A “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” story
By Chris Bishop
Alan Kierney was the director responsible for all projects at the Culver Atomic Centre in Dorset. If anything went wrong at the Centre, Kierney was the man to take care of it, correcting the problem to the best of his ability, and, if possible, without too much of it becoming public knowledge. A man in Kierney’s position was all too aware that concern was always high whenever a simple rumour was spread that ‘a problem’ – however minor it might be – had arisen in a Nuclear Centre. People always assumed the worst, even if it was not justified. It wasn’t a simple task for Kierney to keep things quiet; his public relations personnel were perfectly drilled, and they were competent people, who knew how high the stakes were. However, there was only so much they were able to do, especially considering that more than half the personnel of the entire plant lived in the area, making it very difficult to stop word getting out.
The break-in that had occurred barely a week ago had already been a problem that Kierney had to deal with personally – encountering the Spectrum officers who had come to the Centre to investigate and to subsequently try to capture the culprit. After he had told them that nothing had been stolen from the Centre, but that the perpetrator had been exposed to an isotope that had rendered him radioactive for a certain number of hours, the Spectrum agents had used this latest information to their advantage and concentrated all their efforts in finding the would-be thief. They went to the extent of asking for the Centre’s collaboration to set a trap for him inside the premises, when the man eventually returned there to hide. Not that Kierney had any choice but to give them that permission – they had the full authority to requisition the premises if they deemed it necessary
Kierney could tell, Spectrum was VERY interested in getting that man; and he had a feeling it had little to do with the forced entry into the plant. They already wanted him before it happened. He was persuaded of that assumption when, after their quarry had escaped, the exasperated Spectrum officers had simply abandoned the place, seemingly losing interest in the Centre. Only a few minor agents had stayed behind, briefly, to complete the investigation with quick interrogations and searches, before leaving too, after a day. Kierney had been glad to see them go, and had breathed a sigh of relief. He was now free to carry on with Culver’s projects – and the Centre’s own investigation – without outside interference. When THAT was complete, he was fully confident that things would finally come back to normal again.
He lost all his hopes this very early morning, when he had been called directly at his home and informed that someone was waiting for him at his office at the Nuclear Centre. Kierney’s personnel weren’t in the habit of phoning their boss at home, so he knew something was up, although he wasn’t told who his visitor was or what he might want. So without taking the time to shave, he had rushed to his office, biting into a piece of burned toast on his way over, wondering who it was that was asking for him. He thought it may be the big bosses in London, and that made him worry. His staff’s investigation had not given any positive results so far, and he didn’t have good news to tell them when he had made a full report the day before. Maybe that last setback had been the last straw; they might not be all that happy with the way he handled things lately.
He arrived before even his secretary – which was rather unusual, because she was always in before him, no matter how early he was – but then again, this was unusually early in the morning. He took a cup of coffee from the dispenser, mumbling with bad humour, as he took a sip, to discover how bad it was, then opened the door to his office.
There were two people seated in front of his desk, apparently waiting for him to arrive; they stood when he entered and turned to face him. At first, Kierney wasn’t able to identify either of them and blinked at their presence; then the tall, black-haired man became familiar and the Culver director finally recognised him as he came over, presenting his right hand, and spoke quietly.
“Mr Kierney, thank you for agreeing to see us.”
“Captain Scarlet,” Kierney said, eyeing the man with a slight frown, “I nearly didn’t recognise you without your uniform…” He shook Scarlet’s hand, a little tautly. “And as for seeing you, it’s not like you left me any choice.” He looked at the young, red-haired woman who was now standing near the Spectrum officer. “I don’t think I've had the pleasure…”
“Excuse me. This is Rhapsody Angel, Mr. Kierney.”
“Angel? Not the young woman was captured by that Captain Black a few days ago?” Kierney realised he hadn’t met the said victim, so to his knowledge she might very well be that young person. He only knew that Spectrum had recovered her alive, and that she didn’t seem to have been injured by her ordeal, although he had been informed of what she had been subjected to. He saw her shake her head.
“No, that was a colleague of mine,” Rhapsody said simply.
“How is she now? I hope she’s not suffering any ill-effects from the radiation that fiend exposed her to?”
“Symphony Angel is fine, Mr. Kierney,” Scarlet answered quietly. “But thanks for your concern.”
Kierney gave a brief nod and walked around his desk to take his place in his chair. He put down his cup of coffee. “Now, Captain Scarlet, I hope you realise it’s quite early in the day for a social visit. I hope you have a perfectly valid reason to pull me out of bed the way you did?”
“I’m sure you suspect we would only do that for something important, sir,” Scarlet remarked. He stayed on his feet, eyeing down the man who made a show of going through the papers on his desk, making believe he was busy. Rhapsody, very quietly, was sitting down. “We are, of course, continuing our investigation of that break-in to your Centre, last week.”
“I thought the investigation was finished?” Kierney remarked, raising a brow.
“Mr. Kierney, Spectrum does not regard a break-in at an nuclear plant as a minor incident. We’re still trying to determine what it was that Captain Black wanted to do in here.” He paused a short instant, keeping his eyes on the man seated in front of him. “Furthermore, a few facts have been brought to our attention that suggest that there is indeed need to continue a more in-depth investigation.”
“What kind of facts?”
“Mr. Kierney – did Captain Black take something from the plant premises?” Rhapsody asked carefully.
“I already told Spectrum it wasn’t the case,” Kierney retorted.
That was too quick an answer, in both Scarlet and Rhapsody’s point of view; they exchanged the briefest of glances. “Then why is it that an investigating team from Culver has been seen around Stone Point Village, notably at the Delta Garage where our undercover agent was killed?”
Kierney narrowed his eyes to the tall man standing in front of him. “Where did you learn that?”
“It’s been said in the village…” Scarlet said vaguely.
Kierney scoffed loudly. “Don’t tell me Spectrum is launching a whole new investigation based on rumour alone, Captain.” He smiled slightly. “I can assure you – there was no-one from the Culver Atomic Centre who went to the Delta Garage.”
“No-one was taking ground samples there, then?” Rhapsody asked.
Kierney frowned. Clearly, he wasn’t counting on this last statement. “No – whatever for?”
