A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
“Now this is a sight some would actually PAY to see.”
It was late at night and Captain Blue was entering the Control Room on Cloudbase when he saw his colleague and partner, Captain Scarlet, all alone in there. The two men, the best team of the international military task force known all over the world as Spectrum, had been assigned to joint command of the whole organization during the absence of their commander-in-chief, Colonel White. Everyone recognized in Scarlet and Blue their respective qualities of leadership, but Scarlet was also specifically known for his distaste for paperwork and desk jobs. That was why Captain Blue was teasing him now, seeing him seated in front of the huge central computer of the Control Room, which was the habitual station of Cloudbase’s own communications officer and computer expert, Lieutenant Green.
“Where’s the lieutenant?” Blue asked, coming over to Scarlet and looking all around in search of the young Trinidad-born officer.
“Did you actually notice the time, Adam?” Scarlet replied dryly. “I sent him to his quarters. He’s turned in for the night. That’s why I’m manning the computer right now.”
“All by yourself? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Oh, go on… I know the colonel often does it himself.”
“The colonel knows A LOT MORE about computers than you and me put together.”
“I’m not totally ignorant about these things, Captain Blue.”
“When was the last time YOU actually manned this station?”
“More than a year ago…”
“Almost TWO years ago.”
“Don’t worry. Green brought me up to date on the latest improvements. Now, what’s THIS function supposed to do, anyway?”
Scarlet was about to push a certain button when an ashen Captain Blue suddenly stopped him. “What are you doing? That’s the red alert siren! You’ll wake up all of Cloudbase for nothing with that…”
Blue stopped in the middle of his sentence when he saw the broad grin on his friend’s face.
“You were kidding me,” he realised.
“Relax, Adam. Everything’s under control,” Scarlet mockingly replied.
“I can’t help it, you know?” Blue sighed and went over to the round computerized desk that was the domain of the Spectrum commander. He sat behind it and put his feet up. “I can cope with the job, it’s all the waiting, and worrying about what’s going to happen next that’s getting to me.”
“I suppose you’re mostly talking about the Mysterons,” Scarlet remarked.
Blue nodded. “For the better part of these last two years, they’ve taken up more of our time than any other terrorist group on Earth.”
“Probably because that particular ‘terrorist group’ isn’t actually from this Earth,” Scarlet replied.
“If only we knew exactly what they want. I have a difficult time accepting that crack about ‘total destruction of life on Earth’.”
“They do seem to have the means to carry out the threat.”
“My point exactly. So why don’t they simply do it, instead of torturing us?”
Scarlet shrugged. “Must be their way of getting revenge for having their complex on Mars blown to pieces by ‘Earthmen’. They want to break us before they actually annihilate us.”
“That’s something else that bothers me about them,” Blue mused, frowning. “The destruction of their complex was a mistake. An awful mistake. But with their powers of retrometabolism, they reconstructed it without effort… At least, apparently. So why do they take that destruction so dramatically? Why can’t they accept our apologies? The Colonel did admit to them that the incident was wrong, last year. He offered a truce. They responded by ambushing you, when you went to meet their representative.”
“Nearly blew up Cloudbase too,” Scarlet added.
“Do you think the reason they’re not willing to make peace with us is because they’re actually afraid of us?
“Sorry. But the Mysterons being afraid of us isn’t something I envision easily.” Scarlet looked at his friend. “Beside, if that really was the case, the Mysterons wouldn’t give us ANY chances. Earth would already be a uninhabited ball travelling in space.”
Blue shook his head gloomily. “So much for that theory,” he mused. “It would be nice to know what really motivates the Mysterons, though…”
“You want a simple answer?” Scarlet replied. “They’re pure evil.”
Blue rolled his eyes. “Come on, Paul! I know you hate them for what they did to you, but…”
“You’d understand if you could feel them like I do, Adam,” Scarlet replied.
“I… suppose, yes.” Blue sighed. “I’m depressing you with all my questions, aren’t I?”
“You’re nervous every time the Colonel takes time off,” Scarlet said, smiling. “So I’m not really surprised to hear you talking like this.”
