A "Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons" story
Symphony Angel didn’t remember ever waking up with a hangover similar to the one she presently had.
Her head felt as if it weighed a ton, although the inside of her skull seemed filled with cotton so thick she had trouble thinking straight. In fact, it hurt just to make the effort to think. And it hurt even more just to try to move any part of her body. Her mouth was so very dry, she even had trouble swallowing.
She was lying on her back, on a hard surface, and she could feel her muscles were stiff. When she attempted to open her eyes, she closed them immediately. Too bright… too damned bright, she cursed inwardly. What the devil did I drink last night? WHAT did I do exactly? I can’t remember…
Her eyelids finally obeyed her mental command, and she blinked repeatedly, to chase away the too-bright light and the fuzziness filling her vision; she groaned in pain, and slowly brought her hand to her head. Just that movement was pure torture.
Her vision cleared finally, and she found herself staring at the high, rounded ceiling of the Amber Room. What was more, she was lying on the floor, not that far from the door.
What? she thought with a frown. I fell asleep here?!
That wasn’t like her at all.
What the hell happened?
She slowly raised herself into a sitting position, holding her head and keeping it down, until the pain in it, and the sudden nausea that had hit her, eventually subsided. She remembered the strangest of dreams… she was back in the time of the Vikings, and she was a warrior princess of some sort – captured by the enemy, but betrothed to their prince… Adam was that prince, of course, and there were all sort of intrigues in the palace. Everyone she knew on Cloudbase was there… all with a role to play, and…
Even Captain Black was there – as the villain of the story. She shivered almost despite herself.
How strange that I can recall all the details so vividly! she mused.
Truly, what an odd dream that was…
There was a strange sensation, nagging at her… Something that she felt she should remember, but was elusively escaping her… It was hidden behind all those details, those ‘memories’ of that bizarre dream which seemed so terrifyingly true… As if the events had actually occurred for real. But that was impossible, of course… That couldn’t possibly happen?
She heard her stomach whine, obviously demanding food. Her free hand reached for her belly, as if trying to calm it. Yes, she did feel hungry… very hungry… and she had such a terrible thirst; her throat was completely dry. It was as if she had not eaten or drunk for many hours… or days…
Suddenly, she remembered, as her mind slowly started to clear, although her headache persisted. She raised her head suddenly – too suddenly for her own good – and looked around the Amber Room with alarm, recollection of what really happened before that dream coming back to her in waves.
Her sudden feeling of wariness confirmed itself when she saw Destiny Angel, half lying on the couch, and Melody, sprawled across the steps, not that far from her. Both of them looked asleep.
Unconscious – like I was… I remember now. There was gas, filling the Amber Room… That sensation of drowsiness I – we – felt…
And then… nothing, except that stupid dream.
"Oh my Lord…" Symphony muttered. She swiftly dragged herself to Melody, closest to her, to check if she really was only unconscious. The pulse in her wrist was beating strong. As for Destiny, she was definitely alive – Symphony could hear her snoring lightly.
She got to her feet, and suddenly felt light-headed; she staggered toward the water fountain, and poured herself a first cup, that she gulped greedily, before taking a second, then a third. At the fourth cup, her thirst finally seemed to be assuaged, and she sighed with satisfaction.
She then checked her wristwatch. It seemed like they had been sleeping only a couple of hours…
No… the date had changed…
"Oh my LORD! That can't be possible!" Symphony repeated more forcefully. She turned on her heel suddenly – Damn that blasted headache! – and staggering, went to the door in long strides. She remembered everything now… the news that Captain Blue and Rhapsody's SPJ had crashed on the runway, minutes after she had started her shift; the concern she felt that they might be hurt; the voice of Lieutenant Burgundy over the comm. telling her to relax, that both were perfectly all right and had been taken down to sickbay to treat minor injuries and slight concussion; her desire to leave her station and go up to sickbay anyway, in order to check on her fiancé and friend…
And then that blasted gas that had hit them…
She had tried to reach the door, but had crashed to the floor before she could. Her last thoughts had been of a driving determination to call the Control Room, to give the alert, but the only thing she had been able to do was to raise her hand toward the comm.link right next to the door, without reaching it; she was too far away.
Reaching the door now, she pushed the control button, but the door refused to slide open.
"What the hell is going on here?" she muttered darkly. She slammed the comm.link button. "Symphony Angel to Control Room! Spectrum is Red! We've been under attack in the Amber Room. The door is locked. Please, unlock it immediately!"
There was no answer. Symphony frowned. Curious. The comm. seemed to be working… And there was always someone in the Control Room… What was happening?
"Amber Room to Control Room! This is an emergency! We've been hit by gas – my watch says it was TWO DAYS ago! How is it possible that nobody noticed!?" As the comm. kept silent, the doubt slowly making its way into her mind became certainty. "Is there anyone up there to answer me?" she asked, trying to keep her voice from shaking. "Colonel White? Lieutenant Green?" The name of the last person she had talked to before losing consciousness came to mind. "Lieutenant Burgundy?"
But no-one answered.
Oh no… Don't tell me this attack was not only against the Amber Room – but all over the base.
Her heart started racing. She had no way of knowing if everybody else was indeed unconscious – or worse, dead. She could only suspect that something terrible had happened.
She tried to contact different locations all over Cloudbase – Sickbay, maintenance, officers’ lounge… There was no answer anywhere.
"This can't be happening…" she whispered to herself. "I can't be the only conscious person onboard…"
And if I am?
She punched an emergency code into the comm.
"Symphony Angel to Spectrum Headquarters, London. Spectrum is Red! Cloudbase has been under attack. We…"
She stopped herself when she suddenly realised that there was static coming from speakers. She tried another code, in order to contact another ground base. It was the same.
Great. Connections to ground seem completely disabled. As if something – or rather SOMEONE - has messed around with the radio system to isolate Cloudbase. On purpose, obviously.
It appeared to be a huge, well-organised assault.
"I have to get out of here," she said to herself, turning her attention to the control panel embedded in the wall next to the door, with fierce determination. "I have to open that damned door and find someone – anyone. And they better come up with good answers to the questions I will ask them – or there will be Hell to pay!"
* * *
The Spectrum sentry standing guard in front of the R&D room where Captain Scarlet was imprisoned inside the suspension tank pushed the command button and the door slid open in front of him. He stepped inside the room, slowly, his weapon at the ready, his gaze attentively wandering around. Bromwell was so concerned that an inadvertent move with the machinery might put the whole operation in jeopardy that he had instructed the guard to take his station outside the door, to keep his surveillance checks inside to a minimum and not to touch any of the very sensitive equipment in the room, under any circumstances.
The prisoner was still inside the tank, as he had been since the start of the operation, but he was agitating himself, struggling slightly against his restraints, and as much as his drug-fuddled mind and body would allow. There was a lot of air bubbles escaping from his respirator, but it was well strapped on and there was no danger of it falling off. So, the guard thought, this must be the sound I heard coming through the door. He had come to investigate, only to make sure everything was still in order.
The guard walked fully inside the room, still looking around carefully. He went to Captain Black to check on him; satisfied that he was still sleeping deeply in his comfortably reclined seat, he turned around and went straight to the computer controls. He checked the data displayed on the screen; as far as he could see, everything was normal, the information barely having changed at all – except for showing that agitation the captive was presently experiencing. There was nothing to indicate that Captain Scarlet had awakened – or that he was even close to awakening from his enforced sleep. The guard approached the tank and closely examined the prisoner’s features through the glass. He was frowning, and shaking his head from side to side, but the eyes were closed.
He stopped agitating himself, and one last look at the computer screen informed the guard that all the data was back to normal.
Still living in that dream world then… the sentry thought with a wicked smile.
He turned around, and took his first steps towards the door to leave; he had barely left the console when he heard a faint, splashing sound and felt the floor to be slippery under his feet. He looked down.
Where he stood, the floor was covered with a thin layer of water. Probably all that splashing about by the prisoner, the guard thought. Some water got spilled, obviously. But as he looked down, he realised something odd, and crouched down to look closer; this water didn't seem to have any blue tint in it. He tentatively tested the water with the tip of his fingers; he felt nothing. Looking toward the tank, he discovered the puddle he was standing on wasn't even reaching the support.
If not from the tank, where’s this water coming from, then?
As he was slowly coming to his feet, something suddenly hit him from behind, right between the shoulder blades. There was a loud zapping sound, and he went stiff, his mind blacking out instantly. He sprawled on the floor with barely a sigh. He never noticed the presence that had sneaked up behind him, like a spectre coming from the shadows from which it was born.
Harmony Angel stood over the downed sentry, holding with both hands the electric baton she had used to knock him down; uncertainly, she crouched down and checked his pulse. There was none. The maximum voltage in the baton, combined with the water she had quickly spilled earlier on the floor in order to trap the man had been sufficient to kill him.
With a grimace, she put the baton aside. When she had discovered it earlier, lying on a table, she had no doubt what their enemies intended to do with it. Considering Captain Scarlet's vulnerability to electricity, they certainly intended on using it to keep him under control. Perhaps even kill him eventually, while he was still kept defenceless in that watery casket. The mere thought was revolting to Harmony – which had made her decision to use it against the guard rather easy to take; she felt no remorse about it at all.
She took the handcuffs hanging from the man’s belt and swiftly shackled him – just to be on the safe side. She wasn’t that sure if he was a Mysteron or not, but if he was – and if the voltage in the baton just happened not to be quite enough to kill him – there was a chance he could revive and cause trouble. This way, he would be contained.