“We were hoping you would tell us, Mr. Kierney,” Scarlet commented. “We… have an eyewitness who told us that he saw personnel from the Culver Atomic Centre taking those ground samples.”
Rhapsody nearly rolled her eyes. Eyewitness indeed… A drifter and a drunk… Now how could Hansen possibly be considered a serious witness? If Kierney happened to learn who that ‘witness’ was, he would laugh in their faces.
“Like you,” Scarlet continued, “we were wondering why they might be doing that.”
“I have no idea.” Kierney shrugged. “And if indeed there was someone taking ‘ground samples’ at the Delta Garage, what can possibly make you believe they are personnel from the plant?”
“Who else could it be, sir?” Rhapsody replied, keeping a courteous enough tone. Kierney kept silent under the Spectrum agents’ scrutinising gaze. Scarlet finally sat down, while Rhapsody, still very calmly, continued: “The fact that they were taking samples from the ground suggests that they might be looking for something radioactive. Hence our suspicions that something was indeed taken from the Centre by Captain Black – contrary to your declaration that it wasn’t the case.”
“Maybe you’re overlooking something?” Scarlet suggested. “We might want to check on those security camera recordings once again.”
“Spectrum already has those recordings,” Kierney objected. “I gave them to your Intelligence agents myself, Captain, when they came to claim them.”
“Ah, yes… I do recall that, but there seems to be some kind of a problem…” Scarlet searched the pocket of his jacket and produced a small paper, which he carefully unfolded to consult. “Apparently, there’s a whole hour missing from Camera Twelve, sector Two… That’s your research and development sector, if I’m not mistaken? Not far from the room where Symphony Angel was held captive, when Captain Black returned to your Centre.” He looked up at Kierney, who was keeping nervous eyes on him, obviously unsure how to respond. “That missing hour matches exactly the time Captain Black visited your Centre the first time around – where another security camera picked him up. Maybe this camera recorded his presence as well? But – why would it be missing? Unless it was removed. Accidentally? That’s doubtful. On purpose?” Again, Kierney remained silent, clearly not wanting to comment on the obvious accusation. Now convinced that he did indeed have something to hide, Scarlet narrowed his eyes at him. “That should be easy enough to verify, I think,” he added. “At the moment, we have someone working on your computer system, which is of course linked to your surveillance camera system. You may have removed that hour from the recording, but it might still be somewhere in the belly of your network.”
“Our man is quite the expert, Mr. Kierney,” Rhapsody continued. “If this recording exists somewhere, you can be sure he’ll find it.”
“How DARE you make such accusations, and access our computer system without authorisation?”
Kierney sounded outraged at the thought. Scarlet’s eyes narrowed to a slit as he stared at the man sternly. “Forgive me, Mr. Kierney, but it seemed to us that you are indeed hiding something from Spectrum, while you were supposed to give us your entire co-operation. Since it was obvious that, by your actions, you were refusing us that co-operation, we had to take necessary steps to make sure we could do our job properly. Our job, Mr. Kierney, is to ensure world security. Now you might consider that whatever you’re doing in your Centre is none of Spectrum’s business, but you would be wrong. If it’s something that attracted the Mysterons’ attention enough for them to send their agent here, and steal something – anything – that might be under your responsibility, then it might very well become a world security hazard, and it becomes Spectrum’s business.”
“Lieutenant Green should contact us any minute now,” Rhapsody continued. “He told us that it would only be a matter of minutes after he had accessed the security surveillance program before he would have the results of his search.”
“And then we’ll know what it is that you’re hiding from us,” Scarlet added, in a tone of ominous promise.
Kierney’s shoulders fell. Obviously, there was no point in continuing to deny it. “All right,” he said with a sigh. “You were right. I will tell you what you want to know…”
* * *
“The isotope that made Captain Black temporarily radioactive last week was the same one that he stole from the Culver Atomic Centre,” Captain Scarlet explained, when the four Spectrum officers found themselves reunited in a conference room in the Culver Centre, a little while later. After brief explanations, the plant’s director had agreed to lend them the room for a quick reunion. He had left them, but had agreed to stay close by, in case they needed further details from him. Lieutenant Green had opened up a channel with the room’s built-in communication system, in order to contact Cloudbase, and had made sure it had been suitably secured from prying ears. Now Colonel White was listening intently to the four agents’ report.
“As Mr. Kierney explained to us,” Scarlet continued, “the Culver engineers were developing this new isotope for the Aldermaston Naval Development Centre, as part of a contract to build a new nuclear engine for the next generation of World Navy submarines. This newly-developed, more powerful isotope was to be added to the nuclear reactor, to make the engine faster, stronger and more stable, with less risk of radioactivity.”
“But as we now know, the engineers were far from having reached the results they were aiming at,” Rhapsody continued. “At this present early state of development, the radioactivity emanating from the isotope might not be lethal – or Captain Black might have died from its exposure – but the thing is still highly volatile.”
White nodded. “So that would be the interest the Mysterons found in this isotope?”
“Kierney said that in its present form, if it was to be introduced into a nuclear reactor, such as those found at Aldermaston – it could have devastating effects,” Scarlet agreed. He gestured toward Lieutenant Green, seated in front of the portable computer. “Lieutenant Green ran a few tests that corroborate Kierney’s claims.”
“And it’s certain it’s Black who took it?”
“While Captain Scarlet and Rhapsody Angel were interrogating Mr. Kierney, I found the original recording from the security camera that caught the theft on tape,” Green explained. “There is no doubt, sir. We clearly see him breaking into the R and D sector and taking the isotope.”
White furrowed his brow in obvious irritation. “Why didn’t Kierney tell us about the theft?”
“It seems that the ‘proper authorities’ at the Culver Company were afraid of the consequences if the theft became known to outsiders,” Rhapsody explained. “They weren’t supposed to develop the isotope here, at the Dorset Centre – it might have been deemed far too dangerous a hazard to work on such a volatile item in a nuclear plant that has just been awarded a impressive contract for energy distribution for the whole area.”
“They might have lost the contract, and a lot of money,” White remarked in a tone amply tainted with disgust.
“They were probably also concerned about losing that other contract with the World Navy,” Scarlet commented. “Kierney defended himself that he ‘couldn’t tell Spectrum about the theft because he didn’t have the authorisation from the World Navy to do so.’”
