"They're at it again," spoke the Chief of Spectrum to his assembled officers in the Cloudbase briefing room, "we have just received a message from the Mysterons on channel Gamma-85."
"Only the one channel?" asked Captain Ochre. “Isn't that rather strange?"
"Not only the single channel, but also it is being sent from Sector Six on Mars. As you all well know, that sector has been silent for the last three months."
"What was the message, Colonel?"
"That's a good question, Captain Scarlet, as it seems to be a lot of gibberish."
"You mean it's in code," offered Captain Blue.
"Code, cipher, alien language; your guess is as good as mine. Here's a copy of the first line that seems to be repeated in various permutations."
There was a moment’s silence as the officers of Cloudbase were absorbed in the cryptic message on the crystal projector (CP).
Lieutenant Green, who had just joined the meeting from the adjoining Control Room, was the first to speak: "I've just finished a preliminary electron scan of Sector Six and as expected have found no evidence of abnormal ionisation or of any increase in background dipolar formation."
"Would someone tell me in plain English what he's talking about?"
"I think he's telling us that Sector Six is unoccupied, Colonel."
"Captain Magenta is nearly correct, Colonel. My analysis shows no build-up of personnel and it can be considered 100% accurate for any organic life forms."
"Then what you're saying is that the message didn't originate from that sector?"
"Not exactly, Colonel; although that would be a highly arguable hypothesis. It would be my conjecture that the message came from a mobile transmitter teleported to that location."
"Why would they go to the trouble of transmitting from a dead sector, Lieutenant?"
"I'm sorry, Colonel, my System Analyser tells only the 'how' and 'where'. I leave the 'why' with the chaps in CRYPTO."
"I'd rather keep this under the complete authority of Spectrum. How about it, Captain Blue? You have a considerable grounding in decoding and related investigations."
"Where would the colonel wish me to begin? With the mystery of the dead sector or the gibberish we've been looking at on the CP?"
"If you have pertinent information, Captain, let me have it."
"No, Sir, I can't tell you what it all means; but I can direct you where to look for the answer. There is no information to be discerned from that so called 'message' on the CP. The real message is in the mode of its transmission."
"Damn it, man! Get to the point; what does it mean?"
"That is the point. Give me time; and I shall also have the answer."
"How much time?"
"Inspiration is hard to predict, Colonel; but something tells me it's going to be easier than I had first suspected. The first and hardest problem is in knowing where to look and I'm sure that I've solved that question."
"Captain Blue, I'm giving you one hour to come up with some tangible information or I shall then have to turn this over to CRYPTO and risk lower echelon army intelligence getting underfoot. I don't want them involved at all, but regulations are very clear on this point. We could be disbanded if found later to be in breach of paragraph five of our Operation Code. Politics should be completely separate from Spectrum; but it's not, and we must live with it. Spectrum is in your hands, Captain."
Captain Magenta didn't look too convinced of Captain Blue's dismissal of the message as being meaningless and was scrawling down the cryptics from off the PC when Lieutenant Purple came rushing through the door and up to Colonel White with a transmission printout.
The colonel perused the message then read it out to the assembled Spectrum Officers: 'This is the voice of the Mysterons,' he read, 'we have challenged you Earthmen and await your answer; failure to understand our challenge will end in one country disappearing from the face of the earth, failure to meet that challenge will result in the same fate.'
"Right then," said the colonel, turning to Captain Blue, "I want you and Lieutenant Green to get cracking on this from your transmission angle; the rest of you try sorting something out of that mess on the CP."
Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green left for the more relaxed area of the Archives Room to contemplate their task while the remaining members of Spectrum delved into the series of numbers and letters before them.
Captain Magenta was the first to speak: "I am convinced that this transmission is more that a ruse sent to confuse; and after that last epistle from the Mysterons, I am even more convinced." He stood in front of the CP and pointed at the first few entries of the message. "Note how the series of numbers and a few interspersed letters are separated by commas and semicolons."
The men each nodded their heads in agreement as they followed his finger in the direction of a message that looked something like: 54,55; c63,c36; a25,65; c33,p54; c54,45; ...
"It's almost like a list or sequence."
"Yes, I agree Captain Scarlet, and I would like you to help me try to find a pattern using only the first few entries. And while we're looking at the individual trees, I would like the rest of you gentlemen to try to find some pattern by looking at the whole forest of words and numbers."
"I think that's a superb idea, Captain," said Captain Scarlet, "and, unless anyone can offer some better approach, I think we should give it a go."
The men broke up into groups of two or three and before long, were lost in a world of systematic probing and speculation of various permutations. Meanwhile, in the Archive Room, Captain Blue had just finished presenting his ideas to an intent Lieutenant Green.
"What do you think, Lieutenant?"
"It's worth looking at, Captain," he said, as he moved to the White Board. "Let me just jot down the basic facts which you've mentioned."
When he had finished, the two men were silently studying the following:
TRANSMISSION: (a) WHEN (b) WHERE (c) HOW (d) WHO (e) WHY
(a) Transmission date: Monday, March 25, 2069.
(b) From Sector Six on Mars.
(c) Mobile transmitter on channel gamma-85.
(d) The Mysterons
(e) As a challenge; and as a threat.
"First, I think we can skip the date as being a part of the clue, don't you agree, Captain?"
"Almost certainly, Lieutenant; not even the Mysterons can control what day it is."
"That's true, however, they may have waited for a certain day; like 'Monday' as being used for a clue." He walked over and tapped on the date. "Or perhaps this date could be a vital link to the meaning. But I do think it's safe to say that the day and date combined have no part to play in the solution."
"Not only do I completely agree with your reasoning, Lieutenant, but I should also add that it would undoubtedly follow that the inclusion of the year is totally superfluous."
"That would go without saying, Captain. Now, to the next point, (b)."
"This is perhaps the biggest single clue. Remember, Lieutenant, how perplexed the colonel was about why the Mysterons would go to the trouble of sending a message from a dead sector? To me it was obvious, it had to be because it was part of the message. What part, I'm not yet certain: but I'm sure that item (c) will shed some light on the matter."
"Gamma-85 almost looks like a cryptogram, Captain. A Greek letter and the number 85."
"Correction, Lieutenant. Why not the numbers eight and five? I'm positive that all numbers and words will transpose into letters which can then be rearranged into a word or words."
Lieutenant Green nodded in agreement and stepped back from the board to get a better look at what had been written. In a flash he returned to the board, picked up a new marker and placed two large red circles around 'Sector Six' and 'Gamma-85'.
"Excellent, Lieutenant! Now let's convert those words and numbers into letters. I think you would concede that the meaning of the two numbers now become obvious; so then - how's your Greek?"
"Almost nonexistent, but I do remember that Gamma is transliterated in English as g."
"Yes, that's true, as far as you go. However, it can also be used in English as an n before g, k, or kh. Fortunately, it has another meaning; being the third letter of the Greek alphabet it is sometimes transposed into that position of the English Alphabet, which I think would be a safe bet when we consider item (d) 'The Mysterons'.
"Which leaves us with the last item ‘Why’?"
"Yes, why indeed, Lieutenant? Why would they use a word like challenge?"
"It almost sounds like a contest, an invitation."
It was Captain Blue's turn to dash to the board and grab the marker. After a few quick determined swirls he stepped back to examine his changes; then returned briefly to the board to write out a word. Turning to his comrade for a reaction, he was greeted with a broad smile.
"Come, Lieutenant, let's find the colonel; we still have over 30 minutes left in our deadline; maybe we can help the others break that message I was so convinced didn't exist."