Harmony rose to her feet with a sigh, and turned to the tank in which Captain Scarlet was imprisoned, activating her radio.
“Doctor Fawn… the sentry has been neutralized. Thanks for the early warning.”
“Is he dead?” the voice of Fawn asked her.
“For the moment he is, yes,” she said in a very calm tone, as if it was the most natural thing to say.
“How is Captain Scarlet?”
“He was agitating himself earlier – I suspect it was the reason why the guard came inside. He must have heard something from the other side of the door." She marked a short pause, looking toward the tank. "I had hoped Captain Scarlet would wake up – but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. He’s grown quiet now. Like before.”
“All right. I guess we’ll have to worry about that later. For now, it’s time for Part Two of the operation. I’ll contact you shortly.”
Harmony sighed. She didn’t like knowing that Doctor Fawn was taking so many risks – he certainly wasn't trained like she was to face the kind of danger she was accustomed to. But the two of them were the only people onboard able to do anything to counter the enemy's plan right now, and it wasn’t as if they had any choice.
“S.I.G.,” she murmured, glancing at the dead sentry. “Be careful, Doctor…”
* * *
One of them had awakened.
How could it be possible? thought Technician Bromwell.
He was standing in the same room where Captain Blue and Rhapsody Angel were sleeping under the hypnotic multicoloured lights. A third bunk had been placed next to Blue, where Lieutenant Burgundy – free of any restraints, unlike them – was also sleeping under the same lights, now having joined them in the fantasy world to participate in the last phase of the game.
All seemed to go according to plan, and everything had been normal thus far, except for a small agitation from Captain Scarlet, and reported by the computer – agitation that didn’t last very long, however, before everything settled down again.
However, the computer’s security features soon started beeping again, having detected a similar kind of activity, from another participant – a similar agitation, but with a different outcome: one of the ‘players’ was leaving the game…
Checking on the computer data, it didn’t take that much time for Bromwell to discover exactly from whom it was coming… and now, he was watching, on his monitor, as Symphony Angel, in the Amber Room, fully awake, was obviously working to try to get the door open, in order to get out.
Something must have happened to her in the fantasy world to initiate her awakening, Bromwell pondered. He made a quick check of the game data, to reassure himself that it was not a general occurrence. No, she was the only one. Nobody else was about to escape the game, he realised.
First Scarlet, and now this… In the case of Scarlet, he wasn’t worried. Although there had been two or three alerts in his case, with the particular way he was restrained, there was not a chance in Hell he would be able to escape. Bromwell, however, couldn't quite explain what could have occurred in the Angel's case, though. She was a normal human being, with nothing exceptionally special about her that could have led him to expect anything like this from her.
Unless… Could it be because…?
He shook his head. The chance of that occurring again with other players was there, but since the game was nearly done, it was an unlikely risk.
No matter, he thought grimly, as he looked at Symphony’s efforts on the screen. He would not permit that woman to sabotage his plan. He was too close now – the game would be finished soon, and everyone would be dead following its conclusion.
As for Symphony Angel, as she was no longer a part of the game, there would be need of a… different approach to secure her demise.
He pressed the communication command on his computer. “Petrie, this is Bromwell. I need you to go immediately to the Amber Room.”
He didn’t receive any answer. He frowned. “Petrie?” he repeated into the comm. “Do you hear me?”
He was about to check the man’s post on the screen, when he heard the door behind him slide open; he glanced briefly over his shoulder, to see in the semi-darkness of the room, a man, dressed in the black and white uniform of a Spectrum security guard, stepping through the opening.
“Ah, Rochester,” Bromwell said, turning his attention back to his screen, as the guard approached him from behind. “You arrived just in time. There is a situation in the Amber Room that needs your immediate attention. I tried to reach Petrie to take care of it, but he doesn’t answer my call. I…”
Bromwell stopped suddenly, when the screen then displayed the door in front of which he knew Petrie should be standing. The post was deserted, and the door closed. He frowned.
Damn that man. What is he doing? I told him not to leave his post…
“Still wondering why your man doesn’t answer, Mr. Bromwell?”
Bromwell turned around; the ‘Spectrum guard’ was now standing only a few feet behind him, his gun drawn and aimed at him. He looked up to meet the guard’s face, and suddenly realised it wasn’t Rochester at all.
“Doctor Fawn,” he said without apparent emotion – or surprise – as Fawn removed the white cap from his head, to toss it aside. “Where is Rochester?”
“Dead,” Fawn answered bluntly. “Like you will be if you don’t do as I say.”
Bromwell slowly nodded his understanding. “You are more resourceful than I thought…”
“Back off," Fawn ordered in a stern voice, motioning with his gun. "Slowly. And keep your hands where I can see them."
Bromwell obeyed docilely, stepping back, his eyes set on Fawn. "I'm not armed, Doctor," he said, spreading his empty hands in front of him as if to emphasise the point.
"But you are too close to that console for my taste – and to Captain Blue and Rhapsody Angel." He waited as Bromwell backed away a few more steps, his gun indicating the direction he wanted Bromwell to go. "That will be far enough." Bromwell stopped and watched as Fawn approached the console in front of which he had been standing a second ago. The doctor only glanced at the controls, then at the screen; he flicked it once and saw the Amber Room, where Symphony, fully awake, was busying herself opening the locked door.
"If I understand correctly, there seems to be a little glitch in your system, Bromwell?"
"I don't know what you mean," Bromwell said, shrugging dismissively.
"Oh yeah? How come she's awake, then?
Bromwell didn't answer, and simply stared back, as Fawn activated the mic of his headset.
"Fawn to Harmony. I took possession of Sickbay. Stand by for further instructions in a few minutes."
"Harmony." Bromwell shook his head in understanding. "So she survived..."
"No thanks to yours and Burgundy's efforts," snapped Fawn angrily.
"We obviously underestimated her – and you, Doctor." Bromwell shook his head. "But your efforts are useless, I assure you."
"You think so?" Fawn growled. "I'm not so sure about that. We found the room in R&D, where you’re holding Captain Scarlet captive in that… tank." Fawn spat the last word with obvious disgust. "We also found Captain Black there, asleep, apparently hooked to this computer game of yours like everybody else on Cloudbase. We will find a way to stop this madness, now that we are back in control of the base."
"Are you really in control, Doctor? Oh yes, you have Cloudbase, but the game is still on. You don't have ANY idea how to stop it."
"I suppose you're the only one who can do that, is that right?"
"It is not I who is stating the obvious, Doctor. And if you think I will help you…"
"We will see about that," Fawn said, levelling the gun at Bromwell.
The latter narrowed his eyes. "Are you really prepared to do whatever it takes to force me to help you?" he asked. "You, a doctor, who are honour-bound to save lives, would make use of that gun and shoot another man down? It is well known across Cloudbase that you hate firearms…"
"I do. But if it means saving other lives…" Fawn let the rest of the threat hang, ominously.
"I see. It seems I wouldn’t be the first man you’ve killed today, then. This is Rochester's gun, isn't that right? You took it from his dead body? How easily you humans resort to violence to obtain what you want. First Rochester…”
“Spare me your patronizing hypocrisy,” Fawn snapped angrily. “Yes, Rochester is dead, but it was self-defence. He had come to kill me. You would have expected me to roll over and play dead, without fighting back?” Fawn wasn’t prepared to admit just yet that he wasn’t sure if it was he or Harmony who had delivered the killing blow to Rochester. He assumed that, just maybe, Bromwell would be more amenable if he believed that the doctor was indeed able and ready to kill if there was a need for it. “Beside,” Fawn added, glaring meaningfully at Bromwell, “I believed at the time that he was a Mysteron agent… Which makes a damned difference, don’t you think? As a Mysteron, the man was already dead anyway. But… he wasn’t a Mysteron. That, I discovered afterwards. He was as human as I am myself.”
“So you killed one of your own,” Bromwell said quietly. “What a shock it must have been for you then. Yes, I imagine it makes quite a difference that you had killed a human being, instead of a Mysteron replicate. Isn't that so, Doctor?”
“And what are you, Bromwell?” Fawn shot back. “Are you Mysteron – or human? I heard you call us ‘Earthmen’ often enough – and speaking of us with the same disdain an agent of the Mysterons would use. I also heard you supposedly speak in the Mysterons’ name…"
"You know the Mysterons are behind this operation…"
"Yes. I did hear their threat. But are you yourself a Mysteron? I have some doubts about that.”
Bromwell smiled thinly. “And on what do you base your ridiculous assumption, Doctor?”
“Let’s start with the details – with which this attack on Cloudbase had been so scrupulously planned. It takes time to prepare an offensive like this one. Days… weeks… to carefully lay your traps – to install your programs on the computer mainframe, to put in place the various pieces of equipment you needed – to set up that contraption Harmony discovered in the R&D room. Because of your job, and your status as chief technician, you have access to the R&D Department – you work there often. Isn't that true? So, you also had access to that particular room. A room, I might add, that DOESN’T HAVE a surveillance camera – or else you’d be keeping an eye on it during the whole operation, and at the moment, to make sure that Scarlet is very well where he is and won’t escape…"
Bromwell scoffed. "There is no chance for him to free himself… and to step out of that tank all by himself."
"I’ve already figured that out. But why doesn’t that room have a camera, I wonder? Is it because you disabled it yourself weeks ago, to make sure no-one would notice what you were preparing in there? And you didn’t have time to put it back in place once you had taken control of Cloudbase – so you put a guard in front of the door instead.”
“You read too many detective stories, Doctor. You seem to believe all this… rubbish of yours.”