“Rubbish,” White grumbled. “Spectrum has a higher authority in this kind of crisis, and Kierney should be aware of that. He’s either a liar or a fool. Either way, I will certainly lodge a complaint against Culver for the poor handling of this situation.” He gave a disgruntled sigh. “But now, that’s not the important problem. Captain Black stole this isotope for the Mysterons, for whatever threat they intend to make next. But apparently, they lost it – since one of their agents was looking for it yesterday evening… And since we have not heard a Mysteron threat so far, we can assume that they haven’t found it yet. We must find it before they do, then.”
“Apparently, the Mysterons suspect Hansen might have taken it,” Scarlet noted. “For whatever reason.”
“Why would this Hansen chap have taken it?” Green asked with a perplexed frown.
“Whatever the reason, if he did take it, then it’s Hansen we should be looking for,” Scarlet reasoned.
“Colonel, if I may, there might be another little matter we should look into,” Rhapsody remarked suddenly.
“You’re referring to what happened at the Culver Hospital,” White answered. “Doctor Willard’s involvement in this, and his subsequent disappearance. Yes, that should be investigated too. If only to discover if Willard is a Mysteron agent and where he could have gone to. Maybe he’s in search of the isotope too. That’s a possibility we can’t discard.”
“We should split up into two teams, then,” Scarlet said. “I’ve had contact with Hansen already – I should go looking after him.”
“Was that chap with you in the pub?” Rhapsody noted. “I saw him too.”
Scarlet nearly scoffed. “Yes – he thought you were my meddling wife. And then he saw you throw beer in a stranger’s face. You think he’s going to confide anything to you if you find him? At least I was able to make friendly contact with him.”
Rhapsody was about to say what she thought of his definition of ‘friendly contact’, but she was interrupted by Symphony who considered it might not really be a good idea for both her English colleagues to start an argument in front of Colonel White. “Rhapsody can join me for the hospital investigation,” she noted. “Since she has seen Hansen, if we should by any chance run into him, she’ll be able to identify him.”
“I would rather see Lieutenant Green go to the hospital with Rhapsody,” White replied. “Unlike Captain Scarlet and Symphony Angel, neither of you will be identified as Spectrum operatives if you need to investigate quietly. You will attract less attention. That leaves the search for Hansen to you, Captain Scarlet – teaming with Symphony.”
Scarlet didn’t reply and contented himself with staring at the screen. For a moment, there was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Symphony was wondering if the English captain wasn’t somehow still displeased at her for what had happened a few days earlier. True, they had not talked that much, since they had met again – after that heated discussion on Cloudbase. He had not been disagreeable, however – but neither had the few words they exchanged been particularly friendly. She didn’t know what his current feelings toward her were, but considering his present lack of reaction, it was possible he might still be holding a grudge.
Or was it that he wasn’t that keen on the colonel taking charge and giving him orders at the moment? Apparently, White didn’t want him to slip out of sight – and was thus taking steps so someone would be with him at all times.
Whatever the reason, Scarlet seemed to comply with the instructions at the moment; if visibly reluctantly. He nodded slowly and gave the acknowledgement White was apparently waiting for: “S.I.G., Colonel,” he said in a low tone. “We’ll do it your way.”
“Good.” The colonel looked satisfied that the truce between his star agent and himself seemed to be holding a little longer. “In the meantime, I’ll contact Aldermaston and inform them that a team of Spectrum agents will be assigned there as a precaution against a possible Mysteron threat. I know there is nothing to indicate that there will be an attack specifically aimed at its Naval Development section, and that we don’t know exactly what they might be planning, but it would seem that if the Mysterons get their hands on that isotope, Aldermaston might be their ideal target. For once, we might be one step ahead of them.”
“And what if the Mysterons have the isotope already?” asked Green.
“That’s doubtful,” Scarlet replied. “If they had it, I’m sure we would know. Considering that they might know we’re on to them, they would not waste any more time and would have pronounced their threat already.”
“I tend to think the same,” White agreed. “So I suggest that the four of you don’t waste more time either.”
Rhapsody and Green were the first to stand and acknowledge their orders. They were the youngest of the senior staff and – possibly apart from Captain Magenta, who, with his shady background, always seemed to want to prove himself – they were the most eager to please and obey their commanding officer.
That made Scarlet smile despite himself. But it was a furtive smile. A second later, it had disappeared and his expression had returned to one of gloomy disgruntlement. Slowly, he stood, emulated by an unaccustomedly quiet Symphony. “We’ll keep you informed of any developments, Colonel.” For now, he was going to remain civil with the old man. The situation wasn’t one to complicate with arguments about personal feuds.
They would have time enough later for that.
* * *
Using the Angels’ car – retrieved that very morning and with its tyres changed – Captain Scarlet drove into Stone Point Village with Symphony Angel, both of them in search of Giles Hansen. They decided to make their first stop at the local pub; since the barman had already given some useful information to Scarlet the day before, they were wondering if there might be a possibility that he would be able to do so again – informing them, for example, of other possible places where they could find Hansen.
This early in the morning, the pub was closed to customers, but the back door was kept open to receive the deliveries of the day. Hoping that he wouldn’t encounter the lorry driver of the evening before –he considered that he certainly didn’t need any trouble with him at the moment – Scarlet parked the car in front of the back door. He asked Symphony to wait for him in the vehicle, and stepped out, almost without waiting for her acknowledgement. She watched him enter the building, then got out of the car herself, to walk toward the still open door and wait in front of it. Through the opening, she could see Scarlet exchanging words with a man – who, she gathered by the way he was gesticulating, was either reluctant to give him answers or not too happy to see him. Remembering what she had learned of the events in the pub the evening before, she settled on the second option. It was likely that the man – obviously the barman Scarlet wanted to interrogate – was considering that the visitor was partly responsible for the brawl that, judging by what she could see of the interior of the bar, had caused some damage.
About ten minutes later, after giving a hefty wad of money to the man, Scarlet came out of the building; he was surprised to find Symphony out of the car and waiting for him by it. He gave a dubious frown.
“Still keeping your eye on me?” he asked matter-of-factly. As she hesitated to answer, he moved on. “Don’t worry. The situation is too serious for me to even consider playing hide and seek with Spectrum. I don’t plan to ditch you.”
