A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
“So, what do you say, honey? Is this exciting or what?”
The civilian car issued to them at London Headquarters, about a half hour earlier, had just left the A308 to enter the village of Hampton Hill. A casually dressed Captain Ochre grinned broadly at the young red-haired woman seated beside him. Also dressed in fashionable civilian clothing, Rhapsody Angel turned a cool gaze on her companion.
“I really fail to see the excitement in this mission, Captain Ochre,” she replied dryly.
“I don’t mean about the Colonel being absent,” Ochre quickly stated. “I mean, you and me… on a secret mission… together.”
“Yes, right. Exciting.” Rhapsody shifted uncomfortably in her seat and sighed. “Forgive me, Captain. You must think I’m not being very good company right now.”
“Hey, no sweat. I suppose you are preoccupied. I am too.” Ochre smiled slightly. “All that banter is only a façade, hon. It helps me get through, from time to time.”
Rhapsody smiled in turn. “Then I suppose you’re a more subtle person than I gave you credit for, Captain.”
“Rick, please. Call me Rick. You remember what Scarlet said when he handed us this mission? Dress civilian, act civilian…”
“…So we won’t give Colonel White’s identity away when we encounter people who probably know him,” Rhapsody nodded. “All right, then… Rick.”
“So… what should our cover be, Dianne?”
“Yeah. Shouldn’t we pose as a young married couple? Or fiancés, perhaps?”
“Does the simple concept of ‘friends’ have any meaning for you?”
“Nobody would believe that good looking people like us could just be friends!”
“Nobody as dense as you are, you mean.”
Ochre scoffed at the so-delicately put insult. “See? We’re already acting like a real couple!” When Rhapsody didn’t answer his sardonic remark, he gave her a quick look. “What is it, anyway?” You’re keeping your goo-goo eyes for someone English?”
From the corner of his eye, he saw Rhapsody twitch on hearing his words. Well, that sure got a reaction out of her, he mused pleasantly.
“Whatever do you mean?” the young British pilot asked, uneasily.
Ochre shrugged. “Didn’t you tell me you were supposed to go out on a date with the colonel, last night?” he retorted innocently.
“Oh!” Just in time, Rhapsody suppressed a sigh of relief. Which Captain Ochre didn’t fail to notice. He also noted the mocking tone she then took to hide her present awkwardness. “Now, don’t go getting the wrong idea, Rick! He just knows I love the kind of show we were going to see last night, and since we were both off duty, he was kind enough to invite me.”
“I would have loved to see Les Misérables too,” Ochre replied with a grin. “He didn’t invite ME.” He looked at the girl and persisted. “You’re sure there was nothing else to it?”
“Really, Rick!” Rhapsody said with a faint smile. “What about the age difference? I’m half his age…”
“I’m sure he still notices women… And, lets face it, you’re a very charming one.”
“That’s really sweet of you, Rick,” Rhapsody thanked him. “But I don’t think the colonel had that in mind when he invited me… You know he’s a gentleman of the old school.”
“Guess you’re probably right,” Ochre said with a nod. “So… that makes you a free woman?” he quickly added with a grin. “I still have a chance, then?”
“In your dreams, Fraser,” Rhapsody responded harshly. Captain Ochre had been bugging her for months now, about the possibility of the two of them going out together. Taking into account Ochre’s reputation as a prankster, it was difficult to know if he was actually serious about this or not. He had always done so half-jokingly, and even sometimes in front of Captain Scarlet. Rhapsody often asked herself how her fiancé could find the patience to listen to his fellow officer and friend’s advances to her, without clobbering him. At times, Rhapsody had seen the annoyance crossing Paul’s features… It was in those moments that Adam was a big help and always managed to find a way to divert everybody’s attention to something – anything – else. One false move, the young woman realized, could jeopardize the secret she and Paul had kept so carefully these last months.
