A "Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons" story
“You should have woken me!”
Captain Blue made an enormous effort not to cringe. Odin’s thunderous bark of anger would have made a full army of warriors step back in fear. It was vaguely similar to Colonel White’s most furious yell – and Blue couldn’t help but experience the same feeling of apprehension he always felt when he was facing his commanding officer at his most angry. You did not want to cross Colonel White or be in the same room with him when he was in that state. And Blue had the impression it was even more true of ‘Odin’.
The self-proclaimed ruler of Aesgard was presently pacing the floor of his private chamber with long strides, his spear-sceptre thumping the stones at every other step. He was fuming, mumbling into his beard, at the three young men standing in the room – at a safe distance, it would seem – after being told of the events that had unfolded during the previous night. It was very early in the morning, and Blue had barely slept, even after warriors of the palace guard had told him, an hour after they had gone in search of her, that the servant girl Gerda had been found dead. Blue could not erase from his mind the concern he felt for Anna Preston on hearing the news. There was no way for him to know of her fate beyond this imaginary world, but he had a feeling of foreboding that something awful might have happened to her.
Scarlet, his arms crossed on his chest, apparently very calm, tilted his head to one side, and raised an eyebrow, following his king’s pacing with his eyes. He exchanged a quick glance with Ochre, who was standing by his right. The red-haired warrior shrugged dismissively; Blue couldn’t help but wonder about the huge black eye he was sporting. It was as if the whole left side of his face had been hit with the heavy hammer he was presently leaning on.
Ochre rolled his eyes behind White, without the latter noticing this. They both seemed to think that ‘Odin’, in his present anger, was in no state to listen to any of their explanations. True enough, their ruler was still raving with fury.
“You should have woken me!” Colonel White repeated, in his booming voice, continuing his furious pacing. “All this happening during the night, and none of you princes even deigned to inform me?! This is outrageous!”
“Waking you would have served very little, my liege,” Ochre remarked. “The servant girl was already dead, and Balder was already healing from the wound that she inflicted on him. We did not feel it was necessary to disturb your sleep. We thought it would be better for you…”
“It was not for you to decide!” White roared in his direction. “I am not a crippled old man whom you shall tell what to do! I am still ruler of Aesgard, and it is I who make the decisions in this land! When something this important happens, I want to know right the same instant. Is that clear?”
“Aye, Lord Odin,” Scarlet and Ochre answered in a low tone. They both bowed in front of White and Blue felt it would be best for him to imitate them – which he did, although a little awkwardly. White didn’t seem to take any notice of his hesitation, as he went to sit on the large, fur-covered stool, next to a small table on which were set a beaker and a large vessel. He looked thoughtful, his hand resting on his bearded chin.
“So the girl is dead, now,” he said abruptly.
“She was found at the foot of the cliff, my Lord,” Scarlet confirmed. “Just below the balcony bordering the palace garden.”
“She jumped to her death, then?”
“There is no way to know for certain, Lord Odin,” Blue remarked. “She might…” he hesitated.
“She might what?” White asked, turning his one brilliant eye on him. He seemed genuinely annoyed by his hesitancy.
“Well, it seems rather odd that she would have flown the dungeon to go and throw herself off a cliff,” Blue reasoned. “She could have killed herself in her cell instead. She might have been… pushed?”
“Do you have proof of this?” White inquired.
“We found footprints on the balcony,” Blue answered. “Hers and those of a man. It might be she was murdered.”
“By whoever pushed her to try to assassinate Balder,” Ochre then offered.
“You already have a suspect in mind,” White huffed.
“Of course, my liege. I think it is quite obvious who it should be,” Scarlet remarked coldly. “Always the same suspect in everything that happens in Aesgard that seems a little out of the ordinary.”
“I thought you would say that,” White retorted in a mumble. “But you do not have any proof of your allegations. Like every time you present such accusations.”
“Loki is far too clever to leave any proof behind him, my lord,” Ochre huffed.
“We might not have proof, Lord Odin,” Scarlet continued quickly, before White could answer Ochre’s remark. “But I did see the girl Gerda talking with Loki earlier during the evening… I was not the only one. Everybody saw it.”
Ochre concurred with an acknowledging nod; but White quickly brushed this aside. “The girl Gerda could have talked to anyone else during that evening, Lord Balder,” he remarked. “This is not proof enough, and you very well know it. I need you to bring me more than that, if you want me to throw Loki into the dungeon. You know as well as I what everyone is saying at this moment: the girl tried to exact revenge on you because you pushed her out of your bed in favour of the Valkyrie. And to all appearances, she killed herself afterwards – probably to avoid torture.”
“Or she was killed by Loki so she would not denounce him,” Blue remarked.
“Speculation,” grumbled White, turning his back on them. “Unless you actually have a witness to testify hearing Loki instructing the girl to attack Balder, or seeing him killing her, I cannot act against him.”
“You cannot – or will not, my lord?” Scarlet asked with a furrowed brow. “We all know why you are not willing to have Loki apprehended and put in chains.”
“Do not be presumptuous, Balder,” growled White. “And do not push your luck. I am not in the mood.”
“I am sorry, my lord,” Scarlet said, stopping himself from sighing.
“But some things have to be said,” Thor continued in turn, bravely. “We all know the Prophecy is holding you back from punishing Loki the way he deserves.”
“The Prophecy?” Blue asked with genuine curiosity. “What about it?”
“Ymir’s Blood!” White suddenly jumped to his feet, and his
hand swiftly grabbed the handle of the beaker full of ale, standing on the
table next to him; without even a pause, he threw the object directly at
Ochre. As if anticipating that move,
Ochre quickly stepped aside and ducked to avoid the projectile – which crashed
loudly against the wall behind, splashing its contents on him. Blue opened his eyes wide with astonishment
at this display of violent behaviour.
But neither Ochre – nor Scarlet – seemed the least bit surprised
by it. Ochre was simply and quietly
brushing the ale from his shoulder, while stepping forward to take his former
place, as if nothing had happened.
White was marching on him, angrily.
“I will not have you dispute my decisions!” he roared in his most furious and thunderous tone to date. “It is I who makes the decisions here! It is not for you, my princes, to decide what I should be doing!”
“Of course, my liege,” Ochre said, unfazed by the totally livid expression displayed on White’s face.
