A ‘Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons’ story
by Captain Lime
Captain Scarlet peered out of his hiding place, cautiously. The Mysteron was near – he could feel it! The splitting headache was threatening to overpower him. Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching. There was a yowl – which sounded like it came from a cat – followed by a gunshot.
“Stupid Mysteron!” Scarlet muttered, drawing his gun and leaving his hiding place. The Mysteron turned and saw him. He fired a rain of bullets, but not one hit. Captain Scarlet brought down his enemy with a single shot.
“I repeat,” Scarlet said aloud, “Stupid Mysteron!” He looked about him. “Now... where’s that cat?”
A tiny kitten limped up to him, dragging its hind leg. Scarlet winced.
“You poor thing. Did the Mysteron hurt you?”
The kitten blinked back at him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you, Puss.” He carried the kitten to his Spectrum Saloon and put him on his lap, closing the door. He sped the car toward the nearest animal hospital.
“I’ll get you to the vet, before we head for Cloudbase, Puss,” he told the purring ball of matted fur on his knee.
In his personal quarters, Captain Scarlet stared down at the kitten. “Come on, Puss. You’ve got to eat something.”
As if to give an answer, the kitten turned away from his dish of dry cat food. He seemed very uninterested. Scarlet had an idea. “Wait here, Puss. I’ll be back in a minute.”
The little black kitten gave a tiny mew as his only friend left the room, closing the door quickly behind him.
A short while later, the captain returned with a plate of tinned tuna, a saucer and a pint of milk, which he’d managed to smuggle from the galley. “Whew! Good job nobody saw me, or else we’d both be for it!”
The kitten’s only answer was an extra-loud purr, as he rubbed himself against Captain Scarlet’s boots.
“The lengths I go to for you, Puss.” The captain chuckled, dishing out the food. He smiled as the kitten started on the milk.
A knock on the door made Captain Scarlet jump. He opened it a crack, hoping that Colonel White hadn’t come to have a quick word. He sighed with relief when he saw who it was. “Ah, Adam. It’s good to see you.” He opened the door wide. “Come in.”
The first thing that Captain Blue saw was Scarlet’s new roommate. “What the-?”
“I, uh… rescued him, earlier. That’s why I was so late back.” Scarlet almost sounded proud of himself. “I haven’t been able to come up with a name yet, though, and ‘Puss’ isn’t very original.”
“You’re crazy!” Blue told his best friend. “What’ll happen when the colonel finds out?”
“He won’t,” Captain Scarlet replied, confidently. “I’ll keep the kitten here. What makes you think Colonel White will find out?”
“He’s bound to. You know you can’t fool the old man for long!”
“Come on, Adam.” Scarlet glanced down at the kitten at his feet. “I mean, just look at him – I doubt he's ever been cared for! Won't you help me?”
Blue sighed, knowing he’d regret his decision. “Yeah, OK, I’ll help.” He grinned as a thought came to him. “As for a name, what about ‘Panther’?”
“Panther…” Scarlet frowned, thoughtfully. “Yes, I like that. It suits him.”
The inky black cat finished the milk and crept toward the two men, uneasily.
“What’s wrong with him?” Blue asked. “You’ve fed him, he’s warm…”
“I think he’s wary of you, Adam.” Scarlet grinned at him. “He's been on the street for a long time, by the look of him; I doubt he's come into contact with many friendly people.”
“Yes, of course.” The American knelt down and started to call the kitten softly. “Panther, here, Panther.”
The kitten stared at his new owner, uncertainly.
“It’s all right, Panther, Captain Blue’s a friend.” Scarlet sat on the floor too, calling gently. Panther ran to him and rubbed himself against his arm. Blue stroked him too, being careful not to scare the timid creature.
“You were right, Paul, looks like he has been badly treated.” He noticed the bandaged leg. “What happened? Any ideas?”
“Yes.” The British Captain’s voice suddenly had a bitter edge to it. “A Mysteron shot at him. He’s lucky to be alive.”
“The Mysteron?” Blue asked, smirking in spite of himself.
“No, I killed the… I killed him.” Scarlet took a deep breath. “Panther could have been killed too. If it hadn’t have just been a graze wound…”
“I guess he sensed the bad intentions and moved his butt.”
“Hmmm.” The Brit hid a smile. “I suppose so.”
Blue was still worried, though. “But Paul, if the colonel does find out…”
“Will the colonel break into my quarters?” Captain Scarlet raised an eyebrow at his partner.
“I guess not…”
“And can Panther get out?”
“Yes!” Captain Blue leapt to his feet and shut the door. Panther yowled and hid under Scarlet’s bed, cowering with fear.
“Adam, you have to be more careful.” Scarlet glared at him. “He’s nervous enough, without you making matters worse!”
“Sorry.” Blue sat on the bed quietly.
Panther jumped up beside him, nuzzling him.
“I think you’re forgiven, Adam,” Captain Scarlet laughed. “I think he knows you didn’t mean it.”
“Do you forgive me?” the American asked, half-humorously.
“I wasn’t angry!” Scarlet protested. “I was… just a bit annoyed, that’s all.”
Leaving Captain Blue to baby-sit the kitten, Captain Scarlet went to look for Captain Ochre. He found him slumped in a chair in the Officers’ Lounge; a new model plane in front of him on the table. He put his hands on his hips as he glanced about the untidy room. “Rick, I know I tend to refer to the lounge as the ‘mess’, but that doesn’t mean that you can leave it in this state!”
