A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
“This is the voice of the Mysterons… We know that you can hear us, Earthmen…”
Captain Scarlet, seated at the round desk of Cloudbase’s command control room, suddenly jumped to his feet, hearing on the speaker the first part of the all-too-well known usual alien threat. In front of the large computer wall, Captain Blue, who was leaning over Lieutenant Green’s shoulder, looking at some information the young communication officer had drawn his attention to, raised his head and stared at the speaker with anticipation and dread.
“We have watched with how much arrogant respect you look upon your so-called ‘honoured heroes’ of the Past… This time, we will strike a blow at your arrogance. In the next seventy-two hours, we will use two such outlawed heroes to cut down one crowned head… This is the voice of the Mysterons… We will be avenged!”
The speaker fell silent. For a brief moment, the three officers in the Control Room looked at each other. Scarlet shook his head and sat back.
“We’re on yellow alert, Lieutenant,” he said to Green. “Tell all personnel to stand ready for action.”
“S.I.G., sir.” Lieutenant Green made the announcement over all of Cloudbase’s speakers.
Thoughtfully, Scarlet rested his chin on his joined hands; Captain Blue stared at his friend’s concerned look.
“Two outlawed heroes to cut down one crowned head…” the American captain mused. He shook his blond head. “I HATE it when the Mysterons make cryptic threats like that!”
“Still no news from Colonel White, Lieutenant?” Scarlet asked, still deep in thought.
“No, Captain,” the young Black officer replied. “I tried to reach him several times already, on his personal communicator. The signal doesn’t seem to reach it.”
“Could it be defective?”
“More like it’s simply turned off.”
“Maybe he’ll hear of the Mysterons’ threat and communicate with us,” Blue suggested.
“Unlikely, Captain,” Green replied. “Another thing: you know how the colonel is pretty strict about the twenty-four hour check-in call to Cloudbase during furloughs? Well, HIS deadline was four hours ago. He didn’t call.”
“I don’t like this,” Scarlet murmured. “It’s definitely not like the colonel to act like that. And now, this threat…”
“Think there may be a connection?” Blue asked, frowning.
Scarlet shrugged. “Something’s nagging at me. Nothing really conclusive… If only we knew where the colonel’s gone…”
“Well, for that, the lieutenant and I may have come up with a clue. Even if it’s still vague.”
Scarlet stood up and came to Green’s station to look at the computer screen the young Black man and Blue had previously consulted. The lieutenant showed him a list of dates.
“Just before the Mysterons made their threat, I was doing some checking out to see if we could learn something of the Colonel’s whereabouts,” Green explained. “You know he rarely takes long vacations, right?”
“Only a couple of days at a time,” Scarlet nodded. “And he always has kept himself available. Not like this time.”
“Look at those dates, sir. They represent all the leave the colonel has taken since the start of Spectrum, three years ago. Do you notice anything?”
Scarlet scanned the dates. “Some of them recur,” he mused.
“Yes,” Blue nodded. “We saw that just before the threat. Once a year, for the last three years.”
“May the thirteenth and fourteenth…” Scarlet read. He pointed out a word, written repeatedly next to the date. “Always in London, on those dates…”
“Yesterday was May fourteenth,” Blue noted. “And the colonel’s been in London too, for the past three days.”
“Yes, but where in London?” Scarlet said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Where does he go and what does he do on the thirteenth and fourteenth of May?”
“Maybe one of those dates represents some kind of an anniversary for him?” Blue remarked.
Scarlet stared at his friend for a second. “Have a look at Colonel White’s private files, Lieutenant,” he said. “See if there’s any match in there for these dates.”
Green gave him a disbelieving look as Captain Scarlet went back to the control desk in order to pick up his cap. The communications officer exchanged a quick, concerned glance with Captain Blue.
“The colonel’s private files, Captain?” Green asked with uncertainty.
“Isn’t that a violation of privacy?” Blue added.
“We have two priorities right now,” Scarlet replied, turning back to face the two men. “Stopping this Mysteron threat and finding what happened to our missing commander-in-chief. Do it, Lieutenant. If you have any problem, just say I pulled rank on you.”
