A CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS STORY
“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)
"Spectrum Cloudbase, 2068"
Darkness had fallen when Colonel White got to the last folder of his pile. He rubbed his blue eyes and drank from his cold coffee. At his console, Lieutenant Green stifled a yawn and glanced at Lieutenant Peach as the latter entered the control room. The two junior officers changed over so quietly, White hardly noticed them do so. His eyes settled once more on the cover of the cream coloured folder. The label on it was in copperplate font and neatly typed.
Just that simple, Captain Indigo, two words that in the real world had little significance but to Colonel White had meaning. White thought back to the events of yesterday, the attempted assassination by Indigo’s Mysteron double. Young Indigo murdered by former Spectrum agent Captain Black. Colonel White sighed as he opened the folder and stared back at the black and white headshot of Indigo. His uniform immaculate and hair combed neatly. The details and case file stretched across four pages in neat text. The Spectrum administration staff as ever efficient.
Colonel White picked up his fountain pen and went to the fourth page, below the last paragraph he put pen to paper. The nib scratched across the paper like fingernails on skin.
Captain Indigo served with exemption, a credit to the organisation. His loss has been a great blow and he will be remembered with honour.
White lifted his pen, the words a dark blue against the white paper. He then produced the first page of the file and over the headshot of Indigo scrawled one word.
White settled his pen down and picked up the sheet; wordlessly he put it back down and began to read the file. It would be the last time.
"San Francisco, North America, 2038"
Michael Flaherty revolved his rickety executive chair in his third floor office of the San Francisco branch of the North American Adoptive Agency. Flaherty was an Irish-American and forty years old with fair hair that belayed his age.
His gaze fell finally upon the nearby Transamerica Pyramid, beyond the sixty-seven year old building was the glittering bay bracketed by the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Flaherty tapped his desk with his pen and started as his intercom chimed, pressing the speak button with his pen he said with a New York accent, "Yeah?"
"The Richmonds from Britain are here to see you, Mike," came the voice of his secretary.
"Send them in Martha, if you will."
Flaherty stood from his chair to greet Roger and Anne Richmond as they entered his office. Both were in their mid-thirties and had dark hair, both were successful surgeons based at Guy's Hospital in London.
"Welcome to the NAAA, please have a seat."
Flaherty proffered beverages but the Richmonds declined and he shuffled a folder on his desk, he opened it and smiled.
"Your details checked through and I'm pleased to tell you that we're able to accept you as parents for this child."
"Thank God," Anne Richmond said with a sigh. "We're unable to have children and this is a relief."
"We'll raise him as best as we can," Roger added.
Flaherty stood. "Andrew is waiting downstairs. Please follow me."
In the NAAA building’s basement nursery that was well lit and air conditioned, the young toddler by himself stared intensely at the Lego building before him. After silently debating for a few seconds he proceeded to deconstruct the house, brick by brick.
Andrew Laurence had been orphaned two months ago at the age of two when his parents had been killed in an air crash at Boston's Logan Airport.
The supersonic Boeing 847 ‘Speedbird’ had been on a routine approach from its three-hour flight from Australia when, during the proceeding storm, a freak bolt of lightning blew its first engine nacelle and subsequently disintegrated the entire aircraft.
Andrew’s parents had been well-known forensic experts, also specialising in ballistics. They had lived with Andrew in Boston.
Andrew was taken into care and placed on an adoption list, he had had no other living kin.
The Richmonds who lived in London were keen to adopt him, unable to have children through complications.
Anne Richmond scooped Andrew into her arms and nestled him close, the child regarded her with interest. Standing a few feet away Roger smiled.
“He seems fine.”
“He should be,” Flaherty said hands in pockets. “A Remarkable child shows keen interest in things around him. I shouldn’t be surprised if he makes something for himself in the future.”
A day later, the Richmonds took Andrew back to London and legally changed his name. Andrew Laurence would be as he was born, but Denton Richmond would be his identity for life.
“Imperial College University, London, 2056”
The campus for forensics was also the same one as that of regular medicine.
Denton Richmond ran a hand through his tousled brown hair and clasped his books tighter; learning both medicine and forensics was not for the faint hearted.
Denton stopped by the campus exit at South Kensington near Princes Gate and the Royal Albert Hall, his friend Bradley Maxwell jogged up to him. Maxwell was a handsome twenty-year old who entertained the reputation created by others, of being a ladie’s man. Like Denton, he was studying forensics. However, he could not understand why Denton would want to do forensics and medicine, it didn’t seem practical to him.
“What can I do for you, Max?”
“You left the lecture early, something up?”
Denton grunted, resuming his walk, with Maxwell joining in step and heading towards the city.
“This time Phelps has it wrong.”
“How do you know this?”
“My father did the same thing, post-mortem examination by scans and was able to do it better than Phelps suggests. Remember, my parents were leading in that field.”
“I recall that. Say, while we’re out lets grab a drink.”
“Lead the way.”
The Boston Inn was a quaint little pub that had survived the past decades in the London borough of Marylebone in northwest London near the ever-thriving Marylebone Road.
Inside it was reminiscent of those days when people risked their lives to get to the New World, particularly the Irish immigrants.
Denton was an immigrant of sorts –having been American born and found some comfort away from ICL in the pub.
Roger and Anne Richmond revealed his past when he was twelve and although it bore some shock, Denton had dealt with it ably.
Denton lit a cigarette and flicked the match into a pot on the table.
He pulled across the table towards him, a book that had been lying idle in his suitcase since moving into Imperial as an undergraduate student.
Forensics: The Real Truth by John Laurence.
He flicked it open and read it as the pint of Guinness was placed by his elbow.
Two hours later Bradley Maxwell sat down at his table.
“Thought I’d find you here, Dent.”
“Brad,” Denton closed the book. “You were meant to be here with me anyway, but you disappeared.”
“I was on a mission of sorts.”
Bradley ordered a Guinness and took the book in his hand, his eyes roving over the cover.
“Your fathers’ book?”
The blond-haired Londoner was the only one at Imperial who knew of Denton’s background. It was not something the quiet student broadcast.
Denton had shrugged. “They’re my parents.”
Bradley’s drink came and he sipped it, smacking his lips nosily.
“You are a fool,” Denton muttered.
“Ah, but who is the fool? The fool or the fool who follows?”
Denton took the book back. “What’s up, as it were?”
Bradley raised his eyebrows. “I, sir, have found a date for you.”
Denton groaned. “No Brad. Not again.”
“She’s by the door.”
Out of curiosity Denton glanced past Bradley, at the door were two women. Their attire was casual and they looked like students. One had blonde hair and the other a molten red. Both were slim and of average height.
“Which one?” asked Denton, experience showed that what Bradley thought was Denton’s perfect girl was in fact Bradley’s.
Denton coughed. “I don’t know, Brad.”
Bradley became more serious. “Come on, Dent, you’ve been burying yourself in books this past week. We’re here four years and you’re acting as if you have four weeks. Live a little.”
“We’ve been here half a year; I want to make a good start.”
“Then have some R&R, as my father, the admiral, always says – idle work for idle hands.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Did I mention he was an admiral?” Bradley said offhand.
Denton groaned. “You may as well introduce me.”
“That’s it, the old Dunkirk spirit.”
“Bradley, stop watching war movies.”
Bradley led Denton over to the women who turned to face them, their conversation halted by the arrival of the men.
Bradley gestured to the blonde with one hand. “Denton, this is Sally.”
Denton shook hands and turned his attention to the red haired woman.
Denton bowed slightly at the waist. “Evening.”
“Bradley’s told me quite a bit about you, Denton. You study forensics right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“That’s fascinating, so do I.”
Denton frowned. “I haven’t seen you in classes.”
A silence followed and Bradley clapped his hands. “Shall we head off? I got tickets to that new James Fordham play at Shaftsbury Avenue.”
“Will wonders ever cease?” murmured Denton and following Bradley to Shaftsbury Avenue.
After the play, the group – in a good-natured mood - moved on to a restaurant just off Piccadilly Circus. By now the sun had set and Piccadilly had become a kaleidoscope of colours due to the advertising boards that had been around for almost a century.
“So, how did you come to meet Bradley?” Denton asked his companions as Bradley went to order drinks from the bar.
Sally answered. “I went to school with his sister in Portsmouth. We know each other and he said that if I’m ever in London to bring a friend and here I am.”
“Sounds like Brad,” murmured Denton and glanced at Jennifer. “Did you like the play?”
“Rather. Dawn at Midnight is a metaphor for our times, intelligent, complex and with some humour. Rather fascinating.”
Denton smiled. “I thought so. Say, are you in London long? There’s this lecture by a leading forensics expert who worked with my father, at Kensington. Do you wish to come? I know it’s not exactly a party or a bash, but I thought you might want to.”
Jennifer returned the smile, displaying even white teeth.
“To the first question, I’m in London for the next two days and to the second - I’d love to.”
At this point Bradley returned depositing drinks.
“Meals will be here shortly.”
“Nice one, Brad.”
“Thanks Dent. I aim to please.”
A half-hour later in the restaurant, a band began playing music from the late twentieth century at the far end of the restaurant by an empty dance floor. Some couples stood to dance.
The group had finished their meal and were talking amongst themselves.
Cigarette in left hand, Bradley watched the floor and then nudged Denton speaking quietly towards his ear.
“Why don’t you take Jenny?”
“I have two left feet.”
“Pish, old chap.”
Denton stood quickly and extended his hand towards Jennifer. “May I?”
“Certainly,” replied Jennifer taking his hand and walking with him to the floor. He stood there awkwardly, just then the band –The Barry Gray Tribute Band - struck up Glenn Miller’s In the Mood.
“Ah, first class,” murmured Denton and took her hands. “Bear with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
They danced as fluently as the other dancers could let them.
At the table, Bradley had his arm around Sally’s shoulders looking at the couple on the dance floor.
“Sometimes, even I underestimate my powers.”
“Look at them; they seem oblivious to what’s going on.”
Indeed, Denton and Jennifer were dancing quickly – a fair imitation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts. The band reacting to this and playing a number of jaunty songs.
It went on past midnight.
“Kensington, South London”
The forensics lecture was in the old Science Museum, still fascinating children with its history of science.
Denton Richmond, in his black top and jeans waited patiently at Princes Gate for Jennifer. She arrived after ten minutes and he smiled.
All night he thought of her and found himself giddy with excitement at meeting her. But he checked himself on leaving his residence at Imperial, no sense in letting himself get too far ahead. Denton ran a hand through his brown hair and then cleared his throat.
“Morning, has the lecture started yet?”
“Not yet,” Denton reached for the nearby door to the Science Museum and opened it. “After you.”
“Ever the gentleman.”
Inside the main area was thronging with people, mainly students and not just from London. The lecture would be held on the second floor arena.
Denton and Jennifer joined the crowd as it moved upstairs.
“Recovered from last night?” she asked.
“A little,” Denton replied. “Rather exciting.”
“It was, I hope we can do it again.”
Denton smiled inwardly and thought , did it mean we as in himself and Jennifer or with Brad and Sally?
It mattered little now.
“Please take your seats and Doctor Lewintz will be here in a few minutes,” said a smartly dressed man by a lectern behind which was a computer generated aerial image of London.
“You know, Sherlock Holmes aids greatly in forensics. I mean, how Holmes develops and uses his methods.” Denton murmured to Jennifer from their third row seats.
“The fictional detective?”
“Yes, his methods are a little dated in this age of ours but it can work still. Clues matter.”
“Of course they do, but how can 19th century detective methods be applied to 21st century crimes?”
Denton shrugged. “You change them slightly, but Holmes’ method such as in Study in Scarlet where he scours the entire crime scene can still work quite well today. Technology has overridden the basics. Fine we still do scour the crime scene, but sometimes with all this technology you can miss something that good old fashioned methods will find.”
“Wouldn’t get Holmes’ method used on CSI: Futura, would you?”
Denton chuckled. “I guess not.”
Silence fell as a white-haired man took to the lectern, glasses perched on a bulbous nose. A German accent buffeted the hall. “Good morning all.”
There was a wild outburst of clapping, Lewintz was highly respected and had at one point, been Denton’s father’s colleague.
Lewintz held his hands up silencing the crowd. “Thank you, it is nice to know I am liked in London.”
“I am not here really to lecture, I am here to gather your thoughts. What are you all thinking about forensics? Has technology overtaken our thirst for the real truth? Yes, young man.”
Jennifer started as she realised it was Denton standing. He gripped the back of the chair in front.
“Morning, sir. Would it not help, occasionally using old methods that don’t involve technology to uncover clues?”
The German smiled good-naturedly, his image showing on a large screen TV to his right.
“Ja, Ja. What is it you have in mind, young man?”
“Well, Sherlock Holmes.”
Polite laughter and again Lewintz halted it. “The famous detective, it is nice to know we still read him. Yes, or methods of the crime fighting authorities in the main part of the twentieth century. What is your name, young man?”
“Denton Richmond, Imperial College. You knew my father at one point.”
“I am not familiar with any Richmonds.”
Denton shrugged. “That is because his name was John Laurence.”
Lewintz gasped in realisation and muttered. “Of course, John. Yes I remember now, I worked with him in Boston. I heard of his death, I am sorry, Denton.”
“Thank you, Herr Doktor.” Denton sat. Denton had decided to tell the professor, as the German had been a close working colleague of his fathers who had fallen out of touch after John Laurence’s death.
“The works of John Laurence are to be remembered,” Lewintz gripped his podium. “This is a man who worked to the bare bones of forensics. His son will do just as well, I’m sure.”
Denton nodded graciously at the German and found Jennifer reaching for his hand. He glanced at her and returned her warm smile.
“Anyone else has a question?”
“Hyde Park, London”
That afternoon was as brilliant in terms of weather as the morning was.
Denton and Jennifer left the lecture just after two and walked up Princes Gate and across Kensington Road –past the Royal Albert Hall- onto Hyde Park from its southern approaches. They were silent, Denton agreeably in his own thoughts –muddling through whether he should say or do anything to Jennifer. The attractive red-haired woman took the initiative as they sighted the Serpentine that was dominant in this area of the park.
“That was interesting, especially when you queried Doctor Lewintz. How is it your father has a different surname to you?”
She heard Denton’s intake of breath. He took her arm gently, he guided her to a bench near the lake’s edge. Close by a young boy under the watchful gaze of his father, placed a model sailing boat on the lake. It might be the latter half of the twenty-first century, but some things were everlasting.
“I was born Andrew Laurence, to John and Mary Laurence in America. My parents died when I was a few months old, I was adopted by my parents.” He winced as it suddenly sounded weird. “I became Denton Richmond, I was too young to know of course and I grew up as such. They told me when I was twelve, and I chose to study forensics. I might not become an expert, but you never know.”
Jennifer nodded in understanding. “I see, it must be hard not knowing your real parents.”
“It was, but I never knew them well enough. The people I know as my parents now, will always be my parents to me.”
“My parents are my parents,” she said and winced herself. “That was rude of me.”
“No matter.” He tried smiling. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”
“That is a deal.”
Bradley waited at the Boston Inn that night, expecting Denton to show up. But the brown-haired young man was nowhere to be seen. It depressed Bradley a little, for Sally had declined to see him tonight in favour of getting an early night before returning to Portsmouth.
No word on Jennifer; it didn’t quite cross his mind what she might be doing.
Denton woke that early morning, noticing the cold and then the form in the bed beside him. At first he sat up and simply rubbed his eyes, not quite believing that Jennifer lay there. His mind –sluggish at best this time of morning - recounted how, after the drink, they came here and things took their own course. The blue duvet covered her up to her neck and her flaming red hair spread across it like a lava field.
Denton got out of bed and checked his bedside clock – 0740 - he looked back to Jennifer and gently rubbed her shoulder. She groaned in protest.
“What? Leave me alone.”
“It’s twenty to eight, your train’s in half-an-hour.”
Jennifer turned over clutching the duvet to her. “Okay,” she whispered quietly.
They dressed silently, both accepting that for now it was over and both hoping that they would have again the moment and opportunity to be together. Once changed, they walked out of the apartment in Boston Place, and he flagged down a taxi. Before long, they were speeding towards Waterloo Hyper Station across the river.
Jennifer wiped tears from her eyes and pressed a slip of paper into his hand as he sat next to her on the back leather seat of the taxi as it joined the fast one stop lane on Baker Street.
“Here, my contact details. Don’t stay a stranger, Denton.”
“That goes for you too, Jennifer,” Denton replied holding her hand that held the slip of paper. Jennifer leant her head against his shoulder.
As the taxi stopped before the Hyper terminal, he helped her out and there, standing beneath the archway was Sally –she had Jennifer’s bag with her.
Denton and Jennifer embraced. He held her at a brief distance. “I will miss you, Jennifer. It’s been brief but fun.”
“Yeah, it’s been brief and fun. I want to see you again. Maybe it’ll be sooner than you think.”
They kissed and then she left him. With tears now openly running down her cheeks she met Sally, who silently handed her bag, and together they walked into the station, soon absorbed into the sweltering masses. They left behind Denton Richmond, hands by his side one holding the slip of paper and a sullen expression upon his face.
“You okay, Jen?” asked Sally as they threaded their way through commuters for platform fourteen. Her eyes frowning upon her teary eyed friend.
“Sure, just mild hay fever that’s all.”
Sally didn’t press it, she also didn’t want to make her friend elaborate. Sally concentrated on looking forward to returning to Portsmouth.
“Portsmouth, Hampshire, July 2059”
Twenty-three year old Denton Richmond once more ran a hand through his brown hair as he stepped from the monorail at Portsmouth Harbour. The station was set into the harbour by the bus terminus, so the smell of saltwater was strong in the air.
Denton blew his nose in a handkerchief, replacing the hankie; he shouldered his holdall and walked down the platform. Once out of the station, he noticed the old iron warship HMS Warrior to his left. Even after two hundred years the Warrior looked as beautiful as ever. But, this was not Denton’s first trip to the historic coastal town in the south of England. Since that time in 2056, he had been to Portsmouth almost a hundred times –even if weren’t that, it felt like it. He waited by the curb outside the station, his lift should be here soon.
His eye fell on the dockyards just beyond –by a few dozen yards- towering above the structures were the black masts of Nelson’s HMS Victory. But across the black gates, that once permitted wartime sailors to enter the docks –was a recruitment poster for the British Navy.
Anyone can join the BRN- why not you?
The British Royal Navy was the new name for the old Royal Navy, traditions in Britain are hard to bury - even if a country’s past is not quite perfect.
Denton saw a car pull up, it was a saloon with a shark-like fin above the rear. In the driver’s seat was Sally Holden, the blonde waved Denton in. He threw his holdall in the rear and shut the door. “Denton, we meet again.”
“Our meeting is to be much more permanent, I have now graduated from ICL.”
“Brilliant, Bradley was saying that you had.”
Bradley had left ICL a few weeks ago. He had continued a relationship with Sally despite the fact there was a subtle distance difference. Bradley had made use of his degree and doctorate in medicine and forensics to become a doctor in Portsmouth. As things stood, he was one of the south’s rising stars.
As for Sally, the attractive woman had graduated from the University of Portsmouth around the same time as Bradley. Sally worked in the local media with aims of greater things, for now she was content with Portsmouth.
Sally chatted to Denton as she drove the Saloon Car deeper into the area of Portsmouth towards the harbour front known as Old Portsmouth. This area dated back before Nelson’s time. The old cathedral stood proudly, having survived the Blitz of 1940 and the much more subtle enemy – age.