‘Captain Scarlet cracks the code’
Colonel White had already rejoined the other officers of Spectrum when Lieutenant Green and Captain Blue came dashing through the door.
"Captain Magenta, I have something that should make your decoding a little easier."
With that, Captain Blue handed the paper with the single one word clue scrawled on it beneath several lines containing various steps in deciphering. "You can see how we arrived at the clue: we get one 's' each from the initial letters in 'Sector Six'; an 'h' and an 'e' from the alphabetic equivalents of 8 and 5; and finally the 'c' from the positional equivalent of the Greek letter 'Gamma'."
"Chess!" Gasped Captain Magenta when he read the note. "This will make our task simplicity itself; if what we are looking at is a chess score."
"Would the captain explain what he means by a chess score?" demanded the colonel, who had moved over to the table to have a closer look at the note.
"Quite simply, Colonel, when a game of chess is played, a player writes down each move that is made, using one of various codes, so that the game can be replayed or studied by other interested people at a later time."
"Captain Magenta, don't tell me you know this code on the CP?"
"Not in its present form, but now that we know that it represents chess moves, it will soon become apparent what it is." Captain Magenta moved up to the CP and said: "Look, the first line has: 54,55; c63,c36; a25,65; - each set of numbers and letters between semicolons must therefore stand for one complete move by the white side and the black side, respectively. As white moves first the 54 is his first move and 55 becomes black's move."
"So what does 54 and 55 tell us about the nature of the move?" was Colonel White's question.
"I'm not sure, but we can make an educated guess and then refine the answer. The normal way to indicate the move is by letting the horizontal rows of a chess board (ranks) be represented by numbers and the vertical rows (files), letters. The most normal chess opening is when both players move out their King's Pawns. This is normally shown as P-K4, P-K4 (pawn to King four) or using the method I just outlined: e4, e5. When a Pawn moves, you only mention the square to which it moves, unless it captures; then you name the square from which it moves followed by an 'x', for captures, and the name of the square on which it finally comes to rest. This is sometimes abbreviated by indicating only the file from which the pawn has moved and the file to which it has come to rest separated by an 'x' to indicate a capture. Thus, e4 x f5 could be abbreviated to exf5. If a knight made the same capture it would become: Nxf5 or Knxf5.
Captain Scarlet had been writing furiously while Captain Magenta was busily explaining the chess nomenclature to the colonel. He quickly rose to his feet and addressed Colonel White: "Sir, I think that I have the key to the first move. If we let 54 represent P-K4 or e4, and 55 as P-K4 or e5; then this would mean that the Mysterons have substituted numbers for the vertical as well as the horizontal rows. As the '5' means the fifth letter in the alphabet 'e', we get 54 = e4 and 55 = e5."
"Very well done Captain Scarlet, but what do you make of the c63?"
"It must mean that 'c' moves to 63. That is 'c' moves to f6. And since 'c' has to be a piece and it can't, as you might expect, be the Castle; it must represent the Knight as that is the only piece that can legally move to that square."
"Not only that, Captain Scarlet," interrupted Captain Magenta, "but when you remember that the letter 'c' is used in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to denote the horse or Knight, then we have confirmation of our speculations."
"Pardon me, gentlemen," said Lieutenant Green, "but could this not also indicate that one of those countries might be the one targeted by the Mysterons if we fail in whatever challenge they have offered us?"
Captain Scarlet was quick to answer: "I've no doubt that that is the case, Lieutenant. I'm also fairly confident that the country in question is Spain."
It was Captain Blue who was frowning and scratching his head at that remark, but it was the colonel who put it to a question. "How can you be so confident of that?"
Captain Scarlet gave a wry smile and began his explanation: "If you look ahead to the next two moves,” indicating his notes on the table, “then you will see that after the two Knights are brought out to f3 and c6 respectively, we then have the White Bishop 'a' moved to 25, or b5."
"The Ruy Lopez," Captain Blue half-murmured to himself.
"Yes, Captain Blue," continued Captain Scarlet, "or as the opening is sometimes known: The Spanish Game. When you couple that to the fact that in Spain the Bishop is referred to as the 'Alfil' and 'a' has been used to denote the bishop in the above move, then it becomes a certainty that Spain is the country being pinpointed by the Mysterons."
"Captain Scarlet, as soon as you and Captain Magenta have the complete text of that message printed out, bring a copy to my office. The rest of you men had better get back to your normal duties; but be ready for anything within the next 24 hours. I want Captains Scarlet, Magenta, Blue and Lieutenant Green to report back here at 1500hrs to go over Captain Scarlet's Transcript and to plan our strategy."
A 'SAKI INSPIRED' ALTERNATIVE ENDING:
No more was heard from the Mysterons until the day after Spain slipped into the sea and disappeared forever from the sight of man. "You lose," came the voice of the Mysterons.
"Obviously you've never been to Spain, or met a Spaniard," answered the British Prime Minister.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:
“The game's afoot”
"So let's get this straight, the Mysterons want to play a game of chess to decide the fate of Spain and its 64 million inhabitants."
"As preposterous as it seems, yes! That is exactly what they are proposing, Colonel. When you think about it though, it's not that strange. Over the past year they have been treating this on-going vendetta as a game, always warning us as to what they intend; either straight out or in the form of cryptic messages. It's as though they treat this whole affair as a contest and want to give us odds to compensate our lesser technological development."
Colonel White continued to stare at Captain Scarlet as the enormity of the proposal began to make itself felt. Finally, he glanced briefly at the report on his desk before addressing the four officers.
"So it would seem, Captain Scarlet. Very well, gentlemen, I suppose we have to play their little game; no pun intended. If nothing else, we know that they are true to their word and we can be sure that if we win this match, then all will be well with Spain. You have covered everything in your report, Captain Scarlet: the chess score up to move 6; the means of transmitting our move over channel gamma-85; now what else do we need to know or what other action do we need to take in preparing for this daunting task? Not being a proficient chess player, I'm not in a position to offer any suggestions. Yes, Captain Magenta, what is it?"
"Only that we still need to find out the time limit being imposed and who is actually to represent Earth."
"That's right, Colonel, we know only that we have the white pieces and ..."
"That is appropriate don't you think, Captain Scarlet?" quibbled the colonel.
"Yes, Colonel White - very," answered an unamused Captain Scarlet, before continuing. "We have the white pieces and it's our sixth move, beyond that we know nothing. I would suggest that once the game begins we will come under a great time pressure."
"What do you mean – time pressure?"
"Colonel, most tournament chess is controlled by clocks. Both sides are given a prescribed amount of time and when one side makes a move, he stops his clock, automatically starting his opponents. If you run out of time, you forfeit the game."
"And Spain," added Captain Blue.
"Yes, and that too," sighed the colonel. "So, what would you suggest we do, Captain Scarlet – send off our first move and see what happens or can we somehow try to predict the course of the game before tipping our hand, so to speak?"
"I believe that it’s imperative to have a thorough analysis of all variations of the Ruy Lopez Opening before we go any further; you can be sure that the Mysterons have explored every aspect of the game from every angle."
"So, who are our resident chess experts in Spectrum and will any of them have a ghost of a change against the Mysterons and their infinitely far superior computers?"
"That depends, Colonel," began Lieutenant Green, "on how well their computers have been programmed and also, on how much time we get between moves."
"If I could make a suggestion, Colonel."
"That's why you're here, Captain Blue; what is it?"
"I know that the Colonel wishes to keep this operation solely with the personnel of Spectrum, but perhaps it might be pertinent to gain the help of a professional chess player, a Grandmaster."
