A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
Spectrum Helicopter A-31 reached the de Brus twenty minutes after leaving Edinburgh. The pilot circled over the liner, while Captain Grey made radio contact with her captain, to inform him of his intention to come aboard with Captain Forest. At first, the de Brus skipper wasn’t really sure how the Spectrum officers would actually do that. The liner wasn’t equipped with a helicopter pad, like a warship, and so they wouldn’t be able to land on it. He thought that maybe they would come down a line, or something like that. Grey told him not to worry about it.
The skipper and his first officer were standing on the ship’s Promenade Deck, with the majority of passengers, who had already been attracted there by the helicopter flying low over the ship. Obviously, they were curious about what was going on. The skipper too was curious, for he hadn’t been told anything yet. He just knew that if Spectrum was there, it had to be something serious.
The skipper was rather surprised when he saw two men slowly descending toward the Promenade Deck using what looked like jetpacks. Cheers and applause broke out from the delighted passengers, in appreciation of the unexpected entertainment.
As the two men set foot on deck, quickly relieving themselves of their power packs, the skipper approached them, himself applauding, a large grin on his face. He extended his hand to Grey. He introduced himself.
“Captain John Theodore. Nice to have you onboard, sirs.”
“Captain Grey and Captain Forest, from Spectrum,” Grey answered, shaking hands with the older man.
“Those devices are really impressive,” the skipper said, gesturing toward the power packs. “That’s quite a show you just put on!”
“Thank you,” Grey answered, with a faint smile. “But it wasn’t intended as a show, skipper.”
“I had a feeling it wasn’t,” Captain Theodore said, nodding gravely. “What brings Spectrum to the de Brus, on her maiden voyage?”
Grey looked around at the passengers surrounding them. Their arrival had drawn too much attention. If not for the urgency of the situation, Grey would never have used the power pack to come aboard. “Can we go somewhere more private first?”
Theodore nodded again. So, it was as serious as he thought. He motioned toward the nearest door. “This way, if you please, gentlemen…”
Captain Grey thanked him with a nod, and followed the skipper, Captain Forest close behind him.
* * *
Closely guarded by the two commandos, Colonel White was brought to the bridge. His wounded shoulder, left untended, was hurting him like crazy, and he pressed his left hand against it to minimize the loss of blood. In spite of this, he felt well enough. No headache had struck him, as he now had a clear understanding of exactly where he stood. Now he knew who his enemies really were; there was not the slightest doubt in his mind, even though there were still a lot of things he didn’t remember of his life.
Upon entering, White looked around, assessing the room. Shelby was in front of the central controls, his back to him, and was looking up at a monitor screen set high over it, just above the large bay window that permitted an outside view. Not far from him, about four feet away from the central controls, was the console upon which were the various remote controls for the ship’s armaments. Only one set of them – the torpedo launch controls – were of interest to him, and anyway, they were the only ones functional at present.
Next to the helm, a man sat in front of a radar screen, which was beeping regularly.
“Target still on screen, sir. We will be in visual range in less than ten minutes.”
White saw Shelby nodding thoughtfully, not taking his eyes off the monitor. “Thank you, Mister Darrow. Let me know as soon as it’s in sight.”
There was a short moment of silence, before Shelby turned around to finally acknowledge Colonel White’s presence.
“I’ll be glad when this mission is over… You’re becoming quite an annoyance, Admiral.”
“Don’t call me that,” White swiftly and harshly replied. “Only those who knew me back then, and those who are my friends have the right to do so.”
“Like Quartermaster Dooley, you mean?” Shelby gave White an ironic smile.
The Spectrum commander-in-chief responded with an icy stare. “You killed him,” he stated in a low tone.
“Captain Black killed him,” Shelby answered, walking toward the older man. “But maybe you don’t remember that correctly.”
“That’s just a technicality,” White replied, his anger growing. “Your Mysteron masters engineered his death.” He paused a second, trying to calm down, aware that he was still feeling the side effects of the Dream Spinner treatment. “He was a peaceful, elderly man, who cared only for his gardening. He didn’t pose any threat to you. You transformed him into one of your kind. Why?”
“To get to you, that’s why, Colonel White.”
Shelby stopped right in front of White and waited for a reaction. The colonel’s stare became nothing less than murderous.
“You remember that, don’t you? You remember your Spectrum rank… I suppose the time you spent in Spectrum’s custody was enough for your men to convince you.”
“So much for the so-called effectiveness of the Dream Spinner,” White replied bitterly.
Shelby shook his head. He turned back to the monitor. “How unfortunate for you that you came to your senses too late to stop this mission.”
He had returned his attention to the screen. White raised his eyes to it; he knew about this monitor. It had been his observation post for many years. Cameras around the ship were connected to it, so he would be aware of what was going on onboard. It was currently showing the upper stern deck. What could possibly interest him there? White wondered. It’s as if he’s waiting for something… He would have thought Shelby would be more inclined to use the camera set at the very tip of the ship’s bow. He would then have had a clear view of the Drake’s intended target, the moment it was sighted.
“Don’t be so sure you will succeed,” White answered between his teeth, in answer to Shelby’s last remark.
The other man scoffed loudly. “And who’s going to stop us? Spectrum? They don’t even know where we are at this moment. You?” He gave an evil grin, showing the full contempt he had for the colonel. “Or your much-vaunted Captain Scarlet?”
White narrowed his eyes with suspicion. What could Shelby be up to? He had said these words without taking his eyes off the monitor screen. White turned his attention back to it.
He saw one of the commandos coming out from an open door to step onto the stern deck. He was carrying on his shoulders a very large canvas bag, obviously containing something heavy. The man walked toward the bulwark, and leaned down to drop his burden unceremoniously onto the floor, next to a big rusted chain hooked to an equally rusted anchor. White went cold inside when he suddenly realized the bag contained a human body. He could see the commando tightly securing the chain to red-booted feet protruding from one end of the bag.
No doubt of the identity of the person who was in there…
“Wait a minute!” White protested with anger in his tone. “You can’t be serious about this… The man isn’t even dead!”
“Are you sure of that?” Shelby replied coldly.
White hesitated, suddenly unsure. At least, the last time he had seen Scarlet, he WAS alive. Seeing his hesitation, Shelby gave him an ominous stare.
“Anyway, if he’s not now, he will be very soon,” he continued icily.
White blanched. “That’s murder!”
“Call it what you want. Too long has Captain Scarlet interfered with the Mysterons’ plans. Now we have the opportunity to stop him, once and for all. I’m not about to let it pass.”
Outraged, White made a threatening step toward Shelby, apparently intended to jump at him. One of the two men still standing on either side of him hit him in the stomach with the butt of his rifle. He collapsed heavily on the floor, with a painful grunt. Shelby had not moved from his spot; he hadn’t shown the slightest reaction. Impassively, he stared down at the colonel, lying at his feet.
“That was stupid, sir. Not to mention absolutely useless.” He raised his eyes to address the two commandos. “Shackle him to the helm.”
White blinked, hearing these words. He felt strong hands grabbing him and dragging him to his feet. He tried to break free and made a move, this time not toward Shelby, but to reach the armaments console. He felt a blow again, this time to the side of his head, right on the dressing covering the wound Rhapsody had caused him. His head reeled, and his knees buckled under him. Half-conscious, he was dragged over to the helm, and dropped in front of it. Somebody took his right hand, and snapped the end of a handcuff around his wrist, before extending his arm and securing the other end to the helm. That sent a wave of pain down to his injured shoulder and forced a cry from his lips.
“That will be all, men. The colonel won’t be any trouble from now on. You can return to your duties.”
White heard the footsteps of the two mercenaries as they left the room. Lying on his back at the foot of the helm, he was fighting hard not to lose consciousness. His sight was blurred, as he peered up under the control panel. He thought he saw a weapon stashed underneath it. He shook his pounding head, tried to focus his eyesight, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him again.
His vision cleared enough for him to realize the weapon was only the emergency flare gun.
“Target in view, sir!”
That call from Darrow at the radar screen drew both Shelby’s and the half-stunned White’s attention. The Mysteron smiled faintly and looked through the window onto the open sea. He could indeed see the target, coming their way, unaware of the danger hanging over it. “Hold this course. Let them have a good look at us, before we send them to the bottom of the sea…” He stared down at White. The latter was dragging himself to his feet, supporting himself on the control board and the helm, and gritting his teeth against the pain from his injured shoulder and his throbbing head.
“Should I give you the bow camera on the monitor screen, sir?” Darrow asked Shelby.
“One minute, please, Mister Darrow. There is still business to attend to on the stern deck.”
White raised his head to look at the screen. On it, he could see the commando on the stern deck; he had dragged his charge closer to the bulwark, now straining to get it over the metal railing. He left it hanging there to pick up the heavy anchor. He heaved it over the railing.
The anchor dropped overboard toward the sea, dragging along the body that was tied to its chain. It took only a few seconds before it splashed into the water and quickly disappeared.
White had become absolutely livid. He turned a furious gaze toward Shelby, who was still looking up at the screen with a very cold stare.
“I won’t let you get away with this!” Colonel White promised in a low growl.
“Won’t you, now?” Shelby quietly responded. “Think about who’s really responsible for your man’s death, Colonel.”
White didn’t answer. He didn’t need the Mysteron agent to remind him that he had brought this fate to Captain Scarlet. Seeing him keeping silent, Shelby shrugged and addressed the man at the radar: “Give me the bow camera, Mister Darrow. Business is now finished on the stern deck. We can concentrate on our main mission now.”
