significance to you?”
“His death, no. But who killed him… I like to know who I’m up against.” Scarlet paused. “A Mysteron would have killed him without a second thought. So I’m betting it’s Commander Shelby who did it.”
Charles Gray frowned. He wasn’t surprised that the young officer should know Shelby’s name. The girl would have told him about that too, he realised. He didn’t pick it up and chose to engage in another subject.
“Still with those ‘Mysterons’ of yours, then? WHAT are they, Captain?”
He still didn’t know who and what the Mysterons were but considering all the secrecy these Spectrum agents kept around them, there was certainly something really terrible about them. I wouldn’t believe it, they said, Gray mused inwardly. What is it they’re keeping from me, anyway? He didn’t know why, but the more that word was mentioned around him, the more uncomfortable he became. The hairs on the back of his head were even starting to stand right up…
“You’re not answering my question,” Scarlet noted. “So I’ve guessed right, haven’t I?”
“And you didn’t answer MY question. So we’re even.”
“You asked it just to divert the conversation,” Scarlet replied. “You’re still trying to PROTECT those men…”
“And WHY shouldn’t I? They’re my men… They saved me from that damned Dream Spinner!”
“No, they’re not, and they didn’t… Truth to tell, they are THE ONES who had hooked you to that thing!”
White became livid; he quickly stood up to face the younger man.
“You’re trying to set me against my own people!” he accused him.
“Oh, come on, now!” Scarlet replied, groaning. “They’re not your people! They were manipulating you!”
“No, YOU are manipulating me!” White spat out, still accusingly. “Or at least, you’re trying very hard… But I tell you, you won’t succeed!”
Scarlet gave an exasperated sigh and slowly came to his feet. “Still, you REFUSE to see the obvious,” he retorted sharply. “Why can’t you accept the truth of what we’re telling you?”
“Because it’s not the truth!” White almost shouted at him.
“Oh, yes, it is!” Scarlet replied with the same tone. “And you know it.” He poked his commander’s chest. “You know it, here, in your heart.”
White took a step back. “DON’T touch me!” he hissed between his teeth.
“Colonel, we’re all your friends here, and…”
“Don’t call me ‘Colonel’!” White shouted again. “I’m not a colonel!” He eyed the younger man with an icy glance. “And I’m certainly not your friend,” he added in a murmur.
There was dismay in Scarlet’s blue eyes as he stared back at his commander. “You’re really a stubborn mule, you know that?” he realised with bitterness in his voice. “I thought I knew that, but now I see just how obstinate you can be…”
“Should I take that as a compliment?”
“You don’t seem to understand the problem, sir. We’re taking enormous risks, everyone on the senior staff, by trying to help you on our own…”
“I’ve never asked you for anything!”
“Notwithstanding the risks we’re taking, and the consequences for us, what YOU risk, sir, is far less enviable. We all know that, and we don’t want you to suffer any humiliation or disgrace.”
“Then you should have killed me in the woods,” White replied with deadpan aplomb. “That would have spared us all a lot of trouble.”
Scarlet stared at him incredulously. “No, on the contrary,” he said sadly. “The trouble would have been far worse…”
“Right. You would have passed over the chance to get your hands on a very valuable prize… one who could provide you with important information and whom you could torment all you like.”
“You can’t BELIEVE that!”
“What am I to believe, then?” White barked furiously. “You’re trying to convince me of some foolish assertion that I am your commander! That I was brainwashed to do the bidding of… of some terrorist group you call the Mysterons! I say YOU are doing the brainwashing, Captain, RIGHT NOW! You’re obviously working in the interest of some Militarist officials, who want to drive me completely mad so I become totally useless to the cause! You can be proud of yourself! Your family can be proud of you, too! Militarists, the whole lot of you, I bet!”
Scarlet bristled, hearing those words. “My family fought on the same side as you during the British insurrection,” he replied icily. “I was too young when that occurred, but my father, my uncles, my grandfather, even my great-grandfather… You INSULT them by calling them Militarists. All of them were in the British Army, sir, but NONE of them hesitated to take a risk, and adopt a cause they believed in, for the freedom of their country. Like YOU did yourself.”
“Words,” White mumbled. “Those are only words…”
“Metcalfe men don’t believe in mere words, sir. We believe acts are needed to support those words. And acts have always defined who and what we are!”
White frowned, staring with perplexity at the younger officer’s grim features. “Metcalfe?” he repeated with a murmur.
“That’s my name, sir,” Scarlet said with a nod.
I’ve heard that name before… Charles Gray told himself, rather troubled. Yes, indeed… The name was associated with the cause… He knew of a very influential and dedicated old general by that name, who had decided to give his support to the so-called rebels, encouraged by his son and grandsons… He was with that delegation that had met with World President Bandranaik… It’s so confusing… WHEN did I learn that? Who told me of all this…
“The eldest has your name, Charles. Must be about your age, too. With a young boy of his own…”
Lord, White realised, recalling that. Father…
His father, Alexander Gray, had told him, shortly before…
Captain Scarlet saw a flicker of pain cross Colonel White’s eyes. Obviously upset, his commander turned his back on him. “Get me back to my room,” he heard him say dully.
What is it? Scarlet wondered, perplexed. Just my name COULDN’T have had such an impact on him… It would be too easy…
There must be something else.
“Something wrong, sir?”
“Leave me alone, damn you!” White shouted at him. “I’ve had enough of your lies!”
Scarlet sighed. He realised the older man was about ready to jump at him. He would probably have done it if he weren’t restrained like he was. It was a mistake, bringing him here. He seems worse than when we arrived… The British captain shook his head in consternation. He should have known better than to try to deal with him on his own. The best course of action would have been to leave Doctor Weiss to take care of the colonel.
Scarlet was giving up hope that this situation could be kept a secret from Intelligence much longer. They will take him in. They’ll deal with him themselves… Maybe Adam was right. Maybe it would be better this way. This is their job, after all. Let’s just hope they won’t be too rough on him, and that they will help him shake off the state he’s in right now.
As for US, we still have to stop the Mysterons and those people who have done this to him!
“All right, sir. I’m finished with you now. If that’s what you want, I’ll have you taken to your room in sickbay.”
Scarlet took his commander’s arm, and, as gently and carefully as possible, began to lead him toward the exit of the Promenade Deck.
And suddenly, Colonel White stopped dead, having taken only three steps. “Wait…”
Scarlet turned to face his commander, and found him staring intensely at a precise spot. Frowning, the captain looked in the same direction and discovered the object of his elder’s attention. He froze too.
It was a white rose tree. The only one on the Promenade Deck… It had only four or five flowers still blooming on it, but it was still beautiful.
His eyes riveted on the tree, Colonel White approached it slowly. Scarlet let him do as he pleased. Upon reaching it, the Spectrum commander crouched down, still gazing at it with a very intense look.
“That tree…” he said hesitantly.
“It’s yours,” Scarlet explained calmly. “Your pride and joy. You, exclusively, tend it. You forbid anyone to touch it.”
“It’s been trimmed recently,” White continued.
“Yes, by you. Before you went on the surface, some days ago...”
White didn’t say anything. He was literally fascinated by the tree. His shackled hands delicately grazed one of the roses. White petals fell between his fingers. Almost despite himself, a single word came to his lips. A word he whispered almost inaudibly. “Elizabeth…”
A door opened in his mind. He could see images, in quick, successive flashes. Being recalled to London… boarding a private plane with his beloved wife, Elizabeth… the craft experiencing trouble as he fought desperately at the helm… the dive… the crash… and the awful sensation of loss and loneliness, more devastating than any physical pain, as he woke in that helicopter, after being rescued…
“My wife… She was with me… How is she?”
