A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
“Right, Captain Blue. Minutes before you informed me of your discovery, Captain Grey had contacted me from Bristol about the disappearance of the Sir Francis Drake from the Navy Armament Depot…”
Consulting the file he had in his hand, Captain Scarlet was pacing round the Conference Room, behind Captain Blue and Colonel White, who were seated at the round table. A very watchful Blue was keeping a curious and careful eye on their commander, who, still free to move, was keeping rather quiet for the moment. He was quite busy, eating a well-deserved meal. That he had refused to accept it earlier wasn’t obvious at all now, as he was literally devouring the one-inch thick medium steak he had asked for.
Captain Scarlet stopped his pacing, right behind White and again consulted the first page of the report.
“The ship was taken yesterday, by former Admiral Charles Gray,” Scarlet explained. “He seemed to have all the right authorisation to claim it, and his I.D. papers were quite in order.” He stared at White, who had just pushed a large piece of meat into his mouth. “That’s why you needed the uniform I found in that cabinet at the Bristol complex yesterday. And that’s why you had that World Navy I.D. on you…”
“You needed that destroyer,” Blue continued, his eyes still fixed, fascinated, on the silent – and eating – White. He shook his head. “The Drake must be that ship Rhapsody heard you talk about with that Brighton guy while she was your prisoner.”
White swallowed his piece of meat, before answering with a nod and a very quiet voice, “I didn’t talk about the ship at all. Mister Brighton did all the talking. I would not have risked mentioning it in front of the girl.” He cut himself another piece of meat. “Delicious. Be sure to congratulate the cook for me.”
“The Drake was supposed to be taken – along with the Pembroke – to the ceremony being held tomorrow along the coast of Iceland. While the Pembroke showed up to join the fleet going there, the Drake…” Scarlet looked over White, “…disappeared without a trace.”
“A ship that big?” Blue noted, frowning.
“Admiral Gray was known to be very skilled, in his time, at playing hide and seek with the enemy.” Scarlet paused. “For now, we can’t locate the Drake.”
“I thought all the Navy warships were equipped with a special tracking device, so their position would be known at all times,” Blue noted. “Doesn’t the Drake have one?”
“Yes, the Drake WAS equipped with one. But she’s been in dry dock for the last few years and the device was disabled. Captain Grey said in his report that the officer responsible for the maintenance team at the Depot was sure that the device had been put back on line when the ship was taken out, supposedly for that ceremony. It wasn’t. Most probably, it was disabled again… by Shelby, or even by the… Admiral, for that matter. It’s a computerised device.” Scarlet cast a thoughtful glance at Colonel White. “And you certainly know your way around computers, don’t you, sir?”
Blue stared at Scarlet gloomily before turning to their commander. “Why did you need that ship?” he asked calmly.
The latter didn’t answer and took another mouthful. Scarlet sighed. “Now we know at least one of the reasons why the Mysterons needed HIM and those hired hands with him…”
“It wouldn’t have been possible for Mysterons to enter the Depot,” Blue stated, nodding.
“Not without being exposed. Captain Forest says that EVERYONE at the gate was checked with a Mysteron detector since we heard of this new threat.”
Masticating energetically, White looked at the two men with open curiosity. A Mysteron detector, he repeated inwardly. That was what he had seen the preceding day, when he had presented himself at the Depot… the thing he had first mistaken for a weapon. He remembered that the lieutenant who had welcomed him at the gate, a Lieutenant Lannigan, had indeed called it a ‘Mysteron detector’ and that it was able to ‘somehow spot Mysterons’…
“Will you tell me what these Mysterons are, and how you Spectrum people can spot them, using a piece of machinery?” the colonel suddenly asked.
“You SAW the Mysteron detector,” Blue realised.
“Oh, yes, I saw it…” White cut another piece of his steak. “So… what are these Mysterons?”
WHAT seemed the perfect question to him… Judging by the few clues he had been able to gather about them, he was beginning to wonder if they were… human.
Why am I even considering this possibility? Gray was asking himself. As bizarre as the eventuality might be, it seemed also, strangely, very unsettling…
“I don’t think it would be a good idea to tell you,” Blue noted.
“…because I wouldn’t believe it? So it’s that amazing?” White smiled roguishly. “I’ve seen my share of strange things in my life, young sir… You’d be surprised what I may be willing to believe.”
“You’ll forgive us if we’re rather… doubtful about that.”
“Right now, we would like very much for you to believe US,” Scarlet said.
“That may be asking too much at this moment.” White took another mouthful, and concentrated again on his plate.
“How long since you had a decent meal, sir?” Blue asked, still watching in fascination his obviously famished commander.
The latter shrugged, with some indifference, without bothering to answer the question. Since he had been released from the Dream Spinner, he had not been able to eat anything solid. Some of the drugs that had been pumped into his bloodstream must have played tricks with his stomach, somehow. That was part of the reason he had refused to accept anything to eat since his capture by Spectrum – that, and the fact that he was really concerned that something could have been slipped into his meal.
“Let’s see what we have,” Scarlet said, sitting down next to Blue, rubbing his chin. “We’ve identified our two ‘honoured outlawed heroes’ as being former Admiral Charles Gray and the destroyer he commanded about twenty-five years ago, the Sir Francis Drake.”
“Strange…” Blue grumbled. “I would have put my money on Captain Black as being the second ‘outlawed hero’. He was a celebrated hero, some years ago… And certainly, he is outlawed NOW.”
“Two days ago,” Scarlet continued, “Admiral Gray was kidnapped at the house of his friend, retired quartermaster Greg Dooley, and then underwent the Dream Spinner treatment to force him to follow certain orders… What was the name of that group involved in this operation again?”
“The Network,” Blue answered. He indicated White who had almost finished his meal. “At least, that’s how the… ‘Admiral’ remembers it.” He and Scarlet had been careful to avoid referring to their commander as ‘Colonel White’. He still doubted that that identity was really his, and it seemed to infuriate him whenever he was called by that name.
“Right, the Network… We suspected that such a group was helping the Mysterons… It seems we guessed right.” Scarlet paused a second. “We’ll have to learn more later about this ‘Network’. For now, let’s continue our recapitulation: yesterday, the Drake was taken from the Navy Armament Depot in Bristol, by Admiral Gray himself … We know that three days ago, Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby disappeared with a truckload of torpedoes from the same Depot. Now we know that Shelby was taken over by the Mysterons and that those torpedoes were meant to be used by the Drake…” Scarlet narrowed his eyes, looking at White, who was still eating, seemingly paying little attention to what was being said. The British captain knew that the appearances were deceiving… his commander wasn’t missing a single word. “The armament system on board the ship was rendered non-operational, when it was taken to dry dock, years ago,” Scarlet continued, addressing Blue. “But it is highly likely that Commander Shelby would have been able to correct that and that the Drake will now be perfectly able to launch those torpedoes against their intended target.”
“Which we don’t know anything about at the moment,” Blue added, nodding. “Our only clue is that he – or she – is a ‘crowned head’… The term is applicable only to a reigning monarch, right?”
Scarlet nodded. “After the coronation, yes. Other members of royal families are not ‘crowned heads’.”
“Which reduces our research a bit,” Blue sighed. “Still, there are still a few ‘crowned heads’ in Europe – and in some little states in Africa and Asia…”
“Just about all of them are under Spectrum protection,” Scarlet noted. “And the majority of them are out of reach of an attack from a warship like the Sir Francis Drake. And there is still the possibility that the Mysterons are using a symbolic term, here, pointing to someTHING, rather to someONE…”
“I still think it has something to do with Britain,” Captain Blue replied. “Maybe the intended target IS the King of England. The Mysterons intended to use a British subject… and a British warship.”
“Well, for now, like the world’s other monarchs, the King is quite safe,” Scarlet replied. “And I can’t see HOW the Mysterons, using the Drake, would be able to touch him where he is at this moment.”
Colonel White had stopped eating; he was giving a puzzled look toward the two captains, conversing before him. “There’s a king back on the British Throne?” he asked, addressing Scarlet.
“King George the Seventh,” Scarlet answered, nodding.
“George…” White repeated, thoughtfully. “I still remember him as the Prince of Wales… As far as I can recall, the last time I heard of him, he was in exile, with the rest of the Royal Family.”
“He’s been King since a few weeks after the end of the civil war, twenty-five years ago,” Scarlet explained. “He was very involved with the Coalition that helped overthrow the Military Regime.” He looked closely at White as he added, “Like my great-grandfather, he was one of the representatives who asked for President Bandranaik’s help against the Militarists.”
“Yes…” White said, nodding in turn. “I seem to remember that too…” He shrugged. “Strange how details like that seem to slowly come back.” He paused a few seconds. “So I suppose it was by him that I was… knighted? If I am to believe what that blonde girl told me before…”
“Believe it, sir. Symphony told you the truth,” Scarlet replied. “You received the Order of the Bath, about fifteen years ago. For outstanding service to the nation throughout the course of your career.” He turned toward Blue. “Which is one of the reasons why Captain Black couldn’t be that other outlawed hero, Captain Blue. Remember: the Mysterons were referring to an HONOURED one. Conrad Turner was never knighted, never received that kind of honour, however heroic his past actions were.”
“I still find that hard to believe, you know?” White nodded, again thoughtful. “I don’t remember having been knighted. I suppose I’ll have to wait to see if something will come back, before passing judgement on that.”
“Best course of action for now,” Blue agreed, rather gloomily. “In the meantime, WE have to try and find some clue to what the Mysterons intend to do… and to stop them at all costs.”
“And in order to do that, we must find out WHERE the Drake is. Fast. And that’s where you come in, ‘Admiral’.”
White frowned deeply. He couldn’t help but notice that the conversation had radically changed in the last hour or so. Although the two captains were still trying to convince him of their good faith, their priority had shifted now to trying to locate the missing ship and find out at whom it was intended to strike. “Time seems to be of the essence, here,” he noted, addressing the two men. “Why do I have the feeling you’re in some kind of hurry?”
“Because we are,” Scarlet answered.
“The Mysterons’ deadline is getting dangerously close,” Blue added.
“Two days ago, they announced that they would destroy one ‘crowned head’ using two outlawed heroes, within the next seventy-two hours.”
“We lost the first day trying to find you,” Scarlet explained. “The second in attempting to make you regain your senses.” He consulted his wrist-watch and shook his head. “We have about twenty-four hours left.”
“Wait, I don’t understand,” a puzzled White replied. “If I’m following you, I have to say these Mysterons posed some kind of a riddle as a threat?”
