A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” novel
by Chris Bishop
The same explosion… Like before. It kept coming back, again and again. Fiery, blinding…
Charles Gray could feel the heat scorching through him, consuming his body, his mind, his very soul. He fought against it, desperately, trying to get away from it.
But always, it was there; he could not escape it, no matter how hard he tried. He could not forget; he was still haunted by the sight of the fiery wreckage of the helicopter falling into the sea, taking his father’s life with it.
Father… I could not save you…
Please, forgive me.
Through that eerie fog covering his mind, he witnessed it, over and over again, and was powerless to do anything while his father was dying so horribly… It was absolutely maddening. Somebody was responsible for that. A man he had trusted to this day and whom he would never have thought would have betrayed him the way he did. He remembered that he had been warned against that man.
In his tortured and confused memory, the scene of the falling, burning helicopter was suddenly replaced by the image of that man, wearing the uniform of a commander of the British Navy.
Jack… What have you done? WHY did you have to do that? I thought we were… friends…
He saw himself, entering a ship cabin – his cabin – finding Commander Jackson Bennett going through his personal things...
“What do you think you’re doing here?” he called out furiously to the man.
He recalled his surprise when he saw a pistol appear suddenly in Bennett’s hand, aimed straight at him. “Looking for proof that you’re dabbling in treason!” Jackson had replied accusingly.
Gray had taken a step forward, oblivious to the threatening weapon. “So, murdering my father wasn’t enough for you, then? You want to kill me too?”
He remembered fighting for control of the gun; then a detonation echoed in the small cabin.
Gray winced; I killed him, was the thought imposing itself in his mind. That murdering scum… I killed him.
The rest of his memories of this moment were drowned in a wave of confusion. He felt so weak. Even thinking straight was a difficult task. Where was he? What had happened to him?
“Hang on, sir. We’re going to get you out of this.”
That was another flash into Gray’s tortured mind. He was feeling pain, throughout his body. A face was looking down at him. A young man with black hair, who gazed at him with concern. “You’re safe now, Admiral. We’ll get you to a hospital.” That was the young man addressing him, in a decidedly American accent. He remembered that he had grabbed the man by his sleeve, weakly. “My wife… She was with me… Where is she?”
The man gave him an odd look. “Please, sir… Don’t upset yourself. You’re badly wounded.”
There was a distressed flash in the young man’s sombre eyes. What is the matter? Why won’t he tell me? Gray thought, very confused, filled with apprehension and grief over his beloved wife.
Elizabeth… Where are you?
And that young man… He should know who he was, he was sure of that.
Recollection of that name forced another memory, this one very recent, into Gray’s mind. This time again, he was betrayed. By another man who had also been under his command. By someone who had saved his life and whom he had once considered a very close friend.
“Conrad… Don’t let them do this!” His heart sank deeply into distress when his friend turned his back on him to leave him strapped down on some sort of operating table. The pain in his heart was almost as great as the pain his whole body and mind endured at that time.
He was helpless, and couldn’t hope for any form of help, as they tormented him, trying to break him… He didn’t know what exactly they wanted out of him. He just remembered how horribly they had hurt him.
The memory faded, but the pain stayed, excruciatingly alive in Gray’s mind. For now, he was free of his restraints, but he could hardly rise from where he lay, although he was moving restlessly, trying to get away from these painful memories, to get out of this nightmare he was plunged into. It was so hard, and he felt so weak…
He was barely aware of people moving around him, tending him; somebody was putting a pad on his forehead, attempting to cool down his burning fever. Soothing voices were calling to him, trying to reach him, to reassure him. He wanted so much to talk to these people, to ask them who they were and what they wanted of him. He could not.
It took a while before he realised that this time, however, it wasn’t his memories playing tricks with his mind. This time, what he felt, what he heard, was real.
He finally opened his eyes, wearily. Through a fuzzy haze, he saw the worried features of a brown-haired man in his late thirties, looking down at him. He was wearing a white coat, like that of a doctor.
“You’re awake,” the man said, with an expression of relief and satisfaction upon his features, so obvious it could not be fake. “Thank God, you’re coming out of it...”
“Where… where am I?” Gray asked in a feeble voice.
“Cloudbase, sir. In the sickbay.”
“C-Cloudbase?” He didn’t know that place; yet, the name was somehow familiar to him. He had heard it before.
The man nodded quietly. “You were brought here five hours ago… I’ve been tending to you ever since. You were burning with fever, delirious…”
“I don’t… remember…” Gray murmured weakly.
He looked around. He was in some sort of hospital room. There was a projector above him, which was presently shut down and turned away from him. A table full of instruments and assorted bottles stood beside him. And he was lying on a padded examination table.
That gave him an uncomfortable impression of déja vu.
Then it occurred to him. Cloudbase. That Spectrum girl he had captured at Dooley’s home… It was she who had said that name. He was in the power of Spectrum. He was back into enemy’s hands. Despair filled his heart.
“No,” he whispered. “Not again… I won’t let it happen again...”
He tried to rise from where he lay, but exhaustion pushed him back.
Why am I so weak? Why is it so hard for me to think? I can’t stay here. I must get away.
In his desperation, he found the strength to pull himself up. The doctor next to him tried to push him back into a lying position.
“Sir, don’t try to get up. You need your rest. You…”
“Keep away from me!”
Gray brutally shoved the man aside and succeeded in sitting up straight and swinging his legs off the bed in the same movement. Every muscle of his body was killing him, not to mention his head, as heavy as it could be. He saw the man raising his head toward an intercom.
“Doctor Fawn to Security! S.I.R. in sickbay!”
Doctor Fawn, Cloudbase’s chief medical officer, watched in total dismay as Colonel White made to jump down from the table, where, for the last five hours or so, he had lain, moving restlessly, and mumbling feverishly. During that time, Fawn had treated his physical injuries, and had done his best to draw him out of the delirium the combination of the different drugs in his system had caused. He had just begun to get some positive results when the Spectrum commander had finally awakened.
He certainly wasn’t well enough to be on his feet, Fawn thought quickly. And anyway, having learnt of the colonel’s erratic behaviour of late, it wouldn’t be safe to have him up and free at this time. He immediately gestured toward his assistant, standing at the other side of the room, working at a table to analyse a sample of blood he had taken from the patient earlier. The medic quickly came over and tried to restrain White. Despite his apparent state of weakness, the latter seemed ready for him and struck like lightning as soon as the man’s hands were on him. His elbow caught him in the stomach first, then he hit him under the chin with his right fist. The well-intentioned medic fell heavily to the floor, stunned.
Charles Gray jumped to his feet. He was still staggering, but he was determined to try and escape this place. He turned his feverish attention to Doctor Fawn, standing a few feet from him.
The medical officer was starting to move closer, to help his assistant; he froze when he saw White taking an uneasy step in his direction. “Come here, now, ‘Doctor’,” the older man told him in an ominous tone. “I’m curious to learn what you had in store for me this time…”
Fawn stepped back. He could see the angry flash in the blue eyes that stared at him; clearly, there was murder in them. There was little doubt in Fawn’s mind that the Spectrum commander had suffered a great deal at the hands of so-called ‘doctors’… and that he now fully intended making HIM pay for that.
“For God’s sake, Charles…” Fawn was desperate enough to call Colonel White by his real name, hoping it would somehow reach him, or perhaps even bring him to his senses. Obviously, as White continued his approach, it didn’t work at all.
I’m dead, Fawn thought, all hope gone.
