By Chris Bishop
“In desperate need of some pest control…”
Straight after launch, Rhapsody started her patrol round – keeping Cloudbase in view, and waiting for further orders. Seymour must have come down with a bad cold, she reflected quietly. I barely recognised his voice…
Aside from the hovering headquarters, there was nothing in sight; the sky was an empty deep blue, with white clouds hovering below her. Her radar and scanner remained mute, and that alone was reassuring enough.
Following standard procedure, she gradually started enlarging her patrol circle, without losing sight of Cloudbase, and contacting the Control Room five minutes after launch.
“Rhapsody Angel in Angel One… Nothing to report but empty sky ahead and around Cloudbase. Everything is safe within a 20-mile radius.”
She didn’t receive any answer. She could hear only total silence from her speaker; and that made her frown.
“Cloudbase Control, do you copy? This is Angel One calling…”
This time, there was nothing but crackling noises coming from her radio. She tried adjusting it; then, she heard the voice of Lieutenant Green in her ears, loud over the noises, and shouting with a note of obvious panic in it: “S.I.R., Rhapsody Angel! Return immediately to base! Repeat: return immediately to base! Gremlins onboard! Launch order has not…” The voice broke off suddenly, and again only crackling sounds could be heard into the speakers.
In alarm, Rhapsody played again with the radio control. “Control, this is Rhapsody Angel! What is happening? Lieutenant Green, do you hear me? Gremlins… What do you…”
The crackling noises disappeared, this time completely, and Rhapsody was about to sigh with relief, when what she heard over the speakers made her frown in disbelief. It wasn’t Lieutenant Green’s voice this time, of that she was sure – but another voice, cackling evilly. And it was… chanting…
“Lieutenant Green!” Rhapsody called out in an irate tone. “What IS going on over there?!”
The chanting was suddenly replaced by a maniacal laugh, that made a shiver run down her spine. “For God’s sake…”
And then suddenly, her controls exploded in a rain of electrical sparks, and the radio went completely dead. Something jumped her from behind, and clawed hands grabbed at her throat. That made her jump in total surprise and she cried out briefly; the nose of her Angel tipped downward, but she managed to keep it steady, as it began its vertiginous descent toward Earth.
She counted herself lucky that the thick golden collar of her uniform and the leather strap beneath her chin protected her neck so well, because she felt for certain that the claws would have ripped her throat out. As it was, she only felt a graze against her cheek, and the warmth and wetness of blood pouring from the fresh wound.
The ugliest of faces suddenly appeared to her horrified eyes. Green scaled, with cruel yellow eyes, and a large, wicked smile, adorned with sharp, pointed teeth, it seemed to be able to bite into any part of her and kill her. She froze at the sight, her brain unable to understand where in bloody Hell that thing had come from. She noted the large ears, so very much like those of the Mogwai on Cloudbase – and then realised what the creature was. That could only be what a metamorphosed Mogwai looks like when it comes out of its cocoon…
Gremlins? That was what Green had said.
The ugly head was looking straight at her, laughing maniacally, before turning its attention to the helm that her hands were holding tightly. The pressure on Rhapsody’s throat grew and she gasped. Another ugly head appeared next to hers, smiling evilly, cackling. There were two of those horrible creatures, she realised with panic. And that second one was holding her from behind, trying to choke the life out of her, while its companion was going for the helm. Rhapsody fought bravely to keep control of the craft, as the cold clawed hands tried to pull the helm from her, claws cutting through her hands. The creature behind her was now standing on her shoulders, and its talons were tearing through her uniform and into her flesh. She winced in pain, gasping for breath, her eyes set on the crazy readings of her controls, ears filled with the multiple beeping sounds of alerts, mixed with the laugh of the two creatures. The interceptor was quickly losing altitude; she saw the ground approaching closer and closer by the second.
Rhapsody clenched her teeth with resolution, deciding on a new manoeuvre. The only one which could leave her with a chance to live.
“You want the helm that much, you hideous bastards?” she said between two laborious breaths. “Then you can have it!”
She let go of the helm and the creature, with a victorious cry, jumped onto it. Rhapsody’s now free hand grabbed the ejector level and pulled it. The canopy flew off over her head, taking the transformed Mogwai by surprise. The one holding her neck let go, just at the moment her seat flew high into the air, abandoning the Angel jet. It didn’t save the creature from being blown freely into the sky, away from the ejected seat, and it screamed in horror as it was launched to its death, thousands and thousands of feet above Earth.
The seat parachute then deployed and Rhapsody, now safe, loosened her helmet strap to finally take a deep breath. She watched as her Angel craft plunged out of control towards the ground. Of course, she didn’t expect the remaining creature to be able to hold the helm steady… She watched grimly as the jet ploughed itself into the side of a mountain, far below and away. She blew a deep sigh; she hated losing a plane, but it wasn’t as if she had had any choice in the matter. She grunted as she reached for her throbbing shoulders with her scratched hand. God, that is SO going to sting when Fawn treats it…
There was one epaulette left on her uniform and it started flashing wildly. The emergency signal, she realised instantly. She wondered who was calling her, and she half-expected to hear the same maniacal laugh she had heard earlier, when she answered. She was relieved to hear the anxious voice of Lieutenant Green:
“…Rhapsody Angel, can you hear me? Radar’s showing Angel One has crashed… Please answer, Rhapsody…”
“Rhapsody Angel to Control.” Rhapsody gave a deep sigh. “I’m all right, Lieutenant. Angel One crashed without me. I had to eject.” She paused a second, rubbing her painful shoulders, and listening to the obvious relief she could hear in the lieutenant’s sharp intake of breath upon hearing her answer.
“S.I.G., Rhapsody. Are you injured?” That was the voice of Colonel White this time, and Rhapsody could very well hear the concern in his tone. She smiled weakly.
“I’ll survive, sir,” she grunted. “But I will need a pick-up.”
“I’ll arrange that, Rhapsody, as soon as everything is back under control on Cloudbase.”
Rhapsody frowned at those words. “Colonel, there were two strange creatures in the cockpit of my jet,” she continued, uncertainly. “Lieutenant Green mentioned… Gremlins?”
“That’s what I said, Rhapsody,” Green answered in turn. “ The cocoons have hatched… The Mogwai inside transformed into those things. They’re all over Cloudbase.”
“Oh, my God…” Rhapsody breathed out. “What is the situation up there?”
There was a short pause. Then, it was the voice of Colonel White which made itself heard again, tainted with obvious grimness… “We’re fighting them off the best we can.”
* * *
Melody was taking a much-needed hot shower, after a long, eight-hour shift divided between Angel One and Amber Room duty.
She had not eaten yet and was planning to go to the Halloween party in the Officers’ Lounge and taste the buffet that she knew had been prepared for the occasion. It was a costume party of course, and Melody had decided to go as a ‘fashionable witch’. She had chosen the costume by catalogue nearly a month ago and had despaired of receiving it in time, until it arrived a week before. She had tried it right away, to make sure it would fit her, almost fearing it wouldn’t – but was delighted to discover that it was absolutely perfect – even beyond her wildest dreams. She looked very classy and absolutely stunning, not at all the image the fairy tales presented of a witch, of course, but that wasn’t really the look she was going after. Oh sure, she realised she was being coquettish about this costume - but, for once, she wanted to impress the others. Especially a certain golden-clad captain. She hoped he would have eyes only for her.
The costume was hanging in her closet, just the other side of the door to her bathroom. Stopping the flow of hot water, she stepped out of her shower, wrapped a large towel around herself and a smaller one around her head. Humming quietly, she opened the door, a smile playing on her lips. This evening would be perfect. Just perfect, she reflected. She just remembered that the previous Halloween; nobody could detach their eyes from Destiny, who had come dressed as a female ghoul… And that was quite a stunning costume she had worn. This year, it would be she who would turn all the heads. For once, she would be Queen of the Ball – and that was a very satisfactory thought.
Still humming, she opened the door to her closet with the intention of taking out her costume and putting it on the bed. It would be waiting for her when she finished drying herself, and putting on the make-up she needed to go with the costume.
She wasn’t prepared for what she saw. Suddenly, the most horrible of heads emerged from behind her clothes, snarling loudly and viciously at her. Melody just had time to see the yellow eyes, the brilliant green-scaled skin, the wide ears and the horrible mouth flashing horribly long and sharp fangs. With a scream of terror, she slammed the door shut and jumped back. She could have sworn she heard a maniacal, inhuman laugh coming from the interior of the closet. She turned around and watched with wide eyes and a pounding heart.
She heard violent thumping at her door and again she screamed, taken by surprise. She spun on her heels, just as the muffled but apparently worried voice of Captain Ochre made itself heard from behind it:
“Melody! What’s going on in there? Open the door!”
Suddenly, Melody saw red. Now she knew what was happening! It was, again, one of Ochre’s annoying jokes!
She angrily rushed to the door and pressed the opening button. The door slid open and Captain Ochre hurriedly walked in. Reaching the centre of Melody’s quarters in four long strides, he looked around, with a concerned expression on his face, as if in search of whatever threat the Angel pilot might be facing. The young woman noticed the costume he was wearing: he was dressed as a very handsome wizard, with false goatee beard and moustache… That was the masculine matching costume for the one she had chosen herself. Evidently, Ochre had chosen it from the same catalogue she had consulted …
Did he know of her choice and had made his accordingly? She was willing to bet he had. But right now, that wasn’t exactly the reason why she was furious at him.
“Why did you scream?” Ochre asked, worry in his eyes as he turned around to face Melody who was now walking toward him. “Did you hurt yourself? Were you… attacked?” He eyed her, and at first, he appeared uncomfortable to see her dressed only in her towel, and seemed oblivious to the fuming way she was glowering at him. An appreciative flash passed across his eyes just before he turned around, like a gentleman, to look the other way.
“Stop playing games, Fraser!” Melody grabbed the lapels of his dark, fancy jacket and forced him to turn towards her; he nearly lost his footing, and found himself looking into her glaring eyes, as she gripped him, her knuckles turning white on the expensive fabric, so tightly was she clutching it. “Now, WHO is your accomplice? Magenta? Grey? Scarlet?”
“What are you talking about?” Ochre stammered, frowning at her question, apparently failing to understand what she meant. He cleared his throat, smiling faintly. “Is that your costume for tonight? Nice…”
“It is NOT my costume for tonight!” she yelled, shaking him like a leaf with a strength he didn’t know she possessed – and he didn’t resist anyway. “And you know very well what I’m talking about! YOU staged this, you low-life, double-crossing, two-bit fraud!”
“I didn’t stage anything…”
“Oh yes, you did!” Melody raged, without leaving him time to protest further. “Don’t you dare deny it! You had one of your friends hide in my closet with the most grotesque mask I have ever seen in my life, and scare the daylights out of me! And YOU, what an astonishing coincidence, you come KNOCKING on my door, playing the HERO coming to save me from danger! Well, I’m not falling for it, buster! You went too far this time!”
By the end of Melody’s enraged speech, Ochre had finally understood what she was implying – and knew that, indeed, something unusual had happened in the young woman’s quarters. He stopped her from shaking him, gently but firmly removing her hands from his costume. “I swear, I had nothing to do with this,” he protested. “I just came to take you to the party. I knew what costume you had chosen and I wanted to surprise you with mine…”
“Oh yes… What a surprise!” she mocked him, sarcastically.
“I had just arrived in front of your door when I heard you scream. I never heard you scream in terror before, Mag. So, I figured there was something really wrong…”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“That’s the truth, Mag, I swear.” Ochre looked toward the closet door. “But that also means there’s really someone in your closet who decided to play a cruel joke on you.”
“Nooooo… you don’t say?”
Ignoring the young woman’s cynical tone, Ochre walked cautiously towards the closet door; Melody, behind him, obviously not believing a single word he had said, rolled her eyes and followed, adjusting her towel around her and making sure it wouldn’t fall. She watched suspiciously as Ochre reached silently for the door handle. He was putting on a very serious show, she had to admit – but she still wasn’t falling for it.
Ochre opened the door in a quick, abrupt movement. He couldn’t see anything wrong; swiftly, he rummaged through the clothes, looking to see if there was someone hidden behind them. He addressed an inquiring look at Melody over his shoulder. She was leaning to the side, trying to look past him into the darkness of the closet. She could see, like him, that the closet was empty.
“There was someone in there!” she protested with a frown, watching the doubtful expression on Ochre’s face. “I heard him laugh… It was the laugh of a maniac! Very stereotyped – like in the bad horror movies!”
“I’m sure.” Ochre turned to face her, sighing as he did and, putting his fists on his hips, looked down at her with a bemused and mocking smile on his lips. “All right, Melody… I admit, I fell for it.”
“Fell for what?”
“Well – it is Halloween night… and you decided to wind me up with this cockeyed story of yours… Since I’m usually the one doing that, it’s a nice change.”
Melody stared at him with a slack jaw. She couldn’t believe her ears. “What?!” She scoffed. “Captain Ochre, I swear to you, I never…”
“That’s a good one,” Ochre said, laughing softly. “Oh, I really fell for it… I should have known there was nothing that would scare you like that. You’re just not the screaming kind…”
“Captain Ochre, I didn’t…”
Melody’s protests suddenly died on her lips as she caught a glimpse of two piercing yellow eyes peering down to her – from the darkness of the upper shelf of her closet. The same horrific snarl she had heard earlier resonated then, and Ochre turned around – in time to receive in his arms the unbelievable creature that jumped from the shelf and right at his throat, all fangs and claws out.
Melody screamed a warning, that just came too late. Ochre crashed onto the bed behind him, holding the creature by the neck, keeping it away from his throat, while talons and claws tore into his wizard costume. Whatever kind of demon his opponent was, it fought like a wild beast, snarling and growling, and it was all Ochre could do to avoid as much damage as possible. He fell to the floor, entangling himself in the blankets, the creature still searching to reach his throat. He couldn’t see his opponent now, but he still had a good hold of it, and he didn’t dare let go, in fear that it would turn against Melody.
“Mag, get out of here!” Ochre yelled. “Give the alert! Call for help!”
He rolled over, getting above the creature, successfully freeing himself from the blankets and using them to trap it. The beast snarled angrily and protested with a high-pitched scream that was horrible to listen to.
“Come on, you ugly bastard,” Ochre muttered. “Quit struggling like that…”
A claw pierced through the blankets and grasped his shoulder. Ochre yelped and his hold relaxed; then he saw the hideous head emerge too, its mouth wide open and its fangs bared; it went directly for his throat with a victorious laugh. At the last possible second, Ochre caught the muzzle in his right hand and pushed the creature away from him. It stumbled on the floor and Ochre did the same, hitting his head as he did. He saw stars dancing in front of his eyes.
There was a crashing sound as a chair was violently brought down onto the creature’s head, stopping it as it was preparing to leap on Ochre again. The demon squealed in pain and turned like an injured beast to retaliate against whoever had dared hurt it. Melody was standing behind it, with what was left of the chair in her hands. With anger, she smashed it onto the creature’s head again. The skull visibly caved in with an audible cracking sound; with a last rattle, the creature fell to the floor, moving spasmodically. Then it went rigid.
“I hate Peeping Toms!” Melody spat as the creature drew its last breath. She walked over it, carefully avoiding the claws, and leaned to help a dazed Ochre up. He was bleeding from multiple cuts and his wizard costume was in tatters; he swayed on his feet, and the Angel pilot helped him to stay upright. His eyes were displaying a look of shock.
“Rick, are you all right?” Melody asked him, her voice now softer, and caring. She was tenderly stroking his cheek, where the creature’s claws had left three long but, she hoped, superficial scratches.
“I think so…” he murmured, blinking his eyes. “But this costume is ruined…” He was trying to be humorous, but his tone was still awkward. He looked down in confusion at the dead creature. “Where did Ugly come from, anyway?” he murmured.