“They always announce their threats,” Blue answered. “And sometimes, in riddles, like this time.”
“Why? Surely they must know you would try to stop them…”
“They’re counting on it, actually. With them, it’s a ‘war of nerves’.”
“A sick game, if you ask me.”
“Yes, a sick game. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to play along with them.”
“This time, sir, they decided to use YOU, to carry out their threat,” Scarlet continued. “Up until now, we have done the best we could to prevent anyone outside of our senior staff learning what’d happened to you… of your involvement in what has already happened. It wouldn’t suit Spectrum if it became known that our commander has been brainwashed into killing someone – like a head of State.”
“The scandal, you mean?”
“Worse than that. Spectrum is the World Government’s ultimate task team. Its reputation isn’t spotless, because of Captain Black’s involvement with… the Mysterons.” Scarlet had come close to saying ‘with what happened on MARS with the Mysterons’, but he stopped himself just in time. He shook his head. “We don’t want to lose the people’s trust in the work we do. They’re counting on us to protect them from the Mysterons’ threats. It’s our job, and so far we’ve done it well. But if what happened to you becomes known…”
“That trust could be shaken,” Blue added gloomily. “And I believe that’s what the Mysterons had in mind when they decided to make use of you. That’s why we kept this to ourselves, and the senior staff of Spectrum. Not even the World Government authorities know about your ordeal.”
“Unfortunately,” Scarlet sighed, “I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep it a secret for much longer… That’s why we have to see this operation through quickly.”
“It’s important that you co-operate with us, sir,” Blue said. “If you help us locate the Drake and stop the Mysterons before they can carry out their threat…”
“…Then nobody will have to learn of my ‘involvement’ in this,” White added, thoughtfully.
“There will be less risk that it would be discovered, anyway.”
“I see.” White paused again, before staring closely at the two captains. “If what you’re saying is true… then you’re taking tremendous risks to help me…. Why are you doing this?”
“We already explained that to you, sir,” Scarlet answered.
“Tell me again.”
“You’re our commander,” Blue replied. “Do you need a better reason than that?”
“So you’re doing this out of loyalty to me?”
“What do you think, sir?”
White stared deep into the eyes of the blond-haired captain; he could see no deception in them. Then he raised his eyes toward Captain Scarlet; this one too, seemed sincere. Do I dare trust them? a hesitant Charles Gray asked himself. Could he take the risk of believing them, without reservation, and helping them with their investigation? If they were telling the truth, and he kept silent, then it could mean the death of an innocent person. He would be an accomplice to a heinous act, the kind of thing he had abhorred all his life… the very reason that had pushed him to turn against the Militarist Government, so many years ago.
On the other hand, if all this conversation, and all that preceded it, was just an elaborate scheme intended to make him talk… then he would become a traitor to all he held dear.
There must be a way to be sure… to find out where the truth lay.
White blew out a deep sigh. Perhaps, there was a way… but it was a risky move.
“What do you want from me?” he asked the two Spectrum captains.
Scarlet kept himself from sighing with relief. Finally… “Tell us what you know,” he answered. “Perhaps that will give us a clue to what the Mysterons are planning.”
“As I told you, I don’t know anything about these Mysterons. And the little I remember about the ‘Network’ I already told you.”
“Will you tell us who the Mysterons’ target is?”
“Your ‘crowned head’, eh? Sorry… I can’t.”
The frustration was fairly apparent in Blue’s features; he exchanged a concerned glance with Scarlet, before pursuing, “Sir, we realise that you don’t fully trust us, but you must understand that somebody’s life is at stake…”
“I think it’s you who doesn’t understand, Captain. I can’t tell you… because I don’t know.”
“You don’t KNOW?”
“No, I don’t.” White’s stare crossed with the two Spectrum captains. He could see in their eyes that they didn’t believe him. He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m telling you the truth, gentlemen. I really don’t know who this ‘target’ is. I did take the Drake from the Depot, following the orders I was given. I sailed it to a safe place. And there was to be an operation in which the ship was to be used. I know Lieutenant-Commander Shelby had provided us with torpedoes for the mission… But I don’t know anything else. I was to wait for further instructions.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Blue muttered, still incredulous.
“Quite the contrary,” Scarlet replied. “It makes perfect sense.” As Blue stared back at him with the same perplexed look, he added, “Why would the Mysterons trust him with the full knowledge of this mission? Even if the Dream Spinner had made him receptive to their orders, it also made him unstable. Not fully reliable.”
Blue nodded his acknowledgement. “Yes, why run the risk of him losing it in the middle of the mission? I see your point, Captain Scarlet.” He turned his attention back to Colonel White. “Okay, I’m willing to accept that you don’t know who the Mysterons’ target is. Then maybe you’ll be able to tell us where we can find the Drake.”
The colonel answered with a faint smile. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that either.”
Blue scowled. “Don’t tell us you don’t know,” he retorted. “You just admitted you took it to a safe place.”
“It would surprise me very much if it’s still there,” White answered quietly. “Since my… capture by you people, I’m fairly sure Mister Shelby would have taken it elsewhere.” He paused, weighing carefully what he was about to say. “But if you still want to know where I took it, I can show you the place.” He could see the perplexed and incredulous look on the two captains’ features. They were not sure if they should believe him.
“Where is it?” Scarlet asked carefully.
“It’s a cove, about eighty miles north from Bristol.”
“The Angels and Spectrum Helicopters covered that section of the country,” Blue remarked suspiciously. “Since you were fleeing in that direction when you escaped from the factory, we thought we might find something. We came out empty-handed.”
“This cove is well hidden, Captain. You wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know where to look for it.” White scratched his ear, smiling broadly. “I believe it would have been a perfect place for smugglers, a couple of centuries ago…”
“You have the co-ordinates?” Scarlet asked.
“No. Sorry. And it’s rather difficult to pinpoint.”
“We’d better send a patrol right away to find this cove,” Scarlet said, turning to Blue. “It’s somewhere to start looking for the Drake.”
“You won’t find it, Captain,” Colonel White then remarked. He saw the two Spectrum officers turning again toward him, staring at him with curiosity. He shook his head. “It would take you too much time to find it, anyway,” he said quietly. “Time you can’t afford to lose. As I told you, it’s well hidden.”
Scarlet narrowed his eyes. “What do you suggest, then?”
“I can take you there.”
Silence followed the colonel’s suggestion. He could still see the suspicion in the two captains’ eyes.
“You want us to let you guide us there?” Blue asked, puzzled.
“Yes. That exactly what I’m asking of you.”
“Why would we do that?” Scarlet asked in turn. “It’s not really a good strategic move. You could use that opportunity to escape us.”
“It would save you precious time,” White stated quietly.
“I don’t think it’s enough. We spent too much time and energy to get you back. We won’t take the risk of losing you again.”
“Yes. How are we to know you won’t try to escape, while you’re down there?” Blue added.
“I can’t convince you that I won’t, unfortunately,” White replied. “But I can assure you, Captain, that even if I don’t quite know what to make of all what you’ve already told me, I sure as Hell want to learn more and be sure of its veracity.”
Colonel White paused a second. He could still see the hesitation within the two Spectrum agents.
Indeed, Scarlet and Blue still had their doubts, wondering what could be going through their commander's mind. Was this a trick? Was he sincere? It wasn’t easy trying to read on his face if he was concealing something from them.
“That’s why you want to go down?” Scarlet stated.
“For the most part, yes.”
“And the rest of the part?”
White sighed. “I want to be in on this. If you told the truth about those Mysterons and what they did to me, to use me to carry out their threat, then I want to participate – if only a little – in your operation to stop them. It’s the least I can do. Think of this as a way to redeem myself for what I’ve already done.” He looked closely at the British captain’s face. He saw an almost imperceptible twitch over his left eye. Touched a nerve, White realised. He didn’t reveal his observation, and put it somewhere in the back of his mind, for further analysis later on.
“Are you sincere about that?” Scarlet asked, frowning.
“Yes, I am, Captain. I think that, at this point I’ve got nothing more to lose. But I’ve certainly got a lot to win.”
“What about your life?” Scarlet asked again.
White scoffed. “It’s been turned upside down ever since I was put onto that damned Dream Spinner. I can’t rely on my memories, so I don’t really know what my life’s been like for the past twenty-five years. If this operation could only help me get my life back… then I think it’s worth the effort.”
There was a moment of silence; both captains scrutinized their commander closely.
“I wish we could actually trust you,” Scarlet murmured, pondering.
“You want me to give you insurance?” White asked, seeing him hesitate.
“We know you can’t,” Blue noted. “We’re sorry. But it’s too damned risky.”
White frowned. To say that he wasn’t disappointed would have been a lie. “What will you do with me, then?” he asked, keeping himself from growling with frustration. “Leave me to rot in a hospital cell?”
“If it means keeping you safe until you get your senses back, yes,” Blue answered firmly.
White scoffed dryly. “I’m touched by your concern for me, Captain!”
Blue gave a faint sigh and shook his head. There was obvious regret in his eyes. “Forgive me, sir,” he retorted, trying not to sound too harsh, “but I say it’s just common sense not to trust you. You DID try to kill some of us. Captain Ochre is in a hospital bed with a hole in his shoulder. Magenta is nursing a broken nose. You took several shots at my partner and myself, and beat him up. And I won’t mention your attempted attack on Doctor Fawn, while trying to escape from sickbay.”
“Yes… Thank you for not mentioning it.”
“The point is, there’s a fair chance that you still think of us as the enemy. Perhaps not consciously. But it’s still there in the back of your mind, with the paranoia the Dream Spinner induced in you. Until you recover from it, and your memory comes back, I don’t think we should let you out of our sight… and certainly not allow you to run free. We’d better keep you safely here on Cloudbase.”
“And if I give you my word?” White replied. “Surely you know that I would keep it?”
“Be fair, sir. We all know what your word is worth. In normal circumstances, none of us would dispute it. But right now, the situation is far from normal. If you still think of us as the enemy, I’m pretty sure that you’d want nothing more than to get your freedom back, and would promise anything to get ONE chance to escape us. In that case, all bets are off.”
White seemed mortified. He stared a moment at the set face of Captain Blue and saw in his features that he was determined to keep to his decision and that he would not budge. The Spectrum commander then turned his attention to Scarlet, who had kept silent all this time. He addressed him with renewed hope. “And what have YOU got to say about this? You’re in joint command with him. I made you this offer in good faith… Will you give me the chance to redeem myself?”
