A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
The man called Brighton had brought Rhapsody to a room almost smaller than the cell she had just left. The walls were made from the same blocks of concrete, and also had no windows. It had, however, sufficient light and some furniture; a camp bed, with an uncomfortable-looking mattress on it, and some blankets, a small wooden table, with two stools, and a cabinet. There was something of a Spartan feel in this room, Rhapsody mused, and somehow, it fitted perfectly what she would have expected the quarters of a Mysteron field commander to look like during an undercover mission.
Brighton made the young woman sit on one of the stools and then stood guard over her; she looked up at his face; to her amazement, he grinned at her. But it was rather an evil smile.
“Looks like the old man’s got the hots for you, doesn’t it, sweetheart?” His fingers grazed her hair and cheek, but she drew back, an expression of disgust on her face. She managed to look no more than puzzled when she sternly stared at him.
“You are not a Mysteron either, are you?” she said with the driest tone.
“Now, aren’t we clever…” Brighton whistled. “What makes you say that?”
“Your friend Dempsey made it pretty clear… in words as well as in actions. I don’t think Mysteron-controlled agents have any lubricious interests whatsoever.”
“That’s quite a theory you’ve got there, little lady.”
“Who are you anyway… Mister Brighton?”
“You know our names… which is already too much.” Brighton bent down next to Rhapsody’s head, so he could whisper sinisterly in her ear, “You shouldn’t ask questions like that, you know? That could be fatal…”
The stern, very recognizable voice coming from behind made Brighton jump; he spun around and Rhapsody looked over her shoulder. Colonel White was standing in the doorway, staring severely at the man.
“Don’t you have something else to do instead of trying to scare that young woman?”
“Well, sir, I…” Brighton stammered. It was pretty obvious from Rhapsody’s viewpoint that the commando was afraid – deadly afraid – of the man who was supposed to be his commander. It took him some few seconds to regain his composure; he uneasily cleared his throat. “Mister Shelby has informed me that there still is the rest of the equipment to load onto the lorry, sir.”
“Then get on with it,” White harshly retorted.
The older man pointed to the exit with his thumb. “Get out. Now.”
Brighton disappeared quickly and Charles Gray slammed the door behind him. Now alone with Rhapsody, he stared at her in silent curiosity. Under the intensity of his gaze, the young woman suddenly felt uneasy and averted her eyes. Gray almost sighed. What am I going to do with her? he thought, rubbing his chin. He was concerned to protect her from the likes of the others, but he was also aware she was an enemy, with whom he must be very careful. She had already proved she was resourceful enough by breaking Dempsey’s nose. He wondered what might have happened next, if he hadn’t come by at that exact moment.
He came closer to Rhapsody, who didn’t move from her chair. She somehow even found the strength not to shiver as he approached her. “You’ll have to excuse Mister Brighton,” he said, after clearing his throat. “I hope he didn’t frighten you too much.”
“There are things far more frightening than the ramblings of a jerk,” Rhapsody replied dully.
Gray was now standing next to the young woman, who didn’t even look up at him. He figured she was referring to Dempsey’s attempted assault, and nodded thoughtfully. “Dempsey’s actions against you were inexcusable,” he replied. “Let me assure you, he will be dealt with accordingly.”
She looked at him with surprise and defiance in her eyes; was that a touch of sympathy she heard in his voice?
“Why would YOU care that he tried to rape me?” she asked dryly.
He seemed surprised at her question. “Perhaps because I like to think of myself as a decent man,” he said. He saw by her look that she didn’t believe him. He shrugged negligently. “How did you manage to break his nose, anyway?” By his standards, it seemed unthinkable that so apparently delicate a girl should be able to accomplish such a feat.
“He wanted to know what I could do with these handcuffs.”
There was an ominous tone to the young woman’s voice. The answer amused Gray, although he did his best not to show it. He took a key out of his vest pocket and crouched in front of her.
“Then perhaps it would be best if I remove them,” he noted. “Can I trust you not to take advantage of that?”
“Do you REALLY think I can make you a promise like that?”
“That’s fair enough. But let there be no mistake: if you ever try on me the same trick you used with Mister Dempsey, I will not hesitate to break one of your arms.” There was a warning flash in the colonel’s blue eyes; it wasn’t a bluff at all. “Am I making myself clear?”
Rhapsody nodded, swallowing hard under the threat. White unlocked the shackles and, standing up, threw them onto the wooden table. The young woman rubbed her freed wrists, looking at the ‘Mysteron’ who had been her commander.
“Your Mister Dempsey deserved everything he got,” she then said under her breath.
“I would agree,” Charles Gray replied. “The man is despicable.”
He kept staring at her and saw how confused she seemed. Confused and afraid, although she was desperately trying to appear courageous. He also noticed how she was shivering. It IS damp in here, he had to admit himself. And that shirt of hers had been ripped by that swine Dempsey… He removed his vest and, standing in front of her with only a khaki T-shirt on his upper body, he handed the vest to her. “Here, you’re cold. Take this.”
She was still staring at him with that same confused puzzlement in her clear blue eyes. Grumbling with impatience, Gray put the vest over her shoulders. Through the rip in her shirt, he then noticed the delicate chain necklace she was wearing round her neck, and the two bright objects hanging from it. There was a small, discreet, gold pendant, with a design of a pair of wings and halo engraved on it. The other object somehow attracted more of Gray’s attention: it was a gold ring, surmounted by a beautiful red ruby, itself surrounded by small, shining diamonds.