“Next time, be sure to wake me,” White seethed between his teeth, poking Ochre’s broad chest. That subject, obviously, was not to be forgotten, nor forgiven, for a long time.
“Lord Odin,” Blue then objected with some hesitation, “Your anger towards Thor is unfair. He’s not to be held responsible for any decision made last night. He wasn’t even present when the events… unfolded.”
“Aye,” growled White, turning to him. “You were, Hodur. As was Balder, I believe.”
“Balder was still recovering from his attack,” Blue retorted courageously. “If someone has to be held responsible, it has to be me.”
“Balder seems to have recovered rather nicely, if my good eye is still able to be the judge of it,” White retorted coldly.
“Aye, Lord Odin,” Scarlet answered quietly. “I have.”
“As usual.” White turned his back on Blue and went to the table, to take the vessel that remained on it. Blue watched with worry as he lifted it, but White simply drank from it, before putting it down again. White lowered his brow pensively. Gloomy, but obviously calmer now, he went to sit on his fur-covered stool. “As always, my princes, I take note of your concern,” he said, looking up pensively at the three younger men standing in front of him. “Loki will be kept under close surveillance. The minute we have proof of his deception and malevolence, we will apprehend him – and throw him in Aesgard’s darkest dungeon.”
“I would prefer to run him through with my sword, my lord,” Scarlet growled in a very sinister tone.
“You might have your chance yet, Prince Balder,” White answered, furrowing his brow with annoyance at the irrepressible warrior. “But you will not do so without any proof of Loki’s culpability – and not without my full approval. We are just waiting for him to make the one mistake we need.”
“Aye, Sire. I just hope that this waiting will not be our mistake – and our undoing.”
“You know we cannot do otherwise. And you all know why.”
Scarlet and Ochre nodded their acknowledgement, but Blue had no idea what all this was about.
Was it… that ‘Prophecy’ they were mentioning earlier?
“Who should be assigned to Loki’s surveillance, my lord?” Ochre asked. “We need someone we can fully trust.”
“I already thought about someone. What you say of Lord Vali?”
“Vali?” Ochre gave it some thought. “Is he not one of Heimdall’s most trusted lieutenants?”
“Aye, and of royal blood,” Scarlet confirmed with a brief nod. “His family is related to our lord Odin himself.”
“Remotely,” White retorted. “His filial relation to my house has yet to be proven – my prince. But he is a loyal son of Aesgard, and will give his life to protect our land. He came highly recommended by Heimdall himself.”
“I agree that Lord Vali is an ideal choice,” Ochre concurred. "But is he not presently patrolling our North border, to prevent plunderers from entering our country and attacking our most faraway villages?"
"Heimdall has recalled him to the palace," White answered. "He should be back this afternoon to take up his new mission – if you all approve of the choice."
“Aye,” Scarlet answered in turn. “I approve of the choice, Lord Odin.”
“And what of you, Hodur?” White asked, turning to Blue.
The latter nodded briefly. “Of course – my lord,” he agreed. Who the Hell is Vali? he added inwardly. He had no idea of whom they were speaking, but until he could find out, he thought he should concur with the others.
“That is settled, then,” White said approvingly. “I will send word to Lord Vali that I have a special assignment for him.” He took the vessel from the table and drank a sip from it, obviously satisfied that the subject seemed to have come to a close. Then, putting the vessel back on the table, he wiped his chin with the back of his hand.
"’Twould seem obvious that Loki – or whoever else is behind this attempt on your life, Balder – had instructed the girl Gerda to accuse your bride of the misdeed. Mayhap seeking to destroy the still fragile alliance between Aesgard and Vanaheim,” he remarked, leaning back on his stool.
"Might it not be the reason why he… 'overdid' the staged presentation of the Valkyries during last night's ceremony, Sire?" Ochre asked with a deep frown.
“The thought also occurred to me, Thor,” White agreed. “Surely, this alliance between our two peoples does not please our enemies. With that humiliating display last evening, Loki was probably attempting to raise the ire of all the Vanir – not to mention the Valkyries themselves – against us."
“I know that my… wife… was not very happy about that," Ochre said in a low voice.
"So we can see, Thor,” Scarlet said with a large smile. “Is that why your face this morning looks like you have been fighting a bull all night long?”
"Close enough, my brother," Ochre answered with a dismissive shrug. "As I said, she was not happy. This happened before I finally came to an agreement with my bride last evening."
"What kind of agreement?"
"I will not touch her until she stops hating me, and in return, she will not try to kill me."
Scarlet chuckled. There was only a thin smile on White's lips to betray his amusement.
"And when will she stop hating you?" Scarlet asked innocently.
"Never, she promised." Ochre grinned wickedly. "But I do not concede defeat yet, brother. For her to accept this agreement is proof that she is mellowing towards me. I plan to win her completely to my cause."
"How? By using your hammer to knock sense into her?”
"There are other ways to tame a shrew, Balder," Ochre laughed. "I can try to take her by the heart. All I need is a little patience."
"You?" Scarlet raised a doubtful brow. "This I have to see."
"You might be surprised yet, Balder."
“I do not have to tell you how important this alliance is for our two peoples,” White remarked gloomily. “Our very survival, in the upcoming battle against the Ice Giants and their minions, depend upon it. It must not fail.”
“Well then, Sire,” Scarlet replied with a smug grin, “this alliance might not be as ‘fragile’ as you implied earlier. At least, not anymore.”
White raised his brow. “I know you told me the Valkyrie protected you against the attack of the girl Gerda, Balder. Is there more to it that you have not told us as yet?”
“Much more, my Lord. If Lord Thor still has… difficulties… with his bride…”
“A momentary setback, I assure you, brother,” Ochre interjected.
“… For my part, I can confirm that I have won the Lady Nanna to my cause,” Scarlet continued, without taking notice of his interruption.
You don’t say, Blue mused, narrowing his eyes at him. He nearly voiced his inner comment.
“Why am I not surprised that your… natural charms would be able to conquer the Valkyrie’s heart, Balder?” White said with dry humour. “Do not play around, though, my lad. You might find that she is made of stronger stuff than a servant girl. And that a Valkyrie does not take it lightly to be deceived.”
“Those Valkyries know how to make you suffer,” Ochre added, rubbing his black cheek meaningfully. “You can take my word for it, brother Balder.”
