A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
Lieutenant William Lannigan, stationed at the gate in front of the British Naval Depot, just outside of Bristol, took a long look at the requisition form he had just been handed. “Everything seems in order,” he noted in a quizzical tone. “Well, you have all the authorisations you need, sir.”
He handed back the form to the high ranked World Navy officer who had stepped out of his Land Rover to stand patiently in front of him. He was a tall, white-haired man, with piercing blue eyes and a rough face. He wore the insignia of a full admiral on his sleeves and carried an impressive clutch of honours on his chest.
“Have you have been away from active duty for a long time, sir?” the young lieutenant asked with curiosity, trying to sound as polite as possible. It wasn’t every day an Admiral came, asking to come in.
“A while, yes,” was the quiet English accented answer. “Thought it was time I saw some action again. Been feeling restless, lately.”
Lannigan glanced at the driver of the Land Rover. The admiral was waiting in quiet patience. Behind, a transporter was standing in line; it had accompanied the admiral, and the two men Lannigan saw onboard were waiting for the gate to be opened and they be allowed to enter the depot.
The Admiral was staring at the interior of the gatehouse, where a man, dressed in a black and white uniform, complete with a cap with a transparent visor carrying a stylised ‘S’ symbol, was aiming a strange-looking device straight at him. Seeing how unsettled the high-ranked officer suddenly looked, Lannigan glanced over his shoulder. The man in the cabin waved a reassuring gesture and the lieutenant turned back to the admiral, smiling broadly.
“No need to be alarmed, sir. That’s only Spectrum.”
“Spectrum?” the admiral repeated quizzically.
“Yes sir. It seems there’s another Mysteron threat on at the moment. Spectrum has sent teams of agents to provide greater security at all hot spots… How they could consider THIS place a hot spot is beyond me, though! Nothing ever happens here.” He shook his head. “Your visit will be the talk of the month, sir.”
“That’s an odd-looking weapon that man’s aiming at me,” the admiral retorted, a bit dryly.
“Oh, it’s not a weapon, sir. I’m told it’s some sort of detector device… It seems that it can spot a Mysteron right away.” Lannigan gave a broad smile. “That man in there has just notified me that you and your men are clean, sir.”
“Very happy to know that. How does it work?”
“Don’t ask me, sir. Only Spectrum knows. Maybe Captain Forest would be able to tell you, but it would surprise me greatly if he’s willing to. It’s very hush hush…”
“He’s somewhere on the premises, checking things out. Maybe you’ll meet him on your way in. He’s not hard to spot: he’s one of those colour-coded Spectrum officers. He wears a dark green tunic.”
“So, you’re letting me in, finally?” the admiral asked, with a faint smile of his own.
“Oh, of course, Admiral. You’re in.” Lannigan looked down at his hand-held computer. “Some of these authorisations are a wee bit old, but they’re still active. In fact, if I was to keep YOU out of these premises, I’d have to keep everyone else out, too.”
The admiral nodded quietly and sat back next to his driver. They both listened carefully to Lannigan’s last directions to get to their objective. Then the gate opened in front of them and Lannigan gave the admiral a smart salute, welcoming him inside. “Have a good day, Admiral Gray.”
The Land Rover entered, the transporter following close behind.
The driver of the first vehicle shot a brief look toward the silent officer by his side. He was seated straight, staring right ahead; obviously unsettled, he was wiping his sweaty palms on his lap.
“No need to be so nervous, sir,” the driver said, clearing his throat.
“I am not nervous, Mister Brighton!” came the harsh response.
The man called Brighton scowled. Got to be careful, he thought gloomily. Remember how unstable that guy is now. Don’t want to set him off. He’s so unpredictable there’s no telling what he might do… For God’s sake, he even shot one of his own men…
“I’m… sorry, Mister Brighton,” Admiral Charles Gray then said, more calmly, “It’s true I’m nervous… I can’t believe we got in so easily. Those passes and authorisations… they looked so authentic. As if they were the real thing.”
Brighton had trouble concealing a smile. “Mister Shelby told you they would do the job perfectly, sir.”