Captain Magenta was on his feet to give his full support to the suggestion. "The World Champion, Mikhail Bogovahsky, is vacationing in Venice and could be brought here within the hour, Sir."
"I hope you are not proposing that we kidnap him?"
"Heavens, no! There would be no need for that, Sir, Mr Bogovahsky is a resident of Spain, and would ..."
"Are you sure about that, Captain?" asked Captain Blue. "Bogovahsky doesn't sound like your typical Spanish surname."
"It's not; he's French."
"French?' questioned Blue, looking even more perplexed.
"Gentlemen, I find this all illuminating, but we really have no time for a tour de force of French-Slovian genealogy. If you can get him here, Captain Magenta, do it. Harmony Angel is on standby with the Helijet whenever you may need her. Now I want all of you to move off to the Archive Room to plan your chess strategy. Any questions? Good, off you go then."
As they were making their way out of the room, the colonel called out: "Not you Lieutenant, I'd like a word with you." The colonel walked over to the table and motioned the lieutenant to join him. "Have a seat Lieutenant, we need to talk.”
"Look, lieutenant, I don't have all that much faith in this chess match for Spain. I mean we're up against a race that must be a century in advance of our technology and I hold little hope in a contest between our computers and theirs; and even less between a Mysteron and a Bereznikian."
"Is the Colonel saying that Bogovahsky is from Bereznik?"
"Well, his father was - he was a resistance fighter there before he was forced to flee with his wife and daughter. His son was born in France."
"Is Captain Magenta aware of Bogovahsky's background? I mean, considering his..."
Lieutenant Green was interrupted at that moment as Captain Ochre and Lieutenant Vermilion came in through the door and approached the table, it was the younger of the two who spoke: "Yes, Sir, you wish to see us?"
"That's correct, Lieutenant Vermilion, have a seat. I was just starting to brief Lieutenant Green on our plans and wanted you two here to fill in any additional details that you have perfected since our earlier meeting."
Turning to the lieutenant, the colonel opened a folder and took out six pages containing writing and diagrams: "Study these, Lieutenant, and any questions you have, address them to one of these two gentlemen. I want you three working very closely on this operation; a lot is at stake. When Captain Magenta comes back, with or without Bogovahsky, I'm putting him in Cloudbase Control so that you will be free for this operation. For the moment, keep the details of this case under wraps, I don't want the others to feel that their chess mission is being questioned or sidestepped. However, we do need a military option – that's what we're best at. Gentlemen, if there are no questions, I'll leave you to get on with the briefing."
"Only one thing, Sir." This was Captain Ochre. "What if we're wrong about Spain, are we going to have time to reorganise?"
"We can't afford to be wrong, Captain. If we are, I just hope Captain Scarlet knows more about chess than the Mysterons do."
"This is the voice of the Mysterons," came the metallic rumblings of the speaker in the Briefing Room, "you Earthmen have solved the cipher and, thereby have earned the right to play for the lives of a small segment of your people. Win and they live; lose and they die. Captain Scarlet shall be making the moves in consultation with one person of his choice; but be warned, for you are against the greatest computer ever built. To make the game interesting we shall not insist on a move every second: something beyond human capabilities. You shall have one hour to finish the game; being sporting, we shall allot ourselves only one quarter of that time. Transmit your first move at 2200 hrs GMT precisely."
The four men at the briefing table sat stunned for some time before the leader of Spectrum addressed them from the dais: "First, let me thank Captain Magenta for succeeding in his mission in finding and returning Mr. Bogovahsky; and secondly let me, along with Captains Scarlet and Blue, welcome you, Sir, to Cloudbase."
The Grandmaster gave an embarrassed half smile and nodded to each of the officers in turn. "I am proud to be here," he began in a tiny, high pitched voice which belied the large burly frame that housed it, "and shall do all within my power as World Champion to defeat the Mysterons."
"I'm sure that you will," said the colonel. "I am leaving you in the capable hands of my officers as I have an appointment elsewhere; and in any event, my limited understanding of chess would only be a hindrance to your preparation. Gentlemen, I can only wish you well."
"What a charming man, your colonel."
"Yes, I guess he can be when he tries," admitted the officer in the blue uniform. "Now, tell me, have you two worked out a plan of attack or defence? And, by the way, what happens in the case of a draw?"
"Let me answer the last question and Mr Bogovahsky can take the first one. A draw (or even a stalemate) is the equivalent of a loss; either we have a win or we lose, it's that simple. The game will continue until one of the clock's flag falls or there is a checkmate - the Mysterons have programmed their computer not to resign under any circumstances."
"Yes, gentlemen, and that is as it should be," put in the Grandmaster as he eagerly rubbed his hands together. "I always play for a win, it's in my blood. Some people would say it's almost a curse. I should have become World Champion one year earlier had I not tried to win while playing the black pieces against a brilliant opponent who had a slight advantage in position at the time."
"That's comforting to know," said a droll Captain Magenta.
"Do not worry, Senor, that was five years ago; I've matured much since then, and besides, I'm playing the white pieces today."
"Yes, and against a super-fast and super-smart computer," added Captain Scarlet.
"That is correct, Sir, which is also to my advantage. A machine, no matter how well programmed, is not capable of beating a Grandmaster - any Grandmaster. And certainly is no match for the World Champion. It can win only if the human is intimidated by it and tries to beat it at its own game."
"Which is?" asked a very eager Captain Scarlet.
"Speed and complications," whispered the chess player. “There was a very brilliant World Champion last century, probably superior to me: but he was beaten by a computer that we would consider primitive by today's standards. Why? Because he tried to outthink the computer over the board - that is not, gentlemen, how one sets out to beat a computer."
"So how do you plan on beating this Mysteron Machine?"
"I beat him, El Capitan Azul, by keeping the game simple; analysing; referring to my books here on the Ruy Lopez. The Mysteron computer has the same information as me, that is true; it can call it to hand quicker than I or Captain Scarlet can turn a page, that is also true. But can it think? Does it have anything closely resembling intuition? No, to both; because it is a machine."
"What if they have programmed it with better books; or, maybe, given it the ability to programme itself as it plays?" persisted the unconvinced captain.
"The Ruy Lopez is an opening going back to the 1500's and takes up volumes. However, on move three, the Mysterons played pawn to Bishop four or 'The Schliemann Defence'. This was an important variation last century, but little used today. The total information on it is carried in my head; however, I have these two specialist books for back up. If it varies from these," he said, pointing to the books, "then I use this," he continued with a wide smile, while tapping his index finger to his head.
Captain Scarlet had worked closely with Captain Blue on many assignments and could well read what he was thinking. Those pinched eyebrows and almost imperceptible nod of the head were clearly saying, "Now we are in trouble - this bloke's a nutter."
He might well have been thinking that, but what he said was: "Gentlemen, I find this all very interesting; if somewhat beyond me. Captain Magenta and I are required in Control, so we shall leave you two to your analysis. By my watch, you have only about five hours before your scheduled move. Good luck."
When out of the room, Captain Blue quickly picked up his pace, "Hurry, Captain, we've got to find the colonel before Spain goes the same way as its bulls."
"What do you mean, Captain Blue?"
"I mean, would you want your life hanging on which way Senor Bogo decides to shove a pawn? He's a nutcase, or haven't you noticed? Damn, you flew all the way back from Vienna with him; were you asleep?"
"He's just a bit eccentric; but all good chess players are."
"I just hope he is."
"No! Good, damn good!
‘The First Move’
"I can understand your fears, Captain Blue," said the stern-faced leader of Spectrum, "That's why I've set in motion Operation Checkmate. We're going to strike before they know we are on to them"
"What's the plan, Colonel?"
