A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
Captain Magenta entered the sickbay room that had been assigned to Captain Ochre to find his colleague seemingly sound asleep in his bed, a portable computer on his lap. Intrigued and somewhat worried, he approached him and carefully prodded him on his uninjured shoulder.
“Hey, Rick,” he called out with some concern in his tone. “Are you feeling okay, buddy?”
Magenta was relieved when he saw his friend tiredly opening his eyes. He rubbed them with his fingers and stared at the Irish-born captain.
“Hi, Pat,” he said with a thick voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Checking up on you, that’s what I’m doing. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I guess I am… Feel a bit sleepy, but…” Ochre frowned. A sudden suspicion had just come to his mind; he stretched out his hand for the empty glass standing on the small table next to his bed. He sniffed it and then groaned with disgust. “Drat! That damned nurse! She tried it again, and this time, she succeeded!” He glowered at the perplexed-looking Magenta. “She slipped a sleeping pill into my glass of water!”
Magenta chuckled; he gave his friend an encouraging thump on his good arm. “So I guess the great detective Richard Fraser isn’t as infallible as he thought he was, eh? He’s just been had by a nurse!”
“A devil disguised as a nurse!” Ochre muttered, shaking off the rest of his drowsiness to come back to his portable computer. “That woman doesn’t seem to understand that I have work to do!”
“Don’t be so hard on her, Ochre. I bet she’s just following Doctor Fawn’s orders.”
Ochre scowled. “Somehow, that wouldn’t surprise me one bit!”
“He did tell you to take it easy and to get some rest so you’ll heal faster.”
“But we’re on red alert, with a missing commander and we need all available hands… and I still have one left.” Ochre paused a few seconds, tapping on a couple of keys. “How are things going, anyway, with Special Agent Conners on board Cloudbase?”
“Not too bad,” Magenta answered with a large grin, sitting down on the chair beside the bed. “You should have seen his face when he saw me in the Control Room, when he arrived here! He was totally livid! It was priceless, I tell you! It would have been a prank worthy of you!”
“I see Scarlet has been taking notes,” Ochre said with a smile, still typing. “Conners must have been upset when he was told that neither Rhapsody nor I was available to talk to him.”
“Not really. He didn’t even seem surprised. Neither was he surprised when he learned the colonel was away, ‘otherwise occupied on an affair that requires his personal attention’.” Magenta shook his head. “The guy’s a total creep, Rick. He’s on to something, I’m sure of it. We’ve got to be careful with him.”
“What’s he doing right now?”
“Some research on the computer databank.” Seeing Ochre raising his eyes to him, with an enquiring look, Magenta added quickly: “Lieutenant Green and I made sure he doesn’t have access to any incriminating data, concerning the present situation. Like your report and Rhapsody’s. And I assigned a security guard to keep a close eye on him.”
“Good. I hope he’ll stay out of our hair long enough for us to do some work and see this thing through. You heard anything from Scarlet and Blue yet?”
“No, not yet… We’re still waiting for their signal. I hope Scarlet’s plan will work. Still seems risky to me. But I guess we had no choice. Green is keeping watch for them in the Control Room.”
“In the meantime, we’ve got to continue searching from our end, to find out what the Mysterons’ target is.” Ochre frowned. “Devil of a nurse…” he muttered again. “She made me lose so much time…”
Magenta sighed. “Rick, we have entire teams checking out every angle on the database – and elsewhere. You don’t need to push yourself that hard.”
“I’ve got to help any way I can, Pat. And since I’m stuck here, I might as well do some research.” Ochre looked up at his friend. “Got any bright ideas, in that thick Irish skull of yours?”
Magenta rubbed his chin, looking thoughtful. “Blue is convinced that this target we’re looking for is British…”
“That seems logical,” Ochre admitted, nodding. “A British warship, a British admiral…”
“He’s quite safe where he is. And considering the content of the Mysterons’ threat, and since they seem to plan using the torpedoes they stole from the Naval Depot, I don’t see how they could harm him in any way. He’s nowhere near any place where the Sir Francis Drake could strike at him.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yes, quite sure. He’s obviously not the target.”
“What else but a king – or a queen – could be a ‘crowned head’?”
“That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out for the few last days, Magenta,” Ochre sighed. “I mean, there are other possibilities, of course. Things and places bearing monarchs’ names, for example… Restaurants, hotels, companies, cities… entire lands, for Heaven’s sake…”
“Ships?” Magenta suggested tentatively. “The Mysterons plan to use an old British warship… along with a retired admiral. Are there any British Navy ships bearing the name of a monarch?”
Ochre gave him a look. “So you think they’re pulling another President Roberts?”
“There’s nothing to say they can’t use the same trick more than once, Captain.”
Ochre tapped a series of keys on his computer. He nodded when information appeared on the screen. “The Victoria and the King Edward VII,” he answered. “But Spectrum had already checked that avenue. The King Edward destroyer was put in dry dock in the Azores more than six months ago, after sustaining major damage in an accident. Since it’s an old ship, the proper authorities don’t seem in any hurry to put it back to sea, and the ship is still out of active duty. That’s not much of a target, obviously... As for the Victoria carrier, it’s sailing off the coast of Australia as we speak now. Even going full speed, I can’t see the Drake reaching it in time to destroy it before the Mysterons’ deadline!”
“Well,” Magenta insisted, “if it’s not a Navy ship, then what about a civilian one?”
Ochre gave him an odd look. He typed another command, and a new list appeared on the screen. He grumbled. “That’s what I thought; that’s already been checked. There are a number of civilian ships using monarchs’ names. Most notably, cruise liners. For example, the Queen Elizabeth II…”
“Ochre, you know that’s not a liner anymore. It’s a high class restaurant now, permanently docked in the Pool of London.”
“…Where it’s been since 2025, when she stopped cruising,” Ochre added, reading the information on his computer.
“I don’t see WHY the Mysterons would want to destroy a restaurant, even one with the QE2's reputation.”
“Nevertheless, it has been viewed as a possibility. So it’s been closed by Spectrum for the last few hours. It won’t open its doors again until after the Mysterons’ deadline has passed and we’re sure there’s no more danger.”
“I still think that’s not it. What about the other ships?”
“There’s just so many… They’re either out of reach or stuck in drydock, or…” Ochre stopped, frowning deeply. “Crowned head…” he murmured. He pointed to a line on his screen. “Hello… what’s that?”
“What did you find?” Magenta asked curiously. He got up from his chair and moved closer to Ochre, leaning toward the screen, to get a look at it.
“That’s a list of every British cruise liner using the name of a monarch, or of any related word that might make reference to a king, queen, crowned head… you get the idea.” Ochre pointed to the first column, where the names of the ships appeared. He then showed the next. “Here’s the name of the ship owner,” he explained. Then his finger slid to the third column. “Here’s the construction company, with the date the ship was built.” He got down directly to the fifth name on that last column. See that: the ‘Crown Ship Builders Incorporated’…”
“Builder of the King William IV, for the Caribbean Cruise Company.” Magenta read on. “Could it be…?”
Ochre asked his computer for further references on the ship and its builder. The screen shortly came up with information on the King William IV, which the two captains read expectantly.
It was disappointing.
The S.S. King William IV, built in 2012, had been wrecked ten years before after an encounter with a tropical storm in the Bahamas. Fortunately, there had been minimal casualties during the incident, but the ship had sustained so much damage that it could not be repaired. It had been dismantled and its parts sent to the breakers soon after.
“False alarm,” Magenta sighed heavily. “We’re going nowhere!”
“You see why I feel so frustrated about that?” Ochre grumbled. “It’s been like this since I began these searches!”
“Has Crown built any other ships bearing monarchs’ names?”
Ochre shook his head; asking the computer for the list of ships built by the Crown Ship Builders Incorporated, he consulted it quickly. “Doesn’t seem like it,” he murmured.
“Think it could be the company itself?” Magenta suggested.
Ochre scowled. “Seems unlikely. That wouldn’t fit the Mysterons’ riddle… Hold it!” Ochre pointed his computer screen again. “The de Brus… Lord, I’ve seen that name somewhere… In a newspaper, quite recently.” He typed again on his keyboard, watched by a perplexed Magenta.
“What’s the de Brus?”