* * *
Captain Scarlet took one last look down at the sea. The bag, weighed down by the heavy anchor, had sunk like a rock. He then stood up slowly, pulling the cap down over his eyes to conceal his features. Good thing that MacBride was about the same build as himself; the mercenary’s clothes fitted him so well that nobody who had seen him so far had realised the substitution. Good thing also that he had awakened soon enough in the sickbay to hear MacBride passing on his orders to the other mercenaries, before sending them in search of Colonel White. And more importantly, he had been very fortunate that the man had been foolish enough to turn his back on the prisoner he was supposed to dispose of, thus enabling the latter to surprise him.
Scarlet had been forced to kill him. He had been given no choice when MacBride had tried to use his gun on him. But Scarlet had been quicker, stronger. He had forced the barrel into MacBride’s side and the man was shot by the bullets intended for Scarlet. The Spectrum officer had to act quickly after that. He had taken the man’s black uniform, dressed him in his own, and put him into a large canvas bag. Then he had disposed of him, the way MacBride himself was supposed to get rid of Scarlet.
Now the enemy would believe him dead. He would be free to investigate what they were preparing and where Colonel White had disappeared to. And he would have to do it quickly, for the new deadline was surely drawing near. While he was lying on that dirty hangar floor, with White tending him, Scarlet had heard Shelby’s exchange over the radio, during which the Mysteron had mentioned the target leaving Edinburgh; he knew that the Drake had had to leave Liberty Base in a hurry to intercept its prey, as it was intended to do. That was already a few hours ago, and the target couldn’t be very far now. The Drake would be within striking range very soon.
According to what he had heard of MacBride’s instructions to the others, the colonel, when captured again, would be taken back to the bridge. Best place to start looking for him. And anyway, that was the strategic place to go to see what could be done to stop the enemy.
Scarlet turned around and was about to go back inside when he nearly collided with a tall man that was standing behind him. He stopped in time and looked up into the bright, icy eyes of the man who had approached him so quietly.
“Going somewhere, Earthman?”
Scarlet was so astonished to recognize Jonathan Dempsey that he didn’t react soon enough to avoid the big fist coming right at his face. He was roughly sent sprawling on his back on the deck.
* * *
“Ship’s in view, Captain!”
Lieutenant-Commander Clifford, Captain Theodore’s first officer onboard the de Brus, handed a pair of binoculars to his commander who had quickly come to his side, upon hearing his call. Behind the two men were Captains Grey and Forest. Grey took a pair of binoculars from one of the de Brus crew, and looked with Theodore in the direction indicated by Clifford. He saw a warship rapidly coming in their direction.
“Damn,” he muttered. He handed the binoculars to Forest. “Can you confirm it’s the Drake, Captain?”
Forest took the binoculars and brought them to his eyes. He took just one look, before nodding to Captain Grey. “That is the Drake, sir.”
Grey thanked him with a nod of his own. A few minutes ago, he had informed the de Brus captain of the danger that was looming over his ship. Theodore had reacted with all the calm befitting his rank. Before Grey could even propose it to him, he voiced his intention of changing course and going straight to the nearest port. He was about to do it, when Clifford had alerted them.
Grey flipped down his cap mic to make an urgent call. “Captain Grey to Angel pack. I’m presently onboard the de Brus. We can see the Drake. Request immediate support!”
“We’re already on our way, Captain,” the voice of Destiny answered him almost right away.
“Thank you, Angel One. Make it quick, please!”
‘We’ll be there in about two minutes.”
“Lieutenant Green?” Grey called again, changing channel.
“Green, here,” came the Caribbean accented voice. “I heard your call to the Angels, Captain.”
“When will naval support arrive, Lieutenant?”
“The Navy has sent ships in your area to provide help. A Clamshell submarine also is on its way, and should be there in about twenty minutes.”
“I’m afraid that would be too late,” Grey sighed. He knew that the World Navy had long since been alerted that one of their old ships had been stolen, and was intended to be used in a Mysteron threat. Up until a couple of hours ago, the problem was to actually determine what the exact content of that threat was, and so the Navy had not been called in until it became clear. Despite the Navy’s efforts to be there in time, Grey just had the very bad feeling they would not be there to stop the Drake from sending the de Brus at the bottom of the sea.
The Angels should be here shortly, though, but would they be enough to stop the Drake? Grey had his doubts.
Well, I’m not giving up hope just yet, Grey thought with grim assurance.
“We’ll be changing course, Lieutenant,” he announced over the radio. “We’ll try to put some distance between us and the Drake, to gain some time for help to arrive.”
“S.I.G., Captain Grey. Captain Blue and Captain Ochre are also on their way to rendezvous with you, onboard a Spectrum helicopter. They should be arriving shortly.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
The mic returned to its place and Grey turned to Captain Theodore.
“What should we do, now, Captain Grey?” the skipper asked. Despite his vast experience, never before had he been faced with a situation like this. He thought it best to let it be handled by those who were obviously better trained in these matters than he.
“Change course, quickly,” Grey instructed. “Full speed, away from that warship!”
“Shouldn’t we alert the passengers, sir?” Clifford suddenly asked the Spectrum officer. “We could start an evacuation…”
Grey’s features hardened. “Do you really think we could evacuate more than two thousand passengers in less than twenty minutes, Lieutenant-Commander? That’s about all we’ve got before the Drake launches her attack against us!”
* * *
“There’s a Spectrum helicopter flying over the target, sir.”
On the Drake’s bridge, the monitor had now switched to the bow camera, showing the target the old warship was to attack and destroy. Shelby, still standing in front of the screen, nodded thoughtfully.
“So,” he said, “Spectrum has finally solved the riddle…”
“What should we do now, sir?” Darrow asked, turning toward the Mysteron agent. “That helicopter…”
Shelby dismissed the man’s remark with a wave of his hand.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s no match for the Drake…” He turned around to face Colonel White, standing a few feet behind him, still shackled to the helm. “Wouldn’t you agree, Admiral?”
White did not refute the ‘admiral’ title. His eyes were glued to the screen, with obvious perplexity. “That’s a cruise liner,” he said, gesturing toward the monitor with his free hand.
“That is correct, Colonel,” Shelby answered quietly. “The S.S. de Brus, which has just left Edinburgh for its maiden voyage to New York.”
“You plan to sink a cruise liner?” White asked in disbelief. “There must be thousands of civilians onboard…”
“Two thousand and twenty four passengers to be exact. Plus twelve hundred crew members…”
“You can’t be serious,” White murmured, shaking his head.
“And what makes you think I’m not serious?”
“You envision the death of these people so casually… My God… What do you hope to accomplish by slaughtering them all?”
“The Mysterons’ will must be accomplished. Their instructions will be carried out.”
“What kind of monsters are you?”
“The kind you Earthmen made of us,” Shelby responded harshly. “Maybe you don’t remember, but you were the ones who started this war…”
“And I seem to recall that it was all a terrible mistake,” White replied. He frowned, obviously straining his memory, trying to remember what it was all about. “Captain Black,” he murmured. “Yes, he… destroyed your complex on Mars… He thought you were about to attack him and his men…” He stared back at Shelby, who was watching him, still very coldly. “You took him over then…”
“Very good, Colonel,” Shelby noted. “Your memory is making progress.”
“It was a mistake,” White repeated insistently, pulling against the shackle imprisoning his right wrist. “Why can’t you believe that?”
“Oh, but we DO believe you, Colonel.”
White was baffled by the Mysteron’s too quiet tone. He felt his temper rising. “What? Why can’t you accept it, then? Is it so difficult to forgive us? Why would you want to destroy an entire race for the fault of just one man?” Shelby didn’t reply. White gave him a look of total disgust. “No wonder you never told me the precise objective of this mission!” he growled, his temper taking the place of his incredulity. “You knew that even in the state you had put me in, I would never have attacked a ship full of innocent people!”
“No human is innocent, Colonel White,” Shelby replied icily. He smiled evilly at the older man. “And as far as you’re concerned, we have you onboard. That’s what counts.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Can’t you figure it out by yourself? It’s true the Dream Spinner treatment has somehow impaired your judgment…”
White frowned in anger. “This is directed at me, then?” Shelby didn’t care to answer. “If you have a bone to pick with me,” White continued in a growling tone, “then kill me, and be done with it! Let these people go!”
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t satisfy the Mysterons.”
“That should be easy enough for you to understand. The Drake will sink the de Brus. When the proper authorities investigate this… incident, they will discover you were at the helm of your old ship. Your identity, of course, will become known throughout the world… That will be enough to discredit Spectrum, don’t you think? And if it should be also found out that your people were aware of what had occurred…”
White grimly nodded his understanding. He remembered Captain Blue and Captain Scarlet telling him of this eventuality, while he was in Spectrum’s custody. He didn’t believe they could be speaking the truth then, thinking that they were trying to trick him and manipulate him, so he would give them precious information they needed for their investigation. While it was the case they did need information from him, it was now obvious they never had lied to him.
White was now wondering if they had the slightest idea, back then, that they could be so close to the truth.
“So you want to use me to bring about Spectrum’s downfall,” he said bitterly.
“Who better than Spectrum’s own commander-in-chief to perform such a mission?” Shelby retorted. “Oh, don’t worry, though… You won’t be alive to witness it.”
“I’d worked that out for myself. Tell me… why didn’t you…” White searched for the word Scarlet had used earlier and found it. “Why didn’t you Mysteronise me?”
“You were to fetch the Drake for us,” Shelby answered. “I couldn’t very well go to the Naval Depot myself…”
“You would have been spotted right away by the Mysteron detector.”