“Nice-looking piece of jewellery,” he noted, matter-of-factly.
Rhapsody looked down to see the two objects in full view and hid them again, trying not to look too inconspicuous, by drawing the vest around her. A curious Colonel White was still staring at her.
“Wouldn’t that ring look better on your finger?” he asked her.
“Not too practical in my line of work,” she retorted, lowering her gaze.
That was true, of course, but that wasn’t the real reason she kept the ring on a chain. It was the engagement ring given to her by Paul, some months ago. They didn’t want anybody to know yet that they were engaged, so, in order for it to stay secret, she had to hide the ring, no matter how badly she wanted to show it to the rest of the world.
“Maybe you were right to keep the ring there,” Gray said, nodding, turning to the cabinet. “Some of my men have already demonstrated they aren’t very scrupulous. Seeing that ring would probably have put ideas into their heads.”
“Your men,” Rhapsody sighed, shaking her head. “They all seem to be a sorry bunch.” The thought that the Mysterons were using human mercenaries as agents was a puzzling and creepy one. It was also something of an innovation. She darted a curious look at White’s back. “And how did you end up with people like them?”
He shrugged again. “I admit I’ve had far more refined men under my command,” he replied, opening the cabinet.
Rhapsody scoffed dryly, hearing that. “They’re a far cry from Cloudbase senior staff,” she mumbled.
Gray pricked up his ears, but didn’t catch her words. From the cabinet, he took a bottle and two glasses.
“You’ll have to speak louder, young lady,” he said before turning around. He came back to the table where he put down the glasses and began filling them from the bottle. He scratched his left ear. “I… had a small accident recently and one of my eardrums seems to have been damaged. I’m not hearing very well with that ear right now.”
Rhapsody stared at him, trying to absorb what he had just said. A Mysteron reconstruct with a hearing problem? Now that was odd. In fact, it seemed even impossible. Retrometabolism, inherent in all Mysteron agents, would have healed that in no time. And if it were present before a victim had been Mysteronised, the problem would have been instantly corrected in the reconstructed clone.
That was one of the rare flaws in the otherwise perfect creation of Mysteron agents, who were to be exact copies of their originals: they were TOO perfect.
Rhapsody didn’t exactly know what to make of what she had just learned… and IF that had anything at all to do with what was presently known about the Mysterons.
Colonel White presented her with one of the glasses, filled with some alcoholic beverage. “Drink that,” he told her. “It will make you feel better.”
“No, thanks,” the young woman responded, shaking her head.
He frowned deeply and slammed the glass down on the table in front of her. The sound startled her. “DRINK this NOW!” he ordered, stressing each word.
Having just seen what he did to that man in her cell, because he had lost his temper, she did not dare disobey and took the glass. She drank the contents in one big gulp. The strong, stiff brandy burned her throat, and brought tears to her eyes. She gagged two or three times, as White looked on, obviously very satisfied.
“Apparently, you don’t have the habit of strong drink,” he remarked.
“Lost the habit,” Rhapsody replied, gasping for air. “I’m not allowed to…”
“Medical reasons?” There was some concern in the Colonel’s voice. Rhapsody stared at him curiously. What an odd question. He should know the reason…
“Drinking on duty is a most serious offence,” she replied, narrowing her eyes at White as she used one of his own favourite expressions.
The colonel nodded thoughtfully, but did not reply. He kept staring at the young woman, who was growing more and more uneasy. This is creepy, she thought, bowing her head. A few minutes ago, he was tearing into that man like a wild animal. Now he was behaving like a gentleman – sort of – by handing her his own vest so she could cover herself and by offering her a comforting drink – even if he had forced her to take it. What was he up to? Rhapsody couldn’t take any more of this.
“Why did you take me with you?” she suddenly asked him. “What do you want from me?”
White seemed somehow perplexed by her outburst. He shook his head, and poured some more brandy into the two glasses on the table. “Don’t worry,” he quietly told her. “While I find you very attractive, I’m not interested in the same thing as that pig Dempsey.”
“That much I suspected,” she replied in a very cold tone. “So what is it you want?”
He took a sip from his own glass.
“Information,” he said, pushing her glass in front of her.
She eyed the brandy, then ignored it, turning her eyes away. “I don’t see what I can tell you that you wouldn’t know already,” she scoffed.
“I can think of a few things,” Gray retorted icily, wondering about that odd reply. “For starters… what were you and your companion doing at the house of Greg Dooley?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Rhapsody replied. “We were looking for our missing commander.”
Gray took another sip. “Did you find him?”
She turned to him, with a fierce look. What was this game of sarcasm about? “Yes and no,” she replied, almost whispering. “You killed him, you miserable…”
“I killed him?” Admiral Gray raised an eyebrow. Whoever it was she thought he might have killed, he had no idea. Maybe it was part of his missing memories. But he was not about to let her know that. “Is that why your friend killed Greg Dooley?”
“He was a Mysteron,” the girl answered flatly. “He tried to kill us. We only defended ourselves.”
“Really, now?” Gray asked, his voice still very cold. Mysteron… He had heard that word before, that day, when he went to the Naval Depot. Ever since that moment, he had wondered about that word, but didn’t ask any of his men – not even Shelby – what it meant. And he didn’t know why he was feeling so unsettled about it… why it felt so familiar to him.
As familiar as that other word he also heard today.