Scarlet hesitated a few seconds. He exchanged glances with Blue; his partner’s expression was as determined as his commander’s was pleading. He sighed.
“I’m really sorry, sir,” he then said, very gently. “But I have to concur with Captain Blue.”
White’s face became hard, hearing those words; Captain Scarlet had the sudden, terrible impression that the colonel had taken his statement as some kind of a condemnation. The eyes of his compatriot became cold with bitterness.
“I see. Sorry, you say.” He narrowed his eyes at Scarlet. “I thought YOU, at least, understood what I feel about this whole crazy situation.”
“I DO understand,” Scarlet retorted. “But we have to keep you safe. Despite yourself, if need be.”
White scoffed and looked away. “You said you had faith in me,” he grumbled dryly. “You’re showing beautiful proof of it right now!”
“Sir,” Scarlet protested, “how can we make you realise that we’re doing this for your own good?”
“What good is there in keeping me locked up?” White replied sharply, his eyes blazing with anger. “I don’t LIKE being treated as a prisoner!”
He was staring straight into Scarlet’s eyes when a new headache hit him; it was not as violent as the preceding ones, but it nevertheless sent his head reeling.
The two captains saw him blink a couple of times and rub his head with his hand, groaning in obvious pain. They both stood up to approach their commander. Scarlet reached him first and leaned over him.
“Are you all right, sir?” he asked, gently taking him by the shoulder.
Colonel White didn’t answer, concentrating on dispelling the searing pain in his head. He heard Scarlet’s voice through a thick fog, as if it was coming from the far end of the large room, like a distant echo.
He was also hearing the echo of water striking against the outside of a ship…
He shook his head. THAT came from within his mind… A fleeting memory suddenly came back to him. He tried to reach for it.
A flash. A gun in his hand. Himself, walking slowly in a narrow cabin. His ear catching a faint sound.
Come and get me if you want me…
White grunted with annoyance. Still that memory of him having shot Jackson Bennett, was his first thought. But then, he realised… it was different.
This wasn’t the same memory.
The cabin wasn’t the one he had on the Drake, years ago. It was smaller. The sounds of water he was hearing were also different from what he remembered from the inside of a surface vessel.
It was the persistent echoing sound heard from the interior of a submarine.
Where are you? You said you wanted my skin… Come and try to get it! I won’t make it easy for you.
This memory was recent, Charles Gray realised. Far more recent than what he remembered – or thought he remembered – of the events that happened on the Drake so long ago. When did that occur, damn it? Is this memory real, or another trick of my mind?
He had the strong impression he was in danger, watched by an enemy that he knew was determined to take his life. The thought in his mind was: They’re coming. Now’s the time they choose to strike… He was ready for them. They would find out he was not easy prey.
“Sir, can you hear me?”
Still, Captain Scarlet’s voice was reaching him, but it didn’t drive the memory away. It was still there, vividly present in Gray’s mind and becoming more and more detailed.
He passed by a cabinet, without even thinking of checking it out, and walked toward the door leading out of the cabin. If somebody should be behind that door, waiting to attack him…
Then he heard it. A creaking sound from behind. The cabinet! He turned around quickly, ready to shoot at whoever would be behind him. He had but a glimpse of the determined and gruff face of the man he found behind him and it made his finger freeze on the trigger. He didn’t have time to speak, as a fist came straight at his face.
“Sorry about this, sir…”
Then the memory went completely black.
As the pain slowly dispersed from his mind, Charles Gray stared in disbelief at the young man kneeling in front of him, with that look of worry on his features. The face he had just seen in his memory… the face of the man who attacked him…
It was his.
“Are you all right, now, sir?”
The voice had the same note of concern as before, Gray noticed, but suddenly, it didn’t ring at all true to his ears. That man, he remembered, he had confronted him, in other circumstances, in a different setting… He had attacked him, knocked him out… Gray remembered that uncomfortable feeling of danger, of a threat against his life. Was the Spectrum officer trying to kill him, that time?
“The last time that happened to him, he was having a flashback.”
That was the American captain’s voice. He was standing next to his colleague. He, too, sounded genuinely concerned. But after what he had just remembered, Charles Gray wasn’t sure anymore. He had been so willing to believe them, so near to trusting them, but now…
Now he didn’t know what to believe.
“I’m… all right, now,” he stated, sighing tiredly. “It’s over…”
“Is Captain Blue right?” Captain Scarlet asked. “Did you just have a flashback?”
Colonel White stared at him with hesitation. Can’t tell them. Can’t let them know about that memory… They may get suspicious about me… He shook his head slowly. “Yes, but… it was like the last time… Same memory. Me, the Dream Spinner… the doctor…”
“Nothing new?” Scarlet insisted.
“No… Nothing new.”
Scarlet nodded quietly. “Well, I can see how this could be obsessive,” he noted. “It was a trying experience for you.”
“Yes, indeed,” White murmured, rubbing his temples. “And it’s still going on…”
Scarlet was about to add something when a beeping sound coming from the intercom loudspeaker suddenly interrupted him. He raised his head, imitated by Captain Blue and Colonel White, as the voice of Lieutenant Green made itself heard: “Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue. Could you come over to the Control Room, please?”
Blue dropped down his cap mic. “What is it, Lieutenant?” he called with a flash of annoyance.
“We need to talk, sir,” came Green’s swift reply. “We have… a problem.”
Scarlet used his mic also. “What kind of problem?”
Scarlet gave a look toward White, then consulted with Blue, who nodded his acknowledgement.
“We’re coming right away, Lieutenant,” the Brit announced to Green. His mic returned to its place on the visor and he turned to Colonel White, while Blue went toward the door. “You will have to excuse us for a moment, sir,” he told him. He heard the door slide open behind him and gave a quick glance to see Captain Blue gesturing to Corporal Jarvis, who stepped inside the room. “Jarvis here will keep you company,” Scarlet added quietly.
“A rather polite way to say he will keep his eye on me,” White deadpanned.
Scarlet thought of making some reply, but he couldn’t think of anything. What the Colonel had just said was all too true, anyway. “We won’t be long,” he continued. “And we’re not so far away. If you want to talk to us…”
“I get the point,” White sighed. “I’ll ask the corporal, here.”
Strange, Scarlet observed. Since that last headache, he seems rather… distant. What was it that he really remembered just then? And if it wasn’t the same thing as before, why won’t he tell us? He shrugged. He would have to come back to this later on. For now, his attention was demanded elsewhere.
“All right, Captain Blue,” he said turning toward his colleague. “Let’s see what the Lieutenant wants to see us about.”
Both Blue and Scarlet strode out of the room, the door sliding behind them; for a very short moment, Jarvis’ eyes followed the two captains’ departure. Colonel White immediately noticed his guard’s distraction and quickly took advantage of it. Discreetly, he covered the steak knife with his hand, and slipped it swiftly inside the sleeve of his shirt.
When Jarvis turned to his charge, a second later, the knife had completely disappeared from view. Colonel White gave him an innocent enough look. “Would you please order me a coffee, Corporal?” he asked very quietly. “A GOOD coffee, please… and make sure it wasn’t made by your Captain Blue…”
* * *
Captains Scarlet and Blue entered the Control Room to find Lieutenant Green seated in front of his communication console. The look of relief they saw upon the young man’s face as he saw them enter did nothing to reassure them about what was going on.
“Now, Lieutenant,” Blue said, approaching the communication officer with his partner. “What seems to be the problem this time?”
“We have trouble coming our way,” Green answered. “I just had a call from London Headquarters. Senior Agent Wade from Spectrum Intelligence informed me that Special Agent Conners had received the authorisation to board an SPJ to come up for a little visit.”
“He’s coming to Cloudbase?” Blue asked, frowning.
“Yes, sir. I just received radio confirmation on his ETA. He’ll arrive in about one hour. Two at the most.”
“Talk about coming uninvited,” Blue grumbled dryly. He glowered at Scarlet. “Did he give you any indication that he might come when you talked to him earlier?”
“No,” the British captain answered. “When Lieutenant Green called me into the Control Room a few hours ago, it was to help him repel another call from Conners. He was still trying to get in touch with Colonel White… The lieutenant had run out of excuses, and Conners was getting VERY insistent. Nevertheless, I thought I’d succeeded in fending him off.”
“You mean you told him to buzz off.”
“More or less. And more POLITELY than that.”
“That would surprise me very much.” Blue gave a sigh. “I just KNEW that weasel would spell trouble. If he sets foot on Cloudbase he’s bound to discover the truth… We must stop him!”
“We can’t, sir,” Green answered. “I just checked with Spectrum Intelligence concerning the reason for his coming up here. He wants to question Rhapsody Angel and Captain Ochre concerning their ambush yesterday. AND he wants a word with Colonel White.”
Scarlet scoffed dryly, giving a sideways look toward Blue. “Perhaps he wants to discuss our cavalier conduct toward him.”
“Or he suspects something,” Blue retorted.
“He MUST suspect something, Captain Blue. But I doubt he knows exactly WHAT’s going on behind his back.” Scarlet rubbed his chin, thoughtful for a few seconds. “Where’s Rhapsody Angel at the moment?” he asked Green.
“On duty in the Amber Room, sir.”
“Good. When you get confirmation of Conners’ arrival on Cloudbase, you will launch all Angels.”
“What do you plan to do?” Blue asked with perplexity. “Have the Angels blow Conners out of the sky?”
“I wish,” Scarlet replied with a faint smile. “No, with Rhapsody gone on patrol, he won’t be able to question her.”
“Good idea. And what about Ochre?”
“He’s still in sickbay, yes?”
“His condition isn’t severe enough to prevent Conners from questioning him, Scarlet.”
“Oh, I don’t know… He could still be under the influence of a very strong sedative or painkiller for the next few hours…”
“You think Conners will buy that?”
“Maybe not. But then again, I’m sure the nurse assigned to Ochre won’t let him get near enough to her patient to bother him.”
“Miss Lang, right?” Blue asked with a faint smile.
“What about the reports?” Blue asked again. “We were able to prevent Conners getting Ochre’s in London HQ, but he’s bound to demand it again… along with Rhapsody’s…”
“Both those reports are needed for our present investigation, Captain,” Scarlet noted. “And right now, in this state of red alert, WE have priority, and those reports are to be considered restricted information.” He tapped Green’s shoulder. “The lieutenant here just has to make sure Conners won’t get through the computer files to get his hands on them.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Green said, grinning broadly. “He won’t even come close to them.”