“I would feel better if Mister Shelby had come with us…” The Admiral looked at his driver. “Why didn’t he?”
Because that Mysteron detector would have spotted him, you fool… “Somebody had to stay at base to keep an eye on things, sir,” Brighton answered quietly.
“Well, maybe… I would have to rely on him for that, I suppose,” Admiral Gray muttered. “There is so much I don’t quite remember.”
“Your memory will come back, Admiral,” Brighton noted. Soon enough. “But right now, you should not concern yourself with that. You must concentrate on the mission. It is far too important.”
“That’s just the point.” Gray looked back straight ahead, his trembling eye betraying his troubled thoughts. “I don’t know if I can function at my best in these conditions. Maybe I should not be here. I could jeopardize this mission.”
“Your presence is required for it, sir. Nobody else could take it on, you know that. Besides, up until now, you have functioned perfectly. Whatever they did to your memories, it doesn’t appear to have affected your capabilities.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” the confused man retorted. “There is so much I feel I SHOULD remember… That ‘Spectrum’, for example…”
Brighton stiffened a little. “What about it?”
“WHAT is it? I should know that…”
Straight ahead, a group of three men were walking around the base, and were coming in their direction. Two were wearing the same uniform as the one who had scanned the newcomers with that strange-looking device. The third man was clad in a different uniform, with black trousers and shirt, and a dark green tunic and high boots. As they passed the Land Rover, they respectfully saluted the high ranked officer on board. Admiral Gray returned the salute without a flaw and looked back as the vehicle sped away from them. He noticed that the green-jacketed man had stopped walking to look with curiosity in their direction. The admiral had the distinct impression of having seen that uniform before, only of a somewhat lighter shade…
The flash of another face, that of a younger, Black man, with a broad shining smile, came to his mind… But it was only a flash, and it disappeared as quickly as it came, bringing more confusion into the mind of Admiral Charles Gray.
“Must be that Captain Forest the lieutenant at the gate talked about,” Brighton noted. “Hope he won’t be trouble.”
The Spectrum officer had started walking again, apparently paying no more attention to them. Gray sighed and again looked straight ahead. “I don’t think so,” he said in answer to Brighton’s remark. “How much further do we have to go?”
“Should be around that warehouse. Soon, you’ll meet an old friend, Admiral.”
The older man scowled grimly. “I hope this one will be in better shape that the last one I’ve seen,” he whispered, giving a last fond thought to quartermaster Gregory Dooley.
* * *
“That’s about all I can tell you, Captains… I’m truly sorry.”
In the sickbay of Spectrum Headquarters London, Captains Scarlet and Blue looked gloomily at their colleague, Captain Ochre, who was lying in bed in one of the recovery rooms. Some hours ago, a Spectrum task team had discovered him, unconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound, but very much alive. Just before losing his senses, the wounded officer had just found the strength to activate his own Personal Tracker, and the rescue team had homed on its signal to find him. He was then taken to Headquarters, where his wound had received immediate care, and from where the two acting commanders of Spectrum were alerted.
Scarlet and Blue had left Cloudbase without delay, and had come to personally debrief Ochre. Now conscious, with a heavy bandage on his injured shoulder, the American was more than eager to relate his story to them.
As Ochre’s report unfolded, feelings of uneasiness had quickly mounted inside the small recovery room, where Scarlet had insisted that the three of them should meet alone. Blue had found himself frequently glancing toward Scarlet, wondering how he was reacting. Always the professional, even under these circumstances, his British counterpart listened in silence, his eyes focused on Ochre. About the only indications for Blue that his friend and partner was on edge were the tightening muscles around his lower jaw and the whitening knuckles of his hands, which gripped his cap in front of him.
“I wish I could tell you more,” Ochre said tiredly, his report finished. He looked exhausted. The loss of blood had taken a lot out of him. Not to mention his apparent feelings of worry and guilt. “I woke up here, about an hour ago. I found out the colonel had taken off with the others. The Mysteron I shot had also disappeared… and they had taken Rhapsody with them.”