“I do not intend to ‘play around with the Valkyrie’s heart’, Sire,” Scarlet replied seriously. “I do know the importance of this alliance between Aesgard and Vanaheim. And I know that for it to work, the marriage has to work too. I have every intention of making this happen. I know my duty.”
“Good lad.” White was obviously satisfied with Scarlet’s statement; he turned his attention to Blue. “I do not have to ask how you fare with your own wife, Hodur,” he said. “I know you have waited a long time to be reunited with her.”
“Aye, my lord,” Scarlet concurred with a renewed grin, that was mirrored by Ochre’s own smug smile. “I remember how he could not keep in place, waiting for last evening’s ceremony to happen.”
“And now, he is unnaturally quiet,” Ochre remarked almost mockingly. “We have known you more talkative, Hodur. Did your wife tire you out last night?”
“I would rather think that last night’s events might have… disturbed his plans,” Scarlet retorted in defence of Blue, although he took almost as much pleasure as Ochre in seeing the red coming to the blond man’s ears. “Running after a fugitive from the dungeon was probably not the way he intended to finish the night.”
“Indeed,” White said with a furrowed brow. He glared meaningfully at Scarlet, and then at Ochre, before setting his sight on an obviously ill-at-ease Blue – who didn’t like that much attention on him at this moment. He watched a little warily as White extended his hand to the vessel on the table and bring it to his lips. White caught the movement of his eyes and raised a brow. “Do not worry, Lord Hodur – I do not hold you or your brothers responsible for what happened last night.” He smiled. There was something oddly mischievous, even cruel, in this grin, which was accentuated by the ugly scar disfiguring his face. “But had I thrown that beaker at you earlier, I would probably have hit you and knocked you down. You would not have been swift enough to avoid it, considering your present state of mind.”
“My state of mind?” Blue asked.
“You are still recovering from your ordeal in the mountain,” White offered. “When you went to find the Valkyrie Nanna?” He glanced at Blue, with an inquiring look. “Unless you are recovered enough and now remember that terrible experience?”
Blue hesitated for a fraction of an instant, before shaking his head. “No, Lord Odin,” he answered. “I am sorry about this.”
White simply watched him intently, his one eye shining, his lips pressed into a thin line, barely visible under moustache and beard, while he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Blue felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny. It was as if White suspected he wasn’t telling the truth – or suspected something else all together. What exactly, Blue would have had difficulty in saying. He was never really able to read his commander’s mind on his face. But he knew that White was never a fool – and probably neither was this ‘Odin’ character.
For a brief moment, Blue entertained the possibility of trying to explain to White and the others what was really going on – to make them realize the truth about themselves, and this fantasy they were presently living. But his vain attempt of the previous night with Symphony made him realize the kind of folly it would be. They would no more believe him than Symphony had. He would appear crazy in their eyes, and his chances of ever stopping the Mysterons’ mad plans would be put at risk.
However, he felt that having a suspicious Odin watching over him would seriously complicate his mission. Added to that, he did need information; there was so much data missing, in order to fully understand the situation and put the pieces of the puzzle together. And the only people who would be able to help him seemed to be the very same people he was seeking to save.
“Is there something on your mind, Lord Hodur?” White inquired quietly. He obviously knew something was brewing inside Blue’s head. Something the younger man didn’t seem to be ready to share with him.
The hesitation in Blue was more and more apparent. He noted that both Ochre and Scarlet were now staring at him too, waiting with an almost unnatural patience. Dammit. I have no choice but to say something. Maybe that would put them at ease – and I will learn more at the same time… He made a thoughtful, cautious pause, before finally addressing White, if a little awkwardly.
“I might not remember what happened in the Icy Mountains, Sire,” he said, “that is, before the moment Lord Thor and Lord Tyr found the Lady Nanna and me…”
“But…?” White said with a raised brow.
“… I do know why the Valkyrie had gone there,” Blue continued.
“Was it not to escape her marriage to me?” Scarlet asked.
“No. Not exactly. She was on a mission.”
Scarlet seemed pleased by the answer. “Ah, I should have known that the fair lady would not consider being my spouse as such a terrible fate.”
“Keep those trivialities to yourself,” White warned him. “What was the Lady Nanna’s mission, Hodur?”
A sudden silence followed Blue’s words. A flicker passed in White’s eye, before his face became like stone; Blue looked around and noticed that the expression on both Scarlet’s and Ochre’s face had changed. They were still staring at him, but differently this time. They seemed to have become very sombre.
“Are you sure?”
White’s grave tone drew Blue’s attention back to the seated man. He was still wearing an set expression on his face, but the slight frown of his brow was betraying concern. Blue was suddenly unsure if he had taken the right decision to tell them that information. But it was too late to go back now.
If I wanted a reaction, I sure got one…
“Yes, Lord Odin,” he confirmed.
“My lord…” Ochre started.
White silenced him with a swift gesture. He didn’t take his eye off Blue. “You remember that?”
“Not exactly,” Blue admitted. “It was the lady Iduna – my wife – who told me that.”
“She told you willingly? When?”
“Last evening,” Blue continued. He was growing more and more concerned that he might have made a mistake. White had grown even more sombre, and as he slowly rose to his feet, he thoughtfully drained the last of his drink.
“Lord Odin, I am sure there is nothing sinister in this,” Scarlet then said.
White had his back turned to him; he put the vessel on the table, and looked over his shoulder. “You think so, Balder?”
“I do. After last evening, I cannot believe the Lady Nanna would want to do us – me – any harm.”
“Sire, despite Lady Sif’s resistance, I do agree with my brother’s assessment,” Ochre insisted in turn. "None of the Valkyries means us harm."
“And what if they had infiltrated us to better strike at us?” White asked, turning to them. “You know the way of the Ice Giants. How they manipulate people to do their malevolent deeds. This is how they work.”
Blue raised a brow. Just like the Mysterons…
“My Lord, if this were their intention, would the Lady Iduna have confided in Hodur and told him of the reason for Lady Nanna’s presence in the Icy Mountains?” Scarlet retorted.
“Then what exactly was the nature of Lady Nanna’s mission, Lord Balder?” White asked in a sour tone. “Why was she looking for Yggdrasil?”
“Because she wanted to protect it.”