That was when a streak of blue appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and rammed violently into Colonel White, driving him back.
From the hallway where he was with Symphony – after all those hours, the two of them were coming over to learn how Colonel White was doing now – Captain Blue had heard Doctor Fawn’s desperate call over the intercom. He had stepped into the examination room just in time to see his commander trying to get his hands on the doctor. There was little time to think this over and so he simply threw himself at the colonel in order to stop him. White never saw him coming; he was thrown off-balance and sprawled onto the examination table behind him.
Blue succeeded in putting the colonel into a strong arm and shoulder lock, pushing his face down on the padded surface of the table. It wasn’t easy trying to keep him still, but the captain didn’t let go and made use of all of his strength and weight advantage to pin him down. From the doorway, where she was standing, Symphony was staring, quite dismayed by the awkwardness of the scene.
“Get your hands off me!” Colonel White demanded angrily, as he struggled to free himself.
“Sorry, sir,” Blue replied evenly. “I can’t let you hurt the good doctor. Believe me, you would hate yourself afterward…”
“I said: release me!” White’s voice sounded weak, despite the fury Blue was trying to contain. He was trying desperately to get out of the armlock. “You won’t be able to hold me forever!”
Obviously not, Blue realised, seeing how furiously White was struggling to free himself. He was stronger than the American captain expected him to be. Blue had to call on all of his strength to restrain him.
The medic White had previously manhandled was getting to his feet, trying to overcome his discomfort. Symphony entered to help Doctor Fawn keep him steady on his feet. At that moment, three security guards, responding to Fawn’s earlier call, rushed into the room. They came towards Captain Blue, who was still holding his opponent tightly. The Captain let them handle their commander on their own, and let go of him as soon as he was sure they had him well in hand. They kept him down on the table and wrenched both his arms behind his back. Captain Blue, who had stepped in front of him, saw him wince.
“Be careful!” he told the guards sternly. “Restrain him, but DON’T hurt him.”
Colonel White was staring straight at Captain Blue, as a sturdy pair of shackles was snapped closed around his wrists. There was anger in his eyes. Along with fear and exhaustion. And no recognition whatsoever.
“I’m sorry for all this, sir,” Blue told his superior, in an apologetic tone.
“I’ll get you for this!” White replied with a warning, promising tone.
Blue could see he meant it. “It’s just a temporary measure,” he responded, “until you cool off.”
He addressed a nod to the three guards, who then raised their prisoner to his feet; he was still trying to get out of their hands, but there was little he could accomplish, since he was now shackled and they were holding him tight. He gave one last frenzied look toward Blue.
“You’re going to hook me back to that Dream Spinner device, aren’t you?” There was anger in the colonel’s tone, but also despair and fear. Hearing his words, Symphony raised her head, staring at him with a quizzical and perplexed look.
“I promise you,” Blue replied, “You won’t be hurt. We’re going to get you out of this. And we won’t let the Mysterons get away with this.”
“I don’t know what these ‘Mysterons’ are!” White growled furiously. “I don’t know what YOU people want from me! But I tell you, you WON’T find I’m an easy prisoner!”
“I didn’t think we would,” Blue noted, sadly. He looked at the guards. “I don’t want him to leave the medical centre. Have him take a good shower, and bring him to a secured room. Medical personnel will see to him there, and tend to him. Give him something to eat…”
“I don’t want ANYTHING from you!” White raged on.
“That’s not wise, sir. I suggest you save some of your strength and make the most of our hospitality.” Blue addressed the guards anew. “I don’t want YOU to let him out of your sight. He’s not to leave his room, without specific orders from Captain Scarlet or me. Understood?”
“S.I.G., Captain Blue.”
“One more thing.” Blue eyed Colonel White; the older man glared at him, infuriated. “Treat him well. Don’t forget WHO he is.” He was tempted to add ‘He’s not responsible for what he’s doing’, but he kept that to himself. He watched silently as the three guards took the Spectrum commander out of the room.
Lost deep in his thoughts, Blue was barely aware of Symphony’s presence near him, and only noticed her when she gently touched his shoulder. “You don’t look too good, Adam,” she murmured.
He shook his head, apparently distraught, and looked down at his hands. “I had no idea he was THAT strong,” he replied in a whisper. He frowned. “To be forced to treat him that way… Can you believe what they have done to him? Is there anything they won’t do?”
“I suppose not,” the young woman answered. “But…” she sighed heavily, “at least, they didn’t KILL him. The way they did with Captain Scarlet.”
Blue stared at her with a quizzical look; there was something in what she had just said… A puzzling question he had not thought about, right up to this moment.
“What is it, Captain?” Symphony asked, seeing him so lost in thought.
“I don’t know, I…” Blue shrugged. “There’s something nagging me in all this.”
Symphony nodded quietly. “Was it my imagination,” she then said, “or did the colonel mentioned something about a... Dream Spinner?”
He stared closely at her. “Yes, he did. Why? Does that mean anything to you?”
She sighed. “Yes. Yes it does. It’s some kind of mind control device I heard about, during my days in the Secret Service. Very nasty thing, I reckon. It can screw up a man’s brain…”
“That, I can believe,” Blue murmured. “What else do you know?”
“I’m not an expert on the subject, so I suggest that you communicate with the U.S.S. to see what they can tell you about it.”
Blue nodded his agreement. “I’ll inform Doctor Fawn.”
Meanwhile, Doctor Fawn was giving his assistant his latest instructions regarding the patient. “Keep him under close observation,” Fawn recommended. “Make sure he doesn’t develop another fever or slip back into delirium. If you have to talk to him, don’t say anything that might alarm him in any way. I’ll come to see him shortly.”
The man nodded his understanding and left the room. Fawn approached Blue and Symphony. He was still looking a bit shaken.
“Thank you, Captain,” he said. “If you hadn’t arrived when you did… I swear, he was about to kill me.”
“He could very WELL have killed you, Doctor!” Blue replied sharply. “WHY wasn’t he in restraints? You knew the state he was in!”
“He was, up until a few minutes ago. I wanted to check the injection marks on his neck, so I removed the restraints. I was just about to replace them when he woke up.”
Blue took a deep breath to calm himself before he responded. “I’m sorry I snapped at you, Doctor. It’s just that I’ve seen what he can do to people. If I hadn’t been here, he probably would have killed you. I don’t think he would have had any scruples about it. He didn’t hesitate to shoot Ochre, and came close to killing Magenta. The poor guy was lucky to get only a broken nose.”
“Not to mention that he would surely have killed Scarlet if you hadn’t been around to stop him,” Fawn nodded.
“I think you’re selling him a little short, here,” Symphony protested at this moment. “What about Rhapsody?”
“He kidnapped her,” Blue replied. “Held a knife to her throat.”
“But didn’t harm her,” Symphony insisted. “She told me he protected her from the others…”
“Symphony,” Blue told the young woman gently, “I KNOW he’s not responsible for his actions… I’m just pointing out that he could be very dangerous in the state he’s in right now. And believe me, Rhapsody is the FIRST to admit he’s to be approached with extreme caution.”
Captain Blue was the one who had received Rhapsody’s report, about two hours ago. She had told him many interesting things, notably that she had discovered that the other men with Colonel White were no more Mysterons then he was himself, and that there was mention of a ship, where some ‘material’ for their mission was to be transported. She didn’t know what the material was, nor what kind of ship they were referring to, or even what ‘mission’ they were to perform. But she had the conviction that, unlike the colonel, these other men were quite aware of what they were doing, that they appeared to be mercenaries of some kind. A novelty, coming from the Mysterons, to use hired hands… It was as preoccupying as it was puzzling. It was something that needed to be researched intensively.
