“Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” short story
Note that the story takes place before the Mars expedition and Spectrum is operating solely as a counter-terrorism organisation.
CLOUDBASE late 2067
Rhapsody Angel, the red haired English Spectrum Angel pilot, had thirty minutes before she was due to start her four-hour stand by duty shift. She had just left her quarters and was making her way along the corridors of Cloudbase to the Amber Room, when she heard Lieutenant Green’s voice over the intercom system.
“Rhapsody Angel, please contact the Control Room.”
She lifted her helmet, which she was carrying in her hand, and spoke into the mike.
“Rhapsody here, what is it Lieutenant?”
“You have an incoming call from London on the satellite phone link, it’s on a private number.”
“I’m on duty in thirty minutes.” She paused fractionally. If the call was from London she suspected it was one of her parents calling, and she didn’t want to put them off. She spoke to them little enough as it was with the busy lives they led.
“I’ll take it in my quarters, send it through. Thanks Lieutenant.”
She sprinted back to her quarters and turned on her phone. The number at the Cloudbase end was scrambled so that the source couldn’t be identified for obvious security reasons. She checked the incoming number; and saw that it was indeed her parents’ home number.
“Hello, it’s Dianne,” she spoke into the phone.
“Dianne, it’s me.” Her father’s deep voice echoed through the speakerphone. “How are you doing?”
“I’m very well thank you for asking. You’re obviously not still in Egypt?”
“No, I’ve flown home to take care of some government business for a few days.”
She knew he wouldn’t divulge any more than that. And she wouldn’t ask. He never pried into her work, even though he knew she worked as a pilot for Spectrum and she probably diced with death every time she flew one of the strike aircraft on a mission. Still, he was proud of her. She was her father’s girl to the core.
“Are you going back there?” she asked him
“Yes, after I’ve finished up here. That was what I wanted to talk to you about.”
She had received e-mail from him several weeks ago telling her that he was joining an excavation in the Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt. He promised he would be in touch with details, as he knew his daughter took a keen interest in the subject of ancient Egypt. She was only too sorry that her job didn’t allow her to go out there with him. She would have loved to be there and witness seeing a new tomb. The whole thing had been kept very quiet and out of the news especially with the recent unrest and the threat of terrorism that had raised its ugly head once again in the Land of the Pharaohs. Egypt had only recently become a member of the World Government and there was still much resistance within the country to that state of affairs. The residing government within the country was fragile and many believed it was only the strength and charisma of First Minister Suleiman Ben Mansour who held the precarious peace together.
Simms continued, “I know you have some leave coming up, would you like to come out here? Ordinarily I wouldn’t ask, with this terrorist business going on.” His voice took on an excited edge. “But what we’ve found in the Valley of the Kings is incredible, you really have to see it for yourself, Dianne.”
She couldn’t help smiling. “Well Daddy, terrorism IS my business you know, we can’t let those things stop our lives, I would love to come, just keep me away!”
“That would be great! I’ll call you again just before I leave Britain and we can sort out the arrangements.”
“Speak to you soon then, closing channel.” She smiled fondly as she broke the link.
She got to the Amber Room this time without any further interruptions. Her American colleague Symphony Angel had beaten her to it and was already making coffee in the small kitchen area of the standby lounge. Melody was Angel One on this shift and so was already up on deck in the cockpit of the supersonic aircraft.
“Hi Rhapsody.” Symphony looked up as she entered and waved an empty cup at her. “Freshly brewed, would you like some?”
“Oh yes please,” she replied and accepted the cup from the blonde American. They both sat down on the comfortable lounge chairs. Symphony stretched her long legs out and asked, “I hope you weren’t in trouble with the Colonel?”
“You mean my page over the intercom?” She didn’t mind Karen asking. She knew her friend only had her interests at heart.
“It was my father. He was asking me to join him for a few days holiday.”
“That’s just great!” smiled Symphony. She knew Rhapsody had a lot of time for her parents and treasured any moments they were able to spend together
“So you’ll be off to London then, enjoying some shopping in the big city?” Symphony grinned knowingly. Rhapsody’s love for wearing attractive clothes was second only to Destiny’s.
Rhapsody drained her cup and placed it on the table. “No, I’m going out to Egypt.”
“Egypt?” Symphony echoed, a hundred questions hanging in her voice.
“Well, my father is involved in the excavation of a new tomb in Upper Egypt and he wants me to see it. Wild horses couldn’t stop me. It’s been a long time since I visited a dig and my hieroglyphics have got really rusty so it might be a chance to polish them up.”
“Your whats?” Symphony made a face.
“Hieroglyphics, Egyptian sign writing. It’s a sort of pictorial representation of words or groups of words.”
Symphony continued to eye Rhapsody with amusement.
“What’s so funny?” Rhapsody asked.
“Your dad. I thought he was a lord, what’s he doing tramping around in the desert?”
Rhapsody smiled. “Oh he’s just a big kid at heart really! He’s been passionate about ancient Egypt for about as long as I can remember. He occasionally spends my inheritance supporting the Egyptian authorities on opening up new sites. Of course since he normally foots some of the bill he insists that he has to be there and supervise the whole thing. He just likes the glory bit really, although they’re keeping this one pretty quiet with all the stuff going on up in the north of the country. Anyway this trip he’s not actually financing anything, He was asked to go and help because of his reputation for interpreting hieroglyphs.”
“It sounds fascinating.”
“Oh it is. I caught the bug as well and I went out there on a couple of trips with him when I was in university.”
“What does your mom think of all this, doesn’t she go with him?”
Rhapsody laughed “Heavens, no! Not that she doesn’t like a bit of travel and adventure, but she really doesn’t like the dust or the insects so she lets him go off to have fun by himself on the odd occasion that he does this. She always says she can’t get a decent hairdo out there!”
Symphony laughed too. “Sounds like a lady after my own heart!” She put down her cup.
“Want a refill?” Rhapsody asked and Symphony nodded in reply. When she returned with both cups Rhapsody sat down, sipped her coffee and looked at her colleague. As they were alone she felt it was okay to ask about a subject dear to Symphony’s heart.
“So how are things with Adam these days?”
Symphony really fell for the big American the moment she saw him and there were no signs of the affection waning on her part. If anything she was getting more involved with him despite the regulations concerning personal attachments.
Symphony sighed. “Oh I just don’t know. Recently he’s become a bit distant. I’m not really sure what to make of it. I thought we were doing so well together, and then I think I might have mentioned going on vacation together the next time our furloughs coincided. After that I just started to sense a change in his attitude. I can’t help feeling it scared him off somehow. Don’t get me wrong, he’s perfectly civil to me, it’s just I can feel a remoteness to him that wasn’t there before.”
Rhapsody sympathised, even though she wasn’t in a similar position. “I understand, Karen, I really do. And being on top of one another here, in a manner of speaking, and not being able to spend much time alone, doesn’t help matters.”
Symphony nodded her head in agreement, looking somewhat dejected and Rhapsody felt bad about bringing up the subject in the first place. She hadn’t realised things weren’t going well between them. Privately Rhapsody wondered if maybe Blue was having second thoughts about it, she suspected he was the type who played by the rules. But she didn’t dare say that to Symphony. She was someone who wore her emotions on the surface and had a very open physical personality. So Rhapsody could understand how Blue’s behaviour could really start to upset her. Honestly she thought, he really is a big dumb blonde Swede. She knew several guys in Cloudbase that would have given up a year’s vacation rights for a date with Symphony Angel. That is, if they ever had the courage to go against Colonel White’s draconian orders on that account.
Rhapsody knew that these rules were there for a reason but it made it doubly hard on the personnel with the type of life they led in the organisation. What the hell were they expected to do up here for weeks on end with their fellow officers the only company and having to keep their lives and work a secret from anyone except close family? But emotional liaisons were strictly frowned upon and most especially by Colonel White. Of course, even he couldn’t stop a bunch of healthy attractive adults flirting with one another. The danger they faced from their jobs gave a certain frisson, as Destiny would say, to their interactions with one another.
Rhapsody decided that Symphony needed some time away from this base and Captain Blue.
“Well maybe you should play it cool too.” Rhapsody said, an idea springing into her head. “You have time off next week, the same as me. Why don’t you come out to Egypt with me? I would love company on the trip, that is, unless you have other plans.”
“No, I don’t.” Symphony sighed again “My mother has gone on a three week cruise with my aunt. Oh I don’t know…I was just thinking of spending it in Cloudbase.”
Rhapsody was determined she wasn’t going to let her friend get more dejected moping around Captain Blue, especially if he was going to play the Ice Man.
“Come on” she cajoled “We get on so well together you know, I would love to spend the time with you.”
Symphony’s thought about it for a few minutes, then a she summoned a smile in response to Rhapsody’s kind gesture. “Sure why not, we could have a lot of fun haggling in the souk, if such a thing still exists!”
After an uneventful duty shift both Angels went to the canteen for lunch. A few minutes later they were approached by three of the base’s senior Spectrum Captains.
“Mind if we join you ladies?” Captain Scarlet asked. Captains Ochre and Magenta flanked him.
“ Not at all,” smiled Rhapsody brightly, and slid along to let Scarlet beside her. Ochre and Magenta sat next to Symphony.
“So what’s new, ladies?” said Ochre after a mouthful of food.
Symphony said excitedly, “Rhapsody’s asked me to go with her to Egypt. She’s visiting her Dad who’s working out there on a new excavation.”
“Wow,” said Ochre. “I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. All those amazing ancient tombs and art.”
“All those gorgeous almond eyed girls you mean,” Magenta said slyly.
“Aw that’s a bit below the belt,” retorted Ochre, but not managing to look convincingly hurt.
“But so true,” said Scarlet dryly. Rhapsody and Symphony exchanged grins. Ochre’s sense of fun made him quite popular with many of the female members of Cloudbase, and it was obvious that he enjoyed reciprocating their interest, on the surface at least.
Ochre ignored him. “I’ll have you know I studied a bit about ancient Egypt when I was in the WPF. I can tell my hieroglyphics from my ushabti.”
Rhapsody was impressed. “Well, Captain Ochre! I wouldn’t have believed it of you!”
He retorted, “Well, just because I haven’t got a fancy degree like you lot doesn’t mean I’m a Philistine.”
Rhapsody immediately looked embarrassed. She forgot Ochre sometimes felt an unjustified sense of inferiority amongst the senior personnel because of his lack of paper qualifications. “Oh Rick, I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to imply you were anything other than,” she started stumbling through the sentence, “oh, pieces of paper don’t prove anything, look how far you went in the police….”
Ochre decided to step in and save her further embarrassment. He grinned at her awkwardness. “It’s okay, Rhapsody! I forgive you. However,” he said with a dangerous gleam in his eye, “you can make it up to me. Magenta and I also have vacation coming up next week, same time as you two. Maybe we could come to Egypt with you and Symphony and make it a foursome?” He grinned at her engagingly.
“You’ve got some nerve Ochre,” said Scarlet
“What’s the matter, jealous?” Ochre taunted.
“No, I’m not jealous, as you put it,” replied the British captain dryly. “I just think it’s incredibly bad manners to invite yourself, that is of course if you are serious and not just up to your usual tricks.”
Ochre looked at Rhapsody. “C’mon Rhapsody, am I really being bad mannered for wanting to spend time with my friends and get a chance to put into practice an old hobby?”
“The plan was for a girls’ holiday,” she said in a slightly exasperated voice.
“Oh go on,” he insisted. “It’ll be fun, just think you’ll have the added advantage that we can protect you from the advances of the local boys just waiting to carry you off to a tent somewhere in the desert. Couple of prize lookers like you two might not be safe.”
Symphony gave a derisive snort. “This is the twenty-first century, Captain Ochre. We’re not talking Rudolf Valentino here. And I think Rhapsody and I can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!”
“We could help carry your bags,” offered Magenta hopefully.
Rhapsody laughed in spite of herself. She just couldn’t get annoyed at Magenta. He was such a sweetie.
“Goodness! You pair are the limit! Well I suppose I can’t see any good reason why we should refuse, unless my father or Colonel White have any objections. What do you think Symphony, shall we let them join us?”
Symphony shook her head “Well, I guess so, as long as they promise not to cause any trouble.”
Scarlet rolled his eyes. Fat chance of that! Ochre and Magenta together were just bound to find something to get into trouble about. It was hard to believe they were now such good friends, given that they were at each other throats to begin with. But despite both of them being on the opposite side of the law in their previous lives before Spectrum, they had grudgingly learned to respect each other during the time they spent training and working together.
Rhapsody mused, “I suppose we should really inform Colonel White of our plans, I don’t know how he’ll feel about all four of us going off together.”
Ochre smirked at her. “Well, we’ll let you do that little task, I think you’re more likely to persuade the Colonel than Magenta or me.”
“Why Captain Ochre, that’s very gallant of you,” Rhapsody replied her voice dripping with sarcasm. “And here was I thinking you were such a big brave boy.”
“Oh cut it out you two,” grumbled Scarlet afraid his lunch might be spoiled by Rhapsody and Ochre getting into one of their tit for tat arguments with each one determined to have the last word. Of course it was usually Rhapsody who had the last word. Ochre really ought to have learnt that by now.
Rhapsody was back on duty and taking her turn in Angel One so as to relieve Melody. It was certainly tedious up here during the day when one was just waiting in the cockpit. At least at night she could study the constellations. Bored, she found her mind wandering off on tangents. What was that about Ochre’s comment to Scarlet about being jealous today in the canteen? Did Ochre think Scarlet might have something to get jealous about? Did she want Scarlet to feel jealous? Why was she thinking these stupid thoughts anyway? But the more she tried to avoid it the more she kept thinking about it her interactions with the male members on the base.
She had to admit she wondered if she let her playful nature go a bit too far sometimes. She was always kidding around with Ochre and Magenta and every so often there was a bit of silly flirting involved. It was mostly harmless, and let’s face it, they had to do something to break the monotony they occasionally faced at forty thousand feet. Blue could be a little aloof at times and Grey; well Brad wasn’t so easy to kid with. He was a lovely guy but tended to be naturally more reclusive than the others.
Now, when it came to Captain Scarlet. Well, there was a bit of an enigma as far as she was concerned. When she met Paul Metcalfe all those months ago back at the Koala training base, she had liked him almost immediately on sight. Well, what wasn’t there to like? He was drop dead handsome, intelligent, had a dry sense of humour and he was British to boot. Then she discovered that he and Destiny Angel had been lovers and somehow that had changed everything. She hadn’t been sure if the two of them were still involved, Destiny made assurances to everyone that there was nothing between them any more, but the two of them were so cosy together no one quite believed it. Rhapsody wasn’t as comfortable with Destiny as she was with Symphony and it wasn’t the sort of thing she felt she could talk to the Frenchwoman about, so she somehow felt Scarlet was off limits. She was sure she had cured herself of that particular affliction.
In any case she was privy to the situation with Symphony and the state her friend sometimes got herself into over Mr Svenson, and she was convinced that a relationship with someone on this base wasn’t for her. She was sure she would abhor the seesawing emotions of a serious liaison, especially when it was so difficult to escape one another on Cloudbase.
She smiled a rueful smile as she stared out at the clear azure sky. Maybe that’s what these stupid rules are for after all.
When Rhapsody came off duty four hours later she called in first to the Control Room in order to speak to Colonel White about her vacation plans. When she arrived she found Lieutenant. Green at his usual post and Captain Black behind the main control console where the Colonel usually resided.
“Oh hello Captain, Lieutenant. I was looking for the Colonel. Isn’t he here?”
Green replied first. “No he’s taken a break and gone up to the Promenade Deck,” he replied in his rich Trinidadian accent.
She frowned slightly “Oh, I’d better not disturb him then.” Colonel White was notorious for not taking breaks or time off duty, although he never would have allowed his staff to do the same.
“Oh I’m sure he won’t mind Rhapsody, he always enjoys talking to you.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you later,” she nodded at Black, “Captain.” He nodded in reply to her with that serious face of his but didn’t say anything.
Conrad Turner was Colonel White’s second in command at Cloudbase. Some of the other officers thought he could be a bit of a cold fish but Rhapsody privately thought it was because he was essentially quite shy around people. In her opinion that often made people act standoffish or uncaring. Of course some of the others, especially Ochre and Magenta, would have pooh-poohed that idea, but she thought they had never quite forgiven Black for all the pain he had put them through during their training.
She took the elevator to the Promenade Deck and found Colonel White over in “his” corner tending to his beloved mini garden.
“I hope you don’t mind me disturbing you, Sir,” she ventured, as she came into his line of sight.
Her chief turned at her voice and broke into a rare smile. She did suspect he had a soft spot for her, although she wasn’t sure why, maybe because she was a fellow Brit. But she would never have dared to take advantage of it.
“Not at all Rhapsody, things were quiet this morning and Captain Black kindly offered to man the control room with the Lieutenant, so I thought I would just take a short break. Did you want to speak to me about something?” He motioned her to one of the seats.
She sat down. “Yes Sir, it was about my furlough. I was planning to go out to Egypt to visit my father.”
He finished pruning a particularly straggly growth on a plant and then looked at her quizzically. “I’m glad you’re taking time out to be with your family, however I don’t see why you need to tell me about it.”
“Well Sir, the reason I wanted to speak to you was that I invited Symphony and Captains Ochre and Magenta along as well, they are all on furlough same time as me for the three days. I know it’s a bit unusual to have several personnel go on the same trip, and I just wanted to ask you if it was all right.”
Colonel White frowned. Initially he wasn’t too happy about the request, but he couldn’t really object. There was nothing in regulations that said officers couldn’t take furlough together. Or maybe that was because no one expected people who worked together in such close quarters would WANT to spend more time together than they already did. However he had noted that the English and American Angels did seem to get on splendidly together on and off duty. And as for Magenta and Ochre...Neither man had family they could visit. In Ochre’s case most of his close family were dead, and faking his own death to join Spectrum had closed many of those channels forever.
Magenta’s family ties had been severed ever since he had become a crime boss in New York. Even since joining Spectrum he still hadn’t told them of his new career on the right side of the law this time. Although White would never have said it to their faces, he felt sympathy for his two officers and in a way was glad that at least they could enjoy some time off with people they knew, liked and trusted.
“Well, he said after considering. “I suppose there’s no harm in it. You do realise there has been some terrorist activity there recently?”
“Yes, we haven’t been asked to intervene, have we?”
“No, not as yet. The World President is in contact with Suleiman Ben Mansour the Egyptian First Minister. He feels it is prudent not to have an overt Spectrum presence in the country given the sensitive nature of the situation there. Lieutenants Gold and Sepia are monitoring the situation on the ground from Spectrum North Africa HQ. However, since you plan to go anyway, and as civilians, it probably wouldn’t do any harm to keep your eyes and ears out for anything that might be of interest.”
Rhapsody smiled. Her boss could be devious sometimes. “I’m sure we can manage that sir, and thank you, I’m sure the others will be delighted, I’ll leave you in peace to enjoy the rest of your break.”
After leaving White she went back to her quarters, dialled her father and told him she would be arriving next week and bringing some colleagues from work.
CLOUDBASE: SATURDAY: 08:00 HOURS
Captain Blue looked out of the window of the Promenade deck. He watched the silver SPJ carrying Symphony and the others take off from the flight deck. He gave a long sigh. A part of him almost wished he was on that jet too. But he suspected that spending time alone with the lovely Symphony would be something that he might not be able to deal with too well at the moment. After her comment about spending their next furlough together he had felt an absurd sense of panic. He could feel himself getting too damn close to her and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about it.
Admit it Svenson, you’re running scared.
Trouble was, he wasn’t always good at explaining himself or dealing with his emotions so he ended up behaving like a moron towards her. He knew he was hurting her feelings but he sometimes couldn’t help himself. Blue knew the regulations. He was someone who believed in regulations. They were there for a reason. Also, if he had dared admit it to himself, he was just a bit afraid of how Colonel White might react if he knew what was going on between a senior Cloudbase captain and one of his female pilots.
“Hey Captain Blue?” A cheerful British voice struck him out of his reverie. “We were supposed to go over these new rotas for the Cloudbase personnel. You ready to get started?”
“Oh yeah.” He turned around to the man who he felt was his closest confidante. He and Paul Metcalfe had hit it off the moment they met, although they mostly didn’t tend to be partnered together on missions. Scarlet tended to work with Steve Blackburn who was otherwise known as Captain Brown and Blue usually partnered Captain Grey.
Blue hadn’t yet told Scarlet about Symphony. But he had a sneaking suspicion that his friend knew more than he was letting on. But that would be typical of Paul not to pry.
Scarlet said, “Was that the SPJ taking off with our merry little band of Egyptologists?”
“Yes.” He hoped he hadn’t been too obvious by standing staring out of the window at the departing jet. But Scarlet said nothing, only sat himself down and got out the computer pad that contained all the information that they needed to accomplish this required if tedious activity. Oddly enough, it had been Scarlet’s suggestion they do the job up here. The British captain felt it was a more pleasant atmosphere to work in especially since it was the weekend
As Blue distractedly followed Scarlet’s suggestions for the new rotas, he thought it might be nice to confide in his friend about the situation with Symphony. Scarlet was a model of discretion and he was pretty smart when it came to women too. But he wasn’t sure he was ready to admit to anything just yet. Let’s just see how I feel when she returns he thought, and then focused his mind firmly on the task at hand.
LUXOR: SATURDAY 11:00 HOURS
Rhapsody and her fellow agents were dropped off by Spectrum SPJ at New York, the civilian airport closest to the current vertical position of Cloudbase. From there they had to make their own way to Cairo on a scheduled flight. Ochre engineered to sit beside Rhapsody on the plane, which didn’t go unnoticed by Magenta. However, the latter was quite happy to sit with Symphony. The Irish-American officer liked the Angel more than he cared to admit, however he also suspected that she had a soft spot for Captain Blue. Still, he nursed a hope that he might still have a chance with her. He of course didn’t know that Symphony was already involved with the blonde American.
The four turbo-powered engines roared into life and the supersonic jet smoothly lifted into the sky. In seconds they were above the clouds and almost skimming the atmosphere.
Rhapsody looked out of the window at the clouds far below. “You know, I hate flying in these things.”
Ochre smiled at her. “It’s because you’re not in control huh?”
She smiled at him in reply. “Yes, I think that’s what it is. But we can hardly expect to be sent over here by SPJ so I guess we have to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi and grin and bear it.”
“Well if it’s any consolation, I hate being a passenger too.”
A flight attendant came up to them and offered drinks.
“I’ll have a coffee thanks,” said Ochre. “What about you Dianne?”
“I’ll have a lime and soda.” She took the proffered drink and enjoyed a long cool sip.
Magenta popped his head over the seat to face the two of them “How far to where your dad’s based, Dianne?”
“Well, it should take us about two hours after we land at Cairo. My father has arranged for someone to meet us at the airport. We take another flight to Luxor, which is the nearest town to the dig. Then we take a boat across the Nile and a jeep to the site in the Valley of the Kings.”
“Sounds like a long trip,” said Magenta.
Rhapsody smiled. “Egypt is one of the cradles of civilisation. Despite the modern pace of our twenty-first century life, I think it still has something to say to us about life and death and everything in between. And sometimes, moving slowly, on land and on the water gives us time to breath, to take in what’s happening around us, make us feel part of our world, our environment.”
“Wow, Ms Simms, that’s very poetic. I never would have guessed,” Ochre quipped
She turned and favoured him with one of her looks. “That’s because you ARE a philistine Mr Fraser.”
The jet landed at Cairo and they all emerged into the arrival area. Her father had told her someone would meet them there to fly them down to Luxor. Rhapsody’s eyes swept the concourse then spied a handsome young Arab man holding a large placard with LADY DIANNE SIMMS in big black letters.
“There’s our transport guys, let’s go.” Rhapsody strode forward to meet their contact.
Rhapsody held out her hand to the young man. “Hello, I’m Dianne Simms, Lord Simms’s daughter -” she waved a hand at the other three, “- And these are my colleagues.”
The young Egyptian bowed briefly to Rhapsody. He then took her proffered hand and replied. “I am very pleased to meet you. My name is Hashim, I have been asked to fly you down to Luxor by my employer Al-Rashid. Please come this way.” He pointed to a moving walkway. “This will take us to the heli-jet area”.
The other three were amused to hear Rhapsody being referred to as Lady Dianne. They all knew her background of course, but Rhapsody never mentioned her title. However, she did show signs of imperiousness on occasions and there was usually a bit of leg pulling when she did.
As they followed the walkway Magenta was intrigued by an item on the television monitors situated at the side of the walkway. “Hey guys, wait up a minute, this news item looks interesting.”
They stepped off the walkway in order to watch the item. The pictures run by a live video link showed a World News Network journalist speaking breathlessly against a backdrop of a Cairo government building, smoke and flames issuing from it.
“There continues to be unrest in the capital city at this time. This is the second car bomb in the last week. Once again the responsibility has been attributed to the terrorist group known as the “The Hand of Re”. This group first came to prominence about six months ago and are violently opposed to Egypt being a member of the World Government. There is intense nervousness in the Egyptian government and many people in the country are asking why the World Government is not getting involved and putting a stop to these terrorists. So far the World Government and Spectrum are keeping a low profile as to if and when they will take action. The Egyptian authorities are adamant that this can be controlled within the country.”
The picture cut to recorded footage. The new speaker was Sulemain Ben Mansour the First Minister of Egypt. He spoke in a deep resonant voice that contained barely controlled anger.
“We plan to bring these people to justice. We have had decades of peace in our beloved country and we do not intend to let these actions continue. These fanatics will not get away with this.”
A journalist jabbed a microphone in his face. “Sir! Do you think these actions are in some way related to the fact that there are some factions within the country that opposed Egypt joining the World Government?”
“It is possible, though I cannot believe people would have an objection to the most sane structure of government our planet has ever seen, however, we are a democratic country, I suppose dissention is the price we have to pay for our freedoms.”
”What about Spectrum, shouldn’t you call them in to sort this out?”
“I have no comment to make on that at this time, please now, no more questions.” He turned away from the reporters and was hustled off by some of his entourage. The picture changed again back to the reporter at the scene of the explosion.
“Well,” said Magenta, “looks like we flew straight into trouble.”
“Colonel White did say that we could act as eyes and ears on the ground and give our interpretation of the situation,” said Rhapsody, making sure she said it quietly and out of earshot from Hashim. They didn’t want anyone to know they were Spectrum agents.
“Typical, I bet the old man let us all come here just so he could save the air fares,” Ochre grumbled.
They emerged from the pleasantly air-conditioned buildings into the heat of Cairo. It was a short walk to the heli-jet area. Hashim finally stopped when he reached a small but sleek silver and black twin-engine jet.
Ochre and Symphony were impressed with the state of the art personal jet. This Al-Rashid guy must have a fair bit of money to afford something like this. Magenta was less impressed. In his previous life he had enough money to buy planes several times over and more besides. However, he preferred someone else to do the flying while he sat back and relaxed.
Hashim lifted the small craft with ease and it almost glided up and over the airport. The others looked out the windows, eagerly looking for a glimpse of the famed pyramids of Giza and the legendary Sphinx.
Ochre pointed out the window. “Look there they are! Wow, they are unbelievable!”
“Gosh,” Magenta remarked, “I always imagined they were in the middle of the desert, they’re practically a suburb of the city.”
“Yes,” said Hashim. “In the early twenty-first century they had almost been swallowed up by the city until the authorities put a ban on building any closer and the suburbs now circle around them to the south.”
“It’s still hard to believe how these were built with the technology they had available to them then, and yet they’re still standing,” Ochre remarked. The look on his face suggested he couldn’t quite believe he was here.
Rhapsody couldn’t help smiling. She had never seen Ochre so fascinated about anything other than his beloved models. “It’s a shame we didn’t think of stopping here first, but since we didn’t have that much time I thought we would need to make our way straight to the south.”
“That’s no problem, Dianne,” he replied, “I’m sure we’ll have fun at Luxor as well. Isn’t there a pretty big temple complex there too?”
“Yes, several of them. I was hoping we could spend a day of sightseeing there and go to Luxor town as well.”
“Well, it sounds like you have it all planned, so we’ll just follow your lead. It’ll be nice to relax and just take it easy.” And he sat back to enjoy the ride.
Hashim expertly piloted the jet, following the course of the Nile. The river looked like a blue ribbon snaking into the distant haze. Far below and in all directions the endless desert stretched out before them. A swath of green either side of the river showed the extent of the cultivated areas. Feluccas, used since time immemorial were made visible by the foaming wakes they left in the turquoise waters of the mighty river. The jet landed at the small airport at Luxor and Hashim taxied to a private berth to bring the plane to a standstill. Waiting beside the berth was a land rover.
“We drive from here,” Hashim said, and insisted on helping the two Angels down from the jet onto the tarmac.
“Ah, chivalry is not dead here at least,” Rhapsody winked at Ochre as she passed him to go to the land rover.
Ochre shrugged. “Any time LADY Dianne, I’ll hold all the doors open for you that you want.”
Hashim drove out of the airport and onto the main road out of the airport. They crossed the new bridge, a delicate concrete arch across the river Nile. A timeless panorama unfolded before their eyes. Fields of sugar cane, grown since ancient times, covered the land from the moment they left the Nile dock on the left bank. Up ahead in the distance the austere red outlines of the Theban cliffs shimmered in the heat haze like a mirage. Up close it struck them how sharply the demarcation line between cultivated land and the desert really was in this land. Even in this day Egypt rode the tightrope of famine and plenty.
The camp was situated near the cliffs on the flat desert plain. It consisted of a cluster of tents and a large water tank. Another set of tents housed the local labour force working on the excavation.
Hashim turned the land rover around to a central space between the tents. They saw a tall man in dusty khakis talking to another dark man.
The young Egyptian pilot called out and waved. “Lord Simms! Your visitors have arrived.”
The Englishman turned round to see the party and he waved back briskly striding forward to meet them. The darker skinned man followed behind him at a more sedate pace.
Lord Simms embraced Rhapsody warmly and planted a kiss on both her cheeks.
“Sweetheart, it’s wonderful to see you again.”
Lord Robert Simms was tall and broad-shouldered with had a thick mane of dark hair shot through with silver streaks. A Hermes scarf was tied rakishly around his neck and a wide brimmed hat shaded his tanned features from the harsh noonday sun. He had the same startling blue eyes as his daughter.
“Father!” said Rhapsody who hugged him back. She then turned to the others. “These are my colleagues. This is Karen Wainwright.” He took Symphony’s outstretched hand and kissed it gallantly.
“I’m charmed, dear lady!” and Symphony beamed in delight at his gesture.
“And this is Patrick Donaghue and Richard Fraser,” Rhapsody finished.
“Delighted to meet you gentlemen.” He shook their hands briskly. “And please call me Robert. I know you American chaps prefer first names and I like to drop informality when I’m away from England.”
Ochre and Magenta smiled to each other. Robert Simms didn’t fit the image of a stuffy English lord, but then again, Rhapsody hardly fitted the usual image of an aristocrat either. However on occasion, when she wanted to give any of the guys a piece of her mind she could adopt a pretty imperious manner.
The Egyptian man had slowly walked up to join them. He was dressed impeccably in a white linen suit with a black silk shirt.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Amir Al-Rashid,” Simms introduced him. “He’s responsible for me being here in Egypt at the moment.”
Magenta immediately recognised the type. Al-Rashid was someone who was used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly. There was a particular aura about the man, as if he emanated a hidden but tangible magnetism. He was very tall with a handsome chiselled face and a hawk nose. His eyes were extraordinary in that they were dark brown almost to the point of being black, and his gaze was piercing, almost mesmerising, and with a hint of menace in their depths. He was somehow incongruously dressed in the western clothing. He looked more like one of the Ancient Pharaohs come to life.
Ochre’s sharp eyes noticed that Al-Rashid, apart from a cursory glance at himself, Magenta and Symphony, had never taken those mesmerising eyes off Rhapsody. The Egyptian now took the Angel’s hand and looked into her eyes.
“Lady Dianne, your father told me you were a charming woman, but he failed to disclose the fact that are so beautiful. The radiance of Amun pales into insignificance beside your countenance.”
Rhapsody was caught unawares at this rather flowery greeting and blushed, unusually for her.
“Goodness, what can I say…” she said, trying to avoid Al-Rashid’s intense gaze.
Those black eyes seemed to be trying to stare into her very soul. She found this very disconcerting, especially since he also had her hand in a tight grip and she had difficulty disengaging it. Ochre noticed her discomfort and immediately thrust out his hand to Al-Rashid, which had the effect of breaking his stare.
“Hi, I’m Richard Fraser and I don’t think old Amun has much to worry about with my countenance.”
