A 'NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET' STORY
by Cat 2
“Kate.” Rhapsody Angel turned to look at the other woman. “I didn’t think anyone would be here.”
The President of the British Red Cross shrugged. She was dressed in her formal uniform, navy blue combat trousers, a white shirt and a navy blue pullover with the badge on the breast, and the upper arms, showing a red cross, a red crescent and a red diamond on a white circular back ground. Her short, dark, hair was neatly brushed, and she was wearing white cotton gloves. Standing next to her old friend, even in her uniform, Rhapsody felt like a rather scruffy dog.
“I heard rumours the Angels were going to perform the fly over. Didn’t know if I believed it.”
It was typical Kate. If she didn’t want to talk about something, then she’d talk about other things until you either dropped it or waited until she was ready.
Rhapsody smiled. “Well the Colonel is performing the ceremony with you, I believe, so it made sense. Spectrum does owe the Red Cross one.”
“At least.” Kate said, laughing slightly. “I think my predecessor said she spent nine months having to answer phone calls back and forth on the subject of international law, UN Sanctions and how to remain above both. Think it contributed to her decision to retire.”
“And you got the top post,” Rhapsody said, her eyes resting on the small epaulettes that stood out on Kate’s shoulders. Three bars, marking her status as this country’s President.
“Or the worst post, depending on your point of view.” Kate turned her attention to the wall.
Rhapsody turned to look at it too.
It wasn’t anything special, just a blank white wall. And virtually every inch of it was covered in photographs.
Some, those near the top were in black and white, but about half way down it changed to colour. Men, women, boys and girls stared out at the world, some smiling, some looking serious. Some in the uniform, others were in civilian clothes.
Byron was in uniform, about two thirds of the way down. It wasn’t a formal Red Cross ID photograph, but it had been one taken of Byron in uniform, at the garden party just before they left. Byron grinned at the world, his black curls bobbing. Rhapsody couldn’t remember who’d been holding the camera. She thought it might have been Kate.
“I always liked that picture.” She said, reaching out to touch the thin, almost clear stone that covered the pictures, protecting them from the elements. Kate nodded.
“Me too. That was why I chose it.”
“You chose it?”
“We asked the families, those who still had them, to choose their picture. If we couldn’t contact the families, we used the ID shots.” She nodded to a couple of them. “That picture was Byron.”
“I wonder what he would have made of this.” Rhapsody muttered, because the scary thing is it’s true. The Red Cross was Byron, as much as it was Kate. They had met in the Red Cross, served together before they started dating. In fact, if rumours were to be believed, Byron had asked her out as they were washing out the post after a sand yachting convention, the only witness - a doctor who didn’t speak English. She knew for a fact that he had planned to propose to Kate by hiding the ring in a bandage, his only concern being that she’d lecture him for failing to roll it up the correct way.
Rhapsody had attended a couple of Red Cross meetings, before she realised that she couldn’t enact on the principals of Neutrality and Impartiality that underpinned the movement. In almost every meeting, she’d seen at least one couple of the old guards, those who could remember when it was Commandants rather than Duty Officers who led the groups, sitting together, normally in their eighties, but still active, still serving. She’d always thought that would be Kate and Byron. But a Dibdin Bullet had changed that.
Kate snorted. “He’d have certainly being surprised about me being the president. I never had anything good to say about Red Cross administration.”
“Do you now?”
“Fair point.” She paused and added. “I think he’d have like what you do.”
“He hit the roof first time he saw me in uniform.”
It ranked as number two in the arguments she’d had with Byron. She’d had thousands of arguments with Kate, that was just how Kate was. If she cared about you, she argued with you, but Byron had always been more laid back.
They had argued about John and her drinking and the problems that came from that time in her life, but it was nothing compared to the argument she’d had with him, the first time he saw her in uniform.
