A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop
Destiny Angel still had another twenty minutes
stand-by duty in the
With curiosity, Destiny watched as Rhapsody, after putting her helmet down on the counter with more force than was necessary, was making herself a big mug of coffee. Her gestures were brusque enough, and she was apparently treating mug, spoon and sugar bowl as if they were her worst enemies in the world. When Rhapsody threw the spoon onto the counter, as if she would rather have speared someone with it, Destiny creased her brows in quiet perplexity.
“I can see you are preoccupied.”
Rhapsody turned around; her blue eyes were blazing with anger. “That man!” she suddenly lashed out. “I’ve never met a more infuriating man in all my life!”
Calmly, Destiny put down her book. She wouldn’t have the time to finish it after all. “And what did Paul do this time?”
“How do you know I was talking about him?” Rhapsody asked with furrowed brows.
“Simple. He’s the only person I know – man or woman – who would put you in such an agitated state.”
“That’s not true,” Rhapsody defended herself abruptly, her face keeping her harsh expression. “Have you ever met my father?”
Destiny chuckled. “Now, what is it this time?”
“You know, I could kill him. I could positively KILL him!”
“Good thing he’s indestructible then.”
“Okay, that settles it. I WILL kill him!” Rhapsody let out an infuriated growl. “Oh, I can’t believe he could do a thing like that! He made me look like a perfect fool in front of the colonel! I was there, arguing with him, insulting him…”
“Again…” Destiny said matter-of-factly.
“… And the colonel was behind me, which, of course, I didn’t realise, hearing all of it, and he didn’t tell me!”
“No! Captain Scarlet!”
“And he knew Colonel White was there?”
“Of course, he knew! What do you think, he was RIGHT in front of him! And he just let me ramble on and on, and didn’t even warn me of the colonel’s presence!”
“Er… Well, did he really have time to warn you if you were actually rambling like you say you were?”
Rhapsody gave her obviously-amused colleague an old-fashioned look. “Nevertheless,” she replied harshly, “I could see he was enjoying every second of it! He was just standing there, looking at me, with that… that sly smirk on his face that made me want to… to…”
“Kill him?” Destiny offered, remembering her friend’s earlier statement.
“Punch him in the face!” Rhapsody retorted, coming down to a more practical reality.
Destiny chuckled again. “Oh now! That’s something I would like to see!”
“Be careful what you wish for, Juliette!” Rhapsody warned, an ominous note of promise in her voice. “Because you know that MIGHT just happen!”
Destiny had trouble concealing her amused smile, upon hearing the threat. She knew Rhapsody didn’t really mean it. No matter how ticked off she seemed at the moment against Scarlet. This wasn’t the first time these two had clashed, or the first time that she, as a friend of them both, had been called to witness either one of the opponents’ ‘rightful anger’. But any argument they might have had between them never lasted long. Generally, before the day was through, all had been forgiven, and forgotten, as if nothing had happened at all, and they were again ‘the best buddies in the world’. In Destiny’s eyes, it was as if the two of them were playing some sort of a game. A game of cat and mouse, where neither one of them seemed to be really aware of what was the real stake. But Destiny knew, all right. She had long suspected it - and the passing of time only served to confirm that her suspicions were correct. She sighed heavily, shaking her head with a look toward her fuming friend that seemed to mean that she was hopeless.
“Really, Dianne, when will you admit it?”
“Admit WHAT?” Rhapsody snapped, looking dangerously at her.
“That you…” Destiny carefully weighed how she would phrase it. She toned it down, carefully: “…like him?”
Rhapsody hesitated. “Of course, I like him!” she replied brusquely, throwing up her hands. “What do you think? We’re friends… Sort of.”
“Sort of.” Destiny raised a brow. “Nothing more?”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Vraiment! I despair of you, Dianne! Do I have to spell it out for you?”
The look Rhapsody then gave her explicitly told Destiny that she understood quite well what she meant. As well as the loud, derisive scoff that followed. “Hey! Oh, are YOU barking up the wrong tree! Whatever you think, it’s not that at all!”
“Oh, really?” Destiny smiled. “You are sure?”
“Oh, yes, I’m QUITE sure!” Rhapsody replied. She eyed her friend suspiciously. By her look, it was far too obvious that Destiny didn’t believe her. “Juliette, really! Exactly what are you thinking?”
“I don’t know, Dianne. You tell me.” The perfect air of innocence displayed by Destiny was positively exasperating, in Rhapsody’s point of view. The French pilot definitely had her mind fixed on that idea of hers, and Rhapsody wasn’t sure she was happy with it in the slightest.
“I have nothing to tell you,” the British Angel replied, very slowly. “WE are simply friends, nothing more.”
“Riiiight.” Destiny picked up her book again, shrugging her shoulders. “You can continue denying it, then.”
“I’m NOT denying anything!” Rhapsody almost shouted.
“Look.” Destiny sighed and put down her book. “I think I know you fairly well, Rhapsody Angel. And I think I’m the one who knows HIM best…”
“Considering that you were once involved with him…” Rhapsody mumbled. A thought came to her. “Say, is that why you’re making these preposterous suggestions about us? Is it because YOU want to rekindle your relationship with him?”
“Oh, now, THAT’S preposterous!” Destiny scoffed loudly. “He’s not interested with me at all…”
“He didn’t take ME to
“Is that what’s bothering you?” Destiny asked innocently. “You would have wanted to go in my place?”
