Based upon “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”
The events in this story take place six months after the events in London which led to Paul Metcalfe becoming indestructible.
Paul Metcalfe turned the page of the magazine and yawned. It wasn’t often that he experienced insomnia – sure he had some trouble sleeping after the event on the London Car-Vu six months ago, but that quickly passed. However, tonight, he found he simply could not sleep. He had felt tired all day, yet when he entered the room of sleep on Cloudbase, even the swirling and rotating psychedelic patterns on the ceiling could not entice sleep in him. He had then moved into the officers’ lounge and began reading by the diffuse light of the moon shining through the large, circular windows in the room. And still he did not fall asleep. He glanced down at his watch. It was 03:20.
He threw the magazine onto the round glass table besides his chair, then rose to his feet, shoved his hands in his uniform’s pockets and gazed out at the blanket of dark clouds beneath the hovering Spectrum Headquarters. I should go to see Doctor Fawn, Paul thought. After all, Ed had provided him with a suitable drug which made him fall asleep after the events half a year ago. He could be asleep, but surely some of his nurses would still be awake – after all, the rest of the Spectrum night-watch would still be awake. Patrick would probably be in command at this time with Lieutenant Crimson as his assistant. Many other people would be asleep though, and those who weren’t would be on duty, so Paul would not have a chance to talk to anyone.
“Paul,” a voice called from behind him.
He jumped, startled, yet instinctively knowing who was behind you. “Hi, Adam,” he said, still gazing out of the windows. “I thought you’d be asleep by now.”
Adam’s hand touched Paul’s shoulder. Paul turned around to face his friend, and was stunned. Adam Svenson’s cyan Spectrum waistcoat was unzipped, and splattered with blood. His usually neatly combed blond hair was scruffy and unkempt. Wrinkles had developed under his eyes, and he looked extremely bedraggled and exhausted, and the eerie moonlight did nothing to make him appear more normal.
“My God what’s wrong, Adam?” he gasped.
“It’s been a long time, Paul,” Adam sighed. “You’ve got to help me.”
Paul stared blankly at his friend. “What do you mean? Help… Help you how? What’s been a long time?”
Adam grabbed onto Paul’s arm, then turned and started for the exit of the lounge, dragging Paul along with him. “There’s no time to explain, Paul. Your fate awaits you.”
Paul grabbed onto Adam’s free hand and pulled him to a stop, just before they left the lounge. “Wait, Adam… What the hell’s going on here?” he demanded.
Adam turned back to Paul, annoyed, and biting his lip. “Paul, you’ve got to trust me on this,” he pleaded. “Come with me, please.”
“Come with you where, Adam?” Scarlet insisted.
Adam stared into Paul’s eyes deeply. There was something in them, Paul though, that was not normally there. He had never seen his friend as agitated as this. There must be something devastatingly wrong. “Just come with me,” he begged. Paul eased his grip on Adam’s arm, and allowed him to lead him out of the arched Plexiglas exit to the lounge and into…
The Spectrum Passenger Jet plummeted through a blanket of clouds towards the burning city below. Captain Scarlet stumbled forwards, startled by the sudden change in gravity. He reached out to try to grab onto something to stop his fall towards the front of the craft – which was hurtling down at a nearly ninety degree angle from the ground.
Captain Blue placed his arm around Scarlet, and guided him to the co-pilots seat, before taking the pilot’s seat himself.
Scarlet pulled his seatbelt around him, unthinkingly. He was completely breathless by the sudden change. How had he suddenly been taken from the serenity of Cloudbase to the harshness of the SPJ? “What the hell?” he gasped.
Blue fixed his hands around the w-shaped steering wheel and forced it upwards. “C’mon, Paul!” Blue urged. “She’s not responding!”
Scarlet suspended his disbelief and read off the dials in front of him. “Speed, two hundred kph… We will crash in approximately one minute.”
“We’ve got to get her up!” Blue gasped, trying desperately to drag the steering levers towards him. Finally, it seemed to Scarlet as though he was making progress. The burning tower blocks below no longer seemed to be approaching as fast.
Scarlet began to work the controls in front of him, thumbing buttons and pushing levers. The jet engines on the rear of the plane’s tail, besides the stubbed forward-slanting wings, began to fire into life again as the SPJ soared over the skyscrapers, each one with plumes of smoke billowing out of them, and amber flashes of flames within them.
It was then, as Scarlet was gazing out, awe-struck, at the city burning below, that he saw something amongst the rubble below – another SPJ and a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. They were a mangled mesh of scattered and twisted metal – destroyed.
Scarlet turned to Blue besides him, as his friend steered the jet back up through the blanket of cloud. “My God, Adam, what the hell is happening here?”
Blue gasped breathlessly, clearly relieved that they had survived the descent. He was now piloting the SPJ through the blanket of cloud, making sure not to ascend back into clear skies. “Trust me,” Blue said, keeping his eyes fixed on the computer monitors in front of him and the clouds outside the cockpit windows.
The craft suddenly shook violently. The computer panel in front of Scarlet erupted in sparks. The floodlights which cast a green-glow around the cockpit flickered out. The jet shuddered again. “They’ve hit the engines!”