“I don’t know…” Melody answered, staring with the same bewilderment. “But it was certainly deadly…” She frowned after a short second of reflection. “Have you seen its ears?”
“What about them?” muttered Ochre, shaking his head, obviously trying to regain his senses.
“Rick, those are the same ears as the Mogwai!”
“The Mogwai?” Ochre looked down at the creature again, frowning. “Yeah, now that you mention it… the ears are similar. That must be what they look like when they come out of those cocoons… ” He stopped, and stared at Melody with obvious horror in his eyes. “My God… if they’ve all come out of their cocoons… and are all like that…”
Melody shuddered. “Cloudbase is in trouble deep.”
Ochre gave a grim nod. “We have to warn the colonel…” he said, reaching for the comm.link. “I hope it’s not too late already…”
* * *
The Gremlins having tampered with Cloudbase’s communications, it fell to Lieutenant Green to get it back online as quickly as possible. By the time he had succeeded in doing so with most of the base comm.links, telephones and personal receivers, dozens of calls and reports had been transmitted to the Control Room concerning the Gremlins. The creatures had all escaped from the auditorium and had invaded all Cloudbase’s decks. Swift, strong and clever, their litheness and rather reduced size permitted them to journey through any air and electrical conduits they could find, and get to anywhere they wanted to. They had been tinkering with all mechanical and electronic systems, with a knowledge that seemed absurdly mind-boggling. They seemed to know exactly where and what to strike. The lights were now off in most parts of the base, as if the Gremlins knew that they would cause them harm and had disabled them accordingly. One of the Control Tower pylon lifts had crashed in its shaft, leaving only one lift and the two pylon escalators – all of them non-operational, of course – as ways out of the Tower.
Gremlins had raided the canteen, the officers’ mess, and the Spectramart, devouring anything worth eating in sight. They were chasing, attacking, and playing cruel pranks on personnel, inflicting serious injuries. People had been trapped in their own quarters. Sickbay was inaccessible; Doctor Fawn had been reported missing by Captain Magenta and Harmony Angel who had barricaded themselves in the chief medical officer’s offices – while nurses and interns had found refuge in numerous rooms. The Amber Room wasn’t responding, and Angel One was down. Thank the stars, Rhapsody had safely ejected from the interceptor before it crashed, or she would surely have died. No deaths had been reported yet, but Colonel White feared that it was only a question of time before someone would be killed, either directly by the fearsome creatures, or by one of their numerous mischievous actions.
“Captain Ochre just reported in,” Lieutenant Green, seated at his station, informed the Spectrum commander. Captain Grey had treated the young man’s injuries the best he could, while he had been working on re-establishing communications, and although he didn’t look at his peak right now, the young lieutenant intended to stay on duty. “He and Melody have just been attacked by a Gremlin. They successfully killed it, but now they can’t leave Melody’s quarters.” Green looked toward his grim-looking commander. “From what they can hear through the door, there are other Gremlins in the corridors.”
“Any news from Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue and Symphony, and Destiny Angel?” White demanded grimly.
“None so far, sir. We can only assume that Symphony is still in the Amber Room, but I can’t reach it. As for the others…”
“Let’s hope they are all all right and will report in soon…” White grunted. He sighed. “Right. That’s one for Ochre and Melody. Two for Rhapsody. One on the Promenade Deck and two here in the Control Room. That makes six. We’ve a long way to go to get the last ninety-seven of these creatures! Of course, that’s assuming they won’t approach any water,” he added with frustration, as if an afterthought. “Because then, they’ll be able to multiply again and the situation will become totally unbearable.”
“Security guards have successfully closed the airlocks to the pool,” Grey reminded his commander. “At least, that’s good news. Although these creatures can get access to water elsewhere…”
“Let’s just hope they won’t get that idea. We have to find a way to get rid of them fast, before they…”
A screeching sound made itself heard from the speakers and the three men standing in the Control Room turned as one to stare at them. White had gone pale. He knew – they all knew what would come next.
“Oh no… not them,” he muttered under his breath. “NOT NOW!”
“This is the Voice of the Mysterons… We know that you can hear us, Earthmen…” White closed his eyes and breathed deeply. That figures… His plea would go unanswered. “On the night of All Hallow’s Eve, the fortress in the clouds will be subjected to deadly tricks and mayhem will reign until it falls from the skies…”
White quickly opened his eyes; his face had changed colour; it was now very red. “WHAT?!” he roared angrily. “THEY’RE responsible for this mess?!”
“Sir?” Lieutenant Green asked uncertainly.
“All Hallow’s Eve… That’s tonight,” Grey explained grimly. “And the fortress in the clouds… that’s us.”
“I thought it was,” Green replied with a forced grin. “I just hoped it wasn’t the case…”
“Damn it, I should have realised,” Colonel White muttered.. “That’s how the first Mogwai was able to get here in the first place, getting through security without being noticed!”
“The Mysterons had Mysteronised him?” Lieutenant Green asked, raising a surprised brow.
“No… they simply arranged for his safe arrival here!” growled White.
“Mysteronising Gizmo would have been too risky,” Grey retorted. “They knew there was a fair risk of him being checked on Cloudbase eventually.”
“Which was done,” White grumbled. “He and the others, that first time he gave birth… And indeed… why Mysteronise any of them, as they can cause plenty of trouble without that…”
“I bet the Mysterons knew the nature of those Mogwai when they prepared this threat!” Grey exclaimed. “Must be their idea of a joke for Halloween…”
“Some joke! I certainly won’t let a bunch of God-forsaken, repulsive creatures do the Mysterons’ dirty work and destroy this base!” Colonel White said, in a tone full of promise. “We have to get rid of these Gremlins before they kill everyone onboard or do irreparable damage that will send us crashing to the ground!”
“How, sir?” Grey asked. “There’re so many of them. Half of Cloudbase is without lighting, we have little power over the controls… These creatures can get anywhere, going through air vents and other kinds of conduits, to get wherever they want.”
“We need a meticulous plan,” White said, rubbing his chin pensively. “What do we know about these Gremlins? What are their weaknesses?”
“Bright light?” Grey suggested with a raised brow. That won him a cross look from his commander. He cleared his voice. “Sir.”
However, White had to agree that his junior officer had a point. His eye fell on the powerful electric lamp standing on the corner of his desk, right next to his rose tree, that he had taken from the Promenade Deck. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, thinking of his own, recent experience against the Gremlins.
“Lieutenant Green,” he ordered, “contact as many personnel as you can. Order everyone to equip themselves with Spectrum-issued security torches. Light from lamps seems to weaken their anatomy… It seems to soften their tough hide and even their bones – they are then vulnerable for the kill.”
“S.I.G.,” Green answered. “Maintenance is trying to restore light. Maybe that will be helpful when it comes back?”
“Unfortunately, it seems ambient light isn’t powerful enough to actually destroy them,” White sighed. “Maybe it would slow them down, but I’m afraid they would simply hide away deeper into inaccessible dark places, and would continue to procreate and/or do untold damage to Cloudbase. We can’t afford to play hide and seek with them. We have to destroy them swiftly, if we want to save the base. Tell all the technicians you are able to contact to continue their repairs, and find available security guards to protect them. We have to get control back, and as much light as possible, quickly.”
“It seems to me, sir,” Grey offered then, “that, in view of what he found in his search, Captain Magenta is the one who would know the most about these creatures at the moment. That online book he found…”
“… Might very well be our only key to finding a way to destroy these creatures,” White agreed swiftly. He turned again to Green. “Lieutenant, try to contact Captain Magenta. And if possible, make this a secured channel. I don’t know if those ‘Gremlins’ can understand us, but I don’t want to take the risk of them listening in as we make our plans to destroy them.”
“S.I.G., Colonel,” Green acknowledged, turning to his communication console. And let’s hope it’ll work…he added inwardly.
* * *
Dressed as a female pirate, in colourful clothing, a large, black leather, sleeveless vest, a vivid red bandanna on her head and a rather heavy cutlass by her side, Destiny Angel was walking the corridors on her way to the Officers’ Lounge to join in the Halloween party when all hell broke loose on Cloudbase. First she had witnessed the lights go out, to be replaced by emergency lighting in most of the area. Then, strange sounds made themselves heard from all around. As if something was running through the air vents above her head and behind the doors along the corridor. She could hear murmurs, hollow whispers, in a language she was unable to define. She had the funny feeling that she was being followed and watched; but each time she turned around to check, she could find nothing. Strange shadows were outlined on the walls, projected by the few lights, but the young woman was incapable of identifying any of them – or to find out from where they were coming.
Then she heard screams echoing through the corridors. Very human screams, coming from not too far away. Actually, too far away for her to be able to do something about it, but still too close for comfort. Those screams of obvious terror and pain were mixed with deep, throaty growls and almost inhuman laughter. The hair on the back of Destiny’s head started to stand up. There was something strange going on on base that she couldn’t explain to herself.
And to make matters worse, the comm.links were down too. She couldn’t even call anyone – either to report the strange happenings or to find out if someone knew it was happening. She had a suspicion that it could very well be the case, but that the alert had failed to be raised – for some still unexplained reason. That wasn’t a very comforting idea at all. Whatever was going on, she reflected, everyone onboard might be in danger, with no knowledge of it, no way to protect themselves.
She heard running feet, a buzz of panicky speaking voices and finally encountered a few people passing by – civilian personnel, technicians – fear splattered on their faces and desperate to get away. She was nearly run down and was compelled to throw herself against the wall to escape being trampled.
That’s when she saw them.
Green-scaled, horrible creatures, armed with claws and talons and sharp teeth, running down the corridor on all fours, although they looked like bipeds, destroying everything in their path, slashing through walls and doors, and hanging from holes pierced in the ceiling, chasing everyone in sight – as if humans were but prey for them. With a thumping heart and eyes wide-open with horror, Destiny saw an unfortunate security guard pass by her, screaming in pain, one of those awful creatures clinging to his back, its teeth sunk into his shoulder. He was unable to get it off him and was running blindly, wild with fear. He had disappeared from the Angel pilot’s view before she could even think of helping him; hearing more creatures coming along, Destiny swiftly sought refuge inside a maintenance cabinet.
What were they? she wondered in confusion… They seemed to have appeared from nowhere, and there was a multitude of them. She took a certain time to realise that they might very well be the metamorphosed Mogwai, who had finally escaped their cocoons… Of course, since her first encounter with Gizmo a couple of days before, and with her increased allergies – for which Doctor Fawn had given her medicine and ordered a few days off duty, without flying – she had not dared be around any of the Mogwai. But she had been kept informed of everything that had been going on with them. Last thing she had heard was about the pupal phase which they had entered. So, considering that it was quite unlikely that another security breach had happened with the courier plane – since none had come back to Cloudbase since Gizmo’s arrival anyway – it seemed highly probable – if not absolutely logical – that these new creatures were indeed the now-transformed Mogwai. The ears were similar, even if the rest of the body was definitely not.
Since that first moment she had seen them, Destiny had been making her way through the Control Tower by hiding herself at almost every step, in an attempt to avoid the creatures. There had been a few other close calls, and she could still hear them through the vents down the corridors, along with all the other noises of destruction and panic that seemed to accompany them. She had been lucky enough not to encounter them directly. From time to time, she attempted to make contact with the Control Room, using the nearest wall comm.link she could find on her way. Each time, she was unable to even raise a single acknowledgement. Only static answered her.
Great. It looks like I’m left on my own. It was the uncertainty of what was going on and what the status of the others was, that was pushing her forward. Although she hadn’t heard from them, she had to assume that people in the Control Room – Colonel White, Lieutenant Green, all the others – were alive and well. As long as the Control Room was safe, Cloudbase was still running.
She had just walked the presently non-operational escalator down to Port Engine B walkway. From there, she would access one of the pylon lifts leading to the Control Tower. Assuming it was working. If not, there was still the high pylon escalator – which, Destiny supposed, probably wasn’t working any more than the escalator she had just left. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to climbing a rather steep staircase, nearly ten storeys high, up to the Tower. Not with a band of demonic creatures on her heels, ready to tear her to pieces, anyway.
The walkway was dark, like most of the other corridors she had followed until then, only illuminated by the red security lights on the wall. Walking slowly, Destiny kept all her senses on alert, frequently looking behind, making sure she was still alone. So far so good. No trace of the creatures yet. Dead ahead of her, she could see sparks, and she slowed down. The ceiling and walls of the walkway had been damaged, she realised, as her eyes made out the outlines of dangling electric cables dropping from ripped ceiling panels. They were touching each other, and that was causing the sparks. She hoped she would be able to get through them, without difficulty.
As she was nearing the dangling cables, a soft, gentle humming reached her ears and she stopped in her tracks, listening intently. It sounded like singing, although it was mixed with frequent sobs. It sounded very sad, and Destiny was quite certain she could recognise notes from ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’…
She frowned and approached cautiously.
Just under the sparking cables, she could see a body, lying on its side, dressed in a very recognisable red tunic. Destiny’s heart nearly jumped out of her chest. She continued her approach, holding her breath, to finally crouch down, trying to get a better view.
“Mon Dieu…” she whispered under her breath. “Paul…?”
Captain Scarlet’s eyes were closed, as if he were sleeping. In the crook of his right arm, close to his face, Destiny could see a small Mogwai, wearing a sad face, his head resting against the captain’s arm, that he was gently stroking as if comforting him. It was that tiny creature who was singing so sadly.
“Gizmo?” Destiny called, opening wide eyes. She was unsure – last thing she had heard, Gizmo was dead – and there were a certain number of other Mogwai who had been born since the last days. This one could very well be one of them… But at the call of the name, he raised his head and looked straight at Destiny. His expression was one of total sadness.
“You are Gizmo, right?” He started muttering gibberish to her, speaking very quickly, but she couldn’t decipher anything he was saying. “Calm down, petit. I don’t intend to hurt you…” She looked around in concern, hoping that someone would come along – anyone, except, of course, those ugly creatures. Seeing she was still alone, she turned her attention back to the still body and the gibbering Mogwai. “Shhh… Calm down… Don’t be afraid… You’ll attract those ugly beasts to us…”
The Mogwai grew quiet instantly, watching her with wary eyes. Destiny examined the situation. She could see a small pool of blood underneath Scarlet’s still body and a darker shade of red on the side of his uniform. From where she was, she could see that he had been either shot or stabbed. It was unclear if he had been touched by the electric cables, although he was lying a good two feet clear of them. She didn’t know if Scarlet was still alive or not, and she knew that he was vulnerable to electricity. Depending on the amount of voltage in those cables, if he had touched them, he might have been hurt badly – or even killed permanently. She didn’t dare think that this last eventuality could have happened.
But if he was alive, Destiny reflected, and was to rise from there instinctively, unaware of the danger, he might run the risk of being electrocuted. She had to do something to prevent that from happening. She had to get Scarlet out of his precarious position.
Cautiously, keeping herself out of reach of the dangling cables, she reached to grab Scarlet’s ankles, and pulled; he didn’t move an inch. He was obviously heavier than she first anticipated. Planting her feet firmly on the ground, Destiny arched her back and gave a sharp tug that seemed to unglue Scarlet from where he was lying. Inch by inch, slowly but surely, calling on all of her strength, the Angel pilot dragged his body toward herself, while keeping her eyes on the electric cables that were still sparking over him. She caught a glance of the little Mogwai who now appeared to be straining to push on Scarlet’s shoulder in her direction. He was obviously trying to helping her, though she had her doubts that his efforts were actually very useful. If not for the perilous situation, she might have found the scene rather amusing.
One last tug finally removed Scarlet from under the cables, and sent Destiny falling on her rear onto the floor. She clutched on the captain’s tunic to draw him further away from the cables, making sure he would be totally safe. She thought she heard him emitting a faint groan when he fell limply onto his back between her arms. The Mogwai climbed into her knee to get closer, as she put her fingers on Scarlet’s neck to check his pulse. She had hardly touched him when he groaned again and moved, taking a deep breath as he did – but he didn’t open his eyes and grew quiet instantly. Destiny gave a sigh of relief.
