A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
Lieutenant Green was standing in the hallway, waiting for the door in front of him to open. He was nervous enough, dancing from one foot to another, and was wondering now if it wasn’t too reckless on his part to have accepted this mission from Captains Scarlet and Blue.
Get a hold of yourself, Seymour! he admonished himself. They didn’t force you to do this. You volunteered!
Me and my big mouth…
Of course, he HAD to do something. He wanted to help. He couldn’t let his superior officers down. More importantly, he couldn’t let Colonel White down.
When Captain Scarlet had revealed his plan to Captains Blue and Magenta, in front of him, Green could see that the blond American officer was not totally convinced, after hearing his partner out, that he would indeed follow him in this. Scarlet’s plan was even more dangerous than he had anticipated. Both for Scarlet AND for Colonel White. And, as Scarlet had said, it was somehow a bit improper… It meant, quite bluntly, using the Colonel. Something Blue wasn’t so sure was a good idea. But then, Green had asked to speak his mind. And to Blue’s utmost surprise, he had sided with Captain Scarlet, approving of his plan.
“I agree with Captain Scarlet,” Green had said with assurance. “We should give the colonel the benefit of the doubt. And an even chance to prove himself.”
“And if he doesn’t,” Blue had noted, still doubtful, “you’d be ready to see us use him so we can resolve this whole affair, Lieutenant?”
“Maybe then, it will make him finally see the truth. The way I see it, sir… it can only help him.”
Blue had stared intensely at the communications officer. Of all of them, Lieutenant Green was the one who worked closest with Colonel White. Captain Blue knew that the two of them had grown close to each other, despite the fact that, in the beginning, the colonel hadn’t been too sure about having such a young man as his aide and communications officer. By the colonel’s standards, Green was only a kid. But he was such a talented young man, and had already accomplished so much in his short career… Colonel White had had to remind himself that he, too, had to fend off the critics of his elders, especially when, at the early age of twenty-nine, he had become the youngest commander of a warship in the British Navy.
As for Green, he would have done ANYTHING for his colonel. His opinion weighed heavily against Blue’s hesitation. Blue gave up, and agreed to Scarlet’s plan.
Green had seen Colonel White shortly after his arrival on Cloudbase. It had pained him, and saddened him, to see him so feverish, and delirious, as Doctor Fawn tended to him. He had felt rather distraught, especially when he had learned what exactly had happened to him, with the Dream Spinner treatment and the rest… He couldn’t help a shiver running down his spine, thinking of it now. And the way the colonel had acted during this whole affair… It wasn’t like him at all. Not what Lieutenant Green knew of him, anyway.
Anger was boiling inside the young communications officer’s heart. Those who had done this to his commander could not be allowed to go free. Scarlet’s plan had also the merit of probably locating them, along with helping Colonel White to shake off this condition he was in.
So Green agreed to do anything that would be asked of him, in order for the plan to succeed.
He didn’t count on having to be the one to greet Special Agent Conners on Cloudbase.
All things considered, the young man thought gloomily, I would rather be in Captain Scarlet’s place…
The door of the SPJ docking bay opened and Green straightened up. Martin Conners walked in quickly. Green had encountered him a couple of times. Notably, when the Intelligence man had been sent, along with his superior, Thomas Wade, to investigate Captain Scarlet, after the first encounter with the Mysterons – during which Scarlet had kidnapped World President Younger. Conners had struck Green as a rather despicable character. Colonel White didn’t like him at all, and especially was appalled by the way he kept tearing at the British captain. The Spectrum commander had interceded on Scarlet’s behalf, stopping Conners’ overzealous actions, and reporting him to Wade.
Conners certainly didn’t take this too kindly. If he was waiting for an occasion to get his revenge against White, now could be the time.
IF he suspected anything.
“Welcome to Cloudbase, Mister Conners,” Green greeted the newcomer.
“Thank you, Lieutenant Green.” Rudely, Conners didn’t extend his hand to the younger man. Just as well, thought Green. I won’t have to shake hands with that creep…
“I was dispatched to take you to the Control Room upon your arrival here, sir,” Green continued quietly. “If you’d care to come with me…” He motioned Conners to follow his lead toward the elevator, some few metres behind them. Conners nodded to the young Black man and walked with him. They entered the elevator and the door closed behind them.
“I take it Colonel White is able to see me right away, Lieutenant?” Conners asked.
“Not exactly, sir…” Green had carefully prepared his answer, so he could get it out as he had been instructed. “Colonel White is unavailable right now.”
“Unavailable?” Conners repeated. There was some kind of distracted tone in Conners’ voice that made Green wonder what was on his mind exactly. The man from Intelligence paused a second. “Who’s going to receive me, then? Captain Scarlet?” The tone was now openly mocking. Almost loathing. It was obvious, Conners didn’t like Scarlet at all.
The door slid open and the two men stepped out, directing their steps towards the green door leading to the Control Room.
“Captain Scarlet is also unavailable, Mister Conners,” Green said quietly.
“Ah!” They stopped in front of the door, and a seemingly still unsurprised Conners turned to Green. He had one of those deceitful smiles on his face. “Then it will be Captain Blue,” he decided, matter-of-factly.