“Is that all you came to say, Paul?” Ochre glared at him, crossly. “I’m waiting for my plane to dry, then I’ll tidy up.”
“Actually, I need your creative skills.” Scarlet looked awkward. “Are you any good at making other things, besides model planes?”
“Boats,” the American captain offered. “I made a model of the colonel’s ship, remember?”
“Yes, but I need you to make something else. Not a model.”
“Right, OK. What do you want?”
“Uhhhh…” Scarlet thought fast. He knew his friend would want more information. “A cat bed.”
“A what?” Ochre stared in amazement at him. “What do you want a cat bed for?”
“A friend of mine has got a new cat. I told him I’d see what I can do…”
“OK, I’ll help you out.” Ochre picked up a cardboard box, tipped all the papers out, and gave it to Captain Scarlet. “Is this OK?”
“A box?” he raised an eyebrow. He'd been picturing something a little more ornate.
“Yeah.” Ochre nodded. “You’ve never kept cats, have you? They like to get into boxes; they probably like the smell.”
“Purrfect!” Scarlet smiled brightly.
Since he was off duty, Captain Scarlet spent the rest of the afternoon making his new pet comfortable. He was pleased that Blue was getting along with Panther so well. The kitten had really taken to him.
He now had food, a bed, blankets… Scarlet suddenly realised that he didn’t have any toys. A growing kitten shut in a small room all day was bound to get restless, and might turn to becoming a destructive nuisance. He decided to have a word with his fiancée. Rhapsody could keep a secret, and she’d probably be able to tell him if he was missing anything because he knew she used to own a cat herself.
The Angel interceptor pilot was in her quarters, reading a book. She was just thinking how quiet it was, when there was a knock at the door. She sighed, throwing down her novel a little crossly. She opened the door and smiled happily when she saw that Captain Scarlet was standing there. “Paul!”
“Dianne, can I have a quick word?”
She showed him in, seeing the nervous expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”
“You can keep a secret, can’t you, Dianne?”
“Of course I can.” Her gentle eyes were filled with concern. “What is it?”
“I rescued a kitten, earlier. A Mysteron almost killed it.”
“That was good of you.” Rhapsody smiled fondly at him. She knew he would have been in a hurry to get back to Cloudbase. She was glad he’d taken the time.
“Yes...” Scarlet shifted uneasily. “But then I took him back here, with me.”
She stared at him in surprise. She knew that he was aware that animals were not allowed on Cloudbase. “Why?”
“It had been abused, neglected…” He sighed heavily. “I couldn’t leave him with my parents, not with Humphrey there.”
The Angel nodded her understanding. A timid kitten that had been treated badly wouldn’t be able to settle with a large dog around, no matter how gentle the yellow Labrador was. “Yes, I see. But surely you can’t keep him here?”
“Why not?” Scarlet demanded. “He’ll be all right, and I stopped off in the pet shop and bought all the essentials.”
“Essentials?” Rhapsody hadn’t realised that he’d already thought everything through.
“Yes. Food, blankets, cat litter,” he counted them off, thoughtfully.
“Do you have any toys to keep him happy?”
“Not yet. Do you have any idea what sort would be best?”
“A cat will play with anything, Paul.” The Angel smiled. “A piece of string, some paper, something from a pet shop…”
“I was tempted to buy some toys, but I was already having trouble fitting everything in the car.”
“Mmm. Well, I don’t think encouraging him to play with paper is a good idea, if he’ll stay in my quarters. I try to keep my desk free of paperwork, but there’s always a bit cluttering it up.”
Rhapsody nodded her agreement.
“Have I missed anything else?”
“Do you have a brush?”
“No, I use a comb for my hair.”
Rhapsody giggled. “For your cat, Paul.”
“No, I haven’t.” The captain was suddenly serious again.
“That’s another thing on your list, then.” Rhapsody made a note on a piece of paper.
“Will I need to put a flea collar on him?” Scarlet asked. “I doubt he’ll leave Cloudbase.”
“I would, just in case; even if you expect to keep him here.”
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps I should get an identification tag made up for him, as well...”
“Paul,” she shook her head. “What if Colonel White finds him? He'd have your head!”
“What if Colonel White found him and shipped him off somewhere, thinking that he was a stowaway? Poor Panther – he'd be terrified!”
“Well, I suppose you're right. We'll just have to hope that he doesn't escape from your quarters.”
Scarlet nodded in agreement. “Is that everything?”
“I think so.” The Angel nodded.
“I’ll have to visit a shop again.” Scarlet sighed with frustration.
“I know! Captain Blue said that he'll be going ground-side tomorrow, didn't he?”
“Yes, but I don’t know where he’s going.”
“Well, why don’t you ask him to pick up a few things for you?”
A few days later, upon his return from his leave, Captain Blue went to see his partner and handed him a shopping bag. “Here you are, Paul.”
“You managed to get everything, then.” Scarlet smiled at him, after studying the contents carefully.
“I said I wouldn’t forget anything – I’m not like you!”
The Brit held up his hands. “All right, all right! It was rather a lot to get in one go, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I guess so. How did you manage to get everything back on your own?”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Scarlet shrugged. “It was that, or leave the poor little thing in an animal shelter; and I wasn't about to do that.”