Charles Gray reached into one of the numerous pockets of his trousers and drew out two folded cardholders. He threw them on the table in front of Rhapsody. She instantly recognized Spectrum identity wallets. Probably hers and Captain Ochre’s. Opening one and seeing the picture of the American officer told her she was right.
“What does Spectrum know about our plans?” Gray asked her roughly.
The young woman’s eyes glared with a fiery glow. “Enough to stop you,” she answered with utmost assurance.
Gray looked at her squarely in the eyes. “You’re lying,” he observed after a moment.
“What makes you say that?” Rhapsody retorted. “Spectrum has always stopped your kind before. Now won’t be any different… Especially since YOU’RE involved. Now it’s personal.”
“Is that so?” Gray noted quietly. “Why? Because you wish to avenge your commander’s death?”
“Do I have to answer that question?”
“Don’t play games with me,” Gray growled, frowning deeply. “I’m not in the mood for this! And what patience I may have left is quickly fading away!”
“I don’t have any illusions about what’s going to happen to me, anyway,” Rhapsody replied. “Mysterons usually don’t take prisoners. They make victims.”
“Why would you call me…”
At that exact moment, a knock on the door interrupted Gray right in the middle of his sentence. Obviously annoyed, and keeping his eyes on the girl, he strode to the door and opened it wide. Brighton was on the other side; he saluted his field commander sharply.
“Excuse me, sir. Mister Shelby has sent me to inform you… The equipment has been loaded into the lorry. We’re just waiting for the word to go.”
Rhapsody pricked up her ears. Equipment? she mused with curiosity. Maybe she could get some more information about the Mysteron threat that was hanging over their heads… which was obviously the reason why the Spectrum commander had been Mysteronised.
But how she would be able to pass that information to Spectrum was another matter…
Gray glanced over his shoulder toward the young woman. He was aware that she could hear every word. Better be careful how I phrase my answer here, if I don’t want to give away vital information, he mused.
“Tell Mister Shelby to go ahead with the equipment, Mister Brighton. Leave a couple of men on guard with me with a vehicle. We’ll join you shortly.”
“You’re not coming with us, Admiral?”
Rhapsody gave the two men a puzzled look. Admiral? Why on Earth would that man call Colonel White ‘Admiral’?
“No. I’m not finished here, yet…”
The colonel let the rest of the answer hang in the air. He’s talking about me, Rhapsody realized, not really reassured about her safety. And obviously, Brighton had understood the same, by the way he was looking over her.
“I see, sir… When should I tell Mister Shelby you’ll be back?”
“I don’t know exactly when, it will depend. Tomorrow morning, at the latest. But be sure I’ll be there in time for the operation.”
“But, sir… Mister Shelby won’t like it if we leave you…”
“I don’t CARE if Mister Shelby likes it or not,” came the harsh response. “Those are my orders, Mister Brighton. I don’t like it when people question my orders.”
Brighton looked at the stern face staring straight at him. He didn’t like what he saw in those sharp blue eyes. He had been told not to push Colonel White and to be careful not to say anything that might contradict him and raise his temper. One false move could even prove fatal. Brighton just had to think about his friend Dempsey, and what that man had done to him to remind himself how dangerous he could be.
“All right then, sir,” Brighton said, trying to render his voice as steady as he could. “We’ll see you tomorrow at the ship, then.”
Charles Gray gave Brighton a murderous look. The fool, mentioning the ship… It was too late now to repair the mistake. “Yes, Mister Brighton. You’ll see me tomorrow.”
Brighton nodded and went his way. Gray closed the door behind him and turned to Rhapsody. The girl was staring quizzically at him. There was no doubt she had heard Brighton’s statement about the ship and that she was now wondering what it was all about. Gray had no intention of giving her the opportunity to learn more about it.
Lord, that imbecile has made my job even less easy… What am I going to do with her, now?
He cleared his throat, coming back to the girl. “Now, shall we continue our little conversation?” he said matter-of-factly.
“Why did that man call you ‘Admiral’?” Rhapsody asked carefully.
He shook his silver head, standing over her. “It’s me who asks the questions,” he replied dryly. “Not the other way around.”
“Then allow me to ask just one.”
Gray sighed. “Make it quick, then.”
“When you’re finished with your interrogation… What are you going to do with me?”
The faintest of smile crossed upon Gray’s face. “You are concerned about your safety. Good. Maybe we can progress from there.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” the girl noted.
“What should I tell you that would make you give me the information I want?”
A shiver crawled down Rhapsody’s spine. Seeing how uncomfortable she suddenly seemed, Gray shook his head again. “Just be cooperative. Everything will be fine, then.” The tone was somehow softer, resembling that of the man Rhapsody knew. She wasn’t sure if it was a comforting or an alarming indication.
“And if I’m not cooperative enough?” she asked again.
“That’s another question, young lady,” Gray told her.
“You’re going to kill me, no matter what,” she replied, trying to keep her voice even.
“Now, you shouldn’t trouble yourself with such ugly thoughts.” Gray sighed, somehow uncomfortable. He looked down at the young woman and she dared not look away, as she was trying to decipher what could be going on in his mind. She had never been able to read Colonel White’s feelings by looking at his face. Now was no different.
And then, unexpectedly, he reached out his hand and lightly stroked her cheek. The gesture surprised her so much that she froze and didn’t react to it.