“A good friend of mine once told me that reading ‘detective stories’ is a good exercise to keep your mind alert… and to keep an open mind about such… ‘rubbish’, as you call it. I know I am right, Bromwell. You definitely took a great amount of time to set up this whole operation, behind our backs. If you had been a Mysteron during that time, you would surely have been exposed as such, at one point or another… during a standard security check, for example. But you were never found out. So the only explanation is… you must be human.”
Bromwell looked down, in a thoughtful way, apparently pondering Doctor Fawn’s words. Then, the smile on his thin lips broadened, and he chuckled. “All right, Doctor, I admit it. You found me out. You are right – it definitely took a human to prepare this plan down to the last detail… A Mysteron would never have been able to do it, that much is true.”
Fawn became pale with anger. It was one thing to suspect he was right – but another thing altogether to have confirmation of it from the mouth of Bromwell himself. “Traitor!” he growled. “You really disgust me… So you, a human being, a member of Spectrum, you are working freely for the Mysterons… following their orders. Why, you dirty…”
“I think you can spare me the insults,” Bromwell retorted coldly. “That would really be beneath you, Doctor. Beside, what difference could it make for you to know why I did what I did? My reasons are my own. I don’t have to answer any of your questions.”
“Perhaps not. But you will tell me how to stop that absurd game of yours! And how to wake everyone without risking any permanent damage to them. I warn you, if you don’t cooperate…”
“You will shoot me?” Bromwell interrupted sharply. “Back to this, are we, Doctor?” He chuckled again, and shook his head. “Your threats are meaningless,” he reiterated. “And you will never wake all of them – not by yourself, and not in time to save them all. You wouldn't know where to start."
"I already know that Captain Scarlet is the key to the problem," Fawn replied. He hoped to have a revealing reaction from Bromwell. The latter simply stared at him, very coldly, for a brief moment.
"So what, if you think you found that out?" he finally asked with a shake of his head.
"I am right, aren't I?" Fawn asked insistently.
Bromwell sighed, without really caring to answer. "That won't help you at all, Doctor. I made very sure that attempts to try to prematurely wake any participant of the game – especially a key participant – would cause that person to die. The player has to wake up normally – all by himself, at the end of the game. Otherwise… the awakening could be too much of a shock – remember Anna Preston?"
"I'm not about to forget her, you murdering scum," Fawn seethed.
"Of course, if the game is allowed to follow its course, your… friends might have a chance to survive. It will all depend on Captain Blue - if he succeeds in defeating the program – as he hopes to. It's a fair game, Doctor – your colleagues have but one chance."
"And you made sure this chance will be infinitely thin, of course."
"Of course… what would be the aim of the game, if it wasn't the case?”
“Captain Scarlet is indestructible – you know that,” Fawn remarked.
“You think the rules don’t apply to him?” Bromwell asked with an evil grin. Seeing the doubtful expression on Fawn’s face, he shook his head, in a thoughtful way. “Whether you believe he’ll be safe or not is up to you. But I have to warn you that in his case, there is an added bonus: if there is any attempt to wake him up, and he dies, Cloudbase’s senior staff will be condemned to follow him in death.” Bromwell made a dramatic pause. "That's… just to make the game more interesting."
"You're sick, you know that, Bromwell?" Fawn snapped back with disgust. “I was right. Scarlet is the key to resolve the game, or else you would not have given him that much attention.”
He glanced at the monitor screen. "How about Symphony? How come she woke up, then?"
"Oh that…" Bromwell shrugged. "It's an insignificant glitch in the otherwise perfection of the game. Something that is unlikely to happen again, I can assure you.”
“Really now? You are dismissing that possibility rather quickly, Bromwell.” Fawn paused a second. “Is the game over for her, then? Why is she alive, in that case?” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “And what if I attempt to wake all of them, despite your claims that it would kill them?”
Bromwell dismissed the barrage of questions with a wave of the hand. “Alternatively, you can always try to wake them up, as you suggest – if you want to take that risk. You might have a chance, after all. But like you said earlier, it is infinitely thin, and if you don't proceed carefully enough…” He let the rest of the explanation hang into a dramatic silence, before continuing. “Anyway, the game will be over soon - it has entered the last level. It’s only a matter of time now. So if you want to do something, you had better act quickly. But… as I said, I am the only one who knows how to wake them all safely. And I will certainly not do it.”
“We will see about that,” Fawn replied. “I just need a good dose of truth serum from one of my cabinet drawers, and you will gladly give me all the help I need!”
Bromwell tutted quietly. “That is highly unethical, Doctor Fawn… but I do believe that if you’re desperate enough, you will do it. But unfortunately for you… you won’t get that chance. You see, I, too, I’m desperate enough…” With a measured movement, he put his hand into his pocket, and Fawn suddenly became very anxious. He cocked the hammer of his gun, and extended his hand, taking aim at Bromwell; but he was hesitant to kill him – he desperately needed him alive. And Bromwell knew that.
“Why so nervous, Doctor?” With a cold expression on his face, Bromwell slowly drew out a small gun, and the edginess in Fawn mounted several degrees.
“Drop that!” he ordered forcefully. “Drop that, or I’ll shoot!”
“Perhaps you will.” Bromwell put the barrel of the gun to his head, his expression becoming blank. “But I expect you might not have the courage to kill me.”
“The Mysterons will reward me for my sacrifice.”
Eyes wide with growing horror, Fawn saw Bromwell’s finger pressing the trigger.
“NO!!!! Don’t…” His shout was drowned by the loud detonation and almost instinctively, he averted his eyes, so not to see the man putting the bullet into his own brain; he heard the dull thud of the body as it hit the floor after its fall, and almost despite himself, he muttered a quick prayer for the dead man’s soul.
Then he turned around, breathing deeply, trying to calm his rapidly beating heart, and approached; he looked down in dismay at the body of Bromwell, now lying at his feet, his right hand still clutching the smoking gun, his blood splattered all around the place. There was a bitter taste in Fawn’s mouth as he considered the man’s final solution, to avoid being forced to help him. Despite what he had said, there didn’t seem to be any desperation on Bromwell’s face as he had pulled the trigger – only a certainly that he had to do what needed to be done.
“Damn it,” Fawn murmured.
He considered Bromwell’s last words and gesture ‘The Mysterons will reward me for my sacrifice.’ Indeed, what sort of reward could Bromwell have thought of receiving from the Mysterons, a race of alien beings that had sworn to destroy all life on Earth? Surely there was nothing to expect from such as them. They used and discarded their own agents without a single second thought – they would do the same with any human beings naïve enough to accept any deal with them.
There’s something to investigate here, Fawn reflected. Questions to answer – to find out exactly what all this means…
For now, he had little time to ponder on the subject; Bromwell was dead, but there were other lives to save. Fawn only had to look in the direction of the still-sleeping Blue and Rhapsody to be reminded of that. He didn’t want to spend more time than he already had – according to Bromwell, they were racing against time now.
They at least had an advantage. The base was theirs again. Now they would be free to act – and act quickly.
Dismissing the dead man’s body, he returned to the console, re-holstering his own gun. He determinedly pressed the comm.link button and manually tuned it to the Amber Room.
“Symphony!” he called forcefully. And he knew his voice had boomed around the entire Amber Room, when he saw the young woman on the screen, still working on the door, suddenly jumping in surprise and stopping to turn around and gape at the loudspeaker.
There was an edge to her voice when she quickly answered his call: “Doctor Fawn! What the devil is going on around here? Where are you?”
He blew a deep sigh. “In sickbay. How long for you to get that door open? I’m not sure I would be able to override the controls from here.”
“I… not long now, a few minutes,” the obviously confused Symphony answered. “Can’t you alert someone to come open it from the outside?”
“I’m afraid we can only count on ourselves right now,” Fawn answered. “You, me – and Harmony. And do whatever we can with what we have.”
“What? What do you mean, only the three of us…?”
“We’re the only ones awake on Cloudbase – at the moment.”
The confusion in Symphony reached a new level. “Doctor, that doesn’t make any sense…”
Fawn sighed again, finally regaining a normal breathing rate. “Symphony, please, you have to trust me. It’s not really easy to explain, but I promise, I will try and do my best – but later on. For now, I need you to get out of there as quickly as you can and get your butt up to R&D.”
“You will meet Harmony there,” Fawn answered, his voice returning to its normal coolness. “I need you to bring back something to me… And I need you to be quick about it, Symphony. At the moment – time is of the essence, if we want to save everyone else on Cloudbase!”
* * *
"My Lord Odin!"
Odin pulled on the reins of his horse upon hearing the call coming from behind him and turned around, imitated by Freyja, wondering who in the name of Ymir could be disturbing their quiet ride in the plains surrounding the city, during which the monarch of Aesgard had intended to show his kingdom to the queen of Vanaheim.
They both saw Heimdall, the captain of the palace guards, and Vali, coming their way from the gates of the city, pushing their mounts hard to reach them. Having heard the urgency in Heimdall’s voice, they waited for them; when both men stopped their horses next to theirs, Heimdall barely took the time to get his breath, before addressing Odin again:
"My Lord, something happened within the walls of the Wallhall that we feel you have to be aware of. Your heirs…"
"What happened?" Odin asked, suddenly alert.
“Heed what Vali has to say.” Heimdall turned to his companion, inviting him to continue. Vali cleared his voice.
"I found Lord Balder in the stables earlier, hurriedly preparing his horse,” he explained. “He was mad with anger… He told me he was going after Lord Hodur and Lady Nanna – who had fled the palace together."
"What?" Odin growled, his brow furrowing.
"He said that they were lovers - that they had been since they met on the Icy Mountains."