Blue rolled his eyes but said nothing.
Rhapsody came by later in the day. She laughed when she found Captain Scarlet stretched out on the floor of his quarters, playing with his pet. He’d made a strange-looking mouse out of one of his scarlet socks, which had been worn beyond repair. He looked up. “Hello, Dianne!”
“Hello, Paul.” The Angel settled herself on his bed, and watched the kitten chew on his new toy. There was a long silence, as they enjoyed the peace.
“Surely you didn’t just come in to see Panther?” Scarlet asked, at last.
“No, I came to talk to you.” Rhapsody smiled at him.
“I was thinking.”
“That’s a good habit. I like to do that now and again.” The captain grinned at his fiancée.
“Hmmm.” She smiled back. “What’ll happen to the kitten when you are on a mission?”
“I’m not sure… I hadn’t thought of that.”
“You can’t take him with you.”
“Well, if you want…” she trailed off, watching the kitten again.
Scarlet smiled with amusement, seeing the expression on her face. “Yes?” he prompted.
She blinked and turned back to him. “He’s more than welcome in the Amber Room. There are at least two people in there all day and all night.”
“Have you told the other Angels?”
“No, Symphony did.”
“But who told her?” A thought crossed his mind. “Don’t tell me! Blue!”
“I'm afraid so. Not that Symphony would-”
“I’ll kill him!” he interrupted her angrily. “That was meant to be a secret!”
“The Angels can keep a secret, Paul.” Rhapsody was hurt.
“I know, I just don’t want the whole base to know.”
“I understand. Don’t worry, the colonel won’t hear about it.”
“Thanks.” Scarlet tried not to seem too doubtful.
Colonel White was starting to worry about Captain Scarlet. He’d spent every free moment in his quarters alone and had hardly spoken to anyone for the past two days. Finally, the colonel decided to have a word with him.
“I’m fine, sir,” Captain Scarlet assured his commanding officer. “I just wanted to be alone.”
“That’s what worried me.” White frowned at him. “Nobody’s... upset you, I hope?”
The captain shook his head. “No, Colonel.”
“Well, what in the World is wrong?” he demanded. “There must be a reason for it.”
“Every now and again I want some time to myself, sir. That's all.”
“Mmm, I know what you mean – Ochre's practical jokes can wear a little thin, at times.”
“He isn't that bad, sir. Apart from on April Fools' Day, I suppose... But I really just wanted some space.”
“All right, Captain.” White smiled at him. “It’s been quite a while since you’ve felt that way.”
“I know, sir.” Scarlet sighed. “I’m fine, though.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” The colonel nodded. “But if there is anything wrong…”
“I know I can turn to you. Thank you, sir.” The captain smiled at his C/O as he got up.
“What did the colonel want, Paul?” Captain Blue asked, anxiously, as he stepped inside his quarters. He had been asked in to baby-sit again.
“Symphony told him all about our little secret,” Scarlet told his partner, frowning at him.
“What?” Blue stared back at him. “Why? How?”
The Brit couldn’t keep a straight face any longer, and started to laugh.
“You were kidding me! That’s not fair, Paul!”
“I know, I know.” He grinned, then suddenly became serious. “He was worried about me. I think that he thought I’d taken a backward step.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shutting myself in here, alone.” Scarlet tickled his kitten absent-mindedly.
“Yes, I see. You don’t spend so much time alone, anymore.”
“And even when I do, hiding away in my quarters is highly unusual.”
“Yeah. What did he say?”
“He just voiced his concern. He even reminded me that if there’s anything wrong, I can always talk to him.” The British officer sighed. “I hate lying.”
“Why do you think I said keeping your pet here isn’t a good idea?”
Scarlet held up his hands, wearily. “Yes, I know. You warned me.”
Blue touched his arm. “Hey, if you really think it’s all worth it, then that’s all that matters.”
They watched Panther stalk around. He suddenly crouched with his stomach touching the floor. He twitched, wiggled his back end and leapt at nothing in particular. The two men laughed. Then, the black kitten tried to explore his owner’s wardrobe. He scrabbled at the bottom of the door.
“Hey!” Scarlet called, trying not to laugh. “You can’t go in there!”
Panther turned back to him. “Meeow?”
The British captain tapped at the cardboard bed. “Here, Panther.”
The cat yawned, stretched each limb, and obeyed his master.
Blue stared at his best friend in amazement. “How did you do that?”
“The cat knows his place, I suppose.”
The American laughed. “No, I mean how did you teach him that? Cats aren't like dogs, Paul – they please themselves and only do as they're told when there's something in it for them...” He glanced down at the little kitten as he slumbered in his box. “Usually.”
“I don't know,” Scarlet replied thoughtfully. “He just seems to listen to me; it's as if he understands every word I say!”
Had either of the men looked down at the kitten at that moment, they would have seen him glare at Scarlet.
“This is the voice of the Mysterons. We know that you can hear us, Earthmen. We shall kill the Bluebird, before the Thorn hits back.”
The Mysterons’ voice over the loudspeaker sent the kitten under Captain Scarlet’s bed again. He began to cry.
Scarlet coaxed his pet out, and began to stroke him. “Yes, Panther. I know how you feel.”