“You’re very beautiful,” she heard him say softly. “Strange. I never realized how much you look like…”
Gray stopped. Why did I have to say that? he thought, confused. Something was missing in his mind. He could not think what it could be, but it was troubling him deeply.
“Damn,” he mumbled in frustration.
He turned away from Rhapsody and went to the cabinet, followed by the mystified gaze of the girl. What was that all about? she wondered. And why does he seem so lost, right now?
Gray was removing his gun, along with his belt, to put them on the upper shelf of the cabinet. He was still trying to reach the fleeting memories and feelings hidden deep inside his mind. He wanted so much to know why he had said what he had just said to that girl…
So hard he tried to remember, that it suddenly hit him like a ton of bricks. Not a specific memory, but a succession of many of them, coming so violently to him, all at once, that it made him stagger and sent him sprawling against the shelves of the open cabinet, his head hurting like crazy. Massive images were flashing inside his mind, threatening to overwhelm him. Rapidly, like a breaking, brutal wave, they followed one after the other, relentlessly.
A large room with blinding light… The echo of a man’s muffled screams. HIS screams. HIS vain attempts as he struggled against leather straps restraining him to a padded table. Deafening sound in his ears, with voices he could not make out… The pain, awful pain submerging his whole body and mind.
And then, those recent memories were replaced, by others, far older…
An explosion, high in the sky, above the seas… A young man on the bridge of a ship, a look of horror on his face.
The same young man with now an expression of hate, and a smoking gun in his hand…
Another man falling to the ground, a bullet wound in his chest…
Rhapsody had witnessed the sudden apparent dizziness that had struck Colonel White and had risen to her feet, puzzled. She then saw him turning quickly around to face her, keeping himself steady against the cabinet.
“Stay where you are!” he shouted at her.
She froze; his face was awfully pale and sweaty, and was wearing an unaccustomed expression of troubled distress.
Looking at the young woman, Charles Gray suddenly had another vision in his mind, far different from those of death and destruction he was having. It was the soothing image of a stunningly beautiful raven-haired woman, with bright eyes, as blue as the sea, who was smiling at him…
And then the image of his dearly beloved wife was replaced by that of the red-haired girl.
“Who are you?” he asked her with a croak in his voice.
She frowned with perplexity. “Excuse me?”
Gray couldn’t answer. Another flash had broken into his mind. It was fairly recent, of that he was certain, but it was still confusing him.
It was him, wearing civilian clothing, talking into a phone receiver, in his friend Gregory Dooley’s lounge. He was having a casual conversation with his correspondent. “Yes, I have a visit to make before seeing you,” he was saying. “I’ll pick you up at six thirty, for the restaurant… We’ll have plenty of time to eat before the show.”
“Don’t be late, now. You know I’m looking forward to this meeting,” a female voice responded to him.
“I’m looking forward to it too,” Gray answered. “I’ll do my best not to disappoint you. I realize my reputation is at risk here.”
“Your reputation has nothing to fear. I’m not too worried about it. You’ve always been a consummate gentleman.”
That VOICE, on the phone… It was HER voice.
Trying to regain his composure, Charles Gray took a couple of uneasy steps toward Rhapsody. “It was YOU…” he muttered under his breath.
“What are you talking about?” The young woman didn’t like the ominous glow in White’s eyes and the threatening way he was walking toward her. The thought of the way he had torn into that man in the cell came to her mind. She took a step back, suddenly afraid for herself.
“I… had a date with you,” Gray continued in a stern voice. “I remember that… When was that?”
Rhapsody hesitated and took too long to answer for his taste.
“When WAS that?!” he barked furiously.
“Yesterday evening…” Rhapsody instinctively responded. She moved to get away, but was too slow. He sprang toward her, with a speed she would not have suspected in him. Stepping back, she bumped into the table and almost sprawled on it. He was only a few inches from her, looking down into her face with a furious, almost murderous fire in his eyes. That frightened her more than she would have freely admitted.
“Then you are responsible!” he shouted angrily.
“Responsible for what?” she asked, dumbfounded.
“You served as bait so the enemy could capture me!” Gray accused her.
“W-what?” a confused Rhapsody replied, not knowing what he was implying. “You never showed up, I…”
“It’s because of you I found myself strapped to that hellish contraption!”
“What in Heaven’s name are you talking about?”
“How much did you get for that dirty job, woman?”
“You’re not making any sense… I don’t know what you’re…”
“Don’t lie to me!” Gray bellowed.
“I’m not!” Rhapsody shouted back. “You’re raving like a lunatic!”
He slapped her so violently that he knocked her across the table. The gesture stunned him almost as much as her. Eyes wide open with horror and confusion at what he had just done, he looked down at the girl, slumped on the wooden table, groaning in pain, and trying to regain her composure.
His anger dropped instantly. “Lord, what have I done?” he whispered in despair, first looking down at his hand, then at Rhapsody. His memory might be bad, but he was sure he had never hit a woman before… and he could not explain to himself how on Earth he could have sunk to such depths right now.
That damned thing they’ve put me through… That’s making me do things I would never, ever dare do in my normal state.
Confused, he leaned over Rhapsody, who had her back half-turned to him, and was only beginning to slightly raise herself from where she had fallen.
“I’m… so sorry, young lady. I don’t know what came over me…”
He put his hand on her shoulder, with every intention of helping her up. And then things happened very quickly.