The saloon eventually stopped before a seafront flat that looked upon the Old Roundfort. This also formed part of the area known as Old Portsmouth and offered a view of the Solent and beyond that the Isle of Wight from Fishbourne through Ryde to Bainbridge. The Solent was calm today and dotted with small sailing craft and two high-powered catamaran ferries.
Denton entered the apartment and smelt coffee, the regular drink for a student and even though students no longer lived here –the occupants would forever in their hearts be students. Denton settled his bags by the door and heard feet thudding down the steps, he was almost knocked down as somebody leapt on him.
Jennifer planted wild kisses on his face and he placed her down. “Steady on, Jen.”
“It’s been so long!” she said and hugged him.
“Well, I’m all finished in London now. So here I am.”
They sat down together and Sally quickly returned brandishing coffee. “Here you go, Denton.”
“Thanks, Sal. Where’s Brad?”
“Practice,” Sally replied. “He’ll be home soon. Probably been quite a lacklustre day. You know he’s been offered a place in Washington.”
“No, America,” Sally said sarcastically and Denton laughed.
“Good for Bradley, nice to see he is not confined to England. If only that were true of me.”
“Nonsense,” Jennifer said hugging him on the sofa. “You’ll make it big.”
“Notoriety is only part of what I wish to achieve, I want to emulate what my parents had done. They both would have wanted that.”
“I assume they would have wanted you to do whatever makes you happy,” remarked Sally as she drank her coffee. Denton nodded musingly and took Jennifer’s hand.
“That they would.”
The door opened a few moments later and Bradley Maxwell walked in. “Denton! Nice to see you, pleasant trip down?”
“Pleasant enough, you look well.”
Bradley tossed his white coat onto a vacant armchair and sat by Sally. His arm went around her and the other smoothed his hair. “I am a doctor, here about my DC offer?”
“Yeah, you are going to take it?”
“Perhaps. Sal how do you like the idea of America?”
Sally looked uncomfortable at being thrust into the spotlight so suddenly and shrugged. “I’d love it I suppose, you still have a little while to decide don’t you?”
“A week or so, that’s what I call a little while.”
“No need to be picky,” said Denton leaping in as he had often done. Bradley launched a cushion at his friend. “Thanks Denton, what are you up to down here? Now that you’re here?”
Denton shrugged and reached for his own coffee, he caught sight of seagulls flying by the window.
“Not much, just spend some time with Jen.”
Jen grinned and huddled closer, Denton fixed Bradley with an indifferent look. The taller man smiled in response. “I see, well I had a sailor as a patient today. I say sailor, he works in the BRN’s admin.”
“What of it?”
Bradley chuckled. “Hang on a moment, old chap. He says they’re looking for top notch CMOs, Chief Medical Officers, old chap.”
“Really? I never knew that,” Denton replied dryly.
“Sarcasm, cute,” Bradley coughed. “You see they’re bringing in a new class of cruiser and the local admiral is to commission her, he’s some bigwig and the crew’s incomplete and to add to this –the maiden voyage is scheduled for October of this year.”
“What are you implying?” asked Jennifer, even she had inkling – as Denton had - of what Bradley was getting at.
“That Denton joins the British Royal Navy as an officer and becomes a CMO, it’s a start, old chap. You can still do forensics.”
“The two don’t –and shouldn’t- go hand in hand Bradley.” Denton pointed out to his friend. “Why the navy?”
“It’s a start,” Bradley Maxwell emphasised. As Denton did not reply, Bradley clapped his hands together. “Now what’s for dinner?”
“You idiot,” murmured Sally shaking her head before being tickled by Bradley.
That night, Denton held Jennifer in her bed on the top floor of the Old Portsmouth apartment. The window offered a supreme view of the Solent as well as the Isle of Wight and a small portion of Gosport. With no lights on, the only source of illumination was the moon and it cast a single finger of light into the bedroom.
“What do you think about Brad’s suggestion about the BRN?”
“A bolt out of the blue,” admitted Jennifer.
“I’d say,” Denton exhaled. “Of all the things to suggest.”
“Well you are in some kind of limbo; you’ve just left university with no definable idea for the future as of this moment.”
Denton dipped his head to fix her with a stare. “That’s quite profound, Jen. Am I to assume by that you think I should join up?”
“Yes, and thanks.”
“For saying it was profound. On the navy itself, you’ll blow their socks off.”
“Now, I thank you for your confidence in me.”
Jennifer reached for his chin and kissed him. He pulled the duvet up and the rest was their moment.
“Plymouth Naval Base, Devon, July 30 2059”
Rain lashed the seafront of Plymouth as the Saloon Car wound its way along the promenade road. The landscape was dark and broody beneath the mournful clouds. Lightning flashed out to sea where a cruiser sat waiting.
Through beating wipers Denton Richmond stared moodily at the clouds and the rain streaking the cars’ windscreen. Beside him Bradley Maxwell changed gear and swore.
“Bloody weather, and its supposed to be bloody summer.”
“Do you know any other adjectives?” grumbled Denton. “Idiot.”
“Touchy, sure you don’t want to walk?” Bradley said as he paused behind a blue and white lorry. Behind Bradley, Jennifer and Sally exchanged amused glances.
“I won’t be walking if I go out, I’ll be swimming.”
During the hundred and thirty so miles from Portsmouth along Britain’s southern coast, Denton’s mood had been broody and subdued. It had bemused the others to no end, added to that the fact it was raining.
“That will be part of your training,” Bradley pointed out as he drove the rest of the way to the naval bases gates. The rain was still hard and BRN Military Police in plastic coats waved them in. There were other cars stopping further ahead. The Saloon Car parked, Denton wrestled his holdall from the boot and with the others walked into the main building. The noise inside was buzzing, families and candidates standing around. Denton stood by a Union Jack on a flagpole by the doors.
“Nice set-up, makes me wish I weren’t a doctor,” Bradley murmured towards his friend.
“This is the British Royal Navy, Bradley.” Denton murmured back with a deal of patience. “I would say that’s a little different to the medical profession.”
“Only little, you are applying for medical officer, right?”
“Bradley,” moaned Denton, “shut up.”
Bradley held up his hands and grinned at Sally. A loud voice broke the crowd’s talking, Denton saw a man in uniform standing towards the rear of the reception. He wore a white cap, on either sleeve at the wrist were three gold braids.
“Morning everyone, hardly the best of mornings but this is Plymouth after all.” There were some murmurings of laughter. “I’m Commander Alan Collins, the Chief Training Officer here at Plymouth. As trainees, I’ll train you all. Training will last two months and there’ll be additional training for those wanting specific jobs. Lieutenant Brady here will call you off.”
The names were rattled off by a well-spoken younger officer until finally.
Denton hoisted his bag and kissed Jenny and looked at Bradley and Sally. “See you around.”
Denton walked through the crowd to the front. The caller was thin, wearing two braids backed by a broken up third braid. “I’m Lieutenant Commander George Brady, BRN, go aft with the others, Richmond.”
Denton took that to mean go behind and did just that, passing through a door he found himself following others down a corridor walled on the left side by windows. Here was a more panoramic view of Plymouth Sound battered by strong waves. Not for the first time since looking into the stormy channel, did Denton wonder why he was joining the navy.
Those waves are sure as heck big, that ship’s bobbing around something chronic.
Denton walked into the back of the man before him, he hardly noticed – and listened to Commander Collins say. “…bunking in this main building.”
“Will it all take place here, sir?” someone asked.
“Besides some water training at Portsmouth,” Collins answered. He pointed behind him. “This way to the Victory Bunks.”
Denton once more lifted his holdall and followed the others. This could become quite interesting before the two months were out.
Commander Alan Collins stood on the edge of the swimming pool, the pool’s water lapped bare feet. He held a whistle in his left hand.
“Standby… ABANDON SHIP!”
Denton and four other cadets wearing blue swimming shorts, grabbed edges of the day-glo orange inflatable life raft with its peaked roof. They jumped into the pool, as did the two other five-man groups that formed the class. Hitting the water, Denton gasped as ice-cold water pressed against his shorts and stabbed his entire body. Talk about making it realistic, this was as cold as the North Atlantic. He scrambled into the life raft and helped his team get in; the water was uneven with the activities of the BRN cadets. The whistle went again.
“Good job chaps. That took ten seconds this time.”
“N-n-not again,” stammered Denton as he shook violently.
Collins smiled as he heard Denton. “No Cadet Richmond. Not again. This concludes your emergency training,” Collins paused for shivering laughter to die out. “Next we move onto Portsmouth for other training, this’ll last a couple of days and then into the Thursday War.”
A few minutes later, standing under warm water in the changing room, Denton reflected on how fast training had passed, three weeks which time he –and the other cadets- had been ye-yawing between Plymouth and Portsmouth in emergency training. This included evacuation drills –in facilities-, repairs whilst the ship flooded –also in shipboard facilities-, fire training and other procedures –again in shipboard facilities.
The Thursday War was something going back almost sixty years, when ships would train out a war between each other. The recent Atomic War and British Civil War had heightened the need for this, for the Royal Navy had been a vital tool in both wars. Britain was –and would remain- an island nation, her navy mattered.
“Dent,” called Donald Marsh from the side of the shower.
“What?” called back Denton as he shifted his head beneath the warm water.
“Have you still got your training manual for the Thursday War?” Marsh queried, his voice touched with a northern accent.
“Somewhere, getting anxious about actually being on water?” grinned Denton.
Marsh switched his shower off. “No, but I’d like to know what we’re expecting.”
Marsh was training –like Denton and a couple of others- to be an officer. Whereas Denton was training to be a CMO, Marsh was training to be a weapons officer. It was likely that they would train in their posts onboard ship.
Denton and Marsh dried and changed into uniforms, dark blue trousers and a lighter blue shirt with their names stitched onto the right breast pocket. They couldn’t leave the base due to regulations for the time being. Denton found the Thursday War guide for Marsh and then checked his officer’s manual. It had become known to Commander Collins and his subordinate Lieutenant Commander Brady that Denton was aiming to serve on the new flagship Hood in October. The Hood was the leader of a new class of cruiser, built on a catamaran principle, with an arrowed bow and a distinctive sleek look. The flag commander for Britain would be on the maiden voyage, there were those eager to be on this voyage to impress him.
Denton was studying the manual at a table in the mess room. Designated to the fifteen cadets, it had a homely feel to it and dealt with many examples of home life including beverages but not alcohol. Portraits of various sea battles including Trafalgar, Jutland and Bismarck adorned the wall. This room itself was known as the Victory Mess Room.
“Cadet Richmond,” Collins’ brusque voice made Denton snap to attention in his seat. The commanding officer with dull red hair laughed lightly. “As you were.”
Collins sat down at the table opposite Denton, his hands clasped on the table. Alan Collins was a married father of two. At one time the commander of the submarine Winston Churchill, he left the submarine service despite being recommended for promotion to captain and became the CTO at Plymouth. He was a strict officer but, like some here at Plymouth, able to unwind and have a joke with fellow officers and trainees alike.
“Found training hard?”
“Hardly, sir.” smiled Denton.
Collins fixed Denton with a gaze. “I’m keen on you progressing in the officer’s course, I’m sure that you’ll do your absolute best to do so. Following the Portsmouth training and the Thursday War you’ll be put into the officer’s course. This’ll last two weeks and you’ll train in weapons and the like, you’ll be posted to a ship for a short time to train as a medical officer and then, hopefully, you’ll be made a Chief Medical Officer…” Collins licked his lower lip. “…and then CMO of the Hood.”
“Thank you, sir.” Denton felt the excitement brimming to his head.
“Don’t be so hasty,” Collins warned holding a hand up. “You’re on a shortlist of five men including two CMOs from other ships. There’ll be some time.”
Denton swallowed and made himself less heady with excitement. “I understand sir. The navy is a fickle thing.”
“Something like that,” murmured Commander Collins.
Collins shortly excused himself and left Denton at the table. Denton closed the manual and sat back, a little happier than he had been and certainly warmer than the swimming pool.
“Plymouth Sound, September 2059”
Cadet Denton Richmond, British Royal Navy, clapped his hands together where he stood on the fo’clse of the destroyer Folkestone where it sat on the Plymouth Sound off Devon coast. The autumn wind was driving lightly across the Sound but enough to make it seem much colder than it actually was. The fo’clse was on the bow of the ship, in this instance the Folkestone’s fo’clse was barely big enough for the ten cadets selected from the class of fifteen. The cadets all wore regular styled uniforms, Denton and Donald Marsh wore officer caps.
“Standby to receive officer commanding Folkestone,” called someone unseen to Denton. The cadets snapped to attention, Denton was the nearest to the ships’ port side and broke a crisp salute. The captain of the Folkestone firstly saluted where on older ships, the quarterdeck would be – towards the bridge - and then returned Denton’s salute. He eyed the brown-haired man up and smiled thinly; the cold was affecting him as much as Denton.
“Officer in training, hmm? Who are you, exactly?”
“Cadet Denton Richmond, sir, medical.”
The quick and snappy reply made the captain’s smile deepen. “Ah, a doctor. Welcome aboard the Folkestone, Richmond.” the CO took a step back and eyed the ten cadets. “I’m Commander Wilkins; let’s make this Thursday War count. To your stations.”
Denton and Marsh parted company, the latter going to his weapons station on the bridge and Denton below decks to the sickbay.
The Folkestone was a converted Type 42 destroyer, originally built in 2000 as HMS Portland, it was updated in 2015 and was present in the recent wars as Folkestone. The sickbay was at the forefront of ship-based medicine, four biobeds hooked up to computers showing reports above the beds.
Commander Manfred Owen was the ship CMO; he was in his forties and had vibrant red hair. nodded as Denton came in, the latter placing his cap on a peg by the door. The expansive sickbay beckoned to Denton, for him to get stuck in.
“We’ll be moving soon.”
On cue, the Folkestone shuddered as her engines started and she moved off. The CMO stood by a biobed. “They’ll be no real casualties, but everything is in this main room. We operate here and heal here.” He forced a smile. “No dying, not now anyway.”
Denton swallowed. “How many Thursday War’s have you done?”
“Enough, it’s just an excuse for taking these things out. During the last war, it was the real thing.”
Denton didn’t ask about Panama, he was more concerned with the here and now. The future, whatever that would bring was more important to Denton than a past war or conflict.
For two hours as the Folkestone pitched in light swell with the Red Fleet, it was quiet in sickbay. Manfred Owen showed Denton how to work the new hypospray that was replacing needles on ships, simply press against the skin and then you’re done.
A seaman, on an errand for the captain, came down to sickbay and informed the two medical officers that Blue Fleet, spearheaded by the cruiser Hamilton, had sunk the Folkestone’s submarine escort Rodney. In reality, the Hamilton had merely lit up the Rodney by sonar and declared a hit. In fantasy, the Rodney was now on the bottom of Plymouth Sound.
Denton sat on the biobed and as he did the overhead intercom came into life.
“This is the captain speaking; four Arrow jets are inbound from the Blue carrier. Standby for immediate action.”
Owen glanced at Denton from the sickbay door. “This is it, they’ll strafe us.”
Denton gulped, real or not he felt a little fearful all of a sudden.
Launched from the Blue Fleet’s aircraft carrier Winston Churchill, four Westland Arrow jets screamed low over the English Channel speeding towards Red Fleet on Plymouth Sound. The Arrow was a Vertical Take Off and Landing aircraft.
Mainland Plymouth lay about three miles behind Red Fleet, despite this distance it was visible to the Arrow pilots. The destroyers Farnborough and Middlesex bracketed the Folkestone, on cue the escorts began splashing the Arrow jets with ‘hits.’
One Arrow pilot scowled in despair as his radar screen went red, this meant he was dead and so he pulled away from his comrades. They were flying through dense flak that was not visible to the eye but simulated.
The Arrows screeched over the fo’clse of Folkestone and hurtled towards Plymouth.
Below decks, in the sickbay –Denton heard the alarm sounding General Quarters sound. It was higher in pitch than Battlestations and it was quickly followed by Commander Wilkins’ voice.
“The Arrows have struck, damage fore of the smoke stack. Casualties, medical team to the bridge.”
Owen grabbed a medical bag and tossed it to Denton. “You go; they’ll be coming in here as well.”
Denton took the bag and grabbed his cap, as he left the sickbay seaman trotted past him. One grinned at him. “Broken legs.”
“What?” scowled Denton momentarily thrown. After climbing several ladders, Denton reached the bridge. There was no damage, in fact Commander Wilkins was drinking tea and seemed amused to see Denton. “Ah, Cadet Richmond. The, ah, casualties are in the radar room.”
Denton slipped through the right side-door at the rear of the bridge; the radar room was dark and was also the sonar room. Here, the crewmen wore blue overalls with white flaps around their necks. It was a uniform stretching back centuries in the navy.
Four seamen were sat on a table by the computerised plot chart. Their faces were smiling and one raised his hand. “Morning, doc. We’re the designated injuries.”
Denton placed his bag on the table by the speaker. “I did drama at school; shall we make a little production out of this?”
The speaker, a seaman by the name of Thurmsby snickered. “Sure, my arm’s been blown off at the elbow.”
Denton looked at the right arm. “Right, okay…”
He was cut off as a voice shouted from the bridge. “Inbound!”
The deafening roar of jets drowned out any further voices. After they had faded to a mute whine, Wilkins announced glumly. “There goes Middlesex and ourselves. Signal Plymouth, Middlesex listing and sinking rapidly. Folkestone going by the head.”
Commander Wilkins appeared in the radar room. “Okay chaps, we’re sunk. We’re now heading back home; beers are on the Blues today.”
“Hell’s teeth,” grumbled Thurmsby and slapped Denton’s arm. “Sorry, doc.”
Denton closed his medical bag and returned to sickbay.
Two weeks and two Thursday Wars later, Denton Richmond found himself in the sunny climate of Gibraltar. Gibraltar still flew the Union Jack, despite centuries of dispute with Spain, the British held Gibraltar firmly.
The weather was hotter than it had been in Plymouth, this a welcome relief to Denton who had seen nothing but Plymouth for all his training –with the obvious exception of Portsmouth. Denton had been posted to the Folkestone as the junior medical officer, he had been officially deemed an officer and his training declared over following his first Thursday War. The reason for this quick change of plan being that Wilkins needed someone else in sickbay, Folkestone was too big a ship for one MO and needed two. Denton was now Lieutenant-Commander Junior Grade Denton Richmond, British Royal Navy, and listed on the crew complement as, ‘Night CMO.’
Whatever his position and rank, Denton took time to enjoy Gibraltar. He spent time with Commander Owens on shore, Owens’ grandfather had married his grandmother whilst on leave here.
Denton returned to the ship one night to find he had been summoned to Wilkins’ cabin below the bridge. The Commanding Officer had largely been nice to Denton, maybe he was breaking his coda and giving Denton a good rollicking over something or other.
Taking off his cap, Denton knocked on Wilkins’ door and entered. The cabin was spacious and decorated as comfortably as could be on a seafaring vessel. The Royal Navy ensign sat in one corner by a portrait of the battlecruiser Prince of Wales in 1941.
Wilkins sat behind his desk and was filling a pipe. “Close the door and take a pew, Denton.”
Denton upon closing the door, took a seat before his CO’s desk. Wilkins’ black hair seemed lighter under the glare of his lights, his blue eyes twinkled with hidden humour. There was silence as Wilkins lit his pipe and the smell of strong tobacco wafted Denton’s way.