"You two will be brought up to date in about ten minutes when Captain Ochre and Lieutenant Vermilion report in. Sorry about keeping you in the dark, but I didn't want to upset our chess experts – if this strike fails, they remain our only hope."
"Sir, if I might ask, ..."
"Yes, Captain Magenta?"
"Could you give us some background on what strategy or tactics are to be employed? We know that our computers are no match for theirs in chess; but we also lag even further behind in military technology. Where do we begin?"
"Good point, Captain. Yes, the Mysterons are materially superior to us in almost all aspects of war. However, they are not invincible; as we have shown in past battles with them. And even the Mysterons need a physical base from which to launch their attacks. They're not magicians and they can be beaten – never let the enemy intimidate you."
"Now you're sounding just like Senor Bogovahsky," said a sombre Captain Blue.
"I hope that was a compliment, Captain."
"Yes, so do I."
The colonel resumed his explanation: "Knowing, without their knowledge, that they are planning a massive strike against Spain works in our favour. From their announced threat, we can be fairly sure that the means of attack will not be nuclear. The Mysterons, like most who accurately use English as a second language, are very precise in its use. When they say that one country will vanish from the face of the earth, that is exactly what they mean; they are not speaking metaphorically, and they do mean that only one country will be affected."
"The Solar Ray."
"Yes, Captain, the Solar Ray. And to foil them all we need do is to work backwards and pinpoint where and at what time they launch the attack – and we knock them out before they are properly set up."
"I think these gentlemen have the answer to that question," the colonel said, indicating Captain Ochre and Lieutenant Vermilion as they entered the room and joined the other officers at the table.
"Gentlemen, Lieutenant Vermilion and I have verification that the Mysterons are planning a pre-emptive strike on Spain and that they are intending to use the Solar Ray as the sole means of carrying out the destruction. Lieutenant Vermilion has the print-out that Lieutenant Green made from his electronic spying of the Martian Sector and hence his follow up investigations via our Madrid Base."
"That's right, Sir," said Lieutenant Vermilion, handing over the various pages of charts and diagrams. "The Lieutenant knew that the chess match couldn't be directed to Sector Six on Mars because of the time factor in relaying messages. Our transmission on channel Gamma-85 is being diverted to H.M.S.S. Intrepid now in stationary orbit above Newfoundland. It would appear that the Mysterons have taken possession of it and have Mysteronised the entire crew of seven. From there, the ship will be able to carry out a solar attack on its target, even though Spain will be in total darkness at the time."
"Thank you, gentlemen, this is crucial information – now, not only do we have a target ourselves, but also a means of neutralising The Solar Ray. Captain Magenta, get me The World President, Mr James Younger, on the Visual modulator. I had better bring him into the picture. We might need back-up from the World Army, but I'm hopeful that we can handle it alone from Cloudbase; with a little help from Lieutenant Green in Madrid, and two of our Angels."
At this same time, one floor above in the briefing room, a rather nervous Captain Scarlet was about to transmit his first move. "I hope you've chosen the right move, Mr Bogovahsky."
"My dear Captain, in chess there is no right move or wrong move; only good and bad. Everything is relative; a matter of degree. Maybe the move you are about to transmit is an excellent move against Grandmaster Korvac, who falls into a flap over the apparent pressure on c6. However, Grandmaster Janovich finds it only a passing inconvenience and may even use the move against me at a later time. Relative, Captain Scarlet."
"We're not playing Grandmasters Korvac or Janovich; but a Mysteron computer who is not about to go into a flap over any move that you might play. You can forget about applied psychology in this game, Mr Bogovashsky."
"Captain, Captain, you do not understand," muttered the Grandmaster while slowly shaking his head from side to side. "Such an astute and learned man too. You think I am playing a machine, but no. I play a, what do you say, a Mysteron. Yes, I play a Mysteron through the facility of a machine. But a Mysteron is a living being - maybe not a human being, but living. My applied psychology is applied toward this living programmer, not the machine. You see, the machine is only a means to an end."
"Right, Grandmaster Bogovahsky, whatever the truth of the matter may be, it's 2200hrs and time to transmit."
Captain Scarlet turned to the transmitter and entered 6. Nxe5. "There it goes," he said with a wave of his hand across the sensor, "there is no turning back now."
‘The Middle Game’
"The game's began, Sir."
"Yes, Captain Magenta, I've been watching the progress on the monitor. That means that we have one-and-a-quarter hours at most to complete Operation Checkmate. I'm a bit worried about our ability to get units in place without being detected and giving away our element of surprise."
"It depends on how soon they detect our movements, Colonel, for we know that sooner or later we will be found out."
"Captain Magenta's correct about that, Sir," admitted an intent Captain Ochre, "but if we can get our operation far enough advanced before then, it shouldn't matter. We know that the Mysterons have commandeered H.M.S.S. Intrepid and Mysteronised the crew. We also have a complete diagram of the Space Orbiter from the British Air Force Engineers, and if we can somehow re-align the Perrin Satellite by 31 degrees, to enable a re-directioning of its thermionic maximiser, then Lieutenant Green will be able, from his location in Madrid, to use these pulses to disable the depolarization capabilities of the Intrepid and, thereby, redirect the ray back to its source."
"How confident is the Lieutenant in accomplishing this mission, Captain?"
"He thinks it has every chance of being carried out successfully. I'm sending Lieutenant Vermilion back to Spain, to take some of the pressure off Lieutenant Green. He's in his quarters now preparing.”
"There are too many 'ifs' and 'maybes' in that scenario for my liking, Colonel," exclaimed Captain Blue from the white board at his leader’s right. "If I let this 'x' show the position of the Intrepid above Newfoundland, here, and represent Spain with a circle, thus, then this line shows the trajectory of the Solar Ray between the two. Now the Perrin Satellite is located in an orbit that is almost completely oblique to the hovering ship, about here - how are we going to be able to utilise it?"
Captain Magenta was already on his feet and heading for the board before he began to answer: "It won't be a problem, Captain Blue, we can use the World Communications Satellite here," he said, so indicating with a green circle, “to deflect the Perrin emissions without necessitating its re-alignment."
"And how do we keep all this secret from the Mysterons?" queried Captain Blue.
"We will be keeping them occupied elsewhere," put in the colonel. "We must remember that the Mysterons have no idea that we are on to their target so their defences will not be 100%. When they see us active in New Zealand, they will be led into a feeling of false security."
"New Zealand! Why there, Sir?" asked a perplexed Captain Blue. "Is the Colonel concerned for the safety of all those sheep?"
"If you haven't noticed, it's just about as far as you can get from anywhere, Captain, and being in the Southern Hemisphere, we can pretend to be utilising the Sagan Satellite in a vain attempt to detect Mysteron electrical activity; again for the purpose of luring them into a sense of false security as their pirated Space Orbiter cannot be detected from that location. The World Navy has already begun operations off the coast, and the US Seventh Fleet has been taken out of the Mediterranean Sea and should now be rendezvousing with ships from Australia & Japan."
"It would appear that we have about 99.9% of our men involved in diversionary tactics. Do you think that wise, Colonel?"
"Maybe not wise, Captain Blue, but under the circumstances - essential."
Captain Magenta was lost in his own thoughts as he looked at the monitor screen of the world. "It all comes down to one man: Lieutenant Green, and whether he will be able to work his electronical wizardry.”