The sorry look of the young man who was tending to him, and the uneasiness he felt in him was more than sufficient to tell Charles Gray that something was so terribly wrong.
He fell to his knees, as the painful realisation sank into his mind and heart at the same time.
“Dear lord,” he murmured. “Elizabeth… This tree… this tree is for her…” He swallowed hard, shaking his head, looking at the tree with total disbelief. And yet, he couldn’t dispel the truth that was imposing itself on his mind. He fought off the tears that were threatening to overcome him. “I’ve lost her…”
Standing behind, Scarlet understood instantly what was happening to his commander, as he saw him bow his head. At the very moment when Scarlet had almost despaired of making him see the truth, memories were coming back to him. But not at all pleasant memories. He was remembering about his wife… about the tragedy that happened so many years ago. The British captain felt a wave of sorrow for the older man. How terrible it must be, to wake up to reality like that, and to discover that the one you care about most in the world is not there anymore…
How would I feel, myself?
He put his hand on the Colonel’s shoulder. “I’m really sorry, sir. It must be… hard, I know…”
“You really think you know?” There wasn’t any aggressiveness in Colonel White’s voice. Only pain and sorrow. And doubt that anybody would understand what he could be feeling right this moment. He continued staring at the tree. “It was… a long time ago, wasn’t it?”
Scarlet hesitated a second; then he sighed. “Seventeen years, sir.”
“Seventeen years…” White echoed absent-mindedly. He shook his head. “That’s why I can’t remember her older… I can’t believe this… So long ago… I…” His features became hard. “How could have I forgotten about THAT?”
Scarlet thought of answering, but stopped himself right away. He sighed deeply. “Again, I’m sorry, sir.”
White faintly nodded his thanks. “I need to… gather my thoughts, Captain… IF indeed, I am your commander…” He stared a moment again at the rose tree, before turning to raise a quizzical enough look toward the younger man still standing behind him. “Then I must have… private quarters on this base of yours?”
* * *
Before agreeing to his commander’s demand to take him to his quarters, Captain Scarlet took him for a visit to sickbay. He wanted to make sure he was all right after he had remembered the truth about his wife. White didn’t resist; nor did he protest. He was quite calm and willingly answered the simple questions Doctor Weiss and Doctor Fawn asked him. The subsequent physical and psychological check up lasted more than two hours; having been satisfied that his recovering memories had not brought some injury to her patient’s still fragile psyche, Doctor Weiss, after having agreed with Doctor Fawn that there was now no danger in it, prescribed him a mild tranquillizer.
Only after that did Scarlet take his commander to his personal quarters.
Free of any restraint, Colonel White looked silently around, assessing everything in the room. He paid more attention to the personal stuff adorning the place – things he recognized, and others he didn’t – pictures and framed medals hanging from the walls, a couple of antique trinkets, trophies of all sorts… He looked curiously at the highly detailed plastic model standing in honour on a high chest, just under a large oil portrait. That last thing he knew very well… Just to be sure it was authentic, however, he checked the signature. Satisfied that it was the real thing, he turned around to come back toward a silent Captain Scarlet, seated on the visitor’s chair in front of the antique oak working desk.
White pointed toward one of the medals hanging in a frame. “That’s not genuine,” he noted evenly.
Scarlet shook his head. “A copy, then. You must be keeping the original in a safe place.”
White nodded, without elaborating more on the subject. He gave another, thoughtful glance around.
“Feels like home,” he said quietly.
There was some sadness in his voice, Scarlet noticed, as the older man sat down on his leather armchair. He settled himself comfortably, before picking up the picture of his wife which stood on the desk. He stared at it intensely, almost with veneration in his eyes. He nodded thoughtfully.
“That’s the last picture that was taken of her,” he explained. “It was about two weeks before… the plane crashed.” He paused a few seconds, before continuing, “We had just arrived at this little cottage in the Highlands. Elizabeth had inherited it from a long-lost uncle… We were to spend a few weeks’ holiday there. A little peace and quiet. Unfortunately, I was recalled to London. I… I was a key witness in some kind of hearing, or something…”
“For the U.S.S.?” Scarlet suggested. He did know about his commander having played an important role in cleaning up the London Bureau of the Universal Secret Service, years ago. Though during the British insurrection, the section had performed invaluable service to the rebels, it had become, in the following years, the shame of the whole U.S.S., infiltrated by double agents, triple agents, and spies, bribes exchanging hands on a daily basis… It took some dedicated men like Scarlet’s own grandfather, the then almost retired Paul Blake, and Charles Gray, along with a lot of investigation and legal procedures, to bring that U.S.S. section back to its old glory.
“I wish I knew exactly,” White said, shrugging. “I still can’t remember… What I DO know, however is that Elizabeth would not let me go alone. She wanted to come with me. She would not budge one inch in her decision. She was… quite stubborn, you know. So we boarded that private plane together.”
White stopped, seeming to remember something. Scarlet saw him remove the cardboard on the back of the frame; a yellow piece of folded newspaper clipping slid into the open hand of the Spectrum commander. He unfolded it to reveal the news article Scarlet had seen on the computer the day before; the one relating the plane accident that had occurred seventeen years ago. The captain shook his head.
“I didn’t know you kept that in there.”
“Yes, well… Call me a masochist if you want… Despite what it represents, that was the very last reminder I had of my wife. I couldn’t bring myself to part with it.” White carefully folded the paper and put it back behind the photograph, in the frame, before putting the same frame flat on the desk’s surface. “She was thirty-three when that crash happened. And pregnant. The child was to be born two months after… Dear Lord, I can’t imagine it was… seventeen years ago.” He stopped, staring at the picture, lost in his thoughts. “While I was recovering in the hospital, after the crash, I learned that she was expecting a girl. Elizabeth had been informed of that shortly before we boarded that plane. She never told me. I suppose she wanted to keep it as a surprise.”
“You seem to remember quite a lot, sir,” Scarlet remarked. “And it’s surprising how… well you’re taking all this.”
“Looks can be deceiving, Captain,” White replied dully. “But it’s been years… I can’t change anything now about what happened then. It doesn’t make it any less painful, however…” He shook his head. “I still can’t get over the fact that I’ve forgotten about it. It should not have happened.” He looked at Scarlet. “I KNOW I still don’t remember everything about her… But, a lot is coming back to me… As for the rest…” White gestured hopelessly into empty space. “My memories are still quite fuzzy…”
“Well, if you’re remembering about her, there’s a good chance the rest will come back shortly to you.”
“You really think so, eh?” White gave a sigh, in which it was easy to read frustration. “I don’t understand… I mean, I’m inclined to believe that you told the truth… That the fact that I forgot about my wife’s… being gone for so many years, isn’t a simple amnesia, following the Dream Spinner treatment I received… That, in fact, the memory of her still being alive was planted in my mind…” He scrutinised the young captain with a quizzical glance. “WHY do that? Why make me believe she was still alive, in the first place?”
Scarlet gave it some thought. He shook his head again. “I don’t really have an answer. But maybe… they thought it would increase your efficiency in the mission they had for you. Perhaps they thought that having a wife to come back to was an additional motivation.”
“By ‘they’… you mean those Mysterons of yours.”
“They had a hand in what happened to you, sir.”
White shook his head, still obviously doubtful. “I wish I could believe you implicitly, Captain. But I can’t shake the feeling that I CAN’T TRUST you entirely. There’s still nothing to tell me you haven’t staged this whole affair.”
“Would I go this far?” Scarlet asked quietly, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know, I…” White sighed, taking his head between his hands. He ran his fingers through his silver hair and slightly grazed the dressing that covered the swellings on the back of his head, still a vivid reminder of what had happened to him. He raised his eyes to look at Scarlet. “I admit… you’re familiar, somehow…” He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know if I can trust you, that is true, but I’m sure that I know you.”