The Egyptian glared at him with those black eyes but recovered his composure almost immediately. He replied suavely, “Indeed, and what brings you to Egypt, Mr Fraser? You do not seem like the type of man who would enjoy dusty hieroglyphics.”
“Oh,” he said breezily I’m here making sure Dianne, em, Lady Dianne doesn’t get bothered by any of the local boys.”
“Indeed.” Al-Rashid looked at Ochre as if he had discovered a particularly bad smell.
This curious interchange wasn’t lost on Lord Simms although he couldn’t quite fathom what was going on. He swiftly cooled the rapidly heated situation by putting a fatherly arm around Rhapsody’s shoulders and waving the others towards a large table next to one of the tents
“You must all be thirsty after the drive through the desert. We can have lunch and afterwards we’ll look at the tombs.”
Ochre and Magenta followed on behind Simms, Rhapsody and Al-Rashid.
“Whew Rick, what was that all about?”
Ochre frowned. “I didn’t like the way he was staring at Dianne and I could see she wasn’t too happy about it either. My sixth sense tells me I don’t trust that guy.”
“Well don’t go too crazy, remember what Symphony said about causing trouble. After all we ARE here on sufferance!”
As they passed some of the workers Rhapsody could see they were trying to look at her, but somehow trying to avoid looking like they were staring. She got the distinct impression that she was a subject of great curiosity to them and wondered if it was because of her red hair. But then that seemed incongruous. These are grown men, she thought. Then she suddenly caught a snatch of their whispered conversation.
“-Prophecy true…. the one who was foretold-”
As she turned to look at them they lowered their heads as if ashamed that she had heard them. Rhapsody had no idea why, but she suddenly felt herself shiver unaccountably, as if someone had walked over her grave.
Over a cold buffet lunch under a shady canopy, Lord Simms told them how the tomb was discovered.
“Al-Rashid had inherited a papyrus scroll when a cousin died. Apparently it had been in the family for generations but had been hidden away because it bore a curse.”
“A curse! How dramatic!” exclaimed Symphony.
Al-Rashid smiled. “Of course in this day and age one does not take these things seriously. What was so fascinating is that the hieroglyphics were actually written in code so that not only did one have to translate the symbols but then unlock the code beneath.”
“And you managed to do that?” said Ochre, impressed in spite of himself. He had also unlocked a few ciphers in his time.
“Yes, it took me nearly a year but I finally succeeded. And I knew where to find the tomb of Netephere-Mery-Amun. If you know where to look it takes much less time to find a tomb. I asked Lord Simms to join me in the excavation, as I was well aware of his reputation as an authority on Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” He bent his head in a slight bow in Lord Simms direction, as if to acknowledge him.
“What was this curse?” asked Magenta.
Al-Rashid looked solemn. “A very powerful one. I believe it was invoked in order to keep the tomb unknown and intact all these years.”
Simms said, “Al-Rashid and I spent a lot of time deciphering the hieroglyphics on the tomb walls and the papyrus and it resulted in a tale worthy of the Arabian nights.”
Rhapsody smiled. “And are you going to tell us about it?” It was hard to keep the excitement out of her voice.
Simms chuckled in reply to his daughter. “I’ll let Al-Rashid do the honours.”
The Egyptian bowed his head faintly.
“As you wish. I am fairly certain of the tale as described by the papyrus and the tomb writings. The account is by the vizier and brother of Pharaoh, who was known by the name of Khaemhet. He was also the lover of Netephere who was Pharaoh’s great royal wife. Khaemhet was the elder brother and should have been Pharaoh by the rights of hereditary ascension. So together Khaemhet and Netephere planned his rightful ascension to the throne of Egypt but before they could succeed Pharaoh discovered the plot and ordered them both put to death. However, Khaemhet escaped with his followers but was unable to rescue Netephere. Pharaoh then had her executed and when Khaemhet heard the news he returned with an army and seized control of the throne. Heartbroken and frenzied with grief, he buried his love in the tomb that we have just visited and placed a powerful curse in order that it would not be disturbed. He swore that Netephere would be returned to life by the power of Re, the sun god, and she would then join him once again to rule side by side.”
“And did she?” asked Symphony and Rhapsody in unison, they were quite enraptured with this tale of romance and danger in the distant past.
“Ah, who knows? Both Khaemhet and Netephere were adept in the black arts. Many of the tools of the trade were buried with her here. Who knows what is possible.”
“She was a sorceress?” Rhapsody said with surprise.
“Yes, and a powerful one, some of the inscriptions describe her as the Lady of Flame, that she could smite down her enemies with only a glance from her eyes.”
“Well, I can’t wait to see the tomb after hearing this tale,” said Rhapsody. “It’s really quite something.”
Simms smiled at her. “I think you will find it quite a surprise.”
She looked at him curiously. “What do you mean, Daddy?”
“Oh you’ll just have to wait till you get there,” he winked at her
Rhapsody was even more excited now and couldn’t wait till they had all finished their lunch so they could set off.
Simms drove them up to the tomb excavations in the Valley of the Kings.
“The breaking and entering is completed as it were,” he said as they were driving along the dusty road towards the cliffs. “So, most of the local workers will be on leaving pretty soon. The authorities forbade any actual camping out near the Valley of the Kings so we had to haul all the digging gear up by land rover. Seems crazy, it probably caused more damage doing that than by setting up the camp closer to the tomb.”
He pointed to a road that ran off to the right, “That’s the way to the parking lot for the main tourist section of the Valley of the Kings. However, we’re taking this dirt track to the left here, Netephere’s tomb is a bit off the beaten track.” And he proceeded to drive the land rover up onto and along it.
They were jostled about in the truck as it jolted on the uneven surface. The vehicle followed the serpentine road for about two kilometres until they came to the entrance to a tiny valley.
“I’m afraid it’s on foot from here,” said Simms. “I hope you ladies and gentlemen are fit!”
“Oh we’re not in too bad shape,” Magenta assured him. “It’ll be a stroll in the park.”
The massive cliffs hemmed in the valley. Sheer rock faces of reddish brown limestone dropped almost vertically to the small path that snaked upwards. Small boulders and myriad little stones bore evidence of sudden rock falls. The heat in the small valley was intense and there was no breeze to relieve the feeling of oppression. . When they arrived at a yawning shaft cut into the bedrock of the cliff, Simms called a halt.
“This is it, the entrance to the tomb,” he said and handed round flasks of iced water. They all drank gratefully. Magenta wiped some of it on his face to clear the sweat and grinned. “Well, maybe it wasn’t all that much of a stroll!”
After slaking their thirst Simms pointed to a tunnel slanting downwards into the mountainside.
“We go down here. Watch your step,” he warned, “the going is a bit uneven.”
At the bottom of the tunnel they met a flight of steps, which took them into a small chamber
There were painted murals on the walls depicting the Gods of Egypt. They began to descend another long flight of steps and finally reached a doorway.
Al-Rashid murmured with reverence. “The entrance to the burial chamber.”
Hieroglyphic inscriptions were carved into the lintel above the doorway. Rhapsody and Ochre looked at them with interest trying to decipher them.
“Beware-all-those-who-enter-here-“ Rhapsody translated. “Death-and-misery-will-follow those-who-dare-to-disturb-the-peace-of-the-Gods.”
“Wow, that’s strong stuff,” said Magenta.
They stepped into the chamber. Temporary lighting had been placed around the tomb, and it unveiled a marvellous sight. They gasped. For Magenta and Symphony, it was the first time they had seen anything like this. Ochre had seen copies in museums and books but he was still astonished to see the real thing.
Al-Rashid said, “This is an ante-chamber to the main tomb, it was filled with devotional objects to the Gods and celebrated the life and beauty of the Queen.”
The tomb was rectangular in shape. Twenty-six massive round columns in the shape of lotus blossoms supported the chamber ceiling. Their stonework was decorated with vibrant primary colours, blues, reds and gold. Behind these columns they could see beautiful paintings on each of the four walls of the chamber. They looked like they had been painted only yesterday.
There were three statues in the centre of the room. The central statue was that of a woman and two similar statues of the gods Isis and Osiris stood on either side of it. The statue was about five feet six inches tall, in painted limestone, and was the most truly lifelike rendition of a woman. In one of her hands she held a royal sceptre and her other arm lay poised elegantly at her side. Her finely sculpted body was swathed in a perfectly painted facsimile of white linen. . Around her waist was a magnificent finely wrought gold and lapis lazuli girdle. Upon her head she wore a circlet of gold embellished with the sacred ureaus serpent. The queen’s long hair was fringed and fell in straight waterfalls of burnished copper either side of her head. Most unusually for an Egyptian, she had red hair and blue eyes!
But the most truly astonishing thing about this statue was that the face of the dead queen bore the exact likeness of Rhapsody Angel!
Lord Simms said, “This is Queen Netephere herself. Now you know why I wanted you to come out here and see this for yourself, Dianne.”
Rhapsody stepped up to the figure and touched it gently in wonder. She marvelled at the precision at which the face of the statue had been rendered. It was even more impressive than the bust of Queen Nefertiti that she had seen. She always thought that portrait had given the real impression of a living breathing woman, rather than someone long dead for millennia. This statue was even more magnificent. Whoever had created it had rendered every line with something akin to passion.
Ochre had come across to stand beside her and he was as amazed as she was. “My God Dianne,” he said in a hushed tone. “You could be looking in a mirror. The likeness is uncanny.”
“And you are as Netephere come to life once again,” said Al-Rashid in an almost reverential manner, and Ochre briefly wondered if her resemblance to the statue was the source of his evident fascination with Rhapsody.
Magenta had noticed there were other chambers radiating off from this one. “Is there more to the complex?” he asked
“Yes.” replied Al-Rashid. He pointed at a gateway. “The burial chamber itself.”
They followed him through the entrance. In the centre of the chamber stood the royal sarcophagus. It was hewn from a single piece of finest quartzite, chest height and measuring nine feet in length and five feet in diameter. The protective goddesses Nephtys, Isis, Neith and Sekhet were carved into the four corners, their outstretched wings spanning the whole surface of the coffin. The lid had been taken off already and lay on the floor of the chamber. They peered into the huge casket. Inside was a magnificent golden cask that contained the mummy of Queen Netephere. The mummy was still wrapped in the embalming linens.
Simms said, “We haven’t opened the mummy wrappings yet. However there was a necklace hung around the neck of the mummy.”
At his words Al-Rashid put his hand in his jacket and pulled out a magnificent amulet. It was made of pure gold in the shape of the Ankh. The space at the top of the symbol was filled with a magnificent emerald.
He gave a slight bow and handed Rhapsody the amulet. She looked at the back. There was a tiny cartouche inlaid in the gold. She studied it for several seconds.
“The cartouche spells the queen’s name.” She turned it over in her hands. “It’s beautiful.”
She handed the amulet back to Al-Rashid. He shook his head. “Dear Lady Dianne, it is only right and proper that the living personification of Queen Netephere should wear the amulet.”
Rhapsody looked embarrassed. She threw a glance at her father as if to say Help what should I do. He gave an imperceptible shrug as if to say: Up to you
Rhapsody still felt uncertain. “I couldn’t possibly wear it, it’s far too valuable.”
Al-Rashid insisted, “Its final resting place will be in the museum, but for now its proper place is with the woman who is the very image of Netephere.”
And without another word he almost reverently placed the amulet around her neck and looked into her eyes. She swallowed, captured once again by his handsome penetrating gaze. She found he fascinated and repelled her simultaneously. She struggled quickly to recover her composure when she heard Ochre’s voice beside her.
“Well it certainly looks great on you, but I think you’re right, it’s much too valuable to walk about with, you might be a target for a thief.”
Al-Rashid looked at Ochre as if he wanted to punch him straight between the eyes. The American insisted on taunting him. However he would not give him the satisfaction of being goaded. Instead he answered calmly.
“Lady Dianne is under my protection, there is not one person on this site who would dare lay a finger on her.”
Rhapsody was grateful for Ochre’s intervention once again, but felt uneasy at the interplay between the two men. Typical males she thought, just love to get in a fight for any reason.
She tried to change the subject and mentioned the fact there were hardly any funerary objects.
Al-Rashid replied, “You are most observant Lady Dianne. But most of the items have been catalogued and they have been crated and sent to the museum in Cairo.”
“You must have been disappointed to miss out on that, Daddy,” she said to her father
“Well, the important thing is that they have been found for the world to see. Al-Rashid asked me to help with the hieroglyphics and these have been incredibly interesting, as of course you would expect after just hearing the story that we pieced together. There are still quite a few inscriptions that we haven’t deciphered and catalogued yet. Dianne, how would you like to take a stab at interpreting them, you may as well work for your supper!”
“I’d love to,” replied Rhapsody. She turned to Ochre. “Rick, you said you wanted to practise your hieroglyphics. Maybe you and I could work together on it.”
“I’m glad you asked,” he grinned at her.
Simms gave her instructions where to find the inscriptions that required decoding.
“Al-Rashid and I will be finishing off some work in the burial chamber.”
Magenta smiled. “Well perhaps Karen and I will stick with Robert and Al-Rashid and we’ll look on. We won’t be much help but I’m sure we’ll find it fascinating.”
Ochre flashed him a quick look as if to say. Thanks buddy. Most of the time Magenta could read Ochre like a book. And what he was reading was that his friend wanted to be alone with Rhapsody Angel.
Ochre and Rhapsody went back into the chamber with the statue. She tried to avoid looking at it for now as it made her feel quite unsettled.
As they walked across the chamber Rhapsody said, “I’m still intrigued Rick, you’ve never ever mentioned that you like ancient cultures. You’ve managed to keep that particular interest well hidden.”
“Well, my first love is model construction, as you know.” Rhapsody rolled her eyes. Not everyone was so enamoured of Ochre’s favourite pastime.
He continued, choosing to ignore her look. “But when I was about twelve I used to visit an aunt who lived in Toronto and she used to take me to the Royal Ontario Museum. They had the most amazing collection of Egyptian art and there was something about it that fascinated me, especially the hieroglyphics, I guess to me it was like a sort of code, so I got interested in the alphabet and tried to decipher any writings I could find on statues or tablets.”
“Well, that hobby would probably go down a whole lot better in Cloudbase,” she smirked, referring to the awful stink of glue that usually meant Ochre was somewhere in the vicinity.
They had reached the wall. They stood admiring the stunning painting for a few minutes. It was a picture of the Queen with a male, most probably her lover Khaemhet, as he was looking at her with adoring eyes and offering her a beautiful necklace. They sat in a boat on the river and were surrounded by smaller figures of their courtiers. Netephere was dressed in a rather diaphanous gown leaving little to guess about her bodily charms.
Ochre admired the work then slyly turned around to Rhapsody and grinned at her.
“Hmm, wouldn’t mind seeing you in a dress like that.”
Rhapsody gave him a stare. “Cheeky, I’ll get you back for that.”
She looked towards the bottom of the wall and pointed at a group of symbols cut into the stone.
“Okay then, Mister Fraser, show me your stuff and see if your so called code breaking skills are any use.”
“OK,” he said, “but promise you won’t laugh,” and he fished out a small well-thumbed notepad from inside his shirt. Rhapsody eyed it curiously.
“This is where I put all the alphabet and hieroglyph symbols,” he said in response to her look. “I guess I never thought I’d get the chance to actually use it again. I had to do a fair bit of searching to find it in my quarters. And I NEVER guessed I would actually be standing in a real tomb trying to interpret hieroglyphics for the first time ever. Actually I feel rather nervous,” he admitted
“You? Richard Fraser, nervous?” Rhapsody smiled wickedly. “Now there’s something I can spread around upstairs.”
“Don’t even think about it, LADY Dianne, or I might be tempted to throw you into the Nile!”
She stuck her tongue out at him, at the same time wondering how Ochre always seemed to bring out the juvenile in her.
“Anyhow,” he said, “let’s have a go at this,” and he crouched down to study the symbols. He was so intent while he referred to his dog-eared notebook that Rhapsody couldn’t help smiling while she watched him. It did take him a while but she amused herself by studying a muscle working slightly in his jaw as he concentrated on the writings. He really is quite handsome, she thought absently. Then she blinked, what brought that on, she wondered?
He sensed her staring at him and he turned round with a slow smile.
“I think it says….” And he rattled off something absurd.
She gave him one of her looks. “It does nothing of the sort!” she retorted. “Here let me see…” She tried to push him away from the wall so she could check for herself.
“No, no, no!” He waved her off laughing. “I just love yanking your chain Dianne, it really says… “I, Khaemhet, give this necklace to you as a token of my love.”
Rhapsody scanned the inscription and was amazed to find out that he was correct. She looked at him with a new respect. “You know Rick, I’m really impressed. I had no idea you were interested in this stuff like I am, and you’ re really quite good at it.”
He laughed, “Heck, I had no idea you were interested in it either. Just think what I’ve been missing. Instead of being shut up in my quarters painting model aircraft when I was off duty I could have been discussing old writings with the divinely lovely Rhapsody Angel!”
She gave him a pointed look. “Now you are REALLY winding me up,” she said archly.
“Oh, you know I only do it because I like you,” and he locked onto her blue eyes.
They held each other’s gaze just a fraction of a second too long. The world seemed to suddenly stop for a moment and it was so quiet in the chamber they could almost hear each other’s heartbeat. Rhapsody had difficulty swallowing, her throat seemed to have become constricted. She blinked and it broke the spell. She looked away, completely sure that she was blushing furiously. Ochre for his part, most unlike him, didn’t have a ready remark as usual. He coughed as if embarrassed and muttered something about looking at the other wall.
Rhapsody watched him walk across the room and sighed heavily. She didn’t know what had gotten into her, but when they had looked into each other’s eyes she was sure something had sparked between them. Or was she imagining it? She shook her head, annoyed with herself at even having these thoughts. Flirting was fine but anything else was downright dangerous.
Good God, she thought, what’s going on? She seemed to be experiencing an overload of sensual emotions the like of which she hadn’t felt in many years. First it was Al-Rashid, and now Ochre. This place was having a weird effect on her.
She tried to clear those thoughts from her head and in doing so she glanced at the statue. She crossed over to it and stared. It was said everyone had a double somewhere. Strange that hers should turn out to be a five thousand year old dead Egyptian Queen. She shivered involuntarily and absently touched the amulet at her neck. She thought she felt a slight tingle through her fingers and all of a sudden she felt light-headed. She swayed slightly losing her balance and put out an arm to steady herself against the statue and found Ochre holding her instead. He had turned round to see her swaying and had crossed the couple of metres separating them to catch her.
He looked at her with concern. “Are you all right?”
She nodded. “I don’t know what came over me. I’ve never fainted in my life.” She looked upset at her moment of weakness.
“Well there’s a first time for everything. Here, have some water.” He handed her a one of the flasks and she sipped gratefully. “The air is a little stale in here, maybe we should give up and go topside.”
“No!” Rhapsody answered quickly. “I’m fine Rick, Daddy’s still working here, I don’t want to leave before he’s finished. And I did promise him I would take care of these.”
“Okay,” he shrugged. But he kept a close eye on her as she continued to decipher the inscriptions. There were no more fainting episodes and several hours passed before the others joined them again to make their way back to the encampment.
They returned to the camp before sunset and Lord Simms announced dinner would be at seven-thirty, and he had planned a special menu in honour of their visit.
“I hope you can all join me but I’m sure you want to change and freshen up first though.”
They nodded in agreement. The hot weather and the walking had made them dusty and sweaty. They all looked forward to a hot shower before dinner.
“Karen just come and look at this sunset!”
Symphony paused from brushing her hair and went to the flap of the tent. The sky was turning lavender and pink and the sun was a gigantic red ball sinking slowly behind the Theban cliffs.
“Oh it’s beautiful, and how romantic.” She paused and looked a little forlorn. Rhapsody saw her friend’s look.
“I suppose you feel you’d prefer to be standing here looking at this with Adam.”
“You are such a mind reader.” Then Symphony looked slightly embarrassed. “Isn’t that awful, you must think I’m so ungrateful after your kind invitation.”
“Not in the least. I’m really glad to have you here.”
They came back into the tent and continued getting dressed for dinner.
Symphony said, “I really am enjoying this trip you know. Up to now I haven’t given Mr Svenson a thought.”
“Oh all right, I admit it I have. But there’s precious little I can do about it if he wants to play hard to get, is there?”
Rhapsody mused while brushing her long hair. She said deviously, “You know, you could start making him jealous. If I’m not mistaken I think Pat rather likes you.”
“Magenta?” Symphony looked up from putting mascara on her eyes. “I don’t believe it.”
“Well, I’ve caught him looking at you when he’s not aware of being watched. I think he’s knows that you have the ‘hots’ for Adam,” she chuckled mischievously. “But I don’t think he knows how far the pair of you are involved with each other.”
Symphony chucked a pillow at her. “Dianne Simms, is that how you spend your leisure time? Spying on us all? Shame on you,” she said with pretend severity.
“Sorry luv, ‘fraid old habits die-hard!” Rhapsody answered in a mock Cockney accent.
Symphony sighed gently. “Anyway I couldn’t do that, even if Adam sometimes can’t decide what he wants. Anyway, Miss Keeping an Eye on Everyone, you’re not the only one who is people watching.”
“What DO you mean Karen?”
Symphony grinned impishly. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed Ochre trying to get you all alone on this trip! I think he’s decided to stop pretend flirting and do it for real.”
Rhapsody felt guilty. She suddenly recalled the look the two of them had shared in the statue room. She had thought perhaps she had been mistaken and her mind was playing tricks on her. But now Symphony was noticing a difference in how he was behaving towards her. Maybe there was something in it after all. Maybe Ochre was making a play for her.
Symphony noticed Rhapsody’s embarrassed expression and although she had been kidding with her friend she began to wonder if Rhapsody knew more than she let on.
Rhapsody tried to feign nonchalance. “Based on your experience with one of Spectrum’s finest I think that getting heavily involved with anyone ‘up there’ is a very bad idea.”
“Oh it’s not so bad, sometimes, the kissing’s fun.” Symphony grinned again. She rather enjoyed seeing Rhapsody a little self-conscious.
Rhapsody was rummaging in the folding closet for the dress she had hung up when they arrived. She pulled out an ankle length emerald green silk dress and posed with it in front of her. “I was going to wear this, but after talking with you I’m not sure I should. What do you think?”
“Wow! That should certainly start something!”
“Maybe starting something isn’t a very good idea.”
Symphony finished with her hair and went over to get her dress out of the closet.
“Well, it’s not like you to be so unsure of yourself. Anyhow, you and Ochre are always kidding around, who’s going to notice? And, what the heck, you’re on vacation, and if you and Ochre want to have a little dalliance behind the pyramids, I for one will keep it quiet. Anyway, Rick’s not so bad. And look at you both interested in archaeology. Who would have thought it! You never know what else you might have in common,” she laughed wickedly.”
“You’ve got a dirty mind, Karen Wainwright, and anyway we’re miles away from the pyramids.”
Rhapsody put the dress on and adjusted the amulet around her neck. She vaguely realised that she had showered with it on and wondered why she’d forgotten to take it off.
Symphony gave her an admiring glance. “You look lovely. And your dress matches that emerald you’re wearing round your neck, isn’t that a coincidence?”
“Yes, like the strange coincidence of finding my exact double today.”
“You must have felt weird, seeing a statue five thousand years old that looked just like you.”
“You can say that again. Daddy said it would be a surprise, he wasn’t kidding.”
Deep within the gloom of a chamber deep in the rocks of the Theban Cliffs a hundred shadowy figures waited quietly for their leader to speak. They were dressed identically in black loose fitting pants and shirts. The black cowl, which covered their heads, could be pulled over the mouth and draped over the shoulders like a cape. But for now, their faces were uncovered. Their eyes glowed with the uncompromising gaze of the fanatic as they stared at the man who commanded their loyalty. He, for his part, searched the faces of each and every one of them before he delivered his speech. These were his warriors, the elite guard, trained by him in all the fighting arts. He had cultivated their fervour with the prophecy and he knew that he was close to achieving his ambition.
When he felt he had allowed a sufficient time for the silence to raise their expectations he spoke in a voice that instantly commanded their attention and held them riveted.
“My warriors! We have walked in the darkness for too long, the weakness that stalks the land is a blasphemy to our creed. But the time is near when I shall take what is rightfully ours and you will walk in the shadow of Re. The time is at hand when the prophecy will be fulfilled and then we will strike!”
He paused for effect and his men swayed slightly and chanted a response.
He smiled to himself. Soon, he thought.
In the other visitors’ tent, Magenta was making a call to Cloudbase via his personal communicator, while Ochre took a shower. The beep at the other end changed into the voice of Lieutenant Green.
“Cloudbase, is that you Captain Magenta?
“Yep, it’s me. You not off duty yet?” he quipped.
“Five minutes, you’re just lucky to get me. How’s the vacation going so far?”
“Pretty nice. Weather is hot. We are about to get our party threads on and have a nice dinner and Rhapsody’s father promises some decent wine. I just wanted to report that we’ve seen some evidence of terrorist activity here only just today but I guess the news bulletins were broadcast to Cloudbase as well.”
“Yes, the Colonel was reviewing them. He has Lieutenant Gold looking into it. Don’t worry; I don’t think you’re going to be recalled just yet! Have you had any trouble where you are?”
“We’re quite far south, a few hundred miles or so, it’s as quiet as the grave here.”
“You lucky dogs. Well, have one for me and enjoy.”
“Okay, speak to you soon.”
Ochre was just coming out of the shower as Magenta snapped the communicator shut. “Everything all right up there?” he enquired rubbing his hair dry.
“Yep,” his partner answered. “Old Seymour sounds pretty green with envy that we’re down here enjoying ourselves.”
“Well,” said Ochre pulling on his clean shirt, “you can buy me a beer for having the brilliant idea of inviting ourselves along on this little trip.” He ran a comb quickly through his hair, and as an afterthought picked up the bottle of cologne on the side table next to Magenta’s travel cot.
“This looks like pretty expensive stuff,” he remarked. He glanced sideways at his partner. “Trying to impress someone?”
Magenta gave a slow smile, unfazed by Ochre’s suggestion. “I would have thought you might have needed it more than me tonight.”
Ochre laughed, “I’ll just settle for soap, hot water and my own natural charm. Anyway, shall we find the ladies and escort them to dinner?”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” answered the Irish Captain “I’m so hungry I could eat a camel.”
They walked over to the Angels’ tent and Magenta called through the flap. “Hello ladies, are you decent?”
“Sure,” called back Symphony, “We’ll be right out.”
A few seconds later the two Angels emerged from the tent wearing their finery. Rhapsody knew she was playing with fire and that she really shouldn’t do it, but she somehow just couldn’t resist a slow twirl in front of Ochre. “Well what do you think?” she asked innocently.
Ochre looked stunned. The emerald green dress showed Rhapsody’s shapely curves to the right effect and the colour was the perfect foil to her copper hair. It was unusually twisted up into a coil with a long braid hanging like a waterfall down her bare left shoulder. The gold and emerald amulet sparkled on her skin. Both sexes shared the pool at the Cloudbase gym and he had seen Rhapsody in swimwear plenty of times so he didn’t know why his pulse was now racing as if he was a teenager on a first date. Finally he found his tongue and said the first thing that came into his mind, “Wow! You look like a long green popsicle.”
“Well that’s an unusual compliment,” she said. “But I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised coming from you.”
However, she couldn’t help being quietly pleased at his reaction. She hadn’t gotten a look like that since she wore this very same dress at the charity ball she attended at her parents’ mansion a year ago.
Symphony realised that Magenta was staring at her and she felt just a bit embarrassed especially as she recalled Rhapsody’s comments about him being interested in her.
“You look lovely Karen,” he said simply.
She couldn’t help smiling at him in receipt of the compliment. She did know that she looked good in her sapphire blue cocktail dress and she was glad Rhapsody had persuaded her to take something nice along for the trip. She normally wasn’t one for dressing up but somehow, out here, on a beautiful night like this in the desert; it seemed to make perfect sense. She felt she shouldn’t be taking so much satisfaction in another guy’s compliments, but hey, she thought, Adam was playing it cool at the moment so why should she feel guilty? And she was enjoying herself on vacation, and lastly it was far too beautiful a night to waste worrying about it.
Ochre held out his arm to Rhapsody. “May I escort you to your table, Lady Dianne?”
“My, we ARE being formal,” laughed Rhapsody, “I’m not sure it really suits you!”
“It must be that dress, you look extremely aristocratic, well at least my idea of what aristocratic might be. Could a mere mortal have a chance with such loveliness?”
“Not a chance Fraser, you’re a colonist after all, Daddy would never allow it.”
“Heck honey, haven’t you limeys had time to get over that yet?”
They both laughed as they walked across to the dining table which had been set up outside, in front of the tents. The evening was pleasantly balmy after the burning heat of the desert day.
A young Egyptian came out of the kitchen tent bearing a tray of aperitifs. They all helped themselves to a glass. Al-Rashid arrived and apologised for being a little late due to an unavoidable telephone call. He took a glass from the proffered tray and then saw Rhapsody standing beside Ochre. There was unmistakable admiration in his black eyes, and if Ochre wasn’t mistaken, something else as well. Al-Rashid turned the full force of his smile on Rhapsody and she couldn’t help being flattered. My, she was getting a lot of attention on this trip. This could go to a girl’s head she thought.
“Please Al-Rashid,” said Rhapsody feeling unnerved again. He did seem to elicit that response from her. “You’re embarrassing me, and you’re forgetting another lovely lady over there,” she said lamely, indicating Karen who was talking with Lord Simms.
“Ah, yes it seems we are indeed blessed with beauty on this delightful evening. I must offer my greetings to her also.”
Magenta chuckled in Ochre’s ear as he handed him a drink. “Looks like you’ve got competition buddy.”
“Ridiculous, he’s old enough to be her father,” retorted the American.
Dinner was served shortly after. They dined on charcoal grilled giant prawns from the Red Sea, wild partridge stew, and several Egyptian specialities, batatis mahshiya and mahshy; stuffed potatoes and eggplant. They drank chilled Krug with the prawns and a marvellously velvet Musigny with the partridge.
“Well whoever your chef is, give him or her, my compliments. This meal is fantastic,” said Magenta, enjoying every mouthful. It was one of the things he missed about his old life, the food at Cloudbase could be a little less than exciting and he had been used to eating out at some of New York’s finest tables.
“And the wine is… well I haven’t tasted a bottle like this since…” he paused and was suddenly aware that his three Spectrum colleagues were looking at him expectantly for what he was about to say next.. “..Well since a long time,” he finished with a slight smile. Alcohol was pretty much banned on Cloudbase so it was nice to indulge once in a while, and Lord Simms obviously didn’t stint when it came to enjoying food and drink. He raised his glass in a salute to Rhapsody’s father.
“To you sir. Thank you for allowing us to join you and to share in your excellent hospitality.”
The others raised their glasses in agreement. Simms smiled with satisfaction. “The pleasure is all mine. I’m delighted to see Dianne works with such a nice group of people.”
Rhapsody spoke to Al-Rashid who had been quite quiet throughout the meal. “Did you and my father know each other before you became involved in this excavation?”
“No, although I believe we attended the same school, Cambridge, in England. I was aware of Lord Simms’s involvement in the past with the government of my country relating to excavations and I felt I should call on his expertise to help out with this project.”
Her father replied, “Al-Rashid is from an old established family in the Luxor area and now works in the Egyptian government.”
The Egyptian smiled faintly. “Yes, I am the Director of the Department of Antiquities.”
Ochre said, “I guess being the head guy for Antiquities put you in a perfect position to put your project at the top of the list.”
There was a pregnant pause in the conversation. Ochre looked perfectly innocent, but Magenta wondered if he wasn’t deliberately trying to needle the Egyptian in some way. He just seemed to have taken a dislike to the guy. He hoped Ochre would shut up after that but his partner wasn’t exactly big on subtlety.
Al-Rashid’s face betrayed nothing of his thoughts as he answered the question at face value. “Many of the tombs of the Pharaohs have stayed undiscovered for millennia. Even in this day we have opened only a fraction of what we believe to be there. One could dig and move rock forever. It is not very often we obtain a map to locate such a treasure…so of course it was my duty to act upon this find.”
Rhapsody said, “It must have been a wonderful feeling to open a new tomb.”
Al-Rashid looked at her with a burning intensity in his black eyes. “You cannot imagine what it was like. To see the wonders of the past unfold in front of your eyes. My beloved Egypt, jewel of the ancient world, I have always felt closer to it than in this world, this time.”
Magenta said, “I know you’re never supposed to discuss politics at dinner, but you must be concerned at the instability of the country at the moment, with the increased terrorist activity.”
“Hmm, yes it is troubling. But we are in the south and most of the trouble is in the north, so I feel we are safe here.”
Rhapsody thought it might be an idea to change the subject and steer these guys away from hot topics. “I hope you don’t mind me asking you a personal question, but do you have any family, Al-Rashid?”