“I certainly didn’t!” Rhapsody protested vehemently. “Are you suggesting that I was… jealous of you, because of that? You’re wrong!”
“And he didn’t take me either. He took Melody,” Destiny corrected. “I was just there for the ride, with Adam.”
“So he’s a philanderer, then,” Rhapsody said, shrugging her shoulders, as if the matter didn’t concern her at all. “So why should he interest me?”
“He certainly is not,” Destiny scoffed. She narrowed her eyes at her friend. “I’ll let you know that Melody and I shared a room at the hotel…”
“Why would I need you to tell me that?”
“Because I can tell that question is bothering you.”
“Well, you’re wrong again! It is NOT bothering me. That you should make that assumption is...”
“…Not as revolting as YOUR suggestion that Paul could be a philanderer,” Destiny cut in suddenly. “Really, it surprises me that you should think such a thing of him!”
“Okay!” Rhapsody replied, throwing her hands up. “Okay, you’re right. I went overboard… I didn’t really mean it…”
“Mind you, some years ago, you might have been right,”
Destiny then replied, much to Rhapsody’s dismay. The English pilot felt as if her friend was
throwing oil on the fire. And on
purpose, probably to see how she would react.
Destiny feigned not to see Rhapsody’s furrowed brow, as she took on some
kind of a dreamy look, and let out a sigh, letting her mind wander. “I
remember, when we were both stationed on that base in the
“…Such a dashing young captain! So tall and handsome, and smart… He was so courteous, always knew the right words to say to a woman to seduce her completely… I tell you he was quite a lady killer…”
Rhapsody’s brow furrowed even deeper, her blue eyes, flashing with irritation, almost disappearing completely. Destiny didn’t seem to notice and continued her trip down memory lane. “But then, I arrived, and that changed. I tell you, I’m sure we broke quite a few hearts when we started going steady…”
“All right!” Rhapsody protested loudly. “I have heard enough!”
“What?” Destiny asked with affected surprise. “Am I bothering you?”
“You know bloody well you’re bothering me!” Rhapsody snapped, much to Destiny’s amusement, as she knew Rhapsody only used that kind of language when she was exceptionally inflamed. “You want me to say it? Right! He is witty and handsome, and charming… With that exasperating… roguish… smile of his… And his fascinating blue eyes…” Her voice trailed off, as her eyes took on a pensive look. She looked down, with a faintly distressed expression, at her smirking friend.
“You do find him attractive, chérie,” Destiny remarked with a knowing nod.
“I do not!” Rhapsody protested loudly, trying to muster in her voice as much assurance as she could. She was still denying it, but Destiny couldn’t be fooled. She watched with amusement as the British Angel sat down with a huff next to her. “That would be terrible!” she declared, her voice already less assured.
Destiny was wondering with perplexity at what could be
so terrible about falling for Captain Scarlet, and was about to ask her friend
the question when the door slid open, to let Symphony Angel enter. The American pilot was coming for her time of
stand-by duty with Rhapsody in the
Just you wait, mon amie, Destiny thought mischievously. I’m not done with you yet.
For the time being, however, all of her concern, and Rhapsody’s, was turned toward Symphony.
“Hi, Symphony,” Rhapsody said tentatively.
The American girl only answered with a very faint mumble and a nod in their direction, before going to sit on the other sofa, as far away as possible from them. Both Rhapsody and Destiny exchanged a look. They could see she didn’t want to talk to them at all. And both knew why. Destiny cleared her throat.
“Symphony, can we…”
Destiny frowned, hearing the more than obvious annoyance –almost animosity – in Symphony’s voice. She looked toward Rhapsody, who was staring at the American pilot, with the same concern as before. Rhapsody glanced at Destiny, and, deciding to wait, said nothing right away, and let the French pilot continue her inquiry.
“How can you say ‘no’ before I actually finish asking my question?” Destiny asked.
“Because I know you want to talk about what happened and I don’t feel like it,” Symphony replied with a sigh. “I’ve heard enough about it as it is.”
“Listen, I know I’ve been stupid, than I acted too brashly, that I put the mission in jeopardy – not to mention my life. I heard all of that today, and I’ve been lectured more than my share for this century. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to be left alone, thank you very much!”
“But…” Destiny closed her mouth when she saw Symphony take a magazine from the table next to her and open it with a brusque gesture, putting it up in front of her face more as a shield than to express her intention of reading it. That irritated Destiny, and she herself picked up the novel she had been reading for the last hour. “Fine!” she snapped. “Have it your way, then! I’ll talk to you when you’re in a better mood!”
“If it’s for the same thing, don’t bother!” Symphony growled behind her magazine.
Rhapsody, with a mystified look, was staring from one Angel to the other, unsure if she should intervene.
“What an awful temper you have!” Destiny replied, opening her book with such energy that she practically tore it in two. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right, that’s all!”
She put her nose into her book, fuming, and didn’t see as Symphony hesitantly looked over the pages of her magazine to glance with regret in her direction. The American pilot was about to say something, but just at that moment, noticed the questioning expression on Rhapsody’s face, and her direct gaze. She plunged her head back in the magazine, with a brusque gesture.
For a moment, there was only a heavy silence in the
“Well,” she said with a sigh, “my turn now.”
“You’re going NOW, with her…” Rhapsody gestured toward Symphony, who only got a peek over her magazine in their direction. Destiny only glanced at the American, before shrugging.