Green hesitated, pushing the button to open the door. “Not exactly, sir…”
The door slid open and Conners turned toward the opening. A few feet from him, in the middle of the now stationary walkway, a tall man with dark hair, and a grin going from one ear to the other, was looking straight at him, apparently waiting.
“Mister Conners,” Lieutenant Green said with a smile of his own, “you know Captain Magenta, I presume?”
* * *
Captain Blue pushed aside the metal plate covering the entrance to the hidden storage compartment situated inside the SPJ passenger cabin area. He looked around, making sure that there was nobody around. The jet was empty, Captain Scarlet and Colonel White having left it some minutes ago. So far, so good, he mused. The Spectrum commander had not suspected his presence at all.
From where he was hidden, Blue had heard some of the commotion inside the cockpit. As Scarlet had predicted, Colonel White had taken advantage of the situation to try to escape Spectrum and rejoin those he thought were his men. The mere thought was uncomfortable enough for the American captain. Deep down, he had hoped, without really believing it, that his commander would not do so. That he would prove himself worthy of trust, stay true to his word, and not try to escape. But for all his unpredictability, he had acted exactly as expected. Even though he was deeply disappointed, Blue knew it was only logical for White to do this. White had brought them to the Sir Francis Drake, the Mysterons, and those men from the ‘Network’. They were hidden in Liberty Base, of all places. That was quite cunning. Of course, that shouldn’t come as such a surprise. The Mysterons were known for their cunning.
Or maybe it was Colonel White’s own idea… That would be just like him to pull something like that.
That detail didn’t matter much right now. Blue knew that he and Scarlet had to follow the intended plan. They were to use the advantage provided by this new development, to discover the Mysterons’ present objective and to put an end to it. And, at the same time, if they were lucky, they would find out more about this ‘Network’ that had captured and transformed their commander into this ruthless enemy they had to deal with.
Blue carefully looked around. There was nobody in the jet, save himself. He had heard Scarlet and White leave, some minutes ago; following the plan, Blue had waited before coming out of hiding. Now he extracted himself from the cramped compartment, carefully keeping his head down, and his gun in hand. He took another look around, and saw Scarlet’s cap lying near the cockpit entrance. Predictable. White had deprived his ‘prisoner’ of his means of communication with Spectrum. Blue entered the cockpit; he found the radio, damaged beyond repair, and what looked like pieces of a crushed SPT, on the floor. The colonel had done a thorough job.
Not so thorough as he might think, Blue added to himself with glum satisfaction.
The exit hatch had been left open. Keeping out of view, Blue inspected the area; the abandoned runway on which the SPJ had landed was completely deserted. Like Scarlet and White before him, Blue found this rather strange. And also unnerving. There was no way the jet could have stayed completely unnoticed.
Scarlet and White were also out of view. Where can they be? Blue mused. They can’t be very far… He was hoping that his partner would be careful; he was responsible for White’s security, during this operation. If anything should go wrong and the Spectrum commander were to be hurt…
Blue jumped out of the craft. Swiftly, using as much cover from the shadows as he could, and looking around frequently, he made his way toward the nearest construction – a hangar in front of which the SPJ had stopped. He kept himself against the wall. Still no one in view. That was certainly creepy.
Better start having a look around, Blue reasoned. Find Paul and the colonel. And then to see what’s going on here. Then, he’d have to contact Spectrum…
Blue was starting to move along the wall toward the door, about five metres away on his left, when he heard several gunshots, from within the hangar itself. He froze on the spot. Voices caught his ears, along with fast footsteps. Somebody was coming his way. Quickly, Blue ran toward a big heap of discarded mechanical parts not far from him. He slipped behind, into the shadows, keeping his pistol ready for use.
He hid just in time. A team of armed commandos were turning the corner of the hangar; two of them quickly charged into the building, while the two other sprinted toward the SPJ that Blue had just left, and entered it, rifles in hand. Blue kept quiet, following the men’s progress with his eyes.
Looking frequently around, he then quickly and carefully moved toward the door. It was half-open; he stole a glance inside, but from where he was, he could only see a big helicopter – a transporter – standing right in the middle of the very large hangar. He could also see several armed men and could hear voices, although he could not make out what was being said.
He couldn’t see more, but he was about certain this entire ruckus could only be for Scarlet and White. He was worried. They could very well be in trouble. I’ve got to help, Blue decided. But how? Entering by this door was out of the question; he would be too much in the open and would be seen instantly by those guys inside. He would not be able to be of much help if he were to be killed upon entering. I’ve got to find another way in, he told himself.
He checked over his shoulder toward the SPJ. In any case, if he were to stay there, he would soon be discovered. So he had to make his move. Quietly, after a last regretful look inside, he turned away from the door, and, following the wall, went in search for another, safer entrance…
* * *
“Dempsey’s dead, sir.”
With eyes as cold and expressionless as the grave, Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby glanced at the commando who had crouched next to Dempsey to check on him. At his left, another man made almost the same announcement. “Brighton is too, sir. A bullet right through the heart.”