She saw his face darken as if a thundercloud passed over it. His eyes seemed to bulge and a look of intense grief suffused them. She was taken aback by this silent display of emotion and instantaneously regretted asking the question. Then he seemed to recover almost as rapidly and replied, “Alas yes, but my beloved wife passed away some years ago, I prefer not to discuss the matter.”
Rhapsody murmured, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise, please forgive me.”
He stood up and bowed to her. “How could you know? There is nothing to forgive.” He looked around the table. “And now, if you forgive me ladies and gentlemen, I shall now retire for the evening. I have to go Cairo tomorrow to attend several meetings.” He gave a slight bow to Rhapsody and Symphony and walked off serenely to his tent.
There was a lull in the conversation after he left, Rhapsody still looked crestfallen with her faux-pas as she saw it, so her father sought to lighten the mood again. “So people, do you have any plans for tomorrow?”
Rhapsody brightened. “Well, since this is everyone’s first trip to Egypt I thought we could go to Luxor to take a look at the temples and after that have lunch in the town followed by a trip to the souk.”
Symphony said, “I’d love to take back some souvenirs for my Mom and maybe I can get a nice piece of jewellery.”
Ochre groaned, “I hope you ladies aren’t going to spend all your time shopping.”
“Well Rick,” Rhapsody smiled sweetly. “We did warn you about this was going to be a girls’ trip, but you did insist on coming along so you’ll just have to suffer the consequences.”
Magenta laughed, “She’s got you there, Rick!”
Ochre’s eyes held a hint of mischief “Well I guess I’ll have to get my own back right now, I’m sure Dianne’s father must have a wealth of interesting stories he can tell us about your misspent youth.”
Rhapsody sent a warning look at her father. “Daddy, don’t you DARE!”
Simms couldn’t resist a tiny bit of teasing. “Oh I don’t know about her misspent youth, what about her misspent adulthood? I keep telling her if she doesn’t hurry up and get married I’ll be too old to bounce a grandson on my knee!”
Rhapsody went red to the roots of her hair. “Daddy, I think you’ve had quite enough wine, you can stop that right now.”
Symphony had to smile in her napkin. Ochre and Magenta grinned at each other. They hadn’t seen Rhapsody this embarrassed in a long time.
Simms laughed gently. “Oh sweetheart, you know I’m only teasing. I know you love your career too much to settle down.” He got up from the table. “Well, I’ll leave you young folks, this old man can’t stand the pace any more.”
Ochre and Magenta stood up to shake his hand goodnight. “I think, sir, that you might have the advantage there,” Ochre laughed.
A short while after that Symphony covered a yawn with her hand. “Well I’ve really about had it,” she said. “I need to get some shut-eye if we’re going sightseeing and shopping tomorrow.” She got up slightly unsteadily and Magenta caught her elbow. She smiled at him sweetly but ever so gently disengaged it.
“It’s okay Pat, I can manage.”
Magenta got the subtle message. “Well I think I’ll turn in too,” he said as if he hadn’t noticed the gesture.
“Now you guys don’t stay up too late,” said Symphony addressing Rhapsody and Ochre with a hint of mischief in her eye.
“Well, there’s just the two of us left here,” Ochre said to Rhapsody, stating the blatantly obvious. He eyed the ice bucket. There was a small amount of champagne left in the bottle. “Seems a shame to waste this.” He poured the wine into two of the champagne glasses
“Boy, honey, your father certainly knows how to throw a party, even in the middle of the desert. Now I know where you get your social skills from.”
He handed one of the glasses to Rhapsody and then looked into her blue eyes as he took a sip from his own glass. Once again, it was as if time seemed to stand still between them in the hushed desert night. Ochre suddenly felt light headed. The electricity between the two of them was palpable and he suddenly had the craziest notion to pull that clasp away from her hair so it could fall free and he could run his hands through it. He thought, she’s too lovely to resist, I’m just going to have to kiss those lips.
Rhapsody shivered inwardly with anticipation. She felt giddy and knew it was partly the champagne and partly the look that Ochre was sending her. She knew she shouldn’t be sitting here thinking the thoughts she was thinking. It was irrational; it was against the regulations and anyway, what happened to her holier than-thou stand on relationships with people on the base? But somehow she sat rooted to her chair and the thoughts seemed to drift away as insubstantially as smoke as she sat staring into those warm brown eyes of his. Damn! I shouldn’t have drunk all that wine! And then instead she suddenly found herself willing him to kiss her.
Almost as if he read her mind he moved closer to her, put his glass down on the table and still keeping his eyes locked on hers, took the glass out of her hand and put it down too.
She couldn’t utter a word; she knew exactly what was going to happen next, and she did absolutely nothing to stop it. Ochre bent his head and gently brushed her lips with his. Rhapsody’s stomach started fluttering. She closed her eyes and unconsciously moved against him. Ochre took this as a sign of her compliance and he kissed her harder. He pulled out the clasp and at last let his hand run through her hair as it fell, holding her tight against him with his other.
Rhapsody’s senses reeled. It had been quite a while since she had been kissed by a man, she’d forgotten how good it felt, and Ochre was a damn good kisser. In fact he was so good she lost track of how long they had clung to each other. After a while Rhapsody knew that if they continued on like this something might happen that she might be sorry for in the morning. Almost reluctantly she broke their kiss. She looked at Ochre slightly breathless and with shining eyes.
“Rick I think, maybe, we should go to bed.”
He grinned at her and pulled her close again. “I was just thinking the same thing,” he murmured against her neck.
She pulled away and looked flustered. “No I meant in our OWN beds. Things are getting a little hot, we might do something rash.”
“Oh I do hope so! Anyway we’re both gorgeous healthy consenting adults, who’s going to care?”
“Rick, you know regulations don’t allow personnel to get intimately involved with each other.”
“You shouldn’t be allowed to wear a dress like that. You are a tease, Ms Simms,” then he immediately regretted that he said it as she pulled out of his arms.
“Oh and you have the high moral ground here, Mr Fraser?” she retorted and bestowed him her best ‘haughty look’ as the officers amusingly called it.
He mentally kicked himself. Now why did I have to go and say a dumb thing like that? Ochre thought despondently. It was just like being back on Cloudbase. He had only been half joking when he said it but he didn’t expect such a downright refusal. I must be losing my touch.
He shrugged. “Well, normally I’d say stuff the regulations, but you are too beautiful to argue with so I guess I will have to make so with a last chaste kiss goodnight and make my lonely way to the tent and listen to Magenta’s snoring.”
He tried to look as if he was wounded. Rhapsody couldn’t help smiling at his dejected face and relented a little. Maybe she had been a bit harsh but she really thought that things might just get a bit out of control if she didn’t call a halt now. As it was she was still dizzy with the desire that he had triggered out of nowhere and she found it took all her self-determination to kiss him gently on the cheek and not wish for his lips on hers once again.
“Goodnight Rick, I really did enjoy myself this evening at dinner, you were the perfect companion. It was fun.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Yeah, it sure was, and I do still love that dress.”
They went their separate ways.
When Rhapsody returned to her tent, she found Symphony sprawled across her cot, fast asleep. She smiled. The American girl had polished off two glasses of champagne and nearly three quarters of a bottle of wine. She was definitely out for the count. Rhapsody undressed and put on her nightdress but when she lay down on her cot she found it difficult to find sleep. Her thoughts were full of the passionate embrace she had shared with the dark haired American. Mixed up feelings, both pleasurable and disconcerting flitted around her head. As she lay, tossing and turning she began to experience a new and curious sensation in her brain, almost like a whispering voice but with no meaning to the sound. Long minutes later she began to feel a little light-headed and a strange compulsion crept into her mind. She HAD to go to the tomb of Queen Netephere. One part of her conscious mind argued that this was a ridiculous notion; after all, it was the middle of the night. But as she lay desperately trying to find the sleep she craved the compulsion to do so only seemed to get stronger.
Rhapsody felt the light-headed feeling worsen and she shook her head trying to clear the fog that seemed to be descending upon her. She rose from the cot almost in a semi-dreaming state, left the tent and began to walk across the camp to where the land rovers were parked.
Ochre happened to be sitting outside his tent. He had also found sleeping difficult and thought a few more minutes in the night air might help. He was surprised at how much emotion and passion he had felt when he kissed the English Angel and it perturbed him. He hadn’t really meant for any of this to happen but somehow events had taken their own course ever since they locked eyes in the statue room. Rhapsody had looked so gorgeous tonight in that dress and both her laughter and the magic of the evening had cast a spell on him. He smiled ruefully to himself. If he hadn’t opened his big mouth and insisted on coming here, he would be tucked up in his bed in Cloudbase by now. Then a little voice at the back of his head told him he wouldn’t have had such pleasant dreams to look forward to.
Then a movement caught his peripheral vision and he looked up, surprised to see it was Rhapsody. He saw her white robe swirl, giving the impression of a wraith in the night, then she disappeared from view heading in the direction of the vehicles.
What on earth was she doing wandering about the camp in her nightwear? He got up immediately to follow her and he found her about to get into one of the land rovers. He went up to her and gently put his hand on her arm.
“Dianne, what are you doing?”
Rhapsody spun around to see Ochre looking at her with puzzlement. She felt confused, his presence and voice seemed to halt the whispering in her mind. But a moment later her impulse returned.
“I have to go somewhere,” and she tried again to get into the driver’s seat.
Ochre frowned. “Where could you possibly be going in the middle of the night in your nightwear?”
Rhapsody felt an unreasonable rush of anger. Who was HE telling HER what she should and shouldn’t be doing?
“I don’t think that’s any of your business!” she said in a haughty tone.
Ochre found himself getting angry in return, he couldn’t understand why Rhapsody was acting so weird. “Well, I’m making it my business, you are certainly in no fit state to drive anywhere after all you’ve drunk tonight!”
For Rhapsody the compulsion was stronger than ever, her head started to spin and she felt hot, as if with a fever. She clambered into the land-rover and swiped his hand away.
“Let me go!” she said in a voice that sounded slightly desperate.
Ochre was concerned. He didn’t want to use force but he saw Rhapsody was in no mood to come back with him of her own accord. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her out of the vehicle so that she was standing facing him. She glared at him for a few seconds. Then the angry look softened and a few seconds later was replaced by a look that was almost sultry. Then she smiled, a slow seductive smile that threw Ochre totally off balance.
She whispered, “I don’t know what came over me.”
Before he could say anything in reply Rhapsody slid her arms up around his neck and her mouth hungrily searched for his. Ochre’s pent up desire was still running close to the surface and he instinctively felt his body respond to Rhapsody’s caresses despite the fact his brain was wondering what the hell was going on and that somehow this was all wrong.
As his mind was trying to make sense of this turn of events, Rhapsody had entwined her fingers in his hair, and her lips sent trails of fire along the skin of his neck and his chest. When she ground her hips against his, he groaned and nearly lost his self-control. He was astonished at the flare of passion that seemed to ignite whenever they kissed one another. All he wanted to do at this moment was throw her down on the seat of the land rover and answer her fervour with his own. He gritted his teeth. Damn! He’d been fantasising about this all night but when it came to it. he just felt it wasn’t right. He sighed inwardly and with an effort pulled himself away from her, disengaging her hands and lips from their delightful work. Rhapsody looked at him. Her face was flushed and she was breathing heavily.
“What are you doing?” She asked him, a confused look in her eyes.
“Crazy as this seems, trying not to take advantage of you, honey.”
She looked almost dejected. “Don’t you want me?” she said in a subdued voice.
Ochre groaned again. “God, Dianne, do you have to ask? Look, you said yourself it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Maybe we are going a little too fast.” Then he frowned, Rhapsody was swaying slightly, “Hey, are you all right?”
She put her hand to her head, the ardour of the last few minutes completely gone. “Don’t know, head feels funny...” then to Ochre’s alarm her eyes suddenly slid shut and she fell against him in a faint.
Symphony was having a strange dream when she felt a hand gently shaking her shoulder. Her conscious mind dragged itself through the corridors of sleep to emerge looking at a perplexed Captain Ochre.
“Rick?” she asked in a mystified voice. “What are you doing in our tent?”
“Karen, I’m sorry, Dianne’s just fainted. She complained that her head hurt and next thing she passed out. You girls have got the med-kit, we need to check her out.”
He laid her on her own cot while Symphony got out of hers and went to fetch the standard issue Spectrum medical-kit. Symphony placed the digital thermo-strip on the English girl’s forehead and waited the requisite thirty seconds.
Symphony remarked, “It’s not like Rhapsody to faint.”
“I know, and this is the second time, yesterday in the statue room she almost passed out.”
“Well, her body temp’s slightly elevated but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about really. What happened?”
“She said her head felt funny just before she passed out. I wonder if she’s got some virus?”
“It’s possible, I guess this is a different climate from what we’re all used to, and she could even have picked it up in the flight across.”
Rhapsody’s breathing seemed to be even so Symphony suggested that they just let her rest for the night. Ochre was a little surprised but very grateful that Symphony didn’t ask any questions about why he happened to be with Rhapsody while she was wearing her nightdress, and not in her own tent. He somehow couldn’t have explained it all if he tried.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine Rick,” Symphony broke into his reverie.
“Oh, yes.” Ochre got up to go. “Thanks Karen, sorry I disturbed your sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, goodnight.”
He wandered back to his own tent for the second time that night, wondering if he would get any sleep for what was left of it. He let out a long breath. He was tensed up with emotion and dulled desire and a lot of confusion. The evening had taken some strange turns to say the least. Rhapsody’s behaviour bemused him but he tried to convince himself she had probably imbibed just a little too much of the bubbly stuff. He rubbed his hand through his hair as he flopped onto his cot. Maybe the morning would bring more sense.
Rhapsody’s eyes fluttered open. She felt muzzy and disoriented, and her mouth was dry. As she pulled herself into a waking state she suddenly recalled the passionate embrace she and Ochre had shared last night. She remembered coming back to the tent. But then she recollected further images, just thinking about them made her face warm. But they don’t seem real; it’s like I was reliving a dream. Dianne, what have you done? Bright hard daylight brought home the reality that with actions there are consequences. She knew she had crossed the line with Richard Fraser last night and somehow she would have to deal with it. Trouble was, she wasn’t sure how. She shook her head wearily and sat up on one elbow to peer at her watch. The dial displayed eight-thirty.
“Hi there, you’re awake at last,” Symphony said brightly, coming to sit at the side of the cot.
“How are you feeling? We sure were worried about you last night.”
“I feel terrible, my mouth is as dry as the desert out there.”
“Mmm. I had the same problem. Remind me not to drink any more alcohol today or for the next several weeks.” She handed Rhapsody a glass. “Here, have some freshly squeezed orange juice, that might help.”
She then whipped out a strip thermometer from the med-kit and placed it on Rhapsody’s head.
“What are you doing?” the red haired Angel said in surprise.
“Well, Rick brought you back into your tent unconscious.” Rhapsody reddened and looked taken aback simultaneously. “I checked your temperature last night and it was slightly elevated, just wanted to double check this morning.”
Rhapsody sipped the juice while Symphony waited a few seconds. She checked the reading and pulled it away from Rhapsody’s forehead, satisfied.
“Yep, temperature’s normal.” Symphony continued to look at her intently.
“What?” said Rhapsody, uncomfortable with her friend’s keen gaze.
“Anything you want to tell me about? I didn’t really want to ask Rick, he looked uncomfortable about it as it was, but he was pretty worried about you.”
Rhapsody went red again. How could she tell Symphony when she didn’t really understand herself what had happened to part of the night? She certainly didn’t know she had fainted. It was all turning out to be a little embarrassing to say the least.
“I’ll be honest Karen, I don’t really know, I think maybe I had too much to drink. After I left Rick, I must have got up again. I remember talking to him and then not much after that. Maybe that’s when I fainted.”
Rhapsody looked at Symphony, She could tell her friend was just dying to know if she and Ochre had got up to anything but just didn’t want to be seen to be prying. But somehow she felt she just couldn’t talk about it right now.
Instead she asked, “Where are the guys?”
“They’ve just gone out to have breakfast with your dad at the moment.”
Rhapsody swung her legs gingerly out of the cot and sat up. “Well, I think some food would do me good too. Give me five minutes to dress and I’ll join you all out there.”
After freshening up Rhapsody felt somewhat better. She noticed the amulet of Netephere was on the small side table. Symphony must have removed it from her neck last night. She hadn’t planned to put it on but she suddenly had an inexplicable impulse to do so. She felt that tingling around her fingers when she placed it around her neck. She also had that fleeting instant of light-headedness and the distinct impression of a faint ringing, almost like an attack of tinnitus. Then, after a minute or so it was gone.
Rhapsody tried not to look at Ochre as she joined the others at breakfast, but as the only free place was opposite him she had to sit down there. Once or twice she looked up to catch him looking at her with concern on his face and she began to feel even more awkward.
“Are you sure you feel up to going into Luxor today, Dianne?” Symphony asked her, also concerned that her friend looked a little pale and distracted which was totally unlike her. Rhapsody, like most of the Angels, was almost never sick.
“Off course, I’m sure it was just one of those twenty four hour viruses. I feel absolutely fine.”
She hated lying to her friends but she still felt somewhat shaky. However it was not in her nature to show weakness of that sort and she certainly wasn’t going to spoil everyone’s day.
They took one of the land rovers to go into Luxor Town. Rhapsody was about to get into the driver’s seat when Ochre stopped her and said, “Forget it Dianne, you were in bad shape last night, one of us will drive”.
Rhapsody experienced a sensation of déjà vu. “And since when did YOU start giving me orders, Fraser?” she snapped almost without thinking, disconcerted by the feeling
Symphony backed Ochre up. “Hey Dianne, Rick’s only concerned about you, if it makes you feel better, I’ll do the driving and you can navigate.”
Rhapsody was immediately contrite and stood back to let him in. “Sorry, Rick, I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
“That’s okay,” he said in a light tone, as he got into the vehicle.
Magenta was somewhat bemused by this interchange between the three of them. He felt as if he had missed something somewhere. But he decided that it might be better if he didn’t know.
Lord Simms had suggested they take one of the large tourist boats across the Nile rather than the faster but less romantic bridge. They were able to take the opportunity to get out of the vehicle and enjoy the view. Unfortunately the wonderful scenery held little interest for Rhapsody at the moment. She leaned on the rail of the boat and looked down at the green waters rushing past the vessel as if they might hold answers for the questions that flitted around her mind like large dragonflies. Her feelings were all over the place. She couldn’t deny she felt an almost thrilling physical attraction to the American, but was that enough to risk a relationship that might threaten both their careers? Did it really mean anything to Ochre anyway? Maybe she was just a passing fancy for him on vacation.
The second thing that bothered her was the way she felt physically. These fainting episodes, the strange ringing in her head and ears, imagined voices in her head. She struggled to put into words what she was experiencing but she couldn’t. Ever since she had visited the tomb of the dead queen she had been aware of a vague sense of what she could only describe as a presence in her mind. It made her feel most uneasy. She wasn’t even sure if she should mention it to her colleagues.
Unnoticed by either Ochre or Rhapsody, Symphony Angel studied her two colleagues. She had observed another subtle change in the interplay between the two of them this morning. Something had certainly happened last night, whether it was good or bad was hard to tell. She saw Ochre leaning casually against the land rover talking to Magenta. Now and again his eyes would flick to Rhapsody and he would frown imperceptibly, as if he was thinking hard about something.
Ochre for his part was indeed also distracted by his encounter the previous night with the copper haired Angel. Rhapsody would have been surprised to learn that he was feeling as confused about his feelings as she was about hers. Ochre sensed the awkwardness between them and he didn’t like it much. They had always shared an easy working relationship, they had fun flirting but without suffering any of the responsibility. Now they had crossed a forbidden threshold and he wasn’t sure where it would, or should lead. Am I falling for her? he thought with some surprise. The latter events of the night still bothered him. Where had Rhapsody been heading? And why had she suddenly changed her mind about the two of them and practically thrown herself at him? As he thought about that he felt the heat rise in his face. He had felt the passion in her, and he suddenly wanted, no, needed to feel it again. And this time, they would both be stone cold sober. He knew what he wanted to do was crazy, but he just couldn’t help it.
As they drove into the parking area at the outskirts of the temple complex it was ten am. There were a few other tourists around but they mostly had the place to themselves. They bought maps of the building so they could avoid waiting for the official tour and do it self guided. They walked along the sphinx lined processional way to the Temple of Amun. As they crossed the large courtyard to pass into the great hypostyle hall, they all stared in awe. The hall was a forest of immense stone columns that soared up into the endless blue sky. The sun bathed the pillars in a mellow glow highlighting the reliefs and carvings decorating the tops of the pillars.
They wandered slowly through the marvellous edifice. There was a silent calm about the place that somehow precluded speech and each of them seemed to be lost in their own thoughts as if worshipping in a vast cathedral.
Rhapsody’s thoughts had drifted off into thinking about Ochre again and what she should do about her confused feelings. Distracted, she took a turn around a huge column and almost collided into him as he was looking up at the reliefs carved on the stone.
They looked at each other and Ochre sensed her discomfort at finding herself alone with him. He decided to jump straight in.
“Dianne, I get the sense you’re trying to avoid having a conversation with me. You’ve hardly spoken two words to me this morning and they were to snap at me. If I’ve done anything wrong I’d like to know what it is.”
Rhapsody looked flustered. “Rick I’m sorry, it’s just that, I’m a bit confused about last night, I can’t remember some of it and I certainly don’t recall fainting.”
Ochre looked serious. “You gave me quite a scare, I can tell you. Are you feeling all right?”
“Yes, really. Thanks for being concerned.”
“What do you remember?” he asked. He couldn’t help needing to know what she felt.
She swallowed. “We shared a kiss.”
Ochre tried not to grin, the memory of that was just too vivid. “Yes, I remember that too, it was pretty nice.”
She tried to ignore the comment; it put her off her train of thought. “Then, I thought I went to bed, alone, but after that it’s just a jumble. I get images of us together. I thought I had been dreaming,” she looked embarrassed “What did I do Rick? Did we…?”
Ochre thought she looked so vulnerable standing there, unsure of what to say next. It was quite unlike the sophisticated confident image she usually portrayed and it suddenly made him want to hold her again. He knew what she was thinking so he answered for her.
“Hey, we didn’t do anything crazy if that’s what you’re worried about. Not that I didn’t want to,” he added.
Rhapsody smiled in spite of herself. Ochre just couldn’t resist making a pert comment out of any situation. Then she was taken aback when he pulled her to him and tilted her chin up to meet his eyes.
“Dianne, about last night…” he pinned her eyes with a searching look. “We didn’t really have much time for words… but I meant what I said earlier, I really do like you... a lot.”
Rhapsody’s heart lurched as she saw his eyes darken with longing. Ochre bent his head to hers and she was too confused to escape his lips. As he did so he fleetingly thought that it was perhaps not the right time or place, but he couldn’t stop himself. He held her against the pillar, holding her tight, as if he was afraid she would run off. He felt her respond to him, her mouth kissing him back, and her back arching against him.
Rhapsody’s head swam with spinning emotions and her body with swirling desire. The American continued to weave a spell around her and she knew she had to stop this right now or she would be lost.
She pulled away breathlessly from his embrace, feeling her face aflame, as if she was dismayed by her lack of self-will. “Rick, what if the others see us?”
He looked around quickly, as if just realising that their colleagues might see them. He gave a rueful grin. “I guess you’re right. I think this place does something to your soul, makes you act a little wild. Either that, or you’re bewitching me.”
Rhapsody didn’t know what to say. She hugged herself as if to stop him embracing her again.
“But you and I are going to have to continue this conversation somewhere private.” His dark brown eyes were suddenly serious. Rhapsody felt butterflies dance around her insides.
Magenta called a halt on their sightseeing around midday as his stomach was telling him it was time to eat. So they set off for Luxor Town and lunch. They ordered grilled fish and salad with cold drinks in a small café on Sharia al-Lokanda. The heat was like a hammer and even in the shade it was stifling. Throughout the meal the others noticed that Rhapsody seemed to grow distracted and distant. She had only picked at her food and had barely joined in their conversation.
“Are you okay Dianne?” Ochre asked her in a concerned voice
She jumped in her seat as if she had suddenly become of aware of him. “Oh sorry, I’m miles away.”
“Look, if you’re not feeling well maybe we should just go back,” Ochre said to her. He didn’t like the way she was behaving; it wasn’t like her at all.
“Rick I’m FINE! Really.” She looked around at the anxious faces and smiled at them. “I’m just not very hungry today, maybe it’s the heat, we ‘limeys’ aren’t used to it you know. Anyway, let’s go and see the souk like we planned.”
She could see Ochre wasn’t totally convinced but she ignored him, But she was uneasy about these odd occurrences of nausea and slight headaches plus the even odder resonance that played at the fringes of her hearing. Maybe she would get Dr. Fawn to check her out when she returned to Cloudbase.
Ochre settled the bill for the meal and the four of them wandered along the street taking in the sounds and smells of the town. Tiny shops were crammed into every available space. There were rug and carpet sellers, jewellery and leather crafts. The owners waved and beckoned them to come inside have a glass of mint tea and look at their wares. They smiled, and politely refused. There were many spice shops with their multicoloured baskets prettily arranged for the maximum photogenic effect. Although the street was partly pedestrianised they had to dodge scooters, which would roar down the cobbles driven by young Egyptian men with either another youth or girl riding pillion, none of them wearing any form of head protection.
The constant sound of honking from scooters or cars joined in with that of the discordant noise of Arabic music blaring from numerous portable radios. Their nostrils were assaulted with myriad smells. Grilled meat and vegetables from vendor stands, the fresh tang of herbs and spices and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, all mixing with the more unpleasant odours of rotting refuse from side alleyways.
“Phew,” said Symphony, as they got a whiff of something pretty disagreeable “I guess you forget the realities of living in a hot country.”
“Yeah,” said Magenta “And unfortunately the sanitation problems aren’t any better than those back in the slums of New York.”
Symphony peered into a few of the jewellery shops and she finally found a delicate filigree bracelet that she thought her mother would adore.
Rhapsody liked the look of a leather bag with some lovely Egyptian hieroglyphics and haggled with the owner to beat him down to a fair price.
“You guys not interested in buying anything?” she grinned wickedly at them.
“Oh, we’re just happy to watch you ladies spend all your money,” answered Magenta breezily.
The wandered back along the street in the direction of the land rover. On the way Rhapsody stopped at one of the antique shops as a couple of pieces of pottery caught her interest. However as she bent slightly to look at them in the window she all at once felt as if someone was watching her. She turned sharply to catch an Arab wearing black pants and top with a veil across his lower face standing ten feet away on the opposite side of the narrow street. He was staring at her quite intently. Then a group of tourists passed between her and the man and when they had gone he was nowhere in sight. Rhapsody’s heart had started to pound. She wasn’t sure why but the incident unnerved her slightly. She was reminded of Ochre’s remark in the canteen about being carried off to the desert and that brought a smile to her lips. It was nothing, just a guy looking.
She looked ahead up the street and
realised she couldn’t see the others, although there were a lot of people
milling around. A little concerned in case they got
The child continued to pull on her arm trying to get her to follow him. Curious in spite of her misgivings, she allowed herself to be led through the throng of people. However when he tried to turn down a side alleyway that looked decidedly unsafe she was immediately alerted by a sense of danger. She tried to pry his hand off but he held her surprisingly tightly considering his size and condition.
Suddenly from a darkened open doorway to her left a hand shot out and clamped her throat in an iron grip. It constricted her airway and stopped her screaming for help. She struggled against her assailant but she was dragged backwards into the alleyway away from the passers-by. Trying not to panic she attempted to execute a hiji-ate elbow smash but her arm only connected thin air. Then, her world went black as a hood was thrown over her head. She heard two men’s voices speaking quickly in Arabic and she felt her throat released. She started kicking in all directions hoping to connect with something but she didn’t have much success, then she suddenly felt a hand snake up inside the hood and clamp a wet cloth over her face and mouth, the recognisable smell of chloroform panicked her. Damn! They’re trying to knock me out. And those were her last thoughts as she plummeted into nothingness.
Symphony turned around and was aware that Rhapsody wasn’t immediately behind them. She frowned and looked back up the street but couldn’t see any sign of the redhead. She called to Ochre and Magenta.
“Hey guys, hold up. We’ve lost Rhapsody.”
They turned and pushed back through the crowd. “Where did you see her last?” Ochre asked
“She was looking in an antique shop about fifty yards down the street. I was a bit engrossed myself in some of the shop fronts and I thought she was just behind me.”
“Well maybe she’s gone into the shop,” Magenta said, “Let’s go check.”
The doorbell tinkled musically as the three of them entered. Unfortunately there was no sign of Rhapsody in it. The owner, a distinguished elderly Arab, came out through a beaded curtain when he heard the chimes.
“English?” he asked
“American,” corrected Ochre. “Did you happen to see a young woman with long red hair come into your shop a few minutes ago?”
“He shook his head. “I am sorry, no one of that description came in here.”
They thanked him and exited. The three of them continued to look in the shops nearby and ask local passers-by as they did so, but they were unsuccessful in finding Rhapsody.
“This is really bizarre, we’ve only been separated for minutes, and surely we would have seen some sign of her,” Ochre said.
“Maybe not if she took ill,” said Symphony.
Ochre’s eyes darkened. “But she would be lying in the street or something. They don’t get the medics that fast anywhere.”
“She might have got disoriented and wandered off,” Symphony insisted. She was becoming quite worried for her friend. “Poor Dianne, I hope she’s okay.” She hesitated. “Perhaps we should contact Cloudbase.”
Ochre disagreed, “I’m not sure that would be any help, the nearest field agents are in Cairo. Without her tracker having being activated Spectrum has no way of locking onto where she is. And right now we’re the closest Spectrum personnel she’s got on the ground. Anyway what do we tell Colonel White, that Rhapsody’s had too much sun and wandered off? That should do wonders for her career. I don’t want to be responsible for that.”
The others gloomily agreed. Ochre continued, “Let’s save time and contact the hospital and police right away. Then I guess the only option is to return to the camp and see if she somehow returned herself if she couldn’t find us. Pat and Karen do you want to check the hospital out? I’ll contact the police and get them to issue a missing persons APB. Let’s meet back here in an hour max.”
The hospital accident and emergency was packed with waiting people but Symphony and Magenta finally managed to get to the front of a queue to give Rhapsody’s name and description. When the hospital staff checked their records there was no evidence that someone of her description had been admitted recently.
They met up with Ochre again at the assigned place. He hadn’t had any luck with the police either but had left Rhapsody’s details with them and they had assured him that they would have someone look into it straight away. Ochre didn’t feel too hopeful about that but having done all they could in the town they decided to return to the camp.
They drove back as fast as they could. They had fervently hoped that Rhapsody had somehow made her own way back there. But a quick search of the personal and communal tents found no trace of her. Peculiarly Lord Simms was nowhere to be found either. They remembered that Al-Rashid had remarked at dinner that he was going to Cairo for a meeting. When they questioned several of the dig workers about Lord Simms’s whereabouts they received only shaking heads and mumbled replies in Arabic, which none of them understood. Ochre began to have a feeling of disquiet. Something was wrong but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
“I suppose Lord Simms could have gone off to the tomb again,” suggested Symphony. “After all, he wasn’t expecting us to return till much later this afternoon.”
“Good point,” said Ochre “Maybe we should take a look there. If we do nothing else we need to let him know his daughter’s gone missing”.
They took some water flasks and drove back up to the tomb. They searched the chambers but found no sign of anyone. However, an odd occurrence had taken place since their last visit. The sarcophagus in the burial chamber was empty. The mummy of Queen Netephere had been removed!
Rhapsody opened her eyes. It took her a few seconds to focus, as she felt slightly groggy. She groaned. She felt stiff as if she had been lying in an awkward position. Then she was horrified to hear her father’s voice beside her.
“Sweetheart, are you all right?”
“Daddy, what on earth are you doing here?” she exclaimed in a shocked voice.
She turned to her left where Simms sat on the floor of the chamber. Like herself, he was bound with thick nylon ropes.
“You first, they brought you in here unconscious, I was worried about you.”
She shook her head gently to clear the fog. “Yes I think I’m fine,” but she gasped as she saw a wicked bruise at the side of her father’s temple. “Which is more than I can say for you, what happened?”
“Well, not long after you and your friends left the camp I went up to the tomb again. I was working in the statue room when I thought I heard footsteps behind me. I turned and just had an instant to see a hooded figure spring up to me and then I blacked out. I think someone walloped me on the head.”
“But effective. They put me in here and then about three hours later you were brought in. I was praying you were all right” He looked at her with anxiety. “Your turn now, sweetheart.”