Blue was thinking about the threat. He hadn’t even noticed the cat’s reaction to the alien voice. “Paul, isn’t there a plane called Bluebird?”
“Yes. There are also a number of songs by that name.”
The American rolled his eyes. He had a feeling that falling in love had softened his friend a great deal. “Yes, Paul.”
The grin on Scarlet's face vanished; as he realised that the joke had gone down like a lead balloon. “You're right, there is a plane called Bluebird... There is also a spacecraft and a ship with the same name.”
“Yeah, I guess it's a pretty common name.”
He nodded. “Exactly.”
Lieutenant Green’s voice called over the loudspeaker. “Attention, all Cloudbase personnel. We are now on yellow alert. Will Captains Scarlet, Blue, Magenta, Ochre and Grey please report to Control, immediately.”
Blue stood up, quickly. He watched as his friend picked up a cat toy, blanket, bed and litter tray. “Paul? What’re you doing?”
“I’m going to leave Panther with the Angels.” The Captain picked up his cat, carefully. “Give me a hand, will you?”
“Is that a good idea?”
“Come on, Adam. I think Rhapsody and Symphony are quite capable of looking after a kitten – it’s not to say that he’d be any trouble.”
Blue sighed. It was clear that arguing wasn’t a good idea. He helped his partner take the things into the corridor.
Symphony was on her way to the Amber Room. She saw Blue and Scarlet struggling with the cat and its belongings. Quickly, she grabbed some of the things off of them and bundled them into the Amber Room.
Blue gasped. “Thanks, Karen.”
“What would have happened if somebody else had seen you?” Rhapsody asked them, pointedly.
“Like the colonel,” Symphony added.
“Ochre would be just as bad,” Melody pointed out.
Scarlet stared around him. There were four interceptor pilots seated in the Amber Room. “Excuse me, ladies, but shouldn’t only two of you be here, at the moment?”
“Yes, but I wanted to meet your roommate,” Melody told him. “I had a hunch you’d want to try out our baby-sitting service.”
“And how could I miss the chance?” Destiny added with a broad smile.
Blue frowned at her. “Aren't you allergic to cat hair?”
She smiled at him and took a small jar out of her pocket. “Voila! I took the precaution.”
“Antihistamine tablets,” Blue nodded. “Good thinking.”
Scarlet grinned. “All right, then. I’ll leave Panther in your capable hands. Goodbye, ladies.”
“Bye Paul.” Rhapsody hugged her fiancé. “Take care.”
“Likewise.” He gave her a quick kiss. “See you later, darling.”
Colonel White glared at the two men as they arrived fifteen minutes behind everyone else. “What on Earth have you been doing?” he demanded.
Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances. “Sorry, sir,” the British captain finally said, awkwardly. “We were delayed.”
The colonel shook his head. Something was going on, and he intended to get to the bottom of it. He could see that it meant something to Scarlet, by the way he looked – he was rarely this nervous. “All right, gentlemen, take a seat. We’ll talk about this later.”
The two Spectrum officers exchanged nervous glances. Surely he didn’t suspect anything?
Panther had been having a wonderful time. The Angels were fussing over him and kept giving him treats. Suddenly, he realised that his master wasn’t there and he was shut in a strange room. He ran to the door, scrabbling at it in earnest.
“You can’t get out, sweetheart.” Symphony stroked him, gently.
The kitten began to cry in earnest, staring up at her with big green eyes.
Rhapsody sighed. “I expect he wants Paul.”
“But Captain Scarlet is on a mission!” Destiny pointed out, needlessly.
“Oh honestly, Juliette!” Melody protested. “Can you really expect a kitten to understand that?”
“He’ll get used to it,” Rhapsody assured her fellow Angel pilots. “It’s just going to take time.”
“How much time?” Symphony asked her.
“Depends on the individual. Seeing as he’s been mistreated, probably a few weeks, maybe months.”
“Weeks?” Symphony repeated.
“Months?” Melody stared at her.
“Do we have that long?” Destiny wondered, aloud.
“Look, we have to be patient with him!” Rhapsody pointed out. “He'll get used to the way the base works in his own time.”
The other Angels nodded their agreement.
Panther began to calm down again, and settled beside Rhapsody on a sofa. The pilot smiled, and stroked him. “That’s right, relax. Nobody’s going to hurt you.” The kitten purred loudly, smiling with his eyes.
“You have no idea at all?” Colonel White asked, glancing around at his junior officers in turn. Each shook their head. “Well, it looks as though there’s a lot of computer work to be done, then.”
Scarlet seemed to be the only member who wasn’t overly worried about this.
White narrowed his eyes at the captain. He knew full well that the British officer was usually frustrated at being held up. There’s something peculiar going on, he thought. I’ll have to have another quiet word with Captain Scarlet, later. He dismissed his members, telling Ochre and Magenta to take the first computer shift.
Captain Scarlet went straight to the Amber Room. He wanted to ensure that his kitten was all right. When he got there, only three of the Angels were now present.
“Hello, Paul.” Rhapsody looked up to see her fiancé.
“Hello, Dianne. How are you all getting on?”
“Wonderful!” Rhapsody smiled. “Everything’s going well. What about the threat?”
“There are too many possible targets. Planes, cars, ships…”
Panther jumped up, and ran to the door.
“Yes, I know.” The Angel sighed, and turned to Symphony. “I don’t suppose you can think of anything?”
