Original series Suitable for all readers

 

 

Every Picture Tells a Story

 

 

 

by Ronda Curtner

 

 

A source close to Spectrum has revealed to our reporter Ronda Curtner the following details from a file in Spectrum Intelligence.  We are unable to confirm the veracity of the following.

 

 

 

Colonel White was listening with profound concentration as Captain Ochre tried to explain just what had happened on his last mission - to Ulan Bator.   The captain’s explanation – whilst detailed and almost certainly accurate – was confusing enough without the interruption from Lieutenant Green.

“Excuse me, Colonel, but I have the World President on your private line,” Green called, with only the slightest hint of amusement in his voice.     

Colonel White glanced across the Control Room at his senior communications officer and frowned.  The lieutenant’s face was a picture of virtuous innocence.  White decided it was probably a genuine interruption.

“Very well, Captain,” the colonel said, with a wary glance at the dark-haired American officer sitting before him, “we will continue this conversation at a later date.  Dismiss.”

“S.I.G., Colonel,” Ochre said with alacrity, and hurried away with a grateful glance at the grinning lieutenant.

Colonel White punched up the relevant channel and spoke into his desk microphone.  “Good day, sir. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Ah, Colonel, it is nice to speak to you.” James Younger had a politician’s knack of making every word sound as if it came from the heart.  Colonel White had known him long enough to take his words with a pinch of salt.  When the World President called Spectrum it was not usually for polite chit-chat.

“Thank you, sir,” White said with much less fulsomeness.

“Colonel, as I am sure you are aware, the annual budgetary commission is due to meet in the next few months – here at Futura…”

“The date is engraved in my memory,” White replied quietly.

“Well, I have to warn you that there are several World senators who are… shall we say, baulking… at the estimates for Spectrum’s financial requirements for next year…”

“Yes,” White murmured, “let’s say baulking…”

“I have been working behind the scenes to ensure that their concerns are laid to rest – and you are aware that I have every confidence in your organisation and absolute faith in your ability to deliver an effective defence against the Mysterons.”

“Uhmmm,” Colonel White replied non-committally.

“I… er…” Younger hesitated.  The colonel’s heart sank. “Well, I have been speaking to several wavering senators in the hope of convincing them to give their support to the estimates. You know how these things are handled, Colonel, and it has been impressed on me – from several quarters - that Spectrum needs to raise its public profile…”

“I beg your pardon, sir?  We are a security organisation – there is no question of us having a ‘public profile’ to raise…”

“Hmmm – and that is part of the problem, Colonel.  Spectrum is far too clandestine to win general approval.  Several senators have said to me that they have no ammunition in the battle to win the support of their constituencies with regard to the finances – and there are elections coming up.... 

Colonel White actually groaned.

“So it occurs to me that Spectrum – and its officers – should be seen to be making some all-embracing gesture to win over hearts and minds…”

“Sir…”White began to protest.  The World President ignored him and carried on smoothly.

“So, after consultation with my advisors and the publicity department, we have decided to authorise an official Spectrum calendar…”

“A what?”

“…To raise money for the World Government’s charity funds, naturally.”

“But… but…”

“My publicity office manager, thought that twelve of your … how shall I put this… most presentable personnel should feature on a calendar, which would be sold to raise funds…”

“Mr President…”

“…And I am in full agreement.  I think it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring Spectrum’s valuable work and dedicated personnel to the public’s attention in a most suitable and … timely manner.  So I have authorised a photo-shoot, here in Futura, with one of the most prestigious fashion photographers…”

 “Fashion!” White was nearly choking on the idea.

“Ms Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells – a thoroughly charming young lady… I have met her several times.  She has experience in photographing some of the most prestigious people in the film and music industry.  I didn’t think you would want her wandering about Cloudbase, so I have assured her that you will send a selection of your most personable officers – and the charming young ladies of the Angel Flight, of course – to meet her here, next Thursday…”

“Mr President…”

“I am so glad that is acceptable to you, Colonel!  Well, I must dash… such a lot to do!  My personal secretary has the details…Goodbye…”

Colonel White spluttered as the line went dead. “Well, I… er… I… well… good grief!”

 

Captain Scarlet was in a good mood as he strode into the conference room, his cap at a jaunty angle and a smile on his face.  It had been a busy week so far.  He had been instrumental in foiling a Mysteron attack in Vienna and had eaten far more chocolate Torte than was good for him – then he’d been shot in Tokyo and stabbed to death in Mombassa.  He felt that he could do with a few days rest – somewhere nice and peaceful - and he was contemplating asking Rhapsody to request a few days off as well.  A dirty weekend in Brighton would just about make his week…

His feeling of satisfaction ebbed slightly at the look on Colonel White’s face.  When the old man looked like that, there was something serious in the offing.  He nodded at Captain Blue and saluted before slipping into the spare seat next to Destiny.   From across the table -where he was sitting slightly too close to Symphony for it to look entirely accidental - Blue rolled his eyes, directing his partner’s gaze, with a warning frown, towards the colonel.

Scarlet grimaced and sighed, waiting for the bombshell he had no doubt was coming.

“Ladies and gentlemen of Spectrum,” Colonel White began at his most funereal, “I am afraid we have a serious problem…”

“Not another traitor in our midst, Colonel?” Blue asked.

“No, Captain – although we are under attack from a dangerous and unexpected quarter.”

“The Mysterons, Colonel?” Scarlet said, his voice deep with portentous concern.

“Not even them, Captain – far, far worse.”

“Worse than the Mysterons?” Symphony gasped. “Oh, give us a break…” she murmured, slipping her hand under Blue’s arm.

“Yes indeed, Symphony.”  Colonel White stared sternly at her until she removed her hand from its cosy resting place and clasped both her hands before her on the table, as a blush rose steadily from her neck to her face.

Colonel White continued, “I have had a… conversation with President Younger and he has authorised – indeed, ordered me - to allow twelve of you to be photographed for a … a charity calendar…”

There was a startled silence and then Captain Ochre burst out laughing. “Jeez, I thought it was something serious!”

“It is, Captain,” White asserted. “Spectrum’s efficient operation depends on our anonymity.  But how do you expect us to retain that anonymity, with all of your faces plastered over the bedroom walls of the planet’s teenage population?”

Ochre fell silent and gave the matter some serious thought.  White cleared his throat.

“I have argued this with the President, but he is adamant that – without our compliance in this fund-raising charity event – he will not have the support of enough World Senators to get our finances passed in the Senate, without a divisive and protracted debate.”

“Oh, politics…” Blue said in sudden loathing. “Almost one-third of the Senate are up for re-election, so I guess a cut in our budget might look good to them as a vote-winner.  That way, at least, their expense accounts are safe for another term.”

“Oh, come on, Adam,” Scarlet reasoned, despite the colonel’s glare at his use of a personal name.  “They wouldn’t risk our lives just to save their expense accounts.”

Blue’s eyebrows rose in ironic dispute. “I think we need to discuss that statement further... so, everyone, what is wrong with this sentence…? ‘They wouldn’t risk our lives just to save their expense accounts’?”

"You are turning into a proper cynic in your old age," Scarlet grinned.

"I’m merely being realistic," Blue retorted. "And not so much of the old... if you don't mind!"

“That’s enough, gentleman!” White snapped. “I am afraid we have no alternative.  The pictures must be taken – although I will fight every step of the way to stop their publication.”

“Sir, with the greatest respect, have you explained to the World President that this might be a dangerous thing to do? Never mind the potential security breach, if anyone were to recognise Captain Magenta or Captain Ochre their very lives might be at risk,” Blue persisted.  He had personal experience of being in the public eye, as his family were wealthy socialites.  He did not like it and had long taken personal measures to avoid the limelight before he ever joined the WAS security force – never mind Spectrum.

“I am only too aware of the dangers, Captain Blue,” White assured him.  “But at the moment, I am having no success in swaying the President’s decision.  I do not give up hope that the pictures will not be published or will be obscure enough to leave doubt about the identity of the sitter.”

“What sort of pictures are they planning to do?” Ochre asked. “Distant shots of people in Spectrum vehicles wouldn’t hurt as they could be pictures of anyone…”

“I am not sure, Captain.  President Younger has arranged for a photographer to take photographs of you all at Futura… on Thursday.”

“All of us?”

“Twelve of – what the President referred to as – the most presentable of you…”

Ochre sniggered.  “Tough going, Scarlet.  I guess that means you stay here…”

Destiny waved a finger at him in reproach, then addressed the colonel. “What kind of photographs…?  I mean, Futura is a nice place, but it is very hot and I don’t wish to have a picture of me all shiny in a leather suit in much sunshine…”

“I have no idea – that will be up to the photographer – who is to be a Ms Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells.”

Tiens, but she is a genius!  Mon père – he has several of her pictures in his collection.  This could be wonderful…”

“What kind of pictures?” Ochre asked again.

“Of all kinds, but she is best known for the portraits of famous people – glamorous portraits…” Destiny enthused.

Colonel White’s face grew even more angst ridden.  This is even worse than I first thought!  It will be a complete disaster!  And half of my officers are NOT taking this… threat… seriously enough!

“Who’s going to go?” Symphony asked, her interest piqued by Destiny’s enthusiasm.

“Well, the President insists that five of the pictures must be of the Angels,” White explained.

“Well, they’re all certainly very presentable,” Ochre smiled. Destiny preened and Symphony flashed him a smile.

“Quite, “White agreed. “As I have said before – Spectrum is not totally devoid of elegance and charm…”

“And who else will go?” Symphony asked, giving Blue a surreptitious glance from beneath her lashes.

White sighed and rattled off the names, “Captains Ochre, Grey, Magenta and Blue, Lieutenant Green, Doctor Fawn and Captain Scarlet.  Along with the Angels that covers every month of the year – by birthday.”

“You’ll make a splendid Playmate of the month, Destiny.  Miss July, unless I’m mistaken …” Ochre teased, a wicked grin on his face.