"Hodur and Nanna – this is madness," Freyja protested. "Hodur has but one love of his life, and this love is Iduna…"
"Nevertheless, my Lady,” Vali continued. “Balder believes otherwise. And they… did leave the palace together – for whatever reason.”
“Why would they have done that?” Odin asked roughly. “If they are not guilty of what Balder accuses them of…”
“They must have a reason of their own,” Freyja insisted. “I know Nanna – she never acts without reason.”
“And neither does Hodur,” Odin murmured. “I do think the accusation is false – but I would like to know who put such foolishness in Balder’s mind.”
"I do not know, Sire,” Vali said humbly.
“It could only come from Loki,” Heimdall remarked carefully. “Who else but this scoundrel would come up with a story like this one?”
“Loki,” murmured Odin thoughtfully. “Yes, that would be like him… But to what purpose would he have done that? And what reason could have compelled Hodur and Nanna to leave the palace together?”
“That I do not know either, my Lord,” Vali continued. “But what I do know is that Lord Balder left in turn, a few moments ago – and went after them. There was desire of vengeance in his eyes.”
"My king," Heimdall continued, "I fear for Lord Hodur's life. I am concerned at what Lord Balder will do, when he finds them."
"My lord Odin," Freyja remarked, “ ‘Tis obvious that there is conspiracy here. against both your sons – and the Lady Nanna. Loki seeks to destroy them.”
"Aye, it would seem obvious." Odin mused. “ ‘Twould seem I waited too long to deal with Loki… Perhaps it is time that I do something about it.” He turned to both Vali and Heimdall. “You said Balder just left the palace, Vali. What direction did he take?"
"The direction Balder believed Lord Hodur and Lady Nanna themselves took: towards the Icy Mountains, my liege."
"Ymir's beard…" Odin turned around toward the direction Vali was now pointing to him, beyond the plains, to the North; he could see the dark line of Fenrir’s Forest, standing like a barrier on the horizon; over the high and dark trees, there was the almost eternal mist that hid the foot of the mountain chain. And above, the threatening peaks of the Icy Mountains, the domain of the Ice Giants, cold, and deadly…
"Yggdrasil," he murmured, under his breath. “Great tragedy could ensue from all this, of such a scale that it might cause untold disaster…”
"My Lord Odin," Freyja replied, hearing him, "you do not think…"
"I do not think anything," Odin interrupted her, "except that my sons are acting like fools again – and that I must intervene, and find them before a tragedy happens." He turned to Heimdall. "Where is Thor?"
"Out in the Northwest woods, my lord – with Lady Sif. They are hunting deer together."
"They would not be expected back before late tonight, then," Odin grunted. "Go and fetch them, Heimdall. Explain to Thor what has occurred and tell him to ride towards the Icy Mountains. I will leave a trail behind me, so he will be able to find me – at Yggdrasil. His assistance will not be too much to help me make these two fools see sense!"
"You know where Yggdrasil is, Lord Odin," Freyja remarked. It was more of a statement than a question.
"You do not appear surprised that I do, my queen."
"I am not. I suspected as much. I trust you well enough, Sire, to know you have your reasons to keep this secret.”
“My Lord,” Vali then said, “if you would permit me, I will go with you. The road might be perilous, with plunderers from the North and savage beasts of the forest… You cannot go alone. Another sword, and a strong arm, will be helpful to you.”
Odin pondered the suggestion, before finally nodding his agreement. “Aye, Vali. You will come with me then.”
"Will you also need my help?" offered Freyja in turn.
"Nay, Queen Freyja. As Vali just said, ‘tis a dangerous journey leading to Yggdrasil – as your Valkyrie Nanna probably discovered herself a few days ago. 'Twould better for you to stay at the palace and await our return. One of us must stay behind to lead our people. I promise you, no harm will come to Nanna. I give you my word."
"I believe in your word. I always did." Freyja straightened up on the saddle to look as levelly as she could into Odin's feature, narrowing her eyes, and furrowing her brow in a thoughtful way. "Somehow… it always was as if… I've known you for a long time – even before we met – and instinctively known you were a good man." She shook her head. "Do be careful yourself, Sire."
He simply nodded his acknowledgement and pulled on the bridle to turn his mount; a second later, he was riding away, Vali by his side, towards the faraway forest, the eyes of both Heimdall and Freyja following them. Heimdall reached for the young woman's hand, resting on the pommel, and squeezed it reassuringly.
"I am concerned for him too. But I know he will be all right."
"I just hope he knows what he is doing."
"Do not worry – he usually does." Heimdall frowned and shook his head. Why did he have this feeling of already having had this conversation with someone else? Images flashed into his mind – that of a large, brightly-lit room – where stood men with smooth faces, looking like Balder and Hodur, wearing strange coloured-garments… the first one in red, the second in blue…
"Not always…" said the voice of the red-clad man, with an edge to his tone…
The image disappeared as quickly as it came, and Heimdall shook his head anew, trying to dismiss it. He turned his horse. "I will escort you back to the palace, my lady," he announced to Freyja, "before going in search of Lord Thor."
"Do not lose time on my account, Heimdall," she replied with assurance. "Go ahead and find Thor. I can find my way back to the palace alone." She gave him a faint smile. "And I am certainly able to defend myself on the way over, if an enemy tries to attack me.”
“Nobody would DARE to attack you, Lady Freyja,” Heimdall protested. “No enemy would come so close to the walls of Aesgard – all Aesir warriors would cross the Bifrost bridge, to protect your life with their own.”
“Well, then… what is there for me to risk?” Freyja said quietly. “Go now, and do not waste any more time.”
"Of course, my lady..." Heimdall answered, almost stammering. "I will do as you request, then." He turned his mount around and pushed it towards the Northwest, with barely a last glance behind him as he rode away.
Freyja watched him depart, then looked again in the direction previously taken by Odin and Vali, a thoughtful expression in her eyes. All she could see of them and their horses now was two small, grey dots, slowly disappearing towards the horizon. She knew Odin was riding towards unsafe territory, almost without care, and with only one warrior to protect him if he should encounter danger.
The woman who believed she was queen of Vanaheim gave a thoughtful nod to herself, suddenly taking a decision, and turned her horse towards the gates of the Bifrost.
She had to find Tyr and Freyr – and entrust them with the most important mission of their lives.
* * *
Captain Blue was aware that he was probably pushing his horse too hard, as he rode along the treacherous trail he knew had been previously followed by Captain Black – and the captive Rhapsody.
He had first crossed the dark forest of Fenrir, that he knew was filled with all manner of dangerous and hungry beasts – wolves the size of which he remembered from their first encounter in the snow-covered plains, a few days ago – which would not hesitate one second to attack any imprudent traveller that carelessly ventured into their domain. They didn't come after him, but he just knew they were there, watching him. He could actually smell their beastly and savage scent, and that could only mean they were very close, but were choosing to remain invisible – he didn't see even a single tail of those famished beasts, nor hear a single sound from them. In fact, the only sounds he was hearing at the moment, were the hammering of horseshoes on the beaten ground, the heavy breathing of his mount mixed with his own – and the wind, gusting and whistling through the trees surrounding him.
Like a frigging ghost forest…
The trail was easy enough to follow – as Symphony had told him, it seemed like it was the only path he could actually use to cross the sinister forest towards the mountains. When he finally emerged from the darkest part of the woods, after what seemed like an eternity for him, and entered a clearing to finally find himself at the foot of the mountains, he blew a deep sigh of relief.
He turned around nervously when he heard the howling of a multitude of wolves echoing behind him; it was as if they were taunting him somehow, telling him that they had known he was there, that they had been with him all the time… that they only chose to let him go – for now.
They’re only wild animals – I’m crazy to think they can envision any future plans for me, Blue admonished himself. That wouldn’t be normal behaviour for animals…
But then, he could hardly say that there was anything really natural about his present situation… After all, he was living a fantasy, a game, in a world suggested to his mind, and which only existed because of a program installed inside the belly of a powerful computer.
He turned around to face the new trail in front of him; it climbed up the side of the mountain, to enter a wide, but dark, gorge. Looking ahead, Blue could distinguish a hill past that gorge, but was unable to see anything else beyond that. This gorge seemed treacherous enough – and probably could provide many hiding places for whoever might want to ambush him. But did he have any choice but to continue?
As he was about to push his horse forward, a metallic flash caught his attention, and he squinted his eyes. On a large rock, just at the opening of the passage, there was a small, shiny ring; he approached it on his horse and only needed to extend his hand to take it.
He didn’t have to examine it for long to discover what it was.
It was Rhapsody’s communication ring; the same as he had on his own finger.
Black was obviously showing him the way.
If he has hurt her in any way…
Thoughts of how Black had taken Symphony hostage all those months ago and taken her to the Culver Atomic Centre where he exposed her to radiation, came back to Blue's mind. The anger he had felt then came back to him as well. He swore he would not let Black do any harm to another Angel again.
He tried once again his own ring, tapping on it as Doctor Fawn had instructed him in order to make contact with Cloudbase.
Well, it was no surprise. Since the beginning of his journey, he had tried numerous times to tell Fawn what had occurred since the last time they talked, and had not been able to make it work. He made another attempt, using Rhapsody’s ring this time, but it didn’t work either.
It was as if someone had disabled the device, in order to isolate them again.
ONE guess who’s responsible for this…
With a frustrated grunt, Blue pocketed Rhapsody's ring and kicked the flanks of his horse, compelling it to move forwards into the sinister gorge opening in front of him.