The clear, low voice coming from the other
side of the room made every man turn around.
The door was open and Destiny was standing in the doorway, looking in
their direction; she entered the room, closing the door behind her, and strode
quietly toward them. She had such an
air of tranquil nobility befitting the queen she was that Blue felt compelled
to bow in her presence. He wasn’t that
surprised to realize that Scarlet and Ochre were doing the same – but it was rather perplexing to
see that White – Odin – was also bowing his head, even if only slightly,
and with a glint in his eye that indicated that he was on his guard.
“My Lord Odin,” she said, standing in front of him, “I can assure you that there was no duplicity on the part of Vanaheim in accepting the alliance Aesgard offered us. For our people, it is also a question of survival – and we cannot afford it to fail any more than you can.”
“So you were listening at the door, Queen Freyja,” White remarked, without, however, a single note of reproach in his tone.
“’Twould seem as well I did too, considering you are starting to entertain doubts about Vanaheim’s good faith, my Lord.” Destiny paused briefly, looking up to meet White’s inquisitive stare. Her eyes didn’t waver, even though he stood an impressive – and menacing – full head above her.
To Blue, the scene gave the impression that if Odin had wanted to, he could easily crush her delicate body with his bare hands.
“Yggdrasil has as much importance for the Vanir people as for Aesgard, Lord Odin,” the young woman continued with assurance.
“So you sent Lady Nanna to protect it?” White asked, his tone remaining calm, but still suspicious.
“To find it, so our people would be able to make sure it was safe, my Lord. Considering what Yggdrasil represents for us – for this world – the Ice Giants would like nothing more than to destroy it. They are the only ones who would gain anything by this action. They know that, with Yggdrasil gone, the human race, their most hated enemies, would surely follow its path to nothingness. We cannot – must not – lose it.”
Blue was listening attentively; this bit of information was beginning to sound really interesting.
“Then I reckon we should be thankful to you, my Queen,” White said, taking
Destiny’s hand, “for having the foresight to protect our very existence –
“I do not know.” Destiny looked meaningfully in Blue’s direction. “For she suffers the same ailment as your son Hodur and does not seem to remember anything of her voyage to the Icy Mountains.”
“Aye,” Scarlet said in turn, wanting to confirm Destiny’s statement. “That much I can also say, Sire.”
“It would surprise me if she had found it,” Ochre then noted, leaning on the handle of his hammer. “No-one knows where Yggdrasil might be, nor the path leading to it. Neither man, nor woman – or Ice Giants, which is a good fortune for us, else they would destroy it.”
“That is where you are wrong, my son,” White said gloomily. “There are some of us who do know where Yggdrasil is. Those of us who gave their left eye for knowledge…” He turned his gleaming blue eye to stare in the direction of Blue and Scarlet whose attention was focused on him. “And there are those of us who might have discovered it – but cannot remember it.”
As he pondered White’s puzzling comments, Blue wondered if he was talking about him…
Or about Scarlet, who was standing by his side.
* * *
“What the hell is ‘Yggdrasil’?”
Captain Blue shrugged at Rhapsody’s puzzled question. They were meeting alone together in some remote part of the palace garden, away from prying eyes and ears, where Blue had reported to the young woman everything that had been discussed during his earlier conference with White and the others. She was seated on a large white stone, watching him pace back and forth, like a lion in a cage, as he made his account. He stopped walking and came to stand in front of her.
“From what I can recall, ‘Yggdrasil’ was the name of the World Tree – a huge tree which is supposed to shelter all the known worlds and link them together – there were nine, in the Norse mythology, including Aesgard, and all of the ‘dark worlds’, such as the World of the Ice Giants – and Hell itself. Or what the Vikings regarded as Hell, anyway.”
Rhapsody frowned. “So you’re telling me that I – as Nanna – I was searching for that tree?”
“I don’t know if Yggdrasil is supposed to be a tree in this setting.” Blue sat down next to her on the stone, pensive. “What I know is that the mythological Yggdrasil will be destroyed at the end of the world. Its roots are being gnawed at by serpents – probably a representation of evil. A demon of some kind is supposed to set it on fire at Ragnarok – thus launching the destruction of all things that exist.”
“I can understand why the Vanir wanted to protect it, then,” Rhapsody mused. “If indeed Yggdrasil is a tree – and means for this world the same as it does in mythology.”
“I suspect that even if it’s not a tree, it does mean something similar to these people,” Blue mused.
“What about Paul’s dream?” Rhapsody then noted. “Or rather… Balder’s dream? The one I told you about earlier?”
“Where he was seeing a huge tree on top of a mountain, forming a palace in the clouds,” Blue recalled. “I was just thinking about that…”
“This palace he saw might very well mean Cloudbase. Perhaps Yggdrasil is the representation of Cloudbase in this world? That could also mean that the Mysterons are really trying to destroy Cloudbase. Of course,” Rhapsody mumbled as if as an afterthought, “we don’t need a crystal ball to work that one out.”
“That is a possibility, yes,” Blue admitted. “And that might explain one of the colonel's – Odin’s – reflections. He said that no-one knew where Yggdrasil was – except those who might have discovered it but cannot remember. He could have been talking about the two of us. But he might have been talking about Balder too. Balder could have discovered Yggdrasil during that fateful hunting party with Loki.”
“And the Ice Giants would have erased that from his memory?” Rhapsody asked in a puzzled tone. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I’m just contemplating a few possibilities. I might be way off track.” Blue frowned thoughtfully. “I also have the impression that Odin himself might know where Yggdrasil is. What he said about losing an eye to acquire knowledge from it… Just like the legend, in fact.”
“I don’t understand,” Rhapsody admitted.
“In the Norse legend, in order to acquire wisdom and knowledge, Odin sacrificed one of his eyes to the World Tree and hanged himself from it for a number of days. Now I don’t know how faithful to that part of the legend this world might be… but there’s definitely something to check here. If Odin indeed knows where is Yggdrasil, he obviously wouldn't tell.”
"To protect it."
"Most probably. And he doesn't seem eager to share that information with anyone – Vanir or Aesir. Mind you, considering what he said about the Ice Giants and how they manipulate people, I don't blame him. What he described sounds suspiciously like the Mysterons' way of acting…"
“Perhaps we’re getting it all wrong,” Rhapsody thought aloud. “Perhaps Yggdrasil is an opening of some sort. Once destroyed, all the dark forces – including the Ice Giants – would come rushing in to destroy this plane of existence…” She frowned. “That does sound rather metaphysical, doesn’t it?”