“Okay, then,” Blue admitted. “That can take care of that part of the problem. Temporarily. We still have one left.” He stared Scarlet straight in the eyes. “How are we going to prevent Conners from seeing the Colonel? With the two of them on board Cloudbase, we’re courting disaster. Conners WILL find out that our commander is being kept under very tight surveillance.”
“Yes, which means the Colonel can’t stay on Cloudbase, Captain Blue.”
“I already worked that out. But I don’t think we can even take him to another Spectrum facility. Not without running the risk of having people wondering about him…”
“And eventually finding out the truth,” Lieutenant Green added gloomily.
“You’re absolutely right, both of you,” Scarlet agreed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “That’s why I’m thinking that maybe we’d better reconsider Colonel White’s own proposition.”
Not knowing what his superior was implying, Lieutenant Green stared in silence, as Captain Blue frowned. “You’re not SERIOUSLY suggesting…”
“Yes I am, Captain Blue. We agree to his proposition to go to the surface to help us locate that cove he told us about. If he’s serious about wanting to redeem himself, we’ve got to give him a chance to actually do it.”
“Are you serious, Captain?” Lieutenant Green’s half-exclaimed doubtful remark caused Scarlet to turn toward him with a silencing and annoyed look. The communication officer cleared his throat in embarrassment. “Sir…” He turned back to his console, trying not to listen to what was going on behind him.
“You’re crazy!” Captain Blue stated in turn. “In his present state, we CAN’T trust him to act as we’d like him to! You know how unpredictable he is!
“Yes, I know that, but… don’t you think we can, at least, give him the benefit of the doubt?”
“That’s too big a risk. He could make a break for it! Heck, it could be dangerous for HIM as well as for us! Imagine being forced to hunt him down again! Imagine INTELLIGENCE hunting him down! Now, I realise you feel sympathetic toward him. I do, too… And I know WHY you feel so strongly about this…”
“Yes, I know just how he feels, having people doubting me…” Scarlet replied morosely. “Or did you forget?”
“Come on, now,” Blue protested. “The situation’s not the same!”
“You think it’s not?” Scarlet challenged, his blue eyes flashing icily.
“When you came back to us, two years ago, you were yourself, Captain. Now, you must admit, the colonel… the colonel isn’t QUITE himself.”
“You couldn’t be so sure I was really myself, back then. I had to prove that I was, if you recall correctly. The difference is that I had the time to do so. And Colonel White gave me the opportunity to make it count. Today HE doesn’t have the luxury of much time. We’re only one step ahead of Intelligence, as we speak...” He hesitated a second, before adding, “ … And still one step behind what the Mysterons are planning to do.”
Blue scowled at those words. “I know we still have their threat to consider,” he stated dully. “We must stop them, but I don’t see how the Colonel can help us do it, even if we let him go down there…”
“I’ve got an idea about that, Captain,” Scarlet retorted. “Now I admit it represents an enormous risk, but… we have to take it.”
Blue gave another frown, staring at his friend with perplexity. “WHAT are you saying, here? You’ve got a plan?”
“Yes, I have one,” Scarlet nodded. “And yes, it is risky. Perhaps even improper…”
“Would you PLEASE tell me what it’s all about?” Blue demanded with an exasperate sigh. “Or do I have to remind you that time is running out quickly?”
Scarlet gave a faint smile, before turning toward Lieutenant Green. “Call for Captain Magenta, Lieutenant,” he asked him. “Tell him to join us here, in the Control Room. Right away.”
Blue frowned. “Magenta? What do you need Magenta for?”
“As soon as he’s here, Captain Blue, I’ll explain my plan to you,” Scarlet assured his friend and partner. “We’ll need all the help we can get… And we must prepare this very carefully, to minimise the risks…”
* * *
“Would you mind telling me what made you change your mind?”
At the helm of Spectrum Passenger Jet C31, Captain Scarlet cast a glance toward Colonel White, seated by his side, his hands safely shacked to his belt. He seemed gloomy, but was calm enough, ever since their departure from Cloudbase, an hour before. Yet, there was still that glow of defiance in his eyes, evidence that he didn’t completely trust the Captain’s intentions and didn’t understand in the least his motivations. Scarlet gave him a quiet nod and responded with a reassuring smile.
“I told you already,” he quietly said. “Captain Blue and I decided to agree to your suggestion and give you the chance to prove you were sincere about it.”
“Bull.” The brusque reply surprised Scarlet. That wasn’t an expression he had heard often from his commander’s mouth. White presented his shackled hands. “If you trusted me enough to accept my proposition, then why am I still wearing these?”
“Mainly for security, I assure you. It’s the usual procedure.”
White scoffed. “I’ve heard that one before!” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “There’s something else going on that I don’t know about, right?” Scarlet didn’t answer. White grumbled with annoyance. “Why isn’t your Captain Blue with us?”
“He had to stay on Cloudbase. One of us must act as commander when the other is away.”
“That’s wise. But is that why the two of you were at the Complex when you found me?”
Scarlet scowled. Not much got past the old man, even in his present state. He was still as quick-witted as he usually was.
Convincing Blue to go along with his plan hadn’t been easy, Scarlet reflected. His partner was still pretty uneasy about it. Too damned dangerous for his taste… But Blue had to admit that they couldn’t permit themselves the luxury of waiting any longer… Too much was at risk here. The colonel’s present condition had to be kept a secret until all of this situation was resolved… and since Special Agent Conners was coming to Cloudbase, there wasn’t much choice about what to do. And whatever the two captains decided, it had to be done quickly. The Mysteron threat had to be eradicated, Colonel White had to regain his mind – and the trust of his senior staff – along with his rightful place at the head of Spectrum.
The risk was warranted.
A light on the instrument panel flashed white, beeping at the same time. That was the onboard radio, notifying a call from Cloudbase. Scarlet flipped up a small red switch.
“Captain Scarlet here. What is it, Lieutenant?”
“I’ve got the preliminary report of the teams searching the coast north of Bristol, sir,” came Lieutenant Green’s voice over the cockpit speaker.
“Any luck in finding that cove?”
“So far, no. None of the teams has found it yet.” Green paused. “Captain Grey found something interesting, though.”
“A private air freight company, by the name of ‘Campbell Air Transport Company’, has its own airport for goods transit, north east of Bristol. The owner communicated with the local authorities yesterday. According to him, the airport had been raided by a group of heavily armed men, all dressed in commando uniforms. They locked up the owner with his employees and stole a cargo helicopter.”
Scarlet frowned. “A cargo helicopter?”
“Yes, sir. The biggest the Campbell Company owned. The owner and his employees managed to get out of their prison and alerted the police. Captain Grey went there to investigate. The thieves left their vehicles behind. Captain, they were army-type vehicles. One of them was the lorry that originally transported the torpedoes that were stolen from the Naval Depot, some days ago.”
Scarlet glanced at Colonel White. “Was this something planned all along by those men?” he asked him.
The older man shrugged. “Not that I know of. Looks to me like the raid you Spectrum people mounted on the Complex yesterday must have forced Mister Shelby to improvise to get away with the material…”
Scarlet nodded thoughtfully. That’s a strong possibility… He addressed Lieutenant Green again. “Thank you for the information, Lieutenant. Keep me informed of developments.” He paused, before adding, tentatively: “Has… er… our ‘guest’ arrived at Cloudbase, yet?”
“No, sir. Not yet. But he confirmed his ETA. He will be arriving shortly.”
“Right. I’m counting on you to keep him occupied.”
“Will do, sir. Don’t worry. He won’t find you out.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. We should be reaching our destination in about thirty minutes. I’ll maintain radio silence. But I’ll contact you if we find anything.”
“S.I.G., Captain Scarlet. Cloudbase out.”
Scarlet cut communication; he didn’t turn to look at Colonel White, but he could feel the intense stare the older man was keeping on him. He let him make the first move.
“We had to leave your base quickly, right?” White asked quietly.
Scarlet lifted an eyebrow, turning toward his commander. “What makes you say that, sir?”
“Why, by your conversation, it seemed obvious.” White answered, shrugging. “You said to me earlier that until now you had kept my… condition a secret from about everyone outside your senior staff ranks…” He watched for Scarlet’s reaction. “So I think that maybe somebody is on to you.”
Scarlet didn’t answer. The colonel calmly nodded his head. “So I’m right, then.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Your silence is eloquent enough. Somebody outside of your organisation is on to you and you had to evacuate me from your Cloudbase so they wouldn’t find out too much.”
Scarlet hesitated a second, before sighing and finally answering. “Let’s just say we’re working outside Spectrum’s… conventional methods, here. Some… sections of our organisation probably wouldn’t appreciate our keeping this secret from them.”
White gave the faintest of smiles. “I’ve got the feeling you have a particular ‘section’ in mind, Captain. Let me make a wild guess: considering the situation, this… ‘section’ would have full authority to take command, is that right?” He saw by the look on the younger man’s face that he had guessed right again. “So... what do you intend to do now? Where are we going?”
“I thought you would guess that too. I intend to find that cove with your help,” Scarlet replied simply.
“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” White asked, still incredulous.
“And why wouldn’t I be serious?”
White sighed. “All right. I’ll buy it.” He looked around, through the cockpit canopy, obviously searching into the empty sky around the jet. “Where is our escort?”
“What escort?” Scarlet asked innocently.
“I don’t know… Another jet, a helicopter… one of those Angel interceptors you showed me on your base.”
“The Angels are busy on another mission. They were sent to patrol the airspace over Iceland.” Scarlet glanced toward the colonel, still keeping an eye ahead. “Since the Drake was supposed to go there in the first place for the ceremony, we thought we’d better check it out more closely. Just to make sure there was nothing suspicious there.”
“I’ll buy that too.”
“As for Spectrum helicopters, we should be encountering some when we reach the English coast. They’re already searching the area.”
“Yes, I heard that too. For that cove I told you about.”
“That and any possible evidence for the Sir Francis Drake’s passage.”
“Like that stolen cargo.”
Scarlet nodded. “That could give us further indication of those commandos’ whereabouts,” he noted. “Captain Grey will be investigating it more fully.”
“You have a ‘Captain Grey’?” Colonel White asked with curiosity.
“Yes. You want to know something amusing? He also was in the Navy before joining Spectrum.”
“Hilarious,” the colonel replied in a mumble.
Turning to him, Captain Scarlet saw that he was still checking around, looking for any aircraft flying nearby. His commander was still doubtful.