“Who have!?” Scarlet demanded.
Blue paused, turned painfully to look at his friend, then suddenly jolted the jet upwards, before swinging it around to face the opposite direction.
Scarlet looked up out of the windows at the three other aircraft flying in a standard V formation. The lead aircraft was flying at an incredible speed towards the SPJ, with the other two hanging back behind. The sun glinted off the glass bubble shape of the cockpit, and the missile launcher beneath the sharp nose flashed red as it opened fire. However, there was no doubting what kind of aircraft it was.
An Angel Interceptor.
“What the hell is going on here…?” Scarlet stuttered.
The missile dashed through the sky, then slammed into the undercarriage of the SPJ as it reared up above the oncoming Angel Interceptor. Alarms suddenly whirred in the cockpit. Scarlet stared confusedly around, not knowing what was happening to him. Another missile struck the rear of the aircraft. An explosion tore through the fuselage, and the nose cone dipped again. Blue struggled desperately with the controls. “It’s no good, Paul,” he gasped. “The engines are out… Hold on.”
Scarlet gazed dazedly at Blue as his hand fell onto the levers beside his chair. He suddenly pulled them up, and the canopy above them blew off. The two chairs suddenly flew out of the cockpit, taking Scarlet and Blue with them.
Scarlet’s mind went blank. All he saw was a blur of cyan, white and amber as his seat careered towards the ground. The parachute suddenly unfurled, and yanked him upwards to continue on a controlled descent towards the ground. He gathered his thoughts again, and searched the sky for Blue. His friend was about ten metres away from him, and a good few metres down, already entering the blanket of cloud. There was a sudden cacophony of sound as the three Angel Interceptors flew above them and then pulled away towards the sun. What the hell had happened here? Scarlet thought again.
Then came a sudden shriek from beneath him. “Paul!”
Scarlet instantly looked up and saw the imminent danger Blue warned him of. The damaged Spectrum Passenger Jet screamed through the skies towards Scarlet. He stared in sheer terror as it approached him, its tail section flaming – there was nothing he could do to avoid it. Then he thought – and began unbuckling his seatbelt. With any luck he might be able to make the leap onto Blue’s seat…
His fingers worked speedily to unfasten the buckle. He moved himself forwards into a standing position as the belt fell away. Then he looked up, seeing the nose cone of the SPJ tearing through the parachute. Streams of fabric were ripped away, and sent flying into the rear jet engines, torn to threads, then set alight in the flames. In an instant, it would destroy Scarlet.
He spun round, braced himself, then dived, spreading his arms out, towards Blue’s falling seat. The SPJ’s fuselage scraped Scarlet’s back as he tumbled, then he reached out, and grabbed onto the metal back of the chair, yanking it backwards.
The jet spun around as it descended at hundreds of miles per hour, the fuselage missing the two figures falling through the sky by just a few metres.
But the wings did not miss.
Their stubby shape smacked Scarlet as he clung on to the back of Blue’s ejector seat, and he lost his grip, winded. Blue reached out desperately as the SPJ descended through the clouds towards the ground below, and his friend tumbled behind it, yelling. Blue’s heart stopped and he struggled for breath as he gasped, “Paul…”
Scarlet spun over, again and again, as he reached out trying to hold onto something – something that wasn’t there – hope. He left the cloud layer, with wisps of the stuff trailing from his legs.
He gazed down at the SPJ as it smashed through the crumbling remains of some of the buildings below. A plume of fire followed it as it smashed into hundreds of pieces.
Scarlet then became aware that he was falling even faster than before. It wouldn’t be long now. One of the skyscrapers below, already on fire, and with just two of its four walls still standing, appeared to be his destination, and it was rapidly approaching.
Scarlet did not know what to do, he spread his arms out to try and slow his descent, and he held his breath, but he did not know why.
He could see now parts of the wrecked top floor of the building – it appeared to be an office, with desks smashed up, and computer terminals ripped to shreds. How it was still standing, he did not know.
It was even closer. Five seconds left, he guessed.
Paul struggled to open his eyes. He was still hurting, and still wondering what had gone on exactly. He half expected to wake up in the Cloudbase officer’s lounge after having fallen asleep whilst reading the magazine.
Destiny looked down on him, placing a cold compress on his head. Her face was difficult to make out in the dark, amber glow of this place – wherever it was – but she looked different. Her hair was all tied back into a pony-tail, and she had developed a scar on her forehead, running from the edge of her eye up to her fringe.
Scarlet realised he was lying down on a harsh surface, but he wasn’t sure what it was exactly. His eyes darted around the quiet chamber and he realised he was underground somewhere. The walls had been carved out of a dark brown rock and were illuminated only from a set of three orange lights set strategically around the chasm. Most of the place was cast in shadows though, and it seemed as though he and Destiny were the only people there.
There was no doubt that this was Destiny, though. Even with the unusual hair styling, the worn-out expression she wore on her face, and the peculiar scar, her eyes were still that vivid azure, and still full of raw emotion as they always were.
The sudden shock of the cold compress against his forehead made him wince, and he tried to push himself up.