Rhapsody didn’t report anything much about the way she was treated during her captivity; not in words, and not in her subsequent written report, either. It was quite succinct, and Captain Blue had a feeling it wasn’t complete. She didn’t lie, of that, he was certain; she just kept quiet about certain parts that may have happened during that time. He wondered why she had done that.
And if she wasn’t trying to protect someone.
I may be imagining things, Blue mused, trying to shrug the thought away. Maybe there’s nothing to it, after all… But he could not shake that feeling, and wondered if, by any chance, Paul could be aware of something he wasn’t. Anyway, the British captain was bound to suspect something was wrong when he read Rhapsody’s report.
Captain Scarlet hadn’t come back in the helicopter that had brought the others back to Cloudbase; he had stayed at the enemy complex, to supervise the search for clues to what exactly the Mysterons intended to do this time… and possibly some indication of how to help the colonel. He was to inform Blue of any further discoveries that might be made, and was to return to base in two or three hours. In the meantime, Blue had to hold a meeting with the staff to explain the current situation. Captain Blue was hoping they would find something more conclusive very soon. The investigation was still going on, one day had passed, and they were drawing closer to the deadline.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, there were also Spectrum Intelligence’s frequent calls to Cloudbase. Agent Conners was still trying to get answers to his questions, and was constantly asking for Colonel White. Helped by Lieutenant Green, Captain Blue had done his best to fend him off. However, it was only a question of time before he suspected something was really going wrong…
“Where’s Rhapsody at the moment?” Two hours ago, and after receiving her report, Blue had insisted that the Englishwoman present herself in sickbay for a physical examination. She was looking exhausted after her ordeal, but didn’t want to take any rest. He had to order her out, and only then did she reluctantly agree to go. He had not seen the young woman since then.
“My assistant gave her a thorough check up,” Fawn answered. “Aside from some minor bruises, she was only suffering from fatigue. When I saw her afterward, I ordered her to get a few hours rest. I reckoned the poor kid had earned it.”
“That’s quite right,” Blue agreed with a faint smile. “So we’d better let her get her rest.” Blue looked at his watch; it was now after 5:00 A.M. “It has been more than twenty-four hours since the Mysterons’ threat,” he said. “We still have forty-eight to go before the deadline, but we are no closer to a solution than we were at the beginning.”
“Well, at least, we have Colonel White back with us,” Symphony replied.
“A totally screwed up Colonel White. We’re counting on you, Doctor, to help him as best as you can.”
“You know I will, Captain.”
“Symphony suggested that we get in touch with the Universal Secret Service. Seems they can give us information about that ‘Dream Spinner’ device that was used to subvert the colonel’s mind.”
“I’ll call them. I already communicated with Doctor Weiss, at the Spectrum Medical Centre. I will need her expertise.”
“Do what you must, Doctor, but be discreet about it,” Captain Blue noted, lowering his voice. “Remember, we don’t want word to get out. And we certainly don’t want Intelligence to find out about Colonel White’s condition.”
“I’ll be careful,” Fawn answered with a nod.
“Right. Captain Scarlet should be back from the ground in three hours tops. In the meantime, I will hold a meeting with the rest of the senior staff, to let them know what’s going on. You don’t have to attend, Doctor…”
“…Since I’ll be rather busy with my patient, anyway,” Doctor Fawn nodded thoughtfully. “Right. Well, be sure I’ll inform you on new developments concerning him.”
“Thanks, Doc. I know you’ll do your very best.”
“Keep your hopes up, Captain.” Fawn gave a faint smile and put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Colonel White is a fighter. I don’t think the Mysterons have won this one yet.”
* * *
Captain Ochre had the worst time working in his sickbay room.
The nurse assigned to his care – a Miss Lang – wasn’t pleased at all to see him sitting up in bed, with a digital computer on his lap, doing research for the investigation in hand. She had taken it on herself to try and convince him to put that aside and to get some rest. Ochre had patiently explained to the overzealous woman that Spectrum was in a state of red alert and that it presently needed all available hands. His wounded shoulder, by his standards, wasn’t so much of an issue, and it would certainly not stop him from doing HIS duty.
Nurse Lang was as stubborn as Ochre. She nearly bit Captain Grey’s head off when he came the first time with those files for Ochre to review. She did the same when he returned, about an hour later, with new data to check. Like the veteran Navy man he was, Grey knew when he was outclassed and had beaten a hasty retreat. Left alone to fend off the nurse, who had multiplied her efforts toward him, Ochre had to use every means at his disposal, short of physical abuse, to get her to leave him the hell alone.
He was finding some interesting things in the files he was searching when he heard the door of his room slide open. HER again, he thought with annoyance, not even raising his eyes from his screen. What is she up to this time? Will she try slipping a sleeping pill into my glass of water AGAIN? That was Nurse Lang’s latest desperate attempt to get him to rest. Ochre wasn’t fooled, and had detected the sedative instantly; he had left the glass on his nightstand, vindictively thinking of a way to slip it back to that pest of a nurse…
He could feel her staring at him insistently. Maybe if I totally ignore her, she’ll leave me alone, Ochre thought, pursuing his search. With any luck, she’ll get bored and go away. Several seconds passed. Then Ochre heard the woman clearing her throat. He frowned.
“When will you understand that I don’t need you to take care of me! I’ve got work to do and you’re annoying me! Go away!”
He heard a sigh. “All right, if you want it that way…”
Captain Ochre suddenly raised his head; the woman in front of him wasn’t Nurse Lang at all. Instead, clad in a Spectrum Angel uniform, the newcomer gave him an amused grin.
“Rhapsody!” Ochre exclaimed with a voice filled with delight and relief. “Thank God, you’re back!”
“So I take it you don’t want me to go away?” the young woman asked humorously.
“Certainly not! I thought it was that dam – that nurse coming back to bug me again!”
“Oh yes!” Rhapsody said thoughtfully, sitting on a chair next to the bed. “I did pass by a disgruntled-looking woman, on my way here. She kept mumbling about a stubborn captain who didn’t want to take her advice…” She smiled at Ochre. “I’m glad you’re all right… Rick.”
“And I am glad YOU are, too!” Ochre sighed. “You don’t know how worried I felt. I imagined the worst…”
“I was worried about you too,” Rhapsody responded. “How’s the shoulder?”
“Oh, that…” Ochre gave her a cheerful grin. “That’s nothing. In fact, I’ll be out of this room in a couple of days… That, or that Nurse Lang will drive me completely nuts!”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come to see you sooner, Captain. After my report, Captain Blue ordered me out for a physical check up… And Doctor Fawn ordered in turn that I get some rest.”
“I see people are taking good care of you,” Ochre noted with a faint smile.
“Some are overdoing it a bit,” Rhapsody replied a bit dryly. “You should have seen how the other Angels reacted to my return… You wouldn’t believe the fuss they made of me! I swear, Destiny almost choked the life out of me!”
“It’s just that everybody was concerned about you.”
“Well, I’m not made of glass, Captain.”
“Hey, I know you’re a tough lady.” He looked closely at her face. “What happened to you exactly? Go a few rounds with the champ?”
She frowned in surprise. “What?”
Ochre smiled and pointed to her left cheek. “You’ve got a rather nasty bump, there.”