“Thank God, he’s okay…”
Destiny stared down at the small Mogwai now seated on her thigh, looking at Scarlet, then at her, and back to Scarlet again, moving his ears attentively.
“He just needed to rest in order to be okay,” she surprised herself by answering the animal. She gently eased the recovering captain down to the floor, lying him on his back, in as comfortable a position as possible. Her attention then came back to Gizmo, who was watching her expectantly.
“Gizmo,” she repeated almost to herself, frowning with perplexity. “I thought they told me you were dead?”
She didn’t have time to ponder more on that – nor on the fact that so far none of her allergic reactions had manifested themselves in Gizmo’s presence. Echoing sounds caught her ears – whispers coming from the other side of the dangling cables. She raised her head instantly and looked in that direction, narrowing her eyes to see beyond the flashes produced by the cables. She saw shadows approaching, red eyes glowing in the semi darkness and heard an ominous growl. She went rigid.
There were three of those horrible creatures she had seen earlier standing there, watching her intently.
Gizmo, squeaking in obvious fear, reached out to her and held onto her arm. He was shivering like a terrified little child, looking in the direction of the three approaching creatures.
“Gremlins,” he said in a tone so low that Destiny had trouble understanding him. “Bad Gremlins…”
Destiny slowly rose to her feet, Gizmo in her arms, her eyes not leaving the creatures. They had stopped just short of the cables which then gave a big flash of light. They stepped back, rumbling in anger. Obviously, Destiny reflected, they weren’t too keen on bright light, anymore than the Mogwai…
“Gizzzmooooo…” a deep throaty voice slurred. A concerned Destiny saw the first creature bare its teeth and take a tentative step – to step back again, obviously unsure how avoid the electric cables dangling in front of them. But she could see they were just waiting for the right moment to jump through the cables and reach for her…
…Or for the scared little creature trembling in her arms.
“Gizzzmoooo…” the same voice repeated, anger even more obvious in its tone. “Gizmo, bye-bye…”
Destiny lowered her eyes to Scarlet, still lying unconscious on the floor. He still needed time to recover obviously, and was still very vulnerable. If he was to be attacked by these creatures while in that state, at the very least, his recovery would take more time. At the worst… the ‘Gremlins’ could tear him to pieces.
But they didn’t seem to be concerned by him at all – maybe they considered him out of the game, she couldn’t be sure. It was her and Gizmo they were concentrating on. They were their quarry.
“You want a piece of us, abominations?” she called, looking defiantly at them. Her free hand grabbed for the large cutlass hanging from her belt; the Gremlins snarled furiously when she brandished it, threatening them with it. It wasn’t much of a weapon, of course, not having any sharp edges, but that, the creatures couldn’t really know. “Then come and GET US!”
She threw the cutlass into the cables, in the direction of the Gremlins, and broke into a run, squeezing Gizmo against her breast. Enraged by the challenge, the first of the creatures jumped forward, avoiding the projectile with ease, and rolling into the floor to keep the cables from electrocuting it. The second Gremlin also passed through, but the third got caught in the dangling cables that the cutlass had hit and sent into dangerous motion. Electricity ran through his body with an almost blinding spark, and he squealed loudly; his two companions turned on their heels in time to see him being fried to a crisp. They growled in anger – then turned around, snapping in the direction taken by Destiny. whom they could see fleeing down the middle of the corridor. They leapt after her.
Destiny gave a brief glance behind; she could see the two Gremlins in hot pursuit. Good, she thought. They’ve completely dismissed Paul. That would give him all the time he needed to recover. She was, however, very aware that she was the one in danger of being ripped apart by the horrible creatures if they laid their hands on her. That wasn’t a very engaging perspective.
She reached the motionless escalator she had previously walked down. She climbed the steps as quickly as she could, praying that she would reach the top before the Gremlins caught up with her. She could feel their presence, so very close.
At the last step she turned around; just as the first Gremlin was making a leap in her direction, roaring victoriously. Destiny’s foot caught him under the chin in mid-air and sent him flying down the stairs – right into the path of his companion, who barely avoided the collision. The first Gremlin rolled down the steps, in a concert of snarls and growls and protesting cries – the second one continued the chase. Destiny had taken off again.
She had barely made two metres when the Gremlin jumped on her and landed on her back. She was fortunate enough that the beast’s talons didn’t get through the leather vest she was wearing for her costume. She was, however, thrown to the floor, and barely avoided crushing the protesting Gizmo underneath her.
How she managed to turn around to hit the creature with her closed fist, she would never know, but she caught him right on the nose. At the obviously painful blow, the Gremlin let go of her and she managed to crawl away, trying to put some distance between them. She glanced back in terror in the direction of the creature – and saw it preparing to pounce anew – and taking its time.
That’s it… This is the end.
The Gremlin leapt in her direction; protecting Gizmo in her arms, she gathered her feet against herself, preparing to counter-attack.
The lights suddenly went on in a violent, blinding flash.
A horrible cry of pain emitted from the Gremlin as well as from Gizmo, who instinctively burrowed deeper into Destiny’s arms, hiding under the large sleeves of her costume. The Angel pilot’s legs uncoiled like a spring and hit the Gremlin hard, right in the belly. The result was rather spectacular – and quite gruesome, as the ugly creature’s midsection seemed to suddenly explode under the impact, covering Destiny with a disgusting green goo. Cut in two, the Gremlin fell to the floor, horribly crying out in pain, and under the young woman’s incredulous eyes, started… melting slowly.
What just happened? she asked herself, shaking, and breathing hard. Gizmo’s trembling and whimpering attracted her attention and, remembering that bright light might hurt or even kill him, she protected him from it, the best she could, as she pushed herself up into a sitting position.
It was quite unnecessary, as the lights dimmed to a more normal, comfortable level – before dying out once again.
Maintenance must be trying to re-establish the lighting system, Destiny reflected. Their accidental intervention was certainly in the nick of time – and welcome. Still, she would have preferred it if the lights had stayed on…
The bestial voice froze Destiny, and sent a shiver down her spine. She turned her head, to see the second Gremlin who had been pursuing her appear at the corner of the corridor, having finally reached the top of the escalator.
“Oh no!” Gizmo uttered, rolling frightened eyes over Destiny’s arm, in the direction of the creature who was crouching on the floor, getting ready to jump.
“Not again…” murmured Destiny.
The Gremlin was about to leap when a tall silhouette suddenly appeared from the corner and kicked it violently into the wall. The beast turned around to snarl at the newcomer – but its cries were meaningless threats that transformed themselves into a dying shriek as a strong arm raised Destiny’s cutlass high into the air before crashing it down violently into the creature’s head. Even though the cutlass’s edge was blunt, it was driven deeply through the Gremlin’s skull and into its brain, killing it instantly.
Leaning over the dead beast, Captain Scarlet removed the cutlass from its head and straightened up, looking in concern at Destiny, only a few feet away, watching with obvious disgust at the gruesome kill. Obviously, Gizmo seemed to share the same opinion as herself.
“Are you okay?” Scarlet asked, walking briskly to the young woman. He reached to give her a hand, which she accepted to get to her feet. He gently took her by the arm, looking at her with concern.
She frowned at him. “Couldn’t you just revive a bit sooner?” she asked him in an affected tone.
He smiled weakly. “Well, apparently you ARE okay…” He gave an absent-minded kick at the half melted Gremlin at his feet and wrinkled his nose at Destiny’s appearance. “And you also seemed to have done quite well by yourself… You and Gizmo, that is…”
She nearly scoffed. “I was scared half to death. Those creatures are evil.”
“Paul!” Gizmo then replied, with a broad smile, apparently delighted to see him up and about. He was moving his arms frenetically in Scarlet’s direction, perhaps in a plea for the captain to take him. Scarlet contented himself with scratching the small creature’s ear, making him purr with joy.
“Hi, Giz… Good to see you’re okay.”
“Paul… Rambo!” There was something like a tone of excitement in Gizmo’s voice as he made that declaration that caused Scarlet to look at him with puzzlement and Destiny to chuckle.
“Yes, I quite agree with you, Gizmo,” she said, matter-of-factly. “He is a regular Rambo…”
“Gremlins,” Gizmo then declared. “Gremlins… bad!”
“They certainly are, old boy…” Scarlet’s smile broadened. “Good to see you and Giz are getting along well, Destiny…”
She rolled her eyes. “Adversity makes strange bedfellows, Captain.”
He frowned. “That’s odd… How come you’re not allergic, all of a sudden?”
“Who knows? Maybe it’s Doctor Fawn’s medicine… or I was too afraid to concern myself with a little thing like…” She suddenly sneezed, much to Scarlet’s surprise. “…Allergies…” She groaned in desperation and annoyance, before handing the small Mogwai to the puzzled English captain. “And you had to mention this, didn’t you?!”
“Sorry…” Scarlet said, with some amusement. “Come on. Let’s not stay here, it’s not safe.”
“Where are we going?”
“Sickbay. Gizmo and I were on our way there when we were attacked.”
“Wasn’t Gizmo supposed to be dead?”
“I’ll explain later, Juliette,” Scarlet retorted, pushing her along the corridor. “But now is not the time, we’re too vulnerable here. These… Gremlin creatures might fall on us without notice.”
“They are everywhere over Cloudbase,” Destiny informed him. “They are transformed Mogwai, aren’t they?” She already knew the answer, but she had to ask the question.
“Yes,” Scarlet answered grimly. “And we have to find a way to get rid of them before they kill someone – and I hope we’re not too late.”
* * *
Symphony Angel wasn’t happy at all. She had certainly had better moments in her life than right now.
First, those horrible monsters had appeared out of nowhere in the Amber Room. Four of them, each uglier than the last, green, covered with scales, with sharp claws, talons and very long teeth… They were jumping all around, taking Lieutenant Tuscan and herself by surprise, laughing maniacally and breaking everything they laid their hands on. Most of the books in the bookshelves had been either completely destroyed, half eaten away or thrown to the floor. Only one cushion from the orange-coloured sofa had survived the continuous attacks of the creatures, who had engaged in a vicious battle of pillow fight – taking the humans within the room as targets. Lieutenant Tuscan had been knocked senseless when he had finally been thrown onto a glass table, which had shattered under his weight. And if that had not been enough, one of the creatures had used his head as a punching bag, as if to make sure he would stay unconscious. Symphony had tried to help him before he was killed, but a flying book had hit her over the head, and the last thing she remembered was the carpeted floor jumping at her face.
When she woke up, she had no idea how long she had been unconscious; and the situation she had found herself in had quickly dispersed the headache she was feeling. The creatures had installed her in the elevator seat leading to Angel One and were presently very busy tying her down to it with whatever kind of restraints they could find. Electric cables, leather straps, a rope from God only knew where, even a Halloween garland, all was used to securely rope the Angel pilot into place. They were making sure she would not be able to escape, and they were having lots of fun, laughing maniacally, as if they were preparing a huge prank.
She had seen Tuscan, lying in the middle of the Amber Room, trussed up like a pig, and had heard him moaning, indicating that he was still alive. Now reassured on his state, she vented her anger towards the creatures. At first, Symphony had found their appearance quite repulsive and absolutely terrifying, now she was also finding them intensely irritating.
“Come on, you guys, this isn’t funny, anymore! Get me out of these ropes this instant, and nobody will get hurt.”
She was still afraid, of course, and certainly nervous. She had seen the beasts whispering between themselves, and pointing to the activation controls that would send the seat up the tube leading to Angel One. Except… there was no Angel One waiting above at the moment. Only an empty space since Rhapsody had taken off earlier.
“Come on, let me go. I didn’t mean it earlier… when I said you were ugly…” She heard the one closest to her hissing a warning at her and she drew back as best she could from the sharp teeth he was baring at her. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings… You’re rather charming… whatever you are.”
The creature snorted indignantly and pursued his work of roping her tightly. One of the other monsters had grabbed the helmet on the shelf next to the seat and was now putting in on, laughing absurdly, apparently having tremendous fun.
“Hey! Leave that alone, that’s mine!” Symphony said furiously. “You’re gonna leave your reptilian dead skin inside! Come on, guys, I can hardly breathe… Hey, jerk, get those filthy claws off of me!” she suddenly snapped at the creature standing on her knees, and touching her a little too intimately for her taste, while making sure the ropes were nicely tight around her.
“Angel… gonna fly…” one of the creatures snarled into her face before laughing evilly.
Symphony turned to him. He pointed to the opening of the tube over the seat, then to one of his congeners, who, after removing the protecting casing of the elevator seat controls, was presently busy playing about with the wires, and seemed to be very absorbed in what he was presently doing. Symphony was more afraid that he actually knew very well what he was doing, than that he didn’t. These creatures, despite their bestial appearance, seemed to be very intelligent… and she had no doubt that this one there would be able to fix the controls to his liking.
“Bang! BANG!… Zoom… To the moon! Bye-bye Angel…”
All the creatures started laughing maniacally at the good joke. Symphony opened her eyes wide with horror. She looked up. If they were to send the seat upward… it was a toss up between smashing into one of the four security hatches on the way to the launch pad or being ejected into oblivion. In either case, she had very little chance of survival. She turned to her tormentors in fury, kicking wildly as she did so.
“Listen, buster! You better stop this ridiculous game and get me OUT of this seat pronto! And I mean NOW, before I do some real damage!”
The creatures contented themselves with sniggering at her outburst of useless anger and continued their evil deed. They stopped suddenly, when a furious voice suddenly rang into the room:
“Do as the lady says or you’re dead meat!”
All heads turned in the same direction, and Symphony let out a sigh of deep relief.
Captain Blue was standing just in front of the sliding door leading out to the corridor beyond, his face grim, the top of his uniform splattered with green goo, holding a Mysteron gun in his arms. To Symphony, he was the living image of an action hero arriving in the nick of time. To the Gremlins – he was nothing but a killjoy.
Two Gremlins left Symphony, growling with anger, obviously not happy to have been interrupted in their fun, and strode in the direction of the intruder. The Mysteron gun spat once, and hit both the creatures in one single shot, burning them beyond recognition in seconds. All that was left of them was a puddle of greenish grey bubbling matter on the carpet, and a smell similar to a very bad stew burnt in the pan. Symphony grimaced with disgust.
The two other Gremlins, snapping with fury, jumped off Symphony’s seat and slowly walked toward Blue; watching their approach, he removed the Mysteron gun from his shoulders, and held the cumbersome weapon in his left hand while taking his handgun into the right. The two creatures launched forward; Blue ducked to avoid their claws and talons and they literally flew over him while he rolled on the floor.
“Light, full intensity!” he bellowed.
The computer obeyed the order just as the Gremlins were turning around toward Blue again. The sudden light blinded them on the spot. Blue emptied his gun into their repulsive bodies.
When the creatures finally fell to the floor, in a new pond of green blood, Blue stood up and walked toward Symphony; he crouched in front of her and proceeded to free her from her bonds.
“Do you know how dangerous it is to use a handgun in the Amber Room?” she admonished him.
He raised his blue eyes at her. “That’s why I waited to have them in front of the door, and not in front of the windows,” he explained with a roguish smile. “And do you know how hard it’s been for me to get here? I swear, there’s dozens of those beasts running freely in the corridors.”
“How did you know that light would hurt them?”
“They’re metamorphosed Mogwai,” Blue explained. “I played the hunch that they would have the same vulnerability to light. But ambient light will slow them down, apparently. And weakens them, not kills them. I found that out, while coming over here.” He offered a bashful smile. “I was lucky the lights worked in here. Most of the lights in Cloudbase are off or down. That’s why they can get around so easily. And they use the air vents.”
“That’s how they got in here,” Symphony reflected pensively. Blue having removed sufficient ropes, she squeezed underneath them to completely free herself. Her fiancé helped her to her feet. She thumped him in the chest. “Anyway, it was about time you arrived, Svenson!” she told him with a falsely irritated tone.