Scarlet smiled reassuringly. “That’s a step forward, anyway…”
“You said your family was involved in the insurrection,” White continued. “And that your name is Metcalfe…”
Scarlet nodded. “Yes, sir. Paul Metcalfe.”
“I know of men bearing the Metcalfe name…” White continued, frowning. “Wasn’t your grandfather called Samuel? A former Militarist… He was part of the delegation that approached President Bandranaik to request World Government support against the Militarists…”
Scarlet smiled again. “That was my great-grandfather, actually… Before the civil war, he was indeed a convinced Militarist… but he saw what the Government had become, and joined the rebel cause as his son and grandsons had done. He didn’t want his great-grandchildren – my cousins and me – to grow up in a Military State.”
“Great-grandfather?” White repeated.
“That WAS almost twenty-five years ago, sir,” Scarlet explained, shaking his head. “Samuel Metcalfe died in July 2052… five years after the end of the civil war… And three months after the World President made him one of the first four-star generals in the newly formed World Army/Air Force, for his actions during the insurrection.”
White scowled. “Now I feel old…”
Scarlet laughed. “You’re still young enough to give us a run for our money, like you did yesterday, sir… You’re certainly not old… My father is only a couple of years older than you…”
White stared Scarlet straight in the eyes. “What is your father’s name, Captain?” he asked, a sudden thought coming to his mind. ‘It’s not… CHARLES Metcalfe?”
Scarlet frowned. “You remember that, sir?”
“No, not exactly. I…” White sighed deeply, then shrugged. “Just recalling a conversation I had with MY father, a very long time ago…” He stared again at the puzzled younger man. “Talk about a coincidence…” He cleared his throat. “You also said your grandfather was in the U.S.S…”
Scarlet nodded. “My maternal grandfather, yes.”
“Not a Metcalfe, then.”
“No. His name was Paul Blake. I was named after him.” Scarlet rubbed his chin. “And you knew him.”
“So you said, already,” White noted, still apparently defiant.
The younger man stared at him, thoughtfully. “It’s the truth, sir. I’m not lying to you.”
White closely scrutinised the young man’s face. He wasn’t able to read anything deceitful in his clear blue eyes. He slowly shook his head. “You seem sincere enough…”
“I am, sir.”
White was still intensely gauging the younger officer. “Let’s just say for now that I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt… To you and that organisation of yours”
Scarlet blew out a sigh of relief, before answering with a roguish smile. “I suppose that, FOR NOW, it will be enough…” Yes, for now, he added inwardly. At least, we’re progressing, here… But there is a lot more work to do before winning his trust completely.
But… was it enough, at this point, to think he would reveal what the Mysterons’ plan might be? The British captain realised fully that his commander, still confused enough, could very well interpret this as the final chapter of an elaborated scam to extract information out of him.
Scarlet hesitated a few seconds, looking at Colonel White with a wondering look. Then he decided to give it a try. This was his job, anyway… And time was really running out. He started out, unsure. “About the Mysterons, sir… I hope you won’t take it the wrong way, but I have to ask you…”
A beeping sound at the door interrupted Scarlet and drew his attention. “Who’s there?” he called, turning toward the door.
“It’s me, Captain Scarlet.”
It was the voice of Captain Blue, coming from the loudspeaker. Finally, Scarlet thought with satisfaction. He hoped his partner had found something in his latest search. Perhaps something that would at last convince White to confide in them. They certainly had dire need of that. Under the circumstances, Scarlet was prepared to wait before asking his commander about the Mysterons’ plans.
“Come in, Captain Blue.”
The door slid open and Captain Blue stepped into the Colonel’s quarters, a folder under his arm. With one quick glance, he grasped the situation. A couple of hours ago, Scarlet had called him in the Control Room, to tell him about what had happened on the Promenade Deck. He was pleasantly surprised to see that White was still out of restraints.
“How’s it going?” he asked Scarlet.
“Slowly,” his partner replied. “But… it’s encouraging.”
“So I see. You’re not at each other’s throats.”
“The… ‘admiral’ admits he doesn’t trust Spectrum entirely,” Scarlet explained. “But it seems that now he’s more willing to listen.”
Blue nodded slowly. “Glad to hear that.” He stared at Colonel White, who returned the same intense look. “You look tired, sir. How are you doing? Considering… what you just learned?”
“I feel tired… Captain,” White responded, shaking his head. “But I can’t rest. Right now, I…” He hesitated, then turned in Scarlet’s direction. “How did those doctors of yours put it?”
His compatriot nodded and addressed Blue. “He’s working purely on adrenaline… given what was done to him. Fortunately, rather than fight us, his energies are focused on trying to sort his thoughts out and to understand what happened to him…”
“I can see HOW it’s good.” Blue paused a second, staring at his commander, before turning to Scarlet. “How much can we tell him before he…?”
“Before it sets me off?” Blue turned again toward Colonel White, who had uttered these words, very calmly. The older man gave him an understanding nod. “I’m quite aware of that aspect of my condition, Captain. Before being captured by Spectrum, I was taking some medication to… fight that.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t always a complete success.”
“Do you… feel any craving for that medication, sir?” Blue asked with concern.
“Your doctors told me it was addictive stuff. If indeed it is true, I don’t feel any need for it… for now.” White addressed a wicked smile to Blue. “Perhaps I’ll find another way to vent the frustration…”
“By ‘getting at me’, perhaps, sir?” Blue retorted flatly, remembering the threatening words White had addressed to him, some hours earlier in sickbay.
“Right now, I’d be foolish to try, wouldn’t I?”
The smile on Colonel White’s face broadened. Blue couldn’t decide if he should respond to that smile with a scowl, or a grin of his own. He chose the latter, and added a shake of his head. “I’d say you’d be better served to wait and hear what I have to say, before deciding to try and strangle me.”
“You have good news?” Scarlet asked, expectantly.
“It depends on your point of view.” Blue paused again a few seconds before brandishing the folder. “I found information on Jackson Bennett.” He checked the colonel’s reaction to the mention of that name. He saw the older man frown.
“I already know what’s in that,” White declared.
“You think you do, sir?” Blue replied. “I may surprise you, you know…”
“Blue, stop beating around the bush,” Scarlet cut in at this moment. “What did you find?”
Captain Blue opened the folder, and started reading the file within, pacing around the room. “It’s on the Navy enlistment rolls of the British Military, during the time of the Militarist Government, that I found the name of Jackson Bennett… Brilliant subject. His record was remarkable for twelve years, serving on various British warships. Militarist partisan to the core, very loyal to the regime of the time, even to a fault. His loyalty – some would say fanaticism – had pushed him a couple of times to perform acts that did not meet with the complete approval of his superiors, who transferred him frequently. They probably felt they didn’t need a loose cannon in command of a warship, because, despite his record, he never advanced to the rank of captain. The highest rank he received was that of commander.” The American captain stopped in front of Colonel White. “His career ended abruptly in 2046. He was first officer on board the Sir Francis Drake destroyer, commanded by Captain Charles Gray, when the latter decided to turn his ship against the British Navy, in order to protect a rebel base in the Orkney Islands. Needless to say, the captain’s decision didn’t please Commander Bennett at all…”
“That will be quite enough, Captain,” White grumbled dryly. “I do not need to be reminded of what happened then. I killed him. I found him going through my things in my cabin. He drew a gun on me. We fought for it, I won. And shot him with his own gun. The Militarist authorities have wanted my head ever since, for murdering such a ‘loyal officer’.”
“You didn’t murder him,” Blue replied.