Shelby walked quietly toward Captain Scarlet, lying on the floor; former Admiral Charles Gray – Colonel White – was keeping his head elevated, and was pressing a bloody handkerchief on the wound in his chest, trying to keep him from bleeding too much.
“This one’s still alive, it seems,” Shelby coldly remarked. White gave him a hostile look. He ignored it. “What happened here?” he asked, gesturing toward the two dead men. “That’s quite a mess… Are you responsible for this, Admiral? Did you kill those men?”
“I killed them,” Captain Scarlet replied quickly, in a cracked voice, filled with pain, before his commander could utter a single word.
White stared down at him, dumbfounded that the Spectrum officer was still intent on protecting him, by trying to minimise his involvement in what had occurred. And he was doing so by putting his own life on the line, yet again, not withstanding the fact that the man he was attempting to save from harm had been disloyal to him.
White wondered if it was even worth the effort, especially when he heard Shelby’s next, sarcastic remark: “Really, now? How did it happen, then? We saw your arrival here. We saw that you seemed to be the Admiral’s prisoner when you entered this hangar. I thought Dempsey and Brighton would be more than sufficient to investigate and make sure it wasn’t a trick by Spectrum. I wonder… The Admiral had the gun - how did YOU get your hands on it?”
Scarlet didn’t answer this time; he had trouble keeping himself conscious and focused; he was in too much pain and felt so weak. He could barely keep his eyes open.
“How are you doing, Captain?” Colonel White asked him with concern.
The wounded captain was making a supreme effort to suppress the thick cloud his mind was inexorably diving into. The pain made it difficult to concentrate. Each breath was an agony for him. “Hurts… like hell,” he muttered, his voice trailing away.
It was so weak White hardly heard him. He latter swallowed hard; he definitely felt guilty about what had happened; he could see the young man was drifting into a state of semi-consciousness. “I know, son. I’m sorry,” he told him in an encouraging tone. “Just hang on.”
Scarlet answered with a faint nod. He bit his lip, gave a muffled grunt, and closed his eyes.
“Captain?” White called out to him. Scarlet was obviously alive; the colonel could feel still his heartbeat under the hand he was pressing on his wound; he could hear his laboured breathing. But already, the captain was too far gone into unconsciousness to answer coherently; White heard nothing but a very faint groan.
“Was there anyone else with you, Captain?” Shelby asked roughly. “Is Spectrum nearby, getting ready to attack?”
“He can’t hear you,” White dryly answered. “Are you too blind to see how badly he’s been hurt?”
“If that’s a problem,” Shelby replied coldly, “it can easily be solved.” He turned toward the commando nearest to him. “Finish him off.”
“No!” White snapped angrily, even as the man was levelling his gun. Shelby motioned him to wait.
“Then maybe you’d better tell us yourself what we want to know, sir,” he continued evenly, addressing White.
“Nobody was with us,” White countered. “We came alone.”
“Just the two of you?”
“Yes. I took advantage of the fact that we were on that plane alone to divert it and escape from Spectrum.”
“Taking that officer as a hostage?”
“And you came here. You brought Spectrum here.”
“Spectrum doesn’t have the slightest idea where we are. They must have noticed our disappearance by now, though.”
“You didn’t give our location to Spectrum, then?”
“No. I didn’t betray you.” But I betrayed HIM, Colonel White inwardly added with bitterness, looking down at the apparently unconscious man he was tending to.
“Is that true, now?” Shelby quietly said. “We shall see…” He took his pocket radio and made a call to the team investigating the SPJ presently parked on the runway. He asked for their immediate report on what they had found so far.
“The onboard radio has been destroyed, sir,” came the reply from the radio. “We also found a Spectrum officer’s radiocap lying in the passenger cabin...”
“Any trace that somebody else was travelling in that jet beside the Admiral and the Spectrum officer?” Shelby asked.
“As far as we can tell, no. We’re still searching.”
Colonel White met the eyes of the Mysteron agent, who, still very calmly, was now changing the channel on his radio to make another call.
“Shelby to Drake… Does the radar screen show any trace of suspect craft or ships cruising around here?”
“Darrow here,” came another voice from the radio. “Nothing to report, sir, aside from usual air or sea traffic. Sonar is also all quiet.”
“So nobody is on to us,” Shelby mused, staring straight at White. “It seems you told the truth, Admiral.”
“I just received a report from our man in Edinburgh, sir,” the voice of Darrow continued. “We have an unexpected development.”
“Our objective’s departure has been brought forward. Instead of leaving tomorrow morning, it will leave port this afternoon, around one o’clock.”
White pricked up his ears. Objective? Leaving port from Edinburgh? Could it be they were referring to that ‘crowned head’ that Captains Scarlet and Blue had told him about? The target those Mysterons wanted to destroy?
Yes… That must be it. He himself wasn’t aware what the ‘mission’ he was to perform was all about… Maybe he would learn more now.
He saw Shelby giving him a perplexed frown, before turning back to his radio: “Did our man tell you anything about why there’s been a change in the schedule?”
“Seems it was to accommodate some Scottish officials who wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony otherwise, sir. As far as he could tell, everything else seems normal.”
“No Spectrum agents nosing around?”
“Our man was particularly careful to make sure of THAT, sir!”