He chuckled, and decided not to tell her about all the tribulations he had experienced just to get to her; she didn’t need to know he had had numerous brushes with death since he had left the Control Tower, just before the creatures had appeared – how many of them he had encountered, and how many more he had hidden from, before they were really too numerous for him to fight. He contented himself with smiling.
“Check on Tuscan,” he said instead. “I’ll try to see if I can reach someone on the comm.link. All the communication systems around Cloudbase have been down since the beginning of this insanity, but maybe I’ll be able to use the one in here.”
While Symphony was leaning over Tuscan to check on him and free him from his bonds, Blue approached the comm.link system built into the wall. He had nearly reached it when the door slid open; Blue came to a full stop, raising his handgun defensively.
On the other side of the door, in a similar stance, but wearing a wizard costume that had seen better days, Captain Ochre was aiming his gun at him, Melody Angel in full uniform behind him. Both men let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. Ochre and Melody entered the room completely, and the first thing they noted was Tuscan, whom Symphony was finishing untying, and the four dead Gremlins all over the floor. Ochre grimaced.
“I see you’ve been busy in here. How’s the lieutenant?”
“Shaken, but alive,” Symphony answered. “I suspect he may have a concussion. Would you help me put him on the sofa in a more comfortable position, Captain?”
“Nice costume,” Blue remarked, watching as Ochre went to give a hand to Symphony. “By any chance, did you make these creatures appear out of thin air with your magic wand to liven up the Halloween party?”
“If I had, then I would gladly use that magic wand again to make them disappear,” grumbled Ochre, carefully laying Tuscan down on the sofa. “They’re transformed Mogwai, Blue.”
“I already figured that out,” Blue replied, turning to activate the comm.link. “I’m trying to contact Control. I’m just hoping that…”
He had hardly pushed a few buttons when a crackling sound made itself heard from the speakers and the voice of Lieutenant Green followed:
“…ber Room, this is Control on the emergency channel… Please, answer ASAP. Amber Room, please answer…”
Blue sighed a deep sigh of relief. “Control, this is Captain Blue in the Amber Room. Good to hear your voice, Lieutenant!”
* * *
Doctor Fawn woke up with a terrible headache. The last thing he remembered was rushing out of the room where he’d been with Magenta and Harmony, and heading towards his office. He hadn’t reached it before something heavy had fallen on his head and knocked him unconscious. From there, it was a total blank.
He grunted with pain and tried to stand, only to find that he was unable to. As he was also unable to make a single move; he was lying on his back, and he could feel restraints keeping him down. That realisation made him open his eyes instantly.
The surrounding lights had been dimmed slightly, to a lower level than normal, but he had no trouble recognising the background; he was in the operating theatre, strapped down on the padded operating table. He could see the shut-down reflectors just above him, and the table covered with instruments by his side.
He wondered how the hell he had ended up there, and what could be the reason he had been tied up on this table. He didn’t like at all the awful thoughts his situation was suggesting to his mind.
The reflector overhead flashed open, blinding him. He heard a growl not far from him.
The reflector shut down and Fawn blinked, trying to dispel the dark dots the all-too-sudden bright light had left on his eyes. He grunted in annoyance.
“Who’s there?” he called in an authoritative voice.
He felt movement by his side and turned his head around. To open his eyes wide in astonishment.
The living, spitting image of the creature he had seen on Magenta’s computer screen was there beside him, balancing on the backrest of a chair, looking at him with an evil glitter in its eyes, its mouth widening into an horrible, cruel grin. It was wearing Fawn’s white coat, and a surgical mask was hanging loosely around its neck.
“Patient ready, doctor…” it said, in that husky, throaty voice Fawn had heard earlier. He shivered when another creature entered his vision, wearing a similar coat, but having put it on the wrong way. It jumped onto the table and looked down into Fawn’s horrified face. It could easily have bitten off the physician’s nose if it had wanted to. Instead, it raised a skeletal hand and almost delicately grazed Fawn’s neck with a very sharp claw. Fawn gave the impression of wanting the table to swallow him, so hard was he trying to draw away from the dangerous claw. The scaly hand was brightly-coloured, rough to the touch and cold – like a serpent. Fawn’s heart was thumping with fear. One swift gesture and the creature would slit his throat; he fought not to swallow hard.
The hand left his neck and the Gremlin stood up, to turn to its companion. “Prepare patient for surgery…” Fawn felt a shiver going through his spine, and paled horribly when he saw the first Gremlin pick up a lancet from the instrument tray and examine it with attention, testing the edge with its finger. The creature cut itself, and growled with irritation; dark green blood appeared on the tip of his finger.
“Better get the dynamite…” The joke made the two creatures laughed heartily, with a deep, maniacal laugh that sounded terribly ominous to Fawn. He struggled, trying to get free. It was useless.
“No, please… let me go.”
The creature standing on the chair put the lancet down and started to play with surgical scissors. As for the other Gremlin, nearly over Fawn’s head, it chose a laser scalpel and activated it. It seemed fascinated by the red point which appeared at the tip and pointed it onto the operating table… only an inch from Fawn’s head. The latter saw with horror the deep cut the laser burned onto the padded surface. The Gremlins growled with approval.
Oh God, thought Fawn when he saw the scalpel slowly approaching his face. He struggled anew. The scaly hand came to rest on his forehead, pressing it down forcefully to keep him still, while another hand rose over his face, playing with the button activating the laser scalpel. Fawn opened horrified eyes.
“HELP!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs, closing his eyes against the terrifying vision. “SOMEBODY, PLEASE HELP ME!”
Only the bestial snigger of the Gremlins answered him and he opened his eyes again; the one holding the scalpel was looking down into him with a cruel expression. It seemed very satisfied to cause such a panic in the physician and it was apparently taking its time with him. And there was no doubt in Fawn’s mind: the creature was intending to torture him properly before killing him.
Fawn gasped when he caught sight of a very peculiar dark spot he could see between the creature’s large ears. He recognised it instantly, and knew who this Gremlin was.
“Doctor Quincy…” the creature growled evilly. He started laughing again. Now, he had his vengeance at hand. He would show the doctor what it meant to be probed and examined like a real lab rat. He raised his scalpel again and smiled evilly. Fawn’s eyes grew wider with terror.
“Let go of me! Please don’t do that… HELP!”
Fawn’s incessant screams seemed to finally irritated the Gremlins and the one standing on the chair jumped astride ‘the patient’, to push a piece of cloth deep into his mouth. Fawn thrashed, tried to resist, to spit out the improvised gag, but he was also concerned with the creatures’ sharp claws so dangerously close to his throat, and the laser scalpel which was coming down once again…
…Getting dangerously close to his face.
Fawn could do nothing more than watch with bated breath, his heart beating wildly. He started to feel the heat on the skin of his cheek.
The doors slid open suddenly.
“Let him go!”
The laser moved away from Fawn’s face and he breathed a deep breath of relief.
Quincy and his companion turned with angry growls to face those who had dared to interrupt their operation. Captain Magenta and Harmony Angel were standing in the doorway, looking with stupefaction at the scene that had revealed itself to their eyes. Magenta was about to make use of his sidearm when the Gremlin wearing Fawn’s coat threw a very sharp scalpel at him. It missed him by an hair and embedded itself in the wall, right next to the captain’s shoulder. A second after, the two Gremlins were leaping at their new prey. They aimed straight at Magenta, probably considering that his gun was a direct threat to them, disregarding the petite and apparently non-threatening Harmony. Magenta’s shot went wide when the first creature pounced onto him and pulled him down; the second one – Quincy – went for the Irishman’s throat…
Ignoring Harmony was the creatures’ biggest mistake. Her fist caught Quincy’s head with a violence that stunned the Gremlin and stopped him in his leap. Quincy stepped back, growling with anger, narrowing his eyes at the young woman who was taking a calm, defensive pose in front of him. Roaring with fury, he leapt again at her, but she was no longer where he had anticipated. She had just slipped underneath him and was now standing right next to the operating table where Doctor Fawn lay; realising where she had gone, Quincy turned on himself, all claws out, snarling. Harmony grabbed the large reflector over the table and powered it up to its full intensity, flashing the light right into the Gremlin’s eyes. Quincy stopped in his tracks and backed way, hissing. Harmony took advantage of his hesitation and spun on herself to aim a violent kick at the Gremlin’s face. It didn’t have quite the effect she expected when she saw the entire head explode in a spectacular fashion, sending bit of viscous yellow goo all around the place.
In the meantime, Magenta was having difficulty keeping his opponent’s fangs and claws away from his throat. The Gremlin’s talons were tearing into his tunic, and he was lucky that it was so thick, for it saved him from deep, painful cuts. His arm was pinned down; it was completely impossible to raise it to use his gun on the creature who only wanted to kill him.
A hand, with a sleeve wearing the Spectrum insignia, came into his view and grabbed the creature by its skeletal neck; the Gremlin was forcefully thrown away from Magenta, who then was able to raise his gun and pull the trigger several times. Hit by each bullet, the creature howled in pain and collapsed like a felled tree.
Panting, Magenta let himself fall on his back and looked up at the man standing over him. “Scarlet… You arrived just in time. Thank you…”
Captain Scarlet grinned and produced his hand to help Magenta to his feet. By the English captain’s side Destiny Angel was standing, wearing elegant buccaneer attire, with very large sleeves. She had removed the leather vest that went with the costume, and was holding it bundled up in her arms. Magenta smiled at her.
“Very nice,” he said with an approving nod. “I see you were planning to have a little fun at the party tonight…”
She scoffed. “Not exactly the kind of fun we’re presently having…”
A muffled call attracted their attention toward the operation table, and they approached swiftly, as Harmony, leaning over Doctor Fawn, removed the piece of cloth he had in his mouth. He spat the rest of it out, and took a deep gasp of breath; obviously he had nearly choked on the gag.
“Get me the hell out of these restraints!” he called loudly.
“Hey, Doctor, are you all right?” Scarlet asked, as he moved in to help Harmony free the physician. “Looks like you’ve had a bad time…”
“It was about to get a whole blasted lot worse when you all arrived!” Fawn declared gruffly, quickly sitting up as soon as he was able to. “They were about to cut me open like next Christmas’s turkey… I swear, I’ve never been so afraid in my entire life!” He threw away from him the remnant of the straps and jumped down from the table. Right away, his eyes fell on Scarlet’s blood-soaked tunic – and the rips in Magenta’s. “You two have been hurt,” he worried. “I have to check you out right away.”
“You can’t take the doctor out of the man,” Scarlet noted with a broad smile. “Don’t bother with me, Doctor… It’s already healed. But maybe Magenta needs a little iodine on those cuts of his…”
“Iodine?!” Magenta protested. “I think I would need more than that…”
A cooing sound interrupted him before he could say more. Turning to Destiny, he saw the bundle she was carrying move slightly; he almost jumped when he saw a small white paw pushing aside a fold of leather to show a little scowling face, surrounded by brown and white fur.
“That’s another one of these creatures!”
“Take it easy, it’s only Gizmo,” Scarlet replied. “And he’s not ‘one of those creatures’. He’s still a Mogwai.”
“Gizmo?!” Magenta repeated with surprise. “Isn’t he supposed to be dead?”
“Uh-uh,” Gizmo uttered, shaking his head.
“Well, apparently he’s not,” Scarlet said with a fond smile, reaching to scratch the little Mogwai’s head under the leather. He was rewarded by a low purring sound.
“Are you sure?” Fawn demanded in a suspicious tone. “I mean… maybe we should check him with a Mysteron detector or something…” He offered an embarrassed smile, seeing the odd way Scarlet was glaring at him. “Just to make sure,” he added. “Too many strange things have been happening lately…”
“Of course, Doc, put your mind to rest,” Scarlet replied quietly. “In the meantime, we’d better find a safe place and secure ourselves, in case those creatures…”
“Gremlins,” Magenta corrected.
“Gremlins,” Gizmo confirmed with his little voice. “Gremlins, bad.”
Scarlet looked over to Magenta. “Apparently, you’ve been making some progress with your research.”
Magenta sighed. “More than you think. Come on, we’ll be better in Doctor Fawn’s office. And there’s an intercom working there that we can use to contact the Control Room. I’m sure the colonel will want to talk to you.”
“Is everyone all right in the Tower?” Scarlet asked.
“Last I heard… Everyone onboard is safe. Although – Angel One has crashed.”
“Angel One…?” Scarlet paled. If he wasn’t mistaken, Rhapsody was on Angel One duty; he felt suddenly very worried for his beloved Angel, and his heart missed a beat. “Is Rhapsody…”
“Rhapsody is all right,” Magenta added quickly, noticing the sudden alarmed expression on his colleague’s face, but apparently not noting the extent of his concern. “There were two Gremlins onboard her craft and she put it into a dive herself to get rid of them, before ejecting. She touched down safely and is now waiting for someone to go and pick her up.”
Scarlet let out a deep sigh of relief. Magenta continued:
“If you ask me, she’s the lucky one among all of us. All levels of Cloudbase have been invaded by these Gremlins. Maintenance can barely repair one system – temporarily – before another one fails. At this rate, we’ll be in deep trouble – really deep trouble – very soon.”
“So we have to find a way to get rid of these Gremlins,” Scarlet reflected.
Magenta slowly nodded his head, grimly. “Yeah. And we got to do this fast.”
“Killing a fly with a cannon? (Maybe not…)”
“Mysteron tests on the Mogwai proved negative, Colonel. The little guy really is Gizmo.”
Despite the increased problems imposed by the Gremlins tampering with the communication system, Lieutenant Green was able to set up a three-way audio-visual conference between the Control Room, Sickbay and the Amber Room on the emergency channel. The three groups of officers from Cloudbase senior staff had now been able to exchange full information about the ‘invasion’, and were hoping to come up with an effective strategy to get rid of the Gremlins. Needless to say that nearly everyone who already didn’t know about it had been shocked to learn that the Gremlins’ presence on board was obviously part of a threat from the Mysterons to damage Cloudbase’s activities and ultimately destroy the base and kill everyone onboard.
“That’s a good thing to know,” Colonel White answered to Captain Scarlet’s report. “That little Mogwai must live as charmed a life as yourself, Captain. Any idea how he can possibly have escaped death?”
“Apparently, Colonel,” Doctor Fawn explained from behind Scarlet, “we all made a mistake in assuming it was Gizmo’s burned remains we found in the auxiliary Room of Sleep. I made further analysis just now. The genetic encoding is very similar, of course… but there are tiny differences that suggest that ‘the victim’ was a second generation Mogwai. The first batch to come from Gizmo. And amongst which was Midget.”
“Midget,” Gizmo, seated on Doctor Fawn’s desk in front of the radio, confirmed. Harmony hushed him gently, but Colonel White didn’t seem to mind the interruption that much.
“Midget was always with Gizmo,” Fawn continued, looking at the small animal. “It’s possible he simply followed him into the air vent and through to the Room of Sleep. Then, when there was that short-circuit that overloaded the lighting systems… Gizmo was able to get out… probably through the same vent… but not Midget.”
“He would be one of the Mogwai unaccounted for when they started their pupal phase,” Magenta reflected.
A faint sneeze coming from behind him nearly interrupted the conversation. Destiny had tried to be discreet, but had obviously failed; she smiled in an embarrassed way when Harmony offered her a whole box of Kleenex.
“Sorry, allergies are coming back,” she said, sniffing into one handkerchief.
“Remind me to give you stronger medication,” Fawn informed her.
“I’m very glad that Gizmo is clean and that the mystery of his ‘death’ has been solved,” the voice of Captain Blue then said from the Amber Room. “But, I’m sorry to say, that doesn’t help us much with our present problem. We have a whole bunch of his congeners – who’ve grown claws and fangs – running around on all levels of Cloudbase.”