Scarlet twitched at those last words. He must be worried sick about Dianne, Blue mused, casting one last quick glance toward him. I know I felt the same when Karen was kidnapped by Captain Black, two years ago…
“You’re lucky to be alive, Ochre,” Scarlet said evenly to his injured colleague.
“I know. I really thought I’d had it when I saw the colonel pulling the trigger on me. And I felt for certain he would finish me afterward…” He shook his head, looking absolutely distraught. “Can’t believe they made a Mysteron out of him…”
Scarlet didn’t reply. He went to the window to look thoughtfully outside.
“A team is still searching Quartermaster Dooley’s home,” Blue said to Ochre. “They dug up the garden, turned the house inside out… They haven’t found his body… yet.”
“He must have been killed there,” Ochre retorted. “It’s where he was the most vulnerable. He would not have expected a Mysteron attack there.”
“That’s probably why they took over his friend,” Blue nodded. “Yes, you’re right. The body must be hidden somewhere around there.”
“Then it must be found,” Scarlet added, turning around to face his two colleagues. “But we better keep the search team in the dark about WHO they’re looking for exactly.”
“I agree,” Blue said. “We can’t let out the news that the commander-in-chief of Spectrum has been killed and replaced by a Mysteron reconstruct. At least, not without real proof of it, like the finding of an actual body. Fortunately, the members of the search team wouldn’t recognize the Colonel if they found him.”
“Not without his uniform, anyway,” Ochre mumbled gloomily.
Scarlet came back to the bed. “Then we agree on that one: we keep it a secret amongst the higher staff, until we’re really sure of what exactly happened. There would be panic if the other military services, and even the presidential authority, found out that Colonel White has been taken over by the Mysterons and is now field commander of an entire team of Mysteronised commandos…” He addressed Captain Ochre, “Do you think you can travel back to Cloudbase, soon? I would prefer you to be as far away from here as possible… If you stay in London, word might get out.”
“And there’s Spectrum Intelligence,” Blue noted.
“What about Spectrum Intelligence?” Ochre asked, puzzled. “They’re on our side, aren’t they?”
“Yes… But they have a tendency to police Spectrum from within,” Blue retorted. “AND they have direct access to the Presidential cabinet…”
“Since the colonel is not there,” Scarlet added, “and if they find out what happened, they might not even respect our assignment as acting commanders… and do things their way. If you stay here, Ochre, it would be easier for them to interrogate you about what happened at Dooley’s house… It would be more difficult for them to get to you on Cloudbase.”
“At least, with you up there, we can pretend that you are far too weak to answer their questions,” Blue continued. “And we’ll not have them snooping around the place.”
“At least for a time,” Ochre sighed. “How long do you intend on keeping this thing a secret?”
“Long enough for us to decide what to do, and decipher the Mysteron threat,” Scarlet said.
“Any idea who their actual target is, this time?”
“We’re still working on it. But now, we’ll concentrate on what’s happened to the colonel. The Mysterons intend using him. ‘An honoured outlawed hero’… There should be another one.”
“Maybe one of his old associates?” Blue suggested.
“We’ll check that. And then, there’s that ‘crowned head’…”
“What about the King of England?” Ochre remarked. “He would be an ideal choice, since Colonel White is a British subject.”
Scarlet nodded slowly. “We’ll put some Spectrum bodyguards on him,” he agreed, “with a Mysteron detector to check on every person to approach him. And we better check any formal event His Majesty might be attending in the near future. The Mysterons may use one of those to get to him…”
“…With two outlawed heroes,” Blue added.
“Hopefully, that clue may help us narrow the field.” Scarlet looked again at Ochre. “When do you think you’ll be ready to go?”
“Right away, if you want. And I may be off the hook as a field agent right now, but back on Cloudbase, I may be of some use behind a computer, doing some research.”
“No, my friend. You need your rest.”
“Try and stop me.”
“We’re acting commanders of Spectrum right now, Captain Ochre,” Blue replied roughly. “Are you questioning orders?”
“Won’t you need all available higher staff officers to help you out on that one, Captain Blue?” Ochre retorted. “I won’t overexert myself, I promise. Just let me help. Please.”
Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances a moment. Then, the British captain put his hand on Ochre’s uninjured shoulder. “We’ll give orders for your immediate departure,” he told him. “If you want to help, do it. Without tiring yourself. And that’s an order, Captain.”
“Thank you, Captain Scarlet,” Ochre smiled faintly.
Scarlet squeezed his friend’s shoulder then strode to the door with Blue. Ochre watched them go, still feeling uneasy inside. His two colleagues opened the door and Blue went out.
Hearing Ochre’s call, Captain Scarlet, who was almost out, stopped, and glanced over his shoulder. He could see the American officer staring at him, with a distraught look. Ochre swallowed hard and cleared his throat. “I’m really sorry… to have messed things up this way, you know…”
Scarlet gave him a questioning look. Ochre seemed embarrassed.
“About Rhapsody… I feel so terrible.”
Scarlet nodded his understanding. “Don’t blame yourself, Rick,” he said his unsettled friend. “It couldn’t be helped.”
“I hope she will be all right,” Ochre murmured.
“I’m… sure she will be,” Scarlet replied. He went out without adding anything else and closed the door behind him.
Blue was standing next to the door, and cast him a puzzled look.
“What was that about?” the blond American asked. “Does Ochre know anything about you and Rhapsody?”
Scarlet shook his head. “I honestly don’t know. I…” It was about as much as he could take right now. Suddenly, he lashed out and sent his fist smashing into a wall, making a dent in it. Blue jumped in surprise at his reaction; he quickly approached his partner, looking around to make sure nobody had witnessed his outburst. Fortunately, the corridor was empty at that moment.
“Hey, Paul! Calm down! This isn’t the time to lose it!”
“I was a fool, Adam!” Scarlet replied, not even looking at his friend. “I should have trusted my instincts better!”
“Come on, now! You know we couldn’t act only on that assumption!”
“It was so obvious. Instead, I chose to believe I could be wrong. I sent Rick and Dianne right into a trap!”
“You didn’t make that decision alone. If you want to blame yourself, blame me as well.” Scarlet looked at his friend who shook his head. “We took the right decision. We couldn’t do anything else, and you know it. We couldn’t send a normal Spectrum investigative team. Remember the reason why we sent Rhapsody and Ochre. We had to keep our suspicions concerning the Colonel restricted to the higher staff. And now that those suspicions seem to be founded, we have to be even more careful, if we don’t want the word to spread like wildfire.”
“You’re right, of course,” Scarlet sighed heavily. He looked around, like Blue himself had done a few seconds ago. A nurse passing by them gave them a smile. Blue noticed that his partner was rubbing the fist he had driven into the wall.
“Sorry about that little outburst, just then,” Scarlet said, more calmly.
“Don’t sweat it. Believe me, I can relate to your situation, right now.”
“Right.” The memories of what happened to Symphony two years earlier, and the circumstances surrounding it, came to Scarlet’s mind. “You must have thought me an insensitive boor, when Black took Karen as a hostage at the Culver Atomic Centre that time…”
“Because you stopped me from barging in there?” Blue shook his head. “I admit, at first, I was angry at you. But if you had let me do that, Black would have killed her. You weren’t insensitive. You actually saved her life.”
Scarlet nodded quietly. Maybe he did save Symphony’s life, by acting like he did that time, but he did also want to catch Captain Black so badly… Now was not the moment to remind Blue of that, however.
“Did you actually break that hand?” the American asked, pointing to the said limb, which Scarlet was still rubbing.
“Eh?” Scarlet looked down at his hand. He shook his head. “Maybe bruised the knuckles and cracked some phalanges… But it seems okay right now.” He flexed his fingers in front of Blue’s eyes. “See? As good as new. The beauty of being indestructible is that I can recover from minor injuries almost instantly.”
“Right,” Blue said simply, not wanting to comment on the incident much further. He squeezed his friend’s shoulder in a reassuring gesture. “Will you be okay?”
“I keep wondering WHY Colonel White and those other Mysteron agents have taken her,” Scarlet answered sombrely, thinking of Rhapsody’s situation. “If they were to… Mysteronise her…”
“No,” Blue interrupted softly. “No, they would have killed her on the spot. You know how they work. There must be nothing more to it than what the colonel said to Ochre: she’s to be used as a hostage.”