“How do you like Gib?” asked the CO, two strong puffs of smoke.
“Quite strongly, sir,” Denton was tight-lipped. It was best not to get carried away with words lest he muddy what future he had in the BRN.
The puffs of smoke strengthened and decreased abruptly as the pipe was removed from the mouth, Wilkins leant forward and smiled. “Word’s come down from Pompey.” Wilkins paused. “Concerning you.”
Denton saw the smile – like a wolf - and the mention of Portsmouth and his own name, had the junior MO abruptly worried. “Me, sir?”
“Yes you, Denton,” Wilkins’ tone was neutral.
“Well, I’d appreciate if you would say what it is, sir. I’d like to know if I’m going home or what. Sir,” Denton’s tone was now hardened and wary.
“Relax, they’re transfer orders to the Hood.”
The sudden statement cut Denton, as an axe to his belly would. For a while he sat there with open-mouthed astonishment at his captain, the CO smiled back and puffed comfortably on his pipe.
“That’s right, Denton. You’re now the current Chief Medical Officer of the brand new BRN flagship Hood. You take up your position in three days, September 30.”
“We can’t get home in three days, sir.” Denton pointed out.
“Arrow jet from Gibraltar,” answered Wilkins. He shook his pipe out into an ashtray and extended his hand across the desk, standing as he did so. “Congratulations, Lieutenant-Commander.”
Denton, feeling as if he was flying in the sky, returned the handshake.
“Thanks very much, Commander Wilkins.”
Outside, the sun set behind the Rock of Gibraltar.
“Portsmouth, September 30, 2059”
Stepping down the gangplank from the carrier Winston Churchill, moored at the quayside in Portsmouth Harbour, Lieutenant-Commander Denton Richmond, BRN, couldn’t believe his luck. A new posting and it was raining cats and dogs. Denton had been flown from Gibraltar to Portsmouth at a speed that a migrating bird would have been jealous of. As the dockside was busy at Portsmouth, the Arrow settled on the Churchill. It was fortunate that the Arrow retained Vertical Take Off Landing, otherwise it would have been a tricky landing on a slick deck.
Water dripped off the brim of his officer’s cap as he met the quayside. He walked northwards, deeper into the harbour in the general direction of Southampton. Training here showed Denton that Portsmouth natives disliked Southampton with an intensive feeling that was led to the greatest rivalry in the world.
At the top of the harbour sat the cruiser Hood, based on a catamaran design. The double hull was not visible, as it was below the quayside. The ship looked entirely modern, a superstructure that sloped backwards from the point on the bow. It then –after running flat- sloped downwards near the stern. Flags rippled on the mast lines across the superstructure.
The bow was raked and added to the ships’ general sleekness, a gangway was propped against her side with BNS HOOD in thick stencil letters on its side.
Denton bounded up the gangway and was saluted by a seaman who had just popped out from the side of the superstructure below the bridge screen.
“Morning sir, bloody wet isn’t it? Let me take your bag, sir.”
Denton blinked and shrugged. “Great, can we get inside?”
The seaman nodded and they went inside where it was warmer, and thankfully drier. Denton was led through a maze of corridors to the rear of the superstructure where his cabin was, two doors down from the CO’s cabin. The seaman kicked the door open and dumped Denton’s holdall and satchel on the bed.
“On behalf of the captain, sir. Welcome aboard the cruiser Hood,” the seaman saluted and left.
Denton took off his cap and walked to the window of the cabin. Not a porthole, but a wide window that offered –currently- a view of Portsmouth Harbour, broody under a black sky.
Ten minutes later, as Denton was finishing unpacking the tannoy sounded.
“All senior officers, please report to the bridge.”
Denton grabbed his cap and opened the cabin door, he walked a few paces when suddenly a door was flung open and another officer walked straight into him. The two men stopped and there came a flurry of apologies.
The other officer got the upper hand. “No, look, my fault. Head over heels,” his voice was classy and halting. The officer looked at Denton. “You wouldn’t have to be our new CMO, would you?”
Denton saluted. “Lieutenant Commander Denton Richmond, sir. Your new CMO, at your service.”
The other officer slapped Denton’s shoulder. “Excellent, I’m Commander Willy Atkins, the first officer -XO. Come on, we’re going to be late.”
They walked in step to the bridge, the bridge was a ladder up from the officers quarters and spacious with the CO’s chair suited centrally. A man with four braids on his wrist smiled at the new arrivals. “Just in the nick of time, Willy.”
“Sorry sir, this is by the way, our new CMO.”
“Denton, welcome.” The captain shook Denton’s hand. “We’re awaiting the flag officer. By the way, Captain Michael Portal.”
Portal was six foot with snow-white hair, blue eyes and a strong build. As opposed to his number one, for Atkins was around five eight with black hair, green eyes and a thin figure.
Denton met the chief engineer, weapons officer and junior officers before they were herded onto the deck by the gangway. The rain was harder yet and Denton grunted, could this get any worse?
A black Range Rover reached the base of the gangway, out stepped a tall heavyset man with officer’s cap and admiral braids visible. He stomped up the gangway quickly, below the Range Rover drove off in a flurry of spray.
Captain Portal saluted the admiral as he stepped onto the Hood, as he did so the admiral saluted the Union flag and then the quarterdeck before returning Portal’s salute.
“For those of you who don’t know,” the admiral began haughtily, “I am Admiral Richard Lines, and I served in this man’s navy for damn near forty years. This maiden voyage is going to be successful and you will make it so. My quarters, if you will, captain.”
The last part snapped at Portal made Denton flinch as if slapped. The CO coolly directed Lines’ attention to a waiting seaman, drenched and looking as calm as he could despite the wetness. “Seaman Briggs will take you to your cabin, sir.”
The officers all saluted as Lines departed and then they went back into the superstructure for the bridge. Denton heard Portal grumble to Atkins.
“Would have to be Dicky Lines, wouldn’t it?”
“Hmm,” grunted Atkins, “tell me about it.”
“Begging the captain’s pardon,” Denton said loudly. “What is the problem with the admiral?”
The officers all halted and the superior officers fixed Denton with a look.
“You’ve never heard of Dicky Lines?” asked Commander Atkins.
Denton felt his cheeks heat. “Not quite, sir.”
“He’s a Panamanian Crisis hero,” Portal answered. “He’s known for being a… you know, and well, he’s as bossy as they come. ‘Cause, officers should be, but he takes it to the brink of madness.”
On cue, Seaman Briggs ran breathlessly into the bridge. “Captain, sir. The admiral wants to leave immediately.”
“Christ,” swore Portal. “Fine, chief…”
At the mention of his rank, the chief engineer nodded and headed below to warm the engines up.
“And so it begins,” mumbled Atkins in Denton’s ear.
Denton Richmond entered the wardroom situated a deck below the superstructure, the evening sun was visible above the dark sea as it settled. Willy Atkins brandishing two glasses of water approached him.
“Here you go, Denton. You need it.”
“Well thanks, sir.”
Atkins chuckled and then glanced across the room to where Portal sat by himself at the head of the table. “Poor man, after what happened in Portsmouth.”
Denton nodded remembering.
He had been present on the bridge when Admiral Lines came to oversee the departure of the Hood. Captain Portal got the cruiser away from the quayside well enough, it was not the first departure he had oversaw. Yet Lines was watching keenly and when Portal had the ship moved into the open harbour, the bow aiming for the harbour entrance, Admiral Richard Lines than shouted.
“Watch your stern, captain!”
Portal looked confused at Lines. “Sir?”
“Your stern, you might hit another ship.”
Portal had exchanged looks with Atkins. “But sir, I am and there is no shipping. We’re steering with our bow not our stern.”
Silence save for the beeping of consoles on the bridge. Denton held his breath as Lines replied.
“That matters little, you must always be aware of your surroundings.”
“Ahead fifteen,” ordered Portal.
Yet Lines kept making small comments that undermined Portal’s orders. Eventually the admiral was the one who took the Hood out of Portsmouth, around Gosport and eventually into the open Atlantic.
“He wants to be a modern day Nelson,” commented Atkins as he swilled his water in the glass. “Don’t they all?”
Denton didn’t answer, not in words, instead he sighed heavily and drank his sparkling water. The Hood was still steaming westwards, for now the routine was to play around in the Atlantic. Not that playing was to be allowed, but the captain would need to know –and the navy command- what the Hood could do. Denton hadn’t been into the open Atlantic before, going to Gibraltar had merely involved hugging the Spanish coast.
“Attention to deck!” called Seaman Briggs in his Class-A seaman’s uniform by the door.
The officers present snapped to attention as Admiral Richard Lines entered, he gave a cursory glance to them all before nodding slightly. “As you were.”
Yet, even as they relaxed, the officers felt more on alert than they had before he had entered. Denton was aware of Lines giving Captain Portal a wary look as he moved to the bar where Seaman Briggs had hurriedly moved.
“Brandy Briggs,” ordered Lines and sat on a stool.
Portal moved to where Atkins and Denton stood. “I like Briggs, I know he’s the admirals’ aide on ship but this takes the bloody biscuit.”
Briggs served Lines, Denton exhaled. This was both awkward and a little dull, he had a sudden urge to go on deck. As he moved towards the door, Lines swung around on his stool.
“Where do we go to next, captain?”
Portal shifted from one foot to the other. On the spot by Lines once again.
“We’ll steam towards Greenland, test the ship in this weather and adaptation to the cold.”
Michael Portal, BRN, had been a junior officer on the frigate Falklands during the Icelandic Crisis of 2042; in the subsequent Panama-Isthmus Rebellion he took command of the destroyer Wiltshire in Captain Charles Gray’s flotilla. He became the Wiltshire’s captain proper, ranked only commander. Portal was recommended for medals five times by 2050 for several actions. By this year of 2059 he had accepted a promotion to captain, commanded a carrier and been chosen over six other candidates to command the Hood.
He hadn’t counted on Admiral Lines.
“Surely Iceland would be better?”
Denton moved back into the room. “How does it matter, Admiral? As long as the Hood is tested in the cold weather and waters, than surely it doesn’t matter whether it’s Greenland or Iceland.”
The silence that had lingered since Lines’ entrance now went to a depth deeper than the Atlantic itself. Lines’ face reddened and Briggs, behind the bar, swore to himself under his breath.
“What’s that, commander?”
“Iceland or Greenland,
matters little,” Denton shrugged. “I’m the CMO; all I worry about is treating
people.” Denton’s manner
“Sir,” Denton saluted and left, heading for sickbay.
Two hours later, as the shipboard clock chimed eleven at night, Denton Richmond yawned in sickbay. He had quit rolling a penny on his desk and now simply sat there. Shortly after the chimes faded into silence, the doors to sickbay parted.
Captain Michael Portal paused in the doorway and winked at Denton.
“Nice one, Denton.”
With that he left a shocked Denton behind and vanished.
“Denmark Strait, October 7, 2059”
Historically, the Denmark Strait didn’t strike Denton as the best place for the cruiser Hood to be parked. Somewhere near here, after a brief battle with the battleship Bismarck, the last ship named Hood was sunk with the loss of all but three men. It might have been one hundred and eighteen years since then, but it didn’t make Denton feel any better.
The ship had ploughed northwards, nearing the strait the cruiser had been shunted by hard waters and ice had formed on the deck. Ice was still being scraped off the deck, even after the waters had calmed. The Hood sat between Greenland, just north of Iceland and near the Greenland Ridge.
Denton stood as a seaman from the weapons room came in, he was pale and holding his arm. Denton met him and helped him onto a bed.
“What’s the problem, Seaman Welch?”
Welch was getting as pale as his protective headgear. “Fell and bumped my arm.”
Denton rolled up the right sleeve and winced, on the elbow was a pus covered cut.
“It’s infected, when did you do it?”
“Near the canteen, this morning,” Welch replied through clenched teeth.
“I’ll remove the pus and then bandage it. I’ll also give you some painkillers. Should’ve come sooner, Welch.”
“Sorry and thanks, doc.”
Denton was seeing to the wound when Willy Atkins entered, he was wearing winter clothing and gave Welch a good look over. “What you done now, Welch?”
“Banged it, sir,” grunted Welch as Denton removed the pus and cleaned the wound. After this, he gave Welch some painkillers from the sickbay’s medical cabinet and then addressed Atkins, the first officer now sitting on the edge of a biobed. The XO was running a hand through his hair.
“What’s the problem, number one?”
“Lines,” grunted Atkins letting his hand drop. “He’s virtually taken over the ship, Mike’s being run ragged. It appears nothing that our CO does is too good for the wannabe Nelson.”
Richmond tapped Atkins’ arm. “Never mind, maybe next time.”
“Suppose so,” grunted Atkins and walked out.
Michael Portal was seated in his command chair watching the horizon; a low mist had blanketed the nearby coast of Iceland and visibility was down to a few metres. Around him his bridge crew went about their work. He had decided to move the Hood towards Nova Scotia, but he really wanted to test her engines and pound all out southwards down the Atlantic towards Antarctica. The mission specs had been simple from the Admiralty.
Test the endurance of ship to maximum.
He was distracted when weather officer Arnold Meyer approached, holding sheets.
“What is it, Snowball?”
The small joke made Meyer smile a little but the smile vanished when he showed the captain one the sheets. It showed a circular shape and inside the circle was a small cube shape marked HOOD.
“This is a storm that’s going to hit us in an hour’s time, sir, equivalent to a force five hurricane,” Meyer intoned.
Portal started. “Force five! But that’s the most powerful ever.”
“Damn thing is, sir. It’s picking up speed coming southeast from Greenland. This is going to make us bob like a duck in a kiddie’s pool.”
It wasn’t quite the analogy Portal would have used to describe it, but Meyer came close. Portal gave a look through the bridge windows and could only see whiteness.
“What’s in this storm anyway?”
“Snow, rain. Mainly snow,” shrugged Meyer. “There’ll be no point in running, sir. The waves are going to be high.”
“Hell’s teeth,” mumbled Portal and handed the photo back. “Thanks, Meyer.”
Portal stood and walked to the console before his chair, he plucked the intercom phone and held it to his ear. He pressed a button and began speaking.
“Attention all hands, this is the captain speaking. A force five storm is about to hit us. I want all watertight compartments closed, all hatches buttoned down and all hands on readiness. This is the test we’ve been waiting for. Things are going to get rough so make sure you’re not caught off guard.”
Five minutes after the message echoed down corridors, the crew of the Hood went to work. There also formed a steady line of seamen obtaining seasickness tablets from sickbay.
Even sailors could be seasick, especially during a storm.
The deck pitched violently to port as Denton clambered through the corridor. Red lights blinked and the ship groaned as she then lurched to starboard. Denton cursed as he was thrown into the corridor wall and stayed there even as the ship’s pitch returned to normal.
It was 1955hrs, almost nine hours since the storm – dubbed Storm Alice - had smashed into the Hood. She had pitched this way and that in the storm, waves crashing over her bow and stern. Snow blitzed the Hood like enemy shells, except these shells were colder than anything possessed in any country’s arsenal. By the time of 1800hrs, Storm Alice had been downgraded to a force three but it was still enough to make the Hood bob like a crazy man.
Denton made a run for the wardroom; he’d rather slide into it then crash through the door. He made it to the double doors just as the cruiser pitched again and a loud boom rumbled as a wave slammed into the ship. Atkins caught him as he tottered into the room.
“Are we really going to eat on a deck like this?”
“Dunno,” Atkins replied.
Lines came in five minutes later, followed by Portal and a moment later by Briggs. They all took their seats at the table except for Briggs, who positioned himself by the door at ease. Denton and Atkins were seated two seats down on Lines’ right side.
“Excellent chicken, not related to you, Portal?” guffawed Lines.
Portal merely ate, Atkins and Denton watched Lines as he tucked into the chicken. Somehow, not even the pitching put anyone off. Although the chief engineer spilled water as he poured it. Amazingly, the rest of the dinner went without incident.
The bang was short and sweet, Denton paid it no heed as he turned over in bed dreaming of Jennifer in far off Portsmouth. The deck had stopped pitching as Storm Alice subsided, although the aftershocks of the storm would hit them lightly during the night. Hushed voices sounded but Denton still slept; then a heavy thumping shook the door.
“Denton! Wake up!” came Atkins’ voice.
Denton grumbled as he swung out of bed, he wore pyjama trousers with a naval t-shirt. He opened the door and blinked in the glaring light of the corridor; in uniform stood Wily Atkins - looking as worse for wear as Denton felt - next to him was Master at Arms Lieutenant Commander Hansen.
“Get dressed and get next door,” ordered Atkins.
Denton did so and once in his uniform, he went next door to Admiral Lines’ quarters. Standing by the inside of the door was an ashen Seaman Briggs.
The lights were on and Denton took a short while to adjust. When he did look, he saw the quarters’ floor covered in sheeting and pillows. Atop the unfurled bed was Lines, his right leg draped onto the sheet. His pyjamas were a sky blue and above his right breast was a dark red hole, a streak of blood ran the length of the pyjama top and onto the floor.
“Christ,” swore Denton as he moved to the body.
“You can say that again,” quipped Willy Atkins as he stepped into the room. “The shot came five or ten minutes ago, first on hand was Briggs who was down the corridor. No sign of an attacker, although the state of the room suggests a struggle.”
“I studied forensics, Willy. I can do some of it,” Denton said it politely.
“I know, old chap,” Willy said quietly rubbing his temple. “Tell me this is a dream.”
Denton looked the body up and down. He poked around and then faced Willy. “I need photos of the room done, then the body taken to sickbay. I can have a report by sunup.”
“That soon?” asked Atkins.
“Does the CO know?” Denton answered with a question of his own.
“He’s on his way,” answered Commander Atkins.
“Right, then I need to get started. Briggs, camera.”
Briggs hurried past Hansen. “Anything I can do, doctor?”
Denton shrugged. “Find the killer perhaps?”
“BNS Hood, Icelandic coast, October 9, 2059”
Sickbay was being guarded by two of Hansen’s Marines. The doors were sealed and Denton had not permitted entry to anyone, and that included Captain Portal and Commander Atkins. Denton had moved the examining table at the rear of the sickbay to the middle, nearer to his desk and equipment. Lines’ body lay stripped on the table, the bullet wound cleaned. On the wall by the table were photos of the crime scene. For that’s what it was, a crime scene.
Wearing surgical greens over his uniform, Denton approached the body. Lines had been a little round in the belly, his legs a tad stumpy. To Denton’s chagrin, Lines’ face was still set in a scowl akin to one he had been giving Portal.
Denton took a scalpel from the little metal dish by the examining table. He probed the bullet wound and then gently cut a square around the wound. With gloved fingers, he peeled the skin that he cut back and dug around the wound. When he first saw an autopsy at Imperial College London, he had fainted dead away and so had Bradley Maxwell. This was far beyond ICL now and hadn’t got Bradley making wisecracks.
A few minutes later, gloves bloodied, he found the bullet close to the spine and using teasers, pulled it out. When cleaned, the bullet glistened in the lights of sickbay. It retained its shape save for the tip being blunted.
Denton placed the bullet on his tray and was about to go back into the wound when there was a knock on the sickbay doors. “Denton, Atkins.”
“Come in, Willy,” Denton replied to the first officer.
Commander Willy Atkins slipped inside and walked towards the examination table. When he paused, he hissed, “Heck, ugly sod wasn’t he?”