“S.I.G., sir,” Green said, sighing. “But it could take a few minutes to get to it. Those files are password-protected…”
“I trust you’ll be able to hack your way through?” Scarlet replied, smiling.
Green grinned back. “No problem there, Captain.”
“I understand that the situation calls for unorthodox methods,” Blue remarked, “but still, searching into the colonel’s private files… That’s got me worried.”
“Captain,” Lieutenant Green then said, as another matter came to his mind, “since we’re on yellow alert, should I recall Rhapsody Angel from her leave in London?”
Scarlet gave it some thought, before answering. “She’d better stay in London, but tell her to report to Spectrum Headquarters there. We may need her, eventually… Oh, and is Captain Ochre still in London?”
“He stays there, too.” Scarlet put his cap on. “Would you care to follow me, Captain Blue?”
“And where are we going?” the American captain asked, frowning with curiosity.
“To try to get some more clues to where we can find the colonel,” Scarlet answered, going to the door leading out of the Control Room. “Lieutenant?”
“Would you unlock the personal access code of Colonel White’s living quarters, so we can get in?”
For the second time, Lieutenant Green and Captain Blue exchanged glances of perplexity and concern. Blue cleared his throat. “Now you’re really worrying me, Scarlet.” He sighed, putting his cap on, too. “All right, it’s your call. Better do as he says, Lieutenant. I’ll follow that bandit to make sure he doesn’t ransack the colonel’s quarters… or help himself to any of his personal stuff.”
“Really cute, Captain Blue,” Scarlet murmured dryly, shooting his friend an old-fashioned look.
“Don’t mention it.”
* * *
As far as the man who was known as Colonel White was concerned, nothing coherent existed anymore.
Sounds and images darted into his mind. The fiery explosion of an aircraft blown out of the sky… A helicopter that exploded in a giant fireball, with a deafening sound, before plunging into the sea. Two men onboard, burning alive, screaming as death claimed them. Other men, standing on the bridge of a Naval ship – a destroyer type – running around and shouting...
…A tall young man, in a British Navy captain’s uniform, standing on the upper bridge, looking with horror as what was left of the aircraft disappeared into the sea.
He was that young man.
Another man, staring at him from the lower bridge. A defiant glitter in his eyes. A warning the young captain understood all too well.
Murderer. You killed my father. Just to make a point. Just to make sure I wouldn’t get involved…
You were wrong, Bennett.
Then the scene changed. A peaceful cottage, with white walls; a rustic background; a beautiful garden with blossoming flowers. The face of a beautiful, black-haired young lady with singing blue eyes.
“If you think you’re going back to London alone, you are mistaken, Charles Gray! I’m coming with you.”
“Now come on, Elizabeth! There’s no need for you to be there. It will be just another of those long, boring meetings the Service often calls me for…”
“JUST another long, boring meeting? Who do you think you’re kidding, here? I know what you’re up to, Charles. So I’m coming too.”
“To keep me out of trouble?”
“Who better than your former partner to do that?”
“Forget it. You’re staying at home. Think of the baby. The trip can be long and bumpy.”
“The baby is well protected where it is… But I’m not sure the same can be said for its father.”
“There’s no reason to alarm yourself, Liz.”
“Yeah, right. I know you, Charles. I know when you’re lying to me. And I know you’re too stubborn for your own good. Fortunately for you, I can be as stubborn as you are.”
The argument was sealed with a kiss. Strong, passionate. And painful too, as Colonel White couldn’t reach out to the memories that were to follow that fleeting moment. Why can’t I remember anything else? What’s happening to me? Something is wrong… Why are those memories so painful to me?
As painful as the aching in his whole strained body, the churning in the pit of his stomach and the throbbing in his head. All was pain, and the rest, memories and all, was confusingly lost behind a thick haze of his mind.
Although nothing prevented it now, he could not move, nor could he speak. He could not even think straight.
Father… Why did you have to die that way?
Where are you, Elizabeth? I need you...
Each breath he drew sent pain throughout his body. His vision was a blur of mixed and fogged colours and a bright glow of light almost blinding him. That explosion, again and again… Still haunting me…
No. Not this time, he realized. It was the bright white light of a powerful projector focused on him. He could feel the heat of the light on his bare skin. Faces were looking down at him and he could hear faraway voices calling to him.