“We must get rid of them before they cause untold damage,” White agreed. “They don’t seem to have reached the engine controls so far, but it’s only a question of time.”
“And when they do, and tamper with the engines… we’ll be in even DEEPER trouble,” Scarlet reflected.
“We have not been able to contact the Engine room control centre,” White continued. “Nor the wheelhouse. I fear the Gremlins might be on their way there as we speak. ”
“How can we get rid of those pests, before it’s too late?” Scarlet questioned. He turned to Magenta, whom he now knew had found some information on Worldnet. “What did that book tell you about Gremlins’ weaknesses?”
“The Gremlins have the same weaknesses as Mogwai,” Magenta explained. “Bright light will hurt them, sunlight will even kill them, but ambient light won’t. Maybe the carapace now covering their bodies offers them better protection, because they don’t seem to be as vulnerable to it as the Mogwai. Yet, it will slow them down – their eyes are still sensitive to the light – and maybe weaken them. Depending of the intensity and the time of exposure, it might melt their armour, skin and bones – making them more vulnerable to blows.”
“They’re vulnerable to electricity too,” Blue piped up at that moment. “I’ve been using an electron gun against a number of them.”
“And fire and explosions will also destroy them,” Magenta added.
“We can’t run around Cloudbase with Mysteron guns, lamps and clubs to kill them one by one,” Scarlet retorted grimly. “We’ll be at it for ages…”
“Not to mention that they might multiply again any time they wish by simply finding water,” White added.
“They seem to be having too much… fun… at the moment to be considering that possibility,” Captain Magenta then said. “That’s the Gremlins’ main aim in their existence: having fun, by tampering with things – and making others’ lives miserable.”
“Would they consider not tampering with the engines if they know that if Cloudbase crashes, it would kill them too?”
“They might be very intelligent, but they’re too self-centred in their ‘fun’ and too unimaginative to be concerned for their own well-being, Colonel. I’m afraid they won’t care.”
“Beside, they might not realise Cloudbase’s capacity as a hovering craft,” Captain Ochre pointed out.
“Even if they do, that might not make a difference, Captain,” the voice of Symphony noted. “If they’re anything like the Gremlins of World War II…”
Scarlet frowned. “We’re dealing with reality here, not with legends, Symphony…”
“Captain, how are we to know that there really weren’t any of those creatures at the time? Apparently, Mogwai and Gremlins have been around for centuries, if we are to believe Captain Magenta’s findings.”
“I think we’d better concentrate on our own problems right now,” Colonel White retorted at that moment. “Captain Scarlet is right. We can’t go chasing them around Cloudbase to kill them one by one. We need to destroy them in one single blow.”
“How about we cut the air system and asphyxiate them?” suggested Ochre. “If all personnel onboard equipped themselves with oxygen masks… we’ll be safe and they’ll die.”
“No,” Magenta said, shaking his head. “Mogwai and Gremlins can live a certain amount of time without air. Remember how Gizmo came on-base, in a box with no ventilation holes? Beside, there’s always the risk that we won’t be able to reach every single member of the crew to instruct them about the breathing apparatus… The communication system is still not fully operational.”
“Neither is the lighting,” Blue reflected. “And besides, it’s not bright enough, even at full intensity, to kill them all. So that’s another solution out.”
“Sunlight may kill them, right?” Scarlet noted. “Maybe if we can gather them to a place where sunlight will touch them… a room with a lot of windows… Like the Amber Room or the Promenade Deck?”
“That’s an idea,” White approved. “The Promenade Deck would be large enough for them all. But how to get them there would be difficult. How could we herd them all in the same direction? That seems impossible.”
“Is there something that might serve as bait for the Gremlins?” Scarlet asked, turning to Magenta.
The Irish captain shrugged, apparently not being able to present a very helpful answer to this question. Everyone looked a little deterred by his silence.
“They like to eat anything,” grumbled Melody. “Maybe we can leave a long trail of food from everywhere in Cloudbase, leading to the Promenade Deck…”
“Right,” answered Ochre doubtfully. “Like M&Ms candies?”
“M&Ms?” Fawn said with a frown.
“Or Smarties,” Blue answered. “Chocolate pastilles, covered with a coloured candy shell…All different colours…”
“You mean, we’d do like in that old movie, with that cute, kind little alien?” Symphony asked.
“The people who made that movie certainly never imagined that the ‘aliens’ we would meet would be anything BUT kind,” Melody retorted. “Neither are those Gremlins ‘cute’.”
“Let’s try to be serious,” Scarlet said in annoyance, about a second before Colonel White could call his troops to order. “There’s certainly something that might interest those Gremlins enough for them to follow the trail without getting distracted.”
“Gizmo.” That answer was followed by a loud sneeze and a sniff. Everyone turned their attention to Destiny, standing a little behind – even Gizmo, who, at the mention of his name, was raising attentive ears. The French pilot wiped her nose delicately, and pointed to the Mogwai, addressing Scarlet. “Those three Gremlins that chased us when I found you – they were after him.”
“Maybe they were after both of you,” Fawn retorted. “We all seemed to have become their prey.”
“No, she might be right,” Magenta said. “Remember what I said about minority Mogwai? How they’re hated by the majority Mogwai? Well, Gremlins hate them just the same. And even more. Because they would consider a minority Mogwai a threat to their existence.” He looked at Gizmo intently. “They will try to kill him. Because they know that a minority Mogwai will try to destroy the monstrosities they have become, at all costs.”
“Our cute, gentle, little Gizmo?” Symphony retorted with a dubious tone. “He wouldn’t stand a chance against those vicious beasts!”
“Oh, I think there’s more than meets the eye concerning our ‘cute, gentle, little Gizmo’,” Magenta said with a smile, reaching to scratch the Mogwai behind the ears.
Scarlet scowled, before turning to address Magenta. “So you suggest we use Gizmo as bait, to attract the Gremlins to where we want them?”
“I’m pretty sure they will go after him,” Magenta confirmed with a nod.
Scarlet seemed reluctant; he looked down at the Mogwai. “I don’t know… That might put him at risk…”
“He already took a similar risk in the past, Scarlet.”
Scarlet frowned. “What do you mean?”
“According to Peltzer’s book, he played a vital role in the destruction of the Gremlins, in Kingston Falls… as well as on another occasion, apparently. You were quite the little trooper, weren’t you, Gizmo?”
“Gizmo Rambo,” the Mogwai answered, with a proud tone in his small voice. That caused everyone to laugh.
“Scarlet, I believe you have found a kindred spirit,” Doctor Fawn remarked, chuckling. “No wonder the two of you get along so well.”
“You want to do that, Giz?” Scarlet asked uncertainly. “You want to help us get rid of the Gremlins?”
Gizmo seemed to consider the question; there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he understood most of what was been said to him.
“Gremlins bad,” he declared solemnly. “Gizmo good boy.” And he continued in a rapid foreign language, so quickly that it was practically impossible to follow him. All heads turned to Harmony, wondering if she could make out what he was saying. She shook her head.
“It is not completely clear, but it sounds like he’s saying that it is his responsibility to help us against the Gremlins.”
“Brave little chap,” Scarlet said. He gave a sigh and looked pensively at the Mogwai. “I could take him with me. And walk the corridors to attract the Gremlins’ attention… And then when they chase me, I can lead them to the Promenade Deck.”
“But we only have ONE Mogwai,” Captain Blue then noted. “And there’s still dozens of Gremlins spread all over Cloudbase… You can’t be everywhere, Scarlet.”
“We can make a recording of Gizmo’s singing,” Harmony suggested. “And distribute copies via radio to any available Cloudbase personnel… With the recordings playing in strategic places all over the base, the Gremlins will think that there’s a Mogwai nearby and will try to find him…”
“Through the speakers?” Lieutenant Green asked, sounding dubious that it would work. If we’re just broadcasting a recording, how will the Gremlins know that Gizmo is going to the Promenade Deck? They will just go nuts trying to find him wherever they hear his voice…”
“No, I mean… we could have people in the corridors, carrying a recording device and playing the song.”
“They’ll be chasing the recording,” Scarlet approved. “And that will lead them right to me and Gizmo.”
“Hope we’ve got some Olympic sprinters on board,” muttered Captain Ochre. “Our people will have to be quick on their feet to keep their distance from the Gremlins.”
“We could set up a relay between personnel – so to keep out of reach of the Gremlins,” Harmony continued.
“You mean – like passing the baton?” Destiny asked, sniffing into her handkerchief.
“Something like that, yes.”
“Yes… a ‘relay race’ could give us the shadow of a chance,” Colonel White agreed.
“Let’s make this more convincing,” suggested Captain Blue. “Let’s put the players into sports bags, and stuff the bag to make believe Gizmo is hiding inside. So if the Gremlins actually see our runners, they’ll really believe they have Gizmo. They won’t think anything of him being carried in a sports bag.”
“Astute idea,” Colonel White admitted. “We’ll have to choose our runners carefully. The end of the race should bring all the Gremlins to where Captain Scarlet will be positioned.”
“Then I’ll be able to lead them to the Promenade Deck and we’ll be able to trap them all there.”
“Right,” Captain Blue declared. “What if they arrive after sunrise? They might see the light and not enter.”
“The Promenade Deck is equipped with sun-shields that are lowered during the day when ultraviolet rays are dangerous,” Scarlet remarked. “We could lower them just while our friends are going in… And then raise the shields and let the sunlight do its stuff.”
“The panels take an awful long time to raise,” Captain Blue pointed out. “Some of those Gremlins might have time to escape, find water AGAIN, and we’ll be right back where we started.”
“Except that this time, full grown GREMLINS would be born,” Magenta corrected. “Not Mogwai.”
“We have water on the Promenade Deck,” Fawn pointed out. “Remember the misting system over the plants? And the fountains?”
“We’ll have to ask Maintenance to cut water to the Promenade Deck,” Scarlet suggested.
“If it’s possible. And praying the Gremlins won’t be able to work out how to get the water running again before we destroy them.”
“And we’re still a few hours from dawn,” said Colonel White with a sigh. “Getting them there might not do us any good then. And time is against us.”
“Perhaps there’s another way to get rid of them once they’re on the Promenade Deck,” Scarlet murmured, pensively. “But… that might be risky.”
“At this point, I think we don’t have much choice, Captain.”
“It might mean damaging the Promenade Deck,” Scarlet added carefully.
Colonel White took a deep intake of air. His face on the videoscreen displayed curiosity, suspicion – and worry.
“What do you have in mind, exactly?”
* * *
“Scarlet’s plan is not only risky… It’s downright crazy!”
“Do you have a BETTER IDEA for us to get out of this mess, Ochre?”
Captain Ochre scowled under Blue’s admonition. Keeping himself from grumbling, he continued to follow his fellow captain and Symphony Angel, as they were making their way toward the Engine Room control centre. Less than half an hour earlier – after the last details of Scarlet’s plan had been carefully polished, they had left the Amber Room, armed with hand guns and a Mysteron gun, and Ochre carrying a small sports bag.
“There doesn’t seem to be any other way to get rid of those pests,” Symphony remarked in turn. “I don't think we have any choice…”
“Yeah, but… do we really have to go as far as to actually plan an Angel attack on the Promenade Deck?”
Blue sighed. That did sound rather rash, of course, but as Symphony had pointed out, they didn’t have much of a choice. Cloudbase was being destroyed little by little, and people were being hurt. So White had reluctantly agreed to Scarlet’s plan. Time was against them, and the Gremlins could at any moment reach a vital part of Cloudbase. They might already have done so, they had realised, when, trying to contact the Engine Room control centre, they found that nobody was answering – even though they were certain that radio-communication had been re-established.
That was an inconvenient setback, because it was crucial that someone was at the helm, in order for the operation to succeed.
The plan was indeed ‘downright crazy’, to use Ochre’s words. The herding of all the Gremlins up to the Promenade Deck was already hazardous in itself. Blowing out the Promenade Deck windows with an Angel strike to cause a depressurisation so that the creatures would be sucked out… well, that might put all of Cloudbase in deadly peril. The sudden decompression could send a violent shockwave throughout the base, that would shake it, send it out of control, or into a dive and cause it to break up. In order to avoid all those dangers, various steps needed to be taken. Pressure would have to be lowered inside the Promenade Deck, and it would have to be completely sealed, once the Gremlins were inside – since they needed little air to breathe, it was likely they wouldn’t notice any difference in their environment. The missiles the Angels would use had to detonate outside the windows, at a pre-calculated distance, with a very precisely-calibrated charge, so to shatter the windows but not cause any damage to the structure. That sector of the Tower would have to be evacuated, and all the other windows on that side would need to be protected by the anti-blast security shields, sliding in front of them. Lieutenant Green and a team of technicians had already worked to find a way to override the security system on the Promenade Deck – so the sun-shields would open once the Gremlins were inside, even though the other windows would still be covered.
To minimise the damage, Cloudbase needed to be brought down at least a good twenty thousand feet below its present position, and the helmsmen would have to expertly operate the helm when the Promenade Deck windows were blasted away and the decompression made the base unstable. And since there was no way to be sure if there was indeed someone inside the Engine Room control centre, or if they’d be in any state to man the helm, then someone else would have to go – someone who would be able to operate the helm if the two on-duty helmsmen were not able to.
Those ‘someones’ were Captain Blue and Symphony Angel.
The sports bag Ochre was carrying contained a player with Gizmo’s singing on it, and had been stuffed to make believe the Mogwai was hiding inside. All over Cloudbase – in the Control Tower, all the levels of the main deck, the upper deck and the engine nacelles – numerous security guards, reached by radio over the last few minutes, were now equipped with similar ‘bait bags’ and had started using them with the recording of the Mogwai’s song – to herd the Gremlins – following the already drawn plan. Blue and Symphony were taking advantage of the fact that the Gremlins who might be in the area they were currently passing through would be distracted and would follow the ‘bait bag’ – with Ochre able to provide further diversion if they should encounter Gremlins in the Engine Room control centre.
Each team had its own work to do. Colonel White and Lieutenant Green stayed in the Control Room, to supervise the operation and make sure all would go like clockwork – they knew there was no room for mistakes, and they would make sure that there weren’t any. Lieutenant Green had rigged radiocaps and personal radios to the emergency channel, so every team would be linked with the Control Room, leaving the Colonel and himself in total control of every move that would be made by each team.
Captain Grey’s team were to herd the Gremlins who had invaded the many levels of the Control Tower; Destiny was leading another team of security guards, assigned to sickbay and the sports centre, also equipped with bait bags. Magenta had escorted Harmony to the Amber Room, where Melody Angel was waiting. Having made sure that both Angel Two and Angel Three were Gremlin-free, Magenta had permitted the two pilots to take their places onboard their jets, and wait for the order to take-off. Both women were conscious they were to play one of the most vital roles in the operation – and one of the most dangerous. Magenta had made sure the access tubes to their craft were safely sealed before leaving with his own team in search of Gremlins to attract with their bait bag.
Technicians all over Cloudbase were also ready to act at a second’s notice, turning the lights on as soon as the Gremlins left a spot to follow the bait bag – making sure that they won’t be compelled to turn back – this way, ‘showing the way’ to the creatures.
As for Captain Scarlet, he had left sickbay, using the main access corridor of Deck C, with a backpack filled with equipment, and Gizmo safely stashed in a sports bag similar to those used as bait bags, and was walking in the direction of the starboard pylon leading to the Control Tower.
He would be the one leading all the Gremlins up to the Promenade Deck, and then trapping them inside.
His was certainly a place that nobody else would want to trade with, and everybody was aware of the risks he was taking; Blue like everyone else. He hated it when Scarlet took risks like this. But then again, he was the one with the best chance of surviving, once he found himself trapped inside the Promenade Deck and the windows were blown away…
“We’re approaching the Engine Room control centre.”