“A hostage they’ll execute if we go after them,” Scarlet added, his throat tightening.
“That mustn’t stop us.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. We can’t let them carry out their threat anymore than we can leave her in their hands… We must find them, Blue. As soon as possible.”
“We will, buddy. Don’t worry. In the meantime, you’ve got to believe Rhapsody will be all right. Remember: she’s a tough girl and she can take care of herself.”
Scarlet nodded slowly. Before being recruited by Spectrum to become one of the pilots for the Angel fighters, Rhapsody, as Dianne Simms, had already proved herself as a security agent in one important flying company. And before that, she had been one of the most successful agents of the Federal Agents Bureau, a worldwide private investigation firm. There, she had received the best training in the field. She had learned to survive, and take care of herself in the face of danger.
“You’re right, Captain Blue,” Scarlet said to his American counterpart. “I have to believe she will be all right… But if we had a clue to where she actually may be, it would make me feel a lot better.”
“Then we’re going to work on this, Captain,” Blue replied. “We’ll try to find out what these Mysterons are up to and where they’ve taken her.”
“We better work fast, then,” Scarlet said gloomily. “Time is always against us when it comes to the Mysterons.”
“I know. But I’m confident we will find them. And then, your precious Angel will be safely back in your arms.”
“I’ll keep on praying for that. And pray too that her abductors don’t hurt her…” A glitter of fiery anger suddenly appeared in Captain Scarlet’s clear blue eyes. “Because I assure you, Adam, that when we find them, if they’ve done her any harm, there’d better be nobody between me and them… because I am not sure I would be able to control myself.”
* * *
Rhapsody Angel couldn’t remember ever being in a more frustrating situation.
Playing the part of a defenceless victim was new to her. She had always been in perfect control of every situation, be it in her personal life, in her career, or even at the helm of a fighter jet. Now she had absolutely no control… She was a prisoner, with no knowledge of what would happen to her.
As far as she knew, the Mysterons didn’t burden themselves with prisoners. Not for too long, anyway, she grimly added to herself. And the few, rare, occasions that actually happened, they always had a precise purpose in mind.
What do they have in store for me? Rhapsody worriedly asked herself. Nothing good, assuredly. If she had any doubt about this, the young woman had only to think about Colonel White to be certain of it.
That was an alarming thought. Colonel White had become a Mysteron agent; cold, ruthless, totally devoted to his masters, and absolutely lethal to anyone who approached him. A shiver ran down Rhapsody’s spine at the memory of him remorselessly shooting Captain Ochre and then standing over him, ready to finish him off. She could not explain to herself why he had actually left the Spectrum officer alive. It could not possibly have been her plea; that would have been totally out of character for a Mysteron.
She remembered quite vividly the awfully emotionless way he had looked into her eyes, as if he didn’t even remember her, and the uneasy, uncomfortable emotions that cold look had stirred deep inside her. He had ordered the other men with him to abandon the place, leaving the now unconscious Ochre behind, but to take her with them. “Don’t harm her,” he had told them, but his tone had no compassion in it. She was dragged into a small black van where all she could remember was that rag with an awful smell that was put over her face. Chloroform, she had realized just before losing her senses.
She had woken up inside that small dark room, with four walls made of concrete blocks, and a thick wooden door. No windows, only a small spyhole in the door, and that was the only opening that allowed light to come in from the other side. No furniture, but a low camp bed, with a blanket, where she had awakened. That was all.
Her hands had carefully been cuffed in front of her and her watch had been taken from her, so she had absolutely no idea how long she had slept. Could have been only minutes, or hours… no more than that, however. She didn’t feel hungry enough for a longer time to have passed.
She didn’t know if she was still in the vicinity of London, or even in England for that matter. Obviously, her abductors didn’t want her to learn anything about this place. And she hadn’t seen any of them since she had come to her senses. But she was sure they could not be far away. They would not dare leave her without any surveillance, whatever their plans might be for her.