“Not at the moment.”
Scarlet shut his eyes, and sat down quickly.
“Are you all right?” Rhapsody stared anxiously at him.
“Fine.” Scarlet opened his eyes, and grinned at her. “I skipped breakfast… I think that's what's wrong. I just suddenly felt strange – faint.”
A noise caught everyone’s attention and they turned to see Panther growling and hissing at the closed door.
“Oh, he’s trying to get out again!” Symphony laughed.
“Panther, come here,” Rhapsody called, gently.
The kitten turned and gave a faint mew, before turning his attention back to the door.
“What’s got into him?” Scarlet asked. “He looks as though something has frightened him.”
The kitten’s hair was standing on end, and he was growing fierce.
Suddenly, Captain Scarlet felt the room begin to spin and nearly fell off his chair.
Blue stared anxiously at his partner through the open door of the Amber Room. “Paul?”
Scarlet could barely hear his friend. He was unable to answer.
“Paul? Can you hear me?”
Panther ran between Blue’s legs, but nobody noticed. They were all far too busy watching their ill comrade with concern. Rhapsody was already beside her fiancé. She put an arm around him, talking gently to him. “Paul, are you all right? What is it?”
The dizzy feeling left the captain as suddenly as it had hit him. “I think I’m all right now…”
“Are you sure?” Rhapsody asked him.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine.”
Symphony had been about to ask for help. She could hear Doctor Fawn’s voice calling to her through the intercom. “Captain Scarlet suffered a dizzy spell, Doctor, but he seems fine, now.”
“Better be on the safe side. Bring him down to Sickbay.”
Panther followed his instinct toward the engine room. He could feel something sinister, but his curiosity led him toward it. He was too young to fear things that he couldn’t see. Suddenly, the lights in the corridor above him flickered and went out.
A scratching noise came from the wall behind the kitten. He froze, as a large rat scrambled out of an air duct. If the kitten had known that Cloudbase was 40,000 feet up in the Earth’s atmosphere, he might have wondered how the creature had got there. As it was, he just screamed, and ran as fast as possible down the corridor. His instinct told him that the large rodent was dangerous, and he didn’t want to find out why. Without looking, he darted around a corner in the corridor and collided with the boots of Colonel White.
“What the…?” White stared at the animal as it attempted to climb up his leg.
Panther stared back at him, crying pitifully. He was too frightened of the rat to fear the angry human.
White narrowed his eyes. How did the cat arrive on Cloudbase?
The head of the unpleasant creature poked around the corner.
“Meeeeeeeow!” the kitten dived behind him.
The colonel grabbed his gun and shot the rat down.
The black cat cried out at the noise, cowering against the wall.
“And as for you…” White crouched, staring at the frightened animal, “how did you get here, anyway?”
The Colonel shook his head. “Never mind, I'm sure we can get you home safely...” he inspected the tag about his neck. “My name is Panther; if lost, please return to Captain Scarlet... So that is what's been going on around here, is it?”
Panther stared up at him fearfully, and then nuzzled his hand.
“Flattery won't save him, 'Panther'.”
“Where’s Panther?” Captain Scarlet asked, suddenly.
Blue glanced about. “I don’t know. He can’t be very far.”
“Yes, it’s not as if he can get the doors open,” Symphony agreed.
“Uh…” Blue looked a little embarrassed. “Now I think about it, he might've got out when I came in...”
Rhapsody turned a fierce glare on him. “Adam!”
“Never mind blaming Adam,” Captain Scarlet said, standing up. “We have to find him before the colonel does!”
Captain Blue tried to shake off the guilty feeling, which was still nagging at him. “Panther! Panther, where are you?” It was beginning to worry him. He and Captain Scarlet had split up and were searching the base, yet there was no sign of the little black kitten. Surely he couldn’t just disappear, and how far could such a small creature walk?
Captain Scarlet combed his section of the base with rapidly increasing worry. If Panther was anywhere plausible, he would’ve been spotted by now. He crept about carefully, not wanting to draw attention to himself. He had drawn the short straw, and had to search the area nearest the Officers’ Quarters. He suddenly noticed a gaping hole in the wall, where the air duct had been uncovered. He felt a twinge of sickness as he wondered if his pet had wandered in there… If he wasn't found soon, the Mysterons would make their move and then they'd be out of time.
Colonel White stroked the kitten thoughtfully. He liked cats, but there was no place for animals aboard a military base. The thought of Scarlet going behind his back in such a way infuriated him. He had no idea what the junior officer's reasons had been, and thought that he had decided to buy him, as a means of extra company.
“What am I going to do with him, Panther?” he asked.
He shook his head. “This isn't the first time that he's become lax with Cloudbase regulations,” he noted. “Perhaps he needs a gentle reminder...” To say that he was growing tired of Captain Scarlet’s antics would have been an understatement. An idea began to form in his mind.
The Spectrum officers sat around the circular desk of the Conference Room, with Colonel White seated in the middle. Scarlet and Blue were both rather anxious about Panther; the meeting had to mean that there was a lead regarding the Mysteron threat.
“Now, how have we got on with the threat? Do we have any leads?”
Scarlet swallowed hard as he reached a decision. I'm going to have to tell Colonel White about Panther, he shook himself and turned his attention to what was going on around him.