“Well, I was window shopping in Luxor and I lost sight of the others in a busy street. I’m ashamed to say that I basically got myself kidnapped. I was lured into a side street by a pretty effective if very dirty trick. I can’t believe I fell for it.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, you were on holiday; you were hardly expecting something like this to happen. You can’t be an agent all the time.”
“Hmm, that’s probably not what my boss would say”.
Then she noticed that her blouse was torn at the front and a button was missing. She tried to roll her head to relieve the tension in her neck and at the same time taking a look around their prison. They were obviously in an underground chamber but one she didn’t recognise.
She said, “We must be somewhere in the tomb complex. I remember coming to at some point and realising I was being carried. I managed to lift the hood over my head and saw that I was in the statue room. But then I tried to struggle to get free but I think they must have knocked me out again, that’s where I must have lost the button from my blouse.”
Simms said, “I’m afraid I didn’t see anything. I woke up here. It’s possible there are other chambers, even hidden ones as part of the complex. It wasn’t unknown to have secret passageways in the ancient tombs. The mystery is, who has kidnapped us and why?”
Just at that moment a man entered the chamber. They stared at him, totally stunned. It was Al-Rashid. This they just didn’t expect.
“Ah you have both awakened, I am glad.”
Rhapsody glared at him. “Well I’m glad you’re glad, because I don’t feel quite the same way about all of this. What on earth is going on here, why have you kidnapped me and my father?”
“Ah my dear, your temper is matched only by the fire of your hair, you will make a fine consort.”
She stared at him, his words totally catching her off guard. “What on earth do you mean?”
“You will be the living breathing reincarnation of Netephere.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she retorted hotly.
“But you must have felt her presence, heard her voice in your mind?”
Rhapsody’s mouth went dry. How could he know about that? She wasn’t even sure she believed it herself, but now he was talking about it, as if it were a concrete reality. Was she losing her mind?
Simms looked at Rhapsody who had gone a shade paler at Al-Rashid’s words. Concern clouded his features. “Dianne, what is he talking about?”
She looked uncertainly at her father “I - I’ve been having dizzy spells and I’ve had the distinct impression of what I can only describe as whispering in my head, I didn’t know what to make of it.”
Al-Rashid looked almost kindly at her. “You must not fight it, she is stronger than you. Soon you will be under her control.”
He continued evenly, “You see, my dear Lady Dianne, you are a key element in my plans. It is my birthright to rule. I am the direct descendant of Khaemhet, the high priest and vizier of the Pharaoh. He who was destined to rule by the side of his lover Netephere.”
Simms laughed shortly. “Good God man, how could you possibly trace a line back that far?”
Al-Rashid looked at him coldly. “It is not for you to question the will of the Gods who have shown me that this is the truth. My birthright to rule was assigned through the great Amun-Re himself.”
Simms exchanged a worried look with his daughter. They were obviously dealing with someone who was on the way to being mad, if he wasn’t there already.
Al-Rashid noticed their glance and narrowed his eyes. “I see your incredulity. But I have been planning my ascendancy for many years. It is only now that everything is coming to fruition.”
His voice seemed to take on an almost oratorical edge as if he was addressing an audience. His eyes glowed and seemed to look beyond them, rather than at them.
“My beloved Egypt has lost its way, the government is corrupt as were the ones before them. The Islamists fight amongst themselves, they have no chance to gain the power they crave.”
“So you’re not a member of one of the fundamentalist Islamic groups?” Simms interjected.
“No, they have a worthy goal, but I intend to return Egypt to a nobler destiny, to go back to the purity of the Ancients, a time of strength, when Pharaoh ruled with a rod of iron!”
His eyes and voice were mesmerising and Simms couldn’t help feeling impressed with the aura of power he radiated. He swallowed hard, the man was evidently disturbed but he could believe how he might be able to influence people to his way of thinking.
But he said in a quieter, calmer voice, “And you believe you can become Pharaoh?”
“In the eyes of my followers, I already am. There is a prophecy that Queen Netephere will ascend at the side of Pharaoh some time in the future. I have cultivated that prophecy amongst those I have gathered into my circle to rule with me at the appointed time. Lady Dianne is that prophecy fulfilled. She will become the reincarnation of Queen Netephere and I will assume my rightful role as head of a new dynasty under Re.”
Simms felt the blood drain from his face and pieces starting falling into place. He remembered the call he received from Al-Rashid some weeks ago. They had discussed the tomb and Al-Rashid had mentioned the statue. He said he had seen photographs of Lady Dianne in the newspapers and had been struck with the resemblance that Queen Netephere shared with his daughter. Simms’s interest had been piqued about it and somehow he had let Al-Rashid persuade him to get Dianne to come over to Egypt. He had been most carefully insistent, and it all seemed perfectly innocuous at the time. In the end it was but a plan to get his daughter here for his reprehensible purpose.
Rhapsody was listening to Al-Rashid’s last words. A dynasty under Re. An understanding began to dawn on her.
She said evenly, “You are the leader of that sect, the Hand of Re.”
Al-Rashid almost bowed to her, admiration obvious in his eyes. “You are most perceptive my dear. Yes, I see no need to lie to you. I am the Hand of Re, he who wields the power of the Gods.”
“Surely you don’t have to resort to violence to achieve your aims?”
“Ah, when I take power I will promise to bring the terrorists of the Hand of Re to justice. Of course my followers will just stop what they are doing and the troubles will melt away. The people will hail me as a saviour.”
Rhapsody said, “Very clever. And what does my father have to do with all this, if it’s me you want, that’s fine, but let him go.”
“Ah, you are truly amazing, Lady Dianne. But that is where you are wrong. I do have need of your father; he will also play a pivotal role in my plans. But that must remain a secret for now.” The smile he bestowed upon them suddenly gave him the appearance of a wolf. The gesture sent a shiver of apprehension down both their spines.
Rhapsody struggled against her bonds “I’ll fight you with every breath in my body. And my friends will be looking for me.” She didn’t mention they were Spectrum agents. That would remain her trump card.
“They will not find you,” Al-Rashid replied unperturbed by her outburst.
“Don’t bet on it,” she almost hissed through clenched teeth. She tried to display a show of bravado but inwardly she did wonder how the others would ever find where she and her father were, especially if they were in some secret chamber. But they were clever and resourceful agents. She was counting on them.
LUXOR: SUNDAY: 18:00 HOURS
The three Spectrum agents were baffled. Things were getting crazier by the hour.
“What now?” said Magenta.
“I don’t like this,” said Ochre. His sixth sense was screaming at him. “Let’s just take stock of the past twenty four hours. I think we all agree that Dianne’s behaviour has been becoming more unusual. She’s been having these dizzy and fainting spells, and she’s been behaving strangely. She’s certainly not herself. It could be illness or it could be something else. Now she’s disappeared and coincidentally so has the mummy.”
Symphony’s eyes widened. “What are you suggesting, that she’s been kidnapped?”
“I’m honestly not sure, but I can’t help beginning to feel there’s something sinister going on and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Al-Rashid has something to do with it.”
Magenta said, “What makes you think that? I know you don’t like the guy but there’s no proof he’s behind Dianne’s disappearance.”
“I don’t know. It’s just a hunch. Let’s take a good look around this place and see if there are any clues.”
Magenta rolled his eyes at Symphony. Ochre had obviously launched into his “detective” mode. Well wouldn’t hurt to try he supposed, but privately he agreed with Symphony that it would have been a better idea to call Cloudbase. If kidnapping was involved they might need some backup.
Ochre went over the floor with his sharp eyes. He was the first to notice the button. He picked it up and looked at it. He immediately became concerned.
“This belongs to the blouse Rhapsody was wearing today,” he said showing to them.
Symphony and Magenta peered at it. A piece of thread was hanging from it. They didn’t like to think how that had happened. Was it just coincidence, or something more ominous?
Magenta hunched his shoulders looking around, “Well, where on earth can she be? There’s a button, but no Rhapsody, it’s like she’s vanished into thin air.”
Ochre stood absently turning over the button in his hand, staring at a mark on the floor. It was shaped like an arc in places, almost like the outline the bottom of a badly fitting door might make on a floor. Magenta’s words echoed in his ear and then something clicked in his head.
“Secret passageway!” he shouted and the others jumped
“Bejesus Rick, what on earth, you scared the life out of me,” Magenta replied, “What are you on about?”
“I’ve read that these tombs often have secret passageways and other chambers. They were sometimes added to confuse tomb robbers.” He pointed excitedly at the floor. “Look at this mark. I think stone rubbing against stone made it. There might be a doorway here.”
Magenta looked at his friend as if he had gone slightly mad. However, as he looked at the floor in the direction of where Ochre was pointing he thought he might have something.
Ochre turned back to look at the wall, above the mark. It was covered with one of the exotic frescos and he couldn’t see anything that looked remotely like a door. He felt the wall with his fingertips to see if he could feel an outline in the stone. Magenta and Symphony looked on intrigued.
After some minutes Ochre said excitedly, “I think I might have something!”
He showed the others the outline he had felt. It occupied a space four feet by six feet.
“Well great, but how are we supposed to get it open?” said Symphony with a frustrated look.
“There’s got to be some sort of mechanism somewhere in this room. These Egyptians were pretty clever engineers,” Ochre replied.
They looked around the chamber. Ochre’s eye fell upon the niches where the canopic jars stood. There was one of them on each of the walls. The jars could be hiding something. They were the only place to look; everywhere else was smooth stonework.
“Let’s take these jars out and see if we find anything,” he said.
The others didn’t argue. They each took a jar from its niche and felt around the empty space behind it.
Magenta exclaimed in surprise. “There’s a small hole at the top of this niche. It’s too small to get my hand through it.”
Symphony was immediately at his side. “Here let me try.” She wiggled her hand through the small space. “I can feel a lever of some sort, it’s difficult to get hold of.” She strained. ”Wait! I think I’ve got it!”
As she pulled on the lever they could hear ancient gears creak into life. With a hideous grating sound the masonry swung ponderously inward to reveal a dark passageway.
The three of them moved through
the passageway revealed by the hidden doorway.
There was a faint light and the sound of low singing, almost like a
chant, which could be heard about fifty metres beyond. As they drew nearer the
chanting stopped and a then a single voice starting speaking loudly in a
language none of them could place. When
they reached the end of the tunnel there was an archway and
Ochre said quietly, “Let me take a look, no point in us all getting spotted”.
He peered hesitantly out of the opening and saw another large room; with a ceiling so high it was almost like a cave. Two huge stone blocks in the centre of the room set about a metre apart caught his eye. Ochre swore under his breath. Rhapsody lay motionless on one of the blocks. She was dressed in linen robes similar to those painted onto the statue and her arms were folded across her breast. From this distance all he could see was that her eyes were closed but he couldn’t tell whether she was alive or dead. He swallowed hard. He didn’t want to think of that possibility. Almost as an afterthought he noticed that on the other block lay the missing mummy of Netephere. What the hell was going on here?
He quickly took in the rest of the activity in the chamber. There were a large group of about fifty men dressed in black and white robes standing around close to the blocks.
The man who was speaking suddenly turned around, almost directly looking at him. Ochre swiftly stepped inside the doorway entrance, his heart thumping. The face of the man belonged to Al-Rashid! He was confused, but somehow seeing him seemed to confirm the intuition he had felt from the moment he had set eyes on the Egyptian. He was up to no good that was for sure.
He crept back into the entrance and reported to the others in low tones. “Dianne is here but I’ve no idea if she’s…” He didn’t finish. That prompted a look of dismay from the others.
“They’ve got her dressed up like some Egyptian Queen.” He paused, not sure what to say next. He somehow felt that it meant something dreadful for Rhapsody. “Unfortunately there are also about fifty odd guys in that chamber who are probably hostile and their leader is none other than our dear Mr Al-Rashid.”
“What?” exclaimed Symphony and Magenta simultaneously.
“I really think it’s time to get some backup,” Magenta said, “This has got a bit much for the three of us.”
“Agreed,” said Ochre. He was about to reach into his shirt for his communicator when torchlight suddenly dazzled their eyes.
A voice said sharply from about three metres away, “Do not move, any of you!”
Ochre swore again, cursing their inattention. They were in such haste to see where the passageway led; they completely forgot to close the stone doorway. Whoever this newcomer was, he had moved along the passageway with the stealth of a cat. Not one of them had heard anyone approaching them.
The voice sounded familiar. Then Ochre knew. It was Hashim, Al-Rashid’s pilot. He would have to rush him and hope he could judge where the young Egyptian was against the glare of the torch. But as he leapt forward a shot rang out. Ochre was extremely lucky, he sensed the bullet skim past him just missing his arm. It ricocheted into the wall, the sound echoing loudly around the confined spaces of the tunnel. Damn! That was going to ruin things!
The sound had carried through to the chamber and Al-Rashid and his men looked sharply to the doorway. The terrorist leader flicked his hand and several of his men rushed to the tunnel. In the meanwhile Ochre had managed to hurl himself onto Hashim and they were flailing about on the floor of the tunnel, Ochre was trying to grab the weapon but it meant that neither Magenta nor Symphony could get past as the tunnel was too narrow.
Suddenly they found themselves attacked from the rear. They cursed the fact they had no weapons with them but it hardly seemed suitable things to pack in a suitcase for vacation. Some vacation! thought Magenta ironically before the butt of a machine gun knocked him back against the wall. They realised the odds were too overwhelming and there was little chance of hand fighting their way out in such close quarters with the artillery these guys were packing. Magenta and Symphony raised their hands to show compliance.
Two of the men hauled Ochre off Hashim and pulled him roughly to his feet; another cracked the end of his gun into his cheek. The American couldn’t help a cry of pain at the blow. All three of them were pushed roughly into the chamber where Al-Rashid waited for them. He stood, legs akimbo and arms folded across his chest. The malevolent look upon his face did not bode well for their future, Magenta thought.
As they were brought in Ochre noticed that Simms was sitting close by, bound already and with a large bruise on his face. He was watching them with a troubled look.
Ochre called out to him. “Are you all right, Sir?”
Simms nodded in reply, but Rashid cut in harshly, “Save your concern for yourselves, American, it would have been better for you all if you had not tried to find Lord Simms and Lady Dianne.” He motioned to his men. “Search them for weapons!”
Several of the men swiftly and expertly hunted through their clothes. One of them was far too thorough with Symphony as far as Magenta was concerned. The Angel tried to keep her face a blank, but she flinched when the man slowly and deliberately slid his hands over the curves of her body, obviously relishing his task just a little too much.
Magenta hissed through gritted teeth, “Tell this scum to get his filthy hands off the lady, there’s no need for that!”
Al-Rashid flicked his head at his soldier. “Enough!” he said. Symphony’s tormentor scowled but moved away handing his find to his leader.
The others did the same. One of them said. “They are not are armed, but they carried these. Al-Rashid looked at the three Spectrum Tracker devices his men had deposited in his hand as well as Magenta’s communicator.
“What are these?” Al-Rashid enquired, curiously turning them over in his hand. “I already found one on your daughter’s person, Lord Simms.”
The three agents wished fervently that he would press any of the buttons in order to activate them. But they said nothing. Al-Rashid’s eyes narrowed, and then without warning he suddenly lashed out and hit Magenta who was nearest to him. The Irish-American’s head lolled with the force of the blow.
“Answer me!” he barked at him. Magenta licked a tiny trickle of blood from his mouth but stayed silent. Al-Rashid looked at Ochre and Symphony and again saw their determination to say nothing.
“Very well,” he said malevolently. He removed a piece of cord from his jacket, and deftly threw it around Symphony’s neck. He immediately tightened it causing her to cry out. He continued to pull it tighter and she started gasping for breath.
“I can garrotte the young lady in seconds if you so wish.”
Magenta caved in though he knew Symphony would probably garrotte him afterwards, if they got out of this alive. “All right,” he shouted between gritted teeth. “They’re communication devices.”
Al-Rashid immediately loosened the cord; Symphony coughed and wheezed for air, it had left a red weal on her throat. Magenta looked at her and his eyes asked are you Okay? She nodded at him silently and gently rubbing her throat.
Al-Rashid probed further. “And who do you communicate with?”
“We work for the World Government,” Magenta said half truthfully.
“Ah, just like Lord Simms.”
Al-Rashid seemed to accept this explanation for the moment. But he then threw the devices on the ground, picked up a large rock and smashed them to pieces. “Well then, we must make sure you do not talk to the government.”
“It was a pity that you allowed these friends of your daughter to come with her, Lord Simms. Our cause is too important to allow them to live. However,” he looked at Ochre unsmiling, “I shall keep you alive for now.”
Ochre didn’t like the implication in his words one bit. “Tie this one up.” And Ochre was rudely bound with nylon wire. They tied it so tight he could feel it cut into his shirt. He looked worriedly at his colleagues.
Al-Rashid looked coldly at Magenta and Symphony. “We do not need these two.” They each felt a stab of fear as they realised they were being handed out a death sentence by this man.
Al-Rashid raised his voice, “Zafer! I have need of you.”
The group parted like the Red Sea and a huge man stepped out from his place at the back of the crowd. His features were Sudanese and his limbs and hands were like hewn stone, but he moved with a grace that belied his girth. He moved ponderously towards them. Magenta’s thoughts flailed wildly in his head, he didn’t know what was going to happen to the two of them but he felt he had to take a chance on trying to escape. He moved with lightning reflexes to meet the advancing giant, and struck out with all his strength at the implacable face before him. He felt his fist connect jarringly against rock-hard bone and muscle. Zafer almost contemptuously ignored the blow Magenta had dealt him and struck out at the Irish-American’s chest with tremendous force.
Magenta fell to the stone floor with a thud. He felt like he had never been hit so hard in his life, he never imagined anyone could have been capable of hitting so hard. He felt sick and stunned and his ribs and chest were a sea of fire. He didn’t know if anything was broken but the pain was so intense he suspected the worst.
Zafer dragged him to his feet and swung him over one granite shoulder. Magenta cried out in pain and could do nothing as the giant ambled across to Symphony and grabbed her with the other arm. He carried both of them as if they were feathers. Symphony tried to claw and slash at his face and eyes but he butted her with his forehead and she fell still in his arms without any fight left. Ochre looked on, he was helpless to do anything to help and he could only watch in despair and anger at the way his colleagues were being treated.
Zafer carried the Symphony and Magenta over to another doorway at the far side of the cave then in a swift movement threw them both inside. The force of his throw caused them to cry out as they tumbled down the staircase at the entrance. Zafer then picked up a stone hammer from the side of the doorway and with several mighty whacks dislodged a protruding stone to the left of the doorway. With a horrible grinding noise a huge block of stone slid down and fell into place.
Ochre and Simms could only watch horrified as the ancient seal buried Magenta and Symphony alive!
LUXOR: SUNDAY: 20:00 HOURS
Magenta groaned. The first thing he became conscious of was the pounding in his head and the dull fire in his ribcage. The second thing was the realization that he was lying face down on a cold surface. He slowly opened his eyes but all he could see was impenetrable blackness. What the hell happened? And then the events came flooding back to him.
“Symphony!” he cried out anxiously. “Are you okay? Where are you?” There was no reply. Magenta suddenly felt breathless. He continued to shout her name several times.
Finally an answering moan relieved him, but then anxiety welled up in him again as he realised the Angel could be badly hurt. In the dark he could see nothing but he figured her cry had come from his left and to the front of him. He crawled towards the sound, trying to ignore the pain that felt like hammer blows behind his eye sockets. I hope I haven’t got concussion as well as a staved in ribcage.
He groped about and then felt a body lying on the ground. “Symphony! Karen, please speak to me!” He found her shoulders in the dark but didn’t dare move her in case she had broken anything.
“Pat,” she said weakly, “Thank God you’re all right.” She took a few deep breaths of the stale air. “I can remember being pushed and then falling down some steps. I tried to break my fall but I think I just knocked myself out.”
“Yeah, I think the same happened to me.”
She said, “You were hit pretty badly by that great baboon up there, have you broken anything?”
Magenta probed gingerly around his aching body. Gratefully he realized that nothing seemed to be out of place. It was possible that Zafer had just winded him badly. Boy, he felt like he had gone ten rounds in the boxing ring.
“Uh, I think I’m fine on that score. How long do you think we’ve been unconscious?”
“No idea, God Pat, it’s so dark in here I can’t see my hands in front of me, where in the hell have we ended up?”
“Not sure,” he said “My guess is yet another chamber. What I would give for a flashlight right now”.
Symphony gave a short laugh despite the seriousness of the situation. “I can’t believe I forgot about it.” She fumbled around in the pocket of her pants and all of a sudden there was a tiny beam of light illuminating the blackness. Magenta thought it was better than the Fourth of July fireworks.
“Thank the Lord it they didn’t confiscate these like they did the trackers, or that it didn’t get broken in my fall.” Symphony smiled at him in the glow of the flashlight.
“Sweet Jesus, my girl,” he laughed delightedly at her. “And they say the Irish have all the luck!”
Symphony smiled. “Well, you’re lucky you fell down this hole with me.”
She looked at her watch; thankfully another item Al-Rashid’s men had left her with.
“My goodness, it’s after eight PM, we’ve been out for at least a couple of hours.”
“Well let’s get up and take a look around, and see if we can find a way out of this,” Magenta said as cheerfully as he could.
He helped Symphony stand, which was quite a feat for him, as he still felt sore all over. But as she took a step she howled in pain and stumbled. Magenta caught her before she fell over; she dropped the flashlight in her agony.
“My ankle, I think I’ve busted it, I must have landed on it when I tumbled down here.”
Magenta retrieved the fallen light and shone it on Symphony’s face. Her normally tanned features had turned ashen; she was obviously in a lot of pain but she bore it stoically.
“Here, hold the light a minute and let me see your foot”. He raised the hem of her pants to get a closer look. The ankle certainly looked swollen and puffy but there was no evidence of severe breakage.
“I don’t think it’s broken but it could be fractured.” He patted her shoulder gently. “You take it easy while I take a look around our little prison.”
He played the flashlight around the chamber. He saw the steps they had been pushed down. At the top was the huge stone slab, which effectively sealed their way out. Magenta climbed the stairs and tried pushing the stone, but it was sealed tight.
He came back down and slowly wandered around the room. The walls were covered in scenes of everyday Egyptian life. At the opposite end of the room there was yet another doorway which led to yet another chamber. It’s like a maze in here with all these blasted rooms leading off one another he thought. When Magenta entered this one he swept it with the tiny beam. He saw what looked like strips of aged linen and bleached bones. He blanched. Lying in grotesque angles all around the chamber was a number of skeletal corpses. He had no idea what they were but they looked like they had been there for a very long time.
He returned quickly to the first room, as he didn’t want to leave Symphony in the dark for too long.
“Did you find anything?” she asked hopefully.
“Nothing apart from a bunch of ancient dead guys.”
She made a face. “Are you joking?”
“Wish I was, I’m sure Rhapsody or her Dad could probably tell us why they are there but I’m stumped. Anyway, I think we should conserve the flashlight for the moment while we think about what we can do.” He switched it off and they were plunged into pitch-blackness again.
Symphony was silent for a couple of minutes. She hadn’t realised she was slightly claustrophobic; but she had never been in such an enclosed space with no chance of getting out. She suddenly began to feel like the mountainside was closing in on her and it caused cold fear to slowly penetrate her guts. She said in a voice which held a slight waver, “Pat, we really are in a bit of a grim situation here aren’t we? I guess the air in here won’t last forever.”
Magenta could tell by the tone of her voice that Symphony was getting anxious. They needed to do something to keep them distracted from their perilous situation. He thought regretfully. Just my luck, here I am alone with the woman of my dreams and the only thing we can think about is how to get out of here alive. But he responded aloud as cheerfully as he could.
“We’ve been in tough situations before, Symphony. We just need to keep calm and think rationally. I’ve got to believe that there may be another way out of here, Let’s take a look at the two rooms and see if we can see anything unusual. There may be another hidden doorway just like we found in the statue chamber, I’ll check on these walls in both rooms.”
“Well, it would go a lot faster if I helped.” She tried to struggle to her feet
“But you’re hurt,” said Magenta a concerned note in his voice. Symphony didn’t miss it.
“You’re not exactly in the best shape either. I’m not a helpless girl for goodness sake, we need to work as fast as we can, help me get across to a wall.”
Magenta got her to stand and she hobbled across. “Let’s try and work in darkness so we have the light in reserve, is that okay with you?”
“S.I.G. Let’s get going,” she answered with determination.
After consigning Symphony and Magenta to their fate, Al-Rashid snapped his fingers and uttered a few short words to his men, then he and the majority departed the room, leaving a couple of guards behind, presumably to keep a watch on Rhapsody and ensure that Ochre and Simms didn’t try to escape. They crouched down at the far corner of the room, keeping their weapons well in sight of Ochre and Simms as if just daring them to try anything. But then they basically ignored them so Ochre talked to Simms in a lowered voice.
“You obviously have been enjoying this guys company a bit longer than me. Any idea what he’s up to?” Ochre asked him.
“Dianne and I had a little chat with the man. It turns out that Al-Rashid is none other than the leader of the terrorist group The Hand of Re.”
Ochre’s face darkened. How in hell did they get mixed up with all this?
“I just knew I didn’t like or trust that guy from the moment I set eyes on him.”
Simms continued. “He also thinks that Dianne will become the reincarnation of Netephere. He says he’s going to perform some ritual, which will transfer the soul of the dead Queen into Dianne’s body. I don’t know if he expects any of us to believe this but unfortunately his followers are enthralled by it. It’s plainly evident that they will do anything he says if they believe this rite is successful.” He stopped and looked morosely at Rhapsody’s still figure on the stone.
“I feel such a fool, to be blinkered by my obsession with ancient Egypt into leading my own daughter into danger.”
“You’re not to blame sir,” Ochre said. “I maybe should have trusted my own intuition a bit more. Then again, who really who have expected the guy was a terrorist? He is obviously a very clever and ruthless individual.”
His thoughts turned to Magenta and Symphony and their uncertain fate. If I get my hands on that sonofabitch, he thought. He didn’t want to believe that his partner and the beautiful Angel could be dead, or dying he thought grimly. He hoped that maybe there was a chance they could find a way out of their prison. Patrick Donaghue was one resourceful guy, and Symphony was no slouch in the intelligence stakes either.
Ochre lost track of the time they were left. His muscles were getting cramped from being in the same position for so long. He glanced at Simms and saw that he had almost dozed off. Ochre was concerned at the purple bruise he saw on his temple. He hoped the blow he had received at the hands of the terrorists hadn’t concussed the Englishman.
Ochre thought he might as well grab forty winks too. There was no telling what might happen to them, and he might as well gather his strength for whatever might be coming. He couldn’t see his wristwatch but he suspected it had to be around nine pm.
LUXOR: SUNDAY: 23:50 HOURS
Ochre was catnapping when he heard sounds of footsteps returning. He blinked to clear his head of sleep. When he looked up he saw Al-Rashid had changed clothes and was now garbed like an ancient Egyptian priest. The black-attired followers solemnly stood to attention around the chamber waiting patiently. Ochre swallowed hard. Something told him the ceremony was about to commence. The sounds had woken Simms too. He looked at the American.
“I think something’s about to start,” Ochre said. “I just pray Dianne wont come to any harm.”
“My sentiments exactly, young man,” the Englishman replied with a worried look etched on his features.
Al-Rashid had placed himself between Rhapsody and the mummy and he now raised his arms to the group assembled. They bowed their heads.
He spoke in a solemn voice to the assembled crowd.
“<The KA of our Queen is but trapped in this dead body. The invocation rite we perform today will transfer the KA to the body of this woman. >”
Ochre could make nothing of what was said, but Simms caught quite a few parts of it. “He’s speaking in the Ancient Egyptian dialect,” he whispered to Ochre. “He’s trying to say the spirit soul will be transferred.”
Al-Rashid indicated the prone body of Rhapsody. “<She will become once again the Lady of Flame>.”
The Egyptian continued in an almost monotone voice. It was a powerful insistent voice; Ochre could see he had his followers in the palm of his hand with this pretence.
“<Hail, who art exalted! Hail who art adored. Hell shall not keep thee fast. The earth shall not hold ye captive. On this day of days thy KA will be returned to thy new body >.”
And his followers chanted, “<And the prophecy will be fulfilled>.”
He laid one hand on Rhapsody’s head and the other on that of the bandaged mummy of Netephere. His head was now bowed and his voice full of concentration.
“<Grant that the eye of who Horus frees the spirit soul to the light shows the way to be opened for thy soul and thy shadow. Haste ye on the way>.”
In spite of himself Ochre felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. That disturbing and commanding voice, the chilling words. It wouldn’t be too hard to believe that was this all real and not just someone’s sick fantasy.
Al-Rashid placed a sceptre in one of Rhapsody’s hands, raised his own arms in an almost comical dramatic gesture, and his strident voice echoed around the chamber signalling that the end of the ceremony was at hand.
“<FOR THOU ART NETEPHERE, THE LADY OF FLAME, EVIL BEFALLEST THOSE WHO SET THEMSELVES UP AGAINST THEE. RISE OH QUEEN AND TAKE THY PLACE IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING >.”
The second that his voice went silent, Rhapsody’s eyes flew open and she sat bolt upright on the stone block.
It was slow work and they had been checking the walls for what seemed like forever, but they had found nothing that resembled a hidden doorway.
Symphony sighed and sank down to the floor. Her ankle throbbed with pain but she wasn’t going to tell Magenta that, he would only fuss over her. She rubbed her eyes; it was so hard trying to do anything in this unfathomable darkness. There was enough air in the rooms to keep going for a while but she was beginning to feel thirsty. She didn’t want to admit that this might really be the end for both her and Magenta.
She couldn’t help thinking of her mother. How would she ever know what had happened to her daughter? That thought then led to another. The image of Captain Blue came to her and she suddenly had an overwhelming desire to see him. She wanted to kiss those lips that made her go weak at the knees and run her hands through that blonde hair of his. Thinking of him threatened to bring tears to her eyes. She swallowed the lump in her throat. For goodness sake Karen, pull yourself together. She needed to stay focused for both her and Magenta’s sake.
She said aloud, “There’s nothing in these rooms Pat, and anyway I don’t see any niches that would hold hidden levers like we did in the statue room.”
Magenta had privately thought the same but hadn’t wanted to mention it. “I guess you’re right, but I thought it was better focusing on doing something, anything, rather than just waiting here for the air to run out.”
He pounded a wall with his hand in sheer frustration. “Damn! I guess it was too much to hope we’d get the same lucky break.”
Magenta switched on the flashlight so they could at least have the comfort of seeing one another. Symphony looked pale and downcast and it wasn’t entirely due to her throbbing ankle. She didn’t want to admit to Magenta that she was ever so slightly claustrophobic. Being in a fighter cockpit was no problem; there was all that wide-open sky to look at. But here, closed in by solid rock, she felt hemmed in and it caused her throat to constrict and a tight feeling in her chest.
Magenta had joined Symphony on the floor and sat looking at the walls of the chamber. He was trying to look for anything that might trigger an idea in his head as to get out of here. This chamber was undecorated unlike all the others he had seen. He noticed that there was a difference in the stonework on one of the walls. A length of the wall about two feet in height from the floor was a lighter colour than the rest. Somehow that bothered him. He looked intently at it for a few minutes until Symphony startled him out of his contemplation.
“Why are you staring at that wall Pat?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s nothing, but that bit at the bottom, it looks newer than the rest somehow.” He moved closer and ran his hands over it. He noticed a slight crack at the bottom left corner. He put his hand to it… and he could swear he felt a slight coolness. Surely not? He hardly dared hope.
“What is it?” Symphony could see what he was doing but couldn’t fathom out why he was doing it.
“I thought I might have felt a draught where this crack is.”
He didn’t say anything more but picked up one of the arms from one of the skeletons. He grimaced at having to do this but made a quick apology to the piece of bone.
“Sorry guys, but I need this more than you right now.”
He started hacking at the crack in the wall. He hadn’t really thought anything might happen but as he started to bash away bits of the surface fell away. It looked like the surface might be a sort of plaster rather than solid stone.
He licked his finger and placed it against the enlarged crack. He felt a steady stream of cool air. Symphony crawled across, still a bit confused but Magenta’s enthusiasm was contagious.
Magenta said excitedly, “I was right, I felt a draught at this crack and now I’ve widened it a bit I can feel more air…There IS something beyond this, I’m sure of it.”
Symphony was touched by his enthusiasm. Maybe there was a way out of here after all.
“Can I help?”
“Yep. Grab one of those bones and help me hit this plaster.”
They started to pound the wall with the bones and bits of plaster started falling away quite easily. A hole started to appear with darkness beyond. Magenta couldn’t help keep the excitement out of his voice “Keep hitting it! See if we can make a hole wide enough for us to crawl through.”