“Good,” Symphony retorted, raising a brow. “Because we just gave that car brand new tyres. And as you know, they don’t come cheap. I don’t plan to take it out of my pocket.”
He gave the briefest of smiles, as they walked back to the car, and then came back to serious matters. “The barman – who also seems to be the owner of the place – says he hasn’t seen Hansen this morning and has no idea where he might have gone to after yesterday’s fight.”
Symphony rolled her eyes, as she opened the passenger door and sat back in the car, while Scarlet was taking his place behind the wheel. “We could spend hours searching for him around the village – if he is still here to begin with.”
“Unfortunately,” Scarlet remarked in a sombre tone, “it’s quite possible that Hansen doesn’t have those hours. If the Mysterons find him before we do, he’s a dead man – whether he has the isotope or not.”
“That’s another point, what if he doesn’t have it?”
“Well, Dalton must have had a reason to believe he did. Let’s hope he has, because he’s the only lead we have for finding that isotope.” Scarlet gave a sigh. “Now, let’s see. If I was a drifter, and was looking for a place to pass the night, where would I go?”
“Anywhere would do. Under a bridge, in a dark alley… A nearby barn or stable… In those cases I would make myself scarce before anyone found me in the morning.”
“Apparently, Dalton likes to sleep it off after an evening on the booze…” Scarlet rubbed his chin. “Maybe a place he knows is abandoned or unoccupied…”
“Is there such a place in Stone Point Village?”
“I can think of TWO such places which became unoccupied very recently. Remember that Hansen was sleeping in an alley behind the Delta Garage that day when Captain Black showed up.”
“He could have returned there? And…” Symphony nodded slowly, as, looking at Scarlet, understanding dawned on her. “And the Delta Garage has been closed since Dalton’s death. He might have broken in and settled himself in there. And the second place you’re thinking about might be Dalton’s apartment, which is also temporarily empty, right?”
Scarlet nodded. “We’re close to the Delta Garage. Let’s try there, first.”
Lieutenant Green and Rhapsody Angel had used the employees’ back door to enter the Culver Hospital in Stourford. Considering that Doctor Willard might very well be a Mysteron, they were wondering if there might be others like him in the hospital, who might spot them if they presented themselves at the reception desk with their Spectrum identification. According to Green’s last verification, Willard had still not shown up this morning. The hospital’s administrator seemed rather unconcerned, apparently thinking he might have taken a day off. Which indicated to the Spectrum agents that the hospital staff probably didn’t consider Willard an amenable character and that they welcomed any time off he might take.
Once inside, Green and Rhapsody first casually strolled the hospital walkways, as if they were simple visitors who had come to see a sick person. Reaching a map hung on a wall, they consulted it to find the location of the mortuary. Not surprisingly, they found it was situated in the sub-basement. Going down a nearby staircase, they ended up in the hospital laundry room. A flash of inspiration compelled Rhapsody to borrow two white jackets for her and her companion. Green couldn’t help but smile when he put his on.
“This has got to be a classic,” he said, with an amused grimace.
“Perhaps, but we can hardly pass as visitors while down here, can we, Lieutenant? This way, if we bump into someone, we won’t attract that much attention. They might think we’re new here.”
Green looked on as Rhapsody adjusted her own jacket. “You don’t look like a doctor, though.”
She paused a second, pondering, inspecting herself. She found a pair of glasses in the breast pocket and put them on. Green sniggered.
“You’re good, Miss Simms,” he admitted with an approving nod, acknowledging the physical change in her. “You do look like a doctor, now.”
“I hope they’re not too strong,” Rhapsody replied, pushing the glasses down the bridge of her nose. “Shall we go… Doctor?”
After glancing about through the open door to make sure nobody was coming, they stepped out of the laundry and walked towards the mortuary, their steps echoing eerily in the concrete corridor. They reached their destination after a corner, when they found themselves in front of a big steel door adorned with a plate marked ‘Morgue’. When Green tried the handle, he discovered it was locked.
“Great,” he grumbled. “And it’s a standard lock. If it had been digital, I might have been able to open it.”
Rhapsody stepped forward. “May I…?”
Green made way for her to pass. She crouched in front of the lock and examined it closely, with her companion standing watch. The lieutenant’s eyes caught the young woman as she took a hairpin from her head, bent it expertly and inserted it into the lock. He settled himself against the wall, certain that whatever Rhapsody might be attempting would take a certain amount of time. He was surprised when he heard the faint click coming from the lock.
“What? How…?” He watched, perplexity obvious in his eyes as Rhapsody, a broad smile on her face, theatrically pushed the door open. He smiled in turn. “You really are good. Where did you learn to pick locks so efficiently?”
“Remember my previous ‘spy career’? I had an excellent teacher. Though I wonder where Lady Penelope might have learned that herself.”
They both entered and she carefully closed the door behind them, so as to make sure they wouldn’t be disturbed. They shivered as they turned and looked around. It was pretty cold inside, and it was no wonder why. The temperature was set very low in this room.
A desk stood next to the door, with a computer on it, and in front, a long wall, covered with a multitude of large, numbered drawers. Next to the desk was another, closed, door, and through the glass, they could see another empty room, smaller, with tables inside, surrounded by instruments. There were two corpses lying there, each covered with a shroud. The next shudder that ran down the two officers’ backs had nothing to do with the temperature.
“We’re in luck, there’s nobody around,” Green noted, moving toward the computer and sitting in front of it to press a few keys. “I’ll try to find if there’s anything on here about the supposed claiming of Dalton’s body.”
“You think that may tell us where Willard has disappeared to?” Rhapsody asked, getting closer to look over his shoulder.
“Well, they most certainly must have to fill out all kinds of forms in a hospital when they perform autopsies and move… bodies around. It might tell us when and how the switch was made in the first place…”
Green’s fingers were flying over the keyboard. The screen asked for a password, but surprisingly enough, the young man had no trouble going through it, and a large list of names and dates appeared on the screen. That made Rhapsody smile.
“Well, you’re good too, Mr. Griffiths,” she said, patting his shoulder.
“I can’t take much credit for that,” he answered, his eyes not leaving the screen. “I was practically born with these things… Give me a few minutes, and I’ll find the right file.”