Magenta was the first to speak. “Colonel, there are many things called ‘Bluebird’, but none seem particularly important. Cars, planes, ships even – but none of them stand out. It doesn’t make sense!”
White nodded, sympathetically. “Yes, I can see why you’re frustrated, Captain.” He frowned. “But the Mysterons don’t make idle threats. Something must have been overlooked.”
He leaned forward slightly. “One final thing…” He glanced at each man in turn, “there have been a few strange occurrences… For a start, I was attacked by a strange creature, earlier today…”
Scarlet held his breath.
White lifted a little black animal out from under the desk. “This is a little black kitten, apparently answering to the name of ‘Panther’. Would anyone know how he came to be here?”
Scarlet and Blue exchanged cringing glances.
“Aha! I thought as much!” the colonel glared at them. “Stay seated, please. The rest of you are dismissed.”
Once Captains Grey, Magenta and Ochre had left, White began his lecture. “This is a military base, not a... a zoo! Animals are not permitted – you know this. What were you thinking?”
“Well, Colonel, I…” Blue began.
“I… I rescued him,” Scarlet cut in.
“In that case, Scarlet, would you mind telling me how he got here?”
“I found him in an alley – a Mysteron almost killed him…”
“Touching,” White rolled his eyes.
“I was going to take him home, but with my dog there…”
“Look, Scarlet, it’s not so much what you did, but how you did it,” he leaned forward so that his face was almost touching his junior officer’s. “You went behind my back, Scarlet. Do you think so little of me?”
“No, sir, of course not. It’s just that… I didn’t expect you to allow his stay, and as he had nowhere to go…”
“Did you bother to look for past owners?”
“He was badly treated – I mean… well, just look at him, sir… He’s very timid… and...” He fell silent under the colonel's angry stare.
“Scarlet, I’m not in the mood for this.”
“Sir…” Blue attempted to come to his partner’s defence.
The colonel cut him off with a glance.
“But, sir, he was just a ball of fur, so he must have been underfed…” Scarlet began again.
“I don’t care what your reasons were! You still went behind my back.”
“But, sir... Can we keep him until we find someone on the ground to take care of him – I’ll see that he’s no trouble.”
“ALL RIGHT! Just until you find someone who is prepared to give him a home. But if there is any trouble, he’ll be out on his ear. You’re responsible – he’s temporarily your pet.”
Scarlet smiled with relief. “S.I.G., Colonel.”
The kitten rubbed his face against the colonel’s arm, as if thanking him. “Purrrrrrrrrrr!”
The colonel watched the creature with amusement. Then, catching himself, he said, “Well, what is he in here for? Don’t you know that animals don’t belong in the Conference Room?”
“Sorry, Colonel,” Scarlet scooped his pet up in his arms.
“Right, now get out.”
“S.I.G.” Scarlet almost ran out of the Conference Room, before Colonel White had the time to change his mind.
Blue stood up. “Thanks, Colonel,”
White shook his head. “I must be mad…”
Captain Scarlet returned to the Amber Room, where Destiny, Symphony and Harmony were waiting for him. He set Panther down in his bed. Although he tried not to be too angry with the kitten, he was annoyed that he had gone off alone; had he stayed put, the colonel would have still been in the dark. The little cat looked up at him, as if wondering what he had done wrong, so he spoke softly so as not to frighten him. “And stay there this time, if you don't mind.”
“Captain, don’t be so hard on him,” Destiny admonished him.
“Don’t be hard on him?!”
Harmony sighed and picked up a magazine.
“Bye, Juliette! Bye Paul! Bye, Chan!” Symphony called as she left them to their arguing.
Behind the Angel, the electronic sliding doors made a strange noise as they slowly slid shut. Losing all power, they stopped with a tiny gap between them. The ever-curious kitten crept from his bed and followed Symphony down the corridor, before his master noticed.
“Destiny,” Scarlet was saying, staring at her with annoyance, “he has to learn not to go off wandering whenever he feels like it; he could get lost or hurt.”
They were still busy arguing as Panther rounded a bend in the corridor. Suddenly, he smelt another rat and froze in terror. In an instant he had turned and ran back into the Amber Room with a loud “Meow!”
“Panther, have you been wandering off again?” Scarlet glowered at the cat, as he sped back through the gap in the doors.
“Meow!” the kitten rubbed himself against his owner’s boots.
The Captain folded his arms with annoyance. “Now, how did you get that door open?”
Destiny inspected the doors carefully. “Captain Scarlet, they aren’t working!” she told him with impatience. Why are men so stupid, sometimes?
“Well how did that happen?” Scarlet stared at the tiny kitten. “Surely… Panther couldn’t…”
“Of course he could not!” Destiny shouted at him, losing patience.
Scarlet held up his hands. “All right, Juliette, you don’t have to be like that. Obviously, there must have been some kind of technical problem.”
Destiny rolled her eyes and went to the comm. “This is Destiny Angel, reporting a fault. The Amber Room doors are jammed half-open.” She paused. “Hello?”
“Juliette?” Scarlet could see the frown on her face.
“The radio is dead, Captain.”
“Something must be very wrong – I’ll call control.”
“How are you going to do that if the comm. isn’t working?”
Scarlet tapped his radio cap and smirked.
The Angel rolled her eyes.
He chuckled. “Honestly, Destiny!”