Hearing the whisper from Symphony, Blue became instantly alert. Now wasn’t the time to daydream and make mistakes. Carefully, the team approached the closed doors leading into the control centre; surveillance cameras had been rendered ineffective earlier, probably, they suspected, by a Gremlins attack – so they didn’t quite know for sure what to expect. Although they had a pretty good idea. They gathered around the porthole and glanced inside the room, all the while keeping a lookout for any incoming enemy from the corridors.
They could see two still bodies, lying on the floor in front of the control consoles, each wearing a bloodied Spectrum uniform; there were at least five Gremlins in the room, playing with the dials of the huge consoles, amusing themselves with breaking the flashing lights on the many panels – and biting into exposed wires, efficiently cutting them in two. Fortunately, the computerised controls were self-sufficient, and if circuits were damaged, the computer would re-route every program and operation into auxiliary systems – many times over, until repairs were made. So far, any damage done by the Gremlins had been countered that way; but Blue didn’t want to wait to find out how long the controls would be able to keep on re-routing their programming.
He lowered his cap microphone. “Captain Blue to Control,” he whispered, his eyes fixed on the Gremlins’ antics. “Have arrived without trouble at Point H. Gremlin invasion as expected.”
“S.I.G., Captain Blue,” came the voice of Lieutenant Green. “Any trace of the helmsmen?”
“Lieutenants Peach and Purple are lying on the floor. They seemed to be wounded, but from this angle, I can’t be sure if they’re alive.” He addressed a glance toward Ochre who, understanding his mute question, nodded briefly. Blue returned to his mic. “Captain Ochre will now attempt diversion manoeuvre as planned. Stay tuned for report.”
His mic returning to his cap, Blue turned to Ochre once more. “Give us two minutes to get into hiding,” he demanded with a faint smile.
“Sure,” Ochre replied. “Just be sure to remember me if I drop the ball…”
Blue patted his shoulder encouragingly and Symphony planted a light kiss on his cheek; that made him smile a little, and reminded him of Melody, who was waiting for her signal to take off in Angel Three. He watched as Blue and Symphony moved away from the door, and went into hiding in a brightly-lit corridor, in the direction opposite to the one Ochre would need to take. When he was sure they were out of the way and out of view, Ochre lowered his cap microphone and straightened up.
“Getting ready for diversion manoeuvre, Lieutenant,” he whispered. He pressed the button to open the door of the Engine Room control centre.
At first, the Gremlins didn’t seem to notice him standing in the doorway, so busy were they with breaking things. Ochre whistled loudly, to attract their attention.
They turned around in surprise; Ochre had surreptitiously activated the player inside the bag and now the muffled notes of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ were heard from it. Ochre smiled wickedly.
“I believe I have something you want…”
The Gremlins snarled and Ochre punched the door control, closing it before breaking into a run in the dark corridor. He had barely reached the end of the corridor than the Gremlins had opened the doors, spotted him and started chasing him. “Operation diversion has succeeded,” Ochre breathed into his mic, for Lieutenant Green’s attention. “Am presently leading five angry and hungry Gremlins to the next rendezvous point!”
“S.I.G., Captain Ochre. Spare your breath. You’re going to need it.”
Ochre nearly rolled his eyes. Spare your breath? You’re the one who’s safely seated in front of your controls, Green…
He pushed the volume button of his player to the maximum, making sure that it would keep the Gremlins’ attention. He didn’t want them to come too close, but at the same time, he didn’t want to lose them…
God, I will grow to detest that song…
* * *
As soon as Ochre had disappeared from view, the corridor leading to the Engine Control Centre and the room itself became brightly lit, and Captain Blue and Symphony Angel left their hiding place. They entered the room, closed and locked the door behind them, and first went to check on both Lieutenants Peach and Purple.
“Captain Blue to Control Room,” Blue announced, lowering his cap mic again. “Symphony and I are now in the Engine Control Centre. Peach and Purple are alive, but badly shaken. They’ll live, but they should receive medical attention, as soon as possible.”
“S.I.G., Captain Blue. Take your position at the twin helms, and get ready for Phase Two of operation.”
“S.I.G. Come on, Symphony,” Blue said, rising to his feet. “They’ll be okay for now. We have a job to do.”
“You think Ochre will be able to outrun those Gremlins?” Symphony asked as they both moved before the twin helms. “He took an enormous risk, coming so close to them to attract their attention.”
“I wouldn’t worry about Ochre, if I were you,” Blue said with a faint smile. “He’s so full of wind, he could outrun a cheetah.” She glared warningly at him, but he pretended not to notice. “Ready?” he asked instead, taking hold of the rudder in front of him.
Symphony’s hands took hold of hers and she breathed out a deep sigh. “This is far bigger than any plane I ever flew…”
“Getting cold feet?”
“Me? I wouldn’t trade my place with anyone else!”
“Me neither. And there’s nobody else I would rather do this with than you.”
Symphony’s smile broadened, matching her lover’s. “That’s so nice of you, Big Blue…” She cleared her throat. Time to get down to business… “Ready when you are.”
Blue pushed a button on his controls and Symphony did the same. Then he lowered his cap mic once again. “Blue Team to Control. Phase Two has begun. Cloudbase has engaged descent…”
* * *
“Angels Two and Three… Immediate launch!”
“S.I.G.!” came the combined answer from Harmony and Melody following Lieutenant Green’s order. The catapults propelled both Angel interceptors into the sky. They both started circling Cloudbase in dual formation.
“Maintain descent with Cloudbase within 500 metre radius,” instructed Lieutenant Green. “We’ll be reaching 15,000 feet in approximately ten minutes. Get ready for immediate attack upon order. Harmony Angel will be Angel Leader and will lead first attack.”
“Angel Leader to Control. S.I.G.,” Harmony answered. She was feeling nervous – and at the same time, honoured to be bestowed such a task. Gizmo had been sent to her as her responsibility. That made the Gremlins her responsibility as well. It was only fitting that it would be for her to deal the fatal blow that would destroy them.
But that also meant firing on Cloudbase – and that was certainly making her a little uneasy. What if she were to miss? Or worse yet, make a direct hit that would destroy the Tower?
“Are you okay, Harmony?”
Harmony was drawn out of her reverie by Melody’s deep drawl, which she could hear over the speakers of her helmet. She smiled faintly, almost to herself.
“I am okay. I am just a little tense. The attack will have to be a very precise one if the operation is to succeed.”
“You’ll be all right, Harmony. You are the best pilot amongst us.”
“You keep telling me that,” Harmony said with a fond smile. “I often wonder if you know how good you are, all of you.”
“OF COURSE, we’re good,” Melody laughed. “We wouldn’t be in Spectrum if we weren’t!”
Harmony sighed deeply, settling herself comfortably at the helm and watching Cloudbase intently, as she was slowly losing height – both interceptors following her descent.
“I suppose we’ll soon have an occasion to really prove it,” she murmured to herself.
* * *
Captain Ochre emerged from the corridor leading out of Engineering right next to the helicopter hangar; right behind him, the Gremlins’ numbers had enlarged considerably. Not only had he encountered eight more of them along the way since leaving the Engine Control Centre, but he had also run into Lieutenant Saffron, himself chased by ten creatures coming from the high deck. The out-of-breath Saffron having taken refuge in the room housing the Spectrafan hydraulic system, it fell to Ochre to attract all the Gremlins’ attention and to continue the race.
“Jackson!” Ochre skidded to an halt at the corner of the corridor, momentarily out of view from the Gremlins chasing him. “Catch!” He literally threw his bag at the tall black Spectrum corporal standing at the other end of the walkway. Jackson caught the bag, exactly as if it had been a football, and nearly let it go. “Don’t drop it!” Ochre said in a half whisper, gesticulating wildly. “Run!”
Ochre threw himself behind the nearest door – the Bursar’s office – just in time to avoid being seen by the approaching Gremlins. Seeing Jackson suddenly breaking into a run, the singing bag under his arm, they gave chase, snarling evilly, frustrated that their prey was getting away.
As soon as the whole group had left the corridor, the lights went on, and Ochre came out of hiding, breathing hard, and wiping his sweating brow with his forearm. He lowered his cap microphone.
“Ochre to Control. Rendezvous point made. Corporal Jackson has taken up the relay.”
“S.I.G., Captain Ochre. Proceed now to Recreation Rooms. You will be met by Captain Magenta, who has just delivered a batch of Gremlins to Sergeant Coleman. Then await further instructions. Keep to the lighted corridors.”
“S.I.G., Lieutenant.” Ochre sighed deeply to get his normal breathing rate back, and set out to walk in the direction indicated by Green.
Recreation rooms, he reflected inwardly. He wondered if he would find any refreshments in the vending machines there… He would kill for a lemonade.
There was probably nothing left, considering the Gremlins had already been there…
* * *
In the Control Room, Lieutenant Green, seated at his console, and Colonel White, standing right next to his aide, were watching the progress of the operation on the big screen on the wall behind the round control desk. The screen was separated into four sections, each relaying images from the various cameras that were still operational onboard. Hopefully, most of the cameras needed for the operation had been repaired by the maintenance crew and the technicians’ dedication to duty.
So far, everything was going fine… But Colonel White wore a grim expression as he watched the various steps of the ‘relay races’. The many bait bags had changed hands numerous times over the last few minutes, the scene repeating itself over and over again through the corridors of Cloudbase, as crew members relayed their precious cargo to replacement runners... The Gremlins were none the wiser about what was going on; if they noticed that the carrier of their prey was regularly changing, they didn’t care. All they wanted was to catch that bag, from where was emerging that hated singing voice, and destroy it. And with each passing minute, White realised, the creatures were growing impatient, frustrated that their quarry was escaping them. More enraged, and therefore more dangerous for his people.
And also – with each passing minute, there were more Gremlins leaving all sectors of Cloudbase and giving chase to the bags. Each area that was abandoned was then quickly lit – and a meticulous survey from the crew informed him that all those places were now clear of Gremlins.
“They're gaining on Coleman... Jarvis, give him a little breathing space…”
The dispassionate voice of Lieutenant Green was giving instructions to each team of runners when needed. White watched as Corporal Jarvis took the singing bag from Sergeant Coleman and broke into a run, leaving his fellow security officer to take refuge behind a nearby door. A large number of snarling and growling Gremlins passed in front of the camera, still giving chase to the bag. There were too many to keep count – and they were running way too fast.
“Captain Grey reports that all Gremlins in the Control Tower have been rounded up, sir,” Lieutenant Green reported. “His team made them do the long detour down the escalator to the port engine nacelle, and through the main corridor on Deck A, towards the starboard engine nacelle. All levels under the upper runway are also clean, as well as the Amber Room area, Sickbay and the Sports Centre, and the whole of Engineering. All other sectors are quickly emptying themselves of the Gremlins.”
White had a perpetual frown plastered on his face. He didn’t give any sign of satisfaction at Lieutenant Green’s news. He didn’t want to claim victory too hurriedly. “What is Cloudbase’s position?”
“We’ll be reaching 15,000 feet in one minute, sir.”
“We can’t go lower than that,” White reflected. “We’re already in the way of commercial flights.”
There had been no time to contact any military or civilian flight authorities about Cloudbase’s change of altitude, so the base was now relying heavily on radar to make sure there was no risk of collision with another craft.
“Herding teams are meeting up, sir,” Green suddenly announced to his superior. “Captain Grey is taking up the last relay to Captain Scarlet.”
White gave a sigh and put a hand on Green’s shoulder.
There was no turning back now.
“Contact Captain Scarlet. Tell him to get ready.”
* * *
Captain Scarlet was positioned in the corridor of the starboard engine nacelle, at the foot of the escalator in the starboard pylon – the only one functioning right now. He had put down his backpack and was preparing himself for the next step of the operation. Gizmo, still stashed in the sports bag, had his head out, his ears moving quickly, on the look-out for whatever suspicious sound they might hear, all the while watching with curious eyes as his human friend was getting ready for the ultimate race.
Scarlet took a respirator mask out of his bag and hung it round his neck, before snapping the belt holding the oxygen container around his thigh and screwing the tube of the respirator mask to it. He would need it later on in the Promenade Deck; Gremlins and Mogwai might not need much air to survive, but it wasn’t the case for him, if he wanted to stay conscious and carry out his mission.
The rest of Scarlet’s equipment consisted of a security harness, a sturdy cable line with a line-throwing pistol, a powerful security hand lamp, a run of plastic grenades, and a handgun – that he carefully checked was fully loaded before pushing it into his holster. He looked down at Gizmo, who didn’t seem quite reassured in his bag.
“This is it, Giz. Are you ready?”
“Gizmo ready,” was the little Mogwai’s answer. It sounded rather uneasy, but with an effort to sound valiant.
“I can’t blame you for being nervous,” Scarlet said with a grunt, looking up toward the end of the red-lit corridor. “This is not something I am really looking forward to – facing an army of ugly little green men ready to cut us into ribbons…” He picked up the sports bag, and put the strap over his shoulder. “Not that we have any choice…”
His epaulette flashed white and he lowered his cap mic. “Control to Scarlet. Grey is on his way. All the Gremlins are hot on his heels.”
“S.I.G.,” Scarlet answered grimly. “I’m ready. And I hope you’re ready too, Lieutenant.”
He kept his mic down and immediately looked alert. He first heard the clamour of the approaching horde of snarling Gremlins; then the sound of running footsteps; finally, the faint, almost drowned sound of Gizmo’s recorded song. He narrowed his eyes when he saw a huge and indefinable silhouette thrown on the wall, showing him what was beyond the corner.
Then Grey appeared, running as he had never run before. He saw Scarlet and sprinted towards him.
“They’re right behind me!” he shouted.
His cry nearly was drowned by the growing uproar following Grey; the Gremlins skidded as they negotiated the corner, and Scarlet opened his eyes wide with horror. They were so numerous that they were nearly running over one another, trying to get to Grey, who was the only thing they had eyes for. In the lead, there was one Gremlin who was distinctly paler than his congeners. His scaled skin was a yellowish beige instead of the dark green colour of the others.
It was the one who had shot Scarlet earlier that evening.
It was Snowball.
And he and the other Gremlins were gaining dangerously on Grey.
“Get into hiding!” Scarlet shouted back to his colleague. The maintenance panel leading to the hover engine had been previously opened to receive the fleeing officer. He literally leapt into the opening, keeping the bait bag with him, and the panel slid closed, just as the first of the Gremlins reach it. Frustrated to see their prey escape them just as they were finally getting close to putting their hands on it, the deadly creatures started to claw at the surface of the door, growling evilly. They were ignoring Scarlet, standing a few metres away from them.
“HEY!” he shouted forcefully.
The first to notice his presence was Snowball. He stopped clawing the panel instantly and turned to face Scarlet. He narrowed his eyes, and a deep growl rolled from his throat upon recognising the hated human standing there. He compelled his peers to stop attacking the wall. They all turned to stare at Scarlet. The clamour had died out suddenly, but the following silence was punctuated with low growls of anger.
Well, I have their attention, now…
Imperturbably, Scarlet raised the sports bag high in the air, showing the trembling Gizmo to the watching multitude.
“Is this what you’re looking for? Come and get it.”
Snowball snarled with fury at the defiant human; that was obviously a signal and the hideous army rushed toward Scarlet.
“NOW, Green!” Scarlet shouted into his mic.
The transparent emergency airlock doors in front of which Scarlet was standing immediately closed and locked; Snowball literally smacked into them, the following Gremlins colliding with him and pushing him further against it. When Snowball finally freed himself, he roared with untold wrath at the grinning human on the other side. Scarlet turned on his heels and began to run up the moving escalator, followed by the enraged eyes of the Gremlins pressing themselves against the airlock doors and trying furiously to get through it.
“Give me a good start, Lieutenant,” Scarlet breathed into his mic. “When I’m halfway up, open the doors to let them through. We don’t want them to lose me.”
“S.I.G., Captain Scarlet.” That was the voice of Colonel White, this time. “And good luck.”