"Yes, Captain," interjected Colonel White, "and his success is going to be very much dependent on the activities of two of our Angels. Destiny and Symphony are going to be flying what will appear to the regenerated crew of Intrepid as a routine recognisance flight from New York to Brussels. However, they are each carrying a 'chatter-box' in their Interceptors which will enable intracommunication transmissions between them to have a temporary static effect on the ship and its ability to pickup thermionic emissions from the Perrin Satellite. The Angels should be in the air in 30 minutes; and Captain Magenta, you should return to the Control Room and re-establish communications with Lieutenant Green on the scrambler. Our timing over the next 45 minutes is of the essence."
It was Captain Blue who was now focusing his attention on the Monitor Screen being projected from the Control Room and thinking out loud: "You do realise, Sir, that if Lieutenant Green fails in redirecting the Solar Ray back to the Intrepid, we still have Grandmaster Bogovahsky."
"Let us hope it doesn't come to that, Captain."
Meanwhile, in the transmitting room, Captain Scarlet was looking at the transmission screen which was showing the score of the game as it now stood. After the initial moves of the Schliemann Defence the game had continued: 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 d5! 6.Nxe5 dxe4 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bxc6+ Bd7 9. Qh5+ Ke7 10. Qe5+ Be6 11.
It was White's move and a confident Captain Scarlet had entered: 11. Bxa8 in anticipation of Grandmaster Bogovahsky's approval for transmission, when he found himself being chided by a demure Grandmaster.
"Do not be hasty, my dear Captain. One does not always grab a proffered piece because it's there, and by doing so winning the exchange. Rook for Bishop, yes, is very tempting; especially when we are down the odd point."
"Grandmaster, we're down two Knights and a pawn to his one Knight and three pawns. This exchange will give us two points and, therefore, put us ahead by one full point. We'll go from one down to one up."
"Captain Scarlet, we are not playing a game of baseball or cricket where he with the most points is crowned the winner. This is chess! And points are sometimes misleading. A pawn that is supposedly worth one point by your estimate, is worth a Queen when he reaches the 8th rank; and even more, when in a smothered game, he gives checkmate to the King."
"But Grandmaster, if we take the Rook he must take back with his Queen, yes?"
"Yes, but of course."
"Then he leaves his Bishop's pawn unprotected and we can capture it with the Queen while giving check; thus, we not only gain another point, but a tempo as well for he will have to move his King."
"Congratulations, Captain Scarlet, you have analysed that very professionally..."
"Thank you, Sir, I did play chess for West Point; topboard."
"Yes, very good, as far as you go. However, the King is under no compulsion to move - why not bring back the Bishop to intervene between the royal personages and break check with a gain in tempo for black? Also, with our Spanish Bishop off the board, we have lost our natural means of removing that pesky pawn on e4; not to mention, the loss of our only developed piece except the Queen."
"So, what is our move going to be?"
"I'm disappointed with you, Captain Scarlet, for letting me intimidate you into relinquishing your excellent move. In fact, if you were to open that book in front of you, as I had occasion to do last year, page 137 as I recall, you would find that its author gives your move an exclamation mark."
"I shall transmit it then."
"No, No! Please, Captain Scarlet, my heart is not so strong as it could be, don't put any undo strain on it by any more sudden assumptions. While your move is perfectly sound, it is also the type of move a computer would expect. Let us not play into its hands, or should I say, microchips. Pawn to King's Bishop four is more speculative and should lead to sharper play. Besides, years ago, I lost in exactly the same position that your move leads to. Of course, I've won many more times from that same position."
"Very well, Grandmaster, f4 it is."
"We have a problem, Colonel," came the voice of Captain Magenta from the speaker in Colonel White's State Room.
"What is it, Captain?" snapped the colonel, as he began pacing the room.
"It's Lieutenant Vermilion. You had better get down here to the Control Room."
"What's this about Lieutenant Vermilion, Captain?" asked the leader of Spectrum as he literally sprung through the doors of the Control Room.
"He was caught by Captain Ochre trying to send a message on Channel Gamma-85."
"Good God! Don't tell me that he's been Mysteronised."
"It looks as though that's a definite possibility, Colonel. In fact, almost a far gone conclusion."
"Where are we holding him, in B5?"
"We aren't holding him, Colonel. He threw Captain Ochre across the room when he tried to stop him from sending the message and then bolted out the door. Captain Ochre is in hot pursuit and Captains Blue and Scarlet are trying to catch up with both. They have all left Cloudbase in three separate helicopters."
"Captain Scarlet! But who's in the transmission room with Mr Bogovahsky?"
"Harmony Angel has that honour, Sir; and Lieutenant Purple is here, covering for Captain Blue."
"Was Captain Ochre able to prevent the sending of the message?"
"He believes he was, but he can't be certain."
"Has Destiny Angel or Lieutenant Green called in?"
"No, Sir, I would have relayed them the second they did."
Lieutenant Purple interrupted them from across the room: "Colonel, I have Captain Scarlet on the monitor."
"Colonel White, we've caught up with Captain Ochre, he was able to force Lieutenant Vermilion to crash his helicopter and has followed him into an abandoned Missile Silo at Fort Hood. I'm about to go in. Captain Blue is staying here in case Lieutenant Vermilion tries to make it back to one of the helicopters."
"Don't let him escape, Captain. Nail him."
"SIG, Sir. I'm leaving the channel open."
"Captain Blue, this is Colonel White – are you still there?"
"Yes, Sir, but I'm keeping the monitor on the silo so you can follow events here."
"Thank you, Captain. How do read the situation there?"
"I would say it's favouring us three to one. Not only that, but ask yourself, Colonel, why would Lieutenant Vermilion choose to come here? The answer is obvious. He didn't have time to send that message to the Mysteronised crew of the Space Orbiter and he's hoping to get to some transmitting equipment here."
"Why wouldn't he just use his telepathy to contact the Intrepid crew? All mysteronised slaves are given that power."
"Perhaps, Sir, he's just out of range; maybe his batteries need a recharge. It's my bet that he hasn't contacted the orbiter or the Mysterons."
"I hope you're right, Captain; but remember that we're dealing with a programmed robot - maybe this is what he wants us to think. If Lieutenant Vermilion were mysteronised when in Spain with Lieutenant Green and Captain Ochre, then how do we know that the Mysterons aren't already on to us? And how do we know that they haven't gotten to Lieutenant Green as well – he hasn't called in yet."
Inside the Missile Silo and complex, Captain Scarlet was having problems of his own. His communicator had malfunctioned and he was unable to contact Captain Ochre to pinpoint his location. In the starkness of the half empty complex, each footfall could be heard for some distance. As he listened intently, he could discern the sound of footsteps moving off down a side corridor; he immediately dashed off in pursuit.
Half way down the dim corridor, he saw the shadowy figure of a Spectrum Officer disappear into the near darkness of the silo itself. He knew that the silo could be reached through a door at the rear of the security control room on the floor above. Instinctively he moved up a flight of stairs, and raced to the door marked 'restricted - security personnel'. The door opened to his slight nudge and he entered the remnants of a once busy control centre. At the far side of the room was a one-way mirror that looked down on the floor of the silo. Unfortunately, without the lights on in the silo, the mirror had taken on the properties of a solid wall; he could not make out a single object. Captain Scarlet moved to the steel door leading to the spiral iron staircase that wound its way to the silo below - it wouldn't budge.
His eyes focused on a desk chair, and in that brief moment, he formulated a plan. The next sound was that of shattered glass as the chair flew through the mirror and to the floor below. Before the sound of the chair's landing was heard, Captain Scarlet was through the broken glass and moving down the stairs. A dark figure rushed past the bottom of the stairs and was silhouetted in the dim light of the far window. From his vantage point, half way down the iron stairs, Captain Scarlet could not be sure if the figure was that of the doppelganger or that of his friend Captain Ochre. He raised his gun:
"Halt, Lieutenant Vermilion or I fire."