Unbeknown to her, however, Captain Ochre had a pretty good idea of what was going on between Rhapsody Angel and Captain Scarlet. Ochre wasn’t a fool, and neither was he blind. And on top of this, he had one of the best detective minds in the world. For the last three years, he had lived almost twenty-four hours a day with the same people, so it was inevitable he would come to know them fairly well. In the case of Scarlet and Rhapsody, he had begun to notice some changes in their habits over the past few months. They had stopped their usual friendly quarrels to share a more affectionate complicity. They were often seen together, in various places all over Cloudbase. It was so obvious these two were in love, and that they were desperately trying to keep it to themselves. To their credit, a bemused Ochre had to admit, they were making a better job of it than Captain Blue and Symphony Angel…
Having guessed their relationship, Ochre had taken some personal and mischievous pleasure in teasing both Scarlet and Rhapsody… notably by asking the young woman out on numerous occasions. He was wondering when and how one of them would eventually blurt out the news, probably out of exasperation. Ochre was betting on Scarlet. The man had much less patience than his lady friend.
“Here’s the church,” Rhapsody suddenly announced.
“What? Where?” Ochre asked, emerging from his thoughts.
“There, to the right.” Rhapsody pointed to the building, behind which was a graveyard covered with green grass and early flowers. She stared at her companion. “Where were you, anyway?”
“Far away, I’m afraid, darling,” Ochre said, shaking his head.
“You can daydream all you want, Captain, as long as you still remember we drive on the left in this country.”
“And don’t YOU forget to call me Rick,” Ochre replied with a faint smile.
He found a free spot on the street, right in front of the church, and parked the car there. Stepping out, he came round to the other side of the vehicle to open the door for Rhapsody and help her out. She showed herself pleasantly surprised.
“My, aren’t we the gentleman!” she noted.
He grinned. “We Americans are not all total boors, you know, m’lady. We can be as gallant as the next Englishman…”
“…Who are not all as gallant as you think. That’s quite a misconception, you know?”
They walked around the church to reach the graveyard and then, going their separate ways, began to look for the particular grave they were there to investigate. It took them a few minutes to discover it. It was Rhapsody who stumbled upon it, at the far side of the graveyard. She called Captain Ochre to join her. The polished white tombstone marking the grave had nothing to distinguish it from the others, except for the words engraved in it: ‘Elizabeth Somners, 2019 – 2053. Beloved wife of Charles Gray. Remember my love forever.’ Three white roses had recently been put on the grave, right at the foot of the stone.
Captain Ochre crouched in front of the grave and carefully took one of the roses to look at it more closely; he turned a thoughtful gaze to a silent Rhapsody, standing beside him. “Remind you of something?” he asked her, showing her the rose.
Rhapsody nodded slowly. “Looks like the same variety up on Cloudbase,” she murmured.
“I bet they ARE the same variety,” Ochre replied. “And I’m also betting that rose tree on Cloudbase has been trimmed recently.”
“It usually is, this time of year.”
Both agents knew very well that one of Colonel White’s few pastimes on Cloudbase was to cultivate a tree of white roses, just as beautiful as those ones must have been when freshly cut. That tree was his pride and joy, and he didn’t want anybody to touch it. Rhapsody remembered how upset he had been about two years earlier, when Captain Scarlet accidentally damaged the tree. The Colonel roamed the entire base in search of the culprit. Fortunately, Rhapsody herself saved the tree, which lost only a few flowers and branches in the misadventure. That, however, didn’t save Scarlet from being assigned to radar duty for two straight weeks…
“Now we know why he cares so much for that rose tree on the Promenade Deck,” Rhapsody noted. “And why some flowers are always cut from it at this time of year.”
“Yeah,” Ochre nodded. “These roses definitely came from it. I bet the colonel grows them especially for his wife… to put them on her grave.” He shook his head. “That’s love for you.”
“Put that down, Rick,” Rhapsody said uneasily. “We shouldn’t touch it.”
“You’re right.” Ochre put the rose in its rightful place, with utmost respect. He then got to his feet. “Well, at least we know he was here recently,” he told Rhapsody. “Yesterday, at least. The roses are still fairly fresh.”
“Yesterday was the anniversary of his wife’s death, according to Captain Scarlet,” Rhapsody nodded.
“Right. So now all that’s left is to find out where he might be now.”
They heard pebbles crunching beneath approaching footsteps behind them and turned around. They saw a fifty-something minister, with greying hair and small glasses, eagerly coming in their direction. He gave them a broad smile.
“May I be of service to you?” he asked. He seemed a bit uneasy. He’s probably wondering about these two suspicious strangers standing in his graveyard, looking rather too closely at one of the tombstones, Rhapsody thought.
“Er… Yes, Father…” Ochre started, before being discreetly elbowed by Rhapsody.