“Sir, can you hear me? You’re safe, now…”
White moaned and turned away from those faces. He was exhausted. All he wanted right now was to let himself be washed away by all that pain and sleep through it. Maybe then, he would felt better when he woke up.
If only the nagging voices would stop…
“Come on, sir! Don’t sleep. It’s finished.”
White’s eyes fluttered. He tried to find the will to fight his need and desire to sleep. Come on, old man! Snap out of it!
“Can you hear me, sir?” the same voice continued. “We drew the enemy out. The place is ours… You’re safe.”
Although the voice seemed to come from the far end of a large room, it was actually becoming clearer by the second. What’s wrong with my ears? White thought. Feels like one of them is blocked, or something...
His vision became clearer too. He WAS in a large room, all right. Brightly lit, with a high ceiling and grey walls. About a half dozen men were spread all around the place, all dressed in black commando uniforms, armed with automatic weapons. There were two of them crouched by his side, looking at him expectantly. He himself was sitting directly on the concrete floor, his bare back leaning against a wall. All he was wearing was his trousers. He felt cold, even with that light washing down on him, and his entire body was bathed in sweat.
He addressed a questioning look to the man nearest to him.
“Where… Where am I?”
White hardly recognized his voice. It sounded coarse, raspy. His throat was hurting him. Realizing that, the man he had spoken to held a water bottle to White’s lips. The older man was thirsty enough and drank greedily. Too greedily. The contact of the cool water on his stomach had an almost immediate reaction. He suddenly bent to the side and coughed it all out, along with what was left of his last meal.
“My head…” he moaned, feeling the pain reverberating inside his skull. “What happened to me?”
“Here, sir, take some more water,” the other man told him. “Slowly, now…”
Still trying to get his composure back, White took the water bottle in his shaking hand and slowly drank. This time, it did him some good, cooling his aching throat, and invigorating him from the inside. He let out a sigh of relief when he handed the bottle back to its owner.
He then saw the operating table, some feet in front of him, with all the electronic devices surrounding it. Panic overwhelmed White’s mind and he instinctively drew back, his eyes riveted with horror on the thing. The men crouched next to him held him firmly and the one who had already talked to him tried to reassure him. “Take it easy, now… You’re not in danger. Nobody here is going to hurt you anymore.”
“That… contraption,” a still uneasy White said, nodding nervously toward the table.
“Yes.” The commando glanced at it and shook his head. “When we finally found you, you were strapped to it. I don’t know what they tried to do to you, but… I think we arrived in time before they did too much damage. How are you feeling?”
“I’m not sure…” White frowned, staring at the man. “I… was in the enemy’s hands?”
“Yes, sir. You disappeared yesterday, without a trace. We had a hell of a time finding this place where they had brought you.”
“I remember people… dressed in white. A doctor…”
“They’ve all gone, now.”
“You… drew them out?”
“They abandoned the place, without a fight. They left you behind, at the same time. Must have been too afraid they would get caught.”
“Any prisoners?” White asked tiredly.
“No, sir, I regret to say.”
“And did you… did you suffer any casualties?”
“No, everybody is all right.” The man frowned, seeing White shivering. He motioned to a man standing nearby who had a folded blanket in his arms. He came over and draped it around the colonel’s shoulders. The older man nodded his thanks.
“You don’t feel too good, do you, sir?” the first man noted to White.
“No… No, I don’t.” White took a long look at the man. “Who are you people?”
“Don’t you remember us?”
“Sorry, I can’t say I do,” White said, shaking his head. “There seems to be… so many missing pieces in my head… I can’t recall…”
The man nodded. “Maybe that thing did more damage than we first thought,” he realized gloomily. “I hope it will be temporary. We can’t have a commander who can’t function at his best…”
“I’m your commander?” White repeated, frowning.
“Yes, sir. Try to remember.”
“I…” White made an effort to force his mind around this concept. “Yes, I think I am… That feels right…”
“Do you remember WHO you are?”