Partly, she accepted it had been shock. She had written to Kate to tell her about her plans, assuming she and Byron would be in the same place. She hadn’t realised that Mobile V.A.D. meant exactly that. Members agreed to be sent where they were needed. At the Cherry Beach base, medics had been needed, whereas at Backin, where Kate had been stationed, they just need pairs of hands. Byron had just come off a 12 hour shift, probably planning to spend another six hitting the books in the hope of passing his exams that summer and qualifying as a doctor, when he’d seen her.
Mostly, it had been an ideological block. Neither Kate nor Byron could understand joining the armed forces. To them, it simply meant agreeing and knowing how to kill someone for somebody else’s principals.
Kate at least recognised that it was Rhapsody’s decision and had simply told her to keep safe. Byron had all but accused her of being brainwashed.
“He was worried about you. Seeing what it could mean every day, how could he not be?” Kate shook her head. “I was seeing what could happen if people like you weren’t there.”
Backin had been under siege for twelve months, no aid getting in or out. Kate never spoke about what she’d witnessed there, but Rhapsody knew it had been bad.
“He’d have approved of Spectrum.” Kate said, simply. She’d known him best, so perhaps she was right.
“Maybe.” Rhapsody turned her attention back to the wall. “It’s nice that they put Alex’s picture next to Byron’s.”
Alex Edric, a robotics student, had shared a house with her, Kate and Byron and joined up as a VAD the same day they had. His death had been stupid, strangled by a soldier out of his mind on Berklin gas. No one could make that death not sound like some stupid joke.
“Purely coincidence. It’s arranged in order of date of death.” Kate shrugged. “Alex was simply the first one after Byron.”
Rhapsody wasn’t entirely sure she believed it, but she let it slide. Alex had been Kate’s friend before he’d been a part of the rest of the group. A year younger than the rest of them, they had met because of the science mentoring series.
“Do you,” she asked, staring at the young man with his wire-brush hair style, grinning over a mass of circuit boards that could have been anything from an underwater mine detector to a prank against their professor, “ever regret it?”
“Do I regret that they died? Yes, everyday. Do I wonder if I made the right decisions, if I could have prevented it somehow? Yes, everyday. Do I regret what we did?” Kate shook her head, tears starting to shine at the corners of her eyes, as she stared at Rhapsody. “No. Because then their deaths would mean less.” She turned back to the wall, her voice sounding hoarse. “God, Alex had the biggest crush on you.”
Rhapsody found her fingers picking at the belt of her uniform. “He told me. Just before he went on shift that night. We’d just got word about Byron, and he said he didn’t want to leave anything unsaid.”
“Oh, Caroline.” Kate reached out, gripping her hand fiercely. In spite of herself, Caroline found herself fighting back the tears.
She didn’t know whether she’d liked Alex or not, or at least not in that way. He’d just been a part of their group, always around. She’d thought he always would be.
“Rhapsody.” She jumped as she heard Melody’s voice. “Where are you? Destiny’s going crazy looking for you.”
“Just a sec.” She fumbled, as Kate pushed a tissue into her hand. “Here. You can’t fly if you can’t see.”
“Thanks.” She rubbed at her eyes. “So who’s laying the wreath?”
“Kay.” Kate seemed to accept that the sharing of memories was over. They both had their duties and had to go back to being President of the British Red Cross and Rhapsody Angel. “Kay Dunn.”
“She’s the one who was commended for her work at the Washington Air Port attack, wasn’t she?”
“One of four commendations that day. And she’s the only one still alive.” Kate sighed. “We’d better both get going.”
“Yeah.” Rhapsody turned.
“And Caroline.” She turned back to see Kate smiling at her. “This time write to me once in a while, O.K.? I’m getting sick of the only time I see you there’s dead bodies.”
“I will do.” She grinned. “Just keep up the good work.”
“You too.” There was a pause, before Kate added in a rush. “There are rumours that you guys are fighting something new. Anything we can do to help?”