Shelby nodded. “You were the ideal choice, Colonel. A former World Navy Admiral… a celebrated hero… and the Sir Francis Drake WAS your ship… Nobody would ever THINK of suspecting you.”
“That’s not the only reason,” White noted dryly. “I still had to be human to be at the helm. If it was to be found that it was a Mysteron duplicate who was at the Drake’s helm, that wouldn’t have the same impact on the investigation, would it? Spectrum’s responsibility could be minimized… although not totally erased.”
“There is another thing, Colonel,” Shelby added coldly. “My masters ordered that you witness the destruction of the de Brus, with your own eyes. They want you to know that nobody can long escape the Mysterons’ revenge… They want you to learn, and understand this perfectly…”
“And then you’ll kill me.” White didn’t flinch away. He shook his head. “It takes more than that to frighten me, Mister,” he said between clenched teeth. “Maybe I’m as good as dead, but you haven’t won yet!”
“It doesn’t look like we can lose now, Earthman.”
“What about that Spectrum helicopter? If it’s here, you can be sure the rest of Spectrum isn’t far either!”
“Yes… But maybe it’s still too far to stop us from performing our mission.”
White was about to answer when he was suddenly interrupted by Darrow, still at his station, in front of the radar screen: “The de Brus is altering course, sir.”
Shelby turned away from White and went to stand behind the man to check on the screen too. While the Mysteron agent had his back turned to Colonel White, a flicker of pain crossed the Spectrum commander’s face. He was fighting so hard not to let it be apparent in front of Shelby and it was becoming very difficult. His bleeding shoulder was hurting him more and more, and his head was throbbing from where he had been struck. He could feel the blood running down his face, the stitches having popped under the blow.
He saw Shelby turning again, to look at the monitor. There was a smile of satisfaction on his face. “That’s not really important,” he declared quietly. “They can’t hope to escape us. We’ll just change course too and follow them, until we are ready to attack.”
He turned toward White, who quickly got a hold of himself to present a strong façade.
“You have the helm, Admiral… Will you do us the honour?”
White gave him a perplexed look. “You don’t really imagine that I would collaborate with you and…” He stopped suddenly and lowered his gaze toward the helm. He had felt it move.
Under his incredulous eyes, he SAW it turning, without him having to touch it.
“What the…” White tried to hold the helm with both hands, to stop it from turning. He wasn’t able to. It was not because he was too weak from his present condition, although his injured arm was handicapping him heavily. It was as if the helm had a will of its own.
“It’s no use, Colonel. You can’t fight the power of the Mysterons.” White turned a sceptical and horrified stare toward Shelby, who, still smiling with obvious contentment, had approached to stand very close to him. The Mysteron agent shook his head, seeing the inquisitive look upon White’s face. “It was not necessary to destroy and reconstruct the entire ship…” He pointed toward the helm. “Only THIS component was needed.”
White let go of the helm, as if it was a branding iron. It was Mysteronised, he realised, completely dumbfounded. Tampered with, so the Mysterons would be able to do with it as they pleased. He watched as it slowly turned, to alter the ship’s course. Then he raised his eyes and stared at the monitor screen.
He saw the de Brus sailing straight ahead, desperately trying to put some distance between herself and her pursuer. He knew it was a useless race; the Drake was, by far, the faster of the two ships.
“As you can see,” Shelby said very quietly, “it will be all over soon. The de Brus can’t escape us. Soon, it will be…” He stopped suddenly, and his stare became distant. White was glaring at him, wondering what was happening to him. It was as if the Mysteron’s mind wasn’t there anymore. He saw him suddenly frown deeply.
“I should have known this couldn’t be so easily taken care of!” Shelby growled in irritation. He turned swiftly toward Darrow. “Send a team of men to the upper stern deck!”
“Sir?” the man asked with perplexity.
“Don’t question my orders, Mister Darrow!” Shelby replied harshly. “Send some men there! Without delay!”
Darrow nodded, apparently uncomfortable with his leader’s outburst, and turned toward his communication system.
White was still staring at Shelby, puzzled by his apparently unexplainable behaviour. It was as if something had suddenly come to his attention, bothering him greatly. But the next second the Mysteron turned to face him, his features had become as cold and expressionless as before. As if nothing had ever occurred.
“Don’t worry, Colonel,” Shelby said with a very icy smile. “This is a small problem that won’t even trouble our mission. In fact, I believe it will be resolved very soon…”
Colonel White couldn’t even imagine what the alien agent could be talking about.
* * *
Captain Scarlet looked up to Dempsey, who had sent him flying onto his back on the floor of the stern deck. The Mysteron had thrown him a mean hook; he had literally knocked the wind out of him. Again, it was one of those times where Scarlet’s sixth sense had failed him, and didn’t tell him of the Mysteron’s presence so near to him.
It was really annoying when that happened.
With a smirk of anticipatory satisfaction upon his face, Dempsey walked toward Scarlet.
“Never send a human to do a Mysteron’s work.” He took a dazed Scarlet by his shirt and pulled him up to look him in the eyes. “Don’t you agree, Captain?”
Before Scarlet could react, Dempsey landed another powerful punch on his jaw, before unceremoniously throwing him to the floor again. The captain gave a low grunt as he landed heavily on his back. Out of breath, he watched as Dempsey came in for another round.
“We should have known a simple hired-hand wouldn’t be able to handle you,” the Mysteron continued casually. He picked up a rusted chain lying on the deck, without pausing in his approach, and wrapped one end of it around his right hand. “That would have been too easy.”
Keeping a wary eye on the approaching enemy, Scarlet backed away from him, glancing furtively around, searching for a possible weapon. He saw a lead pipe, lying on the floor about four feet to his left.
“You were one of us, once,” Dempsey added. “You could have been the best of our agents.”
“I would rather be dead,” Scarlet replied.
“Your wish is my command, Captain.”
Dempsey swung the heavy chain toward Scarlet with all his strength. At the last possible second, the Spectrum officer rolled to his left, avoiding the blow, and the chain smacked violently onto the deck. He snatched up the pipe, and finding himself once more on his back, raised it at arms’ length. The chain that Dempsey was again swinging in his direction wrapped around the pipe and found itself caught there. Scarlet pulled hard, throwing the Mysteron off-balance, and kicked him in the stomach. Dempsey fell on his knees, losing his weapon. Scarlet lost hold of his too.
Both were on their feet mere seconds later, facing each other a few feet apart.
They were still alone on deck, Scarlet realized, the other mercenaries being probably too busy with their duties. Keeping on his guard, he took a quick look behind him. He was only a foot away from the bulwark. That was a hazardous enough position. One false move, one push, and he would fall overboard to a watery grave.
Realising that, Dempsey gave an evil grin. “You’re going to die, Earthman. And it will be a pleasure for me to kill you.”
There was an ominous glow in Scarlet’s blue eyes, as he gauged his opponent. “Even as a human, you were a despicable character, Dempsey,” he growled with anger.
“I didn’t realize we had met before today,” Dempsey replied, giving Scarlet a quizzical look.
“We didn’t meet,” Scarlet retorted icily. “Remember Bristol? That woman you and your mates took prisoner?"
The Spectrum officer couldn’t forget that dreadful episode during which the original Dempsey had attacked and tried to have his way with his beloved Rhapsody. He saw an evil smile spreading across the Mysteron’s features. He, too, was recalling it. “I see. The girl. I believed I found her… very attractive, when I was still human. Is she something to you?”
“She’s MINE!” Scarlet answered with anger.
“Really now? Surprising. One like us shouldn’t normally have such human feelings. Of course there have been flaws now and then…”
“I am NOT like you!”
“Maybe you’re more like us than you care to admit… because you wouldn’t be standing there if you weren’t, Captain.”
It was obvious to Scarlet the Mysteron reconstruct was trying to anger him, to push him into making some mistake that he could take advantage of. It wouldn’t take much for Dempsey to succeed, in fact, as old doubts that never really had left him came back to Scarlet’s mind. He forced himself not to listen to any of this and shrugged it off, not giving in to the Mysteron’s game.
“You’re wrong,” he answered softly. “My actions can speak for me. I’m still human enough to fight your kind, be it Mysteron… or human. I could NEVER be like you.”
Dempsey shook his head. “Well,” he replied between his teeth, “one thing you will be for sure is dead, at the bottom of the sea, Earthman.”
Scarlet couldn’t help but find the insult in itself comforting, thinking that the Mysteron wouldn’t call him ‘Earthman’ if he really did consider him one of his kind. He only had a second to dwell on it, however, as at the same instant, Dempsey threw himself at him, with the obvious intention of pushing the Spectrum captain overboard.
But Scarlet was ready and caught hold of him. Dempsey drove him off and together, they went over the metal guard. Scarlet let go of Dempsey and grabbed the railing with one firm hand. He hung there, and looked down, as the screaming Mysteron plunged into the water. He saw him instantly disappearing under the ship, sucked up by the powerful propeller.
That’s for Rhapsody. And for shooting me in the back… Even so, Scarlet couldn’t help a shiver running down his spine. That was a horrible death that had befallen the Mysteron agent. The kind of death he had planned for Scarlet himself.
The captain hauled himself over the railing, and then onto the deck. He had just set foot on it and was trying to regain his breath, when he saw a group of four armed men barging out from the door about twenty feet from him, and coming his way. He heard gunshots, and felt bullets flying around him. He didn’t wait much longer to jump behind the relative safety of a large and heavy canvas. Drawing the gun he had taken from MacBride, he responded to the mercenaries’ fire, stopping one dead in his tracks, and forcing the others to take cover.