“That’s right, you were at war,” Scarlet added. “Bennett was…”
“A traitor, Captain?” White interrupted. “Forgive me… But seeing that I decided to side with the rebels… it would seem it was me who would be considered a traitor…”
“I was going to say ‘an enemy’, sir,” Scarlet replied softly. “And no, you were never considered a traitor. But rather a hero.”
“Oh, right… You’re still trying to mellow me so you can earn my trust,” White scoffed. “What difference could it make, anyway? I shot Jackson Bennett and he died. End of story.”
“Well, it’s not the end you seem to think, sir. You didn’t let me finish.” Blue closed the folder and put it on the desk, looking closely at his commander. “You did find him searching your cabin. You fought with him for the control of a gun. He was shot. But you didn’t kill him. He didn’t die.”
Scarlet almost jumped. “What?”
“What are you saying?” White said in turn, frowning.
“You didn’t kill Jackson Bennett. The gun went off by itself during your fight with him. The bullet hit him. He was severely wounded, but he didn’t die… You left him in the care of your onboard medic and his life was saved.”
“Wait a minute… That can’t be right!” White protested. “I REMEMBER tearing that gun out of his hand and shooting him down like the dog he was! He was dead, at my feet!”
Blue tapped the folder. “I have YOUR own report confirming what I say, sir.”
“The report you wrote at the time, concerning THAT incident.”
White stared in disbelief at the young fair-haired captain before turning the folder toward him and opening it. He recognized the first document in it as being a copy of a British Navy report, the kind he had written so many of in the past. He read it quickly. The story reported in it was familiar, but at the same time so different from what his memories were telling him. The report didn’t seem quite right, but… the words, the style… It was his.
He pushed the folder away from him. “Forgery,” he mumbled, obstinately.
“I don’t think so,” Blue replied without losing any of his calm. “This paper is quite authentic.”
“So,” Scarlet murmured, “that memory seems to have been planted in your mind, sir…” He sighed. “So much for my theory that it could be the ‘noose’ we were looking for…”
“Wait,” Blue said quietly. “I may have my own theory, regarding that noose…”
“What are you talking about?” White growled at that moment. “What is this ‘noose’ you’re looking for? I don’t understand any of this!” He noted that he was about to lose his temper and took a deep breath, before continuing, his voice still edgy, “I tell you I KILLED this murdering scum!”
“Why do you call him that?” Blue asked quietly.
“That’s what he was!” White replied sharply. “A dirty bastard, murdering scum! A killer!”
“Who did he kill?” Scarlet asked.
White did not answer. Scarlet turned to Blue, with an inquiring look. The American shook his head. “After the civil war,” he explained, “Commander Jackson Bennett was court-martialled for criminal acts during the war.” He nodded toward the folder on the desk. “It’s all in there. Following Captain Gray’s report, Bennett was accused of having sabotaged a helicopter that had carried Admiral Neil Matheson – a very strong supporter of the rebel cause – onboard the Drake. Admiral Matheson was delivering information for Captain Gray, to inform him of the situation that the rebel base in the Orkneys was facing…”
“I remember that,” Scarlet said, musing. “It was even rumoured that it was Admiral Matheson who recruited Captain Gray to the cause, at that moment. Because the admiral had come to see him, just before he decided to turn against the Government. It was never truly established, for Charles Gray never confirmed nor denied it. As for Admiral Matheson himself… he wasn’t there anymore to comment.” He frowned. “The official report says that he died at sea…”
Blue nodded. “More precisely, the admiral’s helicopter exploded on takeoff from the helipad of the Drake. Obvious sabotage. Then the incident with Jackson Bennett and the gun happened in the captain’s cabin…”
“What could he have been looking for there?” Scarlet mused, giving a sideways look to Colonel White. “Information on the rebels? Something the admiral would have given his captain?”
“Proof of treason,” White said, lowering his gaze. “At least, that’s what he said…” He shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense… What you’ve just said happened then with that helicopter and Admiral Matheson is all true… But I still remember having killed Bennett!”
“Like you remembered your wife still being alive?” Scarlet asked carefully.
“That’s not the same thing!” White snapped. “My memories of my wife were confused, rare… I couldn’t even recall her older than her thirties… with good reason, apparently. But Bennett…” He sighed. “The case of Bennett is different. What happened that time, I remember quite vividly!”
“Which is even more reason to believe that memory has been planted,” Blue remarked.
“That’s crazy!” White retorted.
“This WHOLE situation is crazy enough, sir,” Blue answered back. “That seems to fit right in.” He waited for White to protest again, but the older man kept silent. The incredulous way he was still staring at Blue was enough of a protest in itself. The American captain crouched in front of him. “If you want proof, sir,” he told him with a gentle tone, “I can give it to you. It’s easy. Bennett is still alive today. The court-martial didn’t give him a death sentence. While it was certain he had something to do with the sabotage of that helicopter, there was no real proof that he had performed it himself. He served fifteen years in a military prison. He’s out today, and lives in London. I can have him flown here to Cloudbase. I’m sure that even after twenty-five years, you’ll be able to recognise…”
He couldn’t say more. White had bristled at his suggestion, and became very pale. A furious, fiery glow in his eyes, he leaned toward Blue. “If indeed that creep is alive, I certainly don’t want to see him!” he shouted with barely-contained anger. “Damn it, if I come face to face with that loathsome…”
“Why do you hate him so much?” Scarlet asked suddenly.
White had become agitated again, and it was easy to notice that this had begun the moment Blue had started talking about Jackson Bennett. The correlation was too evident to dismiss.
“I have good reason to hate him!” White said savagely, turning toward his compatriot.
“Yes, indeed,” Blue murmured. “You certainly have a good reason…”
“You know about this, Blue,” Captain Scarlet noted.
“I do.” Blue gave a hesitant look toward Colonel White. The latter first met his stare, then turned his eyes away. Blue stood up and handed his folder to Scarlet. “Admiral Matheson was not alone in that ‘copter when it exploded,” he told his partner. “He had a pilot… and that pilot died with him.” He shook his head, as Scarlet opened the folder. “I suppose historic military books tend to forget lower ranks… Check out the name of that pilot, Captain.”
Scarlet had already found it; he frowned deeply. “Flight Sergeant Alexander Gray, British Air Force…” He turned an understanding look toward Colonel White, who was still obstinately looking away, apparently not wanting to hear any of this. “Your father…”
Blue nodded slowly. “Captain Gray was on deck when the explosion occurred,” he explained dully. “He saw it all… And reported it afterward.”
“No wonder you hate that man Bennett so much…” Scarlet closed the folder. “I knew your father was a helicopter pilot, and that he died on duty… But you never told me…”
“WHY and WHEN would I have told you?” White replied, teeth clenched, not even raising his eyes. “I still DON’T remember if indeed I know you as some kind of a friend!”
“You do know us, sir. Believe us.” Scarlet turned toward Blue. “You were right, Captain. You have found the noose.”
“Yes,” Blue mused, with a shake of his head, staring at White with a sorry look. “I think I have…”
“Will you tell me what it is you’re mumbling about that ‘noose’ of yours?” White snapped, suddenly turning a furious gaze in direction of the two captains.
Scarlet sighed and approached his commander. “The Dream Spinner, sir, uses the memory of a traumatic event as the basis for its… treatment. Around this ‘noose’ is threaded the ‘reality’ that was put in your mind, with real memories, which were tampered with, and false ones…”
“Like your conviction that you had killed Jackson Bennett,” Blue emphasized.
“…And the one that your wife was still alive,” Scarlet added carefully.
“I hope you’re not telling me that my father’s death as I remember it is ALSO a planted memory?”