“At least,” the Frenchwoman retorted in kind, “as your birthday is in février, we shall have the least days to have to regard it!”

The officers all laughed.  Colonel White sniffed. No, not seriously at all… “This is no joking matter. Captain Blue is quite right – your identities could be revealed…”

“Hey,” Symphony grinned, “if someone‘s going to take a glamour photo of me – I’ll make damn sure that my face is the last thing anyone notices!”

“Symphony!” Colonel White and Captain Blue deplored in unison.  She roared with laughter – and her infectious laugh soon had the other members of the conference joining in.

“Only joking, guys…” she smiled at Blue and then gave an apologetic smirk at the colonel.

“This will be an unmitigated disaster – I just know it…” Colonel White moaned.

 

Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells supervised the unloading of her equipment from the aircraft cargo hold, something she - or her personal assistant - always did. There were some very expensive cameras in those metal boxes and no-one was going to throw them about.

Mary-Sue was at the height of her professional standing – a highly paid and much-sought-after photographer.   This shoot was one she had squeezed into her busy schedule, purely as a favour to the World President and in return for his agreement to pose for a formal portrait photograph in the very near future.  That would be a valuable commodity.  Younger was a popular President, but - since some kooks had taken pot-shots at him and some nutter had tied to kidnap him – access to him was restricted and rarely granted. She could make money from a decent, up-to-date portrait of the good-looking Younger – so she could afford to waste time photographing a bunch of fancy-dressed policemen and some battle-axe female pilots. 

And it is all in a good cause, she thought cheerfully, mine!

She followed the trolley into the terminal building, hopeful that she could wrap this Spectrum shoot up as fast as decently possible and get back to doing what she did best – making a decent living from her talents.

 

 

Futura was a wonderful place.  The hotels were of a universally high standard, the beaches all of white, shining sand, fringed with palm trees, the wide streets were all clean and traffic flowed along them without ever getting grid-locked.  Peopled almost exclusively by bureaucrats, it had – in Captain Blue’s colourful phrase – all the charm of a half-eaten pizza; the sort you find under the bed a few weeks after you abandoned it there.

Captain Scarlet loathed the place too.   He trudged from the bright, warm sunshine into the air-conditioned hotel lobby with resignation.  The other members of the party were already clustered around the check-in desk, where a good-looking clerk, with a permanently fixed smile, was sorting out their accommodation.  Scarlet dumped his kit-bag on the floor next to Melody and leaned on the counter top, pushing his red cap back on his forehead and sighing.

“That is all there is, madam,” the clerk was saying to Destiny, “the reservations were made by the President’s office and there is no mistake.  Double rooms were booked.” His fixed smile grew even wider. “President Younger is careful not to throw the government’s money about…”

“How shall we do this?” Destiny asked her companions.  She made a quick count. “There are eight of us and four rooms…”

“Eight into four goes… two!” Ochre counted on his fingers in exaggerated confusion. “I guess we share,” he leered, grinning wickedly.

“Three of the eight are women…”  Symphony snarled at him. “And don’t even suggest it, Rick, not if you don’t want to have your picture taken with two black eyes and a broken nose…”

“Hey, it’s not my fault Blue got confined to Cloudbase as duty-officer,” he placated her, adding, “or I guess the whole question of who doubles up would’ve been an academic one…”

“Meaning?” she snapped in reply.

“Stop it you two!” Scarlet intervened, placing a hand on Symphony’s arm.  “Leave her alone, Rick.” He wasn’t that pleased either, as the colonel had decided that two of the Angel pilots had to remain behind as well – flying down with Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green to have their photographs done once the main party had returned.  The two unlucky Angels were Rhapsody and Harmony.

“Well, I’m having this room.” Symphony grabbed a key and picked up her bulging suitcase. “I don’t mind which of you girls wants to share… but the first officer that walks through that door had better be good at self-defence.”

“I never appreciated just how often Adam takes his life in his hands…” Ochre whispered to Magenta as they watched her stalk across the lounge. Magenta gave him a forbearing glance.

Destiny picked up her case and glanced at Melody.  “You go after her, Honey,” Melody smiled. “I can handle anything any of these guys throws at me…” Destiny smiled and hurried after Symphony who was just getting into a lift.

Grey had been studying the itinerary left by the President’s office.  “This photographer doesn’t plan to hang about for long.  We’re all slotted in by the hour!”

“Good job I’m so photogenic then,” Ochre grinned, reaching out to collect a key.  “Coming… anyone?”

Magenta followed him across the lobby and Grey and Fawn followed them.  Melody picked up the last key and gave Scarlet an appraising glance.  He grinned.

“It’s okay, Mags, you have the room.  I can just dump my stuff in with a couple of the guys and grab a shower.   I’ll sleep in a chair in the lobby – if I need to sleep at all…”

“You’re a real gent, Paul,” she drawled, and smiled at him.

“Yeah,” he teased, “I know.”

 

Two hours later, the Spectrum personnel congregated in their dress uniforms in the plush lounge set aside for their use by the management. 

“Well, we’re all here on time – so where’s this big-shot photographer?” Ochre complained, running a finger around the high collar of his tunic and grimacing.  “I don’t wanna wear this a minute longer than I have to…”

“If it is down to me, you won’t have to wear it at all…” a voice said in a clear Scottish accent.

Ochre spun round and looked down.  Standing a few feet away, regarding them with ironical blue eyes, was a petite, dark-haired woman, dressed in a cool, pink sundress, and white sandals, a floppy sunhat dangling from her left hand.

“Excuse me?” he stammered.

“I’m not going to take pictures of you looking like that!” the woman announced.  She advanced further into the room.  “Allow me to introduce myself; I am Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells – at your service, ladies and gentlemen.”  She eyed up the Angel pilots.  “Aren’t you lassies awfully hot in those suits?”

“Sure, so we’d appreciate you getting a move on,” Melody responded.

Och, forget it.  I’m getting quite different ideas about this whole shoot, now I’ve seen what you all look like.  There’s potential for some really good photos here – but you’ll look right Charlies out on the beaches in that get up.  Don’t you have any casual wear with you?”  The officers gave a startled nod.  “Well, I suggest you get changed then, and meet me on the veranda in about… thirty minutes?  Okay?”

They nodded and trooped back up to their rooms abuzz with speculation.

 

Melody was first down, wearing an oversize T-shirt over her orange retro-style bikini.  Mary-Sue was waiting for them, sitting sipping a cool drink beneath the overhanging veranda.

“Hi there,” Melody called, standing hesitantly beside a table.

“Hello, would you care for a drink?”

Melody shook her head.  “What kind of pictures are you going to take, Ms Mackay-Wells?”

“Mary-Sue, please, there’s no need for formality, surely?  Now,” she glanced at a sheet of paper before her on the table, “which one are you?”

“Melody Angel.”

“Is that what your mother calls you?”

Melody smiled.  “No, but I’m not supposed to tell you that.”

Och, not to worry about it – I meet so many people for such a short time – I forget their names as soon as I move on.  I will call you Melody if you want me to – but I find names give me an insight into the person…”

“Magnolia,” Melody grimaced, “my name is Magnolia – never did figure out why my folks called me that.”

“Parents have a lot to answer for, don’t they?  I mean – fancy lumbering a poor wee babe-in-arms with a moniker like Mary-Sue… it’s the bane of my life.”  She smiled at the Angel and Melody relaxed slightly, tensing once more as the photographer produced a camera and pointed it at her.  “Relax, Magnolia, I am just taking a few light readings… could you take off that T-shirt?  It’s reflecting too much light for me to get a clear reading…?”

Obligingly, Melody stripped it off and watched warily as the other woman snapped off a few pictures.   I wonder if I can trust her, she thought.  I know the colonel’s not happy with this project… and I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of what she seems to have in mind?  Surely, she can’t intend to take our pictures in swim-wear?  I’d rather she portrayed the Angels as the full and important members of the Spectrum team that we are, rather than as… little bimbos, allowed to tag along with the big, strong men.  I betchta…the pictures of the guys will be macho and ours will be all kittenish and soppy.

“That’s good…” Mary-Sue murmured as the camera shutter whirled quickly. She could see the hesitant expression in the woman’s dark eyes and she prattled on, trying to set her at ease.   “You should relax though, you look like you are about to attack me with that knife at your belt… is it real, by the way?”

“Oh yes,” Melody replied evenly.  “I like to have a weapon when I’m on duty… a knife is always useful.”

“Oh, how right you are,”  Mary-Sue said with an edgy smile, and dropped the camera from her eye. “Well, that’ll do for now… maybe you’ll relax after I’ve taken a few of the others…”  I doubt it though, she thought, this one’s a nervy type…

 

Melody did begin to relax somewhat as the other Spectrum personnel started to arrive.  The other Angel pilots came out onto the veranda; Destiny was wearing a classic white, one-piece bathing costume, with a fetching bandana over her blonde hair and strappy sandals on her feet.  Melody doubted that the swim-suit had ever gotten wet.  The Frenchwoman was smiling at Mary-Sue with the disarming friendliness for which she was so well-known. 

In contrast, Symphony wore a petulant expression. She slouched into the room wearing a garish polka-dot bikini, beneath a plain muslin robe, with no sign of her previous enthusiasm for the project. 

 Melody shrugged at Destiny when the older woman made a pleading gesture for her to ‘leave Karen alone’ – she knew, as well as the other Angels all did, there was little chance of charming her fellow American into a sunny temper when her problem was to do with the absence – or even, in some extreme cases, the presence – of Captain Blue.

Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells chatted cheerfully to the newcomers, feigning not to notice Symphony’s sulkiness, but in truth, soaking up the individuals and their personalities with a true artist’s eye.   She began to think that this job would take far longer than she expected –for, while Destiny seemed eager to co-operate, Melody was jittery, and Symphony so unresponsive that any attempt to photograph her in this mood would only result in a charmless portrait.

She managed to keep her exasperation well hidden, despite the fact that any delay in Futura would have knock-on effects in her busy schedule.   There was a slight frown on her face, however, as she turned her head towards the door when the men arrived. 