Scarlet took a quick look around. For now, he was safe, but he knew he couldn’t stay there very long. He had to move on to do his job, namely to find Colonel White and stop the Mysterons from carrying out their threat. And he had little time to do so. He couldn’t permit himself to waste it by staying here, blocked by these guys.
He had to find a way to escape them. And he had to do it fast. Or else, the Mysterons would have won this battle.
He was at this point in his reflections, and was contemplating his options, when a shrieking sound coming from overhead suddenly covered the gunshots from his attackers. He raised his head and looked up, already knowing what the sound heralded.
He saw the three Angel interceptors making a low reconnaissance pass over the Sir Francis Drake. A smile of gratitude spread across his face.
Thanks, girls! Your timing couldn’t be better!
* * *
“The Spectrum Angels are on us, sir!”
Upon seeing the three fighters passing by through the bay window, Darrow had turned to Shelby, addressing him in an unnerved, worried tone. The Mysteron agent frowned at him, annoyed.
“I can see that for myself, Mister Darrow! Didn’t you see their approach on the radar screen?”
“I… everything seemed normal, sir!”
“Spectrum must have a way to block our radar.” Shelby glared toward Colonel White. Still shackled to the self-moving helm, the Spectrum commander was silently watching the two men, waiting. Because of his untended wounds and the resultant loss of blood, he was now feverish, sweat beading on his forehead. Still, he was his indomitable self, and was determined to keep a defiant appearance, despite his growing weakness. He shrugged at the mute question he could see in Shelby’s stare.
“Don’t ask me,” he said in a peevish tone. “You know my memory’s not working very well…” He shook his head. “You’re going to lose, Shelby. I told you Spectrum would be here to stop you.”
“They’re here, all right,” Shelby muttered. “But they’re far from stopping us…” He glared in disgust at Darrow, who was now obviously very anxious. “Stop worrying, you fool! Those planes haven’t fired on us yet, haven’t they?”
“But they will,” Colonel White said with assurance. “They will stop at nothing until they have put an end to your threat.”
“I’d rather doubt they will be willing to fire on us, Colonel, ” Shelby said coldly. “Those pilots know you’re onboard.”
“That won’t stop them.”
Shelby scoffed loudly. “You’re underestimating your people’s loyalty to you, Colonel.”
No, I’m not, White told himself grimly. He knew all too well his people’s loyalty to him. He had witnessed it personally, while he was onboard Cloudbase, in Spectrum’s custody. Shelby figured he had made a point and gave the faintest of smiles.
Next to them, Darrow had answered a call on his radio, and turned toward his superior. “Sir, we have another problem,” he announced. “There’s exchange of gunfire on the upper stern deck. Seems one of our men has turned against us. He threw Mister Dempsey overboard and now he’s shooting at…”
“Don’t bother me with details, Mister Darrow,” Shelby harshly interrupted him. “Have that man killed.”
“Sir, what about the…”
An explosion came from outside at that moment, causing a shockwave that made the bridge shake. Shelby turned around, to look through the bay window, and saw the radar tower disintegrating in flames, under the impact of an airborne missile.
“The Angels have started their attack on us!” Darrow’s voice had risen an octave, as worry mounted in him.
“So, they wouldn’t be willing to shoot at us, would they?”
There was a sarcastic and satisfied enough tone to Colonel White’s voice. For his remark, he received a violent slap across the face from Shelby, without being able to avoid it. It was so strong that it made him stagger. His head reeling, he caught hold of the console to keep himself from falling.
“They CAN’T stop us,” the Mysteron declared. “They don’t have enough firepower.”
“But they still can do plenty of damage,” White replied under his breath. He was regaining his footing, all the while dispersing from his mind the temporary daze Shelby’s clout had brought about.
Next to them, Darrow was now rather busy at his radio station. He was receiving calls from all around the ship.
“The men want to know what to do now, Commander,” he told Shelby. “They saw the Angels’ attack and request instructions.”
He turned around to find out that the Mysteron agent had turned his attention straight at the monitor screen, where they could see the image of the de Brus quickly growing as the Drake approached her.
“Tell them to keep their stations,” Shelby ordered.
“Sir?” Darrow asked with perplexity.
“Those are my orders, Mister Darrow! This mission must continue!”
Shelby didn’t turn his attention away from the monitor. White watched him closely, as Shelby now had his back turned to him, and then stole a glance in the direction of the armaments console. Curiously, the Mysteron agent didn’t seem to be interested in it. But White knew the Drake was more than close enough now to strike at the de Brus, with one well-aimed torpedo that would send it to the bottom of the sea.
Why wasn’t he doing it?
As for Darrow, he was staring incredulously at his superior, after receiving that last order from him, unsure of what to do.
That was when a beeping sound from his radio station drew his attention. He checked on his controls. “We’re being hailed, Commander.” He turned to face Shelby again. “It’s the Angel Leader.”
The Mysteron agent hesitated slightly. His eyes were now fixed on Colonel White, watching his reactions. He saw interest and hope in his face, following Darrow’s announcement. “Put it through,” the Mysteron agent instructed.
Darrow nodded quickly; he pressed a button on his communication console. Immediately, a clear, accented female voice, with a stern determination to it, filled the bridge: “This is Angel One, calling the Sir Francis Drake. That was a warning shot. Stop your engines, lower your weapons, and surrender. A World Navy warship will soon come to board you. Acknowledge this call, immediately.”
White listened intently to that voice. He recalled having heard it before. He recognised that heavy French accent. There was a French woman among the Angel pilots. The one, he remembered, who was mostly regarded as their leader. Short, strikingly beautiful girl, with long flowing blonde hair. He knew her name…
“What should we do now, sir?” White snapped out of his reverie to pay attention to what was going on at the present. Darrow’s voice sounded rather alarmed, as he spoke to his field commander. Obviously, he was growing more and more worried.
“We maintain course,” Shelby answered icily. “The Spectrum Angels won’t be able to stop us before this mission is finished!”
Darrow was looking perplexed. “It may be that they don’t have the firepower to stop us, but he’s right, you know?” He nodded toward Colonel White. “Those aircraft can do us considerable damage. Eventually, a direct hit to the bridge…”
“We continue the mission,” Shelby interrupted him abruptly. “I won’t let anything – or anyone – stop us seeing it through!”
“Are you insane?” Darrow snapped, coming to his feet. “Spectrum will show us no mercy, if we torpedo that ship, right before their eyes!”
Best comment I heard today, White thought gloomily. It could be that Spectrum wouldn’t have too much trouble stopping the Drake, after all… If Shelby kept on this way, it was possible that he would end up with a full-scale mutiny, and that the mercenaries under his command would gladly force him to surrender.
But then, Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby surprised both White and Darrow when he next spoke: “We’re not sinking the de Brus with a torpedo, Mister Darrow.”
“You’re going to surrender?” White asked with unbelieving hope.
But he said that without really knowing to what lengths a Mysteron was able to go to see his mission through. And Shelby was no different from any other Mysteron agent, and kept true to nature.
“I WILL see this mission finished,” he replied with an even colder stare set on the Spectrum commander. “Do you REALLY think me stupid, Colonel? You didn’t really think you were going to get away with it?”
“What are you talking about?” White mumbled, frowning.
He was afraid to even think about what it was. Shelby came closer to him.
“I’m talking about the fact that you were captured not far from the torpedo room,” he noted. “You had Harris bound and gagged. That man was assigned to prepare the torpedoes for launch. You did something in that torpedo room. What was it?”
White responded only with a cold glare of his own. There was another explosion outside, that didn’t seem to bother Shelby. He was now narrowing his eyes at the colonel.
“Why did you try to reach for the torpedo launch command, when you broke free earlier?” Again, White kept silent. Shelby nodded quietly. “I think I KNOW what it is. I bet that, if ever that button is pushed, we’d have an enormous surprise…”
“What kind of surprise?” Darrow asked, frowning.
“You rigged the torpedo tubes, didn’t you?” Shelby continued, without hearing the man out and addressing a still impassive Colonel White. “You fixed them, so they would blow up if we were to use them.”
“He did what?” a stunned Darrow murmured, his eyes wide. He stared at White incredulously. “But that would cause an major breach in the hull, and…”
“It would do much more than that,” Shelby replied. “White Shark Mark 12 torpedoes may not be that big or look like much, but they’re powerful enough. The initial explosion from one of them would set off the detonators of the others. That would destroy the entire ship within minutes.” He gave a cold smile. “That’s why you went for that launch button. You so wanted to stop us that you would have sacrificed your own life to do it. Am I right in my assumption, ‘Admiral’?”
White didn’t answer. There didn’t seem to be much point; the Mysteron had found him out. Darrow was staring at him, open-mouthed, obviously unable to believe that he would do such a thing, knowing full well that he would die in the process, without leaving himself some means of escape. The mercenary made a sound of disgust, before turning toward Shelby.
“And you wanted to continue this mission,” he noted. “I can’t see how you can now!”
A third explosion shook the bridge and the three men had to hold on to the control board in front of them to keep on their feet. The voice of Destiny came again from the speaker, with an angry and ever sterner tone than before:
“This is our LAST warning shot! Surrender within the next two minutes, or we’ll come in to attack!”
Darrow gave a last look at the apparently unmoved Shelby. He hesitated one last time; then walked toward the communication system.
“Where are you going?” Shelby asked him coldly.
“To call her,” Darrow answered, turning around. “I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to die in here. I’m giving up.”