“The latest construction from the Crown company. Their…” Ochre stopped. A news article had appeared on the screen. “…Their ‘crowning achievement’, as the publicity calls it,” he finally said, gesturing toward the article. “It’s supposed to be the finest, fastest, safest, most beautiful cruise liner ever to come off their assembly line. In fact, it wasn’t constructed on an assembly line… A lot of it has been built by hand, the old-fashioned way.”
Magenta grumbled, reading the article. “Seems like a load of hype. Doesn’t it remind you an awful lot of the Titanic? And we all know how that ended up… ” He shook his head. “But I don’t get it. De Brus… That’s not the name of a king.”
“How wrong can you be, Magenta. Robert the Bruce. Or Robert de Brus. He was crowned King of Scotland in the 14th Century, after he had united the Scottish clans around him to throw the English out of his country. He was a short-lived king, but a king nevertheless… And so he fits the Mysterons’ description of a crowned head.”
“So the target could be that boat named after him?”
“SHIP, Pat. It’s called a ship. Don’t let Brad or the colonel hear you call it a boat.”
“I certainly would NOT be inclined to get on the colonel’s bad side,” Magenta mumbled, reaching for the cast covering his nose. “And certainly not in his present state.”
“Tell me about it,” Ochre added, with a sigh. “Now let’s see what more we can learn about the S.S. de Brus…” He typed a new command and soon, new information appeared on the screen. Magenta saw his friend’s features becoming suddenly grim. “Pat, this ship is making its maiden voyage tomorrow morning.”
“It will be leaving Edinburgh for New York, with a capacity two thousand passengers, at exactly seven o’clock. One hour before the Mysterons’ deadline… God! That may be it!”
“Well, looks like it anyway, but…” Magenta stopped, seeing Ochre putting his computer aside, and pushing the blankets away from him to swing his legs over the side of the bed.
Magenta stood up straight, frowning. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m outta here,” Ochre declared. “I can’t stay lying on this bed, while the Mysterons prepare to destroy a ship full of innocent people! Give me my clothes, Captain!”
“You can’t be serious!” Magenta protested. “You know what Doctor Fawn said…”
“Right now, I don’t care about Fawn,” Ochre replied harshly. He went to a nearby cabinet and opened it to look inside for his clothes. Finding it empty, he violently slammed the door. “Damn! Magenta, please, go to my quarters and bring me back my uniform.”
“Rick, be reasonable… You’ve been hurt!”
“I’m not THAT hurt!”
At precisely the moment Ochre said those words, the door slid open. Both Spectrum officers’ jaws dropped when they saw Special Agent Martin Conners stride in; he was closely followed by a security guard who stole a rather embarrassed glance toward Captain Magenta.
“Is that so, Captain Ochre?” Conners declared, walking directly toward the dismayed Ochre. “Then it appears I’ve arrived just in time!”
“What are YOU doing here?” an annoyed Ochre demanded aggressively.
“I’m trying to have a talk with you, Captain.” Conners gave a sideways look toward Magenta. “But it seems there are some people here who are intended to stop me from doing that!”
The security guard had approached the grim-looking Magenta. “I’m sorry, Captain,” he murmured, apologizing. “I tried to stop him, but…”
“That’s all right, Corbin,” Magenta said, nodding. “I guess there was no way to avoid it.”
“You better believe it!” Conners snapped, addressing the Irish-born captain. He turned back to Ochre. “You know, going by what I’ve been told, I fully expected to find you dying… or at the very least, plunged into a deep coma!”
“Are you trying to be funny, Mister Conners?” Ochre asked with a frown. “Because if you are, you’re not succeeding.”
“What is it you’re all trying to keep from me?”
“What makes you think we’re keeping something from you?” Magenta asked innocently.
“I would have thought that was obvious!” Conners countered. “I’m tired of playing hide and seek with you Cloudbase people! Can you explain about Captain Ochre, here? Or about Rhapsody Angel? You know full well that I needed to talk to them concerning that ambush at Quartermaster Dooley’s house. Why are you trying to stop me from seeing them?”
“Mister Conners,” Ochre said, sighing with annoyance, “we’re on red alert, in case you didn’t notice, and we’ve got some very pressing business to attend to…”
“If you’re well enough to work, Captain Ochre, then you’re well enough to answer my questions!”
“What IS this?” Ochre exploded with irritation. “An inquisition? Why not bring out the whip and the branding iron, while you’re at it, Conners?”
“Don’t mock me, Captain!” Conners jabbed a finger into Ochre’s chest. “I want to know what happened during that ambush!”
“You don’t have the authority to give me orders,” Ochre hissed between his teeth. “Without a formal order from my superior, I don’t think I have to tell you ANYTHING, if I don’t want to!”
“Where IS your superior, then?” Conners retorted. “Where’s Colonel White?”
“I told you already,” Magenta answered. “He’s gone on business that needs his personal input.”
“Official business?” Conners insisted. “Which has something to do with the present situation?”
“We’re not at liberty to tell you.”
“Don’t give me that, Captain Magenta! The only truth I’ve been able to get from you is that the colonel is not onboard Cloudbase! That much I’m certain of, just as I am certain he’s not gone on ‘official business’!”
“Are you suspecting us of lying?” Ochre asked with a deep frown.
“I’m suspecting the whole lot of you of conspiracy, Captain!”
“Conspiracy?” Magenta snorted. “Don’t you think you’re pushing it a little far?”
“Am I?” Conners replied coldly. “You’re covering up the fact that Colonel White has been Mysteronised!”
“Are you completely nuts?” Magenta snapped almost instantly.
“Where did you get an idea like that?” Ochre asked with the same angry tone.
“You’re not the only one with investigative skills, Captain Ochre,” Conners answered dully. “I did some research of my own. I learned that Colonel White usually stays at his friend Dooley’s home whenever he’s on furlough in London. It was probably to fetch him or to search for him that you went there two days ago with Rhapsody Angel, where you fell victim to that ambush. I asked around: I was told that nobody – inside or outside Spectrum – has had any contact with the colonel – or even heard of him – for quite some time, and especially not for the past three days. Since prior to the present Mysteron threat, to be exact. So, I feel quite certain that it’s Colonel White himself who trapped you at Dooley’s…”
“I was right,” Magenta sighed. “You ARE nuts.”
“Don’t make your case worse, Magenta!” Conners growled at him. “Considering your criminal past, it wouldn’t look good for you! It’s bad enough that you’ve been left with the responsibility of Cloudbase right now.”
“Hey!” Magenta protested, bristling under the insult.
“That was uncalled for,” Ochre said suddenly, in defence of his companion. “Captain Magenta’s past is not an issue anymore. I would think that the last three years he spent with Spectrum would be more than enough to prove he’s reformed!”
Magenta had trouble hiding a grin of satisfaction. That Ochre, of all people, would be the one to speak up for him would have been unheard of a couple of years ago. In those early days with Spectrum, former police detective Richard Fraser didn’t trust mobster Patrick Donaghue as far as he could throw him.
Things had changed considerably since then, it seemed.
“As for this preposterous little theory of yours,” Ochre continued, addressing Conners, “let me tell you that you’d better not let the colonel EVER hear you say that! You could regret it bitterly.”
“Is that so, now?” Conners replied icily. “I’d say you’re bluffing…”
“I’ve heard enough.” Ochre made to step round Conners, who was blocking the way to the door, when the Intelligence man stopped him with a very firm hand.
“You’re still trying to avoid me,” Conners noted.
Ochre looked down at the hand on his chest, then with a smirk on his face returned his attention to Conners. “Well, you’re right about THAT assumption,” he retorted. “We’re ALL trying to avoid you. Now remove that hand from me, before I remove it myself!”
“Is that a threat, Captain?”
Before a very angry Ochre could answer the question in his own fashion, Magenta’s epaulettes beeped and flashed white. The Irish captain flipped down his cap mic to answer the call he knew came from the Control Room. He was hoping it was good news.
“Yes, Lieutenant Green?”
“Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue’s deadline just expired, Captain Magenta,” came the communication officer’s voice. “We have received no news from either of them.”
Next phase of the plan, then, Magenta mused. “I’m on my way,” he told Green. He cast a quick glance toward Ochre who was staring back at him expectantly, having temporarily forgotten about Conners, who was now silent, waiting. “Captain Ochre may have found some important information concerning our ‘crowned head’,” Magenta continued into his mic. “Call Captain Grey. Tell him to go to Edinburgh and check on the S.S. de Brus, which is supposed to leave port tomorrow morning, for New York. It may be the Mysterons’ intended target.”