“You know me too well, Paul. Yeah, I guess I AM nervous, every time the old man leaves base and goes down to the surface. Every time he puts me in command, something bad happens… Remember earlier this year, when we had to call him back from his vacation? The Mysterons had to rear their ugly heads again…”
“Well, I don’t know if their ‘heads’ are ugly… I don’t even know if they have ‘heads’, to begin with… But what I remember vividly about that time is the way the old man almost bit off YOUR HEAD when he found out that your carelessness actually endangered MY secret… to my own father, no less.”
Blue saw the hard look his friend was giving him. He remembered that incident well, too. Because he had talked too much about the Mysterons to the WAAF Supreme Commander, Scarlet’s father, General Charles Metcalfe, commander of the WAAF British Forces, had actually discovered one of Spectrum’s most guarded secrets. And that secret concerned his only son.
Two years ago, during Spectrum’s first mission against the Mysterons, Captain Scarlet had actually been killed and recreated as one of their first agents on Earth, totally intent on following his masters’ instructions. Blue himself had succeeded in stopping the Mysteron agent whose mission was to kidnap the World President. In a showdown on top of the London Car-Vu, Blue had shot Scarlet through the heart, sending him spinning down 800 feet to a certain death. But somehow, miraculously, Scarlet had survived. The fall had broken the spell the Mysterons had over him and he came back to his old self, with no memory of what he had done under the aliens’ control. There were some changes in him, though: his new body had kept the Mysteron power to recreate itself. Even if he were to ‘die’, by human standards, Captain Scarlet would heal from his wounds, totally, in a matter of hours. He could also sense the Mysterons’ presence, or danger coming from them. These new attributes, combined with Scarlet’s already impressive military skills, made him Spectrum’s most effective weapon in its fight against the Mysterons. It was also a secret nobody outside of Spectrum knew about. Not even Captain Scarlet’s parents, to whom it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to announce their son had died while he was still fighting the good fight.
“Are you ever going to forgive me for that indiscretion?” Blue muttered.
“That… ‘indiscretion’ almost meant the end of my relationship with my father,” Scarlet retorted rather dryly. He paused a few seconds before adding, with a smile: “But it turned out all right in the end. It didn’t take long before he stopped considering me an impostor and started talking to me again. And that settled the problem I’d had with him since this whole situation started. Namely, telling him the truth about me.”
“All things considered… you should thank me?” Blue asked his friend.
“I wouldn’t go THAT far,” Scarlet grinned mischievously.
Blue rolled his eyes and sighed. “Why do I have to put up with you?”
“Because I’m your best friend and I do my best to keep you out of trouble.”
“Push me deeper down into it, you mean.”
“For example, you’re so unpopular as commander that the Colonel has to ask ME to team up with you so you don’t end up with a mutiny on your hands.”
“Who says I’m unpopular?” Blue frowned.
“Come on, Adam! Every time you sit down in that chair, a wind of panic blows all over Cloudbase!” Scarlet smiled. “And don’t tell me you don’t know why… It started a little more than a year ago… You remember that little incident?”
“It was all your fault.”
“MY fault? I didn’t send the Angels for target practice over and over again! I tell you, pal, I had trouble keeping even Symphony’s temper down, when the girls told me about it. And all those awful lectures! What was the most ‘interesting’ one Rhapsody told me about? Oh yes… monkeys… I’m glad I was off-base at the time!”
“THAT’S exactly why I did it. Or don’t you recall? You asked me to arrange a distraction so nobody would even notice you were gone, looking for the Colonel after that Mysteron threat against his life.”
“And that was the best you could do?”
“Oh, right! Like YOU have nothing to reproach yourself for during that particular case! Who had the brilliant idea of knocking the colonel out? Who tied him up, gagged him, and locked him up in a cabinet?”
“I did it to save his life,” Scarlet defended himself.
“You’re lucky you actually DID save his life, buddy! He sure was furious with you.” Blue shook his head quietly. “And grateful, as well,” he added, smiling. “I hope he’s enjoying his furlough right now… Do you know where he went?”
“London,” Scarlet answered quickly. “There’s not much more I can tell you. You know he’s very private, he doesn’t talk about himself much.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Which reminds me, I saw the schedule. You’re due for leave next… and at the same time as Symphony, you lucky devil!”