Rhapsody nodded quietly, and sat on the side of the desk, thoughtful; typing onto the keyboard and in search of the information they needed, Green addressed her a brief glance. “Can I ask a question?”
“Of course, Lieutenant.”
“You would have preferred to be teamed with Captain Scarlet, right?” He felt her inquiring look and pursued, wanting to explain himself: “Sorry, it’s just that I had that impression at the Centre…”
She gave a sigh. “Was it so obvious?” she asked, reddening a little. “Lieutenant… I can assure you that had nothing to do with you.”
“Oh, I know that,” Green interjected quickly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you…”
“It’s just that the good Captain and I have some… unfinished business to attend to. I have the feeling he was rather relieved not to be stuck with me,” Rhapsody continued dourly.
“Why would you say that?”
“Our last conversation ended on a rather sour note. Mind you, he’s in quite a bad mood lately. Not that I can blame him, considering what he told me of his… situation.”
Green briefly stopped typing, and glanced at her once more. “He told you about the Scarab Protocol?”
“Who comes up with such corny codenames, anyway?” Rhapsody mumbled. She nodded to the affirmative. “Yes, he told me. And if it’s all true, I can easily understand why he is so upset. Especially with Colonel White.”
Green hesitated. “It wasn’t the colonel’s decision, Rhapsody.”
“So Captain Scarlet told me. Still, I can’t believe the colonel would agree to do such a thing.”
“Rhapsody, I don’t know exactly what Captain Scarlet told you, but… maybe he doesn’t know everything about it… Or he wouldn’t be that angry with the colonel, knowing how he fought to defend him in front of the Committee and…”
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, but if you put yourself in the captain’s shoes – you might consider that a rather small consolation, after you realise that a bomb was planted inside you.” Green kept silent upon the young woman’s remonstrance, and averted his eyes, seemingly avoiding her inquiring stare. He didn’t see the dubious frown on Rhapsody’s face. “How can it be possible, to begin with, Seymour?”
Green gave a reluctant sigh. “I’m sorry, Rhapsody – but I’m Colonel White’s aide and I was sworn to secrecy about any top secret files that might come by me in the course of my job. I’m not permitted to discuss them – no matter how MUCH I’d like to. I’m so sorry, I would like to set the record straight but –” He stopped suddenly, almost biting his lips. “I’ve said enough already,” he muttered, turning back to his screen.
“You apparently know more about it than Captain Scarlet does,” Rhapsody noted quietly, narrowing her eyes at him.
“I think the problem should be settled between him and Colonel White,” Green said. “It would not be wise for us – either you or me – to put ourselves between them. Please, Dianne – don’t ask. I’m sure everything will turn out all right.”
“I won’t pressure you – Seymour,” Rhapsody replied, with a reassuring smile. “I know you are bound by duty to keep quiet about certain things. I understand that. But considering the situation right now, I can’t very well see how everything will be back to normal again, any time soon, between the colonel and Captain Scarlet.”
A beeping sound coming from the computer attracted both the Spectrum agents’ attention. They turned to it, to find a flashing message on the screen.
“Search procedure found the file,” Green declared, returning to the keyboard. Let’s see what’s in it…” He touched the screen, instantly opening the file marked ‘Dalton, E.’ it was displaying. A new menu appeared, offering access to ‘medical file’, ‘police file’, ‘autopsy file’ and ‘current status’. Green chose the last option and the new file opened. He and Rhapsody read it attentively. Their faces soon displayed the same frown.
“Well, dear Doctor Willard did lie to Symphony and Captain Scarlet when he told them that the real Erik Dalton’s body had been claimed by family and taken back to London,” Rhapsody stated. “But he didn’t even make the effort to falsify the hospital reports…”
“Yeah,” Green agreed with a brief nod. “According to this, the body should still be in here…” He pointed at a line on the screen. “Drawer 45.”
“We know that the real Dalton’s body was switched for his Mysteron double, and sent to London HQ in its place,” Rhapsody remarked. “And that the Mysteron double was killed last night. So neither of them is in that drawer, that much is certain.”
“So it’s empty now. Or could there be something else in it?” Green exchanged a querying glance with the Angel pilot. She nodded ever so slowly, her eyes raising to look at the drawers covering the wall in front of them.
“I’m wondering that myself, Lieutenant.”
They both left the desk and walked toward the drawers, looking for number 45. They found it rather easily, about five feet from the floor, almost at eye level. It was a simple matter for Green to open the digital lock closing it. They exchanged nervous glances. To say that neither of them were too eager to open the drawer to discover what was in it was an understatement. For all they knew, it could very well be empty – or it might contain anything. Even the body of a complete stranger. But if their instincts were right – they had a feeling they knew what exactly they would find.
In what state it would be, though, was anybody’s guess.
“I hate this kind of thing,” Green muttered, obviously unsettled.
“Yes, this is certainly a part of our job we could do without,” Rhapsody agreed. She pointed to the drawer. “Ready when you are.”
Green nodded and pressed the release button. The drawer slowly opened. Cold air first hit both of them, as they watched a white-shrouded body emerge. The drawer stopped its automatic motion at mid-section of the body. The two Spectrum agents looked at it thoughtfully. Green reached for the white cloth and pulled it from the face it was covering.
They weren’t that surprised when they saw the ashen features of a fifty-something man lying on the cold steel of the drawer, his eyes forever closed, and his lips tightened. There were deep purple marks on his neck, where it was easy to make out the impressions of fingers.
“Doctor Willard, I presume?” Rhapsody said, swallowing hard.
Green nodded. “Yes, I recognise him from the pictures Spectrum London sent us last evening, after we discovered his disappearance.”
“Well, it doesn’t look as if he was killed yesterday,” Rhapsody said. She pointed to the body’s neck. “He’s been strangled. From behind, judging by those marks. How much are you willing to bet he was killed in here, a few days ago, perhaps while performing one of his examinations, and put into that drawer to replace a missing body?”
“By Dalton’s double, who had awakened?”
“Or Captain Black who sneaked inside – the same way we did today.” Rhapsody shook her red head. “I suppose we’ll never know for sure.”
“Then as we suspected, Willard was Mysteronised, he helped put his own body in that drawer, the real Dalton was sent to London instead of the Mysteron Dalton – and the Mysteron Dalton was free to roam around, without anybody suspecting anything.”