Scarlet reached for his tunic pocket, unzipped it, and took a key from it. He stretched out his arm toward the colonel’s restrained hands and put the key into his palm.
“Here. You’ll feel better out of those.”
An incredulous White stared at the key for a moment, before raising a perplexed look toward the captain’s quiet face. “What does this mean? Why are you giving me that key?”
“So you can free yourself,” Scarlet replied facetiously. “Don’t tell me you’d rather keep those handcuffs?”
“What about ‘security procedure’?”
Scarlet shrugged. “There’s only you and me here. Who else is going to know?”
Still a little unsure, Colonel White looked down for a moment at the key. Then, he decidedly inserted it into one of the locks. Scarlet looked on as his commander removed both shackles and belt. He let them fall noisily to the floor, right next to his seat.
“Thank you,” White finally said. He was eyeing the young captain very carefully, as if trying to understand his true motive.
Scarlet nodded his acknowledgment. “Don’t mention it,” he replied. “I don’t particularly like seeing you in handcuffs…”
“You didn’t free me just for that reason,” White noted dryly. “Why are you trying to humour me?”
“I’m not trying to humour you. Seeing you like this, it doesn’t feel right. You’re my commander.”
“So you keep saying. You have another reason. I’m sure of it. ” White rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “You said… that once you were in the same situation as me.”
“I’m surprised you remember me saying that. I had the impression then that you weren’t listening to me.”
“Well, I was listening. And that particular line caught my attention.” White paused. “What did they do to you, exactly, those… Mysterons? They brainwashed you? The way they did to me?”
“Not that way,” Scarlet said in an undertone.
White slowly nodded. So. He had guessed right. That was why the young captain seemed so sympathetic toward him. He really knew what it was like, being so confused, lost, waking up to discover how somebody else had manipulated you so wickedly for their own ends.
Not knowing where lay the truth.
“That’s right,” he recalled wistfully. “You also said that, as far as you knew, the use of the Dream Spinner in my case was a first … That the Mysterons usually use a different, more drastic method.” He cast a sidelong look toward Scarlet, who was staring straight ahead, beyond the canopy. He didn’t seem to have any reaction to the words addressed to him. White shrugged indifferently. “Of course, if we are to believe my memories of what happened to me, those who did that to me could very well not be your Mysterons…”
“You’d better believe they’re implicated in this whole affair,” Scarlet snapped suddenly, still watching ahead.
“Then why not use the same method for me as they did for you?”
“The Mysterons always have a precise reason for what they’re doing.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Scarlet hesitated. Maybe it was time to actually explain some facts to his still amnesiac commander. He wasn’t sure how White would take it, really. But he was certain of one thing: he couldn’t be kept in the dark much longer, concerning the Mysterons, and what they were doing in order to manipulate people as mere tools.
The captain blew out a sigh.
“We have ways of detecting Mysteron agents,” he said carefully.
“Yes,” White acknowledged slowly, “that device I saw at the Naval Depot…”
“Whatever this detector does, it didn’t work on me…”
“Because you’re not a Mysteron.”
“That’s why they didn’t do to you the same thing they did to me,” Scarlet cut in, before White could protest further. “They didn’t want you to be detectable. If you had been Mysteronised, you would have been.” He stared at his commander. “The way I am.”
“That what we call their… process, to take over a person.”
“How does that device work?” White asked, with a perplexed frown. “I can’t understand how your detector could distinguish one person from another… Do the Mysterons put something inside these innocent people they use as pawns? An electronic mind controlling device which can be identified, or…”
“No. Nothing like that.” Scarlet paused a second, looking for the right way to answer. “After their… Mysteronisation, Mysteron agents have a unique, physical signature,” he finally continued, shaking his head, seeming to take no notice of White’s incredulous objection. “Without going into details, I’ll just say that it makes them different from any… normal human beings. The Mysteron detector is able to pick up that signature.” He paused again. “The Mysterons didn’t Mysteronise you, because you had to retrieve the Sir Francis Drake from the Naval Depot. A Mysteron agent could not have gone through the gate without being spotted. As a normal human, you had no trouble whatsoever getting in.”
“Wait. What do you mean exactly, ‘normal human being’?” White seemed rather perplexed. “You’re talking as if these Mysterons are not actually human.”
“And what if I were to tell you they’re NOT?” White didn’t reply. Obviously baffled, he was waiting for Scarlet to continue his explanation. The latter sighed. “The Mysterons use a rather unique method, to get you under their control,” he said. “And when you are, they own you, body and soul.” He paused, uncomfortable. “If you still have a soul,” he added bitterly.
White frowned deeply, his curiosity having been stirred. “WHAT did they do to you?”
“They killed me.”
Captain Scarlet’s statement had been made in a low and very sombre tone. Charles Gray nearly didn’t hear him. He turned a perplexed stare in the Spectrum officer’s direction and saw him, his features now hard and grave, still looking straight ahead. Inexplicably, a shiver ran down the colonel’s spine. There was something suddenly strange about that young man… He cleared his throat.
“For a dead man, you look rather alive, Captain.”
White’s voice sounded pleasant enough; it was understandable that he was sceptical about Scarlet’s declaration. The captain turned toward him, his eyes still very hard.
“I told you the Mysterons had a drastic way of taking full control of people,” he said coldly. “Can you think of anything more drastic than death?”
White frowned again. “You’re not serious about this, are you?”
“Do I sound like I’m kidding?” Scarlet answered. He returned his attention up front. “The Mysterons kill people they want as their agents… and then return them to life, to serve them… Almost as mindless drones, unable to resist their orders. Bent on carrying out their evil…”
White scoffed. “You EXPECT me to believe that? You want to make me BELIEVE that Mysteron agents are some kind of… zombies?”
“They’re not zombies. They were Mysteronised. A process that we don’t really understand… But you could say it’s akin to cloning. But not exactly cloning...”
“Cloning?” White repeated with an incredulous tone. “You say those agents are clones of dead people?”
“Of some sort. We prefer to call them reconstructs, or duplicates.”
“YOU’RE a clone?” White shook his head, still sceptical.
Scarlet scowled. He certainly hated that word. But if it could make Colonel White understand...
“You might say that, yes.”
“And those… agents are dedicated to the Mysterons?”
“Irrevocably. As far as we know, the Mysteronisation process is irreversible.”
“If it’s true, then what about YOU? You’re not under their orders…”
“The Mysterons made a mistake with me. They’re very careful not to do it again. They released me, or lost their control over me… and I regained my own free will. We don’t know how it happened exactly. I was just very lucky.”
“I don’t BELIEVE this,” White declared, clenching his teeth. “You’re trying to take me for a fool.”
“Am I? Think about it, sir. Doesn’t it explain why I was so ready to kill you yesterday? I thought you were your own reconstruct and that the Mysterons had killed you… so that reconstruct would act for his masters.”
“You said I disappeared two days ago,” White grumbled. “The cloning process takes time, Captain. A human can’t be cloned in so short a time!”
“I told you it wasn't exactly cloning, sir,” Scarlet replied. “Nothing similar to what is known on Earth. The Mysterons have their own powers to duplicate humans… or objects, as they please.”
“Objects?” White shook his head. This was becoming more and more confusing by the minute. He tried to assimilate what Scarlet had just told him.
A unique phrase had caught his full attention.
“Wait a second…” he said with an incredulous voice. “‘Known on Earth’… Are you suggesting that they’re not from this Earth?”
“I’m not SUGGESTING anything.” Scarlet was gravely staring ahead. “They’re from Mars.”
There was a moment of silence. White was staring at Scarlet, his face without any expression betraying his reaction. The Spectrum captain cast him a quick glance, wondering what was going through his mind. He could easily guess his commander didn’t believe him at all.
Which, all things considered, wasn’t so surprising.
“I was wondering when the little green men would pop out in this foolish story of yours…” White declared in a deadpan tone.
“It’s not a foolish story,” Scarlet protested dryly. “All of this is true. And the Mysterons are not ‘little green men’…” He paused a second. “At least, I think,” he added without humour.
“Oh, please! Will you stop this nonsense?” White snapped suddenly. He was evidently irritated by what the Spectrum officer had just revealed to him. “Did you really think I would swallow all of this?”
Scarlet let out a sigh. Well, it was worth a try, at least… “I WARNED you that you wouldn’t believe it,” he reminded his commander.
“Obviously!” White shot back, scoffing loudly. “What did you hope to accomplish by telling me all these absurdities?”
“Like I told you, all this is true… And all I hoped for was to win your trust.”
“Well, I’ve got some surprising news for you, young man…”
Something suddenly jabbed into Scarlet’s right side, as Colonel White came swiftly nearer to him. He felt the sting of a pointed object closely pressed under one of his ribs. Frowning, he lowered his gaze, to see that his commander was holding a knife with a very firm hand, keeping its sharp point against his body, and threatening to plunge it in. The young Brit raised his eyes to look into those of the seemingly very determined White.
“You didn’t succeed,” the older man icily said, finishing his earlier statement. He shoved the knife uncomfortably closer to Scarlet’s side. “Don’t try anything,” he warned him.
“A steak knife,” Scarlet noted, his calm not leaving him. “How crude.”
With his free hand, White quickly relieved the Spectrum officer of his gun, and brandished it in his face, throwing the blade away. “You’d prefer me to use this?” he asked in a very cold tone.
“Actually,” Scarlet replied rather coolly, “I would prefer you to stay quiet.”
“Don’t play games with me, Captain,” White answered abruptly. “I’m not in the mood right now.”
“Me neither.” Scarlet shook his head with obvious discontentment, looking ahead. “Captain Blue suspected right, then. You only made this proposition of yours so you could get a chance to escape.”
“Don’t make any mistake about this, Scarlet. I was sincere when I made the proposition. I was going to play it fair.”
“What changed your mind, then?”
“I remembered something that made me lose my trust in you.”
“In the Conference Room,” Scarlet recalled. “Yes, I can see when it was…” He frowned, curious. “What was it you remembered?”
“Something about you, specifically.”
“I was inside a submarine. I was feeling that somebody was hunting me down. YOU were hidden inside some kind of a cabinet. You attacked me from behind and knocked me out…”
“Oh! That…” Scarlet shook his head. He rolled his eyes, sighing with obvious frustration. “Of ALL the things for you to remember just then, it HAD to be that unfortunate incident,” he grumbled.
“’Unfortunate incident’?” White repeated incredulously. “You don’t deny it happened, then?”
“No. It DID happen, sir. Two years ago. But there is an explanation for it…”
“Enough. I don’t want to hear it.”