White hesitated. The man insisted. “Sir, it’s important that you snap out of this. The situation is far too critical to…”
“I do remember who I am,” White interrupted him. “My name…” He hesitated anew. There was something there, which seemed to block his efforts to tell his own identity to the young commando. Why was it so difficult just to say who he was?
“What is your name?” the man asked hurriedly.
“Gray… Charles Gray. That’s my name, yes.”
“Then you do remember it. Good, sir. Now try again. What is your rank?”
Another hesitation. White’s mind was in complete turmoil. The information was there, deep inside it, yet somehow out of reach. And it was so confusing to sort out his memories of what he was and what he had been. The word ‘colonel’ popped up somewhere, but it seemed so impossible…
“I’m in the Navy,” he murmured. “But… there is… There is no…”
There was no rank of colonel in the Navy, of that much he was certain. Then why the Hell…
“Yes, sir. You were in the British Navy,” the commando told him.
“Were?” White repeated, confused by the use of the past tense. “I’m not any more?” He frowned, trying to remember. Conflicting memories were fighting inside his mind. “I was captain of a destroyer, in the British Navy… I do remember turning against the Militarist Government… I refused to follow orders…”
“You’re getting to it, sir.”
“They had my father killed,” White continued, his tone taking a painful edge, his stare becoming distant and gloomy.
“What did you do, then?”
“I… God, Bennett…” A flashback came to White’s mind. He saw a man, in the uniform of a British Navy commander, falling down just after the sound of a firing pistol. The smoke coming out of the barrel of that weapon danced in front of his eyes. He was the man who held that gun.
He had fired the fatal shot.
“I killed him,” he said in a hoarse voice. “I killed the dirty bastard who had murdered my father…”
“So you did,” the man said coldly. It was easy to see that White was distraught at that sudden realization, but he chose to ignore it and continued implacably, “And for that, you were wanted for murder by the British Government… What happened after that?”
“I… I turned my ship against the British Fleet… Joined the Rebels in their cause… My father’s… Mine, now.” White hesitated again, still confused. “The World Government was supporting the Rebels at the time… They gave me the rank of Admiral…”
The commando nodded slowly. “And ever since then… what have you been doing?”
“I’ve been fighting the Militarist Government…” The answer came rather mechanically, without the slightest hesitation.
A smile spread across the other man’s face. White failed to notice the evil satisfaction apparent in it. He was still trying to sort out the confusion in which his mind was fogged.
“They did this to me, didn’t they?” he asked the man. “Government agents, right? They captured me and… hooked me to that thing.” A shiver crawled down his spine as he glanced toward the operating table. He quickly averted his eyes, a sickening feeling on the brink of overcoming him.
“They were Government agents, all right,” the commando said. “Maybe they wanted to extract some information from you…”
“Most likely.” White nervously put his hand on the nape of his neck. Under his sweaty hair, he could feel several painful swellings. He kept himself from wincing. “How did they do that? How did they capture me? I wish I could remember… All I recall is… I was getting myself ready for a date and…”
He stopped in the middle of his sentence, suddenly remembering something. Eyes wide open, he grabbed the surprised commando by the collar of his vest. “My wife!”
“My wife, where is she? What happened to her?” The Spectrum commander was worried sick and acting like a desperate man. The commando tried his best to comfort him.
“Take it easy, Admiral. She wasn’t with you.”
“She wasn’t?” White asked hoarsely, filled with concern. He frowned in disbelief. “You’re sure?”
“Positive. She didn’t follow you on this mission to London. Last I heard, she was still at your home, in Wales, waiting for you. Communications have been erratic, but I’m quite sure she’s fine.”
“Thank God for that!” White whispered, closing his eyes and sighting in relief. “Does she know about my capture?”
“She doesn’t know about it. She doesn’t know anything about your entire ordeal. As I said, sir, communications have been bad…”
“It’s better this way, then. Better that she learns none of this yet. She worries too much about me already…”
The man nodded, as if understanding the older man’s concern. He cleared his throat. “Sir, do you think you can undertake your next mission?”
“I… Yes, I’m ready, whatever it is,” White said nodding. “But you’ll have to give me a rundown on it… I don’t seem to have any memory of it.”
“Don’t worry, Admiral. I’ll tell you all about it.”