At that moment, the door at the far end of the room opened and a blur rolled through and disappeared behind a large drum of fuel. "Give it up, Lieutenant," came the voice from behind the drum. "You haven't a chance of escape."
The halted figure resumed his run for the wall of windows and freedom. As Captain Scarlet took aim, the figure whirled on the spot, holding his head in anguish; a loud and piercing scream reverberated through the hangar - then silence as he fell lifeless to the concrete floor.
"Good Shot, Captain Scarlet," shouted Captain Ochre, coming out from behind the drum. "I didn't even hear the 'puff' of your silencer when you fired."
"That's because I didn't fire," returned Captain Scarlet as the two moved toward the fallen body, "the Mysterons have released their electronic hold on him and with it, his power of retro-metabolism."
The two looked down at the lifeless body of the Mysteron. It was a perfect duplicate of their friend and fellow officer who had died to make this copy possible. Captain Ochre was half thinking aloud: "If only I had stayed with him in Madrid. He had to leave the base for some personal business in the city; a birthday present for his fiancée, I think it was."
"You aren't psychic and if you had have been with him, then you may have shared his fate too."
At that same time in the Transmission Room, on Cloudbase, Grandmaster Bogovahsky and Harmony Angel were studying the game as it had progressed in the course of the last twenty minutes. The complete score for the game so far was shown on the screen as: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5?! 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 d5! 6.Nxe5 dxe4 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bxc6 Bd7 9. Qh5+ Ke7 10. Qe5+ Be6 11. f4 exf3 12. 0-0! Rb8 13. d4 Kf7 14. Bxf3 Nf6 15. Bh5+ Ke7 16. Bg5 Kd7 .
"So my Dear Little Angel, what do you fancy - shall we push the Queen's Pawn forward to d5 or shall we play safe and let the Bishop capture f6?" asked the Grandmaster, as he pursed his lips while never taking his eyes from off the chess board in front of him.
"I'm afraid, Sir, that I haven't the talent of a Captain Scarlet for this game, my opinion would not be of any help whatsoever."
"Oh, what a shame, Miss Harmony, I thought you were here to advise me and to act as my second in case I should, heaven forbid, have another heart attack and lapse into a coma. Your Captain Scarlet is quite an accomplished player, for an amateur – you understand. If I gave him Knight and move he would give me a very challenging game, indeed. Do you play at all, My Dear? he asked, indicating the board in front of him.
"Yes, I'm most fascinated by the game; but I haven't had the time to study it as I should have liked. I am surprised that the Mysterons have chosen the Schliemann Variation, which can sometimes lead to such sharp encounters."
"Miss Harmony, you are too modest, your knowledge of the openings must be more profound than you are willing to admit. But I'm afraid that the sharpness of the game was due more to my influence than theirs; though, as you say, the opening variation is not one you would expect in World Class Tournament Competition. But, of course, we are only playing for Spain - not the world.” Mr Bogovahsky, shifted his great weight self-consciously, in an attempt to break the momentary silence which had met his last remark. "You must forgive my attempt at humour. I know that it is in poor taste, but it helps to relieve the great pressure under which I now find myself."
"But, you seem so calm and relaxed, Grandmaster - almost blasé."
"All part of the profession, Miss Harmony. We cannot allow ourselves to show too much emotion, even though under our calm exteriors we are all wanting to scream out. But, still, I love the excitement of the Tournament and Match Play - even now. So, let us be brave, bold and determined: 17. d5."
"We're letting the Knight live, then?"
"Yes, Miss Harmony, we let the Knight live for now."
It was a grave-faced Colonel White who was addressing his Spectrum team: "Then we have to assume that he had sent his message to the Mysterons by telepathy and our vital element of surprise has been lost. Working from this assumption we must ..."
"Sir, if I may interrupt?"
"Yes, Captain Scarlet? You don't agree with this assessment?"
"I agree, in as much as the Mysterons were aware of their agent's immediate danger and eliminated him. Though they were in full control of him, there is no way of knowing, for sure, that he was in telepathic contact with them."
"And there is equally no way of knowing that he wasn't, nor is there any reason to assume that he wasn't in contact with them."
"What other reason, Sir, would he had for going to the Old Base except to communicate with them or the Intrepid crew through more conventional means? Surely, this, in itself, would suggest some flaw in his telepathic powers."
"I must agree with Captain Scarlet, Sir. If you recall; what put me on to him was the fact that he was trying to send a message to the Intrepid on the Gamma-85 channel."
"Maybe, Captain Ochre, he was out of range for telepathic communication?" offered the Colonel.
"Then why not relay the information telepathically via the Mysterons?"
"Good point, Captain Scarlet, but still I'm going to adhere to the facts as they stand. I think it's safe to assume that the Mysterons are on to us."
"Why not find out for sure?"
"How do you suggest we do that Captain Scarlet."
"Destiny and Melody should be in position; have them start their 'chatter boxes' and begin Operation Checkmate. If the Mysterons are on to us, this will get them to show their hand."
"I don't want two Interceptors blown out of the sky; nor do I intend to place in danger the lives of two Angels to test a theory. The Angels purposes are, one: diversionary; and two, back-up if the Perrin needs to be re-aligned because of any failure of the World Communication Satellite.”
"What other choice do we have Colonel?” asked Captain Blue, "It's a bit late to come up with a new plan."
"But we do have a new plan!" Captain Ochre nearly shouted as he leaped from his chair. "Captain Magenta came up with the idea of superseding the re-alignment the Perrin Satellite, by the intervention of the World Satellite, when Lieutenant Vermilion was not in the room. The Mysterons could not possibly know of this plan.”
The colonel of Cloudbase looked at the clock in the Conference Room; it showed 22:43hrs. Then without hesitating, he said: "Get me Lieutenant Green on the VM."
"Begging your pardon, Colonel, but do you think it's wise to communicate over the VM? Shouldn't you be using the Scrambler?"
"No, Captain Magenta, what I have to say to Lieutenant Green will be in code and carried out almost immediately; when the Mysterons figure it out, it will already be done."
Moments later, a life-size image of Lieutenant Green appeared, looking out at them from the VM on the wall: "I have the Lieutenant on, Sir."
"Lieutenant Green, we are on code two."
"SIG, Colonel White; code two."
"Rescind current orders; delay 15 minutes then initiate Plan B. Code two, out."
"SIG, Colonel White; code two. Received."
"Why the puzzled look, Captain Blue?" asked the colonel when he had turned from the modulator to address his men seated around the table.
"I'm not aware of any Plan B."
"And for a good reason, there is none," smiled the colonel, who enjoyed the rare sight of a perplexed Captain Blue. "Let him in on the secret, Captain Magenta."
"Code two is a simple little 'in code' for Control Room personnel, to my knowledge it has never been used formally on air. It works, quite simply, on the basics of all verbs taking on an opposite meaning. One must be very sure that the idea of an opposite is precise and not some vague approximation."
"I see," said Captain Blue. "Let me try this one. The verb 'rescind' becomes 'initiate'; 'delay', 'speed up' or 'advance'; and 'initiate', 'rescind'. That gives us: 'Initiate current orders 15 minutes early and rescind Plan B that doesn't exist anyway.' You two should be upstairs playing that chess game."
"Sir, what about Destiny and Symphony? Should they not be notified of the change as well?"