“No, sir. It’s not. It’s all too true. The Dream Spinner needs to use a REAL traumatic memory to thread around.”
“Why this one?”
“I’m no psychoanalyst,” Scarlet sighed, “but I would say that it may be because it inflames your hatred of the Militarist Regime.”
“I followed my conscience and convictions when I turned against the Militarists, Captain. I didn’t do it because I hated them!”
“Perhaps not… But the Dream Spinner made sure the little hate you may have had was fed sufficiently… Doctor Weiss would probably be able to see clearly through this.”
“You’ve got to be kidding…” White murmured, dumbfounded.
“Unfortunately, we’re not.” Scarlet paused a moment, so his commander would have time to let all that information sink in. He cleared his throat. “The good news is that we have apparently found the ‘noose’ we were looking for. Doctor Fawn believes that by finding out this traumatic event in your life, we will be able to help you get out of this nightmare.”
“And get back my entire memory?” the colonel asked.
“You’re not sure.”
“Truth to tell? No… Your situation is a difficult one. It could be a long ordeal…”
“And if it’s not the RIGHT traumatic memory?”
There was a pause. Blue narrowed his eyes at his commander. “There are others?”
“YOU tell me!” White scoffed. “I’m the one with the defective memory, here! And apparently, I can’t even rely what I think is true!” He frowned. “How can I TRUST any of what you’re saying to me? As far as I can tell, you still want something from me. How do I know you’re not sweet-talking me, manipulating me, only to worm it out of me?”
Scarlet hesitated. He exchanged glances with Blue. “We admit we NEED information from you,” he answered finally.
“Well, surprise, surprise!”
“About the Mysterons, and what they could be planning this time,” Blue added in turn.
“THEM, again!” White muttered. “I keep telling you, I don’t know the FIRST THING about those Mysterons!”
“They’re the ones responsible for what happened to you,” Blue continued.
White sighed with exasperation. “You’ve already said that. Why are you so sure of that?”
“Because of Captain Black’s involvement in your abduction.”
White gave a puzzled look toward Scarlet, who had said those words. “Now I’m more confused. I thought this ‘Captain Black’ was one of your own.”
“You told him about Black?” Blue asked his partner.
“Only in passing,” Scarlet answered. He then addressed his commander. “He WAS one of our own, sir. He’s not anymore. Two years ago, he was taken over by the Mysterons. He’s worked for them since then, and he’s probably the most dangerous and wanted man in the world right now.”
“’Taken over’…” White repeated in a low tone. “Whatever does that mean?”
“It’s really a complicated story…”
“It seems there’re a lot of those going on in your organisation.”
Scarlet gave a rueful smile. “Only when it concerns the Mysterons.”
White didn’t find this amusing at all. “You said I KNEW this Captain Black…”
“He was your friend,” Blue answered. “A very close friend, before this whole business with the Mysterons began. He…”
“I’ve heard enough!” White interrupted suddenly. Before the eyes of the dismayed Spectrum captains, he got up, and turning his back on them, went to stand in front of the oil portrait of the pirate, hanging behind his desk. He leaned heavily against the chest, upon which stood the plastic model.
He rubbed his temples; his head was killing him. He heard the voice of the blond officer as he was approaching behind him. “Sir, please… You must understand how important all this is.”
White closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “Give me some breathing room, Captain,” he demanded.
“Time is running out,” Scarlet added in turn, standing up from his seat. “As we speak, right now, the Mysterons are planning to kill someone. They must be stopped, and it’s Spectrum’s job to do it.”
“Please, leave me alone,” White tried again, this time with impatience.
“Sir, we can’t,” Blue insisted, always with a calm tone. “We’re sorry, but you may be holding some important clues to what the Mysterons…”
“I said ENOUGH!” White’s temper snapped suddenly. He violently hit the chest with his open palm, before spinning on his heel to face the two captains, standing a couple of feet from him, on the other side of the desk. “Stop this! I don’t want to hear anymore! I’m really, really tired of all this! I’m tired, and I can’t think, and I CAN’T believe any of this is true!” White’s eyes darted suspiciously at the two men standing in front of him. “What if it’s all an elaborate scam? What if you are only lying to me, manipulating me… trying to confuse me, so I tell you what you want? As I’ve suspected all along?”
“Stay calm, please, sir,” Scarlet asked quietly, stepping toward his commander. “Your temper…”
“Leave me alone!” White barked, stepping back. “What you’re trying to do with me is despicable… Acting friendly toward me, trying to get me to open up… Just to get information from me!”
“That’s not it,” Blue protested, approaching to stand next to Scarlet. “Please, try to overcome your paranoia. It’s been induced in you by the Dream Spinner treatment…”
“I know what that damned device did to me!” White replied sharply. “And I won’t let YOU finish the job!” His head felt as if it was literally splitting, and he felt hot. He could feel the frenzy, was aware of the adrenaline mounting within him. He was trying to fight it; but it was so hard. “Explain to me… Those ‘Mysterons’ you keep talking about… Why would they do this to me? Why am I so important to them that they would torment me the way they did?”
“Aside from the fact that they consider you a menace to them… That’s part of their actual threat,” Scarlet answered. “They wanted the ‘Orkney rebel hero’. They tried to get him back from the past…”
White frowned deeply and shook his head. “You don’t make sense… I’m no hero!”
“Your acts say differently,” Blue replied. “What about that rebel base you saved, twenty-five years ago?”
White said nothing.
“You know, Liberty Base,” Scarlet pressed, staring intensely at White. When the older man still didn’t answer, a suspicion suddenly crossed his mind. “I thought you remembered this…”
“I do remember it,” White snapped.
“How WELL do you remember it?” Scarlet went on, insistently.
White turned around, without answering. It was obvious he was deeply troubled. The same nagging feeling was still gnawing at Scarlet. He came closer. “What do you remember of this, sir?” he asked again.
“I arrived too late,” White said, almost whispering.
Blue heaved a deep sigh. “Oh, no… Don’t tell me…”
“You did not,” Scarlet retorted, answering White.
“That’s not what my memory tells me!” White shot back, sharply turning on his heels. “I failed! I arrived too late! People died because I wasn’t there in time to save them! I was much too preoccupied with…” He stopped, unwilling to go on. But it was too late. Both captains had heard the bitterness in his tone.
“You were too preoccupied with what?” Scarlet asked.
“Forget it,” White mumbled.
“Bennett, right?” Blue remarked quietly. White stared at him; his eyes were trembling, but blazing with anger. The American gave a knowing nod. He had figured it out. “The incident with Bennett happened just before you intervened against those other warships that were sent to destroy that base… You think you were too preoccupied with your own, personal vengeance… You believe it interfered with your duty.”
“Stop this,” the colonel growled between his teeth.
“Now I get it,” Blue continued. “’Some hero’, you said earlier, about yourself.”
“It didn’t happen the way you think, sir,” Scarlet told his commander, in a reassuring tone. “You didn’t arrive too late.”
“DON’T tell me THIS memory has been tampered with too!” White said with irritation.
“Unfortunately, sir… I’m afraid so.”
Colonel White stared incredulously at each of the two younger men. His headache was becoming stronger. He was feeling more and more confused, and deeply troubled; he couldn’t concentrate and assimilate all that these men were telling him. His mind was about as tired as his body. It was simply refusing to accept any more of this.
He couldn’t help but think that he was but a toy in a very large game of betrayal. Too strong was his conviction that these men were trying to deceive him. He couldn’t, wouldn’t let them win. He glared at them with fiery eyes.
“No,” he murmured. “I don’t believe it. Those awful memories… about me having killed Bennett… about my arriving too late to help those people at that base… about the civil war going on for so many years… They can’t be false… It’s much too convenient… I refuse to think this...”