“…Reverend,” she corrected him.
“…Excuse me, Reverend. Maybe you can help us locate somebody…”
“You’re not from around here,” the vicar said, noticing Ochre’s American accent. “Has that person you’re looking for something to do with that grave you’ve been looking at?”
“Actually, Reverend… It’s the husband we’re searching for,” Ochre answered.
“The husband…” the minister repeated carefully.
“Yes, Charles Gray,” Ochre amplified.
“Distinguished-looking English gentleman, mid-fifties, over six feet tall, with silver hair and blue eyes.” Rhapsody added, addressing a most reassuring smile to the vicar. She had the feeling he was a little bit too cautious… Perhaps a good indication that he actually knew Colonel White. Following the young woman’s precise description, he looked thoughtfully at her.
“I take it you know the Admiral?” he asked.
“The Admiral?” Ochre quizzed.
“Yes, Richard,” Rhapsody said quickly. “He was an Admiral when he retired from the Navy, about twenty-five years ago. Some people still call him that to this day. Especially those who served with him… Isn’t that right, Reverend?”
“How did you know I was in the Navy?” the vicar asked, smiling.
“A lucky guess. You have the walk.”
“That still betrays me, now and then.” The minister held out his hand. “Benjamin Lester. I was first class seaman under the Admiral on the Sir Francis Drake, from 2047 to 49… Well, in the beginning, he was Captain…”
“Dianne Simms,” Rhapsody presented herself. “My friend, Richard Fraser.”
“Friends?” Reverend Lester asked.
“Friends,” the young woman insisted before Ochre had the chance to utter an answer.
“How do you know the Admiral?” Reverend Lester asked again.
“We work with him,” Ochre answered. “That’s why we’re trying to reach him, but we don’t know where he is. Can you help us locate him?”
“Why, it’s possible…”
Ochre and Rhapsody almost blew out a sigh of relief on hearing that.
“Please, Reverend,” Ochre insisted. “It is imperative that we find him as quickly as possible.”
“We’re a little worried about him,” Rhapsody continued. “I was supposed to meet him last night and he didn’t show up.”
The minister stared closely at Rhapsody and then smiled again. “So you would be the young lady he was to take out on a date? Well, he said you were charming…”
Rhapsody blushed slightly. “He talked to you about me?”
“Only briefly. And he was eager to meet you on that date. You say he missed it? How odd… Maybe he was recalled to work…”
“We would have known about it, Reverend,” Ochre replied, shaking his head.
“Oh, yes… You work together.” Reverend Lester nodded. “Well, in that case, perhaps Dooley can help you…”
“Greg Dooley. He was quartermaster onboard the Drake twenty-five years ago. He has lived in my parish for at least ten years. When the Admiral comes to visit his wife, he always stays at Dooley’s… At least, he has done so for the past four or five years… Since he left London, I think.”
“He always comes to visit his wife’s grave on the anniversary of her death?” Ochre asked with curiosity.
“Never missed once in seventeen years. And he comes on other occasions, sporadically… I suppose it’s whenever his job gives him the chance.”
“Must have been quite a woman,” Ochre mused, almost to himself.
“A most extraordinary woman,” Reverend Lester agreed. “She had a lot to give. But that plane crash… That took her too soon… and the child too.”
“The child?” Rhapsody repeated.
“Why, yes… She was expecting a child, when she died. Their first-born, to her and Charles… He was devastated.” Seeing the uneasy looks the two younger people were exchanging, the vicar seemed perplexed. “Didn’t you know about that?”
“Well… The fact is that Mister Gray doesn’t talk much about himself,” Ochre explained. “He’s rather a private person.”
“He always has been,” Reverend Lester agreed. “I suppose he hasn’t changed much in that respect.”
Ochre nodded thoughtfully. That was more detail than he had expected to learn about his commander’s personal life. No need to go into further detail, and better get to the business at hand. One glance at Rhapsody told him that she felt the same way.
“Reverend, this Dooley you were talking about… Can you tell us how we can reach him?”
“Why, of course!” A warm smile crossed Reverend Lester’s face. He gestured toward a little house, just next to his church. “Come to the vicarage with me. I’ll give you his phone number and his address. Maybe you’ll find the Admiral is still there, who knows?”
“Who knows, indeed,” Ochre agreed, giving his arm to Rhapsody before following the minister through the graveyard.