Captain Ochre led the way and it was towards him that Mary-Sue gave her attention, after an appreciative glance at the other hunky men walking behind him.  She had taken more notice of him at their initial meeting than he realised.    She recognised that, under the less than flattering Spectrum uniform, was every appearance of a fine body and, besides, he was a handsome man with a lively - and attractive – personality, whereas his companions were rather more staid and formal.  No doubt, she mused, they are obeying their orders with more diligence than Captain Ochre but he is, by far, the most fascinating of the group.

Ochre was wearing Bermuda swimming trunks, in a colour that approximated to his uniform.  There was a discreet Spectrum logo on the right leg.  Slung over his left shoulder was a beach towel and in his hand a red-plastic holdall – the kind a lifeguard might carry.  He grinned across at Melody, expressing his approval at her smart orange bikini.  Melody, unusually flustered for her, struggled back into her over-large T-shirt and assumed an air of disapproval.  Ochre smirked.

Behind him, deep in conversation, came Grey and Fawn, both in jeans and casual shirts. They greeted Mary-Sue with stilted politeness and nodded at the Angels who were watching the officers’ arrival with varying degrees of interest.

Magenta and Scarlet ambled in at the rear of the procession.  Like Ochre, they too wore colour-coded swimming trunks with the discreet logo, and Scarlet was struggling with a bright yellow surfboard, which had drawn the amused attention of a group of hotel residents who were sitting in the lounge as they went through.

“Where did you get that thing from?” Melody asked him in astonishment.

Scarlet grimaced and cast an apprehensive glance at Symphony.  “It’s Blue’s.  Apparently, he had his mother ship it out; once he knew we were coming.  The desk-clerk stopped me and asked me if I would take delivery of Captain Blue’s property, as it was blocking their office.”

Tiens, we are to be here hardly any time – why would he want a surfing board?”  Destiny asked in bewilderment.

“Well…” Scarlet hedged in reply, “he likes surfing… and I suspect it is all part of a cunning plan not to be available when it’s his turn to have his picture taken.”

Fou – vraiment fou.”

“There isn’t much surf up anyway,” Symphony said, gazing out at the calm ocean.  “Even Adam would have difficulty riding those pathetic waves…”

“Why don’t you look after the board?” Scarlet asked her hopefully.  In reply she gave him a look that made him cringe and sigh. There were limits even Symphony’s devotion did not extend to, it seemed.

Mary-Sue had been watching all this and she spoke for the first time since the officers arrived.  “If you don’t mind…?”

“Captain Scarlet.”

“Oh, sure.  Look, everyone, I have already told Magnolia that I like to know real names – it gives me an insight into the characters of the people I’m photographing.  Some film stars’ real names are closely guarded secrets, but I know them – so, we’ll have some proper introductions before we go any further – if you please.”

“It’s against the regulations,” several voices explained in unison.

Mary-Sue raised a dark eyebrow.  “I can always check with the World President, but he did say I could expect complete co-operation… ”

The Spectrum personnel exchanged wary glances.  Colonel White’s last orders had been to maintain a professional distance from the photographer and to avoid revealing any more information than they had to.  Whilst they were obeying their orders and being photographed, Colonel White was still trying to talk the President out of the whole scheme.

Mary-Sue sighed and reached into a pocket for a cell phone.

Immediately, Ochre stepped forward, his hand extended.  “Richard,” he smiled.  Mary-Sue took the proffered hand and if he held her hand in his a little longer than was necessary, she didn’t try to remove it.

“Good, and you are?” she turned to Magenta.

“Patrick.” Another handshake.

“Bradley…”

“Edward.”

“Paul.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you all.  Magnolia, I know.”  She turned to the remaining Angel pilots.

“Juliette.”

“Karen.”

“Splendid – now, normally I work with a couple of assistants, but, as your boss seemed to think that was excessive, I only have one assistant with me at the moment and she’s busy.  But the light is perfect, I think I can take some decent pictures on the beach… shall we crack on and get the pictures taken?  Paul, I suggest you bring that board with you and that we all go down to the water.  You three… bathing beauties, can get be the first ones to get your suits wet…”

“That sounds like a pretty neat idea,” Melody laughed.  “Can we watch?”

“Hey,” Ochre interjected.  “I protest at being treated merely as a sex-object...”

“You do?” Magenta asked with surprise.

“Uh-huh.”

“There’s a first time for everything, Pat,” Fawn grinned at them.

 “Och, well, Richard – or do you prefer Rick? – we’ll have to see what we can do about that… a little later on,” Mary-Sue smiled. 

She bent to collect a large heavy canvas case of camera equipment and was gratified when Ochre and Grey both moved to carry it for her.  She gave it to Grey and slipped in to walk alongside Ochre as they left the veranda. 

“Ready to take a lesson, guys?  You are about to see an example of the famous Fraser charm offensive!” Magenta smiled, watching Ochre take the petite photographer’s arm over the uneven sand.

“You reckon?” Melody asked.

Startled that she had even heard his comment, Magenta blustered slightly.  “I just meant that Rick’s turning on the charm…”

“Lucky Mary-Sue…” Melody smiled and winked at the embarrassed captain, and, as Magenta scooted down to the beach in hot pursuit of his friend, her laughter floated after him.

 

Mary-Sue proved adept at setting everyone at their ease.  Fairly soon they were all larking about on the beach, like any crowd of people on holiday.   The three swim-suited captains tried to do as they were asked by the photographer, but Mary-Sue soon realised that these were not going to be as biddable as professional models and they had no concept of ‘selling themselves’ for a picture.  She was going to have to take hundreds of pictures and hope the perfect one was amongst them. 

From the sandy beach the Angels, Fawn and Grey watched, calling encouragement to their friends and teasing Scarlet about the surfboard – which was making his life a misery.  It was well known that Scarlet did not share – nor even really understand – Blue’s fascination with a sport Scarlet described as ‘floating about on a lump of fibreglass trying to avoid being eaten by a shark…’ and the irony of having him photographed with a board was not lost on his friends.

At one point, he had left it to its own devices until Melody pointed out that it was drifting gently out to sea, and he had to race after it, causing a fountain of splashing. Thereafter, he kept a hold of it.  He didn’t want to have to explain to Captain Blue that he had lost his favourite surf board.

Throughout it all, Mary-Sue’s camera whirred and clicked. She concentrated on one captain at a time, although she sometimes got her best shots when they didn’t realise she was photographing them.  She was quite sure that Patrick wasn’t going to be too pleased with the series of pictures she had of him, posing affectedly in the shallows – as he tried to show Captain Ochre how – he thought- it should be done!

She hoped to entice the Angels into the water, but Symphony refused flatly, and Melody swam out into deep water, which messed up her hair so much, she wouldn’t submit to being photographed.  Destiny dipped a toe into the warm water, shivered dramatically and declared that it was too cold to go any further in.

The captains protested that the water was great and splashed at her – to prove it… but she steadfastly refused to venture any deeper.  Symphony muttered to Captain Grey that, in their room, Destiny had revealed that her costume turned transparent once it got wet, “which is the dumbest thing for a swimsuit to do…” Symphony concluded.

Grey declined to comment, but privately continued to hope that Juliette might be enticed into the water anyway….

As the light began to fade, Mary-Sue called a halt and they trooped back to the hotel, Captain Scarlet dragging the big yellow surfboard after him with an expression close to martyrdom.

 

 

 

The party met again for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.  The officers had brought dinner jackets and the Angels had elegant dresses to do justice to the ambience of the place.  The setting was magical, as the warm breeze blew in from the sea and the deep blue-black sky sparkled with a million stars.  A huge, silver moon hung across the calm bay, casting an enchanted light over the beach and the lapping water. 

Everyone was relaxed and out to enjoy themselves… everyone except Symphony, who stared moodily out at the view, her chin in her hand and a pout on her lips. 

Mary-Sue, who - as ever - had a camera in her hand, joined them, explaining that; once again, her assistant was too busy - processing the shots from that afternoon - to accompany her.  She was delighted to find herself the initial centre of attention, as the officers politely vied with each other to impress her.   Although, by the end of the meal, Grey was talking quietly to Destiny, Magenta was doing sterling work trying to cheer Symphony up, and Fawn and Melody were teasing Captain Scarlet about his dislike of surfing. 

Captain Ochre, however, remained at her side, all attention and charm.

Noticing that Magenta wasn’t having much luck with Symphony Angel, and seeing Destiny slip away to the ladies’ room, Mary-Sue excused herself from her escort, and followed the Frenchwoman.

By the time she arrived, Destiny was washing her hands and then, with a smile of acknowledgement at the photographer, she began to repair the imagined damage to her make-up.

Mary-Sue decided to do a little probing research.  

“Tell me about the other Angels,” she said encouragingly.  “They seem nice lassies.”

“Oh, they are,” Destiny smiled.  “All of the Angel pilots are great girls… we get on so well!”

“Then maybe you can tell me what is wrong with Karen? I cannot get close to her, at all.  She’s in a terrible mood.”

Destiny pouted.  “She is pining…”

“Whatever for?”

“Her lover – he’s been left behind on Cloudbase until the second shoot you will do?  She hoped to have the time with him here.” The Frenchwoman sighed and settled herself on the edge of the sink in lieu of a more comfortable seat, preparing to chat. “I think that because it is so romantic outside tonight, she feels the absence of him more?  Our colonel – he pretends he does not know of their affaire - but I think, this time he was being deliberate at keeping them apart.”  She shrugged.  “It is his job, after all, to make sure we obey the rules… but Karen is not pleased – not one tiny amount.”

“The poor lassie.  I guess you must all be involved with the officers up there?  Not much chance to find any other talent?” Mary-Sue winked.

“Ah, non.  There are 600 peoples on the base – but we do see most of the colour officers.   They are nice men…”

“And which one do you like the best?” Mary-Sue asked conspiratorially.