“I think I’ll give her the time to cool down a little. Maybe she’ll be more sociable when I come back. And we’ll be able to have a civilized conversation?”
“Depends on the subject,” Symphony grumbled behind her magazine.
Destiny glared at her before turning to the elevator seat. “See you later,” she said quietly to Rhapsody.
The latter nodded, and Destiny went to take her place on the seat, while Harmony, who didn’t seem to have noticed anything wrong, was removing her helmet, advancing to the middle of the room. The amber doors closed on Destiny, and the seat was taken up to Angel One, waiting for her new pilot to take the helm.
“You look like you had a rough time,” Symphony said to Harmony, putting down her magazine, now that she had escaped Destiny’s too indiscreet inquiries.
The Japanese-Chinese Angel answered with a faint
smile, ruffling her now free hair. She’d had a good twelve hours of ongoing
duty, splitting her time between Angel One and the
“Then you shouldn’t make them wait,” Rhapsody smiled with a sympathetic expression. “You look as if you’re ready to drop.”
“I hope we won’t have any alert for the next few hours,” Harmony grumbled. “I do not want THEM to spoil my off-duty time…” She nodded tiredly, and directed her pace toward the exit. “See you later, girls. Have fun.”
The door slid open in front of her and she left, under the watchful eyes of both Symphony and Rhapsody. When the door closed on the departing Angel, Rhapsody turned around to face Symphony. Her expression was quiet enough, and she didn’t give the impression of wanting to say anything. The American pilot reached for her magazine again, but hesitated to open it. Rhapsody’s silence was getting to her. She sighed.
“You won’t start with me again, will you?” she implored.
“You’ve heard enough about it,” Rhapsody replied with a nod. “You were right about that. But I think you were a little harsh on Destiny just then.”
“Maybe I was,” Symphony conceded. “But… Dianne, you know how she is, sometimes. She can act so motherly towards us – I mean, I knew what she was going to say. I couldn’t take it…”
“Karen, she was afraid for you. We all were afraid for you. You can’t blame us for showing our concern.” Rhapsody came to sit down next to her, reached for her friend’s hand, and squeezed it. “It was awful for US – I can’t imagine what it must have been like for YOU. We are so relieved to see you are all right! All of us.”
“All, you’re sure?” Symphony murmured, looking down.
“Whatever do you mean?”
Symphony shook her head. “Nothing. Just me being silly, I guess…”
“Is there something bothering you, Karen?” Symphony raised her head; her golden eyes were trembling. Rhapsody nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, there is something bothering you. Or maybe someone…? Because of that incident, or…”
Symphony shrugged, trying to show some indifference. “I admit the ‘incident’ in question is getting to me, but… that’s not the real problem… ”
“Karen, it’s quite normal, you know. You were taken hostage by Captain Black and you didn’t know what he would do to you. Why, it’s no wonder that you would want to…”
“…Break down?” Symphony looked down again. “It’s not what you think, it… I can deal with that failed mission, I…” Symphony’s voice broke; concerned, Rhapsody moved closer to her, putting an arm round her shoulders, in a comforting way. Tears were bordering Symphony’s eyes; she was reluctant to look up and kept her eyes down, staring at her hands, that were now quivering nervously. Rhapsody’s concern turned into deep alarm.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the English pilot murmured. “It’s far too soon after that mission. You…”
“It’s not that,” Symphony cut in, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t have gone on that mission, in the first place.”
“Is there something beside that?” Rhapsody asked. Seeing that Symphony wasn’t about to open up, she continued, gently, “Don’t keep it bottled up, Karen. I’m here. You can talk to me about it…”
“I thought I would be able to deal with it…” Symphony suddenly broke down in tears, much to Rhapsody’s dismay. She drew the blonde girl closer to her and permitted her to cry on her shoulder, gently patting her back soothingly. The English pilot couldn’t understand what could be going on exactly with Symphony. She was such a strong person, not so easily prone to tears, but now, she was crying like a lost little girl, seemingly unable to stop herself.
Maybe Captain Blue would know what’s going on… Rhapsody thought, the concern growing in her. She knew about the special bond between her two colleagues. She was one of the few people Symphony had actually confided in about it.
“Shall I call Adam?”
Symphony’s answer on the subject was an energetic shake of the head, as she continued to sob on Rhapsody’s shoulder. Adam’s presence would be good for her, Rhapsody reflected.
“No. He’s… he’s busy at the moment. I can’t bother him with that…”
“I’m sure he won’t feel that you’re bothering him,”
Rhapsody replied. “You obviously need him
by your side at the moment. Karen, you can’t do
“No.” Symphony straightened up and brushed away her tears, with an annoyed gesture. “No, I’ll be all right. I… I want to stay here, with you. I need to talk to you…” She presented a faint, very uncomfortable smile. “Adam’s a great guy, and he’s very supportive, but you are a better listener…”
“All right, then,” Rhapsody murmured. “You can stay. But I’ll be calling Adam, no matter what.”
Symphony nodded briefly, and Rhapsody reached for the
comm. link set on the table in front of them.
The call to Captain Blue was brief; as soon as he heard that Symphony might
need him, the American captain had confirmed that he would come to the
“Now, while we’re waiting for Adam to arrive,” Rhapsody said gently, “tell me. What’s the matter?”