* * *
“That must be the house.”
Captain Ochre parked the car in front of the address given to him by Reverend Lester. Before coming here with Rhapsody, he had made a phone call from the vicarage, hoping to reach retired quartermaster Greg Dooley. Nobody answered his call, and Reverend Lester explained to him that Dooley often didn’t answer the phone, being always too engrossed in tending to his garden.
Ochre and Rhapsody walked up the path toward the front door and rang the bell. Nobody came to open it. The two Spectrum agents looked at each other.
“Seems there’s nobody home,” Ochre noted grimly.
“Maybe Mister Dooley’s in the back garden,” Rhapsody replied. “Remember what Reverend Lester said about his gardening?”
Ochre nodded. He took the young woman by the arm and the two of them walked around the house to reach the garden. Rhapsody marvelled at the beautiful sight of it, while Ochre whistled with obvious admiration.
“Not bad,” he said, pushing open a gate in the fence and inviting Rhapsody to step into the garden before him. “Not bad at all…”
“Not bad?” Rhapsody protested. “The man is a real artist, no less!” She looked admiringly at some rose bushes planted alongside the fence. Early flowers were already budding all over them.
“Hello?” Ochre called out. “Is there anyone around?”
No response. He and Rhapsody walked around the garden, looking about. No trace of anyone.
Rhapsody’s attention was drawn to a spot of the garden where holes had been dug, obviously intended for some plants that were lying around still in their pots. As Ochre continued to walk toward the house, she went out to investigate her discovery, and crouched in front of one of the holes. Her companion checked on the back door of the house. It opened when he turned the handle.
“Curious,” he said out loud. “It’s not locked. Think we should go in, Dianne?”
“Rick, come over here a minute.”
Leaving the door open, Ochre went back to the girl. She showed him the holes and handed him one of the pots. “These plants are dying,” she said.
“So?” Ochre replied, shrugging.
“They’re still in their pots, and weren’t planted, as the others were.” Rhapsody pointed to a couple of other plants, of the same kind, planted right next to the holes she had spotted. “Obviously, they’re the kind that must be planted right away in fresh soil, or they’ll die because their roots won’t have enough room…” She looked up at Ochre. “Why weren’t they planted like the others?”
“Judging by those holes, Mister Dooley is probably about to do it…”
“These holes aren’t fresh, Rick. And where’s Mister Dooley?”
“The door’s not locked. He must be nearby.”
The Spectrum captain looked around again, fully expecting to see an elderly man coming out of the house or around some bushes to ask them who they were. He saw a shovel, all covered with dirt, resting against a low stone wall. From where he was standing, he could see dark reddish stains on the handle. Strange… That looks like… Thinking he must be wrong, Ochre walked toward the shovel and knelt in front of it to examine it more closely.
The stains, mingled with damp soil, definitely looked like blood.
Ochre frowned. A shiver ran down his spine. Something was wrong here. He could feel it in his bones. And he was afraid… very afraid something terrible had happened to Colonel White.
He grimly stood up and moved to join Rhapsody, while rubbing the dirt from his shin, wondering how to tell her about his assumption. He stopped suddenly and looked down at his feet. There was something peculiar about the ground he was standing on. He moved it a bit with his foot. Rhapsody noticed what he was doing and stood up.
“What is it?”
“The ground,” Ochre said, nodding his head. “It’s recently been disturbed, look.”
“For gardening, maybe?”
Ochre didn’t answer. He dug his toe into the ground and felt it come into contact with something. He pushed the dirt aside with his foot and revealed dirtied clothing.
The two Spectrum agents suddenly turned pale. The same, sudden suspicion had come to their minds at the exact same moment.
“Oh, God…” Rhapsody gasped. “Don’t tell me…”
She looked around, noticed the shovel, and moved toward it with the obvious intention of using it to dig. Ochre stopped her with a shout that startled her. “Leave that shovel alone…” He glanced about and gestured toward a trowel lying not far from the girl. “Give me that, instead.”
He was trying to keep himself as calm as possible, but his alarmed shout had betrayed the worry within him. He got to his knees and began clearing the dirt around the cloth he had discovered.
Rhapsody fetched the trowel and handed it to him. She uneasily offered to help him, but he pushed her aside.
“No!” he said more harshly that he would have wanted to. “Let me do this. Step aside, Rhapsody!”