“Damn,” he muttered, cursing the failing communication device. “I sure wish I knew for sure what is wrong with that thing…”
* * *
“Damn! I sure wish I knew what is wrong with that bloody thing!”
In sickbay, Doctor Fawn was going through the commands of his computer console, trying desperately to re-establish contact with Captain Blue’s and Rhapsody Angel’s subconscious, still trapped in the fantasy world. Communication, he had discovered with alarmed surprise a few minutes ago, was now impossible – he could only hear static through it, much like what he heard whenever he tried to use the comm.link to reach the world outside of Cloudbase.
So far, his efforts to reach either Blue or Rhapsody had been fruitless. As a result, he had been unable to tell them that the enemy agents who had taken Cloudbase over were now all neutralised and that the base was now back in Spectrum’s hands. More alarming yet, he now also couldn't learn what was going on in the fantasy world. As far as he knew, things might have taken a turn for the worse recently, and he wouldn't know about it.
Not that we would have been able to do a lot of good anyway – but at least we would know!
When he heard the door of the room sliding open behind him, he edgily turned around, his hand flying to the handgun by his side, but he soon realised that he need not worry – Symphony Angel had entered, and was walking towards him, with a small piece of paper in one hand, and an apple in the other.
Fawn relaxed, and inwardly admonished himself; he hated that fear reaction he had just had – hated that the primary thought to come to his mind at the first sound had been to use that damned gun he was currently carrying. He loathed weapons with a passion, and kept a gun in the drawer of his desk only because it was a necessary safety measure, considering his rank as Cloudbase chief medical officer. The bullets were in another drawer, though, and he never felt the need to load the thing. The only situation in which he would really have need of it had actually presented itself the previous day, when he had been locked in his office, after he had awakened from that fantasy world in which the others were now trapped. But of course, his captors had made sure to clean out the drawers before locking him in…
"I have the results of that analysis you asked for, Doctor." Biting into her apple, Symphony stopped in front of Fawn and handed him the paper. This had to be the best apple she had ever ate, she was thinking, as Fawn swiftly took the paper. Truth to tell, she was so famished that anything would taste heavenly in her mouth at the moment. She had grabbed the apple from a basket full of fruit, on the reception desk, upon entering sickbay earlier, and now regretted not having picked up the whole basket.
While Fawn was reading the paper, Symphony, still chewing on her piece of apple, looked around, uneasily. The body of Bromwell was still on the floor, a short distance away. Fawn, obviously, had far more important things to busy himself with than to tidy up the room… She swallowed her mouthful, a little uneasy at the morbid sight, and turned her back on it.
The Angel pilot approached the three bunks on which Blue, Rhapsody and Burgundy were still deeply sleeping; she only glanced with a murderous glare at Burgundy, before turning her attention to her two friends, watching their quiet and set features. She glimpsed at the data displayed on the monitors, over their heads, but was unable to make out what the information displayed on them meant. She shivered, almost despite herself.
Suddenly feeling less hungry, she put the apple onto the console next to her.
“Still not awakened?” she muttered, hugging herself, as if she was very cold.
“No,” Fawn confirmed, as he continued to read. “And unfortunately, I’ve been unable to re-establish contact with them, thus far. I suspect that Bromwell might have discovered the communication link I established between us – and disabled it. It might take time to re-establish it again. I will be with you in a minute. Give me time to analyse these results, please.”
Symphony nodded her assent in silence.
She still could barely believe what was happening. Less than an hour ago, after successfully opening the Amber Room door, she had gone directly to R&D, as instructed by Fawn, where she was astounded to find Captain Scarlet, unconscious, and captive in what looked like a suspension tank; Captain Black – of all people! – was also there, obviously unconscious as well, and Harmony was standing guard in the room – holding a handgun that she apparently had taken from a Spectrum guard lying dead on the floor.
Following Fawn's next instructions, that he gave her through the comm.link – and with the renewed promise that she would soon learn exactly what was going on – she had then used a test tube to take a sample of the liquid in which Scarlet was immersed, then quickly made her way to sickbay. There, her surprise and shock rose another few degrees, when she finally met Fawn – waiting for her with a Mysteron detector. Once he had made sure she was not a Mysteron, he had taken her into a room in which she then discovered Captain Blue – her Adam – and Rhapsody Angel deep asleep in twin bunks, hooked to computer controls, and under powerful spots that cast multicoloured, moving lights over their faces – and Lieutenant Burgundy sleeping on another bunk, next to them.
She had reluctantly obeyed Fawn, when he had sent her to the laboratory next door where she used the auto-analyser to check the sample she had brought back with her. While she was busying herself with the new task, Fawn opened a channel through the comm.link, in order to explain the situation to her, as succinctly but precisely as he could. He didn’t go into too many unnecessary details, but he said enough for her to understand that they were all in a fine mess – and that everyone onboard Cloudbase could die soon if they couldn’t find a quick solution.
It also came as quite a shock for Symphony to realise that those strange memories she had – that dream of a savage, Viking-like world – were actually far more than fleeting recollections of just a dream! No wonder she could remember those details so clearly, as if they were real events – because they were as real as the Mysterons and Bromwell had made them for that fantasy world game: as real as life, love – and death, which could be as final there as it was in the ‘real world’.
It was a game, she now knew, that they were all involved in - and in which everyone had been able to interact with each other. Maybe not as freely as they would hope – they were all acting rather out of character in some aspects of that game.
Which made some of the memories of what had happened there so… awkward.
Dear God, if I remember all of this so vividly, then I suppose everyone else will when they wake up? Oh… That will be so embarrassing for all of us!
Fawn having lost contact with Blue and Rhapsody, Symphony had told him everything she remembered of her last memories of Aesgard, after he had finished his explanation – how ‘Balder’ had come to believe that his brother was having an affair with his wife; how she herself had stopped him attacking Blue; how Black had finally kidnapped Rhapsody, apparently hoping for Scarlet to pursue them… but how instead Captain Blue had gone after them, leaving ‘Iduna’ in charge of the unconscious ‘Balder’.
And finally, how she had been knocked unconscious – before waking up in the Amber Room. Symphony did recall that she had seen Burgundy hitting her, before losing her senses - and leaving the game. That revelation served to confirm Fawn in his suspicion that Burgundy probably remembered who he was, and wasn’t possessed by the game. He was more than likely in full control of himself – as a Mysteronised agent of the Mysterons – and was probably free to act as he saw fit. From what Fawn had told her, his presence was more than probably an added strategy, in order for the game to proceed in the direction intended for it by the Mysterons. His ‘character’ was that of the man who was supposed to eventually kill ‘Hodur’ – the part played by Captain Blue.
The silence that had followed her tale through the comm.link had been eloquent enough. Fawn didn’t say it with words, but it was obvious he was concerned that something was currently going terribly wrong within the fantasy world.
And that was enough for her to be even more worried than he was himself.
“Mmm-mmm. It is as I suspected.” Coming out of her fugue, Symphony turned on her heels to stare at Fawn. As she approached him with curiosity, his eyes were still fixed on the piece of paper she had brought him. He pressed a button on the comm.link embedded in the desk. “Harmony, are you still there?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
“I have the results of the analysis of this stuff they put Scarlet in.”
“What is it, Doctor?” Symphony asked with a frown.
“Believe it or not, it’s water. But it’s been heavily spiked with a type of particularly strong anaesthetic, that can be absorbed by the nervous system through the skin."
“No wonder my hand felt so numb when I tried to reach him,” Harmony reflected. "But why would they put him in there?"
"As you well know, Captain Scarlet's metabolism makes him rather resistant to drugs and poison of all kinds,” Fawn explained. “They would need powerful stuff to keep him unconscious long enough, and to actually have him under the complete influence of that idiotic game. Constantly pumping him full of drugs might not have seemed a convenient solution – they would have to make sure the flow would always be constant, and even then, his body might eventually have ‘adapted’ itself to the drug, and he might have regained enough strength to eventually fight it off. They probably thought that immersing him in that stuff would deaden him completely. And with the right apparatus, keeping him alive and breathing, he might sleep for as long as they wish, without interfering with their plans." Fawn grunted in distaste. "They prepared this very well, I'm afraid to say."
“Shouldn’t we get him out of there?” Symphony suggested. She was desperate to do something – anything – to find a solution in order to resolve the situation.
“I don’t know if we can – without major problems,” Fawn replied. “Harmony?” he asked.
“I don’t know HOW we can do it, Doctor,” the Japanese-Chinese pilot answered. “That is, without touching him. I know we still can put on gloves, to keep the drug from affecting us, but he is connected to so much equipment… And so is the tank. We would need to know how to disconnect all these contraptions.”
“But since he’s indestructible…” Symphony started again. “What if we simply break the glass?”
“There’s a lot of electrical cables connected to the tank – I can see wires even inside the glass. I’m afraid that if we were to break it, in order to get to him, we might electrocute him.”
“I see,” Symphony answered. “He’s as vulnerable as us to electricity. That might put him at considerable risk, then.”
“He might not be the only one at risk,” murmured Fawn pensively. “I wonder if they didn’t rig him up to some destructive device.”
“Doctor?” Symphony asked with curiosity.
“Bromwell said that any attempt to try to wake a participant might have consequences… It might kill that person. In the case of Scarlet, it’s even worse: an attempt to wake him up might kill the senior staff. Now I’m wondering if perhaps, Bromwell had not rigged Scarlet’s tank somehow with some kind of trap… that could kill the others if we wake him.”
“It would?” Symphony asked, opening wide eyes. “Could he have been bluffing?”
“Perhaps. But do we want to risk calling that bluff?”