“In the meantime, find any available data on that ship. That may be useful to us. Keep me informed, please.” The mic returned to its place on the visor.
“Any news yet?” Ochre asked.
“I’m afraid not,” Magenta replied, shaking his head. “Our team’s deadline is up. Time to move on.” He hesitated a second, giving a sideways look in Conners’ direction, before addressing Ochre anew: “If you think you’re well enough to come back to active duty, we can sure make good use of your help.”
Ochre answered his friend with a grateful grin. “I’ll go get dressed,” he announced. He was already hurrying out of the room, followed by the intense stare of Conners, who made a move to go after him. Magenta stopped him right away.
“I’m not finished yet,” Conners protested, addressing the Irish captain. “I’ve STILL got to talk to Captain Ochre…”
“Concerning that little theory of yours?” Magenta was adamant. He shook his head. “And WE still are on red alert. How can we spell it out so you would understand? We’ve got a very difficult Mysteron situation we’re desperately trying to counter. THAT takes priority over your own ridiculous assumption, Mister Conners. You’re in the way. So leave us alone, and let us do our job.”
He brushed the man away and strode quickly toward the door. Conners turned to him with anger.
“Go do your job, then,” he called out sharply. “Time is on my side on this. You and your friends won’t be able to hide from me much longer. We shall see then if my ‘assumption’ is so ridiculous, Captain!”
Magenta stopped at the door to turn on his heel. “In the meantime, I’d suggest you keep it to yourself.” His tone carried serious warning. “I swear to you, if I hear rumour of this on Cloudbase, or if you obstruct us in any way, I’ll have you thrown into the brig!”
Conners scoffed loudly. “You don’t have the authority!”
“Don’t think I don’t!” Magenta retorted sharply. “As I see it, you would be posing a threat to security on this base, with that kind of defamatory accusation. Are you deliberately TRYING to hinder our work by instilling doubt and mistrust, Agent Conners? We certainly can’t allow that, now can we?”
“You got some nerve…”
“I don’t think there would be a soul on Cloudbase to blame me or to cry over you if I order that you should be locked up. Now unless you want me to do just that, keep away from us until all this is resolved.” Magenta addressed the most polite of smiles to Conners. “Have a nice day, Mister Conners!”
That said, Magenta turned and quickly walked out of the room, leaving a glum-looking and silent Conners standing behind, obviously baffled that the Spectrum captain should talk to him in such a way.
As the door slid closed behind him, Magenta felt a hand falling heavily on his shoulder and turned around; Ochre was there beside the door, a mischievous smirk on his face.
“You’re a mean guy when you want, Magenta,” Ochre said with a nod of approval. “You really put that creep in his place!”
“My pleasure,” Magenta replied with a deep sigh. “I had to call on every ounce of authority I once had when I was the head of… er… that other organisation, you know?”
“You still got it, I see.”
“Appearances can be deceiving.” Upon seeing the quizzical look Ochre then gave him, Magenta answered with a somewhat embarrassed smile. “My knees were shaking all the time in there. I was wondering how long I would be able to keep that bluff up. It was time I got out!”
Ochre’s grin broadened. “Let’s hope you impressed that creep enough for us to do our job... and show him how wrong he is about the colonel.”
“The worst part is… he’s not THAT wrong!” Magenta pointed out. “We thought the same, remember? And if that weasel continues to dig in that direction, it could mean trouble for all of us. Not to mention the whole of Spectrum.”
“But he IS wrong, anyway,” Ochre insisted. “And we just have to see this thing through to prove it to him. So we’d better start moving, now.”
“Right,” Magenta said with a nod. “So go get yourself dressed, Captain. Meet me in the Control Room for a quick briefing, and then we’ll move on!”
There was a determination in Magenta’s tone that greatly amused Ochre; it was obvious the Irish-born captain was taking his charge of Cloudbase very seriously.
“Yessir!” Ochre responded eagerly, breaking into a run toward the nurses’ station.
Magenta briefly watched him go, telling himself that his colleague’s help, for the remainder of the mission, would indeed be needed. Then he turned away, and went the other way down the corridor, directing his steps toward the nearest elevator, putting aside all thoughts of the worry Conners’ accusations had brought and could still represent.
The mission ahead needed all their attention now. There was no place for any distracting thoughts.
He was just hoping that it would be a complete success.
* * *
Up until now, Colonel White had avoided any encounters with the crew, since he had left the Sir Francis Drake’s sickbay.
It was fairly easy. Only the minimum of personnel had boarded the destroyer. A skeleton crew of about ten men; a dozen at the maximum. That meant that everybody was assigned to a specific station and that there couldn’t be many people patrolling the decks looking for possible intruders. Anyway, as far as the crew was concerned, the only possible threat onboard was from the two men they were keeping confined to sickbay. They were supposed to be closely guarded, with one of them seriously wounded, possibly dying, and the other too confused to decide what to do.
How wrong could they be…
As easy as his progress had been so far, White was certain he would find some resistance when he reached his goal.
The torpedo room. There was no way Shelby would have left it unguarded. There would be two, maybe three men there, getting the ordnance ready to strike whatever target they intended to destroy.
It was situated at the extreme tip of the bow, far below the waterline. From the path he had taken, White could only access it through a narrow hatch, down a ladder, which led to a walkway. The door accessing the torpedo room was near that ladder.
White arrived at the hatch, still with no problem at all. It was open; carefully, without a sound, he went down the ladder. He could see the door to the torpedo room below, on his right. Voices were coming from there. He cautiously closed and sealed the hatch, and then climbed down the ladder. He took from his belt the gun he had taken from Mendez, and approached the opening, keeping close to the wall. He was feeling nervous enough. Easy, now… Better take your time here, Charlie old boy. You don’t want somebody to find you out before you have the time to act.
Reaching the door, he managed a peek inside. Two men, one working on the mechanism of one of the torpedoes, the other leaning on a wall, his arms crossed, his rifle next to him. The other, too, was armed, a gun in the holster at his side.
“Come on now, Harris, let’s get moving!” the man leaning on the wall was telling his companion impatiently. “Shelby will have our guts, if this thing isn’t ready in time!”
“How much time we have left before we reach the objective?” the other asked.
The first man consulted his watch. “The ship will have left port by now. We should intercept it in an hour tops.”
“It’ll be ready, don’t worry.”
A ship, White mused, wondering. They planned to sink a ship. What kind of ship, exactly? And which port had it left?
Edinburgh. That was the closest major seaport to Liberty Base.
“How come those torpedoes don’t work, anyway?” the impatient man continued with annoyance.
“Hey, they’re oldies, Crandall!” the other answered, sighing. “Don’t ask too much from them. And by the way, eight out of twenty are working perfectly. They just needed some modifications for them to work as we want them to.” With a smile, he closed the plate of the mechanism he was working on. “That makes nine, now. That should be quite sufficient for what we need.”
“They’ll detonate on impact?”
“That’s what they're supposed to do, yes.”
“I’ll be glad when this is over. That Shelby guy gives me the creeps.”
“Yeah. And I’m not too sure about the admiral either.” Harris began screwing the plate in place, using an electric screwdriver. “We’re hardly able to keep him in line. He’s going to lose it for sure.”
Crandall chuckled. “Fortunately, we won’t have to put up with him much longer. When this mission is over, I’m pretty sure Shelby will get rid of him.”
“Hopefully with a bullet through his thick head.”
White was not missing a single word. If he was troubled by what he was hearing, it also confirmed his suspicions about these men and dispelled his last doubts about the righteousness of what he was about to do.
They wanted to destroy a ship; innocent lives would be lost. He had to stop them.
By any means necessary.
He stepped into the opening, aiming his gun in the direction of the two men. “Don’t move, you two!”
At first, they were startled to see him there. But then Crandall, shrugging away his surprise, made a very foolish attempt to grab his rifle and aim it toward White; the latter didn’t waste any time in hesitation; he pulled the trigger once. Hit in the chest, Crandall was thrown backward against the wall, and then slid to the floor.
Harris had his hand on the handle of his own pistol; he stopped in the act of drawing it when he saw the smoking barrel aimed directly at him.