“Sir, believe us,” Scarlet sighed. “What we say IS the truth. Those memories ARE lies.”
“And I suppose you think I should feel RELIEVED that these memories may not be true?” White snapped with fury. “No. No, that’s still you Spectrum people toying with me!”
“Those… ‘Mysterons’… I bet they don’t even exist… You invented that just for my benefit… for this little game you’re playing…”
“I wish it was true,” Blue replied, rather harshly. “But they’re all too real, sir. For the past two years, they’re been turning upside down the lives of every human being… especially Captain Scarlet’s.”
White blinked in surprise.
“What do you mean, ‘human beings’?” he demanded, not understanding what the blond captain was driving at, and frowning with exasperation. “What are you talking about, exactly? Try to make sense, man!”
He’s losing it, Scarlet noted to himself, seeing how pale and furious his commander had become. Large beads of sweat covered his forehead. He was looking exactly the same way the captain had seen him before, when they had fought in that wood. Back then, there seemed to be no way to stop him. Scarlet wondered with a certain dismay if he and Blue would have to resort to brute strength to try to keep the colonel from hurting himself.
“You’d better sit down, sir,” he tried again, still with a soothing voice, approaching one step closer.
He was trying to reach out to White with his right hand. The colonel struck it with a heavy backhand, pushing the help away from him. “Get away from me!” White spat out with utmost disgust.
“We just want to help you,” Scarlet tried again.
“I don’t want your help!” That was a desperate cry, the most violent outburst either Scarlet or Blue had heard from their commander since he had been taken back to Cloudbase.
White stepped away from them, and then staggered suddenly. He reached for the desk with one hand, while putting the other to his pounding head. He gave a low grunt.
In the same, quick movement, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue were at their commander’s side, at the very moment his knees were giving way under him. They stopped him from falling to the floor and kept him as steady as possible on his feet.
“Sir, what is it? What’s wrong?” White could hear the concern in the blond American’s voice. He raised his head, trying to dispel the turmoil his mind was in. The pounding between his temples was making that impossible.
“I don’t feel so good…” he murmured faintly.
“We’d better get you to bed,” the colonel heard the faraway voice of Captain Scarlet say.
He didn’t protest. Simply nodded his consent. He wasn’t in any state to resist and refuse help at the moment. It was all he could do to stay up and awake.
“Yes, I think it would be… a good idea.”
With these words, a sudden pain tore inside Colonel White’s head as a violent flash of white light came searing through it, seemingly burning his eyes from behind. He winced, the strength left his legs, and he had the impression his mind was diving into a deep precipice along with his now strangely weightless body. The last thing he was aware of was of helping hands catching him before he reached the floor and the concerned voice of the English captain using his cap communicator to call for a doctor…
* * *
Spectrum Captain Forest stepped forward to clasp hands with the Cloudbase staff officer who had come to meet him at the Naval Armament Depot, which Forest had been assigned to watch over. Captain Grey had radioed him a couple of hours earlier to inform him of this visit in the course of the investigation on the present Mysteron threat. Forest was a brand new field captain, having being promoted to the rank only two months ago. He had served as a field lieutenant for a little less than a year, being assigned this job after his six months’ hard training at Koala Base, Australia, training ground for recruits who were to become Spectrum officers and field agents.
Captain Forest had first met Captain Grey when the Cloudbase officer had come to address the recruits at Koala Base. It was at that moment that he had learnt about the senior captain’s background as a World Navy officer – like he was himself, before joining Spectrum. Grey had made an indelible impression on the younger man. It was always a bit intimidating to encounter one of the higher staff officers of Cloudbase. They were all preceded by a formidable reputation.
Looking the younger man straight in the eyes, Captain Grey gave him a large smile and nodded thoughtfully. “Lawrence, isn’t it?”
Forest’s smile broadened even more. “Captain Forest, now, sir,” he announced.
Grey assessed the dark green uniform. “So I see.”
“I’m flattered that you should remember me.”
“I always remember people like you, Captain. At Koala Base, you struck me as a dedicated young fellow, eager to learn and serve. You had asked me many questions during that speech I gave there, I recall.”
“Yes, Captain, I did.”
“You were a Navy man, too. All the more reason to remember you!” Grey paused a second. “How are you doing in your new job?”
“I think it’s going well. Aside from this assignment, I mean.”
“To say the least. But I don’t mind. I know I’ve been assigned here because of my Navy background.”
Forest motioned the senior officer to follow him into the office that had been given to him two days earlier. The two of them entered and Forest closed the door behind, before going to his desk.
“I have the information you wanted about those torpedoes that were stolen three days ago.” Forest took a folder that was on his desk and handed it to Grey. “It’s all in there. I hope it will help.”
Grey nodded and opened the folder to consult the documents inside of it. “Not nuclear,” he mused.
“No, sir. But pretty dangerous, nevertheless. There were twenty of them. Code-named White Shark 14. Ten feet long, nose reinforced with a special alloy, principally made of titanium. With built-in beacon transmitter and timing device.”
“Can either detonate on impact, or penetrate before detonating, depending on how it is programmed,” Grey went on. He mused over the next line. “Mainly used in British destroyers from 2044 to 50… Not compatible with today’s warships or submarines.” He closed the folder. “Now I wonder what the Mysterons could want with those…” He looked at Forest. “None of those ships are still in service today, I think…”
“No, Captain. But five surface ships still exist. And also one submarine.”
Forest nodded. “Three are in drydock, here at the depot. The submarine is too, so badly damaged that if it were to be put into the water, she would sink like a rock…”
“That leaves two.”
“Those two destroyers have been recently reclaimed by the World Navy. For the Memorial Ceremony which is to be held in Iceland, sir. Seems the two of them were there at the time. The Navy wanted them on hand to be part of the small fleet of ships that’s supposed to sail off the coast of Iceland for the ceremony.”
Grey nodded thoughtfully. He knew of this, of course. The Memorial for the British nationals who had died during the Iceland territorial dispute, some twenty-five years ago. In his years when he was in the British Navy, Colonel White – Charles Gray – had been involved with that event. Spectrum had investigated it, in case it could be an occasion for the Mysterons to use for their present threat. But while the organisation would be in attendance for security, just to be sure, the event was dismissed for a possible Mysteron action, as no ‘crowned head’ was to attend it.
However, there was a chance that a couple of ‘honoured outlawed heroes’ would be present for the occasion…
“Are the armament systems of those destroyers functional, Captain?” Grey asked Forest.
The younger man shook his head. “No, sir. They were dismantled and rendered ineffective by the Depot ordnance disposal team. For safety reasons.”
“If I recall correctly, Lieutenant-Commander Shelby was part of that team, right?” Grey noted. “So it would probably be easy for him to repair the system of one of these ships to render it functional again.”
“I can’t say it’s impossible, sir,” Forest nodded quietly.
“When were those ships reclaimed, Captain?”
“The Pembroke left here two days ago, just before we heard of the Mysterons’ threat. One Captain Kevin MacBain of the World Navy, British section, came to the Depot with a skeleton crew and claimed the ship. His papers were in order, the requisition sheet correctly completed. When I arrived here, after the Mysterons’ announcement, I had a team of Spectrum field agents sent to the Pembroke. With a Mysteron detector and all the rest. Just to make sure everything was clean.”
“I take it it was,” Grey mused. “What about the second destroyer?”
“She was reclaimed yesterday. We had time to do a thorough inspection of the ship and the people who came to take her away. They checked out okay.” He scratched his ear. “Very interesting, though. It was a World Navy Admiral who claimed that ship. I know he has a very renowned reputation here in Britain… And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before…”
Captain Grey froze, hearing that.