Denton clucked his teeth. “Some candour please, the man is dead.”
“Hmm, on that note. How?”
Denton sighed and looked at the body. “From my first scans, the bullet killed him. It drilled right into the body next to the spine. I would say a heavy calibre weapon or a powerful weapon put it that way. Maybe a Luger.”
Atkins looked at Denton with a look of shock. “A German Luger? Where on hell can someone get a Luger on this ship? We don’t carry German weapons.”
“Perhaps not in the arsenal, but someone’s personal possession.”
“Perhaps,” sniffed Atkins and glanced at the wound. “When will your report be done?”
“An hour or so, I have some more examinations to make and then investigation.”
“Right.” Atkins made for the door. “I’ve got the quarters sealed. You can go in, if you want to.”
Denton grunted in response as he went back to work.
An hour passed and Denton placed Lines’ body back into one of the four corpse fridges in a smaller room. He got rid of his gloves and greens before leaving sickbay. He reached Lines’ quarters; outside stood Seaman Briggs, complete with gun belt. It seemed appropriate that the admiral’s onboard aide would stand guard. Briggs saluted the Chief Medical Officer.
“As you were Briggs, I’m going in.”
Once inside, Denton closed the door. The VIP quarters were on the deck all officers shared. It was smartly furnished with a starboard window that showed the brooding Icelandic coast. He had the report done, but he had some things to check out. He wasn’t quite sure when Captain Portal was wanting the result; he had heard only from Atkins since Lines’ body had been discovered.
The room was quite how it was when Denton left it in company of the body. The portraits of Admiral Hood and the previous HMS Hood were untouched. But the two pillows, duvet and upper sheet lay on the floor like the outstretched wings of a swan. A white and blue swan at that. Nothing else was untouched, the desk how it was and the sole bookshelf to the room’s right wall still containing its books.
Just the bed.
This didn’t quite mean anything, not at the moment. Denton pinched at his trousers and squatted; he looked closely at the bed items and noticed some blood on the upper sheet. The blood was also on the duvet that lay close to the blood-marked sheet. Standing, Denton examined the bed itself. The bed was marked by blood, a steady line of it. The wound had bled down the body and onto the bed, it had not bled onto the sheet and duvet. The marks on the sheet and duvet, if placed back on the bed would be on the wrong side.
Denton stepped back and hurried back to sickbay; he looked at the photos and then got the body back out. He looked for other marks and spent the better part of the day looking.
Denton Richmond then called for his CO and XO, as well as Seaman Briggs.
Almost smugly, he realised he had perhaps cracked the case barely hours after it had started.
Portal, Atkins and Briggs stood by the examination table.
Denton stood the other side, the body of Richard Lines, British Royal Navy, lay between them with a surgical sheet covering the waist down.
“You’re gathered here, sirs, to find out what happened to Admiral Lines last night.”
“You’ve got a result already, Denton?” asked Captain Michael Portal, his face doubting Denton’s belief he had reached a conclusion.
“Sir,” Denton answered. He cleared his throat. “Admiral Lines was killed by a bullet to the chest; the bullet was fired by a Luger hand gun with silencer. Despite it being a Luger, a gun with an immense power, and held close to the chest – the wound on the surface was small. The bullet itself largely undamaged.”
The three men nodded. “Time of death,” Denton continued. “Zero one hundred hours, approximately. Willy, when did you wake me?”
Atkins did quick thinking. “Zero one oh five.”
Denton placed his hands on the table by the body. “This gave the killer five minutes to flee, not to rid himself of the murder weapon, but to simply flee. Willy, how do you recall that morning?”
“I was coming off bridge duty; it was just before zero one hundred and I was near the corridor – not within visual sight - and then I heard a bang. I broke into a jog and ran into Briggs, he said he’d found Lines dead.”
“That’s it?” asked Denton.
“Sure,” Atkins glanced at Briggs next to him. The seaman’s face was neutral.
“Captain, your recollection,” Denton said to the CO.
Portal shrugged. “I was in the engine room with the chief, he wanted to brief me on the state of the engines. I was phoned by Atkins.”
Denton sighed. “Lines was not killed on the bed. The killer had entered the room, sometime before 0100hrs and approached him as he slept. Presume the Luger is aiming for the admiral. Lines hears a noise, turns the lights on and sees his killer. He flings himself from the bed, the covers are knocked askew and he tackles his killer. The killer is ready, he grabs either of Lines’ arms and they struggle. In this, the killer knocks Lines aside, and shoots at the admiral. He wounds the admiral, the shot being fired close to Lines’ body. Lines falls and strikes his right hand – flailing to catch himself - against the desktop. This is the bang, for it breaks his hand.”
The three men were silent as they waited.
“The killer hauls Lines onto the bed and leaves him there, the blood from the wound has already marred the duvet and cover but now also mars the bed. The pillows are knocked aside in this instance, the killer holsters his weapon and leaves. He cannot hope to alter the scene in time to make it look like something else. That is how Lines died.”
“Perceptive, Denton,” Atkins said and shook his head. “Very imaginative also.”
“We’ll have to see how perceptive, won’t we?” Denton’s eyes zeroed in. “Seaman?”
Atkins and Portal swung their gazes to the seaman who flinched.
“Bloody hell!” remarked Atkins and reached for his handgun.
“That won’t be quite necessary, but captain, if you wouldn’t mind bringing in Master Hansen and his Marines,” requested Denton. The captain swung on his heels to the sickbay doors. Briggs remained silent.
“Where’s the gun, Briggs?” asked Denton silently.
“Over the side, after I told Commander Atkins I went on deck.”
Denton sighed, at this point Portal returned with Hansen and his Marines.
“So the gun is now on the seabed.” Denton shook his head. “Why did you shoot Admiral Lines?”
Briggs shifted from one foot to the other. “He was discourteous to the captain, that is my single reason.”
“If that’s all it takes to get you riled, Briggs, then remind me not to be near you when you are riled,” remarked Portal. “I sense there’s more to it, though.”
Denton nodded but it was Briggs who spoke next. “My father was a captain. About ten years ago, Lines took over my father’s vessel; he drove my father insane with his orders and all that. Dad shot himself, so when I found about Lines coming here, I took a Luger that one of my relatives had brought back from Germany and shot him.”
“Too simple, isn’t it?” said Commander Atkins to Lieutenant Commander Richmond.
Denton nodded in reply. “It was rather elementary.”
The Marines led Briggs to the brig.
The case was over, in a brief amount of time.
“The Falkland Islands, October 15, 2059”
The casket draped in the naval White Ensign was carried by the Marine Honour Guard down the gangway and onto the quayside at the Falkland Isles. The islands were covered in low cloud and it had been raining for several days. The Guard marched the casket into a Range Rover, after some ceremony it was driven off by Naval personnel to the RAF airfield for an immediate flight home. The Honour Guard trooped up the gangplank and back into the Hood watched by Hansen who then followed them.
Upon the solving of the case by Denton, the Hood sent a signal to the Admiralty informing them of the incident. Without waiting for a reply, Portal ordered them to steam south. The Admiralty’s reply stated that the body would have to be brought home; unable to comply, Portal stated that he would deliver it to the Falklands. They had arrived after six days, the weather having got worse after leaving the Denmark Strait.
Onboard the Hood, Denton had been dubbed Sherlock Hood. A poor joke perhaps, but one that made him the crew’s own. As for Briggs, the seaman was to be charged on the Falklands and taken to Britain.
The Hood could now continue southwards, for the final test of the ship.
“Portsmouth, New Year’s Eve, 2060”
Fireworks began exploding across the dark sky even though it was still half an hour to New Year’s Day and the brand new year of 2061. Silhouetted against the lit backdrop of Gunwharf Quay stood BNS Hood. The ship had returned from a year’s voyage for a well-earned rest.
Lieutenant Commander Denton Richmond took Jennifer Kline’s hand as they walked the sea front. The Solent was dark and the Isle of Wight virtually invisible against the sky save for the odd twinkle of lights. Jennifer paused the walk and stepped onto the beach, it was pebbles and their feet scrambled over them., She led him to the rise where the beach abruptly fell a couple of feet and spread out towards the crashing surf.
“Isn’t it great?” she said and hugged against him.
Denton held her with one hand and smiled. “Sure is. You should see the South Pole though. Absolutely smashing.”
“When do you go back?”
“Not for a while.”
A breeze whipped across the beach and ruffled her hair; he could feel its softness against the exposed part of his neck. Bright fireworks then began exploding across the Solent somewhere near Ryde. Jennifer suddenly felt Denton move away and looked at him. His face was dimly lit by the nearby streetlights.
“Something wrong, Denton?”
“No,” he answered and then fell to one knee. Pebbles slipped from beneath him as he raised something from the right pocket of his uniform, she could make out a box and then he raised the lid. “Jennifer—“ he began as she gasped in realisation.
“Will you marry me?” he asked, his voice cracking a little, either from the cold or nervousness. Jennifer took the box and examined the ring, even in the night light she could make it out and then she knelt before Denton and embraced him. Her tears splashed against his cheeks.
Around them, a spectrum of colours and the ringing of far off church bells shattered the night sky.
The bedside phone rang shrilly and right next to Denton’s head, his hand knocked the receiver in its process of bringing it to him. Beside him Jennifer stirred, it was past nine in the morning and both had been asleep for less than three hours.
“Yes?” he mumbled as he pinched his nose with his free hand.
“Lieutenant Commander Richmond, BNS Hood?” came a crisp authoritative accent.
“Yes?” he said again.
“You’re to report to your ship, which is leaving for the Far East in two hours. It is imperative you be on ship by eleven hundred hours,” the line went dead.
Denton hung up and glanced at Jennifer. “What is it?”
He sighed. “I’m shipping out.”
“Already? Where to?” Jennifer sprang up in the bed, as Denton hurriedly got dressed.
“Far East, don’t quite know where.”
“Be careful,” she said. Denton, already dressed adjusted his officer’s cap and leant over to kiss her. “I will be, keep some champagne on ice.”
Jennifer watched him leave, the sound of the door shutting and the clattering of shoes on the cobbled street outside as he left for his ship. Then she laid back and wept quietly.
Commander Willy Atkins caught Denton’s duffel bag as he threw it up to the deck and leapt from the moving gangway onto the Hood.
“What happened to the two hours?” Denton said breathing heavily.
“Skipper got orders to move out,” Atkins replied giving the duffel to a seaman waiting nearby. The Hood continued to back into the harbour, the tugs at her bow guiding her as a mother hen would her chicks. Atkins slapped Denton’s shoulder as they walked into the ship.
“Uprising in Hong Kong, they want independence from the Asiatic Government and want some kind of treaty with the World Government.”
“Let me guess,” smiled Denton. “We’re putting it out?” he said in reference to the uprising.
“Not quite, old chap, we’re to stop the Chinese from putting it down. Thus the urgency.”
Ten minutes later, the Hood left Portsmouth, went to full speed and was joined by her two sisters Renown and Prince of Wales as well as the carrier Winston Churchill. A day later they sped southwards bound for Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong, January, 2061”
Shells whistled over Denton’s head as he sat in the Hood’s launch. In reply rockets whooshed off the deck of the Hood, replying to the Chinese destroyer’s attack.
Water sprayed the landing party as they neared the metropolis that was Hong Kong. Fires were dotted here and there in Hong Kong. Across the water travelled the sounds of gunfire, a steady popping noise. Denton wore a white helmet akin to those worn by British soldiers in the Great War almost a century and a half ago. His had a red cross on it, directly above neatly printed letters reading CMO. Beside him in the launch sat Master-at-Arms Hansen; the commander of the Marine detachment held in his hands a machine gun.
Denton wiped saltwater out of his eyes and gripped the medical bag harder. The orders from Captain Michael Portal had been simple: help the citizens of Hong Kong if they need help.
More rockets and splashes; the Chinese destroyer swung around away from the Hood. The Chinese had not been happy that for the first time since 1997, the people of Hong Kong wanted something different to Beijing.
“We’re about to beach!” shouted Hansen. He stood as bullets whistled from the direction of the quayside that they were landing on . As the launch thumped against the concrete quayside, Hansen and four Marines leapt from the bow onto the quayside; the bullets were coming from a single wooden hut marked simply as QUAY NUMBER FOUR.
Denton scrambled onto the concrete and watched as Hansen sprayed the hut with his gun. The unseen enemy sprayed back and Hansen crouched; he flicked his right finger up. One of the Marines ran forward and chucked a grenade. It rattled on the quayside against the hut and exploded; the front of the hut fell forward in a brief spurt of flames and groaning of wood.
Four Orientals staggered from the hut, wielding guns.
“Halt!” ordered Hansen.
Whether they understood the word or its meaning, the Orientals raised their arms, dropping the weapons. They were led into the launch by two Marines. Hansen beckoned to Denton.
“This way, doc.”
Denton followed dutifully; at the end of the quayside was a naval detachment from Singapore erecting a roadblock. Hansen and Denton jogged through the city; most of the buildings were undamaged by the battle. The rebels were keeping their efforts for the Chinese. Eventually they reached the British Consulate where the Union Jack hung limply on a flagpole extending from over the front.
Inside, Commander Willy Atkins was standing, talking to a man in a suit. As Denton and Hansen neared, the Hood’s number one was finishing.
“I don’t give a damn how long it takes, get the staff out of here.”
Atkins faced Denton. “Good to see you, skipper send you?”
“Yes, anyone I have to see?”
Atkins glared at the consulate man, the latter scurried off into the consulate. “Now that you’re here, one of our chaps took shrapnel from a Chinese bomb.”
Denton went into the consulate’s ballroom; the area was large and crammed with natives as well as a small contingent of uniforms.
Denton recognised Midshipman King on a cot by the door, his left leg was naked –the trouser rolled up to the knee. A gaping cut at least fifteen centimetres long below the knee beckoned.
Denton knelt by the cot, he placed his medical bag down and smiled at King. The Midshipman was twenty-one and from Milton Keynes in deepest England.
“Does it hurt, Mid?”
King smiled bravely, sweat shining on his forehead. “A little. Number one used his morphine pack but it hurts still.”
Denton produced a swab. “I’m cleaning the wound, and then I’ll give it some painkiller and stitch it up.”
“Thanks, doc,” King stammered. He paled as Denton cleaned the wound, the swab coming away a yellowy red colour. Atkins came in at that point, his face ashen. He forced a smile and looked down at King as Denton produced a small needle.
“Hang in there, King. We’ll be going home soon.”
Denton jabbed King and then began stitching the wound up. King fainted just after he started, the first officer squatted by the doctor. As the ballroom turned dormitory was quiet, he whispered. “Will he be fine?”
“Sure, what’s the problem?”
Atkins exhaled. “The Chinese want to negotiate a peace, but the Hong Kong Rebel leader wants independence from China and allegiance to the World Government. Hood’s in the thick of it too.”
“Am I the only one that finds this situation both confusing and bizarre?”
Atkins smiled at Denton as he threaded the wound. “Nope, the CO’s a little confused too. But we’re awaiting word from home, they’ll have something.”
Atkins left Denton, the doctor finishing the stitching and then going on to treat other wounded.
Michael Portal’s head snapped up as the cry came in from the sonar room. “Torpedo bearing green four-oh, bearing straight.”
The captain quickly worked out that the Chinese destroyer from earlier must’ve loosened a shot off from where it waited two kilometres away. “Helm, hard starboard maximum speed.”
As the Hood sped to starboard, a white trail appeared on the surface. The sonar screen began going red, the distance decreasing rapidly. The chief sonar officer pulled his headphones off.
“It’s going to hit.”
Denton was wrapping a boy’s leg in plaster, watched by the boy’s mother, when he heard boots thumping on the cold marble floor of the front area. He paid it no heed, not even as Willy Atkins ran down the makeshift dorm. Denton smiled at the mother.
“He’ll be fine, the leg will heal in a week or two.”
Atkins came to a sudden stop by Denton who looked at him with a frown.
“Something wrong, Willy?”
“They’ve got the Hood,” Atkins said breathlessly chest heaving with exertion.
“What?” Denton said as if not hearing Atkins.
“She’s been torpedoed. You’re needed back on her.”
Denton grabbed his medical bag and followed Atkins.
The Hood sat atop the water at Hong Kong at an odd angle, she was down at the stern with water mere inches from the lip of the deck. A list to port produced more of the starboard side than would normally. Rope netting had been flung over the side.
Denton clambered onto the deck of the Hood with Akins after being delivered by launch. He was led onto the bridge where a dazed looking Portal was speaking into a bridge telephone.
“Good, chief, keep trying.”
Portal hung up and smiled wearily. “Back already, Denton?”
“I heard there was a party someplace,” said Denton. “Where to, sir?”
“The water’s come up to deck ten, we’re flooded aft from ten to fifteen. Some crew are trapped in the aft auxiliary room on deck eleven, get down there and see to them.”
Denton tossed off a loose salute. “Aye, sir.”
With Willy Atkins he went down through the maze of corridors and ladders to get to deck eleven. The deeper they went, the dimmer some of the lights were. Although engineering was unaffected by the flooding, the power was beginning to drain. As emergency crews went about their work, the Hood continued to gently sink. They reached deck eleven virtually in a straight line beneath the bridge, here the deck tilted. Atkins led the way along the corridor heading aft. Further aft the deck not only tilted to the left but also sloped downwards. Water was seeping from beneath the door in the aft section of deck eleven marked AFT AUXILLIARY CONTROL.
The cruiser had two auxiliary rooms, one fore and one aft. This was if one area was damaged or flooded, the other could be used to control the ship if need be or control damage repairs from the room.
“The door’s firmly sealed, water is flooding the room,” Atkins said to Denton. “We need to get the door open and then you can see to the men inside.”
“I’m pretty useless here,” Denton pointed out to Atkins. “I could be used elsewhere.”
Atkins gripped Denton by his right arm. “Just bloody help, okay?”
Denton nodded and dropped his medical bag by the side. “What to do?”
Atkins shrugged. “Get it open, any which way we can.”
The two officers took off their headgear and went about trying to open the door. As they did so, the water began to become more fluid and faster. A few minutes in, Denton went to his medical bag. As Atkins grunted, his hands trying to pull the doors handle along, the CMO returned.
“Stand aside, Willy.”
Atkins did so and watched with incredulity as Denton began using a syringe to squeeze liquid onto the doors seal. “What the hell are you trying to do?”
“Watch, I use this sometimes for emergencies,” Denton said and finished squeezing the liquid onto the seal. As he stood by, the section of the seal where the liquid had been applied turned brown and a hissing noise hence followed. The metal seal wore away; finally the brown vanished leaving a sizeable hole. Big enough for fingers.
“Medical acid, for dead tissue and the like,” Denton put the syringe away. “You can try now.”
Atkins dug his fingers into the hole and tried pulling, after a few jerks he let go. “Can’t, give me a hand.”
So they both tried, after two hearty pulls the door groaned with a metallic groan. Water was now surrounding the base of their feet, as they pulled harder. The door lurched back a little, water poured through the gap from the bottom and eventually the door gave way letting a torrent of water two-foot high flood past them before pipes built into the sides of the corridor drained it away.
Inside the Aft Auxiliary Control room, six sailors with drenched clothing looked up at the two officers as they stood in the doorway; water was coming through the other side and already beginning to deepen. One sailor grasped Denton’s proffered hand.
The six were helped out and recovered, they stood with the two officers watching the water. “It’s flooded the rest of the deck, at least aft it has,” said one.