“You’d make a good detective, Lieutenant.”
Green offered Rhapsody a delighted grin. “I’ve had a good teacher,” he replied, using her earlier words.
“All this is obvious enough,” Rhapsody added. “And there’s something else that is obvious enough.”
“And that would be?”
“If indeed the real Willard was killed a few days ago – and Mysteronised – then his Mysteron double is presently out there, with or without Captain Black – and up to no good.”
“Yes, that much I gathered,” Green said grimly. “And we already suspected that too.”
Rhapsody pushed the drawer closed. “Come on. I think it’s time we had a little talk with the hospital personnel. We need to know if any of them can tell us when they saw Willard for the last time yesterday. If Willard is a Mysteron, then he’s most certainly looking for the isotope… In that case, we need to find either Willard or the isotope – before the former finds the latter.”
* * *
Searching the Delta Garage in Stone Point Village didn’t give any results, so Captain Scarlet and Symphony Angel left it after a time and turned their attention to Erik Dalton’s apartment. Two days earlier, Scarlet had already entered the building and visited the apartment, going through a back window leading into the bedroom; that was the path they chose this time too, not wanting to attract attention, and in case Giles Hansen might indeed be in there. They were concerned that their entrance into the apartment might startle him into running away, so they preferred the quiet approach, instead of the direct one.
When they entered, very quietly, Scarlet noticed that the window he had used himself had also been used in the meanwhile. That made him think that they may be right in their suspicion; Hansen might indeed have taken up residence in the now empty apartment. It was probably too good an opportunity for a drifter like him to pass up. After all, acceptable available housing like this one probably didn’t come up often for a man in his situation.
After helping Symphony set foot inside, Scarlet looked around with her. It wasn’t difficult for them to see that indeed someone had been there since his last visit. There was food on the kitchenette table, probably taken from the fridge, and the bed in the bedroom wasn’t made up.
“Hansen has been enjoying himself,” Scarlet noted to his companion, picking up the open bag of crisps lying on the couch. “Doesn’t seem to be here right now, though.”
“Good to see we were right,” Symphony agreed. “You think he’ll be back?”
“Probably. Especially if he feels safe in here. Why would he leave such a comfortable shelter?” Scarlet put the bag back where he had found it. “Now, why don’t we search the place, while we’re waiting for him? If we’re lucky, we might find the isotope stashed somewhere.”
“And if we’re not?”
“Then if Hansen has indeed taken it, he would have it with him. In which case, we’ll find out when he comes back.”
Symphony couldn’t find anything to say against this assessment. “You searched this place when you came the first time around, didn’t you?”
Scarlet had just removed the couch’s cushions to look underneath them, but found nothing; hearing Symphony’s words, he shot her an intense glance. She reddened a little under his stare and, imitating him, looked down under the armchair’s cushion.
“We… saw you enter here two days ago, Rhapsody and I,” she said, almost apologetically.
“I know you’ve been following me around.” Scarlet threw the cushions down onto the couch. “Don’t worry, I’m not angry with you for that.”
“You’re not?” The young woman was genuinely surprised – and visibly relieved.
“No. After all, you were just following orders.” Scarlet had crouched down to look under the couch. Grunting, he got back to his feet. “From someone else…”
Symphony lowered her gaze momentarily. “I don’t know what your quarrel is with the colonel, Captain. I don’t know what this… Scarab Protocol you mentioned earlier might be…”
“Believe me, it’s better you don’t know.”
“It’s that bad, then?”
Scarlet stared meaningfully at the young American pilot. He could see she was sympathising with him – wishing he would confide in her. He shook his head, and exhaled loudly. “Don’t lose sleep over it, Symphony. It’s a problem between the old man and me. I don’t want to burden you with it.”
“It wouldn’t be a burden, you know that,” she objected. “After all, we’re friends.” She hesitated, turning to check a cupboard behind her. “At least… I, for one, still consider you a friend.”
Her voice was timid, almost unsure. But the meaning of her words didn’t escape the English captain.
“Karen.” Scarlet stopped his search, his eyes still set on the young woman, who looked back at the call of her name. “I… heard about your father. I’m sorry.” There was an awkward pause between them, as Symphony once again lowered her eyes, this time sadly. Scarlet walked toward her. “I can only imagine your pain… And me, during that time, I was being unnecessarily rude and mean to you… I… If I had known at the time…” Scarlet sighed. “I… maybe I would have acted differently…”
Symphony’s brow rose. “Why? That doesn’t excuse anything I might have done. Probably quite the opposite. I let myself be distracted. You don’t have to apologise. You had good reasons to be angry with me.”
“No, I doubt I really had.” Scarlet sighed again. “Listen, I’m not feeling magnanimous toward you because I feel for you – because of your father. Well, maybe a little, but – I’m sincerely sorry for the way I acted. I was angry at you for being careless, blamed you for Black’s escape when it wasn’t your fault. He was just too clever for us. I’ve been acting like a complete rat with you. And I do wish to apologise.”
“You’ve been acting like a concerned friend,” Symphony retorted with a smile. “I can understand that you were worried sick that I might have been hurt. Because of some foolishness I might have done. That’s why you reacted angrily to me.”
“Yes, well... I indeed was worried for you. And I still am. I know too well how impetuous you can be…”
She sniggered a little. “We’re the same, aren’t we?”
“Except I’ve got this healing factor – that you have not,” Scarlet observed. “I would not like you to take unnecessary risks that might put your life at risk.”
Symphony awkwardly hesitated a short instant. “Then perhaps it would reassure you to learn that I wasn’t entirely at fault during that… incident, last week?” He stared at her, unsure of what she might be trying to say. She quickly shook her head. “I’m not trying to find an excuse for myself for what happened but…”
“Please, Symphony. Whatever are you saying?”
“I… wasn’t entirely responsible for having landed my Angel jet in the woods.” She saw the perplexed frown on Scarlet’s features and grunted with annoyance at her incapacity to clearly tell him everything about it. “In fact, I didn’t have much of a choice. My aircraft’s electrical system was malfunctioning, and I couldn’t keep it in the air, so I had to land – in whatever place I was able to find. My fault was not having contacted base to inform them of that. I guess I was still a little distraught over my father’s passing… I forgot protocols.”