“I don’t seem to recall your name either, son.”
“Shelby, sir. Lieutenant-Commander Jason Shelby.” The Mysteron agent gave another evilly satisfied grin. “And it will be an honour to undertake this mission with you. I’m looking forward to it.”
* * *
Colonel White’s personal quarters were next door to Captain Scarlet’s own, yet the young British officer had only entered it twice, in all the time he had been in Spectrum. White was a very private man, and he considered his quarters something of a sanctuary. If sometimes he’d go there to get some moments of peace and quiet – rare and precious during the last couple of years – he had a difficult time actually letting go of his work. He often brought important files to work over on his personal computer.
Captain Blue had never set foot in his commander’s quarters before, and it turned out to be not at all what he would have expected. It was very neat, comfortable, with beautiful furniture, and it was tastefully decorated with paraphernalia, a testimony to Colonel White’s full life. The place, Blue noted, reminded him a lot of Scarlet’s quarters. It was obvious the two of them shared much more than nationality: they had their respective British military backgrounds and upbringing as well. Like the walls of Scarlet’s quarters, White’s sported framed certificates and photos, decorated with medals. The more important ones, Blue thought, were probably kept safely in cases, just like Scarlet did with his.
While Captain Scarlet was seated at Colonel White’s desk, using their commander’s computer to browse over his souvenirs and photo albums stored on disks, Captain Blue was looking around the place, with a kind of juvenile curiosity. He stopped in front of every picture hanging on the wall.
On top of a low cabinet, below a large oil portrait of a pirate of days of old – an object which seemed oddly out-of-place – was a plastic replica of a British destroyer, just like the one Colonel White had commanded during his years in the Navy. Captain Ochre, who was well known throughout Cloudbase for his craftsmanship in building model planes, had given the model to the Spectrum commander as a birthday gift two years ago… A habit that sometimes annoyed his commander, when the captain did it in public places, like the officers’ rest lounge. Yet, White had been pleasantly surprised when Ochre had departed from his usual plane building to make this ship especially for him… and he had thoughtfully named his construction after White’s own ship, the Sir Francis Drake. Very touched, Colonel White had immediately noted that the model was an exact replica of it, down to the last detail, and that Ochre must have made a remarkable effort of research to achieve such results.
After taking a long admiring look at the model ship, Blue turned his attention toward a picture set just beside it.
“Did you know the colonel had chestnut hair when he was younger?” he asked Scarlet. He looked closely at the photograph, representing his commander at a young age, wearing a British Navy officer’s uniform. He was all smiles and seemed very happy, his hand on the shoulder of an older, rugged face gentleman, with a moustache and wearing the uniform of a British Air Force flight sergeant. The older man had a striking resemblance to the present day Colonel White.
“So his father was in the Air Force, eh?” Blue noted. “I would have thought he was a Navy man, just like his son.”
“He was a helicopter pilot,” Scarlet replied, still looking at the many photos and news articles appearing on the screen before him. “And before that, a rough, tough drill sergeant for the Royal Air Force.”
“A drill sergeant?” Blue said, coming toward Scarlet.
“…who brought his son up on his own.”
“You’re kidding, right? Well, that explains certain things about the old man… How come you know that?”
“If you’d join us for tea on Sundays a little more often, you’d know too.”
“We Bostonians prefer our tea at the bottom of Boston Harbor. As an Englishman and a student of American military history, you should know that.”
Scarlet did not reply to the last remark. Instead, he grinned at his friend. “The colonel once told me he had something in common with you, concerning his dad.”
“Let me guess… Daddy blew a fuse when sonny joined the Navy instead of the Air Force?”
Scarlet nodded. “The way your father did when you decided not to follow in his footsteps as a financier, and became a test pilot instead.”
“The friction isn’t obvious, looking at that picture,” Blue said, nodding to the framed photo. “His father came around, I take it.”
While talking with Blue, Scarlet had keyed the name of White’s father into the computer. The screen was now displaying the same photograph Blue was presently looking at. There was a short caption along the side of it. Scarlet nodded quietly. “I suppose Gray senior found it hard to fight against the obvious successes of his son. That picture was taken when the colonel received his promotion to lieutenant-commander. His father must have been bursting with pride. He himself never got higher than flight sergeant.”