Destiny pouted and then gave a coquettish smile.  “I cannot tell you… I knew Captain Scarlet – Paul? – from long before Spectrum – but he has other ‘romantic interests’ now… and I, well, I look elsewhere when I need a little companionship.”

Mary-Sue smiled.  She thought Destiny’s preference was more than obvious, if you paid attention. “They are all rather cute, though aren’t they?” she said sweetly.

Mais oui, and when you meet the missing captain you will see why Symphony pines so sadly…” Destiny chuckled. 

“Really?  That good, eh?”

Destiny gave a very Gallic shrug.  “Oh, there is always a first among even the best… n’est pas? … and our Adam has the advantage of being a blond amongst all the tall, dark and handsome men.”

“I’ll look forward to meeting him…” Mary-Sue laughed.  She raised her camera to her eye and shot off a series of photographs, while Destiny posed happily. 

 

When Captain Ochre set himself to be charming he was very good at it.  Mary-Sue was not averse to flirting with a good-looking man and the evening was a most enjoyable one.  As the others started to drift away to their rooms, Ochre suggested a walk along the beach before turning in.  They strolled together along the deserted beach, beneath the luminous moon, which made the white sand sparkle and gilded the palm trees with a magical glitter.

“I guess places like this must be the norm for you?” he asked, squeezing the hand that lay so comfortably in his.

“No, I go where the work is – this kind of shoot doesn’t happen as often as people think.  Nor do moonlight walks with handsome men… unfortunately.”

“I’m flattered you consented to come with me.”

She gazed up into his deep velvet-brown eyes and her self-restrained wilted.   “Oh… I think you knew I would come along, if you asked me… didn’t you?”

He smiled. “I kinda hoped you might…”

She stood on tiptoe and kissed his rough cheek gently.

“Much easier like this…” Rick murmured, gently pulling her down onto the soft sand…

“I knew you were an intelligent man… what a wonderful idea….”

 

 

 

The sun rose early over Futura and woke Captain Scarlet from his fretful doze in the armchair on the veranda.   He stretched and scratched his head, running a hand over his chin and wondering if it was too early for breakfast yet. He would have to wait a few hours before he went and barged into the room where his luggage was, so it seemed that he was condemned to wearing his dinner-suit to breakfast anyway. 

He heard voices approaching along the beach and peered over the banister to see Mary-Sue and Ochre walking hand in hand back towards the hotel.  Ochre had his dinner-jacket slung over his shoulder and his shoes in his free hand.  Mary-Sue was swinging her strappy sandals around as she laughed up into the face of the tall man beside her.

 Scarlet grinned and slithered as low as he could in the chair.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to wait too long for Magenta to wake up after all… Ochre was going to have to go back to his room now…

 

The couple had hardly reached the lifts, when Mary-Sue saw Symphony emerge from the staircase and walk straight out onto the beach.  This was too good a chance to miss and with a kiss on Ochre’s cheek, she left him and hurried after the Angel pilot.

 “Hello, Karen,” she called and quickened her pace to walk beside the tall American.  Symphony was still wearing her muslin robe, but quite a different bathing costume from the day before.  This one was a remarkable garment in vivid blues and green that moulded itself to her figure, accentuating every generous curve.

“Hi,” the Angel replied.  Her temper had improved somewhat and she knew she had behaved badly towards the photographer.

“That’s a nice bikini…”

“Thank you.  I bought it for Adam… well, for Adam to see, I mean,” she explained.  “I thought it deserved to see the light of day before it goes back into the suitcase until we get a chance to take a break together.”

“He means a great deal to you, doesn’t he, this Adam?” Mary-Sue remarked.

Symphony stopped and gazed out at the horizon. “He’s the most wonderful man I’ve ever met…”

“Tell me about him,” Mary-Sue suggested quietly.

The American at her side almost melted as her face broke into an affectionate smile.  “How long have you got?” she laughed at her own infatuation. 

Mary-Sue laughed too.  “Destiny told me he was ‘the first amongst the best’… a nice turn of phrase, I thought.”

“Destiny did?” A slight frown appeared on the woman’s face.  “I never thought she liked him that much…”

Oh-oh, jealousy alert!  Mary-Sue thought and back-peddled furiously.   “Hey, I don’t mean she fancies him!  She just meant he’s a good-looking man. Besides, I think her …interest, lies elsewhere…”

“Yeah, so did I…” Symphony’s earlier relaxed mood had evaporated.

“Why don’t we walk along to that mini-obelisk-thing, in the sand there and I could take a few pictures of you in your swim-suit and you can give them to Adam…?” Mary-Sue suggested enticingly.

“I could?”

“Sure, you can have copies, if you like…”

“That would be nice – I could get one framed as a present, couldn’t I?  It’s always hard to know what to get him for birthdays and Christmas – he has money and his tastes run to expensive…”

Och, every man is a bugger to buy for…” Mary-Sue agreed as they approached the obelisk.  “Now, Karen, just you tell me all about Adam, and smile…”

Symphony needed no second prompting and the resulting photographs were spectacular.  Mary-Sue smiled.  It’s easy when you know how…

The session lasted until they heard the others approaching from the hotel.  They were all in high spirits and joined in with the fun, larking around on the beach like teenagers, as Mary-Sue’s camera whirred and clicked.

 The party were still on the beach when Mary-Sue heard a familiar voice calling her name.  Excusing herself she turned towards the approaching stranger, who was trudging over the sand as if every grain was a personal affront. “It’s my personal assistant, Jane Simpson,” she explained as she waved.

“Mary-Sue, I’ve just heard the weather report!  That tropical storm we heard about – well, it’s got much worse and not only that – it has changed direction completely.  It’s now called Hurricane Conrad and is heading straight for us!” The woman came to stand beside the group and looked at them all one at a time, pausing to slide her heavy glasses up the bridge of her nose every so often.

“A hurricane?” Captain Scarlet stared out to sea as if expecting to see the storm’s approach.

“Sounds ominous,” Magenta murmured, under cover of the snatches of surrounding conversation.

“This is going to cause a real problem.   I have an appointment I can’t miss in Rome in a few days’ time.” Mary-Sue said, turning back to the Spectrum officers.  “We might not be able to get the photographs of the remaining personnel done, if the city has to be evacuated.”

“Is that likely?” Fawn asked.

Mary-Sue looked at her informant.  “What exactly did they say, Jane?” she asked. 

Jane Simpson flushed as the Spectrum officers and the Angels all turned their gaze towards her.  She was a stout woman with heavy-rimmed glasses that had been out of fashion for years and untidy hair, which had originally been cut into a bob – and badly needed a reminder of that fact. She was almost the exact opposite of what the term ‘fashion photographer’s personal assistant’ had led the Spectrum officers to expect.   She pushed the glasses’ frame higher up the bridge of her nose and reported: “The weather report said the hurricane is the fiercest in decades and advises anyone who can leave to do so, as soon as possible.  The politicians are already rushing for the airports and all the flights out are booked – I checked.” Her flat-vowelled, northern accent made the news sound all the bleaker.

“Well, it looks like we’ll have to sit it out, if all the planes are full,” Mary-Sue said unhappily.

“We should get Cloudbase to give us a report on why it’s changed direction towards us, all of a sudden,” Doctor Fawn suggested.  Like the captains, he was doubtful that this unexpected change in the weather was mere chance.  The Mysterons had been known to use any weapon they could in their war of nerves with Spectrum.

“No,” Scarlet said brusquely.  “Magenta is right – Hurricane Conrad is too big a risk.  We’ll all go back to Cloudbase in the SPJ before the airport closes.  Perhaps you can take the remaining pictures there, Mary-Sue?”

“On Cloudbase?  Would that be allowed?” Fawn gasped.

Scarlet shrugged.  “I see no other option,” he said loftily.  “Let’s get our stuff ready and make our way to the airport.”

“S.I.G., Captain Scarlet,” his colleagues chorused.

 

 

 

 

Mary-Sue and Jane sat in the passenger compartment of the SPJ and were waited on hand and foot by their rescuers, whilst Symphony flew the plane, with Captain Scarlet as her co-pilot.  Jane seemed pre-occupied.  She had taken longer than Mary-Sue expected to pack up all the equipment and see it stowed aboard the Spectrum Passenger Jet.  Then, just as everyone began to get impatient, she clambered aboard the plane with her most oversize handbag – ‘full of bricks by the weight of it,  Mary-Sue thought as it thumped into her arm as Jane scrambled past to her seat.

“I’m sorry, Mary-Sue,” Ochre said as he gently removed the miniature camera from her hand, “but there’s no way we can let you photograph Cloudbase – that’d get us all in serious trouble. You’d better let us take care of the equipment until Colonel White says it’s okay for you to have it back to use on base.”

“You don’t trust me, Rick?” she asked. 

Jane gave the pair of them an appraising glance.

“I do, I’d trust you anywhere, but Colonel White is a real stickler for the rules and his word is law.  I don’t know that Paul’s even told him you two are with us… I suspect he hasn’t… knowing Paul.”

“We’d better drop back into using our code names too,” Brad advised.  “The colonel gets very prickly at the use of personal names.”

“Okay, I guess we can do that okay, can’t we, Jane?”  Her P.A. nodded.  “He sounds formidable – this Colonel White…?”

“He’s not too bad… sometimes.” Ochre’s comment was greeted with snorts of laughter from his colleagues.

“Approaching Cloudbase, fasten your safety belts.”  Symphony’s voice came over the tannoy.

The visitors strained to look out of the window at the floating base.

“Wow…” Mary-Sue breathed.  “I doubt even the best picture I ever took could do it justice.  It is …magnificent.”

“Yeah…” Ochre agreed, seeing the graceful structure with fresh eyes once more.

“Look at the way the sun just gleams off those planes on the deck area.  Och, I can’t do it justice with words, Rick, I need my camera!”

He shook his head.  “The pictures’d be wiped – or confiscated,” he assured her.

“Oh, look at that…” she gasped as the plane banked for its approach.  “What if we miss the runway?”