“No, no,” Destiny said comfortingly, placing a hand on Scarlet’s chest and easing him back down onto the bed, which was probably made out of rock as well. “Do you know where you are?”
“No,” Scarlet admitted.
Captain Blue stepped out of the shadows in the corner. His waistcoat hung loosely from his shoulders, and there were specks of blood on his face. “I think I owe you an explanation,” he said apologetically.
“What has happened here?” Scarlet begged.
Destiny glanced uneasily at the two, then backed off towards the shadows.
Blue knelt down on the dusty ground, and placed a hand on the bench Scarlet was lying on. “Paul,” he started, appearing nervous. His hands were shaking a little, and he still looked exhausted, but Scarlet could see Blue was more comfortable in these surroundings. Scarlet got the feeling that his friend had been here for some time, although surely that wasn’t possible. Then again, Scarlet wasn’t sure of anything any more. “You are not… where you were,” Blue said.
Scarlet frowned. Blue’s statement was obvious, so there must be something more in it. He knew his friend too well for him to state the obvious. “So where am I?”
“It’s more complicated than just a place,” Blue said, pulling his cyan waistcoat off and slinging it on the ground. “You’re not in your world any more.” He gestured around the cavern with his arms. “This… this place is completely different to anything you have known. And we need your help.”
Scarlet hoisted himself up until he was resting on his elbows. Although it hurt, he felt in a more commanding position that way. “You’re saying this is some kind of… parallel universe?”
Blue stood up and folded his arms, before proceeding around the bench. “I suppose you could call it that,” he mused. “But our universe is not parallel to yours. Ours is different. A more accurate description would be to call it an alternate reality.”
“I didn’t realise there was a difference,” Scarlet admitted.
Blue waved his hand out nonchalantly. “It isn’t important.” Then he knelt back down besides Scarlet, this time on the opposite side of the bunk. “What is important is why you are here.”
“How did you bring me here?” Scarlet asked.
“That isn’t important,” Blue insisted. “You have to help us. In our universe, the Mysterons are winning the war.”
Scarlet swallowed. “We were attacked by an Angel Interceptor.”
“Five months ago, Spectrum was forced to abandon Cloudbase.” He paused for a moment and shook his head. “Colonel White… they got Colonel White.”
Scarlet closed his eyes, shocked.
“The War of Nerves has now changed – completely changed into a full out assault on us by the Mysterons,” Blue continued. “Once they gained control of Cloudbase and Spectrum’s ground bases, they used our equipment to begin systematically destroying cities and towns.”
Blue stood up and began pacing around Scarlet’s bench again. “A few of us managed to escape from Cloudbase and we took all the equipment we could, including the SPJ, a helicopter and we managed to commandeer some SPVs, but that’s it. And we managed to find refuge here.”
“And where is ‘here’?” Scarlet asked.
“A chasm in the French Alps,” Blue said. “We put automatic heaters and lights in… It almost feels like home,” he said ruefully.
Scarlet summed up the strength to sit up properly, even though stabbing pains shot through his body. “Who managed to escape?”
Blue stopped walking, an agonised expression on his face. “Our resistance cell consists of seven Spectrum officers. Bradley, Seymour, Pat, Rich, Juliette, Dianne and Magnolia all made it.”
Scarlet’s heart stopped as he suddenly realised why Blue had paused before. Karen had not made it. Symphony Angel, the love of Adam’s life, had been taken over by the Mysterons. “I… I’m sorry,” was all that Scarlet’s dry mouth could muster.
Blue turned to face Scarlet and faked a smile, before moving closer to the bench. “Thanks,” he whispered. “I don’t know what happened in your reality… but in ours, we were close… Very close. And I lost her.” A tear trickled down Adam’s cheek. Paul placed a comforting arm around his shoulder, but he just shrugged it off, inhaled deeply and tried to pull himself together. “The goddamn Earth armed forces can’t do a thing about them. They’ve been decimated. The world’s governments are on the point of collapse. Anarchy has spread through the cities. People are rioting. And dying.”
Scarlet did not know exactly how to ask his next question – one that had been burning in his mind for ages. “Why did you bring me here?”
“Six months ago,” Blue started, “you fell hundreds of feet down from the London Car-Vu after trying to kidnap the president for the Mysterons whilst you were under their influence.”
“You survived the encounter and regained control of your body,” Blue continued. “But you retained the Mysterons’ power of retrometabolism and became Spectrum’s greatest asset against the Mysterons.”
Scarlet nodded again.
“Here,” Blue said, again gesturing to the dark cavern with its walls giving off a reddish-tint to the light, “you didn’t.”
Scarlet was silent. He did not know what to say, but knew he had to say something. “Pardon?” he spluttered.
“You didn’t survive, and neither did President Younger.” Blue had made his point bluntly, and Scarlet supposed that there really wasn’t any other way he could have made it. “You’re dead, Paul. But we need your help.”
Bradley Holden had opted to stand in the corner of the chasm, just out of the shadows cast by a large outcrop of charred rock. His shoved his hands angrily in his large, thick grey Spectrum jacket, which was still pitted with rips and tears.