Rhapsody’s right hand, hidden from view, had gotten hold of the neck of the bottle on the table. With one swift move, she whirled around and brutally slammed the bottle against Colonel White’s head. The glass smashed, sending brandy spraying all over the room. White winced under the blow and let out a cry of pain, as he fell to the floor.
Breathing hard, Rhapsody stared down as the man made a supreme effort to gather his strength and stand up. Why won’t he stay down? Lord, don’t let him stand up!
He fell back on the floor, with a loud groan, and laid there motionless, on his back, arms outflung.
For a moment, Rhapsody did not dare move. When she realized he was indeed unconscious, she blew out a sigh of relief. She then looked toward the door, hoping that nobody, hearing all that ruckus in here, would come to investigate.
The men who were to remain behind with Colonel White must not be nearby, she mused.
She got off the table and cautiously approached the man lying on the floor. Not a move from him.
“Right,” she said to herself. “I hit him pretty hard.”
She crouched beside him and looked at his face. He had some deep, bleeding cuts on the left side of his head, where she had hit him with the bottle. A wave of sadness came upon the young woman as she thought of her commander, who had to be killed to create this clone.
Carefully, she searched the pockets of his trousers, hoping to find something that would help her get out of this mess she was in. He had my Spectrum identity card; maybe he also has my personal communicator on him…
She examined the contents of his pockets, which she put next to her on the floor. A small bottle of headache pills… A set of keys…
A cardholder containing one card… an old I.D. issued to Admiral Charles Gray, World Navy… How strange that he should have that on him. Recalling how that man Brighton had called him ‘Admiral’ earlier on, the young woman thought it might be related to the present Mysteron threat.
No communicators, aside from his own. Using it would be a terrible mistake, Rhapsody noted. The enemy would automatically hear the message and rush to their commander’s assistance.
And then she found something that brought her hope and relief.
A Spectrum Personal Tracker. And with the white button protruding from the middle of it, it was obvious whose it was…
She stared again at the still unconscious ‘Mysteron’’s face, wondering why he had kept that on him. Was he planning to use it in some way, in the course of the mission his masters had bestowed upon him?
Something suddenly caught her eye. Something that made her heart skip a beat.
On the man’s left forearm, just there in front of her eyes, there were red marks. Many of them, which looked like puncture wounds, like something inflicted by a number of bees… But she realized instantly those were not bee stings…
…but needle marks.
“Oh, my Lord!” Understanding dawned on Rhapsody Angel as she stared in disbelief and horror at the marks, before turning her eyes to Colonel White’s face. “Oh, God, no…” With concern, she quickly checked the pulse in his neck, then his breathing. He was alive, no doubt about that, but there was no telling how long he would stay unconscious.
“You’re no more a Mysteron than those others,” Rhapsody murmured, shaking her head, with some relief. “You were not Mysteronised… You have been drugged… Dear Lord in Heaven, they didn’t kill you…” With care, she took a look at the severity of his head wound; some cuts were deep enough, but there didn’t seem to be any serious damage… and no signs of it starting to heal. From her experiences with Captain Scarlet, she knew how rapidly his superficial wounds healed. She sighed, filled with remorse to have hit him the way she did. “But I nearly DID kill you,” she mumbled. “What in God’s name have they done to you, for you to act like that? It must have been terrible…”
She suddenly remembered the bottle of pills. Why hadn’t she realized sooner that Mysterons DIDN’T need headache pills? She quickly took the bottle and opened it to examine the contents.
They didn’t look like headache pills… not like any that she knew about. No markings on the plastic bottle, nor on the pills… What was the medicine for, and why did Colonel White need it?
The Angel pilot stared again at the unconscious man. She wondered how he would react when he woke up. Badly, undoubtedly, if she was to take into account the state he was in before she knocked him out. Whatever was done to him seemed to have affected his natural behaviour. The brutal violence he had demonstrated until now was quite disturbing. And yet… she saw enough of the Colonel White she had come to know over the past few years to believe he was not completely gone.
The handcuffs were on the floor, knocked from the table when she had sprawled on it, some minutes ago. She didn’t like the idea, but she was aware she had to restrain Colonel White before he could regain his senses. She took the cuffs and then looked down at the Personal Tracker in her hand, before looking again at her still unconscious commander.
“Don’t worry, sir,” she told him in a soothing voice. “Everything will be all right soon. Spectrum will get you out of this mess.”
She determinedly pressed down the white button on the SPT, hoping that personnel at all Spectrum communication centres had their eyes peeled on their instruments…
* * *
At Spectrum Headquarters London, Captains Scarlet and Blue had seen that Captain Ochre was sent to Cloudbase, using a medical helicopter, while they themselves stayed behind to check on different possible leads to the whereabouts of Colonel White and his gang of Mysteron commandos.
The search of Dooley’s house and garden didn’t turn out as conclusive as they had hoped. Colonel White’s body wasn’t found there, as they had expected. So they ordered the search to be widened to any incident that may have occurred in London – or in the surrounding area – that the Mysterons could have taken advantage of. Road accidents, muggings, even falls into the Thames – if any – were to be considered.
Curiously, a body WAS found in the Thames, but it wasn’t Colonel White’s. It was that of a British Navy officer, killed by a shot through the head. While it didn’t concern White directly, Blue considered it worthy of some more research and assigned Captain Grey, on Cloudbase, to it. Meanwhile, he and Scarlet concentrated on the few findings the investigation around Dooley’s house had brought up.