“Symphony’s flying the plane – she’s never been known to miss,” Magenta reassured her.

“Sure her mind is on her work?” Mary-Sue asked.

Ochre smiled.  “Look at it like this – Blue’s on Cloudbase and she’d land this plane on a postage stamp to be with him… You couldn’t be in safer hands.”

Jane had her nose pressed against the porthole for the best possible view.  She pointed out the rapidly approaching runway. “Cross your fingers,” she said, nervously pushing her glasses higher.

“Oh, gosh, that’s amazing!” Mary-Sue said as the plane touched down and the complex landing gear swung into operation, bringing the plane to a halt with the merest of jolts.

“How do we get out?” Jane asked barely turning from her window.

“The plane’ll descend into a hangar,” Ochre explained.  “See?  We’re on our way.”

The visitors looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Wow…”

             

 

             

 

 

 

Colonel White stared at his newly returned captains in disbelief.  “You brought her and her assistant here?”

“Well, it was either that, or leave ’em to face the hurricane alone, sir,” Captain Ochre reasoned.  “Besides, Mary-Sue said she has the ear of the President on this job and he told her if we give any trouble, she must get straight on to him and he’d… erm… well, he’d bawl you out… sir.”

“I never heard her say that,” Symphony grinned at him.

Ochre shuffled slightly. 

Colonel White suspected he might be embarrassed.  “Well,” he sighed, “I suppose it is done now and – as you say – we are under orders to co-operate.  However, the visitors are to be restricted to general areas only – and if they need a setting for the photographs, it had better be ... the Promenade Deck.  I do not want them wandering around unescorted – nor given access to the security areas of the base.  I take it they were both tested with the Mysteron detector on arrival?”

“Yes, sir – absolutely.  They were both negative,” Scarlet asserted, before any of his colleagues could admit that the thought had not occurred to them.

             

“Just stand still for a minute,” Ochre pleaded as he tried to test Mary-Sue with the Mysteron detector.

“What kind of camera is that?  I’ve never seen anything like it, Rick… oops, sorry, Captain Ochre.” Mary-Sue peered at the bulky machine in his hands and sidled towards him.

“It’s on the secret list – it isn’t a … normal camera,” he explained.

“What does it do that is so secret?” She reached out a hand to for detector. “Let’s have a little look…”

“You can’t- stand still, please, Mary-Sue…”

She shrugged and smiled up at him.  “Anything for you… shall I smile nicely?”

“You could do…” He quickly raised the detector and snapped the shutter.  Slowly the picture appeared from the machine – showing an X-ray.

“Cool,” Mary-Sue enthused, taking the picture.  “But why do you need a picture of my skull?”

“Identification – like a retinal scan – you know…?” Ochre improvised wildly.  “Now – where’s Jane?” He swivelled round looking for the PA.

“Oh, she got fed up waiting about… she’s gone to make sure the luggage was unloaded properly.  She takes her responsibilities very seriously… and she didn’t have the added attraction of knowing it was you coming back to fetch us.”

She slid her arms around him and laid her head against his broad chest.  Ochre grinned and hugged her.  “Poor Jane,” he said with a smile, ducking his head to kiss her lips.

Och, she’s okay…” Mary-Sue returned his kiss.  “She’ll be happy enough unloading the luggage.”

He stiffened.  “She can’t go wandering about unsupervised…”

“Oh, she isn’t.  There was this nice lieutenant came by – Flaxen, I think she said her name was and she said she’d show Jane the way…”

“Flaxen?  Oh, no.  That woman’s a walking disaster…”

“Don’t worry about Jane – she can take care of herself… now, me, I need constant supervision, Captain Rick…” Ochre’s cap mic swung down, nearly poking Mary-Sue’s eye out as she reached up to kiss his cheek. “That thing is a menace!”  she complained.

“Captain Ochre,” Scarlet’s voice was clearly audible, “have you done the tests, yet?”

“Yes, well, Mary-Sue’s anyway.  Jane’s gone off to the hangar with Flaxen to check the luggage…”

“Flaxen?” Scarlet groaned.  “I’ll send a security detail down at once – she’ll probably depressurise the whole landing bay…”

Ochre sniggered.  “You’re too hard on her, Scarlet.  She does her best…”

“God help us then…” Scarlet’s voice faded as the line was broken. 

Ochre smiled at the bewildered Mary-Sue, “We’d better go find them.  Flaxen’s rather accident prone and I’d hate Jane to get into trouble…”

 

“It’s this way,” Flaxen said, leading the way down another identical looking corridor. “I’m sure it is.”

“Sure?” Jane asked as they passed the door to a sports hall for the third time.

“Well… I don’t come this way very often,” the lieutenant admitted.

“We could always ask… there’s someone in there…” Jane pointed at the gymnasium.

“Oh no, we’d better not,” Flaxen said as Jane moved towards the door.  “That’s the captains’ gym… I don’t think we had better go in…”

“Nonsense, I haven’t got all day, Lieutenant.  You can blame me – they can hardly shout at me, can they?”  She pushed the door with a reassuring smile.

Flaxen trailed after her.

“Excuse me…” Jane called, pushing her glasses up as she peered around the sports hall.

Over in the far corner a large black punch bag was suspended from the ceiling, and beating seven bells out of it was a blond-haired man, in black boxing shorts, gloves and gym shoes.

Flaxen laid a hand on her charge’s arm, hoping to get her to leave.   It might only be Captain Blue, but even he had a tendency to get cross at blatant breaches in regulations – at least, if he was in bad mood, he did.  From the way he was laying into the punch bag, Flaxen was guessing he wasn’t in his usual easy-going mood.

“Excuse me,” Jane called, even louder, “could you help us, please?  We’re looking for hangar two?”

Blue damn nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of her voice.  He turned a frowning face on the women and glared at the miserable Flaxen with annoyance.

“Who’re you?  And what’re you doing here?  Flaxen, what’s going on?” he asked.

The two women stared at him, both seemingly struck dumb.  Blue, panting heavily, reached for a towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes.  “Well?” he asked, rapidly regaining his composure.

Flaxen cleared her throat.  “This is Ms Simpson, Ms Mackay-Wells’ PA, and we’re looking for Hangar Two – where their equipment was unloaded.”

“So, if you’re looking for Hangar Two – why are you here?  Hangar Two is on the port side…” Blue shifted uneasily as Jane continued to stare at him.

Flaxen’s face coloured.  Blue sighed. “You’re lost again, aren’t you, Audrey?” He shook his head but couldn’t suppress a wry smile.  “I thought you’d worked your way around now?”

“Well, I have, except I don’t come down to the hangars very often and the main corridor was blocked because they’ve got scaffolding up to mend a conduit, so we had to take the short-cut and…”

“You got lost.” Blue finished.

He glanced at Jane, who pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and gave him a broad grin.

Suddenly embarrassed, Blue reached for the robe on the vaulting horse and slid it over his shoulders. “Come on,” he sighed, “it’s time I got showered and ready for duty anyway… I’ll show you the route on my way.” 

“Thanks, Captain Blue,” Flaxen said.   He extended a hand towards her, intending her to remove the glove for him.   Jane reached out and pulled it off his hand before Flaxen could react.  She kept it clutched to her bosom. 

Blue pulled the other glove off in a hurry.  He led the way, walking past Jane with a wary smile.  The two women trailed after him as he strode down the corridor.  At the first junction, he paused for them to catch him up. 

“Hangar Two is down there, take the stairs down a floor and turn right.  Even you can’t get that wrong, Audrey.  Very nice to meet you, Ms Simpson,” he said.  “Let me relieve you of that…” He took the boxing glove from her unresisting hand and as he turned to walk away he heard:

“He’s like – wow…”

 

 “There you are, Jane!  We wondered where you had got to,” Mary-Sue said as the two women walked into Hangar Two.

Flaxen answered her. “It was my fault, Ms Mackay-Wells.  We got…”

“Distracted,” Jane interjected. “We were talking to Captain Blue.  He was boxing in the gym.  Mary-Sue, you have to photograph him.”

“He is on the list,” Mary-Sue smiled.  It wasn’t like Jane to get this enthusiastic about photographic subjects.  “Destiny was telling me - he’s quite dishy...”  She winked up at the tall man beside her.

“Destiny was?  That’s a turn-up.  If you’d said Symphony I’d have understood,” Ochre said a little sourly.  “I mean, I guess he’s okay… but he’s nothing to write home about.”

 “Really, Captain Ochre, I thought better of you,” Jane snapped. “Jealousy is unbecoming in an officer and a gentleman.”

Mary-Sue laughed.  “Janey, I believe you are smitten!”

“I am not!”

“These Spectrum guys should have a health warning on them,” Mary-Sue purred, playfully cuddling up to Ochre.

Flaxen sniggered and studied her fingernails.

Captain Ochre cleared his throat and flushed.

 

When Ochre led the visitors into the Officers’ Lounge, Captain Blue was there, in uniform, sprawled in an armchair and drinking a long, cold glass of fruit juice.  Captain Scarlet stood from his chair and greeted them both politely.  Blue scrambled to his feet, nodded an acknowledgement at Ms Simpson and politely shook hands with Mary-Sue.

Mary-Sue glanced at Jane.  “Symphony wasn’t telling any fibs, was she…?” she said cryptically.  Ochre snorted.

“I understand you‘ve been down to the hangar bay?” Scarlet said.  “Please, don’t mention it to the colonel, or we’ll all get into terrible trouble.”

“Och, no, we won’t say a dickie-bird, will we, Jane?”

“What?  Oh no, not a word.”

“You’ll have to forgive Jane, Captain Blue – I think she’s a little… over-awed – by all this…” Mary-Sue waved a hand around the room, but the twinkle in her eye made it clear just what her PA found so awe-inspiring.

Blue found himself responding with a boyish grin. 

Suddenly Jane said, “I knew I’d seen you before…”

“Me?” Blue stammered from the safety of his armchair.