“I don’t see any apparent destructive device, bomb or anything of the kind, which seems to be plugged to Captain Scarlet – or the tank,” Harmony said through the comm.link. “As far as I can see, that is.”
“One thing is certain: Scarlet IS the key to end that game – I’m sure of it. One way or the other.”
“Adam seemed to think the same,” Symphony said with a pensive frown. “He said that if ‘Balder’ dies – Ragnarok will come. And everybody else will die.”
“And the game seems to be set for him to have Balder killed – soon,” Fawn said sombrely. “Unless Blue somehow succeeds in foiling the game – or unless we find a way to stop everything from here. Mmm…” Pensively, Fawn turned toward Symphony and looked at her intently. She became awkward under the intensity of his stare. “Why are you awake?” Fawn said in a thoughtful tone.
“What do you mean?” she asked, on the defensive. “Doctor, if you think I’m in league with Bromwell…”
“That’s not it,” Fawn cut in. “I know you’re no Mysteron – and I know you would never get yourself involved in his plan. You were as much of victim of it as we all were. No, what I mean is… How come you are awake? Bromwell obviously didn’t think one of his ‘participants’ would wake on his – or her – own. He was about to send someone to the Amber Room. I’m betting, to get rid of you.”
“Charming fellow,” Symphony deadpanned.
“He said that your waking up was just an insignificant glitch, unlikely to happen again. He sounded rather insistent on it – I wonder now how much of it is true?”
“You think he might have lied so you wouldn’t explore this avenue,” Symphony remarked, nodding slowly.
“Yes – it’s a possibility. But it still doesn’t tell us how you woke up. If we were able to recreate the conditions under which that happened…”
“It might still mean waking up everybody individually, Doctor,” she remarked. “And unfortunately, once we’ve figured out how to do it, we might run out of time to save everyone.”
“You might be right, of course… but we can’t dismiss any possibility, can we?”
Symphony sighed. “Well, as I said before – the last thing I do remember from my stay in the game is that I was knocked unconscious.” She shot a vicious glare at Burgundy, sleeping in a bunk, right next to Blue. “And his, was the face I saw before losing consciousness.”
“Then you woke up in the Amber Room?”
“With the grandfather of all headaches, a complaining stomach – and vivid images of what I thought was all a dream.”
“You were knocked unconscious, and you woke up,” Fawn murmured pensively. “In my case, I fell asleep in Aesgard, and woke up here. Blue told me he had the same experience. And Scarlet… according to Rhapsody, when he was injured in Aesgard, he started recollecting memories of his real life…”
“Didn’t you tell me he got restless earlier in that tank?” Symphony asked.
“Yes,” Harmony said though the comm.link. “Just before we took Cloudbase back from the enemy – about an hour ago.”
“Around the time I woke up?”
“Yes… Approximately,” Fawn said.
“Could it be…?” murmured Symphony. “Doctor, not long before I was knocked out, the same happened to Scarlet – well, Balder, as he’s known in that game… I… er… that is, my character knocked him out.” She offered a brief sheepish smile, before continuing: “Could that be related?”
“There is certainly a link here…” Fawn stared at Symphony again. “Do you remember ever sleeping in Aesgard?”
“I… can’t recall…” Symphony said with hesitation. She frowned, thinking. “I’m not sure… it doesn’t seem to me, no…”
“You mean to say, Doctor, that when they’re unconscious or asleep in this fantasy world they might wake up - here?” Harmony asked.
“This is a distinct possibility, yes.”
“Well, I’m afraid it doesn’t do us any good then,” Symphony retorted.
“Agreed. We have to find a solution to wake them up. And all at once. Symphony was right earlier, if we wake them individually, we might run out of time to save them all.” Fawn sighed in frustration. “If only we knew what is going on right now in Aesgard… It might be vital information for us! But since I lost contact with Blue and Rhapsody, it is impossible to know what direction the game has now taken – and how much time we have left.”
“If we succeed in waking up Captain Scarlet, without risking the life of anyone else, maybe this whole game will stop?” suggested Harmony.
“If he wakes up…” Fawn said pensively. “That is, before he is killed in Aesgard – then yes, maybe the game will be over – and maybe everyone else will wake too. But as long he’s soaked in that stuff, he will sleep, and won’t wake up by himself...”
“And we don’t dare remove him from it,” Symphony added. “Because it might mean killing the others. We’re in a dead-end.”
Fawn seemed thoughtful for a few seconds. He suddenly snapped his fingers. “Unless…” He looked down at the paper he was still holding in his hand. “Maybe we can introduce a counter-drug to neutralise the effects of that stuff he’s submerged in…”
“He might wake up by himself, then? And that would mean the others won’t be at risk of dying?”
There was hope obvious in Harmony’s tone of voice through the comm. and Fawn could see that the same hope was now reflecting on Symphony’s face. He quickly took his decision.
“Right. It might work. And we do have to try something, don’t we? Harmony, you stay with Scarlet and monitor every change to his condition – if any. Symphony, you stay here and keep an eye on Bromwell’s computer. Do try to see if you can contact Blue and/or Rhapsody again."
“S.I.G.,” said Harmony’s voice.
“S.I.G., Doctor,” Symphony echoed. Both women’s tones implied that they were satisfied to actually be doing something.
“I’ll be in the laboratory,” Fawn continued. “The auto-analyser results should be more than enough to find a proper counter-drug. I’ll make sure to tell you of any results. Let’s keep the comm.link open between us, shall we?”
With that, he walked briskly to the door, followed by Symphony’s now hopeful eyes.
* * *
The winds were blowing strong and the snow lashing hard by the time Blue emerged from the gorge which had led him to the middle of the Ice mountains territory. His mount had trouble advancing in the deepening snow, and was protesting, but he was pushing it forward, toward the top of a high hill, not wanting to lose the trail. He didn’t know how far away he was from his destination, but he expected that Black might be watching out for any pursuer.
This falling snow, he realised, might be useful to him – hiding his identity long enough for him to approach Black before he could realise he wasn’t the quarry he was waiting for. But at the same time, Blue couldn’t forget what ‘Balder’ had said to Rhapsody, concerning those snowstorms and strong winds, suddenly bursting out without anything to previously announce them.
A raging blizzard is the sure sign that the Ice Giants are walking the Earth…
So they were probably nearby, watching – looking on as their plan was unfolding.
Not the Ice Giants. The Mysterons…
As he was approaching the top of the hill, there was a sudden gust of wind and suddenly, Blue’s mount reared up and nearly threw him off its back. Blue clung to the bridle and patted the animal’s neck, trying to calm it down. Still nervous, the horse snorted, and refused to take a further step, despite Blue’s encouragements.
“You won’t go any further, will you, old girl?” Blue murmured. “Well, you gave the most you could, I believe…”
He dismounted, patting the horse again, and looked forward, gauging the ground he would still have to walk. His eyes opened wide when he saw, beyond the hill and through the falling snow and blowing winds that almost hid it, a huge dark form rising up to the skies.
A tree. So big and so dark, that it hid the horizon from his view… With branches so wide, it cast a huge shadow on the land beneath them…
“No wonder the Vikings thought it was supporting the world…” Blue murmured.
He had reached his goal. He had found Yggdrasil. Not that far from where he was standing, Captain Black was waiting – with his hostage – his trap laid out.
There was no turning back now. He had to move on.
Leaving the horse behind, Blue continued on foot…
* * *
Odin was still riding in Fenrir’s Forest when the winds and snow had arisen. With determination, almost savagely, the lord of Aesgard pushed his protesting mount forward, not allowing it a moment’s rest. He knew far too well what would be the price to pay if he did not arrive on time to stop the tragedy he foresaw ahead… A tragedy, he suspected, that had been schemed for by the Ice Giants themselves, who had obviously used Loki in this evil conspiracy to destroy humankind.
Odin was admonishing himself for a fool – for not seeing before what was so blatantly obvious now. If he still had any doubts of that, they had left him as soon as the first high winds had started to blow. Surely, this was the work of the Ice Giants – and they were now there to make sure their plan would not fail.
Or to stop him from intervening, before it was too late.
Odin did not intend to let them win; he had fought them too long and too hard, protecting his people against them, to permit them to finally win over them all.
“We must make haste, Vali,” he said in a strong voice to carry above the wind, “if we want to catch those two fools before they kill each other. Perhaps we should…”
He stopped in the middle of his sentence, suddenly realising that Vali and his horse were no longer with him and that he was riding all alone. He suddenly stopped his mount and looked toward the trail behind him.
“Vali?” he called.
He received no answer but the loud murmur of the wind – and could not see any trace of his companion.
It was as if he had disappeared into the forest.
Ymir’s Blood – where could he be? Odin had no time to waste waiting for him – or searching for him. He turned back on the saddle and spurred his mount forward.
His horse reached the edge of the wood; without so much as a pause, Odin urged it into the sinister gorge he knew would lead him to the Ice Mountains. He rode through the gorge at breakneck speed, knowing full well that he couldn’t afford any delay.
He was emerging from the gorge without even slowing down when suddenly, coming from out of the shadows, a huge black form emerged, leaping straight at him, and growling with fury. Odin just had the time to see it coming: a wolf – a huge one – who had obviously decided to take him as its prey. In a desperate move to avoid the fangs aimed at his throat, he veered his mount, which received the full weight of the oncoming predator.
There was a brief, frightful neigh as the horse fell down into the snow, dislodging Odin from its back. He rolled away, to avoid being crushed under the weight of the animal; then he stumbled to his feet, unsheathing his sword, his only eye searching around for his opponent. He found it right away, standing atop the fallen and dead horse, baring teeth covered with blood, and with a fury in its red eyes matching that in Odin’s single eye.