“According to Ochre’s last report,” Blue said, consulting a long sheet of paper that had came out of the communication printer in the control room, “Colonel White left St. James’ Church graveyard at approximately five forty-five... It would have taken him less than fifteen minutes to get back to Dooley’s house…”
“If he ever made it there,” Scarlet dully noted. He was signing a report that a young female lieutenant had brought to him a few minutes ago. She was waiting for it nearby, out of earshot; he beckoned to her after closing the folder, gave it back to her and turned back to Blue as she went away. “That was the autopsy report on Greg Dooley’s body. He died of a broken neck, following a violent blow to the back of the head. Death was instantaneous. He didn’t suffer.”
“Small consolation,” Blue mumbled.
“Who could be so cruel and cowardly to kill a defenceless pensioner?” Scarlet said gloomily.
“A Mysteron agent?” Blue stated. As his partner stared at him, he showed him the long sheet he was still holding. “Here. The neighbours have been interrogated. There was a strange guy lurking around Dooley’s place yesterday. We have a corroborative description: tall, white male in his late thirties, dressed in black, with dark hair, dark eyes, a bad shave and a pale complexion… Remind you of someone?”
“Captain Black,” Scarlet whistled between his teeth. He shook his head. “I can’t believe he’s the one who trapped the colonel,” he murmured. “They were good friends…”
“He was your friend too,” Blue noted dryly. He put the paper down on a console behind him. “That doesn’t stop him attacking you.”
“Did the neighbours see anything else?” Scarlet asked. “Did any of them notice anything concerning Ochre’s shooting and Rhapsody’s abduction?”
“A small black van was seen parked in front of Dooley’s house… Not long after they heard shooting, some neighbours saw a group of men, dressed as commandos, rushing out of the house and entering the van. It drove away at speed, but nobody had the time to see the licence plate.”
“No mention of Rhapsody being with them?”
There was an undertone of pain in Scarlet’s voice. Blue slowly shook his head. “No. But surely, she was with them… Maybe surrounded by them, and so no-one saw her.”
Scarlet’s expression became morose; Blue was about to offer him some comforting words, when his attention was drawn to a tall man, dressed in civilian clothing and sporting a Spectrum security card on the outside of his vest pocket, who had just entered the control room. The American captain tapped his partner’s shoulder to draw his attention to the newcomer. “Bandit at eight o’clock,” he muttered under his breath.
Scarlet looked in the direction given by his friend and saw the man, coming straight at them. He muttered something Blue couldn’t make out. The man stopped in front of them.
“Agent Conners, how nice to see you,” Scarlet welcomed him with a half-mocking, half-serious tone.
“Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue…” the man answered. “I’ve come straight from the infirmary. Why was Captain Ochre sent to Cloudbase so soon?”
“He’s gone already?” Blue asked, feigning surprise.
“About an hour ago, I was told… You gave the order, Captain Blue.”
“Oh… I thought he wouldn’t leave ’til the morning. Well… my mistake. Guess the medical helicopter service is quicker than I imagined.”
Agent Conners, of Spectrum Intelligence, scowled at the remark. He turned to Scarlet.
“Why was Ochre sent to Cloudbase, Captain?” he asked again. “I wanted to talk to him about what happened at Quartermaster Dooley’s house…”
“We didn’t know you were planning on seeing him,” Scarlet lied, with deadpan aplomb. “Besides, he would have been unable to answer your questions…”
“Last time we looked,” Blue added quickly, “his doctor had given him a sedative. He must have been asleep when he was taken to the ’copter.”
“You talked to him, earlier,” Conners noted. “What did he tell you?”
Scarlet shrugged. “You read our reports?”
“Then you have all the answers you need. We’ll make sure a copy of Captain Ochre’s report is sent to you… That is, when he feels well enough to write it down.”
“He was hurt so badly?”
“Lost a lot of blood. That took a lot out of him.”
Conners narrowed his eyes at Captain Scarlet. It was obvious there was no love lost between them. When the British officer had revived, two years ago, from his initial encounter with the Mysterons – in which they took control of his body and mind – Conners was in the Spectrum Intelligence team that had been assigned to investigate the case and interrogate him, under the direct orders of Senior Agent Thomas Wade, who was in charge of the investigation. The team had to make sure that Scarlet truly was who he claimed to be – the real Captain Scarlet, Paul Metcalfe – and that he was now really free from the Mysterons’ influence. While Agent Wade proved civil enough toward Scarlet, it wasn’t exactly the case with Conners. Although Scarlet had passed the interrogation and subsequent tests with flying colours, thus proving his claims, he couldn’t forget how the man from Spectrum Intelligence had been so ruthless toward him, using all the tricks permitted by the book to try to demonstrate he wasn’t on the level. Scarlet didn’t especially appreciate being pumped full of truth serum, during Conners’ last session of interrogation. Since it was discovered during the course of the experiment that Captain Scarlet’s new Mysteronised body had a very strong resistance to drugs, Conners had insisted that Doctor Fawn gave him more and more of the serum, bringing the patient well beyond human capacity to survive it without any after-effects. Sure, Scarlet had agreed that the serum be used on him, as did Doctor Fawn, Colonel White and even Agent Wade… But none of them had imagined that Conners would be so obsessed with proving Scarlet was concealing something from them, to the point of endangering his health.
“You don’t like me much, do you, Captain Scarlet?”
Scarlet sighed. “Agent Conners, I’m crushed,” he said quietly. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“What happened between us two years ago was necessary, you know?”