“Dianne…” Symphony lowered her eyes again. The tears were still there, but she had control over them. Just. Rhapsody could see it wouldn’t take much for her to break down again. “I feel so terrible… I… I haven’t had time to assimilate this…” She raised her eyes to Rhapsody, who was staring at her with an mixture of curiosity and concern. “I should have been there,” Symphony continued. “But I wasn’t… I didn’t have the chance to see him one last time… To be near him when…”
Her voice broke again, and she looked away. Rhapsody, who was still wondering what could be upsetting her friend, lifted her chin gently, to look into her moist eyes.
“What is it, Karen?” she asked in a near whisper. “What is wrong?”
Symphony closed her eyes and let the tears roll down her cheeks for a short instant. Then she looked at Rhapsody again, with an expression of sadness and loss so deep that the English pilot felt her heart instantly sink at the sight. She barely heard Symphony’s next reply, when she finally answered, with a voice so little, Rhapsody was barely able to hear it:
“My dad died…”
* * *
How can this be happening?
Captain Scarlet was sitting in front of his computer, in his quarters, grimly consulting the files to which Colonel White had earlier given him access. The uneasiness he had been feeling since the colonel had talked to him earlier in the day had done nothing but increase, as he went further into his reading.
When Colonel White had told him all about this terrible secret he was holding – all about that murder Scarlet had been victim of some months earlier, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Of course, he knew that the… car accident had been orchestrated by the Mysterons. He knew they wanted to use him – and Captain Brown – for their own evil plans, and that they needed him and his partner dead for that purpose… But he never knew all the details. He never knew the hand that Captain Black himself had had in this. Conrad, his one-time rival, his trainer, his partner – his friend. Conrad had been the one who had killed him. Without any mercy.
He felt sick. Distressed. Lost. Almost betrayed.
“Why haven’t you told me about this before?” he had asked with grief after the colonel had finished his long, obviously gruelling speech. “Why wait until today, all these months later, before telling me? I don’t understand…”
“It was a group decision, Captain,” White had answered, keeping his eyes levelled at the young man who was looking at him almost in an accusing way. “Me. Doctor Fawn. Doctor Weiss. It was so early after you had… returned to us. There was so much we didn’t understand about the experience you had been through. Let’s face it, A LOT had happened to you. We didn’t know how you would react to all of this coming at you all at once…”
“You told me the rest, why not that last thing?”
“It would have been difficult to hide it from you, don’t you think? Already, telling you about the dead body – your first body – was a decision I wasn’t very sure was a wise one. But considering the events, we didn’t think we had much of a choice. You would have learned about the Mysterons’ capacity to recreate life – you would have easily put two and two together.”
OK, maybe he was right about that one, Scarlet thought grimly. He would have found out that. But still, that last revelation, carefully kept from him, was pretty hard to swallow. But he had no reason not to believe it was true. After all, he was the one who had brought it to light, months ago. During that session with Doctor Weiss, with the truth serum. He had been the only witness to report the incident, and the secret was locked up in his head, only to be unlocked once, before going back into the recess of his memories. Out of his personal reach.
He didn’t remember any of what had happened during that experience. He only recalled how he had slept for long hours afterwards – waking up with the grandfather of all headaches. He had ascribed that to the fact that he had been injected with a hefty dose of one of the most powerful Pentothal drugs known to man, and that its effects were pretty capricious. After being told that the only conclusive answer that session had given had been to confirm that he was indeed Paul Metcalfe – the Paul Metcalfe who had died in that ‘car accident’ – he had given little further thought to the experiment. He had been too preoccupied afterwards, what with learning about what the Mysterons had done to him, and what he was capable of, and being far too busy countering their continuing attacks… He had enough on his plate already. He didn’t think for a minute that something had been kept from him.
That Spectrum Intelligence would prefer to not tell him, he could accept, for reasons quite unlike those of Doctor Fawn and Doctor Weiss… The two doctors probably had only his well-being in mind. That Adam knew was a surprising discovery. But White had truthfully revealed how he had protested vehemently against the decision that had been taken – and that he had only accepted very reluctantly to keep this terrible secret and never to reveal it to the one most concerned.
“I can understand if you feel angry about us keeping this from you,” White had said. “I wouldn’t like it either. But if there is someone you should hold responsible, it’s me. As Supreme Commander of Spectrum, I was the one to make the final decision, after carefully weighing all the facts that had been presented to me. Don’t hold a grudge against Doctor Weiss or Doctor Fawn. And least of all, against your partner, Captain Blue.”
It had been Blue, White revealed, who had come to the Spectrum commander to tell him about his concern that Scarlet seemed obsessed with Black, and how he feared that it could hinder his work, and how Scarlet would react should he encounter Captain Black again. It was Blue who had finally convinced the colonel that it was now time to reveal the truth to Scarlet about his first ‘death’ and Mysteronisation. White had concurred that it was indeed the time for the truth.
And still, Scarlet was unsure. Upset and angry at having been lied to, and to finally hear the truth. Believing, but not really wanting to. White had seen in his eyes that he needed more proof than just the words of his commander to be convinced. Taking out a small notebook, White had written down the access code to a set of top secret computer files, which he then handed to the dubious captain. “These files contain all the information there is on the subject. You’ll also find the recording of that session with Doctor Weiss – in which you remembered everything. I’m warning you, you may find if hard to watch. But if you still have doubts…” Still shaken by what he had already learned, Scarlet had accepted the paper, and simply nodded his thanks. And as soon as White had left him, he had gone to take a shower – and went directly to his quarters to access the files through his computer.