“Don’t try it!” White hissed between his teeth.
Harris carefully let go of his weapon, while White approached him. The mercenary cast a dumbfounded look toward his companion, now lying on the floor, motionless. He swallowed hard.
“You killed him,” he croaked.
White relieved him of his weapon, tucking it into his belt. He pushed his own gun under the man’s nose, staring him straight in the eyes. “Yes, I did,” he answered, a very sinister edge to his voice. “And I’m quite ready to do the same to you.” He saw the fear in the mercenary’s eyes and gave him an ominous grin. “What was it you said earlier?” he growled. “You wanted to see me with a bullet in the head?”
“The others will have heard…”
“Nobody could hear anything of what’s going down here!” White snapped angrily. “I know that… Remember? This was my ship. I know all there is to know about her. I sealed the access hatch. And when it’s closed, this room is absolutely soundproof.” He shoved his gun in the man’s face again. “Now, if you want to do something stupid, be my guest: it will be my pleasure to put a bullet in YOUR head!”
Harris swallowed hard again. Nervously, he shook his head. “What is it you want from me?”
White nodded toward the torpedo the man had been working on just a few minutes ago. “You’re an expert with this kind of ordnance, aren’t you?”
Harris nodded hastily. “Yeah, I know my stuff with detonators…”
White’s features hardened. “Perfect. That will make it easier for me. You will give me some help.”
“What do you plan to do?” Harris asked, with worry in his tone.
The grim smile White gave him did nothing to reassure him. “I expect you would like to know that, would you?”
* * *
Captain Blue gave a low grunt as he was roughly thrown onto a dilapidated, dusty chair. Wincing at the pain in the back of his skull, he addressed a murderous look toward the two armed men standing on either side of him.
“Take it easy, guys,” he told them grimly. “You have the advantage… I don’t have any intention of resisting you.” For now, he added inwardly.
Blue felt rather frustrated, though he was trying very hard to keep that to himself. When he had awakened only minutes ago, it was with a violent headache, and to discover that he was lying on the pier, a couple of mercenaries aiming their weapons at him. The Drake was gone, with Colonel White and Captain Scarlet probably onboard. They certainly were in deep trouble, and he wasn’t faring much better.
The men had roughly hauled him to his feet. Then they half pushed, half dragged him through the base courtyard where he saw the transport helicopter he had seen earlier in the hangar. It had been brought out, and was being hurriedly loaded by a group of commandos, along with two other, smaller helicopters sitting next to it. Blue had been brought to a large construction behind the helicopters, and then into this room that looked like a disused conference room, if he was to judge by the large oak table in the middle of it, and at the end of which he was seated. He had no illusions about what would become of him… Unless he could play for time long enough.
Blue reached for the back of his hurting head with his right hand and felt the rather large bump he had there. He gave another grunt and brought his hand back in front of his eyes to see his fingers stained with his own blood. “You guys sure made it hard on me,” he grumbled. “What were you trying to do, break my neck?”
“They’re not responsible for what happened to you, Captain Blue.”
Blue looked toward the far end of the long table. There was a man, in his mid-forties, standing there, staring at him intensely. He was not dressed as a commando like the others, but was wearing simple, casual, civilian clothing. The captain had not noticed him before this moment.
“I don’t think I know who you are, sir,” he told the man with the most polite tone he could produce.
The other answered with a cold smile. Quietly, he walked around the table to come nearer to the Spectrum officer. “My name, Captain, is of no importance to you.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Blue replied matter-of-factly. "I think Spectrum would be VERY interested to find out who YOU are.”
The man didn’t answer. Another commando had come into the room to give him Blue’s radiocap. The man stared at it for a moment, before addressing the newcomer: “How’s the evacuation proceeding?”
“Smoothly. All remaining material and personnel are nearly ready to go… We could be on our way in about fifteen minutes.”
“Inform me when it’s time, then.”
Blue pricked up his ears at the title. He looked on as the commando left the room.
“So you’re a doctor?” the Spectrum captain asked, staring at the man dressed in civvies. “What kind of a doctor, exactly?”
“I think I am… a very skilful one, Captain,” the doctor replied coolly.
Blue narrowed his eyes at him. “I bet,” he hissed. “I think I can get a pretty good idea of your handiwork, judging by what you did to Colonel White.”
There was barely contained anger in Blue’s voice and the doctor noticed it. He smiled icily and approached nearer still, putting the radiocap on the table, in front of Blue. Just out of reach, as if intending to taunt him with it. It was obvious the captain was tempted, but it would have been impossible for him to reach it and use it, before being stopped.
“Working on your commander was a very interesting experience, Captain. It’s not every day I am given the chance to have a subject like him!”
Blue bristled; he made a move, as if he had the intention of going for the doctor’s throat. The barrel of a rifle pressing heavily on his chest stopped him instantly. He glanced furiously toward the two men guarding him; trying his very best to keep his fury in check, he returned his attention to the doctor.
“If you think you’ll get away with what you’ve done to him,” he growled, “you’re badly mistaken, ‘Doctor’!”
The man smiled. “You think you’ll… how would you put it, exactly? – Right… Make me pay, Captain?”
“I have every intention of doing just that,” Blue promised dully. “And we’ll find a way to help the colonel get through this.”
The doctor laughed softly. He sat down on the corner of the table. “Your capture of him was a surprising enough development,” he noted. “You know, I would have presumed that he would have died before letting himself be taken alive by ‘the enemy’.”
“He was trying to get himself killed,” Blue declared bitterly. He stared intensely at the doctor. “I know about the Dream Spinner’s side effects.”
The doctor didn’t bat an eyelid. If he was surprised that Blue was aware of the method he had used to subvert Colonel White’s mind, he didn’t show it even for a second.
“I know how that… thing uses memories of traumatic events and weaves a false reality around them,” Blue pursued. “You must be very proud of yourself, Doctor. Are you the creator of that abomination?”
“Oh no…” the doctor replied quietly. “The Dream Spinner was invented many years ago… ironically, during this country’s Militarist Regime. It made a reappearance some years ago. Me, I just… updated some parts of the treatment.” He shook his head, blatantly ignoring the fury he could see in the Spectrum captain’s blue eyes. “My part of the mission was supposed to be finished, after the treatment I gave your commander. But I was called here, after you took him in Bristol. I was to make sure he was still loyal to us, if he should ever return. I didn’t have time to check that out, since the Drake had to leave in such a hurry.”
Blue scoffed derisively. “Lucky for you you didn’t have to see him. Judging by his recent behaviour, if he had recognized you… he would have killed you. Not that I would have been unhappy about THAT.”
“You’re really too kind, Captain.” The doctor paused for a moment, before adding: “I’m sorry about your friend, by the way.”
“My friend?” Blue carefully repeated.
“The one who was with Colonel White when he… came back to us. Captain Scarlet… He was brought onboard the Drake. I was told he was severely wounded and that he wasn’t expected to survive… A pity, really.”
Okay, Blue realized instantly. These people don’t seem to know about Scarlet’s healing ability. Maybe that could be an advantage…
“What are your intentions with the colonel?” Blue asked harshly.
“Exactly the same as before,” the doctor answered, still very quietly. “He’s gone off to execute his mission with the Drake.” He stared Blue straight in the eyes. “Of course, you know of the Mysterons’ threat…”
“Yeah, I know of it. But you’re not a Mysteron.” Blue waited for a reaction. He received none. He narrowed his eyes at the doctor. “Sure, you’re cold enough… but you are human.” He nodded toward his two guards. “Like those guys. Like the others preparing to leave outside.”
“Very observant, Captain. But then, you’re not one of Spectrum’s finest for nothing.” The doctor got to his feet and turned around, walking slowly back to the other end of the table. There was a medical bag standing there. Blue followed the doctor’s every movement with his eyes.
“You arrived here in the same SPJ as Colonel White, didn’t you?”
“No,” Blue answered. “I parachuted here straight from Cloudbase.”
“I thought it was Captain Ochre who was the funny guy in your organisation.”
Blue didn’t blink. “It’s obvious you know an awful lot about us,” he noted dully.
“We have access to good, reliable information.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Blue answered with coldness in his tone. “What is your angle with the Mysterons, anyway?”
The doctor didn’t answer. He had opened his bag. Blue could easily imagine that what it contained could not be good for him.