“You nearly killed him,” Blue replied dryly.
“Come on, Captain Blue!” Conners snorted. “You know as well as I do that Captain Scarlet would not have died from that drug.”
“Yes, NOW we know, but at the time, we didn’t,” Blue retorted. “And that’s just the point… Or hasn’t your superior, Senior Agent Wade, pointed that out to you?”
Conners cleared his throat, unsettled. “Well, in any case, that experiment served to prove Scarlet was on the level,” he said with a faint smile. “My report afterwards was quite clear on that fact.”
“You mean Wade’s report,” Scarlet told him pointedly. “But thanks for the vote of confidence anyway, Mister Conners.”
Scarlet turned his back on him and was about to leave with Captain Blue when Conners called him back: “That incident at Mister Dooley’s house… does it have anything to do with Colonel White?”
Scarlet stopped in his tracks, as did Blue. The two of them turned to face Conners.
“And what makes you say that?” the British captain asked sharply.
“I checked on Mister Dooley. He was on the Sir Francis Drake, twenty-five years ago, under the command of a certain Captain Charles Gray… who later became Admiral Charles Gray… And you and I both know who Charles Gray is.”
“Oh, you think you know, do you?” Scarlet replied in a rather cold tone. “Where did you get this information, Agent Conners? Real identities of colour-coded officers are Rainbow Priority One information.”
“To my knowledge, there aren’t many in your section who have access to those files. Senior Agent Wade, for example…”
“Captain, I’ve got Rainbow Priority One clearance too.”
“Then we’re in trouble,” Blue mumbled under his breath.
“I HEARD that, Captain Blue,” Conners replied.
“I MEANT for you to hear it, Agent Conners.”
“Is your superior aware of your presence here, Mister Conners?” Scarlet asked.
“Yeah, does he know you’re bugging us with trivialities?” Blue added. “We don’t have time for this, we’re on red alert.”
“You’re not very cooperative, Captains… Of course Agent Wade knows about my investigation. He assigned me to it, in fact.”
“What exactly is your question, Mister Conners?” Scarlet sighed heavily.
“Colonel White was supposed to be on holiday in London, these last few days, leaving you two as acting commanders of Spectrum, right?” Conners said. “Has he been recalled?”
“Like Captain Blue said: we’re on red alert,” Scarlet replied. “Which means everybody has been recalled to duty.”
“Yeah, well… In that case, do you know where the Colonel has been during his holiday?”
“Why do you ask that?” Scarlet frowned. “And why not ask HIM, anyway?”
“He doesn’t tell us of his private whereabouts,” Blue added.
“I tried to contact him on Cloudbase,” Conners said patiently. “The communications officer told me Colonel White was too busy to answer any calls at the moment and that he would contact me eventually. In the meantime, I have to rely on you…”
“I STILL fail to see your point, Mister Conners,” Scarlet said carefully.
Conners gave a faint smile. “Why were both Captain Ochre and Rhapsody Angel sent to Greg Dooley’s home, in civilian clothes?” he said, rather than answering Scarlet’s remark. “Was it to do with the present situation? Just call me curious, but…”
“Actually, I prefer to call you a bloody nuisance,” Scarlet interrupted sharply. Conners glared at him but did not respond. “Now, if I may ask YOU a question…”
“Go ahead, Captain Scarlet.”
“What’s this got to do with your section, anyway? I still don’t see why Spectrum Intelligence has any interest in one of our officers being shot.”
“The point is that TWO of Spectrum’s senior staff have apparently fallen victim to an ambush, in what appears to be the course of some investigation. I find odd that Rhapsody Angel has been sent on such a mission, since her usual work calls for her to be at the helm of an interceptor jet…”
“Well, if you DO in fact have Rainbow Priority One clearance,” Scarlet snapped, “you would ALSO know her background… AND how it would make her a PERFECT choice for this mission!”
Conners flinched at Scarlet’s tone but continued. “…And now, she has been captured, probably by Mysterons… And, well, we have to assume the worst has happened to her. And we all know that, when it comes to the Mysterons, the worst transcends death itself.”
Blue gave a quick glance toward Scarlet, wondering if he would pop a nerve hearing that. As it was, the British captain was keeping as calm as he could, and was addressing an icy stare at Agent Conners. There was murder in that look and Blue worried that his partner would suddenly jump at the Intelligence man’s throat.
“Stick to Intelligence, Conners,” Blue said. “Let us handle the field action. In case you still haven’t noticed, we’re quite busy with a Mysteron situation right now, and we really don’t have time for your questions.”
Conners shook his head. “All right, then. I guess I’ll wait to talk to Colonel White. I suppose he will be more amenable than you two are.”
“Don’t bet on it,” Scarlet muttered, before quickly adding, “He’s got about as much time for you as we have.”
Conners smiled sarcastically at the two men. “Keep up the good work, Captains.” He then turned around and left the Control Room, under the icy stare they both gave him. Blue let out a sigh.
“How long will we be able to keep this up, before somebody finds out something is wrong?” he whispered, addressing his colleague.
“If we have to put up with the likes of Conners… not long, I’m afraid,” Scarlet responded in the same tone.
“I hate that guy…” Blue mumbled under his breath. He cleared his throat. “The next time we see Lieutenant Green, remind me to THANK him for sending Conners to us.”
“Right after I congratulate him for his initiative in covering the Colonel’s absence,” Scarlet replied with a smile.