Adam stood in the centre of the chamber, with the three lights pointed towards him. It had originally been difficult for Bradley to start calling Adam by his Christian name, as he had been used to addressing him by his Spectrum codename of Captain Blue, but they had decided to ditch those when they formed the resistance cell.
Seymour, Pat, Rich, Juliette, Dianne and Magnolia formed a circle around Adam and Scarlet as they gave out the briefing. “This is the plan,” Adam started.
Bradley frowned. He didn’t like the way Adam had taken control of the whole situation from the very start. It had once been hoped that this could be a democracy, but Blue just immediately took control. And he always thought he was correct. He never even asked the rest of the cell if he thought bringing Scarlet into this reality was a good idea.
“Captain Scarlet and I will take the Spectrum Helicopter up to Cloudbase whilst Juliette and Pat, Rich and Magnolia will take two SPVs and begin an assault on the latest Mysteron target – Manchester – to make sure the Mysterons are kept busy.” Blue glanced around the gathering. “Once we have managed to get Captain Scarlet aboard Cloudbase, it will be his job to ensure the destruction of the base. Does anybody have any arguments?”
Bradley shrugged. He wanted to ask why Scarlet was so bloody important to this whole thing, and why somebody else couldn’t have gone on this suicide mission to destroy Cloudbase in the first place, but he knew the others would condemn him, so he didn’t bother.
In all honesty, Bradley thought that bringing Scarlet into this universe had been a mistake. A complete mistake. They had spent a lot of time and energy in bringing him here, and there was no guarantee that he would do anything. He hadn’t particularly liked Captain Scarlet before he died, and seeing him kidnap the world president, then fall from the Car-Vu with him, and killing him, was a sight that made him forever despise Paul and made him revaluate how he came to trust his different friends.
“The others of you,” Blue continued, “Seymour, Dianne, Bradley… You will stay here and make sure nobody gets their hands on the other SPV.”
“Understood,” Seymour nodded, running a hand casually through his now-long hair.
“Right,” Blue said, “let’s get to work!”
Paul Metcalfe was still puzzled by the whole affair as Adam operated the controls for the helicopter. The rotor blades began to spin, slowly at first, blowing dust up from the inside of the crater.
“How am I supposed to destroy Cloudbase, Adam?” Scarlet asked as he watched the crater’s jagged walls seemingly fall away from the copter.
Adam shrugged, clearly not really paying attention. He glanced over his shoulder through the port windows of the helicopter, making sure no part of the craft was damaged by this unconventional take-off. “Any way you can, Paul.”
The radio chirped. Paul reached forward and picked up the small red receiver. “Scarlet here,” he said, “go ahead.”
“Hello Paul, this is Juliette,” she said in her unmistakable French accent. “We are reaching Manchester along the M6… Estimated time of arrival now forty-two minutes, over.”
“Understood, Destiny,” he said, before correcting himself, “sorry… Juliette.” He didn’t think he would ever be able to call his co-workers by their real names when he was still on duty. It just felt strange to him, and he was not sure why. Whenever he was off-duty, at a casino, or out to dinner, he felt relaxed and could call them by their given names, but when he was on a mission, he felt obliged to call them by their codenames, even if those had been revoked in this reality.
“That is okay, Paul,” she giggled. “Rich and Magnolia are about one minute behind us. Juliette out.”
The hiss of background noise suddenly cut off from the speakers, and Paul placed the transmitter back on its holder. “What do we do until they begin to attack the Mysteron complexes?” Paul asked, looking at Adam, who was trying his best to keep the helicopter hovering just above its crater launch pad.
“We head up there anyway. Forty thousand miles is a hell of a way to go, Paul,” Adam said, suddenly operating controls frantically, and sending the helicopter into a sudden ascent. “The Mysterons will have located the SPVs and know they aren’t under their control. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve launched their Angel Interceptors already.”
Paul shook his head. Adam seemed awfully sure of himself, but he did not seem to have thought things through correctly. “What will happen if we destroy Cloudbase?”
“The Mysterons’ plan will all collapse.” Adam smiled at Paul. “Their organisation will collapse, and we will manage to fight back against them successfully. We will force them back to Mars, and then obliterate them.”
Paul looked at his friend, who had now engrossed himself in piloting the copter again. There was something not right about this whole situation. “What do you base that assumption on, Adam?”
Adam narrowed his eyes. “My instincts.”
It’s tough at the top, Paul said, reminding himself of something Colonel White had told him at the informal meeting which led to his becoming a member of the Spectrum organisation. White believed that Blue had the potential to become one of the top agents in Spectrum, but not if he became too complacent. Perhaps the pressure of being in control of an organisation leading an impossible battle for the sake of the Earth was getting to him so much that he had come to take actions first and think of the consequences later.
“There she is.”
Paul looked up through the large cockpit windows of the helicopter, and sure enough, there was the small, silhouetted form of Cloudbase, surrounded by a number of clouds. Suddenly, two arrow-like forms darted away from Cloudbase, their actual shapes blurred by the powerful sunshine behind them.
Adam pulled his tinted rectangular glasses over his eyes. “Hold on,” he warned, then yanked the steering column backwards. The helicopter jerked upwards suddenly, and approached Cloudbase quickly.