“You mean other than in your dreams?” Mary-Sue teased her with a snigger.

“Give over!  Remember, Mary-Sue, a few years ago now, you were commissioned to take the pictures at a social gathering in Boston – for some charity do.  It was sponsored by SvenCorp and the whole Svenson family turned out… we sold the pictures to that big snobby magazine in New York.  Am I right?” she asked Blue.

“I’m sure I don’t know…” he said with a frown.  He tended to avoid the more public events his family got involved with.

Mary-Sue was staring at him, her professional curiosity piqued.  She walked up to Blue and reached out to turn his head to profile and then back again, frowning into his bewildered face.

“No,” she said slowly.  “It wasn’t this one – the one we saw was younger – I mean younger than the Captain would have been.  But, I’m guessing you are one of the Boston Svensons – right?”

Blue shrugged. “I’m afraid I couldn’t comment.  It’s a security matter.” He was slightly flustered by their reasoning.

Jane exclaimed triumphantly, “You must be the Svensons’ reclusive eldest son!”

“I am not a recluse,” Blue reasoned, “just because I don’t want my picture taken every five minutes.”

“Yeah, right – you guys are hyper-sensitive, you know?  I’m not going to tell anyone – we’re not going to tell, are we, Jane?” 

“None the less,” he said, quietly insistent, “I’m not prepared to discuss it with you – or listen to reasons why you think I should…”

Mary-Sue studied Blue for a long minute and then casually remarked, “I have heard it said that ‘you can always tell a Harvard man – you just can't tell him much’.  Is that the same with you?”

“No,” Blue replied, slightly offended, “I’ll always listen to reasoned arguments.”

“Or Symphony in full rant…” Scarlet murmured in an audible aside.

The two men exchanged grins.  

 “You have no choice now, Mr Svenson,” Mary-Sue smiled.  “You are under orders to be photogenic…”

“Captain Blue,” he corrected her with a warning tilt of his head.

Mary-Sue gave an apologetic shrug.  “Aye, I keep forgetting.  Rick is forever having to remind me…”

“Oh, Rick is, is he?” Scarlet grinned. He was rather enjoying watching Ochre cope with his burgeoning relationship with the photographer.  A good many times in the recent past, both he and Blue had been the butt of Ochre’s witticisms about their romantic attachments and  he reminded himself to tell Blue what had been going on at Futura.  Spending the night on a chair on the veranda had proved ‘interesting’ and should provide ammunition to counter Ochre’s jibes with some of their own.

“I can’t see why you expect to call each other by your code names all the time,” Mary-Sue explained.  “I mean, you all know who you are, anyway – don’t you?”

“Yes, but doing it all the time means that we don’t – or shouldn’t – accidentally reveal our identities to outsiders,” Scarlet said.  He glanced at Blue and added ruefully.  “Neither Adam or I are very good at it though…”

Blue acknowledged the justice of that with a wry smile. 

“Well,” she said, “you could say that recognising faces is my stock in trade, and I doubt that most average people would associate you with your family, Captain Blue – especially given the circumstances in which they are likely to encounter your ‘official’ self.  And all the photographs have been out of uniform too – so, you should be safe enough.”  It was obvious that the blond American was not convinced, although he was too polite to say as much.  Mary-Sue continued, “We won’t say anything – you have our word on that – doesn’t he, Jane?”

“Absolutely.  We both feel very privileged to be allowed on Cloudbase at all.  We don’t want to hamper Spectrum in any way.”

 “I appreciate that.  But, I’m afraid I must ask you ladies to excuse me… I have a stint in the radar room to do.”  Blue stretched and reached for his peaked cap.  “See you later, Paul.  Ladies…”

Mary-Sue sighed.  “I should get on with my duty too… otherwise I’m going to be late for the session with the Italian Prime Minister and that won’t do.”

Jane handed her a list. 

“Right, we still have a few to do.  Let’s see if we can wrap up the Angels…Rhapsody and Harmony.”

Scarlet glanced at a timetable on the wall.  “They are both off duty at the moment.  I could take you down to the Angel quarters, but then I have to do some work, too…”

 

 

 

 

Rhapsody Angel was enjoying a shower in her quarters.  She’d had a busy few days with three of the other Angels away, and the prospect of an evening off to relax and spend a little time with Paul, was a delightful one.  She rinsed the shampoo from her hair and applied conditioner to the long copper-red tresses, before soaping herself with some of the expensive shower gel she’d received for her last birthday.  It was nice just knowing Paul was back on base – even if she couldn’t expect to see him for a few hours yet.  Sometimes, she could definitely understand what Symphony felt like when Blue wasn’t around.  The relationship between Karen and Adam was an open secret – but she doubted if more than a handful of people knew about her and Paul. Although they prided themselves on being far more discreet than their close friends, their mutual love for each other was quite as deep as that between the two Americans. 

She thoroughly intended to spend the rest of her life with Paul Metcalfe.

A buzzer sounded in the small bathroom and she quickly rinsed her hair again and finished washing before the water supply dried up.  You quickly got used to the fact that water was strictly rationed, but it was so nice, when away from Cloudbase, to spend time luxuriating in hot tubs or under showers.  The only place you stood any chance of that on base was in the physio-therapy ward, and she had toyed with the idea of reporting sick with a stiff neck before now, in the hope of getting a spell of luxuriating in the Jacuzzi.

A good many people still complained bitterly about the water rationing, but it did no good, of course, as there was nothing the colonel could do to improve the situation.  It was Captain Ochre who had made the officers see the funny side of it when he suggested that, to save water, everyone should shower with a friend.  Rhapsody was sure that Colonel White had no idea just how often that happened.

She stepped from the shower cubicle and wrapped herself in a large fluffy towel, warm from the radiator.   She wrapped a second towel around her wet hair and walked into her quarters, humming to herself.  Glancing at the bedside clock she calculated that she still had two hours before Paul came off duty and he wouldn’t come to collect her for another hour or so after that.  She towelled herself dry and combed her hair.

Glancing in the mirror she pulled a face at herself.  Karen was always offering to ‘do’ something with her hair; since she had chopped her own locks into the short bob that suited her so well, her friend had been itching to practise her hairdressing skills on the other Angels.  Maybe I should let her ‘do’ something?  Rhapsody pondered.  I suppose I can’t go through life with such long, straight hair?  Mind you, if I let Karen anywhere near it – I’ll end up with a crew-cut, most likely… she does tend to get so over-enthusiastic about projects.

She was still combing her hair dry when the door bell sounded. Grabbing the first thing she could to wrap herself in, she called out, “Who is it?”

“It’s me… and some visitors,” Scarlet replied.

Visitors?  “Okay, come in, Paul.”

Scarlet keyed in the pass code and the door slid back.   He ushered Mary-Sue and Jane into the room, and gawped at Dianne, standing wrapped in a slinky white dressing gown, with a wispy fake fur collar.  His memory raced back to their last holiday in Paris when Dianne had first shown him her new lingerie. 

“Sorry to intrude, Rhapsody,” he stammered, going hot under the roll neck of his uniform.  “This is Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells – the photographer and her assistant, Jane Simpson.  They need to take your picture…”

“But not like this – I look awful!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that – exactly,” he muttered.  “I have to go – unfortunately.  I am sure Rhapsody will take you wherever you need to be next, ladies… Bye, Di,” he smiled and left in a hurry.

“If you would give me a moment, I’ll get into my uniform,” Rhapsody said, pulling the robe tight around her slim figure.

“There is no need – certainly not to get into uniform,” Mary-Sue said smiling.  “I am sure I could get some very fetching shots of you, as you are.”

“Good heavens!  I can’t do that!  I was just washing my hair… you can’t take a picture of me in this!”

“Why ever not?  You’d be perfectly respectable – and very sexy…”

“It is hardly suitable attire for a Spectrum Angel,” Rhapsody said, with evident disapproval of the suggestion.

“Oh, I think it is very ‘angelic’,” Mary-Sue replied, raising the camera to her eye.

“No, wait!” Rhapsody cried in alarm.

Mary-Sue smiled. “Would you like a preview of the pictures I have of the other officers – the ones taken in Futura?  That might set your mind at rest.”

Jane held out a folder that contained the pictures taken earlier.  Rhapsody opened them and stared wide-eyed at her fellow officers, disporting themselves on the beach.

“Oh, that is a lovely shot of Paul… and doesn’t Karen look splendid?   My, I don’t know how she does it, but Juliette always looks so elegant… even Melody isn’t wearing her usual scowl…” She laughed at the pictures that revealed the antics of Ochre and Magenta as they pranced about in the shallows ‘modelling’.  “Those two are irrepressible – they never take themselves seriously – it is so refreshing.”  She glanced up at Mary-Sue.  “You do know that Captain Blue is determined you won’t take his picture, aren’t you?” she asked with a wry smile.

“I thought that might be the case… there’s always one in any group shoot who is camera-shy.”  Mary-Sue smiled at Jane.  “I’ll get him – just watch me.  But what about you, Rhapsody, will you let me take a few snaps?”

Rhapsody grinned. Everyone seemed to be throwing caution to the wind and why should she be any different?  “Okay then – but nothing too… revealing – promise?”

“You have my word of honour!  Now, how about sitting over there?”

As the session got underway, Jane excused herself and left them to it.

 

Once Mary-Sue had completed the photos for Rhapsody, she went to visit the quarters of Harmony Angel.  The quiet, diminutive Chinese girl welcomed her politely to her rooms – which were furnished in a delightful oriental style.   However, when Mary-Sue explained how she wanted Harmony to pose – the Angel shook her dark head and expressed great reluctance to be photographed in the manner she had heard her colleagues discussing. 