Rhapsody was still evaluating her situation and contemplating the possibility of getting rid of the restraints when she heard heavy footsteps coming from the other side of the door. She raised her head and listened closely; when she then heard a key turning in the lock, she instinctively drew back to the far side of her cell.
The door opened inward and the outlines of a powerfully built man appeared in the entrance. “You finished your beauty sleep, doll?”
Oh, great! Rhapsody thought gloomily. Just what I needed. She unsuccessfully tried to blend into the shadows of the room, but the big man noticed her and stepped in.
“Don’t try to hide. I can see you. Come out of there, I want a closer look…”
Really, really great, a woeful Rhapsody almost mumbled out loud. By the tone of his voice, she was pretty sure what that guy had in mind for her. And, somehow, that seemed strange to her…
“You’re not a Mysteron,” she stated, with a tone as quiet as it was cold.
“Who said I was?” the man replied with an evil grin. Leaving the door open, he took a few more steps inside the room, toward the young woman. “I’m just a normal, regular, earthly guy who just finds you very attractive.”
No doubt about his intentions now… The Angel pilot, her coolness not leaving her, watched the approaching man with an icy and dangerous blaze in her blue eyes. “Don’t come any closer,” she warned him with a very sinister edge to her voice.
The man answered with a mocking laugh. “Now, is that a promise, sweetie? What can you do to me with those ’cuffs, anyway?”
That said, he came closer to the girl, who, with a more than determined look upon her features, was standing ready for him…
* * *
With his team of commandos, retired Admiral Charles Gray had come back to what was called the ‘complex’ only a few minutes ago. He was very satisfied with the job he had just accomplished, but was also so very tired, as only a man long deprived of hours of sleep could be. He was also ragingly frustrated by these missing memories of his, some of which he felt could be very important. Anyway, he figured, this condition he was presently in didn’t seem to have impaired his capacity to do his work properly; he still was able to function quite well, apparently. Good thing. The cause was in too much need of every available person to let himself be deterred by such personal considerations. If he should not be able to regain his complete memory, so be it… That would not stop him performing his duty.
At least, I still have the memory of my beloved Elizabeth to help me get by, he recalled, with a satisfied grin.
He had taken off the admiral’s uniform he had worn for the preceding operation and was now clad in the same black commando outfit he had been given when he had rejoined his men, this very morning. Now, after having taken the stairs down to the first sublevel of the complex, he was striding down the corridors toward the room that had been assigned to him, with the intention of getting a few hours’ sleep. He heard a commotion coming from straight ahead. He stopped one second and pricked up his ears.
Up front, to his left, he could see a door open. Sounds of a fight were coming from there. Oh, no! he suddenly realized. That’s where the girl we took prisoner has been locked up! Could she be trying to make a break for it?
Gray rushed to the door and stopped right in the doorway, ready for anything. The girl was still there. She had her back against the wall facing the door, in a defensive position, and was staring down in anger at a man crumpled up at her feet. The guy was moaning in pain, holding both his groin and nose. Gray frowned in puzzlement at the curious sight.
“What happened here?” he thundered.
The sound of his voice startled the young woman; she looked up briefly to him, before pointing her restrained hands toward the man sprawled on the floor. “Ask this perverted pig!” she spat angrily.
Admiral Gray noticed the girl’s dishevelled red hair, and her messed up clothes. Her shirt had been ripped, revealing a bare tanned shoulder. The scene was eloquent enough. A sinister glow appeared in his eyes as he stepped over the man still on the floor, trying to get his bearings.
“On your feet, Dempsey!” he growled in a low tone.
“The bitch,” the man mumbled, nearly inaudible. “I think she broke my nose…”
Undoubtedly, Gray mused, seeing all the blood that was dripping from between the commando’s fingers. He found the man too slow to obey his order, and took him by his clothes to force him to stand.
“I’ll break far more than your nose, you miserable, dirty scum… On your feet, I said!”
Dempsey only had the time to straighten up before Gray violently hit him in the stomach, sending him to his knees. Gray then brutally hauled him up again and roughly shoved him against the concrete wall. The commando let out a moan of pain and stared in disbelief into the blue eyes of the furious man, before a fist hit him violently on the jaw.