“Oh yes!” A large smile crossed Blue’s handsome face. “It’s been a long time since we had the chance to go away together.”
“I’m sure you’ll make the most of it, then,” Scarlet said. He knew about the special relationship between his partner and his beautiful compatriot, Symphony Angel, one of the five female pilots of the Spectrum Angel Interceptor flight team. It was the same relationship that existed between Scarlet himself and Rhapsody, the British Angel, to whom he was secretly engaged. Sadly, Scarlet would not be as fortunate as his colleague to have his next furlough coincide with Rhapsody’s: she had been on vacation in England for the past week, and he himself wasn’t due for leave for a while yet.
“Do you have any plans, you and Karen?” Scarlet asked his friend.
“Can’t say we really do,” Blue replied, scratching his ear. “We thought of going to her mother’s place…”
“A charming lady…”
“…But then again, maybe not.”
Scarlet shot a puzzled stare at his partner. “You HAVE something in mind,” he remarked.
“Nothing concrete, Paul, I assure you,” Blue answered with a rueful smile. “But you’ll be the first to know about it, I promise you.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Captain Blue started laughing. “Now, then! We can both sleep in peace!”
A beeping sound coming from the computer centre in front of Scarlet caught his attention.
Blue put down his feet. “Who could that be at this hour?” he mused, looking down the indicators on the computerized desk.
“Don’t fret, brother,” Scarlet told him. “I’ve got it.” He pushed a button. “Spectrum Cloudbase Control Room.”
“Rhapsody Angel here, Cloudbase.”
A big smile crossed Scarlet’s face, upon hearing the voice of his beloved Angel.
“Hi there, Angel… this is a pleasant surprise.”
“Hi yourself, Captain… You must be alone if you’re talking to me in such a familiar way?”
“Well, Captain Blue’s with me, but he doesn’t really count.”
“Hello, Rhapsody,” Blue called from his desk.
“Hi, Captain Blue. I take it all is calm on base.”
“I didn’t expect a call from you tonight, sweetheart,” Scarlet said. “Weren’t you supposed to be out on a date?”
“You let her go on dates with others?” Blue murmured with a puzzled frown.
“I would be if my date had actually shown up,” Rhapsody replied to Scarlet, apparently not hearing Blue’s remark.
“He didn’t show up?” Scarlet repeated, perplexed.
“WHO didn’t show up?” a curious Blue asked, standing up.
“Colonel White,” Scarlet told him.
It was Blue’s turn to appear perplexed. “Colonel White had a date with you, Rhapsody?” he said, coming closer to Scarlet’s station.
“We have a common passion for musicals. So we were supposed to have dinner at six-thirty, then go to see the latest production of Les Misérables. And, well…”
“He stood you up?” Blue finished for her.
“That doesn’t sound like him,” Scarlet remarked, thoughtfully.
“That’s exactly what I thought,” Rhapsody agreed. “So I thought maybe some emergency had called him back to Cloudbase…”
“Sorry, love, he’s not here,” Scarlet answered. “And if he’d been called on other Spectrum business, we would have known about it.”
“I was afraid of that,” Rhapsody sighed.
“Could he have simply forgotten?” Blue asked.
“The colonel, actually FORGETTING something?” a sceptical Scarlet retorted. “That’s DEFINITELY not him!”
“Quite right,” Rhapsody agreed again. “And he called me this morning. He was looking forward to this evening.”
“So,” Blue grinned broadly, “the old man still has it in him, huh?”
“Quiet,” Scarlet warned him, annoyed. “Did you try phoning him back, Dianne?”
“I would have if I knew where to reach him. Maybe you chaps can help me on that one…”
“Mmm… The only thing I know for sure is that he usually stays at an old friend’s house, when he goes to London,” Scarlet mused, rubbing his chin. “But that’s about all… Did you try to reach him on his personal communicator?”
“As a last resort, yes. He didn’t answer.”
“Well, that’s odd…” Blue said, frowning.
“Certainly,” Scarlet nodded. “What time is it down there, Rhapsody?”