Simms shouted in a strangled voice, “Dianne!”
But Rhapsody didn’t answer him. She continued to sit motionless on the block, the sceptre held firmly held in her right hand. Her blue eyes were strangely unfocused as if she were in a trance.
Al-Rashid’s followers chanted, “<The Lady has awakened to take her place at the side of her Lord >.”
Ochre struggled fitfully against his bonds. He was furious. This was way beyond a joke.
He shouted at Al-Rashid’s men, “You guys aren’t really going to believe he’s resurrected a mummy?”
Al-Rashid glowered at him. “You are a FOOL. You know nothing of the ancient powers. I have secrets that have been held for millennia. The power of reincarnation is a truth.” He turned to Rhapsody who continued to sit silently as if waiting for some command.
“<Speak my Queen who hast returneth to us>,” Al-Rashid intoned to her.
Unexpectedly Rhapsody spoke, in a voice that sounded eerily hers and yet not hers. Ochre and Simms jumped at the sound of her voice.
“<I have made my way from the darkness to the light. This ancient husk>,” she indicated the mummy of Netephere “, “<has kept my spirit-KA for thousands of years. I return to smite down my foes and seize the arms of the powers of darkness>.”
The two men were shocked. She was speaking in Al-Rashid’s language. Simms managed to understand most of what she said and was astounded. They were both sure all this reincarnation business was a deception, but it was a clever deception. Neither man could fathom how it was being done. To what end it was all for still remained a mystery. Al-Rashid’s men were bowing and uttering cries of worship and awe. The fanatic’s light blazed in their eyes. Al-Rashid was exultant. His hold over his men was complete; there was nothing he couldn’t do now.
He took Rhapsody’s hand. “My queen,” he smiled, gazing at her. He helped her from the block and she stood up facing Ochre and her father. There wasn’t a flicker of recognition in her eyes as she looked at them both.
It had taken them the best part of two hours to knock a hole in the wall big enough for them to crawl through. Magenta put his upper body into the space and turned the flashlight on again. They had broken through into another chamber! Now they could only hope that it would lead them to the outside. Still, first things first, he thought.
He said to Symphony, “I’ll crawl through first and then I can help you through.”
After he was in the new chamber Symphony crawled through with his help to join him. They both stood up and took stock of where they were. The chamber was empty of any artefacts, but richly decorated with yet more murals. A stone sarcophagus sat in the middle of the space, the lid still intact.
“I wonder whose tomb this is?” Magenta mused
“I don’t really care, I just want to know it leads somewhere where the sun shines, although it’s probably the middle of the night just now,” Symphony replied with an attempt at enforced humour.
There was doorway in opposite wall of the room they were now standing in. When they went through it they found themselves in a stone corridor. Many other doorways led off this and as they passed them Magenta risked using the flashlight to quickly see what was in them. The rooms seemed to be decorated in similar fashion as the one they had left, much less grand and opulent than the chambers of Netephere’s tomb. There were more sarcophagi; some of the chambers had two or more. In a couple of rooms some of the stone coffins were very small.
“They must belong to children,” Symphony said somehow saddened at the thought.
“This reminds me one of our cemeteries,” Magenta added, “Looks like members of the same family all buried together. Maybe we’ve stumbled on some sort of public burial place.”
They made their way along the corridor for several hundred metres. It took them some time as her bad ankle hampered Symphony. At last they came to a flight of stone steps similar to the ones they were thrown down and this in turn led onto a sloping passageway very similar to that leading to the tomb of Netephere. Holding onto the limestone walls they made the journey upwards. The draught of fresh air was more insistent and it felt warmer.
“I’m pretty sure we’re close to the surface,” Magenta said excitedly.
Suddenly almost without warning after several more minutes they blessedly and gratefully emerged into the dark moonlit Egyptian night. They gratefully gulped in the night air. It tasted sweet after the mustiness of the tombs and tunnels. They realised that they had cheated a horrible death and without thinking they hugged one another, almost as if they needed the touch of human contact to release the terrible tension of the last few hours.
Al-Rashid’s followers had exited the chamber and had taken Rhapsody with them. Al-Rashid remained and looked at the two men.
Ochre said evenly, “So what’s the next item in this evening of entertainment?”
Al-Rashid didn’t smile at all but looked at Ochre with narrowed eyes. The American didn’t know why he kept needling the guy. It was probably the worst thing he could so, but he somehow couldn’t help it.
“Ah, ever the joker Mr Fraser. Your joking will be the death of you.”
Ochre ignored this. “You don’t really believe in all that reincarnation junk do you? It’s just for the benefit of your fans.”
The Egyptian stared at him for a few seconds, as if deciding what next to say. “No you are absolutely right. I supposed it does me no harm to tell you this, as neither of you will be able to use the information.”
Ochre didn’t like the implication in those words but stayed silent. He wanted to hear what Al-Rashid had to say next.
Al-Rashid looked at Simms. “Your daughter has been a most excellent subject of subliminal hypnosis.” He could see that the two men had blank looks on their faces so he continued.
“The amulet that she wears around her neck has been equipped with a miniature microchip device, a sophisticated electronic system to manipulate the brain’s electroencephalographic patterns. In other words I can control her thoughts and actions, even to the point of repeating transmitted messages. Unfortunately the effects of the stimulation cause certain side effects to the body, nausea, headaches, fainting spells.”
Well, thought Ochre, that explains a few things. Then he remembered her odd behaviour with the land rover. She had been trying to get somewhere last night when he found her. Could a subliminal command have been directed at her then also? He had a flash of insight and knew that she had been making for the tomb. Al-Rashid had probably planned for her to come here of her own accord. Instead, Ochre had stopped her.
I wonder if he was watching us. The thought left an unpleasant taste in his mouth. Al-Rashid would probably have been pretty furious at Ochre for spoiling his plans. It meant he had had to organise the kidnapping which was much more risky. Ochre was also annoyed with himself. It never occurred to him that the amulet might have been more sinister than it was. And yet now that he thought about it, Rhapsody had been wearing it constantly since Al-Rashid had very benevolently “loaned” it to her. There had probably been a subliminal command in there in order that she didn’t remove it. The guy was a supremely clever fraud. He just wished his followers could be here listening to what he was telling them.
“You know Lord Simms,” Al-Rashid paced slowly around the chamber and for a few moments seemed almost lost in his own thoughts, “I only intended to use Lady Dianne for the purpose of convincing my soldiers of my invincibility, but I confess I was strangely enraptured by her, just as my predecessor was by Queen Netephere. I resolved not to use the device in such a manner that would cause her any lasting harm.”
Simms said furiously, “How dare you hint at any display of affection for my daughter, after the way you have treated her, myself or her friends. And to suggest you have been somewhat lenient in mistreating her is beyond belief. You are a first class villain sir!”
Al-Rashid smiled, a wolfish grin that sent a chill down Ochre’s spine.
“Ah my dear Lord Simms, I wish I could say I will have the same scruples on your behalf. You see, I intend to have YOU under my control as well, but I shall not be too concerned how fast I achieve my aims.”
As he was speaking he withdrew a small chain with a tiny gold bead attached. He moved across to Simms and placed it around his neck. “For the next few hours you will be continuously bombarded with subliminal messages. I’m afraid you may find the next few hours a somewhat… unpleasant experience.”
“What’s the point of all of this?” demanded Ochre angrily, hoping to provoke Al-Rashid into revealing the nature of his plans.
“That my dear Mr Fraser, will be revealed only at a time of my choosing,” he smiled malevolently again and started walking out of the chamber.
Ochre looked at Simms. “Can you feel anything?”
The other shook his head. Then after a few minutes Simms felt only what could be described as a feather light whispering at the threshold of hearing but with no sense to the sounds. After an hour of this his head started to hurt. He became aware of flashing lights behind his eyes, almost like that described by migraine sufferers. Two hours later he felt like his nerve endings were being set on fire and he felt waves of nausea assaulting his stomach. He started having difficulty with his breathing and was unable to speak coherently. But most terrible of all was what was happening in his mind. It all seemed shadowy and confused; the boundaries of his reason being dragged away like drifting tendrils of smoke. The back of his head pounded wrathfully as if it was being squeezed within a vice. He could hear the voices now; they were calling him from far away. And after a long while he could finally feel his consciousness slipping away from him and it scared him more than anything he had ever experienced in his life.
Ochre followed the process with a horrified fascination. At first Simms was able to speak to him, and described some of the symptoms he was experiencing. Then, as time wore on and the physical effects of the conditioning started to make themselves evident, he could barely speak. Ochre saw sweat broke out in thick beads along Simms’s forehead. His face was a mask of agony. Ochre ground his teeth in frustration at having to watch this man being tortured without a hope of helping him. And still it continued, for yet two more unrelenting hours.
Robert Simms felt his will being stripped away like the layers of an onion. In his mind he felt small and exposed and naked. The whispering voices seemed to reverberate back and forth and all he could see was a shapeless red mist in his mind. The voices began to take shape and meld into one. And the voice echoed one word back and forth in his mind. And the word was KILL.
Ochre jumped involuntarily when he heard the strangled exclamation issue from Simms’s spittle flecked lips. The Englishman jerked spasmodically once, twice, and then slumped back, against his bonds, mercifully unconscious.
After a minute Magenta realised that he and Symphony were still clinging to each other and he grew a little uncomfortable. Symphony’s hair still retained traces of her perfume, despite the rigors of her experience and it was heady enough to make him feel slightly giddy. With a sigh he gently disengaged from her.
“Well, we’ve still got to get back on the path to get to the Land-rover, so we’d better keep going,” he said.
Magenta hoped fervently that the vehicle was still where the three of them had originally left it, but knowing that they had been followed into the tomb of Netephere their captors must have passed the land rover and wondered what it was doing there. He looked at his watch. It seemed like an eternity since they were thrown to their deaths although it was in reality only a few hours away. He couldn’t help wondering what had transpired with Ochre and Rhapsody during that time and felt guilty at having to leave them behind. But his priority now was to get to a phone and contact Cloudbase. First of all however, they had to get to the base of the cliffs. It had taken them a good hour to climb up and with Symphony’s injury it might take twice that long. At least it’s downhill and the temperature is cooler he consoled himself. He was also grateful for the moon. It provided enough light to see the path although they would still have to tread carefully with all the loose stones about.
“How’s your ankle Karen?” he asked the Angel who was resting on the ground.
“It’s fine, I’ll make it.”
He helped to lift her to standing then offered an arm. “Lean on me,” he smiled. She did so.
They toiled down the uneven path. After about half a kilometre they came across the entrance to the tomb of Netephere. They must have come out of the underground chambers at a point higher in the valley from Netephere’s tomb. At least he knew where they were now. He had been worried that they might not find the path they had come up on and get totally lost in these canyons of rock. With no obvious landmarks they could wander for days in them.
Magenta kept glancing at Symphony. The Angel hadn’t uttered a word of complaint but her face was pale and she bit her lip. After just over an hour they rounded a bend in the path to reach the end of the trail. Magenta’s heart sank like a stone. His worst fears were realised. The land rover was gone!
Symphony sank down to the edge of the path. Her ankle throbbed incessantly and her throat hurt from lack of water. She couldn’t believe that their transport was no longer there. How on earth were they going to get to civilization now?
Magenta said. “I remember there was a turn off for the Valley of the Kings about four kilometres from here. Hopefully there will be some tourist facilities and we can get in contact with Spectrum.”
He looked at Symphony who was lying on the path looking very much in pain. “Here, let me take another look at that ankle. You hold the flashlight on it so I can see.”
He whistled softly when he saw it. The ankle had swollen to almost twice its normal size and the mottled bruising was the colour of ripe plums. He didn’t like the look of it at all.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go any further with this foot, perhaps it’s better if you stay here.”
Symphony looked at him in anguish. “NO!” she cried emphatically. “I don’t want to stay here in case I run into Al-Rashid or any of his thugs again. There’s nowhere to hid in these rocks and it’ll be light soon. I’ll feel safer if we stick together, even if it takes us longer to get there.”
He held his hands up. “Okay, okay, I get the message, but I’m not happy. I think you’ll make your injury even worse by walking.” But he could see that Symphony was not happy about being left behind.
She managed to walk the first kilometre leaning on Magenta, but then the ache became almost unbearable and she couldn’t help a stifled sob. The Irishman heard it and stopped immediately. He peered worriedly at her face in the dawn light. He could see the streaks of tears across the young woman’s face and her face was pinched with pain.
“I’m sorry Pat, I should have stayed behind like you said,” and another sob escaped her. She detested being weak but the agony in her foot was almost as much as she could bear.
Magenta gently wiped away the moisture with his finger and said softly, “Hey, it’s all right, we stick together, like you said. But you can’t go on walking.” He turned his back to her. “Here, hop up.”
“Pat, you can’t. It’ll kill you, what about your injury?”
“Surely you can’t be THAT heavy,” he joked. “Anyway I feel a lot better now.”
She couldn’t help laughing and since she was in too much pain to argue she clambered across his back and put her arms around his neck. Magenta set off down the road again. Despite their predicament he couldn’t help deriving a sneaking pleasure from the feel of Symphony’s warm body pressed close to his and the tickle of her hair on his cheek as she rested her head on his.
Dream on, Captain! he thought to himself. Well this is the closest I’ll probably ever get to her again so I may as well enjoy it.
As they walked along the open desert road the glow of the approaching sunrise bathed their desert surroundings in a warm ethereal light.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Symphony whispered in his ear.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “But if only I had a nice cold beer I’d enjoy it even more.”
Then they didn’t talk any more to conserve their energy. Time dragged on and Magenta felt Symphony’s weight grow heavier with every passing minute. His ribs had started to feel like fire again and he suspected that they were badly bruised by the blow he had received from the hand of Zafer. Then as the second hour merged into a miserable third, he had to pause and rest more often. As he plodded along the dusty road Magenta began to feel nauseous with thirst and exhaustion. His ribs, thighs and calves were a burning fire and his knees threatened to buckle with every tortuous step. He grit his teeth and tried to concentrate on his breathing, even though his chest hurt like hell with the effort of it. He counted with every exhalation willing his mind to focus on anything but the unremitting agony.
Symphony’s hoarse voice broke into his trance “Pat, the turn off for the Valley of the Kings, I see it. We’re nearly there thank God.”
They could see a large vehicle in a cloud of dust not far from the turn off road. It looked like it might be a tour bus.
Symphony said frantically, “Get the torch and wave it, maybe it’ll catch the sun and attract their attention.”
Symphony waved the torch and Magenta leaped up and down with what little energy he had left waving his arms. To their joy the vehicle didn’t turn at the fork but headed for their direction. They couldn’t believe their luck, it was probably at least another kilometre to the parking lot and Magenta wasn’t sure he could have made it.
The bus rumbled to a stop beside them and the door opened.
Magenta looked up at the driver and asked, “Do you speak English?”
“Yes effendi,” he smiled .
“Our transport broke down and we’ve had a bit of a walk. My companion has injured her foot. Could you give us a lift to the Valley of the Kings parking lot?”
“Yes of course. Please come on board.” The bus was full of American tourists starting out early to avoid the heat. They tut-tutted sympathetically as the two dishevelled Spectrum agents hobbled up the steps. “Here sit here Ma’am,” one guy said offering his seat to the Angel.
One woman asked, “Have you walked a long way?”
“About six kilometres,” Magenta replied. “Without water unfortunately.”
She looked horrified. “You poor dears.” She rummaged in her holdall and produced two bottles of Coke. “I think you need these more than me.” She pressed them into the surprised pair’s hands. “Hell if I can’t help a couple of fellow Americans what is the world coming to?”
They smiled at her gratefully and drank the fizzy liquid. As the sugar hit home Magenta thought he’d never tasted anything so wonderful in his entire life.
The bus entered the parking lot and disgorged its passengers. As Magenta and Symphony made to leave the driver said to Magenta “The public pay phones are over there, beside the concession stands,” he pointed.
“Many thanks,” Magenta replied and helped Symphony off the bus and to the phones. Luckily he still had his credit card so was able to make the call to Spectrum. He punched in the code for Spectrum North Africa and when he got a reply he asked to speak to Lieutenant Gold who headed up that sector.
“Captain Magenta?” There was a surprised tone to Gold’s voice. Probably wondering why I’m using a landline, Magenta thought.
“Hi Lieutenant. I was supposed to be on vacation but things came a little unglued. It’s not exactly private around here so I won’t go into any details but I need you to get us some transport to the Valley of the Kings parking lot in Egypt. Oh and I need a med kit, I have an injured companion, Symphony Angel.”
Magenta could swear he heard Gold chuckle. Then the Lieutenant replied. “You Cloudbase officers have all the luck, how come we never get to go on holiday with one of those gorgeous women?”
“Well it’s no picnic here right now, so snap to it Lieutenant!” Magenta growled angrily down the receiver.
“Yes sir, Captain!” Gold immediately dropped the informality and sounded slightly embarrassed.
When Magenta put the phone down Symphony looked at him with troubled eyes.
“What about Rick and Dianne?” Now that they were out of danger she felt guilty at leaving them in Al-Rashid’s clutches.
“I don’t like leaving them any more than you Karen, but there’s precious little we can do right now, in the state we’re in, As soon as we get in some Spectrum transport we’ll call the Colonel and let him know what’s happened. With the number of men Al-Rashid has back there we’ll need some heavy fire power to get them out.”
Gold was as good as his word had dispatched a Spectrum helicopter to the Valley of the Kings. When they arrived at Cairo airport an SPJ was ready waiting to take them to Cloudbase.
When Simms lapsed into unconsciousness Ochre was so furious he started yelling at the guards. “Hey you! This man has collapsed, he could be dying!”
Then Al-Rashid re-entered the chamber and Rhapsody was walking beside him, once again dressed in her own clothes. She looked pale and there were faint dark smudges under her eyes. It pained Ochre to see her in this condition. He couldn’t tell if she had been physically manhandled but the subliminal hypnosis was obviously having some sort of a detrimental effect on her. Although thank God, he thought, not to the extent of that visited upon her father. As it was she didn’t even seem to be aware of her fathers condition. Her eyes were as blank as an automaton above the smudges. He sighed and wished he had a smart plan to get them all out of here but somehow he just couldn’t come up with anything.
“Mr Fraser, Lord Simms will live, do not worry.” He motioned to two of his men. They moved forward to the prone man. One of them produced what looked like wire cutters and snapped the nylon bonds holding Simms’s arms. “He will only do as I say now. He does not have to be kept a prisoner,” he smiled malevolently at Ochre
“And as for you, Mr Fraser, the time has come where we must part company I am afraid. I cannot say I will be saddened at your demise.”
Ochre steeled himself. Here we go, he thought. It’s obviously my turn to be disposed of. Strangely he felt no fear, just a deep rage that this man had already possibly murdered two of his friends and was destroying the minds of two others.
Al-Rashid snapped his fingers. The man with the wire cutters stepped forward. Al-Rashid said, “Your knife please,” and then he pulled a dagger from within his belt and handed it to Al-Rashid.
The terrorist leader then turned to Rhapsody, lifted her hand and placed the dagger in it, then closed her fingers over the hilt. Ochre’s heart started racing. He had a horrible premonition of what was going to happen next and Al-Rashid’s next words confirmed his fears.
“I sense you do not believe in anything I have done, I will have to prove to you that I have complete hold over this young woman.” He turned to Rhapsody. “My Queen Netephere, this man -” he pointed at Ochre “ - has defiled your person. You have the right to dispense justice as your divine right.”
Rhapsody looked curiously at the dagger she held in her hand. Her eyes, which had been slightly unfocused, seemed to stare at the weapon as if trying to fathom out what she was supposed to do with it. Al-Rashid spoke again, his voice a little harsher, “You shall kill him as is your right.”
Rhapsody’s head lifted and she looked at Ochre. The American wasn’t going to start begging, especially with Al-Rashid’s terrorist minions watching them, but his eyes silently locked with the redhead’s trying to make a connection with her. He swore he saw a flicker of recognition in those blue eyes.
Al-Rashid was displeased at Rhapsody’s hesitation. “KILL HIM!” he thundered in a voice that sent a shiver down Ochre’s spine and he was sure the feeling was transmitted to all the others. Rhapsody moved forward as if propelled by volition not of her own choosing. She raised the dagger above his chest
Ochre looked into her eyes. “Dianne, please….”
He saw her frozen mask crumple, as if she fought an inner battle in her own mind. Time seemed to freeze-frame as he saw her arm move downwards, her eyes suddenly squeezed shut and then he felt the shock as the blade hit sinew and muscle. She really did it, I can’t believe this is happening. Then the pain registered in his brain and he gasped with the savageness of it. Then he seemed to fall down a long black pit to blessed oblivion.
CLOUDBASE: MONDAY: 05:00 HOURS
Scarlet was just finishing a hot shower in his quarters when he heard the intercom break into life with Lieutenant Green’s voice. “Captains Blue, Scarlet, Brown and Grey to the Control Room as soon as possible please.”
Scarlet groaned. There goes breakfast he thought, and he was ravenous too. He quickly towelled down and rapidly dressed in his uniform and was heading for the Control Room within ten minutes of hearing the call. Grey was an early riser and he had already been for a morning swim and was dressed in his uniform when he heard the summons. About five minutes after Scarlet arrived, Blue and Brown came through the door both trying to stifle yawns. They sat themselves down beside their two colleagues.
Colonel White spoke immediately all of his Captains were seated. “I’ve just received a call from Captain Magenta who is on his way to Cloudbase in an SPJ with Symphony Angel.”
The four looked bemused and Scarlet said, “But where are Rhapsody and Ochre?”
White answered testily, “If you’d let me finish, Captain. Evidently the man that Lord Simms was working with on the excavation is a terrorist. He heads up the organisation known as the Hand of Re. All five of them fell into his hands. Magenta and Symphony were thrown into another underground chamber, with the intent that they be buried alive. But thankfully they managed to escape.”
Blue ventured to speak next, “Are they all right? Magenta and Symphony I mean.”
“Yes thank goodness. They’re both suffering from exhaustion and Symphony has a badly sprained ankle but she should be fine in a couple of days.”
Only Scarlet, sitting next to him, heard Blue give an imperceptible sigh of relief. He sensed that his friend had tensed up when White mentioned Symphony’s name.
Scarlet asked the Colonel, “Sir, do we have any idea what’s happened to the others?”
“Not yet. As soon as I spoke to Magenta I sent a team of ground agents led by Lt Sepia to search the tomb complex. We should hear from them in the next few hours. We’ll await the return of Symphony and Captain Magenta and then decide where to go from there.”
Three hours later the SPJ landed. Symphony was taken to the sickbay on a stretcher with Magenta following close behind her. While the nurse attended to Symphony’s ankle Fawn gave Magenta a rapid but thorough check over and he pronounced he would be fit for duty after a short rest in his quarters.
“But I feel fine now,” protested Magenta. How was he supposed to sleep when his colleagues were still imprisoned, or worse? Mind you Ochre probably thought he and Symphony were dead. HE must be feeling pretty wretched too. What a mess this had all turned out to be.
“Yeah and you’ll feel even better after six hours’ sleep, and if you don’t I’ll prescribe something that’ll make you,” Fawn reprimanded him. “You’re fine to meet with Col White and the others but after that you’re off duty, and that’s doctor’s orders.”
News had travelled fast and Destiny had appeared almost immediately at sickbay to see Symphony. Destiny found her propped up on the bed looking pale and drawn. The Frenchwoman was at her most incensed about the whole situation but tried not to appear too angry in front of Symphony.
“Mon dieu, my friend!” She shook her head “I wanted to check you were all right. And Harmony and Melody said that I must not waste a minute to see you also. They were so worried when they heard.” She cocked her head and frowned. “You look very exhausted. To nearly be buried alive.” Destiny shivered involuntarily. “Oh it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“Yes, but at least WE are fine now,” Symphony replied, “I just can’t stop thinking about poor Rhapsody and Ochre. You know, I didn’t really think about them when we were trying to get out of the tombs but when we were safe and in the SPJ it all came back.”
“I believe they are sending a search team to the tombs,” Destiny said. “I have faith that they will be alive. We are Spectrum agents, we are not so easy to kill,” she said with her usual confidence.
“Magenta was really wonderful, he kept me together down in that place. And he just kept trying to find a way out. He saved us both.”
Destiny grasped Symphony’s hand and squeezed it tightly. “I have to go back to the Amber room now, you get some rest and get back flying with us as soon as possible, mon amie.”
Symphony managed a smile. “Thanks, Destiny and please say thanks to the others for me too.”
After Destiny left Symphony was left alone with her thoughts. What had started out as a wonderful vacation had turned into a nightmare for all of them. She was frustrated also at having to stay in sickbay. She was desperate to see Captain Blue. She wished he would walk in the door right now. Surely he’d heard about her condition, unless, she thought unhappily, he really did want to finish their relationship and this was a subtle hint.
The object of her thoughts was trying to decide if he should make a visit to see her. He felt very guilty that he hadn’t already, although he didn’t want to make anything obvious to his fellow officers.
He decided to wait until he greeted Magenta. The Irish-American had gone to the Officers’ Lounge after seeing Dr. Fawn. His colleagues welcomed him back warmly, they were all very glad to have him back safe.
“Want some coffee Pat?” Grey offered.
“Absolutely. They pumped us full of IV electrolytes and vitamins but I much prefer this stuff for kick starting your system.”
Blue slipped quietly unnoticed out of the room and made his way to sickbay. When he arrived there he peered into the recuperation area but saw no sign of Symphony. Then Dr. Fawn appeared, dressed as usual in his whites.
“Oh hello Blue, were you looking for me?”
Blue said, “Ahem, no, er, I was just seeing if Symphony Angel was all right, isn’t she here?”
“She’s fine apart from her ankle so I sent her back to her quarters, it’s a bit more homely than here.”
“Thanks, I’ll probably catch her later.” He stood there for a few minutes, his mind in a state of turmoil, trying to decide what to do. When he had heard that she had been hurt and was nearly buried alive he felt as if an icy hand had gripped his guts. He was so surprised at the almost primal response he had felt; his woman, hurt, in danger. It had taken all his control to keep his voice even when he asked the question of the Colonel in the control room.
Now, he still wasn’t sure if Symphony’s quarters were the best place to have a conversation with her. Especially since both of them had parted in such cool circumstances. He couldn’t imagine what she must think of him, and he found that he didn’t want her to hate him, quite the opposite in fact. Oh for goodness sake, he chided himself angrily. I just have to sort this out sooner rather than later, or there might not be a later.
Symphony was trying to doze sprawled on the bed in her quarters. But she was having great difficulty, her thoughts still with Rhapsody and what might have befallen her and Ochre. Then she heard the door chime. She reached over to the wall and hit the intercom button. “Who is it?”
“It’s Captain Blue.”
She felt her heart miss a beat and answered, “Wait a minute.” She pulled herself across the bed and got herself into her chair at the same time checking her appearance in the mirror. Her hair still looked a mess but it would have to do. She hit the panel to activate the door. It slid open and there stood the blonde object of her affections. She thought he looked slightly ill at ease and she swallowed, uncertain of what to say. But Blue spoke first.
“I wanted to see how you were. I tried Sickbay but Fawn told me you were here, I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
Symphony thought; so formal but it’s his game and I’ll play it for now. But all she really wanted to do was for him to take her in his arms and hold her tight and tell her he was terrified he would never see her again and then kiss her till she swooned.
She replied in a slightly exaggerated bright voice, “No, not at all, Fawn said I should get some sleep but I was having trouble.”
He looked apologetic. “Sorry, Maybe now isn’t a good time.”
She said a bit too quickly “No! No really it’s fine, I’m glad you’re here. Come in.” She hit the panel to close the door. Blue looked around and then sat himself down on a chair.
He said, “I’ve just seen Magenta. He told us all about your lucky escape. He played it down but it sounds awfully like he saved your life down there.”
She nodded. “Well, yes, between him figuring out our means of escape and then helping to carry me all that in the desert, you wouldn’t be seeing me sitting here.” She looked suddenly grave, the memory of their narrow escape still fresh in her mind. “I shouldn’t joke, we’re still missing two of our colleagues.”
As he looked at her sombre face he finally admitted he was kidding himself that he didn’t feel anything for this young woman. He remembered his sensation in the control room. He bleakly realised that he might have to face these emotions have many times over with the dangerous job she had. Was he ready for that? Was she?
She looked up at him, realising that he had said nothing and was staring at her in a peculiar way. The silence almost became unbearable. Symphony suddenly felt a bone deep weariness. She couldn’t keep up this façade she had started with. After the things she had been through in the past hours she realised how precious life was, and she swiftly came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to waste her emotions on someone who wasn’t prepared to engage his.
Having made her decision she looked up at him with serious eyes.
“Adam, when I was in that tomb, thinking that I was going to be buried alive, I thought of you, how I wished you had been there. I was really afraid I’d never see you again.”
She sighed, steeling herself for the rest. “I can’t pretend that I don’t feel anything for you, because I do, more than I’ve ever felt for anyone. But I’m not built for giving all the time and getting nothing back. I’m asking you to make a decision about whether we carry on this relationship because I don’t feel I can take any of this any more.”
Blue seemed to be shaken out of his reverie by her words. He hadn’t really expected this response from her and he felt stunned. He looked at her face and saw her brown eyes shimmer with unshed tears. At that point he hated himself and then almost simultaneously came to a decision driven by the emotions he had tried so hard to shut out. He crossed the distance between them in seconds and fastened his lips onto hers before she could utter another word.
Symphony felt the electric shock of his touch jolt through her entire body. She automatically slid her hands around his neck and held onto him as if she were drowning. She thought she might get lost forever in the pleasure of his kiss. As she felt the rush of joy and love and passion all her worries were pushed aside. Blue for his part felt only emotions, feelings, it made him giddy. When he had looked at Symphony he felt such a wash of tenderness and passion and it blew him away. He wanted to wrap himself around her and shut everything else in the world out.
When they finally broke their kiss they looked at each other, both breathless and flushed with the depth of their emotion.
Blue said quietly, “Karen, I’m not very good at personal relationships,” he paused, as if trying to make sure the right words came out.
“I’m afraid there were some things in my past that maybe dented me emotionally, in some way.”
Symphony swore she saw pain cloud his features as if remembering some awful memory. She didn’t dare to think what might be going through his mind and she didn’t want to ask. He would tell her when and if he wanted to and she would just have to be patient.
He was thankful that she didn’t want to pursue his admission further. She just waited patiently for what he had to say next and he didn’t want to disappoint her any more.
“I know I’ve been acting a bit distant recently, I guess I wasn’t really sure about the two of us, trying to keep everything a secret, worrying about the rules. But I think what happened to you in Egypt was a bit of a wake-up call for me. It’s too easy to believe that you have forever, then you realise that the future can change in an instant, and then you might never have the chance to do the things you wanted to do with someone special. I guess what I’m trying to say, very badly, is that I don’t want to give up on you, on our relationship. I think I would be a complete fool to throw away a chance of having something unique with you, that is if you’ll forgive me and still have me.”
Symphony smiled, her eyes creasing at the corners. She had never felt so happy in her entire life. She placed a finger to his lips to acknowledge his heartfelt speech and then she decided she preferred to replace it with her gentle kiss.
“Oh, believe me Adam, you’ve still got me. And I don’t think you said that badly at all. It all sounded just perfect to me.”
They were silent for a few seconds. Symphony then looked serious “Sometimes I push too hard Adam, just like now, forcing you into making decisions when I want them made. I sometimes forget that there are two people in a relationship and they both have to be in tune, or it won’t work. Maybe we just need to give ourselves some time together without the pressure. After all, up here in Cloudbase working together as we do, we have all the time in the world.”
Blue cocked one eyebrow at her, still holding her tightly in his arms “That sounds suspiciously corny, and I’m sure I’ve heard that line somewhere before.”
Symphony gave a low chuckle in her throat “You’ve found me out, it’s an old twentieth century song by Louis Armstrong.”
“Mmm. I remember it.” And he started to hum off key. Symphony silenced him with another kiss. “Oh no anything but that,” she laughed helplessly.
Blue started to enjoy this kiss too much again. “Hey I’d better get back, the others might wonder where I’ve gone.” He looked at her, “Karen, I’m still not up to telling the world about us yet though.” He looked a little shamefaced about it.
Symphony decided it was only fair to tell him about Rhapsody. After all they were trying to be really honest with one another.
“Well, somehow I’m not surprised, you two share quite a lot don’t you?”
Symphony nodded. “I’m glad you’re not mad about it, but you can rely on Dianne, she’s pretty good at keeping secrets.”
He mused. “Well, maybe I’ll tell Paul, it would be good to have someone close know about us, at least I would have someone to let off steam to when you’ re starting to drive me crazy.”