“You’ll do no such thing.”
Darrow gave a tired sigh. “Face it, Mister Shelby. This mission is finished.”
He turned again toward the com. Behind him, Shelby took his revolver from its holster and pointed it toward the walking man, cocking the hammer. White watched him intently.
“Don’t take another step,” he warned Darrow.
The man stopped and slowly turned around; he looked with surprise at the gun aimed at him. Shelby’s stare was icier than before.
“This mission will be finished when I say it is,” the Mysteron said.
“Be reasonable, Shelby,” White intervened. “You have no weapon to strike at the de Brus. Let it go!”
“I have a weapon left,” Shelby retorted. “If you hadn’t noticed, Colonel, this entire ship IS a weapon.”
White frowned, unsure of what Shelby was implying. A doubt then came to his mind and he raised his eyes toward the monitor above the command console.
The Drake was still heading straight at the de Brus.
At full speed.
“Good God,” whispered White. “We’re on a collision course!”
Darrow raised his eyes too, to look in disbelief at the monitor. The distance separating the Drake from the de Brus was narrowing rapidly. He understood instantly that White was right. He also understood that Shelby was aiming to fulfil his mission, even if it meant killing them all in the process. Figuring that he had nothing to lose – that if the Drake should collide with the cruise liner, he would be dead anyway – he slammed his open palm down on a big red button set in the middle of the control board. It was the emergency button that commanded an immediate full stop for the ship’s engines.
Normally, Darrow knew, a loud siren should have started howling all over the ship. He heard nothing. Nor did he felt the Drake slowing down. Looking up the monitor again he saw that the ship was still going straight at the de Brus, dangerously gaining on her.
“Do you truly believe that the Mysterons would have left any of you with the possibility of stopping this mission?” Shelby scoffed behind him. “This ship is under our command!”
Darrow turned back to stare at the Mysteron agent, who was keeping very cold and quiet, his gun still aimed at him.
“You ARE insane,” he murmured, frowning.
“No, Earthman. I’m dedicated to my cause. Which is more than can be said for you.”
Shelby implacably pulled the trigger. A detonation followed and Darrow, hit in the chest by the bullet, was pushed back against the control board, right next to Colonel White.
* * *
Standing on the bridge with Captain Theodore and Captain Forest, Captain Grey was keeping his binoculars trained on the Sir Francis Drake, in pursuit behind them. The warship was gaining on its prey. Grey was growing concerned. Form his experience, he knew that the Drake had been within firing range for a long time, and yet, it didn’t launch any of the torpedoes he knew it was armed with. Two well-aimed White Sharks would be more than sufficient to send the de Brus to the bottom of the sea. He'd ordered the Spectrum helicopter in position to launch electronic countermeasures in the event of torpedo attack, but even that wasn't guaranteed to stop them. Why weren’t any already on their way? Captain Forest was scrutinising the water’s surface, looking for any sign that would announce the coming of one of the dreadful torpedoes. So far, nothing.
What are they waiting for? Captain Grey thought gloomily. They should have fired by now, but they haven’t. They have us, and they know it. They’re just taking their sweet time to finish us. He was also surprised by the fact that he didn’t think Admiral Charles Gray would be the kind of man to take pleasure in that sort of game.
No. It’s definitely not his style, Captain Grey thought gloomily.
Something was wrong.
“What is it?” he grumbled, putting the binoculars down. “What’s happening up there?”
He could see the Angels circling over the Drake; they had just fired a third warning shot at one of the decks, hoping to intimidate its crew into surrender. Grey knew the aircraft had little hope of actually stopping the warship. The Sir Francis Drake had been one of the most powerful warships of the British Navy. Its reputation had lasted even through to the present day. It was perfectly able to endure an air attack for a good amount of time… Long enough to carry out the Mysterons’ threat and sink the de Brus, anyway.
And apparently, there was no counting on the Navy… None of their ships was in view, and the last call Grey had received had informed him that it was more than probable that they wouldn’t be there in time.
We’re on our own.
Right next to Grey, Captain Theodore was consulting with the sonar technician, looking over his shoulder onto his screen. He shook his head, addressing the Spectrum officer. “Still nothing in view, Captain Grey.” Despite the situation, the likes of which he wasn't used to, the experienced skipper was keeping impressively calm. “When do you think they will launch those torpedoes, anyway?”
“I don’t know, skipper,” Grey said, looking over the surface of the water, expecting to see one of the powerful destructive engines to appear. “It may be that something is happening onboard that ship, that could turn the tide in our favour.”
He knew about Captain Scarlet being on the Drake, of course. Blue had notified him of this over the radio. He was also aware that Scarlet had been wounded and was apparently a prisoner. Well, if he knew his British counterpart, Grey was nearly sure that he would now have recuperated from his injuries, and that it was possible that he was up to something on that ship.
Or it was also very possible that the enemy had taken advantage of his weakness to permanently dispose of him.
That was a dreadful thought, that sent shivers down Grey’s spine.
And what about Colonel White in all this?
“Well, it doesn’t look like it,” Theodore replied to Grey’s statement. “That ship is coming mightily fast toward us.”
Then it hit Grey; he opened his eyes wide. “Oh, Lord…” He took back the binoculars and looked closely again at the rapidly-approaching warship. “They plan to ram us!”
* * *
Destiny, at the helm of Angel One, was most distraught.
She had had the slightest hope that her calls to the Sir Francis Drake would have been heard and listened to by Colonel White. Knowing that he was onboard the warship on its way to destroy a cruise liner full of innocent victims, she had entertained the idea that her commander would eventually shake off the state he was in and would put an end to all this nonsense. She had given him all the latitude she could under the circumstances, every possibility to do it. So far, there wasn’t the faintest sign that her wishes would be answered, and so hope was rapidly vanishing toward a dreadful sense of desperation.
The Drake had launched no torpedo yet. They had had all the time in the world to do it, but they didn’t. Perhaps something was wrong with the torpedo launch controls.
She had just given her last warning to the warship crew, when Captain Grey called her from the de Brus with some distressing news. According to him, the Drake was set on a collision course with the liner. Judging by the speed of both ships, the estimated time of the collision would be in about fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, but not much more. The de Brus, slower than the Drake, would not be able to evade her for long.
The Navy wouldn’t be there in time. The Angels were all that were left to stop the Drake. But Destiny knew the Angels’ missiles – although very powerful – would probably not be sufficient to do the job. Not in time to avoid the de Brus being destroyed, anyway.
But they had to try.
“Angels Two and Three,” she called over her helmet mic. “Peel off and try to get a shot at the propeller. Maybe we can find a way to slow down that ship.”
The acknowledgement from her fellow pilots came, and almost at the same instant, the formation was broken, both Angels going their separate ways. They made a wide turn to come directly behind the Drake, and then came in very low over the water, in a new formation, one behind the other.
Rhapsody in Angel Two launched a missile, which went underwater. As she pushed her aircraft to turn left of the warship, she saw the explosion of fire and a fountain of water behind it. There was another splash, not far from the first one, obviously coming from Harmony’s missile. Rhapsody turned her craft around to view the damage both missiles might have done.
There was none apparent. The missiles had not even grazed the ship and had exploded without even scratching it.
“Negative hit,” she reported to Destiny. “It appears the water is slowing down our missiles, Destiny.”
“Which makes it difficult to shoot accurately,” she heard Harmony say gloomily in return.
Destiny gave a sigh. That’s what she was afraid of. The Angels missiles were not designed for underwater attack. Maybe that should be something Spectrum would have to work on in the near future.
“Try another shot, girls,” she said to her fellow Angel pilots. “We have to find a way to stop that ship!” She kept herself from grumbling, as she turned her own interceptor around. “And I’ll make a last attempt at contacting it. Just in case.”
* * *
The shockwave from the explosion of the two air missiles made the stern deck vibrate. Still keeping to his precarious position, returning the enemy’s fire, Captain Scarlet glanced about. He saw two Angels coming from behind, very low on each side of the ship. Must have tried to stop us somehow, he thought. He watched as both interceptors made a wide, fast turn around to take formation anew, far behind the ship.
Scarlet reached for the radio he had on his belt, that he had taken from MacBride. He was hoping to contact Spectrum with it, to inform the others of his exact situation. He was deeply disappointed. The radio was damaged. It had been hit by a bullet, most probably during the last exchange of fire. Scarlet swore in frustration. That was really bad luck…
The fire from the enemy seemed to have stopped; Scarlet risked a quick look. He saw the mercenaries, obviously in panic, gesticulating toward the two approaching craft. Good. They’re too afraid of the Angels’ next attack to concern themselves with me. He eyed the distance separating him from the nearest door that would permit him to get back inside. He would still be in full view, and an excellent target for the others if he were to try to reach it. But now, he didn’t feel that he had any other choice.
He jumped to his feet and quickly ran the distance. A bullet sang past his ear. He was going through the door when he felt another one graze his arm. He gritted his teeth against the stinging pain but gave it no further thought. In a few minutes, he knew, the wound would be completely healed.
Inside the ship, he looked around. Now, to find the way to the bridge…
He went down a stair and headed along a walkway that went straight toward the bow.
* * *
Colonel White watched incredulously as Darrow slowly slid to the floor, right at his feet, and stayed sprawled there, motionless. A muffled explosion made the bridge tremble again, and the Spectrum commander had to hang on to the helm to keep his balance. He looked at the downed man and was about to crouch down to check on him, when Destiny’s voice came again out of the speaker: “This is Angel One. The time is up; we’re giving you one last chance to surrender. What is your answer, Sir Francis Drake?”