“Oh! That…” Rhapsody touched her cheek, where she knew the bruise was, under the makeup she had put on to hide it. Obviously, it still showed. She grinned back at Ochre. “Things got pretty hectic now and then, Captain. This ‘bump’ is nothing serious… As they say: ‘you should have seen the other guy’.”
Ochre nodded slowly. He lowered his gaze. “It’s a… strange situation, isn’t it?”
“Tell me about it,” the young woman sighed. She hesitated. “I can’t believe that we ended up fighting the colonel… When I saw him shooting you, Captain…” She didn’t finish her sentence and shuddered. Ochre nodded again.
“Thinking about it still gives me the willies, hon. I still wonder why I’m still alive.” He paused. “Got any news about him?”
“I was hoping you would give me some.”
Captain Ochre shrugged. “Last thing I heard, a few hours ago, he had shaken off that delirium he’s been in since he was brought back here…”
“That’s GOOD news, isn’t it?”
“…But he tried to break free and attack Doctor Fawn.”
“No. No, Captain Blue stopped him before he could reach Fawn. Since then, he’s been held in a secure room. Under close surveillance.” Ochre shook his head. “I read your report. You saw him act up close, Rhapsody. He’s pretty far gone, isn’t he?
“I don’t think he’s that ‘far gone’, Captain,” the British pilot replied. “I’m quite sure there’s enough of himself still inside that can be reached.” She shook her head in dismay. “I just don’t know HOW we’ll be able to do it and HOW LONG it will take.”
“Hopefully, before the deadline the Mysterons set for that new threat of theirs…” Ochre grumbled.
“Why do you say that?” Rhapsody asked with a frown.
“I know Scarlet and Blue are hopeful the colonel will give us some information about what those damned – excuse me – what the Mysterons are up to this time.”
“I don’t know IF he’ll be willing to help, Rick.”
Ochre gave the faintest of smiles. “I just noticed… That’s the second time you called me ‘Rick’. Am I growing on you, by any chance… Dianne?”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high, CAPTAIN,” the woman replied with a smile of her own. She frowned. “You said you’ve read my report...?”
“Yes, Captain Grey brought me a copy a couple of hours ago. He asked me to check the names of those guys who were with the colonel at that factory.”
“The human agents?” Rhapsody asked. “Did you come up with something useful?”
“I would say, yes…”
A faint knock at the opened door drew their attention; Captain Magenta, sporting a large plaster cast on his nose, poked his dark head through the opening. He addressed a large smile to the two people inside.
“I thought I heard a beautiful voice”. His voice had taken on a strange nasal accent; that would have been amusing to Rhapsody if she had not known how he had ended up with a broken nose. “I was pretty sure it wasn’t yours, Ochre.”
Captain Ochre was staring at the cast covering his Irish counterpart’s nose. “Hey, Magenta! That’s a nice Jack Nicholson look you’ve got there!”
“Very funny,” Magenta mumbled dryly, entering the room. “I just KNEW you wouldn’t let that one pass by! I just hope I will be out of this cast before my holiday in Acapulco… I won’t be able to get a proper tan if my nose is covered like this!” He looked at Rhapsody. “I thought you were supposed to get some rest, Rhapsody.”
“I did, Captain Magenta,” she answered with a smile. “Just woke up a few minutes ago…”
“Used the Room of Sleep, didn’t you?” Magenta grinned. “You know what Doctor Fawn thinks about it…”
“Well, it’s to be used in cases of emergency, right? The last time I checked, we were in one.”
Magenta turned back to Ochre. “I heard you talking… And that’s what I’m here for, actually. So you found something about those names in Rhapsody’s report?”
“Oh, yes…” Ochre answered, coming back to his computer screen. “I DID find something interesting… I was getting a little deeper into it, before informing Scarlet about what I found.”
“I’m sure he will be glad to know about it,” Magenta added. “He’s waiting impatiently for something positive to come up.”
“Captain Scarlet is back from Bristol?” Rhapsody asked him suddenly.
She hadn’t had the chance to meet with her fiancé since the episode at the enemy’s complex. Scarlet first set out in pursuit of the runaway Colonel White, and then stayed there for the investigation, while Rhapsody was being flown back to Cloudbase with Captain Blue and their rescued commander.
Magenta answered her with a quiet nod. “He’s been back for a couple of hours.”
Rhapsody frowned; a bit puzzled. “I didn’t know,” she noted, almost exclusively to herself.
“He’s been rather busy…” Magenta replied, failing to notice her thoughtful tone. “And you were supposed to rest, under the doctor’s orders, weren’t you?”
“Well, I’m not resting any more,” Rhapsody replied, standing up. “And I’m quite ready to go back to work. Where should I report back to duty?”
“Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue are in the conference room. Last time I saw them, they were going through files in there, waiting for Doctor Fawn’s latest report on Colonel White. I don’t think you will disturb them if you report to them right away.”
Rhapsody strode toward the door. “Thank you, Captain.”
She went out, followed by Ochre’s knowing glance. Magenta noticed this and looked at him curiously.
“What’s with the smirk, Ochre?” the Irishman asked. “You know something I don’t?”
“Maybe someday I’ll tell you,” Ochre replied with a mysterious glitter in his eyes.
Seeing that he would say no more for the time being, Magenta gave him a withering look, before sighing with annoyance. “You did say you had found something useful in that list for us to use…?”
“Give me a few minutes, and you’ll have a full report.”
* * *
Captain Scarlet was seated at the place of honour of the conference room – the place that habitually was Colonel White’s – and was going through the various files stacked in front of him. The only other people in the room with him were Captain Blue, seated to his right, and Doctor Fawn, who had come a very short while ago to give them the latest information on Colonel White. Scarlet presently had the Spectrum medical chief’s report in his hands and had been going through it for the last few minutes. The result was depressing. He raised his head to look at Fawn’s grim expression.
“No change?” he finally summed up, very sombrely.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Fawn sighed. “Up until now, Doctor Weiss wasn’t able to reach him.” He sighed. “You’ve read the report: he’s still utterly convinced that he’s at war with Britain’s Militarist Government, that held your country some twenty-five years ago…”
“…And that he helped overthrow,” Scarlet said nodding. “I already know that, Doctor… He believes the Militarists are still in control of the country after all these years, that he is wanted for his actions against the State, and that the World Government has abandoned Britain to its fate.” He closed the report.
“Add to that that he thinks his wife is still alive and waiting for his return…” Blue then noted for his part. “That he was entrusted by his ‘superiors’ with a certain mission, and that Spectrum, which is indeed trying to stop him performing that mission, is the enemy.”
Scarlet gave a tired sigh. “That doesn’t make any sense!”
“To him, it does,” Fawn remarked.
“Doesn’t he even realise that there are huge incongruities in his assumptions?” Scarlet added. “For starters, the Militarist Government would never have stayed in power for so many years! The World Government would not have left Britain in its clutches, after promising help. The colonel would never have been able to evade capture that long, while continuing to wage war against the Militarists.”
“Are you so sure of that one?” Fawn noted with a very faint smile. “You’ve seen how resilient he is…”
“Thank you, Doctor, you’re a great help!” Scarlet replied in annoyance.
“Doctor Weiss already pointed out all those aspects, Captain. Colonel White doesn’t want to hear any of them. He refuses to answer questions. About the only things he keeps saying are his name, rank and identification number.”
“It says so in your report, yes…” Blue nodded.