"No need, Captain Magenta. Their communications are not due to start for another 15 minutes; and with the use of the World Communication Satellite, there is no necessity for realignment of the Perrin, its emissions will be deflected to the Intrepid without the Mysterons' knowledge."
"Then there's nothing more we can do here, Colonel?"
"No, Captain Scarlet, the die has been cast."
"However," added Captain Blue, indicating the chess game in progress on the CP, "perhaps you could be of some assistance there, it's beginning to look drawish or worse."
The game did look hopelessly drawn and the time showed that the Mysterons had used only forty-three seconds while Grandmaster Bogovahsky had only 16 minutes thirty-three seconds remaining of his designated one hour time limit; and his clock was ticking.
"It might be a good idea to get up there," Colonel White indicated to Captain Scarlet. "Lieutenant Green is going to need about 15 minutes to prepare for the deflection. We don't want the Grandmaster sacrificing a Queen in a grand gesture of defiance; we need the time."
"Just get him to sit there and watch the board until his flag falls; and lose on time." suggested Captain Blue.
"I don't think there's much chance of that happening," said a startled-looking Captain Magenta, pointing to the CP. "Look!"
The board had become almost animated with pieces moving at a rate of one every five seconds. "Get up there, Captain Scarlet!” roared the colonel. "On the double, and use physical force if you have to; tranquilize him, but keep him away from the transmitter."
"Ah, Captain Scarlet, you have come to witness the glorious finish."
"Whose finish, Grandmaster?"
"That, we shall not know for a few minutes," sighed the chessplayer as he turned to study the board in front of him. "You must pardon my back, Captain Scarlet, while I re-think my position. I'm afraid that the last series of quick exchanges has left me somewhat exhausted."
"Grandmaster Bogovahsky was just saying that he may have tried for too much with his 24th move," whispered Harmony Angel, hopefully, out of earshot of the Grandmaster.
"It doesn't look too promising after his 36th," returned Captain Scarlet in the same low tones, indicating the game being viewed on the screen.
"Nonsense!" came the tenor voice from the far side of the room. "I had to do something dramatic at that stage of the game or we should have been hopelessly drawn ten moves ago; and I fail to share your rather gloomy assessment of the game, Captain Scarlet; but then, you have hardly had time to consider it properly."
"I'm afraid that the game is of no consequence, Grandmaster. That is aside from its diversionary merits, which are essential. The colonel wishes you to keep it going as long as possible; lose on time if necessary.”
"Captain Scarlet!" exclaimed the World Champion, rising from his chair. "Grandmaster Bogovahsky does not throw a game. No! Not for any reason."
"We need more time, Grandmaster, and besides," he continued, pointing in the direction of the board, "it looks a bit of a lost cause anyway. No one is asking you to throw the match, just play more slowly for a draw."
Grandmaster Bogovahsky fell back into his chair as though he had been hit by a brick. "This is the first time in the history of chess that a Grandmaster has gotten into time trouble by playing too fast. Don't worry Captain Scarlet, with victory still in my grasp, I shall use my remaining minutes wisely. Turning to Harmony he said: "Quickly, My Little Angel, we have another flurry of moves to transmit, starting with Pawn captures Pawn at b5."
Captain Scarlet, realising that the obviously drawn game could go many harmless moves more, nodded his acquiescence to Harmony as she turned her attention to the transmission control board. Over the next minute a whirlwind of moves were exchanged over Gamma-85 as Pawns and men advanced and fell on the chequered battlefield.
Meanwhile, in the room below: "What in the name of Zeus is going on up there!?" yelled an irate Colonel White as he watched the chessboard come alive on the CP screen. "Captain Blue, get up there and put an end to this nonsense, sabotage the transmitter if necessary."
As Captain Blue started out of the room, the chess pieces on the screen flickered and were replaced by a blue line. A loud metallic voice halted Captain Blue in his tracks and gained the attention of everyone in the room.
"This is the voice of the Mysterons," boomed the speakers as the blue line on the screen traced out each spoken syllable. "We have overestimated the intelligence of you Earthmen. You must know that we have uncovered your foolish battle plan to destroy the Intrepid by the use of the Perrin Satellite, and yet you persist in its implementation. Call back your Interceptors or we shall destroy them and the Perrin Satellite. Our retaliation shall begin in five minutes unless you desist. Your fate lies solely with Captain Scarlet."
As the screen faded before taking on its normal appearance, Colonel White was barking out orders to his men: "Captain Magenta, get on the scrambler to Destiny and Symphony; have them break off their flight path and return to base at precisely 23:0l hrs."
"Lieutenant Purple, alert Base Concorde and get Major Jarvis to launch their two Variable Geometry Rockets at precisely 22:57hrs – he has the co-ordinates for the Intrepid. They haven't an ice cubes chance in Hell of getting through, but it will keep the Mysterons occupied for a minute or two."
"Why are you standing around here? Get up there and ensure that that blasted game goes for another six minutes."
"Yes, Sir, Colonel White."
"We've got them on the run, Captain Scarlet."
"Yes, Grandmaster, but do you have enough forces to make a checkmate?"
The Grandmaster's whole face lit up in a glow of excitement: "Just watch," he said, and began moving the pieces in rapid succession, only being slowed by the sending and receiving of moves. As fast as he would make a move on the chessboard, Harmony would transmit it and the reply would almost instantaneously appear on the CP, and the appropriate piece would move to its new location on the projected chessboard, while the Grandmaster duplicated the moves on his personal chessboard.
Captain Blue had joined them in the transmission room just as the rapid transmission was commencing; he was still standing in that same position a few moments later when a red-faced Colonel White pushed his way past him, and went flying up the transmission board.
"Harmony, step away from that board, now!"
"Yes, Sir," she said automatically, as she left her chair to stand next to Captain Scarlet."
"You two Officers," he snapped, waving his finger from one to the other in succession, are openly in defiance of a senior officer's orders. You both were sent to ensure that this game be continued for the duration of the time limit; at this rate it will be over in a matter of seconds."
"Begging the Colonel's pardon, Sir," began a hesitant Captain Blue, "but I had only just arrived and was waiting for the proper moment to speak. I know how temperamental Chess Masters are and didn't want to cause Mr. Bogovahsky to make a wrong move."
"I don't want him to make any move! Captain Blue," snapped the colonel as he turned his attention to Captain Scarlet. "And you, Captain, I thought I could count on you to follow a simple order to control the actions of a civilian. Apparently I was wrong."
"With all due respect, Colonel White," stated a firm Captain Scarlet, "you would be the first to admit your limited knowledge of chess, and you know that I would never blatantly disobey any of your orders."
"I'll grant you both of those elements, Captain. Come to the point."
"The point is, Colonel, that Grandmaster Bogovahsky is in a drawn game; he has a slight advantage but little real hope of nurturing that into a win. A man of Mr. Bogovahsky's chess genius, in this position, could play on for hundreds of moves with little chance of blundering away a game: but with still a lingering hope of a win. I cannot order him to play beneath his ability, it would be immoral, and under the circumstances - unnecessary as well."
The colonel looked at the courageous officer for a moment longer than necessary, letting the silence speak for him, before turning his attention to Mr. Bogovahsky: "Sir, can you guarantee me that this blitzkrieg method of yours will not lose the match before the time limit is reached?"
"Almost without question, Colonel White."
"Almost is not good enough, Grandmaster."
"Yes, Captain Scarlet?"
"Colonel, I can safely guarantee that Grandmaster Bogovahsky could not possibly lose from this position in less than ten minutes, and all we need ..." He paused to look at the clock on the CP, "...is four-and-three-quarters."