I’m really in deep, he mused grimly. And time is running out… I have to play for it.
“Spectrum has good, reliable information too,” he told the doctor. “I know about the ‘Network’.”
That caught the man’s attention. However, he didn’t seem to lose any of his coolness. “Colonel White told you about that?” he noted simply. He was searching for something inside his bag. “What else did he tell you?”
“Enough for us to realise that you must be stopped.”
“…But you don’t know what our ‘angle’ with the Mysterons is…”
“I’ll take a wild guess,” Blue retorted in disgust. “You’re collaborators. What is it, you’re expecting them to be grateful to you for having betrayed us all, when this war is over? If that’s the case, you’ve chosen the wrong side, Mister!”
The doctor nodded quietly. He reached inside his bag. “I suppose it was to be expected that Spectrum would find out about us, someday. But as for stopping us…” He took a very small bottle out of the bag and put it down on the table, before staring again at Blue. “Don’t think it will be an easy task, Captain.”
“Spectrum won’t stop until you’re through.”
“Perhaps. But there’s a sure bet you won’t be amongst its ranks to see that day.”
Blue’s features became hard. “You’re going to kill me?”
The doctor’s smile was a cold one. “You’re more intelligent than that, Captain. You’d be dead already, if we had wanted to kill you.” He took a small metal box out of his bag and put it onto the table, opening it carefully. “You’re more precious to us alive…”
From where he was seated, Captain Blue could see a full set of syringes and needles inside the box. He vigilantly watched as the doctor took a needle to insert into one of the syringes.
“What do you want from me? Information?”
The doctor didn’t answer. He had just driven the needle through the cap of a very small bottle, containing a liquid of yellowish colour; he carefully filled his syringe with it. He then addressed a scrutinizing gaze toward the Spectrum captain, with all the attention of a scientist keeping a close watch on an interesting guinea pig.
That’s what I must be to him, Blue realized.
“What’s that stuff you’re obviously preparing for me?” he asked with a concerned frown.
“It’s nothing for you to be afraid of, Captain,” the doctor answered. “Just a very strong sedative. With that, you’ll be asleep in a matter of seconds.”
“You’ll excuse me if I don’t feel reassured.”
“As you know, we’re leaving. We don’t want to wait to see if Spectrum will arrive here, searching for you or the others… We intend to bring you along.”
The doctor gave Blue an even colder stare. “I want to take my sweet time to… work on you.”
Blue let the information sink in. “You want to do to me what you’ve done to Colonel White,” he stated, keeping his face expressionless.
“I KNEW you were an intelligent man,” the doctor replied with another icy smile. “I’m sure you’ll be a perfect recruit. Imagine if we were to send you back to Spectrum, after having ‘convinced’ you to become one of our own. You’d be the perfect spy amongst Cloudbase senior staff. Not Mysteronised. Completely undetectable.”
“Is that what you had in mind for Colonel White after his mission with the Drake was over?” Blue asked, frowning.
“The particular treatment your colonel received was not conducted with that aim in view. It has left him paranoid, violent, too difficult to control… too unpredictable for a mission that subtle.” The doctor shook his head. “Besides, he’s not coming back from this mission with the Drake.”
“Why, you creep…”
“I’ll have enough time to work PROPERLY on you, Captain. The result won’t be the same as with Colonel White.”
Blue’s face became hard. He remembered what Doctor Fawn had said about the Dream Spinner, and what it was used for. He already understood that this doctor wanted to use on him that long, dreadful treatment, that planted in the mind of its victim a permanent false reality, which he would be totally convinced was the absolute truth.
A fantasy from which, according to Fawn, there was no hope of escape.
“Spectrum KNOWS of the effect of the Dream Spinner,” Blue retorted. “If I disappear for too long, they’ll be suspicious of me, if you ever want to use me the way you describe.”
“Then we’ll find another use for you,” the doctor replied icily. He narrowed his eyes at Blue. “I wonder what traumatic memory you have that we’ll be able to use against you, Captain… I’m quite eager to find out. I’m sure it will be interesting to learn what it is that haunts you…”
“You’ll be wasting your time,” Blue answered, between his teeth.
The doctor scoffed. “Don’t tell me there’s NOTHING in that eventful life of yours that could have left its mark on you, Captain! I wouldn’t believe it.”
“I will die before I let you subvert my mind like you did my commander’s,” Blue challenged.
The doctor chuckled softly. “You Spectrum officers are all the same,” he stated, moving quietly toward Blue, his syringe in his right hand. “You think you’re so strong. Your Colonel White said roughly the same to me before I started working on him… But within minutes, he was writhing and screaming. The pain the treatment inflicted him was too much for him to bear. He wasn’t able to resist the Dream Spinner. Nobody is. You’d be foolish enough to think you would be more successful than he was!”
Hearing his mocking remarks, Blue became livid with anger. Unable to control himself much longer, he sprang from his seat, with the obvious intention of jumping at the doctor, but he didn’t get very far. The two mercenaries guarding him caught him almost right away, and they forced him back to his chair, using brute strength. The Spectrum captain struggled desperately, but was unable to escape from the two strong pairs of arms restraining him. He watched with worry in his eyes, as the doctor approached more closely, his needle ready for use.
“Keep him still,” the doctor coldly instructed the two commandos. “This shouldn’t take long.”
He was a couple of feet from the still struggling Blue when a violent explosion made itself heard from outside. The room shook, and everybody froze. The doctor and the two commandos looked at each other in concern, wondering what had just happened.
There was a shrieking sound, shortly followed by a second explosion. Blue’s face then lit up with a satisfied grin.
“What was that?” the doctor murmured.
“I’m surprised you haven’t already guessed,” Blue retorted pleasantly.
The doctor cast an icy look at his prisoner before striding quickly to the nearest window. He was just in time to see one of the helicopters in the courtyard exploding in a huge ball of fire. The commandos outside scattered in every direction.
Three sleek screaming white fighter jets suddenly appeared overhead and swept over the courtyard; the doctor blanched.
“Spectrum Angels!” he croaked. He turned toward Blue, with an incredulous look. “How the Hell…”
“Did you really expect we’d walk straight into an obvious trap without taking out some insurance?” Blue asked between clenched teeth.
There was murder in the doctor’s eyes, as he turned toward the two men still maintaining their hold on Blue. “Did you check if he had a tracker on him?” he asked them accusingly.
“Wrong place to look, doc,” Blue replied. “I’m not bugged. You should realise that every Spectrum craft is equipped with its own beacon device.” He gave a faint smile. “So well hidden that your men would never find it, without dismantling the plane entirely!”
Another explosion outside, making the building shake once more, compelled the doctor to look again through the window. Another helicopter had just exploded, hit with deadly accuracy by a powerful missile. Hearing the sputtering sound of machine guns, the doctor then saw that the Angel fighters were not alone in attacking Liberty Base: four Spectrum helijets were flying low, shooting at the mercenaries outside, forcing them to hide behind anything that could provide good enough cover. Some of the men tried to retaliate, firing at the Spectrum craft, but their firepower was simply no match; the doctor saw three of them falling, mown down by fire from one of the helicopters.
The doctor turned away from the window, throwing his syringe onto the table behind him. “We don’t have time for this anymore,” he stated quickly. He gave a cold look toward Blue and then strode toward a door at the other side of the room. “We must leave this place without delay. Kill him.”
Before either of the two men restraining Blue could obey the order, the Spectrum officer quickly acted. Since the Angels’ appearance, his guards had relaxed their grip on him. Slightly, but enough for him to take matters into his own hands. He jerked his head back, striking the man behind him right on the nose. The mercenary grunted in pain and completely let go. Blue’s booted foot caught the second commando in the groin. The man’s knees buckled under him and his finger instinctively squeezed the trigger of his rifle. Blue threw himself to the floor, getting out of the line of fire; the bullets meant for him instead hit the man behind him, wounding him mortally.
Dumbfounded by how quickly things were now happening, the doctor looked on as Blue violently threw the chair he had previously occupied against the legs of his last opponent. The Spectrum officer pressed his attack against the unbalanced commando and jumped him, slamming him into the wall. The doctor was dismayed as he saw Blue snatch the rifle and knock the man down with it; he didn’t wait much longer, and quickly ran the distance separating him from the door.