“How is he behaving now?” Scarlet asked. “I know how violent he can be…”
Fawn exchanged glances with Captain Blue. “Since the last incident in sickbay, a few hours ago, he’s been rather calm. He hasn’t made any threatening move toward anyone. Of course, we’re not taking any chances with him.”
“Meaning?” Scarlet asked, puzzled.
“I ordered him restrained, and with a guard constantly watching over him,” Blue answered. “We certainly don’t want him attacking Doctor Weiss.”
“We certainly don’t want that, no,” Scarlet mused. “How in Heaven’s name did the Mysterons put all those crazy ideas in his head?”
“Thanks to the ‘Dream Spinner’,” Fawn said gloomily. He tapped another file lying next to the one Scarlet had been consulting before. The captain opened it, and Blue leaned toward it to get a peek inside, as the medical officer continued, “Following Symphony’s advice, I got in touch with the Universal Secret Service to get some information on the device that was used on Colonel White. They wouldn’t tell me much about its origins – they even appeared to be rather shy about it. But I’m almost certain it was in use on British territory… and that the U.S.S. encountered it a number of times.”
“What did they tell you about the effects of the device?” Blue asked.
Fawn shook his head. “Awful things. ‘Dream Spinner’ is a bad name for it. It doesn’t spin dreams, but pure nightmares. Using a combination of different methods – like electricity, ultrasonic waves with subliminal messages, hallucinogenic gases, and drugs, the device is able to rearrange the patient’s memories.”
“Rearrange memories?” Blue repeated, raising his eyes toward Fawn.
“Yes. At the basis of the Dream Spinner treatment, we find the memory of a real, traumatic event that happened in the life of the patient. Needless to say, that traumatic memory should suit the needs of the… operators. The Dream Spinner then weaves other memories – false as well as real – around that single traumatic event. In the process it erases those other memories that can come into conflict with what the operators want from the patient.”
“And what the ‘Dream Spinner’ puts into his mind becomes reality for the patient,” Scarlet said, reading the doctor’s report.
“Exactly. Nothing else exists outside of it. And then, to this reality, the… operators of the Dream Spinner link a ‘mission’ the patient is to perform for them.”
“Good God,” Scarlet murmured.
“You were right,” Blue grumbled, reading on too. “This is an absolute nightmare.” He paused a second. “Did you discover what kind of drugs were used on the colonel?”
“A rather ingenious and dangerous combination,” Fawn sighed. “Some of these drugs I’ve never seen or even heard about. The auto-analyser came in pretty handy to find out their exact purpose. The majority of it matches what the report on the Dream Spinner says that device generally uses.” He tapped on the back of his neck with his open hand. “Most of it was injected directly into the brain and nervous system. One of the effects of those solutions is that they induce extreme paranoia in the patient… and put him on constant edge. His adrenaline rate is increased to an incredible level.”
“That’s why he seemed so strong,” Blue realised.
“Well, Colonel White was already a strong man before that,” Fawn replied. “And that’s probably what kept him alive during the treatment they put him through.” Doctor Fawn saw the two younger men giving him a strange look. He nodded slowly. “The U.S.S. expert that talked to me told me the Dream Spinner can be used in two different ways: a full treatment takes days, even weeks, to take complete hold of the patient’s mind. The other way is a procedure that takes only about twelve hours at the most… The treatment is forced on the patient, whose vitals are brought to their limits. Only strong subjects survive that ordeal. If need be, they will be kept alive with drugs. An examination of Colonel White indicated the presence of such drugs in his bloodstream.”
The two Spectrum captains stared at him in silence. The uneasiness in them was almost palpable. Even the usually calm Blue had difficulty keeping his anger in check; a close look at Scarlet’s white features indicated to Fawn that the more volatile English officer had to fight himself not to let his fury get the better of him.
“The colonel disappeared two days ago, probably around 6:00 P.M.”, Blue said, clearing his throat. “He reappeared the day after, around midday. Right, I would say they used that forced method on him…”
“If a mind can be subverted in twelve hours,” Scarlet then added, “why use the other method at all?”
“Because with days of treatment, the patient is more controllable,” Fawn explained. “There is no coming back for him. The reality the Dream Spinner then creates for him can’t be removed. It is implanted forever.”
Blue shuddered at the horrible implications of that possibility. Then a thought quickly imposed itself in his mind, bringing hope. “So there is a chance for Colonel White to get out of this… ‘reality’ that’s been put into his mind?”
“There is a chance, yes. But…”
“I KNEW there was a ‘but’ somewhere,” Scarlet noted sombrely.
“There is another reason why it is preferable for the operators of the Dream Spinner to use the long treatment. The forced one has consequences for the patient. He is rather difficult to control. He becomes unstable, erratic, prone to sudden mood changes. He could be violent…”
“Murderous?” Scarlet asked, raising an eyebrow.
“One word, one gesture can set him off,” Fawn nodded with a sigh. “There is no telling what he might do.” He hesitated. “Those pills Rhapsody took from him?”
“They were primarily used to keep him in balance. With the treatment he received, constantly on edge, his nerves are in constant danger of breaking down. Those tranquillisers somehow kept him in control.”
“That’s what he said to Rhapsody, yes,” Blue nodded, recalling the young woman’s report.
“I suppose they also helped those who were using the colonel to keep him in check,” Fawn added. “They certainly didn’t want him to turn against them. The stuff is highly addictive, however.”
“Addictive?” Blue repeated.
“Yes, Captain. Those pills, combined with all those drugs AND the anaesthetic dart you used on him caused the reaction that brought that delirium.”
“He was in some kind of… withdrawal?” Scarlet murmured.
“That’s about right. But he should shake that problem fairly easily. He’s just lucky he didn’t take too many of those pills.”
“Great,” Blue sighed. “At least there’s ONE thing going right here!”
“How can we help Colonel White to get out of this?” Scarlet asked.
“By locating the memory that was used as a basis for the treatment. That memory is like a noose. It keeps the false reality together. We find it, and by working on it, we may be able to defuse the problem.”
“May? You’re not sure?” Blue said, frowning.
“The procedure may be long. The Dream Spinner uses the will of the patient against himself. The stronger the patient’s will is…”
“We get the picture,” Scarlet interrupted. “We all know how Colonel White is.”
“Then you realize it could take days… weeks…”
“We DON’T have days or weeks, Doctor. Merely…” Scarlet checked his watch. “…forty-four hours, starting from now, before the Mysterons’ deadline.”
“That could prove difficult…”
“But not impossible?”
“I can’t give you a definite answer, Captain Scarlet. I don’t have much data on this possibility. According to that expert I talked to… It is fairly rare a Dream Spinner victim gets out unscathed from the reality that was put in his mind. To his knowledge, there are only two people who succeeded in doing so. The others… were left with the consequences, or…”
“Or…?” Blue repeated, seeing Fawn hesitate.
“…They got themselves killed performing their mission.”
“Really marvellous,” Blue grumbled. “Well, at least, we succeeded in capturing him, AVOIDING getting him killed. Maybe we’ll be able to help him. What could that traumatic memory be, that was used against him?”
“Doctor Weiss is still working to find that out.”
“I hope she comes up with something quickly,” Scarlet sighed.
A beeping sound made itself heard from the intercom, drawing the three men’s attention. Then the voice of Lieutenant Green boomed into the room: “Captain Blue, Captain Scarlet… Rhapsody is waiting to see you.”
The two Captains exchanged glances. “You can let her enter, Lieutenant,” Scarlet said after a short instant.