“Almost eleven… I know it’s late, but all of this seems so unlike the colonel. I’m actually beginning to worry, Paul.”
“Worry?” Scarlet replied reassuringly. “Come on now, love… The old man’s a tough one and he certainly knows how to take care of himself.”
“We’ll try to reach him from our end, Rhapsody,” Blue added. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about either. The colonel probably got together with a pack of old buddies, had a few beers with them, and got totally engrossed in reminiscing about glories from the past…”
“I hope it’s only that… but the image you just put in my mind doesn’t really fit with what we know of Colonel White.”
“Go and get some sleep, Dianne,” Scarlet continued. “We’ll call you back tomorrow morning to inform you of the colonel’s whereabouts.”
“Please do. Goodnight then.”
“Good night. I love you.”
“Love you back. Rhapsody out.”
Captain Scarlet cut the communication and leaned back on his seat, his fingers crossed on his chin, looking thoughtful. He noticed the bemused way Captain Blue was staring at him.
“What?” the British captain asked, frowning.
“You’re cute, Scarlet. You know that?”
Scarlet snorted. “Cute? I don’t think even my mother ever called me ‘cute’!”
“I’m referring to you and Dianne,” Blue explained. “You’re good for each other.”
“I know SHE’S good for me,” Scarlet said with a fond smile. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner…”
Blue nodded. “Sometimes, we’re too thick for our own good in these matters…” He tapped his friend’s shoulder and gestured toward the communication system. “What do you make of it?”
Scarlet shook his head. “About the colonel missing his date with Dianne? I’m not sure… Maybe it’s nothing. We’ll find out soon enough, anyway. And I really don’t think we have cause for concern.”
“I can’t imagine him actually standing Dianne up… That seems out of character.”
“I know. That’s something you’d expect an American to do.”
Blue opened his mouth with the intention of answering back, but stopped right away. He couldn’t think of a quick enough retort. He looked morosely at his grinning friend.
“Really CUTE, Metcalfe.”
“Yes… You said that already.”
* * *
The first thing Colonel White felt upon regaining consciousness was a chill crossing his upper body. His head felt a bit light, but it was not really a disagreeable sensation. He was lying on his back and could hear buzzing and murmuring all around him. He opened his eyes to stare up at a high, white ceiling. Too much light, he thought, narrowing his eyes against the irritating, almost blinding, brightness bathing him. Where I am, what I am doing here? This isn’t my room at Dooley’s…
Dooley was dead. That realization brought back the memories of what had happened before White passed out. That was then that he felt movement nearby. He wasn’t alone.
White lifted his head and looked around. There were many people surrounding him, all dressed in white, looking an awful lot like hospital personnel. They were all busy with different tools, some were checking on monitors, and taking notes on pads. The Spectrum commander tried to sit up, in vain. He was strapped down on some sort of padded operating table, surrounded by electronic devices. The reason he felt cold was because his shoes and socks had been removed and he had been stripped to the waist.
Colonel White looked in dismay and anger as a silent young woman dutifully applied a series of electrodes to his chest.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”
The woman didn’t even acknowledge him, but helped a man, standing on the other side of the table, to secure a leather strap over White’s chest. Other people were doing the same, with all of his limbs, tightening them so he would not be able to move at all. That did nothing to reassure the Colonel, but it did stoke his bad temper.
“Who are you people? What am I doing here? What do you want from me?”
“All these questions, Colonel White…”
A shiver ran down White’s spine when he heard that ominous, monotonous voice. He looked to his left and saw a man approaching quietly. Dressed all in black, with an unnaturally pale complexion and a bad shave. The Colonel blanched. “Captain Black!” he rasped.
“It has been a long time, Colonel.”
The voice… it wasn’t Captain Black’s real voice White was hearing. It was the voice of the Mysterons. Over the last two years, he had often heard it, over the radio. But to actually hear it addressing him directly… It was rather unsettling and certainly frightening. Especially since it was coming out of the mouth of an old friend.