“I still have difficulty having a simple coherent discussion with MY dad, concerning my choice of career,” Blue muttered. “And if it were only him: my brother Peter is also on my case about that!”
“Doesn’t that make you wonder if you didn’t make a bad move after all?”
“Are you kidding? Me, actually working in finance with my father and brother? There’d be a murder, for sure!” Blue noticed another framed picture, standing on the desk, right next to the computer. Eager to divert the subject to anything else but himself, he picked it up to examine it closely. “Who’s this?”
“The colonel’s wife,” Scarlet responded.
“His wife?” Blue repeated. As his friend nodded silently, he took a long admiring look at the young raven-haired woman with bright blue eyes who was smiling broadly at the camera. “She sure was a looker,” the American murmured. He stared even more closely at the picture and frowned, before glancing at Scarlet. “Hey, she looks a bit like Rhapsody…”
Scarlet frowned in turn. “What?” He gave just a glance at the photograph. “No,” he said, dismissing the suggestion with a shrug. “Dianne’s a redhead…”
“Yeah, but aside from that,” Blue replied insistently. “Take a closer look: same blue eyes, same facial structure… I tell you, that woman could pass for Rhapsody’s sister… or mother, more precisely.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Adam!” Scarlet’s tone was rather annoyed.
Blue stared at him curiously. “What is it with you, anyway?” he asked. “You don’t like the fact that the Colonel might like the same kind of women as you?”
“That’s preposterous!” Scarlet mumbled.
“You know, looking at it, it’s not really surprising: you two have more in common that you care to admit…”
“And I suppose you think that’s funny!”
“Okay, okay!” Blue said. “Just kidding. I won’t say another word on the subject.” He put down the picture and leaned over his friend’s shoulder to look at the screen he was scanning. “What are you searching for, exactly?” he asked.
“Some leads,” Scarlet said, shrugging. “Anything that can tell us where to find Colonel White.”
“And what is it you’re looking at, right now?”
Scarlet nodded toward the screen. “This is his personal scrapbook… It seems the old man is rather nostalgic. He’s put his whole personal life and career in here. Pictures, newspaper cuttings, articles, personal annotations, even certificates…”
“I see,” Blue mused, rubbing his chin. “Doesn’t it make you feel uncomfortable searching through his stuff like that?”
“Of course it makes me feel uncomfortable, Adam,” Scarlet sighed. “But we have to know…”
“We have to know WHAT?” Blue stared closer at his friend. “What is it that’s bugging you, Paul?”
“I told you it was nothing conclusive,” Scarlet retorted.
“Maybe, but it’s still bothering you… and big time. Come on now, what is it?”
Seeing Captain Scarlet still hesitant to answer, Blue eyed him closely, narrowing his eyes. “It’s got something to do with this Mysteron threat, hasn’t it?”
Scarlet gave him an imperturbable look before tapping some keys on the board. A newspaper article appeared on the monitor with a full-screen title ‘Orkney’s rebel hero to be knighted’. There was a black and white photograph of a forty-something, grim-looking Colonel White, wearing a World Navy Admiral’s uniform.
Blue frowned. “Refresh my memory: at what age did the Colonel retire from the Navy?”
“Thirty-one… with the rank of admiral.”
“Makes you wonder what that fuss about you being the youngest colonel in the WAAF at twenty-nine was all about…” Blue said with a faint smile.
“That was the WAAF,” Scarlet replied with a grin. “The colonel was in the Navy. They’re two different things.”
“Yeah. An Army guy would say that,” Blue sighed, shrugging. He turned his attention back to the article. “He looks older in this picture…”
“It was taken some ten years after he retired.”
“Why is he wearing the uniform?”
“He’s receiving honours for his military service. Current or retired military personnel are usually in uniform for such an investiture, just as you saw my father in uniform when he received his last year.”
“So, Colonel White was knighted, huh? And I suppose YOU knew about that?”
“Yes, I know about it. I’m probably not the only one at that: Rhapsody knows too… and probably Symphony as well.”
“KAREN knows about this?’