Captain Blue let the second mercenary slide unconscious to the floor, and turned the barrel of his newly acquired weapon in the doctor’s direction, ready to fire. “Stop where you are!”
But the doctor didn’t heed his call; he already had opened the door and was stepping out of the room. Blue fired a shot that destroyed part of the door frame, but did not stop the fleeing man. Muttering a curse, the captain set after him, grabbing his cap from the table on the fly.
He arrived at the door just in time to find the doctor, now in another, smaller room, opening another door leading directly outside. Blue could see the last of the enemy helicopters, waiting outside. The Spectrum agent aimed at the fugitive. “I said STOP, Doctor!”
The echo of his words had not disappeared when the helicopter suddenly blew up, sending a huge ball of fire straight into the wall against which the doctor was standing. The wall exploded violently. The blast knocked Blue off his feet and threw him back into the conference room. He just had time to see the man he was trying to capture being caught by the explosion.
Stunned for a short moment, Blue finally got up, staggering to his feet, his weapon carefully aimed at the open door through which he could now only see smoke, fire, and rubble in the other room. Sometimes, the girls are a little bit too trigger-happy, he mused, realizing that it could only be a missile from one of the Angel fighters that had destroyed the helicopter and hit the building at the same time.
He carefully made his way toward the door and took a look inside the half-destroyed room. At first, he couldn’t see much; the choking smoke was much too dense. Gradually, though, it cleared away, and Blue saw that the wall where the exit door previously was had completely disappeared and that a huge hole now opened to the outside. Blue searched through the rubble, and found the body of the doctor, lying motionless in the middle of it. He felt for a pulse; although apparently seriously injured and unconscious, the man was still alive.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, Captain Blue thought grimly. It was a hollow victory, though. The doctor might not live long enough to face justice and to provide information on this Network organisation he was a part of.
Sighing, Blue rose to his feet and went out through the hole in the wall. Outside, he could see the Angels still sweeping over the area, while three of the five Spectrum helicopters were landing, each disgorging a group of heavily armed ground agents, who then went in search of the enemy forces on the ground.
A sound coming from his left made Blue raise his head just in time to see two enemy commandos running at him with weapons at the ready. The Spectrum officer hit the ground and fired his rifle at the same time as the two men. His fire caught one of his opponents, who fell to the ground. Blue aimed at the other man, still standing, and squeezed the trigger. To his utmost horror, his weapon refused to fire.
The commando gave a satisfied grin when he realised the Spectrum captain was now at his mercy. He levelled his gun, and Blue thought, for a brief instant, that it was all over.
A crackling sound made itself heard. Cut down by a hail of bullets, the mercenary dropped. Behind the falling man, a surprised but relieved Captain Blue saw a Spectrum helicopter descending toward the ground. The barrel of the machine gun under its belly was smoking, and Blue could see a grim-looking Melody Angel at the helm, staring down at the dead man she just had stopped from killing one of Spectrum’s own.
Blue was rising to his feet as the helicopter touched down; its side door was wide open, revealing both Captain Magenta and Captain Ochre kneeling in the opening, looking expectantly at Blue. After a quick look around to make sure all was now safe for him, the blond officer broke into a run toward the craft. He was quite distressed when he saw Ochre pulling a gun on him, with his left, uninjured hand.
“Stay where you are, Blue!” Ochre called out over the sound of the helicopter rotor.
Blue stopped on the spot, wondering what was going on in the mind of his colleague. He understood instantly when he saw Magenta using a Mysteron detector on him, and was quite relieved when, a moment later, he saw the broad grin on the Irish captain’s face after he had checked the photograph he pulled out from the detector.
“It’s all right, Captain! You’re clean!”
Blue blew out a sigh and approached. “I’ve never been so happy to see you, folks," he shouted, "but you sure just gave me a scare!”
“Considering what we’ve been through lately,” Ochre noted, shrugging, “I don’t think it was an unnecessary precaution.”
“You’re right, of course. What are YOU doing here, Ochre?”
“It was either coming here, or fighting off Conners' attempts to question me. Considering the alternative…”
Four ground agents were now jumping out of the craft in order to join their colleagues who had begun rounding up the remaining mercenaries. Blue caught hold of one of them as he passed, and thumbed toward the half-destroyed building he had just left.
“There’s a seriously wounded man in there. Have a medic take a look at him and have him flown to the nearest medical facility. He won’t cause you any trouble, but keep him under close guard.”
The man nodded his acknowledgment and headed toward the building. Magenta, who had heard Blue’s instructions to the Spectrum commando, looked at his colleague curiously.
“Friend of yours?”
“Hardly,” Blue replied. “That’s that ‘doctor’ who performed the brainwashing session on the colonel.”
The others looked at him blankly. Blue shook his head.
“He’s been hurt badly during the attack. I hope he’ll survive long enough for him to provide us with useful information.”
“Well, anyway,” Ochre remarked, “he’s out of the equation now. That’s good news.”
Melody had left her station in the helicopter to find out what was going on. Seeing her, Blue gave her a cheerful smile. “Good shot there, Melody. You’ve just saved my life.”
“Don’t mention it, Captain,” the young Black pilot replied with a broad smile. “It was obvious you were in trouble.”
“Well… Thanks, anyway!”
Blue looked thoughtfully at the three agents in front of him, staring back at him expectantly. They noticed he seemed somehow embarrassed.
“I’ve got some bad news as well,” Blue said, hesitantly. “I lost Scarlet and the colonel.”
There was a stunned silence from the others. Blue sighed.
“The Drake's already sailed, with them on it. According to what the ‘doctor’ told me, the colonel is to carry out the Mysterons’ threat. As for Scarlet, he’s been shot. At this moment, he must be under guard on that ship.”
“The old man shot him?” Magenta asked with a frown.
“I don’t know that for sure. I just hope he will be all right. No matter that he’s indestructible, he’s vulnerable enough when he’s wounded. Enough for the enemy to find a way to get rid of him permanently.”
Blue was looking grim; the others could see that he felt as if he had failed and was responsible for what was happening now. Ochre flipped down his cap mic and called the Angels, ordering them to stop the aerial attack over Liberty Base and to spread out in search of the Sir Francis Drake. “You are not to attack the ship,” Ochre specified over the radio. “Just find it, as quickly as possible, and report its position. You’ll get further orders then.”
He received the acknowledgment call from Destiny, who presently was at the helm of Angel One. The three interceptors made a last sweep over the base and then headed off in three different directions, over the sea. Magenta patted the gloomy Blue’s broad shoulder, comfortingly.
“Don’t worry, Captain. That ship can’t have got very far. We’ll find it.” He noticed the blood on the back of Blue’s neck, matting the blond hair. He frowned, worriedly. “You been hurt, buddy?”
Blue ran his hand on the recent wound and grimaced. “Somebody blindsided me the moment I was getting ready to call for back-up,” he explained. “Never saw him coming. But I could swear I was alone on that pier the second before it happened.”
“Think they’ve moved that ship out of here because they suspected Spectrum was on its way?” Magenta asked.
“I don’t know. As I said, that doctor said it had gone to carry out the Mysterons’ threat… Now if only we knew what it could be…”
“We may have a possibility,” Ochre intervened. “A cruise liner, the S.S. de Brus, is to leave Edinburgh tomorrow morning at seven o’clock. Exactly one hour before the Mysterons’ deadline.”
“We thought the Drake might intend to attack shortly after departure,” Magenta added.
“De Brus?” Blue repeated.
“Named after a famous Scottish king, Robert the Bruce,” Magenta explained.
“You impress me, Magenta. I didn’t know you knew that much about British history.”
“That’s culture for you. And good education. I keep telling that to Ochre, but you know him: he never listens.”
Ochre opened his mouth with the intention of protesting; then he realised the futility of even trying to respond to Magenta’s obvious tease, and chose to keep quiet. He contented himself with looking daggers at his Irish colleague, who was smiling mischievously at him.
Ochre cleared his throat. “If the de Brus is the Mysterons’ intended target, then why has the Drake gone so early?”
“The doctor could have lied and the Drake could simply have gone to another hiding place,” Magenta observed.
“Or maybe the de Brus isn’t the target, after all,” Blue replied.
“Or maybe it will be attacked while it’s still in port,” Ochre suggested.