He went through the files and the various attached documents for hours. Everything was there, as the colonel had told him. Reports from Intelligence, medical entries from both Doctors Fawn and Weiss, security notes, photos – some of which he was familiar with, as they concerned what he already knew about his own condition – and then more. Much more than he had expected.
As Colonel White had said, viewing the recording was rough enough. To a man for whom it wasn’t customary to show his feelings, seeing and hearing himself yelling and agitating himself as, under the effect of the drug, he was relating the events hidden in his subconscious, was a very disturbing sight. He let the recording run without stopping, twice, from beginning to end, sitting up straight and watching the screen with widened eyes and a set face, as if hypnotized. It was very fortunate that he didn’t have Special Agent Martin Conners in front of him at the moment – he felt for certain that he would have given the Intelligence Agent a piece of his mind, and even given him a heart-felt punch in the face for the disgusting way he had treated him during that experience. He always had considered the man as a jerk, and a weasel. Now he had moved down the ladder to being a definite bastard.
Scarlet stopped the tape, and leaned back in his chair, with a thoughtful expression on his face. He kept his eyes on the screen, which was now showing the general menu of the folder containing the files he had been consulting these last few hours. Then, tiredly, he rubbed his eyes, shaking himself out of his reverie, and sighing deeply. No more lies, now. No more hidden truth. He knew all he could possibly know about what exactly had happened when he had died that first time. No car accident – but he had already suspected as much. How had Ochre described it some weeks ago, when he had talked about it? Plain murder. A conspiracy to kill two Spectrum officers. Tampering with the car had not been enough. Scarlet had survived that attempt, although only just. And only to be finished off by Captain Black himself. Pushing him down a steep slope, right into the blazing flames of the burning car. A horrible way to die. Scarlet was almost glad not to remember it.
“Oh, Conrad,” he groaned, running his hands over his face and then through his dark hair. “How could you do it? Wasn’t there any way you could resist the Mysterons’ orders?”
Now I understand Blue’s concern, Scarlet thought dourly. For all he knew, I might have tried to approach Conrad, and attempted to convince him to surrender willingly, so Spectrum would be able to help him. Not knowing what he was capable of, I wouldn’t have been suspecting any traitorous attack. But he didn’t need to worry, really. That wasn’t exactly the way Scarlet had planned to accost Captain Black.
Uncertain, and still very dazed by what he had learned that day, Scarlet was still brewing all that inside his head, desperately trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings, when he heard someone buzzing at his door. He lifted his head, heavily. “Enter,” he called.
The door slid open and Scarlet saw the powerful silhouette of Captain Blue framed in the doorway. The British captain straightened up a little, as his friend and colleague stepped into his quarters. Blue looked down at Scarlet, who had all the appearance of a very drained man.
“Are you all right?” the American captain asked with concern.
Scarlet nodded slowly, and sighed. “I will be, Adam,” he said quietly.
Blue nodded his understanding. He sat down in front of his friend, on an available chair next to the desk. “Colonel White told me he talked to you.”
“That he did.”
“I’m… really sorry, Paul.” Blue cleared his throat. “I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I hope that one day you’ll forgive me.”
“Forgive you?” Scarlet raised his head to look levelly at his friend. “There is nothing to forgive you for, Adam. You weren’t in agreement with that decision, I know. The colonel told me. I admit it’s still hard, though. But I know you couldn’t tell me anything. That you didn’t have any choice. I don’t hold it against you.”
“And the others?” Blue insisted. “Doctor Fawn? Colonel White?” Scarlet kept silent. “You know they had only your best interests at heart, Paul.”
“Only my best interests, Adam?” Scarlet replied a little dryly. “Fawn maybe… But the colonel? I find it hard to believe he wasn’t seeing some kind of strategic move in this too.”
“Don’t be too hard on the old man, Paul.”
“Mind you,” Scarlet added with a low tone, shaking his head, “I can understand the reason behind his decision. I don’t have to fully accept it, but I understand.”
“It’s hard to swallow, isn’t it?”
“The fact that Conrad didn’t hesitate for a second to kill me? And that he’ll probably do it again, without a second thought?” Scarlet grunted irritably. “Oh yeah. It’s hard to swallow. Just as hard as thinking that he’s still a prisoner of those monsters who pushed him to do it.”
“Don’t worry, Blue. I’m not as ‘obsessed’ as you might think about Captain Black.” There was an arid tone to Scarlet’s voice and Blue understood instantly. Even if his friend didn’t hold any grudge against him for the secret that he and the others had kept from him, he was nonetheless hurt that Blue had gone to the colonel behind his back to tell him about the worries he was harbouring about his colleague.
“Paul, you have to understand that I couldn’t sit back idly and watch as you seemed ready to follow a fantasy, that could end up in a tragedy if you tried to pursue it…”
“That could be potentially dangerous, couldn’t it?” Scarlet replied icily. He scoffed with derision, and then looked away. “Well, don’t worry about it. Whatever ‘fantasy’ I might have had about what happened to Captain Black, it’s pretty well gone, now. I wouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating what he’s capable of doing now. Or turning my back on him.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Captain,” Blue replied with a quiet tone. There was still the matter of that problem Scarlet had with Symphony, but the American captain felt that now wasn’t the best time to talk about it. Paul needed time to take in what he had learned, and cool down. There would still be time later to talk about something else.