Not unless you have a base on Mars, she thought. “Just keep doing what you guys do. You’re good at that.”
Kate’s face told her that she was far than happy with that response, but Destiny’s voice rang out, “Rhapsody!” and Kate understood duty, if she understood nothing else.
“O.K.,” she said.
The wall was covered with a black cloth. The assembled crowds were silent, as British Red Cross President Kate Atkins stepped on to the podium.
She drew a deep breath. “The Voluntary Aid Detachments or VADs, as they are more commonly known, were formed and forged in the fire of the First World War. They continued to serve through the depression of the Thirties, the Second World War, until it was decided that this make up was out of touch with the times.” She looked around the crowd. “In 2058, as another major international conflict appeared on the horizon the decision was taken to reinstate the VAD system.
“VADs have served as Doctors, as nurses, as cooks, as ambulance drivers, as pharmacists, as laundresses, as maids, as clerks, and many other roles too numerous to mention. They have served in France, in Germany, in Berklin, in Iraq, Iran, Afganistan, America, Canada, Russia, and other countries too numerous to mention. What cannot be stressed enough, however, is the strength, the courage, the compassion, the skill and dedication of these men and women. And so today, we honour the nine hundred and eighty seven British VADs who have died in the service of their fellow man. And so I invite Colonel White of Spectrum to read the Ode of Remembrance.”
“That’s our cue.” Destiny whispered, beginning the countdown for launch. Rhapsody nodded, performing the sequence on autopilot, but she couldn’t help muttering under her breath, along with the Colonel, the words that for more than two hundred years had comforted the survivors and remembered the fallen.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
“We will remember them.” Rhapsody muttered, as she took off, flying to form a Red Cross in the sky.
Kate Atkins and Byron are original characters from my 2009 Christmas Story “Driving Drunk.” Since then, they both have kind of acquired lives and histories of their own, and I hope people don’t object to their use.
The VAD or Voluntary Aid Detachment scheme was started by a Joint committee of the British Red Cross and St. Johns Ambulance (as only Red Cross personnel are guaranteed protection under the Geneva conventions) in 1914, though it had initially been proposed to back up the medical services in the event of War in 1909.
VADs were aged between 16 and 48. Those between 19 (originally 21) and 42 and unmarried could become mobile VADs, meaning they agreed to be sent wherever they were needed, including overseas. Immobile VADs provided invaluable help in hospital, as relief for the formal medical staff. Women were required to undertake assessment in First Aid and Nursing, with 50 hours hospital service to qualify, while men only had to take assessments in First Aid. Men and women served separately. In spite of the invaluable service the VADs provided, their sacrifice (245 died in First World War alone) is often ignored or forgotten today. I like the idea that it was restarted for the Terrorism Wars, again to provide medical support for those caught up in the conflict, especially as Red Cross would be able to access those in remote areas more easily.
This week (6th – 12th May 2012) is British Red Cross week. The British Red Cross is a part of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal movement, the largest and only completely neutral aid organisation in the world. In virtually every country, the Red Cross is working to help make life better for people, with the 7 principals of Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Humanity, Impartiality, Unity and Universality, both nationally and internationally. At this time there are approximately 9 million volunteers working worldwide. If you are interested in learning more about the movement, including the history of the VAD, please visit your national Red Cross or Red Crescent society website.
By this point, Israel should have decided whether it wants to have a Red Cross or a Red Crescent Movement in its country (there is virtually no difference in duties, just different symbols), but I decided to keep the Crystal, as some of the new countries formed from the Terrorism Wars may not have decided their status.
The Ode of Remembrance is part of ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon. Owing to the nature of the poem, and the Red Cross’ status as a non-military organization, I suspect that only the fourth stanzas would be used. The last line is normally repeated in the UK, though not always in other countries.
I don’t own Captain Scarlet. The rights to 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons' are owned by Carlton International Media. The series was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.
Thanks to Chris and the Beta reading panel for putting up with me.
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