“They’ve still got one Angel Interceptor on the deck,” Paul warned, “and they’ll be loading the other two onto the deck right now. You saw how quickly they launched those…”
Adam flashed Paul a dangerous look. “We have spent months planning for this moment, Paul,” he growled. “Nothing is going to stop the success of this mission. Get ready.”
Paul hesitated, then unbuckled his belt and clambered towards the back of the angled helicopter.
“We are approaching Cloudbase,” Adam announced.
Paul slid open the hatch leading into the cargo compartment, and then pulled his harness down from the wire it was connected to, and slid his arms and legs into it.
“Opening hatch!” Adam called from the cockpit.
The hatch to Paul’s left hissed open pneumatically, and the sudden inrush of air caused by the spinning rotor blades pushed Paul backwards a step. Paul reached up for the wire his harness was attached to, and pulled down a harpoon-like device, slung it across his shoulder, then aimed it through the hatch at the underside of Cloudbase.
“Hurry up, Paul!” Adam shouted from the cockpit.
Paul tried to get the aim exactly right, just besides the underside emergency exit hatch leading into the room of sleep, but it was difficult with the constant shake of the helicopter. His finger pulled the trigger, and the dart shot through the air and attached itself to the metal panelling. Paul pulled the wire that was connected to the end of the dart taught, then inched his way towards the exit. “See you soon, Adam!” he shouted.
“Break a leg!”
Paul glanced downwards at the ground below but he couldn’t make out the hundreds of sky-scrapers he knew would be down there. “I’ll try not to if you don’t mind,” he laughed. Then he took one last look around the helicopter, then leapt out. The wire suddenly pulled tightly against the harness, jolting his body upwards. Besides him, the Spectrum helicopter turned around, and Adam waved at him, before slowly moving away underneath Cloudbase.
And then the one thing Paul feared happened. Vibrations started to shudder through the wire from Cloudbase, making him shake. He immediately realised that the throbbing was being caused by the sound of a familiar jet engine above him. There was a roar as an Angel Interceptor left the deck of Cloudbase. It flew out away from the base, and then swooped low and around, heading back underneath Cloudbase.
Paul watched in horror as the crackle of a launched missile fizzed from the Interceptor’s launch tube, then shot through the thin air and slammed into the main body of the Spectrum helicopter which was attempting a desperate descent towards the clouds beneath. But it was too late. There was a tremendous explosion, the tearing or sheared metal, and the tinkle of smashed glass as the missile struck home. The engine immediately failed, and what was left of the rotor blades slowed down, before the singed main body of the helicopter began to hurtle towards the ground.
The Angel Interceptor thundered below Paul, leaving him swaying by the thin wire. He swallowed hard as he thought of Adam, who could not have known of the imminent danger.
His present situation did not allow him any time to grieve, though. He grabbed onto the wire with both hands and began to pull himself up towards the underside hatch.
It was not as easy as he had bargained for, however. The wire was still swaying from the Interceptor’s flypast, and there was also a hot blast of air coming from a vent from the room of sleep’s air reclamation plant.
He managed it though, grabbing onto either side of the hatch, and then pulling it away with a satisfying click, before slinging it down through the sky. He placed his hands inside the open hatch, and lifted himself into Cloudbase. Once his upper body was in, he swung his legs in and placed them on the other side of the hatch, before climbing up the passageway which led for seven metres up through the bowels of Cloudbase.
Once at the top, he opened another hatch, this time to his side, and entered the Room of Sleep, which was fortunately empty. He slipped out of his harness, and threw it down the emergency exit hatch, then began to get to work.
Juliette pulled the steering system around to the left, and the vehicle tipped up as it spun around the falling debris. Besides him Pat, formerly known at Captain Magenta, smiled. “I never knew you were such a good driver,” he said. His Irish accent had long since been replaced by his American inflections, but Juliette could swear she could still hear some of his native accent underneath.
“Just concentrate on the missiles,” she laughed, keeping her gaze fixed on the television monitor in front of her, displaying the crumbling warehouse in front of her.
“There!” Pat shouted, ecstatically. “Two Angel Interceptors are approaching at high speed!”
“Okay then,” Juliette said, slamming the brakes on. “Where are Rich and Magnolia’s SPV?”
Magenta checked the computer interface in front of him where the forward television screen would normally be located. This time, it had been transformed to display a radar scanner. “They’re two miles away,” he reported. “One of the Angels is peeling off to attack them. The other one is…”
The SPV shook suddenly, and there was an explosion of sparks behind Juliette’s seat. “I guess the other one’s coming for us,” she finished, before accelerating the SPV forward again.
“What are you doing?” Pat asked, obviously noticing the obstruction ahead.
“Finding shelter,” she explained.
The SPV’s huge armoured bumper smashed through the brick wall of the warehouse in front of it as another missile from the Interceptor above singed the ground.
“Hey, Pat, how you doing?” Richard’s voice crackled over the radio system.
Pat was thrown forward by the sudden acceleration Juliette applied to the SPV as it crashed through another brick wall. A final missile broke through the roof of the warehouse, causing the fuel stored inside to set alight, and then suddenly erupt into flames.