Blue’s epaulettes flashed at that moment, and he dropped his cap mic, answering the call. Scarlet didn’t take any notice of the brief phrases his friend exchanged with his interlocutor. He was all too preoccupied with his own thoughts to be interested in what might be going on around him.
“All right,” Blue finally said after a short time, in a tone that betrayed his urgency. “I’ll be there right away.” The mic returned to his cap visor and he stood up, staring down at the still pensive Scarlet, who didn’t even raise his eyes toward him. “I’m sorry, Paul, I must go. There is a problem in the Amber Room and…”
“Symphony.” Still without looking up, Scarlet nodded his understanding. “All right, go. I suppose I’ve been harder than necessary on her today. I’ll try to make it up to her, somehow.”
“I’m afraid you’re not really the problem,” Blue retorted with a sigh. Scarlet wondered what he could be talking about but didn’t ask any questions, and kept his eyes down. Blue thought he was still too preoccupied to even have assimilated the remark. “I’ll be on my way, then. Paul, you need any help… you know you can count on me.”
“Sure, Adam. Don’t worry. I’ll manage.”
Blue couldn’t help but think that this was exactly what Karen had told him earlier. And he had left her, knowing very well how fragile she was and how she might need him. This call he had just received from Rhapsody had reinforced his conviction that he should never have left Symphony alone. Now he had the same feeling towards Scarlet. Perhaps he shouldn’t leave him all by himself . At the very least, he should leave him under the care of someone else, not alone.
Scarlet seemed to guess his friend’s uncertainty. He finally looked up at him and dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “Go, please. I said I’ll manage. As a matter of fact, I’d rather be alone for a while.”
Despite that, Blue still hesitated for a moment. Then he murmured a faint ‘see you later’ and went his way. His fingers intertwined, Scarlet stared, without really seeing, as the door closed on his departing friend. Then, with a new sigh, he looked toward his computer screen, still very thoughtful. Unconsciously, he read the names of the files listed on the screen – all of which he had just consulted. He frowned suddenly at the last file, at the very bottom of the list.
No, that one he hadn’t accessed. It was just under the file containing the dreadful recording he had just watched. He had not reached it yet.
Mechanically, he clicked the button to open it. The first message it gave him was a code red warning. The kind of warning attributed to highly top secret computer files.
Scarlet stared with perplexity at the flashing message. Colonel White’s eyes only? Now what’s that file doing here, exactly? And what could it be about?
Since it was in the same folder that contained all information concerning his own, very unusual situation, there was no doubt in Scarlet’s mind that this file was also connected to him. He wondered if he was meant to see it. Of course, much of what he had read today wasn’t really meant for him to see, but White had given him access to the information now. Maybe he could be mistaken concerning that file, but as it was at the moment, he had no qualms whatsoever about checking this one, just as he had the others. He was just curious to know.
He had no trouble accessing the file. The same code that Colonel White had given earlier got him past the security block. Words started to spread across the screen.
Subject: Project: Scarab.
Solution presented by World President Cabinet to Spectrum High Command in regard of the problem posed by Spectrum Agent Captain Scarlet, following his take-over by the Mysterons, and subsequent apparent release.
Captain Scarlet frowned deeply, his perplexity growing as he read the introduction. He was right, it did concern him. Suddenly, he got the feeling that, whatever it was he was about to find out, he wouldn’t like it.
He read on. The hair on the back of his neck started standing straight up.
He didn’t like it at all.
Now he truly felt betrayed.
* * *
It was nearly night. Colonel White was at his round desk, working to update some last-minute reports from ground-based agents, while Lieutenant Green was busy at his station, when Captain Scarlet entered the Control Room with a quick stride. White heard the steps of his number one agent and raised curious eyes from the open folder in front of him. He found it odd that Scarlet had not announced himself before coming in. He found it even odder when, passing behind Green’s station, he didn’t even respond to the younger man’s salutation. Scarlet’s face was set, and his eyes fixed on his commander as he silently approached his desk. He stopped just a foot away, before saluting crisply. White acknowledged his presence with a simple and brief nod. By the expression he could see on the captain’s features, it was obvious something was bothering him. He thought he knew what it was, but he didn’t have time to pronounce one single word.
“Colonel, you and I need to talk.” The tone was dry, almost icy. Scarlet glanced over his shoulder toward Green, some feet away behind him, who had come back to his work. “Privately.”
White eyed his compatriot with perplexity. He was upset, that much was obvious. “Lieutenant,” he said looking in Green’s direction, “Would you leave us a moment?”
Green acknowledged the order and stood up from his seat. “I’ll be in the Information Centre, sir.” The young communication officer disappeared through the tube leading through to the adjacent room. Scarlet didn’t even turn around; he had his eyes set on Colonel White, waiting.
“All right, Captain,” the Spectrum commander declared when he was sure Green was out of earshot. “We’re alone. We can talk, now.” He pressed a button and a stool raised next to Scarlet. “Would you sit down?”
“I prefer to remain standing, if you don’t mind… sir.”
White arched a brow. Scarlet’s voice had not lost the edge he had previously heard in it.
“I take it you have finished consulting those files I gave you access to?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. I have.”
White nodded. “I can see that it could be upsetting for you, Captain,” he remarked with a cautious, moderate tone. “And I can understand very well that you should be angry with me, for having taken the decision not to tell you.”