White felt the cold touch of a gun barrel against his neck and straightened up, startled. Shelby was very close to him, looking as implacable as when he had shot Darrow.
I’m next, thought Colonel White.
“Answer her,” he heard the Mysteron say, ominously.
White didn’t move, nor did he speak; he stared right into Shelby’s eyes. The Mysteron agent pressed the gun harder against his neck, driving the barrel under his lower jaw. White grunted, gritting his teeth, his eyes still set on the man, flashing with anger and disgust.
“ANSWER HER!” Shelby repeated. He took the hand mic from the com system and thrust it towards White’s mouth. “Answer her, or I blow your brains out, here and now!” he promised.
White wondered what the Mysteron’s motivation could be now. He had the definite advantage. It occurred to the colonel that either he wanted to buy himself some time, so he could be totally sure nothing would prevent the mission from succeeding, or else he wanted the satisfaction of actually witnessing it himself.
Lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I must find a way to stop this maniac.
Have to gain some time…
Colonel White nodded his acknowledgement of the Mysteron’s order and took the microphone with his free, uninjured hand.
* * *
“Angel One… Can you hear me?”
Destiny Angel was almost startled when she heard the sound of that familiar English voice through her onboard speaker. She had all but abandoned hope of hearing any kind of answer, let alone THAT voice. Now she wasn’t even sure if she should feel relieved or concerned.
“Colonel White?” she murmured, as if still unsure that she was hearing correctly.
“Yes, Destiny. It’s me.”
Did he just say my name? the Angel pilot asked herself. According to what she had been told of the Colonel’s present state, she wasn’t expecting him to even remember her. Was it an indication that he was getting better?
Could it be too late?
Destiny shook herself. Blowing a sigh, she took the most official tone she could produce when next she spoke to her commander: “Colonel, you’re on a collision course with the de Brus. Please, stop engines this instant and surrender the ship.”
Whether the Colonel was better or not, the Drake had to be stopped. She was just hoping he would be willing to listen to her and be of help.
* * *
Colonel White had just heard the last order from Destiny Angel; he was still locking eyes with Shelby standing close in front of him. The Mysteron had lowered his gun, and was now aiming at his heart.
“Tell her that nothing will prevent you from carrying your orders,” Shelby instructed in a whisper.
White raised an eyebrow. So. This was what he was planning, he thought grimly. Shelby really wanted him to die with his name splattered with infamy and dishonour.
“Colonel White, do you hear me?” That was Destiny’s voice again, over the speaker, with an urgent tone to it. Obviously, the girl was wondering why her commander wasn’t speaking anymore.
“Tell her,” Shelby whispered with a growling, threatening tone, his attention entirely focused on the set face of the Spectrum commander. “You will do as I say, Earthman. You know that I will shoot you. There’s nothing to stop me now. The Mysterons’ orders will be carried out!”
A low moan at his feet startled Shelby and made him look down, to check on Darrow, lying there, somehow concerned that the man would try something against him and his plans. But the mercenary was mortally wounded and had just drawn his last breath, before becoming motionless once again. But it was all the distraction Colonel White needed for a desperate attempt to give one last order:
“Destiny!” he barked into the mic. “Destroy this ship!”
A second later, before White could even receive any kind of response, Shelby had turned toward him, a flash of anger in his cold eyes. He violently backhanded him with the hand that was holding the gun, so quickly that the colonel didn’t even see it coming. He was hit right on the spot where his head was already injured.
His legs buckling under him, White sank to his knees, and would have sprawled almost under the console if his still-shackled hand had not stopped him. He gave a low grunt, resulting as much from the pain in his head as that in his wounded shoulder.
Shelby looked down with obvious loathing at the man sprawled at his feet and temporarily unable to even raise his head.
“That was a very stupid thing to do, Colonel!” he spat with contempt.
He then took the mic White had let go, and brought it to his mouth. “Listen to me, Earthwoman!” he called into it, addressing the Angel pilot he knew was still on line. “The liner and all of her passengers are doomed, as is your precious commander! The Mysterons will have their revenge! You can’t stop us!”
His words had not faded away when the ship shook from another explosion, coming somewhere near the stern, just like before. Then, he felt a sudden nudge against his abdomen. He looked down, to meet the icy but determined stare of Colonel White, on his knees, looking up at him. In his left hand, he had a big gun, the barrel of which was pressed against the Mysteronised agent’s body.
“Take this back to your masters!” White hissed between his teeth.
Shelby reflexively raised his gun; too late. Implacably, White pulled the trigger.
There was a muffled sound, and a brilliant flash of light and fire as the flare was propelled out of the gun to hammer home right into the Mysteron’s abdomen. The tremendous shock threw Shelby away from White and across the room, his arms waving, his shirt torn, the flesh beneath catching fire. Letting go of his weapon, the Mysteron let out a brief scream of pain, which quickly transformed into a gurgling rattle. He fell to the floor.
The disgusting smell of burning flesh filled Colonel White’s nostrils, but he was unable to look away from the now convulsing body. It looked as if Shelby was desperately trying to put out the fire on his clothes. The Spectrum commander was unsure, fully expecting the Mysteron to somehow get back on his feet, to take that gun of his and finish him off.
But no. Shelby stayed on the floor, motionless. The fire had extinguished, as quickly as it had appeared, and in its place on the Mysteron’s body, there was a large, black spot, surrounding a very deep, smoking wound. The flare had burrowed deep into the Mysteron’s flesh, and it was far too evident that it had done tremendous damage. White blew out a sigh of relief. He was grateful that the flare gun stashed under the consol was still functional after all these years. He was also grateful that it packed enough firepower to definitely put his enemy out of commission.
“Colonel White! Can you hear me? Please answer!”
That was Destiny Angel’s voice again, with an alarmed tone to it. It wasn’t surprising that she should be concerned, White reflected, as she probably had heard much of the ruckus that had happened. He rose to his feet, grunting under the effort. His shoulder, his whole arm, not to mention his head, hurt. He stared at the console on which were the weapons controls. There was only one button to push, he thought, and he would put an end to the threat hanging over the de Brus. But it was out of reach. He stretched as far as he could, his right arm still chained to the helm, his left hand trying to get to the console. The tips of his fingers only grazed it.
Too far. It’s just too blasted far!
White let out a muffled grunt of both frustration and pain, as his left hand let go of the console and quickly reached for his sore shoulder. It felt like he had overstretched it.
“Colonel White! Answer me, please!”
White came back to the control board; he took the mic dropped by Shelby, which now hung from its cord. “Yes, Angel One,” he said in as assured a voice as he was able to produce. “I can hear you.”
“Merci Mon Dieu!” he heard the French accented voice replied in a faint murmur. “What happened down there? What were those sounds all about?”
White gave a last look toward the motionless body of Shelby. “Nothing of importance anymore,” he answered. “Listen to me carefully: you and the other Angels must attack and destroy the Drake.”
There was a silence; short but noticeable, as if the young pilot had been stunned by the order. White frowned deeply. “Did you hear me, Destiny Angel?”
“I heard you, sir. But we can’t do that. You’re onboard…”
“That must not stop you,” White insisted. “There’s more than three thousand people on the de Brus!”
“The Angels don’t have enough firepower to stop a warship!”
“I’ll tell you where to strike. Destiny, please, do as I say!”
Just at that moment, before Destiny could even utter an answer, another voice made itself heard over the loudspeaker; this time it was a male voice, giving a stern order that would not suffer any protest: “Angel pack, ignore that order and wait for further instruction!”
Colonel White recognised the voice; he was both relieved to hear it and, at the same time, displeased that it should interfere.
“Captain Blue!” he called over the mic. “Listen to me…”
“Admiral, stop engines, lay down your weapons and surrender,” Blue cut in, not hearing him out.
White was frustrated; judging by the tone used by the Spectrum captain, it was obvious the man didn’t trust him at all and was presently regarding him as an enemy.
“I wish I could do that,” White answered with a sigh. “But I’ve got no control over the ship. I can’t stop it!”
“Where are you?”
“On the bridge, shackled to the helm, but…”
“You’re heading straight for the de Brus. Can you alter course?”
“No. The helm doesn’t respond. It’s under the power of the Mysterons. Listen, Captain, you’ve got to stop the Drake from ramming that liner. Send the Angels in. There’re two vulnerable points they should try for: the torpedo room, in the bows, fifteen feet below the waterline. And the engine room, twenty feet from the stern, ten feet under the line. With luck, a combined attack from the three interceptors should…”
“They already tried to hit the propeller,” Blue cut in. “And they kept missing. The Angel missiles aren’t built to travel underwater. Beside, according to Captain Grey, the hull of the Drake would be able to endure even a direct hit from those missiles.”
“I’m not so sure about that. The Drake is old, Captain. A combined attack should be enough to pierce her hull!”
There was a short pause. “I’m on an Spectrum helicopter, nearing the Drake,” Blue then announced. “We’re coming to get you.”
“No!” White replied forcefully. “There’s no time... Forget about me…”
“How can I tell if you’re even telling me the truth?” Blue interrupted him abruptly. “As far as I know, you may be trying to deceive me. You may be trying to play for time.”
“Captain, I don’t…”
“Where is Captain Scarlet, sir?”
Colonel White’s heart sank. Captain Blue was doubtful of him, wasn’t sure that he should trust him; which wasn’t, in retrospect, so surprising, considering recent events. I haven’t given him any reason to trust me, the Colonel thought gloomily. Now Blue was wondering about his colleague. His friend. How could White tell him about what had happened, without further raising his suspicions against him?