“Well, she knew the colonel when they worked in the Universal Secret Service… And even if it was not in the same department, I’m pretty sure she found out about him having being knighted. The fact that some members of the U.S.S. sometimes referred to him as ‘Sir Charles’ was a real giveaway…”
“Yeah, but the rest of us in Spectrum don’t know…”
Scarlet saw the frustrated look upon Blue’s face and smiled faintly. “Don’t pout, Adam. You know how private Colonel White is. Although it wasn’t really a state secret, he didn’t want it spread around, so he simply kept it to himself.”
“So that’s why he went along with it a few months ago when YOU were knighted as well, and YOU didn’t want any of us to find out, either.”
Scarlet nodded quietly. Blue sighed.
“What was he knighted for, anyway?”
“For outstanding services to the Nation, throughout his career,” Scarlet answered. “Notably, during the Civil War of Winter 46-47, when his actions saved a lot of lives… and may have turned the tide of the war in favour of the Rebels.”
“Hold it! Slow down and run that by me again.”
“In December 2046, Captain Charles Gray refused to obey a direct order from the Ministry of Defence, ordering him to attack and destroy a rebel base somewhere in the Orkney Islands. Instead, he turned his destroyer against the ships already preparing to attack, and saved the rebels. There were a number of very important British officials on that base, military and civilian alike, who had banded together to oppose the Militarist Government of the time. There were also representatives from the World Government, which was planning to support the rebels’ cause. Can you imagine what would have happened, if all these people had been killed in an attack by British Navy ships?”
“So the colonel’s decision prevented a full-scale war between Britain and the rest of the world…”
“It helped a great deal, anyway. His move must certainly have taken the Militarist Government by surprise, though. He was already considered as some kind of hero. They had just given him command of his own ship… They certainly didn’t expect him to turn against them, since they thought he was a loyal officer.” Scarlet sighed. “I suppose he WAS. He must have felt his duty and loyalty was to the people of Britain instead of its Government… So many other military people felt the same way, in those days.”
“Wait a minute… Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I probably am.” Scarlet stared at his friend, who was giving him a dumbfounded look. “At some point in his life, Charles Gray, Colonel White, could have been called an ‘outlawed hero’. And certainly was ‘honoured’ for his actions…” He gestured at the screen as proof. Blue shook his head doubtfully.
“Now I see what’s eating you. But you can’t be serious, Paul! The Mysterons wouldn’t actually use the colonel…”
“Why not?” Scarlet cut in suddenly. “It wouldn’t be the first time. They’ve been using Captain Black since the beginning of the War of Nerves. They certainly used Captain Brown and ME. They did the same to Captain Indigo… And at one point, indirectly, they used YOU and Ochre to bomb Atlantica.”
“Don’t remind me,” Blue grumbled. “Never had a hang-over like that in all my life…”
“That’s what you get when you drink Mysteronised wine, Blue.”
“Seriously, Scarlet: the colonel, a Mysteron agent?”
“I don’t like the idea any more than you do. But he’s gone AWOL. That’s never happened before. And now this threat…”
“Then who would be the other ‘outlawed hero’? And which ‘crowned head’ are they going to attack?”
“I don’t know. Look, I may be wrong. I HOPE I’m wrong. There may be a simple, straightforward explanation why Colonel White has disappeared and doesn’t respond to our calls, or even call us. I just think this is an option we have to keep open.”
“And meanwhile, we may be far off the mark, you realize that?”
“Yes, I know. That’s why we must study other possibilities that might present themselves. And in that light, we have to put every available agent on this… with a team to continue the search for Colonel White.”
“What about those dates Green found?” Blue said suddenly. “If they can provide a clue to his whereabouts, don’t you think they may appear in that file you’re actually searching?”
Scarlet stared at his American colleague for a second and then began to tap the keys, entering the first date – 13 May– into the computer. The note ‘No match found’ spread across the screen. Blue shook his head.
“Well, there’s still another one left.”
Scarlet typed ‘14 May’. To both captains’ relief, the computer displayed some information. The British captain grinned at his partner. “You’re a genius, Blue!”
“Yeah, I know,” Blue smiled back. “But nobody ever seems to notice it. So, what have we got?”