Mary-Sue tried reassuring, persuading and finally, sweet-talking the reluctant Harmony into wearing a revealing little disco outfit they found in her wardrobe and posing.  The surprisingly stubborn young woman expressed her regrets at disappointing her guests, but she was dubious about the wisdom of doing as she was asked.  But finally, on seeing Rhapsody’s portfolio and some of the pictures from Futura – and being reminded of the World President’s orders - she obeyed, although her expression remained demure – quite out of kilter with the raunchy image Mary-Sue had hoped to present. Of all the elite personnel Harmony was the only one not to succumb to the photographer’s practised charm –although she had never quite won Melody over - and Mary-Sue was left with a profound feeling of disappointment.  Harmony’s pictures remained the most enigmatic of the Angels’ portraits, and that irked her photographer. She felt that she had not done the charming Chinese girl justice. 

 

Suitably attired in her uniform once more, Harmony led the visitors to the Promenade Deck where they met the off-duty Captain Grey.  Harmony said goodbye politely, but her relief was palpable.  Mary-Sue shrugged off her disappointment and set about inveigling the captain into removing his shirt and lounging against a blank wall, whilst she took her pictures.  Away from his more charismatic fellow officers, the good-looking, but, apparently, rather shy American proved to be excellent company.   He blossomed under Mary-Sue’s flattering interest and she found herself warming to the hirsute American.

“Have you any family in Scotland, Brad?” she asked, as she took a reel of pictures.

“No, I’ve never even had the pleasure of visiting that splendid country,” Grey admitted with an apologetic smile.

Och, it’s just that you just remind me of the chap that used to deliver our milk back home.  Of course, it was some years ago.   What was his name now…? Sean - that’s it!   A nice-looking chap he was.   I wonder what ever happened to him.”

“I don’t think our family has any Scottish blood in us…” he replied with a shrug.

“Och well, they say everyone has a doppelganger somewhere in the world.  Yours must be a Scottish milkman!”

 

After she parted from the genial Captain Grey, Mary-Sue consulted her list of subjects.  There only remained Lieutenant Green, Captain Blue and Doctor Fawn to do – plus Mary-Sue’s unspoken ambition to take a picture of the colonel himself.

Lieutenant Green was an easy target.  She found him in the canteen, and as he had a few hours off duty, he obligingly changed into a pair of white jeans and a casual white shirt.  At her encouragement, but still a little self-consciously, he opened the shirt and stood against the expanse of pale-blue sky visible through the windows of the Promenade Deck.  Mary-Sue chattered encouragingly at the young Trinidadian, as she snapped away, enjoying the play of the sunlight on the young man’s dark, muscular torso.

 It occurred to her that most people wouldn’t realise just what a powerful body the young communications officer had.

“It must be tough, keeping fit, when you spend so much time at the computer consol, Seymour,” she probed.

“Oh, we have plenty of facilities here on Cloudbase, and Doctor Fawn’s keen we all get timetabled with time to take exercise.”

“What’s your sport?” Mary-Sue asked, as she snapped another couple of shots.

 “Oh, I play squash – usually with Captain Scarlet, but he’s out of my league really – although I am getting better – every game gets a little more keenly contested!   I swim – we all do, but no-one can beat Captain Grey – and just lately I have been boxing… one of the security guards was a noted amateur boxer before he joined us and he’s started a club – Captain Blue and I have been sparring now and again.”

“Isn’t that a little unfair?  I mean he’s a good bit taller than you and… broader…?”

“I can defend myself,” Green bristled. He was very self-conscious of his lack of inches in the company of so many tall officers.

“I am sure you can, Seymour, but I bet Blue can too?”

“He’s good,” the Lieutenant agreed slightly mollified.

“When is your next bout, Seymour?”

“Well, it was scheduled for today, actually.  We hoped to get time to do a few rounds…”

“Ideal… do you object to having an audience?” Mary-Sue grinned.

 

Doctor Fawn was too busy to spend time with the visitors.  A technician had been injured in a fall from a gantry he was repairing and Fawn was operating.   That gave Mary-Sue time to wander hopefully across to the Officers’ Lounge but finding Ochre was on duty, she went with Jane to the room they had been allocated in the VIP quarters, and spent some time processing the new pictures she had.

Jane, an invaluable aide in the process of selection and editing, also spent some time preparing the new set of cameras Mary-Sue intended to use for the final shoots.  At her aide’s suggestion, the photographer planned to ask the colonel to gather all of the senior command together – probably in the Amber Room - for a group portrait in uniform to use for the cover.  It was then that she planned to ask the formidable commander-in-chief to pose for some pictures.  From what she had learned from Ochre and the others, she suspected the colonel’s bark was far worse than his bite – and she could always play her trump card – the call to the World President. 

As the hour for the boxing match approached, the photographer made her way to the gymnasium.

Blue was alone, warming up for the bout.  He turned expecting to see his opponent.  At the sight of the young woman, he frowned.

“Too late to run away now, Captain,” Mary-Sue said jovially.  “Smile please!”

Blue’s expression of displeasure did not change as the camera shutter whirred. He leant against the punch bag and stared at the newcomer with obvious antagonism.

“Och, come on, Captain… surely you can do better than that!” Mary-Sue pleaded.

Behind her the door swung open and a cool voice said, “Hello, Adam, I see she caught up with you?”

Mary-Sue resisted the temptation to turn and welcome Symphony and her reward was a softening in the tall blond’s expression as he gazed at his lover standing behind the photographer.  Mary-Sue felt like a voyeur, as her camera faithfully recorded the mixture of emotions on Blue’s face. 

“Hi, Karen,” he said.  His eyes spoke the volumes his words omitted.

Karen walked past the two women as if they were part of the furniture.  She reached up and kissed her man’s cheek.  “I missed you,” she whispered. “Now, smile sweetly, there’s a good boy... and, maybe, Mary-Sue will let you send a nice photo home to your momma…”  Her voice dropped and she continued to whisper into his ear.  Blue’s face changed again, resuming its antagonistic expression.

 Mary-Sue patted her camera and smiled a little warily.  Blue’s glare was unsettling her.  “That entrance was perfectly timed, Karen, I have all the shots I need now… I will leave you in peace and wish you good luck in your boxing match, Captain.”  She tactfully turned away to give the couple a few moments’ privacy before Green was due to arrive.   But as she approached the door, she saw two burly security guards barring her way out.  She turned back towards the Spectrum agents, but instead of seeing the Angel pilot clasped in the arms of her lover - as she had expected - she saw the two Americans watching her with suspicious eyes.

“Is there something wrong?” she gasped.

“You tell us,” Karen said, with no trace of her previous friendliness.  “You have been playing us for fools, Mary-Sue, and we don’t take kindly to it.”

“What?  I have done no such thing!  I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t bother to try and deny it, Ms Mackay-Wells, we’ve tumbled your little scheme and it’s all over now. It’s clever enough, all right,” Blue continued, his hands on his hips, as he frowned down at the astonished Mary-Sue.  “You must’ve thought your luck was really in when you realised you were going to be brought to Cloudbase.   You’d already been diligently worming out personal details about the colour captains and the Angels ever since you first met us – information that is highly classified.  Once you arrived, you and your assistant have wandered about the base, taking pictures of restricted areas and secret advanced technology.  What you didn’t realise was that Cloudbase is protected by an advanced security system that’s able to detect the illicit photographs you’ve taken.  So, now we need you to hand over the information you already have and give us the name of your employer.  Who is paying you to supply this classified information?”

“Illicit photographs? Classified information?  Restricted areas? I don’t know what you mean.” Mary-Sue looked from one to the other with bewilderment.  “I haven’t been anywhere except where you – yourselves – have taken me.  I only have pictures of the personnel it was agreed I should photograph – check my camera, check all of my cameras!”  Her surprise was giving way to anger at this slur to her integrity.

“Oh sure,” Symphony said dismissively, “the official cameras will be clean – but it’s the spy cameras we’re talking about now, Mary-Sue.”

“Spy cameras?  Symphony Angel, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  She folded her arms and tapped her foot with irritation.  “If this is some kind of ploy to stop me producing the calendar, Captain Blue, it won’t work!”

“If you’re genuinely innocent, you won’t object to being searched,” Blue replied, unperturbed by her anger.  He moved towards her.

Mary-Sue backed off.  “Searched?  I most certainly do object!  I’m not having you search me!”

Blue smirked. “No, it won’t be me, Ms Mackay-Wells.  If you will go with the two security guards, they will take you to sickbay – where even now, Ms Simpson is being searched by Doctor Fawn and his – female - nurses…”

Mary-Sue drew herself up to her full height, still dwarfed by the big American ushering her towards the door. “When all this has been proved false, I will expect a full apology from you – both!” she snapped as she marched angrily between the towering security guards.

 

 

In sickbay she could hear the muted voice of Jane, cursing and berating the staff tasked with strip-searching her.  Mary-Sue gave Doctor Fawn an antagonistic glare as he gently took her arm and guided her into a private room, where two nurses were waiting.

Colonel White and Captain Scarlet emerged from the doctor’s office as the door closed behind the photographer.

“They’re clever women,” White said sourly, “but they couldn’t have known about the camera detector system that protects Cloudbase.  It was lucky Lieutenant Green thought to check through the recent records.  It can only be the two of them – no other unauthorised personnel have been on Cloudbase and the alerts only started after they arrived.”

Fawn gave a shake of his dark head, and glanced at the print-out White handed him.  “I thought she was such a nice young woman too – she seemed genuinely friendly and to be enjoying the assignment.”

Scarlet nodded.  He was surprised to learn of Mary-Sue’s duplicity and he knew that Captain Ochre was shocked by the revelation, but the detector was one hundred percent reliable.

He glanced across as the two nurses emerged from the room where Jane was being searched.

Nurse Ingram shook her head at the waiting officers.  “She’s clean, sir,” she said.  “No cameras…”

Scarlet felt a sweep of disappointment – it had to be Mary-Sue then.

Time dragged until the other two nurses emerged from searching Mary-Sue, and Nurse Darrow met the concerned eyes of her superior officers.  “Ms Mackay-Wells is clear,” she said. “There is nothing that could be a concealed camera.  She has the two cameras we knew of – the ones she’s been using – but there’s no other camera.”