“Perhaps. But anything’s possible. I'm also still wondering about that 'Prophecy' that they were all talking about during the meeting, regarding Loki. I can't recall anything from the legends… Perhaps this is something specific to this world?"
"This prophecy, whatever it might be, could be of tremendous importance to this case, Captain," Rhapsody remarked.
"I know, we can't dismiss any clue we find. However, I'm wondering if the Mysterons are not trying to simply confuse us, so we wouldn't know what to look for." Blue shook his head, mildly irritated by the thought, and his own doubts. "You understand I couldn’t really ask a direct question about either Yggdrasil or that prophecy, during the meeting. As Hodur, I'm meant to know about all that already. I’m afraid I might look suspicious enough in Odin’s eye already, because of this… ‘selective’ memory loss I’m supposed to be suffering from. If I’d asked too many questions – like what exactly Yggdrasil is – I believe I’d look even more suspicious.”
“What exactly can ‘Odin’ suspect?”
“I don’t know. It’s just… the way he was looking at me.” Blue shrugged again. “There is something on his mind, I’m sure. I just wish I knew what it is.”
“Could the colonel be remembering something?” Rhapsody asked with hope. “In the back of his mind?”
“We can only hope. But until I have sufficient evidence that any of them remember about the real world, I’m not trying to tell them about it. I already tried with Symphony last night and the results were less than satisfactory.” He glanced in Rhapsody’s direction. “How about Scarlet?”
She shook her head in frustration. “I don’t think I had any more luck with him than you did with Symphony,” she remarked. “And… I did try hard to make him remember.” She hesitated, suddenly wondering if she should say more – or even if she had said too much already – and Blue had understood what she meant. The thin smile on Blue’s lips confirmed the latter, and she blushed ever so slightly. “You know, everything seems so real in this world… It’s really amazing. I thought that maybe…”
“It would jog Paul’s memory?” Blue charitably finished for her, as she hesitated to continue.
“It does sound rather stupid, doesn’t it?” Rhapsody asked.
“No… it works in fairy tales and legends. And since this world is based on just that…” Blue’s smile widened a bit, out of sympathy for the slightly embarrassed young woman. He gently patted her shoulder. “It was worth a try, anyway.”
“Seems like a wasted effort,” Rhapsody mumbled. “God, I hope I’m not shocking you, or anything,” she said with an apologetic smile.
“Shocking me?” Blue repeated with a brow raised in surprise. “Why would that shock me? In fact, I’m wondering if I should not have considered that… solution… with Karen.”
“You would say that,” she replied with an amused smirk.
“Actually, you telling me about this doesn’t surprise me that much either. As a matter of fact, Scarlet – Balder, that is – did mention something during the meeting earlier that led me to think something might have occurred between the two of you last night.”
“He did what?” Rhapsody retorted with outrage. “Oh, tell me he didn’t, Adam… in front of the colonel?”
“Er…” Blue was hesitant now. And that was enough of an answer to Rhapsody who groaned loudly.
“I will never be able to face the old man after that…”
“I don’t think you should concern yourself too much about that,” Blue retorted, still hesitantly. “Not for now, anyway. There’s nothing to tell us that he or anyone else will remember any of what happens here, once they wake up.”
“You remembered when you found yourself back on Cloudbase yesterday evening,” Rhapsody reminded him.
“We are the only ones who know who we really are in this world. So it might be different for us. Beside, none of the others are acting like their usual selves. And the colonel is bound to take note of that. So he’ll probably not think anything of it once everything is back to normal.”
“It’s still rather embarrassing,” Rhapsody said. She was thinking that Paul would have a lot of explaining to do and a lot to answer for when they eventually escaped this strange world. She might not feel as magnanimous then as she felt right now. For example, as hard as she was trying, she couldn’t expunge from her mind the vision of the servant girl Gerda being so close to Balder…
And that reminded her of the poor woman’s final fate.
“Adam,” she murmured, lowering her eyes, “what do you think happened to Anna Preston?”
He shook his head, sadly. “I wish we knew,” he answered in a low tone, very similar to hers. “I hope she is all right. But evidently, there is no way for us to contact Cloudbase and check it out.”
“Think again, Captain Blue.”
The faint, male voice seemingly coming from nowhere made Blue raise his head in surprise and check around. There was no-one in sight; he addressed a look at Rhapsody who had straightened also, with the same look of astonishment on her face.
“You heard that too?” he asked with a frown.
“I certainly did,” she answered. “It sounded like… Doctor Fawn.”
“Nice of you to recognize me,” the faint voice said again.
“Doc!” There was no mistake now. Blue jumped to his feet, turning around, and looking for the still-invisible doctor. “Where are you? We can hear you but…”
“You can’t see me, I know. NOT surprising. I’m not there, Blue.”
“I’m merely contacting you from Cloudbase,” Fawn interrupted. “Look at your finger… Remember I slipped something onto it just before you left?”
Blue raised his left hand and stared at his middle finger. A polished, silver ring was shining around it; he had all but forgotten about it.
“A communicator,” he stated in a surprised tone.
“Of course, a communicator,” the voice replied, a little more clearly this time. “What did you think it was, a token of my affection?”
“How can it be working here?” Rhapsody asked in puzzlement, leaning even more closely to examine the communicator/ring. “I mean, this is a piece of technology… a pure anachronism in this barbarian world…”
“Don’t ask me how. All I know is that I managed to synchronize its signal to the computer source generating the Twilight of the Gods game. So in truth, I would say it’s a window to the world you are presently in – using Captain Blue’s subconscious as my connection."
"If you're using Captain Blue's subconscious – how come I can hear you?" Rhapsody asked with a curious frown.
"Look at your finger, Rhapsody."
She complied, raising her left hand – and saw that she had on her middle finger a ring similar to Blue's. A faint smile crossed her lips. "Clever, Doctor. I didn't think you were into electronics."