“Not much happening here,” he said sarcastically.
“You got problems too then, huh?” Richard asked, the sounds of explosions crackling through on the radio transmission as well. “Listen, I’ve been trying to contact Adam, and there’s no response. I think something may have gone wrong.”
“Understood,” Pat said, biting his lip. If something went wrong with this mission, he thought, then that would probably be the end of the resistance cell. It was all or nothing. “I’ll try and get in contact with them myself. Over and out.”
Another missile suddenly smashed down into the dirt in front of the SPV, creating a huge smouldering crater. Juliette overcompensated, and the SPV tipped up on its set of right wheels. “Hold on!” she warned again. The other wheels smacked onto the ground again with a huge thud, bolting both Juliette and Pat down to their chairs.
He glanced worriedly at Juliette besides him, but she didn’t return his look, and kept her azure eyes fixed on the television screen in front of her, making minute adjustments to the steering column she held onto. Pat shrugged and began to operate the communications console again. “Adam, can you hear me? Please respond!”
Static crackled over the radio, which was just audible over the sound of the multiple explosions outside.
“Anything?” Juliette asked, still concentrating on piloting the vehicle.
“No,” Pat said anxiously. He bit his lip and tried to change the amplitude of the receiving frequency. “This is something we could have really used Seymour for.”
“So what’s happening?” Juliette asked as she banked the SPV over to the right, leaving it skidding through the dirt as it entered onto a field off the road it was on before.
“He’s not even trying to respond,” Pat sighed. “If he was, then I’d pick something up on one of the frequencies, even if I wasn’t able to understand it. But there’s no transmission whatsoever. It’s almost as if he didn’t have the radio with him.”
“And what if he didn’t?” Juliette asked.
Pat didn’t say anything. His throat dried up. It was too devastating to imagine what could have happened.
This was not what Paul had expected to find. Everywhere, it was empty. The room of sleep had been deserted, as had the officer’s lounge, the Angels’ Amber room, the sickbay, and all the corridors he had found.
If the Mysterons had taken over Cloudbase, then the Spectrum officers they retrometabolised would be manning the base, wouldn’t they? Or would the Mysterons have just taken control of Cloudbase and killed everybody else, leaving control of the craft in their own hands… perhaps operating it from Mars?
Either way, the emptiness of Cloudbase still worried Paul. The place was silent, and the lights were dimmed. In fact, the only thing Paul could hear was his own breathing, the clank of the deck plates beneath him as he walked tentatively through the long corridor, and the occasional rattle of an air vent that had not been attached properly.
With the base empty, surely that would mean it was going to be an easy task to destroy it. Or would it make it more difficult?
He finally reached his destination – the large bolted door at the end of the corridor, the label on it marking the lift to the Control Tower. Paul punched his access codes into the small keypad besides the door, but nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing.
Paul sighed and took a step back, lifting his pistol from its holster. He aimed it at the keypad, wrapped his finger around the trigger, and fired. The bullet shattered the glass casing on the keypad, and the circuits inside exploded in a shower of sparks. The heavy door clumsily slid aside revealing the small lift which would take him up through the supporting stanchion into the Cloudbase control room. He entered, and fortunately, the lift was still operating, albeit slower than usual. A few moments later, he pulled open the lift’s doors and was confronted by the dark interior of the Cloudbase control room.
Paul gave a wan smile then stepped into the room, clicking the gun into its holster.
The control room was even more desolate than the other places he had visited aboard Cloudbase. All the main floodlights had been deactivated, and the only source of illumination came from the small flickering lights on Colonel White’s desk, which had always looked to Paul like a donut with a bite taken out of it. Lieutenant Green’s long computer terminal was also active, with the buttons blinking, and on the huge transparent circuit board, different sections lit up at oddly-timed intervals.
The epaulettes on Paul’s jacket suddenly flashed, and he expected his cap mike to swing down towards his mouth, but then remembered that he did not have his cap, and so pulled the small pencil-like transmitter Seymour had given him in the cavern from his belt. “Go ahead, Paul here.”
“Boy is it good to hear your voice,” Pat’s shrill tones replied. “I couldn’t get a reply from Adam, and…”
“The helicopter was destroyed,” Paul explained grimly. “An Angel Interceptor shot it from the sky once I had boarded Cloudbase…” Paul’s voice trailed off as wheels turned within his mind and ideas clicked into place. “They let me get here,” he said to himself. “They let me board Cloudbase. But… But why? To have me become one of them?”
“Paul, be careful, it may be a tra…”
Pat’s voice suddenly cut off in mid-sentence. Either their SPV had been attacked, or…
The cold metal ring of a pistol’s nozzle kissed the back of Paul’s neck. “Raise your hands.” The voice was unmistakable.
It was Captain Black.
Paul swallowed hard, and then slowly lifted his hands into the air, although he realised that the gun could do him no permanent harm. It could, however, slow him down so as to jeopardise the success of the mission, so he determined it was better to play along with Black’s game.
The gun was pulled away from Paul, and Black then slowly walked around his captive, keeping the weapon targeted on him all the while. Once Black was standing directly opposite him, a few feet away, he stopped moving.