“What?” Colonel White stared in astonishment. “Have you checked… everywhere?”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“I don’t understand.”

As they considered the news the door across the ward opened and Jane emerged, looking smug.  Scarlet stared at her.  Of the two suspects, he would prefer her to be the culprit, and he frowned at her, as she pushed her heavy glasses back along her nose.

“Nurse Ingram,” he said as an idea began to form in his mind, “Did you check her spectacles?”

A faint look of alarm swept over Jane’s face.

“No, Captain Scarlet,” the nurse confessed.

Scarlet stepped across to the assistant, just as Mary-Sue emerged, ready to do battle, from her room.  He extended his hand towards Jane.  “Please, Ms Simpson, may I examine your spectacles?”

Jane hesitated.  She glared at the waiting Spectrum personnel and knew she had no option but to comply. “Damn you!” she snapped venomously as she handed over the incredibly heavy frames.   Her defiant attitude evaporated as Scarlet examined the frames carefully and then turned with a beaming smile to the colonel. 

“Ha!  I’ve found it!  These glasses frames are the camera!  It’s most ingenious. It takes a shot every time the bridge is pressed…so when you slide it up your nose…” he demonstrated, ‘Hold it! Flash, bang. Wallop – there’s your picture!  And what a picture- what a photograph!!” he chanted, adding, “I expect the pictures are then digitally transmitted to a receptor near-by, all ready for ‘sticking in the family album’….”

 “Jane!” Mary-Sue exclaimed.  “Jane – how could you?” She turned to Colonel White, her hands spread apologetically.  “Colonel, I knew nothing about this – please believe me.   I can’t say how sorry I am… I trusted her…”

Jane turned on her friend. “Oh yes, you trusted me, all right – you trusted me to do all the hard work – to organise your life for you whilst you swanned about hob-nobbing with the great and the good, the rich and the famous!  Never mind the boring and the mundane – Jane’ll do it!  Well, I’d had enough.  I was going to make some real money for myself and tell you where to stick your crummy job!  And I would have done it too – if Captain Scarlet had minded his own business!”

“The security of Spectrum and the safety of its employees is my business,” Scarlet snapped back.

Mary-Sue stared in horrified outrage at her P.A. 

“It would seem to be a case of professional jealousy, perhaps – or industrial espionage? And as such, if proven to be the truth, it will exonerate you, Ms Mackay-Wells, but I’d appreciate it if you’d give a statement to one of my officers before you leave Cloudbase.  I’m afraid Ms Simpson won’t be going anywhere for some time. A team of my officers will interrogate her here on Cloudbase before she’s taken to a secure facility while the matter is dealt with by our lawyers.  I want the truth from her – the names of everyone involved with the whole sordid affair - who supplied her with the camera, who was in the market for the pictures, and most especially, details of what she has already transmitted.  Your cameras will be returned to you, Ms Mackay-Wells, once they have been examined and their contents destroyed, then you will be permitted to leave Cloudbase.   Should we need to question you further, we will be able to find you.  The sooner this whole episode is concluded and we are back to functioning as an operational base manned by sensible security agents and not fashion mannequins, the happier I will be…  In the meantime, I am going to give the World President a full report on just what his ‘public relations initiative’ has led to… ”

Mary-Sue was so shaken she could only nod in agreement as Jane was led away by the two security guards.

 

As Mary-Sue packed her cameras and equipment away, Captain Blue and Symphony came by.  She was not surprised when neither offered her any apology, but she was heartened when Symphony stooped slightly to kiss her cheek and said, “I am so glad you were not directly involved… we both are.”

“We all are – we were all shocked to think you might’ve betrayed our trust, because you’ve made friends in Spectrum, Ms Mackay-Wells,” Blue said.  She smiled ruefully at them and shook hands with the captain, once more feeling dwarfed. 

“Mary-Sue,” she chided him playfully.  “I’ll miss you guys – all of you.  Although, at least I’ll stop getting neck-ache from looking up at you all…” she added with a grin

Blue laughed and reached out to take her heavy cases.

 

 

Back in Los Angeles, Mary-Sue cancelled her immediate appointments, pleading over-work and illness.  She spent several days going through the photographs she had managed to save from the colonel’s investigation.  There were not many at all and they poignantly reminded her of the care-free time she’d spent in Futura and on Cloudbase – before Jane’s treachery had spoilt it all.  She hadn’t heard from Captain Ochre since her return and as the days passed by, she began to doubt that she would.

Returning to her apartment, a week after her departure from Cloudbase, she noticed a black limousine outside her building, and was alarmed when two men stepped from it and waited for her approach.  She recognised them instantly.  Colonel White and Doctor Fawn were in civilian clothes – the doctor in jeans and a casual shirt and Colonel White in a smart dinner suit.

To her surprise, Spectrum’s commander-in-chief suavely asked her to dine with him, that evening. “As a form of corporate apology, for doubting you,” he said with a genuine smile, adding, “Ms Simpson’s confession has been checked out and actions undertaken to recover what little information she had been able to transmit to her employer.”

“Who was that?” Mary-Sue asked, as she opened her door and ushered the men into her living room.

“It’s far better that you don’t know about it.  Suffice to say: the gentleman, and the company, concerned, will not be troubling anyone for a long time.  Neither, I am sorry to inform you, will Jane Simpson. She’ll have plenty of time to regret her decision to try to hoodwink Spectrum.”

He handed her a computer disk.  “These are your photographs.  I am afraid the World President is still keen on your producing a calendar – for political reasons.  I suggest you contact his office tomorrow and speak to him directly.”

“I wouldn’t have done anything to put your people at risk, Colonel.”

“You are one of the few civilians to have met the personnel of Spectrum.   You have seen the reality behind the public conception of who and what we are.  Revealing their identities – whether by design, or merely by publishing their faces so that people and … enemies can identify them - is putting them at risk.” White shrugged.  “I know that some of my officers believe I am too draconian in my protection of them – but I would never forgive myself – or anyone inside or outside the organisation – that knowingly blew the cover of my agents and cost one of them their life.” 

Mary-Sue studied the disk in her hands and gave a wry smile.  “All I can say is – trust me, Colonel.  I’m on your side in this…”  She turned to Doctor Fawn, who was sitting in a relaxed pose across the room.  She smiled at him and said, “Well, you can’t claim to be operating now, Doctor, so, maybe I can get those pictures of you, at last?  Then my assignment will be finished.”

Colonel White nodded.  “That was the idea behind our both coming to see you, Ms Mackay-Wells.  Off you go, Doctor… and smile nicely.”

With a feigned reluctance, the genial doctor followed Mary-Sue into her small studio.

 

Before he left that evening, Colonel White allowed her to take a few pictures of him. 

“I was somewhat apprehensive about this endeavour… but I’m assured it’s in a good cause,” he admitted to her.   “However, I draw the line at being photographed in swimwear – a decision for which I’m sure you are infinitely grateful.”

“You do yourself an injustice, Colonel,” she laughed at him.  “But you’ll do just fine as you are – and I have to say, the competition was pretty fierce amongst your officers!”

 

World President Younger was reported to be ‘disappointed’’ at the proofs he received for the Spectrum calendar.  The pictures were taken from too far away to be sure who the people were and - what was more – they all looked suspiciously alike and he was sure none of the Angel pilots were brunettes, either. 

Despite this, the Spectrum Calendar went on sale, as announced, and sold remarkably well.   People were fascinated enough by the secretive organisation, with its exotic hardware and gallant agents, to buy even the blandest and most impersonal of calendars, it seemed.  The general consensus was that the whole exercise had been a public relations triumph.  

Subsequent to this wave of unprecedented popularity, Spectrum’s budget estimates went through the Senate with only minimal opposition.  Colonel White breathed a sigh of relief.  Then, just before Christmas, thirteen packages arrived on Cloudbase – addressed to the individual captains, the Angels, Lieutenant Green, Doctor Fawn and Colonel White.   Inside were copies of the calendar Mary-Sue had originally intended to produce, with a compliment slip – and her love.

“What’s that you’ve got there?” Magenta asked Ochre as he saw his friend give a secretive smile as he slipped a piece of paper into his tunic pocket.  He had missed seeing Mary-Sue leave – missed the chance of saying goodbye - and Magenta knew that his friend was annoyed at that.  To see a smile, secretive and smug, flit across Rick’s expressive face was a good sign.

“A note from Mary-Sue,” Ochre explained, unable to keep his delight to himself.  “She put it in with my copy of her calendar.”

“And?” Magenta pressed.

“It has her phone number and an invitation to give her a call, when I’m on leave…”

“Which will be when?”

“Just as soon as I can get the colonel to sign the leave slip, Pat.” Ochre stared out into the starlit night. “This is one date I don’t intend to miss…”

Colonel White was surprisingly willing to give Captain Ochre a weekend off – but only  on the understanding he conveyed his commanding officer’s gratitude to Mary-Sue Mackay-Wells.

 

 

 

The End 

 

Postscript:

 

During a press conference following the release of the above report, a spokesman for Spectrum denied that any of the alleged events ever happened.  He also insisted that the names used in the report were all fictitious and, as the identity of Spectrum’s senior staff officers is supposed to be a closely guarded secret, there was no way such events could happen. 

Spectrum also insisted that rumours to the effect that not all of the calendars, supposedly done for charity by the Spectrum senior staff officers, have been disposed off, were false.  These rumours, Spectrum maintains, are as outlandish as those stating that aliens are behind the activities of the terrorist group known as the Mysterons. Reports of subsequent advertisements concerning so-called 'boot-leg' copies of the original calendar have appeared in several world-wide newspapers.

These advertisements should be regarded as malicious hoaxes and any pictures in these supposed calendars as no more than skilful montages.

So far, no-one has been able to ascertain if that is true or not.

Spectrum Intelligence is currently investigating the source of the leaked document...

 

 

 

OTHER STORIES BY RONDA CURTNER 

"CHRISTMAS FAN FIC CHALLENGE" PAGE

“FAN FICTION ARCHIVES” PAGE 

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