Nervousness was getting to him, the British pilot noticed, as she watched him frantically but carefully digging around the clothing. She watched as he uncovered what appeared to be an elbow and the upper part of an arm.
The suspicions of both Spectrum agents were becoming dreadful reality. There was somebody buried in that disturbed ground!
Rhapsody couldn’t help herself as a shiver crawled down her spine; she felt her throat tightening, and closed her coat around her. Please, God, let it not be him… Not him, please… She stared as Ochre continued to dig more quickly, breathing hard under the stress and muttering words of despair: “No… Not again. This is not happening again…” Rhapsody realized instantly that he was remembering two years earlier, when in similar circumstances, he had uncovered the buried body of Captain Scarlet, his friend and colleague, who had just been killed by the Mysterons. She knew the discovery had left a deep mark on Ochre, who, after that, had a difficult time adjusting to the fact that the duplicate created by the Mysterons had actually retained the real Scarlet’s personality, and had shaken off the control of his alien masters. After a time, Scarlet had proved himself, and Ochre had accepted him as the friend he thought he had lost. But the memory of his dreadful discovery had never left Captain Ochre, and now he was pleading for it not to happen again.
He uncovered the back of the head; it had white hair. He stiffened for a second, his heart pounding more rapidly inside his chest. He could hear Rhapsody’s stifled sob behind him.
“No, no, no,” he kept muttering. “Please, Lord… It can’t be him…” Ochre took the body by the arm he had uncovered, and desperately pulled it towards him. He pulled harder a second time. The body came up out of the ground, like a tooth out of a gum. The face of the dead man, unrecognisable with all that moist soil covering it, appeared, eyes closed. Ochre cleaned it up roughly and gazed down at it.
He did not even try to hide his relief, when he finally put the body down on its back and crawled away from it, breathing hard, a sickening feeling deep inside his stomach. Rhapsody crouched next to the American captain, who was sitting on the ground, his clothes filthy with dirt, trying to catch his breath and to slow down his fast-beating heart. She gently touched him. He was shivering, the same as she was. Both stared at the dead man.
“It’s not him,” Ochre sighed with relief. “Thank you, God, it’s not him… I was so afraid…”
He stopped. He noticed Rhapsody’s hand trembling on his shoulder. He took her arm and kept it close against him, in a reassuring way.
“You were afraid too, weren’t you?” he murmured.
“That poor man,” the young woman replied unsteady. “It must be Mister Dooley.”
“Must be,” Ochre agreed, still trying to regain his composure and staring at the dead man. He gestured toward the shovel. “There’re blood stains on that shovel. His murderer must have killed him with it… and then used it to bury him.”
“I’m terribly worried, Rick.”
“Me too. Why kill that old guy… And where’s the colonel?”
Sounds then came from the house. Sounds like hurried footsteps. Ochre quickly scrambled to his feet. “There’s somebody inside!” he said in an eager tone. He rapidly strode toward the open door, aware of Rhapsody’s presence close behind him.
They stopped in front of the door. Ochre took his pistol from under his jacket and carefully pushed the door inward. He glanced over Rhapsody.
“Stay here,” he whispered.
“Out of the question,” the young woman replied in the same tone. “If the murderer is inside the house, you’ll need back-up. I’m trained for this kind of situation, remember?”
Ochre shook his head. “Point taken.” He didn’t know if it was the murderer they had heard, for the man he had dug up appeared to have been dead for quite some time… Maybe since the day before, the captain thought. “I take it you’re armed?”
She nodded. From her purse, she produced a little pistol. Ochre grinned slightly, shaking his head with approval. “Go to the front door, then. Wait for my signal to enter the house. Carefully. Don’t go barging in there!”
“Who do you think I am? Captain Scarlet?” The girl grimly took her personal communicator and showed it to the American captain. “Be careful yourself.” She then swiftly disappeared round the corner of the house.
Less than two minutes later, Ochre received the call on his own communicator; Rhapsody had picked the lock of the front door with no problem and was ready to enter. “Okay, then,” Ochre whispered. “Let’s go.”
He carefully pushed the door inward and entered the house. Right now, there seemed to be no sound at all… He slowly and silently moved through the small kitchen he had accessed, and then into the living room. That’s where he got a peek at Rhapsody, at the other side of the room, cautiously taking cover behind a wall. Still nobody in sight.