“Is there anyone else down there?” asked Denton.
“No,” said another.
A red-haired sailor gasped. “Bloody hell! Joe and Mike, the torpedo room!”
Denton looked to Atkins. “Where’s that again?”
“Two decks down, aft of this aux room,” answered Atkins and swore. “That’ll be under.”
Denton turned on his heel and began walking up the deck, the first officer called after him.
“Where are you going?”
Over his shoulder Denton called, “To get them out.”
Around the crew, the Hong Kong situation began to cool. The Hood had become a priority to the British ships as she took another lurch to port. Although not in immediate danger, the cruiser needed repairs and currently the nearest naval port was the American port at Yokohama in Japan.
Denton climbed down an auxiliary ladder onto deck twelve. Once here, he ran again aft. His boots soon sloshed in water, the water was deeper the further he went aft and as it soaked his trousers, a damn slight colder than he would’ve thought. With the water up to his waist, Denton paused before a hatch marked TORPEDO SHAFT. This was where torpedoes would be carried up by gurney to the upper deck and loaded into mounted tubes. He gripped the centre of the doors and forced them open; water drained from around him and dripped down the dark shaft. Denton hauled himself through the hatch and swore savagely as he dropped suddenly down the shaft. He landed seconds later in deep water and spluttered for breath. Somehow he regained his breath underwater and kicked the hatch with his feet. In an explosion of bubbles, the hatch opened and Denton followed the bubbles out into the torpedo room. Banks of torpedoes greeted him, consoles flickered on and off in the startlingly clear water.
He swam into the room and behind a bank of four torpedoes, he saw a blue shirted seaman. His brown hair was spread in directions as the water tugged it this way and that. As Denton swam closer he saw the nametag on the seaman’s left breast pocket. J. PIKE.
Denton felt for a pulse, he found one but it was weak. Denton grabbed Seaman Pike by the left arm and tugged him towards the torpedo shaft. Somehow he bundled Pike inside, once Pike was in Denton began pushing him up the shaft. It was heavy going and by now, Denton was gagging for breath. Cheeks threatening to let in water, Denton pushed Pike a little way past the deck twelve hatch so he could climb out and pull Pike out. As water splashed onto the water in the corridor, Pike woke. Denton pulled him out of the waist high water to the relatively drier deck. Wet and gasping for breath, Denton managed to speak.
“Pike, where’s Mike?”
Pike was gasping just as hard and spluttered water as he replied. “Went –to—get—help—thirteen.”
Denton jogged back into the water and swam down the shaft –it had flooded since- to deck thirteen. He swam through the torpedo room and reached doors that led onto deck thirteen’s corridor. He forced them open and conscious of needing air, swam straight into the wall opposite. Blinking he looked around, where would Mike be?
The entire corridor was flooded and the interior lights were beginning to go. Swimming aft, Denton reached a room that was the mess room for local seamen and officers down below decks. Inside was a cabinet, the cabinet beside the drinks cupboard was open and there were oxygen masks with a built in tank no bigger than a cigarette lighter.
Denton grabbed one and switched the mask on, gratefully he drank in air and then looked around the mess room. His heart hammered as he found the seaman.
Mike was wearing a mask and grasping a telephone in his hand, the SPEAK light was flashing on the cradle. Denton swam to Mike and felt for a pulse, but he found none. Denton glanced at the nametag. M. ADAMS.
Denton noticed that Seaman Mike Adams’ eyes were wide and staring at him. The CMO took off the mask and closed them. He then began the process of taking Adams’ body up to deck twelve.
When Denton emerged from the water on deck twelve, he found Willy Atkins helping Joe Pike. The XO saw Mike and sighed. “No good then?”
“He’s dead,” Denton flopped down to his buttocks in the shallow water and took off his mask.
Sometimes, it was impossible to help someone.
“Portsmouth, May, 2061”
Bradley Maxwell leant against the railings of the dry-dock as the British cruiser Hood was slowly inched into the dock by two pale yellow tugs. The moody May sky did nothing to improve the image of the wounded British ship as it now came to a stop.
The Hong Kong crisis had been resolved two months ago with Hong Kong joining the World Government and gaining independence from the Asiatic Government.
As all this was happening, Hood was towed to Yokohama and placed on large ship carrier that took it to Portsmouth.
Bradley felt the presence behind him and realised who it would be.
“Not nice to see her like that, is it?”
Lieutenant Commander Denton Richmond tipped his white officers cap back, revealing a dark lock of brown hair. Quietly he replied. “No, it isn’t good to see her like that.”
“You’ve got a medal of valour for what you did.”
Denton sniffed in apparent contempt. “I didn’t deserve that, all I did was help rescue some men. Unfortunately, one of them died.”
“You couldn’t help that,” Bradley told his friend. Above seagulls screeched as they circled the dock. “From the reports I’ve read, the water knocked him against the wall and killed him straightaway.”
“Adams,” Denton muttered. “Mike Adams was his name.”
Bradley didn’t answer immediately. He bit his lip and watched his friend who was still staring at the ship. The dock gates closed with a dull thud, the effect lessened by the volume of water. The dull thud was now followed by the sound of water draining from the dock and the ship settled into place, ready for damage repairs. Bradley knew his friend was coping as best as he could from the event, but it had been months now.
“Jennifer’s waiting; she’s excited about seeing you.”
Denton sighed and closed his eyes before opening them and glancing at Bradley.
“Where is she?”
“The house at Fratton.”
On the short leave where Denton had proposed, he and Jennifer had settled upon a quaint house in Fratton –the suburb of Portsmouth . The house had been reasonably priced and was –in her words- a great place to start a family.
“I’ll go there,” he mumbled.
“Let me drive, I’ve got Sally’s saloon.”
They walked the short distance to where the Saloon Car –still a vibrant red - was parked by the covered dock that housed Henry the Eighth’s Tudor warship, the Mary Rose. They started off once in and were soon crossing the historic city.
All the while Denton remained silent, his cap on his lap and hands interlaced. Despite staring out the window, Bradley doubted whether his friend was seeing what was there. Bradley checked his watch and sighed. Jennifer was as worried about Denton as Bradley and Sally. The news from Hong Kong had been sketchy at best, the attack on the Hood had been initially reported as ‘British warship damaged in Chinese attack.’ For days the true identity of the cruiser had been kept secret, Jennifer growing anxious all the while. Then when it was revealed, complete with a picture of the stricken Hood –reminiscent of HMS Coventry during the Falklands War- did Jennifer calm a little. There had been twenty fatalities and they had been listed.
Upon entering Fratton, Bradley steered around the revamped Fratton Park football stadium. The Union Jack hung limp in the spring sunlight from a pole in the stadium. He parked seconds later by a small house with the naval ensign in the upper floor window. Bradley smiled; it had been Jennifer’s idea –to show her support for Denton.
Denton Richmond grabbed his cap and left the car before Bradley could turn the engine off. Bradley decided to remain in the car, watching Denton walk through the gate.
Denton knocked on the door of the house, the knocker heavy against the wooden door. Denton placed his cap back on his head, adjusting it square atop his brown hair. He didn’t knock again, hearing the soft footfall beyond the door.
The door swung open and then Jennifer propelled herself against him, wrapping her arms around him. Denton’s cap was knocked back as he returned the embrace, for a few seconds in the silence he simply held her, absorbing her softness and the hair brushing against his face.
“Missed you,” she whispered against his ear.
“Missed you too,” he whispered back and pulled her gently away. Jennifer looked as beautiful as she had that night back in London. “Can I come in?”
“Naturally,” she smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. He followed her in.
Bradley started the engine of the saloon and drove off.
“London, December 2061”
The church bells rang loudly and clearly on the crisp wintry morning in London.
Pigeons resting on the nearby rooftops took to the pale watery skies in a cacophony of screeches. The traffic passing by the church did not alter its pace; this wasn’t the first wedding at this church.
Resplendent in a long white gown, Jennifer walked out of Marylebone church. Her molten red hair sprayed across her shoulders; in her hands she clasped the bouquet. To her left stood Sally, to her right stood Denton and Bradley. The guests of the wedding included university chums from both Portsmouth and Imperial College London. Most importantly amongst the guests, beside Jennifer’s parents, were the Richmonds.
Roger and Anne Richmond were grey-haired now, they looked at their son with obvious love. As the newly-weds posed for photos, Bradley Maxwell joined Denton’s parents.
“I’d never thought I would see this moment when I introduced them back in 2056,” Bradley murmured on the step below the Richmonds.
Roger Richmond handed his wife his handkerchief as he chuckled. “I bet you didn’t. I’m glad that I’m here to see it, makes me feel old though.”
Bradley laughed in response. “I wouldn’t say that, Mr Richmond.”
“Get ready!” Jennifer was suddenly shouting, Bradley looked to see her grip the bouquet in a launch grip. Sally was joining the throng of women at the base of the steps, Bradley groaned.
“This might get nasty.”
Denton moved to one side, he was wearing his dress uniform complete with ceremonial sword.
Jennifer Richmond squatted slightly before launching the flowers into the air. Everyone watched as they arced downwards, Bradley narrowed his eyes not wanting to see something bad happen. Three women reached for them as they came down and one grasped it successfully. There were cheers and laughter.
Denton joined his parents and best friend. His mother tearfully hugged him.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said and hugged him again.
“Thanks, mother,” Denton shook a gloved hand with his father. “Father.”
“That goes for me too,” grinned Bradley and they hugged laughing. “Where’s the honeymoon to be?”
Denton tipped his cap back. “America, we’re going to start off on the east coast and move westwards. Might end up in Hawaii.”
“As west in America as you can get,” Bradley said. “What about Arkansas?”
“I won’t be returning there,” Denton said to Bradley.
“You were born there,” Bradley pointed out. Across the steps the women were milling around Jennifer, laughing and talking.
Denton looked at Bradley. “Andrew Laurence was born there, Denton Richmond was not. I might not have physically been two people, but I am mentally two people. Andrew Laurence is a baby that was orphaned at the age of two and Denton Richmond is a naval officer brought up by loving parents,” Denton held a gloved hand up. “Don’t get me wrong, Brad, I miss my parents but I’ve been Denton far longer than Andrew.”
Bradley sighed and his breath came in misty vapour in the December air. “Guess you’re right Dent. Say, shouldn’t we be moving onto the reception?”
Denton chuckled. “Mm-hmm, just have to wrench Jennifer free otherwise mom and dad will be coming on the honeymoon with us.”
Laughing the two friends went to the crowd.
“The Admiralty Building, London, April 2062”
Captain Michael Portal of the cruiser Hood pushed open to the door marked OFFICERS’ MESS and was buffeted by warm air. He closed the door and smiled. The Officers’ Mess at the Admiralty building perched on the corner of Trafalgar Square was something of legend. Portal looked around the sizeable room and found whom he was looking for, the man standing by a window looking down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace.
Portal walked up to him and nudged him on the shoulder, the white haired man turned with a smile. “Michael.”
“Charles, it’s been a while.”
“Not since after Panama,” Charles said. “Grab yourself a tea, old man.”
The table was nearby and Portal made himself a cup of tea and plunked two-sugar cubes in. He sat down in a high-backed armchair opposite his old friend who sat in a similar chair by the window.
Admiral Charles Gray was the stuff of legend; involved in a series of actions that made him a public hero, he had risen to admiral quicker than most men could make captain.
Portal had taken command of the Wiltshire during Panama on Gray’s insistence. He had done enough to start the road on which Hood eventually sat, even if that ship was still moored in Pompey waiting for a new assignment.
“You did want to see me, Charles? I hope I didn’t get the monorail from Portsmouth for nothing,” Portal stirred his tea.
Charles Gray smiled. “Hardly, Michael, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering some questions.”
“Not at all, fire away.” Portal sipped the tea and smacked his lips together quietly.
Portal looked at Gray. “Oh? What of him?”
“He is your CMO, yes?”
Gray looked impassive, Portal nodded. “Yes, but if you know his name, I’m sure you know more, Charles.”
Gray placed his own tea down and leant a little bit forward. “How good is he?”
Portal shrugged. “He’s a first rate medical officer, he also knows a fair deal about ballistics and what have you,” Portal paused on the general use of a figure of speech. He sighed. “He’s good enough to get a medal, put it that way.”
Gray tapped his chin with his right forefinger. “Okay. Is he trustworthy?”
Gray raised an eyebrow. “You answered pretty quickly, Michael.”
“That’s because I’ve entrusted Denton with secrets that I know won’t be spread around the ship, Charles.”
The two men stared at each other; the faint whispers of smiles were evident but something lay beneath those expressions. Gray reached for his tea and sipped it; all the while Portal did not say anything.
“How does he view the navy?” Gray asked.
Portal was wary but answered strongly. “He serves it as any officer would. He’d do that little bit extra if need be. What he did at Hong Kong is proof enough that he’ll go that extra mile.”
“Would he take a bullet?”
The comment made Portal visibly wince and this time, it was he who placed the tea down. It rattled on the plate. “Good God, Charles what is it with these questions? Are you planning on making him some daredevil gardener? Is retirement that boring?”
Charles Gray chuckled and met Portal’s glare. “Not quite, I would tell you, Michael, but even to you I can’t tell.”
With that, Charles stood and moved to Portal’s side. He tapped the other man’s shoulder.
“But you’ve been quite helpful.”
That said, Charles Gray disappeared, leaving Portal to look at the window and think.
“BNS Hood, Portsmouth, September 2062”
Denton Richmond jogged up the gangway to the Hood and saluted Seaman Hayes who met him. “Welcome back, sir. How was the honeymoon?”
“Quite good, took a while but there you go,” smiled Denton.
“Captain wants to see you in his cabin, sir.”
Denton nodded. “Thank you, Hayes.”
Hayes insisted on escorting Denton and the CMO dutifully followed, but he frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. He was sure he was about to find out what was wrong, if anything, the moment he was inside the captains quarters.
“Welcome aboard, Denton.” Captain Michael Portal greeted Denton as the CMO dipped his head beneath the doorframe. “That’ll be all, Hayes.” the seaman saluted and walked off down the corridor.
“Have a seat, Denton.” Portal closed the door as Denton went to a seat by the cabin’s bed. “How was the honeymoon?”
“Quite well, sir, America’s fine I’ll say that,” Denton watched as the CO sat down pinching at his trousers to avoid them riding up. “Is there anything wrong, sir?”
“No, don’t worry,” said Portal. “You’re not being transferred, it’s nothing too bad.”
“Then there is something,” Denton pressed.
Portal shifted in his chair. Behind him were a stack of books of naval warfare and one, a history of the Royal Navy in the Second World War. A framed portrait of HMS Hood was hanging by the cabin’s window; outside men went about their work.
“Not quite, but I must ask you this.” Portal reached to the table behind on which the books sat. He turned to that so that he could get a pinch of brandy from the pitcher, he did not offer Denton one. The CMO waited until the CO knocked it down and then cleared his throat.
“Have you been approached by anyone asking you questions?”
“How do you mean, sir?”
“Asking details about your life and such.” Portal’s voice was hoarse.
Denton frowned. “No sir, nothing out of the ordinary if that’s what you’re suggesting, sir.”
“Just that,” Portal reached for his empty glass and looked into it as if expecting to find an answer in the remnants. Denton rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Has someone approached you, sir?”
“Hmm?” Portal’s head snapped up. “Oh, no there hasn’t been anyone. That’ll be all, Denton. Once again, welcome home.”
Denton left not feeling that convinced, he saw Commander Willy Atkins on his way to his cabin. “Willy, CO’s been acting a little strange lately.”
“Not really,” Atkins shrugged. “I’ve not seen him that much of late, to be honest.”
Denton nodded. “Thanks, Willy.”
An interesting, if not perplexing start to his new tour of duty.
In the next week, the Hood crossed the Atlantic to moor temporarily at Panama; the cruiser would then go via the canal to the World Aquanaut Security Patrol’s post at Marineville on the Pacific coast. The idea was for the Hood to do manoeuvres with the submarine prototype Stingray.
“The Hood, Marineville, late October 2062”
Denton Richmond left the shelter of sickbay to join the other officers on the foredeck of the cruiser. The Pacific coastline of America was close by, around the Hood were two WASP motorboats and a larger surface vessel. Denton stood beside Willy Atkins, the first officer nudged Denton handing him his binoculars.
“Take a gander.”
Denton took the binoculars and pressed his eyes against the glasses, on the shore he could make out buildings. One of these had a round large section with three similar sized boxes below it. He could also make out vehicles moving around.
“Incredible, definitely not Pompey, hey?”
Atkins grinned and took the binoculars back. “Definitely not. Should be hearing from the skipper soon.”
Denton looked at the water, it was a lighter blue than that of the Solent back home. At this point the tannoy whistled the captains’ signature, the officer’s stopped talking as Portal’s voice came out.
“This is the captain speaking, we’re shortly about to start an exercise with the WASPs, our part of the FieldEx is ASW, so to your stations.”
“Anti-Submarine Warfare,” murmured Atkins. “Must be that Stingray thing.”
Denton slapped Atkins’ arm and went below decks, he was walking to his sickbay when a klaxon began hooting like an impatient seal.
“This is the XO, all hands to battlestations! Enemy submarine reported in the vicinity.”
The throbbing of the engines increasing and vibrating throughout the ship followed the klaxons. Denton ran into his sickbay and prepped the sickbay remembering the first time aboard ship back in 2059.
“WASPs,” he muttered.
“Green four-oh,” ordered Portal.
The helmsman swung the wheel hard over to starboard, the Hood leant into the water and followed the course brilliantly. Atkins was watching the sonar screen in the radar and sonar room. The dial kept sweeping over the radius and detected the neutral WASP ships. Atkins rubbed his forehead, his fingers came away sweaty. He hated ASW, technology had bettered since the days of when sonar was brand new and occasionally ships had to ram the subs but submarines were still submarines. The silent enemy.
“Captain, we might want to slow a little.”
“The baffles,” said Portal in response to Atkins’ suggestion. The baffles were the disturbance at the rear of the ship created by the propellers. It was a place that most submarines used to attack.
“Helm, slow to twenty knots.”
The brown-haired commander of Stingray gently turned the wheel and reached for the lever to slow his sub down. The black-haired number two officer next to him watched the dark shape of the Hood through the spacious front windows.
“They’ve slowed,” he pointed out.
The CO sighed. “Baffles, we’re going to have to do something different.”
He steered to starboard and went away from the Hood, his number two watched the instruments then frowned as the CO banked hard to port.
“Relax,” the CO smiled. “I’ve got a plan, give me top speed.”
“Torpedo! Torpedo! Bearing green four-five!”
Portal ran to the starboard side of the bridge and lifted his binoculars to his eyes, he couldn’t make out a torpedo track.
“Speed of torpedo,” he asked.
From the sonar room came the reply. “Forty knots, sir.”
“Could be,” he murmured. “Full stop.”
The Hood staggered to a stop, the sonar operator kept his commentary up.
“Distance 100 yards, ninety, eighty…forty…twenty…ten. Collision course!”
Portal swore. They weren’t meant to fire torpedoes.
Suddenly, a dark shape leapt from the water and sailed across the bow of the Hood, for a moment it seemed to hang in the air above the Hood. The top half was blue; a white number three glistened in the saltwater. Then the shape shot into the water to the left of Hood.
Portal wiped his eyes. The communications officer was making a note and faced the CO from his console on the left side of the bridge.