“I’m going to need it,” muttered Scarlet.
He ran up the long moving stair as fast as he could; he had always been a good athlete, but more than that, since his first encounter with the Mysterons a couple of years ago, his stamina had increased – that was a welcome advantage, in the present situation. Somehow, he doubted that his retrometabolism would do him any good if the Gremlins were to catch him and tear him to pieces.
Great. I really need that incentive…Now he felt as if he was flying, instead of running up the steps.
He heard the approaching clamour behind, echoing in the narrowness of the steep corridor. Lieutenant Green had disengaged the airlocks, and the Gremlins were coming after him. He was more than halfway towards his objective. This is going to be close, he thought.
In the bag bouncing on his hip, Gizmo was moaning, as much from the annoyance of being bumped around as he was, as from fear of what might happen if the Gremlins were to catch them.
“Don’t worry, Gizmo,” Scarlet said between two deep breaths. “We’ll make it, you’ll see.”
He had just passed the first level of the Tower and was approaching the landing of the second level, when he realised the growls behind were becoming clearer and louder. He glanced over his shoulder; he could see the first wave of Gremlins so very close behind. At the speed they were climbing, they would reach him soon. He drew his gun and shot a couple of rounds at them from under his arm. He hit two of them, and they fell with cries of pain and rage onto the moving stair. They’ll be a temporary obstruction for the others climbing behind, Scarlet reflected grimly. Which should give me time enough to reach my goal.
Panting, he stepped onto the landing leading to the last level of Cloudbase. He punched the button to open the door to the central access corridor and stepped inside, the door closing behind him.
“Depressurisation of airlock,” Lieutenant Green announced. Scarlet looked up at the surveillance camera over his head, where he knew the communication officer was watching him, and walked towards the closed door leading to the Promenade Deck. He put his respirator mask on and powered up the oxygen container, waiting impatiently until Green gave him the signal to enter the Promenade Deck. Behind him, he could hear the Gremlins scratching angrily at the door.
“We can’t wait much longer, Lieutenant,” he said into the mic in his mask. “They might get impatient and try the other doors on this landing. They might invade the entire Tower, and access the Control Room…”
“Pressure equalised,” Green informed. “You can enter the Promenade Deck.”
Giving a sigh, Scarlet pushed the button to open the Promenade Deck door. He barely noticed the faint mist, as he ran inside and literally jumped into the nearest, deepest bushes he could see.
“Airlock door open,” announced Green. “Gremlins entering the main access corridor and heading toward Promenade Deck.”
Scarlet could hear the noises made by the Gremlins, coming from beyond the door he had left open to attract their attention. He quickly went deeper into the bushes in a crouched position, and finally hid himself in the thick peony bushes, where he knew his too-vivid tunic would go nearly unnoticed amongst the bright colour of the flowers.
He had disappeared just in time, as the first wave of angry Gremlins rushed into the Promenade Deck, quickly followed by many others, all of them snarling with fury, baring fangs and showing claws, and swiftly looking around their new surroundings, obviously searching for their prey.
Scarlet kept as still as possible, his eyes set on the ugly troops. The first group, led by Snowball, had walked well into the centre of the Promenade Deck, and had stopped its advance, forcing the others behind to do the same. The last of the Gremlins, not seeing what was going up in front, were bumping into their congeners, who turned to snarl angrily at them. Most of the creatures were looking around with curiosity and interest at the selection of green plants and multicoloured flowers thriving on the Promenade Deck. This place was very different from what they had previously seen of the rest of Cloudbase. They hadn’t expected to find anything like this.
The snarling and growling sounds had stopped and the Gremlins spread around to explore the room… and started eating both greenery and flowers. Scarlet barely took notice; he was watching the door with attention. Gremlins were still coming in; he was hoping they would all be inside soon.
“Lieutenant Green?” he whispered into his mic, so low that he wondered if the communications officer would hear him.
“Three left, Captain,” the voice of Green answered in his ear. “They’re almost all in…”
Scarlet watched the door intently. One more Gremlin entered, looking around with obvious curiosity. Then another one…
And a last one, who, quite innocently, stayed right in the doorway.
Scarlet almost swore under his breath.
“I can’t close the door if he stays there,” Green said in alarm.
And he doesn’t appear to be wanting to go any further, Scarlet reflected, grimly watching the Gremlin who seemed rooted in place, looking around in complete awe.
Scarlet quickly asserted the situation. Normally, the airlocks sealing the main corridor should be able to withstand a sudden decompression when the windows blew out, but there was still the odd chance that it might not; that the decompression might tear off the doors, and destroy the whole Tower. The additional protection of the sealed door leading into the Promenade Deck was a vital element for the safety of Cloudbase.
They had to close that door.
“Have the Angels come into attack, and begin the operation,” Scarlet announced into his mic. “I’ll try to move in and push that Gremlin out of the way, and close that door.”
“You realise that you and Gizmo might very well be sucked out with the rest of them?” the voice of Colonel White then told him.
“Do we have a choice, sir?”
“No.” There was just a short moment of silence, as Colonel White obviously considered his decision. Not that Scarlet had any doubt what it would be. “Angel strike in sixty seconds, just in time for the sun-shields to be fully retracted. I’ll… see you later, Captain.”
“S.I.G.” Silent like a panther, Scarlet started approaching his quarry.
Behind him, the dark panels covering all of the Promenade Deck windows silently and slowly rose.
* * *
“Angel Leader, come in to attack and destroy! Promenade Deck windows must be shattered when the shields are up!”
“Spectrum is Green! Let’s go, Melody.”
This is it, Harmony Angel told herself. The moment of truth. She veered her craft in the direction of the top of the Tower, Melody following her lead. Her hands gripped the helm firmly, and her eyes concentrated on the target dead centre of her gunsight. She had to aim well. One fraction of a second too late, or too soon, would have untold consequences. She had to wait the exact moment to launch her missile, which had been timed to explode two seconds before impact.
She had to be very close so she would not miss.
She could see the Tower getting nearer, the windows of the Promenade Deck growing with each second, the sun-shields rising evenly to reveal the glassy surface behind, and the greenery beyond… Her thumb hovered above the firing button. She forced the nervousness away, cleared her mind of all consideration. Patience…
Seconds before impact…
She pressed the button, knowing that Melody would do the same. Twin missiles ejected from the interceptors, and flew toward their target.
* * *
The last damned Gremlin had not moved from his spot in the last seconds it took Scarlet to move amongst the bushes toward him. He was obviously admiring the view, while the others, apparently oblivious to the surrounding beauty he seemed to enjoy so much, were greedily eating away all they could put their claws on. They seemed to have forgotten all about Scarlet and Gizmo, to indulge their enormous appetite. They were like a flock of locusts – destroying more of the greenery as seconds went by.
Come on, you ugly mutt! Scarlet thought, looking toward the reluctant Gremlin, as if hoping that the power of his mind alone would be enough incentive for the creature to take the one step needed to clear the doorway. You must be as famished as your buddies, after that race you ran. One step forward, that’s all I’m asking!
One glance over his shoulder informed him that the shields were almost completely all up; in the clear, dimly-lit sky, just before daybreak, he could see the two Angel interceptors taking their position and getting ready to attack.
No more time to waste, now or never!
He leapt to his feet and jumped out of the bushes toward the door; the Gremlin standing there looked at him as if in shock by his sudden appearance, and literally froze. Scarlet, his arm outstretched, was ready to grab him and throw him inside, when something roughly landed on his back, stopping him in mid-movement, and unbalancing him. Driven down, he heard a loud triumphal laugh, close to his ear, just before sharp teeth bit into his right shoulder, going right through his thick tunic and shirt, and deep into his flesh, drawing blood. He let out a yelp of pain, before crashing heavily on the ground.
He managed to turn on his back and found himself face to face with Snowball, who snarled viciously at him, teeth dripping with Scarlet’s blood. The pallor of his face made him even uglier up close than his peers. His talons firmly dug into Scarlet’s chest, he raised a skeletal arm to strike a fatal blow. The Spectrum officer had the presence of mind to raise his flashlamp; he didn’t have time to power it up, however. Snowball swatted it away with the same move that was about to kill his hated human enemy.
The short distraction was enough for Scarlet to move in turn. He kicked upwards and sent Snowball flipping over his head, disengaging himself. He heard the pale Gremlin growling with fury at this indignity. Scarlet’s victory was short-lived, however; a glance toward the door informed him that if the Gremlin previously standing in the doorway had cleared it, he was now standing in front of it, with two of his peers, roaring at the downed Spectrum officer, blocking his way out. Scarlet looked nervously towards the windows; the Angels were approaching. There was no more time.
“Lieutenant Green!” he shouted in his mic, “the do…”
A sharp pain in his leg interrupted him and he cried out. He looked down to see at least one Gremlin hanging to it with his teeth. He tried to shake it off. Other creatures were also coming into attack, jumping at him, grabbing him by his legs and arms and pinning him down. And laughing maniacally. They were going to tear him to ribbons…
Snowball leapt to land on Scarlet’s chest again. The latter stopped his thrashing when he saw the business end of a pistol being shoved under his nose; his pistol, he realised when he saw the red stripe on top of it. The one he had previously lost during the lift incident.
A deep growl came from Snowball’s throat, and a large grin appeared on his ugly face. His finger slowly started to squeeze the trigger.
A flash of bright light appeared, hitting Snowball and the other Gremlins holding Scarlet down; most of them released their prey and scattered; Snowball backed away, snarling. Scarlet turned his head in the direction of the light.
The powerful security lamp he had lost just seconds earlier was lying on the floor barely two feet away from him, fully powered-up. Behind it, away from the too-bright light, Gizmo was standing, a stern expression on his face.
Scarlet only glanced down at the empty bag by his side; in the last seconds during which he had struggled with the Gremlins, he had forgotten all about the little Mogwai, who had taken advantage of the short tussle to escape the bag, reach for the lamp, and power it up… to direct the beam of light toward the furious Snowball.
“Gizmo!” snarled Snowball.
“Snowball, bye bye!” answered the scowling Mogwai.
A second later, a huge ball of fire exploded in the sky with a loud boom, right on the other side of the windows. The light was so bright that Gremlins and Mogwai squealed loudly. A rumbling was heard as the shockwave hit the windows – which shattered into thousands of pieces under the impact. A sudden draft of violent wind arose in the room and everything that wasn’t attached firmly to the floor or the walls was instantly drawn toward the void. Plants, pieces of glass, tables, chairs, everything was sucked out…
At the second the explosion had occurred, Scarlet was already in motion; his right hand snatched Gizmo and pushed him into the sports bag still hanging at his side, while his other hand grabbed the handle of his line-throwing pistol. He aimed at the still open door and pulled the trigger. The steel harpoon embedded itself in the corridor wall facing the doorway, just as the sudden wind pulled Scarlet toward the windows. The line gave a violent tug, stopping the officer. It held.
Scarlet got to his feet, planting them firmly on the floor and started to haul himself towards the open door, struggling against the pull of the wind. Gremlins were flying all around him. Some of them had exploded, due to the sudden decompression and it was in the appearance of a deformed, gooey, and apparently lifeless mass that they flew out of the windows. Those who were still whole were screaming or still snarling, powerless to do anything to stop themselves, legs and arms moving without co-ordination. One even grabbed at Scarlet’s leg. The Spectrum officer shook it loose, and didn’t even watch as it flew right through the window, crying out loudly.
With a supreme effort, Scarlet finally reached the door and caught the doorway; he pulled himself into the corridor, grunting under the effort. He could hear the walls creaking. He could feel the floor tilting under his feet. That could only mean one thing.
Cloudbase was losing altitude. And was losing it fast.
Come on, Adam, Karen… PULL it up! I know you can! Stabilise her!
* * *
After having released her missile, Harmony Angel had no other choice to avoid collision with the Control Tower than to execute a manoeuvre that had been attempted only once before in Spectrum’s history. Her Angel craft dived down, and passed right between the two pylons supporting the Tower. The unfortunate but skilful pilot – namely, Captain Brown – who had done it the first time, some years ago, had seen Colonel White throw several chapters of the regulations book at him for his cockeyed, yet successful attempt. She prayed that the Spectrum commander would understand and approve of the manoeuvre, now. After all, it wasn’t as if she had any choice…
“Operation a success,” Harmony heard the voice of Lieutenant Green in her ears. “Well done, Angels.”
The Japanese girl turned her craft around to discover with horror that Cloudbase, destabilised by the sudden decompression, was now tilting forward and had started a rather fast descent. Melody brought her jet into formation with Harmony and both followed the carrier.
“Angel Pack, keep clear, until Cloudbase has stabilised!” came Lieutenant Green’s urgent order. “I repeat: keep clear!”
“S.I.G.,” Harmony repeated, with an obvious reluctance in her voice. But what could she do exactly? It wasn’t as if Melody and herself would be able to redress Cloudbase from their position!
The two pilots followed Cloudbase at a safe distance; unable to do anything else, they had to content themselves with watching, in morbid fascination, the scene of the Gremlins being ejected from the now shattered windows of the Promenade Deck. They were falling, and crashing against the multiple surfaces of Cloudbase, being transformed into instant pulp, or plummeting to their death thousands of feet below. The early rays of the rising sun caught others in mid-air – burning them on touch, as if they were vampires of legend. None of the Gremlins would survive the operation. That much appeared certain.
But what about Cloudbase itself?
* * *
“The pull is too hard!” complained Symphony between gritted teeth.
“Pull harder!” Captain Blue shouted back, his eyes riveted on the altimeter in front of him.
“What do you think I’m doing? I’m nearly pulling my arms out of my shoulders! We have to stabilise her or we’re history!”
Both pilots, with the same strength born of despair, pulled on their respective helms; they could feel the resistance still opposing their exertions, but didn’t give up. Beads of sweat glistened on their faces, hot with their tremendous effort.
“Pull up!” Blue growled. “Pull up! Come on! We’re not going to crash after all this! PULL UP, damn you…”
As if in answer to his invectives, the helm started to respond to his efforts. A glance at Symphony told him that the same was happening with her. He glanced at the altimeter. Slowly, Cloudbase was stabilising…
“Steady,” murmured Symphony between two laboured breaths. “Steady now…”
The descent stopped, and the twin helms were now responding smoothly. Both Blue and Symphony let out the same sigh of relief. They were out of breath, soaked with sweat from head to toes, and dishevelled. They looked at each other and exchanged the same, awkward smile. Symphony gave her fiancé a mischievous wink.
“Was it as good for you as it was for me?” she asked.
Somehow, Blue could only chuckle at the question.
* * *
Under his feet, Scarlet could feel that Cloudbase’s descent was getting smoother. Then he had the impression that it stopped; there was something of a comforting motion now, coming from the surfaces of the walls. That probably meant that the base was stabilising itself. Scarlet let out a deep breath. If at least he could be sure about that…
The corridor was empty. All the Gremlins were inside the Promenade Deck, being sucked outside by the strength of the wind produced by the depressurisation. Close the door... I have to close the door. Scarlet was about to punch the closing button, when an ugly face appeared in the doorway, inches from his own, snarling. The English captain nearly gave a double take. He was barely able to recognise Snowball, whose already hideous face had been half burned by either the light from the flashlamp or the flash of the explosion outside. His claws were holding on to the doorway for dear life, not wanting to let go.
And his eyes, still filled with rage and hate, were set on Scarlet.
“Oh no, you horrible beast!” Scarlet shouted over the whistling wind. “You’re going – just like the others!”
He viciously hit the hands holding the side of the doorway; the claws broke, and they let go – and Snowball, roaring wildly, flew out the window, under the dispassionate gaze of Scarlet.
The captain punched the closing button. The door slid slowly, and snapped shut. The pulling wind stopped.