“So, what do we do now?” Blue asked. “Do we return to Cloudbase, and wait there for the next development? Symphony’s still here with the helicopter, ready to take us back. Magenta can cover things here…”
Scarlet opened his mouth to answer, but right that moment, the voice of Second Lieutenant Gail Lennox, London HQ communications officer, seated at her console not far from them, called to them, with a tone of urgency:
“Captain Scarlet! Captain Blue! I’m picking up a signal!”
The two officers rushed to either side of the young woman. She was tapping on her digital keyboard, obviously trying to get a trace on a beeping sound that was coming out of her computer’s speakers.
“Is that a radio signal, lieutenant?” Captain Blue asked.
“No, Captain…” was the answer. “But it’s definitively a distress signal… from a SPT.”
“A Spectrum Personal Tracker?” Scarlet repeated, frowning. “Whose…?”
Lieutenant Lennox looked over her shoulder at him. “Colonel White’s, sir.”
Scarlet and Blue shivered, almost imperceptibly. They exchanged perplexed stares. Why would a Mysteronised White activate his Tracker? Why would he have kept it, in the first place?
Then it dawned upon them that it might not be White who was actually using the device.
“Rhapsody,” they both said at the same time.
“Affirmative,” Lieutenant Lennox nodded, her attention back on her computer screen. “It is Colonel White’s Tracker, but it is Rhapsody Angel using it right now.” She looked again at Scarlet. “Those beeps are Morse code, Captain. And she just spelled out the first part of her name.”
The British captain had already found that out, and was now concentrating on deciphering the rest of the message. In the meantime, Blue was feverishly checking out the tracking instruments with Lennox, in order to locate the position of the signal.
“She says she’s all right…” Scarlet whispered, almost only to himself. “Thank God for that…” He frowned. “Escaped surveillance… Trapped inside enemy building…”
“In Bristol!” Blue exclaimed triumphantly. “We got the position!”
“Oh, Lord…” Scarlet had just heard the last part of Rhapsody’s message. Judging by the expression Lieutenant Lennox turned to him, he could see she had heard it too. Not a problem here, he mused. As communications officer at London Headquarters, Gail Lennox had been sworn to secrecy about the situation… There was no other way but to take her into their confidence, since she was manning such a critical station.
“Be sure to keep that information away from that weasel, Conners, Lieutenant,” Scarlet whispered to her in confidence.
“S.I.G., sir. I’ll be as quiet as the grave.”
“Like your choice of words.” Scarlet flipped down his cap microphone. “Captain Magenta, do you read me?”
“Loud and clear, Captain Scarlet,” came the swift reply in an accented Irish brogue.
“Assemble a task team of hand-picked field commandos, quickly. About half a dozen, heavily armed. We’ll have a helicopter ready for you in five minutes with coordinates for a target somewhere in Bristol…”
“Five minutes, Scarlet?”
“Spectrum is White, Magenta,” was Scarlet’s answer. That was the signal he and the other members of the higher staff had agreed upon should Colonel White be discovered.
“S.I.G., Captain,” Magenta answered swiftly.
“Helicopter A12 is already ready for takeoff, Captain Magenta,” Lennox informed the Irish captain over her own microphone. “The pilot is security Blue… I’m transferring the coordinates you should follow onto the onboard computer.”
“Send them to Helicopter A04 as well,” Scarlet ordered her. “Tell Symphony Angel to be ready to take off as soon as we join her.”
As Lieutenant Lennox busied herself following his orders, Scarlet took Blue by the arm and quickly moved with him toward the exit. “Come on, Captain Blue, we’ll take that helicopter now. But not to Cloudbase, as you suggested.”
“Give me some credit, I already guessed that.” Blue frowned. “Spectrum is White?” he said uncertainly. “So not only has Rhapsody got the colonel’s Tracker…”
“… She’s got HIM as well,” Scarlet nodded. He strode quickly out of the control room and into the corridor toward the nearest elevator, which would take them up to the helicopter pad, situated on the roof of the building. Blue had to quicken his pace to keep up with him.
“What do you mean ‘she’s got him as well’?” he asked.
“That was the last part of her message,” Scarlet explained, stepping into the elevator with his partner. “She’s captured him.”
The elevator door slid closed as Blue gave Scarlet a dumbfounded look.
“What? How in Heaven did she manage to do that?”
“I don’t know, but I’m worried…” Scarlet was impatiently staring at the level indicator, hoping the high-speed elevator would be somehow even faster today. “Keeping a Mysteron prisoner is like keeping a tiger in check. And since this Mysteron happens to be Colonel White…”
“…He’s as dangerous to handle as they come,” Blue murmured. “Maybe as dangerous as Captain Black.”
“Right. Remember what Black did to Symphony?”
“I still get the shivers thinking about that.”
“And to make matters worse, she’s trapped in the tiger’s den,” Scarlet added sombrely.
“We’ll get her out of there, Paul.”
“Let us pray.” The door opened in front of them, and the two captains rushed outside and onto the roof of the Spectrum HQ London building. In front of them, Helicopter A04, with Symphony at the helm, was waiting for them, its engine and rotor already running. Next to it, another helicopter, also ready for take off, was being boarded by a handful of heavily armed commandos. Scarlet saw Captain Magenta, standing by the hatch, and answered the salute his Irish counterpart made.
Hang on, Angel, Scarlet thought, as he and Blue broke into a run toward the aircraft. Help is on its way… Just hang on!
And be very careful.