Blue gave it some thought. “I trust a Spectrum security team has been dispatched to Edinburgh?” he asked.
“Grey’s gone there. He’s supposed to give us a full report…” Captain Magenta was interrupted right in the middle of his sentence when his epaulettes flashed grey. “Speak of the devil…” he muttered, flipping his mic down. “Go ahead, Captain Grey.”
“We have a problem, Magenta,” he heard his colleague say. “I just arrived in Edinburgh by helicopter. The de Brus left port about thirty minutes ago.”
Magenta’s features became glum. “Say that again?”
“I know it was supposed to leave tomorrow morning, but the departure was brought forward, to accommodate the schedule of some Scottish diplomat. It was a last minute decision. As I speak right now, the de Brus is heading down the Scottish coast.”
“Oh, great!” Magenta reported to Ochre and Blue what Grey had told him.
Blue shook his head in understanding. “So, maybe you were right after all about the de Brus being the Drake’s target. We’d better find both of those ships very soon, before it’s too late. Call the Angels, and inform them of this new development, Magenta. Get the chopper ready to go, Melody.”
“S.I.G., Captain,” the Angel pilot replied, before swiftly returning at her place in the pilot’s seat.
Ochre jumped out of the helicopter, as Blue was climbing into it.
“You go with Magenta,” Ochre told his blond compatriot. “I’d better stay here to supervise cleaning out this wasps’ nest.”
“This ‘wasps’ nest’ was once a famous stronghold for liberty in Britain, Captain,” Blue reminded him with a stern edge to his tone.
“All the more reason to clean out all the scum occupying it,” Ochre retorted.
Blue nodded, and then indicated the arm Ochre still had in a sling. “Be careful, then. I don’t have to remind you you’re not in the best of shape.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself. Worry about finding Scarlet and the colonel. And stopping the Mysterons.” Ochre addressed a nod toward Magenta. “Don’t forget to tell him about Conners.”
“What about Conners?” Blue asked, frowning. “What did that weasel do?”
“I’ll let Magenta fill you in while you’re on your way. Go on, now! You’d better not lose any more time!”
Blue gave his colleague a quick salute and pulled the door closed. A second later, the Spectrum helicopter took off, and gained altitude. Ochre stepped back and watched as the craft climbed into the sky, heading toward the sea. Then he flipped down his cap mic.
“Sergeant Webber,” he called decidedly, “I want a quick report on how the clean-up operation is going right now. We’d better be thorough. I want all the enemy forces rounded up as soon as possible… And I don’t want anybody to escape us.”
* * *
On the bridge of the Sir Francis Drake, Lieutenant Commander Jason Shelby’s Mysteron double was coldly contemplating the situation’s most recent developments. Darrow, stationed at the radio control, had just told him that they had lost contact with Liberty Base, about fifteen minutes after the radar had shown several dots converging straight toward it. It was obvious to Shelby that Spectrum had come to retrieve its missing commander from the Network’s clutches, and that the men who had stayed behind, preparing to evacuate the base, had been trapped there.
The Drake had not left a moment too soon, Shelby mused.
Hopefully, there was nobody in Liberty Base aware of the destroyer’s destination. All those who were there were simple mercenaries, hired hands. Of course, there was the doctor; but even he didn’t know the exact scope of the mission. However, Shelby was certain that Spectrum would eventually find the Drake, and would stop at nothing to prevent it from carrying out the Mysterons’ threat.
They would not succeed, a confident Shelby silently vowed to himself. Whatever Spectrum did, it would be too late. The Mysterons would not fail this time.
Spectrum’s impending efforts to find and stop the Drake didn’t worry him at all. In fact, he was a little more concerned by the other call he had just received from sickbay. It concerned Colonel White, who, he had found out minutes earlier, was not in the captain’s quarters, as he was supposed to be. Having called sickbay, and not receiving any answer from there, Shelby had ordered three commandos to go down there, to check things out. He suspected something had gone wrong.
He had confirmation of that when one of the men called him back, to report that Mendez, the commando assigned to guard the Spectrum commander, had been killed, and that Colonel White had disappeared.
“What about the other Spectrum agent, Mister MacBride?” Shelby asked.
“He’s still there, sir,” the heavy Scottish-accented voice of MacBride answered over the radio. “He’s still alive, but unconscious. He doesn’t seem to have moved. Of course, that’s not surprising, considering how badly he has been injured…”
“Of course,” Shelby coldly repeated. “So it would appear that it was Colonel White who killed Mendez, and that he’s now somewhere on the ship… up to something to stop us, undoubtedly.”
“Yes, sir. And he’s armed. Mendez’ weapon has also disappeared. The colonel must have taken it.”
“That old man never ceases to amaze me. The least we can say about him is that he doesn’t give up easily.” Shelby let out an annoyed sigh. “Right. If he wants us to play his game, so be it. Send every available man after him, Mister MacBride. Find him quickly, and have him brought to me, in the wheelhouse. And I want him ALIVE. Make sure everybody understands that perfectly, do you hear me?”
“Loud and clear, sir.” There was a pause at the other end of the radio, as MacBride pondered something else. “What about the other Spectrum agent?” he finally asked.
An evil smile crossed Shelby’s face. Captain Scarlet had been a thorn in the Mysterons’ side for far too long. Now he was at his mercy, temporarily wounded, unable to defend himself. Now was the occasion to settle the score with him, permanently.
And he knew of a way to do it.
“Kill him,” he instructed MacBride over the radio. “And dispose of the body. Weigh it down and throw it overboard.” His smiled broadened ever more. “Let’s see how he gets out of this one…”
“Sir?” MacBride replied, apparently confused by the Mysteron’s last remark.
“Don’t question my orders, man. Just do as I say. And do it NOW!”
Shelby heard MacBride cut the communication, and did the same at his end. Thoughtful, he went to the glass window, which enabled him to peer down at the lower bridge, below.
That should take care of Captain Scarlet, he reflected. He won’t be seen or heard from again.
As for Colonel White, the Mysterons weren’t done with him yet.
* * *
In sickbay, MacBride radioed the other commandos to give them Shelby’s orders concerning Colonel White. Then he turned to the two men with him to tell them of the last instructions he had received regarding Captain Scarlet, before sending them to join the others in the search for the Spectrum commander. He found himself alone in sickbay. He was confident that he wouldn’t need anyone else to carry out Shelby’s orders. One look at the wounded Scarlet, still lying unconscious on the bed, was enough to convince him that he couldn’t possibly cause him any problem.
MacBride couldn’t figure out, however, why Shelby seemed in such a hurry to get rid of the Spectrum officer. The way the mercenary saw it, and judging by the seriousness of Scarlet’s injuries, there was no need for urgency in disposing of him. He shrugged it off, thinking that maybe Shelby was just eager to see the man dead, thus having one enemy less to worry about. There couldn’t be a better, more logical explanation.
MacBride looked down in contempt at Mendez, lying where he had fallen, his nose broken. Colonel White obviously had done a quick and efficient job on him. It was more than probable that Mendez had not been careful enough with his charge and that he had let himself be surprised by him. MacBride had always regarded Mendez as a negligent and careless fool. Always getting into trouble. Something like that was bound to happen to him sooner or later.
A grin curved MacBride’s lips. It had just occurred to him that, while Mendez was definitely an idiot, he always had a lot of money on him. He remembered that he even carried up to a thousand pounds in his pockets at a time. He wondered how much he had today. He certainly wouldn’t mind departing with that…
I certainly have the time to check it out… Might as well help myself. Nobody will ever know.
MacBride crouched in front of the dead man and began searching him. As he had hoped, he found some banknotes stashed in various pockets. And they were BIG notes. He emitted a grunt of satisfaction and his smile broadened.
“Why, Mendez, you sneaky devil!” he muttered under his breath. “That’s quite a bundle you have here! Wonder what you planned to do with that…”
He began to count slowly; he had reached about one thousand two hundred pounds when he began to rise to his feet. He shook his head, chuckling, almost not believing his luck.
“I can’t thank you enough, Mendez, old pal,” he said joyfully. “This is great! You carrying so much money during a mission… You were even more a fool than I thought!”
He didn’t even sense the presence behind him before it was too late. A very strong arm suddenly seized him under the throat, strangling his cry of surprise before he could utter it. MacBride lost hold of the money when a hand caught his right arm to twist it behind his back.