The door to the conference room opened and Rhapsody strode in. She went directly toward Spectrum’s two acting commanders and stood to attention before them. “Rhapsody Angel reporting for duty, sirs,” she announced quietly.
“At ease, Rhapsody,” Blue told her.
The British pilot obeyed. Captain Scarlet was staring intently at her; she noticed it and he welcomed her with a smile. “Good to see you back, Rhapsody,” he told her simply.
“Thank you, Captain,” she answered with a smile of her own. “I’m really glad to be back.” They couldn’t say more. Not in front of Doctor Fawn. As much as they wanted to talk to each other, they both knew they would have to wait until it was possible to do so in private.
The good doctor, meanwhile, was casting a stern look toward the young woman. “I thought I ordered you to get some hours of rest, Rhapsody. Shouldn’t you be in your quarters right now?”
“I DID get some rest, Doctor,” Rhapsody answered quietly. She had the impression of already having had this conversation before. With Captain Magenta.
“Right. Four hours or so. Considering what you’ve been through, I don’t think it’s enough.”
“We have a small thing here that’s called the ‘Room of Sleep’, Doctor,” Rhapsody reminded him patiently. “Don’t you remember? We use it in state of red alert and emergency, when we need to rest for a while…”
“Better and better,” Fawn mumbled. “Cramming eight to ten hours of sleep into only four, thanks to some artificial sleep inducing device… That’s not natural and it’s not good for health. Physical and psychological.”
There were smiles coming from everybody else in the room. They all knew Fawn’s aversion to the Room of Sleep.
“I blame you for this, Captain,” Fawn continued, turning to Scarlet.
“Me?” a surprised Scarlet replied. “Why?”
“Because of your peculiar physiology, enabling you to sleep only two or three hours a night. People are trying to keep up with you.”
“Right, it’s my fault,” Scarlet said with a grim smile. “And the Room of Sleep was invented a year before I acquired that… physiology, for everybody’s use.”
“I don’t know why I even try,” Fawn sighed heavily. “I’d better get back to sickbay. I’ll keep you informed on any developments about Colonel White’s situation.”
“Do that, please, Doctor.”
“I’d better go with you, Doctor,” Blue then added quickly, standing up. “I want to see for myself how things are going between Doctor Weiss and the colonel.”
“If you want, Captain Blue…”
Scarlet rose as the two men went out together and the door slid closed behind them.
For a short moment, both he and Rhapsody Angel stared at it, before looking at each other. There was an unaccustomed uneasiness between them.
“I heard you were back,” she finally said.
“Yes, I arrived on base whilst you were sleeping.”
“You could have awakened me,” she said with a shy smile. “If you needed to ask me something about my report, of course,” she added quickly.
Scarlet shook his head. “You needed your rest, after…” He stopped suddenly, wanting to say something else but catching himself. “…after what I read in your report.” He came over to her and took her hand in his, his voice revealing deep concern. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I…I’m fine,” Rhapsody replied, reaching her other hand up to stroke his cheek. She smiled again, this time warmly. “Thanks to you.”
Scarlet took the young woman in his arms and drew her against his heart, before she could make another move. He held her in an ever-lasting embrace, kissing her passionately. When their lips parted, after a long moment, he looked her in the eyes. “I was so worried about you, Angel,” he whispered, not wanting to let her go.
“And I was worried about you as well,” Rhapsody replied softly. “But I’m all right now, really.”
He held her a little longer, then regretfully broke the embrace and motioned for her to sit. “I’m sorry, love, but I do have to ask you some more questions about what happened down there.”
“Did you find anything interesting in the enemy complex?”
“A few things, yes…” Scarlet settled into the seat next to her. “Amongst other things, I found a World Navy uniform in a cabinet. The sleeves carried the insignia of a full admiral, and the name on the badge was that of ‘C. Gray’.”
“What could Colonel White want with a World Navy admiral’s uniform?” Rhapsody mused.
“I was hoping you could tell me. You found a World Navy admiral’s I.D. card in his pocket.”
“Unfortunately, all I know is what I put in my report.” She looked at him. “Did Doctor Fawn give you any good news concerning him?”
“Not exactly,” he sighed. “He gave Blue and me the details of what was done to him with that… ‘Dream Spinner’ device.” He shook his head in dismay. “I tell you, I know now why he’s dreading that thing so much.”
“It was that awful for him?”
Scarlet nodded grimly. “Doctor Fawn is not even sure we’ll be able to get him out of this.”
“He WILL get out of this, Paul. You know he’s a fighter. He won’t give up.”
“I’m afraid that’s exactly part of the problem. You see, the Dream Spinner used his own will against him. That’s why it’s so hard for us to get through to him. Doctor Weiss is still trying. So far, he doesn’t want to listen to reason.”
“There MUST be a way to reach him,” Rhapsody replied. “We have to keep on trying.”
“We won’t give up, love. Believe me.” Scarlet lowered his gaze, looking down at the top of the desk. “He’s not responsible for what he has done so far, I know, and we have to help him pull through.” He looked back up at the young woman. “I want to know… He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“If you have read my report, then you know he didn’t. So why ask that question… Captain?”
He gently touched her cheek, where the makeup covered her bruise. “Then how did you get that?”
“Why is everybody so concerned about me?” the young woman grumbled.
Scarlet’s smile was a sad one. “Dianne, I’m not just anybody. And it’s not the captain who’s asking you…” He bowed his head. “I nearly killed him, you know.”
“The colonel?” Rhapsody asked with a puzzled look.
He nodded. “I thought he was a Mysteron duplicate and…” he shrugged. “I laid into him with my bare fists. And then, I almost shot him. If he hadn’t tried to make me even more angry…”
“Why did he try to make you angry?”
“He wanted me to kill him. He didn’t want to be taken alive. So he began telling me all these awful things…”
“What… things?” Rhapsody asked, seeing him hesitate. Scarlet didn’t answer. He was looking rather embarrassed. The young pilot narrowed her eyes at him, trying to decipher what he could be keeping from her. “What did he tell you to make you angry, Paul?”
“Well, he…” Scarlet glanced at the woman for another hesitating and embarrassed instant. He cleared his throat and dared not look her in the eyes when he finally spoke, with only a murmur. “He told me that… he had his way with you.”
She sat upright, gasping in outrage. “Don’t tell me you BELIEVED him!”
“Well, no,” Scarlet protested, “not at first, anyway…” Seeing Rhapsody starting to protest, he added quickly, “Listen, for me, he was a Mysteron… and Mysterons don’t have any interest in that sort of thing, right?” He sighed and looked away. “Then I realised he wasn’t a Mysteron at all and… well…”
“You wondered if it was true.”
“Put yourself in my place, Dianne: I did see you before going after him. I saw your ripped shirt under that military jacket you were wearing… And I witnessed how uncharacteristically brutal and violent the old man had become, even before learning about his… ordeal.” Scarlet’s voice took on a gloomy tone. “Before I was able to overpower him, he tried to kill me several times, with whatever he could lay his hands on… He beat me up like a common hooligan, without recognizing me. Is it any wonder that I should ask myself if, by any chance, he could have…” He didn’t finish the sentence.
Rhapsody sighed, shaking her head. “Paul, I promise you, he didn’t touch me,” she confirmed in a low voice, grasping his hand to emphasize the point. She saw the relief on his face. She paused a second, before continuing. “Would it have made any difference to you?”