"Desperation can lead to miracles, my dear Rhapsody. I thought – hoped, rather – that I would be able to make this work when I gave it to you, once I had the chance to slip it on your finger, and then to Blue. I’ve struggled for hours after that to find the right frequency.” There was an obvious tone of satisfaction underlying Fawn’s voice. “I think I would make Captain Magenta or Lieutenant Green proud. Of course, I have no doubt it would have been far easier for them than it was for me…”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Doc,” Blue said with a smile. “That’s great work you did. We’ll be able to keep tabs between us on what is going on.” He paused and glanced briefly in Rhapsody’s direction before asking the question that he knew was foremost in both their mind. “Doc… how is Anna Preston?”
There was a short silence. “I’m sorry, Captain,” came the voice of Fawn with a sad note to it. “But I’m afraid she died last night.”
“I was afraid you would say that,” Blue said, closing his eyes in a silent prayer for the young woman. Rhapsody had lowered her gaze.
“She woke up all of a sudden, and started choking,” Fawn continued in explanation. “She couldn’t breathe anymore. What happened over there? I’m guessing… her character died as well?”
Briefly, Blue reported the incidents leading to the servant girl Gerda’s death, and proceeded to explain the later events, including his meeting with the others early in the morning to discuss what had happened during the night. He finished by relating his and Rhapsody’s latest discoveries.
“I’m sure they wanted me to witness her death,” Fawn said gloomily. “The Mysterons set her up as an example of what will eventually happen to the others… if we fail to counter the Mysterons’ plans this time.”
“Then we must not fail,” Rhapsody replied insistently. “We have to succeed – to avenge Anna Preston… and Harmony,” she added with a catch in her voice.
They were all in agreement. Although they were all saddened by Harmony Angel’s and Anna Preston’s demise, they knew that they couldn’t let their feelings get in the way of trying to find a way to escape – and save everyone else. If anything, the death of Anna Preston was providing them with further data as to what would happen if they were to fail. It seemed evident now that the Mysterons were not bluffing: anyone would die for real on Cloudbase if he/she was to die in this fantasy world.
“I’ve been locked in my office since Anna died,” Fawn continued. “And I’ve been left pretty much to myself. That’s why I was able to work on the computer and then that communication link with you. I’m going to help you as much as I’m able to over here.”
“Just be careful not to get caught, Doctor,” Blue remarked.
“I’ll try. But don’t worry about me. Considering the latest events, you’d better worry about yourself.”
“Aside from Preston, everyone else is okay on Cloudbase?” Blue asked.
“As far as I was able to see, yes. So I take it everyone else is all right on your side too?”
“Yes, they’re all right. But I don’t know for how long. I suspect that, as we are speaking now, the Mysterons are making plans to destroy us all. We must act fast now, Doc, before someone else dies – and if we don’t want to all share Anna Preston’s fate – and Harmony’s.” Blue marked a short pause. "Doc, we're a little short on information here. Are you able to check the databank library – even Worldnet – for further information on Norse mythology? We should really learn all we can from this world we're living in if we were to understand what to do. This prophecy that the others mentioned concerning Loki doesn't ring any bells with Rhapsody or myself."
"I'll try to find what I can. Unfortunately, the use of Worldnet is restricted right now – no doubt part of Burgundy's security measures to prevent us from contacting the rest of the world."
"I've no doubt his firewall is effective," Blue remarked. "Trying to crack it would be a waste of time."
"I think I saw a rule book of the Twilight of the Gods game that Scarlet was reading before this mess started," Fawn mused. "I obviously don't have that book to hand, but maybe the same information can be found in the program databank?"
"That is a good idea, Doctor," Blue approved. "Anything you can find could be useful to us, to provide the key to this puzzle."
“You might be right in thinking that Scarlet might be that key, Captain.”
“Yes. Him… and/or this Yggdrasil thing we told you about.”
“It does seem like it could be an important clue,” Rhapsody agreed. “Especially if it is somehow representative of Cloudbase – if I interpreted Captain Scarlet’s dream correctly.”
“Well, I actually succeeded in accessing the surveillance cameras a few minutes ago, and I’ve been looking around for him. So far, I haven’t found a trace of him.”
Blue exchanged a new glance with Rhapsody. He could see the worry splattered on her face. A worry that mirrored his own.
“They’re hiding him somewhere,” Rhapsody said, trying to conceal her nervousness. “That must mean he is indeed important to their plans.”
“That’s what I figured out myself. But I haven’t finished looking around. Wherever he might be, I’ll find him, Rhapsody. I know you’re worried about him.”
Rhapsody gave a frown at Fawn’s words. “Of course, I’m worried, Doctor,” she answered carefully. “But I also worry about you. I hope you’ll be careful in your search…”
There was a very audible chuckling sound, just before Fawn continued, “Rhapsody, I know you mean every word you just said – but I also know for certain that you will NEVER feel as worried for my well-being as you feel for your boyfriend’s…”
Rhapsody opened her eyes wide. “Boyfriend?!” she repeated in surprise. “Doctor, how do you…”
“I’ve know for a long time about you two, but I don’t think now’s the time to discuss this,” Fawn suddenly interrupted her. “I think we’ve kept this link open long enough. If we want our contacts to remain inconspicuous, we should keep them to a minimum – and short in time.”
“I agree,” Blue added quickly, dismissing Rhapsody’s frustrated look of disapproval. “Unless we want the Mysterons to intercept them.”
“I’ll contact you if – when – I’ll have any further development here. If you want to reach me, tap three times on the ring. It’ll trigger the comms link. Fawn out.”
“S.I.G. Doc. Captain Blue out.”
Blue lowered his hand and looked up at Rhapsody, who now seemed pensive. “Well, now this is good news,” he reflected. “We have a direct link with the real world. So with a little luck, we’ll know what’s happening there – and the good doctor will make sure to be as good as his word, and help us any which way he can.”
She nodded slowly. “I’m not so happy that Fawn seems to know about Paul and me,” she remarked. “Were we as transparent as you and Karen are, Adam?”
He rolled his eyes, smiling faintly. “I should feel offended by that remark. And yet – I just know you’re right. And no, you were not ‘as transparent’ as we were. At least, I don’t think so. Probably Fawn is a better observer than some?”
“Let’s just hope so,” Rhapsody said, answering with the same kind of smile.