“Why didn’t you tell us afterwards?” Scarlet demanded, a little more abruptly than he intended. “Why would you lead us to believe that you were…” he hesitated.
“Incompetent?” Symphony offered.
“That’s not really the word I was looking for, but… Why didn’t you tell us about that, Karen?”
“Because the colonel asked me not to?” Symphony explained uneasily. He clearly wasn’t understanding, so she continued: “You see, I landed not that far from where Captain Black was hiding. In fact, I was monitoring movement in that area a few minutes before, but saw nothing else of it soon after. He appeared a few minutes after I landed and – captured me.”
“You still didn’t explain to me WHY the colonel asked you not to say anything,” Scarlet urged her.
“Quite simply: when the Angel jet was taken back to base, the troubles I had experienced seemed to have vanished. They couldn’t find out what exactly happened to it. So that made the colonel worry. What if… it had been the work of the Mysterons? What if they had caused that momentary trouble in order to force me to land and put me in Captain Black’s clutches?”
“Oh Lord…” Scarlet murmured. “You’re not telling me it was the case?”
“Well, it was a possibility – after all, there have been instances where the Mysterons do seem to control things remotely. Although we still don’t know how they could manage to do that. That truck in London, for example… Maybe, after all, they had destroyed part of the truck’s driving gear previously… But it certainly wasn’t something we were able to verify, was it? You imagine the panic up in Cloudbase if it were to be known that the Mysterons could take control of any given craft, without notice? Heck, they could even stop the base’s engines whenever they choose to, sending all of us crashing down to the surface! Work would have been impossible and the worry increasingly unbearable.”
“If indeed that was possible,” Scarlet remarked dully, “we would have the right to know.”
“Yes I know, but Colonel White wanted to make sure of it first, to avoid needless worries. So he asked me to keep this under wraps, until the inspection of my jet was finished.” Symphony gave the faintest of smiles and shrugged. “Fortunately, it turned out the concern was for nothing. The technicians did find a flaw in the electrical system after all. An intermittent fault, that was difficult to pinpoint. Apparently, nothing that implicated the Mysterons.”
“When did you find out?” Scarlet asked in a low murmur.
“Last night, when we called to report to Colonel White. He had just received the mechanics’ report.”
Scarlet was stunned by what he had just heard. Now he was learning that Symphony wasn’t as responsible as he thought she was for the events of last week. The mission to capture Captain Black had not failed because she had been negligent. Her capture by Black, and the subsequent incidents were all due to an intermittent mechanical failure in her craft – a simple enough cause, but nevertheless with disastrous results. In truth, she had been lucky to be able to land the interceptor. She could have crashed, she could have been killed, as effectively as if Black had put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
And all that time, Scarlet had blamed her for excessive recklessness…
While she was not guilty.
“The colonel should NEVER have asked you to take the blame like that,” he said, almost growling. “It was unfair on you…”
“But Captain – I volunteered.” Seeing the dubious way Scarlet was looking at her, Symphony continued, with a faint smile, “It wasn’t his idea – but after I had made my full report, he voiced his worries – and so I proposed to keep quiet and not say anything about all this until we could be sure. He didn’t want to – but he had to admit that under the circumstances, it was the best thing to do.”
“You’re sure he didn’t manipulate you into this?” Scarlet asked, with a suspicious frown.
She blinked, puzzled by this remark. “Why would I think a thing like that?” she replied. “He’s been very understanding, Paul – and supportive. Why, he knew I couldn’t wait to know the results of the technicians’ inspection. So he told me what they were as soon as he had them.”
Scarlet slowly nodded to acknowledge the information; he didn’t say anything else, but it was obvious to Symphony that the disagreement he was presently having with Colonel White made him more than a little intolerant toward his commanding officer. Or maybe what she had just told him was making him think that he may had been unfair to the colonel… Anyway, it apparently wasn’t really something Scarlet wanted to discuss with Symphony. She could see it was still a very sore subject for him. One from which he would much rather divert their attention. She did it for him.
“We’d better continue our search,” she noted, clearing her throat.
There was a grateful spark in his blue eyes. “Yes,” he agreed. “After all, we have a mission to attend to… I suggest we separate. We’ll have more luck finding something.”
She nodded. “I’ll take the bedroom.”
“I’ll continue searching in here, then.”
Symphony stepped into the next room and Scarlet was left standing in the small living room, watching her go with a thoughtful stare, until she disappeared from his view. The he looked around, wondering where he should start first. His eyes fell on the kitchenette. He might as well start on the cupboards there, he thought. He started walking in that direction and stopped in his tracks, swaying a little, his vision becoming a sudden blur. He angrily wiped away the sweat that suddenly formed on his brow and grunted. Now, where was that wooziness coming from? It was true he had skipped his last two meals… Maybe it was only that.
That’s when he heard a click coming from the door and turned on his heels to face it. He saw it opening up slowly.
Symphony had stopped in the middle of the bedroom, scratching her head in wonder; the whole place was a mess. The bed wasn’t made, and dirty clothes were lying on it, and everywhere on the floor. Obviously, not only had Hansen helped himself to Dalton’s housing and food, but also to his clothing, and all the comforts he would benefit from, squatting in here. She gave a sigh, looking around. Now, if she were Hansen, and had to hide an object she might consider precious, where would it be? Plenty of possibilities here. She was almost regretting now having volunteered to check this room. It would be a huge and tedious job.
Her eyes found the closed wardrobe behind the room’s door. Oh well… this is as good a place to start as any… She approached, took the handle and pulled the door open – and almost gasped upon discovering the sight that offered itself to her eyes.
A man was huddled on the wardrobe floor, motionless, and his eyes closed in his ashen face. There was blood running down from his forehead, across his half-parted lips and trickling down his badly shaven chin. It came from a clean hole right between his eyes. He wasn’t breathing.
Symphony brought her hand to her mouth to smother the shocked cry that threatened to escape her throat. She had no doubt she had found there the man she and Captain Scarlet were looking for. He had obviously been murdered. Very recently.
She rose to her feet and moved aside to step into the doorway leading to the living room and prepared to call for her companion when she quickly dived back against the wall for cover. A man was coming through the door to the apartment and was now turning to face Scarlet, who was standing in the middle of the room, looking at him.