“I see that no matter what the universe, the Mysterons still managed to find a fine candidate to be their puppet on Earth,” Paul rasped. Black just stared at him unemotionally. “That gun won’t work on me, you know. It will pierce my skin, I will bleed, but enzymes in my body will dissolve the bullet and my metabolism will repair all the damage to my organs.” Still Black remained silent. “What are you going to do to me?”
“What we planned to do to you all along,” he growled. “You are to be instrumental in avenging the Mysterons. We shall work as one.”
Paul frowned angrily at Black. It was a disgusting thought to think that they had once been friends working for the same organisation. And if Captain Black had not requested the assignment to Mars, then it would have fallen upon Captain Scarlet to go with the Zero-X crew. He had always felt guilty for that. It should have been him who became the Mysteron agent. Maybe he would not have been as rash as Black had either, and not actually fired on the complex in the first place? Somehow, Paul just didn’t feel right about it.
“Captain Blue played right into our hands when he brought you here,” Black continued. “Now we will have control of you again, and you will infiltrate the resistance cell and bring it down from the inside.”
“That’s impossible,” Paul retorted. “You’ll need more than one person on the inside, and…”
“And that is what we have.” This voice came from behind Paul this time, and it wasn’t Captain Black, yet it was still unmistakable as the voice of his friend for so many years. Adam Svenson walked around Paul and stood next to Captain Black.
“Adam,” Paul gasped. He paused for a moment, and then composed himself. “Why didn’t you destroy the helicopter whilst I was aboard then if you were just going to retrometabolise us anyway?”
“Have you forgotten?” Black asked dryly. “You are indestructible.”
Adam concluded the speech as he walked back around to the right hand side of Paul. “A helicopter accident was not good enough. You could have survived. There is only one thing that can destroy you.”
Paul sighed, knowing the answer. “So that’s what you have brought me here for is it? You are winning the war anyway. Why do you need me?”
Black’s eyes narrowed.
“It isn’t as simple as that,” Adam said. “Resistance factions are appearing all over the globe. Only the arrogance of Captain Blue made him believe that he was fighting a losing battle so that when the victory came he would be celebrated even more. And when he told his resistance cell that, they believed him as they knew no better. After the success in Washington where three Mysteron jets were destroyed, the other members of the cell trusted him implicitly. His plan had been flamboyant and unlikely to succeed, but it did. And he won their trust.”
Scarlet bit his lip. He should have seen there was something wrong with Adam’s leadership before he embarked on this mission. The anger built up inside of him. He was angry at himself, not anybody else, not even Adam.
His fists clenched. It was time for decisive action.
Paul dived down, rolled over on the floor dodging Black’s bullets, then grabbed onto Adam’s ankles as he tried to step away. He yanked Adam down onto the floor, his head smashing down through Lieutenant Green’s computer console. It exploded in sparks, and smashed glass scattered about on the floor.
Paul dived out of the way, and leapt to his feet, before clambering around to the other side of the long station, away from Captain Black’s bullets. Black lifted the pistol up again, and fired through the glass outer casing of the circuit board, smashing it into a thousand pieces which spread about the room covering Adam’s limp body.
Paul looked around desperately, searching for a place to hide. Black advanced on the smashed computer console, his pistol pointed straight at Paul. “You can’t win,” he barked.
Paul stood up, about to admit defeat. If he let Black capture him, there still might be a chance of escape. There certainly was not one in this gunfight. He lowered his arm, about to drop the pistol…
When he remembered something.
His original mission.
In a deft movement, he swung his arm towards the right and pointed the pistol at Colonel White’s rounded desk, aiming at a certain section, and fired. This must all have happened in an instant, Paul thought, as Captain Black had only enough time to react and fire one bullet at Paul, by which time, he had dived back down onto the glass-laden floor.
Colonel White’s console burst into flames as the engines controls were hit by Paul’s bullet. There was a sudden chugging noise from outside, and then a warning alarm whirred through the whole of Cloudbase as it began to tilt up on its axis.
Black was thrown backwards by the angle of the floor and the sudden change in gravity. He skidded along the floor, trying to reach out for something to hold onto, whilst Paul lay desperately hanging onto a metal beam from Green’s station.
“That’s the rear engines out, Captain Black!” Paul hollered. “And without those, this thing is going to crash in a matter of minutes.”
There was no response from Black, and Paul was not in an adequate position to see what was happening. He pulled himself up using the metal pole, then carefully guided himself down through the control room, which was at, he guessed, about a 45° angle. Supporting himself on the remnants of Green’s shattered computer terminal, which ran almost the complete length of the control room, Paul finally reached the bottom, and found Captain Black lying there, his body smashed through one of the green Plexiglas supports which held the roof up.
Paul bit his lip. Black appeared dead, but he was a Mysteron. In a heartbeat, he made his decision, and lowered himself down besides Green’s console, and yanked a power conduit out of it. The twisted wires inside sparked as they were disconnected from the main circuit. Paul held his breath, then spun round and pushed the electricity cabling against Black’s uniform.