“About you?” Scarlet replied, surprised by the question. “Of course not, you know that. It’s just that I was so afraid… that what the colonel said was true.”
“Put your fears to rest. It wasn’t true.” Rhapsody sighed, hesitating slightly. “He didn’t touch me, Paul. On the contrary, he defended me.”
“At Dooley’s house, yes. Ochre told me about that…”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“It was from one of his men – well, now I’m wondering how much he really was in control of them, seeing how they were obviously using him…”
“Angel, please, don’t change the subject: What did that man do to you?”
“Let’s just say he was rather… insistent, toward me.”
Rhapsody saw her fiancé’s features becoming very hard.
“Don’t worry, I repelled him quite easily; I suppose he didn’t count on my fighting back… That’s when my shirt was torn…”
“Go on,” Scarlet demanded, his voice expressionless.
“Colonel White stumbled on the scene.” The young woman shook her head. “He completely lost his temper. He beat the man up and almost reduced him to a pulp.” She shivered. “I’ve never seen him that angry, Paul. I hardly recognized him.”
“What happened to that man afterwards?” Scarlet asked thoughtfully.
“I don’t know exactly… The beating took place in the room they had locked me in. Colonel White had me brought to his… ‘quarters’, for want of a better word. I didn’t see the man after that.”
Perhaps for a good reason, Scarlet mused for himself. When he had searched the complex in Bristol, with the Spectrum commandos, he had found a dead body in what appeared to be a cell. Judging by his clothes, the fellow was one of the men under the colonel’s command. He had a bullet in his head, and by the appearance of his face, had received a very harsh punishment before being put out of his misery. Scarlet had wondered who that man was and what he could have done to merit such a fate. Now knowing what had happened, it seemed fairly apparent that Colonel White had executed the man. It was extreme, certainly, but Scarlet couldn’t help but think that, if the colonel hadn’t killed that scum, he himself would probably have been tempted to do the same, upon learning what he had tried to do to his beloved Angel.
“You casually left that episode out of your report,” Scarlet noted in a falsely stern voice.
“Just the details of what happened, actually. I didn’t want to upset you, Paul. Anyway, I was meaning to tell you personally about that incident. Not by writing it down on paper.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Would I lie to you?” Rhapsody smiled lightly. Then a thought crossed her mind; she lowered her gaze. “There is still another detail I didn’t write down in my report.”
“What is it?” Scarlet asked, slightly worried.
“Colonel White saw my engagement ring…” The young woman gave her puzzled fiancé an embarrassed look. “I was keeping it on my necklace, you know, with that charm I bought in New Orleans, when we went there together…?”
Captain Scarlet nodded his acknowledgment. He knew about that charm. He had an exact copy of it himself, hanging around his neck, with his Spectrum dog-tags. Rhapsody had given it to him, during that time she was referring to, and it had never left him since. It was a cross between a love token and a protective charm, to be precise. A small, ancient coin, that had the image of St. Michael the Archangel engraved on one side. Rhapsody had found two exact similar copies of that charm in an old New Orleans bazaar. She had taken them to a jeweller to have the other side flattened and a very personal design – angel’s wings and halo – engraved on it. At first, Scarlet thought it a shame that she would have the original design of those ancient coins destroyed… But the personal design was a sweet touch… And at least, it was in accordance with the design on the other side.
“When that pig in my cell ripped my shirt, it was revealed,” Rhapsody continued. “I didn’t notice, before Colonel White mentioned it to me.”
“What did he say?”
“That it was a… nice looking piece of jewellery… And that it would look better on my finger.”
“I agree with him on that one.”
“Don’t mock me, Paul. He didn’t make anything more of it at the time, but when he’s in his right mind again, he’s bound to suspect something is going on between us.” Rhapsody sighed. “Especially after the way I blurted out your name, after that jump you made through that skylight!”
“Your reaction that time doesn’t prove anything, love,” Scarlet replied. “I surprised you, that’s all.” He paused. “Anyway, I think we should concentrate on more immediate problems, for now. We’ll have time enough to worry about all this when the old man is, indeed, out of this jam.”
“I certainly will be glad when he’s all right, Paul.”
“Yes, me too.” Scarlet gave a faint smile, changing the subject, “You know, it’s a serious offence to falsify official written reports…”
“Oh! Like you never did it before?” Rhapsody scoffed, rolling her eyes.
Scarlet smiled, almost mockingly. “And it’s even more serious to strike a superior officer…”
“Like you never did THAT EITHER,” Rhapsody replied in the same tone. “I was afraid for my safety. I only defended myself.”
“You broke a bottle over the colonel’s head,” Scarlet mused. “That is… If THAT is true…”
“Well, THAT is true. He was becoming quite agitated and accusing me of being responsible for what he had been through…”
“Yes, I read that on your report.”
“Like you, I thought he was a Mysteron at the time. If I’d known he wasn’t one…”
“You wouldn’t have hit him?”
“Probably not so hard, anyway.”
Scarlet smiled slightly. “That’s my girl.” He took her hand again and drew himself closer to her.
“So you see, Captain Scarlet: I’m quite capable of taking care of myself.”
“I should never have doubted you, my lady.”
He came closer still. But the intercom then made itself heard again, this time conveying the voice of Captain Magenta. “Captain Scarlet?”
Sighing, Scarlet cast a murderous look toward the loudspeaker. Rhapsody was doing her best not to laugh at his look of discomfiture.
“What is it, Captain?” Scarlet called out.
“I’ve got Captain Ochre’s report here for you, concerning that list of names he was supposed to check. He found some very interesting things.”
Scarlet gave Rhapsody an apologetic look and moved away from her, reluctantly. “Back to business,” he muttered. Then, addressing the intercom again, “You can come in, Captain Magenta.”
The door slid open and Magenta walked in, a file under his arm. He addressed a grin to Rhapsody. “We have to stop meeting like this, Rhapsody,” he told her pleasantly.
When Scarlet cast her a puzzled glance, she explained with a faint smile how she had visited Captain Ochre earlier and met Magenta there. Scarlet nodded quietly. “How is Ochre, by the way?”
“If he ever tells you he likes it in sickbay and that he feels he’s well treated, don’t believe him,” Magenta laughed. “He will be pulling your leg.”
“There’s a nurse in there driving him crazy,” Rhapsody added with amusement. “He can’t stand her…”
“Miss Lang, I bet,” Scarlet mused.
“You know her?”
“Fortunately, I never have to stay in sickbay long enough to get to know her too well.” Scarlet nodded to his Irish counterpart. “Now, what has Captain Ochre found, Magenta?”
“Do you want me to leave, Captain?” Rhapsody suddenly interrupted.
“No, I may need some information out of you. Those names Ochre was checking were the men you mentioned in your report.”
“We also have the formal identification of those three men who were killed when Spectrum raided the complex yesterday,” Magenta added.
“Then start with that, Captain.”
Magenta opened the file to consult it. “Fingerprints told us those three men were named Jack Lemmings, Philip Thorsen and Dan MacAllister. They were known hired mercenaries who had been active in Africa, Asia and in some remote parts of South America. Each one of them had served in different armed forces around the world, and every one of them had rather impressively bad records. MacAllister was even wanted in Australia for assault and battery on a superior officer. He deserted shortly before court-martial.”
“Charming fellow,” Rhapsody murmured.
“Known mercenaries?” Scarlet said, frowning.