Shelby kept silent a moment, his eyes fixed on White, watching his every reaction. “Do you know anything about that, Admiral?” he asked him after a short moment.
White shrugged. “About what, exactly?” he replied roughly. “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”
Shelby quietly shook his head. “I suppose that too must be true,” he mused. He consulted his watch. “All right. It means we have to leave within the hour if we are to strike according to plan.” He gave Colonel White another suspicious look and noticed that he was watching him vigilantly. He narrowed his eyes at him.
He’s on to me, it’s obvious, the Spectrum commander mused gloomily. He doesn’t trust me at all, now.
“No matter about the change of schedule,” Shelby added coldly. “It only means we’ll have to strike earlier than anticipated. And I’d already decided that we would leave immediately, anyway. Even if the radar screen doesn’t show anything suspect for the moment, I don’t want to run the risk of Spectrum falling on us like some bird of prey. Are the torpedoes all onboard?”
“Yes, sir,” Darrow’s voice answered. “And the torpedo tubes are all operational now.”
“Have the Drake ready for launching, then. We’re coming right away.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Shelby cut contact and addressed an even icier look toward Colonel White. “It seems you’ll be able to undertake this mission our superiors had entrusted you with, sir,” he told him.
There was a sarcastic undertone in his voice that didn’t escape White. It was fairly apparent he didn’t believe the Spectrum commander was playing fair.
Maybe he was even thinking that the Colonel had finally shaken off the treatment he had received from the Dream Spinner.
He doesn’t know how far I am from that, White reflected. He couldn’t even decide if, indeed, Shelby was behind this. He just knew he couldn’t trust the man. He couldn’t trust anybody, anymore.
Just as he had been unable to bring himself to trust Scarlet.
Stay in the game, old man. Just pretend you’re in it, for the time being. Play for time.
“Let’s go, men. We’re leaving right away.”
Colonel White snapped out of his thoughts, when one of the commandos took him by the arm to urge him to stand up. He shrugged the man off. “What about him?” he asked suddenly, addressing Shelby, and nodding toward Captain Scarlet.
“We go, he stays,” Shelby responded. “We don’t need him.”
“You don’t intend to leave him all alone here, without any medical care? That would be condemning him to certain death!”
“Why should his fate concern you?” Shelby asked flatly.
White scowled. “While I was Spectrum’s prisoner, this man treated me better that I would have expected. I’ll be damned if I don’t repay him in kind!”
Shelby gave him a very icy, and emotionless smile. “Your compassion will be your downfall, Admiral.” Implacably, he looked down at Scarlet, whose pain and loss of blood had brought an apparent state of drowsiness he was still desperately fighting against. He nodded slowly. “All right, then. He’ll come with us onboard the Drake.” His eyes met those of Colonel White’s. “Maybe he will be useful, after all…”
The Spectrum commander shivered, now wondering whether the decision was good or bad either for himself or the injured man he was attempting to protect.
* * *
It took some time for Captain Blue to make his way around the large hangar. He didn’t encounter any of the enemy manpower. So far, he guessed, he had been lucky. Perhaps too lucky. While for him it seemed far too easy to progress freely on enemy ground, he was well aware that his partner and his commander could be in deep trouble.
He hadn’t been lucky enough to find another, safer entrance to the hangar, but he had made an important discovery. He was now on the other side of the hangar, right next to the harbour upon which, when Liberty Base was a fully-operative military base, warships came to moor.
There he saw it, roped at the pier. The destroyer that Colonel White had taken out of the Naval Armament Depot in Bristol.
The Sir Francis Drake.
The top of it was covered with diffused lighting camouflage, which was projected by at least six powerful beams disposed on the length of the pier. Possibly, Blue imagined, the Drake’s own stealth capacity had been dismantled many years ago, when it had been decommissioned. Men were currently turning the projectors off, while others were transporting material onto the ship, using a large gangway. From where he was, Blue was still unseen; he hid behind a large crate and watched the activity in silence. These guys all seemed in quite a hurry.
As if they were preparing the ship to leave…
Captain Blue saw the same group of armed commandos he had seen earlier coming out from the hangar, from a large garage door; among them was Colonel White, apparently unharmed, walking next to a man who Blue recognized right away from having seen his picture a number of times since the preceding day.
Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby.
Or, more precisely, this one was his Mysteron duplicate.
Just behind them, two commandos were dragging a seemingly unconscious Captain Scarlet; in any case, he was unable to walk by himself, for the two commandos had to fling his arms across their shoulders to keep him upright. Blue noticed that the back of his partner’s uniform had turned to a darker shade of red. Blue winced, realising instantly that it was soaked with his friend's own blood.
Blue morosely recalled how he had earlier disputed with Scarlet which one of them would be in the cockpit with White and deliberately set himself up for him to try and make a break for it. Scarlet had smiled and simply remarked that only he could be the obvious choice. There was a risk that the one performing that particular part of the plan could be shot – by White or anybody else. The possibility of that had become a dreadful reality, now. Of course, Blue knew that his best friend had a far better chance of surviving than he did himself, so he could only agree – if rather reluctantly – with Scarlet.