He looked at the information with his friend. It was a short news article, entitled “War hero involved in plane accident. Wife dies.” There was a photograph of the young woman whose picture stood on the colonel’s desk. The two men looked at it grimly.
“The anniversary of his wife’s death,” Blue said, nodding.
“Yes,” Scarlet sighed in turn. “We should have thought of that sort of thing.” He rubbed his chin, reading the article. “Doesn’t say much about it…” he mused. “A private plane crash in the Scottish Highlands. The colonel was at the helm, when the craft experienced mechanical trouble… He survived, she didn’t.”
“Elizabeth Somners, thirty-three,” Blue added, reading too. “So young… Such a tragedy.” He stumbled on part of the article that stopped him dead. “Oh, dear God… that can’t be possible! Did you notice the name of the person who saved the old man?”
“Yes, I saw it,” Scarlet replied, nodding. “Radar lost track of the craft shortly before it crashed, the search went on for three days… and Lieutenant Conrad Turner, because he refused to abandon the search, was the one who actually found the plane… with its only survivor trapped in it, and in pretty bad condition…”
“He saved the colonel’s life,” Blue said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Did you know about this, Paul?”
“Well… I knew that Captain Black had saved Colonel White’s life, years ago, yes… In fact, I believe that’s how they met. But I didn’t know in what circumstances.” Scarlet rubbed his chin again. “Now I really feel like I’m intruding on the old man’s privacy…”
“I guess we found more than we need, don’t you think so?”
Scarlet nodded. He flipped down his cap microphone. “Lieutenant Green?”
The lieutenant’s voice immediately came booming from the quarters’ speaker. It sounded rather eager. “I think I found something, Captain!”
“Yes, me too. The death of the colonel’s wife?”
“How did you find that out, sir?” Green’s tone was obviously disappointed. Scarlet permitted himself a faint smile.
“Never mind that now, Lieutenant. I’m missing some information, however. Maybe you have it to hand. Do you know if she was buried in London?”
“Close on the target, sir. More precisely Hampton Hill. In the graveyard of St. James’ Church. I have the address in front of me right now.”
“I’m betting my life Colonel White visited the grave yesterday,” Scarlet said.
Blue snorted. “Not much chance of losing that bet.” Scarlet gave him a murderous look. Blue shrugged. “I mean, the colonel must visit the grave every year… Who would have thought our hard-as-nails commander was such a soft-hearted guy?”
“He’s human too, you know, Captain Blue,” Scarlet remarked rather curtly.
Blue refrained from answering. Sometimes, he wondered about that. Thinking of Colonel White actually being involved with a woman – even being married to her – was somehow an odd concept. The American captain kept his own relationship with Symphony Angel a secret, for fear that their commander would not approve of it – and even oppose it. And Blue also knew that Captain Scarlet, who was involved with Rhapsody, was doing the same thing for the exact same reason.
“So, what do we do now?” Blue asked, clearing his throat. “Do we send a team to the grave to see if there is some clue where to find the colonel? I know he’s probably long gone by now, but at least, it’s a start…”
Scarlet nodded his agreement. “And I have a good idea who to send…” He used his cap microphone again. “Lieutenant, send all the information you’ve found to Colonel White’s computer in his living quarters… including the address of that church… And put me through to Captain Ochre and Rhapsody Angel at London Headquarters.”
Green cut the communication and Scarlet turned to Blue. The blond American was nodding thoughtfully. “Captain Ochre and Rhapsody. Good choice. They’re amongst the best detectives in the world… If anybody can find the old man, it’ll be them.”
“And I’d much prefer to send people from Spectrum senior staff to search for him,” Scarlet added. “No sense in letting too many people know our commander is missing…”
“…And may be in danger of being taken over by the Mysterons. You better tell those two to be extra-careful out there.”
“I will, don’t worry. In the meantime, we’d better call a meeting for the remainder of the staff. And begin to look into different options about that Mysteron threat.”
“I do hope you’re wrong about that feeling concerning Colonel White, Scarlet,” Blue said gloomily.
“I hope so too, Captain Blue,” the British captain replied. “I sincerely hope so too.”