The cables sparked powerfully, and seemingly tiny flashes of electricity sparked into his body, although Paul knew it was more like hundreds of vaults powering through him. Black’s body shook in violent spasms, then suddenly fell limp again.
Paul heaved a sigh of relief. Despite what the Mysterons had made him, that man had still been one of his closest friends, and Paul still grieved for him.
There was a shocking reminder of the task at hand as Colonel White’s desk erupted into a blazing fireball again, smashing the glass supports besides it, and dragging Paul from his quiet reverie.
“Danger!” the simulated voice of the computer called out. “Impact in five minutes!”
Paul decided to take action again. He stumbled past Captain Black and then leapt through the open exit doors to the lift outside as Cloudbase jerked sideways with the rear engines trying to overcompensate for the sudden descent. Soon they would burn themselves out as well and the computer’s estimation of three minutes would appear overly generous. Paul estimated it to be more like two minutes. But he did not have time to worry about small things like that.
The doors hissed shut, but the lift did not begin automatically. He banged the sides violently, then decided on more decisive action, and dived down onto the floor, opening the emergency escape hatch. He clambered through, then made a difficult climb down the support stanchion into the main body of Cloudbase. Within moments, he reached the entrance which led into a corridor.
He sprinted through the angled corridor, the tilt making it incredibly difficult to move in, and the constant yet unpredictable sideways jerking of Cloudbase made it even trickier.
“Danger! Impact in four point five minutes!”
He reached the emergency access ladder to the main body of Cloudbase now, and began to slide down it, not bothering with the different rungs; there was no time left. He had to get off this base, and the best bet was probably by Angel Interceptor.
Moments later, he had reached the Amber Room, which was filled with a red flashing warning light, and the siren which had remained constant for the past few minutes. Glass supports were smashed in here as well, and cushions from the sofas had been spread about the room. Through the large circular windows, Paul could see the mountains below fast approaching. His heartbeat increased, and he clambered over to the Angels Injector tubes. But they were smashed. The transparent surroundings had exploded inwards, and the two chairs were now indistinguishable as anything other than twisted and mangled wrecks of metal.
“Danger! Impact in four minutes!”
Paul thought fast. There was no other way to the launch deck he could think of that he could reach in the time. The only other option he now had was to use a jet pack or to go to the Angels’ hangar. The jet packs were located at strategic points all around the base, but with it falling at such a speed and angle, it would be dangerous to try and launch and he would surely plummet to the craggy ground below before he had time to build up enough power to get himself airborne.
His only chance of survival was with the Angel Interceptors which were still loaded in the hangar in the upper flight deck. He entered the lift mechanism which would normally elevate one of the Angels up into their interceptor. He clambered up through it onto the upper flight deck, scrambled around, and then found what he was searching for – the maintenance hatch entrance to the hangar.
“Danger! Impact in three point five minutes!”
The hangar was even darker than the rest of the base, as it had no windows to speak of, and usually only a few floodlights to illuminate it. There were four Interceptors currently docked in the hangar, three in various stages of repair, and the fourth which appeared to be ready to launch.
As soon as Paul’s scarlet boots slammed against the metal plating of the floor, he scrambled upwards through the hangar towards the one good interceptor.
He vaulted up the ladder, and leapt into the cockpit through the open canopy, and began the launch sequence. It would take too long to let the machinery around him lift the Interceptor onto the launch deck of Cloudbase, he decided, so he had to look for an alternative.
“Danger! Impact in three minutes!”
The canopy swung down on top of him as the controls flickered to life, bathing him in red, blue and yellow light. He punched the engine controls, and warning alerts suddenly sounded. He ignored them, and shoved the control column to the right.
The rear jet engine burst into life, blowing parts from the other Angels behind it, and slowly, the jet began to inch forward. On his starboard side, Paul could see there was a small breech in the thick Cloudbase wall, probably caused by part of the smashed Angel Interceptor he could see behind him as it had skidded along in the hanger due to the angle of Cloudbase. Scarlet prepped a missile to fire against the damaged section of the hull…
The walls of the hanger ripped open, and explosions tore through all of Cloudbase as it crashed against the huge Himalayan Mountains.
Paul was bolted forward out of his seat as the Angel Interceptor burst into flames, and spun sideways as the jet engine was sent wild. And then Paul remembered nothing more as he was engulfed in flames…
Paul Metcalfe blinked and turned the page of the magazine. He still could not sleep, although this time, he did not feel as though he wanted to sleep. He felt refreshed and awake as though he had been asleep for days.
He winced down at the magazine and frowned. He couldn’t remember what he had been reading, or indeed what he’d been doing that led him to come to the officer’s lounge in the first place. His mind seemed blank, and his muscles ached.
He looked down at his watch. It was 03:23.
He shrugged. Perhaps he had just fallen asleep or been caught up in a daydream for a moment or so. Either way he could not remember, and he did not care enough to think about it any more.
He looked back down at the magazine and turned the page. There was a small, singed piece of paper folded up there. Curiously, Paul picked it out, and folded it open. It was simple and hand-written, and it looked like the handwriting of Bradley Holden – Captain Grey. The message was just two words.