She glared at him crossly. “You can be so infuriating, Captain Scarlet!”
He raised his eyebrows at her as an answer, before talking into his cap microphone. “Lieutenant Green, I am in the Amber Room – there’s a problem with the electronics. Neither the doors or the comm. are working.”
“Right, Captain; we’ll have maintenance check it out. Have you noticed anything else wrong?”
“Yes… well, Panther made us check the doors. He must have tried following Symphony… He suddenly ran back in here, screaming. I thought perhaps he’d come across something that frightened him.”
“Yes… It might have been a rat, Captain… Colonel White reported seeing one earlier today.”
Destiny shuddered. “Rats!”
Harmony almost dropped her book and exchanged a glance with her.
“But how on Earth can we have rats running around Cloudbase?” Scarlet asked.
“Colonel White wonders if perhaps they came here in the same way as a cat…” Green reported.
Scarlet rolled his eyes, imagining the colonel's sarcastic tone. “Well… I mean… we’re 40,000 feet above the surface!”
The lieutenant was silent for a moment. “I’m not sure, Captain, but it might also explain the faults you are experiencing. They’re destructive little blighters.”
“Then I just hope they haven’t reached the engine room…”
“I’ll send someone to check, Captain.”
When the conversation had ended, Captain Scarlet turned back to Destiny. “Are you all right?” he asked, noticing that her face had become quite pale.
The Angel shuddered violently. “I detest rats! They’re dirty, they’re dangerous and they spread disease – ugh!”
“So do I,” Harmony seconded. “Are they loose on Cloudbase?”
“Colonel White thinks that they could be… He saw one, earlier.” Seeing the looks on their faces, he decided to change the subject. “Right, let’s try getting that door open.”
Destiny scoffed. “The door is not working, Paul.”
The captain ignored her and went to work – pushing at one door, pulling at the other. “I… think it’s… moving, Juliette…”
Destiny watched as, bit by bit, the doors moved further apart. Finally, it looked like there was a big enough gap to squeeze between them, and he tried to go through.
“Ow!” Scarlet cursed beneath his breath.
“Captain? Are you all right, Paul?” the Angel rushed forward.
Scarlet grunted as he tried to move. “I think… I think I’m stuck.”
Destiny laughed at him uncontrollably.
“Thank you very much,” Scarlet retorted. “Now, would you be so kind as to help me?”
“Yes, we’ll help,” Destiny replied, giving the door nearest to her a good shove. She called to Harmony to give her a hand.
“What’s happening?” a voice asked, from the other side of the door.
“This mad man has got himself stuck and now we have to get him out!” Destiny reported, suppressing further laughter with an effort.
Captain Blue chuckled. “Paul, you need a diet, ol’ buddy.”
“Speak for yourself, Adam,” Scarlet returned, through clenched teeth. “Ow! Are you sure that you aren’t pushing the doors closer together, girls?”
“If you continue like that, we might,” Destiny admonished him.
Harmony laughed quietly to herself but said nothing.
With a little ‘gentle’ persuasion, the doors finally parted enough to release Captain Scarlet. Quickly, Captain Blue jammed them open. “There you are, ladies. That should hold ‘til the technicians fix them.”
“Right, Adam,” Scarlet said, briskly. “I want to take a look around – something strange is going on.”
Scarlet glanced around carefully, wiping sweat from his forehead. “Whatever Panther found… we’re getting close.”
“What makes you say…?” Blue stopped in mid-sentence, noticing his partner’s pale face. “You have got to be kidding me! Mysterons aboard Cloudbase?!”
“That or I’m going down with something… which is highly unlikely…”
Blue nodded. “Yeah, seeing as you don’t get sick!”
The British captain nodded his agreement. “That’s what I meant.”
They moved on in silence, glancing about them carefully.
In the Amber Room, Panther pricked up his ears and growled.
“What's the matter with the kitten?” Harmony asked in surprise.
Destiny watched in alarm as the tiny creature suddenly shot through the jammed doors with a yowl. “Oh no! Panther! Panther, come back!”
Scarlet jumped and whirled around, hearing a sound behind him. To his surprise and alarm, he found that his kitten had followed him – and was preparing to fight a shape that was emerging from a vent in the wall.
“Panther! Get back!” he ordered as a fresh wave of nausea hit him.
“It's a rat,” Blue told him, surprised at his reaction.
Scarlet shuddered and gritted his teeth. “Not a regular rat, Captain.”
Panther arched his back and prepared to fight. Nothing and no-one threatened his new master!
For a moment, the rat was still. The kitten chose that moment to pounce on it, growling savagely. The rat sank its yellow teeth into the kitten's fur, silencing him instantly.
“Panther!” Scarlet moved forward.
Blue pulled him back as the hostile creature dropped its victim and prepared to leap at them.
Scarlet came to his senses quickly and drew his gun.
“Careful, Captain,” Blue stepped behind him carefully. “I know the corridors are reinforced, but it’s still dangerous…”
“I know. Stay behind me.” He fired more bullets into the rat than was necessary. Satisfied that the rat was now dead, and effectively destroyed beyond retrometabolisation, he turned to his partner, who was cradling the brave little kitten in his hands. “Panther! Is he all right?”
“I don't know, Captain Scarlet. He isn't moving...”
“Get him to Sickbay – fast!” Scarlet ordered. “If anyone can help him in this base...”