Colonel White had not seen Captain Black since he had left for his mission to Mars, just before he was taken over by the Mysterons. Those who had been in contact with him, like Captain Scarlet and Symphony Angel, had told their commander of the changes – physical and otherwise – they had seen in him. His complexion, peaked features, and five o’clock shadow were some of those things; the coldness in his eyes was another. Even before the Mysterons had taken control of him, the man who was once Conrad Turner was a reserved, private man, and had already seemed like an unfeeling fellow at times. But now there was something alien, even evil, reflected in his icy gaze.
“It has been a long time indeed, Captain,” White remarked, trying to keep his voice even.
Black stared at him blankly and then directed his attention to a man of about forty, who had approached the table from the other side. “How soon, doctor?” he simply asked.
“Now that he’s awake, in a few minutes,” the man responded quietly. “We just have a few adjustments to make before we start.” White looked at the man and watched as he wrote some notes on his pad. “You’re really a fit specimen, Colonel. For your age, I’d say you have the perfect physical condition of a man in his early forties…”
Upon hearing his remark, spoken in such a matter-of-fact tone, White stared at him in disbelief. He turned his attention back to Captain Black.
“What do you want from me?” he snapped.
“The Mysterons have need of you, Colonel White,” was Black’s monotonous reply.
“You’re going to Mysteronise me?”
“If that had been our intention, you would already be dead by now.”
White turned pale. The threat in itself was disturbing, but it was one of his friends who had actually pronounced it. Conrad Turner had saved Charles Gray’s life, long before the two of them were contacted to help form, and then to join, Spectrum. They had remained friends ever since, even with the reserve imposed by the military rules of Spectrum. Now Black was looking down on his former friend and commander as if he wasn’t even a living, breathing human being.
“Black, what do you have in mind?”
“You’re going to undertake a mission for us.”
“Never. You’d better kill me right now, because there’s not a chance in Hell I’m going to help you.”
“But you will, Colonel White. And quite willingly, I might add.”
White turned to the ‘doctor’ who had just said those words. By now, he was so tightly restrained that he could hardly move a muscle from the neck down. Electrodes were applied all over his body, and the Colonel could see the young woman he had admonished earlier as she put some kind of an electronic peg on his left big toe. His attempt to evade her by moving his foot did not discourage her and she carried out her duty, before going to a trolley that she then positioned next to his head. On it was a set of syringes. “Who are all these people?” White asked, watching uneasily as the woman was preparing the injections.
“Names are not important, Colonel,” the ‘doctor’ replied, always matter-of-factly. “Let’s just say we’re people acting in our own best interests.”
“That doesn’t sound like what a Mysteron agent would say,” White remarked coldly.
“That’s probably because we are human agents, Colonel.” The doctor gestured casually to himself and the others. White’s face hardened. The doctor nodded. “Yes, I see you understand… We’re collaborators of the Mysterons.”
“Collaborators?” White spat with anger, struggling against his restraints. “Traitors!” He nodded toward Black. “HIM, I can understand his position. But you…”
“WE are probably the best chance the human race has to survive, Colonel. Survive and thrive; when this war is over, the Mysterons will reward those who stood by their side and helped them. And that will be us.”
“I suppose every war has its handful of scum ready to tread on their own kind and take advantage of the situation, for their own profit.”
“A handful?” the doctor repeated, lifting an eyebrow. “But we’re far more than a handful, my dear Colonel. In fact, we’re a whole… network. That’s the name you can use for us: the Network. You just have no idea of many of us there are, all around the world, in different areas, in so many countries… working in secret, so our target – and the Mysterons’ – will eventually be reached.”
“Do you have any idea what that target is?” White replied dryly. “They want to annihilate us!”
“They want to annihilate those who attacked their complex on Mars,” the doctor retorted. “And you know as well as I do WHO is responsible for that dreadful thing.”
“Spectrum will find your kind and stop you!”
The doctor scoffed at the threat. “Spectrum isn’t even aware that we exist! YOU’RE the first to learn about it. Oh yes… I can tell you that. It’s not as if you’re going to report it back to anybody.” He smiled lightly. “You know, it’s really an honour to have you amongst us, Colonel. To actually work on the Spectrum commander himself…”
“Why you…” Fury took hold of White. He tried to lash out once more against his restraints, but couldn’t move so much as an inch. He then turned to Black, who was standing still at the same spot as before, looking unemotionally at his former commander.