“I can’t say I’m really happy that you took that decision, Colonel,” Scarlet replied. “I might not like it, but I can see why you did it. It might take me a while to accept it, though…” He paused a second. “…If ever,” he added, almost dramatically, his tone becoming even colder.
White wasn’t sure exactly what that implied. Scarlet was an excellent officer; one of the best he had ever had under his command – of course, at moments, he could be undisciplined, and a little too impetuous, but it was part of what made him what he was. Like White himself, he was a true military man, born into a family with deep military values. He knew about honour, dedication and duty, and how it was sometimes difficult to take a strategic decision in order to preserve integrity and security. Scarlet must have figured out that White’s decision was only tactical – which in effect wasn’t totally untrue, but neither was it completely accurate. There had also been a good deal of sympathy and concern on White’s part when he took that decision, some months ago. But he wasn’t willing to freely admit that to Scarlet.
“There is something on your mind, Captain. I can tell,” White declared, eyeing the younger man closely. “Is there… something else, bothering you?”
“Yes, Colonel, there is.” Scarlet looked straight at his commander, with a stare that seemed to want to drill a hole in him. “The Scarab project.”
At first, White’s mind didn’t seem to register the words, as silence fell in the room. Then he furrowed his brow, very deeply. “Where did you hear about that?”
“It was in a file, in the very folder you gave me access to,” Scarlet answered evenly.
White seemed to give it some thought; he then nodded, pensively, and sat back on his seat, giving a disgruntled sigh. “Yes, I see now…”
“I wasn’t ever meant to find out about it, was I?” Scarlet continued in a challenging tone.
“No, you weren’t meant to find out,” White admitted gloomily.
“I presume it was to be kept secret from me, just like the rest of that folder,” Scarlet moved on, his tone picking up intensity. “That’s why it’s all been put together. If you hadn’t given me access to the folder, I would NEVER have found out.”
“You read the file?”
“Of COURSE I read it! Isn’t it obvious?”
“Yes, it is,” White admitted with a nod. “It’s unfortunate you did.”
“Unfortunate?” Scarlet scoffed derisively. “Is that all you can say about it?”
“Remember who you’re talking to, Captain,” White advised.
“What I find unfortunate is that, quite obviously, you didn’t expect me to EVER find out about it,” Scarlet continued, not taking heed of the warning. “With good reason, apparently.”
“It was a presidential document, Captain. Addressed only to me.”
“Yes, I know. ‘A solution presented by the Presidential Cabinet’. The condition the World President imposed and the only one under which I could be accepted back into Spectrum.” Scarlet’s voice had now became noticeably angry. That did nothing to appease Colonel White’s own growing irritation. He didn’t like at all the way his officer was talking to him.
“I suggest that you calm down, Captain,” he warned again. “Right this instant.”
“It was all true, wasn’t it?” Scarlet asked instead, without moderating his tone. “What I read in that file… That Scarab Protocol… what they demanded… What they wanted to do to me?”
“Yes, it WAS all true, but…”
“So that Scarab Project was the way they had found for Spectrum to keep me in check?” Scarlet shook his head with disgust and scoffed loudly. “I know how these bureaucrats work. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t accept any other alternative.”
“No, let me rephrase that: the only other alternative they could have had in store for me was to be put to death. Isn’t that right?”
“You’re going too far, Captain! It wasn’t like that at all.”
“What was it like, then?” Scarlet snapped, furrowing his brow.
“I defended your position in front of the committee,” White replied with the same tone.
“I believe you did, Colonel. But I also believe that you had to protect Spectrum’s integrity. I must have put quite a dent in it, by my actions when I kidnapped the World President, didn’t I? Not to mention the fact that Captain Brown nearly blew him apart and that Captain Black is now working for the Mysterons. You had to make an appeasing gesture in order to regain the World Government’s trust.” He tilted his head to one side. “Did you sell me out, Colonel White?”
“What? What the blasted hell are you talking about?”
“I think you know perfectly well what I’m talking about! You sold me out to buy peace with the World President.”
The Spectrum commander felt the anger rise several degrees within him. He violently hit the surface of his desk with his open palm, before jumping to his feet. “Do you really believe what you’re saying?” he bellowed in Scarlet’s face.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Scarlet replied icily, not even reacting to the colonel’s outburst, still staring at him with a defiant expression. “First, I learn that you hid the truth about my first death from me… Then this – disgusting – thing. What I’m starting to believe is that you don’t trust me, Colonel.”
“Captain…” White growled between his teeth, with a undertone of warning, “I defended your point to the bitter end.”
“Then it’s obvious you lost, Colonel,” Scarlet added, not hearing him out. “I believe what I see. I’m standing here. I’m still under your orders. If you wanted to have that ‘indestructible’ agent for Spectrum, you had no other choice than to follow the presidential order and accept the compromise presented by the Scarab Project.”
“It’s not what you think at all. You can’t believe…”
“Can I believe otherwise?”
“You won’t LISTEN to me, will you?” White grumbled, shaking his head.
“I’m DONE listening to you,” Scarlet came back rudely. “Sir,” he added, as if an afterthought.
White flinched under the insolent rejoinder, but didn’t respond to it. For a moment, the two men locked eyes, measuring each other, neither of them willing to look away. It took White a considerable amount of self-control not to lose his temper, and to keep his voice as even as possible when next he spoke.