“Sir, communiqué from the referee ship. Reads: You’ve lost the wargame, Stingray has torpedoed you amidships.”
Portal nodded and laughed. “Right, send reply. Well done, drinks on us. Sign it CO Hood.”
Portal looked at the waters still broken by Stingray’s aerobatics and laughed to himself once more.
Commander Shore placed the cigar into his mouth and shook Captain Portal’s hand.
“You’ve got a fine ship, Captain,” he growled.
“You’ve not got too bad a set-up, either sir,” Portal said and looked around the lounge in the control building. His officers were in one corner, there were some junior officers in the room but no sign of the Stingray’s officers.
Shore was substantially lower than Portal, owing to being in a hoverchair. It didn’t seem to bother Shore much, but it made Portal uneasy being so tall and so he sat in a chair near Shore. “Stingray is a fine ship, sir.”
“Yes, not like the subs I used to know but all the same she’s a beauty.”
A model of Stingray sat on the coffee table by the chairs. The ship was sleek shaped, almost like a fish. One of the greatest ships ever to grace the water.
The doors to the lounge slid open and two officers walked in. As with Shore and the junior officers, they wore silver uniforms with creamy-grey boots. They bore shoulder epaulets denoting their rank, the brown-haired officer was a captain and the dark-haired officer a commander. They walked over to where Shore and Portal were.
Shore gestured to them. “Captain Portal, might I present Captain Bradley Holden and Commander Troy Tempest.”
Holden and Tempest saluted Portal. Holden spoke in a deep American accent.
“Good fight, sir, today in the FieldEx.”
Was hardly a fight, over before it began. Portal shrugged. “You win some, you loose some.”
There was polite laughter, Shore puffed some tobacco smoke into the air.
“Brad’s moving on soon, aren’t you, Brad?”
Holden smiled and looked a little uncomfortable at being put on the spot in quite a manner. “Well, not for a few months, sir.”
“Where are you being posted?” asked Portal.
“Somewhere with a swimming pool,” laughed Bradley making the others laugh and carefully avoiding the question. Portal didn’t press; Holden wasn’t under his command, so it didn’t really matter to him.
Tempest’s blue eyes sparkled. “I hope to be the new CO of Stingray when Brad’s gone, she’s a fine craft.”
“Now, now Troy, patience,” Shore chided Tempest.
Portal smiled. “That was some aerobatic you did with Stingray, captain.”
“Merely routine,” Bradley grinned. “Bit risky, but simulates a torpedo well enough.”
“Quite,” Portal said.
After a while, the conversation drifted enough for Holden to make good his escape and find a British officer by himself. The officer had dark brown hair, a look upon his face suggesting he would rather be anywhere but in the lounge. On his wrists were two braids, one of the braids was a broken pattern.
“Hi, Captain Bradley Holden. You’re one of the Hood’s boys, right?”
The officer straightened at noticing Holden. “Yes, Lieutenant Commander Denton Richmond. Hood’s CMO.”
The two officers’ from different forces shook hands. Bradley sat in a chair by Denton. The British officer regarded Holden curiously.
“Were you that guy at Hong Kong?” Holden asked as simple as that.
Denton blinked. That guy. “If you’re referring to the incident aboard Hood at Hong Kong, then yes, I am.”
Holden shook his head. “Incredible, you have a degree of courage, lieutenant.”
“I wouldn’t quite say that, but I come through in a pinch.”
Holden glanced at Denton. “I’ve seen some things that most people wouldn’t believe, under the sea that is,” the Stingray captain pointed a finger down. “You’ve saved lives, you’ve helped people.”
Holden exhaled, Denton waited for the officer to continue.
“Think there’s an organisation where there might be a place for both of us? An organisation that deals in saving lives and vanquishes enemies to save lives?”
The question caught Denton a little off guard but the CMO met Holden’s gaze.
“There might be, if there is I haven’t heard of it.”
“Me neither,” said Holden turning his head away to watch Shore laugh with Portal.
The next day, a little after 1200hrs Pacific Coast Time, Stingray accompanied Hood out of Marineville’s waters heading south back for Panama. After Stingray slipped beneath the waters and sped back home, Denton Richmond thought of the previous night’s conversation with Bradley Holden. It seemed to link to what Portal had said upon his return to Hood after his honeymoon.
Has anyone approached you, sir?
Oh, no. There hasn’t been anyone.
Denton frowned at his desk in sickbay and rubbed his forehead. “Something could be afoot.” For now though, Denton decided to not let it bother him. That’s if it was something to be bothered about.
“London, February 2066”
Charles Gray was sitting quietly at his desk in his office at the Universal Secret Service when there was a quiet knock at the door.
A dark-haired man, dressed in all black walked in. He had plain looks with deep brown eyes. He sat before the desk. Gray looked at him past a black and white photo of his ancestor Commander Donald Gray in World War Two.
“Well?” Gray asked quietly.
“Their training will start shortly. That just leaves…”
Charles Gray sighed, he pushed back from his desk. “Commander of Field Ground Intelligence: Spectrum.”
Conrad Turner, formerly of the World Space Patrol and commander of Fireball XL3, smiled at his friend. “Careful, Charles. The walls have ears.”
Gray pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Sooner or later, people will know of Spectrum. We’ve got the chief officers and pilots.”
“Fantastic group of pilots if I do say so,” Turner sat back in his chair. “I’m glad we’re creating the Guardian Angels, the base will need back up if the regular Angels are needed elsewhere.”
“Conrad,” said Charles with a slight warning tone. “The fact remains, we need someone for Field Ground Intelligence. Someone who knows ballistics and forensics as well as the ins and outs of intelligence.”
“When you put it like that, I applaud the committee’s instincts in making you the commander of Spectrum.”
“Droll,” Gray muttered. “Ballistics and forensics.”
Turner stood. “I have to go, uniform outfitting. I am after all Captain Black. Think I should wear some long black cloak like Darth Vader?”
Gray waved Turner away; the officer walked off, chuckling under his breath. Once Turner was gone, Gray looked at his filing cabinets beside his desk. Standing, he went to one and opened it. The drawer rattled on its bearings as he rifled through the files; he didn’t quite know what he was looking for. Eventually he pulled a file out that was marked under R.
RICHMOND, DENTON (LT. CMDR. BRITISH NAVY)
The stamp was marked in bold and underneath in larger font CLASSIFIED. Charles Gray walked to his desk and sat down; he flicked the file open and looked at the headshot photo of Richmond.
Gray read the history he knew already, right through to the recent years 2062-65 that saw Denton reach his peak.
In the summer of 2063, Richmond –now twenty-seven- was given command of Intelligence of the British Navy at the naval base of Portsmouth. This was upon the suggestion of Captain Portal, and also to put him closer to his wife Jennifer. In his tenure as Intelligence Chief of the BN –from July 2063 to February 2064- Richmond was responsible for the successes of drug busts and received a promotion to commander. In this rank in February 2064, he took over as Naval Chief Medical Officer and taught forensics and ballistics at Dartmouth Naval College and Imperial College London.
Currently serving Portsmouth.
Gray closed the folder; he had known before that Richmond had what it took. He had heard about Richmond’s involvement with the death of Admiral Richard Lines.
He replaced the file and grabbed his old naval overcoat; he left the office with word to his secretary that he was going out of town. Within the half hour, he was driving to Portsmouth.
Commander Denton Richmond looked over the pile of papers on his desk and growled under his breath. After all he had done in this navy to get buried under paperwork. Then again, most of the papers belonged to students in his classes at Dartmouth and ICL.
Looking at his picture of Jennifer made him smile; the smile hardened though. At the start of his tenure as Intelligence Chief of the British Navy –ICBN- Jennifer suffered a miscarriage. Since then, they hadn’t attempted to start a family.
There were moments, and there were moments he had discovered.
He scribbled some more on his report and then looked out the windows of his Victorian building inside the dockyards of Portsmouth naval base. He could make out the latest Hood class cruiser –Repulse - make her way out and seamen training on the quayside.
“Happy days,” he murmured as the phone buzzed on his desk. He stabbed the intercom. “Yes?”
His aide’s voice came through. “Admiral Gray to see you, sir.”
Denton frowned then his eyebrows rose. “Send him through, Fuller.”
“Very well, sir.”
A moment later, the wooden door to Denton’s office swung open and Denton stood to greet the white -haired figure dressed in a long naval overcoat. He recognised Admiral Charles Gray from books and TV shows. Denton saluted but Charles Gray proffered his hand. After the handshake, both men sat.
“It’s an unexpected surprise, sir. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“In a way,” Gray’s voice was precise. His blue eyes were startling against the snow white of his hair. “How is your posting as CMO/BN?”
Denton shrugged. “Can’t complain, a little slow at times but I make up for it by teaching at DNC and ICL. I miss the days on the Hood, but this is my posting now.”
“Quite,” Gray shortly fell silent. Denton felt awkward all of a sudden; Gray was no longer an admiral, having dropped from public view some years ago. He was somewhat of a celebrity in the navy and in the country.
“I’m about to tell you something that, for now, is highly confidential. I trust your discretion.”
“You have that discretion,” Denton replied.
eyes twinkled with slight humour. “I know I do, and that is why
Gray pushed back from the desk and stood, Denton watched him as he walked to the window and harrumphed. “Portsmouth, changes little, doesn’t it?”
Denton didn’t answer.
Gray faced Denton from where he stood beside the window overlooking the harbour.
“The World Government have authorised the creation of an organisation that will ensure the protection of the world from powers foreign or otherwise. This organisation is called Spectrum; the base and officers have already been chosen. Once activated, Spectrum will be Earth’s defender. You, Denton, are the final piece in the plan, as far as personnel go. The others are in their training phase now. You are, as I’ve said, the final link.”
Denton leant back in his chair; it squeaked as it adjusted to his position. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Is that all?”
“You will be Chief of Ground Intelligence.”
Denton looked at the photo of Jennifer on his desk. “What about my wife, sir?”
Gray sighed. “Unfortunately she must not know of this. As far as she’ll know, you will be on long-term assignment for the navy.”
Denton sighed. “I see.”
Gray advanced on the desk; he placed a small card down on the desk before Denton.
“Go to this address when you have made your mind up, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.”
Gray left. Denton took the card in his fingers and read the printed Copperplate text on the card.
STONE POINT VILLAGE, DORSET.
Denton placed the card down and reached for his phone. “Fuller, get me the Second Sea Lord.” As he waited for Fuller to place the call to London, Denton pushed the card under a file.
“Stone Point Village, June, 2066”
Denton Richmond drove the naval saloon through Stone Point Village with nothing short of wonderment. He had been through Dorset on his way to Plymouth and had never even noticed any signs to the village. Yet here it was, scattered houses and a petrol station. Half of the station was covered in scaffolding with a banner declaring the construction company’s name. He drove on, using the A-Z Dorset map on the passenger seat as a guide.
He thought back to the conversation with Jennifer, he hadn’t quite told her why he was going. Only that the navy needed him elsewhere and he would be away a while.
A while. He sniffed as he drove; he would be away for a while. It had been four months since Charles Gray had visited him at Portsmouth, in that time there had been no word from Gray or anyone as Denton continued working at the base. Maybe Gray had given up on him, or maybe it was something else. But Jennifer…
Jennifer had hugged him and told him to be careful, she’ll send some of his effects on. He replied it wasn’t necessary, he’ll send an ensign. Thus he left, his emotions conflicted.
The village fell away and he took a dirt track down through willow trees, it grew dark enough for his headlights to be brought on. He passed a lake and then sighted the manor house, a big brooding place right out of a Dickens novel. The willows gave way to the dirt apron before the house, a golden plaque on a signpost declared it as Anderson Manor.
Denton switched off the engine and stepped out of the car taking his cap out and placing it atop his head. He walked towards the manor, his boots crunching the stones beneath of the apron. When he reached the doorway, he pulled on the bell pull that hung by the wide doorway.
A few seconds later the door swung open to show an attractive blonde woman wearing all white. Her looks were strong and distracting.
Denton cleared his throat. “Commander Richmond, to see Admiral Gray.”
When she spoke, her accent was French.
“The admiral has asked me to fly you to the base.” The woman stepped out from the manor and passed Denton who watched her with curiosity. He followed as she went to the rear of the manor; he did a double take seeing a two seat Vertical Take Off and Landing jet.
The VTOL was white, no markings save a deep black A on the tailfin. The wings stretched aft and had support struts on the end of them. The fins added to its streamline profile.
“What is this jet?” he asked as they reached it.
“Angel Interceptor, this one’s a special two seat variant,” the woman reached into a hatch she opened where the wing met the fuselage at its narrowest point. She threw Denton a flying helmet, clear visor and radio attached. She shut the hatch and popped the cockpit open. Without much ado, the two climbed into the jet. Denton strapped himself in as the engines began to whine to a steady crescendo. He looked at the woman’s head before him above the red seat, the blonde hair pressed against the helmet.
“I say, what is your name?”
The intercom crackled as the engines now whined in steady pitch. “Juliet,” a pause and the voice took on affectionate humour. “But you may call me Destiny.”
With that, they took to the sky leaving Stone Point Village behind.
The aircraft kept rising at a gentle gradient, the clouds thinning out until deep blue sky beckoned to them. Denton had instruments on the rear of Destiny’s seat and saw that the altitude was exactly 45,000 feet. He gulped, that was incredibly high for a jet wasn’t it?
Destiny’s voice came into his ears via the intercom.
“We’ll be landing soon, Colonel White will want to see you when you land.”
Who in blue blazes was Colonel White? Denton thought, his eyebrows knitted. Wait, this outfit’s called Spectrum and maybe the personnel are colour coded. Too many months on the beach have left you a little slow, Denton.
“Right,” Denton grunted. He looked around for something to land on and saw nothing. “Where do we land?”
Destiny’s voice was soothing. “Relax, Commander Richmond, we will be all right.”
A tall cloud was before the jet as it soared across the heavens, Denton ignored the nagging feeling in his head. A feeling he had when swimming below the flooded decks of BNS Hood at Hong Kong. He shrugged it off when suddenly he saw a shadow near the summit of the cloud. It was long and horizontal; that was all he could make out at the moment.
The cloud thinned out and he saw a structure. That was it, a solid structure hanging in the sky as if on invisible strings. A ramp beside the rearmost fighter was raised on hydraulic clamps. Attached to the rear of the runway was a control tower atop two support struts. Across the control tower was the word SPECTRUM and present a gold S fringed by black and central of a rainbow.
The jet banked under Destiny’s steady hand and came to rest with a mute thud on the ramp that dutifully lowered onto the deck. Denton almost yelped in surprise when his seat –and Destiny’s- slid from the belly of the Interceptor into an orange warm looking room. Stepping from the seat he joined Destiny as they were met by a red-haired woman, her accent that of London.
“Good to see you, Destiny, Commander Richmond?” at Denton’s dazed nod, the woman continued. “I’m Rhapsody. This way, please. Colonel White is waiting to see you.”
It took them five minutes to get to the control room, throughout the journey Denton was amazed; this ideally suited for Spectrum. It offered security and privacy to the organisation designed to protect the world from all dangers.
The control room was alive with noises. A voice he already recognised came across the room.
“Get me London, Lieutenant Green.”
A dark-skinned man, wearing a green jacket over a black pullover and green boots, nodded.
Rhapsody led Denton to the end of the aisle; the console before them was round and behind it wearing white on black and white boots was Charles Gray.
“Welcome to Cloudbase, Commander Richmond,” Gray’s eyes swept to Rhapsody. “That’ll be all, Rhapsody, thank you.”
Denton sat on a stool before the round console; he removed the flying helmet looking at it as if for the first time. He placed it on the floor by his stool and spoke, his voice breaking a little, “Excellent set-up, colonel.”
White nodded. “That it is. My number two described it as like an aircraft carrier. Rather aptwouldn’t you say?”
Denton could only jerk his head in acknowledgment. White clasped his hands together before him.
“I am glad you came, due to time matters you’re training must begin this week. You’ll be trained by Captain Black.”
Denton frowned inwardly, Captain Black. That sounded sinister. Probably. There then came the sound of hammering from within Cloudbase, White sighed. “We’re still working on the base.”
“I am late then, am I sir?” asked Denton.
“Rather,” said White with a polite smile. “The others have reached the end of their training, they have some final parts to do, but you have to start fresh.”
“When do I start?”
“Tomorrow,” White saw Denton’s face and looked wry. “Sorry commander, but that’s the way things go.”
“I’ll say,” Denton clasped his helmet tighter. “What am I to be called?”
“Indigo,” Denton ran the word over his tongue. “That’s a darkish purple isn’t it?”
Gray stood. “That’ll be all for now, Denton. From now on you’re Captain Indigo. Commander Richmond is to be forgotten,” Gray extended his hand. “Welcome to Spectrum.”
Denton shook his hand and then saluted. “Thank you, colonel.”
Gray called past Denton. “Lieutenant Green, please show Captain Indigo his quarters.”
Green stood and Denton followed.
“Cloudbase, classified location, June 2066”
Denton, no Captain Indigo now, stared at the ceiling of his Cloudbase quarters and listened to the steady pitch of the base’s engines. He had seen and been on naval aircraft carriers such as the Winston Churchill and could see the resemblance in Cloudbase.
The Spectrum logo was emblazoned across his wardrobe doors and slightly smaller on the rear of his cabin door.
There was a knock at his door and Denton groaned rubbing his forehead, he had a headache growing. “Yes?”
“Captain, Lieutenant Purple here sir. I have your uniform here, sir.”
Indigo bounded to the door and opened it, fortunately wearing Spectrum tracksuit clothes. Purple was holding a box marked SPECTRUM APPARELL and handed it to Indigo.
“Here you are sir, and I’m to tell you to meet Captain Black in the armoury at 1100.”
Purple walked off leaving Indigo holding the box, he stepped back into the quarters and looked at the clock. 1032.
He quickly opened the cardboard box and took out a cap, it was mainly indigo with black surround and a small mike. The Spectrum logo central of the cap. Beneath that an indigo coloured jacket with a zip on black and beneath that, a black polo necked top with the logos on either cuff. To complete the ensemble, black trousers and indigo boots.
Moments later, he stood before the full-length mirror in his room and adjusted the collar of his uniform.
“Captain Indigo, Spectrum.”
He left his quarters and reached the armoury near the hangar bay before 1100. The armoury was spacious with walls full of weapons from handguns to rifles and machine guns, from grenades to mortars.
“Peaceful organisation,” he muttered.
“Ironic, isn’t it?” said a northern voice from shadows by the far wall.
Indigo started and saw a tall man emerge from the shadows, his uniform was a mirror of Indigo’s but black with white zippers as opposed to black.
“I’m Captain Black, your training officer for the next couple months. Let’s start,” Black moved to a table beneath the handguns and pulled one from tabletop, he tossed it at Indigo. The gun had a smooth barrel, white handle and indigo across the top.
“That’s your side-arm. Do you know how to shoot?”
Indigo nodded. “I did weapons training at Plymouth with the navy.”
Black folded his arms. “Were you good?”
Denton shrugged. “I could hit the board, if you want to put it that way.”
“If someone is running towards you armed with an axe, could you hit him between the eyes?”
Indigo felt his hands go cold. Had he made a stupid comment that provoked Black into saying that? “No, sir.”
“Right. Let’s go into the range, next door.”