White removed Captain Scarlet’s cap and threw it out of the cockpit, into the cabin behind them. Then he enquired for the young officer’s tracker, which he knew was on him. He destroyed it under his boot. Keeping a watchful eye on Scarlet, he opened up a panel under the instruments and tugged out a handful of electrical wires, destroying the radio controls in the process. He then settled himself back into his seat, his newly acquired pistol aimed squarely at his prisoner. “Now, you’re going to do exactly what I tell you to. And don’t make any false moves. I don’t want to, but I’ll kill you if I have to.”
“I take it we’re not going to that cove you told us about,” Scarlet remarked.
“Not if I want to avoid those Spectrum Helicopters you told me are flying over that area.”
“I see. I suppose that cove doesn’t exist, anyway.”
“It does exist, Captain. But as I told you, the Drake isn’t there anymore. It has been taken to a more secure place. Quite some time ago.”
“So, contrary to what you led us to believe, you know where that ship is.”
“Yes. I know where it was to be taken.”
“And that’s where you want to go now.” Scarlet stared intensely at his commander. “You want to return to your ‘men’, don’t you? We’re inside a Spectrum Passenger Jet,” he reminded him. “They could very well welcome us with blazing guns. They’ll blow us out of the sky.”
“I don’t think so. They don’t have anything powerful enough to do that. The Drake isn’t equipped with surface to air armament.”
“Yes,” Scarlet said, nodding. “Only torpedoes.” He gave a faint smile. “Thanks for confirming that to me.”
White scowled. “You have no way to pass this information to Spectrum, anyway,” he reasoned.
“No. Right now, I don’t.” Scarlet frowned. “Spectrum will find out what happened.”
“You’re keeping radio silence,” White reminded him. “It will be a while before they notice anything is wrong.”
“But they will, eventually. You know, I make a rather bad hostage, ‘Admiral’.”
“Believe me, if there had been any other way for me to escape, I would have used it. I want nothing to do with hostages. Certainly not one as dangerous as you are.”
Scarlet sighed. “So, now you think you’ll be able to fulfil your mission, right?”
“You don’t get it, Captain.” White had a moment of hesitation, before continuing: “I don’t dismiss all that you’ve told me already. I remember quite vividly my wife being dead. I have some fleeting memories that seem to fit right in with what you told me. But I don’t TRUST Spectrum. And I don’t know if I should trust those you’ve just called my men. But I still have a lot of questions within me, and I want answers to those questions. It seems I can’t get it straight from you. That’s why we’re going where I think I can find those answers.”
Scarlet gave him an interrogative enough look. He wasn’t sure if he had understood clearly what his still confused – and certainly paranoid – commander was implying.
He knew that paranoia was a direct side effect of the treatment he had received from the Dream Spinner.
“What will you do when you have the answers you’re looking for?” he asked.
“It depends on what they’re going to be.” White paused. “I’m not about to act rashly, Captain Scarlet. I want to know exactly where I stand in this war of yours. Then I’ll decide what I should do. Be sure that I’ll follow my conscience and that I will do my duty accordingly. I’ve always done so.”
“I must say, I prefer that.” Scarlet addressed his commander with a faint but satisfied grin. “And I don’t think I can ask for more, at the present. Except…” He indicated the scarlet-handled gun. “Are you certain THIS is really necessary?”
White shook his head. “As necessary as those cuffs were, before you removed them,” he responded bleakly. “Sorry. You’ll have to tolerate it. At the very least, my keeping you in check will serve to prove to the others that I am on the level with them.”
“That’s a point of view,” Scarlet declared, rather gloomily.
“And if YOU’RE on the level with ME, their assumption could prove useful in time.”
“Very risky,” Scarlet mused. “For you as well as for me.”
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid for your life, Captain. I wouldn’t believe it.”
“No, I’m not afraid. Not as much for me as I would be for you. But it doesn’t seem as if I have any choice, anyway.” He looked up ahead, into the clear blue sky. “So, what are your instructions, now, sir? Where are we going?”
* * *
Of all the places Captain Scarlet would have thought the Sir Francis Drake might be, this would have been the last on Earth.
Colonel White had instructed him to make a wide easterly detour to avoid the rapidly approaching area where Spectrum Helicopters were searching for any clues of the Drake’s passage. After he was sure that truly nobody was following them, and that their course had gone unnoticed, he ordered the jet to fly due north, in the direction of the Orkney Islands. Scarlet obeyed the directives given to him without a flaw. Not that he was afraid for himself if his commander should shoot him down. He was just concerned that if that were to occur, he might lose control of the craft and send it crashing down.
By the time the Passenger Jet was flying over the northern coast of Scotland, Scarlet realised that there was no way anybody at Spectrum would guess where their craft had disappeared to. He couldn’t contact Cloudbase directly, nor any other Spectrum facility, and even less other military bases. No help to be expected from Liberty Base itself. Since about ten years after the end of the British civil war, the base had been completely deserted. Nobody went there, except, maybe, a couple of times a year, some curious tourists and History students, who had received special authorisation from the military. Those occasions were rare, and growing even more so as years passed by. Paul Metcalfe was only a child when he first visited the place. He remembered the base as still being a busy hive of military people. He didn’t come back for eight years after that. There weren’t many military in those days, only a handful serving as tourist guides. Now, he knew, it was all but forgotten.
Some twenty-five years earlier, Liberty Base had been established in a remote part of the eastern mainland’s northern shore. There wasn’t a large population around the immediate vicinity of the base and even if there had been, the people of these parts would not be inclined to investigate what might be going on there. IF they were even aware of it.
Scarlet doubted there was even a Spectrum facility around there.
Still following Colonel White’s instructions, Captain Scarlet brought the SPJ at low altitude over the one-time rebel base. Looking through the canopy, the place indeed seemed abandoned. It was in a sorry enough state, the Spectrum officer observed. But still, he also noticed that the ruined look of it was due only to neglect and by the normal flow of time.
"Not looking too bad after all these years, eh?” Scarlet said, addressing Colonel White. “Do you see any trace of bombing down there?”
“What are you driving at?” White mumbled, keeping his gun on the Spectrum officer, and yet casting a glance at the ground below them.
“According to what you were telling us on Cloudbase, you arrived too late to save the people of that base, twenty-five years ago…” He nodded toward the base. “I know it wasn’t the case. And I think what you can now see of the state of this place would tend to prove I told you the truth earlier.”
White didn’t answer. Obviously, the captain was right. Although in an apparent state of abandonment, the base didn’t seem to have suffered any military strike of any kind, be it recent or dating back several years. The kind of attack he remembered would have left its mark even twenty-five years later.
Still, it didn’t prove anything.
“Where’s the Drake?” Scarlet asked him.
“Over there.” White pointed toward the dock. Alongside the pier, Scarlet could see a bulky frame, covered with what looked like diffused lighting camouflage. It could have passed for an otherwise abandoned ship, all covered with rust and greenish decay.
Absorbed by his observation of the hidden destroyer, the Spectrum captain felt a swift tap on his right upper-arm. He turned his head in that direction to see the barrel of his gun, still pointed at him. White nodded toward a specific location, down on the ground. “Sweep over the runway there,” he instructed. “Then bring this jet down.”
Scarlet nodded in turn, acknowledging the order. He pushed the control column forward toward the runway and made the jet sweep slowly over it. Carefully, he scrutinised the runway’s surface. It was damaged, full of holes and bumps, produced by time, but still, good enough for a safe landing. He put his craft into landing position.
SPJ C31 touched down without a flaw on the bumpy runway. Captain Scarlet killed the engines before turning to his passenger.
If Colonel White seemed rather pleased by the landing, it was also obvious to Scarlet that he seemed somehow annoyed. He was looking through the canopy, all around the surrounding grounds, with expectation in his blue eyes. He didn’t seem to see anything he could be waiting for. Scarlet looked too, searching. He knew what his commander was expecting.
But the runway appeared to stay as deserted as before the landing.
“No welcoming committee, it seems,” Scarlet noted quietly.
“Let’s get out of this plane,” White replied rather harshly.
He extracted himself from his seat and with the gun, motioned Scarlet to do the same. He walked behind his prisoner toward the hatch leading out of the craft. Scarlet followed instructions and pressed down the button to open the door. Moments later, the two of them were carefully stepping out of the SPJ, looking around for somebody to come greeting them. In one way or another.
Nobody showed up. The only sounds the two men could hear were the wind, blowing over the surface of the runway and between the many buildings they could see around them, and the rush of the nearby tide.
If not for the presence of the Sir Francis Drake they had seen earlier, there would have been no indication that anybody had come to this place for quite some time.
“Looks like a bloody ghost town,” White mumbled, his weapon carefully still aimed at Scarlet, his eyes scanning around. “Why isn’t anybody coming? They must have seen us…”
“They must, certainly,” Scarlet concurred. “Maybe they’re waiting for a better opportunity to surprise us…” He scrutinized his commander. “There’s Mysterons among them. I’ve learned to expect anything from Mysterons… They have the knack of appearing when and where you don’t expect them.”
“Still with those Martians of yours?” White mocked the captain with evident sarcasm.
“Don’t take them too lightly, sir,” Scarlet advised him. “They’re quite lethal.”
“So you say.” White shook his head. “Well, whatever those Mysterons are, if they won’t come to us, we’ll go to them. They certainly MUST be near the Drake, or, at the very least, won’t have left the ship unguarded.” He pointed toward the construction in front of which the SPJ had stopped. “The harbour is on the other side of this hangar. If I remember correctly, there’s a direct access through it.”
“How long since you came here last, sir?” Scarlet asked him.
“Many years, I’m afraid,” White responded.
“I’ve been here twice,” Scarlet said. “My father brought me here for a visit when I was eleven. I came back when I was studying British military history…” He shook his head. “It’s changed a lot.”
White had to agree. The place didn’t look at all as he remembered it.
But then again, he couldn’t really count on his memory.
“Let’s go, Captain,” he instructed the Spectrum officer, indicating the hangar.
“Aren’t you afraid we’ll walk right into a trap?” Scarlet remarked.
“If I am to consider what you have told me, do you really think those people will kill me… after all the trouble they went through to get me?”
Scarlet considered this a moment; he couldn’t think of a good enough answer. It was easily evident to Colonel White that he had made his point. He urged his captive to walk toward the hangar and followed close behind, still keeping him in check with the gun.