Wooden boards creaked, upstairs. Ochre gestured to Rhapsody to move with him toward the staircase. The American captain reminded himself that whoever was inside had to know they were there… He himself had called out for somebody earlier, thus announcing their presence.
They stopped at the foot of the stairs; Ochre looked up. Still no apparent sign of anybody. He swallowed hard. Maybe we should have called for back-up, he thought. It was a bit late for that, now. He started climbing the stairs, placing his feet carefully on each tread.
All of a sudden, a large wooden object appeared in his line of vision, apparently thrown from the top of the stairs. He didn’t want to move out of the way, afraid that the projectile would hit Rhapsody, close behind him. He braced himself and caught the object – a small table, he noticed – right in his arms. The shock drove him down, pushing the young woman with him. She fell on her back, but he managed to stay upright, though his feet were unsteady. He instantly threw the table away from him.
He then saw a white-haired man standing at the top of the stairway, aiming a gun at him. Ochre just had time to push Rhapsody aside, and crouch down before a bullet whistled past his ear. He responded automatically, firing three consecutive shots. Each bullet reached its target and the man tumbled head-first down the stairway.
Still unsure, Ochre got up, his gun still aimed at the man sprawled at the foot of the staircase, a few feet from him. He approached carefully. With his foot, he pushed the other man’s gun aside and knelt beside him to check for a pulse in his neck. Nothing. The guy was dead. The Spectrum officer let out a sigh.
“All right, Rhapsody,” he called, “it’s safe.”
The young woman got to her feet too and cautiously came closer. After putting his gun back in its holster, Captain Ochre turned their attacker onto his back. He wasn’t really sure, but he thought he saw…
He was looking down at the face of the dead body he had dug up in the garden, some minutes ago.
“Oh, God!” Rhapsody gasped in complete horror. “Don’t tell me…”
“Mysteron!” Ochre muttered grimly.
As if this word had been a signal, the half-opened back door was suddenly pushed wide and two men, armed with automatic rifles and dressed in black commando gear, entered suddenly, firing high. Ochre pulled Rhapsody down, keeping her cautiously below the line of fire, and took cover with her behind the sofa. A hail of bullets shattered a bookcase just over their heads. Ochre drew his weapon, intent on defending both their lives.
Behind them, he heard the shattering of a window, and glanced back to see another commando, taking aim at them. Ochre fired at him, compelling him to take cover before firing himself. We’re in trouble… But maybe we’ve still got a chance, if we can only reach the front door…
“Rhapsody!” She looked at him and he gestured with his free hand toward the front door. She took a look at it. Only a few feet separated them from it; trying to get there would be risky, but in any case, they could not stay there. She nodded her acknowledgement.
Ochre fired a couple of shots at the two men at the back door, while Rhapsody used her own pistol to force the third man at the window to stay under cover. They then took their chance and broke into a run toward the front door.
They did not have time to reach it. It suddenly opened, and another tall man, dressed as a commando, complete with a cap, appeared in the doorway, cutting off their way out. Instead of an automatic weapon, he was aiming a simple pistol at the two Spectrum agents. Captain Ochre raised his gun, ready to fire. And then hesitated.
Beyond the barrel of the gun aimed toward him, he saw two piercing blue eyes, in the middle of a craggy, stern-looking face he knew very well.
“Colonel White?” he muttered, frowning in disbelief.
His hesitation cost him more than he would have imagined. The man in front of him implacably pulled the trigger.
Hit in the right shoulder, Ochre was driven back and lost hold of his weapon. A distressed Rhapsody saw him falling to the floor, knocking over an armchair in his fall.
“Oh God, no! Captain!”
She hurriedly knelt by the side of her wounded and now defenceless companion, oblivious to the fact that their attackers were stepping closer to them. She could not fire at them, knowing that they would shoot her down without mercy. She forced herself to forget her weapon and quickly took her communicator from her purse to try to make one last, desperate call for help:
“S.I.R.! This is Rhapsody Angel! Officer down! Request immediate assistance! Officer down!”
The communicator was swiftly kicked from her hand and she saw it being crushed under the booted foot of one of the commandos. She felt a strong hand grabbing at her gun and tearing it from her grasp. She turned furiously against the man and was brutally pushed to the floor.
Seeing her in distress, Captain Ochre made a supreme attempt to come to her help. “Leave her alone!”