A snapping sound on their right made them raise their heads in alert. Blue jumped to his feet, looking with trepidation in the direction of which the sound had come, his hand on the handle of his sword. From behind a thick copse of bushes, he saw a tall silhouette emerge. He relaxed slightly when he recognized Scarlet, who was now looking at them with attentive eyes.
“Here you are, brother,” Scarlet said quietly in his lilting voice. “And you as well… my wife.” He took note of Blue’s hand on the sword, and narrowed his eyes. “You seem nervous, Hodur.”
“Just a bit, I have to admit,” Blue answered, his hand falling to his side. “I do not forget that a woman was killed last night… in these very gardens. Not far from here, actually.”
Scarlet narrowed his eyes at them. “What are you doing over here, all by yourselves, the two of you?” he asked.
“Hodur just said it… husband,” Rhapsody answered quickly enough, jumping from the stone to stride to Scarlet’s side. She took his arm and linked hers to it. “We were looking for clues about the murder.”
“Ah.” Scarlet seemed to ponder the revelation. “So Hodur told you about our earlier meeting with Odin?”
She flashed him a big, charming smile. “Wouldn’t you have done the same if you had found me first, Lord Balder?” she remarked innocently. “Knowing that I could help you find the assassin out?”
He simply gave her a puzzled look, obviously wondering if she was leading him on. He didn’t answer, but smiled in turn, affectionately tapping her hand linked to his arm, and drawing her closer to him. “A woman should not concern her pretty head with such thoughts of ugliness,” he retorted, almost condescendingly.
“Say that again and you’ll find yourself in big trouble… my lord,” she shot back between smiling teeth.
He laughed. “I believe I already am in trouble, my lady,” he answered. “Just by giving my heart to you.” Still smiling, he steered her in the direction he had come from and gestured to Blue to follow. “Come, brother. Leave this… investigation to the palace guards. We have other things that demand our attention.”
“I’m right behind you,” Blue answered. He followed, a few steps behind the couple, his eyes riveted on Scarlet’s back, thoughtful.
Was it his imagination, or had his friend actually sounded and looked suspicious?
* * *
On ending the communication with Captain Blue and Rhapsody Angel, Doctor Fawn had turned his attention back to his earlier search through Cloudbase’s multiple surveillance cameras. His computer screen was flicking through them, as he looked desperately for any clue or indication of where Captain Scarlet could be hidden – or even Captain Black, for that matter, as Blue was convinced that the renegade Spectrum officer was also somewhere on base, in order to take part in this ridiculous charade they were all involved in.
Since the death of Nurse Preston, and from the minute he had been brought back to his office and left alone, Doctor Fawn had not been able to sleep and had relentlessly worked on his computer. The Mysterons obviously didn’t consider him that much of a threat to them. That they hadn’t killed him yet could mean that they either regarded him with contempt – or that they had further plans in store for him. In which case, Fawn didn’t propose to do nothing but stay around waiting for them to act. He knew that not only his life was in jeopardy, but also all those living on Cloudbase – all those 500-plus people who were presently stuck in a computer fantasy life, with no suspicion that they were even in danger of dying.
Fawn’s thoughts were haunted by Anna Preston’s death, which he had witnessed first hand. If he was able to have his say in this, she would be the last victim of this game.
He was fighting against tiredness, desperately keeping his drooping eyelids open and riveted on the screen that was still flicking through the various areas of Cloudbase. Nothing much was happening. Every room and corridor was either empty or occupied by unconscious people – some of them sleeping in the most awkward position. Fawn felt for certain that when this craziness was finished, sickbay would receive a lot of visitors complaining about backaches or sore necks. He grimaced, thinking of the job awaiting his staff.
Something suddenly caught his eyes on the screen which was now flicking so rapidly, that if he had blinked, he would have missed it. He had to click back four or five times, more slowly, to find the picture that had attracted his attention.
A Spectrum security guard was standing to attention in front of a closed door. He was very much awake and alert to his duty. Fawn narrowed his eyes with interest. Yet another Mysteron, he reflected inwardly. Obviously guarding this door… and what else, exactly?
Fawn rubbed his chin thoughtfully, feeling annoyed at the growth of hair scratching under his fingers. I might have found it… he thought, his eyes not leaving the screen. This guard wouldn't be at that door, if there wasn't something important behind it. It could be Scarlet… and… or… Captain Black.
IF Captain Black was there, that was, as Captain Blue was so convinced. For his part, Fawn himself wasn't that sure about the veracity of that theory.
The very recognizable sound of his door sliding open made Fawn swiftly raise his eyes to see Rochester stride into the room, an implacable expression on his face. Instinctively, Fawn pressed the button to turn off his computer; without so much as a pause, Rochester walked swiftly to him – and backhanded him violently, sending him onto his seat which started rolling away from the desk, with Fawn sprawled in it. It bumped into the wall behind and stopped.
“What were you doing, Doctor?” Rochester asked, rounding the desk and walking the few feet separating him from Fawn. "Up to some dirty tricks?"
Half-stunned by the slap, Fawn shook his head. He could feel a salty taste in his mouth. Grunting, he tested his mouth with his hand; Rochester had split his lower lip. He glared furiously as the man glanced at the computer’s empty screen, and pressed the button to power it up. Almost without thinking much about it, his left hand slid into his overall pocket, in search of an handkerchief to wipe the blood from the corner of his lips. His fingers came into contact with a cold, metallic handle. He froze instantly, and kept his hand in his pocket, trying to look inconspicuous.
“Not as dirty as your own Mysteron tricks,” he answered Rochester acerbically. “Or don’t you like it that we fight back?”
“On the contrary – we like it very much.” Leaving the computer, Rochester turned his complete attention to Fawn and slowly drew his gun; the doctor became suddenly alert and froze on his seat as the man approached even closer to him. “It makes it much more interesting to kill you.”
Fawn’s jaws clenched. His fist closed around the object in his pocket, attempting to surreptitiously get it out, and wondering if he would have time to use it. If he could only goad Rochester to come sufficiently close…
“I knew it. You are only sadistic, murdering scum,” he replied defiantly. “Interplanetary or not – you’re like any other scum in existence.”
Rochester smiled evilly, playing distractedly with his gun. “Oh, but dear Doctor, you don’t know how wrong you are…” Rochester cackled, and raised his gun, pointing it directly at Fawn’s heart. “Too bad you’ll die before learning the truth...”