The access door to the hangar wasn’t locked; the two men had only to push it in order to enter. They found themselves inside a very large, almost empty room, in a very sorry state. The concrete floor was all covered with dirt, oil stains, and debris. The roof was heavily damaged, with many large holes which let enough sunlight enter to light the place. Rusted pipes running along the roof were broken and leaking muddy water. A very strong smell of fuel mixed with damp was present all over the place.
On the facing wall at the other end of the hangar, a garage door was wide open and the two officers could easily see the harbour beyond it. Right in front of that door, in the middle of the hangar, stood a transport helicopter and a heavy-duty fork-lift truck.
But still nobody in view.
This is getting unnerving, Scarlet thought. And a quick look in the Colonel’s direction informed him that the older man was feeling more-or-less the same.
Carefully, the two men approached the craft. Scarlet moved to investigate it. As he yearned to understand more of this strange situation he was involved in, Colonel White was keeping the captain on a long leash, confident that he would not try to escape him or make any wrong move toward him. However, just to be on the safe side, he was keeping a close eye on him and his finger on the trigger of his weapon.
On the side of the helicopter, the words ‘Campbell Air Transport Co.’ was written in big black lettering. Through the canopy, Scarlet took a look inside the cockpit. Then, he walked around and went to slide open the cargo door. There was nothing to be found inside. He looked toward White. The latter nodded.
“Obviously,” he said, “this helicopter would be the one stolen from that private airport near Bristol.”
“Obviously,” Scarlet repeated. He closed the door, sighing. “Right. So, the torpedoes are here, all right. With the Drake. Everything’s falling into place. Except that we still don’t know who the Mysterons’ intended target may be.” He gave a suspicious look toward Colonel White. “That is… SPECTRUM doesn’t know. What about YOU, sir?”
White frowned. “What about ME?”
“You didn’t tell us where we would find the Drake,” Scarlet noted accusingly. “Is there anything else you didn’t care to tell us?”
Colonel White couldn’t believe his ears. His eyes flashing with anger, he stepped threateningly toward Captain Scarlet. “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t know ANYTHING about ANYONE being the target of those so-called terrorists you keep referring to!”
“How can I be sure you’re not lying to me?” Scarlet asked coldly, without flinching away.
“You arrogant son of a…” White choked the last part of his insult in a loud grumble. “How can you imply such an incriminating accusation against me? It’s one thing to withhold information on where my ship was hidden, but to endanger an innocent life…”
“Forgive me for being blunt, sir,” Scarlet replied, not changing his tone, “but you have to admit that I don’t have any reason to…”
He stopped suddenly. A wave of nausea suddenly hit him and made him sway; he reached for the helicopter fuselage to keep his balance.
White watched as the young man’s face became very pale and slick with sweat.
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked, concerned that the Spectrum officer might be trying some trick to deceive him and take him by surprise. “You look ill, or something…”
“I’m not ill.” Scarlet put a hand to his pounding head. He knew the symptoms all too well. That could mean only one thing. “There’s Mysterons around…”
Colonel White was about to vehemently admonish the young man, when he stopped dead; there was something in Scarlet’s weary tone that made him realize that there really was something serious in what he was presently telling him. Before he could voice his concern, however, a faint sound from behind him caught his good ear. He sprang around, his gun at the ready; he found himself face to face with a man, dressed in complete commando attire, who had suddenly appeared from behind the helicopter. The man was himself keeping a pistol aimed at White.
“Don’t move!” he barked in an authoritative voice.
White hesitated, as he recognized the man now threatening him as being Brighton, one of those who had closely worked with him on recovering the Drake.
Captain Scarlet was mortified. That he had let himself and Colonel White be surprised that way was embarrassing enough – especially considering that he already knew there were enemies around, waiting to attack them. Now he understood they were in deep danger, much more than he had anticipated when he had suggested this mission. There was now a gun aimed at Colonel White, and the man holding this gun could fire at any moment. The British captain had not made all these efforts until now just to see his commander murdered before his eyes.
He did not have the time to make a move. From behind him, he felt the presence of another commando suddenly stepping out in view, coming from the other side of the transporter. Where are THEY coming from, anyway? Scarlet mused inwardly. His reaction was too slow to prevent the barrel of a big rifle to come into contact with his spine, making him freeze instantly.
“You heard the man, Spectrum. Don’t do anything foolish, and keep your hands up!”
There was no alternative left. Groaning, Scarlet obeyed passively.
Colonel White was relieved of his gun by the first man; upon hearing the voice of the other man, he turned his head in his direction. The captain saw the confused surprise on his commander’s face as he looked upon the face of the commando keeping Scarlet in check.
“Dear God, Dempsey!”
Scarlet shivered. Dempsey. The man he had discovered dead at the complex, with a face reduced to a pulp and a bullet in his head… He looked over his shoulder, to peer right into the same but unscathed face, which was looking back at him with that cold, unfeeling stare the Spectrum captain knew well.
So, this fellow behind him was the Mysteron whose presence he had just felt.
“Glad to see you found your way back to us, Admiral,” Dempsey was saying to White. “And it seems you have brought with you one of those Spectrum scum.”
“You lied to me!” With that cry of outrage and fury, Colonel White, ignoring the threat of the two commandos’ guns, walked determinedly toward Scarlet, to catch him by his uniform collar. The surprised captain could see his commander’s face was livid with anger and his knuckles were white.
“You’re a damned liar!” White literally spat in his face. “You did nothing but try to manipulate me with your stories!”
“I never lied to you,” Scarlet protested vehemently.
“Shut up!” White barked savagely, brutally pushing the younger man against the helicopter behind him. “I won’t hear anymore!”
Scarlet blanched. That the Mysterons would have replicated Dempsey wasn’t something he had anticipated at all, when he had instigated this mission. If Captain Blue had suspected anything of the sort, he would never have agreed with it. And it was most probable that Scarlet would not even have considered risking the life of Colonel White in this adventure under these circumstances.
Now it was too late to go back. And with these new developments, it could prove a very uncomfortable situation.
Even a lethal one.
Dempsey was looking at the scene with some sort of perplexed satisfaction. It was obvious he had a clear understanding of what was presently happening. Like a tiger who’s found a tethered goat, Scarlet thought, giving the Mysteron a murderous sideways look.
As for Brighton, who had come closer, he seemed at the same time suspicious and doubtful of what was going on. His gun was still aimed at White.
“What about Dempsey?” the latter pursued, addressing Scarlet roughly. “How can you explain his presence here? You told me he was dead!”
“Dead?” Dempsey scoffed and gave a devious grin. “I can assure you, sir,” he told White, “I’m far from dead. In fact, I’ve never been more alive…”
I bet, a bitter Captain Scarlet mused inwardly. Mysteron or man, by the look of evil contentment obvious in his features, Dempsey was still the same scum.
You think you hold all the cards, right now… but I’m not out of aces yet.
Although he had to admit, trying to prove himself to White would be tremendous trouble.
“I saw him dead,” Scarlet insisted, staring implacably at Dempsey. “THIS is not the same man.” He looked back into Colonel White’s eyes. “This Dempsey is a Mysteron.”
“Enough!” White shot at him. “How can you still try that with me? You try to pass yourself off as a friend… You played with my mind!”
“I did nothing like that, sir.”
“You disgust me. I could just… kill you.”
Unwillingly, Scarlet shuddered. He could see, by the fever in his eyes, that the Spectrum commander was on the brink of losing it again. I’m in deep trouble… he realised. Looking into the cold blue eyes fixed on him, he had the very disturbing feeling that he had lost his commander’s trust and that he would never be able to regain it. Not before the irreparable would have been committed.
Considering his particular state, Scarlet wasn’t afraid to be shot and killed, but to think that Colonel White could be the one to pull the trigger… He wondered what it would imply for his commander’s psyche. Could it demonstrate somehow that there was no way for him to come back now? If he were able to kill one of his own officers in cold blood – even Scarlet, not knowing about his virtual indestructibility for now – could there really be a way to save him after that?
Was there still, NOW?
“It may be a trick,” he heard the voice of the other commando, Brighton, say with concern. “These two are playing us for fools.”
“Don’t you trust the Admiral, Brighton?” Dempsey replied unemotionally. “He’s our commander, after all…”
“No, he’s not!” Scarlet shot at the Mysteron agent with righteous anger.
For that, he violently received the butt of the rifle in the stomach. Grunting in pain, he sank to his hands and knees, gasping for air.
Colonel White released him, and turned toward Dempsey with a look of disapproval. “Stop that!”
Hope renewed in Scarlet’s heart, at the sound of those words.
“What’s the matter, Admiral?” Brighton suddenly asked, on the defensive, still concerned about what the brainwashed Spectrum commander could do. From where he was, Scarlet could see his finger playing nervously with the trigger of his gun. It wouldn’t take much for him to let loose. “Want to protect that one? Like you did the girl?”
“What did they do to you, sir?” Dempsey asked in turn, very quietly. “Tried to turn you against us?”
“He’s with Spectrum, I tell you,” Brighton insisted between his teeth.
“I’m not,” White replied dryly.
“We can’t trust him,” Brighton added, not hearing the older man out. “He’s too unstable. We don’t know what he might do next. He’s been that way since that Dream Spinner treatment…”
Still on his knees, Scarlet was still trying to overcome the pain in his stomach. “Yes, YOU did a good job on him, didn’t you?” he said, under a laboured breath. That caught White’s attention. Holding his aching stomach, Scarlet gave a quick nod toward Dempsey. “Look at him, sir,” he said forcing every word out of his mouth. “Look at his face. You hammered into that face with your bare fists… Does it show now?”
“Get up, you bastard!” Brighton caught hold of Scarlet’s collar and brutally dragged him to his feet. Still incapacitated, and since Dempsey’s rifle was still on him, the captain did not resist. He collided against the helicopter’s surface one more time and was kept in check there by the two armed men standing on either side of him. His eyes were still riveted on his confused and doubtful commander.
“Does he have the faintest mark of beating on his face, sir?” Scarlet continued quickly, trying to ignore the threat of the guns. “He’s not the same man, I tell you!”
White averted his eyes, hesitantly, not wanting to look into the distress he could see in those of the young captain; he didn’t want to run the risk of believing him and trusting him again.
The hesitation in him didn’t go unnoticed by Brighton.
“I tell you he can’t be trusted!” he snarled. “We don’t need him for the rest of the mission. Mister Shelby said so himself.”
“And what would you want us to do with him, kill him?”
Dempsey’s mocking tone rang absolutely false to Scarlet’s ears. That one was up to something.