Panting, Scarlet let himself slip to the floor, and sat down, leaning against the wall, his legs outstretched, clutching the sports bag containing Gizmo between his hands. “Lieutenant Green,” he croaked into his mic. “Promenade Deck closed…”
“About time!” the voice of Colonel White answered then, with an obvious impatient edge to his voice. “Equalising pressure in the main corridor now…”
“How’s… Cloudbase?” Scarlet asked with a tone of worry.
“I believe Cloudbase will be fine,” Colonel White answered. “For a minute or two there, it went into a dive. But Captain Blue and Symphony Angel managed to compensate for the loss of pressure and stabilised her at…” There was a pause, as White was checking the information. “… 10,000 feet. We’d better get her up fast to her regular position, before we risk a collision with a commercial flight.” He marked another pause. “Surveillance cameras and scanners indicate that there are no life signs nor movement on the Promenade Deck. The Gremlins are gone… as are almost all the plants and the furniture, I believe… I shall not take any risks. As soon as Cloudbase has stabilised at her regular altitude, I’ll have the Promenade Deck thoroughly checked.”
“A wise move,” agreed Scarlet, a faint smile on his pale and sweaty face. “We did it…”
He heard the hissing sound of air being pumped back into the corridor and didn’t wait to hear the word that pressure had been restored before removing his respirator. He gasped greedily, closing his eyes, and sighing with satisfaction. His body felt sore all over, and his shoulder and leg felt as if they were burning, but he could already sense all his wounds healing. He would only have to rest an hour or two to be completely alert again.
Feeling a nudge against his arm, he opened his eyes and looked down to look at the open sports bag, with the small Mogwai standing inside it, looking directly at him with big, wide, happy eyes.
“We did it,” Gizmo repeated with a jovial tone. “Gremlins gone!”
“They sure are, partner,” Scarlet smiled again. “You saved my life in there, Gizmo… How can I ever repay you?”
Gizmo seemed pensive for a short instant. Scarlet didn’t have to wait very long for the Mogwai to produce his answer. Gizmo looked up at him with his big eyes shining with excitement, and a large smile on his cute little face:
“Wanna see Wizard!”
Scarlet laughed out loud. Somehow, it was a request that didn’t come as any surprise to him.
“You certainly earned it, old chap!” he said, playfully and gently punching the Mogwai’s shoulder. “And we’ll have plenty of popcorn to go with it… But not after midnight!”
“Here we go again…”
Under the expert hands of Captain Blue and Symphony Angel, Cloudbase returned and stabilised at its regular position of 40,000 feet above sea level. Not only did Colonel White, as he had announced, send a few teams up to check the Promenade Deck, but he also delegated all free personnel, civilian, technician and military, to check on all levels of Cloudbase – to make sure that the whole base was finally devoid of all Gremlins – and that no surprise would present itself at the turn of a corridor. The searches went on for two days, and it was only after a full week of no incidents that White was truly satisfied that his base was Gremlin-free. After all, he reflected, if there had been a single one of those horrid creatures left onboard, it would have manifested itself by now… for, if they were to believe Captain Magenta’s findings, Gremlins were incapable of keeping quiet for long.
According to all reports and appearances, the Gremlins who had been ejected into the void by the sudden depressurisation of the Promenade Deck had all been killed. Either by the brightness of the explosion, the decompression itself, the sunlight or through vertiginous fall, the result was the same. There was no more Gremlin menace.
Another Mysteron threat had been thwarted successfully.
Immediately after the operation, Captain Scarlet had been taken down to sickbay where he had rested for almost the whole of the following day. The wounds he had sustained from his last encounter with the Gremlins had of course healed as quickly as ever, but Doctor Fawn wanted to check if the bites and scratches he had suffered had left any foreign substances in his blood. In normal circumstances, Captain Scarlet’s retrometabolism took care of such ‘trivialities’ but Fawn had made the point that the Gremlins were anything but normal. So he didn’t want to take any risks with his most unique patient. Nor with any of the other personnel who had had suffered similar injuries from the creatures. It was one of the few times that sickbay found itself particularly busy…
Rhapsody Angel was repatriated to Cloudbase shortly after the operation and, like all the others who had had a close encounter with the Gremlins, she was treated by Doctor Fawn for her injuries and kept off duty and under observation for a couple of days. Normally, she would probably have minded being taken off duty like that – but since it meant that she would be able to see a little more of Captain Scarlet during this short sick leave, she didn’t object at all. The same couldn’t be said of Destiny Angel who, still under treatment with antibiotics for her allergies, saw herself grounded for another few days. A couple of flying lieutenants were assigned as standby pilots, to replace the two absent Angels.
The repairs to the Promenade Deck had started as soon as Cloudbase had reintegrated her regular orbit in Earth atmosphere. It was going rather well, and it was expected that final repairs would be finished in a month. Most of the furniture would have to be replaced afterwards, of course, as well as many of the plants – although some of them were expected to revive all by themselves, given the chance. In the meantime, except for the repair crews, the Promenade Deck would be off-limits – with the security shield permanently in place until all the broken windows were replaced and checked.
The investigation ordered by Colonel White, to find out how the security at the Spectrum Airstrip at London International Airport could have been so lax that it had permitted Gizmo to get onboard Cloudbase, gave some results the day after the destruction of the Gremlins. A car, owned by a Spectrum employee at the airstrip, was found burned to a crisp at the bottom a deep ditch over the side of the road, beyond the limits of the airport. Not only was the body of James Cummings found inside, but also that of his Mysteron duplicate, who was at the wheel. According to autopsy, Cummings had been dead since before the accident, but it was the accident that killed the Mysteron. After a check of records, it had been discovered that Cummings had not come to work since the day after Gizmo had boarded the courier plane. He had called in sick and had taken a week’s leave. Since then, no-one had seen him. The car had only been found recently, quite accidentally, by a civilian walking his dog by the road.
For his actions on the Promenade Deck, Gizmo was treated as a real hero. The little Mogwai didn’t seem to care that much about honours and congratulations. He was simply content that the threat was finished and that the Gremlins were all gone. The Mogwai’s now carefree attitude was for Colonel White an additional indication that the evil creatures were all destroyed. In truth, all the time the other Mogwai and the Gremlins had been around, Gizmo had seemed nervous, apprehensive, worried… That was no longer the case. It was probable that the Mogwai’s instinct was telling him, more distinctly than any search would, that the threat had totally disappeared. White could see no reason to doubt that.
Seeing how close the Mogwai had grown to Captain Scarlet, White had agreed that the latter would be his keeper for the time being, with the certainty that Scarlet would be careful, now that he knew what breaking one of the three rules of caring for a Mogwai would imply. Besides, Gizmo had earned his reward, and the colonel knew that Scarlet would gladly offer it to him – though the Spectrum commander wondered how long Scarlet would be able to bear watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ over and over again… He had a feeling his young compatriot’s patience would be put to the test rather quickly.
If Colonel White had known that Captain Scarlet and Gizmo had reached an agreement – satisfying for both of them – after only two viewings of the movie, he would have been rather surprised. Fawn was not. He knew that Gizmo also loved action movies. Particularly ‘Rambo’…
Gizmo had been on Cloudbase for fifteen days since his arrival, and despite the few details concerning the day-to-day attention his presence demanded – and the three rules that had to be followed at all times – he had not been a bother at all. Quite the contrary, personnel had grown fond of him and liked taking care of him. They were starting to regard him as a mascot. That made Colonel White’s announcement that day all the more difficult for him. He knew that people would be unhappy at the news.
But there was no other choice.
When he entered the dimly-lit Officers’ Lounge with Harmony Angel, Colonel White knew he would find Captain Scarlet there, with Gizmo of course, watching yet another film on the television. They had been joined by Captain Blue and Symphony Angel, seated together, as well as by Captain Grey, who seemed particularly absorbed by the film. White glanced at the screen, but didn’t recognise the show. Just then, they seem to notice his presence and moved to stand up, but with a gesture, he invited them to stay seated.
“What is it, this time?” he asked in a conversational tone.
“‘Die Hard’, Colonel,” Captain Grey informed him, nearly forgetting to turn to his commander. But White barely noticed. On the screen, he had just seen a shattering explosion happening at the top of a high public building – with a half-naked man jumping into the void attached to a line to escape the blast. He heard Gizmo’s approving chatter, and looked down to notice that the Mogwai was applauding, and was watching the show with a glitter in his eyes similar to Grey’s. The colonel nearly rolled his eyes.
“Put it on hold, please. I need to talk to you all.”
Scarlet obeyed instantly, and the freezing of the image raised protests from Gizmo. It didn’t last very long, as everyone ignored it, to turn to Colonel White. They all noticed his stern-looking expression; as well as Harmony’s presence next to him.
“We were able to reach Harmony’s cousin,” White announced.
He had the feeling they already knew what he was going to say. They all exchanged miserable glances. That was the same kind of look he had seen on Harmony’s face a few minutes earlier. The young woman walked forward to sit down right next to the Mogwai; Grey had to move up to give her a place.
White kept himself from sighing – and scowling. “You all knew it was going to happen,” he stated. “You know we can’t keep Gizmo here. Cloudbase is a military base. It is not a place for a pet. Especially not one that demands as much attention as a Mogwai.”
“We know, sir,” Scarlet said with a sigh. “But…”
“I know you have all grown attached to him, but it’s better this way. We wouldn’t want what happened last time to happen again. And on this base, considering our duties – and our fight against the Mysterons – we can’t risk that.”
“That… wouldn’t be very fair to him either,” Symphony then said, with an approving nod. She sounded as if she was trying to convince herself. Not very successfully.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Blue agreed, gently squeezing his fiancée’s arm as if to give her comfort.
“My cousin is a very wise, responsible and gentle man,” Harmony said softly, her hand distractedly playing with the cooing Gizmo. “He’ll take good care of Gizmo…”
Scarlet kept silent. He looked down at the small brown and white furry animal who was snuggled close to him on the sofa, playing with Harmony’s hand, apparently unaware of the change about to happen in his life. The English captain raised his blue eyes to Harmony’s. “Do they have televisions in Shaolin Temples?”
She smiled. “I’ll make sure to tell Huang to accommodate Gizmo.”
Scarlet sighed again and gave a nod of approval. He reached for his little furry friend’s hand.
The Mogwai looked up at him, ears moving attentively, eyes big and bright.
“You’ll be a good boy while you’re there, won’t you, little mate?”
Perhaps Gizmo felt the sadness in his big friend’s expression and voice; perhaps he understood that he was going to leave. Scarlet, and everyone else, had that distinct impression. But the little Mogwai, whose lifespan they knew was far longer than it would appear, had probably already lost numerous ‘families’ in the past and knew how to cope with it far better than they did. There was, however, a certain sadness when next he spoke, in his gentle little voice:
“Gizmo will miss Paul…” Then he gave an affirmative, albeit brief, nod, and took on a brave façade: “Gizmo will be good boy…”
* * *
“Brother Huang… the mail has just arrived.”
Because of its rather remote situation in the mountains, the Shaolin Temple didn’t often receive mail for the monks who lived within its walls. About once a month, news from family and loved ones would come, and the monks would take the letters to their personal quarters and read them privately. Packages were even less frequently received. Especially not ones as large as this wooden box, that Huang knew came from his cousin Chan. She had previously contacted him by telephone, and had informed him of the box’s arrival, and of its contents. He knew he had accepted a great honour, and a great responsibility, by accepting Uncle Shen’s legacy – but he was still unaware of the extent of this responsibility. Chan had been unable to tell him everything. While allowed, phone calls were to be used sparingly. Chan had assured him she would explain it all in a very precise letter.
Huang had informed the superiors of the Temple of it, and they had agreed to his request. The brother was honouring the last appeal of an important deceased member of his family. They could not refuse him. It was the honourable thing to do.
Brother Ming was with Huang when the latter uncovered the carefully black-covered wooden chest and, after asking to dim the light according to Chan’s instructions, had opened the lid. Ming was in awe at the discovery of the cute, little, and gentle-looking animal seated at the bottom of the box. The creature had big, intelligent eyes that he turned first to Huang, then to Ming, and saluted them timidly with his paw, offering a smile. It was cooing with a melodious, charming little voice.
“Welcome to your new home, Mogwai,” Huang said gently, bowing in front of the box.
“Gizmo,” the creature protested gently. That almost took Ming by surprise, and he turned to Huang, with wide eyes.
“Is it talking?”
“Mogwai are unique creatures,” Huang explained, with a broad smile that matched Gizmo’s. In his hand, he was holding the letter that Chan had sent with the box, and in which he knew he would find all the details concerning the Mogwai. It was too dark in the room to read it properly, so he turned to Ming. “I will fetch a lamp to read this letter. Would you care to stay with the Mogwai for a minute, Brother Ming? I won’t be long.”
Ming gave only the faintest of nods to acknowledge the request and his brother monk quickly left the room. All of Ming’s interest was taken by the cooing little creature that was making him smile with fondness.
“Poor little Mogwai,” he said with a sigh. “You have travelled a long way to arrive here. That must have been a harsh trip… That box must have been uncomfortably hot… You must be terribly thirsty…” A thought flashed into his mind and he turned around. He was still smiling, only too happy to do a good deed. “I’m going to get you a big glass of water… That’ll do you a world of good.”
“Gremlins” always was a favorite film of mine (movies are another of my passions). I always had a soft spot for Gizmo, the small, cuddly Mogwai hero of the film. If Mogwai existed, I would want one (but of course, I could do without the metamorphosis to Gremlin…).
“Trouble with Mogwai” came as a sudden idea – and admittedly, it was a ratter silly one. I will admit, quite frankly, that there was nothing to link “Gremlins” to the Captain Scarlet universe. After all, the action of the movie was set in Christmas 1985, while the Captain Scarlet universe was from the later part of the Twenty-first Century. That’s why when I wrote the first scene of the story (where the Angels receive the box containing Gizmo), it was more like for my personal pleasure instead of a real project. It developed to a real story later on, when I found I couldn’t chase the Angels and Mogwai scene from my mind.
I found invaluable information about Mogwai and Gremlins on the Internet (thank you God, for that miraculous invention…) rather much in the way Captain Magenta found his info on the Worldnet (For those who are wondering – Wordnet is the late 21rst Century Internet in my stories). gave most of the ‘technical information’ I needed to write about both creatures – information I vaguely remembered having read a few years ago, in the novel adaptation by George Gipe of the movie Gremlins (from the script by Chris Columbus). I only created a few more details the purpose of the story – which I integrated to the original concept, without digressing too much from it. also provided with other interesting information – as well as beautiful photos. The title, “Trouble with Mogwai”, has been chosen as a respectful tribute to one of my all-times favorites Star Trek episode “Trouble with Tribbles” – in which, fans of the classic series surely remember – the Enterprise crew was confronted with a problem slightly similar – but not that much – to the one faced by the Cloudbase crew.
For those who had never seen it – or for those who would like to see it again – the movie “Gremlins” is available at (Region 1 for North American) and (Region 2 for Europe). The follow-up “Gremlins 2: the New Batch” however, is only available in Region 1, both at and
As always, my thanks go to Hazel Köhler and Mary J. Rudy for their talent as beta-readers for this story and their immeasurable patience – a patience shared by Marion Woods and Sue Stanhope, who with Hazel and Mary read the story as it progressed and were witnesses of its multiple changes, and continued to provide me with valuable encouragement. I also have to thank Mary for helping me out through the ‘getting rid of Gremlins’ operation, as well as credit her for the reference to the pilot who flew between the Tower pylons – which was her idea (first mentioned in her story ), and involved dearly departed Captain Brown.
“Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” ©, is still the creation of Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, and the rights of the classic series, once owned by Century 21, ITC/Polygram and now by Carlton International. “Gremlins” © was the creation of Chris Columbus, a movie directed by Joe Dante for Amblin Entertainment in 1984, © owned by Warner Bros. I do not own any of those rights, and simply had borrowed the characters for a fraction of time in order to write this story.
I hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.