Rochester was nearly at point-blank range; he would not miss at this distance. Fawn’s heartbeat increased; he felt for certain that his time was up, and that he would not have the opportunity to defend himself; he could even see Rochester’s finger gently caress the trigger; in a second, he would pull it.
But then, right when he thought that he would die, he heard a dull thudding sound and saw Rochester shuddering and then making a further step closer. Now or never, Fawn thought, not even questioning himself on what was happening exactly, only realising that Rochester was just within his reach. He would not have another chance. His hand flew out of his pocket faster than he thought it could ever be possible for him and he struck – driving the sharp end of the letter opener Blue had left him as deep as he could into the man’s chest. He knew exactly where to strike, right under the ribcage, to reach the heart.
Rochester grunted in pain, and then his eyes widened and glazed over, before he slowly folded up and fell to his knees – revealing behind him, to the eyes of the amazed Doctor Fawn, a petite figure, standing at the ready, and watching him with attentive and cautious eyes, a large electric torch in her right hand. Fawn gasped in surprise, as the already dead Rochester fell face first and his brow banged against the edge of the desk, before his body sprawled to the floor.
“Harmony!” Fawn whispered in disbelief. “It can’t be…”
Quickly, Harmony closed the door behind her and approached him, stepping over the fallen Rochester, a smile of relief on her lips. “Hello, Doctor… I am glad to see I arrived in time.”
* * *
Blue and Rhapsody had followed Captain Scarlet beyond the limits of the gardens, and into another section of the Walhall’s grounds. They were approaching a small field just outside the palace’s walls, where they first heard sounds of battle – metal clanging against metal and grunts of effort. They exchanged glances of worry as they neared a small group of people, surrounding two combatants and watching the swordfight with interest. Amongst them Blue and Rhapsody easily recognized Symphony, Captain Grey and Captain Magenta. As for the two fighters, there was no mistake about who they were: the tall body of Captain Ochre – his face framed by his unusual flamboyant hair and beard – and the petite and dark form of Melody Angel were easily recognizable in this setting.
“Our brother bragged earlier that he will win his Valkyrie by winning her heart,” Scarlet said with a sigh, as he shook his head in a daunted way. “’Twould seem the best way to do that is still by fighting with her.”
“They’ll hurt each other with those swords,” Rhapsody reflected, nevertheless watching with fascination as her two friends and colleagues exchanged blow after blow. “We should stop them…”
“My lady,” Scarlet said, laughing with amusement, “Even I would not put myself between these two during their courtship.”
“You call that ‘courtship’?” an incredulous Blue repeated.
“Of course it is, husband.” Symphony had left her position next to Magenta to run to Blue and lock her arm around his, steering him towards the fight. “Is it not how we did it ourselves?”
“If you say so,” Blue mumbled, without committing himself.
He barely took note of Scarlet, standing between him and Rhapsody, and suddenly encircling the young woman’s shoulder with his arm – in an almost protective – or possessive? – gesture. “Beside,” Scarlet remarked with a grin, “I can safely say we do not need to fear for the girl’s safety. Thor is not using his hammer… it is not as if he could hurt her seriously.”
Melody, in the middle of her fight, obviously heard him well enough to take umbrage at his remark. “Aye, Lord Balder,” she said between two deep breaths, as she parried off a rather violent blow from Ochre’s sword. “But even with his hammer, I could still seriously hurt him.”
Ochre was against her the next second, their swords and eyes locking as they tussled; he was much heavier than she and was obviously intended at using that advantage to push her back, nearly bending her back to the breaking point.
“This is the closest our bodies ever were, my Lady Sif,” Ochre whispered with a mocking grin. “Even counting our wedding night.”
She clenched her teeth, eyes glaring and stepped aside quickly, unlocking the swords.
Ochre fell face first onto the grass.
“Need I remind you, Lord Thor, that there was NO wedding night?” Melody savagely drove her sword into the ground, barely an inch away from Ochre’s head. She glared defiantly at him. “Not last night, nor any night before – and you will have to do better than that if you wish for it to ever happen!” That said, she turned on her heels, head held proudly high, and left the field, with long, furious strides – her departure followed by Ochre’s loud laughing. Scarlet stepped forward to help him to his feet.
“She’s furious,” Rhapsody noted.
“Obviously,” Blue concurred. He was beginning to wonder if this adventure in the land of the Vikings would not be transformed into something much deeper between Ochre and Melody when they came back to reality. Sparks were literally flying between these two.
“What a woman,” Ochre said, brushing the grass off his clothes and smiling with satisfaction. “Is it a wonder I love her so?”
“Be careful that she does not plunge a dagger into your heart while you sleep,” Scarlet retorted, the smile on his face removing the seriousness of his words. “You might love her, but I am not that sure she does love you.”
“In fact, I am sure she does not,” Magenta remarked stoically.
“You two know nothing of her true feelings,” Ochre answered obstinately. “She is warming to me.”
“How can you tell, Prince Thor?” Grey asked, with a brow raised in skepticism.
“She has accepted my invitation for a hunt, this afternoon,” Ochre victoriously proclaimed.
Scarlet slowly nodded his head. “You are sure you want to hand her a bow, brother? ’Twould seem like a dangerous move to me…”
Ochre shrugged dismissively, not deigning to answer.
From an opening in the stone wall, Lieutenant Green appeared and saluted them formally, hitting his chest with his clenched fist. “Hail, my princes,” he said.
“Brave Heimdall, what brings you here?” Scarlet asked, approaching him.
“Lord Vali has returned from the northern borders and requests permission to meet with our princes – and their ladies. Before undertaking his new mission.”
“Aye. That would be only fair that a member of the royal lineage of Aesgard should meet the royal princesses of Vanaheim,” Scarlet agreed. “Where is Lord Vali?”
“Right here, my prince.” Green stepped aside and motioned to someone standing in the shadows behind him to approach. All eyes were riveted on the new arrival who advanced into the sunlight.
Blue tensed suddenly, and he heard the faint gasp of Rhapsody, who was only a couple of feet away from him. Both felt the same sensation of shock as they recognized who ‘Lord Vali’ actually was.
Before them, the man clad in the same Viking attire as the others, his face half-covered with a shaggy mustache and a scar across his right cheek…
… was Lieutenant Burgundy.