Black went to a door in the shadows and opened it, Indigo slid passed him and into a room with four galleys with target boards at the end. It was rather old fashioned considering the technology in this century, but sometimes-old methods were better than new. The door closed behind Indigo and he was alone, one of the galleys lit up and showed the targeting paper. The traditional black silhouette with numbered areas.
“Begin when ready,” came Black’s voice. Disembodied from the other room.
Indigo stood at the white line at the first galley and from the tray before him, loaded his gun with six shells. The gun now was heavier in his palm, he assumed a shooting stance and raised the gun high. He fired twice; the gun coughed in his hand and was somewhat muted to the weapons he had trained with at Plymouth Naval Base. Indigo raised the barrel a fraction and emptied the remainder of the magazine.
With a click and whine, the target board moved towards him. Captain Black entered the room and took the target board before Indigo. His eyes narrowed as he read the board and smiled; he showed Indigo the board.
The first two shots had hit the throat and the remaining four had stitched across the face.
“Is this good?”
“Is it?” chuckled Black. “It’s bloody brilliant, there are only two others who have done it.”
Black folded the board up and nodded. “We’ll leave weapons for now; basic training and the like to follow. That was a flipping fluke, come with me now.”
Indigo followed Black from the room; Black paused outside in the corridor.
“Go to the lounge, I’ll be with you shortly.”
Indigo found the lounge well enough having memorised a wall plan of the base the previous day. The lounge was warm and well decorated, the windows offered a view of the horizon. Indigo tugged on his jacket and headed to a table with mugs on it next to a coffee machine. The mugs were different colours; Indigo pulled one off the rack that was his colour and neatly marked INDIGO. He smiled. Was there nothing that Spectrum didn’t do?
He poured the coffee and tasted it, nope there wasn’t.
He was heading to a seat when the doors opened and a dark-haired man in grey walked in. Their eyes met and the new arrival smiled.
“Denton Richmond, I’ll be a son of a gun!”
Indigo placed his mug down on a nearby table and shook Bradley Holden’s hand with a broad smile. “So you’re in this bunch too, huh?” Indigo said.
Holden smiled. “Captain Grey, at your service.”
“Captain Indigo, pleasure to serve with you.”
The doors opened again to allow in two men wearing red and blue; the red officer had brown hair and had a distinct English accent and the blue officer had an American accent with distinct blond hair.
“Paul, Adam, this is Denton Richmond. He just joined.”
“Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue,” said Denton reaching to shake hands.
“Welcome aboard,” said Scarlet. “You from England as well?”
Scarlet went to the coffee pot and poured some for himself and Blue. Indigo regained his composure and sat down. Eventually Captain Black walked into the lounge, the four men present stood. Conrad Turner waved them down.
“Relax, gentlemen. I think I’ll grab some char.”
Black made some tea and sat down in a chair that formed part of a semi-circle with Scarlet, Blue, Grey and Indigo. He drank from his tea and placed it down, bringing his black boots to rest on the coffee table before him. He fixed Indigo with a look.
“We’ll go down to Stone Point later today, you’re field training will begin during the night.”
Indigo nodded as Scarlet leant forward smiling and eyes twinkling.
“Conrad…” he began and was cut off by Black.
“Captain Black to you.”
Scarlet’s smile broadened to a grin. “Let me come too on the FieldEx.”
Blue lifted his head in a blunt nod. “Me, too.”
Black held up his hands palm outwards. “People, this is Indigo’s Field Exercise not yours.”
“Come on, Black,” Scarlet said. “You need the extra bodies.”
Black gasped sarcastically. “Do I, Captain Scarlet? Very adroit of you.”
Grey chuckled. Scarlet shrugged. “Come on, what good is Indigo if he’s solo?”
Black laughed. “Oh fine, you pushed me.”
“Never takes much,” Scarlet quipped.
Black shrugged. “You’re a card, Paul,” Black glanced at Grey silent until now. “Brad?”
Grey shook his head. “No thanks, you leave me out of this.”
Black smiled at Captain Indigo. “Well, Captain, pack your bags.”
Colonel White gestured for Black to sit as he walked into the control room; from elsewhere in the control bubble came the sound of hammering and drilling. Cloudbase was not quite operational yet. Black perched on a stool and faced his friend.
“You’re taking Indigo on a FieldEx,” said White in a murmur as he continued with his work.
Black shrugged. “I want him trained soon. We’re going to be operational before long.”
White lifted his head and met Black’s gaze. “I accept that, bear in mind that he’s a medical officer by trade. He won’t exactly mould in at first.”
Black nodded. “I know, Charles, I know. We’ll be back within the week.”
Black stood when White nodded in response and headed for the hangar bay. He arrived in time to see Scarlet throwing his bag into the SPJ’s hold, Blue and Indigo were inside. Black slapped Scarlet’s back as he leapt into the passenger jet.
“Come on, Scarlet. Time we got moving.”
Minutes later the SPJ took to the sky and bound for Stone Point Village.
“Stone Point Village”
Anderson Manor technically was near Stone Point Village, the village itself was isolated and sparsely inhabited. Even so, the manor was surrounded by a six foot high brick wall fence that had a security wire running through it. There were defences inside the facility that only Black and Colonel White knew of.
Boots crunching on the gravel outside the manor, Black led the others into the building. Victorian in manner, the building looked austere and classical.
Black led them upstairs, they all carried holdalls with their colours on them and were brought onto a landing overrunning the entrance. Black jabbed a finger into an open door.
Captain Scarlet dipped in the room, Black pointed to another as they moved along.
“Indigo,” Black said stopping by another room. Indigo stepped inside and dumped his bag by the bed, Black watched him. “Get your tracksuit on, we’ve got training to do. Ten minutes, front entrance.”
Nine minutes later Indigo joined Black –also in tracksuit- by the main entrance. Black checked his watch. “We’ll do a circuit around the manor’s estate, are you ready?”
“As ever I’ll be, sir.”
“SIG will do,” at Indigo’s frown Black smiled. “Spectrum Is Green, essentially means everything is A-OK.”
“I’m still new to this outfit,” Indigo grinned. “I’ll soon get the hang of it.”
Black checked his watch once more and nodded. “Let’s do this.”
Indigo joined Black as the older officer ran into the nearby woods, the pine trees taller than the manor itself. They ran over uneven ground, tree branches scratching at them as they crashed into them. Shoes skidded on wet rocks, the mud on them printing onto the shoes and splashing up the trousers. Indigo was tired, his chest was heaving and his throat was as raw as a cheese grater. His arms were heavy and his legs like tree logs. Yet somehow he ran on through the estate, the manor behind him and always visible.
It’s a start, you have to start somewhere. Bradley Maxwell’s words when, six years ago, he was talking about the navy.
Some start, thought Denton. Look where I am now.
Black splashed through a wide brook, the water was shallow but it sprayed up over Indigo nonetheless. Indigo wanted to fall there and then as his legs propelled him up the bank, the manor now fell to Indigo’s one o’clock position. Black was making headway, Indigo dug deep and staggered up the slope towards Anderson Manor’s east wing. Standing by the manor was Scarlet and Blue still in their uniforms. Black came to a stop by the captains and watched as Indigo ran up to him, legs akimbo and coming to a stuttering halt.
Black waited for Indigo to catch the most of his breath and then grinned.
“Now for the assault course.”
“You must be joking,” Indigo gasped bent at the waist.
Scarlet, straight faced, replied before Black. “We learnt that Captain Black never jokes.”
Battered, Indigo followed Black behind the manor to where the assault course sat.
Later that night, Indigo slumped gratefully into his bed. On his bedside were a small photo of Jennifer and his battered copy of The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Darkness had settled over Stone Point and as he lay there, he heard something barking from far off.
His mind fell away and he fell into a deep sleep.
Indigo fell out of bed as he started, next door there was the sound of someone being thrown about. Lamps and cabinets crashed to the floor, muffled by the wall. Indigo scrambled for his uniform and drew his pistol, running into the corridor wearing his boots and trousers he saw the door of the next room lying across the floor.
Indigo pressed himself against the door frame; he heard two men grunting as they scuffled. Indigo flung himself in and assumed a firing stance. Blue, wearing sky-blue pyjamas, was in the grip of an all-black figure with matching ski mask. Blue’s blond hair was everywhere, his hands scrabbling at the strong hold.
“Halt!” shouted Indigo. He felt an idiot. Only TV cops said that. The black-clad man turned around, they faced Indigo. ‘Ski Mask’ began backing towards the window, Blue choked out some words.
Indigo frowned. “I’ll hit you.”
Blue’s feet were skidding on the carpet, Ski Mask – as Indigo thought him - drew Blue closer to the window. Indigo licked his lower lip and fired, his bullet caught Ski Mask in the left arm flinging both men out the window. There was a short cry and the crunch of branches. Indigo ran to the window ledge and looked down. He could see two figures moving away into the nearby wood; he scowled and retreated inside. He holstered his weapon and went into Scarlet’s room, but both Scarlet and Black were absent. Downstairs, Indigo found Destiny.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Mon captain, you are shirtless,” chided Destiny looking at Indigo. Indigo’s scowl deepened, he knew he was shirtless - he hadn’t time to dress. He looked back at the French pilot, wearing the uniform of the Angels and holding her helmet in one hand.
“Never mind that, why are you here?”
“I came to provide transport home for when you are finished.”
Indigo walked to the door of the manor and turned. “Someone’s kidnapped Captain Blue and I cannot find Captains Black and Scarlet.”
Destiny’s eyes widened. “My God.”
“Quite,” Indigo moved to the table by the door on which sat a phone. “What should I do? Call Cloudbase or what?”
“You are the officer of higher ranking,” Destiny said gently.
Indigo rubbed his forehead. “I’ll call the Spectrum security forces.”
Destiny merely nodded.
Captain Indigo drank the cold coffee in Anderson Manor’s spacious kitchen with Destiny; upstairs Spectrum security officers checked for any clues. Indigo had stubble on his face, his eyes rimmed red. The door to the kitchen was opened and in came Black and Scarlet. Both men looked tired.
“Sir,” said Indigo coming to his feet.
Black waved him down and stopped at the end of the wooden table by where Indigo and Destiny were, to pour coffee from the pitcher. Scarlet sat beside Destiny, taking off his cap and rubbed his left arm. Black looked at Indigo from beneath the lid of his cap.
“Scarlet and I were outside when we saw that guy make off with Blue. We gave chase but lost them. We spent all morning looking for them and then bumped into the security chaps. That was a good call for you. Have you got in touch with Cloudbase yet?”
Indigo shook his head. Black nodded and sat down at the table’s head.
“That’s good. We’ll find Blue. He can’t have got far.”
Scarlet ran his hand across his unshaven chin. “Who would have taken him?”
“Who knows?” shrugged Black.
Black finished his coffee and clapped his hands. “Lets get outside.”
Indigo’s boots skidded on the wet bank of the brook; he looked along the stream bracketed by trees and squatted. He picked from the brook a wet piece of blue fabric, it looked like a piece of Blue’s pyjamas. He frowned and pocketed it, he followed the water along. It wasn’t quite the open ocean that Indigo was used to, but it might lead him to Blue.
At least, that was what he hoped.
Captain Black lowered the binoculars and exhaled, his breath coming as steamy vapour from where he stood on the upper floor balcony. He raised them to his eyes and exhaled once more. He watched Indigo, visible in his uniform, pick his way along the brook through the forest as the morning steadily brightened.
Boots crunching on leaves alerted Black to Scarlet coming along the balcony.
“Hardly, Captain,” murmured Black. “Just watching our man Indigo.”
“I see, suspect him of something?” said Scarlet standing back. “I couldn’t imagine what you would suspect him of.”
“No I do not suspect him of anything,” Black was tight lipped. “Do you?”
“Only of hogging the toilet,” Scarlet smiled warily. “That’s all.”
Black dropped his binoculars, ignoring the thump against his jacket, he turned inside with a brusque few words. “Come with me, Scarlet.”
“A trip, I’m rather excited.”
“Shut up, Paul,” said Black and led the way downstairs.
Indigo had found nothing and stood on the green behind the manor looking up at the window where the assailant and Blue had fallen. The ground below was pockmarked with uprooted grass and wet mud from where they had landed. Footprints led towards the brook where they had ran, or the assailant had ran and made Blue follow. Indigo was about to turn on his heel when he heard the soft footfall from the side and saw Black and Scarlet turn the corner.
“Have your skills led you to the assailant and Captain Blue?” called Black.
Indigo shook his head. “Not yet, but I’ll find them. But something doesn’t add up.”
“Explain, Captain,” Black stopped by Indigo arms folded. Scarlet stood to his right, with a neutral expression.
“This whole thing doesn’t make sense,” Indigo gestured to the brook. “Blue abducted during the night, guy –assailant - gets shot and the drops out the window. No blood or anything, just fabric from Blue’s pyjamas.”
Scarlet shrugged. “They could be long gone by now, Spectrum security has expanded the scope of their search. Relax.”
“No, I’m searching the brook again.”
The two other captains walked off; they were talking but Indigo didn’t hear them. However he noticed their boot prints and then looked at the assailant’s prints. Frowning and his heart skipping a beat, he placed one of his own boots inside the print of the man who had dragged Captain Blue from the room.
It matched. Size and prints.
Indigo turned and ran towards the manor. He was going to check Scarlet and Black’s boots.
When he reached Black’s wardrobe he fell to his knees and opened the wardrobe. He fumbled through trousers and uniform jackets to find two pairs of gleaming black uniform boots with white zippers. Indigo produced a pocket magnifying glass from his uniform jacket breast pocket and studiously scoured both boots. There was nothing on them, he then bundled them back into the wardrobe and buried them beneath the uniform jackets. Indigo jogged into Scarlet’s room next door. He could hear Black and Scarlet outside their precise voices intermingling. Indigo dove into the wardrobe, the red and black hurt Indigo’s eyes. Indigo now scoured red boots; unlike Black Scarlet only had one other pair. These weren’t as gleaming but Indigo didn’t care. He then made an excited noise; there was a gathering of dry mud under one of the boots. On closer inspection there was some powder evidence, from a gun perhaps but it wasn’t as noticeable as the mud.
Clasping the boot tightly in one hand he hurried downstairs and ran up to Scarlet and Black; the two captains whirled in some surprise.
“Denton, what are you doing with my boot?” asked Scarlet, his dark eyebrow raised.
Indigo was out of breath and shook it at the two captains.
“You were the one that abducted Blue; this is all some kind of exercise!”
“Prove it, if that is the case,” shrugged Scarlet. Black was silent.
Indigo caught his breath, a feeling of resurgence pounding his veins. “They match the footprints beside Blue’s when he was dragged from where he landed with the assailant, there are also traces of mud and some powder. It could be gunpowder, but it’s too small.”
“Not proof enough,” murmured Scarlet.
Black smiled and stepped past Scarlet, he patted Indigo on the arm. Indigo frowned.
“Good work, Denton, but have you got more than that?”
“I fired at the assailant, but there’s no trace of blood. Judging from this, I had fired blanks. Tell me, Scarlet, does your elbow still ache?”
Scarlet shrugged. “Sometimes, at
least it was a plastic bullet.”
“The lack of security presence after and communication confirmed some of this to me,” Indigo finished. He smiled at Black. “So where’s Blue?”
“On Cloudbase. He thanks you for your effort but next time he’ll elbow Scarlet in the stomach. Come on, Indigo.” Black led him back to the manor. “You’re off to a good start.”
Captain Indigo brought the racket back and then with all his might smashed it against the oncoming ball, the bright yellow tennis ball flew back towards Captain Grey. Grey, his t-shirt stuck to his sweaty body, swore loudly as it ricocheted off his racket. The tennis court of Cloudbase echoed to their grunts and shouts.
Indigo smacked it back with tremendous force. “Ugh! You…!”
“Captain Indigo will refrain from language,” Colonel White intoned on the umpire’s seat looking down. Scarlet, Blue and Black watching laughed. White watched the game wearing his uniform, whereas Indigo and Grey wore coloured shorts and white t-shirts. The two were kindred spirits; both from a nautical background, they trained together and formed a close friendship. Tennis could be taken too far, of course, and there was never a better moment than before White.
The ball sailed past Grey and
smacked the wall. Scarlet jogged for
it and threw it lightly at Grey. Grey looked to White who said
“Right.” Grey rose high to play the ball. Indigo crouched, his backside wiggling a little as he got into place. The ball came down straight at Indigo, the captain dove and smacked it upwards. The ball hovered above the netting, Grey ran forward and smashed it down but it bounced off Indigo’s racket. Indigo than deftly met the ball again to bring it crashing into Grey’s side and winning the match in the process.
White climbed down to congratulate Indigo who was shining with sweat. Indigo shook hands with Grey, they walked out together with the other three trailing behind and for White to pack his things together. It had been his rackets they had used.
Indigo paused and wiped his temple with the back of his hand and looked at Black.
“When do you go to Glenn Field?”
Black shrugged. “Next week, Wednesday.”
“Lucky swine,” Indigo muttered. “Mars, where no man has ever gone. Or every man but me.”
They were good-natured chuckling. Scarlet patted Black’s shoulder.
“Bring back a chunk of red rock for me.”
“I’m investigating mysterious signals, not touring the bloody planet.” Black scowled and swatted Scarlet but they were having fun and so Scarlet swatted him back. Scarlet wrinkled his nose at Indigo and Grey in sudden realisation. “Boy! You two smell like Adam’s stew!”
Two days ago, Captain Blue had made some stew he claimed was an old family recipe. It hadn’t gone down too well.
Blue frowned. “Thanks, Paul, nice to know it’s appreciated.”
“Even so,” Scarlet smiled. “You go, guys; I’m going to show Blue how to make Steak and Kidney pie.”
“Imaginative,” Black murmured thoughtfully.
In the nearby changing rooms, Grey and Indigo were putting on their uniforms fully refreshed after showering. Grey was adjusting his shoulder epaulets and looked at Indigo.
“Does your wife know about you and Spectrum?”
“Sort of, she knows what the common folk know about it. I’m an officer in it, I’m doing it in segments. No sense worrying her.”
“I see. Rather hard being married.”
“I’m surprised Colonel White let me join,” Indigo admitted.
“You’re here now, I’m sure you’ll manage. You have done so far.”
Indigo collected his sports bag. “You’re right, Grey.”
“SIG, Indigo,” Grey grinned. “Lets grab a drink, I’m thirsty.”
“Some weeks later, 2068”
“As of yet, there has been no word from Glenn Field on the Martian mission led by Spectrum’s Captain Black. The Zero-X landed yesterday and it has been reported that Spectrum have been summoned to Glenn Field.”
Captain Indigo muted the televisor and looked at the table before him. The lab of the Spectrum Intelligence Agency’s Weapons Development Facility –SIAWDF or SIA Weapons- was expansive and the African location was excellent. But Indigo hadn’t been made head of Spectrum’s Weapon development for sun and sand. He was here to help develop weapons that would make Spectrum’s job easier. He did wonder though why Black hadn’t reported to Cloudbase straightaway after his return from Mars. It wasn’t like Black.
Indigo looked up to see his colleague Doctor Sally Jensen walk in. She was tall and striking with long blonde hair and distinctive Nordic facial features. She held a piece of paper.
“Communiqué from Cloudbase, for you from Colonel White.”
Indigo raised his eyebrows. If it were from White, it must be important.
Indigo’s eyebrows rose further towards his hairline as he read the message.