“Was it Admiral GRAY? Charles Gray?”
“Yes, that’s his name. Relative of yours, Captain?”
“Hardly.” Captain Grey put the folder down on the desk and opened his tunic pocket. He took out a picture that he handed to Forest. “This picture was taken at least fifteen years ago. Was it this man?”
Forest examined the photograph. It was a portrait of a forty-something, distinguished-looking man, with white hair on his temples. He was wearing the cap of a World Navy officer, and his shoulders sported the insignia of full admiral.
“I only got a glimpse of him myself, Captain,” Forest explained. “But… yeah, it’s him. He was older, but…” He frowned, looking more closely at the picture. And then stared at Captain Grey, with a perplexed look. “Captain… he looks like…”
“Stay quiet about this,” Grey interrupted him, almost whispering. “You are bound to secrecy about this as of now. It’s highly restricted information, Captain.”
Forest blinked in surprise. “Of course, Captain… I’ll keep quiet. But… the colonel… I mean…”
“He’s all right. I can’t tell you anything else, I’m sorry.” Grey blew out a sigh, before swiftly moving on to the most important aspect of the situation for the time being. “Now, tell me quickly: what is the name of that ship he took from the Depot?”
* * *
Seated on the chair he had pulled nearer to the bed, Captain Blue was attentively watching Colonel White who was lying there, apparently sleeping soundly. Since he had collapsed in front of Scarlet and Blue, nearly three hours ago, he had not made a single move. Called to his bedside by the two anxious captains, Doctor Fawn had examined the Spectrum commander, to declare that physically he was just fine; in this aspect, his body was simply exhausted, in desperate need of rest. Which was what he was getting right now.
Scarlet had been recalled to the Control Room by Lieutenant Green, and Blue had stayed alone at their commander’s side, watching vigilantly over him. They didn’t put him back in restraints; they didn’t think there was any need for it now. Perhaps he was still fairly troubled, but they felt he was no longer as dangerous as he had been before. And they had agreed that, in order to win his trust, they had to prove their good intentions and make a constructive gesture toward him.
Blue looked down into his empty cup. He was now on his fourth coffee in the last three hours. If he was tired, he didn’t feel it one bit. Too much stress, most probably, he mused, staring back at his sleeping commander. He could feel the anger boiling inside of him, and was doing his best to keep it in check. How could they have done this to him? Playing with his mind like they did… Is there no end to the Mysterons’ cruelty? Won’t they ever stop this sick game of theirs?
Sighing in frustration, he stood up and slowly walked toward the coffee maker sitting on a table, just beside the high chest, behind the working desk. He poured himself another big cup. Maybe Fawn was right, he told himself, taking a sip of the warm beverage. Maybe they were all trying to keep up with Captain Scarlet… After what the Mysterons had done to him, he needed far less sleep than an ordinary man, now.
First Scarlet and now White… Perhaps the latter was not killed and Mysteronised, the way the first had been, but after what he had been put through, Blue wondered if he’d ever be the same again… or even if Spectrum would succeed in getting him out of this nightmare.
He hoped the Mysterons had not irremediably destroyed the mind of his commander.
Blue took another sip of coffee; doing so, his eyes met with those of the pirate illustrated on the oil painting hanging over the chest. The man had a certain style, the American had to admit, musing. A flagrant nobility in his bearing… Strangely, Blue found he had the eyes of White… But it was clearly impossible. A trick of his mind. He shook the thought away and went back to his chair.
He was sitting down when he heard the colonel moan and saw him stir. He’s coming out of it, he realised, putting down his cup on a low table near him. He came closer; White was muttering something, but he couldn’t make out any of it. Blue strained his ears, but with no more success.
Now White was moving a little more, like somebody struggling against a bad dream. Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead. Blue leaned over the older man.
Colonel White suddenly sprang into a sitting position, waking up all of a sudden. Blue caught him in mid-movement and stopped him from getting up. He could see the all too evident terror in his commander’s face and wide-open eyes, as he was looking around, searching for a non-existent threat.
“Easy now, sir,” Blue stated with a calm voice. “You can relax… You just had a bad dream.”
“A dream?” Colonel White’s voice was a little more than a murmur. He looked around again, as if he was waiting for somebody – or something – to jump at him and attack him. The only person in the room with him was obviously the blond American, gently but firmly holding him. He looked up into his face. “The Dream Spinner…”
“There is no Dream Spinner here, sir,” Blue assured him. “Believe me, you have nothing to fear from that thing anymore. You’re safe and amongst friends.”
“Friends…” White repeated with the same voice. “I wish… I wish I could be sure…” He heaved a deep sigh and let himself fall back onto the bed. He put his hands on his pounding head. “What… what happened?”
“In two words?” Blue answered with a nod. “You fainted.”
“Yes… Don’t you remember? You were becoming quite agitated, accusing us of trying to deceive you…”
“Yes, I do remember…” White murmured, staring vaguely at the ceiling. “How long was I out?”
“Three hours or so.” Blue had taken a pitcher from a low table and was now pouring some water into a glass. “I would say it was not such a surprising reaction…” He offered the glass to his commander and gave him a faint smile. “…considering what you had just been through.”
White eyed the glass with a somewhat suspicious glance for a few seconds; he then rose on one elbow and decided to take it. “Yes… I suppose it was not.” He drank half the content of the glass in one big gulp and handed it back to the young captain.
“Feeling better now?” Blue asked.
“Only just.” Carefully, White sat up and swung his legs off the bed. His body was hurting all over. Well, I’ve put it through a lot since yesterday, he mused grimly. It was inevitable he would feel the strain eventually. He grunted faintly and rubbed his aching shoulders with one hand. He saw the concern in Captain Blue’s eyes.
“Are you all right?”
“Just my muscles calling me back to order,” White replied in a pleasant tone. “If you recall… I’ve done a lot of… ‘exercise’, lately. I’m not a young man anymore.”
Blue’s smile broadened. “I would say you’re in much better shape than some people half your age, sir.”
“Thank you… I think.” The colonel stared straight into the eyes of the younger man. “I’m still trying to figure out what your angle is in all this,” he muttered.
“We told you already: we want to help you get through this and get our commander back.”
“And stop those people you call ‘Mysterons’, right?”
“It’s Spectrum’s job to stop them, yes. And considering that they planned to use you to carry out their threat this time, I’d say it’s of the utmost importance that we succeed… If only for your sake.”
“I know you: you’d never forgive yourself if something should happen because of some action the Mysterons made you do. You’d feel responsible.”
White’s stance became more intense. He frowned. “Why do I have the feeling you’ve been through this before?”
Blue shook his head, without answering. Yes, to a certain extent, he had to admit. In those first days after Scarlet had shaken off the Mysterons’ control over himself, it was all Blue could do – along with White himself and Doctor Fawn – to convince the British captain he wasn’t responsible for anything that had happened – or might have happened – during that time.
“Don’t worry, sir. We’ll help you out.”
“I don’t know yet what to make of all of this.” White looked around. “Where’s your friend?”
“Captain Scarlet has been recalled to the Control Room. He was needed there. This is a military base, sir. And we need a commander to keep it running.” And most of all, we need our real commander. If Blue wasn’t missing his guess, Lieutenant Green’s urgent call earlier had something to do with Martin Conners or even someone else in Spectrum Intelligence still trying to butt in on what was really going on on Cloudbase.
Blue was scrutinizing White with attention and concern. He was still fairly pale, and it was apparent he was still suffering from a headache, as he was rubbing his forehead. “I could do with an aspirin,” the colonel mumbled.
“I can ask Doctor Fawn to come back,” Blue proposed.