“Up, you despicable coward! You’re not facing a tied up girl half your size, now! I’ll show you how to treat women! Defend yourself, by God, or I’ll kill you where you stand!”
A bewildered Rhapsody stepped back at the sight of her commander’s uncharacteristically violent outburst. She watched, almost in shock, as he kept pounding into the man who had attacked her. There seemed to be no way to stop him, she realized, totally confused by the situation. What was going on here? Why in God’s name would a Mysteron agent suddenly turn raving mad over the fact that this man had tried to assault her? The way the Colonel was hammering Dempsey, with such blind fury, he was not even behaving like the composed man she had come to know. There were times, she remembered, when he had lost his temper, and those times were quite memorable. But this… this was different. And frightening.
Dempsey had fallen to the floor; half stunned by the beating he was receiving, he was unable to defend himself against Colonel White’s righteous anger. Rhapsody heard hurried footsteps coming from the passageway. Four men entered the cell, two of whom she had seen at Dooley’s home. One look was enough for them to evaluate the situation. While one of them kept the Angel pilot in check, making sure she wouldn’t take advantage of the situation to get away from them, the other three tried to interpose themselves between White and a nearly unconscious Dempsey.
“Sir! Stop this!” Through something akin to a haze, Charles Gray recognized the voice of Brighton, but kept on hitting blindly.
Completely frozen, Rhapsody watched as the three men were nearly not enough to restrain her commander and pull him away from his victim, whose face was now all covered with blood.
“Come on, now! Snap out of it, sir! He can’t defend himself, now!”
“Let go of me!” Gray hissed, struggling against the arms trying to stop him. “That scum deserves everything he gets!”
“Calm yourself, you’re going to kill him!”
Shelby then appeared at the doorway. He looked at the confused scene with perplexity and cold anger in his eyes. “What is the matter here?” he shouted suddenly.
“He’s gone crazy!” Brighton tried to explain.
“I have not gone crazy!” Gray retorted. He stopped struggling and sighed. “Will you PLEASE let go of me?”
“Do as he says!” Shelby barked. “He’s your commander! Are you forgetting that?”
Brighton and the other two men obeyed, with obvious unwillingness. Gray roughly shrugged them off; there was still some rage within him, but he was trying to keep it in check, and this with great difficulty. He pointed an accusing finger in the direction of the unconscious and wounded Dempsey. “I want that man confined to quarters!” he declared with fury.
“Whatever for?” Shelby asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Gray nodded toward Rhapsody who was standing quietly against the wall. “He tried to assault the girl… If she hadn’t been able to fight him off…”
“SHE did this to him?” Shelby asked, creasing his brow in puzzlement.
“Only broke his nose… I did the rest!” Gray replied dryly. “He’s lucky the others came by, I would have killed him!”
“Frankly sir,” Shelby retorted, sighing, “I don’t see why you should react that way over such a trivial thing…”
Gray stared in disbelief upon Shelby’s quiet declaration. The realization that the man couldn’t care less about the prisoner’s welfare dawned on him. A quick glance around served to convince him, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the others shared his point of view… or worse yet, they were considering Dempsey’s.
“Mister Brighton,” Gray then said icily, his eyes focused on Shelby, “bring the prisoner to my private quarters, please.”
“Sir?” Brighton asked with perplexity.
“You heard me.”
Brighton cast a quick look toward Rhapsody. She seemed as puzzled as he was. “Sir, if I may say so, she’s a real wild cat, and…”
“Wild cats I can manage,” Gray replied coldly. “It’s swine I can’t stand. Do as I say.”
Brighton hesitated a short instant. An almost imperceptible signal from Shelby finally decided him to obey. He took Rhapsody by the arm and guided her through the door. She followed without any resistance, still not quite sure of what was in store for her.
Charles Gray was still staring Jason Shelby straight in the eyes; he waited until the girl was safely out of earshot, before speaking his mind to the man who was supposed to be his right arm.