The barrel of a pistol was shoved right under his nose, stopping him from trying to get up. He raised his eyes and found himself staring right into the blue eyes of Colonel White.
“Don’t make a move… ‘Captain’.”
Ochre swallowed hard, not knowing what to do. One of the other men had roughly dragged Rhapsody to her feet and was holding her tightly. Seeing her manhandled that way, Ochre forgot any sense of self-preservation he might have for himself and tried to rush to her.
“Get your hands off her!”
The butt of a rifle violently came into contact with his head and sent him sprawling again on the floor.
Alarmed, Rhapsody saw the man who had knocked down her companion aiming his weapon at him.
“No, please! Don’t kill him!” she pleaded desperately. The man holding her had a devilish time doing so, and put a gun to her head.
“You want to die first?” was the ominous question he muttered into her ear.
The voice of Colonel White thundered above the confusion, putting a stop to it all. Everybody stared at him with perplexity, while a half-stunned Ochre was trying not to lose consciousness.
White looked straight at Rhapsody and motioned to the man holding her to put his gun down. “Don’t kill them. It won’t be necessary.”
“Sir?” the man said in surprised. “They didn’t hesitate in killing Dooley!”
“I know. I can see that.” White took a look at the body of the older man, sprawled at the foot of the staircase. “My order stands. Don’t kill them.”
“I won’t repeat myself!” White raised his pistol toward the reluctant commando. There was anger and annoyance in his tone. The three other men, it seemed, didn’t dare question his decision further. Under the threat of the pistol, the one holding Rhapsody put down his gun. The colonel did the same.
He then turned his attention to the body of Greg Dooley. He walked toward it and knelt by the side of the dead man, to check his vitals, just like Captain Ochre had done earlier. He heaved a long sigh and shook his head. Rhapsody could not see his face, but she could have sworn he seemed somehow distressed at the death of the other Mysteron agent. That seemed so strange to her.
He then stood up and came closer to Rhapsody to stare at her; she looked back at him, in complete despair. She could see no recognition in his blazing eyes, no pity whatsoever. He was coldly contemplating an enemy he would eventually have to crush. Dear Lord, the girl realized, a shiver crawling down her spine. He had become a Mysteron…
“We’ll take the girl with us,” she then heard him say sharply. “She may be useful as a hostage.”
Worry took hold of Rhapsody. It went even deeper when she saw her commander turning toward Captain Ochre, lying flat on his back, his shoulder bleeding. White stood over him, looking at him without the slightest trace of emotion on his face.
“Who killed Greg Dooley?” he asked roughly.
Ochre blinked at him, dumbfounded, wondering what he was driving at. He made a move, trying to heave himself up, but White’s foot held him back, pushing on his wounded shoulder. Ochre winced. With alarm, he saw his commander levelling his gun right at his head.
“I don’t have much patience,” White snapped, “so you’d better answer me quickly if you know what’s good for you! Who killed Greg Dooley?”
“I did,” Ochre answered between clenched teeth. “He was shooting at us… Not that it could make any difference to you… Mysteron.”
He failed to notice the puzzlement in Colonel White’s face as he was staring down at him. But he did see the finger trembling on the trigger; for a moment, Ochre felt for certain that he would pull it and kill him. At the last possible second, White raised the weapon.
“You’re lucky, Captain,” the Spectrum commander said icily. “I won’t stoop to your level and become a murderer.”
Ochre stared back at him in disbelief. Again, he tried to rise, but White’s foot pushed him back; the pressure on Ochre’s shoulder made him cry out in pain.
Outraged, Rhapsody protested vehemently. “Stop that! You’re hurting him!”
White gave her a quick glance; almost as if he’d just realized the pain he was inflicting on the injured man, he released him. Then he crouched down next to him. Ochre was on the brink of losing his senses, but the worry he felt for Rhapsody’s safety was keeping him from giving in to the pain.
“Don’t… don’t hurt the girl,” he pleaded to White. “Please...”
“Don’t worry,” Ochre heard the implacable voice of his commander reply. “I won’t hurt her. I promise you she will be safe… That is, as long as your kind doesn’t come after us. Tell that to your superiors, ‘Captain’. And report to them that I am not a man who makes idle threats!”
Those dreadful words were the last thing Captain Ochre was aware of, before completely falling into the dark.