She punched him on the arm “Me? Driving YOU crazy? Anyway, joking apart, I wouldn’t do anything to endanger our careers, mine is just as important to me as yours is to you. But you are also very essential to me. Adam, as you implied, we only have one life, to live once, we sometimes don’t get second chances.”
He squeezed her hand. She felt the friendship and concern and care in it and was glad.
“Yes, you’re right, I don’t deserve you.”
“Of course you don’t, now run along before the boys come looking for you.”
LUXOR: MONDAY: 09:00 HOURS
Ochre drifted in and out of consciousness .He was dimly aware through the haze of pain that he was still alive. He didn’t know whether to rejoice in that thought or not. It was likely that he would probably just have a long lingering bleed to death. He could see the left hand side of his shirt was soaked red but he didn’t know how much blood he was losing, and how fast he was losing it.
Hey, he thought, I’m still breathing so there’s always a chance. Rhapsody had obviously missed his heart or he wouldn’t be lying here having this conversation with himself. She either had a lousy aim, which he very much doubted, or she really had tried to wrest control of her mind and somehow had misdirected the blow she dealt him.
He had heard no sounds for the past hour and he suspected that he was now alone. After a while longer he thought he DID hear some sounds. He raised his head in the direction from which he thought they came but that action sent waves of pain breaking across his shoulder and chest. I must be hallucinating! he thought. Just before he crashed into unconsciousness again he swore he could see several figures making their way swiftly toward him. The strange thing was, he was sure they were wearing Spectrum uniforms.
In the Control room Lieutenant Green received a communication from the ground team at the tomb in Luxor. He swivelled in his chair to face Colonel White, concern flooding his dark features
“Sir, I’ve just got a message from Lieutenant Sepia. They’ve found Captain Ochre. He was still in one of the hidden chamber rooms.”
“Patch him through speakers Lieutenant.” A deep frown furrowed his brow. “I want to hear first hand what the situation is.”
Lieutenant Sepia’s voice came over the channel. “Colonel White, Captain Ochre’s been injured. It looks like he received a stab wound. It doesn’t look like any major arteries were hit but he’s lost a lot of blood. It’s impossible to say when he got this wound.”
“That’s not important Lieutenant,” White said tersely. “But it’s vital to get him to Cloudbase as soon as possible. We have an SPJ standing by at Luxor airport. Get him there as fast as possible. Is it all right to move him?”
“I think so, I don’t think there’s anything broken, and we can stop the bleeding for now. We’ll put him on the stretcher and winch him straight up into the Spectrum helicopter,
Before Sepia could go, White asked him, “Did you find Rhapsody Angel or Lord Simms?”
“No sir, we made a quick search of all the chambers that you and Captain Magenta described and there’s no sign of anyone around here, looks like they packed up and left.”
“All right Lieutenant good work, now get going.”
“S.I.G Colonel White,” and Sepia cut the communication.
Colonel White pursed his lips and rubbed the bridge of his nose. This so called holiday was turning out to be a complete nightmare. Still he was thankful that at least three of his people were still alive. At least he hoped Ochre would still be alive by the time he got to Cloudbase.
Captain Ochre arrived at Cloudbase several couple of hours later. Dr Fawn was waiting for him and started surgery immediately. The American was hovering dangerously close to a coma due to the blood that he had lost. But Edward Wilkie was probably one of the best surgeons on the planet and he hadn’t lost a patient yet. He certainly wasn’t going to let Ochre go without a fight.
Back in the Officers’ Lounge Magenta was pacing the floor; worry for his friend was etched all over his face.
“Oh for goodness sake sit down Magenta,” snapped Blue. “You’ll wear a hole in the carpet.”
Magenta turned on him. “It’s not your partner and buddy lying close to death in there. Have a heart, Blue!”
Scarlet tried to cool things down. “Hey guys, bickering isn’t going to help matters. We’re all on edge. But Ochre’s got Fawn looking after him. We all know he’s in the best of hands.”
Scarlet was also hoping Ochre would recover soon so they could quiz him about Rhapsody; he was probably the only one who might know what had happened to her.
After what seemed like eternity, but was in fact only an hour, Dr Fawn patched through to the Officers’ Lounge to tell them that Ochre was stabilised and was out of danger. They all breathed a sigh of relief. But when Magenta wanted to see him Fawn forbade it. The Irishman was upset but understood. Scarlet said, “I’ll let the Angels know, they’re champing at the bit as well.”
Colonel White had made his way to sickbay when Fawn informed him Ochre was out of surgery. He frowned when he saw the pale form of his officer lying on the bed, heavily bandaged. He still had several drips attached to his arms supplying the necessary painkillers and antibiotics.
“How is he?” he asked Fawn
“Pretty good considering. The stab wound missed anything vital so he was just weak from blood loss.”
“When will he recover consciousness? I really need to speak to him about Rhapsody, she may still be in danger and we need to know what these terrorists might be planning.”
“He should come out of the anaesthetics in about an hour, he’ll still be heavily sedated but you can speak to him then.”
Captain Ochre’s eyes fluttered open, he felt like he was floating on air and he was aware that he felt no pain anymore. Then he heard a voice and then the face of Dr. Fawn peered over him.
Ochre managed a smile. “Well I wasn’t hallucinating after all…. and somehow I don’t think this is heaven!”
Fawn looked at him quizzically but said, “Welcome back to Cloudbase Captain, you gave us a bit of a scare but you’ll be glad to know you’re going to live.”
Ochre blinked and tried to focus his mind. He felt like it was wrapped in cotton wool. Suddenly the harsh reality of the past twenty fours hours shoved into his thoughts.
“Magenta and Symphony!” he cried hoarsely and without thinking tried to sit up.
“Are right here in Cloudbase,” said Fawn placing a hand on his shoulder. “But YOU might not be if you try that stunt again.”
Ochre’s face showed the utmost relief. “Then they must have escaped. How?”
“I’m sure they can fill you in on all the details when you see them. The main thing is they are both well. Symphony has a badly twisted ankle but she should be okay in a day or two.”
Fawn inspected the monitors that Ochre was hooked up to. He nodded to himself, satisfied that the Captain’s condition was continuing to improve rapidly. “Colonel White asked me to tell him when you awakened. He wants to speak to you.” He regarded Ochre carefully. “Do you feel up to it? I can put him off if you wish.”
“No, I’m up to it. I want to speak to him anyway.”
As Fawn stepped out of the room Ochre closed his eyes .He did still feel very weary and weak. He had been so sure he was going to die in that tomb. He felt somewhat nervous about speaking with Colonel White. He wasn’t sure how his superior would feel about what the events of the past three days. However he argued with himself that if Rhapsody had gone on vacation on her own they would have had no idea what had happened to her. Then he heard the door of the surgery swoosh open and he opened his eyes again to see Colonel White making his way over to his bed. Ochre felt embarrassed being seen by his chief in this state and he unconsciously tried to sit up straighter, as if to attention.
“At ease Captain,” White said with a faint smile. He had noticed Ochre’s discomfort and understood what he was feeling. He would probably have felt the same way. He sat down beside the bed so Ochre didn’t have to strain to look up at him.
“I’m glad you seem to be out of danger. Captain Magenta and Symphony Angel have also been returned to us safely and they have both reported what happened to them since they unfortunately parted company from you. I hoped you might be able to fill me in on what happened after that.”
Ochre related his version of events. White’s eyes narrowed when Ochre spoke of the effects of the subliminal hypnosis. Ochre somehow couldn’t face telling the Colonel that Rhapsody herself had stabbed him and he just said he had been left for dead.
But Colonel White asked the question he was dreading. “Did Al-Rashid himself stab you or one of his men?”
Ochre hesitated, he didn’t really want to tell him, but on the other hand he didn’t want to lie to the Colonel. White could see the indecision in his officer’s eyes. What didn’t he want to tell him?
“Sir, it... It was Rhapsody,” Ochre stammered.
White looked horrified. “Rhapsody Angel, I can’t believe it.”
Ochre protested quickly, “Sir, it wasn’t her fault! This hypnosis she’s been subjected to, it’s obviously extremely powerful, I think that’s what Al-Rashid was trying to impress upon his men and me. But I know she fought it, the conditioning I mean. She was commanded to kill me but she deflected her blow, instead of hitting me in the heart she got me in a less vital spot. I don’t know why Al-Rashid or one of his men didn’t finish me off, probably thought I was a goner anyway if they left me. They didn’t reckon on Magenta and Symphony getting away either.”
He looked dejected. “Her father was subjected to much worse than she was though. I don’t know what his state of mind is. It’s possible the effect of the mind control is much deeper than Rhapsody’s.”
White was perplexed. “But to what end? Why should this man go to all this trouble? He must be planning something with Lord Simms.”
“That’s my thought too. Perhaps we can check to see if there are any events scheduled in the next few days in Egypt?”
“I’ll get Captains Scarlet and Magenta on it as soon as possible,” said White.
“Sir, I’d like to help them.”
“Captain, I think the place for you is here in bed,” White admonished him.
Ochre insisted, “Sir, I can’t just lie here doing nothing! Three minds work faster than two, especially when one of those minds is a detective’s. Please, you can swing it with the good doctor.”
“Hmm, the good doctor is more likely to insist that I mind my own business and leave the running of his sickbay to him, but I’ll ask him and see if he will agree.”
“Thanks Sir, I appreciate it.”
A few minutes later a disgruntled Dr Fawn came in to see him. “What’s this about you wanting to get back on duty, are you mad?”
“Yeah, Doc, one engine short of an interceptor. Look, Rhapsody and her father are a couple of zombies out there and who knows what might happen to them in the clutches of this terrorist nutcase. I’m gonna get cured a lot faster if I am less stressed out, which I WILL be if I am stuck here not able to help.”
Fawn looked at Ochre who was getting thoroughly agitated and sending the signals on his monitors crazy. He swore quietly to himself. Why did he have to take a job where all the patients point blank refused to ever stay in their beds long enough to take any good advice?
Ochre was still trying to persuade him. “Look, there’s a computer linked to the main database here, Scarlet and Magenta can do the research here and I can stay in bed hooked up to these blasted things. Everybody’s happy.”
“Everyone but me you mean.” He shook his head and a smile escaped him “All right, Ochre, I don’t know how you manage to do it, but I’ll allow it. Just promise me you’ll get as much sleep as you can in-between times.”
Ochre gave him a grateful salute. “Absolutely, thanks Edward you’re a real buddy”. Then as soon as Fawn disappeared out of the door he sank immediately into a deep sleep, suddenly exhausted.
Three hours later, Scarlet and Magenta were sitting in the recovery room at a monitor at the end of Ochre’s bed. As Ochre had suggested they looked first for events that might be taking place over the next few days.
Magenta punched in some keywords and they started trawling through the results.
“Right, here’s one that looks interesting. First Minister of Egypt Suleiman Ben Mansour holds gala state banquet Thursday night in honour of joining the World Government.”
“That’s in three days’ time. Can we get the guest list for the banquet?” asked Ochre
Magenta punched more keys. The file was classified so he typed in the security password and sent the request again. This time a list of attendees flashed up on the screen. He exclaimed, “Lord Simms is on this list, he’s one of the representatives from the World Government.”
“And Al-Rashid has got him under major hypnosis,” said Ochre bleakly
Magenta considered, “You say Al-Rashid wants to get power, things are pretty ropey right now in the country with all these terrorist attacks and the opposition to membership of the World Government. Imagine the assassination of the leader who’s holding it all together by one of the members of the organisation they are dead against. What would that do to the fragile state of play in the country?”
Scarlet said, “It would most likely create a state of chaos.”
“And might just be the thing that Al-Rashid is looking for as an excuse to step in,” Ochre finished
“It certainly seems the most likely place for something to happen, and it’s soon,” said Scarlet. “Let’s inform Colonel White.”
Ochre said thoughtfully, “I’m curious, I don’t know why. Maybe just my detective’s nose is working overtime again, but I can’t help feeling there’s a connection between Al-Rashid and Simms. Let’s see if we can find anything on Al-Rashid himself.”
Magenta typed in his name and got too many hits. Ochre said, “Simms mentioned he was from a well known family in Luxor and that he was in the government, see if that throws up anything.”
“Yeah here we go, I’ve found a entry in Who’s Who. Amir Al-Rashid, born 2022 in Luxor to wealthy parents, his father was in the oil business. He was sent off to be educated in Britain and that’s where he met and married a British girl by the name of Catherine Reynolds. He returned to Egypt a couple of years later and entered local government. The entry says he left local government in 2037 after his wife’s death and returned some time after to take control of his fathers oil companies. Then about another three years later he returned to political life by taking the job of Director of Antiquities.”
Magenta had found several more articles. “It turns out this guy is one of the richest men in Egypt. He’s renowned for his interest; some would even say fanaticism in Ancient Egypt. And according to an article from Architectural Digest, his house is decked out inside like a Pharaohs palace.”
“So he’s got plenty money for opening old tombs and financing terrorist organisations and has a handle in the government at the same time,” said Ochre grimly. “When we were at dinner he mentioned his wife died, after Rhapsody asked the question, he looked pretty devastated by it. Is there anything about how she died in the files?”
Magenta found several news items relating to the subject in question. “This is very interesting, His wife worked in the British embassy, in Cairo. Terrorists attacked the building and she was among the twenty hostages that were taken. A British commando team had gone in to rescue them but the operation had gone horribly wrong, she was among those killed in the operation.”
Scarlet mused, “You would think that would have given him cause to despise acts of terrorism rather than embracing it.”
“Who was involved with the negotiations and the commando attack?” asked Ochre sharply, his mind was making odd connections.
Magenta rattled in some keywords and the screen flashed “INFORMATION CLASSIFIED”. He punched in the access codes and was able to access the files in the World Government security records.
He stared at the documents for a few minutes, with a look of disbelief on his face. Ochre and Scarlet looked at him, wondering at his silence.
Ochre said, “What is it, what does it come up with?”
“The negotiator was Suleiman Ben Mansour and Lord Robert Simms headed up the commando force.”
Ochre whistled in surprise. “Something makes me think that maybe Al-Rashid has a personal vengeance motive in all of this, amongst other things. Is there anything else on his wife, personal details, photos?”
There was more tapping of keys. Magenta stared again and shook his dark head. “This just gets more weird by the minute.” He exchanged glances with Scarlet who looked with surprise at the photograph of the woman on the screen.
“Well don’t keep me in suspense,” said Ochre testily. Magenta swung the screen round so he could see. The woman had red hair and bore a remarkable resemblance to Rhapsody Angel.
Ochre’s face darkened. “Now I feel even more uncomfortable that she’s in this guy’s control. I don’t even want to imagine what twisted plans he has in mind for her.” He thumped his good hand on the edge of the bed almost seething with frustration.
“Blast it! I feel helpless being stuck here unable to do anything while she and her father are subjected to goodness knows what. We’ve just got to find her.”
Scarlet noticed his colleague’s restless demeanour. They were all concerned about Rhapsody’s situation but Ochre seemed to be taking it personally. He couldn’t help wondering if the American had more than a soft spot for the British Angel.
Ochre was unaware that Scarlet was studying him. He was thinking, trying to join the dots in his mind. “You say he left the government, was that around the time of his wife’s death?”
Magenta typed in key phrases to relate the events and came up with an interesting match.
“Yep, he left the government, then it looks like he was checked into a private hospital for severe depression for about six months He was pronounced okay on discharge and that’s when he returned to work at his father’s company.”
Magenta looked at Ochre. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That maybe this guy didn’t quite recover from that depression at all.”
“It doesn’t make sense that he’d wait so long to take revenge, if that’s what it is,” Scarlet said.
Magenta shrugged. “Who knows what goes on the mind of someone who’s mentally unbalanced. It seems he is truly bent on assuming power, perhaps the way of achieving it coexists with his other goal of retribution for his wife’s death.”
The three of them looked uncomfortably at one another. Then Scarlet got up and stretched his muscles, cramped from sitting in one position.
“Well, I think we’ve probably found enough information for now. Let’s have a briefing with Colonel White and see where we can go from here. Thanks Rick, you’ve been a big help, you need to get some rest now.”
Ochre wearily waved a hand in their direction. “Thanks guys, I’m going to be up and out there as soon as…” Magenta and Scarlet glanced at each other. Whatever Ochre was going to say was lost as he drifted off into sleep again, the effort of the past hour finally taking its toll on his injured body.
After speaking with Scarlet and Magenta, Colonel White agreed that the target could be the First Minister. He called Suleiman Ben Mansour at the Palace to tell him that he suspected there might be a potential threat to his life. The First Minister could well believe this. He was living in troubled times and death threats were never far from his mind.
“What do you know?” he asked White gravely
White recounted the events experienced by his agents.
Ben Mansour paled only slightly at hearing these revelations. “Amir Al-Rashid is a terrorist?”
“By his own words sir, to my agents whom he tried to murder. Luckily they are very resourceful people and contrived to escape the deaths planned for them. Unfortunately, one of them is still missing; we hope she is still alive. We also believe that Al-Rashid has brainwashed Lord Robert Simms who is going to be a guest at your banquet on Thursday night. We think the purpose of his brainwashing is in order to assassinate you at the function.”
Ben Mansour looked shaken at this news. “Lord Simms is an old friend, How could this happen?” He let his voice trail away and he was lost in thought for a few minutes.
White said, “We believe, that Al-Rashid plans to kill you for two reasons, the first being the confusion and potential anarchy that might follow your death, which I also believe he intends to take advantage of, and secondly, for revenge.” White recounted the information that his Captains had unearthed about Al-Rashid’s wife and the failed hostage crisis fifteen years ago.
Ben Mansour said nothing for a few minutes, as if inwardly digesting all this information. White spoke up again. “Sir, Spectrum would like your permission to try to stop this man. We wish to mount an attack on his mansion in Luxor; we believe our missing female Angel pilot may also be held captive there. In addition I want to send some of my men to your banquet, undercover, in case there IS an attempt on your life by Lord Simms.”
Ben Mansour nodded. “Of course, I will see to it that my own security team in the palace are informed and act on Spectrum’s orders. Do you require anyone for the Luxor operation?”
“No, I’ll make it a small team and I have my own men to lead it. I thank you Sir, for your help in this, it can’t have easy to hear some of this information. We shall endeavour to ensure that we have a successful outcome.”
“And I hope you find the young woman you seek,” Ben Mansour answered
After White broke contact with the First Minister he called another meeting in the control room with his officers. When they had all assembled he continued.
“Captains Scarlet, Ochre and Magenta have uncovered information that lead us to believe that there might be an attempt on the life of Egyptian First Minister Suleiman Ben Mansour at a gala dinner being held at the Palace on Thursday evening. We shall send several agents to cover the banquet and protect the first minister. The man we suspect of masterminding the operation owns a residence in Luxor, from surveillance on the property we have determined that he is in residence there at the moment, although we have no evidence that either Rhapsody Angel or her father are currently held captive, However, I would consider that the likelihood is high. So, I am going to send a strike force to the house to monitor the situation, with the likelihood that this team will storm the house and secure it sometime in the next two days.”
Scarlet spoke up, “Sir, I‘d like to lead the strike team at Luxor.”
White nodded. “Well, thank you for volunteering, I have no objections to that. Captain Magenta, I’d like you to go with Captain Scarlet. You will team up with Lieutenant Sepia and his ground agents in North Africa.”
Magenta nodded. He was grateful that the Colonel picked him to go on the mission. Normally Scarlet teamed up with Captain Brown, but maybe the old man was allowing him to ‘get his own back’ as it were, although he was sure White would have balked at the suggestion of personal grievances getting in the way of duty. Whatever the reasons however, he was glad he was going.
Colonel White continued. “Captains Blue and Grey, you will attend the banquet with Lieutenant Gold and his men. You will attend in civilian clothes. I do not want to alert Al-Rashid or his men that Spectrum is involved as yet; we want to catch him red-handed.”
White continued, “If Lord Simms is in the house at Luxor, then I imagine Al-Rashid will have to transport them both to Cairo to the presidential palace. Allow them to leave and only then will the strike team storm the house. Both of the teams need to keep in constant communication. Rhapsody Angel may be a hostage and although Captain Ochre believes that Al-Rashid will not kill her, that situation may change if he learns that Spectrum is involved and likely to thwart his plans. Given the background of this man he should be considered extremely unstable. Anything could happen. However the primary objective is to ensure than Ben Mansour is not killed by any means. The fallout could be disastrous for the country.”
Before they left on their mission Magenta and Scarlet went to the Observation room and used the long range scanners to take detailed pictures of the mansion in Luxor owned by Al-Rashid. They needed to determine what they were up against before they went in. They were able to home in to quite a close distance and they studied the pictures they received from the scanners on the monitor.
“Nice pad,” Magenta noted wryly.
The house was built on two storeys around a central courtyard. A huge swimming pool set in luxurious gardens was at the rear of the house. There was a long single storey extension to the house that looked very interesting.
Scarlet noted, “That bit looks newer than the main house, and it looks very utilitarian, quite unlike the rest of the buildings. Look at the shutters on the windows.”
Magenta nodded. “Maybe that’s where his men are located. If he’s running a terrorist group he would need arms and munitions, could be the place for it.”
They studied the scans of the house to establish entry and exit points. There was a twelve-foot high perimeter wall running around the property with impressive looking metal gates guarding the entrance to the large driveway. A main road ran past the property about thirty metres away from the wall.
Scarlet said, “We can park one of our camouflaged Spectrum vans by the roadside, there’s an electrical substation nearby. We can make it look like we’re working on the supply and that’ll let us keep an eye on the property without attracting attention. Right, let’s do an infra-red scan and check for bodies.”
Magenta set some controls on the instrument and requested another set of scans from the computer. A few minutes later they saw the readouts.
“There’s eight bodies in the main house and another thirty in the extension,” Magenta said.
“Well we know he has no family, so he’s either having a big party down there or… that’s where the terrorists are holding out,” Scarlet said dryly.
“Shame we can’t tell whether the bodies are male or female, we don’t know if one of the heat signatures belongs to Rhapsody.”
“Well, we just have to hope she is in there, and still alive,” Scarlet answered grimly.
Just prior to leaving on the mission, Magenta stopped at sickbay to see Ochre. The American was improving by the hour and was fretting at his inactivity as usual.
His face lit up when he saw Magenta. “Hi there you lucky so-and-so. I wish I could be going down there with you to Luxor. I feel like something worse than useless sitting here.”
Magenta punched him gently on his good shoulder. “I know patience isn’t one of your virtues, but you’ll be up and raring to go in no time.”
Ochre gave him a serious look. “Get her back in one piece, buddy.”
“Don’t worry, you think Scarlet and I are going to let one of our Angels down?”
Ochre looked morose. “I feel like I’ve already let her down, I should have done something.”
Magenta shook his head. “I don’t think there’s anything you could have done, just be glad we’re all alive.”
“Okay, thanks for trying to make me feel better, as usual. Oh, by the way, don’t forget the amulet, Rhapsody still might have it around her neck. God knows if she’s still being subjected to its effects.”
“I’ll make sure of it. See you soon.”
“Be careful,” Ochre said quietly to him as Magenta turned to go.
“Aren’t I always?” Then he grinned. “On second thoughts, scratch that. Not based on recent experience eh?” He patted his tunic, feeling the comforting bulge of his pistol. “This time, though, I’m better prepared.”
And with a wave he left Ochre to a frustrating waiting game.
LUXOR: TUESDAY: 16:00 HOURS
Rhapsody’s eyes fluttered open, she felt extremely groggy and nauseous. It took her some time to establish where she was as every time she tried to focus her vision kept swimming in front of her almost as if she was underwater. Finally she could make out the outline of a man standing against a door, directly opposite her. When he realised she was awakening he opened the door, exited and closed it. She heard a lock turn. Left alone she tried to figure out what she was doing here. It was if the last several days of her life was nothing but a dream, and a nightmare at that. Strange images were all she could recount. Her head felt sore. Had she been drugged? The last thing she clearly remembered was talking to her father in the tomb about their respective kidnappings. Then as she slowly realised she was no longer in the tomb she felt fear. Where was her father? And where exactly was she?
Trying to calm the sudden panic she felt inside, she tried to focus on something simple, like trying to figure a way of getting out of here. She raised her hand to touch her head and realised that there was a large metal manacle on her wrist. There was one on the other too. Chains ran from the manacles to two pillars either side of the chair she was sitting on. She glanced at her surroundings. The large room had no windows, only the door. It was furnished very comfortably, two leather sofas, a large coffee table, what looked like a small minibar. The pillars seemed to be some sort of decoration, like the lotus blossom frieze that ran all the way around the walls. A couple of statues of Egyptian gods, Thoth and Horus, flanked a stone table where incense burned in a copper bowl. Its smell made her feel even more nauseous. It was as comfortable as a twenty-first century drawing room, but designed as if it were an Egyptian temple. She looked carefully at the manacles, little chance of getting out of these, she thought, the mechanism looked as if it was operated electronically.
Then the door opened again and the guard, whom she assumed he was, returned, with another man whom she recognised immediately on sight.
“Al-Rashid!” she hissed in anger.
He walked up to her. “My dear,” he inclined his head. “I asked your guard to tell me when you finally woke up, I am glad to see you seem to be unharmed.”
Rhapsody glowered at him and said caustically, “Unharmed? What’s that supposed to mean? Have you been drugging me? And where is my father, what have you done with him?”
“He is alive.” He saw her breathe a sigh of relief. Then she became angry again. “How long exactly do you plan to keep me tied up here? What are your plans for me and my father?”
“I am sorry I have to use restraints, but I cannot take the chance that you will escape. I still have need of you”.
He walked over to her and studied the young woman. He was indeed impressed at the young woman’s fortitude. His eyes clouded over. She was so beautiful and looked so much like his dead wife. Rhapsody stared at him as if she faced a cobra about to strike. She was confused and spellbound by his mesmerising eyes and the shifting emotions passing over the Egyptian’s face. Sadness, regret, and tenderness. He put out a slightly trembling hand to touch her face and his expression changed to one of barely disguised desire.
She shrank back with fear and loathing, what was he going to do to her now? Al-Rashid saw the look in her eyes and suddenly his feeling of desire evaporated instantly and he pulled his hand away. He turned away from her so she could no longer see his face. He shook his head to clear his emotions. Remember, she is a tool, that is all, he reminded himself.
However, he still regretted having to keep her tied up but he sensed the strength of will in her. He had had to increase the level of subliminal stimulation ten fold for a short period in order to “persuade” her to kill her companion, but he saw the effect on her physical condition and he knew that he would have to completely stop the conditioning, or he was afraid that any more might kill her. As it was Lord Simms had been extremely ill after his “session” in the tomb. But with appropriate medication the effects were being controlled and he would be capable of attending the banquet tonight. He turned around again slowly and gave her a long look devoid of emotion and then simply said.
“Now I am afraid I must leave you again, I have some business to attend to.”
He turned and left the room without another word, the guard stepped aside smartly giving Al-Rashid a short salute as he left. He then stationed himself beside the door again. Rhapsody sighed. She had felt a short stab of fear when Al-Rashid had touched her; all sorts of things had rushed through her mind. Thank God something had changed his mind. She tried to breathe slowly to calm her racing heart and try to bring some sense into all of this. She desperately wanted to remember these past hours of her life; somehow she felt it was vitally important to remember. What had happened to her? What had happened to Symphony, Magenta, and Ochre? When she thought of the brown haired American a feeling of dread came over her. She sensed something awful had happened to him. Now why would she think that? She hadn’t seen him for what seemed forever. The questions went around in her tired mind. If she could have looked in a mirror she would have been shocked to see the pallor of her face and the dark smoky circles around her eyes.
As she stared at her manacled hands, frantically struggling to regain those lost hours, jumbled images seemed to bubble up from the murky depths of her memory. Chanting voices, darkness, a voice that was hers yet sounded foreign, alien. Pain, throbbing pain like a knife impaling her skull. Knife, something about a knife…The word seemed to resonate in her mind, it triggered a memory, but the remembrance was so filled with dark portent that she almost wished she hadn’t summoned it. She remembered holding something, fighting against an invasion of her mind and an appalling command reverberating in her brain. Suddenly it reared up out of her subconscious; she saw herself looking at Ochre and holding a knife in her hand, the memory of his brown eyes, pleading with her, the terrible command overriding her will and seeing her hand move almost of its own volition to strike him. At the horror of the recollection hot tears escaped her tired eyes and trickled ragged tracks down her face. She’d killed him! She fell back against the chair, the energy totally draining out of her body and a feeling of shock and hopelessness washing over her. Ochre dead, by her hand! Rick, I’m so sorry, she cried silently to herself.
LUXOR: THURSDAY: 16:00 HOURS
Scarlet, Magenta, Sepia and four of Spectrum North Africa’s ground agents, Emir Zaglaka, Hussein Omar, Yousif Tariq, and Uri Gaon sat inside the disguised Spectrum van opposite the mansion of Al-Rashid. A fifth agent, Youry Hamid sat on a motorcycle some way from the van but with the mansion in his sights. Apart from the front driver’s compartment there were no windows of any sort in the van. Just as well, since any passing stranger might have wondered at the array of instrumentation inside. The hidden camera on the top of the vehicle kept a close eye on the entrance to the house for any sign of activity. So far they had been here since early morning and had seen nothing of any interest happen as yet.
Scarlet scratched under his tunic at an annoying itch in his lower left rib. They were all wearing micro light SpectraV vests but in this heat they were still too heavy. Thank goodness it would be dark soon. Omar was taking his hourly turn of duty manning the CCTV monitor and he didn’t take his eyes off it. Tariq was snoozing in the front seat of the van and the other four were playing a game of cards to relieve the boredom
“I hate all this waiting around,” said Uri Gaon. “It’s the worst part of any mission.”
“Just wait till the bullets start flying, you’ll soon wish you were back in here winning,” said Magenta. “And that’s my game,” he said snapping down his hand of cards.
“That’s the third hand in a row you’ve won Captain, sure you haven’t got a couple of aces up your sleeve?” said Gaon jokingly.
He was silenced by Omar’s voice piping up. “I’ve got some activity at the house, the main door’s just opened.”
They all came alert instantly and crowded around the monitor peering over Omar’s shoulders.
They saw a large black limousine with heavily tinted windows draw up to the door. Two figures came out of the main house. Omar instantly panned the telephoto lens on the camera so they could see the men’s faces more clearly.
“Al-Rashid, and Lord Simms,” Magenta intoned.
Rhapsody’s father had an absent look to his face and he moved with a strange manner. Scarlet wondered if that was the effect of the subliminal conditioning. He didn’t look too good and he hated having to watch him being led away without doing anything. But Colonel White had insisted that they should play this game out in order to catch Al-Rashid red handed. He just hoped Rhapsody would see it that way when they found her.
The driver had come around and helped Simms into the car. Rashid said a few words to the driver and them followed the Englishman into the sedan. A couple of minutes later the car turned around and came through the gates, which had swung open as the car approached them. The sedan moved smoothly out onto the main road and headed left in the direction of the airport.
Scarlet contacted Hamid outside via his mike. “Follow the black limousine that just left the mansion and report on its destination. It has to be the airport, he couldn’t possibly drive the distance to Cairo in time for the reception.”
“S.I.G,” answered Hamid and he kick-started the bike and roared down the road after the car.
There was no further activity at the mansion so they settled down again to wait for Hamid’s message. About thirty minutes later he reported in. “Al-Rashid has taken off in his private jet for Cairo.”
“Right,” said Scarlet, “We should have several hours to secure the mansion. It’s almost dark so now is a good time to go. Does everyone have their face gear?”
There was a show of combination gas mask and night goggles. It was possible they might have to use knockout gas during the operation.
Scarlet said, “Right, we make this a two pronged attack. Captain Magenta, take Gaon and Tariq and go around to the back of the house via the pool. Enter the house via the large French window opposite the swimming pool that we saw from the aerial scans. When you’re in let me know. Take out anyone who might be in the vicinity. I’ll take the rest of the team to take the single wing. We’ll go in when your team has entered the house. Everybody understand?”
There were nods all round. “OK, let’s do it,” he said grimly
There was no outward sign of any security measures at the property, but Scarlet was sure that the house would be rigged with alarms. Firstly he activated a device that sensed any alarms within a hundred-metre radius of any building, and including those alarms in the building itself. He saw a light on the electronic pad flash red. “It’s alarmed all right, with infra-red beams.” He touched several more keys on the pad and some minutes later another light on the pad flashed green.
“Right, that’s the alarms deactivated, let’s move out to the house.”
The agents moved stealthily and swiftly across the road and hugged the side of the wall alongside the gates. That was the weak point of entry. Sepia, who was an explosives expert, moved to the front of the gates, reached into his tunic and removed a short section of plastic explosive. He attached it to the electronic lock, set the fuse timer and then stood back. With a fizzing noise then a dull crack the lock blew open. They all filed past singly through the gates and then made their way to the walls of the house all the while staying in the shadows as much as possible.