“No. That won’t be necessary,” White replied quickly, shaking his head. “I’ve seen enough doctors for the present…” He stopped suddenly, as if what he had just said had woken up something in his mind. Blue saw the eyes of his commander becoming distant, as if he was lost deep in his thoughts.
A new flash of light, similar to the one he had just before losing his senses earlier, suddenly appeared in Charles Gray’s mind. This time, however it was also accompanied by images. Familiar images he would have given anything to escape.
Again, he was seeing himself strapped to the padded table, subjected to the torment of the Dream Spinner. The face of a man wearing a white shirt was looking down at him, in a cold and unfeeling way. “We are a whole Network,” the man was telling him. “That’s the name you can call us…”
White felt the sudden pain on the back of his neck; the deafening sounds in his ears, as if he was back there and then. He flinched and closed his eyes, giving a low grunt. Seeing that, Blue came closer to put his hand on the older man’s shoulder.
“What is it, sir? Are you all right?”
White opened his eyes. They were still looking into empty space.
“The Network…” he murmured, frowning.
“Sir?” The surprised Captain Blue realised instantaneously that his commander was remembering something of significance. “What is it, sir? What do you remember?”
“I…” There was a moment of hesitation from White’s part. “I… just had a flashback… About that Dream Spinner… There was that doctor and…” Frowning, he looked deep in the eyes of the young man, who was staring at him with that sincere look of concern in his clear blue eyes. “He mentioned something about… being part of a ‘Network’.”
“A ‘Network’?” Blue repeated, puzzled.
“That’s what he said… ‘Network’.” The colonel gave Blue an inquisitive look. “Could it be that you were wrong after all, about your… Mysterons’ alleged involvement?”
“No.” Blue sighed heavily. “But it could confirm some doubts we were having about this whole affair… What can you tell me about this ‘Network’?”
“Sorry. That’s all.” Blue stared at his commander who, seeing the apparent scepticism in him, shrugged his shoulders. “Believe me, Captain. I’m not lying to you. I may not entirely trust you… but I’m ready to believe your Spectrum has nothing to do with what happened to me with that Dream Spinner device.”
“So you finally believe that we had no hand in that?” Blue asked with a note of hope.
White hesitated. “To tell you the truth… It’s just an impression I have. I must admit that… I’ve been treated fairly well, since you took me prisoner.”
“You are not our prisoner, sir.”
“What about the earlier restraints?”
“What about your attempts to kill some of us?”
White took his time, thinking this over. He shook his head. “I did give you cause for concern about that, right?”
“That’s not our ONLY cause of concern right now in regard to you, sir.”
“So you keep saying.” White quickly changed the subject. “Look… I will not lie to you, Captain. It’s true I’m not sure I should trust you. But I’m as eager as you seem to be to get my hands on those men. I’m not about to forget what they did to me…”
“Well, don’t worry," Blue said in a promising voice. “We’ll get them.”
White nodded thoughtfully, without really answering. He still seems a bit under the weather, Blue noted, looking gravely at his commander’s tired features.
“Would you care for a cup of coffee, sir?” The American pointed in the direction of the coffee maker with his thumb. “Black, with no sugar, I believe?”
White nodded again. Blue stood up and, keeping an eye on the Colonel, just in case, went back to the coffee maker to pour another cup. He gave another curious look at the pirate portrait, before coming back to sit down in front of his commander and presenting him with the cup.
Colonel White didn’t hesitate one instant to accept it and took a sip. He grimaced, tasting the bitterness of the coffee. Blue gave a shy smile.
“I admit I don’t make such great coffee.”
“It’s drinkable,” White replied, putting the cup down. He added with a weak smile, “Try a pinch of salt in the grounds. One of the more important things I learned early in my career, when we participated in joint exercises with your Navy.”
Blue smiled back. “That must be why everyone lets Brad make the coffee in the officers’ lounge,” he said, half to himself.
But White wasn’t really thinking about the coffee, rather that he could take something to eat, now. His stomach was crying out for food and he could see no further point in fasting any longer. He was about to ask Blue for at least a sandwich when he noticed that his attention was still focused on the oil portrait.
He gave another faint smile and cleared his throat. “Like it? It’s my wife’s…”
Blue thought he had heard wrongly. “I beg your pardon?”
“My wife painted this,” White explained, nodding toward the portrait. “She was… a real artist, in her spare time. She painted that for me for our second wedding anniversary. Not bad, is it?”
“Quite remarkable, actually,” Blue replied, staring at the painting. He almost chuckled, turning his attention back to the colonel. “I noticed that pirate had your eyes… I thought it was my imagination.”
“Er… no, Elizabeth did that on purpose.” Colonel White gave the younger man a somewhat embarrassed smile. “When she offered that painting to me, she told me that, since she never encountered the fellow, she was entitled to a little ‘personal creativity’…”
“…And she gave the guy your eyes.”
“Right.” White sighed. “I admit I wasn’t so sure I was flattered by that. After all, he had started out his career as a slave trader… Not really something I would like to be associated with.”
“Who is it?” Blue asked with curiosity, staring again at the portrait.
“Sorry, I thought you knew. That’s my wife’s interpretation of Sir Francis Drake.”
Blue let the information sink in. He was still looking intensely at the oil painting; his eyes felt on the plastic model standing just underneath it. “That ship is also named ‘Sir Francis Drake’,” the captain mused, frowning. He turned toward White. “Captain Ochre gave you that model as a birthday gift, two years ago…”
“Ochre… That’s the name of that man I shot at Dooley’s…” White seemed perplexed. And troubled. “Captain, I’m sorry, I…”
“That was the name of your destroyer, twenty-five years ago,” Blue continued, without really hearing what the Colonel had just said.
“Why, yes,” White agreed, hesitating. “The Sir Francis Drake was my ship, when I was in the British Navy… That’s why my wife painted this portrait…”
A doubt was taking form in Blue’s mind. He frowned deeply.
“I thought that guy Drake was an explorer, and an admiral, under Elizabeth the First. He was the man who defeated the Spanish Armada, right?”
“Drake wasn’t only an explorer and an admiral of the English Fleet, Captain. As I said, he was also a slave trader…”
Blue thumbed toward the portrait. “That’s why he looks like a pirate? He was one?”
“England’s enemies of the time certainly called him that. The country’s Treasury was almost empty during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. It needed to be replenished. The Crown then relied on sea adventurers like Francis Drake to do it… if in a rather unorthodox way. He received full mandate from the Queen to attack merchant ships from enemy countries, such as France and Spain, and to relieve them of their riches… which he then gave to the Crown. He was a privateer… or what the French called a corsair…”
“Yes. A thief, a bandit… a pirate, to the enemy. A hero for England.” White shook his head, grimly. “Rather a shady character, anyway.”
“An outlaw…” Blue murmured, looking into empty space. “A honoured hero…”
“Honoured?” White repeated. “Why, yes, certainly. But…”
The doubt in Captain Blue was now a complete certitude. “Dear God… How could we have overlooked that?” He stared at Colonel White and took him by the shoulders. “The second ‘outlawed hero’…”
“Excuse me?” There was confusion in the Spectrum commander’s eyes, as he tried to understand what it was the young man was now telling him.
“Thank you, sir,” Blue said to his commander, with a satisfied grin. “You just helped to elucidate another part of the Mysterons’ cryptic threat.”
“I was afraid of that,” was Colonel White’s grim response.
He looked on as Captain Blue dropped down his cap microphone to contact Scarlet in the Control Room. Giving a low groan, the Spectrum commander took a sip of coffee. Again, he grimaced and put down the cup. The beverage really tasted too bad…
Maybe it was time he finally accepted a decent meal, after all…