“Damn it, Conrad!” White called out to him. “Why can’t you shake that hold the Mysterons have on you? Give me a hand, here!”
“Conrad Turner is dead, Colonel White.”
The answer sank deep into White’s heart. “It’s not true!” he replied sharply. “Come on, Conrad! Snap out of it! Help me!”
“I’m sorry, Colonel.”
Black nodded toward the doctor, who in turn gave a command to two of his assistants and to the young woman still nearby. She took one of the syringes and injected something into White’s right forearm. He felt the sting of the puncture and the drug entering his bloodstream.
“What will you do to me with this stuff and this… contraption?” the Colonel growled.
“This device?” the doctor said very calmly. “That’s something we borrowed from our recent past history, Colonel. Maybe you heard of it, in your days with the Secret Service. It was called the Dream Spinner.”
The name immediately rang a bell in White’s memory. Yes, he had heard of it… and of what it was capable of doing. “No,” he muttered, struggling again. “No, I won’t let you…”
“That’s not an option for you, Colonel,” the doctor said coldly.
“Conrad!” White called out desperately. “For the love of Mercy, don’t let them do this!”
“I am truly sorry, my old friend.” White heard the monotonous tone of Captain Black. “I regret having to cause you pain.”
The Mysteron agent then turned away with the obvious intention of leaving the room through a door behind him. Colonel White could have sworn he had heard some concern in Black’s voice and he tried to call to him again. But somebody forced some kind of mouthpiece between his teeth and secured it tightly so he would not spit it out. The thing acted as a sort of gag and the Spectrum commander wasn’t able to utter anything more than a furious groan. One of the doctor’s assistants took White’s head firmly between his hands and held it still against the padded surface, while the other proceeded to strap his neck into a kind of collar attached to the table. Resistance was quite futile, but White was not giving up.
“Make sure he is unable to move at all,” the doctor instructed his assistants. “We wouldn’t want him to seriously injure himself while we proceed.”
Another length of leather strap was secured under White’s chin, keeping the mouthpiece well in place, while a last one was pressed over his forehead, securing his head against the table. Now he was totally still. About the only things he could actually move were his fingers and eyes.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Captain Black was gone, leaving him to his fate. White had no illusions about what was going to happen to him. He had heard enough of the Dream Spinner to know he wouldn’t have much chance of resisting it. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t try with all his strength, however.
The doctor applied two electrodes over his temples. One of his assistants took a small bottle and fixed it somewhere under the table. Connections to the multiple electrodes were made. Some small earphones were put into White’s ears and a transparent mask was placed over his mouth and nose. Gas, White thought grimly. They’re going to use a combination of gas, drugs, sounds, and whatever else they have in store for me…
The colonel saw the doctor addressing a nod to his assistants. Monitors were opened and buttons pushed… And a distraught White, his heartbeat rising, was now anticipating what was about to begin.
A hissing sound came to his ears. The gas was coming… He could feel it filling the mask, entering his nostrils. No sense in trying not to breathe it, he thought. There is simply no way to avoid this.
He heard a faint hydraulic murmur coming from under the table; it was barely audible, but it seemed to come from directly under his head. What is this? What in God’s name will they do to me? Waiting and not knowing what this sound could presage was driving White crazy.
He felt it then. The burning sting of something piercing his skin, just under the nape of his neck. It felt like a long, narrow needle, which made its way under his skull and into his brain. White bit hard into the mouthpiece, closing his eyes against the pain. He could feel the new, slow injection of the drug and went stiff.
This is going to hurt, was his last coherent thought, just before a strident, piercing sound filled his ears, and made him wince. At about the same time, a horrible headache, like the impression that his brain was on fire, overwhelmed him. Within seconds, it became totally unbearable and Colonel White would have cried out and writhed in pain, if not for the mouthpiece and the straps restraining him.
Until that time, he realized, he had never learned the limits of his own pain threshold.