The two teams split up and made their way to their respective objectives. Magenta and his team silently made their way around to the back of the mansion. None of the rooms they passed were lit and they saw no sign of activity. They arrived at the room they planned to enter. Magenta couldn’t help taking a quick glance at the surroundings, they might need to have an escape route of things didn’t go well. They were on a wide patio, which stretched for about thirty meters in the opposite direction from where they now stood. The rectangular pool was massive, lined in mosaic tiles and surrounded by a perimeter of marble statues; most of them were female, of nubile proportions and probably representing various Egyptian goddesses.
Magenta noted the almost hedonistic splendour of the place. How come it’s always the bad guys who seemed to have the biggest swimming pools? Then he smiled ruefully to himself. And now that I come to think of it, mine was pretty big too.
Then he shrugged briefly, turned back to the window and pulled put the gear he brought from the pockets of his uniform. He smiled to himself again as he placed the glasscutter onto the pane. But hey, this is more fun! He swiftly cut the glass in a section large enough for them to get through without ripping any of their uniforms. After attaching a couple of suction clamps and locking them in place, he motioned to Tariq to help him lift the piece of plate glass free. It was very heavy and they carefully placed it down on the patio.
“Mind no one runs back out here in bare feet,” he quipped. “Right, masks on and then I’ll go in first. Let’s hope Scarlet deactivated all the alarms.”
He stepped through into the dark room and took a few steps. No sounds of alarms, there were infra-red sensors on the walls but nothing was triggered. “Right, follow me through.”
When they were all in the room he activated his mask mike to speak to Scarlet. “Captain, we’re in.”
Scarlet, Sepia and the others were waiting at the single wing. He acknowledged Magenta’s signal “Right, move through the house as quietly as possible, and secure it. My team will move into the wing.”
Scarlet then tried to figure out how they would gain access to the single storey building. Most of the windows had steel shutters and there was only one large external steel door, which looked formidably locked.
“Well,” Scarlet said, “looks like we don’t have any choice but to blow it, get ready with the knockout gas gentlemen, the noise may attract the attention of whoever is inside.”
They all pulled over their transparent facemasks and goggles. Sepia took out the plastic and placed it around the doorframe and the locks.
“Stand back,” the dark haired Lieutenant requested to them. A few seconds later they heard a dull crack as the material blew. However the force threw the door inwards and it made a very loud clang when it hit the stone flagged floor of the wide corridor. As they quickly moved inside the building they could hear some shouts up ahead. Several of the occupants appeared from a room and when they saw the Spectrum agents they shouted back into the room, then came rushing towards them brandishing their weapons getting them ready to fire.
Scarlet shouted instantly, “Drop the gas!”
Sepia threw a tiny aluminium canister to the ground and it exploded in front of the oncoming men. Within seconds they had dropped to the ground unconscious. Scarlet and his team moved rapidly forward along the corridor towards the room where the terrorists had come from .As they rounded the door they were met by a clatter of machine gun fire
“Back!” yelled Scarlet. But Zaglaka had caught a bullet in the arm.
He grimaced and said, “I’m fine, it’s just a graze.”
Scarlet said to Sepia, “We have no time for a firefight, throw the grenades in.”
He duly obliged by throwing himself to the floor across the doorway at the same time tossing the grenades inside the room with an expert aim. The gas once again took immediate effect and they could hear the dull thuds of bodies hitting pieces of furniture and the floor.
Magenta and the others exited the room with the French window and found themselves in a huge lit hallway To their left was a wide staircase leading up to a balconied landing and the second floor of the house The hallway was furnished with magnificent antiques, all of which were of Egyptian origin, and the opulence of the tiled floors and walls was breathtaking.
As they moved along the corridor Magenta suddenly saw a blur from above and then a violent pain in his shoulders as someone landed on him with full force. Gaon looked up to see another two figures jumping off the balcony above them. Magenta quickly got to his feet, still groggy, and just managed to dodge a lethal kick to his sternum from his assailant. The terrorist flipped around and then aimed his gun squarely at Magenta’s chest. The Irishman decided that if they had the gas he might as well use it. Getting lazy in my old age. He pulled the grenade from his tunic and threw it from the hip. It shattered on the floor and once again the three terrorists were out of action. That’s for Symphony, he thought with grim satisfaction. They waited a few minutes, breathing heavily into their masks, but no further opposition appeared.
They secured the terrorists and then Magenta called Scarlet “There were a couple of guys in the main house, but it all seems to be quiet now. Do you want me to search the rest of the rooms?”
“S.I.G. We’ll search this block. We’re securing all of the prisoners here and I’ve contacted the Minister’s own security forces to clean up. When you’ve finished searching I’ll meet you in the hall and Sepia and the others can keep any eye on this lot.”
Magenta, Gaon and Tariq searched the main house from top to bottom but found no Rhapsody and no evidence that the rooms were used for anything other than their intended purpose.
Scarlet and his team did the same in the barracks wing and although they found some weapons there was nothing to the extent that they would have expected from a small private army.
“Nope, a big zero here as well,” said Scarlet in a frustrated voice after he contacted Magenta again. “Why don’t you meet us here and we’ll wake one of these guys up. Maybe he can tell us something.”
Magenta, Zaglaka and Omar joined the others in the main living area of the barracks where they had found most of the terrorists. They were all tied up and still out from the effects of the gas. Magenta recognised some of them from the tomb where they were captured. Zafer unfortunately wasn’t among them. He would have liked to get his own back there. He wondered how many of Al-Rashid’s men were running about outside. Well, we’ll have to worry about them later.
Scarlet got one of the prisoners and administered an antidote to the gas. The young man shook his head and blinked several times, then looked angrily at the Spectrum agents when he realised his hands were bound.
“Do you have a young red haired woman held captive here?” Scarlet asked him
For an answer the prisoner spat at Scarlet’s feet.
“Very admirable,” he replied dryly. “Maybe he doesn’t speak English. Sepia, do the honours and explain it for me.”
“We are from Spectrum,” Sepia translated in Arabic as Scarlet reached in his fatigues and pulled out his identification card. The prisoner’s brown eyes widened a fraction and a hint of fear appeared in his eyes. Scarlet was pleased to see that. He thought these guys might be so fanatical that they wouldn’t be fazed by anything. But Spectrum’s clout obviously counted for something. However the young man kept his mouth shut but at least he didn’t spit this time.
“Your leader is being tracked, he will be taken prisoner by Spectrum, just like you have been. If you cooperate with us, we will make sure it’s considered when you have to face trial.” The prisoner still stubbornly refused to say anything.
“A loyal sort,” said Magenta leaning casually against the wall. “Maybe we ought to use the truth drugs on him, trouble is, he wouldn’t be worth much after we did. Anyway after what they did to the lady it doesn’t matter much anyway.”
The prisoner looked sharply at Magenta on hearing this. So he does understand English, thought Scarlet. Magenta was bluffing, they didn’t have any truth drugs that would have that sort of effect, but the prisoner obviously knew that Spectrum had pretty much carte blanche from the World President to do whatever was required to counter worldwide terrorism. He played along, maybe they could get somewhere with it.
“Well, I don’t know….”
Magenta continued, obviously enjoying himself, “Yeah, I know they’re in the experimental stages, and the side effects are pretty horrendous, but what have we got to lose, the guy’s a nothing anyway, he won’t be missed.” He said it nonchalantly but with such menace behind it that the prisoner blanched.
Scarlet tried to keep a straight face. He would never have dreamed of saying anything like this to a prisoner, but Magenta came from a different world, and he almost always never played by the rules, or at least the military rules as Scarlet understood them anyway. Perhaps that’s why he was sometimes such an asset to Spectrum.
Magenta was about to continue when the young man spoke up suddenly, “I tell you where she is.” Scarlet thankfully hauled him to his feet and the two of them passed by Magenta who winked at him. Scarlet did smile this time.
The young prisoner took them back into the main house and to one of the main drawing rooms. A full size painting of an Egyptian scene stood on one wall almost reaching the floor. The young man touched what looked like a light switch by the door and the painting slid to one side revealing a metal door, which looked remarkably like the entrance to an elevator.
“Well, well, yet another secret passageway, I might have guessed,” said Magenta with irony.
As the metal door opened they saw it was indeed an elevator, and it took them down one level. When they got out they found themselves in an underground basement, probably covering the acreage of the entire property.
“Some set-up. That must have cost our friend something to fund this lot.”
They walked along a short corridor and then the prisoner pointed to a door. Magenta rapped sharply on the door. A voice inside called out and Scarlet motioned to the prisoner to reply in order to get the guard to open it. A lock turned, the door opened and the guard looked in surprise as he recognised the prisoner but then saw Magenta flinging himself at him.
Magenta felt another sense of satisfaction as he felt his fist connect with bone and the guard slumped to a heap on the floor. That’s for Ochre, he thought. Scarlet had already crossed the floor in haste to get to Rhapsody, whom he saw lying slumped in a chair in the room. The British captain quickly felt the pulse at her neck and sighed with relief when he felt it warm and steady. But he frowned at her apparent condition. He motioned to Magenta.
“Call Captain Blue and tell him we’ve secured the house and found Rhapsody.”
“S.I.G,” he replied and moved out into the corridor so Scarlet could deal with Rhapsody.
The British captain knelt down to check her out and he noted the amulet around her neck that Ochre had mentioned. So this was the cause of all the trouble. He attempted to wake her. “Rhapsody,” he said gently touching her cheek. “It’s me, Scarlet.”
At the sound of his voice her eyelids flickered open and she wearily lifted her head from the back of the chair. Her eyes opened and she found herself looking into the blue eyes and worried expression of her British colleague.
“Captain Scarlet!” she exclaimed in a dazed voice. “I must be dreaming!”
He smiled. “No you’re not, it is me and you’re going to be just fine, if I can just get you out of these damn manacles.”
He pulled out a small cutter torch and fried the electronics. The cuffs sprang open and Scarlet massaged some life back into her hands by rubbing them in his own. Rhapsody continued to look distraught and flustered as if a hundred questions lay on her tongue but she had no idea which one to ask first.
She faltered, “I’ve been out of this so long, what’s happened, where everyone is…my father was the last person I spoke to...” She trailed off looking quite desolate.
Scarlet wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t know whether Rhapsody was aware of what she and her father had been subjected to in the past few days and he also wasn’t sure if she knew about his current status. But she deserved the truth in any case.
“All we know for the moment is that he left this house with Al-Rashid a couple of hours ago, they are on their way to Cairo to the state banquet your father was planning to attend.”
“You saw him here and didn’t try to rescue him?” Rhapsody stared at Scarlet, appalled.
“Colonel White’s orders.” He took a breath before continuing. “I don’t know if you are aware that you and your father have been under a form of hypnosis?”
She mutely shook her head. Scarlet continued, “Evidently it compels the victim to do pretty much anything the controller desires.” He lifted the amulet off her neck to show her. “And it was through this, that the commands were relayed.”
Rhapsody stared at the necklace. “The amulet!” Suddenly many things made perfect sense to her now. At least now she knew she wasn’t going mad. Or maybe she was already? She put that thought aside for the moment. Right now her father was the one in grave danger.
Scarlet saw her face assimilate the information, then he continued.
“We think your father has been directed to assassinate the First Minister of Egypt tonight the banquet. We have Blue and Grey up there, we’ll make sure he doesn’t come to any harm, but Colonel White wants to draw Al-Rashid out.”
“Use my father as bait you mean,” she whispered. “I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sure your father would agree this was the right thing to do, he’s a brave man and he knows the score.” And deep down, Rhapsody knew Scarlet was right. They had to catch the terrorists; after all, that was their primary reason for being.
She looked drawn and he thought he saw tears beginning to form in her eyes. “This is all like some horrible nightmare.”
Scarlet said, “Lets get this damn thing off your neck now, in case you get any more commands directed your way.”
She pulled it off herself and thrust it at him. “You keep it, somewhere, anywhere away from me.”
He nodded and placed it in a sealed container. “The Intelligence section wants to take a look at it, so we won’t destroy it just yet.”
Magenta appeared at Scarlet’s side and Rhapsody looked surprised but very relieved to see him, she had had no idea what happened to either him or Symphony.
“I’ve just spoken with Blue, he says well done for securing this place.” He looked quickly at Rhapsody who asked a question with her eyes. “Lord Simms hasn’t appeared at the banquet yet, but they confirmed the jet landed at Cairo twenty minutes ago so he’s probably on his way right now with Al-Rashid.”
“Captain Magenta,” she said using his code name, as he was now in uniform, “You obviously made it back to Cloudbase.”
“Hi Rhapsody, you’ll be glad to know both Symphony and Ochre are also back there.”
At the mention of Ochre’s name Rhapsody went even paler, if that were possible.
“Rick? Rick’s alive?” she said in an incredulous voice, almost as if she couldn’t believe what Magenta had just said.
“Yes, we found him in the tomb with a stab wound, but you know Ochre, so bloody minded he hung on till we got to him.”
Rhapsody’s face was suffused with undisguised relief and elation on hearing this news. “Thank God,” she said quietly.
Scarlet saw the emotion flitting across the lovely young woman’s face and it occurred to him that the sentiment she was displaying was far more than that of the concern of one colleague for another. He recalled Ochre’s agitation during their session on the computer in the sickbay. Was there something going on between the two of them? He sometimes despaired at their antics off-duty in Cloudbase but he always thought they were just fooling around. Suddenly things seemed to have been taken to a more serious level. Maybe something had happened between them down here, in Egypt. Scarlet somehow found the concept of Ochre and Rhapsody as a couple disturbing to him, but hastily pushed the thought out of his mind as to why he might find it so.
Instead he looked at the young woman. “What happened here, Rhapsody?” Scarlet asked her gently.
She blinked, as if caught by surprise at his question. And she looked almost guilty. “Please don’t ask just now,” she said quietly and tears welled up in her eyes.
“Steady, Angel,” Scarlet soothed. There was no telling what state her mind was in following the mental onslaught she had suffered. He certainly didn’t want to tip her over any edges. “Let’s forget about everything for the moment. Once you’re back in Cloudbase we’ll get everything sorted out. And I’m sure your father will be fine. Blue’s in charge up there, he’s a good man. I know he’ll get the job done without causing your father any harm.”
His matter of fact voice calmed her down and she submitted gratefully to his control, favouring him with a weak smile. “I’m just glad this so called holiday is over. Next time I’ll be spending it at home in my parents’ house, reading a book.”
Scarlet was pleased at this reaction. At least Rhapsody’s humour seemed to be intact.
Unfortunately when she tried to stand she found her legs were wobbly. Scarlet steadied her.
“Careful, there’s a pretty comfortable sofa here, why don’t you lie here and we’ll get you something to drink. Magenta and I need to take a look around this place.”
“Where am I?” she asked.
“In an underground basement in Al-Rashid’s mansion in Luxor, I guess this is his base of operations for his terrorist movement the Hand of Re. We’ve captured a bunch of his men, they’re been held under guard by Lieutenant Sepia and his men in a wing situated above this.”
Rhapsody remembered when she and her father were in the tomb, bound. “Yes, I happened to figure it out myself when he was ranting on at myself and daddy,” she said “But there was nothing I could do about it, and then I started to lose my memory of events anyway.”
“Clever girl,” said Scarlet, “Ochre was told by Al-Rashid himself, he obviously didn’t expect him to be able to use the information. But he kept himself alive till Spectrum got there.”
Rhapsody again looked stricken at this and Scarlet wondered at her reaction. What HAD gone on in that tomb? Ochre had remained pretty tight-lipped about it as well but he assumed the Colonel was well aware of the events that had taken place. Scarlet instinctively knew there was more to this than met the eye. But he stayed silent, obviously it was a need to know situation, and Scarlet wasn’t invited to be one of those in the know.
He turned his mind to more pressing matters. “Anyway, will you be all right here? Magenta and I need to make a search of this place as quickly as possible.”
She nodded. “I’ll be fine, you go ahead.” She lay wearily down on the sofa. Magenta brought her some water from the small fridge in the room and she sipped it gratefully.
Scarlet and Magenta searched the basement. There was a small office next door to Rhapsody’s elegant drawing room prison. Across the corridor was a huge storeroom with stacked shelving where an enormous arsenal of weapons was stored from floor to ceiling. There were rocket launchers, guns, explosives and bomb making equipment.
“Well at least he won’t be able to use this lot on an unsuspecting public any more,” said Magenta with satisfaction.
Next to this was another a large storeroom, which contained a number of ancient Egyptian artefacts. Jewelled sceptres, caskets inlaid with gold and semi-precious stones, gilded chairs and foot rests, alabaster and gold jars. And to cap it all, a golden mummy cask, which, to Magenta, looked suspiciously like the one in the tomb of Queen Netephere.
“Whew, this is like Aladdin’s cave.” Magenta scratched his head in astonishment. “You know, I bet all this stuff is from the tomb of Netephere. I remember Rhapsody mentioning there were no artefacts in the tomb. Al-Rashid had replied they had been already catalogued. Looks like he’s catalogued them for himself.”
Scarlet admired an exquisitely wrought vessel that he picked up from the floor. “Imagine the money any one of these items would make on the black market. That would buy a few rocket launchers.”
“Guess being the one of the richest men in the country wasn’t quite enough for him.”
They went back to the office. There was a computer on the desk and shelves piled with books. Magenta perused some of the titles. There were books on archaeology, war strategy, Egyptian History, psychology and much more besides. Whatever Al-Rashid was, he was definitely well read, or at least appeared to be. Scarlet had attempted to start up the computer so Magenta stopped looking and waited for the machine to complete its boot procedure.
“There may be information here we can use,” Scarlet said. He waved Magenta to the chair. You take control, this is your forte.”
Magenta smiled and sat down. The screen showed lots of files. He tried accessing them, Surprise, most were password protected.
He clicked a few keys. Scarlet asked, “What are you doing?”
“Going in via the operating system.”
“Will that work?”
“Sure as hell will try it.” He flexed his fingers and grinned at Scarlet. “There isn’t a computer system built yet that I haven’t been able to break into.”
“I don’t want to know about it,” Scarlet said knowing full well that Magenta’s expertise was gained on the wrong side of the law.
Scarlet watched fascinated, as Magenta’s fingers typed in code and clicked keys with amazing speed. Screens of code and numbers flashed and scrolled up that made absolutely no sense to him whatsoever, but Magenta seemed to find the bits that he needed in the mass of characters.
Scarlet left him at his task for a few minutes to check on Rhapsody. He found her fast asleep on the sofa, breathing gently, her titian hair spread out around her. He quietly exited the room to leave her in peace.
CAIRO: THURSDAY: 20:30 HOURS
Blue Grey, Gold and the other agents arrived at the Presidential Palace. They had parked the Spectrum saloon cars they had arrived in a little further away from the palace and walked to the gates so as not to attract attention. The two Spectrum captains clandestinely flashed their Spectrum passes to the guard at the main gates. Their eyes opened wide for a fraction of a second.
One said, “We heard Spectrum was sending some agents to the palace tonight for the banquet, we expected you in uniform.”
Blue replied, “Were conducting the operation undercover. That why we’re wearing civilian clothes.”
The guards nodded and waved them through. Blue and Grey walked across the courtyard and around the huge floodlit marble fountain, the centrepiece at the entrance to the palace. They entered the brightly lit interior of the Palace and joined the other elegantly dressed men and women making their way to the State banqueting hall for the dinner.
Blue spoke into his wrist mike. “Lieutenant Gold, are your men in position?”
“Yes,” replied Gold. “We are stationed at all room entrances, I have moved to the main Palace entrance where we expect Lord Simms and Al-Rashid to arrive.”
“Good, let us know if and when they enter the Palace.”
They entered the Banquet Hall. There was an impression of dazzling light within the room. Shimmering reflections from the huge chandeliers sparkled onto the gleaming glasses and cutlery on the pristine white tablecloths. People milled around the edges of the room being introduced to the First Minister and sipping glasses of champagne or mineral water.
Blue whispered to Grey, “Let’s move closer to Ben Mansour, then all we can do is wait.”
About ten minutes later Lord Robert Simms got out of a large black sedan. He stood up and looked at the presidential palace before him. He was dressed elegantly in a black evening suit but his face was drawn and pale. He winced and held his head as if experiencing a bad headache, then lips taut, he walked slowly towards the entrance.
Inside the vehicle, Al-Rashid looked grim. Lord Simms was on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. He had to just hold him together long enough to complete the task tonight. He motioned to his driver from the back seat.
“I will wait for five minutes and then follow Lord Simms. Move around to the back of the palace, and wait for my signal.”
In the banquet hall Blue saw his wristwatch flash. He turned around to the window so no one in the room would see him speak into it.
“Go ahead Lieutenant Gold.”
“Just to report, Lord Simms has just entered the building, he is alone.”
Blue switched channels and contacted Melody Angel. She was maintaining a stacking position above the palace at 3000 feet elevation. “Stay in position in case we need you.”
“S.I.G,” she replied in her husky southern drawl.
Grey spoke quietly to Blue out of the corner of his mouth “Lord Simms has just come into the room.”
They watched the Englishman search the room, obviously looking for someone. They saw his eyes register when they alighted on Ben Mansour and he began to move slowly towards him, to join the queue of people who were to be waiting to be introduced to the First Minister.
Just at that point Amir Al-Rashid also entered the room. Blue recognised him immediately from the photo he had been shown before he left Cloudbase. The Egyptian ignored Lord Simms and moved across to shake hands with some other government ministers. Blue and Grey tensed, becoming totally alert. All the players were here. Whatever was going to happen would most likely take place in the next few minutes.
Ben Mansour had just shaken hands with the Minister from Jordan when Lord Simms came up to him. Although he had not set eyes on Simms for a long time he was still shocked to see the gauntness in his old friend. His heart skipped a beat. Danger was near, he could smell it. The old instincts never failed. But he tried to ignore these feelings and act completely normal. He knew that Spectrum were close by. He had to rely on them.
Ben Mansour offered his hand. “It has been a long time old friend,” he smiled warmly
Simms smiled almost wistfully in return and shook Ben Mansour’s hand.
“You don’t look well, old friend,” Ben Mansour noted.
Simms stiffened slightly and his eyes became unfocused.
“No…. I haven’t been feeling very well, headaches….” He shook his head ever so slightly and his eyes creased as if he fought one of those headaches right as this moment. He removed his hand from Ben Mansour’s gentle grip and stepped to one side with his back to Blue. Another guest stepped forward to shake the Minister’s hand.
Blue held his breath, watching, and every muscle in his body was screaming with tension. He was ready to move the split second something happened. Then Grey’s voice hissed in his ear.
“Blue, Lord Simms has taken off his tie pin!”
Then events seemed to happen in slow motion.
The pin was in Simms’s hand like a dagger, He turned again to aim it at Ben Mansour’s body. Blue threw himself forward crashing into Simms and knocking him sideways. The tie pin flew out of the Englishman’s hand with the force and skittered across the floor. Several Spectrum agents and Ben Mansour’s men came flying from their positions and surrounded the Minister. He waved them away gently. He was fine but his concern was for the man who had just tried to kill him.
Blue frantically looked around searching for Al-Rashid, but saw no sign of him. It was more than likely he must have seen that his plan had most abruptly been stopped in its tracks by Blue.
Then Grey’s voice cut unto his earpiece. “Damn him! He slipped out before I could reach him. He decked one of Gold’s men on the way out. But they’re stationed at all entrances. We’ve sent out the word, he won’t get far.”
Blue quickly turned round to where Simms lay. He had collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut. Blue was uneasy when he saw the grey tinge to his skin and the haggard look to his face. He hoped for Rhapsody’s sake the man would be all right.
Ben Mansour had quickly calmed the rest of the guests who were milling around looking flustered and confused.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said in his deep soothing voice, “there is nothing to be concerned about. Lord Simms was taken ill and will be attended to. Please, continue to do what you were doing.”
He quickly motioned waiters to attend the guests with more appetizers and drinks in order to settle things back to normal. The guests all looked somewhat relieved and it was apparent that they hadn’t realised what had really taken place. Things had happened too fast for them to really see any of the details. Blue for one was glad about that and he certainly wanted to keep it that way. There was little point in bringing Spectrum into things at this juncture. Luckily none of the press had been invited to the banquet. That would have really made things awkward. He was grateful to the First Minister for his calm and fortitude under duress and he nodded gratefully to him.
He said quietly, “Al-Rashid disappeared before we had a chance to apprehend him while things got a little crazy in here. We hope we can get him before he leaves the Palace.”
Ben Mansour nodded in reply. “My men are at your disposal.”
Grey came up to Blue’s side. “Are you okay?” he asked
“Yeah fine,” the blonde captain replied. “Did you get the tie pin?”
Grey discreetly held up the offending weapon in a small plastic bag and said quietly. “I’ll bet my next month’s pay check this has poison on the tip, I’ll get the boys to verify it in the lab.”
“Clever,” Blue said. “Al-Rashid must have known there would be weapons security checks, no one would ever suspect an item of clothing, as it were,” he frowned, “Let’s get out of this room away from these people, we need to find Al-Rashid and fast.”
When they got into the corridor they saw Lieutenant Gold come running up, looking furious. “He shot two of my men, I’m afraid he got away in his car.”
“Right.” Blue turned to Grey. “Chances are he’s making for his jet at the airport. You and Gold take the SSC and see if you can catch up with him. I’ll stay here and contact Captain Scarlet at Luxor and make sure Lord Simms gets medical treatment.”
Grey and Gold both nodded at him and swiftly left the Palace to pick up the car.
Blue went back to check on Simms. He had been placed on a couch in an anteroom off the banqueting hall. A couple of the Ben Mansour’s security guards kept watch over him. His pulse was erratic and his breathing was uneven so Blue immediately called the main hospital and requested an ambulance to get to the palace as soon as possible. He also asked for the name and number of the chief surgeon in charge, as he planned to get Dr. Fawn to speak to him personally about the situation with the English Lord.
He opened a channel to Cloudbase and spoke to Colonel White.
“About time Captain,” White almost barked down his earpiece. “What’s the situation?”
“Sir, everything went mostly according to plan. The First Minister is safe and well and Lord Simms is unharmed physically although he looks in pretty bad shape. But Al-Rashid made his escape, Grey and Gold are in pursuit and Melody Angel is standing by, we think he’s going to the airport, probably most likely to return to his house at Luxor.”
“Well he’ll find it’s not in the same shape as when he left it. Captains Scarlet and Magenta have secured the base.”
“Yes they were in touch a short while ago. I need to speak to them now and let them know Lord Simms is safe with us.”
Blue quickly talked to Dr. Fawn before contacting Scarlet. He gave him the name of the senior psycho-neurologist at the hospital. He kept an eye on Simms as he made the communication with his colleague down in the south of the country.
“Captain Scarlet, we have Lord Simms in our protection. Tell Rhapsody we’re getting him to hospital as soon as possible. His condition is weak but I’m confident he’ll be OK. Also we think Al-Rashid is on his way back to you.”
“He escaped?” He heard Scarlet’s sharp intake of breath
“’Fraid so, but we’re on the case, just keep the place shut up down there.”
“S.I.G, keep in touch.”
He went back through to the drawing room to wake Rhapsody and tell her the news. When she heard she looked upset.
“What is it?” he asked her.
“My mother, I don’t know what she knows, whether she was aware that my father was going to be in Egypt for the banquet. I haven’t spoken to her. Someone needs to tell her that he’s in hospital, even if she isn’t told why.” She stopped, aware that she seemed to be babbling in front of Scarlet. But she couldn’t stop tears springing to her eyes.
Scarlet patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she gets to know. Leave it with me.”
She smiled gratefully at him wiping the side of her cheek at the errant moisture.
The sedan had a head start on them and the driver wasn’t hanging about. However, the Spectrum saloon car was built for speed and Gold was driving like a maniac along the highway, so it wasn’t long before they caught up with it. They could see the rear registration passing in and out of view obscured by several vehicles in front.
“What do we do? Try to run him off the road?” Gold shouted as his tyres squealed trying to avoid an oncoming truck as he attempted to overtake one of the cars in front.
Grey instinctively flinched and tried to hit imaginary brakes at Gold’s crazy manoeuvre.
“That depends on how close we get, I don’t know if he’s seen us yet.”
Al-Rashid’s driver had seen the red saloon car desperately trying to overtake and the action had caught his eye. He mentioned it to Al-Rashid and the Egyptian turned and grabbed a pair of binoculars from the rear cabinet.
He swore violently. “It is a Spectrum vehicle.”
That changed everything. He had been furious when he saw the man in a dinner suit fall against Lord Simms and preventing him from killing Ben Mansour. He was sure that his plan for Simms to stab the Minister and then turn the poisoned pin on himself was foolproof. The poison would have acted too quickly in both cases for them to be saved. His revenge would have been complete at last and he could have commenced his bid for power in the country.
And yet in a few vital seconds the whole thing had fallen apart.
He picked up his car phone and dialled the number at the barracks. He expected to get an immediate reply from the guard on duty but he only heard the ringing tone. There was no one answering. Was it possible that Spectrum had taken control of the mansion? He felt suddenly cold. Of course it was possible. Spectrum had become involved and he knew now that escape would be very difficult, if not impossible.
His man was an expert driver, he was able to keep the Spectrum car from overtaking them, but it was only a matter of time. He saw the signs for the airport coming up.
“I must get to my jet,” he said coolly to his driver “When I get to it, ram their car, they must not prevent me taking off.”
Gold clenched his teeth; the car in front was still staying ahead. Whoever was driving it had nerves of steel. They entered the airport and followed the black car in the direction of the private heli-jet area. “He’s going for his jet all right.”
“Look out!” Grey yelled, they had almost slammed into a barrier that came down with force right in front of them, and in annoyance they saw Al-Rashid’s limousine race off ahead. The barrier was a security measure to stop unauthorised vehicles entering the heli-jet area. It required an electronic card to flash at the sensor in order to open it, and Grey didn’t have one.
He yelled at a guy in the booth a short distance away from the barrier. “Hey get this thing open, we’re Spectrum agents!”
“Damn! Damn! Hurry man!” Grey shouted again and banged his fist on the dashboard in frustration. The barrier began to raise and as soon as they could clear it Gold hit the accelerator.
The Lieutenant cried, “There’s the limo, he’s just getting into his jet, we’re too late.”
“Keep going! We could reach him before he takes off.”
But as soon as he saw the limousine screech around and head straight for them Grey realised that they might indeed be too late. The oncoming car picked up tremendous speed and Gold had to use all his might to turn the wheel enough so he could swerve out of the way, but it wasn’t quite enough and the force of the black car hitting them was enough to knock their SSC sideways and into a tall floodlight.
Grey smacked against the restraints and the breath was knocked out of him. Despite this he communicated immediately with Melody Angel.
“Al-Rashid is taking off from Cairo airport, we can’t stop him. Intercept him and await further orders.”
“S.I.G. Captain Grey.” After receiving the message Melody pushed down hard on the throttles of her jet and the interceptor dove earthwards on a heading for the airport.
Al-Rashid lifted his jet into the dark sky filled with stars. He had not waited for clearance from the tower but had gone straight for takeoff. He cut across a large passenger airliner, which had begun to taxi to the start of the runway. The captain of the larger jet cursed loudly as the small aircraft cut straight across his path at full throttle and swerved onto the airstrip. Now airborne, he banked steeply to turn around the airport in order to fly south to Luxor.
Melody had called the tower and requested that the airspace be kept clear of any outbound or inbound traffic. She didn’t want any civilian aircraft to be caught up in any possible situation in the sky.
She looked out her cockpit window and saw the small jet below her to the right. She flew down with expert precision and matched his speed and direction. Then she opened her hailing frequency and called the rogue airplane.
“This is Spectrum Angel calling Amir Al-Rashid. You are requested to land immediately at Cairo airport. I have orders to escort you there.”
Al-Rashid almost jumped in his seat when he heard the female voice issuing from his onboard console. He looked quickly around and then saw the unmistakable white delta shape of the Spectrum Interceptor on his left wing. It was very close but still too far away to see the woman occupant clearly. He thought she sounded like an American, from the South.
He kept his speed and heading, trying to think what he should do next. Then a second, male voice came over his radio. It was Grey. He had reached the tower and was attempting to convince the terrorist leader that it was all over.
“This is Captain Grey from Spectrum, your plan has failed. Spectrum has taken control of the Palace and your mansion at Luxor. Lady Dianne Simms is in our custody as are your men and weapons. Give it up, you’re finished.”
Al-Rashid heard these words with a chill in his heart. Of course the Spectrum agent could be bluffing, but somehow he didn’t think so. There had been no reply at his mansion. He felt sure the base had been compromised, as they said. It was also possible they had broken into his computer files, knew of his plans.