Captain Black has gone AWOL. The captain was said to be acting strange by his crew. When he returned to Glenn Field, he vanished. We’ve also received a message from a race of aliens on Mars calling themselves the Mysterons. A race of aliens called the Mysterons on Mars have threatened the World President after Black destroyed their complex, they vow to kill the president in retaliation. It is my belief they hold Black under their control. As yet, the reports are sketchy. Keep on your toes, Captain Indigo
“Hell,” Indigo breathed.
“Trouble?” asked Jensen as she sat at her own desk and placed her feet on it.
Indigo sat down and placed his coloured boots on his desk. “Of a kind, nothing that we can’t handle.”
“You say it like that, I bought it.” Jensen reached for an apple and began to eat it. “A letter from Colonel White isn’t something to sniff at, captain. The colonel is in charge of Spectrum after all.”
“It’ll hold for now,” Indigo swung his legs off and reached for the phone by the mighty pile of paperwork that had gathered. He lifted the receiver and placed it to his ear.
“Spectrum Africa,” a crisp accented voice said.
“Get me Cloudbase, Colonel White.”
“Clearance code please.”
“Indigo, two zero four zero four six alpha beta tango.”
“Indigo, 204046ABT confirmed. One moment please, captain.”
Indigo glanced at Jensen; the forensics doctor was looking at some notes. When he reached Colonel White, Indigo talked for five minutes, getting details. It was then that he learned that Captains Scarlet and Brown had been involved in a car crash but were now on the way to New York. He had no inclination of what was going to happen later that day.
“Cloudbase Medical Centre”
Wearing a doctor’s cloak, Captain Indigo stood by Captain Scarlet’s bed and looked at Doctor Fawn. “This is most remarkable. You say he fell from the Car-Vu?”
“That and being shot by Captain Blue.” Fawn looked at Scarlet. “And he’s recovering.”
“What?” Indigo studied Scarlet and then the computer over his bed; sure enough it was showing heart and pulse rates. “Bastard,” he whispered. “How can that be?”
“I can’t explain it right now Indigo. There must be something more behind this, maybe something the Mysterons did.”
“Talking nonsense, Edward,” Indigo shook his head. “This is beyond the realms of medicine, it’s even beyond the realms of science fiction.”
Fawn smiled. “True, but it doesn’t answer the fact that he’s coming back. Hopefully, he is free of the Mysteron grip. As for Captain Black…”
“Rogue agent,” Indigo murmured and checked the wall clock. “I have to see Colonel White.”
“See you later, Indigo. Have fun with the colonel.”
Indigo ditched his cloak and walked to the control room; when he got there, Colonel White was standing on one of the observation tubes. Indigo paused by the colonel’s desk and coughed. White turned. “Ah, Captain. Do sit.”
Indigo sat himself on one of the stools that rose silently from the floor; White took his chair. “I’ll cut straight to the chase, the Mysterons are raging a war of nerves on Earth. They will go to any means to make sure we pay for attacking their complex.” White paused. “In view of what we have witnessed thus far, the complex rebuilding and Scarlet coming back to life. You and your colleagues at SIAWDF are now tasked with developing a weapon that can bring down a Mysteron.”
“But sir…” Indigo exhaled. “I don’t have enough to go on. Captain Brown blew up and Scarlet fell off a car park. There is no firm evidence on how to kill a Mysteron. The threat is too new and recent, we’re starting from scratch.”
“I appreciate your dilemma, captain, but this organisation is hitting the ground running, either we stop to catch our breath or we carry on and hit them where it hurts.”
Indigo nodded. “I understand, sir.”
“Good, there is a SPJ waiting to take you back to Africa. Good luck, captain.”
Indigo returned to Africa and rustled the SIAWDF into a frenzy; at first it was stop start but then as more events happened during the following weeks and months, they were able to start building on it. In the heat, they worked tirelessly; Indigo conferred every now and then with officers on Cloudbase via telecomm to discuss the updates. From Blue, how the American had seen Scarlet fight a Mysteronised passenger jet in his SPV before running it off the runway. From Scarlet, how a Mysteron shouted ‘Die, Earthman’ before trying to blow up something or other. The files at the Weapons Facility began to overflow; Indigo worked through the night. How could they defeat a Mysteron? Bullets were not the most effective way at stopping a Mysteron.
It was like Rasputin in pre-revolution Russia; poisoned, drugged, shot and yet he died of drowning in the Volga. But Rasputin hadn’t been a Mysteron; and it wasn’t helping Indigo.
Then, one night as a sandstorm battered the lab, there was the assassination attempt on General Tiempo.
“Africa, the SIAWDF”
Captain Indigo reread Captain Magenta’s statement, then read Blue’s and Grey’s. How the electricity had fried the Mysteron double of Doctor Magnus. It had taken raw electricity to kill a Mysteron for good and no hope of a return, not bullets - but electricity. Indigo jogged into the main lab; on the green board were sketches and notes. He took a rubber and began to wildly erase the chalk; Jensen swore.
“What the hell are you doing, captain?”
The others watched; some were amused. Indigo liked to wind up Jensen and perhaps this was no exception. He then, once the erasing was done, threw the statements onto a desk and reached for the chalk. He began scratching away, the chalk falling like light snow.
“What in blue blazes?” Jensen said.
“You’ve hit the Dr Pepper early,” murmured one of the others.
Indigo turned, eyes blazing with excitement. “Don’t you see? To bring down a Mysteron, you need electricity. An electric gun will do the job, an Electrogun even.”
“By Jove, I think he’s got it.”
Sally Jensen folded her arms. “We can do this?”
“We’ll have to. As far as I know, we’re going to have to it show Colonel White and the World President.”
“God and God Junior,” murmured Jensen and then with a thin smile. “Let’s do it.”
Brief applause broke out, Indigo went to get his cloak.
It was time to show what this department could do.
“The pack fits here.” Sally Jensen slotted a battery sized electric pack into the back of the weapon that Indigo held. They stood outside on the lab’s test range; at the far end of the sandy valley stood a target board. Standing by the board only visible as red and black, was Captain Scarlet down from Cloudbase to watch the proceeding of the test fire.
The weapon was black and red, the barrel –as it were - was narrow and fine to a point. It extended from a blocky built with two cylinders beneath that at the end had firm parts so that it could fit against a body. Indigo thumbed a switch and it came to life, humming quietly.
“To fire, there’s a trigger beneath the gun.”
Indigo smiled. “Say cheese, hey?”
“That’s the Mysteron Detector, Indigo.”
“Sorry, a little joke.”
He raised the gun, his cap radio fell down. “Are you ready, captain?”
Scarlet’s voice came back clear as day. “SIG. Fire when ready.”
Indigo nestled the Electrogun against him; he slid one finger at the trigger and licked his upper lip. The Mysteron Gun – as it was also known - had a range of fifty yards; electrodes were vital to his weapon working. Indigo tensed and fired.
There was no bang, merely a kind of blipping noise. They heard Scarlet exclaim over the radio. “Bloody hell! Big enough hole here!”
Indigo and Sally jogged up the valley; dust coated Indigo’s boots but he didn’t care. They reached the board to see a scorch mark across the surface.
“Some changes might be needed.”
“It does the job, Doctor Jensen,” Scarlet said and glanced at Indigo. “It’ll work.”
Indigo nodded. “I guess we show the bigwigs now?”
Scarlet grinned. “SIG.”
Later that day, Scarlet came to Indigo’s desk and shrugged. “Looks like they want you to be at Safari Lodge when Colonel White and World President Younger are there.”
“But I don’t necessarily need to show it.”
“True, but Doctor Giadello wants you there.”
Thinking of the man in charge of SIA made Indigo smile. “Giadello wants me there, had somebody drug his tea?”
“Not quite,” shrugged Scarlet. “But you’re there anyway.”
“What am I going to be, a flipping bartender?”
“Spectrum Safari Lodge”
Captain Indigo pushed the tray of drinks through the Hunting Lodge; the suit he wore with its purple shirt and cream jacket and trousers clung to him like a limpet. He passed Captains Scarlet and Blue – Panther and Bear for codenames - at a table; they had just came in from outside and were talking amongst themselves. Indigo paused by General Peterson who would be looking at the new equipment brought in by the SIAWDF.
Indigo thought to himself that there were better assignments than this. He moved the trolley back to the bar and proceeded to clean glasses. There was the sound of a car from outside, the rattling of the engine as it shut down and cooled, ticking like a fast beating clock. Footsteps on the steps outside, steps that Indigo had climbed the day before when bringing in the Mysteron gun. The door swung open and there stood Colonel White.
“Hello, Tiger,” said Peterson in that gravely voice of his. Indigo dipped his head when White looked his way. The console atop the bar squawked.
“This is checkpoint control, all points secure.”
“Acknowledged,” Indigo said. World President Younger raised a hand.
“I think now is a good time to start the conference,” Younger glanced at Indigo. “Captain.”
Indigo flicked a switch on the console, with an electronic hum the lodge began to lower. The decorated walls of the lounge were replaced by white and black squares, Indigo watched the walls as the hum continued. Scarlet rubbed his nose and smiled at Blue. The lounge then clicked into place, Younger once again looked at Indigo. “Thank you, Captain Indigo.”
Indigo nodded. “Sir.”
He flicked the switch back and the bar rose leaving the lounge below, when he reached the top the bar settled into place. After the bar settled, a new lounge slid from the opposing wall and slotted into place against the bar. Indigo smiled to himself and reached for a glass, he cleaned it and prepared to pour a glass of water. He thought about the meeting going on below, Giadello would demonstrate the gun and Mysteron detector. Maybe not the gun, but definitely the detector. The detector was again influenced by the Tiempo Incident on Cloudbase, created following the discovery that the Mysterons were impervious to X-rays. It took a X-ray of a suspect and if they were a Mysteron would come up as a photograph would. Indigo had spent days and nights with his team at the Weapons Development Facility at making the detector; it had taken patient hours to get it from taking photographs to telling the difference between a Mysteron and a human.
Fighting a war of terror and nerves, or is it just a psychological war? thought Indigo, he smiled once more to himself and shrugged. Either way, it was a war and Spectrum was on the frontline.
Indigo suddenly paused, holding the glass in one hand. Outside was the sound of sand being crunched underfoot, he frowned. Maybe it was one of the security guards; they always prowled around here and it wasn’t unusual to see them up here.
The console squawked again and Indigo pressed the speak button.
Giadello’s calm voice came filtering from the radio. “Captain, could you bring the detector down please.”
Indigo cursed himself; of course the C38 detector had been left here. “Yes, doctor.”
Indigo reached into the cabinet below the bar and took out the red detector; it was a light object and could be carried by straps around the neck. As he was about to take the lift down, the door to the lodge was flung open. Indigo whirled and gasped.
There, standing at the doorway, clothed entirely in black, was Captain Black.
At least, it had been Captain Black. His skin was a pale, dead white and his eyes dark and sunken. He raised a gun – a Spectrum issue pistol.
Indigo was about to hit the alarm when two bullets struck him in the chest. He dropped the detector upon the bar and collapsed to the floor; his vision swarm. He could just make out the blurred outlines of Black; the former Spectrum captain was saying something but Indigo couldn’t hear. He felt fear and then saw Jennifer, floating into his mind.
Then it went black.
The Mysteron Indigo walked out of the lift into the conference area, the gathered men turned to see him. “Doctor.”
Giadello took the C38 from Indigo’s hands and smiled at General Peterson.
“Allow me to demonstrate, Colonel White, President Younger if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” White said standing ready.
“Fire when ready, doctor,” Younger said with a small grin.
Indigo stood by; he was feeling nothing intent on his mission for the Mysterons. How to do it though?
This is Captain Black relaying instructions on behalf of the Mysterons. Use the lounge to kill the Earthmen, we will be avenged.
Indigo thought back. The Mysterons orders will be obeyed.
Indigo was started by Peterson’s voice. “Sir?”
He flinched as Peterson took a picture, the Mysteron Indigo stammered. “Excuse me, sirs.”
He backed into the lift and sighed as it took him upwards.
You must now complete your assignment and escape, Indigo.
Black’s words echoed in his mind, Indigo ran to the console on the bar and removed the small key but only after switching the lounge to DOWN. The lift was whirring, someone was coming.
Now I must go.
Stay and save them! Came his voice. It was different in that it was missing the dullness he had affected in his tone. Could it be possible he was holding the spirit of the real Indigo?
No time for that, Indigo’s doppelganger ran for the door. He clattered down the steps and leapt into White’s convertible saloon. He fumbled with the ignition and the engine spluttered to life; he floored the accelerator and sped down the trail towards the perimeter.
A minute later, he could see in his sideview mirror a dust trail in the distance.
Someone was coming for sure, he caught a hint of red against cream and thought it was Scarlet.
He neared the perimeter checkpoint; a guard wearing his safari gear stood out of the box with his rifle. Indigo swerved, the car bounced onto uneven ground and spewed dust from under its wheels. Behind him, Scarlet had collected the guard and was chasing. Indigo flinched, as rifle shots blew his right side mirror. Another shot blew the windscreen into smithereens. Indigo lost control of the car; the steering wheel spun wildly and he collided with a strong rock. Indigo kicked open the driver’s door and jogged with his gun in hand behind a large outcropping. As he hid, he heard the thud of car doors being closed and Scarlet’s voice. He then saw the dark-haired captain appear, the Mysteron gun around his neck. No sign of the guard.
Indigo fired shots at Scarlet; the captain ducked but continued heading towards Indigo.
“Give up, Indigo!”
“Die, Earthman!” shouted back Indigo.
Suddenly, Indigo felt a lancing pain in his stomach. He looked down to see blood; feeling sick and out of focus, Indigo collapsed against the outcropping. He watched through swirling focus as the guard and Scarlet approached his position and talked; the guard’s voice was definite assured that Indigo was dead, whereas Scarlet’s was more cautious. Indigo fumbled for his gun, but as he sat up he felt another lance, but this one different. An electronic sound.
With that, Indigo collapsed and as the blackness raced in, he found himself wishing for someone named Jennifer.
Captain Indigo was dead.
“Safari Lodge, next day”
Doctor Fawn’s pale coloured boots were marred with dust as he squatted by the fallen body of Indigo. This wasn’t the doubles’ body but rather the real Indigo. The body had been found tucked under the lodge after Scarlet had saved the President and the others. Indigo’s skin had become grey, his eyes were closed, his stomach marked by two dull red circles. Fawn looked over the body; the brim of his cap casting a shadow over his face.
“Cause of death, bullet wounds to his chest. Nothing anyone could’ve done,” Fawn said.
Standing next to Fawn, Captain Scarlet made a note in a pad and nodded.
“Shame you know,” Fawn murmured.
Scarlet waved to Blue; the American captain nudged the nurse that had accompanied Fawn down from Cloudbase in the helicopter. They carried a stretcher between them, when they stopped beside Scarlet they lifted the inert body of Indigo onto the stretcher. Fawn sighed.
“Cloudbase, that night”
Colonel White once again rubbed his eyes and closed the folder of Indigo’s dossier. The man known as Denton Richmond had died in the line of duty. White reached for his mug and swallowed the remnants of his cold tea; he was placing his mug down when the doors at the far end opened to show Captain Scarlet. Scarlet looked tired, but tried not to show it as he walked up the control room past Lieutenant Peach. He finally stopped before White and came to attention.
“Do sit, captain.”
“Thank you, sir.”
White blinked to sharpen his eyes. “It has been a long two days.”
“That it has, sir, but at least we have had a practical demonstration of the detector and gun.”
White nodded. “Yes, and now we can expect to have the gun and detector as standard field equipment. Is there a reason why you came, Captain?”
Scarlet nodded brusquely. “Sir. Denton, I mean Captain Indigo, had a wife. Will we inform her of his death?”
White sighed and tapped the folder where the word DECEASED stared back at him; he met Scarlet’s gaze. “What do you think, Captain?”
“She can’t not know that he is dead, otherwise in the future she will want to know where he is,” Scarlet exhaled. “We have to tell her, but not the circumstances of his death.”
White nodded in agreement. “I agree, Captain if you would fly down to Portsmouth tomorrow, I would appreciate it.”
Scarlet drove the red Spectrum Saloon Car into Old Portsmouth; it was an area he knew little about and thus he had a map open on the passenger seat. He searched the apartments that faced towards the Solent and finally found the one he was looking for; he slowed to a stop beside a civilian saloon and turned off the engine. He reached for something on the seat below the map, unbuckled and stepped out. He walked towards the door of the apartment and rang the doorbell.
From within, he heard the sound of a baby crying and then silenced, a shadow appeared at the door and then it opened. An attractive red-haired woman wearing jeans and jumper stood there.
“I’m Captain Scarlet, from Spectrum. Are you Jennifer Richmond?”
“Yes, how may I help you.”
“I have some news concerning your husband, might I come in.”
Jennifer narrowed her eyes and nodded. “Certainly, Captain.”
Scarlet thanked her and stepped into the apartment; Jennifer Richmond shut the door behind him and smiled apologetically. “If you excuse me, I’ve been trying to get little Alex to sleep.”
Scarlet nodded and followed her into the living room; he sat down on the sofa and noticed a baby in a cot by the window. Jennifer went to the baby and checked on him.
“He’s sleeping,” she sighed and sat down looking at Scarlet. “What is it you want to tell me about Denton.”
“Well,” said Scarlet cautiously. “This is what I have to tell you. I worked with him in Spectrum, I can’t tell you what he did as it was top secret, but he was one of our better agents.”
Jennifer nodded gently. “Was, you said was. What’s happened?”
Scarlet looked at the floor and then at her. “I’m afraid that two days ago, Denton was killed by a Mysteron agent.”
“Mysteron,” she murmured. “Those aliens we heard about,” she buried her head in her hands and began to cry. Feeling awkward, Scarlet stood and walked to her; he held her as she cried. Eventually her sobs stopped, her body stopped shaking and she backed away from Scarlet. Her face was wet with tears. “How?”
“He was shot,” Scarlet shrugged politely. “I can’t tell you anything else.”
“What of his body?”
“It’ll be brought to Portsmouth and you’ll be able to bury him here.”
Jennifer tapped his right hand. “What’s this?”
“My CO thought it’d be best you have this, it was amongst what possessions he brought to our HQ.”
Jennifer took it and unfurled it; the fabric was red, blue and white as she further unfurled it, she nodded to herself. Opened, it was a Union Jack with RICHMOND stitched across the horizontal cross. “It’s his class flag.”
She wanted to cry again but held her tears and grasped Scarlet’s right arm.
“Thank you, captain, it is nice to know that someone cared enough to inform me of his death.”
Scarlet sighed. “I am indeed sorry, I knew Denton well and he was a fine man.”
“That he was, I only wish he had lived long enough to see his son.”
Scarlet glanced at the sleeping baby and swore inwardly. “I see.”
A few minutes later he stood and was seen out by Jennifer, he gave his condolences again and walked to his SSC. He drove away, the first part of the return leg to Cloudbase.
A week later, Denton Richmond was buried with naval honours at Portsmouth Cathedral. The man born as Andrew Laurence might’ve died as Denton Richmond but had been an enigmatic figure serving in the British Navy and Spectrum before his untimely death. Bradley Maxwell read a eulogy and helped carry the casket to the burial place. Amazing Grace was played as it was lowered.
Little Alexander Richmond had no comprehension of what was happening, but would within time.
After the funeral, the class flag was raised above the apartment Jennifer still shared with Bradley and Sandy.
Denton Richmond was gone, but would never be forgotten.
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