* * *
From the next room, Captain Black watched the experiment in progress throughout a large bay window. His attention was totally focused on the patient secured to the Dream Spinner device, hooked up to the equipment which surrounded him. The screams, though half-muffled by the mouthpiece, were still quite audible and Black could see White’s pain-contorted face, his chest heaving from his rapid breathing, his hand frantically trying to hold on to something, anything... That was a sight Black could not detach his eyes from, and it was almost painful to watch.
The doctor, who had left his ‘patient’, entered the room, and for a brief moment, Black was able to hear more clearly the muffled screams of his former commander throughout the open door. “Close it,” he ordered quickly, but without apparent feeling.
The doctor obeyed and came closer to Captain Black. “How long?” the Mysteron agent asked quietly.
The doctor shrugged. “We’re forcing the process, here. If he’s a stubborn subject, it could take all night.”
“Colonel White has a will of iron,” Black retorted. “It will take all night. And then I suppose he will be completely ours?”
“He will believe everything the Dream Spinner puts into his mind. The treatment will rearrange his thoughts and memories so we will be able to use him for our own ends. Act carefully, and he will be totally dedicated to the mission you’ll give him.”
“You realize, however, that because it is forced on him, there are some downsides to the treatment. He will become totally unstable and unpredictable, with violent mood changes, and equally violent behaviour. If you tell him to do something that disturbs or confuses him, he may turn against you.”
“Given his temper, it may prove volatile.” Black turned to face the doctor. “What about his old associates? What could happen if he were to encounter Spectrum agents?”
The doctor scoffed. “If they alarm him in any way, he’s liable to shoot at them. And shoot to kill.”
Black looked at the Spectrum commander on the other side of the window.
“Is all that suffering really necessary?” he asked, as he listened to the screams.
The doctor seemed puzzled. “Oh, yes. The pain…” He, too, glanced at the prisoner with a look almost colder than Captain Black’s himself. “His will must be broken,” he replied. “The more he resists, the more he suffers. On the other hand, the more the Dream Spinner treatment takes hold of his mind.” He quickly glanced back at Black. “I realize that may be unsettling for you. I read the report about him. He was one of your best friends.”
“I already killed one friend,” Black noted coldly. “You do not understand. Colonel White is not a young man anymore. Though he is strong, I have heard that in the past, the Dream Spinner killed its subjects… If he were to die, that would jeopardize the entire operation.”
“Don’t worry about that. The first injection we gave him was to make sure his heart would last out under the treatment. And my assistants keep all his vitals in check. Nothing will go wrong.”
Another scream came from the other room, yet somehow fainter, and then followed by low groans.
Coming through another door, a man entered the room where Black and the doctor were. The former Spectrum agent did not turn to acknowledge his presence. His eyes were still riveted on Colonel White. “This is Mister Shelby,” he announced quietly. “He will supervise the mission we’re preparing Colonel White for.”
The doctor eyed the man. The latter stared back at him, imperturbably, a cold glint in his eyes. “A Mysteron agent?” the doctor asked, a bit alarmed.
“Do you have a problem with that, doctor?” Black asked calmly.
“Of course, not!” the doctor replied, obviously nervous. “It will be an honour to be working with you, sir… But I thought Captain Black was in charge of the mission.”
“Barring any problem, I shouldn’t get myself involved,” Black replied. “But my presence will be felt. As for you, doctor, as soon as the treatment is completed, you will disappear with your medical staff. There will be no need for your expertise after that. No need to expose you to discovery. You could be far more valuable later to the Mysterons if you keep away from this mission.” He looked blankly at the doctor. “As it is, you have already said too much to Colonel White about your Network.”
“The information could be of no use to him,” the doctor replied, “since he will be under your total control before the night is over… And I suppose you don’t intend letting him live after the mission?”
“You suppose too much. As you talk too much. WE will decide Colonel White’s fate in due time. And you, doctor, will bring back this message to the Network: continue to serve the Mysterons well, and you will be rewarded accordingly.” Black looked back toward the operating room where White had suddenly gone quiet. It was difficult to see if he was even conscious, as his eyes were closed. One of the doctor’s assistants was presently preparing a new injection.
“I think that you’d better see to your patient, doctor,” Black said evenly. “The treatment seems to have reached its next phase.”