Curse them all.
As he looked out of the window at the sky, black as velvet, he realised that he would never be able to rule his beloved Egypt, as was his destiny. Only his bitter anger remained, implacable, as it was the day he had lost his wife. He had promised that they would pay, the men who took the life of his beloved. Then his face grew calm. Perhaps there was still something he could do to atone. His lips compressed to a thin line, and with a determination born of final desperation he steered the plane around so he was heading in the direction of the city, not the airport.
Melody frowned when she saw the jet’s new heading. She relayed immediately to Grey.
“Captain, Al-Rashid is ignoring our request to land at the airport, he’s taken a bearing towards Cairo again.”
Grey’s thought processes worked frantically trying to make sense of this new situation. Why would he go back to the city?
“Call him again. Tell him he HAS to land.” Grey didn’t know why but he was convinced that Al-Rashid was going to do something unexpected. He called Colonel White and made his chief aware of the new situation.
Melody communicated with the pilot in the jet again and received nothing but silence. But a minute later, she saw the jet suddenly put its nose tip forwards. Her heart started thumping. “Captain Grey, Colonel White, he’s put his jet into a dive!”
White’s voice stayed remarkably calm. “Can you compute a heading at his angle of dive?
Almost without thinking Melody had already started rapidly keying in the coordinates of the plane’s direction and comparing it with a map of the city that she had scrolled up on her console. She spoke urgently into her mike.
“My God! Based on the computer readout I’d say he’s on a collision course with the centre of the city, most likely target of impact… the Palace!”
“White’s voice took on a tense edge. “How long before he hits the ground?”
“At present speed and course about ninety seconds!”
White breathed heavily, thinking hard and quickly. Al-Rashid was on a suicide mission he was convinced of that. He also realised that they had no time to get an evacuation order to the Palace and surrounding area. If the jet impacted at that speed and angle of approach and most likely fully loaded with fuel the resultant explosion would cause enormous loss of life, including those of Ben Mansour, several heads of state and most likely his own Spectrum personnel. Only seconds passed as he reflected upon this. He hated to have to make the decision, but it was the only avenue open to him in the time they had left.
“Melody, give him one more order to pull out, if you receive no reply, then you have to destroy that aircraft!”
“S.I.G.” She hailed the craft for a third time. “Spectrum Angel to Al-Rashid, if you do not immediately disengage your dive you will be fired upon, this is your last warning!”
No answer. The jet continued on its path of impending destruction. Melody knew that she had to do something in the next few seconds or it would be too late and the mid-air explosion would cause more damage on the ground. She detested having to fire on a target that didn’t shoot first, but like the Colonel she knew there was no other option.
She locked her sights onto the plummeting jet ahead of her and with a sharp intake of breath pressed the firing trigger. The missile launched in a stream of flame and zeroed in with deathly precision to its target. Melody pulled hard on the throttles to get her craft out of the way of the impending explosion. Three seconds later the black night before her lit up with a huge bloom of fire and another few seconds later the interceptor rocked wildly as the aftershock of the detonation hit her air stream.
“Direct hit!” she called into her mike. The missile had hit so close and with such force it almost vaporised Al-Rashid’s jet. There would be very little left to do damage on the ground.
Grey sat down in one of the controller’s chairs in the tower. He removed his cap and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He had followed Melody’s pursuit and destruction of Al-Rashid’s plane over his earpiece with a dry mouth. He needn’t have worried though, these gals never missed.
Colonel White had contacted Captain Blue at the palace. The American was shocked to hear the events that had just taken place without his being aware of it and realised he had almost been killed along with everyone else in the building.
“Well, thanks to Melody Angel the threat to the Minister from the Hand of Re has been removed. Hopefully this will stop the terrorist activity as well. Please inform the First Minister of the situation.
“Yes, I will, thank you Sir,” replied Blue.
Finally, Magenta sat back, his eyes were blurred with the strain of staring at the screen but a feeling of triumph buoyed him. He had succeeded in bypassing the system locks and was sifting through the computer’s files. Just at that point, Scarlet came into the office with a grim look on his face.
“What is it?” enquired Magenta, the edge taken off his satisfaction at Scarlet’s demeanour.
“I just heard from the Colonel. Al-Rashid tried to turn his jet into a suicide bomb and blow the palace up.”
“He didn’t succeed?” Magenta interjected, looking horrified.
“No, Melody took the plane out before it hit the ground.”
“That’s our girl. What’s the situation up there now?”
“I think everything’s pretty much under control. There were no injuries or any damage.”
He saw Magenta had got into the files. “Looks like you succeeded, well done, what have you found?”
“I think I’ve found the program for transmitting the subliminal commands, we can let the science boys have a field day with this.” There were several sub files associated with it. He looked at Scarlet. “Look, there’s one marked Lady Dianne Simms and another marked Lord Robert Simms. And here are several more files with Arabic names. I don’t recognise any of them.”
Scarlet pointed to another file. They scanned the contents. It gave the names of all the politicians and civil government officials that Al-Rashid had gathered into his inner circle in order to take control of the Egyptian government. What was really shocking however was that some of the key names matched those in the subliminal commands program files.
It was probable that some of those the key officials had also been under Al-Rashid’s mind control.
Scarlet said, “We need to get this information to the Colonel and Ben Mansour at once, even if Al-Rashid is dead, he might have had contingency plans.”
Magenta replied. “I should be able to upload all the files to our Cloudbase computers from here.” He started typing commands in order to send the information.
“Colonel White says the local government troops will be arriving in the next half hour to take over this place, then he says we can get back up to Cloudbase as soon as we’re ready. I’ll leave you with it while I check on our prisoners and the rest of the team.”
“S.I.G.” Magenta replied and continued tapping away at the console.
CLOUDBASE: FRIDAY:09:00 HOURS
Sitting at the back of the SPJ in one of the comfortable seats Rhapsody tried to sort out her conflicting emotions. Both her father and Captain Ochre were alive, to which she thanked heaven on both counts. Scarlet was as good as his word and her mother had been notified of her father’s hospitalisation. She was probably at his side right now. Rhapsody wished that she could be there too, but that was out of the question at the moment. She had to return to Cloudbase to get checked out by Dr Fawn, and then meet with Colonel White.
She swallowed hard as she imagined how that interview would go. Trying to explain what had happened to her, explain trying to kill her fellow officer. She was convinced he would think she had become unstable, perhaps not fit for duty, or to continue to be a member of Spectrum. It was hardly a good thing to go around killing your colleagues even if you had been under hypnosis. She didn’t know how her superior would react to all of this and she felt extremely nervous. She loved her job, more than she could put into words. It gave her a reason for being. She couldn’t imagine not flying one of the interceptors again. The other object of her thoughts was the man she had tried to kill. How on earth was she supposed to deal with seeing Ochre again? It was bad enough that they had started something that she wasn’t sure they should have, and then to cap it all, she tried to murder him.
Good way to start a relationship she tried to laugh to herself, just bump the guy off before getting too involved. But somehow the humour failed her. Oh dear, what a mess she had gotten into. Then she had the feeling that someone was watching her, and she looked up to see Scarlet leaning on the doorway of the cockpit with his arms folded. He was looking at her intently; and she could swear those intelligent blue eyes of his could read the emotions flitting across her face.
“Oh, I thought you were flying the SPJ?” she said in a slightly flustered tone.
Scarlet broke into a smile. “I just took a break to see how you were, we should be landing at Cloudbase in a few minutes. Magenta’s up there with the autopilot so he shouldn’t come to too much harm, I’d better not leave him too long though. I don’t trust his piloting that much. Are you sure you’re all right? You seem miles away.”
“I’m fine, really,” she assured him. Honestly! she thought. He was treating her as if she was made of glass. Then she remembered Ochre had been a bit like that too in Egypt. She sighed. Men! Didn’t matter that you were more than capable of dealing with the tough stuff and could whip the pants off most of them at thirty thousand feet, they still insisted on protecting you. Colonel White was the only one who really treated them exactly the same as the men. Still, she had to admit, in the end, she did have to be rescued. And she also admitted that it might be very churlish of her to be rude to her knight in shining armour, even if that armour happened to be coloured red.
She finally gave him a muted if genuine smile. “Thanks for asking Captain, and thanks for rescuing me.”
He smiled back “It’s my pleasure, Angel, any time, just don’t make TOO much of a habit of it!”
When they arrived at Cloudbase and exited the SPJ through the docking area Rhapsody was surprised to see Ochre and Symphony waiting for them just inside the entry ramp. Ochre still had his arm in a sling and his chest bandaged, but he had made a marvellous recovery in the days since he had returned. As their eyes met he gave her a tentative smile and he hung back a little to allow Symphony greet her friend first. The American Angel had dispensed with the crutches and was now getting around with the aid of a stick. She embraced Rhapsody fondly.
“I’m so glad the guys got you back safe and well.” Then she stood back and appraised her friend with a smile. “But you’re looking awfully peaky, I hope Dr Fawn can give you something for that.”
Scarlet said, “Well, we’re still officially on duty so we need to get along and see Colonel White. See you later Rhapsody, I hope everything goes well with Dr. Fawn.”
“Yeah, we’ve lots of report writing to do. Remind me NOT to go on vacation with either you or Ochre again,” Magenta added grinning at the two of them.
The two Captains headed off briskly down the corridor. Symphony sensed the tension hanging in the corridor as her two remaining colleagues were obviously trying to figure out what to say to one another. She decided that the best course of action was for her to make herself scarce so they had a few moments together.
“Rhapsody, I need to fly too, I’ll try catch you again when Dr. Fawn’s finished with you.” She looked at Ochre. “Rick, maybe you can see her to sickbay.”
Ochre looked a touch taken aback, but realised that Symphony was trying to be diplomatic. He did need to talk to Rhapsody before she met with Colonel White. He smiled gratefully at the Angel. “Yeah, of course I will.”
Symphony hobbled off to the Amber Room, following the two captains, leaving Rhapsody and Ochre alone. He was shocked at how pale and tired she looked. It was apparent she was still suffering the after affects of her ordeal and he suddenly felt guilty for keeping her away from sickbay even for a few minutes more, but he hadn’t been able to wait to see her.
Rhapsody saw the serious look on Ochre’s face and caught her breath, hardly daring to hear what he might be about to say.
“You look like you’ve gone through the mill, Dianne, I was worried for you down there.”
She flinched. He’s concerned about ME? This she didn’t expect. She hardly dared meet his eyes. “What about you? You must hate me for what I tried to do to you.”
His expression changed to one of astonishment. “Hate you? How could you possibly think that?”
She looked up at him and he saw the uncertainty and pain in her dark circled blue eyes.
“I thought you were dead, I really thought I’d killed you.”
My God he thought, she obviously had been carrying around this guilt for some time before the others found her. Then he felt an inexplicable feeling of warmth steal over him. Maybe she really cared about him. He couldn’t help touching her face gently with his good hand.
“Well, as you can see, I’m standing right here and I’m perfectly fine. What happened down there was awful, for all of us. You were stripped of your self-will and that was NOT your fault. I don’t blame you at all and I certainly don’t hate you, as you so dramatically put it.”
Then his face took on an almost guilty expression, which she had little time to ponder on as he spoke up almost immediately again.
“You might hate me though. Dianne, I’m sorry, but the Colonel knows that it was you who stabbed me. I didn’t want to say anything at all, just let him think it was one of Al-Rashid’s men, but unfortunately he asked me a direct question.”
Rhapsody was actually surprised. It hadn’t occurred to her that Ochre would try to protect her. She had already believed he would have reported the sequence of events truthfully to the Colonel. And she wouldn’t have expected anything else of him as a Spectrum officer. But she couldn’t help asking what his reaction had been.
“Well, he was pretty taken aback but I told him you couldn’t be blamed for your actions under the circumstances,” Ochre tried to assure her as he saw her face look downcast again.
“Rick, I anticipated you would have told him, it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do.”
He saw her close her eyes and he was alarmed that she was going to faint on him again. He really felt guilty now and knew he had to get her to sickbay right away.
“Let’s talk again later Dianne, you need to get to the sickbay.” He took her arm to lead her down the corridor and she didn’t resist. Ochre tried to lighten the mood as they walked.
“Look cheer up, look at how well everything’s turned out in the end. We’re all still alive and kicking apart from a few flesh wounds. We stopped that guy with obsessions of power and grandeur, and I’ll bet Colonel White’s pretty happy that we’ve again shown Spectrum is worth all that money they invested. Anyway, I’ll bet you’re really glad now that I invited myself along, otherwise you and your dad would have been in a lot more trouble.”
The corner of her mouth cracked into a slight smile. That remark couldn’t have come from anyone else but him. She knew he was trying to make her feel better and she mentally thanked him for it. She was also relieved and grateful that he hadn’t tried to mention their changed relationship either. She wasn’t quite ready to deal with that just yet.
He for his part was relieved at seeing her smile for the first time since she had disembarked from the SPJ. He wasn’t sure now if he should have told her about his conversation with Colonel White, as he sensed she was still physically a bit fragile. And what about her mental state? He suddenly felt sombre at the thought that Rhapsody’s injury might be unseen but more insidious.
Dr Fawn had digested all the information available in the Cloudbase databanks on the subject of subliminal conditioning. It had been used extensively in the early twenty-first century but had since been outlawed by the World Government not long after its inception. However like most illegal weapons, there was still ample availability on the black market. Al-Rashid had obviously been able to enlist various unscrupulous individuals who developed the particular system he had used on Rhapsody and the others. However, it seemed that most of the physical side effects were temporary, as long as the person did not suffer long-term abuse. Fawn was very glad that she and her father were not in that category.
However he was determined to ensure that nothing remained of the conditioning. Rhapsody’s future in Spectrum depended upon it. So in spite of the tiredness he knew she must be experiencing, he subjected her to an extensive battery of tests including a lengthy ECG.
He noted her slightly unhappy look at the wires trailing from her head to the machine.
He tried to explain, “I want to compare your trace with the one we took when you had your original Spectrum entry medical. If they are the same then I’ll be happy, it means you have suffered no long term damage.”
As he entered data into the controlling computer he continued, “Oh and I just spoke with the doctors at the hospital in London. They tell me your father is recovering really well. I’m in contact with the doctors there and they’re carrying out the same tests on him as I’ve been doing on you. We’re hoping the results will be the same…no problems for either of you.”
Rhapsody was immensely relieved to hear this. She was sure that with Fawn at the helm her father would indeed be fine.
“What happens now, Doctor?” Rhapsody asked.
“Well, you need to get some rest, that goes without saying. So I’m giving you a sleeping sedative which will knock you out for the next eight hours.”
“Then I can get back on duty?”
Fawn looked uncomfortable. “I’m afraid not. Colonel White has asked me to tell you that you are not allowed back on duty yet. I imagine that he wants to hear the results of all the tests first.” He saw the expression on the young woman’s face.
“But I’m sure everything will be fine,” he tried to reassure her. “Look, you need to get some sleep now.” He handed her a small yellow tablet and a glass of water. “Take this. I’d like to keep you here for observation while you sleep, I hope you don’t mind.”
She moved her head to indicate that she didn’t, but deep down she was feeling wretched. What would the tests show? That she was mentally unfit to continue her role as a Spectrum officer? For now she was grounded as if the Colonel didn’t trust her any more. And yet somehow she couldn’t blame him at all. She might have done the same in his position. These uncomfortable thoughts kept revolving around her brain until the sleeping pill took effect and she drifted off into dreamless sleep.
She woke up almost eight hours later, just as Fawn had wanted. She looked up to see Symphony Angel sitting in a chair just a few feet away from her reading a book.
Rhapsody rubbed sleep out of her eyes, she certainly felt much less tired, although still feeling depressed. Symphony heard the sheets rustle and looked up from her book. She came across to her friend and asked how she was feeling.
“All right, I suppose, under the circumstances.”
“What do you mean?” Symphony noticed her friend’s demeanour.
“I’m not allowed back on duty, the Colonel’s orders.”
“I’m sure that won’t be for long. Hey, this place can get a bit depressing, I don’t know how old Fawnie stands it here twenty four hours a day. Let’s go somewhere more private, how about the Promenade Deck?”
Just then Dr Fawn thrust his head around the door, he had just been on his way to check on Rhapsody when he caught Symphony’s remark.
“A little less of the ‘old’, Ms Wainwright, or I might just keep YOU off duty for a while longer.”
“Oops!” Symphony had the grace to blush and Rhapsody couldn’t help giggling like a schoolgirl. That’s better, Fawn thought, at least the joke at his expense put a smile on the English girl’s face. He hadn’t seen her look quite so upset before.
“I take it I can leave the sickbay?” Rhapsody asked him, almost afraid that he would keep her here as well.
“Sure, I was actually just going to tell you that I’ve analysed all the results of your tests, and I’m quite satisfied that you are one hundred percent okay. I’ve passed them along to Colonel White and he asked me to request a meeting with you tomorrow at nine am. He wants you to get some rest before then.”
Rhapsody nodded. At least the tests were positive, but was that enough for the Colonel? She still felt nervous about their meeting. In any case it wouldn’t do any harm to spend some time with Symphony. She felt the need for a little female companionship after all she’d been through. The two of them took the elevator to the deck and found a quiet spot over in the corner. There was a few others there, all junior officers or technicians, reading quietly or enjoying a coffee. A couple of them nodded sympathetically in the Angels’ direction but didn’t intrude.
“I suppose they’ve heard,” Rhapsody said.
“You know how fast news travels around here,” Symphony replied. “But anyway, you look a million times better than when I first set eyes on you getting off the SPJ, but something tells me that there’s a lot of things bothering you, so I’m taking it upon myself to act as your psychiatrist’s couch and ask you to leave nothing out. After all, talking is good for the soul.”
Rhapsody smiled at her friend’s banter. And if she wasn’t mistaken, there was an air of joy about Symphony that she hadn’t seen for some time. There was a light in her eyes and a glow about her. Something good had definitely happened to her while Rhapsody was gone, and she hoped that it might be what she was thinking.
“Never mind what’s good for my soul, do I detect a happy Symphony, perhaps the sort of dizzy happiness that might be ascribed to a certain blonde haired gentleman?”
Symphony’s smile could have lit up the flight deck. “Nothing gets past you, does it? But yes, you’re right. Adam and I did have a little conversation about our relationship.” She rolled her eyes dreamily to convince Rhapsody that there had been a lot more going on than just chatting. “It’s good, and we’re not going to pressurise each other, we’ll just take it slow and enjoy it.” She came down to earth and looked sternly at the English girl. “Anyway, we were supposed to be talking about you, not me...You looked upset back in sickbay. Anything you want to talk about…really?”
“Just that I’m afraid that I won’t be an Angel pilot much longer.”
Symphony looked shocked at the thought. “What! You’re joking, right?”
Rhapsody suddenly wished she could take back the comment. She didn’t want to go into any details of her conditioning even with Symphony, because she felt it wasn’t fair on Ochre.
“Well, maybe I’m overreacting, I just don’t know if the Colonel will trust me given what happened to me.”
That evoked a snort. “Oh rubbish, you heard what Fawn said. And the Colonel always listens with the greatest respect to what he says. I think you will be back in that white dream machine before you know it.”
She could tell Rhapsody wasn’t convinced, she had to try to get her friend to lighten up.
She whispered conspiratorially, “You can’t keep me in suspense any longer, what’s happened with you and Ochre?”
Rhapsody couldn’t help laughing at Symphony’s expression, her chin in her hands eyes almost pleading for the gory details.
“You’re worse than the guys, they’re usually the gossip mongers around here! Well, we did have a couple of let’s say, intimate encounters, and before you ask, yes, it felt good, breathtakingly wonderfully good. The first time I’ve felt like that for a long time.”
“But, I just don’t know. I’m so confused. I really like Rick, and he seems sincere, but I just can’t escape the feeling that it isn’t right for me. Trouble is, I’m just not the dating sort, I’m afraid that I’d fall right in there with both feet…and if it didn’t work out...” She shivered. “It doesn’t bear thinking about. Did you know straight away about Adam?”
Symphony smiled at the memory. “Yep, almost the moment I laid eyes on him. I knew I just had to have him. It was like I knew in my gut he was the one. Of course, he needed a little persuading before he figured out he had to have me too.”
“Hmm,” Rhapsody chuckled. She knew how persuasive Symphony could be when she wanted to. She felt very happy for her friend. She was so obviously in love it was delightful.
Symphony’s expression changed to one of seriousness. “Well, I wouldn’t push you either way. You’re right; it’s not something to be taken lightly. There’s too much at stake for either party. But don’t beat yourself up about it Dianne. Promise?”
CLOUDBASE: SATURDAY: 10:00 HOURS
Rhapsody stood outside Colonel White’s small private office located just off the main control room. He didn’t use it that often, just when he needed to have a private conversation with any of his officers, as was the case now.
Lieutenant Green looked at her, wondering at her hesitation. “He’s ready for you Rhapsody, you can go straight in.”
She turned and gave him a small smile. Little did he know how much she was dreading this conversation. She took a deep breath and touched the door chime.
“Come in,” she heard White’s clipped tones
As she entered the office he motioned her to a chair in front of his desk.
“Rhapsody Angel, please sit down.”
She did so, putting her hands in her lap to avoid them betraying her nervousness.
White looked at her gravely for a few seconds, and then almost as if he could read the apprehension in her face spoke immediately.
“The first thing I’d like to ask is how you are feeling? Dr Fawn did inform me of your progress but I rather wanted to hear from yourself.”
“Well, I’m really fine sir, thank you for asking.” What was he doing, making small talk? Didn’t he want to get to the nitty-gritty of why she was here?
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Now, I know that the past few days must have been very unpleasant for you from both a mental and physical aspect. You probably should know that Captain Ochre told me what happened regarding his injury in Egypt.”
“Sir, Captain Ochre told me that he’d debriefed you and told you that I was responsible for trying to kill him.” She sat up almost to attention. “Sir, In view of the circumstances, I can understand if you want me to resign from Spectrum.”
White looked thunderstruck. “Resign? Why in heaven’s name would I want you to do that?”
Rhapsody was suddenly bewildered. “I don’t know, Sir, I just thought you would consider me unfit to continue as an agent. I tried to kill a fellow officer…” was all she could manage to say.
White looked sternly at her. “Young lady, if I thought for one minute you were a liability to this organisation I wouldn’t have let you set foot on Cloudbase on your return! This conditioning you were subjected to was extremely powerful, no one could have been expected to resist it. In fact you did, insofar as you actually saved Captain Ochre’s life, in a manner of speaking. I consider that only someone with an extremely strong will could have achieved that. Spectrum cannot afford to lose its best agents, not to mention the time and money that was expended on your training.”
He paused for a moment. “Dr Fawn’s report was quite thorough and he stated quite categorically that you were completely cured and not in any way a risk to the security of Spectrum. I am happy to concur with his analysis on that score.”
Rhapsody’s shoulders sagged with sheer relief as she heard his words. White noticed her tension and realised that she must have thought he had asked her to his office in order to receive a dressing down and perhaps worse. He decided he needed to lighten the conversation.
“Anyway, I can’t afford to lose the only person who can give me a challenge at chess.”
Rhapsody couldn’t help smiling. “Oh sir, you’ll never know how glad this makes me feel. I couldn’t bear not to be part of this organisation.”
“Well, yes, and you will hopefully be part of it for a long time. Now, I’m officially assigning you back onto duty. I think you’ve had quite enough holiday for now.”
“Yes sir, thank you.” She couldn’t help smiling broadly as she got up to go. “ I won’t let you down sir.”
“I’m certain you won’tm Rhapsody,” and he bent his head to his desk console to indicate the interview was over.
Rhapsody left his office feeling like she was walking on air. Then she chuckled to herself, she hadn’t really thought of Colonel White having a sense of humour. She strode down the corridors to the Amber Room with a renewed sense of purpose. Now, in the not too distant future, there was just one other matter she had to face up to.
She didn’t see Ochre for the next few days. Colonel White thought it was a good idea for him to gently return to active duty so he sent him to Koala base to run some training sessions for the junior officers and ground personnel. In a way Rhapsody was relieved about this as it allowed her some time to ponder what she should do about her situation.
She was still trying to come to terms with the assault of emotions and sensations she had experienced in Egypt. Despite Dr Fawn’s wholly positive conclusions on her psychological and physical states, her own mind felt a little emotionally bruised within. Her encounters with Ochre in Egypt seemed the stuff of the romantic novels she occasionally read and she was amazed at the depths of sensation that she experienced with him during that time. It was as if the two of them had danced to some elemental song. And then, the trauma of the days spent under the influence of Al-Rashid, culminating in her attempted murder of the American.
And after a while somehow, back in Cloudbase, it all seemed misplaced and unreal. It was if she had been living a strange dream and now she had awakened. The sometimes rather mundane activities of stand by duty in the days following her return seemed to act as a sort of balm to her troubled psyche. Her fellow Angels, especially Symphony of course, were very considerate towards her and she was truly grateful for their understanding.
But still, there was still the matter of where she and Captain Ochre went from here. She tried to analyse why she felt so afraid of a relationship with him, apart from the obvious stumbling blocks of the regulations and their careers. After all, Symphony was determined that she was going to make it work with Blue. But everything had happened so fast she hadn’t had time for her rational brain to connect the dots. Or was it that, deep down, there was another reason she couldn’t commit to the American? A reason that she wasn’t even sure she was able to admit to herself? Then she realised that sometimes rationale didn’t work, you just had to go with your gut feelings.
After yet another standby shift she returned to her quarters to snatch a hot shower. As she towelled herself dry she switched on her personal monitor to see if she had any messages. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw there was one from Ochre. It read simply;
“Will be back on Cloudbase tomorrow, I need to see you. Can we meet in the Promenade deck at 19:00 hrs? Rick.”
It was time to decide.
It was dark when Rhapsody entered the Promenade Deck. There was always a silent hush up here in the night, a soothing feel that didn’t exist anywhere else on the base. When they constructed Cloudbase many people were surprised that such a large area should be given up for a purely social function. But Colonel White, who had some input to the original design of the base, had felt strongly that it was necessary that the men and women working here, far removed from family and friends, had a tranquil place where they could unwind and relax.
She saw Ochre standing over by one of the big panoramic windows. He was still in his uniform but she was glad to see there was no external trace of his injury.
He turned to see her and smiled. “Hi, Dianne, thanks for coming up here to meet me.”
She moved across to where he was and they both stared out of the window.
“How are you?” he asked her after a few seconds.
“Good, I’m doing good,” she told him. “Dr Fawn gave me the all clear as regards any long term effects of the conditioning. And my father is fine too. Dr Fawn was a big help in working with the doctors in London.”
“I’m glad, I liked your dad. I felt real bad not being able to help him down there.”
She said quietly, “I’m just glad that horrible nightmare is over for all of us.” She glanced at him a little self-consciously. “How are you?”
He flexed his shoulder and arm. “I’m still a little stiff, but I’m pretty much on the mend. You can’t get rid of me that easily.” He crinkled his eyes at her.
She smiled at his teasing. He really was incorrigible but she supposed that was part of his charm.
They both fell silent for a few minutes, both knowing why they were really here and neither quite sure how to raise the subject in question. Ochre felt he should make the first move. After all he was the one who initiated the meeting. Ever the pragmatist he decided the best thing was to lay his cards on the table and see what came of it.
But before he could say what was on his mind it was Rhapsody who suddenly spoke up.
“Rick, we have to stop this before we become too emotionally involved.”
He looked at her pensively. “Trouble is, I think I’m already involved.”
“Oh.” Her breath caught in her throat
Ochre put his hands gently on her shoulders. “You’re the first woman in a long while to give me an emotional punch in the gut. I always knew we hit it off together, but the time we spent down there, in Egypt…” he paused. “I really think we could be so good together, and I don’t mean just physically.”
This is too soon, she thought wildly. She had ever seen this side of Ochre before, so seriously baring his soul. It scared her a little. She was suddenly at a loss at what to say next
He touched her face and looked in her eyes. What he saw was a mixture of confusion, and longing. Again he just couldn’t help himself and he touched his lips to hers. Despite her determination Rhapsody felt drawn to him as a moth to a flame and she couldn’t help returning his kiss. She felt sadness mixed with the ardour as she clung to him for the last time.
“Don’t tell me you can’t feel anything or that this wrong,” he murmured against her mouth.
“You know I feel something,” she answered him quietly. “I’ll never forget what we shared in Egypt. You made me feel good.” She shook her head slowly, trying to find the right words. “But it all seems a little like a dream, something unreal. Maybe we should just remember it like that, a sweet dream.”
“You really want that?”
“Maybe not what I want, but what I think is best, for me, for both of us.”
She looked down at the floor. She was unused to explaining herself in this way and she was sure everything was coming out in a jumbled mess.
“I just don’t feel I’m ready for a relationship right now. I’ve only just begun my career with Spectrum, and I really want to give it my best shot. You’re the same. We can’t do it if we’re worried to death about each other every time we go on a mission. And there’s the no small issue of the rules concerning serious relationships. I know that you joked that they don’t matter, but I think we both know that we would be taking an awful risk. And the secrecy, trying to hide it from everyone; it would just be too difficult.”
She looked back up at him and saw he was staring out of the window again.
“Rick, did you hear what I said?” she asked him a little anxiously. He was awfully quiet.
“Yeah, I heard you. I’m just letting all the words sink in.” He turned his head back to look at her and then shook it ruefully.
“You know, I guess at the back of my mind, an annoying little voice was saying much the same to me, but I wanted to ask you first. If you were keen to give it a go, I was prepared to take a chance on us and to heck with everything else, we could just deal with it when it came up.”
She frowned slightly. “Oh Rick, you know that’s easier said than done. Emotions don’t always play according to the rules.”
“No I guess not,” he admitted. “I know I felt terrible waiting for you up here, unable to help find you. I guess that sort of feeling might just get harder to bear with once you’re in too deep.”
Rhapsody nodded. She had felt the same about him. She didn’t know how Symphony was able to deal with it. Maybe she was just a stronger person than she was.
Her gaze softened and she placed her hand tenderly on his cheek.
“You know, you’ve always been such a good friend, and we have always enjoyed each others company, I just really hope this doesn’t change everything between us.”
He gently kissed the back of her hand, a teasing smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
“You know, it’s going to be pretty hard just pretending to be friends when every time I see you I get an image of you running around the desert in your nightgown,” he said with irony.
She laughed softly, “You know, you really are something. I feel I’ve seen a side of you that you keep well hidden.”
He gave her a lopsided grin. “Yeah, well just don’t go around telling everyone. I need to keep my mean love-them-and-leave-them streak intact, after all you’re not the only fish in this pool, honey.”
Again she smiled. “You don’t fool me one bit, Fraser.” But she felt better. If he was starting to make fun of her already maybe he would be fine and maybe they could return to the relationship they had before Egypt.
“Well, maybe not. Damn you Dianne Simms, why did you have to go and get your beautiful aristocratic self under my skin?”
She paused for a moment. She really felt sure that they were doing the right thing now, but perhaps, in the future when things had settled down a bit and they had established their careers, maybe they could deal with embarking again on a romantic relationship.
She took his hands in hers and said solemnly, “Let’s give ourselves some time. If we are meant to be together, then maybe someday it will be.”
“Or maybe you’ll find someone else,” he said glumly.
Rhapsody turned again to look out at the vast panorama of stars. She said quietly, “Let’s not second guess the future Rick, anything could happen.”
And of course it did, in more ways than one.
This story is based on characters created by Gerry And Sylvia Anderson for the TV series “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”.
Some events and characters Copyright © of all trademarks materials (Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons and all other series titles, all their characters, vehicles, crafts, etc.), owned by ITC/Polygram. Information of the series are all been taken from copyright © materials (books, magazines, videos, T.V. medias, comics, etc) owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.
The characters of Sepia and Gold appeared in the 1993 Captain Scarlet Annual. Lord Robert Simms is mentioned in the official Carlton Captain Scarlet website as Rhapsody Angel’s father however I have taken a liberty with his character and appearance. All other characters mentioned in the story are of my own invention.
I would like to thank the following people for their encouragement and help in getting this story onto the “little” screen.
To Chris Bishop for creating this marvellous website and the fantastic fan-fiction section. Oh how I have enjoyed reading all these wonderful tales, which inspired me to add one of my own!
In my story I also refer to some ideas mentioned in Chris’ stories and also those of Mary J. Rudy and Marion Woods. Thank you ladies for allowing me to piggyback onto your wonderful ideas.
And last but not least I would like to thank Hazel Kohler for reviewing this story and preventing me from descending into grammar and punctuation horror hell!
Any comments? Send an E-MAIL to the SPECTRUM HEADQUARTERS site