White took a quick glance at the monitor. The distance separating the Drake from the de Brus was quickly shrinking. Soon, the Colonel reflected, they would be too close to each other for the destroyer to be stopped by an aerial attack, without also causing the de Brus damage… Those poor people… They won’t stand a chance.
How could he convince Captain Blue of his good faith?
The answer came to his mind in a flash, and White brought the mic to his mouth again.
“Adam, please, listen to me! There is no more time to argue! You must stop this ship at all costs!”
“What… did you call me?” There was a note of disbelief in Blue’s voice now. The mention of his name had obviously taken him aback. And had certainly caught his attention.
“You heard me!” White continued, pressing on. “Innocent lives are at stake, Adam. Forget about me! Do your duty!”
He was suddenly aware of a presence behind him, almost as he sensed that there was a danger hanging over his head. He spun around quickly. A shot rang out and he felt a pain in his left thigh; his leg gave way under him and he fell heavily, his shackled hand keeping him once again from sprawling completely on the floor. A cry of pain escaped his lips. Through the pain threatening to overwhelm him, he heard the worry in Captain Blue’s voice, as he obviously had heard everything on the radio, and was calling up his name:
“Colonel White! Answer me, please!”
“Destroy this ship, Captain!” White shouted desperately.
A second detonation made itself heard, and a bullet hit the control board. The radio went silent with a fizzling sound, just as Captain Blue tried again to call his commander.
* * *
“Colonel White! Sir! What’s happening?”
Inside Spectrum helicopter A-45, now hovering not far from the Sir Francis Drake, Captain Blue was desperately trying to get into contact again with Colonel White. The radio was now silent. More precisely, it was dead, as the Spectrum officer realized with dread that the loud sound he had heard just before he lost contact was the detonation of gunfire. In fact, he had heard two detonations, and a cry of pain, obviously from the colonel. Blue feared that his commander was now in a very perilous situation – if he was not dead already.
Blue slammed down his fist on the helicopter control board in frustration, nearly making Melody jump at the helm. “Damn! What’s going on down there?” He lowered his gaze toward the Drake. He could see the Angels getting into position once again behind it, waiting for his orders.
Blue’s mind was working quickly. There’s no time, White had said. True, time was running out for the de Brus. Spectrum had to act fast.
Could he dare trust Colonel White? What if his last order to attack the Drake was only yet another attempt to deceive him? Could he be playing the Mysterons’ hand by following that order? Yet, White seemed so desperately sincere, apparently ready to lay down his life to save others. And where was Captain Scarlet in all this? Why didn’t White answer Blue’s question, when he had asked about him? The captain felt there was something wrong.
And there was something else. Colonel White had called him by his real name. Despite Spectrum’s regulations forbidding the use of real names on duty, he had called him ‘Adam’. That was really puzzling Blue, as he knew the colonel was very strict concerning that rule.
But that was Colonel White when he was in his right mind. Not the paranoid, unstable ‘freedom fighter’ the Dream Spinner had made of him. That man wouldn’t even know Captain Blue’s real name.
“Good God,” Blue realized, “he remembers…”
That was the missing piece. The surprising thing wasn’t that White himself went against the rules by calling Blue by his name. What really was surprising was the fact that he actually remembered that name. And by speaking it, maybe he was hoping Blue would understand that he really was on his side.
“What should we do now, Captain?”
That was Destiny Angel’s voice over the radio; Blue shook himself. No more time to lose. Now or never, he had to make a decision.
“You heard the Colonel’s order, Destiny?” he asked with a decided tone.
“His order?” the French pilot repeated, puzzled. “Why… yes, the channel was open.”
“Get into position, and ready to attack on my command. The engine room will be your target. You know the position.”
“Twenty feet from the stern, ten feet under the waterline,” Destiny agreed.
“Right. You’ll have more chance of success by striking that point than the torpedo room. You’ll have to take into consideration the fact that your missile speed is reduced underwater.”
“S.I.G., Captain,” Destiny acknowledged.
Blue gave a last look toward the two ships below. “I estimate point of no return for stopping the Drake at five minutes,” he continued. “After that, even if we do stop it, the de Brus would sustain damage. Give us those five minutes. And then, come in to attack.”
“Excuse me, Captain… But what are you going to do?”
“We’ll try to make a last-minute rescue.”
* * *
Colonel White tried to raise himself off the floor. He only succeeded in falling again; he grabbed his wounded leg with his free, uninjured hand; blood was flowing profusely from a bullet hole in his thigh. The pain was terrible, and he was gritting his teeth against crying out.
Raising his head, he saw a figure standing in the doorway of the bridge, across the room. It was Greg Dooley who had shot him again, his eyes as cold as before, and now levelling his gun squarely at his head. White locked eyes with him, and saw the man hesitate, something like recognition and compassion in his eyes.
“For God’s sake, Greg,” he murmured under his breath, almost pleading.
The hesitation only lasted an instant; and the Mysteron, his eyes becoming expressionless again, took aim.
“I am really sorry, Charles. But it is the will of the Mysterons that you should die today.”
Colonel White’s features became as hard as those of the man in front of him. He braced himself for the impact of the bullet that would kill him.
He heard two consecutive detonations, but felt nothing. Instead, he saw Dooley suddenly shake. The Mysteron then sank to his knees as a third shot rang out, spilling blood from his chest. Dooley fell down, face first on the floor, right in front of a surprised Colonel White, who had thought that he had seen his last moment, and was now wondering what had happened.
For a moment, he couldn’t detach his eyes from the dead Mysteron now lying there and then heard running footsteps from the corridor, beyond the doorway in which Dooley had been standing a second ago. Another figure appeared there, a tall young man dressed in the mercenaries’ black uniform, his gun smoking from the recent use he had made of it, cautiously levelled at the motionless Dooley. Colonel White stared at him in astonishment.
“Scarlet!” He couldn’t believe it. How could the Spectrum captain be standing there, apparently in excellent health, without any trace of his recent ordeal, and wearing that uniform?
Scarlet’s eyes left the motionless body of Dooley and discovered White, sitting there on the floor in that awkward position, bleeding. The colonel saw the gun raised toward him. For a brief instant, the memory of what the young man had told him about the Mysterons recreating people so they would act on their behalf crossed White’s mind. The doubt showed in his eyes as Scarlet pulled the trigger twice.
The bullets destroyed part of the helm, where the handcuffs were fixed, and the now-released White slumped to the floor with a grunt. As he was making the effort to gather himself back into a sitting position, Captain Scarlet stepped over Dooley’s body, and, carefully keeping him covered with the gun, took the radio from his belt before coming to help White. The latter gave him a faint but thankful smile.
“For a moment there, you had me worried, Captain,” he said nodding toward the helm.
Scarlet quickly assessed his commander’s leg injury; he put down his gun on the floor next to him, and then removed his belt from his waist.
“Sorry I took so long,” he told him, fastening the belt around the thigh, just above the wound. “I was delayed…”
“I can believe that.” White bit his lip and muffled another groan, as Scarlet proceeded to tightly secure the belt. He frowned. “Leave that. You have no time to waste…”
“It’s done anyway,” Scarlet replied, finishing up his job. “That should stop the bleeding until you see a medic.”
“You don’t understand.” White was nearly out of breath. The pain and loss of blood were starting to get to him. He nodded toward the monitor, which was still showing the rapidly approaching de Brus. “The Mysterons want to ram the Drake into that cruise liner. There’s over three thousand people onboard. They will all be killed.”
“A liner?” Scarlet murmured, raising his eyes toward the monitor. “Good Lord…”
White tiredly gestured toward the weapons console he had tried to reach earlier. “There’s a button there. A big red button. You’ve got to press it.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s the remote control for the torpedo launch.”
Scarlet stared with bewilderment at White. The latter frowned deeply. “Stop looking at me as if I was crazy, Captain!” he said in an irate tone. “I’m not. Not anymore, that is.” He paused, to regain his breath. “I rigged the tubes. The minute a torpedo enters one of them, it will trigger an explosion. It will start a chain reaction with the remaining torpedoes that will destroy the ship completely.”
There was still some puzzlement in Scarlet’s features, as he stared at his commander. But somehow, White could see, it was different. “How did you intend to escape?” the captain asked.
White nodded. “The original plan was to take the lifeboat with you and get as far away as possible from the Drake before somebody pushed that button.” He was speaking very quickly. Again, he took a deep breath. “That was before I was handcuffed to that damned helm.”
Scarlet nodded quietly. So, his commander intended sacrificing himself so lives would be saved. Coming from the man he knew, it wasn’t surprising. That he should behave that way NOW, was a sure indication that he was coming back to normal.
“Where’s that boat?” Scarlet asked.
White gestured toward the door. “Below the bridge. There’s a stairway just outside that door leading to it…”
“Yes, I came up that way. Could we get to the boat in time to escape AFTER we push that button?”
White shook his head. “You’d have one minute, two… You may be able to get out before the explosion… But I don’t know if you’ll get far enough to escape the blast.”
“We’ll worry about that later.”
“You’re coming with me.”
“Are you crazy? You just have the time to reach the boat and get away! I can’t follow you…”
Scarlet gave the faintest of smiles. “Then I suppose I’ll have to carry you.”
White shook his head, staring with incredulity at the young man’s determined face. “You’ll lose precious seconds, Captain. You might get yourself killed…”
“Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“I’m not going to get you to change your mind, am I?”
“No. We better get moving right away. As you said yourself, we’re losing time.”