“We can’t do that,” Dempsey continued. “After all, he’s one of us… We don’t treat our own this way. And you’re wrong. He may still prove useful.”
“He’s also right,” White replied frowning. “I’m unstable. I can’t be trusted. I can’t even trust myself.”
“Then I may have a way for you to prove yourself, Admiral.”
Dempsey took Scarlet’s gun that Brighton had tucked into his belt. Before the other man could stop him, he threw the weapon at a surprised Colonel White, who caught it on the fly.
“What are you doing?” Brighton shouted to the Mysteron agent.
“Proving to the Admiral that I trust him.” Dempsey’s tone then became very cold, as he continued, pressing his own weapon against Scarlet’s side. “Now prove we can trust you, sir. Kill him.”
“What?” murmured a dumbfounded White, frowning deeply.
“Kill that Spectrum officer,” Dempsey explained. “Then we’ll know you’re really on our side.”
A half-angry, half-concerned Captain Scarlet was staring straight at his commander, who was looking at the gun he was handling as if it was the first one he had held in his life.
White took a few steps back, uncertain. He shook his head.
“I can’t kill an unarmed man,” he declared.
“You don’t know how many times he has done that himself!” Dempsey growled harshly. “He would not hesitate, if the circumstances were the other way around!”
“Colonel White, don’t listen to him!” Scarlet called out in desperation.
He felt the barrel of Brighton’s gun being thrust against his right side, trying to intimidate him into staying silent. It didn’t work.
“I tell you, he’s a Mysteron,” Scarlet finished.
White gave him a cold glance. “I’m not your colonel.” He raised the gun and aimed it at Scarlet. “And he DOESN’T look like a zombie to me,” he added in a sinister tone.
Scarlet went cold inside, when he saw the dark eye of the gun aimed at him.
“All right, then” he murmured, in as quiet a voice as he could produce. “Kill me. If that’s what it takes to prove to you I’m telling the truth, do it then. Pull the trigger. I just pray that it won’t prove that you are now beyond any help.”
Still trying, Charles Gray noted. It was amazing to see how this young man’s determination wasn’t allowing him to give up. Even in this desperate situation. He was about to die, and yet he didn’t want to let go. How tragic. Such a man would have been so precious for the cause.
He took careful aim. The heart. He doesn’t have to suffer needlessly. I can at least give that to him. And he was looking at the weapon so calmly, waiting for death to claim his life. White couldn’t help but be impressed by the Spectrum officer’s courageous attitude. The same couldn’t be said for Brighton, as the man was carefully stepping aside, as if uncertain that Colonel White’s aim was reliable.
Seconds passed, but Colonel White’s finger was still hesitant to pull the trigger. Come on, old man… Do it! It wouldn’t be the first time… It’s not so difficult… Remember Bennett. You didn’t hesitate to kill that creep, right?
No. He didn’t kill Jackson Bennett. According to those Spectrum officers, the gunshot was accidental. And Bennett was left in the care of the Drake onboard medic. His life was saved.
Was that true?
“He won’t do it,” Brighton hissed between his teeth. “He will turn against us…”
“We’re waiting, Admiral,” Dempsey called to White insistently. “Prove your allegiance to the cause. Kill him. Now.”
“Colonel, please reconsider.” Scarlet was trying again to call upon White’s conscience. He felt more closely the barrel of the rifle against his side. Great, he thought gloomily, clenching his teeth. If it’s not by Colonel White’s hand that I’ll be shot, it will be by that one…
Charles Gray was still hesitant. If he had not killed Jackson Bennett, who had murdered his father and for whom he felt the most profound disgust, how in Heaven’s name could he pull the trigger on THIS man?
Of course, as far as Gray knew, he was an enemy. A very dangerous and resourceful one. Too dangerous to keep unchecked. Enemies of war were meant to oppose each other. There could be no place for feelings of guilt, or remorse, when it came to killing an enemy. The former admiral was aware that he was also still bitterly suffering the intense feelings he had experienced from the discovery that the captain had lied to him, and tried to deceive him. But was this enough to warrant executing him like that, without any form of judgement? Despite all that stood between them, he felt somehow sympathetic toward the Spectrum officer. And still, there was that lingering feeling that he, indeed, knew him, far better than he could remember.
What if, after all, there was the slightest chance that Captain Scarlet had told him the actual truth?
“What are you waiting for, Admiral?”
That deep voice addressing him brought Colonel White out of his temporary trance. It was Dempsey’s. The true nature of the commando, whom he knew as definite scum, came back to his mind. That was not somebody he would like to be associated with or compared to. And this creep was demanding, very insistently, the Spectrum officer’s death.
All the previous considerations were put aside. Executing the prisoner now would only demonstrate that he, Charles Gray, was no better than Jackson Bennett himself.
He lowered his gun and then, threw it decidedly at his feet. “I’m sorry,” he said, in as firm a voice as he could produce. “I’m not a cold blooded murderer.”
He saw the relief on Captain Scarlet’s face. He could see no expression on Dempsey’s. The commando’s eyes were still cold and seemingly unfeeling as he stared at him.
“Then I suppose that you have outlived your usefulness, Earthman.”
The name made Gray blink in surprise. He froze.
“I told you he would turn against us!”
Everything suddenly happened very quickly, almost all at once. With those words he had just pronounced, Brighton raised his gun and took aim at a startled Colonel White. A first shot was fired and Captain Scarlet saw his commander instantly dropping to the ground. Seeing that Brighton was about to fire again, the Spectrum captain became blatantly oblivious to the rifle directed at him and jumped at Brighton’s gun, bringing it close to the commando’s body. A second shot made itself heard, almost drowned out by two consecutive, more powerful detonations. Dempsey had coldly discharged his rifle into the officer’s back. Scarlet felt a searing pain tear into him; with a cry of pain, he felt to the ground, almost on top of Brighton. He nearly didn’t hear a series of gunshots ringing out over the echo of the rifle shots.
Consumed by the sudden pain, Scarlet was lying on his side, his eyes toward the Mysteron agent whom he saw being violently pushed back against the helicopter’s shell, as if he had been hit by a strong impact. The bewildered Spectrum officer saw him slide to the floor, his weapon slipping from his hands, and his chest literately riddled with bullets. When he reached the floor, Mysteron agent Jonathan Dempsey was dead.
A faint sound caught Scarlet’s ears; fighting both pain and the unconsciousness threatening to claim him, he uneasily turned his attention in the direction of that sound. Through a confused daze, he saw that Colonel White was slowly getting to his feet. He had in his right hand the red-coloured gun he had dropped earlier; a greyish-white smoke was coming out of the barrel.
Quickly, White strode toward the downed officer and crouched beside him. He cringed, seeing the blood covering his back, where the bullets had hit him. There was an exit wound on the right side of his torso, bleeding profusely.
Scarlet’s eyelids fluttered. Struggling to stay awake and to disperse both the pain and the fog in his mind, he looked up at his commander. “You’re all right…” he observed with a note of puzzlement in his voice.
White nodded sadly. “I ducked the instant I saw Brighton levelling his gun at me. The bullet didn’t even graze me. I don’t have a scratch. But you…”
“I’ll be all right…” Even without hearing the obvious pain in Scarlet’s voice, Colonel White would not have believed him. He had seen enough injuries in his time to know that the wounds the captain was suffering from were severe enough. Nevertheless, he was quite astounded to see him trying to raise himself on one elbow.
“Don’t try to move,” he dictated him, gently pushing him back to his previous place. “Keep quiet, Captain…”
Scarlet nodded. He grunted, biting his lip, closing his eyes for a moment; the pain was nearly intolerable.
“The others…?” he asked, staring at the colonel.
White looked around. Dempsey was half sprawled against the helicopter; not far from there, Brighton laid, his eyes wide open, a bleeding hole in his chest.
“Both dead,” White declared. “I killed that scum Dempsey. Too late to stop him from shooting you in the back, I’m sorry to say… Brighton…”
“I turned his gun against him.”
Scarlet gave another groan of pain. White twitched uncomfortably; he couldn’t help but feel responsible for what had happened to the young officer.
“You can’t stay here,” Scarlet stated, panting, as quickly as he could. “The shots will draw the others… They mustn’t find you. Leave now…”
White gave him a hard enough look. “If you think I’ll leave you here, hurt as you are… You’re wrong, soldier! You’re coming with me.” He knelt, and tried to raise the wounded captain, but the latter caught hold of his arm. Strangely, the colonel noticed, the man’s grip was still strong enough.
“I CAN’T follow you!” Scarlet said between clenched teeth.
“Then I’ll CARRY you,” White insisted roughly. “I won’t leave one of my men behind to get myself to safety.” He hesitated, before adding, with less edge to his tone, “And you are one of my men, aren’t you, Captain?”
Scarlet tried to focus on what the colonel was now trying to tell him, if still with some uncertainty. He gave a nod of acknowledgment, swallowing hard under the growing pain. “I am, sir.”
“Then let’s get the hell out of here together.”
Colonel White leaned again to help the wounded man to his feet. That was when he heard the sudden rushing sound of running feet. Raising his head, and looking all around, he saw several men entering the hangar, from different entrances. In an instant, he realised that they would not be able to get out of there, to get back to the SPJ and escape. They were trapped. His hand curled around the butt of his gun, as he felt tempted to use it to defend his life and that of the man lying there, bleeding. He gave him an interrogative gaze. Notwithstanding the obvious pain he was in, Scarlet coolly evaluated the situation they were in and stared back at White, shaking his head in negation.
“Don’t try it,” he whispered. “It’ll be foolish.”
Colonel White gave a submissive nod. He had come to the same conclusion. As the men came closer to surround them, he slowly raised his hands, staying on his knees, and presented his weapon, his finger off the trigger, to clearly indicate his surrender. The pistol was roughly snatched from his hand, and he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his head. He heard several weapons being armed loudly, and then aimed at him and his injured companion.
We’re dead, was the gloomy thought imposing itself in his mind.
And he had nobody to blame but himself.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a hand, in a slow and composed gesture, pushing away the gun pressed to his head. The owner of that hand stepped in close to him, standing tall, obviously waiting. White raised his head.
He saw the very quiet and cold features of Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby, looking down at him.
A chill ran up Colonel White’ spine as he realised that Shelby’s look was now very similar to that of Jonathan Dempsey. He found himself even more unsettled, when the man gave him a fiendish grin, and spoke to him in a voice as icy as the grave.
“Nice to have you back with us, Admiral...”