“Now, listen to me, Mister Shelby: what Dempsey just attempted is a crime. And in war, it’s a crime of WAR, sometimes punishable by death. That girl may be from the other camp, but she’s our prisoner, and prisoners of war are to be treated with respect. At least, that’s how I intend it to be.”
“Yes, I see your point,” Shelby coldly said. “That was your point of view when you executed Jackson Bennett, was it?”
Gray flinched at the ironic remark. He did not let it deter him. “That’s a crime that will haunt me for the rest of my days,” he muttered. “I’ll thank you not to mention it in front of anybody, least of all in front of my men!”
“Of course, sir… I’m sorry I DID mention it.”
“And it will be the ONLY crime on my conscience, Mister Shelby. I’m quite determined there will not be another one. We’re not common thugs. We’re soldiers. And I will not tolerate any of my men behaving the way that swine over there did! Is that clear?”
“Perfectly clear, Admiral,” Shelby declared, still very calm.
“Dempsey will have to answer for his actions, be sure of that. He will have to be punished.” Shelby did not reply. Gray looked around and stared at the three remaining men in the cell, with the same contemptuous expression in his eyes as the one he had cast down at Dempsey. “And so the rest of you don’t get the same idea as your friend here, the girl will stay in my quarters, safely away from you… If anyone tries anything against her there, I will shoot him down like the dog he is.”
That said, he addressed a last look at Shelby and strode toward the door.
The Mysteron agent coldly followed him with his eyes.
“You look bad, Admiral… Did you take your medication?”
Gray stopped in the doorway. Those damned pills, he thought… Shortly after he had been freed from that nightmarish device the enemy had strapped him to, Shelby had given them to him. One of the disastrous side effects of the experiment he had just been put through was for him to totally lose his self-control from time to time. Adrenaline mounted dangerously high, and he let his temper get the better of him, having then tremendous difficulty regaining control. The pills, he had found, helped him keep his anger, his nerves, his emotions in check.
Not always, though.
“I… think I can manage without it for now, Mister Shelby,” Gray said, without turning around. “I will be all right. Just make sure nothing like what just occurred happens again.”
“Be assured it will be the case, Admiral,” Shelby said quietly, “And I’ll make sure that Dempsey receives his punishment…”
The retired admiral nodded his acknowledgement and disappeared through the door. His steps faded away in the corridor.
“The old goat’s going to keep the girl all for himself,” one of the men mumbled under his breath.
“Quiet.” There was annoyance in Shelby’s tone as he spoke up. “All of you, out. Leave me alone with that idiot.”
The three men didn’t dare reply and swiftly went out. Shelby closed the door behind them, quietly, and then turned his attention to Dempsey. The latter was slowly regaining his senses and, moaning in pain, was attempting to raise himself from the floor. The Mysteron walked to him and stood over him, casting an icy stare at him.
“You fool,” he said with a sinister edge in his voice. “You bloody fool… You had to do this, didn’t you? Aren’t you Earthmen able to keep your lusts in check?” With his foot, he pushed the kneeling man back on the floor, where he sprawled again. “When we sent Colonel White to Dooley’s house today, we knew that Spectrum would have dispatched some of its own to try to find him. We had to know how he would react facing them. In any case, he passed the test, but he remains quite difficult to control… Or didn’t you notice?”
“Mister Shelby…” the man tried to defend himself.
“…He is confused enough as it is,” Shelby continued, without hearing him out. “His violent mood changes make him unpredictable enough, without having the likes of you adding complications. We did not need for you to pull the kind of stunt you did! What just happened, and any conversation he might have with the Spectrum woman could render the treatment your doctor gave him totally ineffective. It could make us lose any further control over him. We’ll have to be even more careful, now! Because YOU, Earthman, lost control over yourself!”
“It was a mistake, sir…” Dempsey pleaded. “It won’t happen again.”
“No, it certainly won’t.” Shelby took his pistol and implacably aimed it at a distraught Dempsey. “For you know, Mister Dempsey, Mysterons don’t make mistakes. So you won’t do that anymore.”
That said, he coldly pulled the trigger on the defenceless and surprised man, who didn’t even have time to call for help.