The very idea of knowing that his partner had been hurt, and was now in the enemy’s hands, was, however, very unsettling, and very difficult for Blue to accept. And it was still unclear what responsibility White had for that. Guess I’ll have to wait until later to find that out.
If there was a later.
Blue watched as the group of commandos walked towards the Sir Francis Drake, dragging Scarlet along with them. White was following, and Blue noticed how one of the men kept behind him, a gun aimed at his back.
These guys don’t seem to trust the old man, Blue noted. At least, not entirely. By the looks of it, they don’t want to take any chances with him.
Shelby stopped to exchange a few words with a man standing on the pier, who was apparently supervising the various operations. After nodding to him, he motioned to his group to continue walking. They all directed their steps toward the gangway and began climbing it.
They were all going aboard, Blue realised. They were getting ready to leave. Probably for their mission. And they were taking Colonel White and Captain Scarlet with them.
Well, they won’t get far, Blue decided. Time to call in the troops and put a stop to it.
He dropped his cap microphone.
He hadn’t noticed the presence behind him before that exact moment. He didn’t even have time to call up Cloudbase. The butt of a pistol fell heavily onto the back of his head. With a faint grunt, he collapsed to the ground, without even having seen the enemy who had so treacherously attacked him.
Captain Black stared at the Spectrum officer, sprawled unconscious at his feet. Negligently, he played with the gun he had just used to knock him out. There was no compassion on his features, no recognition of the man who, two years ago had been of one his closest associates. Now Captain Blue was but one enemy he had to dispose of, for the Mysterons to complete their plans.
Black raised his expressionless eyes toward the pier. Nobody seemed to have noticed what had just happened not so far away from there. Black was standing there, right out in the open; he could as well be totally invisible.
Black focused his eyes directly toward the bridge of the Drake, on which he knew Mysteron agent Jason Shelby was standing. The latter was watching as the commandos came aboard, bringing with them Colonel White, kept under close guard, and Captain Scarlet, still unconscious and defenceless. He literally went into a state of trance, becoming oblivious to any other presence.
“Commander Shelby, this is Captain Black, relaying instructions from the Mysterons. You are to proceed with the mission according to plan. The Sir Francis Drake shall send the ‘Crowned Head’ to the bottom of the sea, and Colonel White shall be at the helm of his ship when this is done… Make sure both Spectrum officers do not survive the operation. Spectrum will suffer a crippling blow… and the Mysterons will prevail in this war against Earth. We cannot fail now!”
* * *
For the last three hours or so, the Sir Francis Drake, which had been for a time one of the most glorious warships of the British Navy, and then the World Navy, had been sailing quietly off the eastern shores of Scotland, after leaving the safe harbour of Liberty Base, in the Orkneys.
Confined to sickbay since the ship had cast off the ropes, former Admiral Charles Gray had been despairing of saving the life of the injured young Spectrum captain who was lying on his stomach on the recovery bed, motionless and unconscious ever since the moment he had been put there.
If convincing Lieutenant-Commander Shelby to bring Captain Scarlet onboard had been relatively easy for Gray, he had soon realised how hopeless the situation was. There wasn’t much left in the de-commissioned old sickbay to properly tend to the serious wound suffered by the Spectrum agent. It was all Gray could do to get his hands on a couple of first aid kits. There was no medic onboard either, and Gray, who wasn’t much of one, had to insist vigorously that somebody at least helped him provide medical attention to the injured man. One commando had stayed with him in sickbay. Armed, of course. As if Scarlet would be any threat in his present condition.
It’s probably ME that man’s keeping an eye on, Gray had reasoned dully.
The bullets Scarlet had taken at nearly point blank range had gone right through him, which saved Gray the trouble of worrying about that. He would never have dared try to extract them all by himself. Closely watched over by the commando, the admiral had removed the wounded man’s upper clothes, sodden with blood, using a knife to cut right through his dark shirt. Stopping the bleeding, curiously, had proven far easier than Gray expected. In view of the wounds’ severity, he was about sure the Captain would have bled to death; already, he had lost so much. The only help the commando gave him was when it came to putting tight bandages around the officer’s chest and carefully lie him down on his belly. Then the man left, taking care to remove any object in the first aid kit that could be used as some kind of weapon, and locking the door behind him.
Charles Gray had removed his military jacket, stained with the Spectrum agent’s blood, and sat down on a stool next to his ‘patient’, watching over him. Scarlet was stable enough; awfully pale, weak and still unconscious, but alive. If just barely. He was hanging on to life as no other man Gray had ever seen before.
Gray was still reliving in his mind the scene that had brought this dreadful situation. He could not forget how Scarlet had jumped that gun to stop Brighton from firing a second, lethal shot in the direction of the one he had called his commander. Scarlet had certainly been aware of Dempsey’s rifle aimed at him, but he had ignored it. To save Gray’s life, he had put his own on the line.
A second time, a gloomy Gray added inwardly. And this time, he’ll more than likely die for it. There was not much more he could do to attend to the younger man’s serious wounds. Without appropriate medical care soon, Captain Scarlet would surely die.
And I will be responsible for it.