“Fenrir,” snarled Odin. “I thought I recognised your vile odour and your dark coat…” He stood in a defensive posture, as the wolf’s ears moved at the sound of his voice. “So you are doing your masters’ bidding and trying to prevent me from reaching my sons? Come forward then, you evil beast… Your hide will be mine to wear…”
He saw the black wolf licking its lips, without even moving from its spot – looking at him with what seemed like intent interest. As it made a tentative step to climb down from the dead horse, Odin followed him with both eye and sword. He felt more than he saw the other wolf coming from his right flank, leaping at him. He slashed, almost blindly and stopped the wolf in mid-jump; he felt an intense satisfaction when he heard the dying yelp of the new attacker, and it fell at his feet, dead, and reddening the snow with its blood.
Odin's victory was short-lived; through the whistling of the raging winds, he could hear dull growlings – coming from all sides; he looked around, turning on himself, carefully, keeping his guard up. A multitude of red eyes were fixed on him, slowly approaching his position, encircling him in a tighter circle at each step. Wolves, all around… Seven, eight, nine… A dozen of them, not counting the black beast, who was just stepping down from the horse's carcass. All of them were growling savagely and baring sharp teeth, ready to jump at any time.
They had trapped him; he had nowhere to run.
A bitter expression passed in Odin's single blue eye as, after a quick evaluation of the forces against him, he turned to stare squarely at the black wolf.
"Hellish pawns," Odin muttered under his breath, "do not think I will be easy prey. Come now – and let us join Hela's domain together!"
Glaring fiercely, the black wolf gave a brief bark; Odin never saw the wolf coming from his blind side and pouncing savagely at him. It landed on his shoulder and bit deep into his flesh, driving him down with its weight. Odin roared in pain and fell down, rolling to get rid of his attacker, and slashing wildly with his sword. His fall seemed to give the signal the other wolves were waiting for.
With growls and barks of victory, they closed in on him – following the black wolf who led the attack against the man who, they knew, had not a chance of escaping them…
* * *
“Do not tell me, Lord Thor, that you lost the trail again!”
Crouched down in front of his horse, and examining the ground, Thor nearly rolled his eyes at Sif’s statement. The dark-skinned young woman was just standing behind him, holding the bridles of both their mounts in one hand, and their bows in the other, looking down mockingly at him. It had been twice since they had entered the forest that they had lost the trail of their quarry, and it did seem that Sif would not let Thor forget anytime soon that he was the guide to their hunt party.
“Nay, my love,” he answered quietly from his crouched position. “I did not lose the trail – again – like you imply. I just discovered that we are not the only hunters after that deer we’re chasing.” With his hand, he invited her to take a closer look and she bent down next to him. “See those prints, my lady? Do you recognise these?”
“Of course I do,” she replied. “Wolf prints.”
“A big male,” Thor confirmed, rising to his feet slowly, imitated by Sif. “And he is just in front of us…” He took his bow from the young woman’s hand. “Maybe it is Fenrir himself… ‘Twould make a good trophy on my chamber wall…”
“On our chamber wall, Lord Thor,” Sif corrected him. “Only a fool can expect to kill this beast without aid.”
“And you will join in the fray, Lady Sif?” Thor asked, turning to her, sparkles in his eyes.
She put an arrow to her bow, lifting her chin defiantly. “Try to stop me, Lord Thor, and I will be putting this shaft through your heart instead!”
He chuckled. “It never crossed my mind to stop you, Lady Sif. We will continue on foot, and leave the horses here.” She made a step forward, but he put a hand on her shoulder – gently – to halt her advance. “However, I will insist on passing first,” he said in a careful but firm tone. “That way,” he added quickly, seeing she was ready to protest, “you will be able to cover me… and avenge me if the wolf should have my head before I have his.”
He put an arrow to his own bow and walked first into their new quarry’s trail, Sif following close behind, a brow still raised in defiance. “What makes you think I will make the effort to cover you?” she said under her breath.
Thor did hear her – as she intended, he was sure – but he simply smiled; there was little point in responding to her remark; he knew the threat was empty.
In silence, they slowly walked through the forest, following the trail, and looking around for any sign of close danger. The prints suggested that the wolf was hunting the deer alone, but as they both knew, a lone wolf was a rare occurrence in these woods – they always travelled in packs. This wolf’s pack could be nearby, for all they knew – and getting ready to attack at any moment they chose.
A cracking sound in front made Thor stop, and he gestured to Sif to do the same; he narrowed his eyes to see through the branches half blocking his view. Something grey seemed to move amongst the trees, a few yards ahead.
“Here is our friend,” Thor murmured. “Do you see it?”
“I see it…” whispered Sif, behind him. He could hear her bow creaking, as she was bending it, ever so slowly. He did the same, putting a knee down onto the ground to free her target line. From this distance, he could see the wolf was huge… One arrow might not suffice to kill a beast that size. If they were to only injure it, it might escape and run away – or worse, charge and attack them.
It was still half-hidden behind the trees; they had to choose the right moment to let go of their arrows.
“Wait for my signal, my lady,” he said in a whisper, closing one eye to take aim. “We must not let this beast escape us…”
He had barely said the words than he heard a whistling sound and felt the wind of Sif’s released shaft grazing his ear, and then a dull and violent thud, not that far away from the knee he had put to the ground. Out of surprise, he let go of his own arrow, and it lost itself in the woods; it passed way over the wolf’s head and he saw the animal, suddenly alerted that danger was nearby, take off and disappear into the darkness of the forest.
But Thor was now barely giving any attention to the fleeing wolf. He had noticed the feathering of the arrow leaning against his thigh, in an angle suggesting that it had been released while it was pointed in his direction, and had barely missed him. His free hand swiftly drew his dagger and keeping his position on the ground, he twisted around, toward Sif, standing behind him. When she saw the dagger in his hand, aimed at her in a defensive way, the Valkyrie made a step back, her face remaining stern.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, frowning in anger at his gesture.
“Do not tell me that this shaft has been released accidentally!” Thor accused her forcefully.
She scoffed. “Of course it was not an accident! What makes you think I will tell you the contrary?”
“Then you were trying to kill me – but you missed!”
Her frown deepened. “I did not try to kill you – and neither did I miss. Do care to take a closer look at that arrow, my Lord… and where it landed. If you have the courage to take your eyes off me for just one second, that is!”
Thor hesitated, before finally responding to her challenge and lowering his gaze carefully; he looked down to where the arrow had struck. He opened eyes wide with incredulity.
He could see a black snake, its mouth wide open with its sharp teeth sticking out, so very close to his bare knee. The point of the arrow had driven itself into the back of its neck, pinning it to the ground and killing it instantly.
“A Midgard serpent,” Thor murmured, getting to his feet, and sheathing his dagger. “Its bite is mortal…”
“Yes,” Sif said bitterly. “Even for a big man like you…”
He looked at her, apologetically. “You saved my life, my lady.”
She scoffed, letting go of her anger. “I cannot believe you thought I would kill you!”
“Well – you keep saying that you would,” he remarked, reasonably.
“And you actually believe I would do it?” Sif frowned. “Frankly, Lord Thor, I would have thought that you would know me better than that!” She turned around with an exasperated grunt and walked away swiftly. Thor gave chase, reaching her in three long strides and caught her by the arm, forcing her to face him.
“Unhand me, you brute!” she shouted, her eyes flashing.
He smiled, not obeying her order. “I will not. Not until I apologise to you – and hear you say that you love me.”
“I am not in the business of telling lies.” She gave a deep sigh, trying to regain her calm. “But I do accept your apologies.”
“That will not be enough, my lady…”
“You will have to content yourself with that, Lord Thor. You will wait a long time before I agree to tell you the words you wish to hear from me.”
“Nay,” he replied obstinately. “I have been waiting for too long now…” He frowned, as if he was trying to recall something, nagging him in the back of his mind. “Years, it would seem to me…” he murmured thoughtfully. “It is time we come clean with each other…”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sif asked, frowning in turn. She did not try to step back, when he approached her, and leaned toward her.
Thor shook his head, and took her into his arms, drawing her close to him. She looked up to him, not moving. “Just kiss me,” he whispered, his breath caressing her lips. “And I believe everything will be clear from there…”
She was obviously subdued by his words and his gentle manners and her lips were reaching to meet his; they were about to meet, but a strong wind suddenly rose – and the long, plaintive sound of a horn was heard coming from a distance. That broke the magic spell between them, and they turned around, looking in the direction the call seemed to come from.
“What is this?” Sif asked, putting a hand on Thor’s chest.
“Heimdall’s horn,” he grumbled. “It is a call for help.” The sound was heard again, this time longer, more insistent. “And it does not come from Aesgard,” Thor added, regretfully detaching himself from Sif. “Come. Let us go back to the horses.”
“Lord Thor, this wind…”
“I know.” Thor looked fiercely in the direction from which the wind was blowing; he could see huge clouds forming in the sky, not that far away from them, partially hiding the mountains beyond. “The Ice Giants are walking the earth,” he said in a sour tone. “And they are close by.” He shook his head, his features growing dark, as he gently took Sif by the arm and guided her towards their mounts, while Heimdall’s horn was heard again in the distance. “This is not a good omen, my lady – I fear something grave might have happened…”
* * *
As he was making his approach to Yggdrasil, Blue could hear the savage howls of wolves, somewhere not so far behind him, echoing through the mountains. It sounded like the beasts had found something to feast on, and he hoped that it wasn't his horse, that he had left behind. The thought had barely entered his mind than he shook it away with determination, trying to remember that this horse was not real enough for him to be concerned about… It was just a 'tool' in this imaginary game, no more real than the winds whistling into his ears or the snow lashing in his face… or even the wolves he was hearing.