“It’s true what they say then,” he heard an English voice say in his ear, with an ominous ring to it. “There’s no honour among thieves…”
Panic crept into MacBride’s heart. From the corner of his eye, he had seen the stern face of the Spectrum officer he thought was still lying on the bed behind him. But that was impossible; the man was seriously injured. He couldn’t even move a muscle; he would even less be able to stand to sneak up on him and attack from behind. But as he struggled to try to free himself, MacBride realised with growing terror that the arms holding him were more than strong enough to resist his efforts. He was brutally pushed face first against the wall.
In desperation, MacBride nervously reached for the handle of his gun with his left hand. He had only half got it out of the holster when Captain Scarlet put his hand onto his, letting go of his right arm.
“You’re welcome to try!” the Spectrum agent hissed between his teeth.
On the other side of the door, one of the two men who had earlier entered the sickbay with MacBride heard the cracking sounds of two shots. He looked at the closed door for a short moment and then smiled knowingly.
MacBride had carried out his orders concerning the Spectrum officer.
* * *
Colonel White climbed out from torpedo tube number four. That was the last one. He consulted his watch. It had taken twenty minutes to get all his work done. That was fast enough, and easier than he had previously anticipated. Now everything was set and ready.
Blowing out a sigh, he looked down at the bound and gagged man sitting on the floor, not far from him. Harris was rolling furious eyes at him; he knew what the colonel had been doing, and the latter was now considering what to do with his prisoner. He was an unwanted witness; it was important that the others did not discover what he had prepared. With that in mind, he had already disposed of Crandall’s body, putting it into an unused, small cabinet, under a large pile of dirty blankets.
But killing a helpless captive wasn’t a solution the Spectrum commander would even think about.
I’d better lock him somewhere safe, White mused. A place where the others won’t find him. Not until it’s too late, anyway.
Using Mendez’ knife, he cut the ropes binding the concerned Harris’ ankles and helped him to stand up. “All right, then. You’re coming with me. Do as I say, and nothing bad will happen to you.”
But Harris, afraid for his life, had nothing further from his mind than co-operation. The second he was on his feet, he rammed into White’s stomach, knocking him aside. Taken by surprise, White lost his balance, and fell against the wall behind him. Harris scrambled out of the torpedo room.
It didn’t take too long, however, for White to regain his footing, and he set out in pursuit of his fleeing prisoner. He had not gone far, and White reached him in the walkway, just a few yards away from the room they had left. White grabbed the man from behind and furiously tossed him face first against a wall. The commando let out a grunt of pain and struggled to get free, but the colonel kept him pinned down, preventing his escape.
“Damn it!” White grumbled with impatience. “You’re really trying to anger me, aren’t you? Keep quiet, you –“
White stopped right in the middle of his sentence, as the sound of hurrying feet caught his ear. He turned his head to his left, to see two other commandos, armed with rifles, quickly coming his way. Seeing them too, Harris struggled even more and succeeded in disengaging from the colonel’s strong hold, pushing himself off the wall. His timing couldn’t have been worse, as he suddenly found himself right in the middle of the passageway, directly in the others’ line of fire, at the precise moment they chose to shoot. He received the bullets meant for White, unwillingly shielding him from any harm.
As Harris fell heavily to the floor, White didn’t lose any time in taking advantage of the small respite he had been given, and headed toward the other end of the passageway, where he could see another access door, wide open. He cracked a couple of shots over his shoulder, in direction of the two commandos, forcing them to take cover.
White reached the door; he closed and sealed the hatch behind him. Finding a rusted wrench lying on the floor, he used it to jam the door. He was hoping it would hold long enough for him to put some distance between him and his pursuers. He had no illusions, however; the two men must have radioed to alert the others about him, and backup was surely on its way. It would only be a matter of minutes before they succeeded in trapping and capturing him.
He had no intention whatsoever of making it easy for them.
White took a look around. He was in the ordnance storage room. Empty, of course, as the Drake had been decommissioned for years. All the torpedoes stolen by Shelby were in the torpedo room; there was no other weapon onboard, aside from the handguns, rifles, and machine guns carried by the commandos.
There was another way out of here, Colonel White recalled. At the other end of the room. He could see it from where he stood. Now, to reach it before the enemy could figure it out and cut off his way out. He quickly crossed the room, looking around for any enemies who might already be in there, hidden somewhere, ready to surprise him. But there was nowhere to hide properly in this place. As it was, White found that he was himself dangerously out in the open.
He heard banging behind him and looked back; somebody was trying to force down the access door he had jammed. It was holding for now, and White, not waiting to find out for how long that would be the case, hurried toward the other door. Reaching it, he found himself in another passageway, right at the foot of an iron stairway. He climbed it, swiftly, and reached another, smaller room, on the upper deck.
That was when he distinctly heard a clicking sound: it was the hammer of a revolver being cocked, not far to his right. He turned around quickly, raising his gun, and ready to shoot.
A thundering sound echoed in the room. Colonel White felt the bullet hitting him in the right shoulder; his arm went numb, and he lost his gun. The impact drove him back; he nearly fell down the stair he had just climbed and dropped heavily on the floor. Moaning in pain, he reached for his wounded shoulder.
He heard footsteps and raised his head. Coming out of the shadows, his smoking gun levelled at the colonel, a man was approaching, with a casual, but heavy, step. White looked with incredulity upon the face of the man who had nailed him. He shivered suddenly, a feeling of instant panic threatening to take him over, and he had to call upon all of his inner strength not to give in to it.
What he was seeing wasn’t possible.
“I think you forgot, Admiral, that I know this ship as well as you do. Once I knew where you were, it was easy for me to guess HOW you would try to escape…”
“Greg,” White murmured, dumbfounded. “Greg Dooley… But it can’t be! I saw you dead…”
The older man gave a wry smile, hearing those words, keeping his gun trained on the Spectrum commander. There was an unusual, cold expression upon the familiar, elderly face looking down at Colonel White, such as he never had seen upon it.
“Yes, Earthman,” the other man said with loathing in his voice, bending down next to White, his gun still aimed at him. “Greg Dooley IS dead… As you shall be yourself, when the Mysterons have finished with you!”
White swallowed hard. “You’re not Greg,” he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’re one of those Mysterons…” He shuddered anew, as pain reverberated through his head, making him temporarily forget about his wounded shoulder. Images flashed quickly in his mind; there was an uncomfortable feeling of déjà-vu, as he stared incredulously into Dooley’s icy eyes. “YOU were the one who trapped me,” he murmured. “I… I remember now…”
“So you do,” Dooley deadpanned. “A little too late for you, I’m afraid, Admiral.”
Three armed commandos entered the room to stand behind the crouching Mysteron agent; lying there, grasping his wounded shoulder, White understood that there was no chance to escape, now. He kept staring at Dooley; he couldn’t see any mercy in those cold eyes implacably fixed on him.
If he had hoped to see any trace of his friend in those eyes, he was deeply disappointed. Greg Dooley was surely dead. And this… reconstruct of him, this Mysteron, was nothing more than an inhuman, unearthly creature set on his destruction…
He could almost feel the hate emanating from him.
Seeing how desperate his situation was now, White felt anger taking the place of fear in him; surmounting the pain from his wounded and bleeding shoulder, he lashed out furiously at the Mysteron, even trying to rise from where he was lying.
“Whatever you want to use me for, I won’t let you do it! So you’d better use that gun and kill me now, damn you! And be done with it!”
“Not now,” Dooley answered quietly, standing up and staring down at the defiant-looking Colonel White... “Yes, we still have plans for you… You’re still an important part of this mission. And whether you like it or not, you’ll help us.”
He motioned to the men standing behind him and two of them stepped forward on either side of White to brusquely drag him to his feet, without any consideration for his wounded shoulder. The Spectrum commander bit his lip to muffle a grunt of pain, and didn’t resist, as he knew there was little point in even trying. Dooley nodded his satisfaction, and gave him another, even icier smile.
“You’ll die in the service of the Mysterons, Admiral. I’m sure you can appreciate that…”
“You haven’t won this game yet,” White challenged him.
Dooley stood there, impassively, without the slightest emotion apparent on his face.
“Take him to Mister Shelby,” he ordered the mercenaries. “I know he’s eager to see him… And this time, you’d better not let him escape!”