At least the Spectrum officer was unconscious now. That spared him needless suffering. It was a kind of blessing, Gray thought, as he had been unable to find any painkillers to give him.
The former admiral took a quick glance towards the closed door. He knew the armed commando who had helped him with Scarlet was now standing guard on the other side. Shelby didn’t trust him anymore. Of that, Gray was sure. He had seen it in the man’s eyes. The strange look Shelby had cast on him, when Scarlet had told him the he was the one who had killed Brighton and Dempsey, was confirmation enough that he suspected Gray of having a more personal hand in this. After all, he was the one who had the gun in his possession.
Gray was also aware of another thing: by saving Captain Scarlet’s life, when Shelby had ordered to finish him off, he had exposed his own. If anything of what the Spectrum officer had told him already about the Mysterons was true, it was surprising that Shelby had not simply executed BOTH of them by now.
We’re not out of danger yet, Gray brooded. Why did he spare us? He has kept us – ME – alive… Why? What is he planning?
“The Mysterons always have a precise reason for what they’re doing.” Those words from Scarlet kept coming back to Gray’s mind, haunting him.
What could they want ME for, anyway? What was that objective they had, that was to leave Edinburgh in – what – less than two hours from now?
Grunting, Gray took his head between his hands; it had started pounding painfully again. Don’t go too fast, Charlie. There’s nothing to say that there is any truth in what Scarlet and those other Spectrum people had told you…
Right. Dempsey DID call him ‘Earthman’, with so much loathing and hate in his voice… Didn’t that confirm Spectrum’s assertions about those Mysterons? Wasn’t the fact that Captain Scarlet had caught two bullets in the back at point blank range, saving his life, another proof that he was sincere, and ready to lay down his life for him?
Then… what about those contradictory memories of Scarlet assaulting Gray in that sub? Something the Spectrum officer didn’t even deny had happened?
Why is it so difficult to think, to sort all that out? Gray asked himself with growing anger. I CAN’T decide what to do anymore! He knew of a fact about which Spectrum had not lied to him: the Dream Spinner had indeed induced intense paranoia in him. A paranoia that was confusing him and preventing him from seeing clearly enough to make any good judgement.
“What should I do?” he murmured with a sigh. “My God, I was able to take life-or-death decisions without much as a twitch, before all this… Now I feel useless. I don’t know what to believe anymore...” He looked desperately at the motionless body lying on the bed before him. “Well, I may not be sure of much right now, but I DO know ONE thing: you saved my life again. There is absolutely no doubt about that.” He leaned closer to Scarlet, watching him intently. “Captain, can you hear me?”
There was no movement from the Spectrum officer, no indication that he was conscious. Distraught, Gray sat back straight and sighed again.
“I’m sorry. It was my fault you got hurt this badly. I brought you straight into a trap and didn’t heed your warning when you said that’s exactly what would happen. Brighton would have killed me if you hadn’t intervened. And that swine Dempsey… he shot you down without any mercy.”
Thinking he had heard a sound coming from the door, Gray checked in that direction. But luckily, it remained closed. He grumbled sullenly. This paranoia was really getting out of hand.
“I wonder if it was worthwhile,” he added with bitterness. “I’m not the man I used to be. I’m unable to decide what to do… Whatever these Mysterons intended to do to me with that treatment, they certainly screwed up my brain… Tell me, what would your commander’s course of action be right now?” No answers came from the unconscious man. “I’m not sure even now that I am indeed your Colonel White. Shows you how confused things are in my head. I… I certainly could use some advice now, Captain. Yours would be welcome.” Still nothing. Gray frowned. “Come on, Metcalfe,” he called out in a more insistent and commanding voice, “show me some life, here… I don’t want your death on my conscience!”
He heard a faint groan from the wounded officer. Scarlet stirred a little, like a man suddenly disturbed in his sleep. Then he grew quiet and lay still again.
That got Charles Gray worried. He wondered if he had not witnessed the last signs of life of a dying man. He quickly rose from his stool and came closer. He pricked his good ear to listen to the officer’s breathing. He could hear it, shallow certainly, but it was definitely there. Gray felt the young man’s neck for a pulse; was it his imagination? It seemed now slightly stronger than it was before…
It was an impossibility, and yet, there was no denying the evidence.
“You’re a really tough fellow, Captain,” Gray declared, shaking his head. “I’d say you’re getting better… You’re still a long way off, but…” He stopped, his fingers having grazed something small and cold. Looking closely, he saw, partly hidden under the bare shoulder, three metallic items hanging on the slim chain the British officer had around his neck. Out of curiosity, Gray brought it out in full view to examine them in more detail.
The pieces were two apparently regular dog tags, and, with them, some kind of very small coin with an image representing St. Michael the Archangel. Well, that’s natural, Gray mused, since he’s the patron saint of soldiers… But he had to admit that Scarlet didn’t strike him as the religious or even superstitious kind…
Casually, Gray turned the charm in his hand and caught sight of another design on the other side. A halo on a pair of wings… Now, that was familiar. Where had he seen that before? It was quite recently, he was sure of it.
However, something else caught Charles Gray’s attention, which was equally familiar to him.
The dog tags.