The newcomer had the same face as the dead man she had just found in the wardrobe. Her heart skipped a beat, as she realised instantly that he was a Mysteron agent.
He looked surprised to discover Captain Scarlet there, apparently quietly waiting for him.
“Mr. Hansen, so glad to find you again.”
Symphony briefly closed her eyes in distress. Scarlet’s sixth sense – that sometimes permitted him to feel the presence of a Mysteron nearby – didn’t seem to work this time around. Apparently, he didn’t realise that this man standing in front of him was only the double of the one he had met the evening before. Quickly, she searched her purse, and took out the little pistol stowed in it; keeping in hiding, she alertly watched what was going to happen, ready to intervene at the most convenient moment.
“Mr. Metcalfe,” the Mysteron agent said coolly. “What brings you here?”
“I might be asking you the same question,” Scarlet answered, in an equally quiet tone. “Apparently, you have taken up residence in your deceased friend’s apartment. But… that’s not why I am here. I’m here to warn you that you might be in deadly danger, Hansen.”
“You found something in the Delta Garage and took it. Now, there are people who would very much like to get their hands on it.”
“You don’t say…” Hansen’s hand reached for his belt, under the jacket he was wearing, and from her hiding place, Symphony distinctly saw him clutch the handle of a gun. “You arrive too late, Earthman…”
At the same time the Mysteronised Hansen was saying these words, and drawing out his weapon, Symphony stepped into the doorway of the bedroom, her own gun, kept steady with both hands, trained on him. “Drop it!”
The confusion was enough for Hansen to momentarily freeze, and Scarlet crossed the distance between them in a flash, grabbing both the Mysteron’s hands and shoving him roughly against the door behind him, all the while pushing the gun down. Hansen’s finger instinctively squeezed the trigger, but the shot went into the floor; Scarlet punched him in the face, making him lose hold of his weapon and sending him sprawling on the floor. He swiftly leaned to take the gun and stepped back from the half-stunned Mysteron agent.
“Nice work, Symphony,” he told the young woman behind him, without turning around.
“Nice teamwork, you mean,” she replied austerely. “You knew he was a Mysteron, then?”
“Before he came in, yes,” Scarlet answered. He motioned with the gun toward Hansen, who was looking up at him with cold hatred in his eyes. “Up, you,” he growled angrily. “Keep your hands where I can see them. So the real Hansen has been killed, then?”
“I found his body in the bedroom wardrobe,” Symphony announced, her gun still trained on the Mysteron agent as he was slowly getting to his feet. “A clean shot in the head. It looked pretty recent.”
Scarlet felt disgusted at the news. “He was an innocent man,” he spat at the Mysteron. “Why kill him?”
“He was meddling in business that wasn’t his own,” the Mysteronised Hansen replied coldly. “And he took something we needed for our next act of vengeance. Only because it was glowing and looked pretty, he assumed it was expensive,” he continued between his teeth, seething with contempt. “He thought he had the right to take it, and that he would be able to cash in on it and sell it to improve his idle, pathetic, worthless human life…”
“Enough,” Scarlet cut in abruptly. “Where is it? Where is the isotope?”
“We have it now,” Hansen retorted. “We can now proceed with our next act of retaliation…”
“Not while we’re in your way!” Scarlet retorted again. “Now WHERE is it? Tell us!”
Hansen raised an indifferent brow. He didn’t appear at all impressed by the two guns now trained on him and threatening to end his life. He kept staring defiantly at the two Spectrum agents. “I told you already, Earthman,” he said imperturbably. “You are too late.”
An almost inaudible cocking of a gun sounded from behind Symphony; Scarlet started to turn around, as if he had felt the danger, but it was already far too late. The thunderous sound of a gunshot resonated not far from Symphony’s ear, almost deafening her. She flinched and blinked unconsciously, as she witnessed with horror Scarlet’s body arching itself under the violent impact of a bullet that hit him between the shoulders, sending his gun flying from his hand. He then fell forward, at the feet of the imperturbable Hansen who gazed at him without any emotion. By pure instinct, Symphony was raising her gun and was about to spin around when she felt something hard and hot roughly pressed against the back of her neck. She could smell the distasteful reek of burned gunpowder irritating her nose.
“Let go of that weapon,” an ominous voice said, very close to her ear. “Or I’ll shoot. He can heal from his injury. You cannot.”
Symphony swallowed hard. Reluctantly, she lowered the gun, and let it go; it clattered to the floor. She could see Hansen crouching to recover the weapon Scarlet had dropped, and using it to cover the Spectrum officer sprawled on the floor, moaning faintly, obviously in terrible pain.
A hand roughly grasped Symphony’s arm and forced her to turn around. She gasped as she was brutally pushed against the wall, where she was held forcibly. She blinked and looked in distress at the man who had shot Scarlet and who was now shoving his recently used pistol right under her nose. The smell of powder was even more plain, almost painful to her nostrils.
“Doctor Willard,” she croaked, opening wide eyes. “Then… you are a Mysteron.”
“You would have surprised me if you had not discovered that by now,” he replied. He smiled thinly, a kind of sadistic smile that sent a shiver up and down Symphony’s spine.
“How did you…?”
“…Get in here? The same way you and your friend did…” Willard nodded his head to his left and Symphony’s eyes looked past him, to stare at the still open window she and Scarlet had used earlier to enter. The Mysteronised doctor’s smile widened when her whole features displayed her understanding – and frustration. “After that, it was a simple matter to sneak up on you… Symphony Angel.” He raised a brow, seeing the enquiry in her trembling eyes. “Oh yes, my dear young lady… I know who you are.”
“I don’t have to ask you who informed you of my identity, Doctor,” she replied between her teeth, trying to present a brave façade.
“Indeed, you don’t have to,” Willard answered coldly. He shook his head. “He wants to see you again.” And… your companion too.” The Mysteronised doctor gave a nod toward the injured Scarlet who, still slumped on the floor, was now silent, but apparently still breathing. He had obviously lost consciousness. Symphony felt a wave of anguish fill her heart to see him like this. Alive, but wounded, and unconscious, completely defenceless. And at the complete mercy of his enemies.
They both were in deep trouble.
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