“Do you really think all those things you just said about me, Captain Scarlet? Don’t you trust ME anymore?”
“Sir,” Scarlet replied with an equal tone, his eyes still keeping that unfriendly expression in them. “I believe that would be my line, Colonel.”
White’s expression became bleak. “I could have you put under arrest for such an insolent attitude toward your superior officer.”
Scarlet became rigid, but his expression didn’t change. “That you could, Sir.”
“I can see there is nothing I could say right now that would change anything in your opinion, is there?” White grumbled with dissatisfaction. He shook his head. “You need to cool off first. Then we’ll talk again.”
“I doubt it’ll change anything. Sir,” Scarlet replied coldly. “Am I under arrest?”
“No, but I’m putting you off-duty.”
“In that case – sir – I’ll keep myself out of your hair and will take some time off to go down to the ground for a few days. In my own time.”
The tone was still impertinent enough for White to get irritated by it, but he contented himself with furrowing his brow. “A furlough? I didn’t give you permission for that, Captain.”
“I didn’t ask for it. Sir.” Scarlet was still maintaining eye contact with his commander. He could see the annoyance so very obvious in them. Good, he thought, not without satisfaction. “The only way for you to stop me would be to indeed put me under arrest… Or to make use of that ‘Scarab Protocol’.”
“You think I would do that?!” White protested loudly. “I would never…”
“In that case, let me go. Colonel.”
White evaluated his options. Scarlet was too angry and distrustful at the moment to listen to good sense. Any explanation his commander tried to present would fall on deaf ears, and would be dismissed instantly. It was no use trying to argue with him at the moment. He needed to cool off, until he was willing to listen to reason. A cell in the brig would be a perfect place for that from White’s point of view, but aside from the personal satisfaction the colonel would get from it, and all things considered, he doubted the present situation would benefit from it. Restricting Scarlet to his quarters wouldn’t be sufficient either; he would only wait for the proper moment to stow away on the next flight down to the ground – or to even appropriate himself a craft, if it should come down to it. In his present state, there was no telling to what extreme he would go to get away. That wouldn’t look too good on his personal record – and White just knew that he would have tremendous difficulty defending him after that to higher authorities who would be only too eager to severely discipline the unruly captain. They were still suspicious of him, and were watching his every step, even though they were just starting to relax their guard, following his recent heroic actions. White knew he would have tremendous difficulty defending his officer under these new auspices.
A few days groundside wouldn’t sound too bad if White wasn’t so concerned that it could be interpreted by the World Government Cabinet as a sign that Scarlet might be up to something – if the recent developments were to become known. As a matter of fact, looking closely at the young man’s set face, White was wondering that himself; it was not exactly the same concern, but the colonel was deeply aware that he was responsible for Scarlet’s actions and could be held accountable for them.
Maybe Scarlet was right in saying he didn’t trust him, after all. But at the moment, there was nothing White could do to shake that insidious doubt creeping into his mind. With this falling-out between them NOW, how could he be sure Scarlet wouldn’t do something tremendously stupid and careless – especially in regard of his own well-being? Would the colonel dare let him out of Spectrum’s sight?
It took him only seconds to reach a decision. He sat down on his seat, his eyes still set on the young man standing in front of him. “All right, then. I’ll authorize that furlough of yours, Captain. You have a week.”
Scarlet nearly scoffed, hearing that. “Most generous of you, Colonel.” He spun on his heel, without adding another word or even saluting, and started walking toward the green doors leading out of the Control Room. White followed him with his eyes, narrowed into a suspicious line.
“Might I ask you what you’re planning to do while you’re down there?” he asked suddenly, in a loud voice, just as Scarlet reached the doors.
Scarlet stopped in his tracks, and turned to face his commander, his eyes glittering, his finger pressing the button to open the doors.. “I’m only planning to evaluate my situation, Colonel,” he declared roughly enough. “To find out where I stand now in Spectrum… And if I should stay here. Nothing more.” He nodded briefly. “A good day to you. Sir.” With that, he turned again and walked out. White stayed there, thoughtfully looking toward the doors which were now sliding closed on his departing officer.
“Damn,” he muttered under his breath. “Young, impetuous, infuriating, ill-mannered…” He stilled the rest of his imprecation, glaring crossly at the closed green doors. The thought that Captain Scarlet was considering the possibility of leaving Spectrum was worrying enough, White also had other concerns added to it. He had a feeling Scarlet hadn’t told him all of what he was planning. He had insisted just a little too much that there was nothing more to it.
Well, whatever it could be he wanted to do, it was just Spectrum’s responsibility to make sure it wouldn’t be stupid.
Giving a deep sigh in order to regain his composure, White pressed down a button on his desk, which opened a link to the Information Centre. “Lieutenant Green,” he asked with a now more levelled tone, “Captain Scarlet will be leaving soon for the ground. Have an SPJ ready for his imminent departure.”
“S.I.G., Colonel.” White could hear by the sound of his aide’s voice that he was rather perplexed by the orders. It was even more evident when the Lieutenant, after a short hesitation, spoke again: “Can I come back to the Control Room, sir?”
“Yes, you can,” White confirmed. “You can make all the arrangements here.” He paused a short instant, then added, deliberately and carefully: “And, Lieutenant… I want you to find out EXACTLY where he’s going… And be VERY discreet about it. I don’t want Scarlet to suspect a thing.”
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