At first glance, they seemed to be ordinary-looking dog tags, but there was something peculiar about them. They were metallic, plastic-laminated pieces, with a very small holographic ‘S’ logo, the insignia of the Spectrum organisation. Looks like a chip, or something, Gray noted. Must be carrying I.D. information on the wearer…
Underneath it, the name ‘SCARLET’ was engraved in capital letters, along with an identification number: S-11241S04.
Puzzled, Gray narrowed his eyes at the series of numbers. That looked exactly like the one he had himself blurted out, while being interrogated by Spectrum. And those dog tags…
Similar to the ones he was wearing himself.
A doubt suddenly imposed itself into Charles Gray’s mind. He swiftly reached for the chain around his neck and brought his own dog tags out from under his T-shirt. He tensely scrutinized them, bringing them close to Scarlet’s, to compare the two sets, and read the inscription on his own:
WHITE - S-00498W01
And the Spectrum logo was also present on it.
“Oh, Lord… it can’t be…” His legs suddenly weakening, Gray sat back on his stool. He stared in disbelief at the still-unconscious Scarlet. “So what you said… It was true. All of it was true.”
For a quick, fleeting moment, he entertained the notion that THESE tags had been put around his neck by Spectrum, at one time or another, to replace his own. He dismissed this idea right away. No, these WERE his dog tags. He had them on him when he had awakened after that dreadful Dream Spinner treatment... He even remembered that he had them during the whole process… They never had left him. He was wearing them all the time he had been fighting Spectrum agents, when he tried to escape them, when they captured him… and during all those long hours they were attempting to convince him, to make him regain his senses and see the truth.
Gray wondered if he would have believed them even if he had discovered the dog tags sooner.
Probably not, he added bitterly, well aware of the intensity of his mistrust of Spectrum.
At that moment, a violent flash seared through his mind. He grabbed his head, grunting.
For the umpteenth time, he saw himself strapped onto that table; he had the distinct and highly unpleasant impression of the awful pain going through him again. Will there never be an end to this? he thought savagely. Every time he was close to making a breakthrough, the pain came back, clouding his mind and his judgement, bringing him distorted and confusing memories.
It’s a failsafe for that damned treatment! he realised, dumbfounded. They planted it in my mind, along with those false memories, to stop me remembering too much! They wanted me to stay under pressure, to stay in their clutches!
“Damn you!” he hissed laboriously between his teeth. “You think you have broken me, don’t you? You’ve caused me enough pain… I won’t let you get to me! I won’t let you win!”
He still didn’t remember much, was still uncertain about a lot of things, but there was one dominating thought.
The people he believed to be his own men were in league with those who had captured him and tortured him, and put his mind in such a sorry state.
They were part of the Network.
And they were manipulating him into doing the Mysterons’ work.
That realisation brought a new wave of pain inside Gray’s head. He fell to his knees and let out a cry, in which there was a fair amount of anger, as well as pain and anguish.
The door slid open.
Gray raised his head to see the mercenary who had been standing guard on the other side of the door, staring down at him with a mix of curiosity and suspicion in his eyes. He had his gun trained on him.
“What’s going on here?” The man gave a quick look around, and stopped at the motionless figure on the bed. Captain Scarlet was apparently still unconscious. The commando turned his attention on Gray. “Did the prisoner try to attack you, sir?”
Bloody hypocrite, Gray thought dully, narrowing his eyes at the man. I’m as much a prisoner as Scarlet…
“Does he look in any shape to do that?” the former admiral asked with a rough enough edge to his voice. He started to rise uneasily to his feet. The commando tensed and apprehensively took a step back, his handgun still on the older man.
“Stand up slowly,” he advised.
Gray stared at him straight in the eyes; he complied, carefully showing his empty hands. “It’s all right,” he told the man. “I just had a small… discomfort.”
“Headache. I’ve had a lot of those lately. You know about that, don’t you?”
The man sighed. He still felt uneasy, and it was fairly apparent. “Right, sir. I know. Are you feeling better now?”
“MUCH better,” Gray responded, with a sinister glitter in his eyes.
The commando gave another look toward Scarlet. “If you’re done here, I think it would be time for you to go back to your cabin, now.”
My cabin… My cell, you mean. “YOU think?”
“You’ve done all you can for the Spectrum officer. Doesn’t look like you can do any more.” He shook his head. “Beside, he’s seriously injured…”
“I don’t think it was worth the effort. I’ve seen his kind of injuries before…”
“So according to you, I’ve wasted my time?”
“He’s an enemy, sir.”
“I see. Why bother then?” Gray frowned deeply. “I’m not like you, mister. I can’t turn my back on a fallen soldier, if I can do something about it. EVEN if he’s an enemy.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” The mercenary levelled his gun at Gray, who was staring coldly at him. “I still think you should go back to your cabin.”
“Under whose orders?”
“Mister Shelby.” The man gave an evil grin. “Considering your… present state, he deemed it necessary to take over. Until you feel better, of course.”
“Of course,” Gray repeated sarcastically.
“Should you refuse to obey, I’ve been authorised to use force, Colonel.”
Gray twitched, almost imperceptibly. “I thought we were all on the same side, here.”