But those wolves certainly can be deadly, he reflected, and it's better they keep their distance… I have enough on my plate right now without having to concern myself with them!
He had walked past the first, higher hill, and continued his journey, into knee-deep snow into a wide, snowy plains of smaller mounds, his eyes riveted on the goal he wanted to reach. Finally climbing the last of the mounds, slightly higher than the others, he stopped there, and looked out, as he was finally able to get his first proper look at Yggdrasil in its entirety.
The trunk was enormous, but somehow undersized compared to the hugeness of the branches overshadowing it. All around it, there seemed to be a small forest of bushes of dead twigs. As Blue came closer still, he realised that these bushes seemed to be an integral part of the huge tree itself, climbing and crawling plants attached to the trunk or clinging to the lowest branches above, and rising to almost entirely cover it. Branches and climbing plants were intertwined into an intricate pattern, so very dense in some places, that it looked as if it was fusing with the trunk – which gave it its massive appearance.
Blue resumed his walk, climbing down the small hill towards the tree. The winds seemed to have calmed down a little, and the layer of snow under the tree was far thinner, even non-existent in some places, as the branches overhead offered an effective protective roofing to the ground. Blue slowly walked around the complex outline of undergrowth surrounding the trunk, still marvelling at the sheer size of the tree. There were barely any leaves on the lower branches, and it was a little too dark to see clearly above, but it was obvious that what he was seeing was not all the same plant. There were two varieties, as far as he could see. The tree itself and some kind of parasite plant… From the first, he took one twig between his fingers and looked at it closely. Then he looked at the other plant, examining the tiny leaves that adorned it, noticing the distinctive shape…
Understanding suddenly dawning on him, he made one step back and looked up to stare at the tree, with wide opened eyes, horrified… He could see the same shape of leaves… bigger, heavier, over his head.
Everywhere surrounding him…
And the tree itself. It was…
Blue’s jaw tightened with anger.
No wonder they wanted Balder to come over here! he reflected bitterly. We had it all wrong about this tree…
A cry made itself heard, barely noticeable over the wind and he raised his head in the direction it was coming. Just a little lower down the mound, in the direction he was previously following…
"Over here!" came the call again. "I'm over here!"
Through a rank of twigs, Blue could see a patch of red hair, floating in the wind. He blew a deep sigh of relief and hurried in that direction. Taking his dagger off his belt, he rounded the 'bushes' and came in front of Rhapsody Angel, who was tied up against a large limb of the huge tree. Her pale face reflected her deep worry at the sight of the dagger; but then, she saw who her saviour was and sighed with relief, offering a faint but grateful smile as he approached her.
"Are you all right?" Blue demanded quickly as his dagger cut through the ropes binding her hands. When he touched them, he noticed how cold they were, and that she was shivering uncontrollably.
"Just shaken, really," she answered. "It was a long and harrowing journey… The cold didn't help."
Blue wondered how much the cold was actually responsible for her trembling. He cut through the restraints on her ankles and she got to her feet… Only to fall forwards, unable to stand. Expecting this to happen, Blue was ready, and caught her before she hit the ground, effortlessly gathering her into his arms. She looked exhausted.
No surprise there…
"Don't worry, I'm here," he reassured her in a soothing tone.
He took her further amongst the bushes, closer to the trunk of the huge tree, to a place more protected from the winds, and sat her down there, on the dry ground. Then he took one of her feet between his hands. They were icy.
“How long have you been tied up there?”
Rhapsody shook her head. “I wouldn’t really know… Seemed like an eternity. It’s a good thing you arrived when you did. I was about to give in to the cold.”
Blue looked around. “Where’s Black?”
“I don’t know – he tied me up here and went away right after that, without telling me anything. He disappeared over that hill…” Rhapsody pointed in the general direction where she had last seen Black, but her arm was shaking so much that she had trouble keeping it up. Taking pity on her, and thinking that she was probably suffering from exposure, Blue quickly removed the fur coat from his shoulders, before sitting down next to her and drawing her body close to his, in order to give her some of his own warmth. Holding her tight, he wrapped the coat around the both of them, and held it tightly.
"You need to warm yourself up," he said, starting to rub her hands vigorously. "You're as cold as a block of ice. Draw your knees up, under the cover… put your hands between your thighs… Keep them close… Like that, yes…” She was docilely obeying his instructions, and tiredly leaned her head against his shoulder. Her teeth were chattering inside her mouth.
“Tell me what happened,” he asked her, wanting as much to keep her mind in focus as to also learn what he could of her misadventure. He didn’t want her to fall asleep, as she was threatening to do.
She shrugged under the fur. “I had a fight with Paul… well, Balder… shortly after leaving the field earlier. You can’t imagine the accusations he made – about you and me – and what could have happened when the others found us two days ago…”
“Oh, I can imagine,” Blue answered, rubbing her shoulders energetically. “Please continue, Dianne…”
“I was so angry that he would think such a thing of us that I forgot there and then that he wasn’t really himself – and was simply acting the part forced on him by this stupid game. I left him and walked away…”
“And returned to your chamber?”
Rhapsody nodded. “Black was waiting for me there – with Burgundy.”
“Yes… They forced me to follow them to the stables. Black had a knife, I didn’t dare give the alert or resist. They tied me to a horse; Burgundy stayed behind and Black took me with him… We rode out of Aesgard, without anyone noticing us. Throughout the whole time it took us to get here, he didn’t say a thing, Adam, not a single word about what his intentions for me were. And I tried to talk to him, to get him to speak… it was as if he was mute and deaf. That silence was more scary than any threat he could have made… I was so afraid…”
“I can believe that,” Blue murmured. “When he finally arrived here, he tied you to this tree and left you alone?”
“Yes… I was already so cold and tired, I was really unable to resist him at all. I kind of imagined he was using me as bait – to attract Paul to this place…”
Blue raised his eyes, looking up at the branches hanging over their head. “Yes… He wanted him to come here… To this tree…”
“Yggdrasil…” Rhapsody confirmed with a brief nod.
“You noticed what kind of tree it is?”
She nodded again. “A yew tree,” she answered. “A giant yew tree… I’ve never seen one this big before. And… I also noticed what kind of plant is covering it…”
“Mistletoe,” Blue confirmed. “And as we know, ‘Balder’ is vulnerable to either yew… or mistletoe.”
“Or both?” Rhapsody offered.
“In any case, one of those plants – or both - could kill him,” Blue said sombrely. “We were wrong about the tree, but right about Balder, Rhapsody. They don’t want to destroy the tree, but with it, they want to bring Ragnarok.” He made a thoughtful pause, before continuing: “The ‘Prophecy’ they were all so wary of – it mentioned the death of ‘one who walked with the Giants’, bringing death to all things. The Aesir assumed it was about Loki…”
“But it was about… Balder,” Rhapsody realised. “He walked with the Giants – they gave him his invulnerability.”
“Yes… and now, they want to use this tree, to kill Balder…”
“They want to use it to kill Paul,” Rhapsody pointed out. “Adam, if he comes here…”
“He won’t.” Blue shook his head. “He’s safely at the palace, where I left him trussed up and under Symphony’s guard. I found the message Black left for him and I came in his place. I just knew it was a trap laid for him. I guess I was right.”
“You left him trussed up?” Rhapsody repeated with a perplexed tone. “What on Earth happened?”
“Well, he came to my chamber, shouting at me the same accusations he made to you,” Blue explained. “And he was rather – er – hostile towards me. I’m guessing those crazy ideas of his had been planted in his mind – not only by this game, but also by someone else…” He sighed. “Anyway, to cut a long story short, Symphony – well, Iduna – helped me subdue him. And then I came after you myself.”
“You’re a good friend, Adam,” Rhapsody told him with a fond smile.
“Rather, a good ‘brother’,” Blue replied with a smile of his own. “Let’s just hope that we’ll be able to make ‘Balder’ understand that his suspicions were wrong and that he’s been manipulated into believing them… Just to put him in conflict with me.”
“So you would be forced into fighting each other… giving you an opportunity to kill him.”
“Well, it seems it was the plan all along, isn’t it?” Blue looked at her closely. “How do you feel now?”
“Much better,” she admitted, with a nod of her head.
“Then we shouldn’t stay here much longer. I don’t know where Black is, but I’m pretty sure he’s lurking around… And I don’t know about you, but I’m rather nervous just thinking he might be watching me from the shadows – maybe getting ready to attack.”
“I’m with you on that.”
“Let’s find him ourselves then.”
Blue got up, leaving the coat around Rhapsody’s shoulders, and gently helped her to her feet. She stumbled, still a little unsure of her footing and clung to him so not to fall down. They stepped out of their refuge.
It was at this exact moment, that an angry, rumbling voice made itself heard, that literally caused Blue’s and Rhapsody’s hearts to skip a beat and drove them to look up toward the small mound at the foot of which they were standing.
“And so, my treacherous brother, I find you at last – and in the gallant company of my loving wife, in the cosiest love nest you could find for the both of you.”
They saw the tall figure of ‘Balder’ standing just on top of the mound, his drawn sword in his right hand, and a merciless and cold expression on his now dark features. They blanched, suddenly realising the doom that had befallen them.
They had fallen into the trap and it was now closing on them…
“Oh no…” murmured Rhapsody.
Before she or Blue could say anything more, Scarlet had leapt from his perch, viciously throwing himself at Blue.