"Against my better judgment, I'll let you go ahead. Sir," White said, turning to address, the Grandmaster. "Draw or lose, we are in your debt, and Spectrum thanks you."
"You are most kind, Colonel White,” spoke the Grandmaster, rising from his chair and giving a polite bow. “But do not ever give up on victory, as that great Statesman of last century is renowned to have said: ‘...for without the victory, there is no survival.’"
"I believe that even Mr. Churchill would be happy with a draw in this case."
"With respect, Sir, I do not think that you do justice to that great gentleman or me. I, like the great man, himself, have a set plan of action."
"With due respect to you and the late Prime Minister, I hope yours steers clear of the Dardanelles."
With that the colonel of Spectrum moved toward the door: "Harmony, Captain Blue," he snapped, "let's leave the experts to their game, we have pressing matters awaiting us in the Control Room."
Before they had left the room, Grandmaster Bogovahsky was hunched over his ivory men and completely lost in his small world of 64 alternate light and dark coloured squares. Captain Scarlet, too, was engrossed in the same array of men as represented on the CP above the transmission bench.
"Quick, Captain, we must move in all haste."
As the chess expert deftly moved the various pieces from place to place on the board, not waiting, but anticipating the moves of his opponent, the pattern formed by the placement of the various pieces continually changed as they plodded, slid or galloped on the battlefield, depending on their rank and station. Some charged through enemy lines as other fell in the attempt. The battle raged through twenty rapid moves but the sum of the clocks showed less than a minute had passed. After the dust of the last skirmish had begun to settle, the White King was to be found deep behind the enemy lines on the last rank; his bodyguard having been forced to leave his side in an effort to ward off an attacking Rook. The sides were even; but the white Rook was en prise.
Three more lightning moves and the board looked like this:
"Grandmaster! You're down by a Rook."
"Very observant, Captain. Now quickly, I'm advancing the pawn – as you can see, it cannot be stopped."
"No, that's true, but it can be captured as soon as it's Queened. They can force a draw."
"Nonsense, my friend, but ... the clock, hurry I do not wish to lose on time."
Captain Scarlet transmitted 61. d7; and the reply was instant: 61. ..., Rf5+.
Captain Scarlet looked over at the Grandmaster's board and since his King had been moved to Knight One, sent: 62. Kg8. There followed 62. ..., Rf8+; 63. Kxf8 was forced. Then the answer: 63. ..., Nc5 forking the advanced pawn and the bishop.
Captain Scarlet looked at the clocks. Over two minutes remained and the game was all but drawn. He sent move 64. Be4+. Yes, it was very beautiful. A piece en prise but protected by the fact that the pawn would become a queen and quickly checkmate the weakened Black King. The pawn was safe for the moment. The reply took four seconds instead of the usual one: 64. ..., Kh5. Had the monarch gone to either of the black squares then he would have fallen victim to a check by the newly created Queen on d8. Mr. Bogovahsky had already moved his pawn to his Queen eight and had replaced it with a Queen.
"She will enjoy only a one second reign, Grandmaster."
"But a glorious one, El Capitan."
"I'm sorry, Grandmaster, but I cannot transmit it. We still have over two minutes and the game is now drawn. The Mysteron Knight will fork both your monarchs; you move the King; Knight takes Queen and you grab his Knight. Drawn. I've given you every chance; but I have my orders."
"Think! Captain Scarlet. If you are correct, then neither The Mysterons, nor I are capable of winning. I shall be free to run around the board until my clock runs out - there are no adjudicators in this game."
Captain Scarlet gazed at the board for a few seconds and without further discussion transmitted the move: 65.d8[q]. The Queen and King were immediately forked by the Knight and the move: Ke7 was transmitted. One second later the newly crowned Queen was dead and the Knight occupied her square. Captain Scarlet reached for the transmitter.
In the Control Room there was a flurry of activity as information was being relayed across the globe and into the vastness of space itself. Destiny and Symphony had broken off their flight and were returning to base. The World Satellite was functioning as was the Perrin. The rockets were on target and set to impact in less than two minutes. All was ready and on schedule.
"Yes, Lieutenant Purple, what is it?"
"On screen, Sir."
As the colonel watched the Operations Board, the two blips representing the two Variable Geometry Rockets were being intercepted by four Scout Rockets fired from the Intrepid. At that moment, one of the Scout Rockets veered from its course.
"What's happening, Lieutenant?"
"It's Lieutenant Green, Sir, he must be scrambling their guidance system from Madrid."
"I wasn't aware that the Madrid Base had such capabilities."
"It doesn't, Sir, he must be improvising."
The Variable Geometry Rockets were closing in on the Intrepid with each passing second, as another of the three remaining Scout Rockets veered from its course toward one of its sister rockets.
"Look, Colonel! They’re going to collide."
As the pair watched the blips on the screen draw nearer and nearer, they were joined by a press of other officers. A cheer went up as the two blips, for an instance, became one bright dot then disappeared from the screen.
"The other Scout is on target," murmured the colonel, as they all watched the two dots move rapidly toward each other; then, as before, they both merged momentarily before fading from view.
"Let's hope that one Variable Geometry Rocket will be enough to take out the Intrepid."
As they watched its fast approach, the silence was broken by a loud static coming over the speaker system. "What in the blazes is that?" roared the colonel, above the hum.
"It's the Solar Ray, Colonel!" shouted Captain Magenta, from across the room. "They have it operational."
"Let's hope that Lieutenant Green's equipment is operational as well."
As he spoke the blip, representing the last Variable Geometry Rocket vanished from the screen.
"Do not take the Knight with the King, Captain Scarlet!"
Captain Scarlet looked at the anxious face of his companion and then back to the board. Ten seconds later a beaming young officer was out of his chair and clasping his co-conspirator’s hand.
"You're a genius! I know that such a move is impossible; but there it is."
"I know, it is wonderful – it is the most beautiful of all my creations; and but for you, it would have been stillborn."
Quickly, Captain Scarlet rushed back to the transmitter and entered: 67. Kf6.
"Yes, yes, El Capitan," concurred the expert. "Send it at once!"
"Grandmaster, come over here, please. I think you should send this last move."
The Grandmaster brushed his index finger across the sensor causing the Bishop on the screen to slide across the battlefield to g6. Almost immediately a ten centimetre high word flashed across the screen beneath the chess game: CHECKMATE.*
At that moment, in the Control Room, the officers of Spectrum watched the Control Operational Board as the blip representing the Intrepid vanished from view. On the CP was seen the victory of Grandmaster Bogovahsky. The two events that should have been mutually contradictory were happening simultaneously.
"Colonel White, mission accomplished."
A confused colonel looked up in the direction of the voice to see the face of Lieutenant Green smiling down at him from the VM. "Congratulations, Lieutenant, but how did you do it? Mr. Bogovahsky has apparently won the contest; the Solar Ray should not have been fired."
"It was the Variable Geometry Rocket, Sir. When it was destroyed by the ray, I had just completed my co-ordination with the Perrin Satellite via the World Communication Satellite and was able to deflect the ray back to its source, the Intrepid, before they could shutdown completely."
"Spain will forever be in your debt, Lieutenant," spoke the colonel of Spectrum. "And yours, Grandmaster," he added, as he moved to greet the pair of chess players who had just entered the Control Room.
"My only regret, Colonel White," said the Grandmaster, in almost a whisper, "is that I have been most curious how Portugal would have looked and fared as an Island. It should have done wonders for its tourism."
*From an endgame by Platov.
By Dan Wills - January 2000.
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