There was confusion again in the colonel’s features. Scarlet could see he was now fighting just to stay conscious. His leg injury was bad, and the captain wasn’t so sure about that still-bleeding head wound of his…
Then he saw the older man’s blue eyes opening wide; Scarlet could see the sudden distress in them, and thought that his commander was losing it once again. He was shocked when he saw him quickly take the gun Scarlet had left on the floor earlier, raising it before the captain could stop him. He steeled himself, fully expecting to be shot at point-blank range.
The gun wasn’t aimed at him, but slightly to his left. White pulled the trigger several times, and the bullets went by Scarlet, without doing him any harm. The Spectrum captain quickly twisted around. Just in time to see that Dooley, behind him, had risen up from the floor, his gun in his hand, ready to shoot him in the back. But this time, Colonel White had been faster, and emptied Scarlet’s bullets into the Mysteron’s body. Dooley fell on his back, without even having had the chance to fire.
Scarlet looked at the Mysteron, unsure whether he would try again to stand up. Then he turned to face his grim-looking, apparently unwell commander. “Now it’s YOU who had ME worried, sir. Thank you.”
White simply nodded; he, too, was still watching the Mysteron. The man he was created from had been his long-time friend. It was just as if he had killed his friend himself. Scarlet could see it was disturbing him and didn’t pursue the subject. He took the radio he had relieved Dooley of a short moment ago and quickly searched for a frequency on it. White was watching him, wondering what he was up to now.
“I’m contacting Cloudbase,” Scarlet explained, seeing the inquiring look in his commander’s eyes. “If this ship is going to explode, the Angels had better be away from it…”
He was interrupted as a voice suddenly came out of the small receiver; Scarlet had made connection with Cloudbase, using his personal coded radio frequency; but instead of Lieutenant Green, it was another voice he was hearing, with a tone that was at the same time apprehensive and somehow upset:
“Captain Scarlet, where the hell have you been?” Captain Blue almost shouted over the radio.
Lieutenant Green must have received instructions to put me in direct link with him if I called, Scarlet mused. The first moment of surprise past, he answered the call quickly.
“No time for explanations now, Captain Blue. I’m on the bridge of the Drake, right now, and I’m contacting you to call the Angels off. The ship is rigged to explode and they must not be caught in the blast!”
“You’re on the bridge? With Colonel White?”
“Yes. We’re on our way to evacuate and…”
“Stay where you are! We’re coming to get you! “
Scarlet frowned, hearing the insistence in his friend’s voice. “Where are YOU?”
“Right in front of you!”
The surprise in Scarlet was now complete astonishment, as he instinctively raised his head. A Spectrum helicopter came hovering down in front of his eyes, right on the other side of the large glass bay. It was so close that he could even see Melody Angel at the helm, with Captain Blue at her side.
“Hit the deck and stay down!” Blue barked into his cap microphone.
Scarlet understood his intention when he saw the machine gun under the belly of the helicopter being levelled directly at the window. He didn’t need to be told twice and pushed an astounded and speechless White flat on the floor, before covering him with his body. The second after, he heard the crackling sound of the machine gun, along with the shattering of the exploding window. Bullets whistled across the bridge, hitting the wall on the other side, sending splinters of glass raining down on his back, as he was trying to protect his commander from them. He could see, by the pain-contorted and flushed face of White, that he wasn’t doing any good to his injured shoulder, which was supporting most of the captain’s weight.
The firing stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and Scarlet got back to his feet. The glass window had been completely destroyed, offering an opening through which he and the colonel would be able to get out. The helicopter had slightly turned around, and Scarlet could see the open hatch on its side. Captain Blue was standing there, wearing a power pack. One brief push on the handles, and he was just outside the window, hovering before the now large opening.
Scarlet gathered the half-conscious White up; the pressure put on his shoulder, the pain and the loss of blood he was suffering, all that had taken their toll of him; he could hardly move.
“Take him!” Scarlet shouted over the noise made by the rotor blades. He pushed White into Blue’s hands, before the latter could ask for more explanation. As Blue carried the colonel into the waiting helijet, Scarlet turned toward the weapons console and looked down at it. He saw the red button the colonel had told him about. Without any hesitation, having absolutely no doubt about whether his commander had told him the truth about it or not, he pressed it down. He saw a green indicator light up, with the information ‘Torpedoes entering tubes’ flashing on it.
Scarlet didn’t wait for the information to change and turned again toward the window. Blue had just come back after dropping the colonel into Magenta’s helping hands. Again, Scarlet didn’t give him the chance to ask for clarification. “Did you tell the Angels to get clear?”
“Everybody is pulling off, but…”
“Good! Let’s do the same!”
He climbed through the shattered window and grabbed for the power pack’s handles; it transported both him and Blue into the hovering helicopter. As soon as his feet touched the ‘copter floor, Scarlet shot a brief, concerned glance toward a nearly unconscious Colonel White lying down on the floor, under the care of Magenta who knelt at his side; then, without further delay, he directed his attention to the pilot: “Step on it, Melody!”
The young woman’s answer was a swift turn to the left achieved by the helicopter. Everybody hung on to anything they could, being knocked off their feet by the craft’s too prompt takeoff. Looking through the canopy, Scarlet could see the Drake being left far behind. The Angels were keeping their distance too, flying high in the sky.
“Would you mind telling me what’s going on?” Blue asked Scarlet. “You said the Drake was set to explode… What were you talking about?”
In answer, Scarlet simply nodded in direction of the Drake. Within seconds, a thunderous blast made itself heard, and a huge ball of fire appeared at the bow. The fire quickly spread over the entire ship, as other, consecutive explosions made themselves heard, shooting large pieces of metal and fiery tongues into the sky and all over the sea.
“Good God…” Blue murmured, his eyes wide in astonishment at the scene. “Not a second too soon.”
“You can say that again.” Scarlet consulted his watch. A little more than a minute since he had pushed the button. The colonel had been right.
“Was the de Brus far enough to avoid any of the blast?” Blue asked, turning to Melody.
The young woman checked through the canopy. The cruise liner was sailing safely away, still at high speed, and was obviously unscathed by the threat that had been hanging over her head.
“Seems all clear, Captain,” Melody announced. “I’ll just contact Captain Grey to make sure.”
“Please, do that. Then head towards the nearest medical facility. The colonel is wounded.”
Along with Scarlet, Blue turned his attention toward Colonel White, who was still lying on the floor. Magenta had put a folded blanket under his head to make him more comfortable. He used another one to cover him, for he was shivering, as if he were cold. Now the Irish officer was carefully checking on his commander’s bleeding shoulder. He probably made an incautious movement, as the Colonel’s sweating face suddenly creased with pain.
“Careful,” Blue urged the contrite-looking Magenta. “He’s not Scarlet, you know?”
“I know I’m not,” came the sudden, slurred reply of Colonel White. He tiredly opened his eyes and looked at the worried faces of the three officers surrounding him. He smiled faintly at Scarlet. “Now I remember,” he said. “Indestructible, right?”
Scarlet answered with a smile of his own.
“Well, I may not be indestructible,” White continued, “but I’m still tough enough.”
“There’s no doubt about that, sir,” Scarlet replied.
Magenta was checking on the Colonel’s wounded leg, when a last explosion from the Drake drew everybody’s attention toward it. White watched as the ship he had commanded so long ago now fought her last battle, in an impressive display of explosion, fire, and the screeching sounds of tearing metal. Slowly, it began to sink.
There was an expression of infinite sadness in the Colonel’s eyes; he couldn’t divert his sight. Noticing this, Captain Blue slowly closed the hatch; that seemed to draw the Colonel out of his thoughts.
“You’re responsible for that?” Blue asked him, almost accusingly.
White nodded. The blond captain shook his head. “Good show.” He frowned, staring his commander squarely in the eyes. “You called me by my name,” he reminded him, falsely angry. “You know it’s specifically forbidden by Spectrum’s regulations?”
“So put me on report.” White almost chuckled, but the laugh choked down with a grunt of pain. He didn’t want to worry his officers. “Not that I want to complain but… I thought I ordered you not to come to my rescue earlier on,” he continued quickly, addressing Blue.
“You didn’t order me. And anyway, sir, without meaning any disrespect, you are in no position to give me ANY orders at the moment.”
“So we’re still on that, are we?” White murmured faintly. “I’m still your prisoner then?”
It was meant as a pleasant banter, but obviously, the spirit wasn’t behind it, as the colonel seemed to grow weaker. Scarlet and Blue addressed a concerned look toward Magenta, who was still in the process of checking the severity of his leg injury. The Irish captain stared back at them.
“I think an artery has been hit,” he said, with evident worry in his tone. “He’s already lost a lot of blood. We’ve got to get him medical care as soon as possible.”
“Melody?” Blue called to the pilot’s station.
“I heard, Captain. We’re already heading for Newcastle. I’m calling the Princess Margaret Memorial Hospital to inform them of our arrival.”
“Call Spectrum for a security team to be waiting for us at the hospital,” Blue added. “I want maximum security there for the colonel.”
Blue turned with concern toward the weakening Colonel White. Scarlet was crouched next to him, and had put a reassuring hand on the older man’s good shoulder. “Don’t worry, sir. You’ll be all right soon.”
White’s eyes fluttered; he knew he was about to lose consciousness, but he found the strength to reach for Scarlet’s hand. He squeezed it in his own.
“You’d better believe it,” he said between clenched teeth, with the same determined tone that his officers knew so very well. He closed his eyes and gave a satisfied sigh, before letting himself be washed away by the comforting motion of the flying craft.