“Doctor Fawn isn't a vet, Paul.”
Scarlet turned to his friend. “He's the best chance Panther's got.”
Blue nodded and sped away as Scarlet contacted the Control Room.
“Mysterons?” Colonel White frowned. “That would explain how they came to appear here so suddenly... and how they managed to attack specific areas in such an organised nature.”
“What do you mean, Colonel?”
“It would seem that the engine room had a miniature army at work, Captain Scarlet. Though they didn't get far enough to cause lasting damage before they were found out. We'll discuss these events properly during the debriefing.”
“Yes, Colonel. Do we have any idea as to how many Mysteron rats were at large in the beginning?”
“I’m afraid not, Scarlet. We'll just have to remain vigilant, for now.”
“S.I.G., Colonel White.” Scarlet ended the call and made his way to the Sickbay, filled with concern for his little friend.
Some hours later, following a thorough search led by the senior staff of Cloudbase for rats and damages; and, of course, once all of the rodents had been disposed of, a meeting was held in the Conference Room for the debriefing.
“What I don't get is why they called Cloudbase a bluebird,” Captain Ochre remarked. “It's not blue!”
“It isn't a bird, either,” Grey noted drily.
Colonel White shook his head. “The Mysterons have truly left us guessing on this occasion,” he commented. “Not least because they gave us a confusing threat which had no reference to what they intended to destroy.”
“It's also strange because this is the second time they've threatened Cloudbase,” Scarlet added with a frown. “I thought they'd move on after their first failure.”
“That's a good point,” Blue remarked. “That means we can't rule out previous targets anymore.”
“Well, gentlemen,” White concluded, “it seems that the Mysterons have changed their rules yet again.”
The doors slid open and Doctor Fawn entered, carrying Panther. “Your kitten, Captain Scarlet,” he announced, handing the tiny bundle of fur over.
“He's ok!” Ochre grinned.
White watched the kitten curl up on Scarlet's lap and doze off. He looked as though there was nowhere else that he would rather be.
“And what are we to do with this kitten? He's already proved that he can get into even more trouble than his owner...”
Scarlet glared at him. “If you'll excuse my saying so, sir, he's proved how valuable he can be to us. If it hadn't have been for Panther, we would never have known that there were Mysteronised vermin aboard the base. At least, not until it might have been too late! He also alerted me that one of those rats was behind me – not a moment too soon, I might add!”
“And what would the rat have done to you and Captain Blue?” White asked, lifting an eyebrow at him.
“I’m not sure, Colonel; but I am quite certain that it meant us harm, by the way that it came at us…” he lowered his eyes, feeling foolish.
“What I don't understand is why he followed us,” Blue remarked suddenly, to change the subject. “When he was in the Amber Room, he looked scared to death.”
Scarlet smiled proudly. “Cats have a sixth sense – far superior to mine, apparently! I should think he knew we were in trouble and came after us.”
“Could be,” the Colonel noted thoughtfully.
Suddenly, Panther was awake. He arched his back and scrambled onto the colonel's desk with a frightened mew.
“What's wrong with him now?” Ochre asked Scarlet. “All the rats are taken care of – we checked the base with a fine-tooth comb!”
“Tell Panther that,” Scarlet retorted in a low voice, following Panther's gaze and preparing to stand.
The door slid open, revealing a technician.
The kitten hissed nervously and hid himself in the colonel's lap.
“What are you doing here?” White demanded of the technician, frowning.
“Terribly sorry, Colonel White, gentlemen…” He glanced around at the men in turn. “But we've found traces of more rats. I have reason to believe that they’ve made their way into this room.”
“That’d sure explain his behaviour,” Ochre noted, eyeing the kitten.
White nodded. “In that case, you should make a quick search of the room.”
Scarlet's head began to swim. He felt sure that the man was a Mysteron, but didn't dare to fire his pistol from his seat in case he hit one of his colleagues. He moved into a better position, being careful not to alert anyone that he had any suspicions.
As he watched, the technician pulled a gun out of his pocket and turned his attention to Captain Blue. “Die, Earthman!”
A shot fired before the Mysteron had even had the chance to take aim.
Scarlet watched him fall with grim satisfaction. “Not today, thank you.”
Blue made his way to his partner's side. “Think that's the last of them?”
“I do. I also think I know what the Mysterons meant by their threat. The 'bluebird' was you, Captain Blue. Spectrum's blue-clad pilot!”
“And the thorn?”
Scarlet shrugged. “Probably Spectrum. They meant to kill you before we worked out what their target was.”
“Would've worked, too. We thought the danger was passed.”
“And I didn't sense anything until he was close to fulfilling the threat – which would have been too late for us,” his partner admitted. “It was Panther who alerted me.”
“In that case, I guess I owe him a saucer o' milk,” Blue noted. He turned his attention to Colonel White. “I guess we have to keep him now… What do you say, sir?”
The colonel frowned as he thought it over. “Well, he certainly has proved his worth to us; I’ll grant him that. Maybe… Maybe it is high time that Spectrum had a mascot.”
Scarlet suppressed a cheer. “Thank you, Colonel!”
Panther purred contentedly and curled up on the desk.
White raised an eyebrow at Scarlet. “But don't plan on making a habit of allowing him to take part in our meetings. This is an operational base.”
The cat raised his head and winked cheekily.