“And it wasn’t just those three. There were more. For example, Garrett Brighton: his name comes out of the WAAF enlistment roll, from a couple of years ago. Was kicked out of the Armed Forces for indiscipline and dishonourable actions on duty. Wanted for the murder of a British officer in Bermuda.”
“I knew he was bad news, the minute I saw him,” Rhapsody grumbled, almost to herself.
“I’ve got another one. Jonathan Dempsey: his name was closely linked to that of Brighton. Partners of some sort. Deserted from the U.S. Air Force. Had a criminal record in the United States. Was known as a vicious mercenary in various hot spots round the world.”
“Wait,” Rhapsody suddenly said. “I remember that man very well, he made an indelible impression on me…”
“The man you told me about a few minutes ago?” Scarlet asked her.
She nodded. “Why are you talking about him in the past, Captain Magenta?”
“The guy’s dead, Rhapsody.”
“Dead?” a puzzled Rhapsody repeated.
Scarlet nodded. “I found his body myself. Properly executed, with a bullet in the head.”
Rhapsody let the answer sink into her mind. Her gaze became a sorry and gloomy one. “Dear God,” she murmured. “He killed him.”
“The colonel, right?” Scarlet asked, raising an eyebrow.
“He was so furious with that man,” she answered with a nod. “He nearly killed him with his bare hands… To think he would finish him off with a bullet…”
“Well, we don’t know what happened exactly,” Scarlet noted. “All we know is that that man, Dempsey, was killed. Maybe we’ll find out the circumstances of his death later.” He watched as Rhapsody, very thoughtful, sat down on one of the chairs set around the conference table. Thinking that the colonel could have murdered that man in cold blood – even if his actions had brought it upon himself – was obviously something of an uncomfortable realisation for her. For all of her experience in the field, she probably never had envisioned her commander acting that way. It was true he wasn’t himself these days, however.
For myself, the British captain added to himself, I can’t say I’m sorry that bastard is dead…
“So all these guys were mercenaries,” Scarlet said, thoughtful.
“Yes,” Magenta agreed. “And NONE of them was Mysteron.”
“As we already knew. We had already checked the dead men with a Mysteron detector… And in her report, Rhapsody had confirmed they were human.” Scarlet looked thoughtful for a second. “Strange… If not for Greg Dooley’s reconstruct who attacked Rhapsody and Ochre, nothing would indicate that the Mysterons have anything to do with this whole business.”
“Don’t forget Captain Black was spotted around Quartermaster Dooley’s home, the day Colonel White disappeared,” Magenta pointed out. “And I have something here that may prove that the Mysterons definitely have a hand in this.”
“The last name on Rhapsody’s list. Ochre told me he had a terrible time finding data on it, since he was trying to relate it to the other names. Then he found it. On a report Captain Grey was working on. Do you remember that World Navy officer that was found dead in the Thames?”
“Yes I do,” Scarlet said, nodding. “He had been shot through the head. Captain Blue asked Grey to investigate.”
“Well, it’s his name that appeared on Rhapsody’s report.” Magenta consulted his file again. “Lieutenant Commander Jason Shelby. Worked at the World Navy Armaments Depot, British section, in Bristol. Went AWOL three days ago with a truckload of armed ship torpedoes.” Magenta handed the file to Scarlet who consulted it quickly. “Two days ago, the London police found a dead body floating in the Thames with a bullet in his head. Spectrum received notification of this yesterday, as you know, while we were searching for Colonel White. The description of that body matches that of Shelby… And Rhapsody’s description of that other Shelby she encountered in the complex also is a perfect match.” Magenta pointed to a line in the report. “Check this: after examination, it was discovered that the guy found in the Thames was dead a good two days BEFORE Shelby disappeared with those torpedoes.”
“So a Mysteron duplicate stole them,” Scarlet mused. “What kind of torpedoes were they?”
“That’s what’s curious about the whole affair,” Magenta answered. “The damned things were commissioned twenty-five years ago, specifically for some British destroyers. They can’t be used in today’s warships and submarines. Shelby was supposed to bring them to a place where they could be defused and dismantled.”
“What do the Mysterons want with twenty-five-year old torpedoes?” Scarlet mused, perplexed.
“Wait,” Rhapsody said suddenly, causing the two officers to turn toward her. “Don’t you see the correlation, here? A Mysteronised Navy lieutenant commander, stolen Navy torpedoes…”
“And a former Navy admiral,” Scarlet finished, closing the file.
“That Brighton chap at the complex, he called Colonel White ‘Admiral’. I do know a few people still have the habit today of calling him that, but…”
“…But why would a common mercenary do it?” Scarlet added, nodding.
“And…” Rhapsody continued, “he did mention a ‘ship’. The colonel was rather upset that he did so in front of me.”
“What kind of ship, I wonder…”
“So, what are we to believe?” Magenta asked. “The Mysterons intend to attack the Navy… or use the Navy to attack something or someone?”
“And why use mercenaries to do their dirty work this time?” Scarlet said. “That’s a first. Generally, they Mysteronise somebody who then is totally devoted to them… Why then use people who could not be totally reliable?”
“We just have to be grateful they didn’t Mysteronise Colonel White,” Rhapsody replied, “and just… brainwashed him.”
Scarlet gave her an odd look. “Exactly,” he then said, with a thoughtful frown. “Why not?”
“Captain?” his compatriot said, puzzled by his tone.
“Indeed, why not Mysteronise Colonel White?”
“Your compassion for the old man is simply heart-warming, Scarlet,” Magenta remarked, almost sarcastically.
Scarlet shook his head. “You don’t understand, Magenta. I’m trying to figure out something. I know Captain Blue is wondering about it too. Why did the Mysterons go to all the trouble of capturing and brainwashing the colonel, when they could simply kill him and then Mysteronise him? We all know they work methodically… They NEVER do something without a precise reason.”
There was a short moment of silence. It was suddenly interrupted by Rhapsody.
“They wanted human agents.”
“What?” Magenta said with perplexity.
“They needed HUMAN agents,” Rhapsody repeated. “That’s why they brainwashed the colonel. That’s why they’re using mercenaries who are not Mysterons.”
“But… WHY?” Scarlet mused.
“Because human agents are undetectable,” Rhapsody said, continuing her line of thought.
Scarlet and Magenta stared at her. “That must be it,” Scarlet agreed, nodding slowly. “Yes… Spectrum can detect Mysteron agents… But HUMAN agents can go wherever they please, and do their stuff before anybody realises they are even there.”
“Dear Lord,” Magenta murmured. “So, to carry out their threat this time, the Mysterons needed a totally devoted, brainwashed, HUMAN Colonel White.”
“Excuse me, Captain,” Rhapsody retorted at that moment. “They needed ‘Charles Gray’… Admiral Charles Gray, of the World Navy, the man who opposed the Militarist Regime and helped restore the monarchy in Britain.”
”The Orkney rebel hero,” Scarlet mused. “They erased his Spectrum identity. Suppressed his knowledge of it. They selected his memories, kept those pertinent to their mission, notably, those of the time he was in the Navy… and of the time when he defied the Militarist Government…”
“…And made him think he had continued to fight that same Government, to this day,” Rhapsody continued.
Magenta frowned. “Why did they do that to him?” he said with a perplexed tone. “What is the Mysterons’ objective, anyway? What do they want from him?”
“Maybe he knows?” Scarlet mused.
“You think so?” Magenta asked him.
Scarlet shook his head. “I really don’t know.” He went back to his place at the conference table to retrieve his cap. “But I intend to find out…”