The doctor took a look into the other room and hesitated a second; he then understood that Captain Black had just asked him to leave. He cleared his throat and excused himself before going back inside the operating room.
Black followed him with his eyes through the window, addressing Shelby who stood a few feet behind him:
“Is everything ready?”
“Everything is ready. As soon as Colonel White is set, we will be on our way.”
“Will the henchmen provided by the Network know how to behave toward him?”
“They know their role perfectly. They are surprisingly efficient. And they are eager to take on the mission.”
“Earthmen fools,” Black muttered under his breath. “Let there be no mistake: The Network and its men are nothing but tools. If it should prove necessary, sacrifice them.”
“I will obey,” Shelby answered without emotion.
“Nothing must stand in the way of the Mysterons’ revenge,” Black continued ominously. “In the end, we will prevail, and the human race will bow to us.”
He watched as the doctor adjusted another bottle on a device under the operating table, situated just under the patient’s head. The device was surmounted by a long needle pointed upward at a precise angle. As soon as the doctor stood up to lean over White, one of his assistants activated the needle and it went up. Black saw the point slowly disappearing as it entered a precise point on the table. Further away, another assistant, standing in front of an electronic panel, was turning large dials, apparently controlling the sound through the speakers fixed to the patient’s ears. Black saw his former commander’s body flinch as the treatment continued.
“You may leave, now,” Black told Shelby, his eyes riveted on the scene. “I’ll contact you as soon as you are needed.”
Shelby went quietly out the door. Black drew nearer to the window, staring bleakly as he witnessed the pain inflicted on the man he had so long called his friend. The strain was apparent by the grimace that contorted his face, and by the way his hands were frantically moving, fighting desperately against the restraints. The ex-Spectrum agent could easily visualize the frighteningly long needle as it forced its way under the skull, conveying the drug it contained directly into the nerve centre of the brain.
Another muffled scream escaped the patient. Inexplicably, the pupils in Black’s usually cold eyes began to tremble, and he put his hand against the surface of the window, in a gesture of despair.
“Charles,” he whispered, with a quiver in his voice.
The Mysterons were cruel masters; Captain Black had learned this the hard way over the past two years. They had used his body as the vessel for their powers to reach Earth, and as their principal agent of destruction. They had kept a tight hold over him, transforming him into a cold and calculating machine, intent only on following their orders. But the true identity of the man was still there, kept captive far down in the recesses of his mind, dimly aware of what he was forced to do. The Mysterons had chosen to release their hold on him, if just for a brief instant, to take further revenge on him by taunting and torturing his already tormented soul.
“Look upon the face of your friend’s suffering, Conrad Turner, and learn what it costs to arouse the wrath of the Mysterons…”
They’re destroying his mind, Black realized, trying to break his spirit… They’re going to make a mindless puppet out of him… Like they did with me. A wave of nausea caught him in the stomach and he felt the strength leaving his already staggering legs. He slid against the window and reached the floor; he stayed there, shrivelled up, desperately keeping himself from sobbing.
“You have made me commit so many acts of abomination. I have so much blood on my hands,” he said hoarsely. “I killed Paul… Karen nearly died because of me. And now, you’re torturing HIM… Haven’t my people PAID enough already for MY mistakes?”
Muffled cries of pain were still coming to Black’s ears. Distraught, he closed his eyes and shamefully hid his face under his arm. “I am so sorry, Charles…” he whispered, tears choking his voice and filling his eyes. Then, he lifted his head, his stare cold and unfeeling again, emotions totally drawn from him. As suddenly as it had been lifted, the Mysterons’ control had now taken hold of him again. “… But the Mysterons’ orders must be carried out,” he continued icily, once again with the monotonous tone of the aliens.
He got slowly but decidedly to his feet and glanced one last time at the man strapped to the operating table. His resistance was obviously wearing down, as he had stopped struggling so hard against his restrains. A smile of satisfaction crossed Black’s features.
“Soon, you will be ours, Colonel White,” he said quietly. “And you will do the bidding of the Mysterons.” He turned away from the window and walked toward the door Shelby had used some minutes earlier. “And then, when we have done with you… you will die.”