“Mister Shelby IS concerned about you, sir. You must admit that you’ve been rather… difficult to deal with, since we freed you from that Dream Spinner, two days ago.”
Yes, I know, Gray told himself inwardly. He did not voice that. He narrowed his eyes at the mercenary, scrutinizing him. He’s quite capable of shooting me down, and he’ll do it without hesitation. I’ve got to be careful…
“What’s your name, soldier?”
Gray nodded slowly. “You’re right, Mister Mendez. I’ve finished here. I’ll follow you to my cabin. I need some rest.”
“That’s a wise decision.” Mendez stepped aside from the door. With his gun still trained on Gray, he motioned him to go first. “After you, sir…”
Gray eyed the commando for a very brief instant; the man was not letting his guard down. It was to be expected of him. “Of course,” the former admiral said, taking a quiet tone. He walked toward the open door.
Right after he had stepped into the walkway, Gray stopped, lingering, deliberately keeping Mendez, right behind him, in the doorway. He quickly checked to each side of the walkway, making sure nobody was there. For the moment, he was all alone with the other man.
But not for long. He had to act quickly.
“Tell me something, Mister Mendez,” he said over his shoulder, “from what you said just now… I take it you were there when I was freed from that hellish contraption?”
“That’s right, sir, I was.”
“Then can you tell me,” Gray continued, “if you were there as well when I was put onto it?”
The icy tone the older man had taken instantly told Mendez something was wrong. He frowned. “Sir?”
“Why did you call me ‘Colonel’, just then?”
Mendez tensed, hearing those harsh words. Growing impatient, he extended the hand holding the gun, with the intention of pushing Gray onward.
The instant the Spectrum commander felt the weapon touching his back, he reacted swiftly. With one hand, he grabbed the other man’s, and with the other, he reached for the handle of the sliding door; he violently slammed it against the mercenary’s wrist. Mendez let out a yelp of pain. Not letting go of the arm, Gray reopened the door, pushed the man inward, and stepped back inside the cabin. He shut the door, and engaged the lock.
The gun had fallen to the floor, dropping from Mendez’ injured hand. With his good hand, the commando swung a mean hook towards Gray’s face, but the latter easily evaded it and landed a punch to the man’s stomach, before hitting his face, sending him against the wall.
Gray stepped toward his opponent. But the mercenary, though surprised and shaken, wasn't finished yet. There was a metallic "click" as he whipped out a switchblade from his pocket.
The blade flashed in Gray’s direction, making him stop in his approach. There was murder in Mendez’ eyes, as he wiped away the blood gushing from a cut on the corner of his mouth.
“You definitely lost it, old man,” he growled with fury.
“No,” Gray replied in a chilling tone, keeping himself ready. “On the contrary.”
Mendez smiled wickedly, playing with his knife as he taunted Gray. “It’s obvious we can’t control you anymore,” he noted. “I may as well kill you now, ‘Admiral’!”
He tried to strike at his opponent, but the knife encountered nothing but empty space; Gray had swiftly stepped aside to avoid the blade, which simply whistled dangerously close to his ear. He then struck in turn, palm first, aiming straight at the commando’s nose. It was the same attack he had used against Captain Magenta, the day before. But this time, he had more success.
The blow drove the nasal bone right into Mendez’ brain. The mercenary fell heavily onto the floor.
Charles Gray stood over the man he had just killed, staring down at him with a look of disgust. Mendez had left him no other choice. He was trying to kill him, Gray had just defended himself. Scum, like the others. All these men, they were nothing more than violent criminals, mercenaries. Worst still, they were humans, collaborating with alien invaders, who were a ‘worldwide threat to humanity’, as Captain Scarlet had put it.
“You can call me ‘Colonel’,” Gray spat bitterly, addressing the dead man.
He bent down to take the gun; he checked the amount of rounds in it, and tucked it into his belt. He also took the knife, closed it, and pocketed it. Mendez had no other weapon on him. No matter. Those would suffice. He had work to do.
With a renewed assurance and resolution upon his features, Charles Gray came back to the bed where Scarlet was lying, still unconscious and unaware of what had happened.
“I know you can’t hear me, Captain,” he said, standing next to him. “I told you earlier that when I knew what was going on, I’d follow my conscience and do my duty. I’ll be true to my word.” From his neck, he removed the chain with his dog tags and bent to put them into the injured man’s hand as it hung from the bed, close to the floor. “If you wake up and find this, you’ll understand that I’ve made the right decision.”
He stood up and turned to walk towards the door, his face grim with determination. He knew he was now the only one able to stop the Mysterons, whatever their intended target may be. They wanted to use him, along with his old ship, to carry out their vile actions. He would not allow that. Neither he nor the Sir Francis Drake would lose their reputations and go down with infamy upon their names.
Nobody knew better than he the way round this ship and it was a definite advantage to him.
Stepping out of sickbay and cautiously closing the door behind him, he turned left down the narrow walkway, straight towards an access staircase going further down into the belly of the Drake.
The Mysterons won’t succeed. I’ll stop them. Even if I have to die to bring them down with me, I’ll stop them.
I’ll make Spectrum proud.
They’ll know their colonel has not let them down.